HOLT Medallion Award of Merit recipient in the Romantic Suspense category.
She was the one person who could convince him, without pleading her case, that he’d been dead wrong. Justice wasn’t a sharp sword but a dull blade, and sometimes, it did more damage than good as it sliced through to the truth.
Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Kermarrec has a strict interpretation of right and wrong, and if you end up in jail, justice obviously prevailed. Being a cop is what he knows, and the only thing he aspires to. When he’s a hero and his career is at risk, he turns to Marlee Cruiz for relief. Their physical attraction becomes harder to ignore with each session of massage, despite the rules and secrets between them.
The closer they become, though, the harder it is for either of them to turn away. As Marlee’s past slowly unravels, Jake finds himself questioning his rigid beliefs, even as his friends and family begin to question his judgment. The more shocking the news, the more excuses he finds himself making on her behalf. When it counts, will he put his commitment to protect and serve on the line for Marlee?
And here's an excerpt!
Prologue – Labor Day Last Year
The two men exchanged words that looked harsh and contentious. As they scanned the crowd, she caught sight of their faces. She couldn’t avoid recalling the last time she’d seen them. They were older, but no less intense. She’d wanted to escape those memories, but dark thoughts were impossible to avoid. Ducking deeper into the doorway of the shop behind her, she couldn’t pull her gaze away.
She wasn’t stalking them, not exactly. Besides, it wasn’t as if they would recognize her anymore. He’d taken care of that years ago.
“You stupid bitch, how could you get caught? All you had to do was drive down the road, stop where I told you to stop, and hand packages to people. How could you fuck this up?”
The sharp cracks of his fists to her face had not been as painful as the fear that clutched her gut. Curling into a ball and wrapping her arms around her knees so tight she heard tendons pop, she’d given up pleading with him. When he knocked out some of her teeth and blood ran into one eye, he’d finally seemed to be satisfied.
“Just remember we’re married, you and me, and you can’t implicate your husband.” He’d sneered the words in her ear before throwing her to the floor of their squalid apartment. Through swollen eyes, she’d watched his huge silhouette stomp to the door, slamming it open. It bounced against the wall before snagging on the dingy shag rug. He’d left it hanging there, wide open for anyone to peer in and see her. Not that anyone would care. Even after she’d heard the rattle of his car’s holey muffler driving off, she’d stayed in her tight little knot.
Her hands went to her face now, tracing its rebuilt bones. Her tongue ran over straight front teeth. She pressed a steadying hand to her belly. Everything had come at a price, but one she’d paid gladly. A single tear escaped, and she swiped it away. She could do nothing about her past stupidity. She only had the future, however hopeless and empty. Shaking off the self-pity, she resolved once more that things would be different.
She pulled her cap lower and adjusted her large sunglasses, wishing they could conceal the evidence of her fear and mistakes as easily as her make-up and long sleeves. People would judge her and find her guilty. Distancing herself was for the best. Even in a crowd, she stood alone.
From the number of people milling around, it seemed that everyone in the surrounding countryside had come into Flynn’s Crossing for the Labor Day parade. Parents hoisted children on to their shoulders to see decorated vehicles and marching bands. Dancers tapped up the street. The lawn mower brigade followed the tractor team. High school teens cheered from home-designed floats. Horses pulled coaches and wagons with waving people on top. For most, it would have been an enjoyable and captivating scene of small town USA. But not for her.
The two men she’d been watching stood back to back now, turning in a tight circle and scanning the late summer crowd. Both equally tall, they looked to be the same age, though she knew years separated them. The older one carried his beefier body with an aggressive fluidness, fitting for someone who’d spent his career in construction. Leaner with the grace of a jungle cat, the younger man barely showed the extent of injuries that almost killed him, the only scars visible to the public carved into his face. The structure of their faces marked them as brothers. She knew they shared bold determination and stubborn independence as well.
When their gazes passed over her without stopping, she let out the breath she’d been holding. It was the closest she’d come to them in years, and she couldn’t tear her eyes away. Their watchfulness didn’t end, and they continued to turn in a tight circle. Covering each other’s backs. That’s what they did.
Their watchfulness didn’t change when a sheriff’s deputy strode over in long steps and questioned them. Their negative head shakes and the older one’s gestures indicated frustration. She thought about melting into the crowd, but the exchange made her linger.
The deputy was almost as tall, appearing leaner but just as strong, even under the cover of body armor. His wide-brimmed hat hid most of his expression, but she sensed his alertness as his hands stayed at his waist, close to the belt weighed down with equipment and a big ass gun. He wore it as easily as the authority in his stance. She should be afraid of the danger he represented. She’d already spent too much of her life inviting trouble. Staying on the right side of the law was critical to her success. She doubted he’d understand.
When he added his scrutiny of the crowds clustered on the sidewalk, she froze, willing them all to glance over her in their search. The two civilians did. She was not surprised. Her disguise blurred their perception of her. The deputy’s concentrated gaze paused as if searching her area. Through his mirrored sunglasses, she swore he looked right at her, but it was probably a trick of the light. Her heart beat a little faster and she wanted to run. Willing herself not to move, she waited. His gaze lasted five seconds longer before his face turned away.