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Erica Lawson’s

Favorites Collection




Possessing Morgan

Out of Retiremnt

The chronicles of Ratha




2018






ISBN: 978-1-98-854955-2


Possessing Morgan

© 2015 by Erica Lawson

2nd Edition

Editor: Andi Marquette, Nann Dunne

Cover Design: Irish Dragon Designs


Out of Retirement

© 2014 by Erica Lawson

2nd Edition

Editors: Nat Burns

Cover Design: Irish Dragon Designs


Chronicals of Ratha

© 2014 by Erica Lawson

2nd Edition

Editor: Andi Marquette and Nann Dunne

Cover Design: Irish Dragon Designs




Back of the Books

Possessing Morgan


New York City, in the height of summer. Crime seems to have taken a holiday, and Detective Morgan O'Callaghan is bored, bored, bored. Paperwork is mating and multiplying on her desk, and even a jaywalker is starting to look good. Anything to get her out from behind her desk!

Enter Andrea Worthington, Charleston socialite and all-around rich girl, right down to the wealthy fiancé. She's also the new Assistant District Attorney assigned to Morgan's precinct. Their first meeting is like two freight trains crashing head on. Then a high profile, career make-or-break murder case throws them together again. The investigation has barely begun when Andrea becomes the target of a nearly fatal hit-and-run.

But was it really aimed at her? Can she and Morgan find the common ground they need to solve the case and stop the attacks, or are the gaps just too wide to bridge?



Out of Retirement


Melanie Stokes was a doctor—a very good one, or so she hoped. She was calm and cool under pressure, and very little fazed her. Until…

Caitlin Joseph ran a small retirement home for older women in need. The fact that everyone in the house was gay was a coincidence, although it did cut down the number of women agreeing to live there.

Mel took up an offer to do some relief work for a local community center when their regular doctor was away on holidays. As soon as she arrived at the home she knew something was different about the place. Was it the little old lady chasing the paper boy down the street or the sign saying “Dykes Retirement Home”?

But there was something about the place that also appealed to her. Sure, Caitlin was cute as a button, but it was more the fact that she took very good care of her charges, despite their rather bizarre behavior.

The older women seized the opportunity to introduce a woman into Caitlin’s lonely life, using any means possible to keep Mel coming back. Their plans were boosted by the introduction of another woman into the house, who set hearts a fluttering and blood pressure rising. Now if she was a lesbian it would have been perfect…



The Chronicles of Ratha – Children of the Northi


Jordana Laren is a hard-drinking, hard-fighting womanizer, who works as a freighter pilot in her spare time. Her latest customer drugs her, steals her ship, and abandons her on a desert hellhole called Rigeus, infamous penal planet for the worst women criminals.

Her chances of survival aren’t looking good. She has no food, water, or weapons, and the nearest bar is a million miles away. Just when she’s ready to write her last will and testament, Jordana is rescued by a group of barely-clad women. Has she found nirvana?

Her own personal harem seems like a possibility, until the intercession of their enemy, the Velkren. Their leader, Vel, remembers Jordana well, and not fondly. But why is Vel on this planet, surrounded by murderers, thieves, and bad-tempered bitches? Jordana knows Vel isn’t a prisoner, so why is her nemesis on Rigeus mining mud, of all things?

Jordana knows only one thing. She has to get off the planet before Vel kills her. Unfortunately, the women who saved her reveal themselves to be holy. They are the Noorthi, and Jordana’s dream of endless debauchery becomes a nightmare of eternal servitude. The Noorthi make her one of them, marking her with a wrist tattoo, and leaving her no choice but to protect them with her life.

The last thing Jordana wants is to become involved in galactic politics or heroic actions. But the tattoo ochre in her body is suddenly giving her morals and scruples, not to mention a better vocabulary! And she really can’t pass up a chance to outwit Vel, whose megalomaniac plans are endangering not only the Noorthi, but the civilized galaxy itself.

But Jordana is torn. Does she stop Vel at all costs, or does she get out from under the thumb of the Noorthi while she can? Some things were never meant to be easy…



Other Books by Erica Lawson



Out of Retirement

Miss-Match

Reflected Passion

Possessing Morgan

Chronicles of Ratha: Children of the Noorthi

Soulwalker



Table of Contents


Possessing Morgan


Out of Retirement


The Chronicles of Ratha – Children of Noorthi










Acknowledgments



Thank you to Elisa, Eva and Isabelle for putting me on a path I had never imagined myself on, and to A.C. for giving me the courage to find out if I was good enough.



Other Books by Erica Lawson



The Chronicles of Ratha: Book 2 Lion Among the Lambs

The Chronicles of Ratha: Book 1 Children of the Noorthi

Out of Retirement

Miss-Match

Reflected Passion

Possessing Morgan

Soulwalker




Table of Contents



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

About the Author




Chapter One





Click click… click click click… ambulatory pursuit of the suspect… click click… the cursor winked accusingly at her. Ambulatory pursuit? Hell, I was running after the son of a bitch! Detective Sergeant Morgan Riley O’Callaghan stared vacantly at the screen, trying to complete her latest report.

She leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath to ease her frustration. Summer had taken hold of the city, and the heat was fueling her impatience. She opened her eyes to see the large ceiling fans stirring the stagnant air, blowing the smell of stale sweat, bad takeout food, old coffee, and residual smoke around without actually removing it from the room. Turning her head, she looked at the smaller portable fans perched atop filing cabinets, vainly trying to create the illusion of a breeze.

Her gaze shifted to the scattered paperwork on her desk. Fluttering paper whispered over the steady hum of the overworked fans, while the muted voices of her co-workers droned in the background. She was bored, frustrated, and tense. Not a good combination for a woman of her temperament.

Things were too quiet at the Fifth. The heat alone should have pushed someone over the edge to do something nasty, but that hadn’t happened. Besides the suspect apprehension she was currently trying to put to paper, and the domestic dispute being handled at the other end of the room, New York City, or her little corner of it, was behaving itself. Most unusual.

