As the only black detective in her department, Jamie Hanna worked hard to earn the respect of her colleagues. When her partner is killed during an unsanctioned stakeout gone wrong, blond, blue-eyed newspaper editor Dan Janson fears she's involved.
Forced to team up to track down the real killer, Jamie and Dan discover a depth of sensual attraction neither expected. Before they can explore their bittersweet relationship, they find themselves in the killer's sights.
"Why didn't you call for backup?"
"I wanted to, but. . . " She closed her eyes as the horror of that night came rushing back with all the fury of a gale force wind. She recalled the impact of the bullets slamming into her body and shivered violently. She couldn't go on until she'd taken several deep, gasping breaths. "Anyway, he didn't want to. He said we could handle it. He thought it would look good on our sheets."
"You were worried about your sheets with a major bust about to go down?"
She straightened her shoulders. "Why not? You take chances, you make bold moves, do good work, and you get promoted. We were both working on making sergeant. We took chances. Now I'll be lucky if I can keep my freedom, let alone my shield."
"What's your official status with the department?"
She sighed. "Officially? I'm on sick leave."
"Ah huh. And unofficially?"
"I'm relieved of duty pending the outcome of the investigation."
"Which means what?"
"Normally I'd be on desk duty, but I haven't been medically cleared to return to work. Not even desk duty."
"Are you being paid?"
She gave him a wary look. "For now. I suppose you're going to tell me you think the taxpayers are being ripped off."
"No, I wasn't." He paused, studying her face. "Are you all right?"
"No! How can I be?" She held her right thumb and forefinger within a quarter of an inch of each other. "I'm this close to losing my shield and my job and possibly my freedom. Do you have any idea how hard I worked for my shield?"
She sucked in a deep breath. "It wouldn't be so bad if I'd actually done something. . . anything. . . wrong. But damn it, I haven't!"
"Jamie. . . " He drew his legs close to the chair, as if above to rise.
She held up a hand. "Stay where you are. And the name's Hanna."
He nodded curtly. "Fine. You were saying?"
She shrugged off his tone and cold gaze. "Ah. . . I had a really bad feeling."
"If you had a bad feeling, why were you there alone? Why didn't you call for backup?"
"Just how many times do you plan to ask the same question?"
"As many times as it takes to get a sensible answer."
"Did it ever occur to you that the answer appears senseless to you because you're not a cop bucking for a promotion?"
"No. News flash, Hanna: you don't have to be a cop to know when something makes sense."
She stared at him for a moment before shaking her head and going on. "We didn't call for backup, OK? Can we leave it alone now?"
He shrugged. "You know your failure to call for backup makes it look like you set him up."
She bounded off the sofa and stood staring at him. "You bonehead! You want to try believing he set me up?"
His answer, spoken in a quiet sincere voice, surprised her. "You have no idea how much I'd like to believe that."
She sank back onto the sofa. "What?"
"I want to believe you."
"Then why don't you?"
"As a matter of fact, I think I do, but there are several reasons others are going to find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe you." He pushed his left little finger back with his right index finger. "First—"
"I know what the reasons are," she said wearily. "First, he was killed while I survived. Second, I was wearing my vest and he wasn't. Third, one of us, according to you, was dirty."
"That's right." He sat forward. "And your explanations are?"
She shook her head. Why bother trying to explain to him? She reminded herself she was trying because, if he chose to, he could help clear her name. "I was very lucky. Remember, I was hit five times. He never wore a vest, and I am not now nor have I ever been on the take."
His eyes narrowed and his mouth tightened. She sighed. He clearly didn't find her arguments convincing. "Look, you want to hear the rest of the story or not?" When he nodded, she went on. "So there we were alone. I was a little. . . ah. . . "
"Uncomfortable? Afraid? What?"
She scrambled onto her knees and glared at him. "What's it to you if I was afraid? What—you writing a book?"
"No. Just an editorial that might help clear your name! Unless you're not interested."
"It wouldn't need clearing if you hadn't allowed your racist hack to dirty it, Janson! So don't expect me to be grateful if you somehow manage to clean up the mess you made!"
"You're priceless! No wonder you don't have a man in your life!"
She stared at him with her mouth open. How did he know she wasn't seeing anyone? Did he also know it was a sore spot for her? "That's a low blow, Janson. Even for you."
He sighed and nodded. "You're right again. And I'm wrong. Sorry."
To her dismay, tears filled her eyes. Damn you, Hanna! Now is not the time to go feminine. She dropped her head and looked away. She heard him rise and start across the floor. She told herself she was behaving like a silly heroine out of a nineteenth century romance novel, which didn't stop her from turning her face into his shoulder when he sat next to her. She didn't cry, but she clung to him.
His voice, soft and comforting, brushed her ear. "Anyone would have been afraid under those circumstances."
"But I'm not just anyone," she muttered, pulling away from him. "I get paid not to be afraid when other people would be. I'm a cop!"
"You're also a woman."