In an effort to protect animal abusers, the State elected officials of Iowa have created a bill that will make supplying false information on a job application and filming or photographing animal abuse on factory farms illegal. Penalties for either offense would range from misdemenor to Class C felony which would carry a 10-year prison sentence.
Democratic Rep. Brian Quirk supports the bill and told press:
“I think the intent of the bill is spot on. These people need to be dealt with. They’re terrorists and this is wrong. These producers’ rights are being trampled when they’re taken advantage of in this way.”
I believe he must have misspoke. It’s actually the animals in Iowa that are “trampled” and “taken advantage of” NOT the producers. At least that’s been the case historically such as in this investigation, and this one, and this one.
The government in Iowa is so deeply controlled by the animal industry that they would rather pass legislation that protects animals abusers than pass legislation that makes it harder to commit abuse.
Victory! After our undercover investigation into Triple F Farms, the USDA has fined the company nearly $17,000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Learn more and take action here: http://bit.ly/Pfbfx6
I am a creature of the night. I am darkness incarnate. I am the most ancient of monsters. I am the shadow in your mind. I drink from the fountain of life and am never filled. I am the hunger and thirst of eternity. What I touch will never heal.
Summary: When Killian Jones accidentally stumbles into Emma Swan’s undercover FBI investigation, first impressions are anything but good. Once the smoke clears, they never expect to see each other again. But with a common enemy and the stakes higher than ever, they quickly discover working together is the only choice. That goes rather poorly too – until it doesn’t. CS AU.
Emma kept her chin up as she entered the conference room, scanning quickly to find Killian nowhere in sight. Struggling to contain her relief, she smiled weakly at Ruby as she joined the other agent by the coffee pot.
She’d barely slept after Killian had left, struggling with the scent of him on her skin and the inexplicable desire to keep it there. Tossing and turning for hours, she’d replayed everything on a loop – the frantic worry in his eyes that had morphed into red-hot desire displayed in glacial blue, the scrape of his stubble against her skin, her name on his lips, raspy and utterly undone – until she thought she might go insane.
“What happened to you? You just took off yesterday and now your face…what the hell, Emma?” Ruby demanded as soon as she caught sight of the nasty black eye Emma had woken up to – never mind the other aches she’d woken with, aches that would undoubtedly make her flush the second she saw Killian. Maybe the universe had granted her a favor and he wasn’t going to be in.
“Swan! My office. Now.” Regina’s voice was so sharp Emma jumped, turning to find the woman in the doorway, her arms crossed over her chest and a glower on her face.
No, the universe was not in a favor-granting mood.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be an undercover investigator inside
some of the nation’s largest commercial farms? Animal Place interviewed
TJ Tumasse, former investigator and current manager of investigations
at Animal Legal Defense Fund, to discuss his work.
Every year, tens of thousands of American horses are killed for their flesh.Worse still, they are forced to endure journeys of hundreds of miles in cramped trucks—often in extreme weather without food or a drop of water—before reaching slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. It is a cruel industry that has been hidden from sight—until now.
Summary: When Killian Jones accidentally stumbles into Emma Swan’s undercover FBI investigation, first impressions are anything but good. Once the smoke clears, they never expect to see each other again. But with a common enemy and the stakes higher than ever, they quickly discover working together is the only choice. That goes rather poorly too – until it doesn’t. CS AU.
Killian sunk lower in the driver’s seat of the unmarked car, eyes glued to Emma across the street. She had one foot propped up against the crumbling brick, the other precariously balanced on a dangerously high heel. Her shoulders were slumped, her long blonde hair tangled, and garish makeup was painted across her face.
He was fairly certain the dress she wore was the same one she’d had on that day at Gold’s. He hated that she was standing outside in so little, and he especially hated that she was wearing that bloody dress.
The morning’s rain had given way to a raw, damp evening. Emma’s breath was visible in the cool night air, and she kept shivering, but she stayed where she was. She’d been there for at least twenty minutes, and Killian had fought himself at every moment not to yank her into the car and demand an explanation.
The explanation was clear. Emma was back undercover – when she’d said she had some people she wished to speak with, that was what she’d meant. He’d been too busy keeping tabs on her to be certain, but he had a sneaking suspicion she hadn’t cleared this with Regina.
Which meant as far as Emma was aware, she was out on the street by herself.
It was reckless and bloody stupid, and Killian wished she had confided in him. Whatever plan she had in mind, he could have helped her. But he had to satisfy himself with keeping an eye on her, providing the backup she didn’t seem to think she needed, and hoping whatever insane scheme she had cooked up was worth the risk.
And worth watching her bloody well freeze to death.
Killian clenched his fist where it rested on his thigh, reaching for his gun with the other hand. He’d had just enough time to return to the conference room, grab his keys, jeans, and gun, and follow her out the door. He was grateful he had, watching as a car pulled up, and Emma pushed off the wall, wobbly in her heels. He was too far away to hear what she was saying, but she’d painted on the fake smile along with the makeup, slipping back into her role all too easily.
Don’t get in that sodding car, Swan. Don’t you bloody do it.
He swore in frustration, banging his head back against the seat. Emma leaned over, talking to whoever was in the car through the passenger window. Abruptly, she straightened, shaking her head and backing away, tangled curls spilling down her back.
Yanking his gun free of the holster, Killian had his hand on the door handle when the driver got out. He froze, watching as Emma’s smile returned, shy and almost embarrassed. She stood on the sidewalk as one of Gold’s men approached her, and when he put his hands on her, she didn’t push him away.
Practically holding his breath, Killian forced himself to stay in the car. This was part of her plan, or she would have fought the man off. He was alone. Killian had seen Emma fight in the gym at the FBI’s office – she was plenty capable – but without a weapon, the reality was that a man who easily outweighed her and was surely carrying a gun presented unfavorable odds.
It didn’t make it any easier to watch her as she ran her hands over the shoulders of a man Killian knew from personal experience was a nasty piece of work. What could she possibly hope to get out of him? He was sickeningly loyal to Gold – and he was stupid. Gold didn’t trust the man with any of his big plans.
There was an alley halfway up the block, and when Emma began leading the creep along to it, Killian had had enough. With Gold’s man likely armed, he got out of the car quietly, sticking to the shadows as he approached. Luckily, the man’s attention was completely on Emma, and he didn’t notice as Killian came up behind them.
Emma stepped into the alley, her voice too low for Killian to catch the words. She laughed – a brittle, fake laugh – and then was silent.
“Turn around, bitch,” the man growled as Killian came up to the alley entrance just in time to witness one meaty hand grab Emma’s neck and shove her toward the wall, her cheek scraping against the filthy brick. “Shame Gold ain’t got you all to himself now, in’nit?”
Emma’s whimper was the last thing Killian heard before his gun was pressed to the man’s temple. “Hands where I can see them,” he growled, reaching for the handcuffs in his pocket. “Slowly. Back away from the girl.”
“Hey man, you can wait your turn. I got ‘er first.”
“Boston PD, you sodding git. Hands. Now.” Killian pressed the gun harder against the man’s temple, wishing with a burning rage that he could pull the trigger. Some men didn’t deserve the court’s justice. War had taught him that if his time undercover in Gold’s operation hadn’t.
And some primal part of him he didn’t quite want to acknowledge begged to hurt the worthless bastard for putting his hands on Emma.
“All right, man, it’s cool, we’re cool.” Killian grabbed for the man’s wrist as his empty hands came into view, pushing a knee into the small of his back and slamming him up against the opposite alley wall. He snapped the cuffs into place and read the man his rights, gritting his teeth to get through the litany. Only then did he look over his shoulder.
He’d never seen Emma so angry, and by the looks of things, all of her anger was aimed squarely at him. “You’re coming with us to the station,” he snapped, his own temper flaring. Did she honestly have the nerve to be upset with him for stepping in before this pathetic excuse for a human being assaulted her? Or worse?
“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ wrong.” She made her voice sullen, her shoulders drooping as Killian turned Gold’s man back toward the street.
“Solicitation is a crime, sweetheart,” he spat back, her refusal to break character only enraging him further. “Do I need to cuff you too?”
“Slut probably likes it.”
“You should be a tad less clumsy, mate.” Killian yanked on the handcuffs, pulling the man back from the light pole he seemed to have wandered into. “I suggest you take advantage of your right to remain silent,” he added, half-pushing, half-dragging the man back to his car.
After removing a gun and two knives from the lowlife, Killian shoved him into the backseat, taking a deep breath after shutting the door. Emma stood on the sidewalk, pale and defiant as she glared at him over the hood of the car. “I had it under control.” Her voice was low and trembling with anger, eyes flashing. “You had no right…”
“Get in the bloody car before you catch your death in that…dress.” He held her stare, unwilling to back down this time until she yielded. It was a hollow victory when she got into the car, nearly vibrating with rage.