What was the matter with these people? She smiled at the thought of actively encouraging someone to break the law. She would do almost anything to get out of paperwork. She was a woman of action, not a two-fingered desk jockey for the city.

Just as Morgan thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, her boss, Captain Delmar Markham, strode in. With a line of sweat visible down the front of his shirt, he looked more like a frazzled newspaper editor than a precinct captain. A middle-aged, balding man of average height, he was a twenty-year-plus veteran of the force and had worked his way up from a rookie the hard way. Or so he kept telling everyone. Behind him stood a well-dressed, elegant woman whose bearing spoke volumes to Morgan. A snob. One of those upstate society bitches. She wondered if they were on the lookout for the woman’s stinky little dog. “Listen up!” he said. “This is the new Assistant District Attorney, Andrea Worthington.”

The woman’s smile seemed as fake as her coiffured bob.

“What happened to Gloria?” Yelena Velasquez, one of the few female officers in the precinct, asked.

“She’s been transferred to the Mayor’s Office. Ms. Worthington has come to us highly recommended from Interstate.”

“Well, a good afternoon to everyone,” Worthington said.

Morgan groaned inwardly at the Southern twang. A Southern belle. The new assistant DA was a snob and a Southerner, the worst possible combination.

Morgan watched every move Worthington made, snickering at her attempts to deter Frank Morelli, Stanley Fredericks, and Jacob Lowenstein from invading her personal space. The three detectives were known as The Three Musketeers, so nicknamed because they seemed to live by the rule “all for one,” covering each other’s butts in times of crisis. They were the three laziest sons of bitches she’d ever met.

They’d been in the department for years, and they still hadn’t been shit-canned. Was it because they had someone higher up covering their worthless asses, or was it just plain dumb luck? Whatever it was, they didn’t deserve the breaks they got. They seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted, looking busy in front of their superiors, but from what Morgan had observed, never doing any real work. She ached to plant her foot firmly up their butts.

She had been careful about her career, staying as far away from them as humanly possible. They had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. They took whatever credit they could grab, while making the real detective look like an idiot. And yet they still hadn’t been promoted. Perhaps God was watching after all.

The young ADA seemed to have her hands full as Morelli slobbered all over her. Worthington glanced at her, their gazes meeting for a split second before she turned her attention back to the jabbering detective. Morelli’s smile faded while Worthington talked, which moved her up a notch in Morgan’s estimation. Anyone who could get that sort of reaction from Morelli earned a silver star.

Morgan caught snatches of the conversation, and it seemed Worthington didn’t like being called “Andy.” Morgan looked long and hard at her. No, she wasn’t an “Andy.” The name Andrea flowed like molasses off the tongue. A sensual name. No, no, no, Morgan, get that thought right out of your head.

She studied Andrea in her peripheral vision. Andrea was around five foot three, and she was a pretty little thing. Well, little in Morgan’s eyes because she herself was a shade under five foot ten. Morgan looked directly at Andrea for a moment. Was she a natural blonde? She couldn’t tell from this distance, but there didn’t seem to be any obvious dark roots. Maybe she was. Morgan dismissed the thoughts and returned to typing her annoying report.



The mumble in response to her “hello” was less than amiable, and Andrea knew she was in for a battle to be accepted by this crowd. She had worked very hard to get where she was, going against her family’s wishes when she accepted the position in the DA’s Office. The disapproving angle of a raised eyebrow and the pursing of carefully outlined lips told her what her mother thought of her decision to move up North, and to New York, no less.

She fought tooth and nail to get this job, trying to persuade family and friends alike that she was doing the right thing just after getting engaged. While her marriage was still a ways off, she was getting nervous about it. At first, the decision to seek the position seemed frivolous, but the more she thought about it, the more it seemed right. She was not running away, and no one was going to convince her otherwise.

She studied the cluttered room. In this heat, the smell invaded her olfactory senses with the subtlety of the South Carolina Gamecocks locker room. If holding her breath until she passed out would have worked, she would have done just that.

The detectives moved toward her in a polite welcome, but her attention was caught by a lone figure at the back, sitting in front of a computer and silently watching her over the top of the monitor. A female detective with striking features and rich red-orange hair that was pulled back from her face. Their eyes met for just a moment before the detective returned to her work, leaving Andrea to wonder what affront she had caused. “Pay no attention to O’Callaghan, Andy. She’s always like that.” The speaker’s mouth turned up into a sneer.

“I’m Andrea Worthington, Detective. And you are?”

“The name’s Detective Frank Morelli. At your service, ma’am. But you can call me anything you want, Counselor.”

The accompanying smile, and all that it implied, left Andrea feeling uncomfortable. She had been propositioned by the best of them, but no one had left such a sour aftertaste. “And these gentlemen with you?”

“Oh, yeah. These are my partners, Detectives Stanley Fredericks and Jacob Lowenstein. Gentlemen, say hello to the nice lady.” The two lanky men standing behind Morelli snickered at some joke that escaped her. She made a mental note to avoid contact with them if she could, but by the way Morelli’s gaze kept raking over her, she suspected he had other ideas.

Andrea looked for an escape and internally sighed with relief when the captain signaled her from across the squad room. “Nice to meet y’all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with Captain Markham.”

“Sure, Andy.” Andrea tried to stop the shudder as Morelli addressed her.

“Please, Detective, don’t call me that.” The almost comical look of offense on his face grated on her nerves even more.

“Whatever you say, Counselor.”

“Thank you.” Andrea left Morelli frowning as his two friends laughed at his expense. She met Markham at the doorway, and he escorted her to his office.

“Please, sit down, Ms. Worthington.”

“Please, Captain, call me Andrea. If we’re going to be working together, let’s drop the formality.”

“Okay, Andrea. The name’s Delmar. The DA has been in touch with me and given me a brief rundown on your duties. The Fifth is your home base, so to speak, but you’ll also cover cases from nearby precincts. I have an office set aside for you, if you want to see it now. However, it’s nearly change of shift, and I, for one, will be glad to get out of this oven.”

