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Authors: Jo Davis

Bring the Heat

BOOK: Bring the Heat
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PRAISE FOR THE SUGARLAND BLUE NOVELS

“Romance suspense at its best . . . a fantastic addition to this fabulous series.”

—The Reading Cafe

“Scorching hot.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“This exciting contemporary romantic-suspense story continues the saga of the delicious detectives in the Sugarland Police Department . . . a thrilling story.”

—The Reading Addict

“A roller coaster of emotion and action that will keep you gripped until the last page . . . with just the right combination of both romance and suspense.”

—Cocktails and Books

“What's not to love about sexy men in blue with fast hands, true hearts, and the courage of their convictions? Davis certainly knows how to draw the perfect balance of vulnerability and strength. . . . She wraps it all up in an action novel that falls just shy of a police procedural, but with plenty of pure, steamy romance and family drama.”

—
RT Book Reviews

“If you like romance, action, and mysteries, then you will love this book.”

—Once Upon a Twilight

“Jo writes stories that keep you hooked until the very last page and clamoring for the next book to release.”

—Book Monster Reviews

“A smart, sexy, and fast-paced read.”

—Fresh Fiction

PRAISE FOR THE FIREFIGHTERS OF STATION FIVE NOVELS

“The perfect blend of romance and suspense. . . . Jo Davis creates a great combination of romance [and] steamy love scenes with mystery and suspense mixed in.”

—Fiction Vixen

“A great blend of hot romance with suspenseful, well-plotted action.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Grab a fan and settle in for one heck of a smoking-hot read.”

—Joyfully Reviewed

“Surprisingly sweet and superhot. . . . If you want a hot firefighter in your room for the night, grab a copy and tuck right in with no regrets.”

—The Romance Reader

“A fast-paced romantic suspense thriller.”

—The Best Reviews

“Four stars! A totally entertaining experience.”

—
RT Book Reviews

“Exhilarating [with] a two-hundred-proof heat duet . . . a strong entry [and] a terrific, action-packed thriller.”

—
Midwest Book Review

“Jo Davis turns up the heat full-blast. Romantic suspense that has it all: a sizzling firefighter hero, a heroine you'll love, and a story that crackles and pops with sensuality and action. Keep the fire extinguisher handy or risk spontaneous combustion!”

—Linda Castillo, national bestselling author of
The Dead Will Tell

“One of the most exciting ‘band of brothers' series since J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. It's sweet and sexy, tense and suspenseful.”

—myLifetime.com

“A poignant and steamy romance with a great dose of suspense.”

—Wild on Books

“Hot, sizzling sex and edge-of-your-seat terror will have you glued to this fantastic romantic suspense story from the first page to the final word.”

—Romance Novel TV

ALSO BY JO DAVIS

Sugarland Blue Novels

On the Run

In His Sights

Hot Pursuit

Sworn to Protect

Armed and Dangerous
(novella)

Firefighters of Station Five Novels

Ride the Fire

Hidden Fire

Line of Fire

Under Fire

Trial by Fire

SIGNET ECLIPSE

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Jo Davis, 2015

Excerpt from
On the Run
copyright © Jo Davis, 2014

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

Signet Eclipse and the Signet Eclipse colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
penguin.com
.

ISBN 978-0-698-40755-8

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To my wonderful, dear friend Mary Anne Tafelski. You came into my life like a tornado, an unbelievable bundle of energy, and I was thankfully swept up in your path. When I'm down, you refuse to allow me to wallow, you make me laugh, you listen, and you're always ready to go out and cause some trouble with me! I'm so grateful to call you my
“bestie.”

Captain Austin Rainey's story is for you. I love you,
girlfriend.

1

Austin Rainey hopped out of his truck, slammed the door, and strode up the walk, biting back a curse of aggravation. So much for what had been, until an hour before, a damn fine spring day off.

