Thursday, February 16, 2017

Take Me Harder (Texas Bounty #3) by Jackie Ashenden (Review)

Take Me Harder
(Texas Bounty #3)
by Jackie Ashenden

An ex-con with a bad-boy reputation falls for his childhood sweetheart—a good-girl cop chasing a ruthless killer—as the Texas Bounty series gets steamier than the Lone Star State.

Rush Redmond never expected freedom to taste so bittersweet. He spent eight years in jail doing someone else’s time, and for what? As an ex-con, Rush can’t work as a bounty hunter like his brothers—not in Texas. Better to drown his sorrows with a stiff drink and soft curves. Too bad the temptation he craves is a redhead with a badge: Ava St. George. Once upon a time, Rush would’ve done anything for the sheriff’s innocent daughter. Now he’s fighting the urge to let her sweet-talk him into some trouble he can’t afford.

Even though she’s a cop, Ava knows that sometimes justice means pushing the boundaries of the law. To track down her mother’s killer, she turns to the man with the county’s criminal underworld in his little black book. The boy she knew is still drop-dead gorgeous, with panty-dropping charm as smooth as his smile. But his sculpted arms and the menacing gleam in his eyes scream “Don’t mess with me.” Yet Ava needs Rush more than ever—in more ways than one.

I would like to start off by saying that this has been my favorite so far in the series, don't worry if you haven't read Take Me Deeper or Make It Hurt yet this can be read as a standalone, but I do suggest you read the first two books in the series because they were definitely enjoyable reads.

Rush Redmond is a complex character there is a lot that I cannot share because they would be spoilers to the story but I can tell you that he has spent the last eight years in prison for a crime that he didn't commit and now that he's out he hasn't done much other than getting drunk and spending a LOT of time with Candy, a stripper at Sugar Daddy's.

Ava St. George is a wonderful combination of fierce yet naive, as a police officer she knows what to do to get things done but as a woman...yeah she's a bit clueless. Take her Virgin status out of the equation because all virgins are a bit clueless when it comes to their first time, but this poor girl grew up without her mother, she was killed in the line of duty when Ava was just a little girl, and she has no female friends that she can confide in or even get help from with how to dress like a woman instead of a gender neutral kid.  I think it was her naivete that I found so endearing.

There is a bit of an age gap between Rush and Ava, ten years to be exact, so he is wayyyyyy more experienced than she is, obviously since she's still a virgin, but they always had a connection even when they were younger Rush was the one that talked with her and gave her milk and cookies when she and her father were visiting the Redmond family. That may seem a little creepy to some but I believe it added to the story of how they were always there for one another even at a young age.

Ava is on the hunt for the man that she believes killed her mother, this is a total shock to Rush because there is someone already in prison serving time for that crime, but when Ava enlists his help in finding the real killer things get more complicated than either of them expected.

This was a great read, as I mentioned before this is my favorite in the series so far....that may change when Quinn's story is released. During chapter eighteen I was balling so be prepare to have some tissues handy. Jackie Ashenden has a way of spinning a story so that you are so engrossed you feel as if you are right there watching it play out right in front of you.

(the excerpt below was posted in Jackie Ashenden's newsletter recently)

