Chapter 30 - Morning Games


Jon arrived at FTB at ten after seven on Friday morning. He was in a particularly good mood, having gotten a good night’s sleep. Though he had been disappointed that Cate wouldn’t accept his dinner invitation last night, he had spent the evening with his homework and the pleasant memory of their afternoon together.

Jon had also taken some time to work out details of the weekend surprise he had planned for Cate, making a call to Obie and to his assistant at the Soul offices in Philly.

His lips curved into a smile as he thought about seeing Cate this weekend. He just hoped she wouldn’t be upset when he disrupted her plans with Danny. Even if she was, he was pretty sure what he had planned would convince her to forgive him.

He found Cate in the break room with Danny and George, waiting for a fresh pot of coffee to brew. “Good morning,” he greeted them sunnily. Cate gave Jon a big smile in return, and the boys answered with their own “mornings.”

Then he saw that Cate had something in her hands – something that turned his smile to a full-on grin.

Cate was leaning against the counter in the kitchenette, idly tossing a football into the air and catching it. She was dressed in PT gear in preparation for their first-thing DTs session, but it was obvious she had already been more active than he had this morning.

Jon noticed that she was a bit flushed and slightly sweaty, damp tendrils of her auburn hair curling against her neck, loosened from her ponytail. There were grass stains on her shirt and on the knees of her track pants, and a smudge of dirt smeared on her left cheek.

“What’s this?” Jon answered, gesturing toward the football.

Cate gave Jon a sassy little grin. “This would be a football… surely you are familiar?” she teased. She flipped the football to Jon, who caught it easily.

“I am,” he replied, wrapping his right hand around the ball, gripping it over the laces. “And what exactly does the football have to do with cop training?” he asked playfully.

“Nothing really.” Cate answered. “Just a little morning PT with the boys. We were all in early, so we decided to have a quick pickup game – 3 on 3.” She flashed her grin at Danny and George. “The losers are out buying breakfast.”

Jon laughed at her cockiness. “Guess I missed out,” he said regretfully. “I’m always up for a game of flag football.”

“Oh, we don’t play that pussy stuff here.” Cate answered. She saw Jon’s eyes widen briefly at her coarse language. “We tackle, Baby,” she finished, her eyes twinkling.

Holy shit… she’s flirting! Jon thought. “Well, next time be sure to invite me,” he flirted back, a little growl in his voice. Out of the corner of his eye Jon caught Danny’s smirk, as Danny raised his coffee cup to his lips.

“Hmm…I don’t know….” Cate brought a finger to her lips, looking skyward in a comical thinking pose. “Think you can take a hit, Rock Star?” She fixed Jon with a challenging gaze, a wicked smile on her full lips.

“Oh yeah,” he nodded. Jon stepped forward, closing the distance between himself and Cate. He brought his hand up to her face and gently wiped away the smudge of dirt from her cheek, his hand lingering for a long moment. “I can take whatever you dish out, Baby,” he growled playfully, his gaze locking with hers.

Cate felt her stomach somersault when Jon touched her cheek, and she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face. Then she heard Danny clear his throat in a subtle warning, right before Troy, Bobby, and Brandon walked into the break room.

Cate grabbed the football from Jon’s hand and pushed past him, deliberately giving him a firm bump with her shoulder as she moved around him. “About damned time!” she called out to the “losers” as they dropped bags of food on the break room table.

Jon smiled to himself and closed his eyes for a second, then turned to face Cate and the rest of the gang. It’s gonna be a good day… he thought.

Chapter 29 - Confession

Since Cate’s “plans” had been fictional, she decided to go to the gym for a workout. Exercise always cleared her head and helped her organize her thoughts.

She went for a short run on the treadmill, then spent a half hour doing boxing drills, working the speed bag and dummy. She finished up with some light weight training, then quickly showered and changed.

After packing up her workout bag, Cate pulled out her Blackberry and typed a brief text to Danny.

[6:38 pm] Slick – U alone?

Cate picked up her bag and left the locker room, carrying her Blackberry in her other hand. A minute later she felt it vibrate and heard Danny’s text tone.

[6:40 pm] Yep. Bring Dinner.

She grinned. Danny could always read her mind, even when he wasn’t right there beside her. What would I do without him?

Cate left the Center and drove toward Danny’s house, stopping briefly at their favorite Chinese place to pick up garlic chicken and fried rice.

Danny’s small cottage was also on the ocean, just a few miles away from Cate’s home. She pulled into the drive and parked behind his truck. She didn’t go to the front door, but instead punched a code into the garage door keypad and ducked under the door as it rose.

Cate paused to grab two bottles of Miller Genuine Draft from the well-stocked beer fridge in Danny’s garage, grimacing at the huge, framed Brett Favre poster hanging beside the appliance. Pecker Fan. She climbed the two steps to the door and walked into Danny’s kitchen.

Danny was in the adjoining living room, slouched on his leather couch, his feet propped on the coffee table, ESPN on his huge flatscreen TV. He raised his hand in silent greeting as Cate dropped the bag of food on the island and pulled the bottle opener from a drawer.

She quickly popped the caps off the beer bottles, then carried them into the living room. She handed one to Danny then flopped down on the couch beside him. “Cheers.” Danny said, tipping his bottle toward Cate.

“Cheers,” she answered, clinking the neck of her beer bottle against his. They both drank, then stared at the TV in silence for a few minutes. When a commercial came on, Danny turned his head to look at Cate. “So, I take it today was a better day than yesterday?” He gave her a little smile.

Cate nodded and took another drink of her beer, then smiled. “Yeah. Much better. I wasn’t a bitch today.”

“Good girl.” Danny grinned. He didn’t press for details, knowing Cate would tell him when she felt like it. “What did you bring me for dinner?”

“China Garden.” Cate answered. “Your favorite.”

“That’s why I love ya, Slick,” Danny grinned. “C’mon. Let’s eat!” He rose from the couch and headed for the kitchen. Cate followed.

They sat together on the barstools at the kitchen island, enjoying the food and chatting about Danny’s day on the range with the students. After they finished, Cate helped tidy up the kitchen, then they retired again to the couch with fresh beers in hand.

As Danny flipped through the channels with the remote, Cate’s Blackberry sang out a snippet of “Blaze of Glory,” announcing a call from Mandy.

“Hey girl.” Cate said, putting Mandy on speaker phone.

“Hola, Chica!” Mandy replied. “Whatcha up to?”

“Hanging out with Danny, watching the tube.” Cate answered. Danny called out his “howdy” to Mandy and she returned his greeting. “How about you?”

“Still at the office. Doing night crime scenes tonight.” Mandy took great pride in creating realistic training scenarios for her students. She made them practice collecting and processing evidence in all kinds of environments – dark, light, hot, cold, wet, dry. “Hey, just wanted to let you know you’re spending Saturday morning with me. I made spa appointments for us.”

“What?” Cate was surprised. “Why?” She didn’t notice Danny’s conspiratorial smirk as he brought his beer bottle to his lips.

After plotting with Jon to set up Cate’s surprise, Danny had enlisted Mandy’s help. Mandy knew Danny and Cate had their annual “Independence Day” date planned for Saturday, so he hadn’t had to reveal his true motive.

“Because. Aren’t you and Danny doing “Independence Day” Saturday night?” Mandy asked. “You need a spa day to prepare for your Big Date!” Cate could hear the grin in her friend’s voice.

Cate was puzzled. “Yeah, but it’s not a big thing….it’s just dinner with Danny…”

Danny cut her off. “Gee, thanks Slick!” he said, giving Cate a faux-wounded look. “It’s just Danny…” he mimicked.

He heard Mandy laughing on the other end of the line. “Jeez, would it kill ya to look like a girl when you and I go somewhere together?" he continued. "I’m always your arm-candy….is it too much to ask that you be mine, just one time?” Danny raised his eyebrows at Cate, half-teasing but partly serious. “Christ, wear a dress or something for once! You do have one, don’t you?”

“Yes, I have a dress,” Cate retorted, rolling her eyes. “I just didn’t think I had to go through all that shit anymore. Especially not for you. You’re like my brother, for Christ’s sake.”

She saw Danny give her a serious look, and she sighed. “Okay. For you.”

“Great. Our appointment is at ten.” Mandy said. “C’mon, Cate, it will be fun! When do we ever have time to be girly anymore? We can talk about boys!” she teased. “Ooh, and you can tell me all about your week with Hot Jonny! By the way, why haven’t you let me meet him yet?”

Cate laughed. “Sorry, things have been a bit…crazy.” She smacked Danny’s arm as he gave her a look that said “NO SHIT!” “I’m having him do raid houses tomorrow with Bobby’s class. Wanna come watch?”

“Oh HELL yes!” Mandy answered. “What time?”

Mandy and Cate talked for a few more minutes, making plans for her to meet Jon Friday afternoon. They chatted briefly about work and their Saturday plans, then Mandy had to go prepare for her evening class.

After disconnecting the call, Cate set her Blackberry on the coffee table and looked at Danny. “A dress?” she asked. “Seriously?”

“Yep.” Danny answered. “Hey, it’s been awhile since I’ve been out on the town with a hot chick. I have a reputation to uphold.” He took a swallow of beer then gave her a wicked grin. “And I guess you’ll do in a pinch.”

“Ass.” Cate grabbed the throw pillow and smacked Danny in the face with it. He laughed and threw it back at her, then turned his attention to the TV. After flipping through a few channels he found a baseball game on WGN – Cate’s Cubs vs. Reds – and set the remote aside.

“Sooooo… how’s Jon?” he asked softly, watching her out of the corner of his eye. He saw a smile come to Cate’s lips.

“Fine. Good,” she answered quietly. “We did FATS today.”

“Didn’t kick his ass or jump on him or anything?” Danny asked.

“No.” She looked at Danny. “It was good.” She quickly recounted the afternoon’s activity, a smile in her voice.

“So what was in the bag?” Danny asked. He had been wondering about that all day.

“Huh?” Cate was caught off guard. “Oh, you mean the gift bag?” Her face broke into a radiant smile. “Just a little ‘peace offering.’ To make up for our showdown last night.” She looked at Danny, her eyes shining. “He gave me his Soul jersey.”

“Another one? Jeez, Cate, you already have two of them. What’s the big deal?” Danny cocked his head to the side.

“Not a number 3 jersey… his jersey. His D’Orazio jersey. One he wore.” Cate got a dreamy look in her eyes.

“Oh, Jesus…” Danny groaned. “It’s gonna be the Sambora Stetson all over again, ain’t it?” he teased. Cate wore that damned hat every day for months after she got it.

