Called to Protect (Blue Justice #2)By: Lynette Eason
SIX MONTHS AGO
Sixteen-year-old Penny St. John smoothed the shirt over her slim waist and turned to admire herself in the mirror. He’d like the look. Just thinking about Carson Langston made her smile. She’d never had a real boyfriend before. She’d been more interested in gymnastics and running track, but Carson had caught her eye at the mall when he’d struck up a conversation with her in line at the pizza place.
That had been three weeks ago. Tonight, he said he had a surprise for her. Anticipation swirled. She didn’t fancy herself in love. She was too practical for that, but she did like him a lot. Just yesterday he’d given her the gold bracelet she now wore on her left wrist.
Penny pulled her phone from the back pocket of her shorts and tapped the Instagram app. Posing with pouty lip, she snapped a picture and posted it. Next, she grinned and posted that one. Wow. She looked good.
With a giggle, she made her way downstairs and found her cousin, Linc St. John, in the kitchen with her brother, Damien. “Hey, you two, don’t you have anything better to do on a Friday night than sit around and talk cop stuff?”
Damien frowned at her. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Going out with a friend, why?”
“Because you need to put on something besides that pajama top. And don’t you have a pair of jeans or something? Those shorts are too short.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “They are not. They come to mid-thigh. And this top is fine. It’s loose and comfortable.”
“It shows too much skin.”
“My shoulder, Damien. My bathing suit is more revealing and you know it. Seriously. You need to get a life.”
“I have one. It’s my mission in life to watch out for you.”
Penny rolled her eyes. “You mean harass me to death.”
“Has Mom seen that shirt?”
“Yes.” She walked over and kissed his forehead. “She helped me pick it out. I’ll be back before midnight. See ya. Bye, Linc.”
“Bye, Pen. Be careful,” he said.
He was more than twice her age, but he was one of her favorite cousins. She almost turned around and went to change, but truly, Damien knew as well as she did that the shirt was fine. He was just having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she was growing up. And, honestly, she was grateful for his protective instincts even as she strained against them.
The shirt was fine and Carson was waiting.
“Who are you going out with?” Damien asked.
“A friend,” she said again with a glance out the window. “And there he is. Talk to you later. Love you.”
“His name, Penny.”
“Carson Langston.” She stuck her tongue out and bolted out the door.
She heard him yell her name as she dashed down the walkway, but she wasn’t about to let him have an opportunity to give Carson the third degree. How embarrassing.
Just because Damien was twenty-four years old, he thought that made him her keeper. She was determined to prove it didn’t and that she could take care of herself.
She shot a quick glance over her shoulder as she opened the door and her eyes locked on Damien’s. For a moment, she regretted the way she left and sighed. She’d apologize to him tomorrow. For now, she was going to enjoy the night. She slid into the car, turning toward Carson. “Thanks for picking me up.”
“Of course.” He reached over and squeezed her hand. “Anything for you.” He pressed the gas and pulled from the curb.
“So, what’s my surprise?” she asked.
“I’m taking you to meet a friend of mine.”
She frowned. “Okay.”
He laughed. “What? You don’t want to meet my friends?”
“Of course, I just thought it was going to be the two of us.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll have a blast. My friend is going to love you. Now relax.”
Penny’s worries eased at his friendly smile and twinkling blue eyes. “Fine, we’ll meet your friend, but then we’re going to go do something. Just you and me, okay?”
Without taking his eyes from the road, he reached over and stroked her cheek. “Okay.”
Ten minutes later, Carson wound through one of the nicest neighborhoods in Columbia. “Your friend lives here?”