Read an Excerpt
NYPD Blue & Gold Series
By Tee O'Fallon, Karen Grove
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tee O'Fallon
All rights reserved.
Ten more minutes and all freaking hell would break loose.
Cassie wanted to growl as she braced her palms on the bar where she served as bartender in this crap-hole — the worst undercover assignment she'd ever had.
She scanned the twenty rickety wooden tables surrounding the raised stage in La Femme. Every walk of life in Manhattan was accounted for, from blue-collar workers in jeans and T-shirts to businessmen sporting thousand-dollar Armani suits. Sick bastards. They were all here for the underage girls. She hoped the perverted a-holes went down in flames.
Half a dozen drugged-out teenagers gyrated their scantily clad bodies from center stage, swaying and undulating to the rhythm of music pumping from overhead speakers. The bass boomed full throttle. Glasses on the bar vibrated. Bottles of cheap booze crammed onto rusty metal shelves hummed their own crystalline tune.
Cassie walked a few feet down the narrow aisle behind the bar, her black pumps making sucking noises on the wet, sticky tile. She wasn't thrilled about wearing the working attire that hugged her so tightly she could hardly breathe. Her clothes barely concealed the body wire microphone nestled between her breasts and the tiny digital recorder taped to the inside of her thigh.
Another glance at her watch.
Six minutes to go.
She took a steadying breath, then grabbed a tray and went around the bar to gather empty glasses and bottles from the tables. Normally, it was the waitresses' job to collect empties, but the less glass out there during a takedown the better.
After filling her tray, she turned and slammed headfirst into something solid. Glasses and bottles rattled on the tray, nearly sliding to the floor. The customer she'd plowed into gripped her upper arm, steadying her.
"Sorry about that." She looked up and smiled at the face looming above her. "Thank" — her smile froze — "you." She recognized him immediately. It was the bearded man she'd seen come in earlier, the one who'd made La Femme's scumbag owner, Rod Manici, visibly nervous. The guy had gone directly into the back rooms — rooms reserved for private sessions. Apparently he was finished doing whatever perverted things he'd come here for. After years on the job, Cassie automatically took inventory.
Five-ten, a hundred and seventy pounds, dressed casually but neatly in black slacks and a black sweater. His beard didn't quite match the color of his dark brown hair. She'd bet her ass it was a fake beard. No shock there, lots of men wouldn't want to be recognized in a dump like this.
"You're welcome," he said, still gripping her arms. His voice was smooth, practiced, like a radio talk show host's. The smile he gave her was pleasant enough, yet it never reached his eyes.
His eyes were an intensely bright gray, striking even, yet something about the man was definitely off. Was it that subtle air of superiority she detected? The way he carried himself, one would think he owned the place. No, that wasn't it. That's when Cassie saw it, a vicious, cruel light flickering in those gray depths. Just as quickly, it was gone, slick facade back in place. As if he'd suddenly realized he'd unintentionally exposed his inner demon.
He released her arms and turned, disappearing out the front door and leaving the scent of expensive cologne in his wake. Cassie watched the door slam behind him, her skin still crawling from where he'd touched her. It was more her woman's intuition talking than cop instinct, yet she was certain of one thing — that man was pure evil. Too bad he wouldn't be here for the takedown. She'd definitely like to see him in cuffs. That would have knocked that air of superiority straight out of him.
For the remaining few seconds of her illustrious bartending career, Cassie checked her customers' drinks for the last time. Sweat ran from her neck into the valley between her breasts.
Any moment now, and ...
Shouting from the front door.
Cassie snapped her head up. Her heart pounded. She dropped the cloth she'd been gripping and balled her hands. A surge of triumph and relief coursed through her veins.
Thank you, Lt. Frye. Right on time.
"Police! Hands in the air."
NYPD SWAT stormed the bar, shotguns raised.
Patrons' screams and shouts pierced the air. Chairs toppled to the floor. Waitresses dropped their trays. Glasses crashed.
The girls onstage shrieked and jumped to the floor as quickly as their four-inch spiked heels allowed and ran into the back rooms.
An entire precinct of uniformed cops poured in behind the SWAT team.
"Against the wall, now!" Six officers garbed in raid gear surrounded the tables. "Put your hands in the air and walk to the wall," one cop shouted over the blaring music.
Men seated at the tables rushed to comply with the commands. Some stumbled from fear and shock, others because they were drunk off their asses. One burst into tears. Another fainted and crumpled to the floor. As one burly officer hauled the guy to his feet by his lapels, Cassie noticed another man wearing tan slacks that were now dark at his crotch while he trickled urine onto the floor.
She watched customers for sudden movements. Anyone could be carrying a concealed weapon. Innocent girls could be shot. Police weren't bulletproof and neither was she. It was all Cassie could do not to throw herself out there into the mix, but she had to maintain her covert identity for as long as possible. That was the cardinal rule of undercover work, one that had been drilled into her head again and again: keep your identity secret at all costs.
