A few months after his brother’s accident, Jesse Brody can’t stop thinking about Troy Evans, the police office that helped solve the case. Even though Troy almost had to arrest him, Jesse is sure he has a shot at a date. . The two meet by chance and share a nice dinner at Jesse’s apartment, which ends with Jesse all over Troy’s lap. Though he isn’t out at work, Troy agrees to give a relationship with Jesse a chance. Everything is fine, until the two are seen in public together by some of Troy’s coworkers.
Out of panic, Troy ends the relationship. Of course he regrets his decision, but it will take more than just an apology to win Jesse back.
Jesse settled onto his usual park bench. The warm sun beat down on his back through his T-shirt as he leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. Runners and walkers passed him without a glance. The happy chatter of Frisbee games and families sitting on outspread picnic blankets filled the air.
Taking a deep breath, he touched the tablet in his hand, pulling up today’s news. He checked the time and tapped his foot against the concrete of the running path. His reason for being here today and every Sunday for the past six months had yet to show.
Any minute now Troy Evans would jog by, his golden retriever following closely behind him.
Jesse ran his fingers though his hair and glanced around the park. Annoyance prickled at his skin. Until his twin brother, Ashten, had been attacked three months ago, he hadn’t even known Troy’s name. It was just by chance that Detective Evans had been on duty when the police were called to investigate Ashten’s hit-and-run assault. In the week that followed, Jesse and Troy had spoken over the phone and occasionally met at the precinct to discuss the case. Since the woman responsible for hitting Ashten had been arrested, Jesse hadn’t spoken with Troy.
A knot formed in Jesse’s gut as he remembered why he never tried to contact the man again. When he’d found Trent, Ashten’s boyfriend, and Troy together, he’d assumed the worst. Jealousy and anger had spurred violence in him he didn’t know he had. Anger because it appeared as if Trent could replace Ashten so easily, and jealousy because he’d replaced him with the one man Jesse wanted.
Jesse had punched Trent square in the jaw.
Shame filled him at the memory. He’d read the situation completely wrong, and he’d looked like a fool because of it. Had Troy not threatened to arrest him, he might’ve messed up their little sting operation further, and Ashten’s assailant wouldn’t have been arrested that day.
It had only been a few months earlier that Jesse had seen Troy jog by at the park. He’d been mesmerized by the man’s movement. Troy had worn blue basketball shorts and a tank top that stretched nicely across his chiseled chest and abs. Jesse hadn’t hidden his admiration for the man very well. His neck craned until he had to stand in order to continue watching his magnificent form.
The man never noticed him.
Since then he’d gotten better at hiding his reaction. At least he hoped.
Jesse’s breath hitched as Troy came into view. Today, the warm summer sun must’ve convinced him that a shirt wasn’t necessary for his jaunt in the park. Was it his imagination, or did Troy slow his pace? Perhaps it was just the world slowing around Jesse. Even in his fantasies Troy’s body hadn’t looked this good. The sleek muscles across his abs stretched and contracted as his long strides propelled him past the park bench.
Jesse nearly let the tablet slip through his fingers.
He released a ragged breath and tucked his tablet into his messenger bag. A cold shower would be in order when he got home. It was time to go back to his empty apartment.
Jesse had just turned from the man, determined to get out of the area before he made a fool of himself, when a great furry body slammed into his back. He hit the ground with an audible oomph and rolled onto his back just in time to get a slimy dog tongue in his mouth. The golden pile of fur threatened to lick the skin clean off his face, holding him down with a massive paw. Warm, stinky breath tickled his nose as the dog panted above him.
“Duke! Duke, get off him right now!” The dog removed his paw and sat back on his haunches, gazing at his owner, an innocent look on his puppy-dog face. “Oh man, I’m sorry about that. He got away from me.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” Jesse chuckled and grasped the hand reached out in front of him. He was quickly pulled to his feet.
“He doesn’t usually approach people like that.”
Jesse would recognize that voice anywhere, even if he hadn’t already recognized Troy’s dog.
“It’s not a big deal, Troy,” Jesse said before he could think better of it.
Troy narrowed his eyes. Recognition finally hit, and one corner of his lips curled into a smile. “Jesse. How the heck are ya?”
