There’s just something about a man in uniform, right? Cops, firefighters, soldiers, TSA agents… Okay, so maybe I went a step too far. Enjoy this excerpt about two hard-ass cops, both struggling with their emotions (and one with her sanity) after a shooting. I loved writing these two. As much as they told each other, “not again,” they just couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Mmm-mm.
“…loved everything about SIN’S Gift…the way Delilah Devlin sets up her world makes it feel like nothing I’ve read before…” ~5 Angels and RECOMMENDED READ!, Fallen Angels
“…A turbulent relationship and sexy, spooky thrills await readers in SIN’S GIFT…This is a well written and engrossing tale with complex characters who have hidden depths. Enter into other realms with the highly recommended SIN’S GIFT.” ~Romance Reviews Today
“…Wow, I loved this novella. It’s fabulously exciting and a fast, exhilarating read…I recommend this book to everyone that loves hot, sexy paranormal story. I love Delilah Devlin’s books and this is one of her best yet…” ~5 Hearts, The Romance Studio
Police Officer Sinead O’Rourke returns to duty months after being shot in an incident that also claimed her partner, Danny. Despite being cleared of any negligence, Sin knows her fellow officers wonder whether she’s partially responsible for his death. One more problem is that everyone knows she claims she’s seen Danny. After months of rehabilitation and counseling, and lying like hell about the fact she’s not seeing spooks anymore, Sin’s determined to get back into the saddle. But her first day back in the patrol car, Sin sees something more horrifying than the ghost of her dead partner and enters a deadly new world. Jake doesn’t want to partner with Sin. Been there, done that—couldn’t keep his hands off her the first time around. She’s too much of a distraction and her penchant for rushing into trouble scares the hell out of him. Despite wishing she’d quit her job, he’s still deeply attracted. When an armed robbery goes down and something happens that rattles Sin to the core, he’s right there—ready to cover her back and her sweet body.
“Sure you’re ready for this?”
Sin stifled a groan. How many times would she hear that today? She especially didn’t want to hear it from Jake Chapa’s lips. Lips she knew the texture and taste of all too well.
She didn’t respond, still fuming because he hadn’t even offered to let her drive. That had been only one of the bitches she’d had partnering with him before. He’d never trusted her. Not with the car. Not with his back.
Now he’d been just fine playing house with her for a while, but he was too much of a chauvinist to ever accept her working at his side.
She’d looked him over when she strode through the garage to the car. He hadn’t changed a bit. Same thickly muscled frame, hair so “high and tight” a Marine DI would weep, same sensually charged expression that always made her stomach clench. He’d been a god in bed, but a total asshole as a boyfriend. What was the lieutenant thinking? She thought she knew the answer.
He hoped she’d wash out in a week, and he wouldn’t have to worry about her getting anyone else killed.
Only everyone should have known that wasn’t what happened. The review board had cleared her—and Danny, posthumously—of any negligence.
Memories too painful to face for months came flooding back. They’d just finished lunch and were arguing over who had to pay the bill. Danny had lost a round of pool the night before, but claimed she’d cheated when he turned his back.
She had. He knew it. She knew he knew it, but he hadn’t caught her. A fair loss in her books. A win was a win.
The argument had been lighthearted and one they’d had before. However, when they stepped from under the restaurant awning, they’d walked right into a pair of masked gunmen.
Her hands held a doggy bag. She dropped it and reached for her gun. Before it even cleared her holster, an explosion rocked her off her feet.
She’d woken in the ambulance, EMS shoving fluids in a vein, blood stinging her eyes.
Danny whispered in her ear, “You’re gonna make it, Sin. Hold on. Don’t go to sleep.”
When she’d swum up through the anesthesia after surgery, Jake sat beside her. Danny stood right behind him.
Jake’s face had been gray, his expression haggard.
“You look like hell,” she croaked, her throat feeling raw. Thick bandages taped across her cheek and under her chin limited the movement of her tongue, which felt thick and dry.
She glanced from Jake to Danny. “Glad to see they didn’t get the drop on you too.”
“Wasn’t anywhere near when it happened,” Jake said, his lips tight.
“Not talkin’ to you.”
Danny’s gaze held hers for a long moment, and then he backed away—melting into the wall.
Her screams left her voiceless for days afterward.
Worse, Jake hadn’t come back to see her.
Not that she’d missed him. They’d been over a long time before the day Danny bled to death on the pavement. That he’d been Jake’s best friend, his high school buddy, had to make it that much harder for him to look at her.
She could hardly stand the sight of her own face. The scar where the .22 caliber bullet tore through her cheek was a daily reminder not to get too close. Ever again. She’d let down her guard, joking with a friend and sharing a smile instead of looking where she was going.
