Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Donna Alward | When the Man in Uniform is a Woman…

August 26, 2012

Donna AlwardIN THE LINE OF DUTYWhen I started planning out my FIRST RESPONDERS series, I knew that the first book was going to feature a sexy paramedic, the second would have a cop, and the third a fireman. What I didn’t know was that when it came time to write IN THE LINE OF DUTY, that cop would end up being the heroine rather than the hero.

This was a big surprise for me. When I thought about a series for “Men in Uniform” it was always men. I mean, the whole idea was that I find a man in uniform uber-sexy! But no matter how I tried to work a plot, a character arc, anything to do with this story, it wasn’t a man I saw. It was a very fit, very determined, very guarded female RCMP officer.

So a girl Mountie named Kendra Givens was it. She makes a small appearance in OFF THE CLOCK, the first book in the series, but IN THE LINE OF DUTY is really her story.  She’s a good cop, but she’s got some baggage of her own.  The story opens with her responding to a break and enter call at Jake’s Pub. And she really has a thing against Jake Symonds, the pub owner and ex-soldier.

Jake stands for everything she detests. And if that weren’t bad enough, she had to arrest him a few years back when he caused a disturbance dressed in nothing more than his underwear. The comments he made while in the back seat of her cruiser still make her blush. But there’s something more, too. For a few moments that night, there’d been something in his eyes she recognized – and she HATES that.

I had a chat with my brother in law recently and he made the assertion that modern women don’t want manly men. They want to prove they’re strong and independent and want a man who is all about feelings. I disagreed. Yes, we can be strong and independent but we also want to be loved, protected, understood. We want to know that when the chips are down our man is going to have our back. That when the world crumbles around us, there’s a strong partner there to hold us together.

Kendra is as independent as it gets, but she needs Jake. She needs his strength and his compassion and  she needs someone to challenge her when she would give up. She doesn’t need a girlfriend. She needs a partner.

Here’s an excerpt:

She clung to him as the tears she’d been holding in came rushing out, wetting his shirt front. She cried for the girl in the car, for the devastated parents, for the loss of an innocent, young life, and even for herself. She hated feeling helpless, powerless. She’d become a cop for that very reason. But tonight she’d been cruelly reminded that she was indeed helpless and powerless. That bad things happened to good people who were just driving home from work. No one had been talking on a phone or driving under the influence or speeding. All they were guilty of was getting caught in a thundershower and hydroplaning on the highway.

It was humbling to realize that ten minutes of bad weather could cause that much death and destruction.

Weak and weary, she pushed out of Jake’s arms. “I think I need to sit down,” she murmured. He held her hand as they went to the sofa, an unexpected point of connection that felt good, comfortable. She looked up at him sheepishly. “I went off the rails there, didn’t I?”

“A bit. Sounds like you’ve had a trying night though. Sometimes it helps to get it out.”

“I threw up in the ditch.”

The confession made him smile, and that fed the tiniest bit of warmth into her heart.

“I’m sorry for before. For yelling at you. For demanding…well, you know.”

He squeezed her fingers. “Demanding a drink? Yeah, well, it was pretty obvious something was very wrong. I couldn’t do it. Not knowing what I do, you know?”

She shivered, afraid of what she’d done, disturbed by the realization that she’d totally lost perspective. Afraid of why she’d done it—because she’d felt like she needed it to get through another hour. “Do you think I could be addicted like my mom? That…if I’d started I wouldn’t have stopped?”

His gentle smile faded as he looked her fully in the face. “I don’t know a lot about addiction. But I do know that you reached your limit tonight. That something about that girl tipped the balance for you. Extreme things drive people to extreme actions. Doesn’t mean you’re somehow predisposed to be an alcoholic, Kendra.”

She wasn’t convinced. “Doesn’t mean I’m not, either.” It would be the worst thing for her, and she was lucky it had been Jake on the bar tonight. Lucky he’d stopped her from self-destructing. A lot of bartenders wouldn’t have. “If I’d gone through with it, I could have lost my career. Everything.”

“I told you once before that I know when to stop serving.” He smiled again and leaned back against the cushions. It looked so inviting that she sank into them too, resting her head against the soft top of the sofa, curling one leg underneath her.

“Maybe,” he suggested, “what you went looking for wasn’t a drink after all. Maybe it was me.”

That idea was nearly as dangerous as the other as far as she was concerned. She wasn’t looking for a romantic connection. Wasn’t interested in dating. She didn’t want anything serious, and the day on the beach had shown her she didn’t really want a fling either. Besides, Jake wasn’t the serious type. He’d been around the block a time or two. And she was unbelievably green when it came to intimacy—emotional or sexual. It would be a bad idea all around, wouldn’t it?

“That’s quite a leap,” she answered, trying to sound glib. She wasn’t sure she succeeded. Especially when Jake answered.

“I’m not so sure it is,” he replied, “but I don’t think you’re in the frame of mind to discuss it now.”

Silence filled the room. She probably should go, but her emotions were still churning, and she didn’t quite trust herself to go home alone and not fall apart. She’d responded to a lot of calls over the past few years, but none of them had been a fatality. “It is a terrible thing,” she whispered, “to watch the life go out of someone. To see them take their last breath. I wasn’t prepared.” Her throat began to close up again, and the last words sounded strangely thick.

“No one is ever prepared for that.” Jake put his hand on her knee. “First time?”

“Yeah,” she breathed. Her eyes stung again and she blinked furiously. She really didn’t want to cry again.

“Do you have to go back? Or are you off duty now?”

“I’m done.”

“Good. Come here.”

Jake reached out and gripped her vest, deftly unzipped it and shoved it off her shoulders, then unclipped her belt. She felt oddly light without both and watched, fascinated, as he took them and laid them carefully over a nearby chair. Maybe he was right. Maybe she had come looking for him, for the simple reason that she thought he might understand. He’d been on several deployments. She knew without asking that he’d seen things. Done things. Especially after the haunted look in his eyes when they’d returned from the beach. Jake had his share of dark secrets.

You can snag the book at amazon, and also via Samhain Publishing’s store. I’m giving away a copy today to a lucky commenter!

Off The Clock
First Responders
October 2011
In the Line of Duty
First Responders
September 2012
Into The Fire
First Responders
November 2012 | @DonnaAlward

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