Justice for Boone
No slouch when it comes to attracting the opposite sex, cowboy Boone Hatcher might want to give it a rest for a while, especially after his last girlfriend accuses him of domestic abuse. Deputy Yates sees right through his ex’s ruse—and Boone sees right through Deputy Yates. Hayden might seem all business, but her need for justice comes from a heart that beats with pure passion.
A few dates turn into something more, and as the couple’s relationship deepens, so do the threats from his ex. It’s up to Hayden to convince Boone the danger is real…before jealous antics escalate to deadly obsession.
** Justice for Boone is the 6th book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.
Release date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Susan Stoker
Print pages: 318
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Justice for Boone
Hayden Yates closed her apartment door behind her with a sigh. She dropped her keys on the table next to the door and headed down the hall to her bedroom. The small two-bedroom apartment was sparse. She had some pictures of her parents in the main room, and there were a few pictures on the walls, but there weren’t any typical girly things to be seen anywhere.
No frilly pillows, no flowers on the kitchen counter, no sweet-smelling candles on any surface. The apartment didn’t smell like frou-frou air freshener. If someone looked in her kitchen, they’d find a lot of pre-packaged meals, canned soup, condiments, and some string cheese in the refrigerator.
Hayden ignored everything and made a beeline to her bedroom. Opening the door, she was already stripping off her uniform. The sheriff deputy’s badge she wore was taken off and placed on her dresser, the bulletproof vest unvelcroed and left right where she stood. The utility belt she wore around her waist was unbuckled and dropped on the floor by the shower, where she left it without a thought.
She unbuttoned and unzipped her brown uniform pants, leaned into the shower stall and turned it on. Hayden blinked back her tears and hurried to strip off the rest of her clothes, leaving them in a pile on the tile before stepping over the tub and into the hot shower. She huddled under the water, letting it pound against her shoulders as her head drooped.
It’d been a hell of a few months. As many went, they were interspersed with bouts of extreme adrenaline-inducing fear and excitement, and hours of boredom and routine police work. But it was seeing the love between her friends—Quint Axton and his girlfriend, Corrie Madison, and firefighter Cade Turner and his girlfriend, Beth Parkins—that was doing Hayden in.
A few months ago, Corrie was a witness to a workplace shooting and the men behind it had kidnapped her to shut her up…permanently. Quint, along with Dax, a Texas Ranger, Cruz, an FBI Agent, Hayden, and other members of the San Antonio Police Department, had tracked down Corrie and raced to rescue her. Even though Corrie was blind, she’d somehow managed to escape her captors without any help.
When they’d realized Corrie had headed into the forest and probably climbed a tree to hide, Quint had straightened his shoulders and gotten to work finding his woman.
Then more recently, Cade, otherwise known as Sledge, had started a relationship with Beth, who, because of events she’d gone through before moving to Texas, was agoraphobic and struggling with using fire as a means to try to get control over her life. She’d been able to beat both issues back, but had the bad luck to be inside Cade’s house when it was burglarized. Amazingly, she used her love for Cade to get her through the harrowing experience.
Hayden had never seen the kind of love her friends shared. Oh, she’d read about it in the romance books she secretly devoured, but hadn’t thought it actually existed. Her own parents probably loved each other, but treated each other more like friends than lovers. Hayden had thought the kind of love she read about was something dried-up, sexually frustrated, frumpy romance writers dreamed up in their lonely heads. How wrong she’d been.
Hayden shakily brought her hands up to her hair and smoothed it back as the hot water continued to beat down on her. That kind of love had eluded Hayden her entire life. As a kid, a teenager, a college student, and even as an adult. She’d had her fill of boyfriends, even some she could’ve loved…if they’d given her half a chance. But not once had she evoked that kind of emotion from another human being.
Remembering how Quint had looked at her as she was about to climb up a tree to rescue his girlfriend, and said, “Be careful,” Hayden had gotten a glimpse of what it might be like to have a man be concerned about her. It had felt good to be worried about for once. But then Quint had finished his sentence. He’d said, “Be careful, she means the world to me.”
Of course he’d been worried about Corrie and not her. She was Sheriff’s Deputy Hayden Yates…no one worried about her. She could take care of herself. She always took care of herself.
That moment ran through her again and again. The relief she felt that Corrie was all right, as well as the pain of knowing she herself was but a second thought in everyone’s minds.
Hayden took a deep breath and quickly washed her hair, and then poured some body gel over the shower poof and scrubbed her body. She rinsed and turned off the water. She grabbed a towel and briskly ran it over herself, hanging it back on the rack when she was done. Standing naked at the sink, she brushed her teeth and swished some mouthwash before spitting it out.
