Home > Sweet Surrender (Sweet #1)

Sweet Surrender (Sweet #1)
Author: Maya Banks

CHAPTER 1


DALLAS, TEXAS

 

“I don’t want you to go back on the job yet.”

Grayson Montgomery plunked his coffee cup back on the worn diner table and stared at Mick Winslow in confusion.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Mick?”

The older man shoved a tired hand over his face, a face that was now deeply grooved with wrinkles and fatigue. He’d called Gray earlier in the morning and asked him to meet him here for coffee. Gray was due for his physical and psych evaluation in a half hour. The last obstacle in his return to work as a Dallas cop.

He’d been plagued with doubts. What sane person wouldn’t be? He hadn’t been completely sure he could return to a job when Alex, his partner, wouldn’t. Ever. But, of course, he’d go back. Alex’s killer had to be caught. Justice had to be done. All that was standing in his way was a doctor’s okay on his physical condition and a shrink’s assessment on the state of his noggin. He could easily bullshit his way through that one.

“You don’t think I can hack it anymore?” Gray asked when Mick still didn’t respond.

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“Then what the hell are you saying?”

Mick focused grief-stained eyes on Gray. He seemed so worn down now. Not at all like the big, barrel-chested man with a booming voice and personality to match.

“Hear me out. I have a favor to ask. Son.”

Gray flinched, not because Mick called him son, but because Mick’s real son was gone. Lost to them both.

“I want your help bringing Alex’s killer to justice.”

Gray should have seen this coming. Mick was beyond frustrated at the lack of progress in Alex’s murder case. Understandably so. It mirrored Gray’s own burning sense of injustice. Which was why he was so eager to get back on the job. So he could find Alex’s killer and make the bastard pay.

“But you don’t want me back on the force.”

“They dropped the ball on this investigation,” Mick said harshly. “You know it, and I know it. They’re all standing around with their thumbs up their asses while my boy’s killer is running free. They don’t even have a suspect. Alex was a good cop. Damn good cop. He didn’t deserve to go down like that.”

Gray’s eyes narrowed at the slight. It wasn’t directed personally, but still, it raised his hackles to have Mick question the departments’ handling of the case. Nothing he’d seen had led him to believe anyone was taking Alex’s death lightly.

“Why don’t you want me to go back?” Gray prompted, trying to push Mick back to the point. He didn’t want to dwell on Alex. Not now. Not when it had taken him this long to be able to think about his partner without feeling like someone torched his insides.

A waitress walked over with a coffeepot and started to refill their cups. Mick waved her away with an irritated gesture. She quickly retreated, eyebrows raised at the dark scowl on Mick’s face.

“I’ve been doing some investigating on my own.”

Gray frowned. Was this why Mick looked like death warmed over? Had he been devoting every hour of the day, forgoing sleep, in a desperate attempt to bring a killer in?

“You’re retired, Mick. Leave the police work to us.”

Hurt filled Mick’s eyes. “I’m going to forget you said that, son.”

Gray shook his head. “What have you found?”

“I think I have a solid lead on who may have killed Alex. He was at least at the scene that night, so if he didn’t do it, he damn sure knows who did. But my gut is telling me he’s the bastard who shot Alex in the back.”

Gray’s stomach churned, and all the coffee he’d consumed burned like acid. Images of Alex, facedown, like a piece of discarded trash, blood pooling on the ground.

“If you have evidence, why haven’t you gone to Billings, and why are you here asking me not to go back to the job?”

“Because Billings is an obnoxious prick who has his head so far up his ass he can smell last week’s dinner,” Mick growled. “I went to him when I uncovered information on the guy who was there. Samuels. Eric Samuels.”

“You know his name?” Gray broke in.

Mick held up his hand. “Let me finish. I know a lot more than the asshole’s name.”

Gray nodded and tried to relax in his seat. He glanced at his watch. He was going to be late.

“I went to Billings. Told him everything I knew. He blew me off. Told me I was a washed-up has-been who needed to leave the police work to the professionals. Told me when he needed my help, he’d damn well ask for it. It’s going around the department that Alex was at fault in the shooting.”

“What? What the fuck?”

“I’ve been hearing rumors, Gray. Seems that the prevailing belief is that Alex acted without cause, and that his death was an unfortunate consequence of his actions. The words ‘blatant disregard of duty’ were thrown around more than one conversation.”

Gray stared at Mick in disbelief. “You can’t be serious. I was there. I gave my report.”

“You’d say anything to cover for your partner.”

Gray curled his lip in a snarl.

Mick held up his hand. “That’s what they’ll say. Not me.”

Gray leaned back, taking deep breaths to calm the rage boiling inside him. He took a long, hard look at Mick. Was he jacking with him? Trying to get him pissed off enough that he’d agree to whatever Mick wanted? He’d never known Mick to be anything but straight up, but losing a son had a way of bending one’s conscience.

Mick propped his elbows on the table and leaned across, staring intently into Gray’s eyes. “You go to your evaluation, son. You talk to Billings. If you think I’m full of shit after you’ve been back at headquarters for a few hours, then by all means, you go back to the job and forget we ever had this conversation. But if you find out I’m right, you give me a call this afternoon. I’ll come over, and we can talk about how we’re going to nail the son of a bitch who killed my son. Your partner. Your brother.”

Mick slid out of the booth and threw a few wadded-up bills on the table before stalking toward the exit.

 

It had been hard to calmly request a leave of absence when what he wanted to do was put his fist through the wall. Gray had considered tanking the psych evaluation, but that shit went on his personnel record forever, and he didn’t want that to follow him for the next twenty years.

He stood in the living room of his apartment, pacing, too agitated to sit down and wait for Mick to arrive. The old man hadn’t sounded the least bit surprised when Gray had called him. Didn’t even ask what the word around headquarters was.

But then he knew. He’d told Gray, but Gray hadn’t believed him. Gray had gone back fully intending to ignore Mick’s request. No matter what, Gray wanted to be here where he could help with the investigation, not on some wild-goose chase. But Billings had drawn a hard line in the sand. Gray wasn’t allowed anywhere near the investigation. Too close and all that bullshit. Like he needed a bunch of psychobabble when his partner’s killer was on the loose. When he’d point-blank asked about the rumors floating around about Alex being at fault, Billings had flatly denied it, saying the investigation was ongoing and that the department would do everything in its power to bring the murderer to justice. Gray had also asked about Samuels and his possible connection to the murder, but Billings had refused to comment.

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