Read an Excerpt
Risking it All
A Crossing the Line Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLC Copyright © 2014 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Here's your meatloaf. Choke on it.
Seraphina Newsom crossed herself discreetly as she walked away from the customer's table, muttering a quick Hail Mary for good measure. No sense in letting her immortal soul go to the devil because the man had treated her ass like it was on the specials menu. Still able to feel the sting of his pinching fingers, she vowed, then and there, to overtip her waitresses for the rest of her life. Thirty percent or bust.
Sera took a deep breath and pushed through the double doors leading to the kitchen of Dooly's. Loud, tinny Greek music emanating from a portable radio greeted her, as did scraping silverware and dishes being submerged in hot, soapy water. Right on cue, the cook tossed two more plates of greasy meat loaf onto the dented metal shelf and dinged the bell, even though she already stood there waiting. Squaring her shoulders, she reminded herself why a girl with a nursing degree and a budding career in law enforcement would be donning an apron in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.
She was there to get up close and personal with her brother's murderer.
"Why you never try my meat loaf, waitress?" the cook asked her in heavily accented English.
"Er ... gluten allergy?"
"What is this gluten everyone talks about?"
She started to answer, but stopped. "It's probably just a myth. Like Santa Claus and comfortable thongs." Satisfied with his frown and the fact that she'd avoided telling him his meat loaf resembled roadkill, Sera took both plates and backed through the doors.
Into the deathly silent dining room.
Discreetly as possible, she glanced toward the center of the silence. Two stools away sat Trevor Hogan. The man who'd gunned her brother down.
Hogan was a lifelong local who had started small-time. Stealing cars, robbing delis, brawling. His ambition had placed him in the right place at the right time, and with the help of a metal baseball bat, Hogan earned the trust of the boss and took over the protection racket. Loan-sharking, extorting local businesses, you name it—Hogan had both greedy hands in it.
Her brother, Colin, had been a rookie with the NYPD when Hogan began branching out, running an illegal gambling operation so large it had financed two successful nightclubs, ballooning his criminal influence even more. As inexperienced as Colin had been, he shouldn't have been anywhere near Hogan's case. He'd been too young, too cocky, wanting to land a major arrest his first year in the field.
But when your uncle was the police commissioner, exceptions were made, no matter how deadly.
She'd been working as an emergency room nurse at Massachusetts General in Boston when her brother died. Ironic, that. After taking a vow to save people's lives, she'd been unable to save the life that mattered most.
Sera smoothed a thumb over the Saint Michael charm that hung around her neck. She wouldn't go as far as to say the Newsoms were cursed, but ... all right, they were pretty much cursed. The last three generations of Newsoms, including her father, had been killed in the line of duty. Her uncle was all that she had left, and he ran the city with an iron fist. As far as the people of this city were concerned, she didn't exist. To the little family she had left, she didn't exist, either. Seraphina Newsom was a ghost.
To her mind, that invisibility made her the perfect candidate to go undercover and find the key evidence to put away Hogan for life. Rumors of a ledger containing Hogan's unsavory business dealings had long swirled through the precinct hallways. The rumors were fueled by the fierce opposition he'd shown when his financial records had been subpoenaed during the tossed-out murder trial. Added to the fact that Hogan was cocky as hell, and low-level informants had reported seeing the ledger, she knew it existed. His secrets were written on those pages.
Not secrets that would take him off the street. Not the conventional way, at least. Information was valuable in this neighborhood, and she could use the names in that ledger to implode his operation from the inside out, bringing Hogan's operation down square on its head.
As soon as she'd felt confident enough that gaining possession of the ledger would be the key to outing Colin's murderer, she'd taken a personal week off of work, citing the upcoming three-year anniversary of her brother's death as the reason. And she'd gone undercover without a direct order from her uncle.
When this was over, she'd never again wear a badge. But she'd have bagged a murderer.
And then she would disappear.
Sera set down both plates of meat loaf in front of two burly male customers whose earlier loud conversation had devolved into subdued undertones with Hogan's appearance, never letting Hogan out of her peripheral vision. Ever since he'd arrived, Dooly's lively buzz had been switched off like a light-bulb, customers poking at their meals absently. Apparently unconcerned about the pall he'd cast over the crowd, Hogan sat with one arm draped over his chair, focusing on the UFC match raging on the ancient television.
Hogan's four-man crew stomped into the bar, making the sixth sense that ran in her family ping. Hogan leaned against the bar, gesturing animatedly as he spoke to the bartender. His friends laughed on cue and some of the customers began to relax. Hogan, his youthfulness beginning to fade along with his good looks, tossed back a shot of whiskey. He turned as he plunked the glass down on the bar, catching her eye across the dining room floor. Instead of cringing under his interest, Sera smiled back and sailed toward the kitchen, conscious of his hard gaze on her.
