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Posts tagged ‘Duty to Protect’

A-Z Challenge: L is for Leann Rudler


Leann Giles swept into the kitchen, her hand tight around the now empty tray. She liked her job, was thankful her distant cousin, Amber, had been able to give her the position when she’d needed something after leaving her husband. But, that didn’t mean she enjoyed every aspect of it.

Like customers who tried to get a little too friendly.

“You okay there, honey?” one of their cooks asked.

She let out a breath then nodded. “Yeah, fine. Nothing I can’t handle.” She’d just keep her polite mask on when she went back out to serve the rest of their food. And stay as far away from the handsy one as she could.

She’d just take a minute or two to compose herself again, then she could go out and check on each of her tables. She wondered how Lisa was doing right now. Leann had needed to come in before her daughter was out of school, so Lisa was going home with a friend. Her mom would bring her home in the morning.

That riled Leann up more than the over-friendly customers. Lisa was supposed to be with her father this weekend. But, he’d called just before she’d had to get Lisa on the bus to say he couldn’t take her. She’d had to call Kate, Lisa’s friend’s mom to see if she could go there. Thankfully, she’d been able to catch her just in time.

Kenneth was always doing things like this to her. Anything to make her life just a little harder.

“I just seated a table in your section, Leann,” the hostess said, poking her head into the kitchen.

Leann took a deep breath, forced her waitress smile back into place and nodded. “Thanks, Aubrey.  I was just about to head out there.”

She scanned the dining room when she entered it for the new table. And saw a man leaning over t help his son look through the menu. She had to smile at that. The boy was probably eight or nine, only a couple years older than Lisa. He wasn’t even ordering off the kids’ section from the look of it. As she headed over there, another couple, older than the man, joined them. The boy smiled at them then ducked his head behind the menu again.

Her mask fell away as she approached the table, a real smile replacing it. “Good afternoon,” she said. “Can I get you all something to drink?”

She could feel the man’s eyes on her as she wrote down everyone’s drink orders, but she didn’t look right at him again. Not at the dark red hair that was swept off his face, hair he shared with the little boy but not with the other two. Maybe they were his mother’s family. But, then where was the mother?

It didn’t matter. It wasn’t any of her business.

When she headed back out with their drinks, she grabbed a piece of candy from the basket in the kitchen. She set it down with the boy’s drink. She always gave one of them to Lisa when she came in. “When your dad says you can have it,” she told him.

He gave her a shy smile, then looked back at his menu. “Are you ready to order?”

When they got around to the boy, she asked him, “Are you sure you don’t want to order for the kids’ menu?”

He shook his head, and the father let out a rumbling laugh. “Only if he can order at least two of those meals. He won’t have a problem eating it all, don’t worry.”

She couldn’t help but laugh at that. She remembered her own brother being the same around that age. When she returned to the kitchen with their order, she was still smiling. Then, she saw the order was up for the way too friendly table. She took the tray out and caught the father looking her way again. A smile lifted his lips, and she was sure her own matched it. She set the plates down on the table and stepped back as fast as she could, just barely avoiding another grab for her. She kept that pleasant smile on her face as she asked if they needed anything else.

When she turned around, he was still watching her. She headed over to their table, with the basket of rolls she’d grabbed for them. “I’ll have your salads out in just a moment.”

“Are you okay?” the father asked her. “It looked like they were bothering you.”

Heat flushed over her skin. Had it been that noticeable?

“I’m sure she can handle it,” the other man said with a smile for her. “You don’t need to ride to her rescue, Rick.”

“I don’t,” she assured them. “It’s not a big deal.” The truth was, she could tell Amber, and she’d take care of the problem. But, she didn’t want to make it into a big deal.

When she went back out later with the check, Rick was alone at the table. She’d watched them a few times while they ate their dinner. They had a nice family. There seemed to be a little distance between him and the older couple. She still didn’t think they were his parents. “Where’s the rest of party?” she asked, setting the check folder on the table. “They abandon you?”

His smile widened as he put an arm over the back of the booth and leaned back. “Todd went home with his grandparents. He’s spending the weekend there.”

She bit her lip to hold back the question she wanted to ask. It still wasn’t any of her business. But, he couldn’t quite stop her gaze from going to his hand. No ring. That didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to try to get a date with him. She hadn’t dated since leaving Kenneth, and she doubted she’d start with this man. Even if the way he looked at her made her heart pound a little faster. Kenneth had looked at her like that once, too. Until it was no longer convenient for his own plans to care about her.

“Well, I hoped you enjoyed your dinner. I can take that whenever you’re ready,” she said, gesturing to the folder.

“I’m glad we decided to meet his grandparents here tonight.”

Her cheeks heated at that, at the way he kept his eyes on hers and smiled just a little wider. She couldn’t quite help letting her smile match his. “So am I,” she said then hurried back to the kitchen before he could see how red her face went.

She’d probably never see him again anyway.

Note: Leann shows up in Duty to Protect, but that’s actually her daughter’s story. I also wrote another short story about Leann and Rick that takes place after this that was published in the first volume of the World Unknown Review.

