Disgraced cop Henrik Vance is having a shit year. Banished to a derelict undercover squad, he
About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Tessa Bailey lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and young daughter. When she isn't writing or reading romance, she enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes. Visit her at www.tessabailey.com.
Read an Excerpt
A Crossing the Line Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Henrik could only get himself off in the shower.
Something about the white noise of liquid pelting the plastic curtain, the bathtub floor. The gurgle of the drain as it sucked down blood-tinged water, courtesy of that evening's underground fight. He was removed from the world when he stood inside the shower stall that barely allowed for his height and bulk. Even now, as Henrik stroked the erection he'd been sporting since the match ended, his elbow occasionally slammed into the hollow wall. If he kept this pace up, there would be a hole in the tile by the time he finally climaxed.
Now, that would be an interesting one to explain to his landlord.
His torment could be over in seconds if he pictured the girl. The girl. The fucking girl. Always with him, like fingertips whispering over his skin.
A flash of red hair and hazel eyes filtered through his mind and Henrik groaned, the flesh in his hand swelling to the point of agony. This time, the pleasure-pain was laced with guilt. The prevailing reason he escaped to the shower every time he needed to relieve the pressure between his legs. He had no right using the single memory he'd created in her presence to find completion. Not only did it make him a depraved human being, but it didn't exactly speak well of his sanity.
One sentence. She'd spoken a mere ten words in that light, melodic voice and that alone — that single encounter — had been enough to make him throw his career as a Chicago police officer away. Given the option of prison time or working with a team of ex-convicts formed by his captain to stop crime from the inside, Henrik had signed his soul away to that group of six devils, of which he was now the seventh.
Ailish O'Kelly hadn't asked him to destroy the evidence that implicated her in the crimes of her father, but he'd thought of the beautiful yet fatigued girl walking in the park. Thought of her in that conservative green dress, the way she'd taken his measure with just a hint of feminine appreciation. And he'd been unable to watch her take the fall. Mentally incapable. Physically repelled. No way could he see that girl in handcuffs.
So he'd burned anything that could put her behind bars. Hell, he'd taken sick pleasure in the task. Protecting her. Even if she'd never know it.
But what if she did know?
This was where his depravity kicked in. Henrik wasn't a man who thrived on accolades. Shit, he'd joined the dark side with his eyes wide open, knowing the potential outcome. Losing his badge, his livelihood, everyone he called a friend. Even the respect of his family. Yeah, gratefulness was never something Henrik required, but a grateful Ailish O'Kelly? His body responded to that notion in a fast, fluid rush.
He braced his left hand on the slick wall and quickened the pace of his strokes, the choking circle of his hand traveling from heavy balls to engorged tip roughly three times per second. Hell, if jerking off were an Olympic sport, he would have taken home enough gold medals in recent months to fill every closet in his apartment.
"Jesus Christ," Henrik gritted out, wishing he could finish without what came next. If he could orgasm just once without thinking of Ailish, maybe he could fall asleep that night without feeling like an unredeemable son of a bitch. But no, no, the weighted sack suspended between his thighs wouldn't be coaxed into emptying without thinking of the sweet redhead.
He always pictured them in the park, the one and only place they'd ever shared oxygen. This time, she came toward him with a knowing look, her eyelids drooping low to cover half of those bright hazel orbs that defied their plain four-letter name. Eyes. No, this girl didn't simply have eyes. She had torture devices. They held intelligence and inexperience at the same time, enough of both qualities to stun him silent. Closer. She was closer now. Running slender hands up and over her swaying hips. As always in his fantasies, she knew what he'd done. Knew he'd protected her name, her life. Knew he would never ask for anything in return.
But she wanted to give it to him anyway.
Henrik groaned as moisture pearled on the tip of his dick and was quickly washed away by the raining shower. No going back now. She'd reached him on the sidewalk at the park's edge and the world around them had suspended its animation. Everything frozen but the two of them, even the street sounds and characteristic Chicago wind. She stopped an inch away and slipped those delicate hands up his stomach, his pecs.
"I've been thinking about you," Ailish murmured.
The very idea of him appearing in her head sent a jolt of need to his loins, forcing him to tighten his fist and pump with more force. Apparently, his imaginary self was easy like that. "You have?"
The gorgeous redhead gave him a shy nod. "You protected me." Her eyes raked up and down his body. Liking what she saw? Since this was his fantasy, Henrik was going with hell yeah. "If I needed protecting again, could you keep me safe ... with your body?"
"Yes," Henrik rasped, the sincere affirmation bouncing off the shower walls. "I'd do whatever was needed. Nothing could stop me."
