The opportunity was just too damn delicious for Ginger Peet to pass up. The purse full of money she finds—$50,000 to be exact—could give her and her teen sister the new start they need. So she grabs the cash, her gothy sibling, and their life-sized statue of Dolly Parton, and blows outta Nashville in a cloud of dust. Chicago, here we come...
Turns out, Chicago has some pretty hot cops. Hot, intense, naughty-lookin' cops like Derek Tyler, who looks like he could eat a girl up and leave her begging for more. And more. Tempting as he is, getting involved with the sexy homicide lieutenant next door poses a teensy problem for a gal who's on the lam. But one thing is certain—Derek's onto her, and he wants more than just a taste.
And as far as he's concerned, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
Each book in the Line of Duty series is STANDALONE:
* Protecting What's His
* Officer Off Limits
* Asking for Trouble
* Staking His Claim
* Protecting What's Theirs
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Protecting What's His
A Line of Duty Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
To steal or not to steal, that was the question.
Ginger Peet contemplated the bottle blonde sprawled across the yellowing love seat before returning her attention to the gaping purse full of cash in the woman's hands. Lips pinched, she waited for the proverbial angel/devil tag team to pop up on her shoulders to dole out conflicting advice.
Nothing happened. And didn't that just figure?
Instead, her conscience wiggled out of her chest, moseyed across the room, and perched itself on the giant, unused stereo system circa 1992. It crossed its arms and shrugged as if to say, "Union break. You understand."
Ginger cocked an eyebrow. It appeared her imagination was already overcompensating for the absence of her conscience.
She plopped down on the dingy carpet, pulled her knees up to her chest, and inhaled a shaky breath. Her night shift at Bobby's Hideaway had been crazy as usual, what with the dueling bachelorette parties and frat guys from Vanderbilt screaming drink orders at her until 4:00 a.m. Typical night in downtown Nashville.
Most nights, she screamed right along with them. Playing the part. Laughing at jokes she couldn't even hear above the honky-tonk music. Giving as good as she got. Was it pure coincidence that tonight, when she'd been unable to muster a single smile for her good ol' boy regulars, she came home to find a pile of cash waiting for her?
Furthermore, their mother hadn't darkened their door in months, but had picked tonight of all nights to stop by and catch a nap. The last time Ginger spoke — okay argued — with Valerie, she'd been stripping to make a living. If you called passing through life in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze living. At least she'd managed to pass out with dignity and not wake Ginger's seventeen-year-old sister, Willa, in the process. Willa tried valiantly to hide her depression over their mother's habitual absences, but Ginger knew it cut her deeply.
Ginger didn't take kindly to anyone hurting her sister. Mother or not.
She narrowed her gaze once more at the cash-filled purse. No way had Valerie pulled in this much cash twirling around a pole. She sifted through the bulging rolls of hundred-dollar bills held together by rubber bands. What she wouldn't give to have this much money. The pile of cash in front of her represented freedom. Change. A chance to pursue something other than pouring drinks to support herself and Willa.
This could be Ginger's one and only chance to get her sister away from this broken- down heap called a house. Away from the danger of the strange men her mother brought home when she actually came home. Away from the fate of ending up passed out on a thrift-store couch while your twenty-three-year-old daughter debated ripping you off.
And. Yet. Ginger knew with absolute certainty that if she took this money, just walked out the door with it, it would come back to take a chunk out of her ass. Moreover, it occurred to her that this one poor decision moved her one giant step closer to her biggest fear.
Becoming her mother.
Ginger had to believe the pile of skin and bones on the couch had once possessed dreams and ambitions of some sort. Then one misguided choice landed her in a G-string and pasties shaking it for some trucker named Dirk to a played-out eighties anthem.
If Ginger could just be a good enough person for long enough, she could flip the script for Willa, though. Willa, who'd skipped the sixth grade, swore like a sailor, and took photographs that could make Ginger cry, would have a chance at becoming something. Someone.
