Authors: Jeri Odell
Table of Contents
© 2008 by Jeri Odell. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.
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A searing pain tore through Eli Logan’s left shoulder. Warm blood trailed down his chest. Woozy, he grabbed for something—anything—to hold on to. Stumbling toward the warehouse wall, he leaned against it for support. He searched for any sign of his assailant but only caught sight of his partner’s pale face and terror-filled eyes. Bernadette had frozen when he needed her most.
The throbbing in his shoulder increased with each erratic breath. Eli holstered his gun and placed his right hand over the bullet wound, feeling a soggy shirt beneath his fingers. “Call for an ambulance!” he yelled at his middle-aged partner, who still hadn’t moved. The growing red stain soaking his shirt meant he was losing blood at a quick pace. His knees gave way, and a black fog fought to overpower him. He slid down the wall and hit the ground with a thud. “Dear God, help me.”
Eli jerked to a sitting position, sweat drenching him. He touched his left shoulder, expecting blood but finding only a three-month-old scar. Would this nightmare never stop? Untangling himself from the sheets, he headed for the kitchen and a cold drink of water. When would he ever get a full night’s sleep again?
His hand trembled when he took the glass from the cupboard. Outside the window a full moon shone overhead, illuminating a cloudless Nevada sky. He filled his glass and let the cool liquid slide down his parched throat. Inhaling deeply, he attempted to slow his pounding heart and calm his breathing.
The clock mocked him. Five minutes after three. Maybe he could still catch a few more hours of shut-eye. Of course, he doubted he’d accomplish that feat. Once the nightmare awoke him, the adrenaline surging through his body guaranteed his day started now.
Lying back down, he stared at the ceiling. Was he ready for tomorrow—his first day back at work since the shooting? He’d undergone surgery, physical therapy, and counseling. All of the professionals said he was good to go, but he remained unconvinced, though he’d never verbalized his doubts.
No, I can do this. I will do this!
“At least I won’t have a woman partner anymore.” He mumbled the fact aloud to reassure himself. “Some guy named Delaney.” That news brought relief. Women were pleasant to look at, maybe even fun to date once in a while, but they didn’t belong on the force. Nor did they belong in his life. He just wished he wasn’t so attracted to the pretty ones.
There were three women in his life he’d counted on, and none of them came through when he needed them most. When he was twelve, his mother taught him his first hard lesson about the fairer sex. She packed up and left the day after his sixteen-year-old brother’s funeral. Ronny died of a drug overdose. She said she wasn’t hanging around to watch Eli do the same. He’d lost both his mother and his brother in a week, and God had done nothing to intervene. So for almost two decades it had been just him and his old man, and his dad had spent most of those eighteen years in a drunken stupor. But he was all the family Eli had, and he loved his dad, tried to watch out for him—at least as much as his dad allowed.
Eli turned his pillow over and punched it, longing to forget, longing to sleep, but the memories kept coming. Amy—his one and only love, or so he thought—taught him lesson number two. She didn’t want him; she wanted his best friend. When he caught them together, he walked away from the pair and never looked back, but he never recovered either. By seventeen he’d learned three hard truths: You can’t count on God, you can’t count on family, and you can’t count on friends.
And let’s not forget Bernadette. Good ol’ Bernie.
She’d grown tired of the traffic scene and wanted more excitement. Well, she’d gotten her wish—only she couldn’t handle the thrill. Now that she was restricted to a desk job at the precinct, cruising around writing tickets probably didn’t seem so boring to her anymore.
“Sarge, I’m here.” Eli rounded the corner into the sergeant’s office a few hours later, but his chair sat empty. A movement by the window caught Eli’s attention, and there stood one fine-looking woman. His breath caught in his throat, and had he not been trained to school his emotions, he’d have stood there gawking.
Sarge, how do you do it? She must be half your age and a real looker—something you’re definitely not.
“Hi.” The velvet-voiced, honey-haired woman crossed the room, her hand extended. “As you probably guessed, Joe stepped out for a moment. He should be back any second.” Turquoise eyes welcomed him, and her sincere smile relayed openness. Her fresh looks appealed to him, and when his big hand swallowed her small one, he felt something akin to voltage pass between them. “I’m—”
“Good. You two have met. That’ll save me time on introductions.” Sergeant Joe Wood stepped through the office door. His large frame dwarfed the petite beauty standing next to Eli. Though a great guy, Sarge had some rough edges. What must have intrigued the sergeant was obvious—perfect, petite features in a natural presentation and eyes that reminded Eli of the tranquil waters of the Caribbean.
