The finale to Just Count On Me...
“It clearly means ‘I’ll never forget that kiss’”,’ Conner said, sticking the entire cookie he held into his mouth.
“It clearly means, ‘this is the only kind of kiss you’ll be getting from me from now on’,” Mac countered, plucking a second and third cookie from Conner’s fingers
“I love when Sara brings food down,” Dooley said, dropping into the arm chair perpendicular to where Ryan was sitting. “While they’re busy fighting over it, I can steal more than my share.” He grabbed three cookies from the plate and tossed them to Ryan, then snagged three more for himself.
Ryan grinned as he bit into the first one. “I was just thinking that very thing.” Sara Bradford was a cookie Master and she’d brought down a huge plate of treats as a thank you to the guys for their action on the scene two nights before.
The cookies tonight were peanut butter with chocolate kisses stuck in the middle.
They were Conner’s favorite.
“Well, I’m going to have to be sure to thank Miss Sara appropriately the next time I see her,” Conner said, moving past Mac and toward the cookies.
“It’s Mrs. Sara, you jackass,” Mac muttered. Then he raised his voice. “Okay, fine Dixon. Enjoy the cookies, enjoy reliving those few very short seconds with Sara, and enjoy the memory of bossing me around because none of that is ever going to happen again.”
“Your thank you could use a little work, but you’re welcome,” Conner said, lifting a cookie in salute. “You can count on me, Mac.”
Mac gave a little growl and headed out the door just as Gabrielle and Sierra came into the room carrying two plates—one filled with brownies and one filled with sandwiches.
“See, even our own crew mates know how awesome we are,” Conner said, taking the plate of sandwiches from Gabby. “Thanks, girls.”
“Oh, these aren’t from us,” Sierra said, setting the brownies near Dooley and earning a huge grin for the gesture. “These are from a few of the nurses.”
Conner smiled. “You don’t say. I guess maybe the tales of our heroics have spread.”
“They spread pretty fast when you’re the one telling the tales,” Gabby said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Conner said, biting into a sandwich.
Gabby snorted. “You had that teeny tiny cut on your hand from the other night but you whined and moaned to the nurses about it enough that they had to look at it, and treat it, and ask you all about how you got it.”
“It’s hardly teeny tiny,” Conner said, clearly offended. He held up his hand with the white bandage around it.
“For God’s sake,” Gabby said. “I saw the cut before you got it all dolled up. It hardly needs that much bandaging.”
“It might be a little overkill,” Conner admitted. “But it makes the girls feel good about helping me.”
Sierra laughed. “I’m not even completely convinced you got that cut at the fire. I mean, what the hell were you doing?”
“Oh, I heard the whole story,” Ryan piped up. “Straight from the horse’s ass.”
“I think the term is horse’s mouth,” Conner said with a frown.
“Whatever.” Ryan gave his friend and partner a grin. “I believe you cut it with the knife you were using to free one of the victims. Wasn’t that it?”
“That was it,” Conner said with a nod.
“A young girl, right? She was really scared and told you over and over how strong and brave you were?” Ryan went on.
Conner narrowed his eyes slightly, but he nodded again. “Yeah, that’s about right. She was about seventeen and really freaked out.”
“And you freed her from what exactly?” Gabby asked. “The group with Sara was blocked in, but no one was really trapped, right?”
“The tie on her hoodie was caught in the hinge on a door,” Ryan said.
“The tie on her hoodie?” Gabby asked. “You mean the drawstrings up at her neck?”
“Yeah.” Ryan managed not to smile.
“But—” Gabby started.
“Hey, I’m a dedicated professional,” Conner said quickly over the top of her. “Nothing is too small a need. I’m there for people no matter what.”
Ryan grinned. Conner could certainly bullshit with the best of them. “That’s really big of you. No wonder you’re everyone’s hero.”
Sierra chuckled. “Well, that and you telling everyone that you’re their hero.”
Conner moved in closer to Sierra and gave her a little smile. “Oh, come on, Sierra. If you know that if you were tied up—no matter what the reason— you’d want me there.”
Ryan grabbed a brownie and settled back to watch the exchange. If anyone could take Conner Dixon down a peg or two it was Sierra and Gabby. They worked right beside Conner and Ryan, just as hard, just as heroically. They were not easily impressed by muscles and bravery.
She crossed her arms. “And what might these reasons be?”
“Well, one reason would be something dangerous that would require me to barge in to save your pretty butt.”
“Okay.” Predictably, Sierra looked less than awestruck. “And the other would be?”
