Devan Burke tapped his finger on the steering wheel waiting for the car in front
of him to get their drink order at the drive-thru espresso bar.
How sad is this? he thought, blowing a disgusted snort out his nose. Every night,
Dev actually looked forward to coming to the Naughty Latte after his shift at the
station. This ritual was as close as he’d gotten to a woman in more months than he’d
care to admit.
The last thing he needed was more coffee flooding his system, but at this point it
didn’t really matter. The whiskey shots he’d take later would combat his caffeine
He wouldn’t sleep anyway.
Inching the car forward, he tapped his foot against the gas pedal. Glancing at the
reader board of drink choices, he pondered which one to order.
The red tail lights of the car in front of him finally moved off, and he edged his
car next to the window.
Smiling, the woman inside leaned her elbow on the ledge and put a slender finger
under her chin. “Evening, detective.”
“Evening Luci.” He forced what he hoped was a cocky look on his face as he met her
gaze. He also fought to keep his eyes from wandering to the glorious cleavage pressed
between the triangles of her hot-pink bikini top. God bless whoever dreamed up the
idea of bikini espresso stands. Dev couldn’t see what Luci was wearing below his
view line, but he was sure it was just as tantalizing.
In the past he’d only dated fancy, high-maintenance, stick-thin women. Luci had a
natural look mixed with playful sex appeal and curves that had no end in sight. But
his lady-cruising days were all in the past.
“You’re early tonight,” she commented, wiping her hands on a towel and stretching
“Only about ten minutes.” It was fun to flirt with her every night… and safe. The
most fun he allowed himself anymore on his way home to an empty house. He tried to
imagine having someone like Luci waiting home for him. “Why? You keeping tabs on
“Should I be?” she tossed back. “You plan on getting in some trouble tonight?” Her
eyes were an amazing shade of dark blue, with long, dark lashes that fanned the edges.
Full lips smiled over straight white teeth. Her ash blond hair was pulled up in a
fountain tumble on top of her head with pink streaked bangs the same color as her
“I could get into all kinds of trouble with you.” Devan said, widening his lady-killer
grin. In these few minutes at Luci’s drive-thru window, he could be his old self
again. Confident and sure. Two words that no longer existed in his vocabulary.
Seated solidly behind the wheel of his car, the cute girl he hit on couldn’t see
the limp of his half crippled leg when he tried to walk.
“Promises, promises.” She looked over her shoulder seeing if there was anyone at
the other window. He knew she got these pick-up lines every day. Shit, probably every
few minutes. But she was always a good sport about it, placating him night in and
night out for his few minutes of fantasy role playing.
It had to be unbearable having hard-up guys like him hitting on her while she was
trying to work.
His gaze drifted to take in the perfect globes of her breasts. How difficult would
it be to ask her out for a cup of coffee? Dev almost laughed out loud when his plan
played through his brain. Yeah, brilliant, I’ll ask a bikini barista out for coffee.
That would be exactly what she’d want after working in an espresso joint all night.
He had nothing else to offer.
“Detective, will you be having your usual?” she asked, smiling sweetly.
He was planning on ordering something different. Breaking out of the box. But who
the hell was he kidding? He was a box kind of guy. “Yeah, fine. Triple-shot latte,
extra hot, two packs of sugar.”
“You order the same thing every night. Hot and sweet, just like you. I got it handsome.”
She turned toward the espresso machine and thumped the grounds into the disposal,
then flipped on the grinder to pulverize the beans for his drink. He could just see
the waistband of her pink knit shorts, making him wish he had a pick-up truck. The
view would be much better.
Handsome. Right. Hot and sweet, bullshit.
Women had once referred to his ruddy, shadowy looks as handsome. Now, he knew he
looked like he felt… crap. His dark eyes burned and were always rimmed red. His dreams
wouldn’t let him sleep more than a few hours at a time. That’s why he’d gone into
work two hours early, and then decided to call it a night ten minutes before eight.
He couldn’t sleep. No woman would want to screw him. What else was there to do other
than push more paper around his desk?