Take Me Harder Excerpt

Chapter One

Contrary to popular rumor, Rush Redmond hadn’t actually killed anyone.
Oh sure, he’d gone to jail for the manslaughter of a woman, that was an undeniable fact. But what people didn’t know was that he was innocent.
He’d been in jail for eight years, doing time for someone else.
He didn’t mind that no one knew, that everyone thought he was guilty. There were bonuses to being thought of as a mean-ass motherfucker. He didn’t regret the choice he’d made to take the fall either, though there had been times when he might have, if he’d allowed himself to.
What he did regret was the eight years of celibacy that jail sentence had earned him. Eight years without a woman was a damn long time for any guy, let alone a guy like him.
On the other hand, it made him appreciate occasions like this one, sitting at a table with a cold beer in his hand, watching a woman dressed in very little spiral slowly around a large silver pole in time to a sexy beat.
The stripper blew him a kiss, and he grinned. Candy was blond, stacked, and unbeatable in the sack. She’d promised him something special tonight, and he was looking forward it. He liked special, especially if it included her friend Chantelle.
“I think she likes you,” Rhys commented dryly from the chair opposite.
No one had been more surprised than Rush when the blank-faced bounty hunter from Duchess Bail Bonds had been the only one to respond to his casual “hey, let’s go to a strip club” invitation earlier that day. Rush had been expecting West, the other bounty hunter and a guy who looked like he’d enjoy a party, to take him up on it.
But no. Rhys had instead.
Rush didn’t mind. It wasn’t like he needed the company, though having a fellow pussy connoisseur along always made things more fun.
Rhys, however, didn’t seem to be much enthused about the pussy. He’d spent most of the evening nursing his one beer and looking at his phone.
“Well,” Rush said, stretching his legs out in front of him, enjoying the view of Candy’s round behind as she bent over and shook it. “What’s not to like?”
Rhys gave a noncommittal grunt, his attention returning to his phone.
Weird. What was the point of coming out if the dude wasn’t going to enjoy the ladies? Maybe Rush should have asked his brothers instead, though on second thought, maybe not. He knew what their answer would be already: a categorical no. Zane because he was uptight about shit like strippers and he already had a pretty woman in his bed. Quinn because . . . well. Quinn was grumpy as fuck, and actually Rush didn’t want to spend time with the douchebag.
In fact, come to think of it, Rhys was the best choice for the night. He only spoke when he had something to say—which wasn’t often—and he left Rush alone to contemplate the very fine ladies he would be making closer acquaintance with later on that evening. Couldn’t ask for better company than that.
Candy did another revolution around her pole, her hand reaching up behind her to undo the catch of the sparkly blue bikini top she wore.
Suddenly a figure blocked Rush’s view.
He frowned and tilted to the side.
The figure moved with him.
Okay, that was just rude. “Get the fuck out of the way,” he muttered, reaching out with one booted foot to nudge whoever it was to the side.
The figure remained un-nudged. “No,” a light, feminine, and familiar voice said. “I need to talk to you, Rush.”
He knew that voice, and now that he thought about it, the legs standing in front of him were familiar too. They were long and covered by dark blue trousers in a not particularly flattering cut. Uniform trousers.
A cop. A female cop. And there was only one female cop who’d call him by his first name . . .
Sitting back in his seat, Rush glanced up to see if his suspicions were correct, and indeed they were.
Round face, check. Pale skin dusted with freckles, check. Big copper-colored eyes and perfect little rosebud mouth, also check. Red hair pulled back tightly at the back of her head, yep, double check.
It was Ava St. George, the sheriff’s daughter and newbie cop.
Christ, he hadn’t seen her since he’d gone to prison, but she looked just the same. Well, okay, maybe not quite the same, since she’d only been fourteen when he went away, but yeah . . . pretty much just an older version of the teenager he remembered. He’d known her for years due to the fact that their fathers had once had a close, personal friendship. Her father was a widower, just like Joseph Redmond, and the two men had bonded over beers and the shared loss of their wives. Ava had always accompanied the sheriff on his visits to the Redmond household, and Joseph had made his boys keep an eye on her, something that none of the teenage Redmonds had enjoyed. Ava had been much younger than they were and not the slightest bit interested in listening to rock music or trying to sneak bourbon from their father’s liquor cabinet. In fact, she’d been a little scaredy cat, sitting there silently and not saying a word, watching them with her big eyes while her father and Joseph drank beer and shot the breeze.
