A man could lead himself to bed, but that didn’t mean he’d sleep
Not when he felt as if he were flying over paradise, craning his neck to look down from that airplane window, wanting to storm the cockpit and yell, “Land here!” even though he knew there wasn’t a runway.
He just couldn’t imagine Mindy looking at him with anything but shock and loathing if he hit on her. Even if he was wrong, even if miraculously she turned out to feel the same way he did, how could he look at himself in the mirror knowing he had what should have been Dean’s?
What would have been Dean’s if not for a bullet.
Pregnant heroines have become very popular in romance fiction, but I find myself drawn to writing about them anyway. The nine months of pregnancy are a woman’s most vulnerable time. Accustomed to being an independent adult, suddenly she needs protection and care. At the same time, her life is in flux—even a woman in a secure marriage knows that nothing will ever be the same again. If she finds herself pregnant after her husband has died, when her emotions are already in turmoil, when she has no one to turn to… How irresistible is that for any writer?
With this book I also had the chance to create a hero who believes he needs no one—until he loses the one person who did mean something to him. Reforming rakes has never interested me; shattering the ice around a man who believes himself incapable of love is my kind of challenge.
I hope you’re as moved by these two lonely people who can’t admit they need each other as I was. I’d love to hear what you think!
Janice Kay Johnson
Janice Kay Johnson
BRENDAN JOSEPH QUINN was off duty when he found out his best friend was dead. Beer in hand, waiting for the microwave to beep, he’d settled in front of a Sonics game he’d taped from earlier in the evening. He was so tired his eyes kept crossing. He hadn’t slept except for a snatched hour or two in days. That’s what he did when a case was fresh, when every detail was vivid in his mind, when the memories of witnesses were new and relatively uncorrupted. If an arrest was ever going to happen, it was likeliest in the first two or three days. He and his partner had cleared this homicide by canvassing the neighborhood until they found a kid who’d seen someone hammering on the front door of the murdered woman’s house and had been able to identify the ex-husband.
Booking and paperwork had dragged on, and it was now two in the morning. He intended to gobble the burrito heating in the microwave and then fall into bed. He might last a quarter.
When the phone rang, Quinn stared at it in disbelief. Muting the TV, he dragged himself from the recliner and snatched up the receiver.
“Quinn. This better be good.”
“It’s not good. It’s shitty.”
His sergeant could sound neutral when the streets were filled with rioters tossing cherry bombs. At the heaviness in his voice, Quinn stiffened.
“Dean Fenton’s dead.”
“What?” he said again, but in disbelief this time. Denial.
“We got a call an hour ago from one of his security guards. Burglary in progress. By the time a unit got there, the perps were gone and the guard had been shot. Only, turns out it wasn’t one of his employees. It was Dean. We don’t know yet why he was handling a routine night shift himself. Somebody probably called in sick. Bad luck.”
There had to be a mistake. Dean Fenton was his best friend, the only good to come from a bleak childhood. Quinn quelled the wave of sick fear with control he’d learned early, when his mother went out at night and didn’t come back for three days.
No. Not Dean.
Dean Fenton had joined the force with Quinn. They’d gone through training together, risen in the ranks at the same pace. But Dean had a craving for the nice things that money could buy, and he’d turned in his badge to start his own security company.
“Who got the call?” Quinn asked.
“Lanzilotta and Connors. Lanzilotta was pretty shaken up when he recognized Dean.”
Bernie Lanzilotta had played softball with Quinn and Dean. Bernie would know their first baseman.
Quinn shook his head hard. No. Goddamn it, no! Bernie had seen the uniform, maybe the guard was Dean’s age, general build. He’d jumped to a conclusion. Dean was home in bed with his pretty nitwit of a wife right now, not knowing one of his employees had taken a bullet.
“No,” Quinn said.
That same heaviness in his voice, Sergeant Dickerson said, “I asked Bernie if he was sure. He said he was.”
“I’m going out there.” Dickerson extended the comment like an invitation.
“Where?” Quinn flipped open his notebook.
The address was in the industrial area at the foot of West Seattle.
“I’m on my way.”
The microwave beeped as he let himself out the front door.
EVEN BEFORE HE EXITED from the West Seattle bridge, he saw the flashing lights. Heading under the bridge, he drove the two blocks to the scene. Chain-link gates stood open to a storage business, the kind with four long windowless buildings containing locked units where people could stow their crap when they down-sized or moved. This place also had an area where customers could park RVs or boats. It was back there that the activity centered.
Numb, his exhaustion forgotten, Quinn parked and walked past squad cars with flashing lights. Ahead was a white pickup with the Fenton Security logo painted on the doors. The driver-side one stood open.
Dickerson, a bulky, graying man, separated himself from a cluster of uniforms and came to Quinn.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
Fear and rage shifted inside Quinn, like Dobermans just waking.
“No,” he said. “No.” He kept walking, circled the back of the pickup.
The body was sprawled on the pavement. Lamps had already been set up, bathing the scene in pitiless white light.
“No,” Quinn whispered, but his eyes burned and the fear swelled in his chest. His best friend, his brother in all but blood, lay with his cheek against the ground, blood drying in his mouth, his eyes sightless. Dead. A few feet from the body, Quinn dropped to his knees. A freight train of grief roared over him, the wheels clattering, metallic and deafening.