“Good idea.” Andrea glanced at her watch. “Perhaps I’ll go back to my apartment, and we can start fresh in the morning.”

“Everyone’s heading over to a local bar—McGee’s—for a drink. How about you come along and meet the rest of the people you’ll be working with?” When she hesitated, he said, “Think of it as a continuation of your social visit here. Besides, they have air conditioning and cold drinks.”

“That sounds fine,” Andrea said.

He moved toward the door, and they left the precinct. There was barely a whisper of a breeze as Andrea and Delmar walked the block to the bar. The rest of the detectives had spread out across the sidewalk, chatting amiably about the day’s events, though O’Callaghan remained alone.

“Delmar?” Andrea asked, after glancing at her.

“Hmm?”

“Is that detective a problem?”

“Sergeant O’Callaghan? No. Why?”

“She’s walking alone, and from what I’ve observed, no one seems to be talking to her.” And she pointedly ignored me at the station house, Andrea mentally added. So what was it that O’Callaghan didn’t like about her? They hadn’t even met, and she already had an opinion?

“Don’t believe everything you’re told. Morgan’s a good detective. In fact, one of the best I’ve ever seen. She just doesn’t tolerate fools easily. To be her friend, you have to earn it.”

“Does she have a partner?”

He pointed to a young Asian man, shorter in stature than O’Callaghan, but who walked with an athletic grace, like a large cat on the prowl. “Detective Henry Chang. Good, solid cop and a family man. They’re a pretty good match.”

“Tell me about her.” Andrea’s opportunities to find out more about the elusive detective could be few and far between. If the captain was willing to talk, then she was prepared to listen.

“It’s not my place to discuss my detectives, Counselor. If you have any further questions, it’s probably better to ask Sergeant O’Callaghan herself.”

As the captain spoke, Andrea studied Morgan, who was walking several yards in front of her. Her attention was drawn first to the long legs. Tall and well proportioned, she walked with strength and authority and just a hint of a swagger, which seemed to suit her. Interesting woman, Andrea decided. And for some reason, she wanted to know more about her.

“Duly noted, Captain.”

Delmar escorted Andrea through the heavy oak doors of McGee’s, and they were hit by the chill of the air conditioning working at full force. Andrea’s eyes had to adjust to the darkened room before she was able to discern the layout.

Voices called in greeting, some of which Delmar responded to. Many of the men and women in the bar had a look that labeled them as detectives: that rumpled, worn-out façade that came from long hours of polite demeanor and even longer hours of work. McGee’s was obviously the local watering hole of a large segment of the detective fraternity.

So this was where the cops, the detectives, and the very heart of the New York City Police Department lived, where common bonds of friendship and hardship were discussed, secured, and dissected in a setting that allowed hierarchies to be crossed. Andrea had never been in this sort of environment, and it was an education to see the camaraderie that existed here.

While she recounted some cases from her native Charleston, South Carolina, to a few of the detectives of the Fifth, she searched for Morgan and spotted her drinking quietly in the corner. A loner, and yet she seemed comfortable with that.

Andrea could sense Morgan watching her, drawing her gaze. Being observed like that unnerved her. When she could stand it no longer, she stood. “Excuse me, y’all.” Even to her own ears, her Southern twang sounded foreign in the midst of the various New York City accents.

“Everything all right, Andy?”

She glared at him. Morelli would just not learn. “Fine, thank you. Just going to the restroom.”

“I’ll keep your seat warm.” He patted the cushion in invitation, and she knew she had to find somewhere else to sit.



Morgan ordered a Black and Tan and moved to a quiet corner of the bar to stand. She leaned casually against the wooden wall and sipped her drink. Content to watch, she allowed the banter to roll over her as she unwound from the frustrating day of seemingly endless paperwork. Most of her fellow detectives were sitting around one large table, eagerly listening to the new ADA. With so few new personnel in the precinct recently, they were starved for new anecdotes. They were so bored they’d listen to air escaping a balloon.

She watched the exchange between Andrea and Morelli. Knowing him as she did, she could just imagine the pickup lines he was trying. Andrea stood and walked toward the restroom.

Morgan figured it was time to head on home.

“Is there some reason that you’re ignoring me, Sergeant?”

Morgan turned her head too quickly and grimaced at the jolt of pain down her neck. “No. What gave you that idea, Counselor?”

“Please, call me Andrea,” Andrea said matter-of-factly.

“Something you want?”

“Does something about me annoy you, or do you treat everyone you meet the same way?”

Morgan didn’t want to answer, but the silence was interminable. “Look, here’s the deal. I’m not one for idle conversation, Counselor. If you have something to say, now’s the time, because I’m going home.” Morgan set her glass on the bar.

“You’re assuming that I don’t want to talk to you. Up until now that was never my intention. However, your lack of manners doesn’t inspire me to continue this conversation.”

“Maybe you should listen to your inspiration, then.”

“What have I done to offend you?”

“Nothing. Good night.”

Morgan made a move to leave, but Andrea brought up her hand to halt her. “No, there’s something else. Spit it out now. Let’s get it on the table.”

“You’re expecting a lot here.” Morgan tried to sidestep her, but clearly Andrea wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“Talk to me. What’s the problem?”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Morgan regarded her coolly. “I don’t like you.”

“You’ve barely met me, and you’ve already decided that?”

“I know your type, Counselor.”

“My type? What? I’m a woman? I’m blonde? I’m a lawyer? What?”

“You’re a stuck-up little rich girl playing God. You haven’t worked a hard day in your well-manicured life.”

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Andrea was angry. Her rigid body, stiff upper lip, and flashing dark eyes were enough to tell Morgan she had stepped over the line.

Andrea pulled her toward the back of the room into a little alcove, out of sight from the others. “Just who the hell do you think you are? I’m not going to take that from anyone!”

Morgan waved a hand. “Go back to the table. I’ll try to be more civil in the future. Good night, Ms. Worthington.” With that, Morgan left the bar.

