A beautiful no-nonsense marine, one by-the-book, ruggedly handsome homicide detective, and the case that may well give them eternal bliss or eternal rest—can they trust in each other long enough to find out which it will be?
Fallon Maddox is reunited with her family the day they bury her father. She has no idea that coming home will be the beginning of an adventure she might not survive and, even if she does, her life will never be the same.
Ian Cavanaugh is a homicide detective who’s wrapped up in a case that may not be as simple as it first appears. The deceased is the father of a group of foster children who’d made quite a reputation for themselves when he was growing up. He knew it was in his best interest to get the case solved…and fast.
His priorities begin to waver as he’s reunited with the only daughter in the family. He longs to shatter her never-wavering calm and expose the passion he knows lies beneath. No matter how hot blooded their unions are, it becomes clear he might have to choose between love and his brotherhood in blue—for their families seemed to always be at increasing odds.
Will he have time to make the decision or will it be made for him?
This title is available in ePub and Mobi formats ONLY
The newly-dark skateboard park was shattered with a single shot, followed by muzzle flashes and the stutter of an automatic weapon.
Silence returned as quickly as it had been destroyed. Not even dogs barked in the area. As the night progressed, rain came and cleansed the city. Blood mixed with the water and washed down into Seattle’s drainage system.
An early morning jogger heading through the park discovered the body. He grabbed his phone from his pocket, called 911, and then waited for the police to arrive.
* * * *
A detective’s car rolled up and stopped, its flashing red light cutting through the mist. A tall, powerful man exited. His stern face settled into grim lines as his steely gaze flickered around the crime scene, taking in the yellow tape defining the perimeter. He noticed an officer taking a statement from a man in running clothes. The coroner stood in the drizzle beside a gurney and the sheet-covered victim, waiting on him.
The detective sighed. Nothing worse than starting a Sunday morning with a dead body. Being a detective was hard. However, Ian Cavanaugh added onto this by working in Homicide. Carrying his Starbucks coffee with him, he went to the victim.
“Sorry for the hold up, Parsons. Won’t take me but a minute and I’ll let you get the vic back to the morgue.” His deep voice stopped the coroner in his conversation with his assistant.
“Morning, Ian,” the old man said as he wiped some moisture off his face. The morning drizzle had picked up, becoming a steady rain.
“Whaddya got?” Ian crouched beside the dead body. His hand reached for the sheet and slowly drew it away so he could see the face.
Gil Parsons answered, “Multiple shots. Some through-and-through, some not. With the rain I don’t know what trace has been ruined and lost, but I’ll let you know what I know as soon as I know it.” The man sighed and waited for Ian to look.
“Thanks.” Ian glanced down at the unseeing eyes staring back at him. “Ah, hell,” he muttered.
“You know him?”
Running his hand down his own face, Ian didn’t answer right away. He closed those sightless green eyes and recovered him with the sheet. Ian drained the remainder of his coffee before crushing the cup in his fist.
“Ian?” Parsons spoke in a low voice.
“This here is Gregory Maddox.” Ian rested a hand on his thigh as he pushed to his feet. “I know you’ve heard of the Maddox clan.”
Gil and his assistant got the body ready for transport with swift effectiveness. “The foster kids that raised holy hell?”
Ian helped load the body in the van, his mangled coffee cup stark against the somber blackness of the body bag. “Those are the ones. Trouble alone, terror on wheels when together.” He sighed. “Only one lives here now, I should go tell him.” At the last second, Ian grabbed his cup off the bag.
“Bye, Ian.” Parsons climbed into his vehicle and drove off.
Ian watched him go. His mind worked fast as he stood there in the increasing rain. I hope this is solved, and fast, before the Maddox Clan is reunited.
Shaking off the twinge of foreboding, Ian tossed the cup in a trash receptacle, headed to his car and on toward the house of Herschel Maddox. The streets of Seattle may very well turn into a war zone if this wasn’t cleared up very soon.
* * * *
Fallon Maddox stood alone at a high vantage point and watched, through the gray haze, the burial of the only father she could recall with fondness. The hole was just waiting for the men to press the button to lower his casket down into the prepared ground.
