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Fifteen years ago, the Rookie Club began as a tight-knit band of female cops struggling for respect. Jamie Vail was one of them. So was Natasha Devlin, the woman Jamie caught in bed with her husband.
When Natasha Devlin turns up dead, Jamie can't bring herself to care. She's got enough on her plate, hunting a sexual predator who preys on female officers. He leaves them alive, but brutalized. But when the MO of the Devlin murder matches the MO of the perp in Jamie's case, she's brought in on the homicide investigation and back into the Rookie Club she has been avoiding since her husband's affair.
As more cops become victims, Jamie must confront her past and solve the murder of her ex-husband's lover before she becomes the killer's ultimate prize.
Release date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Saddle Peak Entertainment
Print pages: 398
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Listen to a sample
Emily Osbourne stepped out of the darkened sex crimes department and closed the door behind her. The station was deserted, everyone already at the awards ceremony. Truly the last place she wanted to go. She’d been up since five a.m., in the lab for fourteen hours. Cases were so backlogged that evidence in even the most time sensitive ones was taking up to three months.
Any crime less serious than murder was backed up six months or more.
At least she’d finally finished the initial findings on Jamie Vail’s serial rapist case. It was more than six months old and Vail had been pressuring her to finish. Now all Emily had to do was stay awake for two or three hours of department acceptance speeches and she’d be able to catch a few hours of sleep.
In the bright hallway, Emily blinked away the spots. Her eyes burned as she punched the down arrow on the elevator. Propped against the wall, she could have fallen asleep. Forcing herself up, she jabbed the button again. Nothing. If she took the stairs, the walk might wake her up a bit. She pushed open the stairwell door, which let out an angry creak, and began to descend.
The cold, steel handrail stuck to her clammy hand and the soles of her boots scraped against the cement stairs. She passed the fourth floor. Three more. As she reached the landing, a door creaked open above her.
She looked up, but saw no one, and took a breath. She’d never liked the police station. She preferred the bright open space of the crime lab at Hunters Point. She picked up her pace, almost out.
Footsteps clunked above her. At the second floor landing, she eyed the door. She could duck out… No, she was almost there. One more floor. The footsteps neared, and she hesitated. She glanced back at the empty hallway, listening to the steps. So someone else was there. That wasn’t surprising. People worked all hours in the department. Calm down, Emily.
Adrenaline coursed a hot trail through her veins. A door opened, then shut. The footsteps were gone and she was alone again. She exhaled, blowing out the fear. It was too much. The hours, the lack of sleep.
Forget the awards. She was going home.
With a deep breath, she began down the final flight of stairs. She imagined her bed. The down comforter that was like sleeping beneath warm air. The soft cotton sheets that her mother had picked out for her new apartment.
She was twenty-six, too young to be working this hard.
She was going home. And tomorrow, she was calling in sick.
She jogged the last steps, reaching for the door. The cool metal grazed her fingertips when the strap of her purse yanked her backwards. Caught on something, she turned back.
Something struck the side of her head.
She stumbled into the wall. Hands out, she tried to brace herself against the impact.
Her face smacked plaster.
Hands gripped her shoulders, swinging her around. The room raced across her vision. She couldn’t focus.
A man pushed her down and she landed hard against the cement floor. Her wrist collapsed and red pain rocked through her. She tried to lift herself, but he slammed her down on her back. His head was covered in a white hood that was cinched around his neck.
She gasped. “No.”
Jagged eyeholes and a larger mouth were cut in the fabric.
He covered her mouth.
“Not a word,” he hissed. “I’ve got a knife.”
He jabbed the point into her side. She winced as the blade struck a rib. The warm blood oozed down her side. She closed her eyes. Fought to breathe. She didn’t want to die. Fear gripped her throat. Cloth covered her face. She opened her eyes to blackness as panic filled her lungs like water. She coughed and choked, reared her head.
Fight. Her father’s voice. Someone tries to take you, fight like hell, Emmy. But the knife. She kicked out, rolled onto her belly. Pushed herself up.
The knife dug into her side. A searing pain. More blood.
“On the ground.”
He shoved and she stumbled. Fell hard. Tried to crawl away, but his weight pressed down on her. Fight like hell, Emmy. A sob choked through her lips. She was too afraid.
The blade was at her neck. Its tip a warning at her throat. He flipped her onto her back. Pinned her hands together then bound them.
Why didn’t someone come? Where was everyone?
The shearing sound of clothes. A cool touch, then a vicious probe. She cried out, shaking her head. Squeezed her eyes against the assault. Why didn’t she fight?
Instead, she did nothing—nothing. She turned her head into her arm and cried. Silently. Shamefully. Listened to the click, click, click of the building’s old heating system.