The drive back to the district seethed with tension. Emma pressed herself against the window, refusing to acknowledge Killian’s presence. He tossed a jacket on her lap, which she also ignored – it had to have been from spite, because he saw the goosebumps on her skin.
If David was surprised to see him with Emma in tow, he didn’t comment. “New guest?” he asked, folding his arms as Killian dragged his suspect in.
“Aye. Robin around? I’ve got to deal with this one.” He jerked his head in Emma’s direction, noting the blonde had left the jacket he’d offered her in the car. Under the florescent lights of the district office, her makeup was all the more tawdry against her pale skin.
David nodded. “Holding two is open. We’ll deal with him.”
“Thanks, mate.” He glanced at Emma, then turned back to David. “Mind her for me until I’m through with this, yeah?” David nodded once more, and Killian ignored Emma bristling at his back. If she wanted to stick to her damn undercover persona so bloody badly, who was he to spoil it?
The time spent depositing his charge into a cell and catching Robin up did little to calm him, a mixture of relief and anger at Emma’s recklessness coursing through him. He all but yanked her out of her chair when he went to collect her, his hand firm on her elbow. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going, officer?” she asked innocently, though steel glinted in her narrowed eyes. “I told you, I didn’t…”
“I’m taking you home.”
“But I don’t want…”
“I don’t give a bloody damn what you want,” he said harshly, his temper getting the better of him. Killian stopped next to his car, struggling to control his breathing. “Get in the car, Swan.”
“No! I was…”
“Being reckless? Acting like a complete rookie? No one knew you were there!” It was a struggle not to shout at her in the middle of the street, his temper racing white hot through his veins.
“You obviously did.” She rolled her eyes, tossing her hair over her shoulder and glaring at him.
“And lucky that I did. You plainly didn’t bother telling Regina or Ruby or anyone else where you were off to! If I hadn’t followed you like you were a bloody criminal…”
“I don’t need your permission–”
“Get in the car, or phone Regina and explain how you nearly got yourself raped in an alley.” He regretted the words the moment they were out, but when Emma got in the car, he was too relieved to take them back.
It was another silent drive, Emma slamming the car door shut so hard the entire frame shook when they arrived at her apartment. Killian quickly followed her, ignoring her icy glare.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, turning on him before they got to the door. She had refused the jacket again, and her breath misted between them in the cold night, goosebumps coating her bare arms.
“Making sure you get into your flat and stay there. Let’s go before your bloody lips turn blue.” He reached for her elbow, intending to steer her into the building, but she jerked away.
“Seriously? I’m a prisoner in my own home? And you’re going to be my jailor?” She laughed, a bitter, spiteful sound. “Just how long are you going to keep this bullshit up?”
“Until you have the capacity to act like the intelligent woman I know you actually are.” Emma growled in frustration, but punched in a numeric key to open the main door of the apartment building. He was fast enough to catch the door before she slammed it in his face.
Jabbing the button for the elevator, Emma folded her arms over her chest and glared at him. “This is insane. You really have the balls to stand there and lecture me about going off book? You, who got us into this mess in the first place by lying to your squad and going after Rose on your own?” Her lips twisting into a sneer, Emma let out a sharp laugh. “That’s really fucking rich.”
Killian clenched his teeth, following her into the elevator. She wasn’t entirely off the mark, but… “I was armed.”
“So if I had a gun on me, you wouldn’t be acting like a such an enormous asshole right now?”
Killian opened his mouth to reply, but they’d reached her door and he could only watch in horror as she stretched her hand above the frame, feeling around until she retrieved a key. “You are a bloody FBI agent, and you keep your spare key above the door frame?” he demanded, voice shaking with temper. “That’s the most bloody obvious–”
“I know,” she snapped, shoving the key in the lock and twisting it violently. “One time thing.”
“A one time thing which would not have been necessary if you had informed someone of your…bloody hell, Swan, I don’t think so.” He caught the door just before she slammed it in his face, shouldering his way past her before she managed to close it on his fingers.
As soon as the door was shut, all pretense of the broken street girl vanished. “You had no right! I had that handled! You’re not my fucking knight, Killian! I don’t need a goddamn knight!” she snarled, eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. She wasn’t wobbling in the heels now, her stance defiant in spite of her perilous perch atop the five-inch spikes.
“That…that buggering arsehole had you up against a wall, Emma. I wasn’t going to just bloody sit there and…” She lashed out without warning, and the force of her shove combined with the surprise had him up against a wall himself.
“You mean like this? Tell me, how difficult is it for you to get…” He twisted out of her grip easily, swapping places in the span of a few seconds. If she wanted to get into the business of proving a point, he would be happy to oblige her.
“Go ahead, Swan. Demonstrate how easily you can overpower me, never mind a man twice your size.” He pressed his full weight against her, pinning her to the wall despite her thrashing. “Explain to me how you weren’t utterly at that bastard’s mercy,” he demanded, his mouth nearly on her ear. “Tell me how you were going to get out of this situation. What was your plan for this?” She struggled against him, nearly slipping out of his grasp, but Killian wasn’t done, shoving his knee against the back of her thigh to tighten his hold. The softness of her body under his registered dimly beside the raging inferno of his temper, and he struggled to push the thought away. “Did you even have a plan when you went off half-cocked without any backup?”
“Get off of me!” She pushed back against him, but he was stronger, and she had no leverage.
“Did you have a bloody plan?” He tightened his grip on her wrists, pinned above her head, her cold skin only fueling his temper. His other hand was on her hip, and he started to move it lower. He had no intention of taking it much further, but he had a desperate need to make her realize how close she’d been to disaster. “Did you even consider what might happen to you alone in an alley with one of them? You spent months living in deplorable conditions witnessing what they were capable of! And still you–“
“God dammit, Killian, let go!” She was panting, her cheeks bright with anger as she twisted against him. This close, he could see the thin scratches on her cheek from being shoved against the brick. Suddenly afraid he would actually hurt her, he snatched his hands back and took a step away. She spun around instantly, her lips twisted into a snarl as she closed the distance between them and slapped him. Hard.
“What’s the matter, Swan? Don’t like me pointing out how bloody fucking stupid your behavior was?” He ignored his stinging cheek, opening his mouth to deliver another scathing dress down – until he saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. The fight went out of him, and all he wanted to do was gather her in his arms, grateful she was in one piece. “Bloody hell, Emma, you have no idea how terrifying it was to see you like that. If I hadn’t been there…”
“That sounds like your problem.” Despite her glistening eyes, her voice was still sharp, her chest rising and falling with her heavy breaths. “Get out.” The words twisted from her lips, blistering with scorn – but something about it rang hollow.
“No can do, darling. I’m staying until you calm down.” He eyed her bare skin as he tossed his jacket over the couch, noticing she was still far too pale. “I know you’re freezing. Perhaps have a hot shower since you were too bloody stubborn to put on a coat.”
“I can take care of myself. I promise I’ll stay here like a good little girl.” Even if she hadn’t rolled her eyes, he wouldn’t have believed her for a second, not with the sarcastic twist on the words and defiance still bright in her eyes.
He told her as much, folding his arms over his chest and planting his feet. “I will remain until you have proven to me you are capable of being rational. You can begin with the shower.”
“Why the hell do you even care?” She was practically shouting, almost feral as she advanced on him, but there was a tremble in her voice – the cracks in her façade of righteous anger were beginning to show. He eyed her warily, not bothering to stop her when she shoved at his chest. He was stronger than her, whether she wanted to accept it or not, and he saw her coming – but when she tried it a second time, he locked his arms around her waist, limiting her movement. She fell heavily against him, every curve of her body pressed to his. Their eyes locked, and for one tense moment, they were both still. Her chest heaved against him with her heavy breaths, but beneath everything else – the rage, the frustration, and what he suspected may have been embarrassment over her actions – desire shone in Emma’s gaze. A fierce, clear desire with all of the awareness behind it he hadn’t seen the night he’d walked her home from Graham’s.
All rational thought left his mind, and he tightened one arm around her, bringing his mouth down on hers. Lifting one hand up to thread his fingers into her hair, he kissed her as though the ground were about to fall out beneath them, frantic and needy. She responded in kind, the palms once pressed against his chest fisting into his shirt as she yanked him closer. Dimly, he heard a noise that could have been one of the shirt buttons clattering to the floor.
The noise was enough for him to realize what he’d done, and he pulled back, his fingers still tangled in her hair. His breathing labored, he stared at Emma, an apology on the tip of his tongue though he couldn’t seem to form the words with her staring back at him, cheeks flushed and lips damp. She didn’t say anything, but one of her hands snaked up, nails digging into the back of his neck as she pulled his mouth back to hers in a kiss that left no room for questions.
