It’s no secret that Linda Winfree is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. Lori introduced me to her books years ago, shortly after she published her debut novel, and I’ve been gobbling up her books ever since. She hasn’t released a book since 2009, so you can imagine my elation when it was announced she going to release two more books in her Hearts of the South series this year.
Fans of the series should recognize some of the key players in this scene. If you haven’t read her before, you really must.
Here, Rob, a new deputy in Chandler County gets pulled into his supervisors office because he almost got into a fight with another cop out on a call. He held himself in check, but just barely.
“Have a seat.” Calvert closed the office door behind them, and the muted noise from dispatch and the squad room died away. Rob sat, back ramrod straight, in one of the chairs angled in front of the desk. Calvert crossed to sit at his desk. “You want to tell me what happened out there?”
Rob shrugged. The words locked up in his throat.
Calvert’s brows winged upward. “You got nothing to say?”
Silence descended. The clock ticked. Rob stared at his knuckles, lifted his gaze to the photos gracing the corner of Calvert’s desk. Wedding shot, another one with his wife and son, a third of his little boy in an orange life vest, Lake Blackshear sparkling behind him.
No way this guy would ever understand how having everything fall out from under you made you want to take that first swing, and a second, and a third… Even if he hadn’t taken a swing at Jake, his desire to do so had been obvious. Damn it, he didn’t need to look unstable.
“You’ve got to give me something here.” Calvert lifted his fingers, a come-on-man gesture. “I appreciate your not beating the shit out of Stringham under provocation, but I need some reassurance that I’m doing the right thing if I put you back in that car with Troy Lee. Give me a reason not to tell you to the hit the road.”
Hell. His marriage and his career in one twenty-four-hour period. He rested his head in his hands, dug his fingers into his skull.
“Bennett, come on. Talk to me. I might get it.” When Rob lifted his head, Calvert watched him with a rueful grin. “Hell, I physically attacked the local head of the GBI a few years back.”
“Yeah.” Calvert rubbed at his jaw.
“It’s complicated, but made perfect sense at the time. Now, what has you wound so tight?”
Rob fingered the nick on his wedding ring. “He’s…he was one of my oldest friends.”
“I caught him making a pass at my wife last night.” Rob rolled his shoulders, trying to relieve the tension there. “I guess he wasn’t the buddy I thought he was.”
“That…explains a lot.” Calvert leaned back in his chair. “So what about the next time Stringham pushes your buttons?”
“The same as today. He can push all he wants, but I’m not breaking. He’s not worth it.” He couldn’t lose this job, couldn’t lose everything at this point. Rob leaned forward, attention locked on Calvert’s unreadable expression. “I’m not the kind of agent, the kind of cop, that loses control. I have never lost it, with a suspect or in any situation, and I didn’t lose it today. It’s not the kind of cop I am.”
He glanced away, his gaze lingering on Calvert’s FBI award hanging on the wall, and blew out a disgusted breath. “It’s not the kind of man I am, either.”
“Well.” Calvert’s quiet voice held a hint of satisfaction. “Now that’s what I needed to hear.”
“So I’m not fired?”
“No, you’re not fired.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You are getting some extended time riding with Troy Lee before we turn you loose.” Calvert rested his elbow on the chair arm, a finger at his temple. “Having some backup might be a good idea for a while.”
Calvert cleared his throat. “It’s important that you have an outlet, Bennett. Someone to talk to, a way to let the anger and frustration out.”
He swallowed. “I’ll talk to someone.”
Hell if he knew who, though. He had a few college buddies left, but in the past few months, they’d all drifted away. Honestly, Jake had been the last one. His dad was gone, and if he were here, he wouldn’t get it, any of it, his failures as a husband and a cop. And not like he could turn to either Amy or Jake any longer.
“Even as much as he talks, I understand Troy Lee can be a good listener. He’s smart too.” Calvert rubbed a hand over his jaw once again. “Considering you two will spend a lot of time in that car together… All I’m saying is talking to him might be a place to start, if there’s no one else.”
Rob nodded. He waited for Calvert to tell him he was done for the day, to go home and try again tomorrow.
The older man leaned back in his chair. “You think you can compartmentalize this enough to do the rest of the day?”
What the hell? He was getting another chance? A smile, the first real one of the day, pulled at his mouth. “Yes, sir.”
“All right.” Calvert pushed up from the desk and crossed to open the door. “Get back to work.”
When Rob emerged into the hall, he found Troy Lee and Chris waiting, lounging against the wall with assumed nonchalance. Troy Lee straightened immediately, hands spread in inquiry. “Well?”
Rob glanced back at the door that had shut softly behind him. “He told me to get back to work.”
Troy Lee’s mouth dropped and he closed it with a snap. “You’re kidding.”
“No.” Rob shrugged. He still couldn’t fathom it. Shoot, if he’d seen himself as wound up as he’d been earlier, he’d have sent himself home.
Chris whistled, long and low. He and Troy Lee exchanged a look, and Troy Lee chuckled. “Son of a bitch, he’s mellowed. Well, hell, let’s get back to work then.”
As they moved down the hall toward the side exit, Troy Lee clapped Rob’s shoulder. “Dude, I’m buying you a beer tonight.”
Rob frowned. “Why?”
Chris laughed and pushed the door open. “Because if anyone deserved an ass-beating, it’s Stringham. Don’t know many guys who wouldn’t have obliged him.”
Troy Lee settled his campaign hat on his head. “What was that about anyway?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Great. We have four more hours on shift. You can tell me all about it.”
You guys. This book was so good. I just loved it. I’m so freaking glad she’s writing again.