Authors: Wendy Etherington
Tags: #Flirting With Justice
Devin resisted the urge to smile. He’d asked her the same
question in the same baffled tone not too long ago.
“Texas,” Calla returned. “We take justice very seriously.”
“Nice to know.” Reid didn’t acknowledge Calla’s outburst
further, he simply continued interrogating in the same monotone.
He went over Devin’s statement backward and forward. He jumped
around the time frame and asked the same question more than once—all in an
effort to shake Devin’s confidence.
The tactic didn’t work.
Despite sensing Calla’s simmering fury beside him, Devin kept
his gaze on Reid’s face. He knew he’d accomplished his own goal when frustration
jumped into Reid’s muddy-brown eyes.
It was easily the most entertaining moment in the past five
When he’d run out of redundant questions, Reid stood and
returned the recorder to his briefcase. “Thank you for your time, Detective.
I’ll be in touch.”
“The name, Reid,” Devin said before he could turn away. “Who’s
After a slight pause, Reid answered. “Jimmie Forrester.”
Devin’s brain provided an image of a wiry, twitchy, well-known
thief. “Jimmie Forrester says I hit him in an alley,” he said in disbelief.
“Jumpin’ Jimmie—the same guy I arrested two years ago for
Interest flicked across Reid’s features. “So you remember
“I remember I outweigh him by forty pounds, and his head barely
reaches my shoulder. He couldn’t lift a bat to hit me with.” But the description
fit the guy he’d chased. The thief had been wearing a ball cap and overcoat, so
it could’ve been Jumpin’ Jimmie. “He also got a six-month sentence in a mental
health facility because he supposedly has a compulsion to steal.”
“Nobody said he was wise to pick a fight with you, and he has a
documented psychiatric condition.”
“Bull.” Devin paced. “This whole business stinks. I know it.
You know it.”
Reid shrugged. “I have an incident to investigate.”
“It wasn’t only me and Jimmie in that alley. Investigate
“I’ll be thorough,” Reid promised. “Particularly as your record
has a distinctive blemish already.”
Devin stilled. He didn’t dare glance at Calla. He might have
known IAB would bring up the past, but he still felt the punch to his gut. “As
thorough as you are, I doubt anybody’s file is unmarked.”
Reid might have been an uptight prig, but he must have sensed
he’d gone too far. Whether he didn’t want to piss off Devin further or embarrass
him in front of Calla, the lieutenant nodded. “Cops should be above
Calla glared at him. “I’m so glad everything is neat and tidy
in your little world.”
Reid headed down the hall. “Unfortunately, it’s not. But
somebody has to man the broom.”
fist, Calla was sure her nails had drawn blood from her palm.
To witness Devin being forced to answer humiliating questions
was almost more than she could stand. She almost wished she’d left with her
friends, but feared abandoning him would have been a worse choice.
And yet her conscience couldn’t forget the stony lieutenant’s
Particularly as your record has a distinctive
The suspension from three years before. She’d known about it
for months. Obviously it was time to find out the cause.
“What record?” she asked Devin pointedly when the door closed
“That was fun,” he said, stalking toward the kitchen.
She charged after him. “Does he mean the suspension from
before? What happened three years ago?”
From the refrigerator shelf, Devin yanked out the beer he’d
started on before Reid arrived. Defiantly, he took a sip. “You want a day-by-day
account or merely the highlights?”
She scowled. “You’re dodging.”
She stepped in front of him so quickly their bodies bumped. He
jumped back as if he’d struck a tree. The only time she seemed able to throw him
off stride was by physical contact. “My questions are important.”
“Is dinner going to be ready anytime soon? I think better on a
“No, you don’t. You’re either running full out or napping on
the sofa. I need a gear somewhere in between that allows me to find out what
blemish is on your record.”
He dropped the facade of politeness. “My record. My
Oh, he had to be kidding. But she was used to his reticence by
now, so instead of leading with her simmering temper, she laid her hand on his
chest. She’d let him set aside their desire, but alone with him, tensions high,
the lion roared back to life. “Still trying to keep your distance?”
“I’m trying to save my career.”
“I’m trying to help you.”
“Why?” His hard gaze was unavoidable as he asked the question.
“Why do you care?”
Was she letting her needs rule her senses? Had she placed her
faith in a corrupt cop? Was it blind belief on her part?
She’d actually witnessed him bending the rules. He’d done so
for her and her friends. At their request. Had he done the same for others?
“I owe you,” she said finally, not going anywhere near their
unresolved romantic emotions. The ones where he sent her longing messages, the
ones where he held her close and looked at her with the heat and hunger she’d
only glimpsed, the ones in which they finally satisfied the ache they’d managed
to bury so deeply for so long.
He glanced at her hand against his body but otherwise didn’t
move. “You don’t.”
“You’ve appreciated my help so far.” She paused, realizing by
the remote look in his eyes that they’d reached a crossroads. “As long as I
don’t get too close.”