Quinn and Zane always ended up ignoring her, but Rush hadn’t. He’d felt sorry for her, because Sheriff St. George tended to ignore her, and he knew what it was like to be ignored by your own father. He also knew what it was like to lose a mom, and Ava had just lost hers too.
So whenever she visited, and because he liked looking after people, he used to take her to the kitchen for a glass of milk and a cookie, and then he’d sit and chat with her, sharing stuff about his own mother, letting her know—without it being a big deal—that she could talk to him about her mom too. She’d been a bright little thing once she’d opened up, and he’d developed a kind of big-brother-type relationship with her.
But that was then and this was now, and after eight years inside for a crime he didn’t commit, he wasn’t feeling very brotherly toward anyone, let alone little Ava St. George. Who’d clearly grown up into the world’s most uptight-looking cop and was currently blocking his view of the very fine Candy Laine’s perfect bare tits.
What the hell was she doing here? Christ, if it was to welcome him home, then she was a good two months too late.
Leaning back in his seat, Rush stared up at the woman standing in front of him, looking ridiculously wholesome in her freshly pressed uniform, not to mention incongruous in the seedy red light and dingy decor of the strip club.
He was actually kind of pissed, now he thought about it. Two months since he’d been out, and she’d chosen tonight to come and see him? And at Sugar Daddy’s, for fuck sake?
She’d written him some letters while he’d been inside, telling him she wanted to visit, but her dad had told her no. Given that she’d only been fourteen, he’d agreed with the sheriff. Later, though, as she’d gotten older, he’d told her not to come, because he hadn’t wanted his bright spark of a friend to see him locked up like a fucking dog at the local pound. So she hadn’t come, and he thought he’d been fine with that.
Except right now it turned out that he wasn’t actually fine with that, he was actually a little pissed. And if he’d been any sort of good guy, he would have given Ava a smile and a hug like the big brother he’d once been to her. But he wasn’t a good guy, and though there were nicer ways to get rid of girls like her, Rush’s current favorite was to be as offensive as humanly possible. “Ava,” he drawled, “you’re in the way.”
Ava’s eyes narrowed. She flicked a glance at Rhys—who’d given her a once-over before returning his attention to his phone again—then looked back at Rush. And didn’t move. “Hi, Rush. Nice to see you too.”
That’s all he got? After eight fucking years?
You’re not supposed to care, remember?
Oh yeah, that’s right, he didn’t. Not anymore.
He gave her his trademark don’t-give-a-shit grin. “You’re two months late, but yeah, hi. I’m good. It’s nice being on the outside again after all this time. Freedom sure feels great.”
It was difficult to tell in the light of the club, but he was certain she blushed. “Well . . . I’m glad to see you on the outside too.”
He was making her feel bad, he could see that. Good. True, it wasn’t her fault she hadn’t come to see him, and it wasn’t fair to add her to the list of people who’d left him to rot in prison, but too bad. He was working on his asshole badge, and he’d always been a conscientious Boy Scout.
“So, any particular reason you’re here?” he asked. “Got a welcome-home present for me? A card? A bottle of Jack? No? Shit, not even a goddamn balloon?”
Her mouth tightened. “I . . . didn’t get you anything.”
“Then why, pray tell, are you here?”
“I need to talk to you,” she said again. “Now would be a good time.”
“Sadly, it’s not a good time for me.” He gestured toward the stage with his beer. “Move your pretty ass, honey, or else I’ll move it for you.”
Unimpressed with this threat, she frowned. “It’ll only take five minutes.”
Okay, so clearly he wasn’t being offensive enough. Looked like he needed to up his game.
Rush raised his beer and took a long swallow, taking his time about it. Then he put the bottle down and pinned her with a look. “Listen, sweetheart, to get my attention you’ve got two options. One, take off that uniform and get up on that stage. Or two, get down on your knees and open your mouth.”
Unfortunately, far from being offended, Ava only looked impatient. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, giving another scan around the club in a way that screamed cop. “I don’t have time for any of that nonsense.”
