The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.26
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.26

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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“Another round for the pretty lady?”

  Morgan glanced up from her Diet Coke and into the twinkling eyes of the bartender. He was trying to be funny, she knew, but she graced him with a small smile anyway.

  “Why not?” she replied, taking one last pull from her straw and allowing the soda to slurp loudly against the ice in her glass before sliding it across the wooden bar.

  The bartender snatched it up and went to pull the soda hose from the back, tipping the glass slightly to prevent too much fizz forming at the top. Morgan thanked him as he slid the full glass back to her with a wink, shaking her head with a bemused expression.

  Men were idiots.

  Morgan’s mind reeled back to a particularly rainy day, a few years back, when she had been pulled over by a cop, and her life had changed forever.

  Cursing, she shielded her eyes from the blinding light glaring through her back window as she reached for her license and registration. She rolled down her window to find a pudgy man in a blue suit and lopsided hat glaring down at her.

  “Do you know why I pulled you over, miss?” he asked.

  Morgan quirked an eyebrow at him. “Because I was going five over the speed limit, sir?” She tried to keep her tone pleasant, but her annoyance leaked through anyway.

  “Left tail light’s out,” he replied, reaching a hand out for her documents, which she duly handed over. “Not safe in this kind of weather.”

  “It’s Houston. The rain will be over in five minutes,” she said, curt. She knew this behavior wasn’t going to save her from a ticket, but she wasn’t the type of person to cry just to get out of a violation. She liked to meet people straight on, with honesty. If they didn’t like it, that was their problem.

  To her surprise, the cop chuckled. “I suppose that’s true.”

  “Hey, can I ask you something?’ Morgan said. “What’s it like, being a cop?”

  The officer hesitated, thinking for a moment before he replied. “Oh, it’s not so bad. On slow days we’re pulling people over for minor traffic violations, but there are times when we get to save people’s lives—make the community a better place. It’s nice to feel like you’re making a difference in the world, even when people don’t thank you all the time for it.”

  Morgan thought about that for a moment.

  The officer leaned in a little closer. “Are you thinking of joining?” he asked, and Morgan laughed.

  “I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’ve got a job—I just hate it.”

  “What are you, Army?”

  “No, corporate. You know, the cube farm; small talk, meddling middle management. Not my bag at all.”

  “Sounds like you need to get out of there. There’s a preliminary entrance exam coming up in a few weeks. You look like you’re in good shape—why don’t you come try out the physical exam and see if it’s something you want to do?”

  “Maybe I will,” she replied, her gaze darting to the man’s paunch and wondering how he got into the force if you really did have to be in “good shape.”

  With that, the cop handed back her license and registration. “On good faith,” he said simply. “Come to the exam, Miss Springfield. You strike me as a good fit for our force.”

  Morgan had had some time to think about it, sitting in her cold, gray cubicle. What was she doing with her life?

  On the afternoon of the physical exams, she ended up being one of only three women there to perform the series of tests to be considered for the police force, and she was the only one who passed. One long month later, and she was officially a member of the Houston Police Department.

  At first it had been exciting. Morgan got to ride in police cars. She got to perform undercover detective work, following clues that led to bad guys being arrested. It wasn’t long, however, before she started to get frustrated.

  “Morgan, stay in the car. I’ve got this!” was a phrase she quickly got tired of hearing. The men—always men—she worked with wanted to keep her safe. On one level, it was gentlemanly. On another, it was annoying and sexist as all hell. Did they think that she couldn’t handle taking down a three-hundred-pound meathead just because she was a woman? She did it during training sessions every single week. Yet somehow they always tried to leave her behind.

  Then there was the red tape. So much red tape. Morgan could barely keep up with the bureaucracy of getting anything done. She watched in agony as criminals dodged jail time because there simply wasn’t enough evidence to convict them. She watched killers walked free because they were able to make a deal, or because their daddies were wealthy. Corruption was everywhere, but it didn’t mean that Morgan had to be a part of it.

  It was a year ago when she’d finally reached breaking point. She was in hot pursuit of an assailant who had just stabbed a pregnant woman at a gas station. After leaving the woman in the care of the emergency services, Morgan had taken off after the guy. She sprinted down dark, winding alleys, the man just a few paces beyond her reach. She dodged as he launched trash cans in her path, leapt as he threw anything he could in her way, until she finally caught up with the guy, taking him down. They rolled along the ground, finally crashing right into Morgan’s partner, who was waiting at the end of the alleyway.

  “Got him!” Brett, her entitled beefcake of a partner shouted. He pulled Morgan off of the guy and cuffed him, slamming him face-first into the waiting police car.

  “Stop!” Morgan shouted, but Brett just slammed him into the car again.

  “That’s enough!” Morgan yelled, using Brett’s strength against him to maneuver his arm behind his back.

  He tugged away roughly, and Morgan let him go, checking on the runner as the man slumped to the ground.

  “Oh what, now your motherly instincts are setting in?” Brett asked, his voice laced with condescension.

  Morgan glared at him. “We’re not thugs, you asshole. We’re cops. Our job is to keep people safe, not beat them to death.”

  “That man stabbed a pregnant woman, and you think he has rights?” Brett yelled.

  Morgan heaved the man up and lifted him into the back of their cruiser.

  Brett didn’t move, his arms crossed as he stood by, watching her do the grunt work.

  “Thanks for the help,” Morgan grumbled, heading to the driver’s side of the car.

