Detective Stevie Cavanaugh is one tough cookie…with a sexy but vulnerable secret…
Law enforcement royalty, Stevie Cavanaugh’s fate was determined before she was born: follow her father’s lead, retiring only after becoming Sheriff. But as capable and strong as she is, one man dared to awaken her dark sensuality, only to leave her aching for more. Now he’s back, the baddest cop in the whole damn town, distracting her from the most important case of her career—capturing the Cain killer.
For Special Agent Jack Thornton, like Stevie, police work is in his blood. So is Stevie, the woman he left behind after just one perfect night. Now he’s forced to work with her to catch a killer. Only he wants more of Stevie, too.
According to Stevie, she’s not interested. But Jack knows her deepest darkest sexual secret—that while she’s a woman used to giving command, she also takes great pleasure in submitting—to him. Despite how things ended seven years prior, Jack is determined to take Stevie to the next level.
When the fire between them becomes an inferno, they’ll both savor the burn…
“Tabke’s edgy and delicious tales hold a top spot on my must-read list!” —Sylvia Day
“No one writes hot cops better than Karin Tabke!” —Bella Andre, New York Times bestselling author of The Sullivans series
Read an Excerpt
Steven James Cavanaugh the Third had been born with ovaries, but her father refused to see her as anything but the son he would never have. From her name to her namesake’s omnipotent position as the Alameda County Sheriff, she had understood, from the cradle, that despite her being female, she would follow in the illustrious footsteps of five generations of Cavanaugh men to excel in a law enforcement career. Nothing less than chief or sheriff at retirement was acceptable. It had been drilled into her that as a woman she would have to work twice as hard for half the respect a man earned just by having a dick.
There was no margin for error. It would shame the name.
Despite his death five years ago, Sherriff Cavanaugh’s deep authoritative voice still droned in her ears. “Don’t be anyone’s gossip, Stevie.” “Never show weakness, Stevie.” “Never give anyone ammunition to use against you, Stevie.” “Identify your weaknesses and make them your strengths, Stevie.” And the hard, fast rule? The one to never break: “Never disgrace the badge, Stevie.”
A slow cynical smile cracked her serious face. How disgraceful would her father think her behavior was as she sat here watching a suspected killer jerk off through a high-powered video camera?
The smile faded. Not at all, because the shame would not be that she was watching a naked man pleasure himself, but that she had not made an arrest in one of Northern California’s most notorious murder sprees.
The pressure to make an arrest infused every facet of her existence. It hung around her neck like a thousand-pound yoke. No one pressured her more than herself.
Nervous she would get caught gawking, she pulled away from the camera she had been looking through, glanced over her shoulder and let out a small sigh of relief. The last thing she wanted was to give anyone, especially the men she worked with, a reason to rib her. She’d earned the Iron Maiden moniker because everything about the term was true about her. She was hard, cold, and impenetrable. And if anyone got too close? They felt the sharp bite of her resolve.
She’d worked her ass off, graduating as high school valedictorian a year early. She’d earned her bachelor’s before she was twenty. On her twenty-first birthday, she entered the police academy. Of course the sheriff’s daughter graduated top of her class. Nothing less was acceptable. She’d accomplished so much by graduation that she felt like she was eighty, not almost two years out of her teens. God, she had been so serious then, and for all of her knowledge and accomplishments, so very naive when it came to men.
She was smarter now. The scar tissue entwined around her heart was a reminder of the consequence of trust. It was the kind of scar tissue that resulted from giving yourself over to a man who had shone his light on the darkest part of you. A part of you that you didn’t know existed until he revealed it. A part of you that, once tapped, changed everything. The way you saw the world. The way you lived. The way you trusted. Or would never trust again. He had shown her the light only to take it away.
Stevie settled back into the camera and watched her subject stroke himself. She’d been accused of being frigid because she didn’t date, much less flirt.
Stevie wasn’t frigid. Jack had shown her she was far from it. She wasn’t antisocial either. She was simply not interested in any type of relationship. Even the most casual. For a relationship to work, she would have to expose herself once more. That would give people power over her. She would never hand over her power. Not again.
She sure as hell liked to tempt fate in other ways, though. Stevie lived on the physical edge of the tightrope of life. She got her rocks off jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, and chasing bad guys through the mean streets of Oakland.
But she didn’t do emotional. Jack had made quick work of that. Had she adhered to the Cavanaugh Commandments, her heart would still be intact. Yet, years later, despite what she knew, she still felt the sting of longing for the man who’d known what she’d needed even when she hadn’t, then left her in the middle of the night, taking her need with him.
Nope, she made damn sure she wasn’t anyone’s water cooler hot topic. Since her promotion three years ago to detective, she didn’t have time for a relationship anyway. Her job served her personality well. She liked the structure, the physicality, and the brain stretch. The best part was justice for all. She was black and white when it came to right and wrong. Smiling, she focused back on her subject who was getting quite comfortable with his naked self. But she was not so black and white in her tactics. She was never above the law, but neither was she below bending the rules.
