Crime scene investigator Destiny Richardson receives the shock of her life when she finds her sister dead in a bathtub. Detective Logan Cavanaugh thinks it's an open-and-shut suicide case. But Destiny's convinced her sister was murdered. And she's not about to have some arrogant cop tell her otherwiseeven if he is the sexiest man she's ever met.
Logan knows it's pointless trying to convince Destiny that it's against the rules to work on a relative's case. The crime scene investigator is as stubborn as she is gorgeous. Besides, Logan wouldn't mind getting to know her better. When it becomes apparent that there's a serial killer on the loose, Logan is bent on protecting the woman he's falling in love with.
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If police work wasn't for all intents and purposes the family businessdoubly so now that he, along with the rest of his siblings and his father, had irrefutable proof that they comprised what amounted to the long-lost branch of the Cavanaugh familyDetective Logan Cavanaugh, known until recently as Logan Cavelli, would have been sorely tempted to give serious thought to another career choice.
Granted, Logan would have been the first to admit that he loved being a cop. Loved the idea that in some small way, he was fighting the good fight, righting wrongs and, along with his brothers and sisters, giving Aurora's everyday citizens that thin blue line that they knew was out there to protect them.
But there were times when the hours that went along with being a detective just about killed him. In the absolute sense, they were the same kind of hours that a doctor was expected to keep.
Doctors and police detectives were always expected to be on callexcept that a doctor made a hell of a lot more money than he made, Logan thought darkly as he now drovealoneto the address his lieutenant had handed to him when the man had torpedoed the very eventful evening he had planned for himself and his utterly luscious date.
One lousy little minute. Sixty seconds and counting down, that's all he'd had left to his shift and then this evening with all its sensual promise would have become a reality.
He had already powered down his computer because Stacy, displaying a rare flair for punctuality, had just waltzed through the squad room door and had instantly made him the envy of every other breathing male in the vicinity.
Stacy, with the hips from heaven and the sinful mouth, who simply by walking across the floor could cause a eunuch to have lustful thoughts, was his date tonight. He was taking her out for dinner, dancing and a hot night of even hotter sex. The blond would-be model was his kind of woman. Gorgeous, passionate and totally uninterested in a permanent relationship.
Tonight had all the makings of an absolutely perfect evening.
But then his lieutenant had summoned him away from the doorway just as he was a hair's breadth away from being free and clear and making it into the hall.
No, that wasn't actually true, he thought in resignation, his hands tightening on the steering wheel until his knuckles were all but straining against his skin. Even if he had been in the middle of that passionate evening, enjoying all of Stacy's fabulously assembled attributes, his cell would have rung, calling him away from the ecstasy that shimmered before him, beckoning him onward because duty called.
When you're the next one up, you're the next one up. It was a simple, albeit hard, fact of life that went along with carrying a shield and a weapon.
So, instead of hot filet mignon, his dinner tonight would probably be the last couple of slices of the cold, leftover pizza in his refrigerator. And instead of a hot woman in his bed, he'd be sleeping alone tonight.
That was, if he got any sleep at all. A homicide detective with four years of experience under his belt, he'd learned that some cases unfurled slowly, inch by painful inch, while others ran you right into the ground from the moment you stepped into the crime scene arena and silently pledged to solve whatever needed solving.
Daylight had receded and the evening was making itself comfortable. He drove, looking for the right building, still wishing that he'd been engaged in a job that defined specific hours where the end of the day was the end of the day.
Wishing wouldn't make it so. Besides, Stacy, pouting prettily, had perked up at the promise of a rain check.
He laughed softly to himself, wondering if the woman thought that rain was actually involved in a rain check. He wouldn't put it past her. Luckily, it wasn't her brain that attracted him. After having to be on his toes all the time, it was nice to kick back sometimes and just let his brain rest.
Pulling up before the right apartment building, Logan saw that there were absolutely no empty spaces available along the long block. He debated driving to the parking structure on the next block, but he decided instead to double-park his vehicle in the fervent hope that his part in this wouldn't take all that long.
From the sketchy details he'd been given, it sounded pretty much like a cut-and-dried suicideend of story. Once he verified that it was, maybe he could still even get hold of Stacy and at least get to enjoy the second half of the eveningthat was, after all, the only thing that either one of them actually wanted from the other. Hot sex, enjoyable and a few minutes respite from the world they dealt with on a regular basis.
