Jensen Bell had twelve happy years before her mother disappeared and her whole world went to pieces. Since then, she's become a cop—one who takes great pride in her work, and in helping keep others safe. The saving grace in her own life has been Dean West, the only man who can make her burn with desire and help her through her burdens. But when a shocking discovery turns her life upside-down, even being wrapped in Dean's arms might not be enough to keep her out of harm's way in Break for Me by Shiloh Walker.
About the Author
Shiloh Walker is an award-winning writer…yes, really! She’s also a mom, a wife, a reader, and she pretends to be an amateur photographer. Her Secrets and Shadows series includes Burn for Me, Break for Me, and Long for Me.
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Break for Me
By Shiloh Walker
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Shiloh Walker
All rights reserved.
Sexy, arrogant son of a bitch.
Running her tongue across her teeth, she watched as Dean West entered the room. Of course, Dean just didn't simply enter a room. He had a way of strolling in, lazy movements and lazy looks, a lazy smile like he was just in to stop and chat.
The first time she'd met him, that lazy demeanor, that slow, lazy voice, and those slow, lazy smiles had caught her off guard. He'd taken over for the previous DA and nobody had been exactly prepared for him. Brent Cummings, a pricey defense attorney who had been brought in after Maria Bingham's third DUI had landed her snotty ass in jail, had looked right through him, even after Dean had settled into the seat across from him and Maria.
That little meeting had ended with Maria all but sobbing against Brent's shoulder and her parents bellowing about a misuse of power.
Maria was into her second year in jail. Her parents still cussed Dean out any time his name was brought up. Personally, Jensen didn't know why they were pissed off at him — Indiana's laws were a minimum of one year in jail after the third DUI. She was lucky she wasn't doing the full ten. The judge could have ordered that, especially after she'd plowed her parents' pricey Benz into a playground. If it had been any earlier in the day ...?
Dean's gaze cut her way and she had to fight not to clench her jaw. Normally, she didn't mind seeing him around here. Well, that wasn't entirely honest. She minded. Quite a bit. He made her itchy, in all sorts of ways, but on a professional level, Dean did a kick-ass job.
But today? Yeah. She wasn't thrilled.
Lou Pruitt, scum of a special sort, was sitting in a cage and he'd claimed he wanted to make a deal, could give up all sorts of names. But he'd only give up those names if he could speak with the attorney who could make him a deal.
That had been hours ago.
Now Dean was back. Dean, with his slick suits, his beautiful smile, and that too-canny brain. Today the suit he wore was black, all black and the suit flowed against a body that was practically imprinted on her brain. Not for the reasons she'd like — the man kept showing up on the same path where she liked to run, dreads tied at the nape of his neck, sweat gleaming along smooth, brown skin. Every damn time she saw him, it was enough to jerk her normally passive libido out of hibernation and make her want to jump him.
Right now, though, if her instincts served her right, she wasn't going to like what was getting ready to happen.
He came to a stop in front of them and nodded.
No smiles today, huh? Frustration chewed at her as his sober eyes met hers.
"I'm here to speak with Mr. Pruitt," he said.
* * *
You already know.
Dean's mother hadn't raised an idiot and he wisely kept those words behind his teeth. He had a feeling Jensen was already fantasizing about relieving him of a few of those teeth — not that she would. She was a straight cop, clean as they came and while she might fantasize about punching him, she'd vent her fury on the punching bag they kept in the break room/locker room.
She might pin his picture to it, though.
Just then, he didn't blame her.
This entire thing left him ready to chew nails.
But he was going to concentrate on the end goal.
That was what had to matter.
And no matter what Lou thought, he wasn't getting out of here with just a smack on the wrist.
Jensen was too good at her job and she'd wrapped him up tight, all but signed, sealed, and delivered.
It would have been a pleasure to put that son of a bitch through a trial, though.
Dean had to focus on the bigger picture, which really sucked, and not the immediate pleasure of walking in there, telling Pruitt to kiss his ass, and then walking away.
In the end, this saved the taxpayers the cost of the trial, Lou would do time, maybe get his act together and they could all focus on some of the bigger problems.
Lou was like a greasy hot dog grabbed from a gas station.
Dean had his mind set on a ten-course meal. Thanks to the information he'd already conned out of the man, he knew just where to start looking.
But first, that fucking deal.
As he went over the right way to answer the woman in front of him, Chief Sorenson came out of his office.
Fuck me, Dean thought sourly.
"I need to speak with Pruitt." He managed to drum up a professional smile, although smiling and small talk were two things he didn't feel like engaging in. Drug cases pissed him the hell off. They were the main reason he'd left Lexington. He had to deal with them here to some extent, but not quite like this and he needed to level out.
But he couldn't go pissing off the cops, either.
They were ready to hand him his ass, though.
It seemed the entire police force of Madison, Indiana was watching him as they led him through the station.
Jensen, her eyes were all but boring into him.
Somehow, he didn't think this was going to increase his chances of getting her to go out with him.