Her subject, Mario Vito Spoltori—or as he was known on the BDSM boards she haunted, The Edge, for his penchant for edge play—had turned to fully face her. The blinds had been pulled open over the large window of his bedroom so she had an excellent view of what God had so benevolently bestowed on the man. Spoltori portrayed himself as a quiet conservative stockbroker, but in reality he was a vicious misogynistic killer. This entire scenario playing out before her was a complete 180 from his regular “I’m Mr. Normal” behavior.
“What are you up to, Mario? Why the show?”
Spoltori’s known body count was three. All three women had been wives of prominent Oaklandites, the sitting mayor’s largest campaign donors. Each victim had been kidnapped exactly one week before the impending full moon. Each body was found the morning after the rise of the full moon, wrapped in Saran Wrap, mummy style, with only their genitalia exposed, and bloodless. It was the cut patterns that had caused the blood loss that had led her through the dark underbelly of extreme BDSM to The Edge.
In the underground dungeons where he slithered, the cut patterns were his signature. But there was no DNA linking him to any of the bodies and he had airtight alibis for each murder. It didn’t matter; Stevie always listened to her gut, and it was what made her such a good cop. Her gut screamed he was the killer, so she set her sights on him while her team worked the streets.
She’d been watching Spoltori like this, through a video camera, sitting in a stuffy ten-by-ten room from across the street, for nearly a month with nothing to show for it but the monotony of a normal working Joe’s life. He was good at acting like a Boy Scout though he was far from it. Today he proved it. After tedious hours and days of watching the paint dry, she was awarded a peek at the man’s assets.
Stevie wolf-whistled as he stroked his swelling penis to an impressive size; couldn’t really blame the women and the men who waited months for an hour of this notorious Master’s time. Spoltori was in excellent physical shape and not hard on the eyes. She suspected that to command such demand, he was very good at what he did.
Warmth pooled within her belly. But the build was not for Mario. It was for the only man she had ever slept with, the one who’d ignited the fire in her seven years ago. She would have followed him to the ends of the earth . . . but after the culmination of months of cat-and-mouse sexual tension so powerful it became painful, followed by one perfect night of surrender, he’d never called.
“Prick,” she seethed, still not over it. Mentally she berated herself for her foolishness, although she’d been doing that for years. Shame at losing her rigid control and being sucked in by him was hard to set down and walk away from. She’d managed to keep the one-night-stand from her father. She would have lost his hard-earned respect. His perfect daughter was not so perfect after all.
That would have made an already bad situation unbearable.
So, yeah, Jack Thornton had done her wrong and if she weren’t an officer of the law, she’d hunt him down, cut his balls off, stuff them down his throat, and watch him choke to death. But she was sworn to uphold the law, not hunt down Lotharios like Jack.
Shaking her head, Stevie leaned in closer and gave the self-entertaining Spoltori her full attention.
Apparently it didn’t matter that he was standing in front of a fully exposed window with an unobstructed view of Broadway, a busy Oakland boulevard, in the middle of the day.
He closed his eyes, tipped his head back and in long languid strokes he manipulated himself. Highly unusual behavior in light of what she knew about Spoltori’s public persona. If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear he knew he had an audience.
Impossible. While his windows were transparent, the small office she’d begun to loathe had reflective film with the exception of one small square cut out for her ever-watchful lens. The only way he could possibly know he was under surveillance was if he had gained access to this room, which he hadn’t. The security video feeds were reviewed daily. There had been no breach. Dismissing the thought, she continued to watch his show.
His long tan fingers squeezed his burgeoning erection. Stevie winced. He was enormous. She knew from the gossipy chatter among the subs that The Edge never penetrated his client/subs with his penis. Nor had he had intercourse with the victims, yet all three victims had been penetrated with something.
Slowly, provocatively, he began a slow grind. When he bit his bottom lip and splayed himself against the window, Stevie shook her head. “Jesus,” she breathed, unable to drag her eyes away. If she got caught . . . She glanced over her shoulder again, making sure no one had slipped in while she was so preoccupied. Exhaling a relieved breath, she leaned back into the lens for the denouement.
Spoltori pumped faster, his eyes riveted straight at her across the street. The lens was so powerful that she could see the beads of sweat dampening his brow. His eyes narrowed and she knew he was about to come. She held her breath.
“Hello, Stevie,” a very deep and very familiar voice said from behind her.
Time stopped. Her spine stiffened as her breath lodged in her lungs. Her heart slammed hard against her sternum, the velocity shaking her to her core. And God help her, that longing ache that the sound of his voice had stirred all those years ago, stirred in her now.
Hers had been, from the day he touched her in her first defensive tactics class, a spontaneous physical reaction to him. And as they had then, her breasts swelled as her nipples tightened painfully, triggering every body part south into carnal chaos.
When she slowly turned around, the blood drained from her face as her worst fears were confirmed.
“Jack,” she breathed.