10,141
26.12.2018

I hear a loud yell of protest and fear that comes from Griffin, along with the unmistakable sound of the gun going off. What feels like a brick wall crashes into the side of me and I’m slammed down roughly into the dirt and broken cornstalks. I can’t breathe with the heavy weight on top of me and all I can think about is that being shot hurts a whole fucking lot more than I thought it would.

Another shot goes off and it makes me flinch and finally open my eyes. When I don’t see a white light or any golden gates, I realize I’m not dead. I’m flat on the ground with Griffin on top of me.

“OH MY GOD, I SHOT HIM! Oh no, I’m going to puke. It’s happening. Right now. I’m going to be sick,” McFadden yells as he bends over at the waist and dry-heaves next to a screaming Steve who holds on to the bloody mess of what’s left of the hand McFadden shot off.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Griffin asks in a panic as he takes some of his weight off me and runs his hands over every inch of me, checking for bullet holes.

“Jesus, that just took ten years off my life,” he whispers in my ear as he pulls me against him and I bury my face in his neck.

“Seriously, does no one even care that I’m throwing up over here? I need a cold washrag and some 7 Up,” McFadden complains through his heaves.

As good as it feels to be wrapped in Griffin’s arms, knowing that we’re both safe and sound, there’s something I need to do before this goes any further. With a sigh, I gently push Griffin off me and ignore the questioning look on his face as I get up and walk over to McFadden.

Patting him on the back with one hand as he gags, I reach into my back pocket with my other hand and pull out my zip ties. While he’s busy retching, I pull his arms behind his back and secure them together with the pieces of plastic.

“I saved your life and this is the thanks I get?” McFadden complains as he stands up and struggles to move his arms.

I refrain from responding to him, on the grounds that it may result in me murdering him in cold blood in the middle of his precious crop circle. Instead, I leave him there to complain and walk back over to Griffin.

“So, I guess this means you won the bet. You don’t have to go on a date with me now,” he tells me with a cocky grin.

I smile sweetly right back at him. And then I punch him square in the jaw.

Satisfied that this stupid bet can stop looming over my head, I grab on to the front of his shirt, quickly haul him to me before he can complain and plant a kiss square on his mouth. After a few seconds, I pull away and give him my own cocky smile.

“How about we just call it a tie.”

GD stalemate.

EPILOGUE

Two weeks later . . .

Putting on the finishing touches, I check myself in the mirror one last time and take a deep breath before exiting the bathroom. I walk out into the main area of Fool Me Once and stay silent for a few minutes as I watch my family and friends all standing around bickering with one another. Since I had a bunch of work to catch up on at the office, I brought my change of clothes with me so Griffin and I could leave for our date from here. Everyone said they were stopping by for a little congratulatory toast over McFadden’s capture and that we all lived to tell the tale, but I’m pretty sure they had another reason for coming here tonight. I knew Griffin wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut. I’m just thankful that Griffin still has a mouth to keep shut, no thanks to me and my idiocy out at the farm a few weeks ago. Thank God for my brother, Ted. As soon as Griffin woke up alone that morning and noticed me gone, he didn’t hesitate to call my brother, who told him all about Sven/Steve and where he lived.

“I’m just saying, it could be a very lucrative side business,” my dad states, taking a sip of champagne.

“I don’t care how lucrative it is, Buddy. Prostitution is still illegal in Indiana,” Lorelei tells him.

“Oh, speaking of whores, what’s going on with that case of yours, Paige? Weren’t you working on catching some slutty guy whose wife suspected him of cheating?” my brother Ted asks her while he pours some champagne in her glass.

In all the chaos, I totally forgot about our other two pending cases that Paige and Lorelei took while I was busy with McFadden. I watch in fascination as Paige’s cheeks redden at my brother’s question. She looks away from him and quickly downs the entire glass of champagne in one swallow.

“Guy? What guy? There’s no guy. I don’t know a guy. Who wants more champagne?” she asks, grabbing the bottle from Ted’s hand and walks away from him.

Well, that was weird.

“Hey, Buddy, I have some work stuff I need you to sign,” Uncle Wally says as he walks up to my dad and thrusts a paper and pen in his hands.

“What is this?” my dad demands as he scans the page.

“You don’t need to read it, just sign it.”

My dad huffs and continues reading.

“Of course I need to read it. I’m not signing something I haven’t read.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Buddy, just sign it!” Uncle Wally argues.

“This is the form to change the name of the business to Buddy Wally’s Bail Bonds! You’re a fucking lunatic!” my dad yells before throwing the pen at Uncle Wally’s head.

“I’m going to punch you right in your arthritic hip, you old bastard!” Uncle Wally shouts back.

I swear to God, nothing ever changes around here. Rolling my eyes, I look away from my dad and uncle and see Griffin perched on the edge of my desk laughing at the scene unfolding in front of him.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him in anything other than jeans and a T-shirt. His black dress pants and blue button-down shirt are a sight to behold. He’s so gorgeous it takes my breath away.

And he’s all mine.

After Tinkerdoodle was returned to her owners and McFadden was taken back to jail, I promised to give him regular updates on the state of Tinkerdoodle’s well-being. It’s the least I could do for him since he shot off a guy’s hand for me.

Steve/Sven spent several days in the hospital to repair his mangled hand and is currently behind bars awaiting trial. Considering the amount of pot they found in his basement, minus the amount that Gunnar smoked all in one day, he’s going to be in prison for a very long time. Paige has been considerably quiet about the fact that she has to find a new hairdresser now, which makes me wonder all over again what the hell is going on with her lately. That case with the cheating spouse should have been a piece of cake. I am absolutely going to talk to her about it. After tonight, of course.

With a deep breath, I step away from the wall and walk out into the room. The past few weeks have been a mess of activity, and Griffin and I haven’t had any time alone. Since I got to punch him in the face that day on the farm, he told me it was only fair that I make good on my part of the bet. Hence the real reason why I believe everyone decided to congregate here tonight.

The arguing stops abruptly and everyone turns in my direction. I’m suddenly rethinking this whole idea as everyone in the room stares in fascination like I’m a zoo animal.

Griffin is the only one who moves as he pushes off my desk and walks over to me with a look of shock on his face.

“Jesus, have I mentioned lately how gorgeous you are?” Griffin asks as he takes in my short, red strapless dress and four-inch Jimmy Choo heels, courtesy of Paige. “You should wear dresses more often.”

I smile at him and wrap my arms around his shoulders.

“If you wouldn’t have ditched me two days before prom, you could have seen me in a dress long before this,” I tell him.

“That was twenty years ago. Are you still holding a grudge about that?” he says with a laugh.

“Sorry, dude. I hate to inform you, but according to chicks, there is no statute of limitations on their anger over being ditched right before prom,” Bobby tells him with a raise of his glass.

“Fine. I am deeply sorry for not taking you to prom. Seriously. You have no idea how sorry I am,” he tells me softly.

I swallow hard and stare up at him, not even caring that I’m about to cry like a girl.

“It’s okay. You’re forgiven. And I’m deeply sorry for never noticing,” I tell him in a rare moment of sweetness from myself. “I love you, Griffin.”

He closes his eyes and lets out a sigh of relief before pressing his forehead against mine.

“Shame on you, Kennedy O’Brien, for making me wait so long to hear those words,” he says with a chuckle before leaning down and kissing me while everyone in the room whistles and cheers around us.