JusJoJan: Day 29 – Ghost

Welcome back for day 29 of Just Jot It January. Today’s prompt is ghost, brought to us by Barbara.

I don’t write about ghosts. Well, not actual ghosts. Though I do have one of those plotted out. Not sure if I’ll ever get around to writing it, though. It was actually an idea that came to me years ago while I was watching a show on Discovery ID(one of my favorite channels back when we had the satellite).

What I do often write about, though, are people’s emotional ghosts. This came up quite a bit when I was writing Chasing the Ghost(book 4 in my Gilbert, CO series). After all, it’s right there in the title. For anyone who has read Duty to Protect, this is Connie’s story(for anyone who hasn’t, there’s at least one spoiler right there).

Jason closed the door of his truck and glanced over at Leo. “Why aren’t you driving yourself? Or hitching a ride with one of the other guys?”
Leo lifted a shoulder, but he tapped his fingers against the door. “Didn’t drive here this morning, and didn’t want to have to depend on one of them if I wanted to leave.”
“You don’t stay on the ranch?”
“No. I have a house less than a mile away.”
Jason nodded but kept his gaze focused on the road. “What about you?” Leo asked as they turned toward town. “I know Brendan gave you the cabin since there isn’t room in the bunkhouse. Are you planning on moving anyone else into it?”
Jason nearly lifted his hand to touch the ring under his shirt, but he forced it to stay on the wheel instead. “No,” he said, his voice gruff. “There’s no one.”
Leo was silent, but Jason felt him watching him. “Was there?” he finally asked, his voice soft.
“Yes,” he said after a moment. “There isn’t now.” There wouldn’t be. He wouldn’t bring someone into his crazy mess of a life.
“You don’t think she’ll ever take you back?”
“She can’t.”

And there’s Connie’s ghosts:

He reached out and lifted her chin, so she had to look up at him. “It’s not something to be ashamed of. You survived, Connie. That means you’re strong.”
“It means I’m lucky. That’s it, Jason. I got lucky. My fiancé didn’t. That’s why I’ll never have it. The only man I ever loved was stolen away from me. And I…I didn’t even get to grieve for him. I still have trouble remembering he’s gone. Sometimes I forget, and it’s like I lost him all over again.”
He slid both hands along the side of her face, then he bent down and pressed his mouth to hers. Her lips parted in surprise, but he didn’t take that as invitation to take the kiss deeper. He kept it light and soft. He pulled back after a moment. “I know,” he murmured. “I’ve lost, and the pain doesn’t go away. Even when you can remember.”

And some more of what’s haunting Jason:

“I said I wouldn’t ask questions, but I need to know.” Brendan’s voice was strained, as if it pained him to ask. “Is it true?”
Everything inside of him froze. “What?” He had to push the single word out.
“Your wife. Did you kill her?”
Jason shoved up from the bed. He felt cold everywhere, even though his blood burned. “No.” He spit out the word. “I loved her. I loved her with every fucking thing I was. I wasn’t there when she died. I came home to learn my family was dead. How can you ask if it was by my hand?”
He took the picture out of the box and shoved it at him. “I loved them. Why would I kill them?”
Brendan’s hands shook slightly as he took the picture and looked down at it. “You had a son too,” he murmured.
“Adam.” Another tear slid down his cheek. “He was…” Jason sank back onto the bed. “I loved my boy. He was the most precious thing to me, even above my love for her. I don’t care what he says, I never lost my temper with them. I never would have hurt either of them.”
“I can see that, son,” Brendan murmured. “Who says you did?”
Jason blew out a breath. “Her father. He always hated me. Even though the police cleared me, he insists I’m responsible.” He wouldn’t bring up the other things his former father-in-law had done in retribution.
“Why does he have a, what did Garren call him, some sort of private investigator following you?”
“Because he doesn’t believe the police. He’s so sure I did it, he won’t believe anything else.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “You don’t need to worry about this, Brendan. I’ll be leaving. You don’t need my problems.”

Fiction Friday: Valentine’s Weekend Sale

So, I put Duty to Protect up on KDP Select last September. I figured I’d put it in Kindle Unlimited and maybe at least get some exposure. Of course, I was doing pretty much nothing for promotion, so this didn’t work out too well. Then, it renewed before I could uncheck that, so it’s been up exclusively at Amazon for almost 6 months. And I haven’t taken advantage of the promotional free days. I did opt out of it renewing again, so I’ll be able to put it back up at other sites after March 7. I figured before that, I should actually do something with the benefits I have. And with this being Valentine’s weekend, what better time to do a promo for a romance novel?

So, from today through Sunday, Duty to Protect is available for free. If you haven’t grabbed it yet, now’s your chance. I’m hoping to have the second book in this series out by the middle of the year.

Fiction Friday: The End

Yes, this will bring Garren’s story to an end. Of course, you can read more in Duty to Protect, but this is the end to this portion of his story. You can get caught up on the rest here.


