A week had passed since the fire and Taya had been home for two days now. She'd woken in hospital with a tube down her throat. Her lungs still felt heavy and raw, the doctors assured her it would pass. Silver had insisted on at least two more weeks enforced leave before she came back to the taskforce. Her boss at the Federal Police agreed.
Other than doctors, nurses, Silver and the police psychologist, she'd not spoken to anyone since the fire. In fairness, her voice was so hoarse she could barely be understood. She'd texted with her family interstate, but didn't want to face anyone else yet. She wasn't ready to hear what they were saying about her now.
Gallen was alive and well, Silver informed her. That was something. There had been no fatalities and only minor smoke inhalation for some of The Devils. At least no one had died this time. Internal Affairs were hunting for the alleged detective that gave Gallen up.
Alex Riley was still in the wind. Apparently, he'd driven to Brisbane and caught an international flight to London. He'd been thirty-five thousand feet in the air while all hell was breaking loose on the ground.
Taya looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Her green eyes looked tired and old. Her dark hair hung limp around her face. The bruise on her cheek had faded to a yellowish, green. She felt about as good as she looked.
A loud knock interrupted her contemplation. She'd told her family not to come and she knew no one else in Sydney. No one that would visit, that is. A prickle of fear kickstarted a surge of adrenalin.
Her gun was locked in the safe at work. She had her phone, at least. A weapon was what she needed. The knock sounded again.
She moved from the bathroom to the kitchen, pulling a drawer out and retrieving a paring knife. It was better than nothing. Standing back from the door, she called out.
"Who is it?"
Jake Gallen was at her door. And she looked like death. Fantastic.
Wake up, McGovern. He's here out of professional courtesy, nothing more.
She stepped back into the kitchen and set the knife down on the bench before returning to open the door.
The beard was gone and he had a week's worth of dark stubble covering his scalp. He wore a white t-shirt and jeans and looked nothing like the hardened bikie. The only thing that hadn't changed was those incredible whiskey-coloured eyes. And her body's reaction to him.
She cleared her throat, hoping it would nullify the thoughts running through her head. "Hey, Gallen."
"Can I come in?"
"Oh, sure." She stepped aside to let him pass, catching a whiff of his cologne. He smelled like sex on legs.
She was thankful she'd tried to feel more human today by getting dressed. It was only a singlet top and shorts, but at least she'd managed to put a bra on.
Gallen was standing in the middle of her tiny lounge room. The unit had come furnished and she'd not added any of her own personal touches to the place. What had been comfortable and practical now seemed sparse and devoid of any personality.
"Can I get you a drink? I'm afraid I only have water or black tea."
"Water would be great."
Taya left to fill two glasses. Why was he here? She hadn't heard from him at all when she'd been in the hospital.
"Here you go." She handed him one glass and took a sip from her own.
"Do you mind if we sit?" asked Gallen.
She puffed her cheeks out. "Of course." She gestured to the two-seater sofa, the only seating in the room.
She waited for him to make himself comfortable before perching on the other end of the sofa.
"How are you feeling?"
Taya took another sip of water. Her throat was still a little rusty and Gallen's presence only made the dryness worse. "I'm okay. Doctors say I'll be good as new in a few more weeks."
"That's good." He cleared his throat. "McGovern, I wanted to thank you for what you did. I have no doubt you saved my life by setting that fire."
"Taya," she mumbled.
She just wanted to hear him say her name. "Call me Taya."
"Oh, sure... Taya."
Warmth spread through her body.
"Anyway, what you did was..."
Stupid, ill-conceived, against protocol...
"I'm sorry I haven't been to check in with you sooner. I had to be debriefed and after nearly nine months undercover, it was a pretty intense debriefing."
"And I wasn't sure if..." He set the glass on the coffee table in front of him with a gentle clunk and turned to face her.
"I mean, I didn't know..."
What was he trying to say?
"Taya, I haven't been able to get you out of my head. And not just since the assignment."
Her heart skipped a beat. She watched his Adam's apple move up and down as he swallowed, trying to find the words.
"I remember the first time I saw you, sitting in the incident room, nose buried in a case file." He smiled at the memory. "There was just something about you..."
"You never even spoke to me."
He ducked his head. "I was undercover and you were new to the taskforce, and a federal cop. I could hardly start flirting with the new girl."
"You wanted to flirt with me?"
Was it possible he was attracted to her as well - for real? Her head swam with questions.
His eyes fixed on a point to the right of her face. "Look, I'm sorry if this is making you uncomfortable. I realise we were undercover and playing a role."
She took a sip of water and placed the glass next to his on the coffee table. Gallen started to speak again, but she wasn't listening. Instead, she reached across and took his face in her hands, relishing the smoothness of his chiseled jaw. His eyes widened in surprise. She pulled him closer, brushing her lips against his.
"I'm not uncomfortable," she said.
He snaked one arm around her waist, the other rested on her thigh.
"You might be uncomfortable if you knew what I wanted to do to you now."
She smiled. "I doubt that very much." His lips pressed on hers and her mouth opened, wanting more. She needed more.
"Taya McGovern, I'm claiming you as my woman."
"Jake Gallen, you'd better."
Author of author of gut-churning Viking romance and romantic suspense that always includes good sex and a happily ever after - eventually.