She pushed her mind away. Imagined a beach, sand, and ocean. God, drowning. She tried to inhale the water, to make this stop. Anywhere but here. She wasn’t here. This wasn’t happening. Not to her.
Then it was over.
His face was beside hers. Terrified, she turned away, squeezed her eyes closed. The next blow didn’t come.
“Tell the inspector hello for me.”
She didn’t move. Didn’t speak. Inspector?
A hundred thoughts flashed through her mind.
Jamie Vail came first—Jamie Vail of Sex Crimes.
Oh God. She trembled, shudders rocking through her.
She heard him stand. Held her breath. His shoes squeaked against the cement as he walked. The door whined open, hissed closed, and clicked as the lock engaged.
She waited. Counted to three. Then waited some more.
Shaking, she pulled the hood off and sat up. She blinked hard. Her focus was blurred. She couldn’t separate her hands. Held them both to her face and ran her fingers across her skin. She felt the swollen mass of her left eye.
A single drop of blood struck her shirt. She watched as the white fibers drank in the red.
Collapsing into a ball, she sobbed.
From the far corner of the convention center ballroom, Jamie Vail cupped a perspiring glass of Coke. Shifting from one foot to the other against the wall, she tugged at the waist of her dress pants, adjusting them across her flat, bony hips. She couldn’t get comfortable.
Under the pants, her nylons pulled the fabric in strange places when she moved. Did women wear nylons anymore? Did they call them nylons? She adjusted her jacket, and then realized nothing would help.
The problem wasn’t the suit or the nylons or the pants—the problem was her.
She took a tentative sip of soda and watched the officers mingle.
Natasha Devlin stood talking to Bruce Daniels of Internal Affairs. Devlin did that thing where she tossed her hair over one shoulder and kicked her head back to laugh at a joke.
Devlin. One little “n” away from Devil. An appropriate name for her.
Daniels looked enamored. Jamie felt ill. She would never see Natasha Devlin without imagining her in Jamie’s bed with Jamie’s husband. She forced herself to look away. What remained was loneliness and, when she was honest, a pit of insecurity.
She imagined her own hair, the blunt cut above her shoulders. Her brown strands had no rich color, no blond highlights, no sexy curls. All she had was a weird wave she could never quite control, so she wore it up in a ponytail like a grade school girl, which was also how she was built. Her green eyes were dull and pale, faded against her light skin and hair. She’d had people tell her she could accentuate them with makeup.
Someone touched her elbow. Her ex-husband. They avoided making eye contact, kept their distance. Why did he bother to come over?
Tim clinked his glass to hers. “You okay?”
“Great,” she lied.
They stood awkwardly. She made no effort to fill the air. Why would she try? What did she possibly owe him? Why had he come up to her? She should never have come to this stupid thing anyway.
His attention was piqued by something more interesting, his eyes focused across the room.
More likely it was someone.
Probably Natasha, though Jamie no longer saw her. Where had that snake slithered off to? Breaking up some other marriage, probably.
“See you, J,” Tim said, walking away from the wall.
She didn’t answer. Screw this, she thought, and turned for the door. She’d gone ten steps when she saw the group sitting at a small table.
Women she couldn’t walk by—original members of the Rookie Club.
Fifteen years ago, when Jamie was a rookie cop in her early twenties, a group of women had bonded. It began as a drunken night in the days when Jamie drank.
Coming off a nasty crime spree that had them all working mandatory overtime, the women had ended up at the station one night at about the same time. Six or seven of them.
Someone decided they needed to blow off some steam. Someone else was craving nachos. Margaritas sounded about right, so instead of going to O’Farrell’s Sports Bar, the local police hangout, the women opted for Tommy’s Mexican down on Geary.
When a dozen women in uniform walked through the door, the staff and patrons at Tommy’s went nuts. Several men started chanting “strip, strip, strip.”
Jamie had pulled out her badge and flashed her gun.
The manager quieted the rowdies, and found the women a table at the rear of the restaurant. Tommy’s famous margaritas appeared by the pitcher all night long. Jamie was pretty sure they didn’t pay for a single one.
That first night, the women spent hours bitching about the assholes that held them back because of their gender. After years of being isolated in the predominantly male department, they suddenly had a network of women. Not to mention an instant fan base for one another. The idea that they could call on a woman in another department counted for a lot.
The dinner was so refreshing that it became a ritual.
Once a month at Tommy’s, always seven days after the captain’s office made its “monthly” statement to the press. Because the timing of the press statement was incredibly inconsistent, so was the Rookie Club dinner. It might be on a Monday or a Saturday, two weeks apart, or seven. The women’s schedules differed too much to pick a specific day of the week or month.
Instead, they let the captain’s inconsistency rule the date.
That was four captains ago.