Garren slid his sunglasses down over his eyes as he left the church. The marshals and Michael had been in there too. But, he’d kept away from them. He stayed in the back of the church, dressed in his starch-stiff uniform, his dress hat tucked under his arm. At least inside, the lights had been kept dimmed. No one had thought to put a dimmer switch on the sun though.
He felt Ginny’s arm slip through his. She hadn’t wanted to come into the church with him. She hadn’t known the Wilkers at all, so didn’t think it was her place to be there. She had wanted to be with him though. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d left his side, except for when she’d had to go to work. He didn’t think it was devotion. They’d never been devoted to each other. He wouldn’t delude himself to think that. They’d always cared about each other, but it wasn’t much stronger than that.
She was scared. He’d seen it in her eyes. Afraid he’d get so drunk, he’d get himself into a fight. Or so drunk he couldn’t make it home. Or worse, drunk enough to hurt someone else. He shuddered at just the thought of it.
He hated to feel like he was losing control of this. But, it was slipping right through his fingers. He hadn’t gone back to work yet. Damn shrink had to clear him before he could go back on the streets. He felt like he was barely holding it together for his sessions with the uptight older man. Then, he went and joined either Kyle or Geoff, and sometimes Ginny, at the bar. The other guys usually left before he did. Ginny didn’t leave his side.
He’d taken to keeping a bottle in his kitchen. It helped soothe the nightmares that visited every night.
He stayed sober during the day. That seemed to be the most he could ask of himself. He just needed to get back to work. The job would help keep his mind off of things, and he wouldn’t feel this need to drown himself in alcohol.
He stopped at the edge of the crowd and saw Kyle making his way over. There was no need for him to go any farther. He could still hear the minister from here and see the two coffins resting over the holes in the ground. There wasn’t much in the way of family around the gravesite. He thought there were more cops there than family members. Everyone else looked more like business associates. Then, he saw Michelle standing in front of the grave, two people in suits on either side of her. Just behind them, he saw a young man in scrubs. Something clenched tight inside him. Had she been in the hospital? He tried to get a closer look at her.
Her face was pale, her eyes shadowed. She didn’t look anywhere but right at the grave. And he realized the social workers weren’t just standing at her side. They were holding her up. He needed to know what had happened.
He slipped Ginny’s arm out of his and started around her. She tried to stop him, but he just shook her off. He kept his eyes on Michelle as he started around the gathered crowd. She looked more like a ghost than a girl, pale against the black of her dress.
He stopped next to Michael. “What happened to her?” He asked. Michael’s wife looked back at him, a soft smile on her face. He nodded back at her while he waited for Michael’s response.
“Breakdown,” he finally said. “Heard she screamed all that night. Wasn’t responsive at all the next morning. Been in the hospital since. I imagine they’re taking her back there once this is over.” He gave a quick shake of his head. “Poor girl. Keeping her drugged up instead of letting her grieve. Shouldn’t be dealing with this.”
“No, she shouldn’t,” he murmured. And he needed to get out of here.
He stepped back but didn’t return to where he’d left Ginny and Kyle. Instead, he turned and walked to his car. He was almost there when he heard steps coming up behind him. He just hunched his shoulders and reached for the door handle. Then, Ginny’s hand slid along his arm.
“Garren, where are you going?”
“Home. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have even come.”
“Then, let me come with you.”
He heard the quiver in her voice, knew it meant she was worried about him. That wasn’t what he wanted. He turned to her and took her hands. “No. Go on with Kyle,” he said, seeing the other man headed toward them. “I’m really piss poor company right now.”
Her face tightened at that. “You have been for the last week, Garren. I’ve stuck with you. Because you needed me.”
“I don’t,” he said with a quick shake of his head. “I don’t need anyone.” He didn’t want to drag anyone down with him. “Just go, Ginny. You don’t need to be stuck with me.” He stepped away from her and opened his door.
As he climbed inside, he heard her murmured, “I want to be.” He couldn’t let it faze him. He just needed to be alone right now. Work this pain out of his system. Then, he could deal with things again.
Yes, that was all he needed. He just needed one more drink to start that.


Fiction Friday

This story is almost at its end. You can catch up on it here and here(last week’s).