She strode out of the bathroom with large strides, which had been called manly on more than one occasion, and threw back the comforter on her bed. Hayden’s bed was her safe place. The one place where she could always be herself. The sheets were one-thousand thread count and luxurious against her naked body. Her comforter was pink and flowery and was almost obnoxiously feminine.
Hayden snuggled down and held her childhood stuffed animal tight to her chest. It was a pink elephant that had seen better days. The fur had been worn off long ago and the stuffing had been replaced several times. Ellie the Elephant’s trunk had been sewn back on awkwardly more than once and sat crooked on the once-fuzzy face. Hayden had never shown anyone her prized possession, knowing it wouldn’t fit their perception of her. Tough. Competent. Tomboy.
She choked back a sob and buried her head in Ellie’s soft body, thinking back on the last few months and everything that had happened.
Witnessing Cade and Beth, relieved to see each other after the break-in at his house. Beth had admitted that Cade was her “safe place,” and the thought of him arriving to find her where she’d been hiding behind their house had gotten her through the ordeal.
Seeing Quint in her mind, and his obvious love for Corrie, his relief she was safe and the looks on their faces as they’d held each other tight after Hayden had helped her out of the tree.
Hayden’s sad, lonely words rang out in the empty room, with no one to hear them but her.
“Just once, I’d like someone to be afraid of losing me.”
Hayden sighed happily for what seemed like the hundredth time that day. The two weeks she’d been on paid administrative leave had seemed like a lifetime. Without her work as a sheriff’s deputy, she had nothing…she was nobody. She lived for her job. Right or wrong, it was what made her happy and made her who she was.
She didn’t regret returning fire at the man who’d pulled a gun on her during a routine traffic stop. It was just another one of the hundreds of calls she’d been on during her career, except this time as she approached the driver’s door, the man pulled out a pistol and shot at her. Luckily she’d had enough training to act instinctively, narrowly missing being struck and firing at the driver even as she’d been falling to the side.
The firefight was over within seconds, with Hayden’s bullet hitting the man in the forehead, and killing him instantly. It had turned out the man had a warrant for murder…he’d killed his girlfriend over in Houston and was on the run.
Anytime an officer was involved in a shooting, administrative leave was mandatory. Hayden knew she’d been in the right, but it took time for the investigation board to do their review, which seemed to take longer than it had in the past, in part because of the intense media scrutiny that always followed anytime a cop was forced to shoot a civilian. She’d been lucky not to have been that close to a bullet many times in her career, but the wait to be able to return to work was never easy for her.
When Hayden had finally received the call saying she’d been cleared and was back on the shift schedule, she’d been ready. She wasn’t used to taking so much time off. She’d gone out for drinks a time or two with Dax, Cruz, Quint, and their girlfriends. Hayden really liked Mackenzie, Mickie, and Corrie. Sometimes Laine, Mack’s best friend who was dating another Texas Ranger, would come out with them too, but she hadn’t been able to join them lately.
Hayden was close friends with quite a few men from other law enforcement agencies, which was somewhat unusual, but no one cared. They’d all met up at various conferences and worked together on cases that crossed jurisdictions. The men’s girlfriends were funny, feminine, and not afraid to give their boyfriends hell. Every time they went out, Hayden always left with her sides hurting from laughing so hard.
One night, some of the guys from Station 7, the firefighters who were becoming more like brothers to her than merely coworkers, had joined them, and she’d laughed more than she ever had before. Cade had shown up for a while, but left early to spend the rest of the night with Beth, who was still working her way up to going out with friends. She was managing her agoraphobia, and Cade said she was getting better each week, but wasn’t quite up for a night out.
Hayden also went out a couple of times with some of her fellow deputies from the sheriff’s department, and some of the other local single law enforcement officers that she knew and liked. Stag nights out were a lot of fun, and much better than sitting at home. Hayden loved watching TJ, Conor, Calder, and some of her other unattached friends flirt and try to impress the ladies.
She knew she was “just one of the guys,” and that was all right with her. Hayden wasn’t attracted to any of the men she worked with, and they certainly weren’t attracted to her. She’d never had such good friends, and she’d take friendship over love any day of the week.
She knew what she was and what she wasn’t. And what she wasn’t was that feminine, pretty, or prone to need a man to take care of her. She never had been, and she never would be.
Hayden had a strong self-esteem, an independent streak, and genuinely liked who she was, but seeing the relationships her friends had with their girlfriends was sometimes enough to make her long for someone of her own. A man who might worry about her when she was on shift. Or who might take the time to bring her lunch while she was on break. Or who might appreciate the fact that she wasn’t the kind of woman who needed them to send flowers or treat her with kid gloves. “Dispatch to four-two-four.”
Hayden was brought out of her semi-depressing thoughts by the voice crackling over her radio. “This is four-two-four, go ahead.”
“Assistance requested at one thousand forty-three Hildebrandt Road for domestic incident.” “Ten-four.”
