Between The Lines - T Gephart
NEVER LEAVE A fallen soldier behind.
It had been drummed into me since before I could walk, service and sacrifice hardwired into my DNA like my brown eyes and dark hair. Not that I had much of a choice when both my parents were retired military, each of them having done stints deployed in warzones. Mom was Air Force, and Dad, a Marine, and it didn’t matter they’d long hung up their uniforms, they lived—and held their two daughters—to the same standard.
“Okay, so here’s what’s going to happen.” My eyes panned across the room, cataloging intel as I memorized the layout. “You’re going to start on the south perimeter and work your way in. I’ll keep eyes on you and be your backup. If it looks like it’s getting hairy, I’ll come in and pull you out.”
“I don’t know, Ricci,” Miller hesitated, the fear in his eyes very real, “maybe we fall back, get some more recon.”
A frustrated breath blew out my lips, my commitment to my partner and my last name keeping my feet rooted in their place. “Grayson,” I used his first name, hoping it would ease some of the tension, “you can do this. It’s been two months since Maxine left and you said that meeting someone new was what you wanted.”
Spending Saturday night at a club with a friend was never a hardship, but Vault was the shiny new thing in the Meatpacking District and filled with pretentious assholes. I also despised Maxine, and as much as I hated seeing my friend going through the heartbreak, I was glad she was gone.
He was visibly deflated, scanning the offerings of beautiful women but lacking any of the confidence he’d had when we’d walked in. And when you’re a cop in New York City, confidence wasn’t something that was usually in short supply.
“Miller, you’re a good guy. You’re smart and good-looking, and any woman would be lucky to have you. Don’t try and find someone to date, just go have a conversation. Let them tell you how great you are, because you obviously don’t believe me.”
He shrugged, sinking his hands into his pockets. “Maybe it’s too soon? And speaking of getting out there, why aren’t you? I know you didn’t wear that dress for my benefit.” His eyes floated down my mostly exposed body. “Not that I don’t appreciate the effort.”
My balled fist punched him in the arm, laughing as I tossed my hair back. “Just because I have to keep myself regulation appropriate most of the time, doesn’t mean I don’t like reminding the world I’m a woman. And you’re welcome, just don’t stare at my tits too long and make it weird.”
Miller’s lips spread into a smile, shaking his head as he looked back at the crowd. “Fine, I’m going in. But if I give you the signal, you pretend I’m like your baby daddy or something like that and get me the hell out. I’m out of practice, and these women look like they’d eat me alive.”
“Only if you’re lucky, Miller.” I gave him a not-so-gentle shove. “And I’ll extract you from hostile territory the minute you put out the distress call.”
Like a proud parent on the first day of school, I watched as my amazing partner, Grayson Miller, took the first tentative steps into the crowd. I knew he would be okay, which was why I agreed to go to Vault in the first place.
While our station was in the Hell’s Kitchen precinct, over the bridge in Brooklyn was where we called home. I lived in a tiny cubbyhole my dad told me I was paying way too much for, with Grayson living in a cupboard remarkably similar about a few miles away. It was dumb luck that we got along so well, our friendship evolving from the minute we’d been paired up by the department. And while there’d never been a romantic attraction between us, I would, without a doubt, take a bullet for him. So I guess standing around a nightclub while he tried to get lucky wasn’t such a big deal.
And as much as we hated coming into the city on our time off, Manhattan was definitely the place for our latest mission. Not only were there more options, but no one seemed to care what we did. And if you were looking to hook-up rather than hunt for a relationship, being somewhere no one gave a shit was preferable.
“Hey, beautiful.” Some dude in a suit sidled up next to me as I