She’s the face of the law, he exists in the shadows of crime.
Together, they’re all wrong … but it feels so right.
Hi everyone! I’m super excited to announce that Crossing the Line will be released on December 12, 2016 and is available now for pre-order at the following e-book retailers: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Barnes & Noble
I hope you’ll enjoy Sloane and Jared’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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ENJOY AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE
Sloane Westbrook tamped down her nerves and stared at the county’s official seal affixed to the wall behind her new boss’s desk. First day jitters were to be expected, but she was confident that by the end of the day, after she’d met the staff and settled into her new office, she’d be fine. More than fine, actually. She couldn’t wait to get started.
“Welcome to the madhouse,” Peter Evans said with a boyish grin as he closed the file on his desk. Behind the round wire-rimmed glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, his brown eyes glinted with amusement. “I hope by the end of the week you won’t regret your decision to join my team.”
“There’s no chance of that,” Sloane said with a smile.
“Before we get started, would you like some coffee?” he asked as he pushed back from his desk and stood.
“Normally, yes. But I’ve already had two cups.”
“Only two?” Peter picked up a mug proclaiming him the ‘World’s Best Dad,’ moved to the low credenza to the right of his desk, and poured himself a cup of coffee from the half-empty pot sitting on a burner. “This is my fourth cup this morning.”
Sloane took the opportunity to survey the room. Unlike her former boss’s office in Pittsburgh, there was nothing over-the-top or ostentatious about Peter’s space. Framed college and law degrees hung on the wall behind his desk, along with a few pictures of Peter posing with individuals whom she presumed were prominent officials and leaders of the community.
Returning to his desk, Peter sat, then leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee. “To start with, I’d like to give you some case files to research and determine if we have enough evidence to go forward with charges. Due to budget constraints, we’ve been understaffed for some time, and as you can imagine, the amount of backlog is incredible. You’ll have your work cut out for you.”
Sloane schooled her expression as she nodded. Although disappointed, she was fully aware she wouldn’t get a shot at a big case just yet. As the newest hire in the District Attorney’s office, she would have to earn the respect of Peter and her peers before being assigned anything high profile. To that end, she wasn’t about to ruffle the feathers of the other ADAs by acting like a demanding diva.
“I’m ready to dig right in,” Sloane said just as the intercom on Peter’s desk phone buzzed.
He leaned forward and pressed a button. “Yes, Jennie?”
“The PPD called. They have Jared Hunter in for questioning. You said you wanted to be notified.”
“Thanks. Please let them know I’m coming over.” He hit the com line again and shot her an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to cut this short. I need to get over to the police department.”
“No problem,” she said. “I can wait, or if you’d prefer I can get started on those case files you mentioned.”
He regarded her thoughtfully for a few seconds, then set his mug on the desk and rose from his chair. “I have a better idea. Why don’t you come with me? You need to know the players in this town, both good and bad.”
Sloane’s pulse accelerated sharply. Anyone familiar with the Masters crime organization knew the name Jared Hunter. It was rumored that Hunter was Anthony Masters’ second-in-command and wielded a great deal of power. Suppressing her excitement, she stood and buttoned the jacket of her favorite pale pink suit. “I’d like that. Thank you,” she said, and then together they left his office.
“I’m familiar with Anthony Masters,” she said a few minutes later as they waited for the elevator. “I understand Jared Hunter is one of his high-level associates.”
“Yes. We’ve brought both of them in many times but we’ve never been able to get a conviction.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, for starters, Masters retains one of the best attorneys in the state.” The elevator chimed, then the doors slid open. “You’ve heard of Damon Howard?”
She grimaced. “Oh yes, I’ve heard of him.”
They stepped into the elevator and Peter hit the button for the first floor. “I detect a trace of contempt in your voice.”
“I have a hard time respecting attorneys who represent mobsters.” Sloane preferred working on the behalf of victims, not perpetrators. She’d seen too many guilty people get away with their crimes to summon up much sympathy for known criminals who managed to slip through the fingers of Lady Justice.
“Everyone is entitled to a defense.” The elevator doors slid open. “And everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Peter added as they stepped into the lobby.
Sloane shot him a wry smile. “And someone has to defend the accused. Trust me. I get it. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Peter’s bark of laughter echoed off the lobby walls. “I think you’re going to fit right in at the DA’s office.”
After a short trek across the street to Piedmont’s main police precinct, Sloane accompanied Peter into a large squad room bustling with uniformed officers and other law enforcement personnel. She followed her boss until he stopped to talk with a weary looking man of about forty, who wore a shield on his belt and a gun strapped to his hip.
While Peter and the man spoke, Sloane surveyed the room. Like most detective divisions she’d visited, the desks were set up in groups of two and facing each other. From her experience, most detectives worked in pairs; the desk arrangement made it easier for partners to work their cases together.
Not far from where Peter stood, Sloane’s gaze fell upon a man sitting in one of the chairs next to an empty desk. His back was to her and she couldn’t see his face, but she could only assume it was Jared Hunter. Her assumption proved to be correct when Peter moved to stand beside him, and then addressed him.
