Unleashed (Chrissy McMullen Book 8)

By: Lois Greiman


Dedication


To all of Chrissy’s crazy friends who have so patiently waited.





Chapter 1


You’re pretty, you’re skinny, and you’re nice. But I think we can still be friends.

—Christina McMullen, following a flare-up of teenage angst and a buttload of chocolate mousse





“How’s the unborn?” I asked. My best friend since fifth grade, Brainy Laney Butterfield, was due to give birth to a baby girl in a matter of weeks. In fact, months ago, she’d named the adorable little zygote Tina, after moi.

“What’s wrong?” Laney’s voice was terse, steady, and take-no-prisoners focused, though we hadn’t, as of yet, exchanged more than the vaguest of cell phone pleasantries.

“What? Nothing. I was just calling to see—”

“Are you okay?”

I laughed. “Of course I’m okay. I’m better than okay. In fact, my life’s fantastic.”

Silence.

“If things were any better it would be forbidden by California statute 3021-2304 to be Christina McMullen. PhD,” I added, just to make sure she remembered that I was, in fact, well educated and hopelessly euphoric.

“What’s going on?” Judging by her tone, she wasn’t buying the euphoria segment of my proclamation, but it’s not as if Elaine Butterfield, better known to the television-viewing masses as Hippolyta, Amazon queen, was psychic or anything. She could probably just guess at my current state because we’ve been bonding over dreamy guys and hokey movies since time out of mind.

“I have a date.” My voice was chipper as hell, like a Laker Girl on a helium high.

“A date?” She’d gone from terse to suspicious. In the big scheme of things, I preferred the former. “With Rivera, right?”

I turned off the 170 and zipped onto Riverside Drive. My car has about ten million miles on it, but it still runs like a champ…or like a seriously outdated Saturn, kind of bumpy and a little whiny but still moving. At my seasoned-but-unsullied age, I’ve realized that it does no good to allow your expectations to become too lofty.

Speaking of expectations, I was wearing a silky lavender skirt topped with an ivory cap-sleeve blouse. Manolo slingbacks adorned my feet. They were a sassy little pair, even if they were secondhand. The ensemble hinted of class and whispered of sexy. Or maybe it screamed that I was holding on to hope by my well-manicured fingernails. “Who?” I asked.

“Rivera,” she repeated dryly. “Is your date with Rivera?”

Jack Rivera and I had been running hot and cold and crazy all over for a couple of lifetimes. He’s a cop. I’m a psychologist. He lives in Simi, where the neighborhood kids play ball on manicured lawns. I live in Sunland with a lone cactus and neighbors who probably wish I would move to Tibet…or at least install a sprinkler system. But irrigation systems are environmentally detrimental…and expensive.

“You mean that relatively attractive police officer I socialized with for a short while?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, then spoke quietly to someone nearby. He was probably male, ungodly handsome, and wonderfully obsequious. Laney attracts that kind of guy like masochists draw sadists. And I should know. I’m a psychologist, remember?

“We had a long-overdue colloquy,” I said.

“Holy moly. A colloquy?” Suspicion had morphed into an arid sort of what-the-hell-are-you-yammering-about tone, but Laney had been swearing off swearing for a long time. Now, with mommyhood impending, her phraseology had become increasingly G-rated. If I weren’t so fucking sophisticated, I would have enjoyed the shit out of mocking her.

“Yes. It was all extremely civilized.

There was a stunted silence. I would say it was fraught with disbelief, but I’ve never been entirely sure what fraught means, despite my aforementioned education.

“We’re still discussing Rivera, right?”

I smiled with genteel tranquility. “Yes.”

“And you,” she added.

The jacaranda trees were beginning to bloom, thrusting out their purple trumpet flowers with Seuss-like surrealism. I used the calming beauty of nature to nurture my inner Zen. “Listen, Laney, I’ll admit that in the past I may have acted somewhat…” I considered, then subsequently discarded, several terms, one of which might have been bat-shit crazy, and continued on. “Irrationally where the dark lieutenant is concerned, but—”

“Irrationally? I believe Captain Kindred was called in to mediate on more than one occasion.”

It was true that I had a somewhat fractious relationship with Rivera’s commanding officer, but I didn’t see a need to address that just then. “As I was saying…things have changed.”

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