Jake made a turn onto an arched stone bridge, and then slid back into traffic at the next intersection, passing a cop on a bicycle. The cop started to lift his hand in greeting until he spied who sat on the passenger side.
Sin sighed. She had a long way to go. She’s been cleared—and that might have been the end of the suspicions—but add the fact she’d lost it and no one wanted to trust her. She’d do like the psychiatrist and the counselor after him recommended. Ease back in. Win their trust slowly through solid police work.
No one could ever know she still saw Danny everywhere. She’d taken the meds for a while, seen a shrink twice a week—and lied like a bitch every time. About Danny, about her insomnia. She hid the dark circles under eyes with makeup and pasted on a smile. She was fine. Just fine. Ready to get back into the saddle.
Only she’d woken that morning feeling sick to her stomach, ready to puke, her hands trembling. She’d shaken some of the antidepressants she hadn’t been taking into her palm and swallowed them dry. She’d make it through the day if she had to crawl to the end of it. And Jake would never know what it cost her to sit beside him in silence.
She’d missed him. After they’d broken up, she’d still seen him often. As Danny’s best friend, they spent time together after work, unwinding over a pool table and beer. Although she’d pretended she’d been okay with it, she was starved for his company. Waiting for a glimpse of his gaze sharpening on her as though he was trying to crawl into her mind. He’d known her well, but she’d gotten to be an expert at a teasing quip or a nasty barb to deflect him. No way would she let him know how much their breakup had hurt her.
Still hurt. And now, he thought he had to baby-sit a nut job. He hadn’t looked at her once since she slid into the seat beside him. “How’s Johnny?” she asked, knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist talking about his little brother. Johnny had joined the force three years after they had. She’d sat beside Jake at his graduation.
“Fine. He’s working at the east substation.”
She waited, hoping he’d say more, but his jaw tightened and he glanced into his mirrors, a clear signal he didn’t want to make small talk. It was gonna be a long night.
The setting sun cast long shadows as it dipped behind the buildings lining the roads. They turned onto Broadway and passed a bus stop. She glanced inside to the shaded bench and caught a glimpse of a man wearing a tattered military fatigue jacket; the side of his jaw facing her was stubbled with gray hair. When they drew past him, she gave him a nod, and then stared as they pulled away.
Her heart tripped, her stomach knotted. The half she hadn’t seen on their approach had appeared blurred—not through physical injury. The left side of his face had looked as though a painter had streaked the colors, muted the edges. The outline of his cheek and jaw had bled away in gray and red strokes. His eyes, however, had been piercing, distinct—and glowing.
Suddenly, Sin thought that maybe everyone had been right. She wasn’t ready for this. The bullet that had lodged in her face must have done some real damage to her brain. Rattled it. Jumbled up the signals. How else could she explain the weird things she’d been seeing?
Her stomach lurched and she wished she’d eaten lunch. She thought she might puke and decided to ask Jake to stop the car, but the moment she opened her mouth the radio squawked. An armed robbery was in progress not a block away.
“Gonna respond, O’Rourke?” Jake asked, his tone clipped.
Knowing she should say something, tell him she couldn’t do it, that she thought she’d be sick—she reached for the mike, telling the dispatcher they were on their way.
Jake hit the switch, sending the blue and white lights swirling and the siren blaring.
Sin gripped the edge of her seat, girding herself for what was coming. This was something she’d done before. Armed men she could handle. She wasn’t unprepared, wasn’t carrying her damn lunch. But she hoped like hell her hallucinations would wait until the danger was past.
Just let me get through this. I’ll tell the lieutenant I’m through. Christ, I can’t let Jake down.
They weren’t the first unit to arrive. Jake halted in front of another car turned sideways in the street to block traffic. Out of old habit, Sin hit her mike to let the dispatcher know they’d arrived and slammed open the door, ducking low like the officers who kept their gazes on the shop across the street.
“What do we have?” Sin asked between tightly clenched teeth, hating that her nerves were kicking in.
“Robbery inside that coin shop. The store owner’s inside. Maybe one customer. He tripped a silent alarm.”
“Any shots fired?” Jake asked, his voice steady and cool.
“None, but there hasn’t been any movement either. SWAT’s on the way.”
Jake took a deep breath, then shot a glance her way. She could read the hesitation in his gaze.
She narrowed her eyes, daring him to voice his concern.
His mouth tightened. “Let’s go cover the alley behind it. You follow me.”
For once, she didn’t mind his taking charge.
With their weapons drawn, they backed away from the other officers, not straightening until they were out of the line of sight of anyone inside the store, then took off at a dead run to the end of the street, turned and headed toward the entrance of the alley that stretched behind the row of small shops.