But those odds hadn't ever been all that good.
* * *
Arms crossed over her chest, she listened as Dean laid it down for the man sitting across the table from him.
If she clenched her jaw any harder, she was going to break the enamel off her teeth.
She'd consider it worth it, because it was either clench her teeth, or slam her fist into the window in front of her and if she did that, her boss, Chief Sorenson, a man she admired a lot, would see the evidence of her slow-burning fuse.
She was going to explode, and she didn't want it to be here.
"Understand me now," Dean said, his voice slow and lazy, sexy as a hot summer night. "You're giving up your right to a trial. We're giving you a good deal here, but you go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. This is it."
"Why the fuck do I gotta go to jail?" Lou demanded. He'd already asked it twice.
Dean explained it again, his eyes steady, patient, his voice just as easy, like he could do this all day.
As he finished, he held out his hands. "I did what I could, man. This is what we got. It's this, or you go to trial, and let me tell you, I don't think you want that. You do that, and you could be looking at a much longer stretch. You got that assault charge from a few months ago, another one from two years back. A history of violence complicates things now that we're looking at drug charges on top of it. You were making meth. Crystal meth. The state's cracking down on that."
"Shit. I beat the fuck out of a man who touched my wife."
Jensen rubbed her ear. "Beat the fuck out of him with a tire iron."
Sorenson hummed under his breath and continued to watch Dean.
"Be that as it may, you were convicted. Did a short stretch then, were lucky to get out when you did. Now here we are."
"Here we are," Lou muttered, his gaze bouncing around the room, one knee jiggling madly under the table. For all his nervous fidgeting, the man was focused, and he was pissed. Abruptly, he leaned forward, glaring at the documents the DA had put in front of him. "Fuck. Fine. But you better get them sons of bitches who landed me here. Got it?"
They would be thorough. Dean was just that, thorough, one of the best DAs the little county had ever seen. Sometimes she wondered why he worked this little town instead of someplace bigger. She'd heard he left Lexington to come here, but she didn't quite understand why. Someplace like Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati — they'd probably love to have a man with a brain like his.
But he was here, getting ready to put a man guilty of manufacturing crystal meth behind bars.
The problem was Lou wasn't going away for very long.
He'd been making that shit when he had a kid in the house, just fifty feet away from the old pole barn where his lab was, while his pregnant wife was blissfully unaware as she hung up clothes in their backyard every day of the week.
He was getting one hell of a deal of a lifetime.
Because Dean had his eye on bigger fish.
"He's going to do time," Sorenson said, his voice soft. "Pruitt might yet get his act together. His wife ..."
Jensen closed her eyes.
"Steffie is leaving him. She was loading up the car and her son this morning. Moving back to Marengo with her folks, and if I know anything about Steffie's dad, Lou isn't going to try and mess with her unless she's willing to take him back. It's going to force him to take a good hard look at things. He wasn't a bad kid. He might change."
"I don't give a damn about him," she said, turning her back on the interview. "I care about the wife, the kid he endangered every day at that lab."
"And the lab is shut down. In the end, we have to be satisfied with that. Plus, he's turning on several other boys here. We're getting the bigger fish, Bell."
Maybe that helped ease the burn in her gut. But not by much.
Not much at all.
* * *
Nobody wore attitude quite the way Jensen Bell did.
Some women wore their jewelry, their makeup, all of it as armor.
Jensen didn't bother with any of that. She wore attitude.
Dean suspected she had reason. One of only two female cops in the small town of Madison, she put up with her share of shit. He'd seen it.
Being in the minority was something he could appreciate. He was far from the only black man in the little southern Indiana town, but he was the only black DA on the payroll. The only black cop in town was fifty-two, and just then, as Dean moved through the station, Luther Gardiner shot him a look and then shook his head, like he wasn't too inclined to waste any words with him today.
They usually bullshitted for a good ten minutes.
Too fucking bad.
He wasn't going to waste his time on a small-time thug like Pruitt when he could bring down the bigger guns.
But while he could easily brush off Luther's dismissal, and every other damn cop in the department, it wasn't so easy when Jensen glanced at him, then through him as she continued to speak with the chief.
He debated on just heading on out. Wasn't like he didn't have more work than he knew what to do with, and as he continued toward them, Jensen's shoulders tensed, while her spine went ramrod straight.
That attitude of hers shouldn't be so appealing.
He understood the need for the attitude — he'd learned young to cover his, though. Cover the attitude, cover the teeth, all until he had reason otherwise. Jensen had either never learned to hide that attitude, or she just didn't see the point and as he came to a stop next to her, she all but snarled at him.
He didn't even have a chance to figure out what to say — a problem with her, because looking into her eyes had a habit of leaving him temporarily dumbstruck. It only lasted a second or two — his mother had a habit of teasing him that she'd know he was serious about a woman when he found the one that made him shut his mouth for more than two seconds, and that woman, apparently, was Jensen.
