Copyright © 2013 Morgan Kearns
Read CHAPTER ONE
No two days of television news were ever the same. Today’s shift started uneventful, and pretty much stayed that way. Except for a minor accident that put a real kink in the morning commute.
The midday news was about to start, which meant Ian would be off the hook in an hour and twenty minutes. He couldn’t wait. Not that he had any big plans for the day, but he’d slept like shit last night on his couch and needed to get some zzz’s.
He’d just taken a sip from his water when reporter Phillip Ross raced into the lounge. “Let’s go. Officer involved shooting.”
Ian left the bottle of Aquafina right where he’d set it moments before. He dug his keys out of his pocket and took off, tight on Phil’s heels.
Adrenaline coursed through him, lighting him up like a freakin’ Christmas tree. This was the part of the job he lived for. All the other shit, shooting pretty pictures and covering the black with fluff, tided him over for stories like this.
He jumped into the driver’s seat and slammed the door. Cramming the key into the ignition, he cranked the engine over then buckled his seat belt.
“North Las Vegas. They’re texting the exact address.” Phil buckled his seat belt.
Putting the pedal all the way to the floor, the tires on the Explorer chirped as Ian backed out of the space. He shot through the closing gate, nearly taking it off the track and barely slowed to check for oncoming traffic.
Phil’s phone buzzed. He rattled off the address and Ian hit I-15, paralleling the Strip. Weaving in and out of traffic like a man with a death wish, he expected cursing from the interior to match that coming from the exterior of the vehicle. Phil didn’t say a word, though. He white-knuckled the oh-shit-handle, sucked in a breath or two, but didn’t once tell Ian to slow down.
Which was good. Ian wouldn’t have anyway.
Twenty minutes and two near misses later, Ian rolled up on the scene. Before the transmission hit park, Phil was out the passenger door and jogging up to the crime tape.
Ian jumped out, shivering a bit under the onslaught of a January breeze. He ran around to the back and unwrapped his camera from its egg crate. The box built into the back of his truck held the camera in a snug cocoon, protecting it from rides exactly like the one it’d just been on.
As he plopped the camera up on his shoulder, he hustled over to the yellow tape just in time to hear, “Drug raid gone wrong. Multiple shots fired. Two detectives hit.”
“Which detectives?” The question earned Ian a glare from Phil.
The uniform glanced up. “I can’t release that information. The families haven’t been notified.”
Families needing to be notified, never a good sign.
Another glare, another glance. “One. Sorry, boys, they’re bringing him out.”
Ian’s palm sweated against the handpiece of his camera. He aimed the lens at the doorway of the house and held his breath. This was the kind of material Emmy’s were made of.
The gurney rolled out. Unable to help himself, he zoomed in on the form prone on top. A paramedic rode on one side, pumping at the man’s chest, slamming his hands against the ribcage, the opened bulletproof vest flapping wildly with each thrust. Not that the action did a damn bit of good. Ian hadn’t gone to medical school, but he didn’t need a PhD behind his name to know the man on that gurney was a lost cause.
The gaping hole in his neck, despite all the gauze and the hand holding it in place, exposed his spine. The detective was dead, protocol just hadn’t proclaimed it yet. Poor bastard.
At the edge of the ambulance, the jolt of the undercarriage of the gurney flipping up caused the man’s arm to fall to the side.
Shards of ice stabbed Ian’s heart.
There on that strong forearm was a single word.
Kayla, tattooed in the beautiful scroll work he’d seen a hundred times.
Bile hit the back of his throat. Tears speared his eyes.
He handed the camera to Phil. “I’ve gotta go.”
“Go?” Phil accepted the hand-off. Not that Ian gave him a choice. “Where the hell are you going?”
He backed away. Stumbled, really. “I’ve gotta go.”
Anger flared in Phil’s eyes. “And where the hell do you think you’ve gotta go?”
More backing. More stumbling. No more answers.
Ian turned and took off on an all-out sprint. His heart thundered in his chest. Blood raced through his veins so fast he couldn’t hear anything except the rush in his ears.
He jammed the keys into the ignition and the engine roared to life. Once again the tires squealed. He couldn’t think of anything, yet he thought of everything.
Oh God, please let me be wrong.
If he were wrong he might very well lose his job. Hell, if he were right he may be collecting food stamps. He’d gladly take unemployment if it meant Leon Black wasn’t the man flat on his back in that ambulance.
Any hope Ian might have had dissipated when he turned onto his normally quiet street. There were no lights, no sirens, but there were two of North Vegas’s finest parked in front of the Black residence.
Ian sped into his driveway, slammed the Explorer into park and got out. He raced over the rocks, nearly tripping over a Tonka truck. He shot up onto the porch, raised his hand to knock when the front door opened.
Two uniforms, looking somber, each shook Kayla’s hand. “If you need anything, Mrs. Black, please let the department know.”
Really? Ian ground his molars. Her husband died, dumbshit! She needs him.
The normal stab of jealousy Ian felt at the thought of Kayla needing Leon didn’t filet him. Not this time. In fact, he didn’t really feel much of anything. Neither did Kayla, apparently. No emotion flickered behind the blank stare. She’d frozen over. He could feel the iceberg from where he stood on the porch.