She glanced around at the peeling paint, stained carpet, and twice-pawned television set. Without the responsibility of playing parent to her sister, Ginger would have lit out a long time ago, leaving Nashville in her rearview mirror. The thought of falling asleep in her squeaky twin bed in the room she shared with Willa, only to wake up tomorrow and complete the same bleak routine — riding the bus into town to work a double shift, then still struggle to put dinner on the table and make rent, all the while looking out for her sister — made her feel nauseated.
I can't see past tomorrow anymore and that ain't good.
As her idol Dolly Parton once said, "If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." Hell, she was going to need a fleet of cement mixers.
And for that, she'd need some cash.
Ginger fanned the money in front of her face, inhaling the musty scent. Surely the guilt would appear any moment and she would stuff the purse back into the crook of Valerie's arm and pretend she'd never seen it in the first place. She could then fall asleep with a clear conscience and the false hope that her mother had turned over a new leaf and would use the money to feed Willa, move her sister into a nicer home.
Or she could seize the opportunity fate was dropping in her lap and get the heck out of Dodge ...
As Ginger picked up the purse and slung it over her shoulder, she learned something very important about human nature. Oftentimes people make questionable decisions. And even though they already taste the fat regret sandwich headed their way, they do it with a smile.
She gave her trembling, wide-eyed conscience the finger and went to pack.CHAPTER 2
From his position above the bathroom sink, Lieutenant Derek Tyler stared into bloodshot eyes. Oh, right. That's why I don't drink whiskey on an empty stomach.
Derek didn't appreciate the reminder of his own stupidity, nor did he have time to reflect on it. He had under an hour to make it to Saint Luke Cemetery, so he quickly tossed back three extra-strength pain relievers and adjusted the tie of his wrinkle-free uniform.
Chicago PD would bury one of its own today. One of his own. Hence his drinking binge the prior evening. Derek had never lost a man in the line of duty before, and that he'd lost one in last week's raid on Chicago's most dangerous crime syndicate burned in his stomach like battery acid.
Unlike Derek, the officer had a family. A family with whom Derek would come face-to-face in under an hour.
As a homicide cop, he knew the likelihood of similar tragedies occurring more than once on his watch was high, especially since he'd only recently turned thirty and had a long career ahead of him. He hoped he never got used to it.
He'd just left the bathroom to retrieve his uniform hat from the closet when his ears were assaulted by high-pitched laughter from outside the apartment building. Derek frowned. He'd specifically chosen this building, a sprawling brick colonial in Hyde Park, for its distance from the constant activity downtown. He preferred the quiet. Especially today, when he felt like an ice pick was firmly lodged in his skull.
"Pick up the end! I can't carry the whole thing, skunk-vag!"
"Fuck off! You're only using one hand!"
"That's because I'm using the other one to flip you off."
"Well, I can't argue with multitasking."
"You would argue with the pope's mom."
Christ. These girls, whoever they were, could give the rowdy men in his department a run for their money. Too bad he didn't allow his men to swear while on duty.
Did he just hear one of them call the other donkey-queef?
Derek ground his head against the wall to suppress the pounding in his frontal lobe. He would never drink whiskey again. Normally, the Chicago Cubs were his only vice and that usually proved punishment enough.
With a curse, he strode toward the open window in his sparsely and functionally decorated living room. Thanks to the demands of his job, he spent very little time at home and a couch, television set, and neatly ordered desk completed the space.
From his vantage point at the window, Derek caught sight of a teenage girl pulling a lava lamp from the bed of a rusty, flatbed pickup truck. Her thick black hair hung down well past her shoulders, obscuring his view of her face. Black knee-high combat boots were laced up over purple fishnet stockings.
Judging by the furniture and household items lining the sidewalk, these girls who could curse a blue streak were moving in. The one female he could see certainly did not fit the building demographic. Most of the residents worked in town and kept reliable hours. No loud music or parties. He wondered how these two managed to slip through the cracks.
