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By Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Every fiber of his muscular body tense and alert, Patrick Cavanaugh bolted upright in his bed, ready to fight, to protect. As adrenaline coursed through his veins, it took several moments before he realized he'd been dreaming. And it was the dream that plagued him. The one that he'd been having night after night for the past month. Ever since Ramirez had been shot right before his eyes. And killed.
Ramirez had been one step away from him.
One step away from being saved by him.
Awake now, Patrick shivered. His bedroom was cold. December in Aurora, California, tended to be bitterly cold at times. Because the dream had been so vivid, because he'd relived every second of it, his upper torso was covered with sweat, cooling him even more.
Getting back to sleep was impossible. Not now. Habit had him reaching for the pack of cigarettes on his nightstand. The pack of cigarettes that was no longer there. Not wanting anything to have a hold over him, he'd quit smoking the week after they had put Eduardo Ramirez into the ground. Twenty-two days and counting.
He sat for a moment, dragging his hand through his hair, trying to focus on the day before him. Dark thoughts hovered around him like the ghosts of years past, searching for a chink, a break in the armor he kept tightly wrapped around himself. Waiting to get to him.
Every man had his demons, he told himself. His were no bigger, no smaller than most.
It didn't help.
Patrick swallowed a halfhearted curse. He wondered what it felt like to wake up with a smile on his face, the way he knew his sister Patience did.
No use in going there, he thought. It wasn't anything he was about to find out. He'd always been the somber one in the family. Not without cause. Patience was the mystery, he'd decided long ago. Happy despite everything. Despite the home life they'd had growing up.
Any happiness that existed in their lives had come by way of his uncles Andrew and Brian and their families. It certainly hadn't come via his own, at least, not from his parents, Mike and Diane.
Patience was another story. She was the reason he'd plumbed the depths of his soul and discovered that he was a protector and capable of feeling an emotion other than anger. He had to, for Patience's sake.
Patrick narrowed his eyes, looking at the blue digital numbers. Six-thirty.
Time to get up, anyway, he thought. Time to get ready to serve and protect.
As he rose from his rumpled double bed, the sheet tangled around his leg and then fell to the floor. He didn't bother picking it up. His whole bed looked like the scene of a battle.
And had been. Because last night, as he had almost every night since his partner's death, he'd fought the good fight. He'd led Ramirez and the other detectives and patrolmen into the crack house. Except that somehow, Ramirez had gotten in front of him just as shots were fired and all hell broke loose.
And he'd been too late to save Ramirez.
Don't go there, Patrick ordered himself coldly. He muttered another curse as he walked into the tiny adjacent bathroom, naked as the day he was born. He couldn't afford to think about Ramirez, couldn't afford to allow himself to dwell in the land of "what ifs." The guilt was still too raw, weighed too much. Dwelling on the pain left him winded and bleeding inside.
It was the beginning of a new week and he needed to be sharp. To survive the way others before him hadn't survived. He owed it to the department, but mostly to Patience. They had uncles and cousins, but he was the only immediate family she had. If he let this consume him, likely as not, he'd get himself killed. Leaving her alone.
Wasn't gonna happen. Yet.
Blowing out a deep breath, Patrick wrapped his anger around himself and stepped into the shower.
The shower handle was poised on cold. He pulled it and let the water hit him full blast. Jolting him into Monday.
"New assignment, Mag?"
Depositing the frying pan into the dishwasher, she picked up the breakfast she'd prepared and placed it in front of her father. She'd been too preoccupied to hear his question. "What?"
Matthew McKenna pushed forward his coffee cup. An independent man, he lived alone now and liked his space. He liked it even more when his only daughter, his only child, dropped by before beginning her mornings. It wasn't something he took for granted. "Today, don't you start your new assignment?"
The words came out like staccato gunfire. Mary Margaret McKenna - Maggi to those she considered part of her inner circle, or 3M to those who enjoyed honing in on her no-nonsense nature - poured coffee into her father's cup. She was bracing herself for the morning and the change of venue she was about to face.
She supposed that was why she'd stopped by this morning to make breakfast for her father. To touch base with what she considered to be her true self. Before she left that behind. Belatedly, she offered her father a smile along with cream for his coffee.
She was what she was because of her father. And because of him, in an indirect way, she had chosen the less-traveled path within her career. Patrolman Matthew McKenna had been one of Aurora's finest until a bullet had ended his career less than six months ago. The bullet had come from one of his own men. One of those awful things that happened in the heat of battle when shots went wild. The other policeman was found dead, a victim of one of the so-called suspects' deadly aim, or dumb luck, take your pick. But it was the service revolver in his hand that had fired the bullet which had found its way into Matthew's hip and left him with a slight limp. And a new appreciation for life.
She had been living in San Francisco when she'd gotten the call about her father. Without any hesitation, Maggi had handed in her resignation and come home to Aurora, to stand vigil over her father in the hospital and then nurse him back to health. When she was satisfied that he was on the mend, she put in for a job on the Aurora police force. It took little to work her way up. And when a position in Internal Affairs opened up, she applied for it.
The thought of spying on her fellow police officers bothered her. The thought of rogue police officers, giving the force a bad name, bothered her more. She took the position, signing on to work undercover. She still grappled with her own decision. It was a dirty job, she'd tell herself. But someone had to do it. For now, that someone was her.
Matthew sighed, looking at her over the rim of his cup. "You know, Mag, this isn't the kind of life your mother and I envisioned for you, dodging bullets and bad guys."
Excerpted from Internal Affair by Marie Ferrarella Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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