The tiny voice in the back of his head insisting this might not be a great idea was quickly silenced, Emma’s hips pushing against his as the kiss deepened. Needing to get closer, he gripped the back of her thighs, easily lifting her until her legs folded around him. She looped her arms around his neck, using the added leverage to grind down, her dress riding up to the tops of her thighs. Killian groaned at the sensation, the thin layers of fabric separating them doing nothing to hide the heat between her thighs. His head fell back as Emma turned her attention to his neck, dragging her teeth and tongue over the sensitive skin.
It required too much concentration to keep her in his arms standing in the middle of her living room, sensation and thought overwhelming him. She shivered in his arms, her skin still cool to the touch under his fingers as he moved blindly, backing her up against a wall. As he bent to kiss her again, their eyes caught and for a moment, he thought she was about to throw him out.
“Emma?” His voice was rough to his own ears, her name a question he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to ask. The woman in his arms was the most honest he’d ever seen her, the ice melted – pure emotion.
Something warmer flickered in her expression as he said her name, so quickly he wasn’t sure it was real before she closed the distance between them. She ran her tongue over his bottom lip before she took it between her teeth, one hand threading through his hair as the other gripped his shoulder. With the wall as leverage, he lifted her slightly higher, his lips and tongue tracing a line down her jaw and over her rapidly beating pulse.
“Killian…” She gasped as he found a sensitive spot, leaning back to give him better access to her throat. A thrill ran down his spine at the sound of his name from her breathless lips, her legs tightening around him. “Still…want me…to take that…shower?”
Visions of Emma’s bare skin, slick with water and sliding against his, filled his thoughts as he brought his mouth back to hers, pinning her to the wall with his hips pressed to hers. She swallowed his groan as she moved, rubbing up against him as she lowered her legs.
Her eyes dark with desire, she ran her palms down his chest, pushing ever so lightly until he backed up. She pivoted them, her back to the hall as she dropped her hands to his belt. Her lips curved into a smile filled with sensual promise, and she took a step backwards, tugging him with her by the strip of leather.
They stumbled down the hall in a tangle of hands and mouths that had them all but falling against the bathroom wall. His body desperate for more, he rolled his hips, the hand trapped behind her on the small of her back pressing all the more tightly.
Killian broke the kiss long enough to reach into the shower, twisting the knob far to the left as Emma’s fingers danced down his chest, clumsily popping the remaining buttons open. He shrugged the shirt off impatiently by the time she got to the bottom, his attention firmly back on her as he shoved the flimsy strap of her dress aside, trailing kisses along delicate flesh at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. His pulse pounding in his ears, he licked and sucked at her skin as the room grew humid, her moans and rapid breaths moving in time. His restraint rapidly fading, he brought both hands up, palming her breasts and rubbing his thumbs over her nipples until she arched against him. Needing to have her skin against his, he yanked the dress down to expose her chest, barely aware of the sound of fabric ripping.
He didn’t care. He never wanted to see Emma in that bloody dress again.
She sucked in a sharp breath as he rolled her nipple, his touch rough even as his eyes devoured the sight in front of him. A flush had spread from the tops of her breasts up her throat, her pink cheeks making her eyes appear even greener when they fluttered open. She held his stare, licking her bottom lip before clamping her teeth down on it when he pinched his fingers together, barely stifling a low moan and squeezing her eyes shut tightly.
As he ran his hand down the curve of her waist, Emma tugged him closer by his hair, walking the fine line between pleasure and pain as she met him in another searing kiss. Her teeth abandoned her bottom lip and sought his instead, pulling him along. The kiss was needy, a match for Emma’s impatient hands on his belt.
She broke the kiss, turning her head and tracing her tongue along the shell of his ear. His belt undone, he expected her to go for his zipper as one of her hands moved lower, the other gripping the back of his neck, but she didn’t move to free him from his jeans. “Not like last time.” Her breath was hot against his ear as she said it, using her palm to rub a slow, firm circle that had him straining painfully against his zipper. The satisfied purr of her voice combined with the firm grip on his arousal sent sharp bolts of desire racing through him.
“This isn’t a bloody thing like last time,” he replied, his voice ragged as he batted her hand away, already wound too tightly to allow her to continue touching him if he wanted this to last. He yanked her dress down past her hips, taking the scrap of lace beneath with it as he let it all fall in a heap to the floor. This sure as hell wouldn’t be anything like the last time he’d had her naked – this time, he wanted to be exactly where he was. Badly.
And so did she.
Using his knee to nudge her legs apart, he brought his hand between her thighs, pleased to feel the slight tremble in them along the way. He groaned in satisfaction, male pride growling with pleasure at the obvious display of desire he’d wanted to coax from her from the beginning, his finger sliding easily inside her. “No, love, this is not a damned thing like last time.”
It was her turn to curse, her nails digging into his shoulder as he added another finger, pumping into her even as the tremble in her thighs grew more pronounced. Holding her hip against the wall to keep her still, he glanced down, watching his fingers move with each harsh breath. Swallowing a moan at the erotic image, he fumbled for the shower door, releasing Emma’s hip. No longer pinned to the wall, she pushed into his hand, her head thrown back against the wall and her chest heaving with labored breaths. It was one erotic dream after another come to life – except Emma still looked a bit too much like Emily, makeup smeared but still heavily caked on, the ridiculous shoes still on her feet.
He didn’t want Emily.
He withdrew his hand, swallowing Emma’s noise of protest as he brought his mouth back down on hers while struggling to free himself of his jeans. “In,” he ordered gruffly, giving her a slight push toward the open shower door as he bent to remove the last of his clothes. He expected an argument, surprised when Emma merely kicked off her heels and then pulled him in with her, his own shoes barely off.
The water cascaded over them, deliciously hot as Emma’s back hit the tile wall, Killian’s weight following from her sharp tug. He reached blindly for the shower door, pulling it shut before attacking Emma’s mouth again, one hand palming her breast while he curled the fingers of the other possessively around her hip.
It took all of his self control not to plunge into her then and there.
Instead, he touched her everywhere he’d wanted to for weeks, her skin slick as she slid against him. “Killian…” It was nearly a whine, her hips pressing to his, his arousal pinned between their stomachs. “I want…I need…” Her arms looped around his neck again, leverage as she brought her mouth back to his, her kiss almost desperate.
It could have been seconds or minutes they stood under the spray, hands roaming and mouths moving together. Emma snaked a hand between them, and he let loose a string of curses as she wrapped her fingers around his length with none of the cold detachment he’d witnessed the last time. Resting his forehead against hers, he was soon panting. “Stop,” he managed to gasp out, brushing her hand aside and tilting her head back with a palm on her jaw. “I want you, Emma. Bloody hell do I want you.” But he also wanted to see the desire in her eyes, wanted final confirmation before they did this.
Her eyes met his, the shower having washed away the majority of the makeup and revealing what was sure to be the beginnings of a black eye where that bastard had shoved her cheek into the alley wall. But in spite of it, she looked like the Emma he knew – the Emma he wanted in his bed. Ever so lightly, he ran his thumb over the line of her jaw, careful not to touch her bruised cheek.
Hesitation flickered in the depths of her eyes at the soft touch, and he wondered if that one small moment of genuine affection was going to send her running – but then she pressed closer. “Condoms are in my bedroom.” Her voice was raspy against his ear, standing on the tips of her toes as she took him in hand again, circling her thumb until he had the sense to stop her.
He didn’t ask if she was sure. Hell, he wasn’t sure if they should be having sex, or what it would look like in the morning, but he wanted her more than he’d wanted a woman in his life. He also knew Emma – if she didn’t want him there, she’d have found a way to get rid of him by now.
Turning off the water and stepping onto the floor mat, he grabbed a towel and rubbed it over her skin, catching the majority of the water before giving himself the same treatment. Emma was kissing him again before he’d dropped the towel, her touch none too gentle as she maneuvered him out of the bathroom and into her bedroom. She broke the kiss only long enough to grab a condom and roll it on with an efficiency that reminded him too much of that night at Gold’s.
Determined to block out the ugly memories, he threaded his fingers into her damp hair, kissing her with every ounce of longing and desire in his bones before pushing her down on the bed. He caught a glimpse of her eyes in the dim light, lust filled with a hint of curiosity, and then he was sliding into her in one stroke that left them both moaning.
Not waiting for her to adjust, he snapped his hips, driving into her and releasing his worry and anger and desire all at once. She met him thrust for thrust, her nails raking over his chest and down his back. He abandoned the sloppy attempt at kissing her, turning his attention instead to angling his hips to rub against her with each movement. He wasn’t going to last long like this, the emotional overload of the night boiling over into the sexual tension that had been between them for weeks.