Cate giggled. “Probably.” But you won’t see it…this one is ALL for me. She was going to sleep in the jersey every night, letting it caress her body and bring her sweet dreams of Jon.

Danny watched Cate as she slipped away in her mind for a moment. He knew that look, and he hadn’t seen it for a long time. He waited quietly until she came back. “So…?” he asked gently.

Cate looked at Danny, hearing the unspoken question in his voice. “So, nothing,” she sighed. “He asked me to have dinner with him tonight, but I told him no. In fact, I lied to him and told him I had plans.” She gave Danny a pointed look. “So you are my plans, okay?”

“That’s just sad.” Danny remarked. “Why didn’t you go with him? It’s just dinner, for Christ’s sake. You had lunch with him today.”

“That’s different.” Cate answered. “I had lunch with the guys…him included. Dinner would be just him and me… alone.”

“What’s the big deal?” Danny knew the answer but he wanted to make her say it.

When she didn’t reply, he shook his head. “I don’t get you, Cate. Here you are in a situation you’ve dreamed about for years… hell, decades. The man of your dreams is here with you, and he wants you. Why don’t you just give in, jump his bones, have crazy hot sex with the Rock Star, just like you’ve always fantasized?”

He saw a hint of fear creep into Cate’s eyes. Uh oh. He quickly lightened the moment with a tease. “I mean, shit…King of Swing has to be about worn out by now, right?” He gave her an evil grin.

“DANNY!” Cate exclaimed, her eyes widening and cheeks reddening at Danny’s mention of her vibrator’s nickname. “JESUS, is NOTHING sacred!?!?” she sputtered. She knew the answer even as she asked, hearing Danny’s hearty laugh at her reaction.

She couldn’t help but grin herself at the memory of the practical joke Danny and Mandy had pulled on her last year. In a particularly inspired retaliatory prank, they had snuck into Cate’s house and stolen her at-the-time-unnamed vibrator from her underwear drawer. She hadn’t noticed, not having an immediate need for the personal appliance.

The next morning at work she found an envelope on her desk, containing a Polaroid of the device next to an edition of that day’s newspaper. The “kidnappers” had decked out the rather substantially-sized vibrator in a little black hat with attached brown hair, a tiny pair of sunglasses, and several little charms on black cords around its “neck.”

Also enclosed in the envelope was a ransom note composed of words and letters cut from a magazine, instructing that her “King of Swing” would be safely and discretely returned upon payment of two cases of beer and a bottle of premium whiskey. Cate had promptly paid up and retrieved her property. She was still trying to figure out how to get even.

Danny shook his head again as his laughter subsided. He gave her a kind smile. “Look. All I’m saying is this. As I see it, you can go with it and let it happen, then have the memory of a lifetime, or spend the rest of your life kicking yourself for not bedding Jon Bon Jovi when you had the chance.” He watched as Cate thought about that for a moment, her smile turning bittersweet.

“I can’t, Danny.” her voice was soft and filled with regret. “God knows I want to, but I can’t.”

She took a deep breath, then started to talk. She told Danny what had happened in the storage room when she measured Jon for his vest, how the sexual tension between them was palpable. She told him about Jon’s whispered good night in her office, when he had traced her tattoo.

Cate told Danny about the kiss during DTs, and admitted that she had hardly been able to contain her desire on the range, as he had so astutely observed. She confessed the closeness she had felt to Jon today, and how the little touches and looks they shared made her heart sing. And she admitted that she had turned down Jon’s dinner invitation because she didn’t trust herself to be alone with him outside the safe haven of work.

Cate felt like she should be saying “Hail Mary” as she poured out her heart to Danny. Bless me Father, for I am trying really hard not to sin…..

Danny listened silently, letting Cate unburden herself. When she was done, he saw tears glitter in her eyes.

Danny reached over to Cate, putting his arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer to him. She sighed and leaned sideways, letting her head fall onto his lap. She lay there for a long minute, staring at the TV but not seeing the baseball game as Danny stroked her hair.

Finally she found her voice again. “Danny, I’m already in too deep. I can’t let this go any further.” She felt a tear leak from her eye and trickle down the side of her face. “It will break my heart when he leaves me and never looks back.”

Danny sighed softly. “Cate…do you really feel something for him? Not just physical attraction, but in your heart?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Then trust your heart, Cate,” he said gently.

“I can’t…” Cate choked on the words as her tears came. “It lies.”

Danny felt a lump come to his throat at her anguish. He didn’t answer her, knowing that she didn’t want him to say anything right now. He continued to stroke her hair as she lay in his lap, until her tears subsided.

After a good five minutes, Danny brushed the last tear from Cate’s cheek, then gently touched her chin, turning her face upward to look at him. “Hey,” he said gently, giving her an earnest smile. “There is nothing about you… nothing… that lies. You are the most honest, genuine, real person I know.”

He took in her sad smile, then continued. “Now, lighten up and get laid, already!” Danny grinned as Cate started to laugh, her moist eyes glittering. Danny leaned down and kissed her forehead.

Cate reached up and laid her hand against Danny’s cheek. “Thanks, Slick,” she said softly.

“Anytime, Babe.” Danny grinned. Cate turned her face back to the TV and stayed on Danny’s lap, the two of them watching the remainder of the inning in silence. At the commercial, Cate sat up, gave Danny a kiss on the cheek, then rose from the couch. Danny stood and followed her into the kitchen.

“See ya tomorrow,” Cate said, pausing by the door.

“Count on it.” Danny wrapped her in a big hug. “Think about it, Cate.”

“I will,” she promised. Hell, he’s ALL I can think about….

After one more hug, Cate left Danny’s house and made the short drive home. Once there, she took care of a couple minor things then snuggled on the couch with Jovi as she watched the end of the Cubs game.

After the game was over, she went into her bedroom and stripped off her clothes. She pulled Jon’s jersey – that’s how she thought of it, though it was now hers – from the gift bag and slipped it over her head. She closed her eyes as she caught the scent of his cologne on the soft fabric as it slithered down her body.

She walked out on to her balcony, relishing the feel of the slick material caressing her skin as she moved. She leaned against the railing, lightly fingering the other gift Jon had given her, the silver cross that still hung around her neck. Cate gazed out at the ocean, thinking about what Danny had said and reliving her day with Jon.

Finally she smiled wistfully and shook her head at herself. She still had no answers. All she could do was take this one day at a time. She walked back into her bedroom and crawled into bed.

Chapter 28 - Invitation

They were quiet on the short walk back to the FTB, Cate and Jon both lost in their own thoughts. Upon arriving back at the building they stowed their vests in their lockers then went back to Cate’s office.

Jon noticed when they entered the room that there was a large black duffel bag on Cate’s desk. Jon settled on the couch and Cate leaned against the edge of her desk, facing him, ignoring the bag. “Have fun today?” she asked quietly.

“I did.” Jon smiled. Cate seemed so relaxed…so at peace. He hoped he had made her feel that way.

“I’m glad,” she answered, then paused for a moment. She took a breath, then gave Jon a bright smile. “Well, tomorrow is gonna be really busy, so more homework tonight. We’ll start earlier than usual, so you will have a full day. You need to be here by 0730."

"First we’ll cover arrest and apprehension technique at the gym – wear PT gear – then I’m gonna have you sit in on Bobby’s lecture on tactical apprehension. In the afternoon you’ll go to the raid houses with his class and practice dynamic entry tactics.”

Cate noted Jon’s puzzled look. “Raids,” she explained. “SWAT team stuff. You get to play our version of paintball.”

“Awesome!” Jon exclaimed. Then he laughed at himself. “Sorry, that didn’t sound very professional, did it?” He gave Cate a grin, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Sometimes I can’t help myself.”

“I know.” Cate answered wryly, the meaning of her words evident. She turned and grabbed the bag by its handles, pulling it from her desk and handing it to Jon. “This is your gear for tomorrow.”

“Holy cow, you cops have a lot of crap!” Jon exclaimed. This is, what…my fourth bag of stuff? I’ve only been here four days!” he teased.

“You don’t even know the half of it. I have a whole walk-in closet at my house dedicated to cop shit.” Cate answered, laughing. “Anyway, everything in there should fit you. I had Bobby pull it for you while we were at FATS. You’ll need to bring your body armor in addition to this stuff. If you want, just leave it here tonight. You’ll need to change into it at lunch tomorrow, before the raid house exercises.”

“I’ll take it with me.” Jon answered. He wanted to be sure he knew what the hell he was putting on, so he didn’t show up looking like an idiot, wearing something the wrong way. “What homework do you want me to do?”

“Read the second binder – it’s mostly diagrams and photos, like DTs. Watch the apprehension DVD again, and the tactical procedure one too.” Cate answered. “Sorry, you’re gonna have a busy evening.”

Jon pulled a little pout, then gave her the heartbreaker smile. “Make it up to me,” he said beguilingly. “Let me take you to dinner first, then I’ll hit the books.”

Cate’s heart leaped at Jon’s invitation. Oh my…. just the two of us…. Suddenly she felt a pang of fear. No. Don’t go there. You did so well today…SO well. Don’t put yourself in a situation you can’t handle. The little voice inside her head was sounding the alarm, like it usually did when Cate felt her control slipping away.

“I… can’t.” Cate lied. She saw a shadow of disappointment cross Jon’s face. “I’m sorry…I mean, thank you for asking, but….I have plans.”

“Oh.” Jon said. He paused, then looked Cate in the eye. “Blow them off. Come to dinner with me.” His voice was soft, seductive. Cate could tell he didn’t quite believe that she had something else to do, that he was testing her. She smiled gently, but shook her head.

“No, Jon,” Cate answered. “I can’t tonight.” Cate hoped the little tremor in her voice didn’t betray her lie. And her fear.

“Then another night?” he asked, his voice silky, smooth as satin. Damn that voice….

“Tomorrow night – we’re going to Sonny’s for beer and wings, remember?” Cate answered, avoiding the real question.

Jon regarded Cate for a long moment, then nodded and sighed. “I guess that will have to do…for now.” He gave her the heartbreaker smile once more.

Cate smiled back at him wistfully, but didn’t relent. “Okay.” Jon sighed again. “Guess I’d better get going.” He stood and picked up the bag. “You heading out too?”

“Yeah.” Cate answered. “Just give me a minute and I’ll walk out with you.” She quickly shut down her computer and grabbed her range bag, her keys, and the gift bag containing the jersey Jon had given her earlier in the day.

She followed Jon into the hallway and locked her office, then stopped to retrieve her Glock from the weapons room where she had stored it earlier.

