One Cool Lawman
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
May 2007
ISBN: 0-373-27536-6


Winner of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for 2007 in the Romantic Suspense Category

Golden Quill Finalist

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A felony in blue jeans

That was her first impression of hot cop Jackson Rutherford. His intensity and watchful gaze made single mom Vanessa Garner rethink her no-man policy. With three kids and a checkered past, she worked hard just to survive. But somehow, the Southern lawman charmed his way into her life. And vowed protection when she needed it most. As her dangerous ex made vicious threats on her family, Jackson played the white knight and wouldn't let Vanessa walk away from the possibilities. Falling in love with him was a crazy idea. And yet maybe this true-blue denim-clad detective was exactly what she deserved.

TOP PICK! "Six years after hitting her lowest point, Vanessa Garner is being honored by her community for her accomplishments. Detective Jackson Rutherford admires Vanessa and wants to get to know her, but she’s reluctant. Things change, however, when a former pimp threatens all her hard work. Vanessa has never had anyone to rely on, and Jackson is determined, despite their differences, to make their relationship work. With the touching ONE COOL LAWMAN (4˝), Diane Pershing has created a couple to root for. This is an excellent story about two people who choose love in spite of the uncertainties they face." - Romantic Times, May 2007

“. . . and that fierce will is why today Vanessa is the manager of a business with over twenty employees, the loving mother of three beautiful children who attend school and have friends and a home and food on the table every night of their young lives. That fierce will is why she is this year’s recipient of A Single Voice’s Woman of the Year Award. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring Vanessa Garner!”

She didn’t know how she got through the next fifteen minutes. As though from a distance, she heard the warm applause, managed to stand, smile at the audience, took in the cheers and “You go, Mom!” from Thomas, and walked over to the podium. She thanked the speaker, thanked all the members of A Single Voice, then gave her short, carefully rehearsed speech.

As she did, one big chunk of her brain couldn’t stop focusing on Ray. He was like a flashing neon sign in a starless sky. Why was he here? She hadn’t heard from him since before Katy was born. Why now? What did he want?

After the ceremony, when she’d been congratulated and hugged and kissed, after she’d sent the kids off to the car with Aunt Lupe and told them she needed to go to the restroom and would join them in five minutes, after she’d washed her hands and applied new lipstick, she found out just what Ray wanted.

He was waiting for her in the narrow, deserted hallway outside the Ladies Room, and the moment she exited the door, he grabbed her, clamped a hand over her mouth, and dragged her into a small storage room off the hall. Shutting the door behind them, he flicked on the single overhead bulb. Music stands and janitorial supplies were crammed all together, leaving barely any space for her and Ray.

She struggled to get free, her voice muffled behind his hand, but he was strong.

“Hush, chica,” he said in that rich, deeply hypnotic voice of his. “I’m not going to hurt you, so you don’t have to scream or nothing. Okay?”

She nodded.

“I’m going to take my hand away. But you need to promise not to scream. Deal?”

When she nodded again, he removed his hand.

Trying to catch her breath, she stared at him wordlessly. He was still beautiful, with those large, melancholy brown eyes and caramel skin and black hair. The face of a poet, she’d thought in the beginning. The soul of a cruel devil, she’d known by the end.

“What do you want, Ray?”

“What’s this?” He grinned, his perfect white teeth shining like alabaster. “No ‘Good to see you, Ray’? No hugs for your long lost friend? It took me a long time to find you, you know.”

She crossed her arms over her chest so he couldn’t see that her hands were shaking. “Why did you?”

He stared at her for a moment longer, a look of speculation in his too-beautiful eyes. “You’ve grown up, ‘Nessa.”

“About time, I think. I’ll be thirty-one in a couple of months.”

“And still looking good enough to eat.” He licked his sensual lips, lips that used to drive her crazy when she was younger and a lot stupider. Back when she’d had no idea there were options, a different kind of life than the one she was living.

“Not interested,” she said flatly, pleased at how calm she sounded. “Again, what do you want?”

For a brief moment, there was a flash of displeasure in his expression; it was the same look that used to precipitate one of his rages, rages that left her battered and bruised and wanting to die because there was no way out.

He grabbed her by the wrist, twisted her arm behind her back. “Don’t push me, chica,” he growled in her ear.

It hurt. She fought, twisted, tried to pull away. She shouldn’t have baited him. She was a fool, a stupid fool.

Gasping with pain, she said, “I’m sorry, Ray,” even though she hated hearing the words coming out of her mouth.