Unable to connect the second voice to its owner, he started to turn back into the apartment —
The black-haired menace leaned on the truck's horn, startling a scream out of the second girl and causing Derek to smack his head against the window frame. The ice pick in his skull twisted and he literally saw stars winking behind his eyelids.
Before he could stop himself, Derek opened the window and barked in his sternest lieutenant voice, "Hey! Not everyone needs to be in on your moving day adventure!"
All chatter ceased from below. With a satisfied grunt, he slammed the window, scooped up his hat and keys, and headed for the door. His apartment was located on the second floor, down at the end of a long hallway, and as he locked his door, he noticed the apartment across the hall from his stood empty. The door had been propped open by a giant porcelain statue of a blond woman with massive breasts.
Dear God, please don't tell me ...
"Move to your other left, you crackhead!"
"Ow. Ow! Put it down. My hand is falling off."
He turned to find the horn-wailing, black-haired menace staggering down the hall under the weight of what appeared to be a dining room table, looking half-perturbed, half-amused.
Derek's attention swung to the girl carrying the other end of the table, walking backward toward him. He couldn't see her face, but he was immediately riveted by the most beautiful ass he'd ever seen.
Wearing jeans so low-cut they should be illegal, the girl had long, perfectly formed legs that were stuffed into brown leather cowboy boots, immediately searing the image of her riding him like a mechanical horse onto his brain.
Please, please don't let me be getting a hard-on for a teenage girl. Be legal, at least, so I can sleep tonight knowing I'm not a raging pervert.
Derek very nearly had a coronary as she bent over to set down the table and purple lace peeked out over the waistband of her painted-on jeans. His mouth went dry, his vision blurred, and both his hat and keys dropped to the floor.
Surprised by the sudden noise, the girls jumped and yelped, the girl in cowboy boots spinning to face him. And holy hell, if Derek thought he'd been in trouble seeing her from behind, he'd just blasted past the Danger: Road Ends Ahead sign and was hurtling over the cliff.
At least I'll die happy.
Her cloud of chestnut-colored hair flipped over her shoulder as she turned to face him and he was lost. Bright hazel eyes, almost golden in color, landed on him and narrowed over high cheekbones. Pouty lips pursed in displeasure. A sprinkling of freckles dusted her nose, making her a cross between sex goddess and girl next door.
An apparently dangerous combination if Derek's reaction to her counted as any indication.
Against his better judgment, he allowed his gaze to dip for exactly three seconds to her flat stomach and tease of cleavage above the tight white tank top she wore. An inch of skin lay exposed above her waistband and in that brief moment, he wanted to drop to his knees and open-mouth kiss that spot below her belly button with an intensity that rattled him.
She was sex incarnate and moving into the apartment across the hall. The situation felt suspicious, like someone was playing a joke on the poor, hungover cop, and if he could manage to look away from her for long enough to check, certainly he'd find a camera crew waiting to let him in on the prank.
He knew in that moment that his peaceful existence had been shattered. With her living across the hall from his formerly quiet respite from work, he'd be forced to walk past her door each day, knowing exactly what lay on the other side.
His eyes landed once more on easily the most striking face he'd ever seen. She arched a single eyebrow at his blatant ogling. Derek decided it had been worth it.
"Did that asshole upstairs actually call the cops on us?"
As he watched those fantasy lips move, revealing a hot little country twang, he drew a blank. Then the situation came back into sharp focus. He stood there in full police department regalia because he'd be attending a funeral this afternoon. And she thought he was there for a noise complaint.
Guilt and irritation swept through him. She'd distracted him at a time when he should be thinking about his fallen officer. How selfish could he be? A man lay dead and all he could think about was dragging Ms. Low-Rider Jeans inside his apartment to assuage the growing ache in his pants.
Pull yourself together, Tyler.