A part of him wanted to slow down, to savor the moment, but he was too far gone, intoxicated by the scent of her skin and the scrape of her teeth along his neck. Gone was the cold woman he knew was a façade, and in her place was the Emma Killian only got glimpses of – passionate and fierce, taking and giving, completely in sync with him.
It was that fraction of a moment at Gold’s multiplied exponentially, and it wasn’t long before the familiar tightening sensation began to settle over him, everything tunneling down to chasing his release. “Come for me, love.” He was practically begging, his lips against her ear, nipping the lobe as he thrust again. “I want to hear you come.”
“Just…keep…like that.” She was breathless as he was, and a slight shift of his hips had her sucking in her breath, her nails digging into his skin as her entire body went rigid beneath him before going boneless. His release came on like a burst dam, slamming into him with enough power to steal his breath. It left him gasping above her as he kept moving, prolonging it for both of them.
His arms beginning to shake with the effort of holding himself above her, he leaned down to kiss her again, a satisfied, almost lazy kiss before he rolled onto his back, sweat beading on his brow. One arm flung above his head, he closed his eyes, basking in the aftershocks still coursing through him. Aye, it had been everything he’d thought it could be, and given a few moments, he was ready to do it all over again – slower, perhaps a tad gentler. He wanted to learn every inch of her body, preferably with his tongue.
“You can go now.” Emma’s breathing had yet to regulate, so her attempt at cold and flat failed to hit its mark, even if the words were like a bucket of ice dumped over his head.
“What?” He pushed himself onto one elbow, watching her in the dim light afforded by the street lamps. He should have expected as much, but after all of the emotional upheaval, he somehow had fooled himself into thinking otherwise. “Why the bloody hell would…”
“You and I both know what just happened was a result of that night at Gold’s. We were both curious. It was an itch that needed to be scratched. We were both…worked up…and now we’re not. So you can go.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes, hers firmly attached to the ceiling. It wasn’t for modesty’s sake – she hadn’t bothered pulling the sheet up to cover herself, her chest still rapidly rising and falling.
“That is not at all what just happened. I…”
“I don’t really care what you think, Killian. It’s my apartment. Get out.”
It was the second time she’d told him to get out in one night, but the vitriol of her first attempt was missing in the second. He didn’t move right away, studying her for some clue as to how to break through the icy wall she’d built around herself in seconds. It was baffling. He’d been inside her not two minutes ago, and now he might as well have been a stranger. One-night stands had shown him more warmth in the aftermath, never mind a woman he trusted with his life.
But there were no cracks to be found in that moment, not without pushing her to a breaking point, and with a sigh, he resigned himself to going home. He refused to give up – he knew Emma was lying, likely to herself as much as to him – but she was never going to see it that way if he forced the issue. Without another word, he got up and went to retrieve his clothes from the bathroom floor. He frowned at the pile of Emma’s clothes, something tawdry about leaving them on the bathroom floor beside the heap of towels.
He dressed quickly, replacing the towels on the rack. The dress he began to fold, intending to leave it neatly on the vanity counter for Emma to do with as she pleased, but the longer he held the fabric in his hands, the more he was certain he never wanted to see it again.
He dropped the dress in the trash.
Taking a deep breath and running his fingers through his mussed hair, he ventured a glance in the mirror. The glass revealed flushed cheeks and swollen lips. He could only imagine what the rest of him looked like, between Emma’s nails and teeth. He sighed, turning out the light and returning to her bedroom with her shoes, some small part of him hoping she would tug him back into bed with her – that she would let him be gentle with her in the way he wanted to be but suspected she wouldn’t have tolerated.
Emma had pulled the sheet up to her shoulders, and her eyes were closed, but it was obvious she wasn’t asleep. She forgot he knew her too well – she didn’t fall asleep that quickly, and definitely not with the way he was certain her thoughts were racing now that her lust had been satiated. If he were a betting man, his money was on embarrassment over her earlier actions, and anger at herself for letting him past those damned walls of hers, even if only for a few minutes.
Crossing the room after setting the shoes against the wall, he leaned over, balancing his weight on either side of her. “I know you’re awake, darling,” he said gently, moving one hand in to rub his thumb along her jaw.
“Not for long. Leave.”
“Aye, as you wish.” He paused, lifting his hand to brush his knuckles down her cheek. She couldn’t hide the shiver that tore through her, and inwardly, he smiled. She could talk as much as she liked about satisfying a curiosity, but he knew there was more between them – he’d known it even in the aftermath of that horrible night at Gold’s. “But this was far more than an itch, love.” Before she could respond, he covered her mouth with his in a searing kiss she returned instantly, her fingers reaching to thread through his hair.
He yanked himself back before she could, his breaths once again pants. He cursed himself even as he did it, somehow knowing if he shut up and let their bodies take over, she’d have him again. But he didn’t want this icy version of Emma, all careful control and endless walls. Aye, what had just passed between them was far rougher than he’d imagined it would be considering their history, but Emma’s emotions hadn’t been closed off. It was the most open she’d ever been with him, reveling in her true desires and looking at him with an unguarded expression.
Her eyes open and glimmering in the dark, she stared at him, her expression indiscernible, emotions once again tightly under control. “Goodnight, Swan. Be sure you lock the door behind me.”
Killian turned on his heel, pausing in the living room only long enough to shrug back into his jacket before walking out the door. He spent the journey home struggling to think about anything other than the time he’d spent in Emma’s arms, but once his own door was at his back, the images flooded his memory – the heat of her breath on his skin, the scrape of her teeth, the excruciating pleasure of sliding into her.
Cursing at his tight jeans, Killian stalked across the apartment to his bedroom. He stripped out of his clothes, eying his untouched bed. Maybe with the scent of Emma fresh on his skin, his demons would leave him be, but he wasn’t in the mood to find out. He ripped a pillow and blanket from the mattress, returning to the living room and throwing himself down on the couch.
The guilt was already beginning to set in, doubts about whether what had just happened had been any better than accepting her offer the night she’d nearly drowned herself in scotch. She had been drunk last time – this time, she had been emotionally intoxicated. He hadn’t even asked what Rose had said that had gotten her into such a state. He scowled into the dark, the niggling feeling that Emma’s coldness at the end was only a preview of what was to come.
Stuart Chaifetz, father of an autistic 10-year-old boy named Akian, became alarmed when his son began receiving notes claiming he was being violent in class.
“I could not understand why this was happening,” Chaifetz wrote on his website. “I had never witnessed Akian hit anyone, nor could I dream of him lashing out as had been described to me.”
After meeting with Akian’s teachers, therapists, and the social worker at Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Chaifetz realized something was “terribly wrong.” He says the teacher and the social worker mocked him for his concern, and “tried to downplay” the outbursts.
It was then that he decided drastic action needed to be taken:
On the morning of Friday, February 17, 2012, I wired my son and sent him to school. That night, when I listened to the audio my life changed forever. I heard my son being bullied by his teacher and aide.
At one point, Akian is called a “bastard.” Twice he is told to shut his mouth. Several negative comments about parents are made in front of the children, and inappropriate conversations about alcohol and other extracurricular problems are frequently conducted.
Chaifetz says that bringing the recordings to the attention of the school has resulted in the termination of an aide. But another aide and the teacher — whom he identifies only as “Kelly” — were merely transferred to another school in the district.
“I love and respect my son too much to let those who mistreated him have their shameful actions buried and hidden,” says Chaifetz, who demands a “full and public apology from all those adults who were in my son’s class for what they did to him.”
Speaking with The Daily Dot, Chaifetz said he wasn’t seeking financial restitution, and was not planning to take legal action. “I’m not going to file a lawsuit. "It’s not about money. It’s about dignity. This is to reclaim my son’s dignity.”
An online petition in support of Chaifetz’s cause has been set up at Change.org.
Summary: When Killian Jones accidentally stumbles into Emma Swan’s undercover FBI investigation, first impressions are anything but good. Once the smoke clears, they never expect to see each other again. But with a common enemy and the stakes higher than ever, they quickly discover working together is the only choice. That goes rather poorly too – until it doesn’t. CS AU.
Emma groaned as she cracked her eyes open, even the muted gray of the cloudy morning torturously bright. She groped on the nightstand for her phone with her eyes closed, cursing when water sloshed over her hand. “What the hell?” she mumbled to herself, blearily opening her eyes once more. She never left anything liquid on her nightstand for a reason.
But this morning, the small bedside table held the remains of a glass of water and a bottle of Advil placed within her reach. Frowning, she rolled over to grab the painkillers, her head throbbing as the room spun. She usually wasn’t so prepared for a hangover, and the thought tugged at something deeper, something else hovering just beyond her reach.
