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By Charlotte Hughes
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Detective Frankie Daniels was mad enough to spit a barbed-wire fence, and the oppressive July heat only made it worse. She gritted her teeth in annoyance at traffic sounds that were so much a part of her life she had made a habit of not noticing them. Strangers bustled by on their way to work, cutting in front of her, bumping against her with purse or briefcase, and she longed to turn her rage on them.
As she stepped inside the first floor of the Atlanta Police Department, the cool air hit her face like a soothing balm. She paused, took a deep breath and swiped one hand against the back of her neck, where it was already damp despite the early hour. The elevator was packed with uniforms, people she had worked with for years, but today she refused to make eye contact. She got off on the third floor and marched toward Captain Dell Wayford's office - backbone ramrod stiff, lips pressed into a grim line - determined to ignore the stares of her co-workers. She was wired, having drunk a pot of coffee and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes since climbing out of bed at five that morning. She could just imagine what they were calling her. Home-wrecker.
Frankie squared her shoulders. At least she didn't look the part. She had replaced, at least temporarily, her jeans and T-shirtwith khaki slacks and a starched white oxford-cloth blouse. She'd pulled back her dark hair, twisting it into a tight, demure knot like her grandmother had worn for as long as Frankie could remember, forgoing her usual wash and curl-as-it-fell look.
She had respectability written all over her. And the nononsense attitude she'd earned after more than a decade with the department, three of those years as a plainclothes detective. She'd pulled her weight in a male-dominated field and had earned the begrudging respect of her fellow officers.
Then she'd gone and blown it all to hell by sleeping with a married cop - her own partner, for God's sake.
It didn't get any worse than that. Well, okay, the fact that her ex-lover, Jim Connors, was the police commissioner's son-in-law, wouldn't win her any commendations.
How could she have been so stupid? Frankie paused at the captain's door and rapped on the frosted glass with her knuckles, then entered when she heard a grunt from the other side. This was going to be about as pretty as a drive-by shooting.
Captain Wayford's shirt had already wilted from the heat and looked as if he'd slept in it. A nonfiltered Camel cigarette dangled from his lips. The only reason it wasn't lit was because smoking had been banned from the building two years before. Wayford had never forgiven the powers behind that decision. Most of the cops Frankie knew smoked and drank too much, and they swilled coffee as though it were the elixir of life. As she tried to gauge the man's mood, she noted the fleshy face, flushed crimson against his light gray hair, and a bulbous nose where red, spider-like veins on either side gave evidence of years of boozing. She knew why he drank. Still, as much as she loved and respected the man, Frankie wouldn't have given ten cents for his liver.
Wayford wore a look that said "Don't piss me off." Retirement was only a few months away; the last thing he wanted was a problem.
Frankie stepped up to his scarred metal desk and pulled her service revolver and badge from her purse.
Wayford leaned back in his chair and regarded her quizzically. "You gonna shoot me, Detective? Or do you plan to turn that gun on yourself and save me the trouble of killing you with my bare hands?"
She laid the gun on his desk and pulled off her badge. "I'm resigning, sir. I'm an embarrassment to you and the department."
He pulled the cigarette from his mouth. "An embarrassment?" He gave a snort of disgust. "No, Daniels, you're more like a boil on my ass that won't go away. A seed wart that keeps coming back each time it's burned off. An abscessed tooth -"
"I get the message loud and clear, Captain."
"But you're a damn good detective, and I expected better from you. If someone had told me you were doin' the police commissioner's son-in-law, a married man with three children, I would have pistol-whipped the SOB and thrown him out of my office."
"Sit, Detective." She sat.
"I'm just glad your old man ain't alive to see this."
Frankie flinched. Wayford had just struck a nerve, and he knew it. "If you have a problem with my job performance or the way I've conducted myself, fine. But I'd appreciate it if you'd keep my father out of this."
Wayford ignored her. "Frank Daniels was my best friend, and the finest cop this force ever had."
Frankie knew all that. She had spent ten years trying to fill her father's shoes. Not an easy job. Her father was a hero and an icon as far as the force was concerned. He and Wayford had been partners way back when, and her father had taken a bullet for the man. His only request as he lay dying in a cold alley was that Wayford look after his kid. Dell Wayford had honored that request, but he was hard on her. He expected a lot, and she'd worked her ass off to give it to him. Somehow, it was never enough. Wayford had made her jump through hoops to make detective, even though she had earned it more than others.
Frankie clenched her hands in her lap. She felt the sting of unshed tears. "Sir, for the record, Jim Connors told me he was separated from his wife and in the process of a divorce."
"That's the oldest line in the book, Daniels. Why do you think he was transferred over here? I'll tell you why. He was humping the dispatcher at the last precinct."
Frankie's shoulders slumped. "I've already had a visit from the commissioner," he said, reaching into a desk drawer and pulling out a bulky manila envelope. "Bet you didn't know Connors's wife was having him followed. Jesus Christ, Daniels, they've got footage of the two of you in bed doing everything except the hokey-pokey. You want me to stick this in the VCR so we can take a look?"
Frankie suddenly felt dizzy and a little nauseous. The absolute last thing she wanted to do was watch a video of her and Connors in the sack, and she was humiliated beyond belief that Captain Wayford had seen them.
"Don't worry, I haven't looked at it," he said as though reading her mind. "Believe it or not, I got better things to do. And frankly, I don't care who's doing who, as long as I don't have to hear about it and it ain't on company time."
Frankie gulped in air. How could such a thing have happened? Had someone installed a hidden camera in her bedroom, for heaven's sake? "Whoever took those videos did so illegally, sir," she managed to say. "This person had to have broken into my house."
"You planning on pressing charges?" Wayford chuckled. "Yeah, I'd definitely want to drag this into court. Every lech on the street, including the ones in this department, will have copies. We'll play 'em at the next Christmas party."
Frankie stared at the toes of her shoes. She was thankful her father wasn't alive to witness her humiliation. "I'm sorry I disappointed you, Captain."
"Oh, you're going to pay for this little indiscretion," he said. "Connors's wife wants you out of here, and her daddy's gonna see that his little girl gets exactly what she asks for."
"So I'm fired," Frankie said. Ten years down the toilet, she thought. She felt all used up.
"Hell, no. Firing is too good for you." Wayford placed the envelope on his desk and, without warning, reached for Frankie's gun and smashed the video inside with the handle. He slid the gun across his desk and tossed the envelope in the trash can as Frankie stared, openmouthed. "I worked a deal with the commissioner. The only reason he agreed to it is because he doesn't want this to get out."
Excerpted from Hot Shot by Charlotte Hughes Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.