I stopped what I was doing, which was walking down the middle of Main Street, and stared at the TV.
That was because my man, one who was supposed to be picking me up in less than thirty minutes for our first official date, was on the TV answering questions about another dog victim case.
I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could read the banner at the bottom of the screen, and what I read wasn’t a good thing.
My heart was frozen in shock, not just at seeing Downy on the TV, but at seeing that there was another victim to the heinous attacks going on around the city.
“What the hell?” I asked the empty sidewalk.
He answered the questions effortlessly, smooth and steady as he volleyed back responses to the reporters’ questions.
That must’ve been why he hadn’t called me on his way home from the conference.
In the two weeks we’d been back home from my father’s rally, we’d made good headway in our relationship.
He was being much more open about what was going on in his life, and I was being much more understanding about his work and what his job entailed.
It’d taken a lot of growing on both of our parts, but mostly, for me, it was just getting used to how Downy did things.
I’d had two boyfriends in my life, both of which had lasted a year a piece.
I had limited experience when it came to men, especially ones of Downy’s caliber. A man…and not a boy.
Downy was very set in his ways, and he did things the way he wanted them done.
He left barely any leeway in how he did things, and fitting me into his ‘plans’ was taking some doing on his part.
For instance, dinner tonight.
He just called and told me to be ready. There was no, ‘where do you want to go,’ or ‘is seven o’clock okay?’
It was all be there or be square.
“Oh, wow! That man’s a sexy beast,” a woman said from beside me.
I turned to eye the woman who was currently standing on the sidewalk behind me, and I raised my eyebrows. “He’s taken.”
Her own brows rose in response.
“Yeah?” She asked. “By you?”
I nodded firmly. “Yes.”
She nodded back and said, “I’d claim him, too. Does he have any hot friends?”
I snorted. “You wouldn’t even begin to believe the ‘hot friends’ that he has. Words can’t really do them justice.”
She grinned. “The name’s Mercy Shepherd. I own this place,” she said, gesturing to the building that I was watching the TV at.
I looked up at the sign. “Second Chance?”
She shook her head. “It’s a place where veterans can come to find peace of mind, and work until they can find something more permanent. So they don’t have to worry how they’ll make their next house payment.”
I blinked and turned my head toward her. “Really? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”
She nodded. “We do a lot of miscellaneous things. Clean houses, cook meals for the elderly, pet sit. It needs doing and they do it.”
I shook my head. “I have three people that I love with all of my heart, and each one of them were or currently are in the military. I think I love you.”
She laughed at my joke, but I was on the verge of being serious. I did think I loved her…or, at least, liked her whole lot.
“Have you been here long?” I asked, looking towards the TV just in time to see Downy waving goodbye and the news anchor taking over the screen.
Mercy shook her head. “Not at this specific location, per say. I’ve been doing this for a long time, though. Since I was sixteen and my brother killed himself.”
My heart sank. “Oh,” I whispered quietly. “I didn’t realize, I’m sorry.”
She waved her hand in the air in an ‘it’s okay’ gesture, smiling sadly. “It’s been a long time now. Nearly six years. But he was the reason for me starting this up, and he’ll be the reason I continue it for years to come.”
My phone rang, interrupting our conversation, and I smiled when I saw Downy’s scowling face pop up on the screen.
“Well, I have to go. I’m late for a date, but I’d love to get to know you. I’d love to volunteer,” I said, pulling out an old receipt from my purse and writing down my name and number. “Here’s my number. Would you like to go hang out at a firefighter and police block party this weekend with me?”
She beamed at me. “I’m already scheduled to be there. My daddy is the fire chief.”
My jaw dropped. “Holy cow! That’s awesome! Well, I’d love to see you there!”
Ten minutes later, I was walking into my apartment with a smile on my face, and a skip to my step.
“What’s up with that smile?” Downy drawled the moment he caught a look at my smiling face.
I showed him the card Mercy had given me as I left.
“Mercy Shepherd?” He clarified. “That’s the fire chief’s daughter.”
I nodded and walked to my bedroom, stripping off my shirt and replacing it with a blood red button up.
I left my jeans in place. They were dark washed, and I hadn’t worn them for but three hours today, I didn’t see any point in changing them when they were my favorites.
Plus, Downy made it a point to compliment my ass each and every time I wore them.
Which was also why I’d ordered three more pairs in different washes.
“What’s that smile for?” Downy rumbled from directly behind me.
I smiled over my shoulder at him. “Seems that I’m now dating a TV star. I was just wondering what I should wear… you know, in case I was photographed while I was out with him.”
He shook his head and walked up behind me, pulling me into his chest.
I leaned back into him, turning my face up to bury in his neck.
“I’m still the same guy,” he teased.
I snorted. “You’ve already got one new fan in the fire chief’s daughter. It’s only a matter of time before the whole world knows you for the sexy beast that you really are.”
He squeezed me tightly before letting me go. “Hurry it up, sweet cheeks. We’ve got a date to get to.”