His Risk to Take (Line of Duty #2)

by Tessa Bailey

Chapter One

Same bullshit, different city.

From the darkest corner of O’Hanlon’s bar, Troy Bennett took a long pull of his draft beer and watched men and women start to pair off, retreating to their own dark corners together. The bitter snow storm taking place outside had kept people inside well past their cut-off point. Loud music emanated from unseen speakers until everyone around him yelled to be heard or had given up and started dancing. Toward the back, a group of men played pool under an ancient light, their girlfriends looking on from the sidelines. He’d thought of joining the game himself, but since arriving an hour earlier, Troy had seen money discreetly exchange hands several times. Nothing new in a dive bar like this, but illegal gambling was something that, as a cop, he tended to avoid.

He took another pull of his beer and tried to focus on the debate taking place in front of him. His first week as a member of the NYPD had been long and tedious. Daniel and Brent, two officers who’d been gifted with the task of showing him the ropes, had dragged him to the bar to celebrate his survival.

“So let me get this straight, Danny boy. You’ve never once cried in front of a girl?”

Daniel heaved a breath toward the ceiling. “No, Brent. Why would I be crying if I’m with a girl?”

“To show her how emotionally complex you are.”

Brent tapped his finger against his temple. “Women go crazy for that shit.”

Daniel smiled lazily in response, his attention diverted once more by the cute bartender as she passed.

“When I’m with a girl, I’m a little too busy to worry about how she’s gauging my emotional maturity.”

In the one week since Troy’s transfer from Chicago, he’d watched Daniel, the hostage negotiator, date and discard at least three different women. Brent, on the other hand, seemed more interested in blowing shit up. They were good at their jobs, and Troy considered himself fortunate Lieutenant Tyler, his former superior back in Chicago, had put in a good word for him with the NYPD Emergency Services Unit.

At the reminder of his previous home and position on the Chicago police force, Troy drained his beer and signaled the bartender for another one. He shouldn’t be drinking to forget the reason he’d left Chicago, but it had become a habit of late. One he needed to get control of soon. Just not tonight.

“Weigh in on this, Troy. Do women want men who, like myself, are as deep and fathomless as the ocean?”

Brent gestured to Danny with his beer. “Or like pretty boy over here who hits it, quits it, and forgets it?”

Troy avoided responding right away by sipping his beer. He had a feeling his answer would inspire an entirely new debate, but he had no interest in discussing his approach to women and relationships with Daniel and Brent, who he’d known less than a week. He knew what they saw when they looked at him. Quiet, friendly guy. Passionate about his job. It’s the same thing women saw, too. In the beginning.

But Prince Charming disappeared as soon as they made it to the bedroom.

He’d tried once or twice in the past to be the guy who whispered sweet nothings into a girl’s ear when she came, but he’d never been able to keep up the façade. He’d rather be explaining in very explicit terms how and where he planned to take her next. It was a part of him he couldn’t explain, but had learned to embrace. Finding women to embrace it with him tended to be the difficult part.

Deciding on evasion as his best bet, Troy half smiled. “If I knew exactly what women wanted, do you think I’d be sitting here with you two?”

Both men laughed, and Brent changed the subject.

Kind of. “On to more important topics, gentlemen. Blondes or brunettes?”

Daniel winked at the bartender. “You left out redheads.”

Brent snorted into his beer. “I guess Danny’s picked out tonight’s lucky winner.” He checked his watch. “Took you long enough. We’ve already been here a whole hour.”

Troy caught a flash of something desolate pass over Daniel’s face, but it disappeared just as quickly as he laughed at the joke made at his expense. “What about you, Troy? Any preference?”

He picked up his beer and tipped it to his lips. Not that he didn’t appreciate their attempt at levity, but in his current mood, the hair color of a potential conquest was the furthest thing from his mind. Daniel and Brent knew the reason he’d been transferred from Chicago and thankfully, hadn’t brought it up once during the week. But they were rapidly nearing the portion of the evening when he’d need to head home, since he knew too well that alcohol-plied cops didn’t shy away from sensitive topics.

He had no desire for a heart-to-heart about the circumstances of his transfer.

Dragging his attention away from the empty—bottle-strewn bar, Troy realized both men were staring at him, waiting for an answer. What had even been the question? Oh, right. Blonde or brunette.

He set his beer down, ready to deliver some halfass answer when she walked in. His response of “both,” died on his lips, to be immediately replaced with, “Her. I prefer her.”

Yoga mat slung over her shoulder, she weaved her way through the bar with casual grace, observing everything but acknowledging nothing. She wore a tightly belted trench coat and jeans, remnants of the snow storm outside on her shoulders. The coat did nothing to hide the lithe body beneath, the gentle swell of her ass that begged for a man’s hands. His hands.

A long, black wave of hair obscured part of her face, but she tossed it back over her shoulder as she neared him, flashing exotic green eyes in Troy’s direction, as if she’d sensed his gaze following her through the bar.

That single look hit him like an uppercut to the jaw.

Brent leaned back from the bar to follow his line of sight, emitting a low whistle when he caught site of her.

Even Daniel turned to cast an interested glance over his shoulder. A slight tightening of her mouth was the only indication that she’d heard them, but she breezed past without comment on her way to the back of the bar. After a minute, he realized Daniel and Brent were watching him, amusement blanketing their features.

“I guess we have our answer. Troy’s got a thing for leggy, black-haired yoga enthusiasts.”

Troy ignored them both, turning instead to follow her progress. He watched in surprise as she skirted around a group of pool players with a polite smile, then signed her name in chalk on a blackboard mounted to the wall, claiming the next game. Ruby. Their attention already riveted on the newcomer, the players laughed when they saw her intention was to join their obviously competitive game. She wrinkled her nose and laughed as though she was in on their joke before sauntering back toward the bar to await her turn.

She sidled up next to Troy and signaled the redhead with a dollar bill. “Hi. Can I get some quarters, please?” When the bartender turned to make change, she spoke to Troy without looking directly at him. “So, blue eyes. Why don’t you stop staring and buy me a drink? I don’t want to dehydrate before you work up the nerve.”

Keeping his surprise well hidden, Troy studied her.

He didn’t want to admit how much her straightforward approach turned him on, but it did. Bad. It also made him curious, and that irked the hell out of him. He wasn’t ready to feel interest, or to care. Not yet. No, he craved a distraction. Something, or some one, in whom he could lose himself for the night. He wouldn’t be required to think of anything but the way she moved, sounded, felt.