"I am that asshole from upstairs."CHAPTER 3
Well, dang. They'd gone and moved in right across the hall from a cop. A hot cop, if you liked the whole uptight, sexually repressed vibe he had going on. And she'd just called him an asshole. Perfect.
Personally, she didn't care for the belligerence on his freshly shaven face or the way he stripped her bare in one sweep of his dark green eyes. Someone should clue him in that a smile never hurt when you were looking at someone like you wanted them for dinner.
Sorry, but I'm not looking to lend you this particular cup of sugar, neighbor.
Still, she could certainly do much worse if she was so inclined. His uniform jacket did nothing to hide his broad chest and powerful build. This was the kind of man who could pick you up and throw you over his shoulder with very little effort, although the sensual tilt of his upper lip contradicted his overall ruggedness. With that steady gaze of his, he practically radiated physical awareness, as if conscious of his obvious appeal, but disinclined to use it.
Should she be worried about living across from a cop? A young, stand-too-close-and-you-might-get-burned cop at that? No, Ginger decided right away. Despite the circumstances surrounding their departure from Nashville, she knew alerting the cops would be the last course of action Valerie would consider. If she knew her mother, that money hadn't been come by legally, and explaining where it came from to the police would definitely cramp her style. Valerie's relationship with the boys in blue tended to be hostile, at best.
No, she had nothing to worry about from this man. Unless she counted the way his heated inspection of her belly button made her toes curl in her boots.
Ginger put a little steel in her spine, refusing the urge to shield herself from his interested gaze, then frowned, wondering why Officer Needs-a-Nap elicited such an odd reaction from her. She'd never shied away from being checked out before, having accepted at a young age that men liked the look and shape of her face and body. A fat lot of good it had ever done her.
But then his eyes snapped up to hers. And determinedly stayed there.
She flashed him her best smile. "Sorry to disturb you, Officer. We didn't think there'd be anyone at home, being that it's the middle of the day and all."
"Well, here I am. And it's Lieutenant."
Ouch. She shoots, she misses. Ginger could practically feel Willa's sarcastic oh, you don't say! expression aimed squarely at the lieutenant even though her back was turned to her sister. Ginger was having a difficult time keeping the same expression off her own face. If her teeth were slightly clenched behind her smile, surely Lieutenant Cranky Pants didn't notice.
"My apologies, Lieutenant," she countered stiffly. "And that's my second and final apology for the day."
Ginger gave him her back once more to lift the end of the table, catching a hint of amusement on his face as she turned. Not that she gave a damn.
The cell phone in her front pocket vibrated for the umpteenth time today. She knew who called and why. She also knew she wouldn't answer, or listen to the subsequent voice mail message. First chance she got, she'd cancel the plan and get new cell phones for herself and Willa.
With a nod in her sister's direction, they picked up the table with the intention of continuing into the apartment.
"What the hell is that?" Ginger dropped the table and faced the questioning lieutenant, making Willa shout a four-letter expletive at the ceiling. His annoyed green gaze flicked to Willa before inclining his head toward the statue propping open the door.
Both she and Willa looked toward the statue, then back at him.
Ginger answered slowly, as if speaking to the town idiot who also happened to be hard of hearing. "I assume you meant, 'Who the hell is that?' and to that question I say, who are you? Who are any of us?" "I don't follow."
"That, Lieutenant, is the Smoky Mountain Songbird herself."
"The Backwoods Barbie," Willa chimed in angrily.
The man looked completely confused, so Ginger decided to take pity on him. "Dolly Parton."
"Dolly motherfucking Parton."
"Language, Willa. Honestly."
Ginger waited for a reaction and felt far from satisfied when he merely shrugged his broad shoulders as if to say, "Should I know who that is?" And that was the final straw.
"Willa, darling, you mind waiting for me inside the apartment?" She felt rather than saw her sister's eye roll, but heard her comply noisily, stomping inside the apartment. Then Ginger stood alone in the brightly lit hall with the scowling Lieutenant Von A-hole.
