An annoyingly irresistible cop and a dare that could ruin her life… Love is a complication Kat will avoid at any cost.
Sharp-shooting cop Katerina Hellman needs a fresh start. Leaving behind a failed marriage, she ditches the city and bunks with her sister in the tiny town of Graywood. When the local police chief offers her a position as the temporary firearms instructor, she jumps on it. So what if it’s a ‘mostly boys’ club? She’s done with men, doesn’t need their unrealistic expectations and not even the tall, dark and annoying badge Roman can change that.
Roman Farkos lives for his job, to serve and protect…until Kat shows up with her snarls and superiority. He can’t resist pushing her buttons. She wants to be considered one of the boys, which would be fine if she didn’t stir a desire to do more than protect and serve her. Kat may be raw from her recent split, but Roman resolves to convince her that love—preferably with him—is worth the risk.
When Roman challenges Kat to a six-week contest of wits and skills, it’s game on. As they work and play side by side, her resistance fades and unexpected passion flares. But when big-city danger hits and secrets are revealed, Roman faces the greatest challenge of all—convincing Kat that real love is worth the fight.
Reader advisory: This book is best read as part of a series. It contains issues of gun and gang violence, references to human trafficking and considered teen suicide.
General Release Date: 12th May 2020
Kat had signed the divorce papers before dawn. She’d wadded up the envelope the documents had arrived in and tossed it on the floorboard of her SUV before getting out. She’d let Vic, aka scumsack dogface—and not a cute pooch like a beagle or husky, but more of a Mexican hairless—have everything he’d asked for, including the house, the bank account, the twenty-year old Taylor Swift lookalike and her thigh-high boots. Dragging around someone else’s dirty laundry wasn’t her MO.
An hour of blowing holes in innocent targets beat reflecting on her miserable past, and guns were preferable to marriage. Her Colt Python had never betrayed her.
She stepped over the railroad tie that served as a curb and swung open the door leading into the firing range office with more force than necessary. A bell cheerfully announced her entry into the emptiness. Screw Vic. Screw his loyal sidekicks who she’d thought were her friends too. Screw the required leave of absence from her badge and gun. She didn’t need extra time to reflect on an error that would never be repeated. After a lifetime of being subtly criticized, she was fully aware of her every single flaw and knew exactly how to deal with them. Proving that didn’t require time off.
The case in her hand bumped her thigh, a reminder that she wasn’t taking leave of all guns. Her firearms collection was the one personal possession Vic hadn’t dared to touch or request in the split. During her obligatory absence, she’d accepted a temp job as firearms instructor for the local authorities of Graywood, a tiny town with an even tinier police force. A temporary stint in a backwoods village should be demonstration enough that she could handle anything.
The small-time outdoor range was nothing like the indoor luxury she was used to at home, and she liked it more because of the simplicity. A coded, automatic gate allowed members entry into the rural acreage miles from town and citizens, offering both privacy and safety. Beyond the one-room office that was presently unoccupied, a gravel road led to the dozen or so tin-shed shooting bays. It was basic, rustic and minimal.
But minimal was phenomenal. She was absolutely done with big-city pretenses and all the underlying dredges that went with it—the stuff only discovered after it was too late to prevent being slimed.
Kat lowered her gun case to the floor and grabbed the pen beside the login sheet. She scribbled her name and membership number, ready to use her new club benefits for the first time, long overdue for shooting off some steam. It was a shame she’d already destroyed the targets her sister Gia had made specially for her—all blown-up pictures of Vic’s face. Gia was the best sister on the planet.
The ding of another member entering the office echoed as she tossed the pen aside. She grabbed her case, pivoted toward the door and paused.
Son of a jerkface. The man blocking the exit was unfortunately familiar. Roman Farkos. Both times she’d crossed paths with Roman, bad things had happened—first a blow-up with her sister, then the aftermath of a shootout where Gia had been the victim. The fact that he was friends with Gia’s shady fiancé said it all.
Roman had a tendency to get on her nerves simply by breathing. The way he looked at her… It was as if his midnight eyes could see right into her soul and pluck every string that made her want to snap and snarl. No one needed to see her depths.
