For the past six months, writer Calla Tucker has had it bad for über-hot and intense detective Devin Antonio. And those smoldering green eyes? Amazing! But he's always been hands-off—until now.
When Devin is suspended for a crime he didn't commit, Calla finally sees an opportunity to help out a friend and finally find a way into her hottie detective's bed!
But Devin doesn't accept help—especially from the stunning blonde he's always wanted and never allowed himself to touch. But when the plot against Devin thickens, there's only one person he can turn to. And this time, she's not taking no for an answer .
Wendy Etherington was born and raised in the deep South-and she has the fried chicken recipes and NASCAR ticket stubs to prove it. The author of thirty books, she writes full-time from her home in South Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and an energetic Shih Tzu named Cody. She can be reached via her website, www.wendyetherington.com. Or follow her on Twitter @wendyeth.
Lions and Tigers and Scandal Among the NYPD by Peeps Galloway, Gossipmonger (And proud of it!)
Oh, Dear Reader, one of our own has fallen. And fallen hard.
Detective Devin Antonio (highlighted in this column last spring and summer!) has been mysteriously suspended.
Apparently (Oh, my, don't you just love that word?) he found himself at the scene of a robbery last night. The suspect was apparently (there it is again) escaping as the detective arrived, so he apparently (oh, joy!) felt the need to not only slap on the handcuffs, but also use his size and prowess to subdue and control the situation.
I'm shocked and downtrodden. I'm horrified and sympathetic. I'm literally unable to get out of bed.
Though, NYPD, I'm, of course, on your side. I stand for truth and justice above all.
Apparently, there are some secrets in the great detective's past he failed to share with those most important in his life. Will this derail his flirtations with a certain travel writer he's been seen around town with? Will this get him (gasp) fired?
As documented in this column, he's helped solve some high-profile crimes over the last several months, including the Jenkins Scandal and the Rutherford Theft. But those triumphs are unlikely to sway the D.A., who's apparently tired of explaining to the attorney general about why corruption is so prevalent on our beloved island of Manhattan.
Maybe a hotel heiress or two will do something more scandalous next week though I'm not counting on it. (Kidding again! I so am!)
Stay tuned for more apparently bad behavior and (please, oh, please) more hot cops, —Peeps
I dream of you day and night.
"Yeah, yeah," Calla Tucker muttered at the text message she'd received nearly a month ago and had yet to erase.
She couldn't imagine brooding detective Devin Antonio had actually meant the words. And if, by some miracle, he had, he probably hadn't meant them for her.
Of course her sarcastic response, Are you feeling okay? hadn't helped matters. He hadn't responded to that question at all, and when she'd tried to talk to him about the message, he'd acted as if he hadn't known what she was talking about.
Yet she'd left her best friend's wedding reception early because he hadn't shown up as he'd promised and now she was scooting around Manhattan in a cab, racking up a fare that she was going to need a loan to pay for, simply because she was worried about him.
"You want me to wait again?" the cabbie asked as he pulled up to the police station.
She glanced at the amount, winced, then handed the driver a wad of cash. "No, thanks. I think this is my last stop."
She'd already called Devin's cell phone and sent half a dozen text messages, checked his apartment and phoned Paddy's bar across the street from the precinct house—his usual haunt—all with no results. If he wasn't at work, she was out of ideas.
Wearing a full-length, navy blue taffeta bridesmaid's dress and a sprinkling of white flowers in her hair, she got a number of stares and two whistles before she yanked open the door and strode inside.
"I need to see Detective Antonio, please," she said to the bored-looking clerk, snapping gum as she lorded over the small, dingy waiting room from behind a high, faded-wood counter.
The clerk tapped on her computer, then announced, "Antonio's off duty."
He certainly promised to take the day off, Calla thought peevishly. And if a luxurious and wildly romantic wedding didn't get him to finally make a move on her, she wasn't sure anything would do the trick.
And yet, here she was, making an idiot of herself chasing after him.
"What about Lieutenant Meyer?" she asked the clerk.
This got a reaction. Staring down at Calla, the clerk raised her eyebrows—which were dyed purple. "You got an appointment?"
"No, but he's a good friend." She reached into her bag and pulled out the piece of cake she'd put in a plastic baggie to bring to Devin. "A mutual friend of ours got married tonight, so I brought him some cake."
Along with her proof of friendship, she gave the clerk a broad smile.
