Avoiding the Badge

Avoiding the Badge

by Dorothy F. Shaw


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"Just What The Doctor Ordered

Rayna Michaels may be a veterinarian, but she knows a little something about the human heart—especially when it comes to worried pet owners. Law enforcement’s bonds with their K9 partners are legendary, and Derek Hansen is a perfect example—he’s had his dog Axle in more times than she can count in the last few months. And Derek’s sculpted muscles and heart-stopping smile would be truly irresistible, if only he wasn’t an officer of the law…

Derek can’t get Rayna’s stunning face and no-nonsense smarts out of his mind. Any excuse to see her will do, until he works up the nerve to ask her out. He’s not sure where her resistance to cops comes from, though he’s more than willing to prove he’s one of the good ones. But when casual dating turns into explosive lovemaking, Derek knows he has to come clean about his past before the woman he loves finds out what he’s been hiding and turns tail to run…


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516106790
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Pages: 206
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)

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"Ahem ... Heeeee's heeeere."

At her head vet tech's declaration, Doctor Rayna Michaels looked up from the lab report she was reading in the back of the main treatment area and furrowed her brow. "I'm sorry. Who is 'he'?"

Andrea leaned her hip against the counter and dipped her chin. "Seriously?"

"Always." Careful to keep her expression blank, Rayna stared at the woman.

Andrea sighed and rolled her eyes. "He as in the hottest pet owner we have." Even as Rayna returned her focus to the lab report in her hands, Andrea continued. "Come on, really? He as in 'the cop' who's so freaking hot we could fry an egg on his unbelievable abs. We haven't seen the abs, but we all know he's got them. In spades. The same he who's so totally into you — so into you that the rest of us are green with envy."

He was not and they were not. Rayna sighed and set the report back on the counter. Yes, she knew exactly who Andrea was talking about, but no way was Rayna going to let her vet tech know that.

And yes, Officer Derek Hansen was handsome — very handsome in fact. The kind of handsome every hot-blooded woman, self-assured man, or more specifically a gay man — her receptionist Billy had pointed out last time Officer Hansen had been in — on the planet took notice of. If they didn't, they were likely dead, because very handsome was not only accurate, it was also an incredible understatement.

Dark, close-cropped hair, just a little longer on top. Dark, straight brows. Green eyes. Full lips. Always clean-shaven, but Rayna bet he looked good with a five o'clock shadow, too. His nose wasn't perfect, but it fit his face perfectly. And then there was his body ...

Rayna sighed. Great. The mere thought of how good-looking Hansen was had heat spilling through her system like warm syrup. If she hadn't put the report down, she could've used it as a fan — though that would've been way too obvious. "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to be a bit more specific."

"I swear, Doctor Michaels. Sometimes I don't even know what to do with you." She threw her hands up in the air with a harsh sigh, then let them flop back down at her sides. "Fine. Officer Derek Hansen is here with Axle for yet another 'checkup.' Specific enough?" Andrea smirked.

"Well then, let's hope Axle is okay. I know Officer Hansen has been a tad ... cautious, possibly overly so, since his canine partner was injured. But honestly, as you know, there is nothing wrong with taking good care of your animal. Especially one as important as Axle." She smiled, knowing her statement was only going to annoy Andrea further. Which served as a fantastic distraction from the heat rising in her body. Rayna cleared her throat. "What room is he in?"

Andrea let out an exasperated groan and grabbed a file off the counter. "Exam room four. And not for anything, but he's been in twice already this month. This makes visit number three. I think it's a sign." Andrea grinned and started to turn away, but then stopped. "All professionalism aside, enjoy the view for the rest of us, please? You know we're all going to want a full report when you're done in there." After a wink, she headed for the short hallway leading to the front of the office.

Rayna watched her go before picking up the lab report and reading it over once more. Deep breaths, in and out. In and out. In and —

It wasn't working. Desperate for some relief, she fanned herself with the lab report.

Around six months ago, Officer Derek Hansen's canine partner, Axle, had been injured in the line of duty. Apparently, her clinic had been the closest place to where the injury happened, and when he'd burst in the front door, of course she'd immediately treated the animal.

The injury hadn't been anything too serious, thank goodness. Axle had needed a small laceration stitched up, but the animal had also popped his kneecap out of joint on his left hind leg. Leg injuries could lead to hip issues with many big dogs, but shepherds especially. Ensuring Axle was healed properly was essential for his career as a police dog, but more importantly, the animal's overall well-being and quality of life.

However, after the dog had healed, Officer Hansen continued to bring Axle into the clinic — to the tune of every three weeks, give or take, for what he called "regular checkups." It didn't mean anything more than that the man was caring for his animal. Rather typical for an officer and their canine partner. Those teams never left each other's side.

Besides, who was she to turn away a patient?

Hansen wasn't a man of many words, but he was always polite, respectful. And, of course, considering Rayna was counted as a red-blooded woman, she'd also noticed he was gorgeous. How could she not? She had a pulse, after all.

