Hard To Stay (The Hard Series Book 2), страница 1
Table of Contents
Hard to Stay
© 2017 S Jones. All Rights Reserved.
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About the Author
Manhattan traffic on a good day was a hot mess and on a bad one could be an outright disaster. Even though I had hightailed it out my office with more than enough time to get where I was going, subway construction and a Wall Street ‘Banker Protest’ guaranteed me that I would be cutting it close. Plus, there was always that one biker who didn’t know how to stay in his lane. I blamed it all on them.
The tires on my black Lexus squealed and thumped as I swerved into the underground parking garage. Realizing I was coming in hot, I jammed on the brakes so hard that my cellphone skidded onto the passenger side floor, well out of my easy reach. In one fluid motion I dropped the shifter into park and stretched to reach the phone buried under today’s copy of The NY Post. I didn’t even give the parking attendant a chance to greet me as I threw him my keys before I even had the car door fully open.
He looked over at me with a face full of annoyance and jammed the claim ticket in my hand. I was only 10 feet away when I heard him mutter a few profanities in a seemingly unclear language when I found myself smiling for the first time today. I turned around and shot him a grin as I stuffed the ticket in my pants pocket.
Killing time waiting for the elevator, I pulled out my phone and scrolled to the email I had drafted earlier to our Media Affairs office. My thumb paused briefly over the send button as I contemplated how quickly one domestic disturbance call could end both a professional and personal life for a guy I had once admired. Trying to wrap my head around his quick downward spiral caused me to dig really deep into things that were way out of my comfort zone. I had no other choice but to send the email.
My attention was pulled by the unmistakable ding of the elevator doors sliding open. After allowing all women and elderly first, I stepped inside and pressed the button for the 12th floor. My exhausted body rested up against the marble wall as I avoided eye contact with others. It was days like today when I was seriously second-guessing why I had allowed myself to get pushed into a position with the Internal Affairs Bureau. I guess it just goes to show—the grass isn’t always greener.
I stretched my head to the right and to the left, releasing the tension in my neck and actively put my shitty day in the rearview mirror. When I heard the bell chime for the banquet room floor, my mind immediately shifted to the pleasure of knocking back a few drinks with the boys at work.
I stepped off the elevator and made my way down the long narrow hallway towards the banquet room. The event I was attending was being held in honor of Mike Chapman, my old Captain, otherwise known as ‘Chappy’. After 30 long years on the force he decided to surrender to retirement. Chappy was not only a cop’s cop, but also a decent family man. Although, it had been ages since we’d last spoken, I wouldn’t have missed this celebration for all the tequila in Tijuana. And I really liked tequila.
As I made my way across the room, I felt a hand slap me on the back and a familiar voice hit my ear. “About time you showed up, brother.” I spun around to face my buddy Brett Sawyer, who had also been my partner before I went to IA. He was my brother from another mother, as you could say. A brotherhood forged from working a job where you counted on your co-workers having your back.
Even though I had a couple inches on him, his sturdy muscular frame made us look equal in size. Despite a receding hairline, he still maintained an air of confidence and mischief, which, as he would have told you, back in the day had woman falling for him left and right. Today he would never admit such a thing in front of Faith, the woman who had tamed the beast and claimed his heart five years ago.
“Are you just going to stand there or are you going to buy me a drink at the bar?” I asked, eager to shake off my irritable mood. I gestured with my index finger for him to follow me. I was intent on working on that buzz that I so richly deserved.
On our way to getting our drinks I felt someone push me in the small of my back, causing a highly visible and slightly embarrassing stumble forward. I regained my stability as I heard someone say, “Get your own drink, Love Muffin.”
My head turned to see my closest friend both on and off the force, Max Lucas.