She graciously shook the officers’ hands, said nothing, nodded, blinked, then waved a hand toward the door. “Thank you for coming. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’ve got some calls to make.”
This deep freeze scared the shit out of him. Crying, screaming, melting, all of that he could handle. This, this…well, it just wasn’t right.
Normally emotions ran high in the composed woman standing in front of him. Kayla Black laughed, loved, smiled. She lived with passion. Yet facing what had to be the worst moment in her life, not a single tear shimmered in her sapphire eyes.
She bit her bottom lip and waited for the officials to leave her home. She didn’t look at him, hadn’t looked at him, hadn’t given any indication she’d even seen him. The uniforms got in their cruisers, pulled away from the curb and she turned to disappear inside, but left the door wide.
He took that as an invitation. Walking into the Black home, it felt like he’d never breached the walls before. The happy-go-lucky didn’t exist, replaced by an eerie, creepy silence coating the place like a heavy blanket.
Kayla stood in front of the fireplace, staring at the pictures on the mantel, her hands clasped in front of her.
Like approaching a feral animal, Ian placed his steps cautiously, slowly, until he came up behind her. The photos broke his heart. Such joy. Love stared out of the frames. Love this woman would never hold in her arms again.
His throat tightened uncomfortably. He cleared it, choking down emotion. “Kayla?”
She didn’t answer, only reached out to run a finger down the picture of Leon in his dress uniform. She took the mahogany frame into her hands, gazed down at it for a moment then put it back.
She finally turned around and looked into Ian’s eyes. She wasn’t nearly as numb as she appeared. Emotion, violent and tragic, waged in the deep blue depths. She took a shallow breath, maintaining eye contact.
“He had on a vest.” The quiet devastation in her voice broke his heart. She blinked once, tears filled her eyes. “He had on a vest.”
Ian didn’t know what to say, so he kept his gaze locked with hers and kept his mouth shut.
“He promised me he’d always wear a vest.” She sniffed, wiped at her nose with the back of her hand. “So, he had on a vest. Because he promised.”
Her tears flowed freely now, running down her face in steady rivulets to drip off her chin. She wiped roughly at her cheeks, stiffened her jaw, nodded. “He definitely had on a vest. There must be some mistake because he had a vest on.” She pivoted toward the phone. “I’ll just call and—”
“He did have a vest on.”
She cocked her head, blinked, searched his face. “How do you know?”
Oh God, help me. “I saw him, Kayla. I was there. That’s why I’m here now.”
“Wait.” Her brows pinched. “You were there? What do you mean, you were there?” She stumbled back. He took hold of her elbow to steady her. She jerked away like he’d burned her. “Don’t. I’m fine.” Her head shook back and forth. “Tell me, Ian, what do you mean you were there?”
“Kayla,” he said in a tone he might’ve used with someone perched on a parapet.
She noticed. “Don’t Kayla me. Man up, damn you!”
His heart thundered in his chest, but he dug deep and manned up. “We got a call into the newsroom about an officer involved shooting.”
“I didn’t know until they brought him out of the house.”
Her bottom lip quivered. “Was he…”
Yes. “They were doing CPR and loaded him into the ambulance.”
“How did you…Maybe it wasn’t…” Her questions gave out, as did her knees.
He grabbed hold of her waist and cradled her against his body. “It was him, Kay. I saw his tattoo. Your name. On his arm.” He hugged her, hoping to hold her together when she finally fell apart. “I saw it and came.”
“I don’t need you, Ian.” She said the words, wounding him, but didn’t pull away.
He closed his eyes, reminding himself his feelings didn’t matter. Not. One. Damned. Bit. “I know. But I’m here anyway.”
“I don’t want you here. I don’t need you,” she sobbed as she clung to him. “I need him. I need Leon.”
One small fist slammed into his chest, then another. Another. And another. He took the beating, wishing like hell he could take her pain from her. He would gladly have taken Leon’s place to spare her. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given that choice. Neither was she. Or Leon.
Time ticked by, the grandfather clock announcing the top of the hour. Two o’clock. The kids would be home in an hour and a half. He worried how this would affect them. As Kayla’s sobs turned to hiccups, her strength gave out. She slumped against him, holding on as if she might drift away if she let go. He lifted her into his arms and carried her upstairs. Their home was the exact mirror image of his, so he knew the way to her bedroom.
She didn’t ask where he took her, didn’t protest.
He lay her down on the bed, tugged the comforter over her. “Can I get you anything?”
Before she could answer Penelope let out a squeal. Kayla shot up. “I should get her.”
“You rest.” He eased her back against the mattress. “I’ll get her.”
“I don’t need you, Ian.”
He kissed her forehead, the only time he’d ever laid his lips on her. “I know, honey. I know. Rest. I’ll get Penelope and check Chase and Sadie out of school.”
“Don’t tell them.”
“I won’t.” He handed her the box of tissues from her nightstand. “I’ll take them for ice cream, give you some time to figure out what you want to tell them. I’m still listed as an emergency pick up person, right?”
“Call me if you need me.”
“I don’t need you.”
Damn, he was getting tired of hearing those words. “I know.”
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