“And there’s the phone,” she muttered as it dug into her hip, still in the pocket of her jeans.
Why am I wearing jeans? I don’t sleep in jeans. Or a sweater.
She quickly finished the water with the pills, momentarily setting aside the question to soothe her parched tongue. Blinking in the too-bright light, Emma glanced around the room, taking note of her boots carefully placed against the wall. She wasn’t that tidy.
“What the hell did you do?” she asked herself, her memory rushing back and heating her cheeks. Wincing at the tilting room, she flopped back on the pillows, pushing the heels of her hands into her eyes and willing the dizziness to pass.
It subsided, but her profound embarrassment only grew. She drank too much – way too much. How had it even gotten so bad?
You know exactly how.
Coming home, she’d been frustrated with the case and anxious about spending time with Killian outside of work. Ever since that afternoon at his apartment, it had been harder than ever to deny that something lived between them, a simmering kettle of desires that was liable to boil over, and soon. Her skin had tingled all afternoon cooped up in the conference room with him, her body practically vibrating with tension. Time and again, she’d forced herself to look away, to stop wondering if his lips were as soft as they looked, if the scruff on his cheeks would burn against the inside of her thighs or tickle.
And maybe she could have handled that. So what if they had an…unsavory…past. Killian was still an attractive guy – but that intangible something wasn’t just lust. Lust didn’t fuss and make tea and walk a girl to her car. And Emma couldn’t handle that. Not now. Not with him.
So she’d poured a drink to help settle herself while she showered and dressed. And it had been okay at first, the scotch helping her push the frustrations of work out of her mind. Somewhere toward the end of the first glass, she’d traded one sweater for another, and then poured another glass while she fixed her makeup. Had there been a third? One more to calm the unexpected jitters that had flared up when she’d looked in the mirror? Her eyes had already been bright, her cheeks warm, and her sweater showing off her curves – and a tiny, tiny part of her she didn’t want to acknowledge was already anticipating the look on Killian’s face. Yeah, there had been a third, but it hadn’t made her forget her nerves – it had only lit the tinderbox of emotions inside her when it came to one Killian Jones.
Emma groaned at the flood of memories, flinging her arm over her eyes. She had been late to Graham’s, and her behavior with Killian in front of her friends…
Which didn’t even begin to touch the way she had behaved once they were alone. She cringed at the very thought – pressing herself against him on the sidewalk, telling him he wanted to, of all the damned things, take her to bed, admitting what she’d known deep down to be true about that night at Gold’s…and worst of all, kissing him. What the hell had she been thinking?
She had practically offered herself up to him as Gold once had, and what had he done? Stopped her. Stopped her and kissed her forehead in a move so tender the memory left her chest tight.
Stopped her despite it being obvious how little he wanted to, how very much he would have liked to keep going. The kiss was a hazy memory, but the flashes that stood out – his weight pressing her to the mattress, the soft groan as their lips had met, the way his hand had tangled in her hair and then started to move over her – those moments were so vivid Emma couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Killian wasn’t so…Killian.
What the hell am I going to do now?
Pretend it never happened. It’s worked before.
Not with him.
Rubbing her thumb across her lips, Emma lifted her phone to her face, squinting at the screen. It was already midday, and she had messages from both Ruby and Killian. Ruby’s message was sure to be easier to swallow, so she read that first and quickly replied, assuring her friend that she was fine and she could handle the hangover. She ignored the implied question in Ruby’s far-from-innocent you were wearing Killian’s jacket when you left.
Emma’s thumb hovered over the screen after she hit send, dread welling up in her stomach. What must he think of her? Had she lost all of his respect? Why the hell had she kissed him in the first place? Of course, he had kissed her back, and then there was that forehead kiss, and god dammit, Emma, what have you done?
Telling herself not to be a coward, she brought up Killian’s messages, holding her breath.
I suspected you might be a tad under the weather this morning. There are bagels and coffee outside your door. Eat the bagels, sop up the scotch. I knocked but I believe you were still asleep.
There was a second message, time-stamped forty minutes later.
If you’re avoiding me, there’s no need. We needn’t discuss last night if you don’t wish to. I’ll add it to the list.
Emma groaned, noting the second text had been sent twenty minutes ago. She knew Killian well enough to sense the bite in his last sentence. It was plain from his behavior at his apartment the afternoon she’d lost it that he wouldn’t allow her to run from everything and everyone. He may have granted her a temporary reprieve, but he wouldn’t forget the evening, and he wouldn’t let it go until she explained why she’d turned up already well into the scotch.
He definitely wouldn’t forget her admitting her part in what had happened at Gold’s.
Drunk Emma had always been a more honest Emma, and as she lay in her bed trying to summon the energy to get the coffee Killian had left, she forced herself to examine what she’d said to him. She had been pushy that night at Gold’s – the awfulness of the situation had made her angry and resentful, and she’d lashed out. She was damn lucky Killian had turned out to be an undercover cop; if he really had been Charles Ellis, she might have ended up dead for some of the things she’d said.
And last night…last night she had thrown herself at him. All the pretending in the world didn’t change that she knew he wanted her, even after everything between them. And Emma…Emma didn’t know what she wanted. He was sinfully attractive, all dark hair and bright eyes. She’d caught him staring at her before, smoldering with desire before he wiped his expression clean. He hadn’t pushed her away at Graham’s, not when she’d leaned into him or laid her hand on his thigh or brushed up against him as she passed.
And he hadn’t been sober, either. She vaguely recalled him sharing a bottle of rum with Graham. He had tasted of it when she kissed him, slightly spicy and sweet. She didn’t know many men with enough self-control to walk away with their own inhibitions lowered.
Dragging out all the ghosts this morning, are we?
Needing to get out of bed, Emma forced herself to her feet, grabbing at the wall for balance as the room tilted madly. It was slow going, and when she finally got the door open, she was half-afraid she would find Killian waiting to ambush her.
But the only things she found were the promised bagels and coffee.
The coffee had gone lukewarm. Emma drank it anyway, nibbling at a bagel despite her uneasy stomach as she collapsed onto the couch. She was halfway through the coffee before she realized Killian had fixed it exactly how she liked it, pausing to stare down into the creamy liquid with a groan. What the hell had she set in motion last night? The sudden certainty that some doors, once opened, could never be closed again descended with alarming speed.
Killian had left her jacket folded neatly over the back of the couch, and the sight dredged up the memory of wearing his coat. Why the hell had she done that? Even drunk Emma had to know the difference between black and red. Her motivations lost, all she did remember was the coziness of being wrapped up in Killian’s scent, curling her fingers into the too-long sleeves and not wanting to give the jacket back. And then there had been the walk back, Killian’s arm around her, his breath on her cheek, and…
Stop. You and Killian…there is no you and Killian. There never will be a you and Killian. Even if you wanted to – which you don’t – but if you did, there’s too much history. Neither one of you will ever forget what happened at Gold’s. You can’t build a relationship on that.
Except hadn’t she just admitted that she knew they were both in a bad situation that night? There hadn’t been a way out for either of them, not without compromising their covers. Neither had known the other’s true identity, and admitting to being undercover could have gotten them killed if they were who they were supposed to be.
Not to mention Rose. Emma winced at the thought, thankful for once she had no family to speak of. She was hell-bent on avenging a friend she’d lost over ten years ago – Killian’s niece had been missing in the moment. If she’d been chasing after Lily, where would she have drawn the line at what she was willing to do to save someone who meant that much to her? If she were in an honest mood, she wasn’t sure there was a line when it came down to it. Why would it be any different for Killian?
Why you expect me to behave any differently, or accept less than you would, is a bloody mystery.
In the time she’d known him, he had showed over and over the depth of his emotions when it came to the people he cared about. She had never expected to find him in that stairwell as upset as he was, nor had she ever expected he would be willing to talk to her about it.
She never expected to care about what he had to say. She’d been determined to hate him from the moment she found out Regina wanted him on the investigation, determined never to let him forget what he’d done to her. But that wasn’t fair, and she knew it. In the aftermath, she’d been too angry and humiliated, standing in front of an entire police squadron wrapped in a sheet, to really think about it, but Killian had been just as uncomfortable with the whole situation as she had been, maybe more so. And yet, once it became clear they were going to have sex one way or the other, he’d made an attempt to give her something from the encounter.
And for a moment, it had almost worked. To her surprise, her body had responded, and in the seconds it took for shame and horror to catch up, she had wondered what it might have been like if Charles Ellis wasn’t a drug runner and she wasn’t pretending to be Gold’s whore.