“And I’m getting too close?”
He stepped back, not only physically, but in every way.
Whatever secrets he had, he wasn’t going to share with her. “Yes.”
“Why won’t you let me inside?”
“There’s nothing to see. Nothing worth knowing.”
Drained of her fight and her will, Calla turned from him.
“Maybe you’re right.” All she wanted to do now was escape. “Enjoy your dinner.
And your solitude.”
* * *
by,” Shelby whispered,
pointing at the bag of French-style loaves she’d shoved under the table. “Make
sure he’s okay.”
Unable to forget the distant expression in Devin’s eyes, Calla
pushed her fork through her untouched pasta in pesto sauce. “Whatever.”
“Forget Antonio,” Victoria said. “We need glasses and pink
Shelby frowned. “What the devil for?”
Victoria patted Calla’s hand. “I think poor Pollyanna’s
“That’s not funny.” Calla made an effort to sit straight. “I’m
“Sweetie,” Shelby began after a quick glance at Victoria,
“you’re many wonderful things, but fine isn’t one of them.”
After leaving Devin’s apartment, Calla had texted her friends
to meet her at a neighborhood restaurant. If he wanted to do everything on his
own, he damn well could have at it.
But her desire for him lingered, and her guilt at leaving him
when he needed her the most—even though he refused to admit it—was growing.
“He needs a lawyer,” Calla said, not wanting to admit how much
she was dwelling on Devin’s rejection.
Victoria’s mouth tightened before she worked up a smile. “That
I can do.”
Shelby angled her head in confusion. “I thought we decided one
of your dad’s buddies would be too expensive.”
Victoria waved her hand. “They are. I was talking about
“We’re not dragging Howard into this,” Calla said firmly.
“He’s willing,” Victoria argued. “Which is more than we can say
for Antonio. What more do you want?”
“Somebody else,” Calla returned. “Anybody else.”
“I’m siding with Calla on this,” Shelby said, earning her a
frustrated frown from Victoria. “Howard would be intimidated by Antonio.
Probably not the best start to an attorney-client relationship.”
“I can’t imagine anybody having a smooth ride with Antonio,”
Victoria said, jabbing at her Caesar salad with her fork.
Shelby paused in reaching for the pepper grinder. “She’s not
“I was actually thinking more about Howard’s feelings,” Calla
clarified. “It took a while to let him down gently. I don’t like the idea of
reigniting his crush.”
Victoria scooped up a bite of salad. “Ah, Pollyanna lives
Crossing her arms over her chest, Calla leaned back in her
chair. “I could use a little support here.”
“I’ve been supportive,” Victoria said, her eyes glinting with
fierceness. “I’ve listened and advised. I even cooked. But I think it’s time we
all get real.”
“V, do you think now—”
Victoria silenced Shelby with a single lift of her finger.
“Antonio is a good cop. He’s been there for us several times over the last six
months. But he doesn’t want our help.”
Shelby leaned in. “I’m not sure about that. He wants it, but
doesn’t know how to accept it.”
Victoria’s pale blue eyes, still focused on Calla, narrowed.
“Then too damn bad for him. He’s a grown man and ought to know what he wants and
doesn’t. We’re feeding him, consoling him and considering what lawyer to hire,
while he’s avoiding questions and keeping secrets.” Victoria shook her head.
“That isn’t going to work.”
Calla dropped her gaze to her plate. She couldn’t face her
friends—or the truth about Devin. “I like him,” she whispered reluctantly.
Her friends’ hands immediately covered hers. “We kinda figured
that,” Shelby said.
Calla clenched her fists. “You guys think he’s
remember? Why won’t he let me in?”
“Some men don’t know how,” Shelby said gently.
“A lot of men can’t,” Victoria added.
“You have men who do.” A quick glance at her friends and their
identical winces made her want to recall her comment. “I’m not jealous,” she
added in a rush. “I have a full life, I just...”
She trailed off, not knowing what she wanted.
With little choice, she waved off the personal stuff. “What in
the world could he have done to get suspended the first time?”
“He probably insulted somebody important,” Shelby offered.
“Or ate too many doughnuts,” Victoria said.
“Not with a body like that,” Calla muttered.
Victoria smiled—well, victoriously. “Oh, yeah? What do you know
about his body?”
“I had to undress him before I put him in my bed the other
night. He smelled like whiskey and cigarette smoke. Which defies explanation, by
the way. What bar in the city lets you smoke these days? You can’t even smoke
outside in the parks. Regardless, I had to get those clothes in the washer. I’d
never get that horrible smell out of my Egyptian cotton sheets.”
“Talk about burying the lead,” Shelby said, her eyes wide.
“I’m a feature writer, not a reporter,” Calla returned with a
Victoria tapped her fingertip on the table. “How did you manage
to leave out the naked part of your grand rescue?”