Garren sat on the stairs, his head resting in his hands. He’d already given his report to the marshal and Michael. The marshal who was on duty had been taken away in a body bag. That made three. He’d killed the man before approaching the house. Obviously their surveillance hadn’t been that hidden.
Garren scrubbed his fingers through his hair. Michelle was gone. Social workers had come to take her away. He didn’t know where. He hadn’t had the strength to ask them. He’d find out later and make sure she was doing okay. Right now, he just wanted to get a drink. He couldn’t leave yet though.
He heard the creak of steps on the stairs but didn’t lift his head. Then, a large hand rested on his arm. “This isn’t your fault, Garren.” Michael. Garren let his head sink farther down.
Michael didn’t leave though. Instead he nudged Garren over and sat beside him on the stairs. “You can’t take this on yourself. It won’t be the last time someone dies on your watch. Especially if you ever want to go into Homicide.”
A shudder ran through him. “Not quite sure I’m cut out for that.”
Michael was silent for a moment, then he said, “I think you’re wrong about that.” Then, he clasped Garren’s shoulder. “There was nothing you could have done tonight. He got the drop on the marshal. He shot through the window. You couldn’t have seen that one coming.”
“I told him to stay away from that damn window.” The words burned coming out.
“And he never listened. That’s not your fault either.”
“She blames me.”
“Michelle? Hateful little-” he broke off with a growl. “She’s hurt and grieving. And probably scared. You can’t let that get to you.” He stood up. “Come on. Let’s get out of here. There’ll be a briefing tomorrow. Right now you should probably get home.”
“Yeah. Right,” he mumbled. Going home was the last thing he wanted to do.
Michael walked with him out to his car, but they didn’t say anything else. Garren waited until he had left for his own vehicle before he grabbed his phone. It rang twice before Ginny’s sweet voice came over the line. “Garren, what is it? I thought you were working tonight.”
He closed his eyes. “Not anymore. Do you want to meet at Johnny’s for some drinks? I could really use a drink right now.”
She was silent for a moment, and he thought she would turn him down. They didn’t have anything serious going on, but the possible rejection still turned his stomach sour. “Yeah, Garren, I can do that,” she finally said. “Are you all right?”
No. Not even close. “Fine. I’ll see you in half an hour then?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll see you there.”
Garren ended the call and tossed the phone onto the seat beside him. He rubbed his hand over his eyes, as if that would erase the memory of Jonah and Mary laying dead at his feet. Or the one of Michelle throwing all that blame at him. He let out a long breath then jammed the key in the ignition. He needed to get out of here. Maybe a drink would help him erase the images.


Garren was just ordering his second whiskey when he felt her walk up behind him. He didn’t turn around though while the bartender slid the glass over to him. He only closed his eyes when she put her hand on his shoulder.
“You get started without me?”
The words should have been joking, but he could hear the worry behind them. “I’m only one ahead. I’m sure you can catch up.”
He saw the glass shake as he brought it to his mouth. Ginny moved to the stool beside him and gave the bartender her order. Then, her hand slid along his leg. “What happened, Garren? You said you were working all night.”
“Not now,” he said then drained the rest of the whiskey before gesturing to the bartender for another.
“Damn it, Garren,” she said, her hand coming up to his arm. “Drinking is one thing, but you need to slow down. What the hell happened tonight?”
“They’re dead.”
Her hand fell away from his arm for a moment then quickly returned, and she was tugging him away from the bar stool. “Come on. Let’s find a table, and you can tell me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said but let her lead him away. “I just want to forget.”
“This isn’t the way.” She nudged him into the booth then slid in beside him rather than taking the other side. “Can you tell me what happened? Or is it classified or something?”
He shook his head, but her question brought a hint of a smile to his lips. “I don’t know what details they’re releasing, but I think I can tell you. You won’t run to the media with it, will you?”
“Of course not, Garren.”
He’d been teasing her, but by her response, he didn’t think that had come across. He opened his mouth, but the words didn’t want to come. He dropped his head back into his hands. “God, this has been a miserable night.”
She ran her fingers in circles over his shoulder. “What happened?” She asked again.
He drew in a shuddering breath. “One of the marshals is dead. Two of the three I was supposed to protect are dead. Only their daughter is left.”
He lifted his glass again, but his hand shook so bad the ice rattled against the glass and some whiskey splashed over the side. Ginny took the glass from him and set it back on the table.
“Why are you blaming yourself for that? You kept her safe obviously.” Her gaze did a quick scan down and back up him. “And yourself, it looks like.”
He could hear the relief in her voice at that. But, it didn’t get all the way through the ice surrounding him. “Because it was my job to protect them. And I failed.” His forehead thunked against the top of the table. “She blames me, and I can’t fault her for that.”
“Why, Garren? You’re a patrol officer. You’re supposed to be out on the streets, not in someone’s house making sure someone doesn’t break in. What could you have done differently?”
“I don’t know. Something. There had to be something.” He reached for the glass again and brought it to his lips despite the shaking of his hand. When he had drained it, he waved a waitress over for another one. He heard Ginny’s curse but ignored it.
“I like going out for drinks with you, Garren, but you don’t usually do this.”
He lifted his eyes to her then. “Then, why are you still here?”
He saw her face pale and felt a prick of guilt over it. But, he didn’t apologize.
“Because you need me here. And it looks like you’re going to need someone to take you home.”
“I don’t need you for that,” he said, looking up at her, his words slurring together already.
He didn’t know what to make of the look in her eyes. It wasn’t happy though. “I doubt you’ll be up for that by the time I get you out of here. But, I’ll take you home.”
He brushed those words off and raised the drink the waitress brought over. All he wanted right now was to forget.


Fiction Friday

Time for another installment of Garren’s story. Things are starting to go bad now. If you want to catch up, all the previous scenes are here. If you’re already caught up, enjoy! There’s only 4 more scenes left after this.