Policewomen brought in blankets to cover the girls before escorting them out the front door and into an unmarked police van. The look of fear on their young faces made Cassie want to scream. Or cry.
Half the uniforms patted down customers and the two bouncers for weapons, while the other cops ordered those seated on the barstools to put their hands in the air. Cassie stayed behind the bar but held her hands above her head. She plastered a shocked, frightened look on her face for the benefit of anyone watching.
"Turn off that damn music," someone yelled.
A moment later, the music cut out, to be replaced by more shouts and screams coming from the back rooms.
Detectives dragged Rod Manici out in cuffs. Cassie wanted to applaud, but the sight of more barely dressed girls being helped outside by policewomen sobered her in a hurry. These girls, she reminded herself, were why she'd stuck it out doing an undercover gig she hated and working a job she no longer cared for.
"You, too, honey." A tall, good-looking blond detective came toward her. "I'm sure you know the drill. Against the bar and spread 'em."
Cassie complied but gave the detective a pissed-off sneer to make it look good. This was the part that annoyed her. Large hands patted her down, seemingly for weapons.
"Nice ass," her partner and good friend, Detective First Class Dominick Carew, whispered in her ear.
"Fuck off, cop," she snapped loud enough for Manici to hear before he was dragged out the exit door to a police van.
"You wish." Dom snickered as he cuffed her hands behind her back.
Dom had been her partner for nearly three years, and while she knew he was only joking, she was sick and tired of men making cracks about her ass. She adored Dom, but even he had his immature moments when he reverted to Officer Obnoxious. After the stress of tonight, it was the last thing she needed.
"Let's go." He grabbed her arm, and she shot him a nasty look. He took her outside to a black Crown Vic and put her in the backseat. When he'd gotten behind the wheel, he turned to look at her through the prisoner cage. "You okay, Cass?"
"Except for your crack about my ass ... yeah, I'm fine." She blew out a breath and her muscles began to relax for the first time in half a year. "This is one job I won't mind being fired from."
Dom nodded and winked before turning the ignition. As he steered the car into traffic, Cassie scanned the sidewalks, searching for the bearded man she'd bumped into inside La Femme. His image stayed with her, as did those creepy gray eyes.
Cassie could swear she'd seen the guy once before, maybe six months ago, shortly after she'd started working at La Femme. While she hadn't gotten as good a look at him that time, even then there'd been something about the man she'd remembered.
Dom guided the Crown Vic south on Broadway toward the precinct, expertly maneuvering the large sedan through heavy traffic. The neon lights of Times Square beamed out over the crowded streets and sidewalks. As Times Square slipped past the car window, it reminded Cassie of her life sliding away while she worked one undercover case after another. Unless she did something about it.
Like leave the NYPD.
Live free of this sick and depraved underground world. Reintegrate with the better part of humanity.
The idea of actually laughing again held significant merit. Joking around was engraved in her genetics, but Cassie couldn't recall the last time she'd played a prank on Dom or one of her brothers. There hadn't been an iota of humor in her darkened world in years.
Since becoming a deep-cover cop.
Caving to the pressure of her family's law enforcement tradition and following her older brothers through the police academy might not have been the smartest move. She was thirty-four years old. Was it too late to make a change?
Maybe she ought to put that culinary degree of hers to good use.
The question was ...
Do I have the balls to do it?
Pounding at the front door jerked Cassie fully awake from where she'd been asleep on the couch. An automatic glance at the digital clock on her DVD player told her it was two in the morning. Raven, her Belgian sheepdog and former K-9, leaped to the floor and took up a protective stance. Her sharp barks sliced the air like a butcher knife.
Cassie jumped from the sofa and bolted to her Smith & Wesson on the hall table. Blood pounded at her temples. Her heart beat so fast she could practically hear it. She yanked the gun from its holster and took cover behind the stairway wall. Raven continued to bark and paw at the door.
Bastards from La Femme had tracked her down. She'd only left the place a few hours ago. Assholes didn't waste any time. Cassie clenched her jaw and aimed her weapon at the door, being careful not to point it at Raven.
"Cass, it's Dom and Gray," a voice called from the other side of the door.
Her breath came out in a loud whoosh, and she nearly slid to the floor in relief. She'd recognize her partner's deep voice anywhere.
"Jesus Christ," she said, exhaling.
Just jitters, Yates. Calm down. This happens to any cop undercover for so long.
Post-undercover paranoia, they called it.
I am so getting out of this shit.
She leaned against the wall, waiting for her heart to resume a more normal rhythm.
"Damn it, Cassie. Open up," her oldest brother, Gray, yelled.
Raven stood on her hind legs and pawed at the door, still barking her furry head off.
"Okay, okay," Cassie shouted loud enough for Gray and Dom to hear, then shoved her gun back into the holster and set it on the table.