“Mr. Hunter, thank you for coming in. We have some questions about the explosion at Pier 9 last night.” Peter’s tone was polite, but the friendly demeanor he’d displayed with her was long gone.
Jared Hunter turned his head toward Peter. From her position, Sloane took note of his chiseled-in-granite profile, neatly trimmed caramel-brown hair, and broad muscular shoulders showcased by the black T-shirt he wore, and quickly revised the mental picture she’d formed in her head of Anthony Masters’ trusted henchman. For whatever reason, she’d expected an older man, not one close to her own age.
Hunter remained silent. He and Peter stared at each other for several moments before Jared broke eye contact and looked away. “You know the drill, Evans. I don’t talk to the cops without my attorney.” The tone of his voice indicated minor annoyance rather than anger. Another surprise. Sloane took a step forward, itching to get a better look at him.
“We’re not charging you with anything. We’re just looking for information…since the warehouse is owned by your boss. You don’t seem all that interested in helping us find the perpetrators. Why is that?” Peter’s patient tone didn’t garner a response. Jared Hunter said nothing further and Peter let out an exasperated sigh, then turned to Sloane. “This is his usual routine. Get used to it.”
Hunter half-turned in the chair to check out who Peter was speaking to and Sloane quickly stifled an astonished gasp. Not only was Jared Hunter younger than she’d expected, he was devastatingly handsome. Not in a pretty-boy-that-uses-a-mirror-more-than-a-woman way, but in a rugged-and-wielding-a-hammer-while-he-built-a-house sort of way. His brilliant blue eyes assessed her for several seconds and to her chagrin, she grew warm under his intense scrutiny. His gaze raked over her body before he turned away, coolly dismissing her. She shook off her annoyance; the man was a low-life criminal for heaven’s sake. She shouldn’t give a damn what he thought of her. Good, bad, or indifferent.
“Evans, unless you’re pressing charges against my client, I suggest you release him immediately.”
Sloane turned to find a handsome African-American man standing behind her. She recognized Damon Howard immediately. He’d been all over the Philadelphia news two years ago defending a professional athlete accused of domestic battery.
“This is an informal inquiry regarding an incident at the pier last night. Nothing more.”
Damon Howard’s dark brown eyes flickered with irritation. “My client has no knowledge of that incident or who caused it.”
“Where have I heard that before?” Peter didn’t bother to veil his sarcasm.
“Charge him or release him.”
Peter waved a dismissive hand. “Fine. He can go.”
Jared stood and—wouldn’t you know it—in addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, he was also tall. Six-two or thereabouts, Sloane judged easily since she was on the taller side herself. Without another glance at Peter, Hunter moved toward the exit, but then halted directly in front of her. Overwhelmed by the sheer force of his presence, she had to fight the urge to step back and put some space between them. Trying to ignore her unexpected reaction, she met his piercing gaze with a steely one of her own until something she couldn’t define gleamed in his eyes. Just as quickly, his expression became shuttered and he stepped around her and strode out of the room without a backward glance.
Damon didn’t appear to find Hunter’s actions rude. Maybe he was used to it. He scowled at Peter. “How many times do I have to say this? If you don’t stop this incessant harassment of my client, I’ll file a lawsuit against both you and the PPD.”
Peter inclined his head. “Duly noted.”
Damon shot an inquiring glance toward Sloane. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“This is Sloane Westbrook,” Peter said. “My newest ADA. Sloane, this is Damon Howard.”
“Ah. Another do-gooder out to rid Piedmont of its criminal element,” Damon said with a hint of disdain in his voice as he extended his hand. “Good luck with that.”
“Thank you, but luck has nothing to do with it,” Sloane replied as they briefly shook hands.
Damon’s eyes widened slightly, as if surprised by her reply. “Maybe you can convince your boss to stop this harassment.”
“He was just trying to get information, Mr. Howard.”
“Trying to get information is one thing, but the continual harassment of my client is another.”
“I hardly think a few questions constitute harassment.”
A muscle twitched in Damon’s jaw. “You’re new here so I’ll cut you some slack. But you need to know that I will not tolerate anyone who violates my client’s civil rights.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
He seemed taken aback by her low key response. “You do that.”
After Damon left the squad room, Peter turned to her. “So, what did you think of Jared Hunter?”
“He’s not what I expected,” Sloane said, but didn’t add that he was also the most attractive man she’d laid eyes on in months. Somehow she didn’t think Peter would be pleased to know she found Jared Hunter compelling. But compelling or not, it was her job to put him, and men like him, in prison. She’d learned early in her career that even the handsomest of men could have the most evil of intentions, and to that end she never let anyone’s appearance affect the way she handled a case.
“Underneath that quiet demeanor is a cold and calculating man, Sloane. Please remember that.”
Peter’s ominous warning and somber expression sent a shiver up her spine. Still, when Jared Hunter had looked into her eyes she’d seen something in them besides coldness, and curiosity made her wonder what it was. There was one thing she did know, and that was whatever he’d thought of her, it wasn’t much. Those blue eyes of his had dismissed her as if she was utterly insignificant, and for reasons she chose not to examine further, it irritated the hell out of her.
“Don’t worry,” Sloane assured him. “I won’t forget.”