Garren attempted to push down his irritation before he even stepped out of the car. He hadn’t even gotten eight hours of sleep. What he had gotten had been broken. This was going to be a long night. Maybe tomorrow he would just sleep all day.
Finally he stepped out of the car. He didn’t have any more time anyway. When he reached the house, he was surprised to see Marshal Berenak standing just inside the door. “I didn’t expect you to be here.”
“I figured it was the least I could do with having to pull you in like this.” He seemed to study Garren for a moment. “You get any sleep at all?”
The marshal nodded. “Well, I’ll be getting out of here.” He started away then paused. “Oh, your detective was by earlier.”
“Mic-” He stopped himself. “Detective McRoy.”
There was a slight smirk on the man’s face. He’d caught the slip. “You two know each other away from the job?”
Garren wiped his hands on his pants. He always hated when this came up. Like it had any bearing on anything. “Him and my father are friends. I’ve known him since I was a boy.”
“That explains his concern for you.” He didn’t notice any judgment in the man’s face, like he thought it got him any sort of special treatment on a case. Obviously it didn’t if he was here. Michael’s concerns had just been brushed aside. “Anyway, he was here and seems to be getting closer to closing this.”
“Good.” Then, he could get back to his real job.
The marshal nodded. “Like I said, I’ll be going now.”
Garren waited until he’d left before turning around. Jonah and Michelle stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Both seemed to be sneering at him. “I don’t like you,” the little girl said.
I don’t care much for you either. The words were right there on the tip of his tongue, but he bit them back. Instead he ignored her and moved to the windows, checking to make sure they were secure. He did the same with all the windows, making sure the shades were pulled, throughout the first floor, as well as checking the locks on the doors. He’d been told on the first day that the second floor was off limits. There wasn’t anyway for someone to get in there anyway.
When he returned to the living room, he saw Jonah standing in front of that damn picture window again. He cold feel the growl building in his throat. He started to think the man did it just to annoy him. He started forward but stopped when Mary stepped into the room with Michelle.
“Tell your father good night, Michelle. It’s time for bed.”
“I don’t wanna go to bed though,” the girl whined.
Garren couldn’t keep his lips from twitching. As much as she had been a pain in his ass since this detail started, she was just a little girl. Not too much different than his sister a few years ago. A lot more spoiled, but overall not that different. And he couldn’t blame her for the way her father acted. Or even for the fact that she seemed to share his opinion. At that age, he would have been the same way.
“I know you don’t want to, but we have a big day tomorrow.” The girl made a face as her mother added, “School shopping.” Then, the woman laughed. “Come on, Michelle. You know you love it. And we’ll go out for lunch. Wherever you want. But, right now, it’s time for bed.”
He’d have to check and make sure they’d been cleared for the shopping trip. There wasn’t much point in him being here if they were always going off somewhere. Michelle dragged her feet, but moved over to her father and waited for him to bend down. He only stooped long enough for a brush of lips over his cheek before standing and turning back to the window. No embrace, no wish for a good night. That had never been the routine in his home.
Garren shuddered at the coldness of it.
Then, Mary led Michelle out of the room and toward the stairs. Garren turned back toward Jonah, saw the man was staring out the window again. He took a few steps forward. He had long legs, and it didn’t take many strides to cross the room. “Get away from the damn window,” he said, reaching again for the shades.
Jonah reached out and pushed him away. “Don’t tell me what to do in my own house, boy.”
“I’m only here because you asked for protection. You’re making it damn hard to do that.” As his anger rose, he forgot his usual reluctance for swearing.
“And don’t swear at me in my house. I don’t have to stand for that. If you were more of a cop, you’d-”
Garren wasn’t listening to him anymore. Something wasn’t right. He didn’t know what it was, but there was a tingling at the back of his neck. It had the hairs there standing on end. “Get away from the window,” he growled.
Jonah cursed as he turned on Garren. “Don’t you dare-”
He couldn’t even finish the threat as the world exploded.

Fiction Friday: 3 years

Apparently today is my blogs third anniversary. Hard to believe it’s been that long. Even though I keep changing things, this has always been my writing blog. Not to give anyone advice(because I am so not an advice-giver), but more to chronicle my own journey, among other things. I don’t see that changing any time soon either.

Anyway, onto the next installment of Garren’s Story. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up on them here, here, here, and here.