  Brett put a hand on her arm, and she froze instantly. How dare he touch her?

  “You think I don’t know what this whole thing is about?” he said bitterly. “You’re just a place holder, Morgan. Your job is to make the force look like they buy into all that feminist bullshit, but women will never be as strong as men—that’s just reality. So why don’t you get your perky little ass into the passenger seat, and I’ll get this asshole into a cell where he belongs.”

  Morgan stood rooted to the spot, blood pounding in her temples. Everything in her body was screaming at her to show this muscly piece of garbage just what a woman could do. But what good would that be? For all that he was an ogre of a partner, they were still, unfortunately, on the same team.

  “Well since you’re clearly the hero of the day, why don’t you take him in and do all the paperwork? Being a figurehead for womankind, clearly I don’t know how to use a computer, right?” Morgan said, turning on her heel before Brett could get a final say.

  She heard him mumble, “Crazy bitch,” or something like that as she strode off into the night.

  The next day she handed in her notice.

  “Morgan, come on. We all know Brett’s a piece of work, but there’s no reason you should leave the force because of him,” Sergeant Brown said with a frown.

  “Let me see last night’s report,” she said, her tone clipped.

  Sergeant Brown glanced at his computer screen and clicked around, looking for the file. When he found it, he printed it off and handed the pages to her.

  Morgan scanned the document quickly, reading the last part of the report out loud.

  “Officer Brett Wilkerson chased down the
assailant, apprehending him. Minor facial injuries were recorded on registration at the department. Bail was set at ten thousand dollars.”

  Morgan glared at her boss. “It was me who chased that man down and cuffed him. And he was perfectly fine until Brett decided to slam him into the side of the car. All this before he belittled me and took full credit for the job himself.”

  The Sergeant’s bushy, gray eyebrows rose at this. “These are very serious accusations, Morgan. You would need proof…”

  “And the Houston Police Department stands by its decision not to place cameras on officers, right? So no, I don’t have any proof. But what I do have is my resignation. Thank you for the opportunity to serve, sir,” Morgan said, standing and holding out her hand.

  Sergeant Brown sighed, and then rose and gave her a firm handshake. “I’m sorry to see you go, Officer. You’re a good cop who cares about the people she serves. What will you do now?”

  Morgan grinned. “I’m going private.”

  Starting the very next day, Morgan filed her personal business as a private detective, and set out getting clients she could help on her own. After a few years in the force she had made some good connections, and while it wasn’t exactly glamourous living, it wasn’t long before she was earning enough to pay for the roof over her head and put food on her table.

  At least she had been able to. Recently, the work had started to dry up.

  As she sat sipping her Diet Coke, Morgan took out her smartphone and checked her bank account, frowning at the number on the screen. The niggling thought that always poked at her during times like these reared its ugly head.

  You could always go back to the force.

  Morgan shook her head. She couldn’t go back there. She couldn’t deal with the egos and the testosterone she was forced to babysit day in and day out. She didn’t want to go back to not getting credit and being held back and left behind. Still, if she didn’t land another job soon…

  “Well, hello there,” a male voice said, and Morgan turned to her right to see a musclebound stranger had plopped himself down on the seat next to her.

  “Hi,” she said, her voice dull. She looked back down at her soda, seemingly entranced by the bubbles. There was no need to encourage these bozos.

  The man grinned. “Oh come on, now. Things can’t be all that bad. Why don’t you turn that pretty mouth upwards and give me a smile?”

  “I don’t smile for men who demand it of me,” Morgan said, fighting down a grin as the man frowned in confusion; he was handsome enough that Morgan knew he wasn’t used to women turning him away.

  His shoulders relaxed as he pushed down his annoyance and pressed on, determined. “Well, what if I ask politely?” he said, leaning in a little closer.

  Morgan could smell hot whiskey on his breath, mixed with heavy cologne. She was a firm believer that men who wore that much cologne were compensating for something.

  She kept her face neutral, not wanting him to think that any grin on her part had anything to do with him.

  “The answer is still ‘no’. I don’t cater to whiskey-soaked fools.”

  “I am no fool, darling. You want a taste, don’t you?” he said, reaching over and wrapping a sweaty palm around her buttocks.

  That was the last straw.

  Before the asshole could blink, Morgan seized his arm and wrapped it painfully behind his back, flipping him to the floor.

  “What the hell?!” the man shouted, his voice muffled by the sticky floor of the bar.

  Morgan pressed him into the floor with her elbow, leaning in close. “When a lady wants to be left alone, you leave her alone. Got it?”

  “Get off me!”

  “What are you going to do the next time a woman says ‘no’, stranger?”

  The man hesitated, clearly not wanting to give in.

  Morgan decided to give him some more motivation, and pushed a little harder. She glanced up to find the whole bar staring at them.

  Finally, the man relented. “It won’t happen again. I’m sorry,” he mumbled pathetically.

  “What was that? For everyone to hear now,” she said, pulling his hair so that he could get a good view of the crowd of onlookers.

  “I’m sorry!” he shouted.

  Morgan released him, and he slumped on the ground. Reaching for her purse, she pulled out a few bills, but the bartender put up his hands.

  “No charge, miss. I’m sorry you had to experience that in my bar. Next time we’ll be more careful about who we let in.”

  “I’d appreciate that,” she said, then turned to the bar at large.

  “Let that be a lesson, folks. You never know just what a woman can do to defend herself,” she said, grinning widely before she made her way outside, into the hot, humid air of spring.

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