The thought made him smile as he got out of the car and locked it behind him.
The apartment in question was on the third floor. Once he got off the elevator, Logan found he didn't need to acquaint himself with the floor's layout or the way the apartment numbers were arranged to locate the one where his services were needed. The yellow tape and the stoic police officer standing guard did that for him.
Vaguely recognizing the weary-looking older officer, he nodded at the man. Their paths had probably crossed at one point or another, Logan thought.
"My dad here yet?"
It was actually meant as a rhetorical question. This was the tail end of the day shift, but his father, the head of the CSI day lab, was dedicated beyond belief. He was the one who had instilled his work ethic in him and his siblings long before they had discovered that they were related to the Cavanaughs.
Besides, there was all this yellow tape across the front of the entrance, a sure sign that his father and some of the team who worked for him were in there, carefully documenting and preserving everything with such precision it would have absolutely stunned the average mind.
The officer, Dale Hanlon, shook his head. "No, not yet."
Logan stopped, surprised as he turned to regard the officer. Unless there were multiple crime scenes happening at oncesomething that had yet to occur in Aurorain the past yearhis father had taken to being present with his team at each crime scene that they processed.
This wasn't making any sense to him. "Then who put up all this yellow tape?" he asked. "I did."
The low, controlled female voice came from behind him. The vague thought that the voice was more suited to an intimate dinner than a crime scene crossed Logan's mind as he turned around again.
Logan found himself looking into the saddest blue eyes he'd ever seen.
They were also, quite possibly, the bluest eyes he'd ever seen, which was saying a great deal considering that the Cavanaughs were fairly littered with members who had blue eyes of all hues and shades.
The eyes were set in a striking, heart-shaped face that would have easily launched a thousand love songs, he couldn't help thinking. Sometimes, Logan decided, this job did have its perks.
"Are you part of the crime scene investigation unit?" Logan heard himself asking as he quickly assessed the slender, pale-looking blonde standing before him. "Or do you just have a thing for crime scene tape?" he quipped wryly, trying to lighten the moment. She seemed much too serious for someone so young. He knew this job, especially this part of the job, could really get to people if they didn't take any precautions and insulate themselves properly.
His flippant manner caught Destiny off guard for a second. Since the officer at the door hadn't tried to turn the man away, that had to mean that he was with the Aurora police force.
Terrific. Just her luck. They'd sent a brash, cocky detective who looked as if he was in love with the sound of his own voice and, most likely, with the image he saw in his bathroom mirror each morning. Dark-haired, green-eyed, he was as handsome as they came, and she was certain that he knew it.
She was familiar with the type, and right now it was the last thing she needed. She needed a professional detective, not a male model.
"I'm with the crime scene investigation unit," she told him, her voice low and remarkably stoic. She surprised herself.
It was all she could do to hold it together. Part of Destiny still didn't believe that any of this was actually happening. The other part felt as if she was slowly slipping into shock and would, at any moment, just completely lose it.
You can't. If you do, you won't be able to help Paula.
The moment the thought formed, it struck Destiny as ironic. After all, at this point nothing would help Paula. Nothing was going to bring her back.
Destiny struggled to keep her angry tears in check.
Logan nodded, taking the attractive woman's information at face value. "I guess this is just an open-and-shut case," he surmised. "A suicide," he added, telling her what the lieutenant had told him. Then, his mouth curving in a particularly captivating smile, he asked, "How is it that I've never seen you before?" He would have certainly remembered someone who looked like her. He had a feeling that if she smiled, she could light up a room. Even somber, there was something exceedingly attractive and compelling about her. "Are you new to the team?"
She didn't bother answering his last question. At another time and place, she might have been more than mildly interested in his attention. Destiny wasn't averse to having an occasional good time, as long as no promises were exchanged or expected. She was married to her work, and most of the men she'd encountered felt that they should come first in a woman's life, not second.
Right now, all her energy was focused on not breaking down and, more important than that, on finding who had done this to her sister.
"It's not a suicide," Destiny informed the detective firmly.