Irritation rode Garren’s shoulders as he exited the house. Twelve hours around that man was much more than he could take. His fingers tapped against the steering wheel all the way across town. He’d been so thankful when the other officer had relieved him of duty. He hadn’t been able to get out of there fast enough. Garren sighed as he pulled into the parking lot behind his building. He just wanted to get a shower and hopefully wash all the stress from today off of him. Maybe settle down with a bottle of beer in front of the tv.
He unlocked the door to his apartment and saw the light flashing on his answering machine. His face tightened with a scowl, but he closed his door and locked it again before walking over to push the button. Shit. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. But, when he pressed the button and heard that voice, some of the irritation lifted from his shoulders.
“Hey, Garren, it’s Ginny. I’m sure you’re working, but wanted to let you know a couple of us are meeting at Johnny’s. Didn’t know if you wanted to join us or not, but thought I’d let you know. It’s about six now. We’re meeting there around seven-thirty.” She paused then said, “Haven’t seen you in a while. I miss you.”
He could hear the wistfulness in her voice. Damn. He missed her too. They had dated for a while in high school. Then, she’d gone to Denver for college. They hadn’t seen much of each other then, but she’d come home a year ago. She hadn’t been able to get enough financial aid, and her father had gotten sick. They only had each other. Her mother had left long ago, and she didn’t have any siblings.
He didn’t have a relationship with her, but they hooked up whenever they were free. It didn’t seem to be too often between his hours and her working two different jobs. It had been almost a month since he’d seen her last. He thought a night out with some friends might be just what he needed. He didn’t have to be into work the next day anyway.
He still needed a shower though.He glanced at the clock. It was already after seven. Shit. He could take a quick shower and still be there before eight. They certainly wouldn’t leave before that. Probably not for quite a while after. He had time.
It was just before eight when he walked into the bar. Quite a few people raised their hand to him in greeting. They city of Gilbert wasn’t so large that a lot of people didn’t know each other. Especially in a place like this. He knew wearing the police department t-shirt helped. Even if they didn’t know him by name, they’d greet a police officer. Well, until the rougher clientele came in later. They’d probably be gone by then though.
There were a couple people who called out to him by name. It hadn’t even been a year since his twenty-first birthday, but he spent quite a few of his nights off here. So, he knew a lot of the patrons. He was focused on finding his friends though, so he only gave them a nod or a wave. He scanned the crowd for a girl with light brown hair, and an infectious smile.
He heard his name called again and recognized the voice this time. He smiled and turned his head in that direction, saw Ginny waving at him. He turned and started toward them. There was another girl beside her, someone he knew from school but couldn’t remember her name. Kyle and Geoff, his best friends from school, sat on the other side of the table.
He slid into the booth beside Ginny. “Young lady, I’m going to have to see some ID. You can’t be old enough to be in here,” he said, trying to use his most authoritative voice.
She just laughed. “You’re so full of it, Garren. Why don’t you order a drink?” She was studying his face. “It looks like you could use it.”
He gave a little laugh. “Yeah. I certainly could.” The shower hadn’t washed away all the irritation from his day with the Wilkerses.
He took the first sip of whiskey when the waitress brought it over, letting the burn of it push away some more of the irritation. Ginny’s hand on his arm helped even more. “Everything okay?” She asked him.
“Yeah,” he muttered. “Got put on a new detail. It’s bullshit.”
“What is it?” Kyle asked. “Thought you were out patrolling the streets.”
He shook his head. “Like I said, new detail. Get to play babysitter to an idiot who doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut.” He took a longer sip of the whiskey. Winced when it went down. He liked the taste of whiskey and the way it made him feel after the first one went down. But, it burned going down. He saw them all still watching him and shrugged one shoulder. “Special assignment from the deputy chief. Not much I can do about it until it’s done.” He just hoped his next shift went smoother than this one had. It wouldn’t take much.
Ginny nudged his thigh with her hip. “Why don’t you dance with me, Garren?”
He knew she was trying to get him out of his head. And he was willing to let her for the night.

Fiction Friday

Here is installment four of Garren’s story. You can read the first, second, and third if you aren’t caught up. 🙂