Which was not the response he was looking for. Jesus, did that mean he’d have to be even more offensive?
Or you could just talk to her.
Yeah, he could. But he didn’t want to. And these days he no longer did what he didn’t want to do. Apart from staying in Austin and working for his brother, of course, which was part of the agreement for his early release from prison. A release totally engineered by Ava’s father. Despite the promises everyone had made him, Rush had only had to wait eight years for someone to get him out. Not such a long time for a crime he didn’t commit, right?
Ian St. George had gotten the deal for him, a favor that had so many strings they might as well have given him a guitar and called him Kermit. Because shit, if it wasn’t easy being green, it wasn’t easy being an innocent man forced to keep working with the guy who’d gotten him locked up in the first place.
Yessir, that was Rush’s definition of hell. Being someone else’s puppet.
Then again, he only had a year here and he’d already worked two months of it, which meant he only had to stick it out another ten. Then his time would be up and he’d be outta here—they wouldn’t see him for dust. He was thinking of going to Vegas, spending quality time in some of the more expensive strip clubs, maybe play some roulette or blackjack, or maybe he’d just hole up in a hotel room and work his way through the minibar and a couple of cocktail waitresses.
But first, before he did that, he was going to track down his biological father. The one no one knew about but him and his mom. The one who wasn’t an alcoholic and who hadn’t died of liver failure a couple of months earlier.
Track him down and then nail him to the goddamn wall.
So yeah, talking to Ava St. George about anything wasn’t high on his list of important things to do. Up on the stage, Candy rolled her eyes at him and swiveled on a six-inch heel, strutting across the stage to a group of rowdy suits who were waving notes at her, obviously a more lucrative prospect than a guy with a cop standing in front of him.
“Sweetheart,” he said, allowing a bit of his annoyance to creep into his tone, “you’re on the verge of spoiling my evening. And I don’t like it when my evening gets spoiled. So if you’re not going to show me your tits or suck my dick, why don’t you run along and go arrest some teenagers or something?”
Ava stared at him, frowning slightly, her copper-gold eyes dark in the dim light of the club, and he had the disturbing thought that the look on her face was very similar to the look his mother used to get when he’d done something especially naughty as a kid. Disappointed but patient as well, as if he should have known better yet she wasn’t surprised because he was only a boy.
Pretty fucking patronizing, in other words.
“It’s only five minutes, Rush,” she said, as if he hadn’t said the words “tits,” “suck,” and “dick” in the same sentence in reference to her. “I’m pretty sure you’re not going to miss anything important.”
The annoyance deepened, and he knew he needed to lock it down real quick. Getting angry wouldn’t help anything, it never did, and anyway, letting Ava St. George get to him was like a wolf admitting it was scared of a lamb, and that just wasn’t happening.
Maybe once her smile had made him feel like he wasn’t a complete piece of shit all the way through, but those days were long gone. “Tits are important, honey,” he explained patiently. “Especially when you haven’t seen any in eight years.”
“They’ll still be there when we get back, I guarantee it.” She glanced around the room again as if searching for something. “I need to talk to you in private. Perhaps we could get the owner to give us one of the VIP rooms?”
Jesus Christ. The cop and the ex-con in the VIP room of Sugar Daddy’s. What a headline that would make. But as much as he wanted to do it just to see what would happen, he knew he couldn’t allow it. The sheriff would have a full-blown aneurysm if he knew his daughter had had even five minutes alone with Rush in one of those rooms, and Rush wasn’t ready to piss Ian off. The guy had pulled strings and gotten him an early release, and repaying him by messing around with his daughter wasn’t a good look.
Besides, a personal link with the cops was useful to Lone Star Bounty—the Redmonds’ fugitive-recovery business—and though Rush wasn’t interested in staying on Quinn’s good side or in keeping the business going, he liked to have something to hold over his brother if he needed it.
And then there’s the fact that she was once your friend and even though you haven’t seen her in years, you actually still care about her, right? Or at least you used to.