After her gun was back in its place on her hip, Cate walked with Jon down the hall and out to the parking lot. He followed her over to her Mustang. She opened the door and placed her bags inside, then remembered. The necklace.

“Oh, I have something for you.” Cate said. “Well, actually, I have something of yours.”

Jon gave Cate a confused look. Cate reached back into the car and unzipped a small side compartment on her range bag. She pulled out a Ziploc baggie containing Jon’s Maltese cross and silver chain.

Cate turned and faced Jon, holding out the baggie to him. “Here. You must have dropped it into my bag by mistake yesterday at the gym.”

Jon took the baggie from Cate and looked at the contents. “Oh. I didn’t even realize I didn’t have this,” he said, surprised. He set his gear bag down and opened the baggie, taking out the chain and cross.

He stuck the empty baggie in his pocket, then used both hands to undo the chain’s clasp. He hesitated, then smiled and stepped toward Cate.

Cate was surprised by Jon’s movement toward her. Her instinctive reaction was to back away from him, but she was standing next to her car and could only back up about a half a step. Her eyes widened as Jon reached forward to her neck and gently slipped the chain around it, fastening the clasp under her ponytail. The cross settled on her chest, over top of her shirt.

“I want you to have this.” Jon said softly.

“Jon, no! I couldn’t….you already gave me the jersey today, and I…. it’s too much.” Cate stammered, her hands going to her neck to undo the clasp. “Thank you, but it...I…” Cate stopped and caught her breath when she felt Jon’s hands on hers, stilling their movement.

“Cate, please. Let me give this to you.” Jon’s voice was gentle but firm. He slowly pulled Cate’s hands away from her neck and held them in his. “Please.” He looked into her eyes and Cate saw the earnestness of his plea.

Cate couldn’t find her voice. She was hypnotized by the intensity of Jon’s gaze. She stood facing him, her mouth slightly open, for a long moment. “O…Okay.” She finally whispered. “Thank you.”

Jon gave Cate another breathtaking smile and squeezed her hands gently. Cate felt her pulse race. “You’re welcome,” he said kindly, his own voice not much above a husky whisper. “And thank you. For today, and for putting up with my crap.”

Cate smiled at that and looked down, not saying anything in response. She gently pulled her hands from Jon’s grip.

“You don’t have to thank me for anything.” Cate replied softly, raising her eyes back up to his. She blushed slightly as Jon continued to stare at her, his blue eyes bright with emotion. Her right hand went unconsciously to the cross at her neck. “I need to get going, and you probably do too. We both have a lot to do tonight.”

Jon nodded reluctantly. “Okay. See you tomorrow, Cate. Have a good night.” He reached out and gave Cate’s left hand a gentle squeeze, then gave her one last wistful smile.

Jon picked up his bag and turned and walked to his SUV. Cate watched as he tossed his bag in the back seat and got in, then drove away, giving her a wave.

Her hand still on the cross around her neck, Cate sighed. What a day….

Chapter 27 - Partners

They climbed the four steps at the building’s entrance, and Jon pulled open the door, holding it for Cate to enter first. He followed her down a long, nondescript hallway. They stopped at the end and Cate pulled out her keys and unlocked a door.

When they stepped inside and flicked on the lights, Jon saw the long, narrow room was almost completely empty – no chairs, tables or desks. A floor-to-ceiling projection screen covered one of the short walls.

A large hutch holding a computer and multiple video monitors stood against the wall opposite the screen, beside a large metal storage locker. Video cameras were mounted on the ceiling at all four of the room’s corners, and a projector hung from the ceiling over the hutch, pointed at the screen.

“Welcome to the FATS room,” Cate said, watching Jon survey the classroom. She had explained to Jon this morning what the Firearms Training System, or FATS, was. Like most students, he had been excited to learn he was going to spend the afternoon basically playing a great big video game.

Jon hadn’t been able to keep a grin from creeping onto his gorgeous face as Cate explained that FATS uses interactive video technology to allow law enforcement officers to practice “high incident” decision making in a safe environment. And when he had heard there was a “laser gun” involved? Well, he couldn’t contain his glee.

Cate smiled at the memory of his reaction. All men are just great big boys with more
expensive toys….

Cate dropped her bag on the floor next to the hutch and switched on the computer and monitors. As they started to boot up, she moved to the cabinet.

She unlocked the door and took out two familiar-looking Glock handguns. She handed one to Jon and shoved the other into the holster on her hip. Then she stepped back to the computer, keying in her user ID and password. Jon slid his training gun into his holster.

“Go ahead and put on your vest,” Cate directed, her attention still on the computer.

Jon picked up the vest by the shoulder tabs and lifted it over his head, managing to don the armor with only minimal struggle. He watched as Cate stepped away from the computer and pulled her body armor out of its carry bag. She kept her attention on the monitor as she quickly strapped it on, oblivious to Jon’s observation.

Wow, Jon thought. He had immediately found Cate attractive, and seeing her play “tough chick” was a turn-on, but he found her absolutely drive-a-man-to-sin sexy the way she looked now.

Her black body armor fit her like a glove, and it had her last name and badge insignia embroidered on the chest in bright gold thread. When she turned back to the computer he saw her thick auburn ponytail trail down between the “L” and the “I” of the word “POLICE,” emblazoned in white capital letters across the vest’s back.

Add the gun and handcuffs, the great body and the amazing eyes, and Jon saw in Cate the making of one hell of a fantasy. He felt himself smile naughtily. I REALLY need to figure out how to get her to wear that for me in private…and maybe with a garter belt instead of cargo pants….

Remembering his pledge to behave himself, Jon forced himself to look away from Cate. He pulled the training gun from his holster and studied it.

It was obviously real, but the barrel was filled with an electronic device that looked sort of like a large battery with a small glasslike button on the end. He was reminded of a television remote control, and assumed the gun worked the same way with the video screen as his remote did with his TV. Point, shoot, change channel.

Cate worked the computer for a couple minutes, starting the programs that ran the projector and the video recorders. As she waited for the programs to initialize, she quizzed Jon about basic tactical movement technique. Jon remembered Cate’s instruction from Tuesday, when he had watched her via CCTV. Don’t point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.

Satisfied that Jon could articulate the basics, Cate then directed him to demonstrate. “Show me how to move at the ready position,” she ordered. Jon held the weapon in both hands, arms extended and elbows locked, muzzle of the gun pointing toward the side and at the ground as he moved a couple steps forward.

“Not bad.” Cate appraised, trying not to let her eyes linger on the deliciously bunched muscles of his forearms. “Here, follow me.”

Cate drew her weapon and held it at a low ready position, angled to the ground, then smoothly and stealthily paced toward the screen at the opposite end of the classroom. Jon watched her for a few steps, then followed, matching her step for step.

“Remember, when you’re working with a partner or a team you don’t want the muzzle of your gun to cross over any point on their body – foot, leg, torso… Not that you plan to shoot them, but you don’t want to take the chance. Things can happen really fast,” Cate reminded him as they moved slowly down the length of the room.

She reached the screen and stopped, then looked at Jon. “And you always want to keep the muzzle pointed at the ground until you engage – none of that ‘Charlie’s Angels’ bullshit.”

Cate bent her arms at the elbow and brought her weapon up by her cheek, muzzle pointed straight up at the sky, in the classic campy pose. “It may look cool on film, but it’s dumb as hell.” Jon smiled at the sneer in her voice.

“If you wanna watch somebody do it right,” Cate continued, dropping her weapon back to the ready position, “watch Keifer Sutherland on ‘24.’ He does tactical movement better than any actor I’ve ever seen.” She grinned slightly. “Looks good doing it, too.”

Jon laughed. “Oh, so I have to compete with Jack Bauer for your attention now?” he teased. “Guess I’m screwed.”

Cate chuckled. “Well, I don’t think anyone can compete with Jack Bauer – after all, he’s saved the world how many times?” She gave Jon another little grin. “But you’re doing pretty well so far. I think I can whip you into shape. You’ve got potential.”

“Well, I have had movie roles in the past where I had to handle guns.” Jon pointed out, bragging just a tiny bit.

“Oh yeah, I know.” Cate answered. She gave him an amused smile, hoping she didn’t sound too bitchy or sarcastic in her response. “I saw you waving that pistol around in ‘The Leading Man.’ Don’t you ever let me catch you twirling a weapon – even a training gun or a prop – around by the trigger guard like that. BIG no-no.” Cate gave him a stern look.

“But that’s what my character did!” Jon protested defensively, but with playfulness in his voice. “He was the asshole, not me! Besides, I did other movies with guns, too. They couldn’t have all been that bad.”

“No…” Cate admitted. “You did okay in ‘U-571,’ when you and the boys were taking the U-boat. Before you got your ass blown off the ship.” She grinned. “And don’t even get me started on that vampire movie. What the hell was that thing you were carrying around there? A gigantic staplegun? Hidden in a surfboard?” She giggled. “But it did match your Samurai sword.”

Jon couldn’t help but laugh at Cate’s critique. He didn’t mind her having a giggle at his expense. “Okay, okay. But you gotta admit, I did have good hair in that movie,” he teased, his eyes sparkling.

Cate glanced heavenward and sighed dreamily before she could stop herself. “Yeah…you did look good in that one…” Suddenly she realized what she had just said, then clapped her hand to her mouth, gasping slightly. Oh shit…I said that OUT LOUD? She felt her cheeks flame.

Jon’s eyebrows arched and he gave Cate a shit-eating grin. Her spontaneous compliment was welcome proof that Cate was truly beginning to relax around him. Even though they had enjoyed some teasing banter yesterday and today, she hadn’t made any open admissions of her attraction to him, just subtle acknowledgements of his flirting.

“Why, thank you,” he chuckled gently, seeing her embarrassment. He gave her a goofy grimace. “I had to make up for that crappy script somehow,” he kidded.

The projector overhead whirred to life and the screen lit up. Not a moment too soon…. Cate looked over her shoulder at the image on the screen, grateful to turn her flushed face away from Jon for the moment. She walked back to the other end of the room, Jon following.

Cate tapped a couple keys on the computer’s keyboard, then stepped back from the hutch and unholstered her FATS weapon. Jon watched as she moved forward to the center of the room, then pointed the gun at the floor-to-ceiling screen.

A series of circles appeared across the screen, and she aimed at one and pulled the trigger. Immediately a small “X” appeared in the center of the first circle. Cate registered “shots” in each of the remaining circles, then turned to Jon.

“Your turn,” she said, smiling slightly. She moved back to the hutch and hit a button on the keyboard, and the circles reappeared, empty.

Jon stepped forward to where she had stood and aimed the gun at the first circle. He imitated what he had watched Cate do, registering hits in each of the circles, then lowered the gun to his side and looked back at Cate.