Except for his impending divorce from Ashley. The constant fighting over the details, every little thing from the pots and pans to who got the cat. Not to mention the one argument they hadn't seen eye to eye on from the beginning:

The baby Ashley was carrying. Austin's baby, a son he had always longed for so badly and she never wanted. And yet she was going to deny him custody.

Why? Out of spite?

He tried to tell himself it didn't matter. He was going to have a son, and he'd be a great hands-on dad. At least he was alive to bitch about the crap that was his life, unlike the poor bastard inside the condo.

Something told him that might be the only positive note this day had in store.

Out of habit, he glanced around at the condos and surrounding neighborhood, getting the feel. It was older, well established. Upper middle class.
Mercedeses, BMWs, and fully decked-out SUVs. Not rich, but not hurting by any stretch.

As he neared the lower-level breezeway between two buildings, he spotted Lieutenant Daniel Coleman talking to Detective Shane Ford and a couple of uniformed Sugarland PD officers he'd never met. The younger man's normally cheerful face reflected the grim pall permeating the air. Arms crossed over his chest, Danny leaned his tall frame against the side of the building, shaking his head.

The quartet glanced up at his approach, and Danny straightened, green eyes widening as he read the declaration across Austin's T-shirt.

Gun Control Means Using Both Hands
.

The cops chuckled and Danny shot him an exasperated glare.

“Good God, Rainey. If you're really dying for Chief Byrne to ream you, at least take him to dinner first.”

“Fuck you, asshole. It's my day off, the Rangers were winning, and my goddamn beer's going flat as we speak,” Austin announced. No one gave a damn. With a sigh, he got down to business. “What's so important that I needed to be called down here?”

Shane Ford stepped forward. The tall, brown-haired man was one of Austin's best homicide detectives and a superb leader on the force. “Trust us, Cap. You'll understand when you see the body.”

“Who was the first on the scene?”

“We were,” Shane confirmed, gesturing to his partner, Taylor Kayne, who had just stepped into their circle. “Victim inside is identified as a thirty-one-year-old
male named Matthew Blankenship. Call came in to nine-one-one this morning shortly before noon, a Mr. Rick Yates screaming at the dispatcher that his friend was dead. I arrived to find Mr. Yates completely hysterical. Haven't been able to get much out of him yet.”

“Where is he?”

Shane jerked a thumb toward the adjacent parking lot, where two squad cars were parked side by side. A dark-haired man in the backseat of one had his face buried in his hands. Austin winced, a wave of sympathy rolling through him. Even seasoned veterans often had a tough enough time mentally dealing with a murder scene. He'd been chasing monsters for most of his life, sifting through the aftermath of their cruel work because he was damn good at it . . . and because the victims' ghosts never let him rest. He couldn't imagine walking in to discover a friend or loved one brutally killed.

“We'll speak with him after he's calmed down,” Austin told Shane. “Go on.”

“We found Mr. Blankenship deceased, apparently murdered, in his bedroom. After getting a good look at the victim and his manner of death, we immediately called you.”

Austin tensed. “Did either of you touch anything?” His men were too good to make rookie mistakes, but still, he had to ask.

“Not a thing,” Taylor assured him. “We went in, saw what we're dealing with, and came outside to secure the crime scene.”

“I haven't been inside yet,” Danny muttered. “Laura Eden and the FU are en route.”

Laura Eden. The striking, dark-haired medical examiner who was smart as hell, had a dry sense of humor, and a mouth like a sailor. For the past few years, Laura had worked alongside the department's Forensics Unit, sarcastically dubbed the FU, to solve homicides and unexplained deaths. She was highly respected in the community.

She was also the bane of Austin's existence. And the woman who secretly drove him crazy with desire.

With an effort, he snapped himself out of his mental lapse. Thoughts of Laura faded, as did his pitiful hope of getting back to the game and his beer, and he let them go. In his department, easy solutions were as scarce as winning lottery tickets. “Okay, I'm going in. Danny?”

“Hope you haven't eaten lunch.” Taylor grimaced.

