Copyright © 2013 AnnMarie McKenna
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Keegan Monroe hated downtime. Hated it with a passion. Having nothing to do made him restless and fidgety. He was a cop, for God’s sake. Cops weren’t supposed to have downtime.
Knee shaking up and down, he glanced across the outdoor café table at his best friend and fellow cop, Tim. It was a beautiful early Friday afternoon, and they were sitting here. Doing exactly nothing.
“Stop shaking, Kegger.” Tim looked up from his laptop, the screen reflected in his wire-framed glasses.
“Can’t help it. This s**t sucks. I don’t know how you do it.”
“What? Sit peacefully enjoying the weather, coffee and a friend?” Tim smiled and sipped said steaming coffee.
“Yes.” Keegan jerked his head from side to side, trying to pop some of the kinks away. The slight breeze on his newly bared nape felt strange, and he wondered again how long it had been since he’d had his hair cut. Resurfacing after spending so much time with the scourge of society was always harder than hell for him.
Part of him wondered if he needed to get out of undercover work altogether.
“You’re still shaking.”
“Sorry.” Keegan sighed and wiped a hand over his face.
“Dude, it’s like you’re hopped up on something over there. Have you slept at all since rejoining us?”
“Yes. I just need something to do. I’m going crazy here.”
“Shooting up a warehouse and arresting a drug lord wasn’t enough for you?”
“That was last week.”
“And it’s the kind of thing you like to do every day.” Tim nodded. He knew exactly how Keegan worked. Knew when to back off and when to push and when to let his wife have a go at him.
Tim’s wife—the psychologist with doctorates out the ass, a warm smile and a cold beer whenever Keegan needed to simply talk. Tracy was always there for him, same as she was for her husband. And she didn’t judge him—that’s what he liked best about her. Neither did Tim, when they both could have easily turned their backs on him after he’d finally told them he was gay.
They were more supportive than his parents had ever been. In fact they’d laughed. Apparently they’d known all along. They’d just waited for him to tell them when he was ready to do so. Keegan wouldn’t do anything to f**k up his relationship with the two most important people in his life.
He changed the subject, not wanting to go into details about his latest case. At least not until he’d testified and gotten the f**kers behind bars for good.
“What case are you working on?”
“At the moment? Picking out names.”
Tim raised his head, a huge s**t-eating grin on his face. “A baby.”
“Are you s**ttin’ me? Damn, that’s f**kin’ awesome.” Keegan stood and met Tim halfway between their seats to hug the man. “Tell Trace I said a big f**kin’ congrats.”
Tim grunted. “She said you need to curb the potty mouth now that you’re going to be an uncle.”
“You’ll consider me an uncle?” Keegan didn’t know why the thought choked him up.
“Hell yeah. You’ll be the closest relative around it. Gotta give you some kind of title.”
“Well, who knows what the hell it’ll be.”
“Thanks, Tim. I’m honored.” Keegan sat back down, the earlier shakes gone for the moment. “S**t. I’m so happy for you guys.” And since he wasn’t ever going to have his own kids, Tim and Tracy’s were as close as he’d get.
“When’s the trial?”
Keegan groaned and hung his head. “So much for not going into the details.” Tension crept into his shoulders. Mostly because he thought about all that could go wrong with the case. This was big time. There was a ton of evidence just waiting for someone else to f**k up. If one little thing went missing, the whole thing could get blown to s**t. All his hard work would be for nothing.
And people wondered why he didn’t sleep at night.
Not because he worried about what he’d done but what other people might do to compromise things.
“I don’t think it’s been scheduled yet. I finished my paperwork and handed it over to the DA. Beyond that I’m trying not to think about it right now.” Or about the number of people they may not have nabbed. The gang had been huge, and Keegan had a feeling even though they’d taken down Carlos himself, someone else may have already stepped up to the plate.
“How ’bout Horace?”
Keegan did a double take at the abrupt topic shift but silently thanked the man for getting the clue. “You want your son to get his ass kicked every day at school?”
“Yeah, I suppose Horace would suck.”
Keegan snorted. “Just a bit, Elmer.”
“Hey, I’d be proud if my name was Elmer Timothy Hayward.” Keegan smashed his empty water bottle, tossed it toward the trashcan to his right, and damned if he didn’t see the finest ass—if encased in somewhat overly baggy jeans—he’d seen in a long time walking into The Drip’s entrance.
Brennan McGuire sucked in a breath and pulled open the door. He could do this. Had done this before. Every day for the past two weeks, in fact. He had the money in his pocket, so all that was left was the ordering and the…getting-the-money-back parts. Jesus. He couldn’t even f**king remember what that was called.
He walked up to the smiling female behind the counter and swallowed.
“Hello.” She was so perky she practically bounced, which irritated the hell out of him. Every day.
Why did she have to be so cheerful?
“What can I get for you?” She obviously loved her job. Or pretended to, at any rate.
“Um…” He glanced up at the menu board since he couldn’t remember the name of the damn drink he ordered every freaking day. The words jumbled and buzzed before settling and finally making sense. “The m-mocha Chil…”
“Mocha Chillino. Anything else?”
“No.” Some of her perkiness dissipated, and his cheeks heated. He always forgot to say thanks. “Thank you.”