She picked out her four brothers. They had all made it. She hadn’t been sure, when Herschel called to tell her the news, if they would. But there they were.
Clayborne. Shawn. Herschel and his family. And the youngest sibling, Dylan. She felt tears prick the backs of her eyes.
She never moved from her position. She was late in arriving and it was a miracle that she had made it. Part of her wanted to be down there, but the part that won wanted to be alone, needed to be alone. Fallon observed stoically as people said their farewells and got into their vehicles. It was a huge turnout.
Finally, it was just her brothers and a man she didn’t recognize. Snatches of their conversation reached her. The voice of the unknown person struck her as familiar, but she couldn’t place from where. Her brothers were upset and it was from more than just their recent loss.
Fallon stopped herself from going down there when Clay sent his fist flying into the guy’s face. Now was not the time to get involved in an altercation. Herschel stepped in and she remained where she was. The one in the scuffle with Clay turned his head and looked in her direction. Fallon stepped behind a tree and remained hidden from view. Hiding wasn’t her forte, but she wasn’t up to questions yet. Fallon had to say her goodbyes first, which was something to be done in private.
Once everyone had left, Fallon moved to the grave and laid a bouquet of flowers at her mother’s headstone before saying her final farewell to her father and leaving a single rose for him. Silently she walked to the waiting taxi and climbed in.
The taxi pulled up to her childhood home. Fallon paid the driver, took a deep breath, and got out. I can’t believe Pops is gone. Picking up her duffle bag, she walked up the steps, unlocked the door, and entered the silent house. The door clicked behind her, the sound reverberating through her empty soul. She was alone. Her bag hit the floor as she turned on a light. Her gaze swept the room. Memories danced before her. With another deep breath, she proceeded further into the room. It all looked the same. Light tan carpet and comfortable but old furniture.
The walls were covered by a myriad of photos. A small smile crossed her face as she looked at her family. Why did Pops have to die?
“I miss you, Pops,” she said absently as she retrieved her satchel and headed towards the room she had used while living there.
Pushing open the door, Fallon was shocked to see that nothing in there had changed since her last visit. Her patchwork quilt still covered the twin bed. Over the pillow hung a framed cross-stitch her foster mother, Nadine, had made for her.
FALLON DELU MADDOX
She set her olive green bag on the dark cherry rocker and touched the framed work. The thread was vibrant red on a white background. A new wave of tears threatened.
Fallon turned a complete circle, pausing as she was met by her reflection. The dark brown eyes staring back at her seemed dull and lifeless. Looking intently at her image, Fallon touched her face. Funny, she didn’t remember her face being that tired looking; there were bags under her eyes. Again, tears threatened and this time she allowed them to escape. She was safe here. No need to be tough as nails. No one watched over her shoulder at how she behaved.
For the time being, she could be what her body needed to be. A child who had just lost a parent. Not a United States Marine. Not a hard-ass, take-no-shit instructor. Just a mourning child. A half-stumble landed her on her bed where she promptly curled up with her one-eyed doll. The sobs came and, after a fashion, so did the much-needed sleep.
Voices woke her. Loud, angry voices. Fallon was instantly awake as she ascertained where the yelling originated.
“Clay,” she whispered, getting out of bed and going to the door.
She could recognize the graveled baritone of her brother’s tone anywhere. She didn’t recognize the one in the discussion with him. Still, that ripple of familiarity danced across her skin, just as it had at the cemetery. So, whoever it was, the same person had exchanged blows with her brother.
Pressing her ear to the door, she eavesdropped on the two men.
Her brother was yelling. “I don’t give a flying fuck what bullshit story you told Herschel! I’m not buying. I want that report.”
“It was a gang hit,” the deep voice countered.
“Fuck you. That area is a neutral one, we both know it, and Herschel knows it as well.”
“The whole place was shot up. It’s just a case of wrong place, wrong time,” the unknown male responded.
She heard her brother growl low before the sound of flesh against flesh reached her. “Oh Clay,” she muttered, yanking open the door and moving swiftly down the hall.