Calla cleared her throat and tried, without much success, to
banish the glorious vision of Devin’s leanly muscled body from her memory. “I
focused on the immediate problem instead of extraneous details.”
incredulously. “The lack of nakedness between the two of you is the reason we’re
all here wallowing in—”
“Hang on,” Shelby jumped in. “So when Antonio woke up Sunday
morning, in your bed, he was naked?”
Calla hesitated before she admitted, “Well, yeah.”
“Certainly explains why he was confused about whether or not
you two had had sex.” Shelby pursed her lips. “You didn’t have sex, right?”
“No, of course not,” Calla said. “We’re supposed to be talking
about Devin’s record.”
“I’d say he’s zero for one.” Victoria poured more wine into her
glass. “Wouldn’t you?”
“V, please,” Shelby admonished.
In consolation, Victoria added wine into the other two glasses.
“Just reminding you both of where we stand. What man wouldn’t want our
brilliant, buxom Calla? The dude is either gay, crazy or carrying serious
“But he’s a good cop,” Calla reminded her. “You said so a few
“I think he gets the job done at all cost,” Victoria
“An attitude that leads to either justice or trouble,” Shelby
pointed out. “In his case, that could easily translate to a professional splotch
or two.” Shelby met Calla’s gaze. “Everybody has regrets.”
Everything her friends said was true. Why was Calla hanging on
to the dream that Devin would one day notice her and be grateful she was by his
side? Why was she hurt and surprised he wouldn’t tell her about his past?
He’d certainly never claimed or pretended to be Mr. Sunshine,
* * *
with a cup of tea gone cold, a fleece blanket and a
weepy romance DVD, Calla blinked dazedly at the knocking sound at her apartment
Anger, frustration, wine and most of her dinner in a take-out
box wasn’t the combination for a peaceful night apparently.
Grumbling under her breath, she tossed aside the blanket and
stumbled to the door. If this was her neighbor, ancient Mrs. Winsley, who
thought somebody was breaking into her apartment every other minute, she was
going to forget she was a nice person.
She flung open the door, prepared to blast whoever dared stand
on the other side and invade her nightmare.
It was Devin.
A fluffy beige cat was tucked in the crooked of his arm. At her
appearance, the cat blinked its big green eyes and meowed with great
Her heart melted. Though the cat’s coloring was a combo of her
and Devin, it obviously had his personality. Good grief.
Dragging her gaze from the cat, she met the identical green of
Devin’s eyes. She steeled herself against the urge to get lost in the regret
reflected back at her. “I’m surprised you remember where I live.”
“I’m a cop. Well, sort of. I can still investigate.”
“And Fluffy?” When he looked baffled, she pointed at the cat.
“I don’t remember you having a pet.”
“An adoption notice went out on the NYPD email loop. His owner
was killed in a hit and run. I thought you two might get along.”
A hit and run. There was no end to the man’s romantic
“Do you take bribes?” she asked on a sigh instead of in a
temper. The cat was incredibly cute, after all.
She opened the door wider and moved aside so Devin could enter.
“Lucky for you, I do.”
“Fluffy?” he questioned as they headed toward the living room.
“I was thinking something cooler like Sharky.”
Calla considered the ball of fluff with the killer eyes.
“Sharky it is.” When she reached the kitchen, she opened the fridge door. “I
don’t know what to feed a traumatized cat.”
Devin held up a black plastic container, the kind the
restaurants used for delivery. “I brought this.”
Inside was leftover chicken casserole. She supposed it had been
a lot for one person. Of course, if he hadn’t been so difficult, he could have
had three others join him for dinner.
Shaking aside the critical thought, she dished out a healthy
spoonful on a saucer and put it on the kitchen floor. After Devin set the cat
down, Sharky pounced as if he hadn’t eaten in a month.
Calla studied him to delay the inevitable confrontation with
Devin. “If he keeps that up, he’ll be the size of tiger.”
“He’s been staying with Sergeant Franklin the last few days,
and his diet is mostly street cart tacos and diet soda.”
“A gourmet cat?”
“He’ll fit right in with this gang. He can be the mascot. Do
you want to keep him?”
You or him? Calla almost asked. Foolish.
Hadn’t she decided she was done being an idiot over him?
Kneeling, Calla stroked the cat’s silky fur. Her purred beneath
her touch. So easy, so right. She was hooked for sure now.
She glanced up, more at the tender note in his voice than the
Before she could respond, he knelt beside her. “Hard as it is
to believe, I do understand friendship and compassion. You’ve been nothing but
kind to me, and I’ve been an ass. I’d like another chance.” He tucked a loose
strand of her hair behind her ear. “I really do need you.”
Unexpected, embarrassing tears clogged her throat. How many
times had she hoped to see that earnest look in his eyes? She tried not to read
too much into his need. Or let her hope rule her head. He’d said friendship, not
undying love. “Okay,” she managed to say.