She punched a series of keys again, then turned to face him. “Good,” she smiled. “Now you’re sighted in. Time to play.”

Cate slid her FATS gun into the holster on her hip and pointed to the screen, which was now filled with a huge video still of a dark city alley.

“So, here’s how this works. I will give you a short description of the scenario, from the perspective of the officer--you. Then I’ll start the video. You will act based upon what you see in the video. If a person appears, you will speak to him or her and respond to anything he or she says to you. If necessary, you will issue commands and draw, aim, or fire your weapon, based on the situation that unfolds.”

“If you see anything on the screen that you could use as cover, like a car, a tree, a dumpster…” Cate pointed to the dumpster in the frame frozen on the screen. “…you will crouch, kneel, hit the ground, et cetera, to 'take cover' behind it. If you want to shoot around it, lean or rise up like you would to move around the cover object, then shoot at your target on the screen with your FATS weapon."

"When you fire, you will see a red circle appear on the screen where your bullet would strike. Once you fire, the video will stop. But keep in mind…you may not even have to draw your weapon, let alone shoot, depending on the scenario. This is a test of your situational judgment, not target practice.”

She paused to ensure Jon was following her, then continued. “About the only thing you can’t really do is walk around. Even though the video will make it appear that you are walking or running in whatever direction, if you actually move you’ll just run into the screen or the walls.”

Jon chuckled at that, and Cate gave him a wry smile. “Obviously. But you’d be amazed how many students really get into this and next thing you know they run smack into the wall. Brandon even had a guy knock out a tooth when he dove for ‘cover.’”

“Wow. It’s that realistic?” Jon asked, surprised.

“Well, not really. But students are like puppies. Sometimes they just get a little overexcited and pee all over themselves.” Cate answered, cocking her head to the side and giving Jon a little grin. “So stay calm, okay Puppy?”

Jon heard the tease in her voice and responded with a mischievous little smile of his own. “Okay. Just be sure you don’t do anything to get me excited,” he warned.

“Not today, Rock Star.” Cate answered. “Today it’s all business.” Damnit.

She took a breath and looked at the screen. “Okay. Here’s the scenario. You are a patrol officer who responded to a robbery in progress call at a local laundromat. When you arrived on the scene, there was no suspect in sight, but a witness said she saw a man flee from the laundromat into the alley. You and your partner, whom you will see on the video when it gets rolling, approach the alley. Ready?”

Jon nodded. “I think so.” He faced the screen and waited for the video to begin. Cate watched him take in and blow out a long breath, shake his arms and hands a little, then focus on the screen, concentrating.

Cate clicked the mouse, then watched Jon closely as the video started. He looked a bit uncomfortable at first, as all students did, but he quickly got into the scenario. Well, he IS an actor… Cate reminded herself.

The video progressed, showing a man stumbling into the frame from the right side of the alley. Jon reacted, his hand going to his weapon as he verbally engaged the “man.” He correctly determined the man not to be a threat and ordered him to get out of the way while he continued his search for the suspect.

Cate nodded, impressed. Jon was doing quite well for his first time through FATS.

The scenario continued, the video finally revealing the suspect hiding behind a dumpster. The suspect brandished a handgun then started running, the perspective of the video making it appear that the officer was running too, in pursuit. In a fluid movement, Jon drew his weapon and yelled out “STOP! POLICE!”

Cate felt a little shiver down her spine at the sound of that familiar, gorgeous voice barking the command. She watched Jon as he shuffled slightly in place, holding his weapon at the perfect ready position. The suspect on the video screen whirled and raised the handgun to point at the camera.

Jon immediately brought his pistol up, aimed, and fired four quick shots. Four small red dots appeared on the screen, then the video stopped.

Two of Jon’s shots had struck the suspect in the chest. Jon stood frozen, holding his aim toward the screen, his body tensed and alert. Oh my….. Cate thought, appreciating the view before speaking.

“Okay. Good.” Cate clicked the mouse and text appeared on the video screen. It read “Four shots; two strikes. Fatality. No collateral injuries.”

Jon lowered his weapon and turned to look at Cate. “Does that mean I got the bad guy?” he asked. He looked a little surprised, but rather pleased with himself.

“Yep.” Cate smiled. “Actually, you did quite well. Come over here and see.” She gestured to the video monitors lined on the upper shelves of the hutch. Each of them displayed a video feed captured by one of the four cameras mounted in each corner of the room.

Cate clicked a few icons on the computer, then a playback of the video of Jon performing the FATS scenario started. Jon watched and listened silently as Cate pointed out things he did well and a couple minor things he could improve upon. By the end of her critique he was smiling.

“That was pretty cool,” he grinned. “Do I get to do more?”

Cate laughed. “Yes, you get to do about a dozen more scenarios. They get more challenging as they go on.” She paused for a moment. “I’m actually pretty impressed at how you handled that first scenario. Most students are a little freaked out or self-conscious.”

“Yeah, well….years of acting class kinda beats that self-consciousness thing out of you.” Jon smiled. “Once the video rolled, it was pretty easy to get into.”

He was secretly proud that he had earned Cate’s praise. After her kicking his ass at DTs and him shooting for shit on the range, he was beginning to worry that she would think he was hopeless.

Cate nodded. “Okay, let’s do round two.” Jon grinned and moved back to the center of the room while Cate selected another scenario from the computer menu.

Time passed quickly as Jon completed a dozen training scenarios on the FATS system. After each session, Cate gave him a critique of his performance, using the video playback. Though he wasn’t successful with every scene, Jon definitely felt he was learning and that the practice he was getting would prove invaluable in preparing for his movie role.

Best of all, he was thoroughly enjoying his time with Cate. She was serious but relaxed in her teaching, keeping the mood light. Every time Jon’s eyes met hers, she gave him a little smile, causing his heart to beat just a bit faster. Their unspoken attraction still simmered under the surface of their interaction, but today it was under control.

“Let’s try a partner scenario, then we’ll wrap it up,” Cate said, glancing at her watch. She clicked the mouse, then stepped forward to stand beside Jon in the middle of the room. “Okay with you, Partner?”

Jon grinned broadly. Partner…. he loved Cate calling him that. “Sure thing. Just don’t shoot me.”

Cate laughed. “Same goes for you, Buddy!” She quickly outlined the scenario for Jon – response to a bank robbery in progress -- then they waited for the video to begin.

The scenario started and they quickly got into role. Cate had chosen one of the more difficult scenarios, so there was a lot for them to do. Both Jon and Cate yelled commands at the screen, ducked behind imaginary objects, and moved around the room, working in tandem. The scene erupted into a shootout, and Jon and Cate both hit the ground, laying side-by-side on the floor while they fired off a barrage of “shots” at the multiple robbers.

The video stopped as the shots registered, and Cate turned her head to look at Jon. She saw that he was breathing hard, his lips slightly parted, adrenaline obviously rushing as he held his aim on the screen. She smiled. He really got into this.

Cate dropped her FATS gun to the floor and pushed herself up to a kneeling position, her leg brushing against Jon’s as she moved. Noticing her movement, Jon followed, climbing to his feet, then offering his hand to Cate.

Cate picked up and holstered her gun, then reached out to grab Jon’s proffered hand. His grip was firm and warm, and she felt a little charge go through her body. He hauled her to her feet and she stood facing him. They exchanged a little grin, then Cate turned to go back to the computer so they could review their performance.

But before she moved away, she couldn’t help herself… and reached down to give Jon a light smack on the ass. “Good game,” she said casually, then quickly moved to the computer.

Jon was caught completely off-guard by Cate’s gesture. He felt a surge of excitement at the contact, and at the playfulness in her voice. He turned to look at her back, as she was busily clicking away at the computer.

Jon hesitated a moment, then walked slowly over to stand beside Cate, awaiting the critique of his performance. He couldn’t keep a satisfied smile from his lips as he moved close enough to brush his shoulder against hers.

Feeling the contact, Cate turned her head to look at Jon. Her heart melted at the sight of his sweet smile, and she gave him one back. They regarded each other for a moment, then Cate turned back to the video monitors.

She started her critique, and Jon tried to pay attention. He got most of what she said, but found himself watching her lips as she spoke, not hearing all the words. How he wanted to taste those lips again. But today he was content with the closeness he and Cate shared. For the moment, it was enough.

Cate finished and looked back at Jon. Seeing the same adorable smile on his lips, she knew he hadn’t heard most of what she had said. But she decided to give him a pass this time. How could she not? Just LOOK at him….and he had done well on all the other scenarios today.

Cate swayed slightly to her right, bumping her shoulder against Jon’s. “C’mon,” she said softly. “Time to close up shop.”

Jon nodded and leaned toward Cate, returning her shoulder-bump. “Okay,” he answered.

Cate handed him her training weapon and directed him to put the guns back in the cabinet, which he did as she started to shut down the computer and video equipment.

Hearing the rasp of the Velcro as Jon undid the side tabs of his vest, Cate looked over and watched Jon pull the armor over his head.

His navy t-shirt was damp where the vest had covered it, and it clung to his chest. Cate gazed appreciatively at him for a moment, then removed her own vest and stowed it in its carry bag. After ensuring all the equipment was shut down and the locker was secured, Cate and Jon left, locking the door behind them.

Chapter 26 - Bulletproof

Fifteen minutes later Cate returned to her office to find Jon reclining on her couch, his Blackberry in hand. “Hi,” she said. “Sorry to run out on you – Floyd needed to discuss a student.”

“Danny told me.” Jon smiled. “S’alright. I know you have other students besides me.”

Cate glanced up at the clock. “We’d better get moving if we’re gonna get our FATS session in this afternoon.” She realized Jon was the sole occupant of her couch – none of his bags were sharing the space. “Where’s your gear?” she asked.

“Locker room.” Jon replied. “I figured you were sick having my crap laying all around your office.” He grinned. “You’re a bit of a neat freak, aren’t you?”

“What gives you that idea?” Cate asked warily. She was a bit anal-retentive about organization, but she didn’t think it was that obvious…

“Not a speck of dust in the place, all the pictures on the wall are straight, books arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, papers stacked neatly in the in-box…” Jon pointed around the room as he spoke. Pausing, he gave Cate a teasing smile. “Need I go on?”

“Nope.” Cate answered quickly. Okay, so he’s perceptive…. “Let’s go – my stuff’s in my locker too.” She moved to the door as Jon stood and tucked his Blackberry into its holster on his belt.

They walked in silence down the hall and into the locker room. Jon could tell Cate’s mind was elsewhere – probably on the student that was being disqualified from training. He didn’t press.