Black eyelashes swept down to hide her eyes before revealing them once more, the impact almost knocking him back a step. "Could you show me right now?"
Henrik's bracing hand curled into a shaking fist on the shower wall as the second self in his mind stooped down and picked up Ailish. One forearm beneath her ass was all it took, her lips parting on a whimper as both feet left the ground. She clung to his shirt collar, seeming a little unsure. But ah fuck, then she sneaked her thighs up around his hips, all slow and mischievous. Not quite snuggling his cock, but close enough that her heat reached through his fly and sucked.
Ailish stared at his mouth. "Can you show me more?" She leaned closer, her tits grazing the front of his shirt. "How you'd protect me?"
Two steps and he had Ailish crushed against the side of his police vehicle, the backs of her high heels bouncing off the doors. Good. Dent them. Henrik didn't give a fuck about anything but the girl gasping for breath in front of him. He savored a second of anticipation before shoving his rigid cock against the seam of her body. The seam that gave pleasure, gave life. Give it all to me.
"You wanted me to show you, Ailish."
He rolled his tongue along the roof of his mouth. "I would keep my body between you and danger at all times. Nothing and no one would touch you but me." Using his hips, he pushed her higher up the car's exterior, mentally recording her soft cry of surprise. "Inside or out."
One of her high heels dropped onto the sidewalk. Maybe his reaction to the lost shoe stemmed from her being that much more naked. Or perhaps her lack of concern for the dropped footwear accounted for the surge of lust. For whatever reason, though, that forgotten high heel pushed Henrik past the line of his defenses, his consciousness whittling down to his wet manhood. Almost there. Almost ...
Ailish beckoned him forward by licking her upper lip. "Henrik?"
She rubbed that single bare foot against his ass. "Will you please touch me on the inside?"
"Fuck!" Henrik shouted as tremors racked his body. "Ailish." Spurts of pent-up need left his cock in what felt like endless rushes of the tide. Forward and back until he was forced to release his flesh to support himself with both hands on the shower wall, while the remainder of his orgasm found its way free onto the bathtub floor.
The shower spray had turned lukewarm by the time consciousness streamed back in. No Ailish in front of him. No police vehicle. All gone. Should he care more about the girl than the fact that he'd never drive another squad car again? No, he shouldn't.
Ailish O'Kelly, daughter of Chicago's ruthless crime boss Caine O'Kelly, had vanished into thin air after the evidence against her had been destroyed, forcing the police to release her from any further questioning. Thanks to the skill set of his new teammates on the undercover squad — a squad made up of criminals like him — Henrik had been in possession of Ailish's location for two hellish weeks.
Two weeks filled with unsanctioned boxing matches. Illegal fights a million miles away from the charity bouts he'd competed in as an officer. He'd literally needed his skull bashed with another man's fists to keep himself from going after Ailish. But his method was losing its effectiveness. A sane man wouldn't consider himself in a position to go after Ailish like some broken-down superhero without a cape. Or a badge. Not after having exchanged a single sentence. It was very likely the girl didn't even remember him.
But he remembered her. And staying stationary when he could have eyes on her in a day's drive? Pure motherfucking torture. If his teammate Polly's information was accurate, Ailish had left town on her own, without the assistance of her father. She could be scared. Or in trouble. Might require help, but didn't know who to ask ... which could lead to her asking the wrong people.
Gut churning, Henrik reared back and slammed his already-battered fist into the shower wall, cracking the tile on impact. No more waiting.
He was going after Ailish.
* * *
For once in her life, Ailish didn't need a single thing from anyone.
It. Felt. Incredible.
No one was required to escort her to the supermarket or approve her chosen attire. Cutting holes in the knees of her jeans had been mission number one upon leaving Chicago. Since fifth grade, when Helen Brady showed up to a school fund-raiser with ripped Free People skinny jeans, Ailish had wanted them, too. Such a small rebellion, but to her, it was on par with, say ... robbing the mob.
Something she knew a little bit about.
She wasn't thinking about that today, however, or what her father's reaction to her disappearance had been. Today was about earning an honest wage. Making money the right way, without dipping a hand into someone else's pocket and leaving them desperate. In debt. For too long, Ailish had been a witness to dishonest dealings that turned her stomach and made her ashamed. Ashamed to be an O'Kelly.
There was no shame in physical labor, however, which was why she'd chosen a farm in Wisconsin as her first stop. She had no itinerary. No plans beyond today, when she would assist the farmer's wife who'd taken a chance on hiring her. Turning soil, planting seeds, working with real live animals. Maybe she should have waited to rip holes in the denim. The manual labor might have formed them naturally. And just what would Helen Brady say about that?