“Not too bad, at least not until I was taken down by this fella.” Jesse gestured at Duke sitting patiently at his master’s feet. He scratched the canine behind his ears and cooed, “Somebody just wanted to play this morning, huh?”
Bewilderment spread across Troy’s gorgeous face. “He’s really never done that before. He’s kind of a one-person animal.”
“No harm, no foul.” Jesse continued to pet the dog, keeping his hands busy so Troy didn’t see that they were shaking.
“Hey, you want to grab a coffee or something? It’s the least I can do after Duke knocked you on your ass.”
“I won’t say no to that.” Jesse’s mind reeled. What could he and Troy talk about? Somehow discussing that one time when Troy almost arrested Jesse didn’t seem like a great topic of conversation.
They walked the short path that led to the parking lot, where a vendor sold drinks and snacks for the park visitors. Jesse ordered a small iced caramel latte, while Troy requested a large black coffee. There was an old picnic table nearby, underneath a shady oak tree, where they sat down. Duke jumped up onto the bench next to Jesse.
Troy’s eyes grew wide. “Duke. Get down,” he admonished. “He doesn’t usually act like this. I don’t know what’s up with him.”
Jesse gave Duke a quick pat. “How are you drinking hot coffee on a day like today, after running?”
“I drink coffee all day. I’d get a coffee IV if there was such a thing.” Troy paused and took a sip. “So how are you? And...” He hesitated. “Ashten? Right? How’s he doing?”
“Ashy is good. He’s been working with his physical therapist and is running short distances again. He and Trent kissed and made up. They moved in together shortly after Courtney was arrested.” Jesse tried to keep the disdain from his voice. He was happy for his twin; he really was. But jealousy also registered in the back of his mind. Particularly when he caught sight of the happiness in his brother’s eyes whenever Trent was in the room.
“Good for them.” Troy wiped the sweat from his brow. “So you living alone then?”
“Yup, turned Ashten’s room into an office.”
“You got a marathon coming up?” Troy asked as he leaned forward, his muscular shoulders flexing with the effort. “I know you are usually training for one”
Surprise must have flashed across Jesse’s face, and maybe a little bit of sexual interest. He never was good at schooling his features. Of course, Troy only remembered about Jesse’s marathon running because he was a cop, not because he was interested. “Yeah, I signed up for one in Charlotte. It’s three months away. I haven’t run this one before, so I’m not sure what to expect.”
Troy shook his head. “I can’t believe you run for fun.”
“You run. Don’t you think it’s fun?”
“Yeah, I guess. I just do it to keep in shape. And to get Duke out of the house.” At the mention of his name the dog’s ears perked. “But I couldn’t do a marathon. Twenty-six miles? Nonstop? No way.” His full lips pressed softly against the rim of the cup as he took a drink. Jesse had to tear his gaze away from the image.
“That’s the fun part. Pushing your body to the limits. Feeling the stretch and burn of your muscles. There’s nothing like it.”
A smile, wide enough to flash pearly white teeth, spread across Troy’s face. “Oh, I’m sure I could think of much more interesting ways to stretch and burn muscles.”
When he directed that grin at Jesse, it nearly knocked the breath out of him.
Jesse drank his iced coffee to wet his dry throat so he could speak. “That doesn’t last three hours.”
“It does if you do it right.”
His phone vibrated, and Jesse pulled it out of his pants pocket. A text from Ashten. He sighed. “I gotta get going. Ashy wants me to help him with something.” He stood slowly, prolonging his departure. “Thanks for the coffee. It was good to see you again.”
Jesse leaned down and addressed Duke. “And you, mister, no more plowing down unsuspecting people, all right?” He gave the dog a generous ear scratch. “I’ll see you around.”
Troy opened his mouth like he might want to say something else but instead reached out to Jesse for a handshake. “Yeah, see ya around.”
Jesse hesitated, almost gathering enough nerve to ask Troy on a date or at least for his phone number. The words were on the tip of his tongue, but fear held them back. What if Troy said no? Finally, he stepped away from the sexy detective and his sweet dog. Next Sunday he’d ask.