A cop protecting his witness… It’s all business until desire becomes stronger than rules or self-control.
Detective Matt Blackburn and addiction counselor Josh Braidshaw first crossed paths at the LGBTQ+ youth shelter where they both volunteered. There was mutual attraction and plenty of flirtation, but Josh’s relationship kept anything from happening beyond that.
The duo is again thrown together when Josh is attacked while witnessing a young boy from the shelter being kidnapped. Matt puts Josh under his personal protection and things heat up, now that both men are free. Josh wants his normal life back and Matt isn’t keen to lose his career by crossing a professional line, but their close quarters and the heat that simmers between them might cause them both to change their priorities.
Reader advisory: This book contains references to drug use and addition, as well as injuries sustained during a kidnapping. There are also scenes of violence.
Publisher's Note: This book was previously released in the Hard Evidence anthology.
General Release Date: 24th November 2020
“Cartel activity in Austin is up. Not just with street-level drugs, but known members have been seen. We are in contact with the DEA, but we’re not sure what’s going on yet. Violent crimes have been ticking up in the past week. Obviously, Narcotics has the lead, but we’re just as involved. Work your cases, but also check on your local connections. Outreach helps,” Lt. Ridgeway explained.
The Violent Crimes department briefings were normally duller, but Detective Matt Blackburn had only been in the unit a few months. Not that long ago, he’d been a patrol cop in uniform.
“Blackburn,” Ridgeway said.
“Lieutenant,” Matt replied.
“You’re the most recent off patrol, so your connections are the freshest. A lot of this is happening on your old beat, so don’t be afraid to go back to your old haunts and show off the suit.” Ridgeway winked.
“Yes, ma’am.” Matt nodded.
Some of the men bristled at working for a woman, but even Texas had to get with the times sooner or later…
Cartel trouble wasn’t something that the area had issues with. Drugs, sure, but what city didn’t have that problem?
“It’s kind of far north for cartel activity,” Matt said to his partner as the meeting broke up.
Julie shrugged. “You can’t predict it. Maybe too much activity at the border… Maybe someone stole a shipment and ran north or someone escaped and made it this far. Cartels don’t like to lose people, product or money. It might just be a few cartel guys and some hired staff looking to recover something.”
“There’s a shelter I used to keep an eye on. Mind if we roll by?” Matt asked.
“Sounds good to me. What kind of shelter?” she inquired.
“LGBTQ+ youth—some outreach programs but mainly a shelter. Teens can get themselves in trouble quicker than anyone.” Matt refilled his travel mug with coffee then they headed to their vehicle.
“You got that right. Drive, since you know the area.” She tossed him the keys. “Luckily the cartel probably won’t mess with them. They’ll be after their problem and gone. Drawing more attention only makes their lives harder.”
“Sure, but some of those kids have been in gangs or sold drugs. Most have sold other things, but it’s a complicated lot. I worked security for them sometimes when they had events,” Matt shared.
“Any cute guys work at this shelter?” Julie teased.
“No. It’s about the kids—and I’m not into kids,” Matt said firmly.
“You need a life,” Julie said.
He drove in the direction of the shelter. Austin traffic was crazy, as usual. “I got a promotion. That’s a life.”
She rolled her big blue eyes at him. “But you have no one to celebrate with. The Violent Crimes unit can be a rough place. You need something happy in your life to balance it out. Get a puppy, at least.”
Matt chuckled. “Naturally, and when will I train and take out this puppy with a job so unpredictable, as well as being on call some nights?”
“Getting a boyfriend would help. Then get a couple of kids and make them do the grunt work. That takes care of things for me,” Julie said.
Her hubby taught school, so he kept a regular schedule and the kids were at the same one, so childcare was managed. They were so cute, but life didn’t fall into place for everyone like it had for Julie.
Matt found himself a bit jealous at times—not wanting Julie’s husband, but she had a certainty about her life. She loved her work, but family came first.
“I’ll try to get a life, just for you. But with a new job learning curve to manage, it might not be the best time.” Matt had mastered deflecting set-ups and pushiness. He was a new detective, but plenty of other cops had tried to fix him up during his years on the force. Next, she’ll suggest the bars or gay apps.
“You know, a cousin of mine has had a lot of luck on the apps,” Julie said.
Matt smiled. “For hookups, sure. I’m not hurting in that area. I can walk into a gay bar and get a guy. It’s fun, but it’s not—”
“Love. Aww-w,” Julie said.
“Real,” Matt corrected her quickly. “It’s not real.”
“Real love. Have you thought about a little something? A rainbow pin on your lapel maybe? You are a hyper-suit masculine guy, which is you, but you’re so… Half the department is still convinced you’re straight,” Julie said.
Matt shrugged and finally neared the block for the Engles Memorial Shelter. “Jules, not every gay guy is flamboyant. Not every lesbian is butch. I don’t need to advertise.”
“I know that. I didn’t mean you should change yourself at all. I just don’t know if you give off the right signals. You’re all about the job at work,” she said.
Parking the car, Matt looked at his partner. “Am I not paying enough attention to the people we deal with?”
“No, you’re good with victims and suspects, even with community outreach. You talk plenty, but it’s about the case or them and their lives,” she said.
“They don’t want to talk about me. We’re public servants. I’m not picking up guys who commit violent crimes and I’m sure as hell not taking advantage of a victim,” he said.
“You’re right. And if another cop was interested in you, I’d have heard about it. So I need to find someone to set you up with,” Julie threatened.
“Please don’t. I’m fine. I have horrible timing and bad luck. That’s all. I’m leaving it up to fate,” Matt replied as he cut the engine.
“You’re going to be the weird spinster uncle at my family holidays. I can see it now. Let’s go, Mr. Fate,” she teased.
The duo walked into the shelter and the kids turned to look.
“Blackburn got the day off?” one of the kids asked.
“Thanks for noticing, Mario. No, I’m a detective now,” Matt said.