It was obvious after watching her interact with the “real” students these last few days that she really did care about them, even if she didn’t show it publicly. He could imagine it was disappointing for her when one failed.

They entered the locker room and pulled bags from their lockers. “Do you have your body armor with you?” Cate asked.

“Yeah.” Jon extracted the vest from the pile in his locker, his groin tightening slightly as his mind flashed back to the measurement session in the supply room. Easy there, Big Boy. Don’t make the same mistake you did yesterday.

“Have you tried it on yet?” Cate obviously remembered the encounter, as well. Her voice was quiet and restrained, but with a hint of huskiness.

Jon shook his head. “Should I do it now?”

“Yeah, so if it doesn’t fit I can run down the hall and get you another one.” Cate responded.

She jumped as Jon started to pull his dark blue t-shirt up to remove it. “WAIT! Uh…you wear it over your shirt….unless you want to get a pretty uncomfortable rash…” Cate trailed off, blushing slightly at the sight of those perfect, tanned abs. Hello again….

Jon gave Cate a sweet smile and lowered his shirt, covering his stomach. He picked up the vest and looked at it, then turned it around. He undid one of the Velcro straps on the side, then struggled to hang on to the vest as the heavy black Kevlar microfabric flopped over, twisting around. He looked so utterly confused that Cate giggled softly.

“Here.” She stepped forward and took the vest from Jon’s hands. She deftly undid the two tabs on each side, then held the vest up by the shoulder tabs. “See, the little dip goes in the front, for your throat.”

She showed Jon the front, then the back of the vest, then lifted it up to drop it over his head. Jon ducked forward to put his head through the opening, and Cate almost sighed as his silky hair brushed over her fingers. She settled the armor down onto Jon’s broad shoulders.

Cate showed Jon how to wrap the vest around his torso, front panel over back at the sides, then secured the side Velcro tabs so it fit him snugly. She smiled as he fidgeted, trying to shift the vest into a more comfortable position. “Feels weird, doesn’t it?” she asked.

“Yeah. This isn’t the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn,” he answered, frowning down at the black shell encasing his torso.

Cate couldn’t stop herself from giggling. She tried to cover it by clearing her throat, but her mischievous expression gave her away. Jon gave her a bemused look. “What’s so funny?”

“Well, it’s not like you’re a stranger to…um…restrictive clothing,” Cate teased, pictures flashing through her mind of the many, many pairs of skin-tight pants she had enjoyed seeing him wear over the years.

Jon grinned. “Oh yeah, go ahead. Make fun of the hard-workin’ Rock Star just tryin’ to give the ladies what they want!” he chided her playfully. “Somehow I doubt you have any complaints.” He arched his eyebrows at Cate.

“I’ll plead the Fifth on that, Your Honor.” Cate replied, her eyes still twinkling merrily.

“Uh huh…” Jon replied sardonically, giving her a suggestive wink.

He wiggled again and grimaced in discomfort. “Crap, how do women wear these things?” he muttered, pulling at the arm holes to shift the vest on his pecs.

Cate laughed openly at that. “Yeah, Buddy. You think you’re uncomfortable? Imagine how I feel! I gotta strap the girls down good and tight.” She grinned. “But, you get used to it. The custom fit helps, and they mold to your body shape after awhile.”

“Why so tight? Aren’t these straps adjustable for a reason?” Jon squirmed again, an annoyed expression crossing his face.

“Well, you want the vest to fit you snugly, with no gaps, because you don’t want to take the chance of a bullet finding one of those gaps,” Cate said, the playfulness in her voice now replaced by a matter-of-fact tone.

“You wrap front over back so if you get hit in the front with a bullet and it changes direction, it follows the vest around the side and away from your body. If you wrapped back over front, a bullet could funnel right inside your vest and bounce around and shred your back. And even if you wear it right there’s always the chance your vest may not protect you.”

Jon saw a flash of something like remorse in Cate’s azure eyes. Jesus, she would know. “I see,” he answered quietly. May as well fess up now. “Danny told me about your…injury,” he admitted. “That must have been scary.”

Cate shrugged. “It was what it was. We all know what can happen out there. We accept the risk when we accept the badge.” She paused for a moment, her eyes meeting his. “I don’t regret what happened to me. It put me on another path in life. Everything happens for a reason.”

Jon nodded. Christ, she seems so calm about life and death. He remembered what Danny had said, about Cate not wanting anyone but trusted friends to see her “girly” side. So why does she get so worked up about someone seeing her as human? “Yes, it certainly does,” he agreed softly, returning her gaze.

Cate was quiet for another moment then smiled gently, clearly putting the memory aside. She gestured at Jon’s body armor. “That looks good.” You can take it off until we get to the FATS room. Unless you want to be all sweaty and uncomfortable before we even get there.” Like when I measured you for it. The hint of tease was back in her voice.

Jon undid the side tabs and pulled the vest over his head. At Cate’s direction, he slid his magazine pouches, cuffs, and holster onto his belt, taking a few minutes to position them correctly between the belt loops. He saw Cate surreptitiously check out his ass and smirked to himself, but didn’t say anything.

Cate was already wearing her gear on her belt, so she just grabbed her body armor bag from her locker as they readied to leave. “One more stop,” she said as they exited the locker room.

Cate led Jon to a small room next to the break room and punched a code into the cipher lock on the door. Jon saw it was nothing more than a large closet with what looked like a wall of lockers and a big, funny-shaped red barrel. He watched as Cate dropped her bag on the floor, pulled her Glock from its holster, and pointed its muzzle into the barrel.

She deftly unloaded and cleared the gun, then turned and caught Jon’s puzzled look. “Clearing barrel,” she explained. “Where we’re going, I don’t need my weapon.” She opened one of the small lockers and put the gun and clips of ammo inside, then closed the door and spun the dial. Picking up her vest, she stepped back out the door and closed it, ensuring it was locked.

“The little details of the job you never even think about.” Jon mused as they moved through the back door, out into the sunshine, and started walking toward a cluster of buildings adjacent to Range 7. He shook his head wonderingly to himself, falling into step beside Cate.

She saw his reaction and smiled. “Yeah, there are a lot of boring, mundane parts of our job. It’s not all kicking in doors and chasing Bad Guys.” Cate gave Jon a quizzical look. “I’m sure there are parts of your job that are less than exciting, too. It can’t be glamorous and amazing 24/7, can it?”

“Oh, absolutely! It’s always fabulous and awesome!” Jon answered sarcastically. “Especially all the PR crap. But that’s part of the biz. I would be perfectly happy to just write songs and sing them for people, but there’s a whole lot more that goes with it, at least if you wanna make a living at it.”

“And be the best at it.” Cate replied, giving him a sideways glance. Jon saw her blush slightly. Ah, and there’s The Fan….

“Well, not everyone would agree, but Thanks.” Jon turned on the “Hey Baby” smile, just for her.

He was rewarded with a deeper flush and a tiny, self-conscious little squeak from Cate. Teasing her more, Jon pursed his lips into his famous pout, his eyes twinkling roguishly.

“Alright, you…I thought you promised me this morning that you were gonna behave yourself?” Cate asked accusingly, smiling broadly despite herself.

“Oh yeah…I mean ‘Yes Ma’am’.” Jon responded contritely. Then he pouted at her again, just to see her squirm.

“Damnit, Jon!” Cate exclaimed. “You better cut that shit out when we get to the training room!” She couldn’t stop smiling, though she was serious… she didn’t want a repeat of yesterday. She looked away from him, toward their destination.

Jon chuckled. “I promise, I will.” He leaned in toward Cate as they walked. “Don’t want you to have to lay on top of me again, like last night.” He couldn’t resist the tease. “Not that I really minded…it’s fine with me if you wanna be on top,” he said conspiratorily.

Cate blushed again as her heart skipped a beat. Damnit all to Hell…stop putting those images in my brain!!!

Cate didn’t answer, keeping her eyes focused forward as they approached the building. Damned if she was gonna let herself get sucked into another battle of wills with Jon.

He noticed her jaw tighten as she bit back her response and he grinned, also turning his gaze forward.

Chapter 25 - Plotting

Jon and Cate spent what little was left of the morning in her office, chatting about what training they would cover for the remainder of the week. She was genuinely touched by his “peace offering,” and she felt her tough fa├žade slip away the more they conversed.

Cate realized that once she put her “instructor hat” aside she actually found Jon very easy to talk to, like a friend she had known all her life. She smiled to herself at the thought. In a way, I guess I HAVE known him forever.

Jon was elated that Cate had reacted as she had to his gift. As she slowly dropped her defenses while they talked, he began to feel something for her other than awe and lust. Somehow she stirred up emotions he hadn’t felt in awhile. Not love – for him that came with time -- but the beginning of a real attachment. He wondered how much that feeling would grow before he had to leave in nine short days. And how hard it would be for him to leave.

When lunchtime came, Jon insisted they go to the Dining Hall with the rest of the FTB instructors, despite the goal of keeping his visit low-profile. He teasingly complained that he wanted the “real-deal cafeteria lunch experience” like the rest of the students, making Cate laugh. She reluctantly agreed, and made a phone call before they left.

When they arrived at the facility, Cate took Jon to the back door and led him through the kitchen and into the cafeteria line. Jon dutifully kept quiet, his baby blues hidden behind dark sunglasses and his hair tucked the best he could manage under his FTB cap.

But there’s just no way to disguise that ass... Cate thought as she watched him walk ahead of her in the line. The Good Lord made Levis just for a man like this…

They moved quickly through the line, selecting their lunch items, then Cate led Jon to the staff dining room off to the side of the student section. They found a large round table in the corner and sat, Jon facing away from the rest of the room and removing his minimal disguise. Soon they were joined by Danny, Troy, Steve, Bobby, and George. They settled into their meals and conversation.

As usual, the instructors blew off a little steam about students, equipment, administrators, etc. Jon watched and listened to it all, an amused grin on his face. Then, the bitching done, the gang talked about anything and everything – sports, cars, guns, TV, kids, and the inevitable funny “there I was…” story or two.

Aside from his “close encounters” with Cate, these interludes with the group had been Jon’s favorite part of the training. He loved feeling like he was part of the gang, one of the insiders in this Cop World. He genuinely liked and respected them all, and he was grateful that they had accepted him without a fuss.

As Cate expected, it was impossible to keep Jon’s presence a complete secret, and several times during lunch he was approached by instructors and staff members for a handshake or an autograph. She watched as he happily obliged each fan, again touched by his sincerity as he thanked each one for the work they do. This was Jon Bon Jovi as she had always imagined him – a humble, sincere, really, really Good Guy.