About to walk to where he could view the deceased's body, Logan turned instead and focused on the intense crime scene investigator. She sounded as if there was no room for argument.
"Why?" he asked, the detective in him pushing the playboy far into the background. "Did you find something that would indicate that the woman was murdered?"
"Not yet," Destiny answered between clenched teeth. "But I will."
Okay, he was officially confused, Logan thought. Was there some sort of an agenda he was missing? Exactly what did this woman mean by "not yet"? What did she know that he didn't? He didn't like playing catch-up.
"If there are no indications that it's not a suicide, what makes you think that it isn't?" he asked the shapely blonde.
"Because she wouldn't commit suicide," Destiny informed him heatedly.
Really curious now, Logan looked at the young woman who, he realized, had more going on, even without the aid of painted-on clothing, than Stacy ever did. She didn't reek of raw sex, but there was a subtle promise there that intrigued him. A lot.
Since the department paid him to solve cases, not ruminate on beautiful women who said baseless things, Logan forced himself to focus on the wild claim the crime scene investigator had just made and not the fact that the words had come out of nearly perfect lips.
"And you know this because ?"
A very tempting chin shot up like a silent challenge. "Because she's my sister."
It took him a second to absorb that. "You weren't called in, were you?" Logan guessed.
No, she hadn't been. She'd come here looking for answers and had wound up face-to-face with a dreadful question: Who killed Paula?
"I did the calling," she told him.
As if in a bad dream, once she knew that Paula was beyond resuscitating and she'd stopped crying, she'd pulled herself together and called her boss, even though protocol would have had her calling 911 first.
The sound of Sean Cavanaugh's voice had almost made her lose it again, but Destiny had managed to hold herself together enough to describe what she'd found when she'd walked into her sister's apartment. Sean in turn had set everything else in motion, promising to be there as soon as he possibly could. He told her not to leave.
As if she could.
With no knowledge of what had taken place between his father and the crime scene investigator, Logan had a different take on things.
"You can't be here," he told her, transforming from a devil-may-care man who enjoyed his share of the nightlife to a homicide detective who was considered to be damn good at his job.
Logan saw the woman's slender shoulders stiffen as if she'd been jabbed with a hot poker. She reminded him of a soldier, galvanized in order to withstand whatever came her way.
The flash of anger in her eyes was almost mesmerizing to him.
"The hell I can't," she snapped. "She's my baby sister and the only family I have left. Had left," Destiny amended, trying hard not to allow the words to choke off her air supply. "Somebody killed her, and I intend to find out who."
Having brothers and sisters of his own, Logan could easily relate to the way she felt. But she still needed to go. "I get it, but leave it up to"
"To who?" Destiny demanded. "To you? To the professionals?" She guessed at the word he was about to use. "I am one of the professionals."
That might be true, but there was another, bigger factor that she was apparently missingor deliberately ignoring. "You're also personally involved"
"You bet I am," Destiny snapped, her eyes flashing again, "and no rules and regulations are going to make me stand on the sidelines like some clueless civilian, waiting for someone to find something that would point to my sister's killerespecially when they're not even going to be looking."
"Now wait a minute"
No, she wasn't going to "wait a minute." And she certainly wasn't going to allow him to snow her with rhetoric.
"A minute ago, you were all ready to write this off as a suicide. You were willing to go with what you sawor thought you saw."
Only up to a point. Where did she get off, criticizing his work if she hadn't seen him in action? Gorgeous or not, she needed to be told a few things and put in her place.
"Not if the autopsy contradicts the idea of a suicide."
The very word brought up a chilling scenario with it. Someone cutting up her little sister, reducing Paula to a mass of body organs examined, weighed, catalogued and then impersonally stuffed back into her body like wrinkled tissue paper that has served its purpose.
Suddenly, Destiny could hardly bear the wave of pain she felt.
Logan saw the horror that washed over the woman's fine-boned features before she apparently got herself under control again. Observing her, he had to admit he felt really sorry for the woman. He knew how he would have reacted if that was Bridget, or Kendra, or Kari in the next room.
No rules or orders would have kept him on the sidelines. If he couldn't have been part of the investigation outright, he would have found a way to conduct his own investigation covertly until he found answers that satisfied him.
Until he found the killer.
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