Yeah, “used to” being the operative term. She used to be his friend. And he used to care about her. But caring wasn’t something he did anymore, not after prison, and he didn’t need her hanging around reminding him about all those times when another person had mattered to him. When he had mattered to another person.
Times like when he’d gone off to the army and she’d unexpectedly burst into tears as he’d said goodbye, holding on to him and telling him he wasn’t allowed to go. Or when he’d gotten back three years later to find her grown into a stubborn, determined eleven-year-old, angry that her father wouldn’t let her follow her dreams of being a cop just like her mother. Times like when he’d shown her his gun and taught her how to shoot it, because if she wanted to be a cop then she should be one, no matter what anyone said.
The cop she’d ended up becoming, clearly.
“We’re not going into a goddamn VIP room,” Rush said shortly, trying and failing to ignore those unwanted memories. “Sit down here and we can talk.”
Ava’s frown deepened, and she shot a doubtful look at Rhys. “This isn’t very private.”
Obviously sensing something was going on, the guy glanced up from his phone, his dark eyes flicking from Rush to Ava and back again. Then he said, “You want a refill?”
Rush’s estimation of him rose a couple of notches. He could excuse himself when necessary, with the minimum of fuss, and get beer. What more could a guy ask for in a friend?
“Hell yeah,” Rush said, grinning. His bottle wasn’t actually empty, but he wasn’t one to look a gift beer in the mouth. “Get one for this pretty thing here too.”
“No, thank you.” Ava’s tone was all prim politeness. “I’m on duty.”
Rhys gave a nod, then got up and disappeared in the direction of the bar.
Rush put his bottle down on the table and got out his phone, putting it beside the bottle. Then he swiped the screen a couple of times, pulling up a timer app, the numbers glowing clearly as they prepared for countdown.
“Okay,” he said. “You’ve got exactly five minutes.” Reaching out, he touched a finger to the screen. “Starting now.”
Ava stared at the phone sitting on the sticky, beer-stained table and the numbers counting steadily down, and gave an inward sigh. Talk about awkward.
She’d understood that the Rush Redmond sitting in front of her, the one who’d walked out of the Huntsville Unit two months earlier, wasn’t the same Rush Redmond who used to give her milk and cookies, letting a grief-stricken seven-year-old talk as much as she wanted about the mother she’d lost and wasn’t allowed to mention in front of her father.
He wasn’t the same Rush Redmond who’d crouched down and given an upset eight-year-old, heartbroken that she was going to lose her only friend, a hug and a tissue the day he’d left to join the army. Nor was he the same Rush Redmond who’d returned three years later and taught an angry prepubescent how to shoot, because if she wanted to be a cop, she’d better learn how to handle a gun. He wasn’t even the same Rush Redmond she used to stare at when she’d been fourteen, sitting in her daddy’s office at the station sometimes after school, watching him bring in fugitives who’d skipped parole. Tall and muscular, and so intensely handsome. Those unusual blue-green eyes and that wide, sensual mouth, the one that turned up into a smile so wicked and charming it made her want to melt into a puddle whenever she saw it. The charm that made all the female cops in the station melt into the same puddle. Yes, she’d mooned over him then the way only a teenage girl can moon.
But he wasn’t that guy anymore, and it was only now that she was standing here, staring at him, that she really understood. It was his eyes that gave him away. They were completely and utterly cold, showing how much of a mask his easy smile was. And it was only because she knew how incredible his smile had once been when it had reached his eyes that she realized how much it had changed now.
He was still drop-dead gorgeous and his charm all slow, lazy Texas heat, but now there was a calculation to it that hadn’t been there before.
She didn’t like it, not one bit.
Prison had hardened him. She couldn’t see the man sitting in front of her now giving milk and cookies and attention to a grieving seven-year-old girl, that was for sure. And then there was the fact that he was obviously pissed she hadn’t been to see him up until now, and, well, he had reason.
She’d wanted to visit him, because she’d missed him terribly, but he’d been very clear the he didn’t want her to, so she’d been good and hadn’t, counting down the days until his release. But when that time had come . . . She’d felt weird about seeing him again. Afraid, if she was honest with herself. Afraid that the friend he’d once been to her as a kid wouldn’t be her friend anymore. That he’d be different, changed.
