>THE BADGE AND THE BABY
print edition
August 1999

The You I've Come To Know by Alison Kent

THE YOU I'VE COME TO KNOW
digital edition
May 2017

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Being unexpectedly tasked with caring for his adorable ten-month-old niece is more than Detective Joel Wolfsley can handle. He's on sick leave with one leg in a cast after a drug dealer mowed him down with a car. But Joel's a sucker for his sister—all four of his sisters—and the munchkin's mom needs his help. Thing is, Joel needs help, too. Isn't that what next door neighbors are for?


One look at the tough-talking "Big Bad Wolf" cradling a baby in his arms and kennel owner Willa Darling knows he's all bark, no bite. Joel might need assistance chasing after his niece, but he's completely capable otherwise, and a family man at heart. Which means that in spite of the tension that simmers between them while caring for the infant, Willa will have to let him go.

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BOOKLIST

The Comfort of Favorite Things - Bliss and the Art of Forever - The Sweetness of Honey - Beneath the Patchwork Moon - Boots Under Her Bed - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock(Digital Edition) - Unforgettable - The Second Chance Café - Unbreakable - Undeniable - Holiday Kisses/This Time Next Year - Twenty-One Hours/SEAL of My Dreams - At His Mercy - Playing Love's Odds (Digital Edition) - Love Me Tender (Digital Edition) - Love In Bloom - (Digital Edition) - The Icing On The Cake - With Extreme Pleasure - One Good Man - No Limits - A Long, Hard Ride - Maximum Exposure - Kiss & Tell - Deep Trouble - In Danger - At Risk - Tex Appeal - The Perfect Stranger - Beyond A Shadow - Infatuation - The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Erotic Romance - Deep Breath - Goes Down Easy - Red Letter Nights - Totally Charmed - Kiss & Makeup - Undressed - Larger Than Life - Sara Smiles/Beach Blanket Bad Boys - The McKenzie Artifact - The Beach Alibi - The Samms Agenda - The Shaughnessey Accord - The Bane Affair - Mother, Please! - Indiscreet - Wicked Games - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock - Striptease - The Sweetest Taboo - Bound To Happen - No Strings Attached - Roped Into Romance - All Tied Up - Love In Bloom - Four Men & A Lady - Love Me Tender - The Badge And The Baby - The Grinch Makes Good - The Heartbreak Kid - Call Me - Playing Love's Odds

They called him the Big Bad Wolf. Willa Grace Darling knew that about him. Knew there were plenty of people afraid of her neighbor.

Not your normal law-abiding citizens, of course. No. Those would find him as welcome as the warmth of a fire on a night of chilled bones and breath-frosted air.

But others who couldn’t claim a bean of a brain when it came to rights and wrongs feared his wolfish bite. As well they should.

Willa took a breath, took a moment to focus, took another to enjoy the view—a purely aesthetic undertaking, of course. She smiled, so very glad that she was a woman with an appreciation of things earthy and elemental, and watched him cross the back lawn of her cottage to the kennels where she was feeding the three dogs boarding with her at present.

The Big Bad Wolf was definitely big, though not in a hulkish sort of way. He did work out. The way his T-shirt stretched to accommodate his biceps told that tale. If truth be known, he was probably no more than six foot one or two, though the width through his shoulders and chest topping both flat abs and narrow hips gave the impression of a few extra inches.

Wolfish was a good description. Lean. Wary. Alert. One of a pack who made his way alone. Perhaps not entirely accurate, but Willa liked the capricious notion. Cocking her head to the side, she absently stroked Tic Toc, the pit-bull mix in the first pen. Together they followed Joel’s approach.

He always favored black and gray and today was no exception Black jeans. Gray T-shirt, this one emblazoned with the seal and motto of his employer. It smacked of authority, of pride in a job well done. Funny. All that from a T-shirt.

She was quite aware that clothing had little to do with that undeniable, indefinable thing that made this man a man. One she’d never been able to keep her eyes from.

Willa had lived next door to him now for going on a year. He kept an ungodly work schedule, cooking out regularly on the redwood deck he’d built behind his house, pushing himself physically, relentlessly, on marathon-length runs and endless sessions of lifting weights. She’d observed much about him but had learned little. She had yet to satisfy her unhealthy curiosity about why he never brought a woman home.

Or why, in twelve months, he hadn’t made a move in her direction when her harmlessly understated flirtation had spawned an obvious, distinct male interest.

She lowered her lashes and looked away, then lifted them and glanced his direction. He was a man’s man. But a woman’s man most of all.

His hair was light, a layering of sun-bleached blond and golden brown, though she’d been close enough the times they’d talked to see strands of pure white that put his age past thirty. And those not earned over the years were certainly earned on the job. It couldn’t be easy, law enforcement. So much danger. So many risks. She admired him for that, as well.

He got closer and she moved on to the second pen, making kissy-face with the retriever pup named Loverboy who was determined to distract her. She gave the dog a ten for effort. But it was hard to distract the distracted. Willa slanted her gaze to the side.

Joel’s gait was less fluid than usual, what with the cast he swung forward with each step and the cane he used to balance the rhythm, yet the way he moved was still worth the price of admission.
Big? Yes. Wolf? She could buy it. But she wasn’t so sure about “Bad.”

Especially with a little girl baby dressed all in white bouncing in the crook of his elbow.