Dr. Marissa Anderson sat tapping a pencil against the corner of her desk with a very uncharacteristic fidgetiness that reflected the utter turmoil of her thoughts. She was trying to figure out what had so unsettled her. Her life, as a whole, was going along swimmingly. She had settled into her position as the precinct’s head psychiatrist very well. She was even learning how to balance that difficult line between professional relationships with her coworkers and the extension of it into personable, casual ones. Making friends in a predominantly male precinct full of alpha-type personalities who hated being reminded they had emotions . . . yeah, that had its difficulties. Especially when she often stood between them and their reinstatement or continuation of their duties. But they were beginning to get the picture that she didn’t take some kind of sadistic pleasure in holding that kind of power over their heads. Quite the contrary. As long as they confronted and dealt with whatever issues they had, she was happy to be a strong advocate for the continuation of their careers.
Her sister, who had been known to get into trouble now and then, had been blessedly well-behaved and had managed to obtain at least a part-time job.
And while Marissa wasn’t in a relationship at the moment, she was fine with that. She had never felt the need to define herself by the regard of a man, as some of her friends and relations were wont to do. She was comfortable with herself, her home, her lifestyle, and did not feel she was somehow failing in life because she didn’t have a significant other.
Personal life. Ch . . .
She hesitated in her thoughts, the tapping of her pencil reaching critical mass.
Three weeks . . .
The thought whispered with an insidious sort of mocking in the deeper corners of her mind. Her skin went a little hot and her face tinged with heat immediately after. The response made her growl under her breath in frustration and she chucked the pencil across the room in a rare fit of pique, watching the thing bounce off the window and land in the potted plant beneath it.
With a sigh she made herself get up and cross the room, bending to peer into the wilds of the ficus. She didn’t quite make it that far. Through her windows, she caught sight of a streak of brown and black bolting across a not-too-distant field, leaping so high off the ground it was astounding, before barreling into the man in its path and sinking vicious teeth into the nearest appendage.
“Get down! Get down on the ground now!” The command made her freeze, the deep, authoritative voice washing over her and giving her that queasy mixture of fear and admiration in the center of her stomach. Chills raced across her breasts even as heat raced into other places.
Her eyes yanked away from the dog and its victim and zeroed in on the owner of that voice. The victim was dressed in a thick padded suit designed specifically to withstand the majority of a dog bite. However the man commanding the dog, the man training him, was in full uniform.
Jackson. Sergeant Jackson Waverly was one of the two K-9 officers in the Saugerties, New York, police department. His former canine partner, Chico, had died about six months earlier in the line of duty. Sergeant Waverly had not taken it well at all. To him it had been no different than if he’d lost a human partner. And considering Chico had laid down his life to protect his partner’s, she’d say he’d earned that sort of respect.
For a while there she’d been pretty sure Jackson wouldn’t be able to bring himself to continue on as a K-9 officer. He’d been putting off training with his new dog, showing very little interest in the handsome German shepherd named Sargent. But three weeks ago . . .
Three weeks . . .
Three weeks ago something had changed dramatically in Jackson. If anyone had asked her to explain, she probably couldn’t have done so with any real clarity . . . not without sounding like a goofy schoolgirl with a demented little crush on some boy.
Oh, she had to admit that on some level she’d always found the man appealing. How could she not? He was damn beautiful for a male and any woman with half a brain and at least a partially working libido would accede to that. He was tall, but not overly so. Tall enough to be several inches taller than her lofty height of 5'7" with the constant addition of three- to four-inch stiletto heels. It was such a rare thing, really, for someone to make her feel smaller and more delicate than she truly was. But he also made her feel . . .
Scorched was the only word she could use to describe it. It was how she had felt that day, three weeks ago, when he had gone from being this sometimes-appealing/sometimes-pain-in-the-ass man to . . .
“I’m putting you on notice, Marissa . . . I’ve come to realize that there is no one on this planet, in this time, more intriguing than you are. You are a puzzle, and a pretty one at that. I think perhaps it would be a terrible shame if I were to let you slip away from me.”
Who the hell says that to a woman? It ought to have been obnoxious. Or at the very least corny. It ought to have been offensive and uncomfortable, considering he was technically a patient of hers and it would be a serious breech of ethics to entertain what he was teasing her with.