As she stepped out into the summer heat, she vented her anger by kicking the door. Her hands bunched into fists, and she looked around for something to hit. In a way, she was glad nothing was near, at least nothing that wouldn’t break her hand. Finally, she made an effort to allow the conversation, and the ADA, to fade away. It wasn’t going to happen easily, but at least she was trying. In disgust she muttered, “Fuck it.”


Andrea watched Morgan walk away, her long braid moving with her broad back. Morgan didn’t look at her once. Andrea stood for a moment, trying to sort out exactly what had just happened. Her own defenses had gone up at the hostility rolling off Morgan, and she had been unable to stop her angry words.

She left the alcove and saw the leering face of Frank Morelli.

“Hey, Andy!”

Andrea’s emotions were roiling, and she was in the mood to smack the ugly smile off his face. And if he said that one more time, she swore she’d knock his ass straight into Christmas. She made her way back to the table.

“I kept your spot warm.”

She looked at him with distaste. What would she have to do for the man to take the hint?

“Come on, Andy, what are you waiting for?” Morelli smacked the waiting seat.

She simply couldn’t believe this man’s audacity. Back home, his ass would have left a skid mark on the sidewalk from the speed he would have been kicked out the door, and she would have enjoyed doing the kicking herself. She leaned over and whispered in Morelli’s ear, “If you call me that one more time, I’ll cut off your balls and serve them to you on a platter. And if you don’t stop looking down my blouse, I’ll throw in your eyeballs for free.”

She straightened and caught Morelli whispering to Jay Lowenstein next to him. “Dyke.”

“No, just showing some taste. You haven’t figured out women yet, Morelli?” She gave him her best Southern belle smile. She was very close to exploding there and then, but a full-fledged tantrum before her first day of work was probably not the most ideal beginning. Memorable, but not ideal.

The weasel smiled a sickly sweet smile at her, his dark eyes locking with hers triumphantly. He was the ultimate male chauvinist, and she was mentally grinding her teeth in aggravation.

“Thank you kindly,” she said, “for such a lovely day. And Morelli, be glad I’m not a dyke because I’d have my big, scary, butch girlfriend ram a crowbar so far up your ass you’d choke on it.” She flashed him another smile. “Then again, you might like that kind of thing, especially from a woman. Now excuse me, Mr. Morelli. I have to refresh my drink.” Andrea turned and left the table before she said something she would really be sorry for, but she did take some comfort from the jeers Morelli received as a result of her comments.

As she approached the bar, she muttered, “Prick.”

“Well, he certainly is that.”

She glanced to her left where Morgan’s partner was standing, fingering his empty glass as he waited for the bartender. “We haven’t been formally introduced, Counselor. I’m Henry Chang.” He extended his hand and warmly shook it when Andrea offered hers.

“Andrea Worthington. It’s nice to meet you. Do I have a bull’s-eye tattooed on my forehead? Who was their target last week?”

He laughed. “Ah, Andy, you’ll fit in just fine.” He watched her when he said the name, as if waiting for a reaction, and continued to chuckle as she ordered another drink. He stopped long enough to add his own request to the order.

Andrea leaned over and in a mock whisper said, “Just don’t use that name in front of him, please.”

“Of course not.” He pulled a twenty out of his pocket and grabbed the two drinks. “No, Counselor, please allow me. C’mon, let’s see if we can find a place somewhere else.”

“Sure. Thanks.” Andrea smiled in relief. She followed Henry to a recently vacated table in the back, graciously accepting the tall drink placed in front of her. He sat down opposite her and gently swirled the tumbler he held in his hands.

“So, what brought you to the Big Apple?”

“A plane.” Andrea winked at him, and he seemed to appreciate it.

“I’m glad someone has a sense of humor around here.”

“Is it that bad?” A dreary working environment... great. Andrea was already dreading work tomorrow.

“Nah, but things can get a little tense.”

“Tense? Let me guess. Sergeant O’Callaghan.”

“She has her off moments, but she’s a good cop.” He looked over his drink at her. “What’s the Andrea Worthington story?”

“You really want to know? Or is it for office gossip tomorrow?” He looked hurt, and she softened her tone. “I’m sorry, Henry. It’s just that the reception here has been less than hospitable.”

“I saw that. My apologies for Morgan. I’ve never seen her act like that before.”

“Never mind. I’ll just have to remember to stay out of her way for a while.”

“I wish you didn’t have to. She’s a little reserved, but she’s okay with everyone, even when they don’t deserve it.”

“I must have gotten some special treatment, then.”

“She’s got a bug up her ass about you, that’s for sure. Just give her time. Oh, don’t worry. She didn’t spill the beans, but I do tend to watch out for my partner.” He stopped for a sip of alcohol. “Now, back to my question. What’s the Andrea Worthington story?”

“Hmm. Where do I begin? I’m from Charleston, if you hadn’t heard. My family has been in Charleston for as long as anyone can remember.”

“Fine, you’re from Charleston. I got that. Now give me the juicy stuff.”

“I thought that was the juicy stuff.”

“Ah, a smart-ass in our midst. You don’t get appointed ADA on a whim.”

“I’ve mostly worked in private practice.”

“I assumed that.”

“How so?”

“Well, just look at you. You don’t dress like Legal Aid.”

“Oh, I did my time as public defender, believe me.”

“Straight from Legal Aid, huh? That’s impressive.”

“Not really, no. I did a bit more work here and there.”

“Here and there?”

“The City Prosecutor’s Office as well. About three years. You know, small stuff.” She smiled wickedly.

“Living on both sides of the fence, huh?”

“Legal Aid was a very enlightening experience, believe me, but it infuriated me how criminals used the judicial system to their own end, so I changed sides. I still believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, just not so vehemently. Now I fight for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Henry laughed. “Do you have a Lycra suit hidden away in your purse? You are an unusual person, Andrea Worthington.”

“Not really.”

“From what I know about attorneys, once a prosecutor always a prosecutor.”