In return, she received a narrow-eyed glare.
Having lived in New York for six years, Calla knew she should be used to this kind of suspicious response by now. But she was from Texas, for heaven's sake. Beauty queen smiles and big blond hair were both a birthright and an entree into any event, anytime. She had no idea how to deal with Purple Eyebrow People.
"What color is that?" the clerk asked suddenly.
Calla shifted her gaze to the cake. "My friend Shelby insisted on making her own wedding cake and really wanted the roses to be aqua, but I think they came out icy-green. Still it's—"
"On your head," the clerk clarified.
"Oh. It's a mix of golden-blond with champagne highlights. I had a great girl who did it back in Texas, but it was a challenge to find somebody here who didn't charge three hundred dollars." She leaned closer, so she wouldn't be overheard. A woman's stylist was a private matter, after all. "Eventually, I found this great color specialist named Kirk. He's at Tangles on Bleecker in the West Village. Tell him Calla sent you, and he'll give you a ten-percent discount."
An instant later, the door to Calla's right buzzed as the clerk released the lock leading to the station's inner sanctum.
Connections. This town was all about connections.
With a bit more confidence—something she sorely needed to counteract the prissy flowers in her hair—she walked down the hall toward the squad room where Devin's desk was located. The couple of times she'd been there, she'd noticed his lieutenant's office in the corner. Devin had always spoken pretty highly of his boss, which meant he'd grunted and shrugged when she'd asked what it was like to work for Meyer.
Knocking tentatively on the closed door, she jolted when a deep, authoritative voice called out, "Come in!"
The office was fairly small, containing a wooden desk, a guest chair and a bookcase packed haphazardly with magazines and stacks of papers. A man of about fifty with dark brown hair graying at the temples sat behind the desk. He started to give her an impatient stare, but his expression turned into a charming smile as his gaze raked her body. He rose. "Can I help you?"
At least somebody was happy to see her. "I'm looking for Detective Antonio."
The smile disappeared. "He's not here."
"So they told me out front. I was hoping you'd know where he was. He promised he'd come to my friend's wedding, but he didn't show up. He's not at home, and he won't answer his phone. I'm worried."
"Antonio can take care of himself."
"I'm sure he can. Mind if I sit?" She dropped into the guest chair before he could refuse. "How about some cake?" she asked, holding out the piece she'd shown the reception clerk.
With a sigh, he sat behind his desk and took the cake. "You're his girlfriend?" he asked.
Well, I've been trying "No, just a friend." Meyer said nothing for several moments. "You have a boyfriend?"
"I always thought Antonio was a sharp guy." He shrugged. "Truth is, he's been suspended."
Calla felt the blood drain from her face. "Since when?"
"A couple hours ago."
Explaining why he'd bailed on the wedding. But he could have called her. Maybe she and her gang—as he liked to call her and her friends Shelby and Victoria—could help. "For what?"
"I'm sorry, I can't say. It's an internal matter."
"How much trouble is he in?"
"He could lose his job?"
Though Devin was closemouthed about his feelings, his life, his past, well, pretty much everything, she knew he valued being a cop above everything else. "But he's a great cop."
"I think so."
"Then why—" She stopped as the lieutenant shook his head. He wouldn't budge. "Any idea where I can find him?"
"O'Leary's Pub, then. Two blocks east."
"Thanks," she said, rising. He flashed a bright smile. "Anytime." Even though she wore four-inch heels, Calla walked to the pub.
Hadn't she strutted across dozens of pageant stages?
Hadn't she paid her way through college with said pageant scholarship winnings and graduated at the top of her journalism class? Hadn't she made a life for herself in the media capital of the world?
So why was her stomach clenched at the thought of seeing Devin? At the confrontation to come?
Gee, Calla, can't imagine why you'd be nervous.
Maybe because she knew he'd been suspended before. A fact he'd told her, almost offhand, though he'd refused to give details.
Being naturally as well as professionally nosy, she'd researched his revelation six months ago. She'd discovered little about the cause for his punishment. Personal reasons relating to an open case was the official line, and Devin, being such an effusive guy—ha, ha—had, naturally, not filled in the blanks. With little to go on, and out of character for her, she'd been intimidated to probe him further about his clearly painful past.
Apparently that day had now come.
She was looking forward to challenging that Irish-and-Italian temper. Ha ha.