Hayden leaned over and flicked on the lights and sirens on her vehicle. She was already on the southeast side of San Antonio and was closest to the scene. She accelerated and noticed absently how the cars on the outer loop actually pulled over to the right for once as she came up behind them.
“Dispatch, this is four-two-four. Do you have any other details on the domestic?”
“Call came in about thirty minutes ago. The woman calling in claimed she’d been visiting her boyfriend and he’d gotten upset with her and hit her. Six-two-seven and one-seven-four are on scene now and requesting backup.” “Weapons?”
Domestic incidents were some of the most difficult calls Hayden and her fellow deputies—hell, any law enforcement officer—had to deal with. Emotions were most often high, and it was left up to the officer to determine what actually happened. Most of the time both parties claimed it was the other person’s fault. Not to mention the fact there was always the threat of a weapon being involved. Abusers knew the laws were against them and would do or say whatever it took to keep from going to jail.
Domestic assault was one of the few misdemeanor offenses in Texas where a police officer could arrest a person on the spot, even without actually witnessing the incident. All the officer needed was probable cause, like a witness statement or some sort of evidence of injury, to show one person had assaulted the other.
Hayden wholeheartedly agreed with the law. She’d only been in law enforcement for ten years, but even in that time, she’d seen the law slowly erring more on the side of the victim. She’d witnessed way too many abusers getting away with violence against their partners time and time again. From her perspective, it was incredibly frustrating.
Dispatch typically tried to send deputies in pairs to any and all domestic incidents, due to the increased danger. Six-two-seven was Jimmy Phillips and one-seven-four was Troy Bruton. Hayden knew and respected both men, even if they tended to be a bit on the heavy-handed side. They very rarely gave warnings to speeders and Hayden knew they were part of the “good ol’ boy” network. But, even so, they were good officers and Hayden was honored to have them at her back.
Hayden pulled off the interstate on Hildebrandt Road and raced toward the address on her laptop GPS. She continued to be pleasantly surprised when the cars moved to get out of her way. Finally, she arrived at the address, surprised to see it was a cattle farm. Of course, domestic incidents could happen anywhere, but this was the first time she’d been called to such a large, and obviously successful, cattle farm.
Even though Hayden had lived in Texas for most of her life, she’d never learned the names of the different kinds of cows. The only ones she knew on sight were the longhorns. There were large black-and-brown cows lazily milling around the fields surrounding the property.
Hayden pulled into the driveway of the farm, and passed under the beautiful wrought iron sign proclaiming she was entering the property of “Hatcher Farms.” She parked her vehicle next to Jimmy and Troy’s patrol cars, radioed her position into dispatch, then climbed out.
Hayden could immediately hear a hysterical woman screeching as she adjusted her utility belt and made sure her equipment—taser, pistol, handcuffs, and baton—were in place before she headed toward the house. She took a small moment to appreciate the beauty of the building she was about to enter.
It was one level, with a wraparound porch across the entire front of the house with several large windows which would let in the morning light. It had a gray metal roof and three dormer windows along the top of the house. There was even a porch swing lazily swaying in the warm Texas breeze. All in all, it looked like a fairy-tale house for a perfect family…but as usual, appearances could be deceiving, as the raised voice she could easily hear from outside attested.
Hayden didn’t bother knocking, the door was open. She pushed open the screen door and entered into a large foyer. Jimmy was in a room on the left with a hysterical female, which explained the screeching Hayden heard as she exited her car, and Troy was in the room on the right with a man.
Taking the scene in at a glance, Hayden relaxed a bit, realizing the threat of danger at the moment seemed to be low. The man was seated on a couch with his head in his hands. He was obviously not a threat to any of them at this point. The woman was the one who would bear some watching. She was gesturing wildly and wasn’t giving Jimmy a chance to get a word in edgewise.
Deciding to start with Troy—Hayden wanted to get the lay of the land before she waded into the volatile situation with Jimmy and the woman—she strode into the room and greeted her fellow deputy.
“Deputy Yates. Good to see you,” the other officer said easily as she entered.
Troy turned to the man on the couch. “Stay here a moment, Mr. Hatcher. I need to speak with Deputy Yates.”
The man, Mr. Hatcher, lifted his head and Hayden saw his face for the first time.
Good Lord, the man was beautiful.
There was no other word for it. She wasn’t a woman to be bowled over by a good-looking man, but there was an intensity in this one she’d never seen before. He had a five-o’clock shadow, as if he hadn’t shaved in a day or two. He had dark wavy hair, which was probably about two months past needing a trim, but seemed to work for him. His jaw was square, his nose was crooked, it’d obviously been broken at one time or another. He had a full set of lips that were currently set in a grim line.