Jon noticed her smile as he signed an autograph, and gave her a wink. Cate’s heart melted. She glanced across the table at Danny, who was watching her carefully, a self-satisfied little grin on his face. Their eyes met and he nodded slightly. “See, told ya ….” his look said. “Relax, breathe, enjoy.”

After lunch the instructors went their separate ways, back to classes and meetings. Cate, Jon, and Danny made the short walk back to the office together, enjoying the warm sunshine and mild breeze. Once back at FTB Cate found a note on her door from Floyd, asking her to come see him. She excused herself and left Jon and Danny in her office.

In response to Jon’s inquiring look, Danny explained. “We’re about to disenroll a student for FTQ -- failure to qualify. Cate did remedial training with him, so Floyd wants to go over the records with her one last time before he makes the call.” He shrugged. “It happens sometimes. This job isn’t for everybody.”

Jon considered that for a moment, nodding. After what he had seen in just a few days he knew he could never be a cop, of any sort. Never, ever, ever. These men and women were just made of tougher stuff than he.

He thought he had sacrificed in his life, for success, for fortune, for love. But what he had done was nothing compared to what these people put on the line for duty, honor, and country. If he left this experience with nothing else, he would forever hold deep admiration for these cops and all who came before and after them.

After a moment of silent contemplation, Jon realized he had his chance to talk to Danny. Since waking this morning Jon had been trying to figure out how to get Cate to agree to spend some time with him away from the Center. He thought he had a plan, but he needed an accomplice. He hoped Danny would be a willing partner in crime.

“Hey Danny, I need a favor. It’s about Cate,” he said.

“Another one? Danny chuckled. “Jeez, Jon, am I gonna have to keep bailing you out? Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of Rock God who effortlessly bends women to his will?”

Jon grinned. “Why, yes, I am!” he laughed. “Problem is Super Girl here seems to be impervious to my charms. Kryptonite, my ass.”

Danny laughed out loud at Jon’s reference to his metaphor from the day before. "Isn't your ass supposed to be the Kryptonite?" he asked. "At least, that's what the Gals say."

Jon chuckled in reply. Seeing Danny was receptive to his request, Jon quickly outlined his plan. He knew he would get to hang out with Cate tomorrow at “beer and wings night,” but he wanted to take her on a proper date.

Jon was scheduled to fly to Philly early Saturday for a Project HOME event. He had planned to stay the night in Jersey then return to Georgia on Sunday. But, if he could make this work, he wanted to change those plans.

Danny nodded along as he listened to Jon’s scheme, smirking as he thought of Cate’s reaction to the surprise. If this didn’t get her to open up to Jon, he didn’t know what would. And since he and Cate already had weekend plans Danny could pretty much guarantee he would be able to keep the secret until the very last minute.

“And I need a bit of advice.” Jon continued. “You have known her forever, and I know she’s probably talked to you about me and the band, at least a little.” Jon smiled sheepishly as Danny snorted. “Does she have some sort of… well, uh… fantasy, I guess…that I could maybe… make happen?

“Other than tying you up in the dungeon, ya mean?” Danny asked, grinning. Again he was secretly gleeful. Jon was almost squirming with embarrassment at asking what Cate had fantasized about him. Dude, you’re lucky I love her like I do…this is NOT something GUYS discuss! But he knew the answer to Jon’s question, and for Cate he would spill.

Danny sighed dramatically. “Well, more than once when Cate and her She-Cop buddies have had a few margaritas, I’ve been subjected to the most horrific, detailed descriptions of their “Bon Jovi dream dates.” Danny rolled his eyes and raised his voice to a falsetto. “Oh, Jonny is ever so dreamy… I wish he was my boyfriend!!!” he mocked.

His voice returned to normal pitch and he shot Jon a disgusted look. “And you don’t even wanna know what they say about Sambora.”

Jon burst out laughing at Danny’s performance, forgetting his embarrassment. Danny smirked and laughed along. “Okay, okay….so… so what is it?” Jon gasped as his mirth subsided.

“Cate’s Ultimate Jon Bon Jovi Dream Date?” Danny asked flippantly. He paused, taking in Jon’s hopeful expression. “Well, Dude – unfortunately for you it’s nothing kinky. It’s pretty tame. Sadly, she’s more of a romantic than a sex kitten.”

Danny then outlined the scenario Cate had longed to experience for years.

Jon’s eyes widened in surprise, then he broke into a huge grin. He loved what he had just heard. “That, my brother, I can do,” he said confidently. “You get her to the right place at the right time, and I’ll take it from there.”

“You got it.” Danny agreed. Man, is Cate gonna owe me for this one…

Chapter 24 - Peace Offering


Cate arrived at the office a little later than usual. She had smacked the snooze button on her alarm clock at least five times, not able to coax herself from the warmth of her bed. But she had responsibilities, so she had dragged her ass up and out, though 45 minutes behind schedule.

After refilling her travel mug, Cate closed the door to her office and settled in at her desk. She just needed a little peace and quiet to get her day rolling. She set her iPod to a piano music playlist and opened her e-mail.

It never ceased to amaze her how quickly her inbox filled up; now that everybody had “Crackberries” e-mails arrived at all hours. She worked her way down the list, sipping her coffee as she read, responded, forwarded, and deleted. E-mail number 17 was from Danny.

“Slick – check out the new pics on the H-drive.”

Cate cocked her head slightly to the side, wondering what new photos were on the office’s public drive. Every couple days somebody posted pictures of students in various exercises or activities. It was impossible to keep up with them all, but Cate tried to take a look every week or two.

She clicked on the icon on her computer desktop, and watched the file list appear on her screen. The newest folder was marked “BonJoviRange.” Oh. Cate had forgotten George was taking pics last night. Oh Hell.

She clicked on the folder icon and watched as the thumbnails filled her screen in neat rows. George had taken over two hundred photos, most of them of Jon and her interacting at the range. She clicked on the first one and started to scroll through the slideshow viewer.

Well, they aren’t too bad… she thought. She had been worried that the camera had captured her lusting after Jon. She certainly didn’t need the whole office to see that.

As she flipped through the sequential shots, Cate began to notice an intensity in Jon’s expression. Then she came upon the pic Jon had viewed the night before, of him standing behind her, smelling her hair. Cate’s mouth dropped open in astonishment.

Sweet Jesus… If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one’s worth a whole damned book! She hadn’t been able to see him in the moment, of course, and now she was glad. If she had seen that raptured expression on his face last night when she was trying to rein herself in, it would have been all over. She would have jumped into his arms and let him have his way with her, George and Danny be damned.

Cate stared at the photo for a long time, then finally clicked the mouse to move the slideshow ahead. She paused again at the series of frames of herself pressed against Jon’s side, steadying his aim. The closeup of their faces, side by side, was exquisite.

Cate let out an involuntary sigh. Moving on with the show, Cate watched the progression of the training through the M-16 course, and noted Jon’s clenched jaw and rigid posture. Cate clicked again and gasped.

George was no novice photographer, and he had apparently gone to the ground to get eye-level photos of Jon firing prone. He hadn’t anticipated Cate dropping over top of Jon as she had. The shot he captured at that moment was priceless.

The frame was filled with Cate and Jon’s bodies from the waist up, hers hovering closely over his. Cate’s face was in profile as she stared downrange, her lips parted as she spoke into his ear. Jon’s face was turned toward the camera’s lens.

His expression was fierce and beautiful, his eyes ablaze through the shield of his safety glasses. The extension of the sleek black rifle forward from Jon’s shoulder balanced the composition and gave the photo an almost menacing, sexual quality.

Cate leaned back hard in her chair and took a long drink of coffee. Christ, talk about unbridled lust. It’s all right there, on his face. Danny was right. Cate couldn’t help herself – a small smile crept to her lips at the photographic evidence, the proof of everything she was trying to deny. Jon Bon Jovi wanted her. It was real.

Cate scrolled through the rest of the photos, then returned to the shot that had taken her breath away. She stared at it for a long time, memorizing every detail. Finally, she sighed and copied the folder to her hard drive. She definitely wanted to keep these for herself.


Jon smiled tiredly as he pulled into the lot at FTB and spotted Cate’s Mustang in its space. He had spent a restless night, needing to see her.

He had awoken to a dry mouth and pounding headache, courtesy the whiskey and cigarettes. Despite his hangover, Jon had forced himself to do a short workout on the elliptical trainer, to sweat some of the toxin out of his body. After a long shower, a light breakfast, lots of coffee, and four Tylenol, he felt better.

Jon parked his rental SUV then reached over to the passenger seat to grab his bags. It seems like every day I have more crap to haul around in more bags. Man, cops have a lot of shit! He was careful not to crush the one paper bag, a silver gift bag adorned with a black bow.

Jon entered the building and made his way down the hall to the locker room. He walked into the room and dropped the gift bag on the bench in front of his locker. Then he opened his locker and shoved his bags of gear and clothes into the bottom.

Shutting the locker door with a metallic clang, Jon picked up the gift bag and made to leave the room. As he pushed through the door, he found himself face-to-face with Danny. “Hey, Morning,” Jon said, his voice gravelly.

“Hey Man.” Danny responded. His eyes swept over Jon’s tired face. “You look like you didn’t sleep much.”

Jon shook his head. “Couldn’t get a certain redhead off my mind,” he confided. “Despite the whiskey.”

Danny nodded. He had been there before. He raised an eyebrow. “Everything alright?”

Jon sighed. “Yeah. At least I think so. She texted me last night.”

Danny nodded silently again, regarding Jon’s hopeful expression. “Give her time. She’ll come around.”

“With a little help from her friends.” Jon responded. He knew Danny had to have said something to Cate after their blowup on the range. “Thanks, Man.”

“No problem. I got your back.” Danny nodded toward Cate’s office. “She’s in there. Go.”

Jon smiled and started down the hall. He reached Cate’s door in a few short seconds. It was closed. He took a breath and knocked.

“Come,” he heard Cate command.

Jon opened the door slightly and extended his arm through the crack, the gift bag in his hand. Then he peeked around the door at Cate, giving her a little grin. “Peace offering,” he explained, shaking the bag slightly.

Cate couldn’t help but return his smile. At her response, Jon pushed the door open further and walked into Cate’s office, setting the bag on the desk in front of her. “Go ahead, open it,” he urged. He settled into the chair across the desk from her.

“Jon, you didn’t have to…I mean, no peace offering is necessary.” Cate said softly. Her eyes found his. “I’m really sorry for being such a bitch yesterday.”

Jon shook his head. “No, it was my fault. I hate to lose, to fail, to be bad at anything… though I’m bad at plenty of stuff. I was frustrated and I took it out on you.”

