Cuff MeBy: Lauren Layne
As always, a huge thank you to everyone who touched this manuscript and helped bring Jill and Vincent to life.
So much gratitude for my editor Lauren Plude, who helped me really get to the heart of the love story. And for Megha Parekh, for jumping in feet first with an unfamiliar project and loving it. Special shout out to Kristi Yanta for the best beta-read in the history of publishing.
Thank you to the endlessly patient production team: Susan Higgins for the copyedits and Tareth Mitch for careful attention to details.
For the cover designers, marketing and publicity team, and everyone who made sure the book was as fabulous on the outside as I’d like to think it is on the inside.
For my amazing assistant Lisa, you keep me sane and I adore you.
Friends, family… you know who you are, you know what you do. I’m endlessly grateful.
There’s something wrong with a man that grins like that at a crime scene.”
Detective Vincent Moretti glanced up from where he’d been studying the gunshot wound of the vic and glared at the officer who’d been shadowing him for the past three months.
“I wasn’t grinning.”
Detective Tyler Dansen never paused in scribbling in the black notebook he carried everywhere. “You were definitely grinning.”
Dansen glanced up. “Fine. Maybe not grinning. But I’m one hundred percent sure I saw you smile.”
“How about you be one hundred percent sure about who shot this guy instead?” Vincent said irritably.
Dansen returned his attention to his damn notebook, but he didn’t look particularly chagrined by Vin’s reprimand.
Oh, what Vin wouldn’t give to go back to those early days when all he’d had to do was look at Dansen, and the kid practically dropped into a deferential bow.
Three months of spending every workday in each other’s company had the newly minted detective acting nearly as impudent as Vincent’s actual partner.
Nearly being an important distinction, because Vincent didn’t think they made ’em sassier, more stubborn, or more annoying than Detective Jill Henley.
And he would know. They’d been partners for six long years, and their pairing up as partners was proof of God’s sense of humor.
Jill Henley was Vincent’s opposite in every way.
Jill was chipper, charming, and smiley.
Vincent was… none of those things.
Especially not the last one. Although, if he was being really honest with himself, Dansen may have been right about Vincent cracking a smile earlier.
It’s not that Vin was immune to death. There was absolutely nothing humorous about a man lying cold in his own blood and guts, dead from a gunshot wound to the stomach.
But after six years as a homicide DT for the NYPD, one learned to compartmentalize. To let the brain occasionally go somewhere else other than death even as you were staring straight at it.
It was the only way to survive. Otherwise it was nothing but puking and nightmares.
And speaking of puking…
Vincent stood and gave Detective Dansen a once-over. “If you’re gonna barf, do it outside,” he said, just to needle the younger man.
Dansen threw his arms up in exasperation. “That was one time. One time! And I hear it happens to everyone on their first day.”
“Didn’t happen to me.”
“That’s because you’re a machine,” Dansen muttered under his breath.
Vincent didn’t respond to this. It was nothing he hadn’t heard before. Robot. Machine. Automaton.
He just didn’t know what people expected him to do about it.
In the movies, there was always some reason for the semi-mechanical, unfeeling action hero.
Either a dead wife, an abusive past, or some other sort of jacked-up emotional history. But Vincent had always sort of figured he’d been born this way. Quiet. Reserved. Broody.