So no. She’d shut herself off from it. Pretended that it had been his idea of a mean little joke, of wielding male authority over a woman he hadn’t been able to conquer with his charming smiles and ridiculously beautiful green eyes. Those clear as glass, bright as a turquoise ocean eyes, eyes so brilliant they jumped out of his nobly featured face. Even more so, it seemed, than usual these past three weeks.
Poppycock, she thought to herself fiercely. He rattled her cage and made her take notice and now she was having flights of fancy every ten minutes . . . not to mention quite a few steamy dreams with Jackson as the headlining star.
Part of the problem, she realized, was that he was always there. Every time she turned around she could see him or hear his deep resonant voice. Like now, as he recalled his dog with a sharp, strong command, sending the powerful animal gamboling back across the field to his side where Jackson kneeled and gave him praises, tousling his ruff, and giving him his favorite toy as a reward.
It didn’t help that the practice field was right outside her windows. It was damn distracting, watching him be stunningly authoritative and then, by turns, goofy and fun-loving as he played with Sargent between rigorous training sessions.
But in no time at all the intensive training would end and so would her equally intensive immersion in the tempting Jackson Waverly sightseeing tour.
“Hell,” she muttered, giving the blinds a frustrating yank, dropping them hard into place and blocking out half the sunlight in her office. “All it was was one stupid little moment of flirtation,” she muttered.
Well, that wasn’t exactly the truth, either.
Shoving herself back toward her desk, she decided not to dignify that with any further mental discussion.
Twenty minutes later, Marissa was doodling absently on a scrap of paper, her pen swirling almost frenetically. Almost as if it was matching the frenzy of the thoughts racing through her mind . . . or the fierce effort she was exerting trying to not think. The phone rang at her elbow, the cell vibrating into movement, trying to travel across the desk. She picked it up and glanced at the screen. A bright, beautiful picture of her sister was displayed, the pure sunlight on her hair making the brilliant red light up as if on fire. That brilliance was nothing compared to the explosive beauty of the smile that had been captured with it. And that smile said everything that needed to be said about the type of person her sister was.
Smiling in return, she answered the call.
“Whadayawant?” she drawled into the phone, using the heaviest Brooklyn accent she had in her repertoire.
Angelina laughed right off the bat, the ebullient sound dancing across the tension in the back of Marissa’s neck and shoulders, instantly releasing and relaxing it.
“Whatchyadoin’?” Angelina bounced back to her in the same exaggerated accent. The amusement was that neither of them had been born in New York, but Lina kept insisting Marissa was starting to sound like a native, so . . .
“I’m working of course,” she replied in her normal voice. A voice that had been cultivated to sound sophisticated and free of all accent.
“No, you aren’t. You wouldn’t have answered the phone if you were trying to pluck the crazy out of someone.”
“I do other things besides ‘pluck the crazy’ out of these cops. The paperwork alone . . .”
“Sure, sure,” Lina drawled. “You’re probably just sitting there staring out at Mr. Tall Dark and Dangerous.”
The remark took Marissa so by surprise that she hesitated, her words trapped in her throat. “I most certainly am not staring out at him!” she protested.
“Liar,” Lina accused knowingly.
“Shut up,” Marissa groused, hating that Lina knew her so well . . . and beyond grateful for it at the same time. They both had other friends and companions in the world, but no one was closer to Marissa and she knew the same stood for her sister. “So tell me why you feel compelled to torment me in the middle of my workday.”
“You mean besides it being fun?” But Marissa could hear the smile fading from her sister’s voice in the next sentence. “Actually, I do have kind of a small teensy little problem,” she confessed.
Marissa rolled her eyes. Angelina never had a small problem. And the more adjectives she used to minimize it, the more Marissa knew she wasn’t going to like the favor she was going to be asked for.
“What is going on, honey?” she encouraged her, sighing silently.
“Can I come see you? I’m not far away.”
Marissa glanced at the clock.
“I have an appointment in an hour . . .”
There was a knock on Marissa’s door, interrupting her. She got up and hurried over to it.
Excerpted from Forever by Jacquelyn Frank. Copyright © 2013 by Jacquelyn Frank. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.