"It's all right, girl." She nudged Raven aside with her knee. As she twisted the deadbolt open, Raven's fierce barks eased to a throaty rumble. The dog wasn't crazy about most men, but she'd learned to tolerate Gray and Dom.
Cassie opened the door to two very large, stern-faced men. The skin at the base of her neck began to tingle. Not a good sign when two NYPD detectives showed up at your house at two in the morning after a major bust, both wearing their work faces. What Gray said next confirmed her gut reaction.
"Cass, there's a hit on you."CHAPTER 2
Cassie pulled off the New York State Thruway and drove into the town of Hopewell Springs, population six thousand, according to the prominent hand-painted sign on the side of the road. She and Raven had been driving for over four hours, and Cassie's stomach rumbled so loud she could hear it above the music blasting on the radio.
She glanced over her shoulder. "I don't know about you, Raven, but I'm starving. Let's hope we can find a decent place for breakfast out here in the boonies."
Dom and Gray had stood guard overnight at her house in Union, New Jersey, while she slept, so she could rise early and hit the road at the crack of dawn. With her Smith & Wesson, two additional fully loaded magazines, and Raven at the foot of her bed, she'd fallen into a troubled, restless sleep, dreaming of a nameless, faceless hit man.
Her brother and partner had wanted her to go to a safe house until they could figure out the identity of the hit man and throw his ass in jail. Word on the street was whoever ordered the hit was connected with La Femme, but Rod Manici wasn't talking. At least not directly. The little prick had lawyered-up and his high-priced, arrogant attorney now did the talking for him, naturally denying his client's involvement in any "alleged" hit.
"No matter what Gray and Dom say, I don't want protection." She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Raven's head perk up. "I can't be guarded by a bunch of cops twenty-four-seven. It would be like prison." And getting away from cops — from the NYPD altogether — was the plan that had been cooking in her head for a while now. "The only cop I want guarding my backside is you."
Cassie turned onto what appeared to be the main drag leading into the center of Hopewell Springs. She eyed the envelope thick with cash and other documents sitting on the front seat.
Gray had reluctantly agreed to help and procured an unmarked NYPD navy blue Trail Blazer registered in her old undercover name, different from the one she'd used on the La Femme case. Now she was Cassie Younger.
Dom had even scrounged up her matching fictitious driver's license, credit card, and a cell phone, all of which she'd used previously for an undercover burglary gig and a drug bust. Utilizing old undercover ID from a successful bust that had resulted in press coverage was a no-no in the UC world and had come back to bite many a careless cop, but given the exigent circumstances it would have to suffice. Besides, she didn't anticipate needing this particular persona for very long.
Behind her, Raven lounged on the seat. Piled high in the rear of the Trail Blazer were two travel bags she'd crammed with her summer clothes and other essentials, along with a forty-pound bag of pricey kibble, bones, and a dog brush.
She focused her attention back on the road and finding a place to grab a bite. Not much chance there'd be haute cuisine in such a tiny burg, but driving through Hopewell Springs actually made her smile, stretching muscles she could barely remember using in the last five years. The town looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, complete with an old-fashioned theater, an ice-cream parlor, and other small cutesy shops.
Another hand-painted sign indicated the towering brick building with fluted columns she'd just passed housed the town's municipal offices and police station. The tree-lined streets were decorated gaily with red-white-and-blue banners for the July Fourth holiday two weeks away.
A large black-and-white striped awning on the main thoroughfare caught her eye, and she slowed to see it was a restaurant. When she got close enough to read the sign, she burst out laughing. Raven barked, as if she, too, could read the sign.
"The Raven's Nest. Well, whatdya know?" She pulled into an empty parking spot in front of the restaurant. Turning to Raven, she said, "With that name, we've got to check this place out."
After lowering the windows to allow fresh air into the SUV for Raven, Cassie shut off the engine and threw the key chain with its bulky remote start gizmo into her handbag. She grabbed her gun and extra magazines and shoved them on top of her detective's shield inside the bag. Before leaving the vehicle, she looked through the rear window, then each way along the street. No one was watching or waiting for her, at least not that she could see.
To Raven, she ordered, "Stay. Guard."
After getting out of the Trail Blazer, she smoothed a few wrinkles from her jeans and cream-colored camisole then headed to the restaurant, her sandals clip-clopping on the pavement. A cool, welcome breeze whipped her hair in front of her face. She tucked it behind her ears and glanced back to see wind ruffling Raven's fur as the dog stuck her head out the open window. No need to worry about anyone stealing something in the Trail Blazer, not with a seriously intense former K-9 standing watch.
The striped awning of the quaint café shielded a bank of large windows, giving the place a French bistro-type flair. When she pulled open the front door, a small brass bell jingled overhead. No sooner had the door shut behind her than the warmth and hospitality of the place became obvious.
Excerpted from Burnout by Tee O'Fallon, Karen Grove. Copyright © 2016 Tee O'Fallon. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.