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Chapter 9

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Photo illustration by Samuel Hoffman, The Journal Gazette

Chapter 9

Just as things were heating up between Stevie and Jason, Stevie's injured knee buckled. She lunged forward.

As Stevie tried to catch herself, the wine glasses she held dropped, hit the floor and shattered. She managed to land face first into Jason's chest.

"I knew you liked me," Jason said, pulling Stevie back to an upright position, "but I didn't think you'd fall for me this fast."

Stevie balanced herself on her good leg. "Is that the best you've got?"

"No. I believe this one might be better." In one swift move, Jason pulled Stevie to him and began to kiss her. Hard.

Stevie closed her eyes. He held her tightly as the kiss continued. His lips were so soft. She let herself melt into his arms.

When Jason pulled himself away from her mouth, he brushed Stevie's hair away from her face with his lips and kissed her forehead.

Stevie looked down at the glass all over the kitchen floor. "I think we're going to need two more wine glasses."

Jason began to laugh the hearty laugh she had heard at his photo studio. "Yeah. I think you're right."

Once the glass had been cleaned up, Stevie and Jason sat on the couch and began to talk.

She told Jason how she had been at The Journal Gazette for about four years. Before that she worked at a small daily in North Carolina.

She found out that Jason was indeed Italian on his mother's side. Most of his family still lived in Chicago. Stevie wasn't sure how much of her family history she wanted to share.

Her dad had been a police officer, but died of a heart attack a few years ago. She remembered him as a mean son-of-a-gun, who didn't hesitate to pull off his belt when the kids did wrong. "I love you" and hugs didn't come often from him. But she loved the fact he was a police officer.

"I guess that's why I love police reporting. My dad was always coming home and telling me stories of how he caught the bad guy. Now I get to write these stories."

"So? How about you?" she said, taking a sip of wine. "Why did you come to Fort Wayne?"

"Well, I told you I had a police friend here. I've always wanted to open my own photo studio and it's just too expensive to do it in Chicago. So I decided to come to Fort Wayne."

"Have you always been a photographer?"

Jason began to shift on the couch. He looked down at his wine glass, watching the liquid swirl.

He doesn't want to tell me what he did before. "Is that not a good question?"

"Well, I have shown my work before. Let's just say I have other interests. Photography is just a means to an end."

Stevie found Jason's answer a little off-putting, but decided to let it go. For now.

"I should probably get going," Jason said, standing up. "I've got some stuff to do at the studio. Besides, you never know when the other call will come."

Stevie looked at him puzzled.

"My second job."

"Gotcha," Stevie said, pulling herself up from the couch and limping behind Jason to the door. "Yeah, I've got to work tomorrow myself."

Jason opened the door and stood on the small apartment landing.

"Thanks for the pizza. I had fun," Stevie said, leaning against the door.

"Maybe next time I can make you a good Italian dinner. One of my grandmother's recipes."

"I'm free Thursday night."

Jason leaned in and kissed her gently on the mouth. "It's a date."

Stevie watched Jason walk down the stairs and get into his car. She was about to shut the door when movement at the side of the building caught her attention. There are no lights in that area, so it was hard for Stevie to tell what was there.

Then she noticed a small red glow shining in the darkness. She knew it must be Crandall, or at least she hoped. Not wanting to face him, she closed her door.

Once inside Stevie limped back to her couch and laid down. Her thoughts turned to the evening.

It bothered her that Jason didn't want to tell her more about himself. It was true that he didn't really know her yet, but it was almost as if he was being too secretive.

She yawned and began to rub her hurt knee.

What bothered her more, however, was that Jason didn't really sound surprised that someone might be snooping around her apartment.

What if cat lady was right? What if there is something there on the riverbank? What if there is something more to Jason Mullen's past than he's willing to share?

Questions flooded Stevie's mind as she drifted off to sleep.

By Terri Richardson, assistant managing editor for features.