Ailish looked out the tiny window of the guest quarters she was renting on the cheap. Her wage would cover the room and leave her with enough to purchase supplies in town. What a glorious feeling, knowing she could depend on herself for food. That she wouldn't have to touch the bloodstained money wedged inside a duffel bag, beneath the loose floorboard on which she stood, tapping her toe.
Tap, tap ... tap.
A prickle climbed the back of Ailish's neck. Had that last tap been from her? She remained perfectly still and listened to the breeze whisper outside, laughing and shaking her head when no other sounds met her ears. Paranoia came part and parcel with being an O'Kelly, but there was nothing on this farm that could hurt her. Not unless she managed to piss off the cow. Again.
It was the loose ends she'd left in Chicago that wouldn't allow her to relax completely. With prison time hanging over her head and two dogged cops breathing down her neck in an interrogation room, she'd felt ... freedom. Ironic, sure. Or perhaps that skewed outlook meant she had a screw loose. As a young girl, she'd dreamed of traveling. Swimming in the oceans of faraway places and eating exotic foods. But as her life had progressed and she'd only seldom been let outside the confines of her father's marble mini mansion? Prison had not only been a change, it had represented distance from witnessing her father's violence.
But more importantly, a chance to atone for her part in that violence.
Then all at once, she'd been standing on the sidewalk. Outside the police station, instead of behind the bars of a cell. For once, there had been no one to take her home. No dark car approaching. No meaty paws on her back, shuffling her forward. Without warning, freedom had stretched before her, a swimming pool in which she would sink or swim. So she'd swum ... and swum. Away from her past and family name. No longer was her only option to trade one prison for another. She could finally break free.
Being her father's daughter in certain small ways, she'd assumed there would be surveillance on her after leaving the police station. So she'd done what any girl raised inside the walls of a criminal organization would do. She'd woven through businesses, leaving through back exits and jogging down trash-strewn alleys until she found a parking garage where she could hot-wire a car.
And she'd never gone home.
She had, however, made one quick stop at her father's "office" to procure funds. It had been risky, but entirely necessary, considering she'd had only the clothes on her back and zero job skills to speak of.
Unless you counted the talents that had landed her in the interrogation room to begin with.
Talents that would get her nowhere on a farm. Thank God.
Ailish went still. She knew better than to show any sign that she heard a possible intruder, but such a feat was difficult with your heart punching you in the throat.
Humming the first song that came to mind — "It's a Small World" — Ailish gathered her hair in a ponytail and secured it with a black band. She took the two steps required to enter the tiny kitchen and slowly removed a knife from the drawer, under the guise of slicing a green apple. When she heard another creak from the rear of the guesthouse, she only hummed louder.
It couldn't be the farmer or his wife. They usually arrived with all the subtlety of a fireworks display, shouting her name from the backs of their horses. No, someone was lurking and dammit, she'd only been in Wisconsin for two weeks. Who had found her so quickly? The cops or her father?
Which was worse?
Out of the corner of her eye, Ailish watched the back doorknob turn. Slowly ... slowly. She gripped the knife's handle with such force, it made tiny chopping noises against the wooden cutting board. "Come on, just do it," she murmured under her breath. "Stop playing games."
Ailish got her wish as the door flew open with a bang against the opposite wall. It only took her a split second to recognize the two men — hopefully only two — and hurl the knife. It caught the taller one in his left shoulder, sticking out at an awkward angle.
Tall Man gave Ailish a look of disbelief as he removed the blade and dropped it at his feet. "Oh, you shouldn't have done that."
She inched toward the loose floorboard. "How'd he find me?"
Cautiously, a man in a vintage Cubs cap eased up beside his bleeding crony. "Your father is a very industrious man."
"Don't tell me about my father. I've known him for twenty-one years."
"All right," Tall Man said, gritting his teeth. "Here's what happens now. You get your sweet ass in the car. You don't want to know the alternative."
Ailish listened for a third person outside, heard nothing. They'd made a mistake by coming in the same entrance. "Maybe not. Tell me anyway. I want to recount it word for word to my father next time I see him."
Cubs Cap laughed without humor. "You know, you've gotten a hell of a lot more interesting since taking off. Should be a decent car ride back to Chicago."
"I'm not going anywhere with you."
Tall Man advanced, one hand plugging the knife wound she'd inflicted. Ailish halted her progress toward the loose floorboard and backed toward the front door instead. Dammit. She'd never make it. She had to leave without the money. God, she'd be lucky to escape at all.