Actually, he had. Damn.

He and Danny entered Blankenship's condo, ducking under the yellow crime scene tape stretched across the doorway. Inside, they paused, studying the interior. Tasteful, clean, not your stereotypical bachelor pad. A Fender electric guitar and a large amp in one corner. A framed photo of an older couple on the fireplace mantel, likely the parents. Another shot of two young guys, one auburn haired and one with dark brown hair, singing in a rock band on a small stage, guitars slung low. Blankenship and Yates?

A short hallway off the small living room led to the bedroom. Danny on his heels, he covered the distance
and paused a second before stepping inside. The stench of loosed bowels gagged him. Afternoon sunlight filtered through the blinds, illuminating the bound man on the bed.

Halting, he stared at the carnage.

“Mother of God,” Austin whispered.

Beside him, Danny's voice shook. “Have you ever seen anything like that before?”

“Not personally, no.” Suppressing a shudder, he glanced at his partner, who swallowed convulsively. “You okay?”

Danny heaved a deep breath, expression determined. “Better than
him
. Jesus.”

Austin clapped him on the shoulder, then stepped closer to the bed, cataloging the gruesome details. The man's face was frozen in horror, wide blue eyes twin orbs of glass. A length of red silk parted his lips, tied snug around his head.

Blankenship was sprawled spread-eagle on his back, but, interestingly, his wrists and ankles weren't bound to the four posts on his bed. The tall man's sculpted body evidenced plenty of hours in the gym. Good looking, Austin supposed, though he wondered what role, if any, the man's physical characteristics played in his murder.

“What do the guys want me to see?” Austin mused, frowning.

“Not sure yet.”

The upper half of the man's body was so mutilated, the torso and the sheets were saturated in blood. The
deep slashes indicated stab wounds, but he couldn't make that call. That was Laura's area of expertise.

“Doesn't look like he struggled much, considering what happened to him,” Danny observed.

Austin cocked his head. “The killer might've slipped a roofie into his beer,” he said. “I saw two beer cans on the coffee table in the living room.”

“Statistically, the killer is probably a man.”

He shrugged, then gestured to the body. “Could be, but not necessarily. Put a sharp instrument like a knife in a person's hand, throw rage into the mix, and anyone could do this.”

Danny wrinkled his nose in disgust. “There're some sick people in this world.”

“Yeah. Let's talk to his friend Yates, his coworkers. Get a picture of what he was into sexually, though I'm not sure anything like that is at play in this case. We need a picture of his after-hours social life, bar acquaintances, etc.”

Danny frowned at Blankenship with intense scrutiny for several long moments. Austin had come to understand that expression, the quiet stance, the stiff set of his shoulders. Other than the obvious terrible scene, something was bothering his colleague.

“What is it?”

Danny cocked his head. “You know, this guy looks a lot like you.”

“The fuck he does.” But as Austin stared at the corpse, a creeping sensation crawled down his spine.
“Okay, maybe a little. But the others wouldn't have called me down here just because he resembles me.”

“No, but that might yield a clue.” Danny gestured to a small square of cream paper on the nightstand, and Austin walked over to view it better.

The object was a brief note, handwritten in what he considered a man's blocky, messy style, though it would take an expert to weigh in on that. He read the missive without picking it up.

One down, how many more to go? How many wrongs have you dealt others, Captain? How great is the number of your sins? One body for each of them. Your price to pay.

“Danny, read this.” Austin stepped aside to let his friend view the damning note.

“Christ.” He breathed. “So that's why they called you.”

“You really think I'm the captain he's referring to in the note?”

“I'm not sure, but I know one thing—we've officially got a fucking nightmare on our hands.”

•   •   •

Rick Yates had managed to pull himself together somewhat, but shook violently throughout the interview. This had always been the part of an investigation Austin dreaded the most, even more than studying the actual crime scene. The victim was gone, and nothing would reverse whatever fateful decisions he'd made the night before.