Excerpted from Protecting What's His by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2013 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's a very short read. Only 183 pages but I really liked it and you don't have to buy 2 more to learn the ending either. It's a complete story. It's witty, sexy and I couldn't put it down. I'd recommend this one!
So I totally grabbed this book because one of my review buddies (Nina over at Nina's Literary Escape) recommended this one. And I'll admit I learned something new about myself (I'll get to that later.) But I have to say, the first few chapters really grabbed me and had me laughing out loud. Especially when the heroine, Ginger, and her little sister, Willa, enlightened our hero, Derek, about the identity of the statue they carried everywhere. Now for a little self-discovery time.. Who knew dirty talk could be oh so hot? The first instance of it in the book had my eyebrows raising, then I reread the passage again and thought, "Oh.. well..yep, that'll do it!" After that, I fell in fictional love with Derek and his dirty-mouthed ways. And now we have another possessive, growly, alpha male to add to the "list". I even liked the dominance thing he had going on in the bedroom, and I don't mean whips, chains and ticklers either. Ginger was actually a sassy heroine I could easily sympathize with, and I really loved her character. She and Derek were perfect together. Each interaction between the pair is scorching. All in all, I thought this was a short, hot read that I have already reread twice. I've even gone so far as to buy a copy for a friend, who called an hour later to tell me that I should have given her a warning before she started reading it at work. Ha! Yep, I know. I'm an awesome friend.
Loved the book. I thought the story was well developed and the characters were very likable. On my nook it was around 400 pages and I stayed up late to read the entire book. Hope this author writes more.
A MUST READ!!! This book was a HOT read, I absolutely loved it. I loved how Tessa Bailey made the book feel so real as if you were there. I cried, laughed, and smiled while reading this book. The story line was GREAT it keep me locked into the story not wanting to stop for a minute, which I did not do for a second! Stayed up the whole night finishing this book and was very very pleased. I love the characters, their insecurities and strengths, and fights was so well written. Will definitely keep an eye out for more of her books. Which I hope is soon!!! I need more!!
Started this today and am having trouble putting it down, the sign of a great read for me. Steamy and hot but still manages a good story line to keep me engrossed. Likable characters and some solid writing from Tessa. Protecting Whats His is one of my top romance picks! Tessa Bailey is going onto my watch list
You've probably already read a summary of this kick as story but I just had to leave my own thoughts. I love this book. Derek and Ginger are bad ass together - the cute smart ass heroine and the super alpha male. I've read quiet a few romance stories that seem so out there and unrealistic but this one is really the one you want to sink your teeth into. Derek is a big macho alpha guy who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to take it anyway he can, but he also repects Ginger and his protectiveness is written so its actually endearing and not the acts of a muttering cave man. (Did I mention he is bad ass?!) He's got this quiet but tangible dominance and I love that it was just the right amount and nothing to freaky. Tessa Bailey really reeled me into this different but extremely hot sex play. Ginger is a normal girl with some inner issues that need working out but with a guy like Derek watching her back its safe to say she can handle it. Along with the great way the Dom and Submissive role in this book are portrayed I think I should mention that one big reason this book is finding a permanent home on my Nook is that its a romance between One guy and One girl. I know that the menage thing is gaining momentum but I'm a classic one on one type of girl and I really appreciate a hot love story that plays to my fantasy. Also there is a lot of crazy hot sex in this story but that's not all its about. This book actually has a fast paced plot that includes a twisty teen sister and real life family drama - Not Just Sex. This book has everything you would want a romance to have - Love, action, laughs and those naughty tingles down under.
This was a nice read. The way the characters grew and blossom. I know this is book one in the series my only regret is that the series doesn't continue with these characters.