No, she would. She had to. This unexpected freedom was too precious, and she'd regret not fighting tooth and nail to keep it.
As soon as Tall Man reached Ailish, she swung her fist, hoping to stun him long enough to get out the front door. It worked. Briefly. She snatched her car keys off the peg beside the entrance, threw open the door — and was caught around the waist before clearing the porch. Operating on instinct, Ailish twisted around and shoved her thumb into Tall Man's knife wound, as deep as it would go, scrambling away once more as he howled.
"Goddammit," the man shouted behind her, his nearing voice indicating that he hadn't stayed down long. Cubs Cap growled an order in the distance. To grab Ailish. Which wasn't going to happen as long as she was breathing. Not going back to Chicago. Can't go back.
Excerpted from Raw Redemption by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2016 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
Idk who's bright idea this story was but it was painful. I'm supposed to believe a man meets a woman briefly and falls in love in minutes. They "meet" briefly and he puts his job on the line for her. Doesn't see her for 2yrs, tracks her down and they have unprotected sex? Really?! The story was all over the place and nowhere at the same time. I greatly enjoyed previous work of Ms. Bailey. This sucked.
Trust Ms. Bailey to end her series with a bang! From the first page to the last, I found this to be a very exciting, super sexy (no surprise there), and surprisingly suspenseful story. While it may have some classic tropes to it - a woman on the run, a man willing to do anything to save her - there are enough twists and turns to make it unique and a stand out story in this series. While each book in the series has featured a unique couple, Ailish and Henrik have a chemistry and compatibility that leap off the page. Ailish may have the persona on the outside of being a spoiled mafia princess, but she’s really a smart young woman who has been a prisoner all these years under her father’s thumb. Her father used her mathematical abilities to his advantage, making Ailish his oddsmaker and indirectly making her responsible for the ruination of men who gambled with her father and lost. To atone for these sins, she tried to turn over evidence to the police, knowing she’d go to jail - only it never happened. Faced with the knowledge that she’d have to get out on her own, she found a chance to escape and took it, knowing her father would go after her but trying to keep one step ahead of him. When Henrik shows up at her hotel room, she instinctively believes that she can trust him, even if he isn’t telling her the whole truth. But more importantly his body speaks to hers. Having never had the chance to have a normal teenage life with friends and boyfriends, Ailish developed a teasing personality, her form of sexual rebellion. Finally, she’s found a man who can take that teasing and turn it into something that will benefit them both. Henrik’s obvious attraction to her, and his difficulty in keeping his hands off of her is something she relishes, and before long they are doing the down and dirty in classic Bailey style. Their scenes are some of the hottest I’ve read, yet at the same time, believable for this couple. Henrik and Ailish push each other to the limit. Henrik was a dedicated police officer with a single minded focus on his job - until Ailish blew his composure out the window and he sacrificed that job for her well being. Given the chance to make up for it, his work as an undercover cop for Derek is one he’s willing to engage in only because he knows it will give him an advantage in keeping tabs on Ailish. And when she disappears, he relies on his teammates to find her and get him to her. Henrik is a large, physically present man, and while his size might intimidate the bad guys, Ailish isn’t scared of him one bit. With her, he alternates between being her protector and being her lover, playing any games she wants so long as she ends up with him. But the problem is one of trust. Henrik can’t tell Ailish everything about his operation, and Ailish doesn’t want to put her faith in someone who wants to keep the truth from her. It’s a constant battle of wills between them with neither really gaining the upper hand. Instead they must find a way to compromise. But the clock is ticking, and it's only a matter of time before it's going to run out. There are some great scenes involving the rest of the undercover team - Connor and Erin are tasked with aiding Henrik so we see more of them, and also a little of Bowen and Sera, and Austin and Polly. Best of all we get some more of Derek too, whose story Protecting What’s His started off the Line of Duty series and it’s only fitting that he close this series off too. An excellent read!
I love all of her books and this was no exception. Henrick was just all alpha goodness and unlike a previous review I liked his instant connection to Ailish and found it believable. Tessa's writting just grabs you and keeps the reader engaged. So good!
Sometimes I worry that my reviews can’t possible convey how exceptional some books are written. It is much easier to articulate things one doesn’t like about a book. This is my second Tessa Bailey book. She has mastered the art of writing explosively hot steamy scenes. They come often – the scenes, that is. The book passes muster for being a great suspense, as well. I’m a huge Law and Order fan, which means I set the bar rather high for legal issues in books. There are great twists to the plot. I love it when an author can catch me with unexpected surprises. More importantly, the twists support the character development and don’t seem out of place. The balance between romance and suspense is incredibly enticing and makes this a 5 star book.
