Control (Everyday Heroes #3.5)(9)

By: K. Bromberg


I turn to see an old friend from the Academy moving across the space. He’s a little over six foot. Dark hair. Light eyes. The fucker has filled out since being in the same graduating class with me—when he knew this was what he was made to do, and I questioned whether I’d be able to stay on the right side of the law.

“Grant Malone? No shit.”

We shake hands, and he takes a seat beside me. The bartender slides a beer to him within seconds without him asking.

“Thanks, Timmy,” he says with a nod and then turns back to me. “You look good. What happened, did you have a run-in at a tattoo parlor?” He laughs as he takes in the sleeve covering my right arm.

“You know how it goes. We all have to tell our stories somewhere…mine just happens to be on my arms. Hell, if I’ve gotta be straight-laced, I might as well look like a badass while doing it.”

“You haven’t changed one bit.” Grant lifts his beer to his lips and shakes his head.

“And your skin is still art free,” I tease. “Still a cop?”

“Detective.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“You like it?”

“It’s a smaller beat but—”

“Crime’s everywhere.”

“You can say that again. I’m just coming off a homicide at one of the vineyards. Decided I’d kick it here for a bit, unwind, get my head straight before heading home to the fam.”

“Family?” I’m not surprised. Malone’s one of the good ones.

“Yep. Wife. Two kids with one on the way. Dogs.”

“So very TV sitcom-ish.”

We both laugh, the leap in our lives so very different than the last time we saw each other.

“What about you? You married? Kids?”

“Nah. Not sure if it’s for me or not.”

“I can respect that. Are you still on the right side of the law or did you decide it wasn’t exciting enough for you?” he asks without any judgment in his tone. It doesn’t surprise me that he remembers our late-night conversations in the Academy dorms. The ones where I confessed to what a punk I’d been. The trouble I’d been caught up in where I figured my only option was to sign on with the force or end up behind bars.

“Me? SWAT.” I love the look on his face. Shock mixed with disbelief. “Wild, huh?”

“You’re serious.”

“As a heart attack. Did entry for ten years, and I’ve been the commander of a team with SFPD for the past five.”

He looks at the beer between his hands and smiles. “Some of the guys took bets after we graduated from the Academy whether you’d stick it out or not.”

“Nice to know my friends are bastard assholes,” I say through a laugh, but know damn well I would have bet against me too. “And?”

“Looks like if I could track down the old crew, I’d be a rich man.” He taps the neck of his beer against mine and takes a long pull before looking back at me. “Fucking SWAT, Rez? Really?”

“Yep. Gotta get my fix of adrenaline somehow.” I take my time looking around the bar, watching to see who’s sitting back, taking note of who’s paying attention that Grant is talking to an outsider in this town where it seems everyone knows everyone. Getting the lay of the land even when I’m not on duty. It seems old habits die hard. “So this is your beloved Sunnyville, huh?”

“Yep. Big but small. Scenic but confining. A place where everyone knows your name…and your business.” He laughs, but I can tell he loves it here. “Told you that you’d make it here one day.”

“Guess it seems you knew all the answers back then. You should have been a fortune teller.”

“No, thanks. I’m good with where life has brought me. What brings you here?”

“I took some time off I had coming.”

“There’s never time off in our world,” he says, and I can see his mind working. I know he’s wondering if I was put on disciplinary leave for something. It’s really none of his fucking business, but the last thing I need is him looking into me.

“Shit went south in a situation I was leading my team on. A dad barricaded with kids. I made the call to breach. Shit went bad before we were able to neutralize him.”