She nearly walked by O'Leary's before noticing the ancient-looking oak door. B 'fhearr liom uisce beatha was burned into a plank of wood above the arched entrance. Something Gaelic, she'd imagine.
And possibly threatening, she added as she opened the door and saw the tiny, barely lit interior of the place and its patrons. If possible, it was a step down, as well as infinitely darker, than Devin's usual hangout.
Why couldn't the man have a beer at Applebee's once in a while?
Movement in the bar ground to a halt.
So distracted with worrying over Devin being suspended—again—she'd forgotten about her bridesmaid outfit. She really should have taken the time to change before racing off on this crazy quest.
Head held high, she moved across the room, wishing for a flashlight instead of the fireplace along the back wall as she searched in vain for Devin. The wooden floor beneath her feet was rough and uneven in places, and her new shoes had little traction. If she tripped amid all these suspicious stares and snarls of disapproval, the detective wouldn't have to worry about his job, as his autopsy photos would be Exhibit A at her murder trial.
"Antonio?" she asked the bartender, pleased her voice didn't tremble.
Heavyset with razor sharp eyes, he said nothing and pointed to the back corner of the room.
Bracing herself, she carefully picked her way around the tables. As she got closer, she saw the gleam of his black hair reflected by the old-fashioned lantern on the wall next to him. He was hunched over a tumbler of what was certainly whiskey, his long fingers rhythmically stroking the sides of the glass.
Her heart contracted. Desire invaded her as she focused on his hands, the concentrated stare, the care with which he touched, as she imagined he'd caress her skin.
When she stopped beside his table, he looked up. His green eyes, so in contrast to his bronzed skin, pierced her, and she swore he could see through her into every fantasy she'd ever had about him.
And there were a number to choose from.
She'd lost her mind. She wanted him without reason. He was wounded, and she was going to save him. Like the stray cats, dogs and even birds she'd taken in as a child, she'd tend and encourage until he could move freely in his own world.
He'd given her little-to-zero motivation except for a few hot looks and riding to the rescue when she and her friends had asked him for help.
But she also couldn't forget the text. For her? Or for someone else? Regardless, the emotion behind the message and the possibility of them together dangled before her like a carrot she couldn't look away from, couldn't deny she craved.
Oh, yeah, she'd lost her mind.
She shivered with delight as he wrapped his fingers around her wrist and tugged her into the chair beside him. Finally, finally, he was going to give in to the desire crackling the air whenever they were together. She had no idea why he'd held back, but that didn't matter anymore. They could—
"Are you an angel?" he asked, his voice slurred just before he pressed his lips to the racing pulse beneath her jaw.
Terrific. He was completely trashed.
Her fantasy went up in a puff of smoke.
Though the movement cost her a great deal, she jerked her head away. "It's Calla," she said firmly. Swallowing her pride when his face remained dazed, she added, "Calla Tucker."
"Calla," he murmured and she swore she got a buzz from his breath as he leaned toward her. "I missed you."
"Do you dream of me?" she couldn't help asking.
His mouth moved across her cheek toward her lips, and she closed her eyes as need washed over her. With an exquisite gentleness she'd never imagined him capable of, he cupped her jaw in his palm and laid his lips over hers.
He slid his tongue into her mouth, stroking, enticing promising. She gave in return. For a single moment in time, she enjoyed his single-focused attention and passion. Still, she wanted more.
But not like this.
She pulled away when he would have let the kiss go on. She scooted her chair back to extend the distance.
His striking eyes were muddled. He was troubled and confused. She wouldn't let him stay there.
"I had cake," she blurted, "but I had to trade it to find you."
A light shone from within. "Cake?"
"From Shelby and Trevor's wedding. Remember? You were supposed to be there."
"Yeah, she's nice, and she can cook. I was at the hospital. Sorry."
She tensed. "Hospital?"
"Last night anyway." He cocked his head, looking lost. "Or maybe this morning."
"What happened?" Her gaze flew over him, searching for wounds. "How were you hurt?"
He turned, revealing a white bandage on the back of his head. "Knocked out."
"Last night." Again, he angled his head as if remembering required a great deal of thought. "Or maybe this morning."
She was fairly certain that a man who'd sustained a head wound in the past twenty-four hours hadn't been prescribed alcohol. Snatching his halffull tumbler before he could take another sip, she grabbed his hand. "You should be home in bed, not here."