If anything, that one moment had made her even more determined to hate him, to correct the wrongness of her body’s response to him. Killian probably knew it too, but he’d still fought to protect her. He’d covered her without hesitation in that alley, and his quick thinking and coolness under pressure likely saved them that night. He was a man willing to fight for the people he cared about, and somehow, Emma had landed herself in that category.
She was someone Killian Jones cared about, whether she wanted to be or not.
She never should have let Ruby talk her into going to Graham’s. They didn’t need a night off – they needed to catch Gold. It was bad enough she’d accepted the invitation, but to get herself mixed up in personal drama with Killian too? He was a distraction, and distractions were not going to help her with the case.
Killian wasn’t the monster she’d let herself believe he was, but distractions got people killed.
Determined not to think about him anymore, Emma dragged herself into the shower. By the time she had eaten, showered, and downed another cup of coffee, she almost felt human again. Her eyes were a little red, but otherwise she looked normal enough. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and her keys from the counter, Emma headed for the office.
Days off were distractions, too.
Killian picked up his phone for the fifth time in as many minutes, growing progressively more frustrated with the dark screen. It had been hours since he’d dropped by Emma’s, and still no response to his messages. He could rationalize her not answering the door, as it had been a tad on the early side. But hours later, well beyond when she would have woken, there was only one conclusion to draw.
Not that he wished to accept that conclusion.
“What’s going on with you today?” Across from him, David pointed at the phone with the french fry in his hand. “It hasn’t left your hand.” His frown gave his opinion on the matter quite clearly.
“Nothing to trouble you with.” Killian shoved the phone in his pocket, turning his attention back to his lunch. He’d been tempted to decline David’s invitation, but he hadn’t seen his boss and friend much with everything else going on. He’d known David would see through him in an instant – the man knew him better than anyone – and constantly checking his mobile wasn’t going to do him any favors.
“Something to do with Emma Swan?”
Killian’s head jerked up, regarding the other man. “Why would it?” he asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral.
David shrugged. “You tell me.”
“Alas, there’s nothing to tell.” Killian painted his face in innocence, silently counting off his breaths and keeping his shoulders loose. He really did not want to discuss anything having to do with Emma and what had happened between them, either last night or at any other time. Not with David, anyway.
Maybe with Emma. If she would answer her bloody phone.
His friend leaned back in the booth, arms crossed firmly over his chest and brows drawn. Killian stopped himself from groaning aloud just in time. He knew that look. It was the same look David got before interrogating a suspect.
This time, Killian did groan, running one hand through his hair. “The lass had a bit too much to drink last night, and when I went to check on her this morning, she didn’t answer her door.” It was the truth, after a fashion.
“You went to her apartment?”
“I walked her home last night. She was…impaired.” Killian winced, realizing how terrible it sounded, but David cut him off before he could clarify.
“Something happened.” It wasn’t a question, and Killian cursed the man for being able to read him so well.
“I’m insulted you think so lowly of me,” he deflected, ignoring that something had happened, and he was certain it was the reason for Emma’s silence. She wasn’t the most talkative correspondent, but she usually answered texts within a few minutes. Killian scowled, reaching into his pocket and checking his phone again, David be damned. Still no response. “I walked her home and put her to bed with some water,” he finally added when David continued to merely stare at him, waiting for an explanation.
But his boss only continued to study him, and just when Killian thought he was satisfied, David started in again. “Something is off. There’s more you’re not telling me. You talked my ear off about Robin when you were first partners. Yet this woman, with all your history, not a word.” He spoke as though reciting a list of facts in a case, and Killian fought the urge to tell him to sod off.
“I’ve reported back with…” he tried, but David wasn’t having that excuse either.
“No one said you weren’t doing your job, Jones. Regina Mills hasn’t sent you packing yet, so that counts for something.” David sighed, unfolding his arms and leaning across the table on his elbows. “Look, man, it’s plain as day you’re into her. You need to get over it. I won’t have you on this case with your judgment compromised.”
“My judgment is not bloody compromised!” Killian’s hand slammed down on the table, rattling the silverware.
David raised an eyebrow at him as if to say his point had just been proven. Killian muttered an apology, returning to his meal.
“If that changes, you’re off the case.”
“Understood, Sergeant.” Killian knew David hated his title, especially with old friends and off-duty. His glare said so, but he let the subject drop. Killian steered the conversation toward baseball, an easy topic with which to engage Dave, a lifelong Red Sox fan. Killian didn’t particularly care about baseball, with the exception of the fact it was a perfectly acceptable place to have a beer in the middle of the day, but he’d much rather discuss batting statistics than Emma Swan. He forced himself not to check his phone again for the remainder of the afternoon, clenching his fingers around it in his pocket until they parted ways.
The moment David turned the block to head for his apartment, Killian pulled out the phone, frowning at it in the fading gray light. No messages.
Frustration mounting, he decided he was done with texts. “Come on, Swan, pick up,” he muttered as he listened to the phone ring. A sliver of worry had worked its way into his thoughts as the afternoon wore on – what if she wasn’t avoiding him at all? What if she’d fallen in the night and something was truly wrong? And even if she was avoiding him, it was a little bloody ridiculous. They still worked together.
It wasn’t like he’d been foolish enough to accept the blatant invitation to her bed. He didn’t deserve to be ignored.
You have reached Special Agent Emma Swan with the FBI, Boston. If this is an emergency…
Growling with irritation, Killian hung up. He hated her voice on the recording, cold and detached. Despite his resolve not to, he sent another text. I’m worried, Swan. Pick up your bloody phone.
When his phone rang a block later, he didn’t bother checking the call ID before answering. “Oh, so you are aware how the contraption works?”
“Catch you at a bad time?” It was Belle’s voice that greeted him, tentative in response to his gruff hello.
“No, not at all. My apologies. I thought you were someone else.” Reaching the corner, he stopped to wait for the light to change. “Just walking back from lunch with Dave Nolan. Is everything all right?” Killian hated himself for even thinking it, but every time Belle called these days, he was on edge, waiting for terrible news.
“Yes. Actually, I’m calling because I think I might be able to help. Well, not me. But Rose. She’s…remembering some details. Do you think I could bring her by tomorrow to talk to you?” She sighed, weariness slipping into her voice. “Maybe helping catch the guy will give her some peace.”
“Do you think it best she talk to me?”
“You’re her uncle.”
“Is she still skittish around Will?” Belle’s silence confirmed his fear. “Perhaps a woman would be a better choice. There are several female agents…”
“Would Emma be willing to talk to her? You said she’d been working on this case for a long time. You trust her, right?” There was a desperate edge to Belle’s words, a plea for him to keep her little girl safe. He didn’t have to ask to understand why she wanted Rose to talk to someone he knew. “She was there that day with Rose, and I just thought…”
Killian hesitated, the thought of Emma stirring up a tangle of emotions all over again. She was on edge these days, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to subject either Emma or Rose to a rehashing of the details of Gold’s den of iniquity. But then again, maybe whatever Rose had remembered would be the break they needed and would pull Emma out of her mood. “Of course. Why don’t you come by the FBI’s office tomorrow morning? Around ten?”
And hopefully Emma will be there.
“Yes, that will work. Thank you, Killian.” Belle paused. “Are you sure everything is all right? When you answered, you sounded…you never answer your phone like that.”
“Everything is fine, love. You know how it can be trying to get some bloody people to return your calls. Informants are handy, but terribly unreliable.” He winced, knowing the lie was a pathetic one as it left his lips. Belle knew enough cops to know his personal number wasn’t the one he gave out to the various useful degenerates in the city – but she had enough problems without his personal issues with Emma, especially not when she was putting her trust in the woman to help Rose.
“If you say so.” She plainly didn’t believe him, silence stretching between them as she waited for him to elaborate. When he didn’t, she sighed into the phone. “I guess we’ll see you tomorrow, then. Ten o’clock?”
“Aye. Call me when you arrive, and I’ll come down to fetch you.”
“Okay. Bye, Killian.”
Killian hung up after wishing her a good night, staring down at the screen. Emma had finally answered him while he’d been talking to Belle, but her words did little to reassure him.
Thanks for coffee. Not avoiding just tired. See you tomorrow.
The words were perfectly polite, but cold. Emma’s texts were usually short, but she loved her bloody emojis, and this message was completely devoid of them.
He was of half a mind to show up on her doorstep once more, but if he wanted the woman to trust him, he couldn’t go behaving like a stalker. Resigning himself to a long night and an awkward morning, he resumed his trek home, stopping at the liquor store for a fresh bottle of rum.
Through the night, the misty gray gave way to a full on downpour. The rain tapped against the windows like ghosts begging entrance, and not in the mood to listen, Killian poured another glass of rum. Eventually, exhaustion and liquor pulled him under for another restless night spent on his couch.