“You better be,” he snarled, twisting one more time for good measure before dropping his hold on her.

She rubbed at her bruised wrist. “Just tell me, okay?” she sniffled. “What do you want?”

He shrugged easily. “It’s simple. I want my kid.”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you call her? Katy? She’s half mine. I want her.”

“What do you mean, you want her? You want—what? To see her? To visit her?”

“No. I want her to live with me. With me and my wife. See, Sharon, she can’t have any kids. So I told her I already have one. And so that’s why I’m here.”

Her eyes dry now, her pulse steadier, Vanessa stared at him in disbelief. He was something else, Ray was. He’d always had this way of not dealing with reality. If he didn’t want to hear something, he didn’t hear it. Simple. It didn’t exist. Bad news? Someone else’s pain? It was like he snapped his fingers and it was gone. Like that. He could talk himself into believing whatever made him happy. And, obviously, he’d decided he would find Vanessa, pop in and simply pick up his child.

Like walking down a grocery aisle and finding the right brand of tomato juice, putting it in his cart and going on his merry way.

Not this time.

“Katy lives with me, Ray,” she told him. “And that’s the end of the discussion.” She reached for the doorknob, but his hand pulled the door shut before she got it partway open.

“You’re not hearing me, chica.”

“Yes I am. Katy is mine.”

“Mine too.”

“No.” She knew she shouldn’t challenge him but couldn’t stop the words. “You planted the seed, that’s it. And after the beating you gave me, she nearly didn’t get born at all. So, no, Ray, I don’t really think she’s yours. You don’t deserve her.”

She saw the flaring temper, the way his jaw was working, and that automatic fear reaction started up inside her again.

“Remember my fists? What do you think you can do to me?”

At that moment the door flew open. The cop from the dais stood in the doorway, nearly filling the frame with his huge muscular physique. “It’s not what she can do to you,” he said slowly, drawing out each word with that hint of a southern drawl in each of them, “it’s what I can.”

It was like a moment out of an action movie made from a comic book character, Vanessa thought wildly. Mighty Mouse appearing suddenly to save the day. She bit back another nervous giggle as the image formed in her brain, then changed. No, not Mighty Mouse. Mighty Mountain. With sunglasses. He’d put on dark aviator shades, so you couldn’t see his eyes. Why, she had no idea. Nor had she any idea how he happened to have been out in the hall, but she was really glad he had.

Ray was less so. His eyes slits, he barked, “Who the f— asked you?”

“No one,” the cop said easily, sounding almost folksy. “I was just strolling by and it sounded like someone was threatening someone. And, see, I’m not too nuts about people threatening other people. And when a man threatens a woman, I get real displeased.”

“This is a private conversation, cop,” Ray said dismissively. “Get lost.”

The detective, whose name she wished she could remember, locked gazes with Ray for a moment before shifting his sunglasses-covered eyes to Vanessa. “Do you want me to leave, ma’am?”

Again she had to stifle a nervous giggle. Except for the dark glasses, now he was like lone gunslinger in one of those old Westerns her mother used to watch on TV in the afternoons. With Vanessa cast as the sweet but feisty schoolmarm. All that was missing was a horse and a Stetson. He certainly had the six-shooter. Although not on him, from what she could tell.

Why was he here? When she’d been hastily introduced to the big, broad cop before the ceremony, her first impression had not been a positive one. With her history, she wasn’t partial to the male sex, most especially male cops. And this one was so white bread he sparkled.

His initial reaction to her hadn’t been all that positive, either—she’d had no trouble getting the message: he looked down on her, judged her, and found her not up to his oh-so-pure standards.

Well, whatever his private views, he’d sure come along at the right moment, for which she was profoundly grateful.

“Actually, I was just leaving,” she told him before turning to face Ray. “I mean what I said, Ray. Don’t pursue it. It’s not going to happen.”

“You threatening me, chica?”

Stepping into the room, the cop put himself between her and Ray. The lawman had at least five inches on her long-ago lover, and he used every one of them to intimidate the shorter man. “I don’t believe she was threatening you, Mr. . . ? Excuse me, I didn’t catch your last name.”

“None of your business.”

The lawman’s back was broad, his neck thick.

“Care to tell me Ray’s last name, Ms. Garner?” He didn’t shift around to face her—probably doing that staring thing with Ray that men seemed to find so compelling. “Has he been threatening you? Do you want to file charges?”


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