“Good morning, Katerina.” He slung his holster with his Desert Eagle over his arm. He was wearing all black.
Unsurprising—shady people, shady colors.
“Nice day to shoot something, isn’t it?”
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Kat narrowed her eyes. “Every day is a good day to shoot something.”
“Imagine that. We actually agree on a subject.” Roman leaned one shoulder against the doorjamb, clearly not going anywhere until he was good and ready.
“It was a nice day a few seconds ago, before you showed up—and don’t let our minimal agreement fool you into thinking I’m going soft.” She flipped her long ponytail behind her shoulder and sniffed. “The only thing I like about you is your gun.”
He twitched one black eyebrow and his eyes glittered like a crow’s when spying a shiny jewel in the grass. It didn’t take much imagination to follow where his mind had gone—straight into the gutter.
“I’m referring to the Desert Eagle in your holster, scumbag—not your little gun.” She waved at his crotch.
“How dare you objectify me,” he said in a monotone. “I’m deeply offended.”
“And I’m deeply annoyed. Move aside. I need to shoot until I’m out of ammo.”
“Bad day already?” If he were the smirking type, she suspected he’d be wearing one. From what she’d seen of Roman so far, he strictly controlled his expressions, as if he got a personal thrill from making people guess at his emotions. “It’s barely dawn.”
“Affirmative. It started out bad and has become progressively worse.” She stared at him so he’d have no misunderstanding about the fact that the ‘worse’ applied to him currently bothering her.
“What did you bring?” He jerked his chin at the long, unmarked case in her hand.
“Oh, this and that.” Her favorite Beretta, because it always shot true and brightened her mood. Then there was her Colt Python. Every girl could use a power trip from time to time and there was nothing like the smell of gunpowder and the kick in her hands as bullets pierced the bullseye until only a ragged hole remained.
That was a picture-perfect vision of her life.
Kat clenched her jaw. It was nothing a hard round of perfect shooting couldn’t cure, and today she needed a pick-me-up. If she had to be honest with herself, her marriage had been crumbling before lil’ miss thigh-highs had shown up. Kat simply hadn’t noticed until it was too far gone, and that felt like a personal failure.
Failure was the worst.
But not noticing the state of her marriage was also a big fat sign that maybe it hadn’t been all that amazing to begin with. Before he’d walked out, Vic had made sure she knew beyond any doubt that she was the main ingredient in that non-amazingness.
What was I thinking, getting married at the idiot age of eighteen? Ten years wasted—poof!—gone, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.
“You brought your Python. There’s no need to deny it,” Roman murmured, his gravelly voice bringing her back to the problem at hand—aka, him. He was a marginally more palatable problem than her prior marriage. That glitter in his eyes grew and he straightened from his sexy lean. “May I?”
“Absolutely not.” She sniffed. His lean was irritating, not sexy. “Don’t you Graywood hicks have any manners? Asking to handle a girl’s gun is like asking if you can fondle her boobs.”
He was smart enough not to even glance at her chest, but the tiny twist of his mouth told her enough.
Holding his gaze, she strolled nearer, adding a saucy swing to her hips. She stopped right beside him, leaned near his ear and said in a breathy voice, “That’s also a no.”
“A shame.” He turned his head slightly, his mouth too close to hers for comfort, but she refused to surrender further ground. She’d given enough to the male cause today. “I’ll let you handle mine any time you ask and, as a bonus, I won’t make you feel awkward about it.”
“Keep it in your pants, Farkos.” She hadn’t noticed before that Roman was a handful of inches taller than her five-foot-ten, and being so near to him now made his height impossible to miss. She had to lift her chin to stay at eye level, and if he hadn’t lowered his, she would have been out of luck.
It was almost refreshing. Vic had whined on the rare occasion she’d worn heels. Apparently, being shorter than his wife had threatened his ego.
And Roman Farkos was not refreshing.
“I was referring to my baby Eagle, of course.” Roman stroked the handle of the gun in his shoulder holster. “The questionable paths your mind takes disturb my delicate sensibilities.”