His voice gentled. “And I put you in a really difficult position yesterday at the gym. I’m sorry. I should be able to better control my… urges.”

Cate blushed and looked down. She was quiet for a moment, then brought her eyes back up to his. “It’s okay. I shouldn’t be such a ball-breaker.” She paused. “And actually, it didn’t completely suck, when you, I mean…” she trailed off, not quite able to say “kissed me.”

She took a breath, then continued, a hint of playfulness in her voice. “But you can’t keep strutting around, oozing that Rock Star charm. At least not when I’m trying to teach you things. It’s… distracting.”

“Fair enough. I promise I’ll behave myself from now on.” Jon vowed, grinning. He drew an “X” over his chest. “Cross my heart.” Unless you don’t want me to…

“Me too.” Cate replied, smiling at his gesture.

“Good. Now that that’s settled, open your present.” Jon reached forward and nudged the bag toward her.

“You didn’t have to…” Cate started to protest again, but stopped when she saw Jon’s raised eyebrow. “Thank You,” she said simply.

She reached for the bag and pulled it to her lap. Removing the tissue paper at the top, she put her hand into the bag and touched soft, shiny blue fabric. She gasped slightly and pulled out the garment.

Unfolding the shirt, she saw that she was holding an authentic Philadelphia Soul jersey, emblazoned with the number 2 and “D’ORAZIO” across the back. The slick fabric and the rubbery numbers were slightly worn; obviously the jersey wasn’t new.

As Cate held the garment up to inspect it, she moved it closer to her face. Her heart jumped as she caught the faint scent of his cologne on the fabric. Holy Shit! This was JON’s jersey. He had worn it, carried it on his body, next to his skin. And he was giving it to her.

Jon grinned when he heard the catch in Cate’s breath as she held up the shirt, blocking his view of her face with it. He could tell she had figured out he had given her one of his own jerseys.

Jon had brought an assortment of new Soul gear with him, intending to give it to various instructors and Center employees who helped him with his training. He had a new number 3 Bon Jovi jersey ready to give his instructor, but when he learned from Danny of Cate’s extensive Soul wardrobe he figured (correctly) she already had one. And he wanted to give her something personal, something that would symbolize the connection he felt to her.

When Cate dropped the shirt slightly to look over it at Jon, he could see in her shining eyes that she understood. She gave him a tender, almost heartbreaking smile. “Jon… Thank You,” she whispered. The sound of his name on her breath warmed his heart.

“You’re welcome,” he answered gently. Seeing that she was a bit overwhelmed, Jon decided to give her a moment. He stood. “I’m gonna get a cup of coffee. You need a refill?” he asked, gesturing toward her mug.

Cate shook her head, not trusting herself to speak. Jon smiled and moved to the door. As he turned to head down the hall he glanced back at Cate.

He paused when he saw her move her hands to bring his jersey to her face. The sweet smile still on her lips and her eyes closed, she brushed the soft material lightly against her cheek then buried her nose in the bunched fabric and inhaled deeply, breathing in his scent. She exhaled slowly and brought the garment to her chest, holding it against her heart as she dropped her chin to rest on it.

Enthralled by the tenderness of the moment, Jon stood there, watching her. Then he felt tears come to his eyes. Cate’s simple gesture touched his heart in a way he didn’t expect. Jon quickly blinked the moisture from his eyes and walked away from Cate’s door, leaving her to her moment.

Chapter 23 - Aftermath

Cate didn’t remember the drive to her house. She was lost in thought the entire way, and was actually startled when she pulled into her driveway and saw the closed garage door. She pushed the button on the opener and watched as the door slid upward to allow her to guide her Mustang into the bay.

Once inside the house, Cate tossed her bags on the floor of the foyer and went straight to the kitchen. She pulled a beer out of the fridge, popped the cap off, and drank deeply. Then she noticed there was a piece of paper pinned by a magnet to the fridge door. She quickly read the note from Erin, her 12-year-old neighbor, that Jovi was spending the night with her next door.

Cate nodded to herself. She had been so preoccupied that she didn’t even notice the big collie hadn’t met her at the door. Cate paid Erin twenty dollars a week to feed and walk Jovi, and she was happy to let the girl keep the dog for a “sleepover” when she worked late.

Taking another swig of her beer, Cate went into the bathroom and started the shower. Then she went into her closet, undressed and tossed her dirty clothes in the hamper, and finished off her beer.

Returning to the kitchen for another brew, she popped the top then took the bottle with her into the shower. She stood miserably under the warm spray for a long time, drinking and replaying the day’s events in her mind.

The more she dwelled on her thoughts, the more ridiculous she felt. She still felt a dull ache in her heart from Danny’s stinging words. And the way she had acted toward Jon… well, there was probably no chance in hell that he wanted anything to do with her now.

Danny was right. She was a Bitch. Cate gave a long shuddering sigh and felt tears spring to her eyes. She raised her face to the spray to wash them away.

So much for her dream come true… two whole weeks with Jon Bon Jovi all to herself. She smiled ruefully. Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it.

After finishing her beer and her shower, Cate pulled on her ratty old Philadelphia Eagles jersey and brushed out her hair. Remembering she had stuck her Glock in her gear bag before driving home, she padded into the foyer and pulled the bag from the floor.

She unzipped the bag and rooted around in it, finding the holstered gun. As she pulled the Glock out she noticed a glint of silver. Cate reached down to the bottom of the bag and pulled out a silver chain bearing a sterling Maltese cross.

It was Jon’s necklace. When he took it off at the gym earlier, he must have accidentally dropped it into her bag instead of his.

As she held the beautiful cross in her hand, Cate was overwhelmed with emotion. She blinked back tears and took a deep, shaky breath. God, I’m such a fool. What in Bloody Hell ever possessed me to treat him like that?

She stared at the cross for another moment, then with trembling hands unhooked the clasp. She drew the chain around her neck and fastened it in the back, under her hair. She felt the weight of the cross between her breasts, warming her skin. Just a few short hours ago it had rested on Jon’s chest.

Cate grabbed her gun and went back into the bedroom. She placed the holstered Glock on her nightstand next to her Blackberry, and climbed into bed. She was exhausted, but her mind was restless. Cate turned on the TV and clicked over to ESPN SportsCenter.

After watching a recap of the day’s baseball games, Cate couldn’t stand it anymore. She picked up her Blackberry and pushed the button, then waited for a moment.

“Couldn’t sleep, huh Slick?” Danny’s voice was gentle.

“No.” Cate sighed miserably. “You’re right. I am a bitch.”

“Yeah, but you’re my bitch. And you know how I love it when you admit I’m right.” Danny chuckled softly. “It’s okay, Cate. You’ve had one hell of a week so far.” He paused. “I assume you’ve thought about what I told you?”

“Yes.” Cate was quiet for a long moment. Danny waited patiently, knowing she was searching for the words. “Danny, I don’t know what to do,” she finally admitted. “After my little performance tonight he probably doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

“I doubt that.” Danny replied softly. “Cate, I saw his eyes. The guy can’t help himself.”

They let a long silence linger. “What are you doing?” Cate finally asked.

“Laying in bed, watching ‘Navy SEALS.’ “ Danny replied.

“Channel, please.” Cate asked.

“310.” Danny smiled. How many times they had played out this scene from “When Harry Met Sally” over the course of their friendship… He could envision the split screen; Cate in her bed and he in his, both holding their phones to their ears.

“This is one of the cheesiest flicks ever.” Cate remarked, watching the movie on her TV. “But this is a very cool scene.”

Both Cate and Danny watched as the SEALS jumped out of the back of the AC-130 transport, parachuting down to save the world as a gorgeous sunset blazed golden around them.

“Cate, you should call him.” Danny said quietly.

Cate sighed again. “I don’t know, Danny… don’t you think he’d rather just not deal with me for awhile?”

“No.” Danny replied honestly. “I think he’d rather have you wrapped around him in a big ol’ bed over in his fancy villa at The King & Prince.”

“God, Danny….you’re not helping.” Cate groaned.

Danny grinned. “Good. Talk to ya in the morning. Get some sleep, Slick.”

“ ‘Night Slick.” Cate answered. “Love ya.”

“Love ya too, Babe.” There was a faint click and Danny was gone.

Cate stared at the TV for a long while, debating. No longer paying attention to the movie, she rolled onto her side and stared out the panes of the French doors that led to her small balcony. Her house was at the edge of the beach, and she often turned to the ocean for solace.

The moon was full, painting the waves that lapped upon the shore a shimmery silver. The beauty of the night made Cate yearn to hear Jon’s voice soft in her ear, feel his arms tight around her, taste his lips gentle on hers. Now that she had had a taste of the Heaven that was Jon, she craved more. But after tonight, she doubted she would ever again have the chance.

Cate rolled onto her back and sighed. She turned her eyes to her clock radio and saw it was after midnight. He’s probably asleep, she thought. She picked up her Blackberry and began to type.


Jon watched the waves roll into the shore, rushing against the smooth sand. The huge moon shone brightly in the cloudless sky, and the palms swayed in the breeze.

On another night he would have appreciated the tranquility. But he was still trying to unravel the tangle of his emotions, replaying the week’s events in his mind. Jon took another drag off his cigarette… his fifth one of the night. He was gonna pay for that tomorrow.

As he reclined on the posh double chaise on the deck of his villa, Jon wished Cate was there with him. He would give damned near anything to feel her nestled against his chest, her arms around his waist, the perfume of her hair on the breeze.

As the whiskey went to work, Jon’s anger had subsided. He now just felt a longing ache. Jon took another drink from the glass in his hand; the bottle on the table was now more than half empty. He gazed out at the waves and realized just how lonely he had been for so long.

Jon was startled from his thoughts by the slight buzz of his Blackberry, vibrating against the glass of the table. The screen glowed, and Jon saw that he had received a text message. He picked up the device and pushed a button.

[12:22 am] Jon – I’m an idiot. I’m sorry. –C

Jon’s heart warmed at the simple sentiment. So, she couldn’t sleep either? He smiled gently to himself, loving the idea that she was thinking of him, too. Maybe she was gazing at the same moon, wishing he was there with her.

He put down his cigarette and glass and pushed a few buttons.

[12:25 am] Cate – Me too. Sweet Dreams. XOXO – JB


Snuggled under the soft down of her duvet, Cate smiled. She felt a small tear form in the corner of her eye as she read Jon’s reply, so simple yet saying so much.

Her hand went to the cross around her neck and she stroked it lightly, feeling the warmth of Jon’s heart glowing in the little piece of silver. She gently set her Blackberry on the nightstand, clicked off the TV, and closed her eyes.

