A digital novella
Featured in the print anthology Men Out of Uniform
The hottest thing about a man in uniform is imagining him out of it…
Soul Possession: Jessie spends a hot night with two sexy-as-sin detectives, only to be accused of murder the very next day. But when Jessie becomes the target of a serial killer, her two detectives will risk everything to have her back in their arms—and in their bed…
Men Out of Uniform: They may enforce the rules, but when men in uniform are off duty and under the covers, they’re experts at breaking them. In this searingly sexy anthology, popular authors Maya Banks (Soul Possession), Sylvia Day (Taking the Heat), and Karin Tabke (Wanted) present men in uniform—unzipped…
It’s time for protected witness Layla Creed to come out of hiding and take the stand in Taking the Heat by Sylvia Day. Layla has only three days to reconnect with federal marshal Brian Simmons—and slake the white-hot lust that has simmered between them for years…
Karin Tabke’s Wanted follows the X-rated exploits of bad-boy cop Colin Daniels and the soon-to-be-ex-wife of a mob boss. He’s been hired to guard her body, but it drives him to distraction instead, putting his career—and his life—on the line…
October 4, 2011
Also as a Digital Novella
“This case is pissing me off,” Rick said to his partner as he picked up his beer bottle and drained half the contents.
Truitt grimaced and sipped at his beer, his gaze tracking across the room. Rick knew who he was watching. It was a ritual he and Tru had fallen into for weeks now.
Jessie Callahan. A gorgeous brown-eyed doll with the sweetest smile he’d ever seen on a woman. Honey blond curls so thick he itched to plunge his fingers into the thick mass.
They’d flirted with her and propositioned her every time they came in, and she always flirted right back and then turned them down flat.
She didn’t seem overly shocked that the proposition included both men. In fact, her face turned the prettiest shade of pink every time they promised her a night she wouldn’t forget. The thing was, she looked downright interested, which is why they persisted. She was going to cave. Rick and Truitt knew it. And it was fun as hell in the meantime to up the ante every time they came in.
“This bastard has to make a mistake sooner or later,” Truitt said, turning his gaze from Jessie to eye his partner. “What kind of a sick fuck gets off on torturing women and then turning them loose in the woods to hunt them? I want this son of a bitch. I want him bad.”
Rick nodded. The images of the victims still burned brightly in his mind. Cuts, bruises, blood. Lots of blood. Caked-on mud and dirt, scratches from head to toe. They’d all ran blindly through the dense woods until the bastard tracking them ended his sick hunt with a bullet from a high-power rifle.
They didn’t stand a chance, and yet he gave them hope by turning them loose after terrorizing and torturing them for God knew how long. Stripped of clothing and bleeding, they ran for their lives.
The police hadn’t been able to determine a link between the women. No common factors. It was all frighteningly random, which frustrated Rick and Truitt and their department to no end.
The media had labeled the asshole the Big Thicket Killer. Not terribly original, but fitting all the same. No leads had turned up. Forensics had been a bust so far. The bastard was either meticulous or damn lucky.
The only way the police even knew to look for a body was because after every kill, the arrogant son of a bitch called it in. Complete with GPS coordinates.
Who knew how many women this psychopath had murdered before he decided to go public? How many test subjects had he experimented on before upping the game to the next level and all but daring the police to come after him?
Rick drained the last of his beer and set the bottle back on the table with a thud. This was their first night off in days. They had a backlog of cases and they were still spinning their wheels on the serial killer. He hated sitting around waiting for the bastard to make his next move. How many more innocent women were going to lose their lives before they took him down?
“Let it go, man,” Truitt said, interrupting his thoughts. “At least for tonight.”
Rick lifted his gaze, searching out Jessie in the crowd. Sometimes the assholes who liked to hang out in the pub liked to give her a hard time, and he liked to look out for her when he and Truitt came in. He wished they could be here more often, but lately nights off were few and far between.
She was one gorgeous woman, but more than being beautiful, she had a sunny personality that just warmed you through. And when she smiled . . . man, her smile did funny things to his chest and other parts of his body.
He didn’t immediately find her. Maybe she’d gone in the back to get something.
“We’re going to take her home tonight,” Rick announced.
Truitt raised his brows. “Getting impatient? What if she isn’t ready?”
“She’s ready. She’s been giving it back to us for weeks. She’s adorably shy but she’s interested. She watches us every bit as much as we watch her. I think we just need to push it a little more. I’m tired of sitting around and waiting. We aren’t the only ones who come in here to drool over her, and if we don’t make a move, she’s going to be going home with someone else.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Truitt drawled. “I don’t want to scare her, but I damn sure don’t want her in someone else’s bed.”
Rick frowned as he finally located her. “She looks upset about something. Motion her over here like we want another beer. I want to make sure everything’s okay and then we’ll find out what time she gets off.”
Truitt followed Rick’s gaze and his eyes narrowed. He lifted his hand when he caught her eye and crooked a finger at her.
Jessie stalked out of Merriam’s office, her lips tight and fury ripping through her. She’d have liked to have ripped Merriam’s hair out by the roots. The bitch had the nerve to accuse of her of skimming money from the register and then fire her.
She very generously told Jessie she could finish out the night, and if Jessie didn’t need the money so desperately, she would have told Merriam to shove it.
Jessie didn’t even go near the register. How the hell was she supposed to be stealing from it? Denise, the bartender guarded the register like a jealous lover and looked accusingly at anyone who got within ten feet of it.
And yet Jessie was going to take the fall for a few hundred dollars that Merriam said had mysteriously disappeared?