The rain hadn’t let up by morning, and Killian was soaked by the time he arrived at the office. The wind made an umbrella bloody useless, and though his leather coat did a fine job keeping out the water, his jeans were plastered to his legs and his hair dripped icy drops down the back of his neck.
When Emma’s eyes lingered, he couldn’t decide if he was flattered or more irritated with her than ever.
She didn’t explain herself, and she didn’t apologize. After he caught her staring, she rose from the table with flushed cheeks, immediately darting through the open door. Ruby raised an eyebrow at him across the table, giving a subtle shake of her head in warning not to follow. And usually, Killian would have ignored Red’s suggestion and gone after Emma, but he was knackered and wearing wet jeans and utterly out of patience. He needed Emma to pull herself together and help his niece.
Working himself up to tell her just that, he was surprised when she returned with a towel. She dropped it in his lap as she passed without a word, and his temper flared all over again – until he realized she’d gone to the coffee pot in the corner and was pouring him a cup. She returned with it and one of the chocolate glazed donuts he favored, setting them both down on the conference table in front of him. His hand shot out when she silently turned away, grasping her fingers. Her skin was warm against his own, chilled and damp as it was, and he felt her shiver.
Waiting for her to finally look at him, he held her hesitant gaze. “Thank you,” he said softly, releasing her hand before she could tug it away.
Emotion warred on her face, and for a moment he thought she might smile – but the flicker of warmth disappeared like it had been shut off. “You’re dripping on the carpet,” she said, stepping away from him. “Graham is at his desk if you want to borrow one of his shirts.”
“Shirt isn’t the problem, love.” He shrugged out of his jacket, draping it over the back of his chair to let the water run off. Other than the slightly damp neckline, the shirt was fine. The jeans on the other hand… “Don’t suppose you’ve got a spare set of jeans?”
Emma sighed, rolling her eyes at his overly hopeful tone. “I can grab you a pair of sweats.”
“I suppose FBI pants are better than soaked pants.”
His joke fell on deaf ears. “Do you want them or not?” she snapped.
“I’ll get them,” Ruby interrupted before Killian could say anything. “Killian, come with me.“ He caught an indecipherable glance between the two women, but Emma backed off, turning back to her laptop.
“So…what happened after you left the other night?” Ruby asked the moment they were out of earshot. Even from the corner of his eye, Killian could feel the weight of her stare.
“What makes you think something happened?”
“Because Emma is being…Emma. I wasn’t positive it had anything to do with you until just now. But I know her. That awkward, embarrassed, and pissed off woman you just saw is Emma when she feels backed into a corner by her own actions. So I’ll ask again. What happened?” Ruby stopped in front of a door, looking up at him expectantly.
Killian scrubbed his hand over his face, avoiding Ruby’s eyes and scratching behind his ear as the silence lengthened. “I really don’t feel it’s my place to…”
“Did you have sex?”
The blunt question startled him, and his face grew hot. “No. Bloody hell, you saw the condition she was in when we left. What sort of man do you take me for?” It rankled that she was the second person to insinuate he’d taken advantage of Emma.
“Emma can be very persuasive when she wants something.”
“I imagine so.”
“You imagine?” Ruby shook her head, lifting her ID to the door and holding it until the light turned green. The door unlocked with a click, and she pulled him into a supply room after her. Vests and jackets hung neatly against one wall, several shelves filled with T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants along the other. She gestured to the pile, taking a seat on a crate. “There should be a few in every size if you want to grab whatever.”
He hadn’t even crossed the room when she resumed her questioning, and Killian silently cursed the perils of having law enforcement for friends. “So you didn’t sleep with her, but something happened. You might as well just tell me. She’ll crack eventually. But if you tell me now, I might be able to help you navigate the boatload of crazy Emma will work herself into.”
“I can handle myself.”
“Did you kiss her?” Killian grit his teeth, thankful his back was to Ruby, little good it did him. “You did kiss her.”
“She kissed me,” he finally said, yanking a pair of pants free and nearly toppling the whole stack.
“Just a kiss?”
“Aye, just a bloody kiss! She kissed me, I knew she was well into her cups and wasn’t certain she would even remember it in the morning. It was one kiss. I fetched her some water and Advil, and I went home. Satisfied?” Killian was surprised to find his breath had grown short, the words racing out of him and his hands clenched at his sides.
“Yes, actually.” Ruby smiled up at him from her spot on the crate, amusement dancing in her eyes. “You’d be good for her, you know. I like Graham and all, but that was never going to work.” She paused, tilting her head to the side and narrowing her eyes at him. “Though you might not have known that.”
“I guessed something passed between them.” He managed to keep the words even, though jealousy raged through his veins at the confirmation. The fact that Ruby didn’t think it would ever work did little to soothe the green monster.
“It was a long time ago.” Ruby rose, heading toward the door. “I’m not supposed to leave you in here, so I’m giving you two minutes to change your pants before I come back in if you’re not out.”
It took him a moment to register she’d truly gone after everything she’d said. Ruby’s words landed harder than many punches he’d taken, but he forced himself to shake it off. The jeans would take ages to dry, and he didn’t relish sitting around in wet trousers the rest of the day.
Even if he did look positively ridiculous in FBI sweats with his boots and shirt.
“That’s a good look for you, Jones.” Ruby did a poor job of hiding her laugh when he emerged. “I bet your BPD friends are super jealous.”
“Aye, it’s every detective’s dream to be clad in FBI attire.”
“I can take them back.”
“That won’t be necessary.” He sighed, gingerly holding his soaked jeans out from his body as they made their way back to the conference room. “Maybe it will make my niece laugh, at least, since you find it so amusing.”
“Your niece is coming in?”
“Aye. Her mum called me late yesterday and said they thought Rose may have remembered something. Belle thought perhaps Emma could talk to her.”
“Do you want me to ask?”
“I can handle Swan.”
Ruby hummed her agreement, her eyes filled with suggestion as she grinned up at him before striding into the conference room. Killian ignored her, grabbing the towel Emma had left for him and rubbing his hair with it before attempting to blot some of the water from his jeans.
Across the room, Emma was doing her very best to appear as if she didn’t care he was there. She kept her head bent over her laptop, but her body language gave her away as she shifted toward him.
Killian let her be, gulping down the now lukewarm coffee and donut before checking his phone. It was just before nine, which gave him hopefully enough time to convince Emma to talk to Rose before Belle arrived with the girl in tow. Steeling himself for an argument, he got up to throw out the paper coffee cup and slid into a seat next to Emma on his way back. “Rose is coming in,” he began without preamble, hoping to draw her attention by avoiding their personal situation. “Belle and I were hoping you could talk to her. She’s beginning to remember things when speaking with the therapist and…”
“What time will she be here?” Emma cut in, all business. She might as well have been asking him where he’d been last night between the hours of two and four am.
“Belle said ten.”
“All right. I’ll reserve one of the smaller conference rooms. I assume you’ll be sitting in?” She looked at him expectantly, her expression devoid of emotion.
“Do you think that wise? I thought perhaps she would be more comfortable with you.”
Something in Emma softened, her eyes filling with a deep sadness he couldn’t immediately place. “No matter what happened to her, you’re still family. She loves you. She knows you’re not a threat to her, even if she can’t remember that yet.” She squeezed his arm, seemingly surprising herself with the action, but she didn’t immediately pull away. “But if you think it would be better for me to talk to her alone, we can do that.”
“I believe that would be best. Thank you, Emma.” She nodded, dropping her hand back to her lap and rubbing at her wrist as though it pained her. Graham’s revelation rushed forward unbidden – the bastard broke her wrist – and a cold, hard rage settled over Killian at the sight of her silent pain. He knew better than to mention it, but for a moment he wished he didn’t – wished he could wrap his arms around her like he had in the stairwell or his apartment. But even if Ruby wasn’t watching them from the corner of her eye, he did know better, and apprehension still came off Emma in waves.
It was impossible to determine if she didn’t trust him, or if she didn’t trust herself around him. Killian suspected the latter, but either way, Emma couldn’t be pushed into anything, so he returned to his usual spot in a chair by the window.
The hour dragged as he waited for Belle to arrive. He’d always been aware of Emma in a room, but it was heightened by the way she stole glances at him, flushing when she was caught. Each time their eyes met, she would quickly look away, resolutely ignoring him…until the next time.
By the look on her face, he wasn’t the only one who kept remembering their kiss. He’d done the right thing by walking away, but it was difficult not to wonder what would have happened if he had stayed, especially when Emma seemed just as aware of him as he was of her.
It was a relief when his phone lit up with Belle’s call. His jeans were still damp, so Killian resigned himself to traveling the massive building in his current attire, hoping it would at least get a smile out of Rose.
