Steal Me

By: Lauren Layne



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS




A huge thank-you to all the usual suspects:

Nicole Resciniti, my fabulous agent, for always being there to talk me off the ledge.

For Lauren Plude, for gently nudging me back on track when my story ideas go in all the wrong directions.

For the entire Grand Central team, for the fabulous cover, the marketing support, and, of course, the production process that turns this from messy manuscript into beautiful book.

For my husband, for being understanding when I speak only “grunt and tantrums” when knee-deep in a story, and for my family and friends for understanding when I drop off the edge of the earth.

Lastly, for my super-secret NYPD source (and brother of one of my most darling readers), who helped me keep the “cop stuff” grounded.





Chapter One



For Captain Anthony Moretti, three things in life were sacred:

(1) Family.

(2) The NYPD.

(3) The New York Yankees.

And on this breezy, September Sunday morning, two out of these three things were making him crazy. Not in the good way.

“What do you mean, you don’t want to talk about it?” his father barked, leaning across the table to help himself to one of Anthony’s pieces of bacon.

Maria Moretti’s hand was deft and practiced—the mark of a mother of five—as she swiftly swatted the bacon out of her husband’s fingers. “The doctor said you were supposed to take it easy on the bacon!”

“I am taking it easy. This is Anthony’s bacon,” Tony clarified, rubbing the back of his hand.

“Is it?” Anthony muttered, glancing at the now empty plate. “I don’t seem to remember actually getting to eat any of it.”

His youngest brother and fellow cop stabbed a piece of fruit with his fork and waved it in Anthony’s face. “Cantaloupe?”

Anthony gave Luc a withering look. He could appreciate that his baby brother felt man enough to get a side of fruit with his Sunday brunch, but Anth would stick to potatoes and fatty pig products, thanks very much.

“I think I’m going to hurl,” his other brother, Vincent, said to no one. “Shouldn’t have gotten the side of pancakes. Too old for this shit.”

Anthony felt the beginnings of a headache.

Item number one on his priority list (family) was also the number one cause of his frequent Please, God, take me away to a deserted tropical island prayers.

But there was no tropical island. Just the same old shit.

For every one of Anthony’s thirty-six years, Sundays had looked exactly the same. All Morettis filed obediently into their pew at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for ten o’clock Mass.

Breakfast always followed, always at the same diner, although the name had changed a handful of times over the years.

The sign out front currently read The Darby Diner, named after…nobody knew.

But the Morettis had never cared what it was called. Or why it was called that. As long as the coffee was hot, the hash browns crispy, and the breakfast meats plentiful, they were happy.

Granted, the greasy-spoon food of the Darby Diner was a far cry from the Morettis’ usual fare of home-cooked Italian meals, but Anthony was pretty sure they all secretly loved the weekly foray into pure Americana cuisine. Even his mother didn’t seem to mind (much) so long as her family was all together.

“So what did you mean, you don’t want to talk about it?” Tony Moretti repeated, glancing down at Anthony’s plate and scowling to see the bacon supply completely depleted.

Anthony scooped a mouthful of Swiss cheese omelet into his mouth before sitting back and reaching for his coffee. “It means that Ma doesn’t like cop talk at the table.”

“Riiiiight,” Elena Moretti said from Anthony’s left side. “Because you guys always respect Mom’s no-cop-talk rule.”

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