Chapter 22 - Whiskey and Smoke

Jon strode into the hotel bar, a stormy look on his face. He spotted a barstool at the far end of the long bar, away from the few patrons gathered at the small tables in the center of the room.

The bar's patio doors were open, letting in a gentle breeze and the faint rush of the waves against the shore, but the sounds weren’t soothing to Jon. He was still pissed. The short drive from the Center to The King and Prince hadn’t given him much time to cool off.

Jon stalked over, tossed a pack of Marlboro Lights and a lighter on the bar, and settled on the stool. He quickly shook out a cigarette, placed it between his lips, and touched the lighter’s flame to the end. He sucked in the smoke and exhaled it slowly, willing his anger to float away with the curling wisps.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the bartender move toward him, clearly ready to admonish him for lighting up. As she approached, Jon quickly scanned her figure.

She was a shapely bottle-blonde, about 23 or 24 years old, with a tiny waist and big tits, clearly enhanced. Her lipstick was shockingly red, and matched her long acrylic nails. Jon smirked slightly. Blood red nails on your fingertips…

“Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to put that…Oh My GOD!” The blonde blinked in astonishment as Jon turned his face to her, giving her a tight-lipped smile. It was clear from her expression that she was going to let Jon do whatever the hell he wanted, including smoke his whole pack of cigarettes in this clearly non-smoking establishment. “Um…Hi! Can I get you something?”

“Johnny Walker Blue, rocks.” Jon answered, moving the cigarette back to his lips. He glanced at her nametag, perched precariously on her right breast. Jon took a drag, then blew out another long stream of smoke. “And Ashley… leave the bottle.” He gave her another slight smile. She wasn’t worth the effort of the full-court press.

Ashley blushed when Jon said her name, and skittered back to the other end of the bar to retrieve the whiskey and a glass of ice. She brought them over, set the glass on a cocktail napkin in front of Jon, and made a long pour.

She set the bottle beside the glass then pulled a saucer from under the bar for Jon to use as an ashtray, placing it next to the cigarette pack. “Just let me know if y’all need anything else,” she purred. “I’ll be right down there.” She pointed her crimson-tipped claw toward the other end of the bar.

Jon nodded and took another hit off his cigarette. Exhaling slowly, he picked up the glass and took a long swallow. He savored the burn of the whiskey down his throat. It matched his mood. He was still aflame… not just with anger from Cate’s abrupt ending to their day, but with undeniable lust for her.

Jon was also mad as hell at himself for being such an ass and blaming Cate for his inability to perform on the range. He knew she wasn’t teasing him earlier when she had pressed up against him and taken control of his hands – she really was trying to help him improve his marksmanship.

It wasn’t her fault he lost all ability to comprehend a word out her mouth when she touched him. It was his. Usually he was the one affecting a woman that way, not the other way around. It felt strange to have the tables turned.

Jon took another drink. Christ, I’m a fucking asshole, he thought. He had let his lust and frustration get the better of him and lashed out at her. And look where it had gotten him. Just when she had finally started to relax around him today, he first tried to kiss her, then he yelled at her. One step forward and two steps back.

He had certainly learned one thing about Cate, though. She was as stubborn, controlling, and hot-headed as he was. And that would pose a problem if neither of them was willing to back down.

Jon saw Ashley approach again, a black leather folder in her hand. She gave him a seductive smile, then placed the folder on the bar next to his glass, being sure to brush her finger against the back of his hand. “Everything okay here?” she drawled.

“Fine, thanks.” Jon answered curtly. He stared at Ashley as she batted her eyes at him.

“Well, okay then. Call if you need me, Hon.” She reluctantly strolled back to the other end of the bar, swaying her hips as she went.

Jon rolled his eyes and finished his drink, then poured another. Normally having a young blonde flirt with him would have been entertaining. Tonight it was just annoying.

Jon took another swallow of whiskey, then flipped open the folder to sign his name to the check. He saw that Ashley had written a note in the margin. It read “I’m off at 2:00 – (912)-261-0408. Love, Ashley.”

Jon sighed and shook his head. For Christ’s sake, she’s young enough to be my daughter. He scribbled his signature on the bill and stubbed out his cigarette on the saucer. He stood and stuffed the pack of cigarettes and lighter in his pocket, then grabbed his glass and the bottle and headed for the door.

Chapter 21 - Attitude Adjustment

Cate could hardly see straight, she was so angry. She slung the weapons onto the table and stalked over to the locker where the rags and other tools were kept. But instead of opening it and getting out a cleaning kit, she punched, then kicked the metal door, evoking two loud CLANGs. Completely frustrated, she turned her back to the locker and slammed back against it, her weight rattling the door even more.

She let fly a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush. She knew she was at least partly to blame for the blow-up between her and Jon, but she didn’t want to admit it. It was easier to blame him.

How DARE he? He flirted with her all afternoon, got her all hot and bothered, then had the nerve to yell at her for doing her job??? What a self-righteous fucking asshole! She growled again in frustration, then leaned away from the locker. And now she had to clean the damned weapons by herself.

As she stepped away from the locker, Cate saw Danny standing in the doorway, his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. Cate snorted and stomped over to the table that held the guns. “Don’t fucking start with me, Danny…” she warned him icily. She snatched up the Glock Jon had used and started to take it apart, her hands moving rapidly of their own accord as she fumed.

“Well THAT was a pretty spectacular display of stupidity.” Danny said sarcastically, ignoring Cate’s warning. “What the hell were you thinking?”

Cate shot him an evil glare as she laid out the pieces of the Glock on the table. “What the hell was I thinking? I was thinking that my student wasn’t paying attention and was shooting like shit. So I tried to correct his mistakes.” She gave a derisive snort. “But apparently Big Rock Stars don’t make mistakes. And they sure as HELL don’t want anybody to point them out.”

“Oh really?” Danny strode over to the cleaning table, where Cate had begun to wipe down the Glock, refusing to look at him. “Did it occur to you that you are the reason he was shooting for shit? He did fine with the qual, but then you started leering at him and grabbing him during the PPC, and all of a sudden he didn’t know which way to point his fucking gun. OR his dick!”

Danny raised his eyebrows at Cate when she looked up at him. He could see from her expression that she knew he was right, but there was no way in hell she would admit it. He continued. “And then you fucking lay on top of him and rub your tits on his back? Jesus, Cate! It’s a wonder he could fucking walk, let alone shoot!”

Cate’s fury exploded. She dropped the Glock’s barrel on the table and spun to face Danny. “What the hell are you talking about? I did EXACTLY what I would do, and have done, for any other student with that same problem!” She was yelling now. “You’ve seen me correct students like that before! Hell, I’ve seen YOU drop down on a student and do the same damned thing!!!”

Danny rolled his eyes but stood his ground. “Oh, give me a fucking BREAK, Slick!” he snarled back at her. “You know damned good and well that Jon isn’t a student – he’s a VI-SI-TOR,” Danny drew out the syllables to emphasize his point. “And a VIP Fucking Guest of the Director, at that! Don’t give me that self-righteous ‘I’m the teacher’ bullshit.”

He paused and took a breath. “You know, it would serve you right if he complained to Floyd -- or straight to the Director -- and asked for a new Training Officer.”

Cate’s lips pressed together in a narrow line. Shit, I didn’t think of that… She was ready to fire off a tart “Who Fucking Cares?” but Danny cut her off. “You’re lucky he’s hot for you, and the last thing he wants to do is get you kicked off this detail.”

“Oh PUH-LEASE.” Cate retorted, trying to cover her concern. “Yeah, Jon Fucking Bon Jovi is hot for ME. Sure, he flirted with me a little, but I betcha he flirts with every woman he meets.” Cate turned her attention back to the Glock. Danny didn’t need to read in her face that the “flirting” line had already been crossed.

“Cate, he’s not just turning on the Rock Star charm. He wants you.” Danny’s voice was matter-of-fact.

“Oh, shut the fuck up.” Cate snorted.

“Why else would he spend a half hour in my office this morning, talking about you? Cate, he actually asked me – straight out – if you and I were a couple. He wanted to know if he had any competition. For you.”

Danny watched Cate’s profile closely. He saw her nostrils flare and her eyes widen slightly. “Christ, the guy is so fuckin’ head-over-heels infatuated with you that he can hardly think. And he asked me for advice on how to get you to let your guard down.”

Danny’s voice gentled a bit. “He wants to get to know you, Cate. He’s not looking for a one-night stand. He wants to take you…I don’t know, out dancing, shit like that. He’s got it bad for you, Slick. And you do for him.”

Cate’s heart leapt into her throat. Danny would never lie to her. They had always enjoyed a relationship of total, sometimes brutal honesty, and there was no reason for him to lie to her now. But despite the surge of excitement she felt at Danny’s disclosure, she was still seething over her confrontation with Jon.

“Yeah, well maybe this time the mighty Jon Bon Jovi isn’t gonna get what he wants,” she retorted. “I am a professional, I am going to do my job to the fullest and best of my ability. And if that means stomping on his precious fucking rock star ego, then so be it. If he doesn’t like it he can hit the road.” Cate turned a steely glare at Danny.

Danny had finally had enough. “Cate, you can be so fucking stubborn,” he growled. “You are a damned good cop and a fucking great teacher. Most of the time you’re right. But sometimes you take that self-righteous ‘I’m a professional’ bullshit too damned far. And sometimes…” He glared at her. “…you’re just a Bitch.”

Cate’s head jerked up and she looked at Danny with wide eyes. She felt like he had slapped her across the face. They stared at each other for a long moment, Danny seeing the shock and confusion in Cate’s expression.

God, she could be so infuriating! Danny let out a long, exasperated sigh. “See ya tomorrow,” he said, then turned his back on her and walked out the door.

Cate stared after him, dazed. Her brain struggled to process what Danny had just said, about how Jon really felt about her. She also felt a sharp pain in her heart at Danny’s harsh words. It wasn’t like they had never fought before; over 20-plus years there had been far worse arguments than this one. But this time his rebuke stung.

Cate knew it was because Danny was right. She was being a bitch. The shitty thing was, Danny knew exactly why she was acting the way she was, probably even better than she did. After all, he had always been the one to pick her up and put her back together again when her life fell apart. And for some reason he was pushing her toward Jon, ready and willing to pick up the pieces once again when the time came.

Cate stood there for a long time, cleaning the Glock and trying to sort through her feelings. Finally she gave up. She locked the M-16s in the lockers, telling herself she would clean them tomorrow. She reassembled the Glock and locked it away. Then she secured the armory, set the alarm, locked up the range, and headed for home.