Rounding the corner, she narrowed her eyes at the sight of her brother pressed up against the wall, unable to move an inch. There was a gun pressed against his back.
She reacted immediately. Within seconds, Fallon slammed the larger man to the floor, his gun skidding out of reach.
* * * *
Ian had no clue what just happened. One second he had Clayborne Maddox restrained, and the next, pain unlike any he had experienced before flowed through his body. Owned his body.
He couldn’t move. He was face down on the floor in the entryway of the Maddox home. Ian kept his mouth shut, knowing if he tried to speak all that would come out would be a wail, a cry of extreme pain.
Breathing had become a chore. What happened? Ian had been face down before but this time it was different. Not only the heavy boot on the back of his neck. No, there was something more. A pressure point.
His arm was wrenched back, his thumb felt almost snapped off, and there was pain emanating from a spot on his wrist.
“Move and I break it,” a low, raspy voice warned.
No. It sounded like a promise. Ian remained motionless, hoping for the best, hoping he would be able to get the upper hand soon. Would Clayborne really let this person harm him? Probably.
He blinked back stinging tears of pain. His arm was going numb. I’m gonna lock you up, you fuck!
Cold air blasted over him as he heard footsteps coming near. “Well, well,” a young man’s voice said. “Who’s the mutt?”
“Let him go.” Clay’s voice.
The boot at his neck increased its pressure as if in defiance and warning before it was gone. His arm was dropped and he barely contained the roar of pain that tried to erupt as the blood began to flow again. It was a good ten seconds before the pain was tolerable and he could move. Getting up, Ian glared at Clay and the two other brothers, Shawn and Dylan. Eyes moved over their footwear. Damn it! They all wore big heavy boots.
“Who did it?” Ian demanded as he picked up his gun and shoved it back in its holster. No one made a sound. Three sets of eyes spat daggers at him and didn’t back down. “You want me to arrest you all?”
“For what?” Clay asked. “You assaulted me in my own home without identifying who you were.”
You know exactly who I am, Clay. Hell, you just damn near demanded a report from me. Ian stole a glance at the other two men there. There was Shawn Maddox, big strong man who’d played pro football for a few years until he vanished. They had been friends at one time, but now, as he stared into his dark face, he saw nothing but distrust.
Dylan Maddox was the youngest of the clan and the most impetuous. His pale face bore the scars of a fire from a previous foster home. The child had lived at many before becoming a Maddox. Still, he was loyal to a fault to his family.
The message he received from their unwavering glares was they would all have the same story. Despite them being on the wrong side of the law most times, even a fresh-faced public defender could get them off for that. He hadn’t identified himself as an officer of the law. It didn’t matter they knew him; he had personally failed to follow procedure.
Didn’t the Maddox boys have a sister? Ian couldn’t recall her name and her face was fuzzy to his memory as well. I don’t remember seeing a woman there today with them. Not other than Herschel’s wife.
Ian turned on his heel and headed for the door when he heard Clayborne.
“I want the report.”
“The case is closed. The Maddox boys don’t need to try and make trouble.” Ian walked out, slamming the door behind him.
He didn’t want to admit something didn’t feel right to him about this, but orders were orders. There were some who wanted the Maddox clan gone, given their disregard for the law. Herschel was the “good” Maddox.
I need to look at that autopsy report. Ian drove to his favorite bar. A cop bar owned and operated by a retired detective. The moment he entered the place that nagging feeling and earlier pain vanished. This was his family. The boys in blue.
* * * *
“What the fuck do you mean, they said it was gang-related and they were closing it?” Fallon thundered.
She had already been welcomed home by her brothers, including Herschel, who had shown up late. Now they were discussing what happened. Fallon saw the shock on her family’s faces. It wasn’t normal behavior for her to swear.
“That’s what Ian Cavanaugh told me.” Herschel played with the spoon in his coffee mug, his eyes downcast, not meeting anyone’s gaze.
“Ian...Ian Cavanaugh?” Her eyes cut over to Shawn, who drank some beer. “Wasn’t he in your class?” When Shawn nodded, she continued her line of questioning. “Why is he on this?”