Still, checking out her patients' owners wasn't something she made a habit of, or ever did, so she made sure to keep their dealings strictly business. It would be unprofessional and highly inappropriate for her to act in any other way.

Every time he'd been in the office, Rayna tried for all she was worth to not focus on how beautiful he was or how incredibly well built his body was, but with each visit, she failed. Plus, whenever she was in one of the exam rooms alone with him, her skin got warm all over, and without a doubt her face was the shade of a fire truck, her spray of freckles becoming little red spotlights.

Worse, each visit, she emerged with the effects he had on her nervous system on display for all to see. As if she were having some sort of allergic reaction, the skin covering her sternum and neck was completely flushed and blotchy. Her entire office staff would not let her forget it.

Frankly, not noticing the officer wasn't possible. After all, how could anyone with a set of functioning eyes not notice a well over six-foot-tall, hard- muscled, incredibly gorgeous cop?

The answer was plain and simple: they couldn't.

Rayna grabbed her mini medical bag filled with doggie treats and moved to exam room four's entrance. With another deep breath to cleanse her mind and hopefully cool down her body, she pressed her palm to the metal panel of the door.

As she was about to push it open, Andrea sauntered back into view, a stack of files in her arms. "Good luck! He looks really, really good today," she whispered.

Rayna's eyes went wide. She was going to kill Andrea if Officer Hansen heard the woman's comment. "Are you done yet?"

Andrea grinned from ear to ear. "Nope. I have to get these files updated in the system."

Reining in the nervous tension crawling up her spine, Rayna switched topics. "How many more appointments are on the schedule for today?"

"Lucky you, none. He's your last one. You get to take all the time you need." Andrea placed the files on the counter and sat in front of the computer.

"Great." What on earth did luck have to do with it? And wait, he looked good today? How was that different from any other day? The man always looked good. Like when he crossed his thickly muscled arms over his very broad chest, the veins in his forearms stood out in harsh relief against his tanned skin.

A flash fantasy of running her tongue along all those perfect veins made — oh dear, she hoped like hell the heat rising from her stomach to her chest like a wildfire would settle enough for her to do her job.

And do it without her face glowing bright as the Arizona sun.

* * *

"Oh yeah, that's right, Axle. I heard her, too. She's coming." With nervous energy pumping through his system, Officer Derek Hansen took a seat on the small bench in the vet clinic exam room and did his best to appear calm, cool, and collected.

His five-year-old black- and rust-colored shepherd glanced over at him and licked his chops before going back to pacing around the tiny room.

Doc Michaels was right on the other side of the door. Derek would know her voice anywhere. Not that he'd been paying attention or anything. It was merely one of those things a person picked up in his line of work.

At least that was the story he was going to keep telling himself. Derek extended his legs, crossing them at the ankle, and focused on Axle again. "You should probably sit down, too. Seriously, try not to look so eager, dude."

Axle gave a small huff, followed by a whine, before resting on his haunches and facing the entry door to the exam room.

Derek let out his own whine, not audibly of course — at least he thought so until Axle jerked his big head Derek's way. Okay, fine. His partner heard it, thanks to his keen canine hearing. Whatever, as long as the doc didn't hear him, Derek was good.

The door shifted open a crack. "Andrea, would you call the Bensons and let them know the tests were all negative for Caspian, please?"

Derek straightened, ready to hop to his feet, then stopped himself, remembering he was supposed to be going for calm and cool. Oh yeah, and collected, too. Damn.

The door opened the rest of the way, and after she walked in, she set her little baby-blue medical bag down on the counter as she smiled down at Axle. "Hello there, big boy!"

Axle's ears dropped, flopping all puppy-dog style. Derek rolled his eyes and smothered a grin. His partner was such a ham.

She squatted down in front of the dog, scratching his ears. "Aren't you so handsome in your uniform?" She moved her hands over his head, and Axle's ass started wiggling. "You certainly are."

"You keep talking to my partner like that, Doc, and you're gonna give him an ego." Unable to sustain his calm presentation any longer, Derek got to his feet.

Doc Rayna smoothed her palm down Axle's back and glanced up at Derek. "I think he's far too humble to fall into such a trap." She grinned, stood and held out her hand. "Officer Hansen. How've you been?"

He took her soft palm in his own and tried like hell not to revel in how petite it was in his larger one. "Please, call me Derek."

She ducked her head before sliding her hand free. "Sorry, I know you've said that before. I tend to forget when you're in uniform."

"Understandable." Derek watched as she moved her small medical bag to the side and pulled the stethoscope from around her neck. "Yeah, so I know we were just here, but he's had a couple chases and takedowns this week, so I figured, best bring him in."

"He's a busy boy." She gave Derek a small smile and knelt in front of Axle again. With ease of movement, she pressed the round disk to the dog's chest. "Is he eating, drinking okay?"

"His appetite seems fine. Plus, he's drinking water whenever I do during shifts."

She glanced up and nodded as she slid the stethoscope disk to the other side of Axle's rib cage. Derek's breath caught in his throat. Jesus, her blue eyes were brighter than an Arizona summer sky. From the first time he saw her, Doc's eyes captivated him. He'd never seen eyes as beautiful in all his life.