Everything happened quickly after that. There was a loud crack as Dooly's front door was kicked open. A man walked in, sweatshirt hood pulled low over his face, gun raised and pointed at Hogan. Every patron in the bar hit the floor as if it were a middle-school earthquake drill. Sera reached toward her hip for a weapon that wasn't there.
Hogan threw himself behind one of the four men who'd joined him, just in time for the man to take the bullet in his stead. The wounded man fell with a shocked curse, still shielding Hogan, who followed him to the wooden floor, scrambling for his gun. Hogan's other men wasted no time removing their own weapons, issuing threats at the already-retreating gunman, who managed to make it out the door before they could fire a single shot.
What had she just witnessed? An assassination attempt on Hogan? For a moment, she felt frozen to the spot, reeling at the fact that Hogan's life had almost been stolen from her. Justice for Colin did not include such an easy way out. No, it would have been unacceptable. Years of heartache, months of work ... all for nothing. It had been so close. Too close.
The sight of blood broke Sera out of her stupor. It was everywhere. Splattered on the mirror behind the bar, the ground, the man who lay on his back clutching his upper chest. Before her conscious mind processed her actions, Sera moved toward the man, shoving aside the group of useless bystanders. She might have quit nursing to become a cop, but the oath she'd taken wouldn't allow her to stand by while someone died. Not when she could prevent it. "Get me the first aid kit from behind the bar." As she knelt down beside the bleeding man, she noticed no one had moved. "Now. And call an ambulance."
Feet shuffled around Sera, telling her someone had actually listened. Briefly, her eyes landed on the face of the wounded man. Young, dark, startlingly handsome despite the fact that his teeth were gritted from the obvious pain. She didn't recognize him from the case file, nor had she expected his type among this crew. Hardened, yes, but he didn't appear as if he'd slipped beyond redemption like the rest of them. With brisk efficiency, she pried his hand away from the wound, pushed open his leather jacket and ripped his white T-shirt open from collar to hem.
The first aid kit clattered down beside her on the floor. "At least buy him dinner first."
Hogan. She'd deal with him later. Relief moved through her when she saw that the wound had missed the man's heart by about two inches. Still, it could have hit his subclavian artery. She could keep him alive long enough for help to arrive, but it would need to be soon. As gently as possible, she eased her hand beneath his shoulder, relieved when she felt an exit wound. At least the bullet had gone clear through. She ripped off her apron, balled up the starchy material and pressed it against the wound. It had to hurt like hell, but the man barely winced.
She glanced up, meeting Hogan's eyes. "Did you call the ambulance?"
He leaned against the bar, chewing a cocktail straw. The utter lack of concern on his face reminded Sera she was in the presence of a monster. Her brother's murderer. Hogan shrugged, setting her teeth on edge. "You're doing a bang-up job all on your own. No need to involve uniforms."
Sera failed to hide her horror. "He could die without medical attention. Look at how much blood he's already lost." She wiped her bloody palm across her uniform shirt, unwittingly making her point.
Eyes narrow, he pointed at her with his cocktail straw. "Why don't you ask him what he wants?"
She looked back down at the injured man. "No ambulance," he managed through gritted teeth, face paling with the effort. "I'd rather bleed out."
Hogan's face lit up with amusement. "And there you go." He signaled the bartender for another drink. "You got a name, Florence Nightingale?"
He's colder than I could have imagined.
Sera took a deep breath and focused on his question. She'd planned her false identity down to the last detail. The name and cover story she would use if she ever got close enough to Hogan to actually employ it. She'd never expected to use it this soon, though, especially in this kind of situation.
He threw back the shot of whiskey. "Can you fix him up, Sera? He's my cousin. If he dies, it'll piss off my mother."
Yes. She might be able to save him. No, she would save him. Despite the wounded man's vast difference from her brother, she wouldn't let another person die because of Hogan's presence in his life. Call it irrational, but in a way, saving this man might in small measure make up for her being two hundred miles away as her brother died on the cold sidewalk. None of this could be portrayed to Hogan, however. Or she risked her own neck. "Fix him?" She gave a disbelieving laugh. "He needs doctors ... a hospital. I'm a waitress."
"Yeah? You don't talk like no waitress."
"You want to hear the specials or something?"