“He’s a homicide detective,” Clay supplied the information. “And he bleeds blue, so if this is a cover-up we’re going to have to go at it ourselves.” A smile flitted across Clay’s handsome, tanned face. “Especially considering how fast our little mad dog slammed him to the floor.”
That was Ian Cavanaugh I did that to? Narrowing her eyes, she snapped, “I thought he was hurting you.” When she’d released him, she slipped from the room, not wanting to be around when he got up. She had no doubt her brothers would keep her out of it.
Clay just laughed.
Shaking her head, Fallon stood. She was exhausted and had things to do before she could call it quits. Her body was still on a different time schedule and, according to its message, she needed more sleep.
“I’ll get that report tomorrow,” she said before kissing each brother on the cheek. “Right now, I’m going to bed.”
“Night, Fallon,” they hollered as she left the room. As she climbed into bed, the rain slammed against the windowpane. Fallon drifted to sleep, burrowed deep under the covers of her childhood bed, her stuffed cyclops held close.
* * * *
“I need to speak to Detective Cavanaugh.”
The voice, although feminine, had no trouble reaching his ear in the bullpen. Even though he was on the phone, Ian waved over the officer escorting her. His eyes travelled over her she moved closer.
She glided more than anything; Ian almost looked around his desk to see if her feet even touched the floor. Graceful. His mind wandered from the call he was on.
Her skin was the color of toasted nuts, the nice expensive ones that were almost like butter melting in your mouth. She wore a black bomber jacket, which hid her shirt, and he could see blue jeans as well. No purse.
Her face was not stunning or beyond gorgeous, but she was attractive. The closer she got, the fuller her lips appeared and the larger her eyes became—a beautiful dark, chocolaty brown. The expression was almost perfectly serene, but he could see she was aware of more than she let on.
He was intrigued. He wasn’t sure what it was about her that captivated him, but it was there. Perhaps it was the way she carried herself; most of the women he knew would look haughty if they attempted to hold themselves or walk the way she did. Not this woman. It was like staring at a person walking through a downpour and no moisture touched her. A calmness emanated from her that amazed him.
She stopped beside him and stared at him for a moment before looking around. Ian felt dismissed. He also noticed that, unlike most of the women who sought him out, he hadn’t smelled any perfume on her. Normally he would be engulfed if they stood as close beside him as she did.
“Okay, good.” Ian hung up the phone and looked over the woman still waiting silently. He glanced at her feet.
He wasn’t sure.
“What can I do for you?” he asked. She has some long lashes. There was no makeup on her face. “Miss?”
She glanced down at him, hands still in her jacket pockets. “I need a report.”
He frowned and gestured to a chair near her. “Please sit. You want to report a homicide?” He picked up a pen in his right hand.
“No.” Her voice never modulated. “I need a report. Not to report.”
“And which report would that be?” Ian watched his partner move up behind her to listen in.
“The autopsy report for case #567321 Alpha.” She barely blinked.
That sounded familiar to him. Why would she want it? Leaning back in his chair, he asked, “Why do you want it?”
“Case #567321A is closed according to this department. It should be available. It’s not and I want it.” She paused for a second. “I was told copies would be made available.”
More detectives began to watch.
“Who’s the vic?” Ian’s partner, Bill, questioned.
Ian noticed a twitch of emotion on her face before it was smoothed away.
A young clean-shaven officer walked up, holding a file. “Here you go, Detective Cavanaugh. This is the autopsy report for case #567321A. Someone will be by today to pick it up.”
Yes. She’s already here.
“Thank you.” Ian took the folder and opened it. Gregory Maddox. His eyes flew up to meet the gaze of the woman still waiting.
She put out her hand. It was covered by a matte black leather glove. “The file, please.”
“This is the jacket on Gregory Maddox’s case.” Ian closed it and set it on his desk.
“Who are you?” Bill asked, moving around to stand behind Ian.
“I’m his daughter, Fallon.” She took the file and opened it before either man seemed to realize what happened.
Fallon? Fallon Maddox? This woman was she? Ian didn’t know what to say. What could he say? More apologies? Probably not what she wanted to hear.