“True, but then how would I know how a criminal thinks? I’ve heard every excuse in the book, and then some.”

“Ha! Oh, hey, you any relation to that big shot investment realtor, Jefferson Worthington?”

“So you know Daddy?” Andrea smiled sweetly as his jaw dropped.

“Wow. You’re like really, really rich, huh?”

“I’m not starving, honey, if that’s what you’re asking. The money belongs to my parents, not me. I’m a bit stubborn that way.”

“You? Stubborn? No, couldn’t be.” He grinned.

“Good,” she said chuckling. “Very good. I can see you’re going to keep me on my toes.” He was teasing her mercilessly, but his cheeky grin took the sting out of it. She decided she liked him. A lot.

“Someone has to.”

“True. So you can call me Andy. You’ve earned it.”

“I can see you’ve been talking to the captain, huh?” When he saw the questioning look on her face, he continued. “About Morgan. The captain says the same thing to everyone who asks about her.”

“Have you earned her trust?”

“Yes, but I’m her partner, so it’s expected.”

“True.”

“There are maybe two or three people outside her family whom she trusts implicitly. It’s a very personal thing, and I try to keep it on a professional level at work, especially around those three.” His head nodded in the direction of the large table at the front. Andrea knew exactly who he was talking about.

“I suspect you’re probably the closest she has to a friend in the precinct.” She raised the glass and took a sip before continuing. “Why is she like that?”

“She wasn’t always a loner. Or so I’ve been told. A bit before my time, though. What I’m about to tell you about Mo is second-hand knowledge. I think I can trust you, but please don’t repeat it to anyone.”

Andrea wanted to ask about the nickname, but let it rest for now. She ran her finger over her chest, making the sign of a cross, and held up three fingers in a Scout salute. She leaned back against the soft padded bench, waiting to hear what she was sure would be an interesting piece of the puzzle that was Morgan O’Callaghan.

“Morgan’s dad was still around in those days. Lieutenant Michael O’Callaghan. ‘Mickey’ to everyone. He was a bit of a legend on the force. A no-nonsense cop who didn’t tolerate corruption within the ranks, and there was a lot of it back then. Morgan had just come out of the police academy and was in her first post.”

Andrea tried to envision Morgan as a rookie cop, and a smile crossed her lips at the thought of her following in her dad’s footsteps.

“So, what happened?”

“Nothing at first, but she was ‘Mickey’s girl.’ No one’s really sure what changed her, but it must have been something pretty dramatic. After she got her promotion to the detective division, she had clammed up. She was popular before then—outgoing, friendly, someone who’d go out of her way to help you.”

“And now?”

“Well, you’ve seen her. Whoever had that much of an impact on her must have been someone close. She won’t talk about it, so anything now is speculation.” He stopped and gave Andrea a look. “You seem awfully interested in our little Morgan.”

“I’m just trying to understand her hostility toward me. I’ve got to work with y’all, and I don’t need some quarrel to upset our working relationship.” There was a moment of silence before she added, “Whatever that will be.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And just what are you insinuating there, sir?”

“Nothing.” He grabbed Andrea’s hand and looked at the engagement ring glittering on her finger. “Seems congratulations are in order.”

“Thanks. We’re getting married next year. A typical June wedding.”

“Why are you here, then?”

“This position is very important to me. I couldn’t pass the opportunity up.”

“Uh-huh.”

She pursed her lips at his implication. “You don’t believe me?”

“Where’s the lucky guy?”

“Back in Charleston.”

“Is this going to be a long-distance wedding or something?”

“Of course not. He’ll be joining me in six months, once he gets things in order back home.” She took another sip of her drink, hoping that the action would put a stop to Chang’s questions, but the look in his eye told her she wasn’t kidding anyone. “Thank you for your candor concerning Sergeant O’Callaghan,” she said, trying to change the subject. “What have I done to garner such special treatment from her?” When no answer came, she stared across the table. “What?”

“You don’t want to hear my theory on that.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“You’re not going to tell me?”

“Time will tell whether I’m right,” he said off-handedly.

“So, I have to wait to see whether she’s going to hit me or not?”

“She won’t hit you.” He smiled at her. “Unless, of course, you do something to deserve it.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“That ‘cat eating the canary’ type of look.”

“Nothing. Nothing at all.” He glanced away, and she knew this particular conversation was now closed.



Morgan entered her apartment. It was just as hot as the precinct and perfectly matched her mood. Hot and irritated. She pressed against the door, shifting her weight so that she was leaning against the wood as the door shut. Her head dropped. “Damn, damn, damn.” Why had she been stupid enough to react? It was too damned hot to lose control like that. For some unknown reason, Worthington had hit a nerve with her, drawing a knee-jerk reaction that was totally out of character. At least she hoped it was out of character. Morgan knew she could be a bit abrupt sometimes, but the abrasive conversation she had with the woman was bordering on hostile. For now she let the matter rest. She was too hot and tired to make any decisions.

She wandered through the living room, strewn with second-hand furniture and old family knickknacks, and went to the kitchen. After opening the aging refrigerator and studying its contents, she settled on a six pack of beer. She grabbed one and put the cold bottle against her neck, rolling it over her skin.

She popped the top then moved over to the window, opening it wide and praying for a breeze. She climbed through and took a seat on the fire escape. As she slowly drank the beer, she watched the sun change from yellow to crimson as the day came to a close. Twice she went to the fridge for more beer.

She began to unwind, the alcohol soothing her nerves. Breathing deeply, she tasted New York City in the back of her throat. But it was the more subtle aromas that she sought, or more precisely, the smell of cooking cabbage. She closed her eyes, allowing her memories to surface.

Cabbage. How that smell reminded her of home. It had been their staple diet when she was growing up, and she had grown to hate it. Now she would give her eyeteeth to taste her mother’s cooking one last time.

She missed her family, recalling them all seated around a small crowded table. Her dad’s meager wages barely put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Those days were tough times, and yet they were the happiest of her life. That was when she had family. Her mother was still alive, and her three brothers were still at home.