The Rookie Club continued, although Jamie had heard the dinners were more consistent now. She hadn’t been in almost two years. Not after finding Natasha in bed with her husband. Because Natasha Devlin was part of the Rookie Club too. Natasha’s affair with Tim had split the group in two, but Jamie couldn’t face any of them. She didn’t want to see the pity in their eyes or hear the comments from Devlin’s crew about what Jamie had done to drive Tim away.
Jamie missed that group of women.
But she missed a lot of things about that life.
The Rookie Club, being married, drinking…
As she approached, several of the women glanced up. Sydney Blanchard, a Senior Criminalist in the Crime Scene Investigation Unit (CSU) and co-manager of the crime lab, waved her over. Sydney was a few years younger than Jamie—maybe thirty-six—but her reddish blond hair and freckles made her look like a woman barely into her thirties. She was trim and athletic, a soccer player.
Sydney was one of the ones who had remained close to Natasha. They were both single women who dated briefly, and often. Jamie had often been envious of that kind of freedom. She had been raised to believe in monogamy, fidelity, and marriage.
Her husband had failed at the first two and both had failed at the third.
If Sydney disapproved of Natasha’s sleeping with a married man—a man married to one of her colleagues, no less—Jamie never heard about it.
Now, she was stuck.
Jamie took the seat between Inspector Hailey Wyatt, of Homicide, and Sydney.
“I haven’t seen you in ages,” Sydney said.
Been avoiding you for eighteen months. “I’ve been buried.”
“I heard about the latest. Did Emily get you the results?” Sydney asked, all business.
“She said she’d drop them off before she came here.” Jamie searched the room for Emily’s blond head. “I haven’t seen her yet.”
“You know the results?”
“No swimmers, no cells,” Sydney said.
Jamie slumped in the chair. It was the same as the last one. “Damn.”
Two percent of the male population naturally produced semen without sperm. A vasectomy produced the same results. It was rare, but it wasn’t that unusual. This rapist produced no semen—and that was unusual. Even without ejaculating, a man normally released some semen.
A condom would explain it, but there was no evidence of latex to suggest condom use. No semen meant no DNA. And no DNA meant there was no way to match the rapist with the FBI’S Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Hailey Wyatt touched her arm. “Sorry.”
Jamie assumed the homicide inspector was referring to the case, but when she glanced up, Natasha Devlin was sauntering toward them.
An inspector with the Crimes Against Persons Department, Natasha wore a black pantsuit that hugged curvy hips and fell straight down over long, thin legs. Her jacket was cropped, and when she raised her hand to touch her thick dark hair, a tiny strip of navel showed. Tan, with all the little ab muscles in perfect lines, of course.
What Jamie would have paid to see some love handles there.
When Natasha returned her hand to her wineglass, cleavage hefted out of her top. Somehow, though, it was never quite enough to be obscene.
“I’ll find Emily,” Sydney said, standing.
Jamie steered her gaze from Natasha, who walked right toward them. Great.
Sydney crossed directly to Natasha. The two stood several feet away, speaking in whispered voices, as Jamie fought the urge to stand and leave. She wouldn’t give Natasha the satisfaction.
Natasha laughed at something Sydney had said. Every man in the vicinity halted to watch as she walked away from Sydney and sauntered toward them.
“Hi, ladies,” Natasha said, then nodded in her direction. “Vail.”
“Slut,” Jamie said, loud enough to be heard.
Natasha’s eyes narrowed. “You say something, Vail?”
“Sit down, Natasha,” Cameron Cruz said.
Cameron was one of the good ones. A sharpshooter with Special Ops, she was one of the rookies who had reached out to Jamie after her split with Tim.
Jamie never reached back.
Hailey Wyatt leaned in and whispered, “You know she does it to get your goat.”
Hailey had been one of those women Jamie avoided at first. Truth be told, Jamie had avoided all of them, but some more than others. The sexy ones, in particular, made her feel uncomfortable and awkward.
Like Natasha, Hailey looked too perfect to be real, and certainly too attractive to be someone Jamie would want to be around.
Women shaped like Hailey Wyatt used their assets to gain favors, tossed their hips and winked to make things happen. Certainly Natasha Devlin was that way. The way she used to toss her dark hair over one shoulder. The little pout of her lips.
And yet, Hailey wasn’t that way. Unlike Natasha, Hailey seemed unaware of her allure. She was neither coy, nor a flirt.
When a case finally brought them together, Jamie learned Hailey was grounded, confident, and fair. And she was kind. But whether Hailey noticed it or not, Jamie had seen the effect she had on men. They paid careful attention. Jamie had her share of attention, but never like Hailey’s. She wondered how Hailey could possibly ignore it. Hailey was the other one from the Rookie Club who had reached out to her.
What did they think of her now?