Her eyes were nothing compared to her smile though. Doctor Rayna Michaels had a smile that made Derek's insides melt. Those precious lips, the bottom fuller than the top, did things to him that were not normal — maybe normal for other guys — but in no way normal for him.

The crazy part was she also had a banging body. Like, seriously fucking hot. All petite but with curves in all the right places, and a head full of long, obviously natural red hair he was dying to run his fingers through. Plus, she had a whole "pretty without any makeup" thing going on, with freckles for days, too. Amazing.

But the smile ...

God help him, her smile got him in the gut and made him want to get on his knees and worship at the Altar of Doc Rayna. True story.

What made the urge crazy was Derek was not the kind of man who got on his knees for any woman. It was always the opposite. He was a dominant guy; he preferred to be the one in charge. Call the shots, give directions, and control the situation. In addition, he enjoyed a bit more of the rougher play, too. A little bondage, a little pain play, but only with the right partner.

The doc didn't strike him as a woman who'd head down the BDSM trail. Derek was okay with that. Though he'd be a bald-faced liar if he said he hadn't thought about how unbelievably hot she'd look on her knees before him. Hands cuffed or bound behind her back, while he played with her nipples until she squirmed ... Derek stifled a groan.

Still, if rougher play wasn't her thing, he'd handle it. He'd respect it and accept it, because the woman aroused a whole other side of Derek he hadn't even realized existed. One which had nothing to do with sex. The physical attraction was there for sure, but it went far above and beyond carnal desires.

She rose and swung the stethoscope around her neck. "Everything looks good to me."

Derek shoved his hands in his pockets. "That's great. Yeah, he earned his pay this week for sure. Chased down the bad guys. But the suspect last night struggled more than usual when Axle got hold of him. I figured, after this week, plus the tussle last night, it's always best to have him checked over, you know? Make sure the knee is still good." In combination with a shrug, Derek nodded to the side once, hoping he didn't sound like a complete moron. Or worse, like he was full of shit.

The story was true ... for the most part. Axle had taken down a perp the night before and a few others earlier in the week, but the dog was fine. Regardless, it was a "plausible" reason to see the gorgeous doctor. Far be it from him to not take advantage of the opportunity.

Sadly, Derek knew he was running out of excuses to see her. What he wanted to do was ask the woman out, though from what he could tell, she didn't appear to know he even existed.

"Oh?" With her brow furrowed, she glanced at Axle again, watching him sniff around the floor in the exam room. "He doesn't appear to be favoring it. I think ... Hmm ... let me have another look." She bent again and palpated Axle's back haunches, then moved down to the knee the dog had injured originally. "Have you noticed any signs that he's having pain?"

Doc was the consummate professional. Polite, of course. She smiled, she made chitchat between professional conversation regarding Axle, but that was it. No more, no less. Derek definitely wanted to take her out on a date, get her out of her natural environment and see if she'd drop the professional persona. But whenever he thought to ask, mustered up enough nerve, he couldn't seem to get the damn question out of his mouth.

Lack of balls, anyone? Please ... that was not a label that had ever been attached to Derek. However, with the doc, he turned into a tongue-tied, pimply-faced, sweaty-palmed teenage boy with not a damn bit of game whatsoever.

Because what if she wasn't interested in him?

Though some women from his past might disagree, Derek didn't consider himself to be an egotistical asshole. Not all women were attracted to him, obviously. But man, if he got turned down by this particular woman, he wasn't sure his ego could take that kind of hit.

Realizing he hadn't answered her question, he got his mind back on track. "No, you're right. He doesn't seem to be favoring it at all, but you know, I just wanted to be sure."

"Honestly, I think he's fine." She stood again and retrieved a small dog biscuit from her medical bag. "But if you're really concerned, we can do some X-rays. Or just keep an eye on him for now. Whichever you prefer."

Axle, knowing what was coming, sat, ears at attention, eyes locked on his doctor. Not begging, but definitely ready for the treat. Doc Rayna smiled down at the animal, tenderness clear in her expression. Bending at the waist, she smoothed her small palm over the dog's head before feeding him the biscuit. "Here you go, good boy."

Once again, everything inside Derek went soft as things south of his belt attempted to go rock-hard. He tamped the urge down quick. The last thing he needed was to be waving that flag at her. "I think I'll just keep an eye, for now."

Jesus, the expression in her eyes when she looked at his partner made Derek want to pull her against his body and never let her go. Her heart was pure sweetness, and he could see it in everything she did.

He wanted to know if everything else about her was pure sweetness, too.

* * *

"Sounds good!" Rayna turned away from Officer Hanse — Derek's — gaze and closed up her little treat carrier.

He'd started calling her "Doc" sometime after the first month he'd been visiting her practice. Now, it'd become a sort of nickname for her. Regardless, something about the way he said it, the tone in his voice, always had hot lava pulsing through her veins.


Excerpted from "Avoiding the Badge"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Dorothy F. Shaw.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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