Garren stepped out of the car and walked toward the house. He’d been told to come in plain clothes, but it didn’t feel right. It was summer, so it was harder to conceal his weapon. It wouldn’t bother him if he was in uniform. But, he didn’t usually carry a weapon if he was off duty. Being in plain clothes felt too much like being off duty. He wiped his hands on his pants before stepping up and knocking on the door.
Why was he nervous? He’d faced worse things than a family in an affluent neighborhood.
The door opened, and he saw the senior marshal, standing there. Garren let out a breath. At least he was here for the initial shift. The man had made him feel a little at ease in the commander’s office the day before. “Come in, Officer Alexander.”
He stepped inside with the marshal and saw another officer saying good-bye to a little girl. He knew the man’s name, Hersch, and his reputation. He’d never worked with him before though. But, he was known as a good cop. That’s all Garren needed to know. When he turned around, the officer seemed surprised to see him. “Why did they send you?”
Garren shrugged. “The deputy chief requested me. Do you have a problem with it?” He knew he was still considered a rookie even though he’d been with the department more than a year. Sometimes it rankled, but it just meant he had to work a little harder to prove himself.
The officer shook his head. “Not up to me. I’m out though. Officer Mackel will be by to relieve you in twelve hours. Then, I’ll take over from him. And on and on.” There was a slight smirk on the man’s face, but he didn’t look that amused.
“Right. I’ll see you in thirty-six hours then.”
The man’s smile widened slightly then he turned and left the house. Garren turned back to the marshal who led him forward. “Officer Alexander, this is Mary Wilkers.”
He smiled at the woman, who looked to be just a few years younger than his own mother. “Garren Alexander, Ma’am.”
She returned his smile and held out her hand. “It’s so nice to meet such a polite young man.”
He could feel his cheeks heat at her words. Then, a man was pushing forward. “And this is Jonah Wilkers,” he said, his voice changing, going a little harder.
Jonah barely even looked at Garren though. “A boy, Marshal Berenak? Seriously. Why would you send a boy here? I don’t need someone playing cops and robbers.”
Garren’s face paled, but he saw the marshal’s eyes sharpen. “Mr. Wilkers, you asked us for protection. We brought together three officers who have the kind of evaluations that would earn commendations. He may be young, but Officer Alexander’s name is right at the top of that list. He’s here for the next twelve hours, so you should get used to it.”
Something went through him at the officer’s words. Pride and a little bit of dread. Would he be able to live up to the man’s opinion of him?
“I’ll make a call and that will change.”
“Your friendship with the mayor will only get you so far, Wilkers. The deputy chief personally appointed him to this detail. You can call the commissioner if you’d like, and that’s not likely to change.”
“I’ll not count on a boy’s protection. I want a real cop here.”
Garren stepped forward. “You have me. And I am a real cop. I signed on to protect and serve. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Jonah turned his scowl on him again but turned away after a minute. “Insolent little brat,” he muttered.
“Right. I’ll be going then,” Marshal Berenak said. “I have a man staked out. We just need you inside with them.”
Garren nodded. They’d already been over this. When the marshal had left, Garren turned around and nearly toppled over the young girl.
“You shouldn’t talk to my daddy like that,” she said.
He studied her for a moment. Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight braid at the back of her head. It set the rest of her features at a sharp angle. He thought she might be a cute girl, maybe ten years old, if she didn’t look so severe. Her green eyes were just as sharp, and they looked out of place in such a young face. Currently they were hard, as she glared at him.
“Your daddy shouldn’t be talking to me like that.”
“He can talk any way he wants.”
“Michelle,” her mom said, taking her by the arm. “Leave the officer alone. He’s just here doing his job.” She offered Garren a slight smile, but it felt off. It seemed like she was used to keeping the peace. “You need to finish getting ready for your piano lesson. Then, you have that play”— she broke off at a glare from her daughter — “meet-up with Vanessa and Hillary.”
The girl stared at him for another minute then spun away. “Can we go shopping before we meet Vanessa and Hillary. I need some new clothes.”
The mother looked resigned. “You have a closetful but sure, whatever you want.”
“Always.” She smirked before moving away.
“I’m sorry, Officer,” Mary said.
He waved her off. “It’s fine. I’m just here to do a job. Did you clear this lesson and date with the marshals?”
She nodded. “We have a driver. We’ll be fine.”
There wasn’t much he could do about it anyway if they’d cleared it. So, he nodded and turned away. From what he’d observed so far, this detail couldn’t end soon enough.

Fiction Friday

This week brings us to the next installment of Garren’s(from Duty to Protect) back story and introduces us to some of his family. You can read installment one and two if you haven’t yet.