Did they understand that she couldn’t reach back?
That she didn’t know how?
“Natasha’s all about getting a reaction.”
“She got my husband already,” Jamie hissed back, hoping Natasha noticed the way the two women were whispering. “You’d think that would be enough.”
Hailey smiled softly. “You’d think, right?”
“I hate these things.”
“We all do,” Hailey agreed. “You doing okay?”
Jamie felt the façade slip. How long had it been since she’d confided in someone? Since she’d had a conversation about how she was really feeling? Hell, how long since she’d had a conversation that wasn’t about a case? But it was too much. Hailey might be willing to listen—she probably would—but now was not the time or place. She needed to find Emily Osbourne. “I found out my rapist isn’t leaving any DNA. I’m in a lousy mood.”
“No sign of that either,” Jamie said. “Just no semen.”
“I’d say you’ve got reason to be pissed.”
“How are things with you?” Jamie asked.
Hailey winked. “Murder.”
Tim approached the table. She shifted as Tim stopped beside Natasha. Damn him. Did he have to do this here? As if it weren’t awkward enough to be sitting across from Natasha. Why couldn’t he have slept with someone from the gym? Or one of the neighbors? It would have been so easy to quit gyms or move houses.
Why did it have to be someone from work?
Tim offered her a sideways glance—an apology, or maybe pity. She didn’t know, and didn’t care. Before she could send a scathing response, he shifted his gaze away. Jamie had made all sorts of bets that the relationship would never last, but Tim and Natasha had been on again, off again, for more than a year and a half.
Natasha glanced over her shoulder coyly, then looked at Jamie, and grinned.
“Knock it off, Natasha,” Hailey Wyatt said.
Jamie felt a moment of triumph as she stood. “Thanks, Hailey, but I’m leaving anyway.”
Tim touched Natasha’s shoulder and she waved him off.
Tim stiffened in anger. “I need to talk to you.”
Jamie took a step away from the table, but continued to watch. Like seeing a traffic accident about to happen.
“God.” Natasha rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Not now, Tim.”
He grabbed her arm. “Now.”
Natasha set her wine down and stood slowly. Standing, they were almost the same height. She leaned in and gritted her teeth. “I said no.”
He yanked her toward him. He spoke softly, frowning.
Natasha stared over his shoulder.
Tim jerked her arm to get her attention.
Her expression turned to fury. “Get the hell away from me.”
He grabbed her shoulders with both hands.
The anger in his face was surprising. Intense. Tim had always been the easygoing type. Mellow. The only times Jamie saw him that angry were when he thought he was being taken advantage of—when they were negotiating with the salesman to buy a new car, or at the guy who gave them a twenty thousand dollar bid to remodel their bathroom.
Everyone was watching.
Jamie was embarrassed—for them, for herself.
“Stay the hell away from me,” Natasha said and shoved Tim with both hands.
One of the assistant district attorneys, Chip Washington, stepped in and grabbed Tim’s arm. “Is everything okay here?”
“It will be if he leaves me alone,” Natasha said.
Jamie watched the pain in Tim’s expression, the cruel smirk on Natasha’s.
“Don’t do this,” Tim whispered.
“God, stop with the drama already,” Natasha said, her voice loud enough to attract the attention of the room.
Tim reached for her.
Natasha cowered—as though she were afraid—then regained herself. Set her shoulders back, raised her chin. “Stay the fuck away from me.”
Jamie studied Natasha’s face. Why the fear? Was she acting? Tim had never been an angry person.
Tim didn’t let go. Instead, he yanked her closer and spoke through gritted teeth. “You’ll be sorry, Natasha.”
Jamie shuddered at the emotion between them. Unable to watch anymore, she turned away. She took two steps and felt her phone buzz on her hip.
She didn’t recognize the number. “Vail.”
“Inspector Vail, this is Officer Hamilton. You’re needed on a scene.”
Christ. She pulled her notepad from her jacket pocket and flipped it open. “Where are you?”
“850 Bryant, ma’am.”
“The station? You got a suspect?”
“No. A scene, ma’am. Main building in the stairwell, bottom level.”
Jamie stiffened. “You’ve got a rape scene at the Hall?”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ve got medical response on the way for her, but they told me to call you.”
Medical response. “How bad is she?”
His voice cracked as he spoke. “Real bad, ma’am.”
“I’m on my way.” She started to hang up, then added, “You have an ID on her?”
“She’s with the department.”
Jamie closed her eyes.
“The name’s Osbourne, ma’am. Emily Osbourne.”
The sound of Emily’s name was a physical blow. “Damn it. No.”
Chip Washington now stood between Tim and Natasha. Jamie turned for the door, didn’t look back. She was on her way to a rape scene.
Another police officer raped.
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