When they reached the corner of alley, Jake raised an arm, blocking her. “Sin, you ready for this?” he asked. His face had lost its hard-edged reserve. Worry darkened his gaze.
She swallowed and nodded, determined not to let him down. “I have your back.”
For a moment longer, he held her gaze, and then his shoulders lifted as he took a deep breath. “Let’s go.” He flattened his back against the wall of the building and edged closer to the alley to peek into the darkening space. “It’s clear.” Then he was off.
Sin followed, her gaze darting into the shadows. They sped along the alley, using trash bins to hide behind as they gave each other cover, finally arriving at the back door of the shop.
Jake clicked his mike. “We’re at the back door,” he said quietly.
“Hold your position.”
Dragging deep breaths as quietly as she could to calm her heart, she plastered her back to the opposite side of the door, keeping her gaze on Jake’s face, waiting for him to signal her should they need to enter.
He gave her a tight smile, and then something in his expression alerted her. The sound of scuffling feet from inside the shop stopped just the other side of the door. Jake placed a finger over his lips to tell her to stay quiet, then stepped away from the wall, raising his weapon.
Sin kept her back to the wall, lifting her own weapon to point toward the opening.
Two men dashed out, the long barrels of their shotguns pointing outward.
“Drop your weapons,” Jake shouted.
The man nearest her lowered the barrel of his shotgun, aiming it straight at Jake. Sin leapt forward, grabbed the barrel and slammed it upward, sticking her own weapon against his side. “Drop it or I swear I’ll shoot.”
A low growling sound, like that of a trapped mountain lion, erupted from the man whose face she couldn’t make out in the shadows. In a movement so fast she didn’t have time to even pull back her trigger, he twisted away, let go of the shotgun and shoved her back, taking off in the opposite direction from Jake.
Mad she’d let him get away, she hesitated, gave Jake a quick glance and saw he had already wrestled his subject to the ground. Jake’s brows drew into a fierce scowl as his gaze followed the fleeing suspect.
She knew if he could have, he’d have handed her his suspect and taken chase himself rather than let her go. “I’ve got it,” she said, glad he was safe and already speeding past him.
“Don’t get your ass hurt!” he shouted after her, the charged words accompanied by the snick of handcuffs encircling his man’s wrists.
Sin dropped the shotgun she still held and sprinted down the alley, following the footfalls clapping so fast, she wondered if she had a chance to overtake him. “One’s heading south down the alley,” she barked into her mike. “Chapa’s got the other cuffed. Need backup.”
Glad she’d been working out, running miles to rebuild her strength, Sin trailed the man, just keeping him in sight. She concentrated on her breathing, listened to the steady but rapid beat of her heart. While her body shoved past her endurance, her mind calmed. Jake was okay. She had an unarmed man to take down, or at least to track. She could handle this. Maybe she really was ready to be back.
More sirens whined in the distance. When the robbery suspect turned onto another street, she kept on his tail. “He turned north on Brooklyn.” She felt strong, not even winded yet. Maybe she was ready for this after all.
The sirens drew closer. “Where ya gonna go, bastard,” she said more to herself than the man sprinting up the block ahead of her. At the corner of an intersection, he paused to check traffic, glancing back at her.
Her heart thudded heavily in her chest.
Caught in the light from a streetlamp, half his face blurred away—same as the homeless guy at the bus stop. Golden eyes glowed.
“No. Goddamn it, not now,” she whispered.
She didn’t let her steps falter or slow, forced herself to ignore the warning clambering in her mind. She kept on his ass, ignoring the blare of horns as he ran into the traffic. She darted right behind him, keeping her gaze on him, not the cars blasting their horns or squealing their tires.
She wasn’t gonna lose him because she’d lost her mind.
When he ducked into a space between two buildings, she almost smiled. She had him cornered. The end of the narrow space was the back of another building. No exit. All she had to do was wait him out. She relayed her location. Another officer was only a minute away.
She ducked into the channel, too narrow to drive into, but wide enough for two men to walk through shoulder to shoulder. Still running, she shouted ahead, “You can’t make it out of here. It’s a dead end.”
His steps didn’t slow.
So he didn’t believe her, and she wanted to see his face again, wanted to look closely and erase the blurred image she held in her mind. She kept running. Gaining on him, she reached out for the back of his shirt, grabbing a wad of cotton and jerked. The building at the end was just ahead. All she had to do was swing him around and she’d take him down.
Only he was strong. He kept moving forward, dragging her behind him. She tried to dig in her heels to slow them down, but he wouldn’t let her. At the last moment before they slammed into the wall, she raised her other arm to brace for the sudden stop, knowing it would hurt like hell.
The man growled again, the low, grating hum sounding like a big cat’s squall, and leapt the last few feet, jerking her off her feet and through a hole that glimmered at the edges before it flickered out.
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