Garren hadn’t had to worry about the paperwork. Wade had already taken care of it. He just had to sign off on all of it and clock out. Now, he was sitting in his patrol car outside his parents’ house. He didn’t know why he hadn’t gone inside yet. That meeting was still weighing on him. Why him? He couldn’t stop asking that question. Despite everything the deputy chief and commander had said, he didn’t quite buy it. There was no way he was the best they had. Sure he was a good cop. But, the best? It couldn’t be.
What about Wade? He’d been with the department a lot longer than he had. He had more experience. So, why had it been him?
Garren shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He needed to get it cut again. Maybe he could get his mother to do it for him while he was here. Of course he’d have to go inside for that. He took a breath and finally stepped out of the car. He’d been so preoccupied, he hadn’t noticed the other vehicle parked at the other end of the house. He recognized Michael’s truck. He hadn’t known he was coming out here tonight. It wasn’t unusual. He knew the detective had been friends with his father for a long time.
His parents probably already knew about his new assignment then.
He was surprised at the weight that took off his shoulders. Maybe that had been his problem. He hadn’t wanted to be the one to tell them. He knew his father didn’t like him being a cop. He’d made that clear when he’d joined the Academy instead of staying on the ranch. His little sister hadn’t been happy about it either. His mother had just hugged him. He knew she worried. He saw it in her eyes every time he came by the ranch. Which was most days. But, even more so when he talked about his job. He didn’t like to see her upset, so he didn’t talk about it too much.
He walked up onto the porch but didn’t knock before walking inside. He might have his own apartment now, but this was still home. His sister stood at the sink, another teenage girl next to her. Garren recognized her as one of Michael’s four daughters. Poor guy. He knew the oldest was married and the next was off to college. This must be the one Connie was in school with. He knew they were close. He walked up behind his sister and pulled on one of her long blond locks.
“Damn it, Garren,” she said, swinging around.
He laughed and shook a finger at her. “Don’t swear, Connie. I’ll tell Mom.”
She swung out and punched his shoulder. He winced and rubbed at it, but the smile didn’t leave his face. “I don’t understand why everyone thinks you’re so sweet.”
She stuck her tongue out at him then turned back to the sink and laughed at something the other girl whispered to her. “Where are Mom and Dad?” He asked.
“In the living room with Mike and Anna.”
He started to turn away but Connie asked, “Do you know if Geoff is coming for dinner too?”
He thought he heard something in her voice and narrowed his eyes as he looked back at her. “I don’t know. Why?”
She shrugged, but he was sure that had been disappointment in her eyes. “I was just wondering. You know, to see if I had to get another place setting ready.”
Garren hesitated then shook his head. He had probably imagined it. She was too young to be any thing other than a little sister figure to his best friend. He knew his friend hadn’t had any of his own. It was probably better than his mother bringing any other children into that miserable life. That thought brought a slice of sadness and guilt to him. Geoff had just buried his mother a couple years before. He knew his friend blamed himself. He’d left that house as soon as he turned eighteen, but he’d check in on his mother several times a week. It hadn’t been often enough. He found her at the bottom of the steps, bruises around her neck that couldn’t be explained by the fall.
His father was currently one year into a life sentence.
Garren shook away those thoughts. It wasn’t Geoff’s fault. It wasn’t his either. He hadn’t been at the Academy for more than a month when he’d gotten the call from Geoff. It was the first time he’d spoken to his friend since he’d told him he was going. Geoff didn’t like cops. His father had been friends with several, and because of them no one took him seriously when he said how much he and his mother suffered at his father’s hand. Every one had liked Ian Lawrence. Until his wife died.
Garren let out a shuddering breath and went to find his parents. He should have been here sooner so he could tell them. It wasn’t up to a fellow cop to do it. He stepped into the living room, and his parents turned toward him. By the smile on his mother’s face, he realized he’d been wrong. Michael must not have said anything.
“Garren,” she said, moving over to him. “I was starting to think you wouldn’t make it.”
He tried to push his worried thoughts away and worked up a smile for her. “Like I’d ever miss your cooking, Mom. I didn’t know it was a big thing though,” he said, his gaze skipping over to Michael again.
“It’s not.” She gave him a tight squeeze. “Mike and Anna just stopped by, and I invited them to stay for dinner.”
Anna stepped forward. “Liz, why don’t we go see how the girls are doing?”
His mother stepped back and smiled at him again then left with the other woman. Michael waited until they had left then turned to look at Garren. “You have some beer, right, Brendan. I could use one.”
“Sure, Mike, I’ll go get you one.”
“Naw, I can get it. You want one, Garren?”
He hesitated, knowing his father didn’t like it when he drank. He was of age though so he didn’t see what the big deal was. “Sure, Mike. Thanks.” He was pretty smart, he knew what the other man was doing. Giving him a couple minutes to tell his father what had happened. He’d take advantage of it.
He turned to his father. “I was called up to the commander’s office when my shift was over today.” Might as well jump right into it.
He saw the scowl disappear from his father’s face. “Why? Is something wrong?”
Garren shook his head. “They said I was at the top of their list of their best officers. I got a new assignment.”
“To where? Why would they move you out of your patrol district?”
He shook his head. “I’m not moving to another district.”
“What’s going on, Garren?”
He could hear a tremor in his father’s voice. “It’s nothing bad, Dad. You’ve heard about that drive-by and the witness, Jonah Wilkers, right?”
Brendan nodded. “Mike’s on that case. What about it? Are you working with him?”
Garren shook his head again. “Not exactly. Wilkers is demanding protection. The marshals unit doesn’t want to put out the manpower. So they want us to supplement what they’ll provide. They asked me to be a part of it.”
“What kind of thing is that to ask of you? You’re not a babysitter.”
The corner of Garren’s mouth twitched. “No, but the deputy chief asked it. I can’t really say no.”
Brendan rubbed a hand over his face then back over his head. “I don’t know what to think about this, Garren. You won’t be on the streets, but if this guy needs protection, I don’t see you being safe watching out for him.”
“I didn’t join the force to be safe, Dad. And I’m sure it won’t be a big deal. I’ll be rotating with a couple other officers. And there’ll be a marshal around. They just want someone inside with the family. A couple days and they’ll probably have the guy anyway.”
Brendan didn’t look too convinced. “So, you’re saying you probably won’t be around much.”
He gave a little nod. “We’ll be on twelve hour shifts. I’ll try to come by when I’m not on though.”
“All right. I’ll let your mom know.” He turned toward the kitchen just as Mike headed back in and handed them their beers. “Dinner ready?”
“Nearly,” Mike said.
“Good.” Brendan’s gaze shifted to Garren, narrowing as he took a swallow of the beer. Then, he turned back to his friend. “You gonna watch out for him?”
“Much as I can.”
“Good,” he said again.
Garren wanted to argue that he could take care of himself. He knew there was no point though. So, he let the beer slide down his throat instead.

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