Some days I get lucky enough to have lots of company. Today is one of these days. Welcome my good friend Karen Docter who’s got a Cop On Her Doorstep for you.
In the six years since her husband was killed by S.W.A.T., Carrie Padilla has spent long hours at work, rebuilding a life for herself and her son. The little time she has at home is spent keeping her eight-year-old son out of trouble, but he is all too eager to try to be the man in the house. When a handsome cop shows up on her doorstep, her errant son in tow, Carrie’s heart stutters. The sexy Italian cop sets off all kinds of bells in her system, and she knows there’s only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart…avoid her new neighbor at all costs.
S.W.A.T. officer Jake Stafani already lost one little boy to gang violence, the dead boy’s older brother is missing, and Jake’s not about to let the same thing happen to a neighbor’s son. He drags the youngster home only to discover much more than a passing interest in the boy’s beautiful, but wary, mother. Forced to take a leave of absence after a bust goes awry, Jake can think of nothing better to occupy his time than to keep Carrie and her son safe, and locate the missing teen who holds the key to taking the gang off the streets, once and for all.
But Jake doesn’t count on his stubborn, intriguing neighbor distracting him from his job, or the passion that flares between them. He doesn’t expect her amazing son to steal a piece of his heart. Jake is ready to risk everything for Carrie, body and soul. But it’s not all up to him. If their new love is to survive, Carrie will need to be strong enough to see the man’s beating heart behind the badge, to look beyond the pain of her past, and decide that loving again is worth the risk.
Carrie Padilla wished she could crawl back into bed. Maybe, under it. Any day that included a cop on her doorstep didn’t promise to be a good one. A policeman appearing at the crack of dawn spelled disaster. There must be some mistake.
The hope prompted her to peek through the peephole a second time to examine the identification she’d demanded. Her heart racing, she sucked in one short, shaky breath of air. Then another, longer one. Her head spun with the effort, so she had to settle her forehead against the door.
She couldn’t chance a one-on-one confrontation with a uniform again. Not this close. She may have beaten the impulse to fall apart every time a siren sounded in the distance or a police car appeared in her rearview mirror, but did she dare test herself with closer contact?
“If you’d like to call the station, Sergeant Grenich will vouch for me.” The voice was deep, authoritative, impossible to ignore.
Opening the door wouldn’t be her first choice. Then, neither would it be second or third. But Officer Jake Stefani wanted to speak with her and she didn’t have an excuse for turning him away. At least, no valid excuse.
Her fingers fumbled with the safety chain as she glanced down at her sweaty exercise gear. Sports bra, covered by the sleeveless Colorado Rockies T-shirt her husband bought her before he died. Her old running shorts, a tad less loose thanks to her recent make-up-for-the-loneliness, chocolate-peanut butter ice cream splurges. Running shoes with low-cut athletic socks.
She wore less to the local swimming pool, so why did she suddenly feel so naked? She was afraid it was due to more emotional reasons than physical ones. The problem was she didn’t have the nerve to ask the man outside to wait until she was better able to cope. He wasn’t likely to wait forever.
Unable to avoid the inevitable any longer, she threw open the door while one trembling hand tucked tendrils of damp, auburn hair back into her ponytail. Disconcerted to find herself nose to chest with the policeman, she stepped backward, her desire to bolt suddenly stronger. At only a few inches over five feet, she’d experienced her share of “tiny attacks” in the past, but never with this kind of intensity.
Amazingly enough, the uniform didn’t cause the problem. The man behind it did. Although he couldn’t quite lay claim to six feet, his crisp, dark blue shirt clung to a broad chest, his trousers molded to muscular legs. He didn’t have the brawny physique of a body builder though, more the sleek, leashed power of a man trained in martial arts. Good heavens, but his biceps looked strong. Rock hard.
Something distinctly feminine within her quickened. Were arms like those capable of tenderness? A woman would feel safe there, secure, if she wasn’t crushed to death first.
Chasing the unruly notion away, she gazed elsewhere. The dark shading of the man’s square jaw suggested a beard needing two close shaves a day. His full lower lip was sensuous and bound to cause heartache, if a woman weren’t tripped up first by the mischievous bump of a slightly crooked nose. She blinked when she reached the kindest, warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen. They were the same rich shade as Swiss chocolate. Soft. Mouthwateringly tempting.
Wow. Too bad she was on a no-man diet.
She pushed away the troublesome rush of awareness and ruthlessly reminded herself she was ogling a cop. She urged her lungs to breathe. “What can I do for you, Officer?”
Her insides vibrated to the sinfully deep rumble of his voice before she could clamp down on the new sensation. “I’m Carrie Padilla.” Please have the wrong woman!
“Sorry to bother you at this hour, Mrs. Padilla, but we need to discuss your son.”
“Um. Hi, Mom.”
Carrie’s eyes widened. The boy who edged into sight from behind the officer’s bulk couldn’t possibly be her son. This boy appeared too small, too grimy, and he wore a familiar red windbreaker and an unfamiliar, guilty expression. She turned to stare up the flight of stairs behind her. Her heart sank. “Eric,” she whispered, wondering when her son had sneaked from the house. She’d been up for several hours thanks to her recent bout of insomnia and Eric hadn’t passed her bedroom door while she ran on the treadmill.
Looking back at the pair on her doorstep, she fought harder to marshal her wits. Her stomach flip-flopped unevenly when her gaze fixed on the uniformed figure at Eric’s side, but she thrust her personal problems aside as motherly instincts kicked in. She’d confront the Devil, himself, to protect Eric. “What are you doing with my son?”
The cop frowned. “Could we come in, please?”
She had to fight her immediate impulse to deny this man access to her home to motion them inside. Closing the front door, she led the way to the living room. Eric sat at one end of her forest green sofa. Only after the policeman moved to the other end did Carrie perch on the wing chair positioned opposite, a move she regretted when she realized the man remained standing. She waved at him. “Please sit.”
He hesitated, but then took a seat on the couch.
Somehow, she didn’t feel any less overwhelmed looking him straight in the eye with only a mahogany coffee table between them. She ignored the peculiar feeling they’d drawn battle lines, with her on one side, her son and his escort on the other. She looked at Eric. “What did you—“
“Mrs. Padilla, before we begin, you might want to call your husband.”
Her gaze jolted the length of the couch. “My husband is dead,” she said.
Cop On Her Doorstep is available from Amazon and other retailers.
Bestselling author, Karen Docter writes two different kinds of romance novels…Contemporary Romance w/a Karen Docter and Romantic Suspense w/a K.L. Docter.
Karen’s contemporaries are cute & spicy romances. She loves writing about real men and women with dreams and goals that don’t allow for a relationship just so she can throw them in each other’s path…with a tickle and a smile. Her romantic suspense novels are also filled with romance, although the dangers the hero and heroine face are intense, usually because a serial killer is bent on ending one or both of their lives before they can fall in love.
Karen/K.L.’s an award winning author, a four-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist, and won the coveted Kiss of Death Romance Writers Daphne du Maurier Award Category (Series) Romantic Mystery Unpublished division.
When she’s not saving her characters from death and destruction or helping them fall in love, she loves camping and fishing with her family, reading, gardening & cooking. If she can do most of those things over a campfire, all the better! FMI: http://www.karendocter.com