Hogan's laugh boomed through the bar, but he sobered just as quickly. He regarded her closely for a moment, then nodded to his cohorts. "Load Connor into the backseat. And for God's sake, put a fucking towel down first." Almost as an afterthought, he added, "She's coming with us."CHAPTER 2
Bowen Driscol kept the lit cigarette clamped between his lips as two police officers jerked his hands behind his back and shoved him forward onto the hood of their squad car. A group of neighborhood girls passing on the sidewalk stopped to gawk, giggling when he threw them a wink. The officer's hand between his shoulder blades kept him in place, cold metal clinking when the other uniform removed the piece he'd had tucked into his waistband and cuffed him. When the hand on his back pushed a little too hard, Bowen gave in with a sigh and spat the cigarette onto the curb.
"Look, I like it rough as much as the next guy, but we hardly know each other."
"Shut it, Driscol."
"You going to explain why I'm being arrested?" He swallowed a growl as the cuffs bit into his skin. "Or is this just how you get all your dates?"
"Your mother didn't seem to mind." The officer heaved him off the hood and stuffed him into the backseat, oblivious to the sore spot he'd just poked with his casual insult. "As for why I'm taking you in?" With a shrug, he slammed the door. "Pick something," he called through the glass.
Bowen kept his unconcerned expression firmly in place as the officers drove through the streets of Bensonhurst where he'd been raised. Where he'd likely die. He knew every corner, every alleyway, and the name of every shop owner. This was his home. He hated it as much as he loved it. Loved it for the familiarity, hated it for the prison it had become since he reluctantly accepted his legacy.
Even though it was torture being trapped in the back of a police car without the use of his hands, he couldn't deny a sense of relief. Had they finally caught him? Finally gathered enough information to put him away? God, a big part of him hoped they had, even if he would die before admitting it to these smug assholes. He was tired of looking over his goddamn shoulder when he walked down the street, wondering if today would be the day someone tried to end his reign as boss. He'd never wanted the job, but with his father awaiting trial at Rikers Island, it had landed on his shoulders like a ton of bricks. Yeah, he'd never been a saint to begin with, but now people feared him for reasons that had nothing to do with his penchant for street fights. Now they worried about their legs being broken over unpaid debts. Turned tail and ran when they saw him as if he were Death himself.
He racked his brain trying to figure out what had gotten him pinched. Sure they were required to tell him, but the NYPD never played by the rules. Not with him. They knew he ran South Brooklyn, they just hadn't been able to trace any crime back to him—a fact that pissed them off in a big way. It warmed his heart exactly how much. Would that all change today? Their silence was unusual, to say the least. Any other day, they wouldn't waste a chance to rib him.
Bowen frowned when they bypassed the turn for the local precinct and proceeded toward Manhattan. "Where we headed, boys?"
"Don't worry about it," said the one driving.
"Never said I was worried." He wished for a cigarette. "I'm just wondering if I need to make arrangements for someone to water my houseplants."
The cops exchanged a glance. "You have plants."
"What? I don't strike you as the nurturing type?"
Bowen caught sight of himself in the rearview mirror and had to laugh. With a purple-black eye and a cut bottom lip, he looked like the opposite of nurturing. In fact, he looked like shit run over twice. Nothing new. He couldn't remember seeing himself reflected back without some sort of injury on his face. The utter exhaustion in his eyes, though ... that was new. Quickly, he looked out the window to find them traveling over the Brooklyn Bridge. What the hell did they want with him in Manhattan?
"You know, I love this new air of mystery you boys have going. It's sexy."
Instead of responding, they turned up the chattering dispatch radio to drown him out. It took every ounce of willpower not to question the officers further when they pulled into NYPD headquarters a few minutes later. His heart pounded in his chest as they pulled him out of the backseat, but he did his best to look bored.
This is it. I'm done.
No more instilling fear, no more resorting to violence to collect money owed to him. No more issuing orders to soulless men who didn't know how to feel remorse. All done.
The officers led him through the entrance and every head turned; animosity and disgust targeted him from all directions. Bowen ignored the twinge of pain from his cut lip as he grinned at his rapt audience. "Afternoon, gentlemen." He wished he were wearing a hat so he could tip it. "Weather today is beautiful. Not a goddamn cloud in the sky."
He didn't have the pleasure of hearing any angry responses because the officers pulled him down a hallway, shoving him into the first interrogation room. Irritation clawed at his throat over being pushed around, but he didn't give them the satisfaction of showing it. If he weren't wearing handcuffs, he would have already swung on them and they knew it. They also knew he could easily take them both on and win. Fighting was in his blood. He did it often and he did it well. So he couldn't contain his surprise when they removed the handcuffs. It even managed to distract him from his anger.
"All right. I give up. What the fuck is going on?"
"Have a seat." The officer who'd driven them there kicked out the metal chair before leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "You'll find out soon enough."
Excerpted from Risking it All by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2014 Tessa Bailey. 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.
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