She did as told, and the gun fired with a loud bang. Carly didn’t squeal, jump, or even flinch at the discharge. Instead she fired off two more shots in quick succession. When the echoing sound and the smell of gunpowder cleared, Carly finally spoke.
“Wow,” she said with an awed tone. “The kickback is a shocker.”
Maintaining her position, she turned her head to look at him curiously. Her lips close to his were heating his blood.
“Does the surprise ever go away?” she said.
“You get used to it,” he said, doubting the same was true of touching Carly. He dropped his hands to her waist and shifted, his length now molded to hers from hip to thigh. Desire shot like bottle rockets, as forceful as any kickback from a gun. All parts of him tense and ready for action, he had to force his mind to focus. “You did a nice job.”
“Purely a credit to your detailed instructions.” She faced the bullseye. “You must spend a lot of time here.”
“Every Friday morning before work.”
After a pause, arms extended, gun aimed at the target, Carly fired off several mores shots before she turned her head again. Her bold gaze was mere inches from Hunter’s. “You never did tell me why you still come.”
He searched for an appropriate reply. In the end, a version of the truth seemed best. “I guess a part of me still misses my old job,” he said, the understatement sitting uneasily in his gut.
After slipping the safety on the now empty Glock, Carly lowered her arms, twisting her shoulders to face him. “So why did you go into private business?”
The old resentment surged, and he stepped to the side and took his gun from her, careful to keep his tone even. “It was time to move on.”
“It’s a far cry from catching criminals.”
“It’s a living.”
“So is writing columns about art gallery openings, nightclubs...” her lips quirked “...and trendy apps.” A brief moment of amusement passed between them.
“Not your favorite kinds of assignments?” he said, holding her gaze.
“No.” Her grin grew wistful. “I’m a nosy reporter that prefers people to facts.”
“Who also has a tendency to get herself into trouble,” he said dryly.
“I think that’s why you’ve been following me around,” she said. “I’ve decided I’m an outlet for your overdeveloped need to safeguard others. A need that hasn’t been met since you left the FBI.”
“That isn’t the reason I joined the force.”
Her eyes grew serious. “So what did you get out of it?”
He studied her for a moment, weighing his response carefully. But ultimately the unvarnished truth came out with more heat than he’d intended. “I got to catch the criminal bastards.”
Either his tone or the words—or perhaps both—brought a smile of comprehension to Carly’s lips. “You liked to outmaneuver them.” Her grin grew bigger. “You liked the excitement of the chase.”
The dull ache was back, and he clutched the handle of the Glock tight as she went on.
“Why don’t you go back?” Her words were spoken innocently, as if it was that simple.
But innocence hadn’t helped him much.
Gut churning, Hunter turned to the tables lining the wall, opening a gun case. There was a time when he’d been confident it would. When Truth, Honor and Justice—and all the other noble qualities he’d been raised to believe in—had meant something.
“That isn’t my job anymore.” He jettisoned the empty clip from the Glock, his back to Carly. “I have a business to run. Responsibilities. Commitments. And Booker hates the business end of things.” Hunter reached for another magazine to load. “We should get on with the lesson.”
He could sense her eyes on his back as she said, “You haven’t told him how you feel?”
His jaw tensed, and he stared down at the second clip clutched tightly in his hand, struggling against the emotion that had been eating at him for months.
Instead, he said, “I owe him.”
Her tone was skeptical. “Because of something that happened back when you were a kid?”
“No,” he said firmly. “It’s more than that.” Because the friend who’d proved himself through thick and the worst of the thin deserved better. With a hard shove of his palm, he popped the clip into the Glock, loading the gun for another round. “When I told Booker I was leaving to start my own business I asked him if he wanted to quit his consulting work for the FBI and join me. He didn’t hesitate.”
“I’m sure he left because he wanted to.”