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Newly minted Oklahoma lawyer Anne Krease, 24, grew up sheltered like a hothouse flower. Sentenced to community service for accidental contempt of court, she encounters the gritty underworld of Jingo Street. There she meets Rosco, a mentally disabled man, and his younger brother, Max.
Max Marcowitz killed his first man when he was eight. After failing in foster care, Max and Rosco were sent to the state boys home. Years later, they escaped and vanished into the streets. A natural con artist, Max did whatever was necessary to support himself and Rosco. Now 36, notorious, charming, and semi-retired, Max meets Anne, who sees in him a goodness no one has before.
Badly mismatched, the chemistry between Max and Anne sizzles. But when Anne's life is threatened, Max makes a choice out of love that all but destroys the hope of having a life together.
Page Count: 340
Word Count: 86270
The whistler did a few bars of some of my mother’s favorites, which I imagine she still played on her spinet back home. He drifted smoothly from “Old Black Magic,” to “Moon River,” to “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Surprised at remembering some of the words, I hummed a little as I wrung and shook out the last mop.
I wasn’t in any hurry to take the mops outside to hang them on the line over the dock and decided to wait until the whistler had passed, so I stalled a couple of minutes longer, thinking about my mom.
The scraping sounds of trash cans being bumped and rearranged jarred me before I realized the whistler must be Rosco. I didn’t know why he might have walked around the block from the front door of the shelter to the alley, but apparently he had. Emptying cans from the kitchen into the dumpster and scrubbing them out was usually his last job of the day. That realization struck me as odd since the musical sounds reflected a sweet, sensitive side of Rosco I hadn’t imagined.
I hated to interrupt, but it was getting close to nine and I needed to leave. I always tried to clear the area before neighborhood mischief-makers got out onto the streets in full force.
I banged mop handles against the doorjamb intentionally to give the whistler fair warning that he was no longer alone. Rosco was not a man you wanted to startle. But when I stepped out the door, I was the one surprised. The man standing in the alley below the dock handling trash cans was not Rosco.
Standing there, stock still, staring up at me, was just about the best-looking man I had ever seen. He had black curly hair which he wore stylishly long, and shadowed, almost sinister-looking eyes with dark, animated brows. Muscular, expensively dressed—stunning actually—he looked serious, almost threatening, like Rosco ready to throw one of his tantrums, but that impression changed as a slow grin etched the fellow’s marvelous face.
He wore a white dress shirt with the sleeves cuffed a couple of turns exposing exceptional forearms. His biceps flexed beneath the fabric. He had secured his necktie between two buttons on his dress shirt and he bent forward a little from the waist in an obvious effort to keep his trousers clear of the cans. Other than standing a little straighter, he didn’t change position as he spoke. “Hi.”
I stood gawking at him several beats before I could get my act together enough to respond. “Hello.”
His eyes narrowed and he looked me up and down. “You have got to be Annie.”
“Anne,” I corrected. “Anne Krease.” I cleared my throat. “Ms. Krease. I’m a lawyer.”
His grin renewed and his eyes twinkled with a mischievous glint. His large, white teeth appeared to spark in the glow of the security light there on the dock. The teasing look hinted he was making fun of me which spoiled a lovely moment and put me on the defensive.
His expression mocked me as he nodded. “Yeah. I heard.”
I turned around and set my full attention to hanging the mops, but the stranger suddenly bounded up the steps and shouted. “Hold it!”
He was behind me and getting close. Too close. I pivoted, fully prepared to jam a wet mop in his very attractive face and run, when one of his brawny arms came around me and carefully lifted a suit coat off the line where he apparently had hung it earlier.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I stammered slightly. I wasn’t just apologizing for almost hanging a dripping floor mop on his coat, but for being frightened of him, and suspicious too.
“Hey!” Rosco yelled as he burst through the screen door, fire in his eyes, his fists clenched. I leaped in front of the stranger, fully prepared to defend him, at least distract Rosco long enough to give the guy a chance to run. But Rosco recognized the fellow and when he did, the stormy expression flickered and became suspicious. “What’re you doing here? With her?”
I glanced around to find the stranger grinning playfully, looking from Rosco to me, then at my raised mop poised to defend him. “Nothing.” He slanted me a teasing look. “I’m not doinʼ nothin’ with her, Rosco. Not yet, anyway.”
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