After her mom died, the boys scattered across the country. Danny moved to Boston to become a fireman, Conall moved to Miami to open one of those fancy disco bars, and the eldest, Brennan, got his law degree and moved to San Francisco.

They left Morgan alone to fulfill their father’s dream of becoming a New York City cop to continue the O’Callaghan legacy. She didn’t mind, because she loved the job, but the way she had been left to take care of it all and to look after her dad made her angry every time she thought about it. There was no discussion or agreement before they left. They came home for their father’s funeral, but they stayed only long enough to say goodbye before returning to their careers and lives.

From that moment, she had no family. The boys showed her no sympathy, no comfort, no assistance. They earned her condemnation for it, too. And now she was alone.

She mulled her latest problem. Andrea Worthington. She just knew the counselor would be trouble. As the last of the remaining light faded, Morgan watched the first stars appear. “Star light, star bright.”

She made a wish but she knew it was a wish that couldn’t be granted. It wasn’t within her power to turn back time.



Despite enthusiastic encouragement from her future co-workers, Andrea returned to her apartment early. Boxes and packing cases had arrived from Charleston a few days ago, and she had to negotiate them to get to the bedroom. A reminder of all that unpacking to do. She had just taken the New York City bar exam, a requirement to start her new position, and if things weren’t busy enough, now Sergeant O’Callaghan had taken a personal dislike to her.

The day had been long and tiring. All she wanted was to crawl into bed and get some sleep. Then she remembered her mother wanted to talk to her as often as possible, as much to constantly beg her to come home as to receive the daily report on her daughter’s health. Dreading the call, Andrea changed out of her suit into her well-worn jeans. If she had to talk to her mother, then she would do so rebelliously.

She pulled her cell out of her bag and pushed speed dial one. Before the first ring had finished, the call was answered.

“So what happened?” her mother said.

Andrea’s hand tightened on the phone. She should have expected it. Not even a “Hello” or “How are you, dear?” Typical.

“I don’t start until tomorrow. It was just a social visit.”

“Have you talked to Joel yet?”

“Yes.” Not that their conversation was up for discussion with her mother. She had learned that lesson the hard way.

“And?”

“And we talked.”

“Andrea, dear, you have to learn to be more forthcoming.”

“What Joel and I talk about is none of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business, dear. I’m your mother.”

Andrea’s decision to move to New York City was looking better by the moment. If she had any doubts, they were being washed away by her mother’s general abrasiveness.

“You know your father could have—”

“It’s my life and my decision to make. This move to New York was good for my career.”

“And what could that Yankee town offer that Charleston couldn’t?”

“Connections. This step could lead in a number of very beneficial directions for me.”

“But you won’t be working once you’re married.”

“I’m not going to become the breeding cow for this family.”

“Wash your mouth, young lady.” There was a pause at the other end of the line. “You know very well that if you don’t produce an heir, the family ends with you.”

“Stop being so melodramatic. There are plenty of uncles and cousins who could easily take up the mantle.”

“Over my dead body.” Andrea imagined the pulsing vein in her mother’s head throbbing violently as her blood pressure rose. “There is no way in hell I’m letting any of those jackals get their hands on our fortune.” There was a pause in the conversation. “Andrea, dear, please don’t talk like that. We need your support here. I don’t think you realize—”

“I’m well aware of what’s at stake.” How many times had her mother used that argument to stifle her independence? “I need to get an early night’s sleep. First day on the job tomorrow.”

“But—”

“Good night, Mother.” Andrea hung up quickly before her mother could add anything further. She reached for her purse to find some Tylenol in the hopes of alleviating the headache that seemed to surface on a regular basis after a conversation with her mother.

What was it about her today? First Morelli tried to hit on her with his sleazy pickup lines, then O’Callaghan lashed out at her because of an uninformed opinion, and now her mother—well, her mother was just being her mother, but that didn’t mean she liked it.

Even though she was exhausted, Andrea resorted to unpacking some of the boxes littering her living room in the hope that it would burn off some residual aggravation before she slept. After all, tomorrow was another day.




Chapter Two





Morgan hadn’t slept well. She was lucky if she’d gotten four hours as she tossed and turned on her rumpled bed, well after the heat wave had broken in the middle of the night.

She now sat in her chair at work, her chin buried in her hands as she stared vacantly at the open files strewn across her desk.

“Looks like you could use this.”

Morgan didn’t even bother looking up, but just extended her hand for the mug she knew would be placed there in a matter of seconds. A quiet chuckle echoed in her ears as Henry complied with the silent request.

“Have problems sleeping?”

Morgan heard the sarcasm in his voice. “No. Just ran ten miles this morning. I’m exhausted.”

“I know damned well you didn’t. You hate running.” Henry paused. “You were a little rough on Andy last night.”

She looked up into his dark brown eyes and thought, again, that he saw everything. “She has no right being here.”

“You think so? Why not?”

“Come on, Henry. A society girl like her doesn’t belong here. She should be out searching for some rich husband to look after her.”

“You didn’t see the ring, I take it.”

“A ring? That only reinforces my argument. She’s getting married, so why bother getting a new job? Give it to some poor sap who needs it.”

“And you call yourself a detective.” Henry tempered his comment with a wide grin. “But if you behave yourself, I’ll fill you in.”

“I don’t want to know,” Morgan mumbled into her coffee cup.

“Of course you want to know. Don’t give me any of that crap.”

“Crap? Bullshit. It’s bullshit.”

“Do you want to hear or not?”

“No, but I suppose you’re going to tell me anyway.” But it wasn’t true. She did want to know.

“She’s engaged.”

“That’s usually what that sort of ring is for.”

“They’re getting married in about eleven months. He’s back in Charleston finishing up some business, and then he’s moving here. That gives you a few weeks to make a better impression.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don’t worry. No one else knows.”

“No one else knows what?”

“Come on. I’ve known you nearly three years, and in all that time, you’ve never gone out once.”

“I most certainly have. Lots of times, and with men, as I recall.”