A fun, sexy read--wow, Derek's a dirty talker, and I liked it. Very much! :) I will definitely be reading future books by Tessa Bailey. My one complaint is that I wish Derek had a bigger presence in the book. We found out some things about who Ginger is, where she came from, and even about who Willa is, but barely found out anything about Derek. I wanted to know why I should love him, besides his dirty mouth and, ahem, bedroom talent. Otherwise, a quick read, and one that I am glad I bought! Review property of TheBookQueen
Wonderful Heroine! The heroine, Ginger, and her little sister make this book wonderfully. Both characters coming from the same awful background of parental neglect and drug abuse are tenderly and richly drawn. The banter between the two sisters is real and funny. Our police detective hero is uber hot, possessive, and understanding. I love how he loves her and it is more than her super fine body. They both have to learn to open up. It is a great love story. I would have liked to know more about the hero's background. He was painted with a much thinner brush than the hero but I know that kind of character building can be hard in a category length book. I am so glad I listened to all the buzz around this book. You should too!
OMG. Derek is sooo hot. But Ginger is sooo funny! I can't decide who I liked more.
Beauty and the cop. When 2 Tennessee girls end up moving next door to the hunky cop in Chicago it is time to start looking for a cow to blame the fire on. I love that Ginger doesn’t just fall into bed with officer hottie. I really love that the author recognizes that her readers have a brain and explains how Derek got to be a homicide lieutenant so young although she never does explain why Ginger is named Ginger when she isn’t a redhead but we know it is because she is spicy. Aside from all that this is a fun read.
Derek is a cop and does his job by the book but behind closed doors there is an Alpha male that will melt any girls panties. When Derek crosses paths with Ginger, well, he doesn't know what to think. Ginger attacks life to survive. Her childhood had me cringing several times and admiring her all the more as she became the caretaker for her little sister Willa, does she always make the right decisions? No, but she learns from her mistakes. Ginger is shocked by her reaction to Derek. She has learned that she is attractive but also how to keep her feelings under wraps around men, she uses her flirty/sexy skills wisely. As Ginger tries to avoid Derek, their apartment is flooded and they are now suddenly roommates. From here the sparks fly and we get to have all the fun as Ginger and Derek traverse these new waters for both of them. There is the right mix of drama, suspense and super-hot sex scenes to makes this a perfect book escape.
I purchased this book because I was wanting a new action / romance Well I got the romance this book was steamy and sexy no doubt I give it two thumbs up in that area. however where there could have been great action scenes written this book fizzled. If you need your hero to do more than look good naked I would suggest KGI or the Shaodow force series but if you are just looking for steamy sweating sheets this is for you. I give this 4 stars because i like steamy sweaty sheets.
I enjoyed this book immensely. If only Tessa Bailey had more than a few books to read....
Love the main characters strong personality
This book was suggested to me by a fellow writer and I finished this movel in 1 day. I am hooked!!!!! Do not pass this up!!! Thank you Tessa and Samanthe!!!
Sexy and great book
wow, what a sexy book! My nook almost melted...cannot wait for the next book...
Love Derrek, steamy hot.
This book was great. I couldn't put it down
Great read and characters...Story eas full of susprnse and lots of "hotness" between Ginger and Derek. Both characters were steamy and hotness together. Can't wait to read more from Tessa Bailey. LOVETOREAD
Could not put this book down!! Derek is by far the sexiest man ever!! i absolutely loved all the characters. i can NOT wait for the next book from Tessa Bailey!! A definite must read!
## Wow. What an amazing story. I stayed up way too late into the night because I just couldn't stop reading this book. It was just....stunning. I absolutely adored the heroine. Everything about her was extraordinary. And don't even get me started on the hero. He wasn't just hot, he was 'holy crap' hot! My oh my, did I love his alpha possessive tendencies. And the sex scenes were intoxicating (still fanning self). I haven't been able to find a book I like this much for a while. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It's a fun and sexy read for sure.
Super sexy and hot! A must read!
HOT! HOT! HOT! Derek & Ginger are spicy, witty and all things that are naughty & nice!! Must read!!