Veiled Alliance, Book 1
Genre: Paranormal; Urban Fantasy
On Sale: TBA
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.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
There’s no place like home.
The police substation didn’t sit at the end of the rainbow or anywhere near Kansas, but for some reason that stupid phrase ran like a mantra through Sinead O’Rourke’s head as she drew a deep breath and pushed through the double doors leading into the station house. Once inside, she kept her gaze focused straight ahead, ignoring the way conversations died away as one by one the officers on duty noticed who’d entered their midst.
So she’d been gone a while. No doubt San Antonio’s finest whispered she looked a little different than they remembered. A few even knew she’d gone nuts for while. But their redheaded stepchild was back.
Fuck them, anyway.
Sin headed straight to the Lieutenant’s office and knocked on his door.
Relieved to escape the thick atmosphere of the open floor, she knew she’d only traded one bleeding wound for another when the patrol shift lieutenant, Clayton Kalisek, glanced up and stiffened at the sight of her. “Glad to see you made it, O’Rourke.”
“Yeah, I finally got tired of sitting on my ass,” she said with more attitude than she felt. “Only so many Oprahs a body can stand.”
“Sit down for a second while we have a talk.”
She shut the door behind her and warily took the chair in front of his desk. Just as she remembered, his set expression didn’t give away a thing he was thinking. “What’s on your mind, Lieutenant? The doctors gave me a clean bill of health.”
His narrowed gaze landed on the scar on her cheek then locked with hers again. “If you’re not ready for this, just say so.”
Some things never changed. Lieutenant Kalisek still knew just where to stick his dull knife. “I’m fine,” she said, her tone curt since she wasn’t about to bother hiding her irritation.
“Sure you are.” But he didn’t sound convinced. He leaned back in his chair and continued to stare. “I’m putting you with Chapa, again. I know you two have a history…”
Chapa. Shit. They had plenty of history, all right. Most of it bad. “Fine,” she bit out. “Have you broken the good news to him?”
Clay’s face tightened with a pained expression. “Told him yesterday.”
“Wish you’d waited until I was in the room,” she said, a mirthless grin sliding along her lips. “Bet he was loud.”
The lieutenant’s ice blue eyes narrowed. “He’s not going to cut you any slack.”
Her chin came up. “Don’t need any.”
His nod was curt. “Very well. Get out on the street.”
That was it? Feeling a little deflated, like she’d worried about nothing, she hesitated. “You’re not going to say anything about the psych eval?”
“Doc said you’re ready—that the meds and the time off did the trick.” His expression tightened. “Should I ask you if you’re still talking to ghosts?”
A lump burned the back of her throat as she caught sight of Danny standing just behind the Lieutenant’s shoulder. “No ghosts,” she lied, ignoring the grin splitting her late partner’s face.
She shot up off the chair and turned to open the door.
“Like I said, O’Rourke. Chapa’s not gonna cut you any slack.”
She nodded over her shoulder, not daring to look back.
“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 light-hearted 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 break up had hurt her.
Still hurt. And now, he thought he had to babysit 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.