“Those were official functions, and you never saw them again.”

“Since when did you become my social director?”

“Mo,” he said softly, “here’s your chance to make up for your bad behavior last night.”

“And what does that have to do with the fiancé?”

“Do you think once he’s here he’ll want her to spend time with you?”

“Will you just spit it out?” Morgan wasn’t sure what Henry was getting at.

“She’s surrounded by men, Morgan, as are you. Wouldn’t you like to have a friend who isn’t male? Someone you could talk to about girl stuff?”

“Me? Girl stuff? Are we talking about the same person here?”

“Yeah, I know, strange isn’t it? I think you could both use a friend. Someone you can talk to who doesn’t have a Ph.D. after her name.”

“So you want me to make friends with her. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah, you can become her girlfriend.” Morgan’s eyes widened, and he laughed.

“Are you crazy? Do you know how that will look?”

“But you’ll know the truth, so what does it matter?”

“It might not matter to you or me, but Morelli will have a field day. Why do you think I need a girlfriend anyway?”

A raised eyebrow answered her question, but she stared back at him steadily. “You know, Red, you must think I’m deaf, dumb, and blind sometimes, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking that question right now.”

“Well, I am asking, bucko. Just because there’s no one in my life at present doesn’t mean anything.”

“And what about what’s-his-name the other week? You cut him off at the knees before he even opened his mouth. What’s up with you?”

“He was an ass. A complete idiot. Why would I go out with him?”

“Morgan, if you’re going to play the game, you have to go out with someone. This nun act isn’t cutting it.”

“That’s not it at all. I just haven’t found the right person yet.”

“Do you hear yourself? You said ‘the right person,’ not ‘the right man.’ You can’t even lie about it.” He moved a little closer. “Come on, what have you got to lose?”

She hesitated. How could she have thought she could hide this from him forever? “For the sake of argument, let’s say I am, but I’m not admitting to it because I’ve got a lot to lose. My career, my friends, my sanity,” she whispered. “Are you suggesting that I break up her engagement?”

“Don’t go putting words into my mouth. I’m not suggesting that at all, but couldn’t you at least stop the hostility and get to know her? She hasn’t done anything to deserve it, you know. Besides, all she did was talk about you after you left.”

“Cursing me, no doubt.” Morgan stifled a sigh. Maybe she’d screwed up, being that harsh.

“At first, yes, but she kept asking me questions about you.”

Morgan idly traced the words on the page in front of her with a finger.

“What’s the harm in getting to know her?” he asked. “Sooner or later you’ll be working the same case. Then what are you going to do? Talk to her through a third party?”

“Don’t be so stupid.”

Henry glanced up as the door swung open. “Here’s your chance.”

Andrea approached the coffeemaker with a brand new mug in her hand. She glanced toward Morgan, who pretended not to look at her.

“I think I need a refill, O’Callaghan,” Henry said. “Would you please grab me one while I finish up here?”

Morgan gave him one of her best interrogation stares for putting her in an awkward situation as she snatched the mug out of his hand. “I’ll get you for this,” she said under her breath, the sound of the shifting chair covering her muttered expletives. Still, she had insulted Andrea last night, and she should at least offer an apology.

“Ah, Sergeant, good morning,” Andrea said.

“Good—” Morgan’s voice broke on the word. Clearing her throat, she began again. “Good morning, Counselor. Are you settling in okay?” She glanced back at Henry, and a wide grin split his face as his hands motioned her to continue.

“I am. Thank you, Sergeant.”

“You… ah… you can call me Morgan.”

Andrea looked up at her. “O-kay,” she said, drawing the word out. “Then, by all means, please call me Andrea.”

Morgan nodded in acknowledgement. “So how has your first morning been so far?”

“Not bad. I’m acquainting myself with some of the cases I’ll be handling. This afternoon I’ll be in court to observe, getting a feel for the New York City judicial system.”

“Good to hear. Everyone treating you okay?” Morgan avoided eye contact.

There was a slight pause before Andrea answered softly. “Yes, now they are.”

Morgan could feel the blush on her skin, knowing very well that her freckles would be standing out on her skin like sunspots. “I hope The Three Musketeers aren’t giving you too much trouble,” she said, plowing on.

“Three Musketeers?”

“Morelli and his cronies. He likes to test the waters, so to speak.”

“I think I cooled his ardor a bit last night.” Morgan stared blankly and Andrea continued. “I threatened to cut his balls off. Then I offered to throw in his eyeballs for free when I caught him looking down my blouse.”

Morgan grudgingly admitted to herself that she might actually like Andrea’s spunk. The image was so vivid that she laughed and shook her head in amazement. Andrea smiled in response to her reaction.

“What I would give to have seen that,” Morgan said. “I’ll bet his eyeballs nearly popped out of his head.”

“Well, if you hadn’t left, you could have.”

Morgan shuffled her feet. “I’m sorry, Andrea,” she mumbled. “It was very rude of me.”

“Yes, it was.” Morgan had expected a brush off, not a confirmation. “But I’ll live. All I ask is that you give me a chance to prove myself.”

“Are you any good?”

“If you really want to know, I have a case tomorrow morning at District Court One. If you have time, stop by and find out for yourself.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Good. I hope I can create a good impression then. Thanks for chatting. I’d better get back to work.”

“Until tomorrow then. Good luck.” Morgan turned around to find herself being watched. “What? Just being friendly, that’s all.” She heard the quiet laughs. “God, grow up will you? Get back to work.” Stomping back to her desk, she glared at Henry as she approached. “Now look what you’ve done. It’s going to be all over the station house.”

“Probably.” Henry’s eyes gleamed with mischief.

“What did I do? I was just being friendly like you wanted me to.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And just for that, you and I are going to the gym at lunch so I can pound you into the mat for trying to make me look like an idiot.”

“Me? I don’t think so.”

“Henry,” she growled, “just stay out of this, all right?”

He stood there smiling for a moment before answering. “Uh-huh.”