The about-face in attitude brought her smile back out, and Brennan breathed a sigh of relief. Always good to get something right even if it was a bit late in occurring.
“That’ll be four eighty-two.”
Jesus, he hoped the money in his pocket was enough. Times like this he really cursed Michael St. John and his idea of therapy.
He handed the girl the bill with the five on it, noticing that it shook as he held it out. She snatched it, pushed a few buttons on her machine and then dug into the drawer when it popped open.
“Eighteen cents is your change.” She dropped the coins into his palm.
There. He’d made it through another test without flipping out or embarrassing himself. Too much anyway. He took the drink from the man who’d made it and turned to leave. Now for the next test of the day. Riding the bus. That money was in the other pocket. He hoped.
Brennan sipped at the oversized straw, letting the chocolate concoction slide down his throat and freeze his tongue. He didn’t even know why he drank the damn thing other than he’d paid for it. It certainly wasn’t because he craved its taste.
He had to wait for three girls to enter before pushing through the door himself. Brennan hadn’t gotten all the way out when his gaze landed on a man on the patio slouched back in his seat, legs stretched in front of him, his muscled arms relaxed on the arms of the iron chair. For the first time in more than a year, a part of him Brennan had thought no longer worked sprang to attention, hardening against his zipper. He’d convinced himself he’d seriously injured more than his brain.
“Excuse me.” An older woman’s voice jerked Brennan’s attention away from the dark-haired guy in the chair. Brennan stepped to the side to let the lady pass, murmured a low apology for hogging the way and continued farther out of The Drip, bringing him within a few feet of the man and causing his dick to waken even more. As in sit up and beg. Brennan swallowed.
He found himself stepping toward the man without thinking about it. Like he was being drawn to him.
And then somehow, mortifyingly, his mouth opened. “I…um…”
The man looked up at him, his brown eyes sparkling with a leftover smile from something his friend had said. “Yes?”
“Are you…? Th-there’s…” Moron! You don’t even know what you want to say. Walk. Away. Now.
Thoroughly humiliated and wondering what the hell had caused him to try in the first place, Brennan turned to leave. A flash of something caught his eye, a person standing opposite them across the street, sort of resting against the corner of the brick building. Something about the man didn’t fit. What fit less was the guy reaching behind his back, his head shifting side to side as if making sure no one saw him.
The back of Brennan’s neck tingled in awareness, and the hairs on his arms stood on end.
A gun appeared in the man’s right hand, aimed directly in Brennan’s direction. Actually, the hot guy slouching in his chair was the first in line. What the hell was he supposed to do?
“I c-can’t let him sh-shoot you.” Even in his own ears, the declaration sounded pathetic. He couldn’t think. His already muddled brain got foggier.
“Excuse me?” The man straightened in his seat, his eyebrows lowering in sudden anger.
Panic finally overrode Brennan’s senses, and time slowed. It took the rumble of a bus driving between the shooter and the coffee shop to set Brennan in motion. He shouted, dropped the drink and sprang.
Brennan slammed into him. They toppled to the ground with a scrape of the heavy chair and table, the loud smack of a bullet striking the wall of the coffee shop behind them, and a “What the f**k?” from Muscle’s friend who’d been sitting on the other side of the table.
Screams followed the mayhem, running feet surrounded them, and someone shouted, asking if everyone was okay. Brennan’s heart pounded, and his cheek and lip hurt from where they’d hit the ground. Muscles wrestled out from underneath him, and both a gun and a cellphone appeared in his hands. Brennan was wrenched upward and then slammed back down face-first with a stabbing knee in his back. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t grasp on to what had happened. Hadn’t he done the right thing in warning him? So why was he the one eating concrete?
Both men did their best to hide behind what little protection the table offered, all while yanking at Brennan’s arms. He fought them, sweat beading and dripping from his forehead. The shouting ceased, along with all other noise except the grunts from the men holding him down.
“Stop resisting.” The deep command made Brennan freeze.
Something about the words triggered a memory. Resisting arrest, prostitution. You’re going to go away for a while.
Brennan’s shoulders protested being wrenched behind his back, then the distinct click of metal against his wrists echoed in his ears.
He’d come here to buy a stupid drink and learn to use money again. It was a test. One he thought he’d passed. Michael wouldn’t be happy with him.
“You and me, we got a date at the station.”
Brennan squeezed his eyes shut. He’d f**ked up, and he didn’t even know how.
“You okay, Keg?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Muscles spit, and a bit of it splashed on Brennan’s cheek.
Willing his heart to slow and still wondering what the hell had happened, he rested his forehead on the ground, scraping his nose in the process.
“Shooter’s gone and a squad’s on their way.” The knee stayed planted squarely in the center of Brennan’s back, causing him to feel like his spine would snap any second.
Warm breath fanned his ear. “Have second thoughts, asshole? Were you supposed to make sure it was really me and let your friend know but decided you couldn’t do it? Who the f**k are you?”
Brennan squeezed his eyes shut and prayed to wake up soon.
“Not gonna answer me, pretty boy? That’s cool with me. I got all afternoon to find out who the f**k sent you.”
Brennan had no idea what Muscles was talking about, but what could he say that wouldn’t make him sound like more of a complete babbling, stuttering idiot?
The only thing he could think was, “Call M-Michael St. John.”