“We haven’t actually met,” she corrected. “I was just about to introduce myself when you walked in.”
As Sarge settled into his squeaky chair, Eli again found himself drinking in all he could of her face. If he ever decided to look for a woman, one like her couldn’t be more perfect—small, feminine, and au naturel. But of course he had no plan of ever looking for a woman.
“I’m Delanie Cooper.”
He dropped her hand as if it had suddenly transfigured into a poisonous snake.
Delanie? This can’t be!
He turned to face Sarge with an accusing stare. “This isn’t. . .”
Sarge nodded, confirming Eli’s suspicions. “Eli Logan, meet Delanie Cooper, your new partner.”
“No way!” Eli moved toward the gray metal desk. He bent over until he and Sarge were eye level. “Absolutely no way!” He glared into Sarge’s small, round eyes.
“I told you on the phone you’d been reassigned.”
“When you said my new partner was Delanie, I thought you meant like Tony Delaney or Sam Delaney—not Delanie as in a female!” His voice rose, as did his frustration level. “I won’t work with another woman.” Eli crossed his arms over his chest to underscore the determination of his words.
“You don’t have a choice, pal. I call the shots.”
“Then I’ll go over your head.” Eli headed for the door, turning just before his exit. “I’ll go all the way to the chief of police if I have to.” Reality struck him with a force that stopped him dead in his tracks. “You’re Frank Cooper’s daughter, aren’t you?” He’d heard the chief had one on the force.
So much for plan B. How could he tell his superior he refused to work with his daughter? He glared at Sarge and shook his head. “Why? Why are you doing this? You know how I feel about women cops.”
“Delanie is one of the best we have. She’s intelligent, quick—”
“She’s barely five feet and a hundred pounds. What if I’m wounded and need her to carry me out of the middle of gang crossfire?”
“I know what happened with your last partner.” Delanie’s velvet voice no longer sounded like a caress; now it just irritated Eli. “But I’ve never frozen, and I don’t think I ever will. I’m strong as an ox and promise I’ll work hard not to let you down.”
“Have you ever been face-to-face with a forty-five and a guy on the other end who wanted you dead? Let me assure you, talk is cheap.” He doubted she’d ever faced more than a routine traffic stop.
“Not only have I looked down a barrel at close range, I took the guy’s legs out from under him with a sweep.” The two of them stood in a face-off, both refusing to back down. Her eyes lost their serenity and now reminded him of a stormy sea at sunset, but he refused to be impressed by her looks or her claims.
“Eli.” Sarge’s voice came from right beside Eli, but he didn’t break eye contact with Ms. Cooper; she didn’t blink an eye either. “Delanie is a black belt in Kajukenbo. She can take care of herself. You, my friend, have a new partner and an assignment that starts tomorrow. You go home now and think long and hard about this decision. Either you show up tomorrow and join Delanie undercover, or you empty your locker, pal.” Sarge pushed his way between them and forced their gazes to break.
Anger coursed through Eli like rapids in a river. How could he walk away when this job had been his life for the past ten years? How could he walk away when his sole purpose had become avenging his brother’s death by ridding Reno of drug lords?
“I’ll be here,” he promised, walking to the door. Pausing, he directed his parting words at Delanie. “And you’d better hope you’re a good cop, because if you’re not, it won’t matter whose daughter you are.”
His long strides carried him down the narrow hall to the exit. Once outside, he sucked in a huge breath of fresh air. Delanie Cooper had better watch her step, because he’d covered more than one error for Bernadette, and where had that gotten him? He touched his shoulder, remembering.
Slipping on his sunglasses, Eli trekked across the parking lot toward his hog. He’d balked at having a female partner since the day he’d left the academy. He’d watched them, and they weren’t as strong or as capable out on the field. Sure, most could shoot well enough; many were better marksmen than he, but they were too emotional for a job that required a cool head and decisive action. Bernadette proved his theory when she forgot her training, gave in to fear, and nearly got him killed.