He didn’t look extremely large, even though he was muscular and obviously toned. Hayden couldn’t tell exactly how tall he was, as he was sitting, but she figured he’d probably only be a couple of inches taller than her. She’d never been attracted to hugely buff men before, having seen enough of those types of physiques in some of the fellow officers she worked with, but this man seemed to be the perfect mix of muscles, height, and looks.
But as much as she was immediately attracted to him, it was the man’s eyes that really caught Hayden’s attention. They seemed to reach out and grab hold of her heart. They were sad and, if Hayden wasn’t mistaken, frustrated. She had no idea how she could read that much into his brown eyes, but she could. The color reminded Hayden of the one and only doll she’d owned in her life. Her mom had bought it for her when she was around four. Hayden had named her Molly. Molly had a plastic head with the most realistic eyes she’d ever seen in a toy.
She’d had that doll for exactly two months before it had disappeared. It wasn’t until she was in her teens that she’d found out her father had thrown it away.
Hayden threw off the distracting thoughts, knowing this wasn’t the time to think about her dysfunctional upbringing, or the odd and inappropriate attraction she had for a suspect in a domestic incident. She concentrated on her coworker. She and Troy stepped to the side and kept their voices low so the man wouldn’t hear their conversation.
“What have we got?” Hayden asked.
“Typical domestic as far as we can tell. The woman called nine-one-one and claimed that her boyfriend,” Troy gestured toward the man on the couch with his thumb, “hit her and she was scared he was going to keep at her. She’s got marks on her face and fingerprints on her wrist. Looks pretty cut and dried.”
Hayden, never one to take anything at face value, asked, “What does he have to say about it?”
“Same old shit. He’s claiming he never touched her, would never hit a woman, and he further explained that he broke up with her a month ago, but she’s refusing to take the hint and leave.”
“Really?” Hayden was surprised. That kind of thing should be pretty easy to look into, and if the man was lying about it, he wasn’t very smart.
“Yeah.” Troy continued. “He further claims that she hit herself to make it look like he did it, and that she’d been threatening to get him arrested if he didn’t take her back.”
“Hmmmm.” This was a new one. Hayden had been on a few cases where it was the man who was domestically abused, but none of the men had looked like this one. He didn’t look like he’d take shit from anyone…never mind a woman.
“What a crock of shit,” Troy scoffed. “Look at him. He’s huge. He’s definitely a threat.”
Hayden looked back at the man sitting on the couch, then looked into the other room at the woman who was still carrying on. She stuck with her original assessment. Average height for a man, strong—he’d have to be if he worked on a ranch—and if he decided to strike out at a woman, he’d easily do some damage…he wouldn’t have to put much power behind his hand to make her bruise.
But at the moment, the man didn’t look the least bit threatening. He was muscular, yes, but from her professional experience, he wasn’t exuding any scary vibes. Hayden had learned to be a pretty good judge of character. She had to be. Her life depended on it.
“Let me talk to him. You know as well as I do sometimes a woman can either make them relax and spill their guts, or rile him up more so we can see what he really thinks.”
“Great. That’s why we requested dispatch call you. I’ll go in and back up Jimmy. Sounds like he’s got his hands full over there.”
Hayden nodded at Troy and watched as he ambled off into the other room. She went back over to the man on the couch. She noticed that he’d been watching her and Troy talk. He might not have been able to hear what they were saying, but his eyes stayed glued to them as if he was afraid they’d come back any second and put him in handcuffs. Even though she’d just lain eyes on the man, Hayden realized that with the way his eyes scanned between her coworkers and the woman in the other room, that not much escaped this man’s notice. She couldn’t underestimate him.
“Hello, my name is Deputy Yates.” She held out her hand in greeting.
“Boone Hatcher.” He shook her hand politely, then dropped it.
She stuck her thumbs in her utility belt and assumed a relaxed pose, trying to put him at ease…well as at ease as he could be in a situation like this. “Hatcher. You own this farm?”
“Yeah. It belonged to my father, and when he passed away, it came to me.”
“I’m sorry about your father.” Hayden tried to establish a rapport with the man. She’d learned over the years that getting right down to the questions was never a good way to start an interview. She had to establish some sort of trust, show the person she was human and not jump right into questioning them. “You’re obviously very successful.”
Hayden resisted the urge to squirm under his gaze. It was as if he knew exactly what she was doing. Finally, he responded, but Hayden had the feeling he was simply humoring her.
“Yeah, Hatcher Farms is one of the most successful breeding farms in Texas. We sell bulls, cattle, and semen all over the United States. It’s a large operation, but one that’s still family owned and operated.”
Hayden decided to get to it. Boone seemed like a man who’d appreciate straight talk. “What happened here today, Boone?”
He kept eye contact with her. “I already told your partner what happened.”
“But you haven’t told me. I like to hear things for myself. Make my own decisions.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...