“You wish.” Katerina snorted and brushed by him, getting a mild whiff of some spice. Cinnamon? Cloves?
“How about a wager, Hellman?”
Kat paused, her hand on the door. Technically, her last name wasn’t cut to Hellman until the judge signed on the dotted line, but she wasn’t in the mood to correct him or explain. Besides, Hellman was easier to say than Hellman-Patterson and was certainly less time-consuming to write. “Excuse me?”
“A wager.” He rocked back on his heels, and with his black T-shirt, jeans and scuffed boots, he resembled some secret agent who was off the clock but ready to jump into action at the first whisper of trouble. “Bet I hit the bullseye with my bird more than you do with your snake.”
She almost laughed. Since the tender age of five, she’d been shooting with her dad and older brothers. The walls of her room back home were lined with ribbons, awards and sharpshooting trophies. On the days off from her public-servant job—protecting, serving and everything in between—she’d taught firearms at the police academy. She’d been sent to the top sniper school in the country on the city’s dime and had returned with honors and the nickname Oakley—as in Annie Oakley.
Vic had probably found that emasculating too.
“And after you lose,” he continued, “I’ll allow you to buy me coffee.”
Kat killed her laughter and stared at him, adding a touch of menace. Did he believe he could outshoot her because she was a woman? As tempting as it was to prove how woefully incomparable his shooting skills were to hers, the range was her sacred place. She needed alone time to burn off the last traces of her failed relationship, a decade wasted.
And to remind herself that her ex-husband, legal papers and the opinion of an annoying small-city badge had zero impact on her identity.
“I already had my caffeine intake this morning and I never waste my personal bullet stash on idiots, but if you lurk around in the office long enough, I’m sure someone closer to your competitive level will show up.” She gave him a quick once-over, ignoring the long lines of his legs and how nicely he filled out his short-sleeved T-shirt. “I’d suggest returning next week on novice training day.”
Laughter shimmered in his eyes, an unusual disparity from his sober expression. “I understand why you’d be intimidated by all this breathtaking awesomeness.” He gestured at his face. “I’ve been known to move a woman to distraction, but in all fairness, it’s usually my dance moves that do the trick more than my stunning charm and glowing good looks.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” She tugged the door open and cool morning air drifted in, not yet baked by the late July heat.
“See you on Monday,” he called after her.
Kat let the door slam shut between them, muffling the hint of humor in his tone. Roman could think what he wanted. Monday was her first day as the Graywood Police Department temporary firearms instructor. After getting appropriate approval from the brass back home, Police Chief Clifton had offered her the job. Since she had another six weeks of leave and Gia had graciously offered her couch for as long as she wanted, she’d accepted.
She needed something to keep herself occupied. She could only watch so many redeye movies while feeling sorry for herself without getting soft, and since her bank account had slipped to pennies with the divorce, she couldn’t single-handedly keep the local potato chip company in business anymore.
As gravel crunched beneath her boots along the way to the closest firing bay and air scented with country dust from the field nearby curled around her, she allowed herself a small smile. On Monday, she’d be back in her element. She’d show the Graywood blue all a girl with a gun could do and reaffirm that she didn’t need time, reflection or anything else to be at full throttle on the job, at the range or on the streets.
And Roman Farkos could suck it.
Word Count: 95,396
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Genres: ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CRIME AND MYSTERY
MEN IN UNIFORM
C.J Burright is a native Oregonian and refuses to leave. A member of Romance Writers of America and the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal special interest chapter, while she has worked for years in a law office, she chooses to avoid writing legal thrillers (for now) and instead invades the world of paranormal romance, fantasy, and contemporary romance. C.J. also has her 4th Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and believes a story isn’t complete without at least one fight scene. Her meager spare time is spent working out, refueling with mochas, gardening, gorging on Assassin’s Creed, and rooting on the Seattle Mariners…always with music. She shares life with her husband, daughter, and a devoted cat herd.
You can find C.J. at her website here and follow her on Pinterest.
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