Looked like she’d been right about that, and it made her feel pretty rotten. Still . . . didn’t mean he could act like a total dick.
“Look,” she said, at least attempting an apology, “I’m sorry I didn’t visit when you got—”
“Time’s ticking, Ava.”
Okay, so he didn’t want to hear that. Fair enough. “You don’t need the timer. I promise I won’t stay longer.”
He didn’t move, the numbers on the phone counting down. “Four minutes twenty seconds now,” he pointed out in that slow, husky drawl of his.
A shiver went through her at the sound, the remnants of her old crush, but Ava ignored it. Instead she sat down in the seat Rush’s black-haired friend had vacated and put her elbows on the table, only to take them off again as she noticed the stickiness gleaming in the dim light. Ugh. She so did not want that on her uniform.
Spilled beer and strippers. What a great evening she was having.
Folding her arms instead, she stared across the table at Rush.
Oh yes, she was right. He really had changed, hadn’t he? His charm and his easy smile had always been his greatest attraction. He’d never radiated authority the way Quinn did, or had Zane’s brooding intensity, but he was friendly, laid-back, and most of all caring and kind. She’d fallen a little in love with that caring and kindness years ago, especially since her father didn’t have an ounce of either in him.
But neither caring nor kindness was in evidence now. Scars marred the rough, almost brutal beauty of his features, narrow white lines scoring one cheek and pulling slightly at the skin around one eye. His sensual mouth was hard, as if it had never smiled and didn’t know the meaning of the word. As hard as the jaw lined with stubble the same golden brown of his slightly too-long hair. Again, it was in the eyes. Those beautiful eyes, glittering not with humor, as they once had, but with menace. With danger. His whole presence radiated it. From the arrogant way he was sitting, to the black T-shirt pulled tight over his massively muscled chest and shoulders, and the faded jeans that sat low on his lean hips and clung to his strong thighs. The full-sleeve tattoos that covered his arms didn’t help either, roses and thorns and skulls along one arm, a panther prowling up the other.
Everything about him screamed “do not mess with me.”
He set off every one of her cop senses like a Geiger counter at Chernobyl.
“Three minutes,” he said, staring back at her.
Ava pulled herself together. “I need your help.”
She stiffened. “What? But you haven’t even given me a chance to explain what it’s about yet.”
“I don’t need to. The answer is no.”
“Please let me explain.”
The look on his face was bored. “Sorry, honey, but I want to watch Candy dance with no clothes on, not hear about whatever the hell it is you want to talk about.”
Ava grappled with her thinning patience. If she’d known he was going to be this difficult, she’d never have come to the strip club in the first place, especially when what she should have been doing was sitting in the patrol car with Mike, her partner. But no, Quinn had finally answered her text asking where she could find Rush, telling her he was at Sugar Daddy’s, and it was fortuitous that the area she was currently patrolling wasn’t too far from the club. So she’d snuck away on the pretext of finding coffee, and now here she was, in this dim, sleazy place that smelled of desperation and sadness, with Rush Redmond being a stubborn jackass.
She should have waited, maybe, chosen a different time and a different venue. Been properly glad to see him instead of feeling defensive about the fact she’d been too afraid to welcome him home the way she should have done. But she’d thought—naively, as it turned out—that asking for his help wouldn’t be a problem and that he’d do what he’d always done in the past, which was to help her.
And he had to help her because this was too important for him not to.
This concerned the murder of police officer Lauren St. George, Ava’s mother, killed in the line of duty years earlier.
Leaning forward, she said, “I’ve got a . . . hunch I need to follow up on.”
Something in his eyes flickered. “What hunch?”
Ah, now she was getting somewhere.
“Well, a couple of weeks ago I got an anonymous tip-off about . . . an arms ring we’ve been investigating.”
That was the bare bones of it. The very barest of bones. Because the tip-off wasn’t so much about the arms ring as about her mother’s murder.