But the survivors broke his heart, and with good reason. He'd never learned to harden himself against the loved ones' sorrow, and hoped he never would. The day he could look into the reddened eyes of the Rick Yateses of this world and feel nothing, he'd turn in his damn shield.

The information Yates provided seemed typical enough to begin with. The two were lifelong friends, had grown up in the Sugarland area together. They held different jobs—Rick worked for a local telecom company in fiber optics, Matt was a graphic artist—but played together in a rock band as a sideline, for enjoyment rather than any real hope they'd make it big. They'd played Spanky's, a club in Nashville, the night before. The mood had been rowdy, festive. Before Blankenship left, he'd made no bones about the fact that he'd planned to find some serious action.

“You didn't see whether Matt picked anyone up at the club?” Austin pressed, leaning against the squad car Yates had been sitting in. Danny hovered at his elbow.

“No—” He choked. “I wish to God I had. I told him to be careful. I
always
tell him to fucking be careful.”

Yates squeezed his eyes shut, but a tear escaped to roll down one cheek. Grieving, in denial, referring to his friend in present tense, unable to make the horrible switch in his mind.

“I'm sorry, Rick,” Austin said. “I know how hard this must be to talk about right now.”

He gave a bitter laugh and opened his eyes. “Do you?”

“Yes. Now, why would you caution him? What kinds of things was Matt into that concerned you?”

“Picking up random people for one-night stands, guys or girls. Doesn't matter to him. Lately, he'd done a couple of threesomes.”

“Were you ever included?”

Yates looked genuinely shocked, and shook his head. “No. I've never been a part of that.”

A bisexual player. Interesting. Blankenship had certainly made the killer's job a breeze.

“I've got one more question, Rick. Did Matt do drugs?”

“Not on a daily basis. He did ecstasy sometimes after we played, especially if he had sex planned for later. But that's it, I swear.”

“All right.” Austin dug out his wallet and removed one of his cards. “Keep this. Call me or anyone in Homicide if you think of anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem. We'll be in touch.”

“Captain Rainey.” Yates hesitated and pocketed the card, lips trembling. “Matt's parents, I c-can't tell them. M-Matt's all they h-had.”

His eyes filled again and Austin's throat tightened. He reached out, squeezed the younger man's shoulder. “Do the Blankenships live in the area?”

“Yeah.” The tears fell as he recited the address.

“Lieutenant Coleman and I will take care of it. We need to speak with them anyway.”

He and Danny turned to leave, just in time to see the Forensics Unit pull in behind Austin's pickup. And behind that, the dark Mercedes belonging to Laura Eden.

His heart skipped several beats and he forced himself to remain impassive as she stepped from the vehicle and headed his way.

It was almost impossible to concentrate on what she was saying as she stopped in front of him. Even with her long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail with a clip, and wearing a pair of conservative black pants and a blue blouse, she was beautiful. Her large brown eyes were expressive and intelligent, missing nothing.

She had a great sense of humor, but the frequent half smile, the sparkle in her gaze, was noticeably absent at the moment as she stood waiting for his response.

“I'm sorry. What?” he muttered, feeling his face heat.

“I asked you to fill me in,” she replied, eyeing him curiously. “What's going on with you? Are you feeling okay?”

“Of course. I'm ready for a steak dinner after taking a look inside.”

If she realized he was deflecting the question of his mental lapse, she didn't call him on it. Instead, she got down to business. “Victim?”

Quickly, he gave her the rundown of what they knew so far, plus the position and condition of the body. She merely listened, nodding, her sharp mind taking in every detail and cataloging it in that incredible brain of hers.

When he was done, she took a pair of latex gloves from her pocket and pulled them on. “Into the battle zone, then. Want to come with?”

“Sure.”

Not because he wanted to return to the grisly scene—that was the very last thing he wanted. But he wasn't going to turn down the rare chance to watch Laura work, a privilege usually granted to his men in the field while he was stuck behind a desk.

BOOK: Bring the Heat
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