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As Sam raised her right hand to take the oath that would make her a lieutenant, every cell phone and pager in the room began to vibrate.
Tearing her eyes off the city clerk, she ventured a glance at her partner, Detective Freddie Cruz, and noted the grim expression on his handsome face as he checked his pager.
The moment Sam said the final words of the oath, several of the other officers in the room bolted for the doors, calling out that they'd see her later at the party. She heard one of them say, "DD, mass cas."
Ugh, Sam thought, domestic disturbance, multiple casualtiesthe worst kind of hell for cops.
"...I have tremendous confidence that she'll continue to serve with honor and distinction in her new role," concluded Chief Farnsworth, a man she'd called Uncle Joe when she was a child. "It's my great personal and professional honor to introduce for the first time, Lieutenant Sam Holland."
Contending with a huge lump in her throat, Sam received the thundering applause from the colleagues who remained in the room. Her sisters, Tracy and Angela, stepped forward, followed by their father in his motorized wheelchair.
As her sisters pinned on the gold bars, Sam marveled at the surreal sensation. Thanks to the dyslexia she'd battled all her life, she hadn't allowed herself to imagine this moment. Tears wet her father's cheeks as he watched from his chair. He loved his three girls passionately, but the special bond he shared with Sam was obvious to everyone who knew them.
Once the bars were in place Tracy and Angela stepped back.
Sam leaned forward to rest her head on her father's shoulder, which was a poor substitute for the hug she'd have given anything to receive from him right then. Two long years had passed since he'd last been able to hug her.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant," he said in a gruff tone.
"Thank you, Chief."
He kissed her cheek.
She turned to shake hands with Chief Farnsworth.
Watching the remaining cops leave the room, Sam had to hold herself back.
"It's okay if you want to go with them," Nick said from behind her.
"No way," she said as she turned to him. "I'm off today."
He leaned in and kissed her square on the lips in front of her father, her sisters, the chief and the mayor. The mayor, for God's sake!
"Congratulations, Lieutenant," Nick whispered.
"Thank you," she muttered. She planned to speak to him once again about his inappropriate PDA habit once they were back in that stupid limo he'd insisted on to transport them around the famously congested District of Columbia on their big day.
"The uniform is h-o-t," he whispered in her ear. "I'll need a private viewing later."
"Stop." She pushed at his chest. Even through the suit she could make out the pronounced contours of his muscular pectorals.
His full, sexy mouth lifted into the smile that promised carnal delights, and Sam's panties went damp. That was all it took, and he knew it.
As they partook in the coffee and pastry reception, Sam felt twitchy with anxiety as she waited to hear somethinganythingfrom the scene of the domestic disturbance. Sipping her second diet cola of the day, she watched Nick share a laugh with her father and was grateful that the two of them had bonded over their shared concern for her safety. She wished they were a little less concerned, but hey, at least her father had stopped trying to intimidate Nick every chance he gotsomething Skip was still quite good at, even from his wheelchair.