It had been a phone call from some guy, his voice obviously heavily disguised, telling her that the cops had arrested the wrong man for her mother’s shooting. That it wasn’t the drug dealer her mom had been in the process of arresting who’d shot her. That it was someone else, on the orders of a notorious gunrunner by the name of Jimmy Troy. The same guy who was still causing a pain in the police’s collective backside as head of the arms ring he currently controlled.
At first Ava hadn’t believed the anonymous man’s claims, dismissing them. But then she hadn’t been able to get them out of her head, and she’d known she couldn’t let this go, that it was her duty as a police officer to at least investigate. But she hadn’t wanted to go to her father with it. No point stirring up all those old, bad memories, or not until she had verified the claims, at any rate.
No, there was only one person she could go to who perhaps knew all about Jimmy Troy. And that was the man notorious for having most of the criminal underworld of Travis County in his address book.
Rush gave a low, husky laugh that was absolutely devoid of humor, yet stroked across her skin all the same. “An arms ring? That’s awesome. Good for you, honey.”
She tried not to bristle at his patronizing tone and the honeys and the sweethearts, giving him a pass for old times’ sake. “It’s important.”
“Oh yeah? How?” He was looking bored again, his attention starting to drift back to the blond stripper on the stage. The woman was wiggling her butt in his general direction and giving him a sultry look over her shoulder.
Annoyed, Ava debated whether or not to tell him the truth, that it wasn’t the arms ring specifically she was investigating so much as who actually killed her mother. She kind of wanted to, and maybe if he’d still been the guy who’d befriended one sad and lonely little girl all those years ago, she might have. But he wasn’t that guy anymore and she didn’t know what kind of man he’d become. And until she did, she didn’t want to bring her mother into the discussion—and certainly not here in a strip club.
She tapped the sticky surface of the table instead. “Hey. I’ve got two minutes left and I want your attention.”
Rush glanced back at her, green sparks of irritation glittering in his eyes for a moment. Then they were gone, his mouth kicking up at the corner in that lazy smile that made her heart turn over in her chest the way it always had, even though it was only a mask concealing whatever emptiness lay beneath it.
“Okay, little girl. You got it.” His voice was deliciously rough, the drawl liquid and hot as a summer’s day. “So you’ve got a hunch on an arms ring. That’s great. But why the fuck are you bothering me about it?”
That pass she was giving him? It had pretty much expired. He might be totally justified in being angry, but that didn’t mean he had to be quite such a patronizing ass.
Stifling her annoyance, Ava said, “Because I need confirmation on something. But I can’t get it because I don’t have the contacts.”
“You have the entire Austin police department.” Rush lifted one powerful shoulder in a negligent shrug. “So like I said, why the fuck do you need my help?”
Dammit, she didn’t want to have to get into this. “That’s confidential.”
Rush’s gaze flicked away toward the stage again. “Uh-huh.”
For a nanosecond, Ava was very tempted to strip out of her uniform, get up on that stage, and blow his stupid head off. But since she didn’t have the blonde’s figure and she was actually on duty and her dad would have a conniption if he found out one of his officers had started stripping onstage, let alone his own daughter, she was going to have to stay right where she was.
She needed to think of some other way to get his attention.
Leaning back in her seat, she gave him an assessing look, then the rest of the club a quick scan. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly by the book and she was definitely a by-the-book kind of girl, but this was too important to let go.
This was about her mother, who’d been gunned down doing her duty to protect and serve. And if her mother’s murderer hadn’t actually been brought to justice the first time around, then Ava needed to know. And do something about it.
She hadn’t worked her ass off and gotten where she was now for nothing. She’d done it because she’d always dreamed of being the kind of stand-up, decorated cop her mother had been. And that did not include letting the memory of her mother down.
“Oh, would you look at that?” Rush tapped his phone screen. “Time’s up, honey. Sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry.” Ava pushed her chair back and stood up, skirting around the table and coming over to where Rush sat. Then she put one hand on his hard, muscled shoulder. “Rush Redmond, I’m arresting you under suspicion of violating the terms of your parole.” Then she pulled her handcuffs out.


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