“Abandoning BPD, Killian? David will be so disappointed,” Belle joked when she caught sight of him, offering a quick hug in greeting. Beside him, Emma stiffened.
Is she jealous of Belle? She can’t possibly be.
But Killian didn’t have time to analyze Emma’s reaction to the woman he considered a sister. Rose stood close to her mother, but when she looked at him, a tiny smile graced her lips. “Did you get dressed in the dark?”
“Had a bit of a run in with the rain and some puddles.” He flashed her a grin, shoving his hands in his pockets to keep from reaching for her. It wasn’t natural to avoid touching her – Rose had always been generous with her affection, and she had rubbed off on him years ago. Even as she grew into a teenager, Rose had still sought out Killian for a shoulder to lean on when she was having a bad day. You give the best hugs, Uncle Killy, she’d confessed practically in tears over a boy who clearly didn’t deserve her. Don’t tell Daddy I said it, but it’s true.
Killian wished Rose’s tears only came from a rejection by an idiot high school boy – he would have given anything to go back to her disappointments in life being brought on by movie dates and school dances, but that ship had sailed. The only thing he could do now was help her heal and try to prove to her along the way not all men would treat her as Gold had.
“Do you remember Emma? She was…she asked you some questions the night we got you back.” He scratched behind his ear, cursing the awkward reference to the night Rose had been rescued from that hellhole. Emma and Rose had been captive at Gold’s at the same time – they were hardly likely to forget each other. Killian gestured to the blonde as she began signing forms to get Rose into the building. “She’s going to talk to you today, if that’s all right.”
“Sure.” Rose suddenly looked much older than her sixteen years, her eyes on the floor and her shoulders slumped. “Are you…will you be there, too?”
“No, I thought I’d take your mum to get us all some hot chocolate from that place you fancy down the block. It seems the rain has stopped.”
“You’re going out in public like that?” His heart broke at the forced levity in her voice, an obvious attempt to hide her relief. At least he’d made the right call in choosing to leave her alone with Emma.
“Don’t worry, love, you shan’t have to be seen with me.” That at least drew a more genuine smile from the teenager, but it fell as soon as Emma held out her visitor’s pass.
“Rose, I’ll take you upstairs now, all right?” He noticed Emma was careful not to touch the girl, standing a good distance apart and gesturing instead of leading her by the arm. Even once they started moving toward the elevator, Emma kept pace with Rose so she never had someone behind her.
“Thank you for bringing her,” Killian managed to choke out, his throat unexpectedly tight as he watched Rose’s once proud walk turn into a shuffle. “I know it’s not easy.”
“No, it’s not.” Belle stared after her daughter for a long moment, then sighed. “C’mon, let’s go before I change my mind about being seen with you.”
“I was teasing Rose. I can change back into my jeans.”
Belle rolled her eyes, looping her arm through Killian’s. “You forget I grew up with you.”
“Indeed you did.” Killian chuckled as they made their way out of the building and down the street, the rain thankfully having tapered off to a light drizzle. As they walked, Belle chattered on about the latest books she’d gotten in at the library where she worked and about Will’s job, and Killian let her. If Belle wanted to talk about the weather, he would let her – he knew what a gift it could be to think about something other than the horrors life had served up, if only for a few minutes.
He ordered Rose’s hot chocolate once they arrived, extra hot so it would still be warm when she was done talking to Emma. Belle preferred tea, and Killian opted for another coffee, still chilled from his morning dousing. At the last minute, he ordered another hot chocolate for Emma, ignoring Belle’s raised brow.
“Emma likes hot chocolate too?” she asked, something overly innocent in her voice.
“Aye, with a bit of cinnamon on top of the whipped cream.”
“Does she drink her coffee like that too?”
“No, just sugar and milk. A lot of bloody sugar.”
“I see.” Belle’s lips curved in a knowing smile, and Killian scowled at her.
“Have something to say? Everyone else seems to.”
“I can’t remember the last time you knew how a woman took her coffee, that’s all.”
“You hardly drink the stuff, but when you do you like three sugars and more milk than coffee.”
“I don’t count.”
“If you say so.” Killian shook his head, determined not to talk about Emma anymore. Belle accepted the dismissal, once again turning the conversation back to mundane things.
The closer they got to the office, the more Belle’s words began to rush together, rambling on about anything other than what they were both thinking. He took her into the conference room next to the one he knew Emma was in after obtaining another guest pass, setting down the drinks and leaning back against the wall as they fell into a tense silence.
When they finally emerged, Rose’s eyes were red and puffy, and Emma was so tightly wound Killian worried her jaw might snap if she clenched her teeth any harder. To her credit, she was gentle with Rose, speaking softly and thanking her. That Rose allowed Emma to embrace her before returning to her mother gave him hope their conversation hadn’t been for nothing, even if Emma’s anger was so strong the air was bitter with its taste.
“Thank you, Rose, for talking to me. You’ve been very helpful.” Emma squeezed her hand one more time before turning to Belle. “If you ever need anything, here’s my card. I gave Rose one too. My cell phone number is on the back, or you can call Killian and he’ll find me.”
“Thanks.” Belle wrapped her arm around Rose’s shoulders as her daughter returned to her side, offering Emma and Killian a weak smile. “Good luck.”
Killian walked them out, Rose’s fingers curled tightly around her hot chocolate. He stood in the lobby watching them through the plate glass as they made their way down the street, cursing Gold for the hundredth time that morning.
By the time he got back upstairs, Emma’s rage was honed into an icy blade. She sat in the smaller conference room, the hot chocolate he’d brought her untouched as she scanned the tablet screen on the table in front of her with cold determination.
“Did she tell you anything we didn’t know?”
“That’s good. What can I do?”
Emma snapped the case closed over the tablet, rising to her feet suddenly. “Nothing for now. I need to speak to some people before we act on this.” Something was off in her voice. She was too calm, too cold, even for Emma.
“I’ll come with you,” he insisted. Whatever was going through her head, he didn’t think it was a good idea for her to be alone. Everything about Emma threw off a dangerous mood.
“No. It won’t work if you’re with me. Your cover is blown.”
“Emma, you’re not going back to Gold’s by yourself. It’s bloody reckless and…”
“I’m not going to Gold’s.” She met his stare head on, and he didn’t like what he saw lurking in her eyes. “I’ll let you know what I find out.” She walked out before he could stop her.
He moved toward the hall, determined to chase after her, but he forced himself to stop. Whatever was going on with her, there didn’t seem to be a damn thing he could say that would deter her from whatever decision she’d made. She wouldn’t let him go with her, but if she didn’t know he was there, she couldn’t stop him.
So he followed her.
With this chapter, I’d also like to welcome @evil–isnt–born to the beta fold! They’ll be a slight changing of the guard as the responsibilities of life take over and @kliomuse focuses on some other things. C, you were SUCH a huge help as I was writing the draft, and I so appreciate all the conversations and brainstorming. Thank you so very much for all of your help. Kick some ass this semester.
The next chapter…well, probably don’t read the next chapter at work. If you’re like me and have a tendency to do that. You’ve been warned…
Farmed Animals Are the 99%. Here’s How to Help Them
A new Huffington Postpiece highlights people’s increasing awareness of the horrific treatment of farmed animals in the U.S. and the most effective ways to reduce their suffering.
While farmed animals make up the vast majority of animals abused by humans (more than 99%), the fewest donations to protect animals (less than 1%) are allocated to them.
The author explains:
Drawing attention to this imbalance is a burgeoning nonprofit called Animal Charity Evaluators. Its goal is to educate everyday animal lovers (and charity donors) about how to most effectively stretch their dollars to help the most animals.
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) is an independent nonprofit that reviews hundreds of animal protection nonprofits from around the world, analyzes each for its cost-effectiveness, and makes recommendations to donors as to which charities to support.
The most recent recommendations marked the third year in a row that Mercy For Animals was named one of the world’s best animal protection nonprofits. ACE recommends MFA as one of the charities doing the most good for animals per donor dollar.
Making a donation to MFA is certainly one the most effective ways to help animals suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. But here are a few other ways you can make a big difference for animals:
Share Undercover Videos on Social Media
Most people have no idea how terribly factory farms abuse animals to bring us meat, dairy, and eggs. Sharing undercover videos on social media is a great way to expose friends and family to the truth.
Whether it’s demanding more or better vegan options or encouraging a company to move away from the cruelest forms of confinement, petitions can be a simple yet effective way to create change.
Leafleting is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reach thousands of people with a message of compassion for animals. Leafleting takes zero preparation, and at the right time and place, just one person can hand out hundreds of brochures in less than an hour.
One of the best things we can to do protect animals is simply to leave them off our plates and remove our support of an industry that treats animals as unfeeling commodities. To order your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide, click here.