Looking over at the cane propped against the front seat, he frowned and knocked it
to the floor. The doctors told him his rehab would go smoother if he actually showed
up at physical therapy on a regular basis. He’d tried it for awhile, but the pain
was still there, and the doctors couldn’t give him an answer why. He’d stick with
the whiskey. At least he knew that would work to ease the pain.
Dev leaned back on the leather seat of his Plymouth GTX 440. He’d owned the car since
he was a teenager, fixing it up one piece at a time with any extra cash he earned.
People referred to his car as a muscle car. Dev used to think it was cool to drive,
but that was before. Now, it just made him feel stupid. The car reflected something
He sat listening to the sounds of whirring steam in the pitcher as Luci made his
drink. He glanced though the open window. “Hey, where’s your side kick?”
“Becky went home about an hour ago. She has a bad cold. It’s only another hour. I’ll
close by myself.” Luci poured the steaming milk into the cup and tore off the tops
of the sugar packets, stirring them into the drink with a long metal spoon. Tapping
the foam from the pitcher, she pushed the white lid down securely.
The overhead lights lit streaks of gold in her hair. It was starting to get dark
earlier every day, and there was a noticeable nip in the air. Fall was just around
the corner and it wasn’t good. It meant there would be more of the night for Dev
to contend with. It had been six months, but he still had to make it though the dreary,
dark days of winter. That was, if he decided to make it at all.
Leaning forward, he fished his wallet from his back pocket and flipped open the worn
leather, pulling out two five-dollar bills. One for his drink, and one for Luci.
What else did he have to spend money on? It wasn’t as though he was going out on
the town to eat lobster and dance the night away.
Isn’t there a ball-game on?
Instead of handing him the latte, Luci set it on the ledge and crossed her arms,
leaning forward. “You look kind of rough tonight. Are you okay?”
“Why?” he asked, her question catching him off guard. He shoved the bill into the
tip cup and ran a hand through his short unruly hair.
“You just look,” she paused, biting her lower lip, “sad,” she said. “You want to
talk about it?”
“No.” He didn’t want someone searching his head. He just wanted his coffee so he
could leave. He’d had enough of psychiatrists trying to help him. He didn’t need
anyone’s help, especially not a woman wearing a hot-pink bikini.
“You sure? I’m a good listener,” she said, looking concerned.
If he was the kind of guy to pour his heart out, she had the face of someone who
cared. Innocent. Open. Dev had forgotten what that looked like until he started coming
to the Naughty Latte every night. Luci was about as far from the likes of him as
“Only because I’m a good tipper.” He grinned wickedly “There’s only one thing I’d
like from you baby… and it’s not to be psycho-analyzed.” His words were cold, just
like he felt inside. She’d touched a nerve. He knew it and so did she. She held his
gaze with a look of interest, like she wanted to ask another question.
“Can I have my damn coffee?” He gave her his best icy stare and glowered. He’d been
practicing it on criminals for years.
“Sure. I didn’t mean to upset you. I know you just come here to look at my boobs…
I just thought maybe I could help.” She’d taken his crude comment, and matched it.
Her eyes flashed a darker shade of blue as she tipped her chin up, waiting for him
Dev couldn’t stay mad as he watched her attempt her cute bad-ass attitude. “So you
picked tonight to start asking questions? I was having such a good day.” That was
a lie. Anymore, he never had a good day. He hated being on light-duty, stuck at a
desk. He wanted to be back in the field, but that was his choice, he wasn’t ready.
“It’s slow. You look like you could use a friend.”
“I don’t have any friends,” he replied.
“I’m your friend aren’t I? You come here every night. I feel like we’re old friends.”
Luci slid the cup across the counter before handing it out the window to his waiting
grasp. She hadn’t said it like a come-on, and he’d be even a bigger ass if he said
the first thing he was thinking.
Dev stifled the sigh of relief that threatened to escape his lips. Back on safe ground.
It was back to being flirty, this was much better. He thought for a moment she’d
gone off the deep end and he’d have to find a new place to go.