I couldn’t help but grin. “Look what the cat dragged i
Lucas was built like a defensive linebacker, but he had the heart of a teddy bear. We graduated the academy together and had remained tight ever since. I earned the nickname Love Muffin because while I was working at the Justice Center I hooked up with a good- looking but slightly crazy nurse who was looking to bag herself a husband. Every morning she would bring me a coffee and a muffin with a love note for breakfast at work. Breaking it off with her was difficult but necessary and having to buy my own breakfast again really sucked.
Together, we were the Three Amigos. Sawyer and Lucas (yes, we called each other by our last names, that often happened in the military or law enforcement) understood me better than I did myself. They understood why I made the decision to take the investigator’s job with Internal Affairs. What they didn’t get was the tremendous pressures and feelings of isolation that came with the job.
“Dude, no offence, but you look like shit.” Lucas stated with a hint of sympathy in his voice. He grabbed the stool and sat down next to me leaving Sawyer to stand on his own. He waved a finger at the bartender to take our order.
“Thanks man, I appreciate it.” I said sarcastically before reaching into my wallet, pulling out two twenty-dollar bills and slapping them on the counter. “We’ll take three Coronas with lime and three shots of Patron riding shotgun.” I barked at the bartender so he could hear me over the noise.
I leaned back against the bar watching the bartender pop open our beers.
Lucas looked at me with furrowed eyebrows; I could see the worry lines etched across his face. “Don’t worry... it’s just been a long crazy fucked-up day.” I assured him then reached over and pulled a handful of pretzels out of the glass bowl in front of him.
The bartender slid our drinks over then took the money off the bar. The shots arrived first, and we quickly toasted to Chappy’s retirement.
Lucas picked his bottle up and brought it to his lips. “So, what you’re really saying is, it’s time to get wasted.”
Truth was that there probably wasn’t enough booze behind the bar to completely wipe away the bullshit of the day.
I gave him the best smile I could muster. “I don’t know about getting wasted, but I’m definitely down for killing a few brain cells.”
Lucas’s arm draped casually over the back of his chair as he gave me his infamous cocky grin. “Since when did you become such a big pussy?”
I smirked, feeling the effects of the drink kick in. “Since I started eating so much of it.”
“In your dreams.” He spat out trying to hold back his laughter. The smiling bartender that had listened to our verbal exchange brought back my change and moved on to serve his next customer. Our conversation was soon drowned out by the cheers and catcalls that began to travel throughout the small banquet hall. As the noise continued to build, we heard someone letting out a sharp whistle. The deafening shrillness cut through the chatter of the room and all the conversations almost stopped on a dime. Chappy stood at the podium thanking everyone for coming out to celebrate his retirement. My eyes skated across the crowd taking in all the familiar faces of the people I used to call my friends. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Abby Chapman, Mike’s daughter, staring directly at me.
I always thought Abby was a cute girl with a great figure, but I respected her father way too much to act on those feelings. It was obvious to me and to many of my friends that she had been crushing on me for years. I just couldn’t ignore that sage piece of advice, “Don’t shit where you eat.”
When Sawyer took off to go make a phone call, Lucas turned his attention back to me.
“Since I can’t ask you about work, I wanted to ask you about Samantha. Word has it you cut her loose.”
“That would be correct and believe me when I say it didn’t end well.” Blowing out a deep breath, my hands raked their way through my hair. “She didn’t take the news very well when I told her we were done.” Sammy was a great girl, but I just wasn’t there yet. Truthfully, I didn’t think I would ever get there with her.
Lucas let out a loud sigh reminding me that he knew the real reason why I was unable to commit. “C’mon man. You’ve got to let Emily go, dude.” As much as I didn’t want to admit it, my ex, Emily, was still fully camped out in my head and didn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon.
I knew the need to quickly change the subject was imperative to my mental health. “I appreciate the concern, but I’m good. I’m going to stretch my legs and work the room for a bit.” I tapped my bottle against his then went off to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while.
“Hey, Morgan! There you are. Get your ass over here!” The slurred words creating a well-timed distraction came from my old sergeant, James Flask.
“How’s it going, Whiskey?” I asked, reaching in to shake his hand. He instantly pulled me in for a hug, catching me a little off guard. The smell of Jack and Coke assaulted my nostrils.
