Published by Soul Mate Publishing
Hunting a killer is easy. Learning to love is hard.
Josephine ‘Jo’ Rayburn has no luck with love. Between the demands of her job as a homicide detective, finding the perfect yarn for her knitting projects, and her nosy family, she doesn’t have time to find her happily ever after, nor does she really believe it exists. Until she’s assigned to the Gravedigger task force where she meets Rhysian ‘Rhys’ Harrison, the sexy Coroner’s assistant.
Rhys Harrison thought he had found love with the perfect woman. But his parents’ death forced him to choose between his fiancée and caring for his brother, he chose his brother. His only regret, the medical degree he abandoned to work in the Coroner’s office. When the Gravedigger leaves his latest victim at the gates of a cemetery, Rhys and Jo are thrown together, her prickly personality interests him, but it’s her deeply hidden romantic side that captivates him.
After one of the task force members is shot, Rhys’s fears of losing Jo, like he’s lost so much already, threaten to rip them apart. Can she convince him that love is worth having no matter the risk? Or will he play it safe, leaving before his heart becomes too attached?
Jo watched as Rhys wrapped up his game, then he walked toward her, his stride not hurried nor slow. Confident was how she’d describe it. She sipped the new beer Marcy had dropped off. Curious, Jo waited to see if he’d join her or veer away. His gaze latched onto hers, a small curl of his lips softened the intensity of his gaze.
“Hello, I’m Rhys.” His voice wasn’t deep, but not light either. It drew her in, made her want to see what it’d take to make that crisp, proper tone break and heat. What would turn it into a growl?
Holding out her hand, Jo smiled. “I’m Jo.”
“Karma said this stool was empty, mind if I join you?” He tipped his bottle toward the stool Karma had vacated.
He turned to face the pool tables and propped his elbows on the counter behind him. Both sipped their beers and watched Sullivan break. Jo hid a smile at how distracted her sister was with Abe. Of everyone in the bar, she’d never have pegged Abe as Karma’s type.
“Heard you had the date from hell.” Rhys turned in his seat and focused his unusual gold eyes on her.
“Don’t get me started, seems like I’m drawing them like flies to shit right now.”
Rhys grinned. “Weird analogy, but okay. I saw you and your sister in the ring yesterday.” As perfect as the man seemed on closer inspection, it was not only reassuring to see the slight gap between his front teeth but endearing as well.
Heat stole over Jo’s face and she twisted around to face Rhys. All her friends and co-workers had been talking about that fight.
“Who won?” he asked, interrupting her rambling thoughts.
Shrugging, she smiled. “Depends on who you ask.”
“I’m asking you.”
Jo leaned toward him, the heat of his body seemed to reach out to envelope her. It was odd how much she wanted to move even closer, wrap herself around him. Shaking off the feeling, Jo focused on their conversation. “Oh, then the captain won.”
Rhys’s gaze darkened with confusion. “What?”
“See, Sullivan, my partner, he says I won. Maker says if they counted the hits by MMA rules, then Karma would’ve won because some of my hits weren’t kosher. Karma says the match was a draw and I say the captain won.”
Rhys scratched his shadowed jaw. “I’ll bite, why do you think the captain won?”
“Oh, that’s easy. Because when we were going at it, the captain stepped into the gym and with one shout cleared the entire area out.”
That drew a surprised laugh from Rhys. He was gorgeous when he laughed, the brackets around his mouth deepened and his eyes crinkled at the corners in happiness. “I thought I saw a lot of on duty cops down there.”
His expression turned pensive. “Do you often fight like that with your sister?”
“First, Karma’s my half-sister. Second, we had a lot of things to work out. Sometimes it’s better to deal with our feelings in the ring rather than let it fester.”
“You had a lot of anger to work out, but she”—Rhys pointed his beer bottle toward Karma—“wasn’t working out anything.”
“What?” Jo’s gaze darted between her sister and Rhys. He motioned at Karma again, it proved he’d seen the fight. “How can you say that? She came at me with everything she had.”
Tipping the bottle to his lips for the last swallow, he set it on the counter with a hollow thump. “No, she didn’t.”
Jo finished her own beer and set her empty bottle next to his, debating if she wanted the answer to the questions he’d raised. But that was why she had become a detective, to protect those she loved with her most valuable asset. Puzzles, they were her addiction and people were the most complex puzzles on the face of the earth. “Okay, I’ll bite. What makes you think she didn’t fight just as hard as I did?”
Another grin flashed across Rhys’s sharp planed face. “Because when you’re angry you have several tells that she could easily have used to her advantage. She didn’t. Instead, she defended herself and let you work out your frustration on her.”
Bullshit, Jo thought and then said, “Bullshit.”
“What tells?” No way did she have tells. She worked too damned hard to make sure she never telegraphed her moves.
“When you made the roundhouse kick, you shifted your left foot before you followed through.” Leaning toward her, he continued, “And when you went to change up your punch to use your left fist instead of your dominant right one, you lowered your shoulder.”
Distracted by the subtle cologne he wore, it took Jo a second for her brain to latch on to what he said. “The hell I did.”
He shifted away from her and she wanted to growl at her stupidity. Dammit. She wanted him closer and now she’d run him off. Then he was back, a phone in his hand and the fight on the small screen. “Watch.”
Her eyes followed the action. “Son of a bitch. She’s not even trying.”
“That’s not true, it takes a good deal of concentration to keep someone as determined as you from doing a lot of damage.” Rhys tucked his phone back in his pocket. “And as both of you are highly trained, it took her even more effort.”
“How do you know how well trained we are?” Suspicion curled into Jo.
He smiled again. “When is your next day off?”
“I’m not sure with this new case.” She struggled to keep up with the rapid change of subject.
“Okay, how about I call you next week. Maybe you can get an evening or afternoon off and we can go out to dinner or do something else.” Surprised, she took too long to answer, and he continued, “Or not.”
A flash of something that looked like disappointment appeared in Rhys’s golden gaze but disappeared so fast Jo could’ve been mistaken.
“I’d like that, but I thought you were interested in Karma.”
“No, she’s too flashy for me. I prefer a woman who’s a bit more subtle.” He tipped his head to the side.
She turned to see Karma arguing with Sullivan, as usual. “She can be a tigress.”
It was true, proven when Karma had leaped to her mother’s defense. In retrospect, Jo realized that was also why Karma had instigated the fight earlier. To help Jo release her anger constructively and get her on an even keel to accept Karma and Maker onto the case. The revelation caused her sister to rise higher in Jo’s estimation.
Rhys hummed, his cell phone back in his hand. “Give me your number.”