But those two seconds were two seconds too long because a man he thoroughly disliked decided to make his presence known.
"You know, if it was me," Detective Jeb Sims said, edging his way into the knot of people, one hand gripping a cup of coffee while the other rested on the butt of his weapon. He constantly seemed to be touching it. "I would have gone for the bigger problem anyway, Bell. Pruitt is a pimple on society's ass, but you shoulda known he wasn't going to do much time. It wasn't a big bust or anything. Don't go getting your panties in a twist."
Dean tensed, something ugly building in his throat.
Jensen's eyes went tight around the corners, something so minute, gone in a blink. She turned her head, the sleek fall of her hair shielding her face from him as she looked at Sims.
"Well, you see, that's the difference between you and me, I guess, Jeb," she drawled, her voice cool and lazy, like she didn't give a damn about anything Sims had to say. "You see, I was focusing on the man, the meth lab, the laws ... and the safety of his family. I'm a cop, you see. To serve and protect. The size of the bust wasn't the issue. The safety of that kid and his mama were my number one concern." She shrugged and looked away. "And don't get too concerned about my panties, either. I'll take care of them."
"I just think —"
"I think you need to not worry about Bell's cases," Sorenson said, his voice mild. The look in his eyes was anything but. "Don't you have some of your own to deal with anyway, detective?"
Jeb's face went a slow, ugly shade of red, but he pasted a wide smile on his face. "That, I do. Sir."
He ignored Dean completely.
After Sims moved out of the area, Dean tried to catch her eye but she looked directly at the chief. "I'm done for the day. You have a nice night."
"You did good work today," Sorenson said.
She nodded at him, tried to avoid looking at Dean.
You are not just going to completely ignore me. He moved to intercept her.
Her mouth flattened out.
"If you've got a minute, detective?" he asked.
"Actually, I'm afraid I don't have many of them. I need to wrap things up for the day. I'm meeting my family in a bit." She edged around him, moving to her desk with fast, easy strides.
He doubted he was the only one who noticed the looks the two of them got — not that anybody made any effort to hide them. Nosy fools. Ignoring the cops loitering in the area, he waited by her desk as she collected some files, moved them into her bag.
"It won't take but a minute. I'll just walk you to your car."
Something flashed in her eyes, but she gave him a tight smile and strode past him.
He matched her quick strides easily. She moved damned fast, he'd give her that. Five foot two, he'd bet, and she moved like the entire world was an obstacle course she had to conquer and she only had a finite amount of time to do it. They hit the doors and he paused to see which way she'd go.
They were outside in the brilliant light of the summer sun in a moment and he fell into step beside her as she headed down the street.
"You made a clean arrest."
A withering look came across her face.
"I'm well aware of that, Mr. West. But thanks for the seal of approval. It means the world to me."
Ouch. She had a bite to her. Another thing he found all too appealing about her.
There was very little about her he didn't find appealing. That just served to make moments like this harder. Sometimes it felt like they were playing on opposite teams.
He reached up, slid his own glasses on. The heavy weight of his dreadlocks hung in a neat tail at his nape, and already sweat was collecting there. It had been a murderously hot summer, punctuated with frequent, ugly thunderstorms and all he wanted was to see some sign of fall.
And maybe, have her look at him with something other than antipathy.
"You realize he has information that we need," he said as she rounded the corner.
"I do realize that." She reached the edge of the small parking lot where the city cops kept their cars. One hand moved to her hip and behind the shield of his lenses, he found himself eyeing that soft swell, wondering how hard she'd hit him if he reached out, caught her other hip in his hand, drew her to him. "Just as I realize we do want to get those other sons of bitches in jail."
"Then why are you looking at me like something you just found on the bottom of your shoe?" he asked, taking one step closer.
With a serene smile, she replied, "Am I doing that?"
Nonplussed, he waited.
Fuck, why was he wasting his time here?
She'd made it pretty damn clear —
Abruptly, she sighed and turned away. "Dean, look. It's nothing personal. You did the same thing any other DA would have done, I guess. Hell, Hal Murray couldn't have gotten that much information out of him if he tried for a month straight."
Hal Murray, the DA he'd been brought in to replace, had dropped dead of a heart attack a few years earlier. Supposedly, he'd been busily engaged in some strenuous activity with a pretty young girlfriend — very pretty, very young — in her early twenties — at her apartment in Louisville. He'd been putting her through college. She'd been putting him through his paces. It hadn't worked out well for either of them when he collapsed on top of her.
"Hal would have tried, you know. For all his ... other faults, he was a good lawyer and he tried his best," Jensen said sourly, shaking her head. "But Pruitt would have wheedled and whined and Hal wouldn't have been able to push him half as hard as you did. I figure in the end, this would have gone to court and maybe he would have been found guilty, maybe not. I just ..." The strap of her bag slid down her arm and she let it, the weight of it sending it in a rapid descent down her arm.
Excerpted from Break for Me by Shiloh Walker. Copyright © 2014 Shiloh Walker. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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