This was a great end to one of my favorite series. Sad to see it come to an end but love how it ended!
NO OVERVIEW AGAIN. What's that all about Tessa? Can't spend hard earned money without some clue. Especially after the mess that was Boiling Point (same series).
I received an eARC, from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. 'Raw Redemption' by Tessa Bailey is book 4 in the "Crossing the Line" series. I have not read the other books yet so for me this was a standalone book. This is the story of Henrik Vance and Ailish O’Kelly. Henrik was a cop when he met Ailish who is the daughter of Chicago’s most dangerous criminal. There was evidence that Henrik destroyed that implicated Ailish in someway. After meeting Ailish just that once he become obsessed with her and did not want her hurt or in trouble. Destroying the evidence that was connected to Ailish caused him to loose his job as a cop but they did put him on a undercover section where he is supposed to find Ailish and bring her in to be a informant. Henrik just knows he wants her and wants to keep her safe. Ailish doesn't need a hero or anything else to save her from her father. Ailish thinks she can do so herself... but she it attracted to Henrik. I did enjoy Henrik and how much he wanted Ailish... he was a great Alpha type male. Great exciting read!
***ARC Provided by the Publisher and NetGalley*** I am, as is Tessa Bailey, sad to see the Crossing the Line and Line of Duty series ending. Raw Redemption is the final book and not only see Henrik and Ailish’s story, but we also get a little bit of “where are they now” closure for the other books and characters in the series. Henrik and Ailish are an insta-love couple, which is usually something that annoys me, and actually had me a little frustrated at the beginning of the book, as I was hoping to see their relationship develop. However, as you read through the story, the way the plot is constructed makes it clear that the insta-love was necessary at the beginning in order for the rest of the story to be able to develop. Henrik is a little rough around the edges, he is tough physically, imposing, gruff and a dirty talker. So, he is a lot of fun. He has a past that he is partly ashamed of but admits he would do the same thing again if given the choice. Ailish is young and sheltered (in some ways) as the daughter of a mob boss. But in other ways, she has already lived a tough life. There are instant sparks and heat between them, but there are also trust issues. The story revolves around the group of criminals who are working for the police, in the same way that the other Crossing the Line books do, with them as the center and the reason for the action but with each couple acting fairly independently. The plot line of the story is easily spoiled, as is the resolution of it, so I will say that this is a good final chapter in the series. The characters are left where they should be, on the precipice of being ok with the lives they are now living, and moving on in ways that work for each of them. The writing in this is strong, as is the characterization and plot. The story moves well, and while it is a little slow in the middle, it is not bad enough to distract from the story. I do recommend reading the other books in the series as this one takes place away from the central group, so the ties of the characters and who they are is developed more in previous books than in this one. That said, as a standalone, this would work. You don’t need to know the backstories of each character to be able to read Raw Redemption.
Raw Redemption is a sexy and exciting adventure that will keep you engaged from start to finish. Henrik Vance is a disgraced cop who is consumed more by thoughts of the beautiful daughter of a ruthless Chicago crime boss, Caine O'Kelly, than redeeming his name. When she disappears, Henrik is the one who must find her and bring her safely back to help the police take down her father. Ailish O'Kelly has been a prisoner in her own house her whole life. She hated the life she lived and the terrible things her father did. She wants to live free and earn an honest wage. She did not want to go back to Chicago or ever face her father or his associates again. But Caine is unwilling to let her go and will do what ever it takes to get her back. So begins a race against time and who will find her first. Henrik will do whatever it takes to keep her safe but she is afraid to trust anyone. Will the fiery chemistry she feels for Henrik make her change her mind or will she take what she wants and still disappear? This is an exhilarating tale of suspense, intrigue and passion that is a perfect conclusion to this exciting and sexy series.
Wow, just, wow. This is a very sexy telling of Vance's story. In it we learn more about his disgrace that led him to being on the "misfit" squad. He remains obsessed with Ailish and goes in search of her. He finds her, but also, he finds himself. Their story isn't pretty, but it is very gritty and raw and told in an explicit way. Very, very hot and sexy, but also a great plot interspersed with bits of humor. While reading this, I kept wondering what the author would do in the next book in the series, as this one would be hard to top, to then read that this is the final book in two series. Noooooooooooo! I feel like I've gotten to know the characters in the two series, especially as they keep appearing in subsequent books, and will miss them. I've loved each book in both series, so while I'm sad, I can't wait to see what the author writes next. This is where I'd normally state that this is a stand alone book and, technically, it is, but you really need to read the others to appreciate this novel.