“I’ve made nice, now drop it.” Morgan’s voice deepened and Henry took the hint.

“O’Callaghan!” Markham bellowed across the room.

“Sir?” Morgan’s brash exterior fell back into place.

“Where is that damn report? Markiewicz. Remember? It was supposed to be on my desk first thing.”

“Oh, sh—It’s done, sir. Give me a second, and I’ll print it out.” She quickly accessed the file on her computer and pressed Print, shoving aside one of the younger members of the division to get to the communal printer. She trotted up to the front, handed over the report, and moved away before the captain could comment.

As she passed Morelli’s desk, he pursed his lips and kissed the air.

“Laugh it up,” she muttered. “You’re next, cupcake.”

As if he had read her mind, the captain bellowed, “Morelli, in my office. Now!”

Morgan smiled to herself as she returned to her desk.



Lunchtime couldn’t come fast enough. It had been one of those mornings that should have ended when she woke up. Her confrontation with Worthington the night before had confused her, and now her concentration was suffering for it. First it was the report on Markiewicz, then mislaid phone messages, lost pens, and restless detectives. In a way, she felt sorry for Henry because she was really pissed and he was the one who was going to bear the brunt of her anger. Maybe she should take some of her frustration out on a punching bag first before giving Henry the same treatment.

“Hey, Henry!” she called.

He looked up from his computer. “Yeah?”

“I’m heading off early to get a jump on the equipment. See you in about ten?”

“Sure, I’ll just finish up this report and I’ll be right behind you.” He went back to the keyboard, his fingers moving competently over the letters.

Morgan headed toward the locker room down the hall. She nearly ran into Andrea, who was walking along the corridor engrossed in a file. “Whoa! Hey there, Counselor.”

Andrea looked up, and Morgan was surprised to see her wearing wire-rimmed glasses. “Sorry, Sergeant. I didn’t see you there.”

Morgan was surprised by how much Andrea’s visage had changed. The delicate glasses were perched on her upturned nose, barely grazing the beauty mark that sat high on her left cheek. “Um, sorry to interrupt.” She brushed past Andrea and made her way toward the locker room. Once inside, she rummaged through her locker for her duffel bag and slammed the metal door shut with a bang.

She walked briskly along the street before she broke into a run and covered the block to the gym in mere seconds. She changed into shorts and a tank top, bound her knuckles with tape, and slipped on her boxing gloves.

Facing the leather bag, she let the frustrations of the day surface to feed her strength and speed as she started pummeling the bag. All the sitting around was boring. What she really needed was a nice juicy case to sink her teeth into. Something had to give, and soon.

The bag felt like a brick wall against her fist, the pain shifting up her arms to her shoulders as she punched. Her thoughts drifted to the morning’s conversation with Henry. What on earth was he trying to do? Get her blackballed? One hint that she was gay, and no one would want to work with her.

“You took your own sweet time,” she said when Henry arrived. She wanted to throw something around, in this case her partner for stirring up trouble.

“Sorry. Markham caught me as I was about to leave. He had a couple of questions about my report. Ready to eat the mat, Big Red?”

“I don’t think so, pal. I’m in the mood for a little Chinese.”

“Ha, ha, very funny. Do your best.”

“I intend to, especially after that prank you pulled this morning.”

“Someone had to.” He lowered his voice to a whisper, shifting his attention to her hands as she circled him.

“No, you didn’t. Ha!” She launched her attack, lashing out with her right foot toward his midsection. Henry doubled over momentarily, backing away and rubbing his stomach.

“That’s one for you, grasshopper. And that’s all you’re going to get.” He smiled wickedly at her.

For the next twenty minutes they exchanged blows, sparring and laughingly insulting each other. Morgan thought she finally had Henry on the ground when he reached up and yanked her to the mat by her hair.

“Hey! No fair.”

“Probably not, but I doubt the bad guys have read the rule book.”

She rolled away from him, and they both lay panting.

“Why don’t you cut your hair?” Henry asked after a few moments.

“I would. But think Whoopi Goldberg.”

Henry looked over at her. “I’m tending to think more a Sixties flower child, but your image works just as well. Why not cut it real short then? Get rid of the frizz altogether?”

“Great. Then I’ll look like a dyke.”

“Aren’t they calling you that now?” He grinned to take the sting out of the comment.

“I have one word for you. Morelli. He thinks I’m butch as it is. No steady male presence and I dress like a guy, so if I have short hair, that’ll really do it.”

“Would it be that bad?”

“You know that I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think. They’re morons and you know it.”

“Then what is it?”

“I want to go for a promotion, Henry.” She knew this was news to him, because she’d just recently decided to apply. “I’ve got to look squeaky clean. The last thing I need is Morelli stirring up trouble by implying I’m gay. Besides, there’s no one in my life so it’s a moot point.”

“That might be, but it’s who you are.” He reached across to take her hand, showing his support.

“Is it that obvious?”

“I’ve been your partner for three years now, and I’d like to think I know you better than anyone else. I could see the signs, Mo.”

“Great. Now they all know.”

“Will you stop acting like an idiot?”

“I am not… all right I am. I’m just no good with relationships, Henry.”

“You need to get out there and brush up your social skills, my friend.”

“Social skills?” Morgan glanced at him.

“Like talking to people and not interrogating them. There’s a difference, you know.”

“And who do I practice on? I don’t know anyone outside of work.”

“Then go to a gay bar. I’m sure I have a contact or two who could recommend a good one at the other end of town somewhere.”

“Thanks,” she said quietly, appreciating the gesture.

“Of course, there’s still the counselor.”

“I’m not interested in her.”

Henry said nothing.

“I repeat. I am not interested in her.” Morgan didn’t look at Henry lying next to her. “No. She’s not an option.”

“Why not? She’s not married yet.”

“But she’s taken. It’s the same thing. Besides, she’s not interested in women.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Hello? She’s marrying a man. In my book that means she heterosexual.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, his skepticism obvious.

“Will you stop saying that?”

“Listen to yourself. Who are you trying to convince here?”


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