“Yeah, you’re my friend,” he answered, taking a deep drink of the rich hot coffee
and letting it flow down his throat. “You’re the best friend I have anymore.” He’d
finally said something that was completely true.
Mac, his ex-best friend and now ex-partner, had moved on. Sure, he called a few times
a week to check up on him, but Dev made sure to keep the conversations short. He
had nothing new to say. No one wanted to be with a keg of nitro and a screw up who
had cost others their lives.
“You can never have too many friends. You never know when you’re going to need them,”
When she smiled it lit the smooth silk of her skin to a happy glow. Dev wanted to
smile back, but he had to think about it before actually doing it. He’d forgotten
He struggled to keep his gaze off her breasts, but they were just so damn good. Perfectly
tanned, and one for each hand.
Safe in his car with one arm braced on the rolled down window, Dev calculated that
from her perch she wouldn’t be able to see his erection springing to life. That would
be the last thing he needed. He spent his days being humiliated enough. But the thought
of all that tight, luscious skin lying underneath him made him wonder if she was
tanned all over?
“I better get going. I don’t want to take up all your time.” Using his free hand,
he tugged the seam of his jeans to loosen his hard-on.
She shrugged. “As I said, it’s slow. With the economy the way it is, people are cutting
back, even at this place. I need more regulars like you. People I see on a daily
“Yeah. Happy to help the economy.” Just one more second, and he’d ask her out…
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. Sleep tight.” She waved fingers and slid the window
The only thing that was going to be tight tonight was his balls. Dev pulled the car
away from the espresso stand and eased out onto the street. When he got home he’d
take a long hot shower and imagine what Luci looked like naked.
Was she a true blond? Did the rug match the drapes?
He was a pig.
Lately it had been Luci in his thoughts as he’d stroked himself to a quick sexual
release. But he needed a real woman clenched around his shaft, not his own hand.
He’d never be able to have a woman like Luci. She was out of his league.
He’d forgive her for asking so many questions, and tomorrow he’d be back at that
tiny drive-thru for his triple-shot, extra hot, five-minutes of her companionship.
Dev took a sip of the coffee, licked the foam off his lip and tried to let his mind
and body relax. Stretching forward he flipped on the police scanner under the dash.
It wasn’t like he was ever going to be back on the streets, but he liked to stay
up on what was happening in the city around him.
A call came across as soon as he’d flipped the knob.
The address… Luci’s place.
He cranked the handle and tossed the nearly full cup coffee out the window.
“Shit!” He slammed his fist against the steering wheel.
He flicked a glance in the rearview mirror and jammed on the brakes. Tires squealing,
he spun the car in the opposite direction and punched the accelerator. The V8 engine
roared to life.
It was impossible. He’d left her five minutes ago. Maybe someone called in the address
But how long did it take to commit a crime? He knew the answer to that question all
His guts tightened and his pulse raced. He jerked the car into the small turnaround
as a squad car screamed up beside him.
Dev didn’t remember opening the car door, but grabbed his cane and now was attempting
to run. He pulled his leg stabbing the cane into the ground across the pavement.
Automatically he reached and unhooked his gun from its shoulder holster and drew
The neon open sign blinked, but inside the brightly lit stand was dark. A man stood
halfway in the side door.
“Police!” Dev yelled. “Put your hands where I can see them! Back away from the door.”
The large man in suspenders put up his hands. “I’m the one who called you guys.”
Dev flicked his gun for the man to move as Brady, a beat cop he knew from the squad
car, pulled the man roughly away.
Luci was on her knees, her bikini top ripped off and her hands trussed behind her
in a pair of cuffs. In the dim light her skin glowed ghostly white as she tried to
turn, struggling for balance. Her bare breasts touched the dirty floor beneath her.
“Jesus,” Dev muttered, feeling his insides turn into coils of barb-wire. Had she
been raped? Her shorts were still on. There hadn’t been enough time. Had there?
The world can change in a minute.
Wallace, Brady’s partner trailed in behind him. “What the hell are you doing here,
Dev couldn’t drag his eyes from Luci. “Get your key and get those fucking cuffs off