“Well, depending on what you were tied up with and what you were tied up to…”
She stared at him for just a second. Then burst out laughing. “You’ve got absolutely no ego problem do you?”
Conner grinned. “I just want to be sure you know that I’ll be there for you, no matter what your needs are.”
Sierra patted his cheek. “Conner, I’ve seen you covered in blood and vomit and… well, you remember the call for Mr. Harrison.”
Conner grimaced. As did Gabby and Ryan. They all remembered Mr. Harrison’s trip from his apartment to St. Anthony’s. And the clean-up required afterward.
“I just can’t look at you as a sexy, hot, demigod anymore,” Sierra told him.
Conner looked at her for a heartbeat, then said, “Anymore. That implies that you did at one time.”
Sierra sighed. “I know it’s important to you to think that, so I’m willing to go with it.”
“He’d think it whether you “let” him or not,” Gabby muttered.
Ryan laughed out loud at that. The girls headed into the kitchen area and Ryan popped another cookie in his mouth.
Conner sighed and slumped into the seat across from Dooley.
Ryan just chewed and waited.
Conner reached for a brownie, then leaned back in his chair. He also chewed for a few seconds.
Ryan crossed one ankle over his other knee.
Finally Conner looked up at him. “Thanks for not telling them.”
“Telling them what?” Dooley asked, looking between the two men.
Ryan grinned. “You bet, buddy. I’ve got your back.”
“Telling them what?” Dooley asked.
“And I appreciate it.”
“How’s the deep battle wound feeling?” Ryan asked.
Conner held up his hand with a grin. “Better every time one of the girls says “I heard about the call the other night”.”
“Telling them what?” Dooley asked again.
Ryan looked at Conner. Conner looked at Ryan. Then he sighed. “The girl’s hoodie was caught but… she wasn’t wearing it. She was just carrying it. She could have easily left it behind. But she was panicking and I figured the easiest way to get her out of the building was to slash the drawstring and bring the sweatshirt with us.”
Dooley shook his head. “Nice.”
“Tell him the best part,” Ryan urged, not containing his smile any longer.
Conner couldn’t help but give a half grin too. “She showed up yesterday. I was assuming she was here to thank me.”
“Yeah?” Dooley said.
“She was here to ask me for money to replace the hoodie I ruined.”
There was a beat of silence, then Dooley hooted with laughter. “And you gave it to her?”
Conner shrugged. “Yeah. I wasn’t going to argue with her.”
If nothing else, Conner Dixon knew when to debate with a woman and when not to. He had plenty of antagonized females in his life at any one time.
“But that means one more woman who doesn’t think you’re a big hero,” Dooley pointed out.
Conner smiled. “I gave her the money. That doesn’t mean she didn’t leave here thinking I’m the greatest guy in the world.”
“You charmed a girl after ruining her favorite sweatshirt?” Dooley asked. “How?”
“I told her I hoped that the next one she bought was green because it would make her eyes look beautiful.”
“Oh my god.” Dooley slumped back in his chair, laughing. “That’s great.”
“I thought so and her big smile and soft, sweet “’bye Conner” said she did too,” Conner agreed cheerfully.
“If you’re not careful, you’re going to be the next Sam Bradford,” Dooley said, pushing himself up from his chair.
“Or Mac Gordon,” Conner quipped.
Dooley gave him a raised eyebrow. “You want to be like Mac? You might have some work to do.”
“Work like what?”
“You know about edible body powder?” Dooley asked.
“Heard of it.”
“Get some. Try it out. In fact, acquaint yourself with the entire catalog at Scandalous Somethings dot com.”
“Then Sara might be interested?” Conner asked.
Dooley laughed. “No. But it’ll help you back some of this flirting up when the right woman finally decides to make you prove that you’re as hot as you think you are.”
Conner shuddered. “Women make things complicated if you let them stick around too long. The last thing I need is another permanent woman in my life.”
“Don’t think I’m not going to remind you that you said that one of these days,” Dooley said, heading for the door. “And I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.”
Ryan regarded his friend as Dooley shut the door behind him. Come to think of it, Ryan was going to enjoy the hell out of that too. He hoped that woman came along soon. Conner Dixon in love was going to be something to see.
You can get to know Mac, Sam, Dooley, Kevin and Ben (not necessarily in that order :)) in the Bradford series!
Find out more about the Bradfords here!
And you can read more about Conner, Cody, Shane and Ryan (especially Ryan :)) in She's the One, June 11th, and then continue getting to know the gang in It Takes Two, September 17th!