He pulled back, gripping me tightly on the shoulder. “How the fuck have you been, Morgan? Long time no see. It feels like years.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he saw me just last week.
Everyone that knew James called him Whiskey. In part because his last name was Flask, but mostly because he was partially fond of Jack Daniels. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I had to drive his drunk ass home from a party because he was too shit-faced to get behind the wheel.
“I’m good. How’s the family?”
Whiskey leaned in with his glossy eyes. “Annette misses you, Morgan. You’ll have to stop by for those meatballs you love so much.” He said rubbing his round stomach. His comment made me smile. His wife Annette was a saint, particularly having to deal with Whiskey when he had too much to drink. She was a beautiful woman; Italian on both sides of her family and possibly the best cook I’d ever known on the eastern seaboard.
“Tell Annette I’ll be seeing her soon.” I winked and took a swig of my beer, feeling myself slowly start to unwind. It was fun listening to all the office pranks and getting brought up to speed on all the shit that had happened since I’d left. Maybe it was the familiarity or just the comfort of being back with my old crew, but I found myself feeling a lot less stressed.
Unfortunately, that feeling hadn’t lasted very long when my eyes clashed with Gage Garrison. Gage and I had never been friends and everyone was well aware of that. Looking at him caused an unreasonable amount of anger to rise. Gage was a self-assured asshole and everyone agreed. At 6’4 he could come across as very intimidating and when you added that to his personality, that made him the most competitive person on earth with an ego the size of Texas. He was a win at all costs, take no prisoners kind of man and he clearly thought he was better than everyone else. The only reason people tolerated him was because he really was the best at almost everything he did. Especially as an interrogator—give him 5 minutes alone with Colonel Sanders and he’d come out of the room with the list of 7 herbs and spices.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Brad Morgan. What made you decide to slum it tonight with your fellow officers? Let me guess, there were no cops left in your office to stab in the back?”
I wanted to punch the grin right off his face. My patience was running thin. As happy as I was to catch up with everyone, it seemed the tension between Gage and I was just as strong as ever.
My hands clenched. Gage Garrison knew what buttons to push, and it irked me that I allowed him to get under my skin so easily. There was history between us, and I wanted to keep it that way… history.
“Don’t be a douche bag, Garrison.” Whiskey said cutting him off. Apparently, even under the influence his bullshit detector was in full working order.
“You guys may be okay with cozying up with the enemy here.” He gestured with his hand pointing in my direction. “But I’m sure as hell not.”
I was determined to not let him get to me, to be the better person, but he was making it extremely difficult. “Gage, why don’t you do everyone here a favor and shut the fuck
The room went silent. Everyone’s attention shifted to us when Gage grabbed my shoulders.
“Jesus, Morgan, you really need to relax. I’m just messing with you!” His fake laugh was obvious and for the sake of not ruining the party, I backed down.
Once everyone was assured that a brawl wasn’t about to break out, all the conversations went back to normal. I was pissed at myself for letting him get the best of me again and decided I wasn’t going to play his stupid games tonight. He wasn’t worth the trouble.
I eventually found my way back to the bar with Sawyer and Lucas who had just ordered another round of shots. The bartender lined them up and topped them off before we each grabbed one in salute. “Here’s to Chappy!” I cheered holding up my glass as they soon followed. When I looked up, I could practically feel Abby Chapman’s stare burning a hole into my eyes. Something about her gaze threw me off. I squinted trying to focus on the message she was sending.
It didn’t take long for my detective instincts to kick in. Something was wrong. I nudged Lucas in the arm, but he was too buzzed to notice anything. He just shrugged his shoulders and ordered another shot. I quickly dismissed myself when she signaled for me to meet her in the corner.
I stuffed my hands in my pockets and walked briskly over to her. She seemed nervous.
She worked her bottom lip between her teeth as her eyes slid across the room. “I really need your help, Brad.”