She was so pissed she wanted to throw a chair across the room. She wasn’t normally a vindictive type of person but right now she wished Karma would bite Merriam on the ass, and she’d told her as much.
Merriam was a hard-ass uptight bitch, who was an absolute monster to work for. But Merriam paid good wages and Jessie made good tips at the popular pub. Her regulars always took good care of her. The money had made the crap that Jessie had to put up with worth it.
Her shoulders sagged and her hands still shook from her confrontation with Merriam. They were already shorthanded and Jessie really, really wanted to say to hell with all of them and walk out, because then Merriam would have to come out and help tend bar and she hated to be dragged out of her office for any reason.
It only made Jessie feel marginally better that she’d told Merriam exactly what she thought of her. She’d left by telling Merriam that she hoped she was run over by a bus. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the classiest exit, but really, how was being Miss Manners going to help? It wasn’t like by being polite she’d suddenly get her job back.
“Problem, Jessie?” Denise barked from behind the counter. “You’ve got customers waiting. Get your ass in gear.”
“Fuck off,” Jessie snapped. Oh God, did that feel good. She almost laughed at Denise’s look of shock.
She turned to see Truitt Cavanaugh motion for another round of beers. Her mouth drooped as she realized that this would be the last night she’d get to serve her two sexy detectives. She’d miss flirting with them, and those smoldering stares they sent her way when they thought she wasn’t looking. Or, hell, maybe they did know.
They’d been angling to get her into bed for weeks and she’d always put them off. The idea of having a threesome was shocking but titillating in an exciting oh-my-God kind of way, but she’d never mustered the nerve to go for it.
She wasn’t a virgin, but she was woefully behind in the sex education department and somehow she knew they were so far out of her league that she hadn’t a prayer of satisfying either.
They were bad boys and she was a wholesome, sweet good girl, and if that wasn’t enough to disgust her, she didn’t know what was.
Still, she wouldn’t mind signing up for Sex Ed if they were teaching.
Rick was all dark and brooding. Quieter than Truitt. His hair hung to his shoulders, sleek and black, just made for a woman’s fingers. She was fascinated by a man who’d have the words Courage, Honor and Heart tattooed around his wrist like a bracelet. It made her wonder all manner of things about his hidden depths and how much she’d like to plumb them.
Truitt was no less of a badass and in some ways he was fiercer-looking than Rick. He was big and broad-shouldered, a few inches taller than Rick with a body builder’s physique. He wore an earring in one ear but she’d been close enough to know that both ears were pierced.
Spiraling bands with sharp points and flowing edges circled both arms and disappeared into his sleeves. She always wondered how far up his body his tats went and what other secrets hid behind the T-shirts and jeans he wore.
Between the two of them, they’d fueled some serious bad-girl fantasies. She could be bad. She could totally be bad given the right provocation, and damn if they didn’t provoke some serious desire to be really, really naughty.
She sighed. One day. Maybe. But then why not tonight?
She grabbed a few bottles and made her way through the crowd, trying to smile despite wanting to cry. She hated looking for a job. She hated walking into a place and asking for an application. She hated being conspicuous in these situations and she always felt like everyone in the world was watching her and judging.
And now she’d have to start that process all over again and she didn’t have any days to spare to be off work. Money was tight and she couldn’t miss her classes. Not when the semester was almost up.
Halfway across the floor, someone backed into her and all her weight came down on her bad knee. It buckled and she hit the floor, but she managed to keep the beer bottles held high, a fact she was absurdly happy about.
Pain shot through her leg and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. The guy who knocked her down quickly bent over, his expression one of genuine regret. But before he could offer to help her up, Truitt and Rick were both bending down, concern bright in their eyes.
“Jessie, you okay?” Truitt demanded.
Embarrassed to be the center of attention in the crowded pub, she nodded, her cheeks hot.
“Let me help you up, sweetheart,” Rick said as he gently helped her to her feet.
Her knee gave way immediately and Truitt hauled her to his side until she was steady. She offered a shaky smile and then held out the beers.
“At least I didn’t spill your beer,” she joked.
“I don’t give a damn about the beer,” Truitt growled. “Come sit down. You’re hurt.”
They helped her to their table and eased her down into one of the chairs. Rick bent down on one knee and slid his hands up her bare leg. He frowned when he got to one of the scars around her knee.
“What happened here?”
She tried to pull her leg away, but he kept a firm hold. His fingers were gentle, but he didn’t allow her to escape.
“Car accident,” she mumbled. “My knee still gives me trouble sometimes.”
“What the hell are you doing working a job that requires you to be on your feet all the time if you’ve got a bum knee?” Truitt demanded.
This time Rick relinquished his grip when she tried to pull away. She tucked both legs under the table and glanced quickly around, relieved to note that everyone had gone on about their business and quickly forgotten about her.
“Are you hurting, sweetheart?” Rick asked in a voice that made her melt. He had a flirty way with words that hit her in the right spot every time. Only this time he was less flirty and more concerned and she loved that even more.
“I’ll be fine,” she said, managing a reassuring smile. “Just put too much weight on it too quickly.”
“Not to worry. Rick and I are planning to take you home with us after you get off work. We’ll pamper you until you’ve forgotten all about that knee,” Truitt said in a low, husky voice.
Her legs trembled and she thrust her hands into her lap under the table so they wouldn’t see how nervous she was. Which was ridiculous because they flirted, she flirted, and nothing ever came of it. But tonight . . . well tonight was just a different night all the way around. She kept looking at him, expecting him to tease or wink, but he seemed dead serious and that sent another flutter of awareness winging through her body.