Two women. One terrible crime. Zero allies.
After being raped by a superior officer, MA3 Kim Lockhoff wants to leave the whole thing in the past. A cop herself, she knows all too well that it’s her word—and slutty reputation—against that of a respected Navy officer.
MA2 Reese Marion, a tough cop hiding her own trauma behind a hard-as-nails exterior, has no patience for pretty little princesses who use their cleavage to win favor with the guys. But when Reese is partnered with Kim, she slowly realizes that reputations can lie. Kim is whip-smart, ambitious—and scared. The man who attacked her won’t let anything damage his career, least of all Kim . . . or the baby she’s carrying as a result.
Isolated on Okinawa, thousands of miles away from home, the two women lean hard on each other. But when Kim confides in Reese, she unwittingly puts her new lover—and both of their careers—in the line of fire. Now her attacker just might have the leverage he needs to keep her quiet for good.
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Lesbian
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Hurt / Comfort, In Uniform
Word Count: 53,000
Setting: Okinawa, Japan
Languages Available: English
The door flew open, letting a gust of Okinawa’s tropical wind into the air-conditioned front office of Naval Station White Beach’s security precinct.
The voice made my skin crawl. Gritting my teeth against a sudden wave of nausea, I looked up from the logbook I’d been updating. “Yes, Sir?”
The door banged shut behind Lieutenant Stanton as he took off his black-brimmed white cover. “My office.Now.”
My heart dropped straight into my boots. It didn’t help that the other three master-at-arms in the room had abruptly stopped talking. I thought I’d even heard their heads snap toward me.
This doesn’t concern any of you, I wanted to snarl at them. Instead, I swallowed hard and managed to croak, “Yes, Sir. I’ll be right there.”READ MORE
Without a word, he walked past the communal desk where I was sitting. I eyeballed the trash can beside me, wondering if I should just give in to the nausea now or wait until I was in his office. Even the thought of heaving my lunch onto his spit-shined black shoes couldn’t relieve the tension in my gut, though.
“What the fuck was that about?” MA1 Gutiérrez barked from behind me.
I closed the logbook and then stood, but I couldn’t make eye contact with him, so I busied myself adjusting my bulky police belt, which sat uncomfortably on my hips and lower back. “I don’t know.”
Liar, liar . . .
“You don’t know?”
I couldn’t continue to avoid eye contact unless I wanted to get reamed for insubordination, so I lifted my gaze. I hated the meek sound of my voice as I replied, “No, MA1.”
Still hanging back against the wall, MA3s Keller and Barkley exchanged hushed words. Then they slipped out into the hallway connecting the shared office with the rest of the precinct.
Gutiérrez didn’t even seem to notice they’d gone—he was busy staring me down. “What the fuck is going on, MA3?”
I swallowed again. He wasn’t the type of lead petty officer who tolerated his people bypassing the chain of command. It was partly because it had a tendency to come back and bite him in the ass and partly because, well, what LPO wasn’t on a bit of a power trip? And in this case, as far as he knew, I was leapfrogging him, Chief, and Senior Chief and going straight to the security officer. I might as well have pissed in his coffee in front of the entire command.
“I don’t know, MA1.” I spoke through clenched teeth to keep from throwing up. Or letting them chatter. “He didn’t say.”
You were right there. You heard him.
Please don’t make me explain this.
Please, MA1 . . .
Gutiérrez’s eyes narrowed. “So the SECO is just randomly calling you in for a one-on-one?” He waved a hand toward Stanton’s office. “To chat about the weather?” The sarcastic undertone and the slightest lift of his eyebrow made my blood turn cold.
Did he know? If he did, then who else . . .
It took every bit of willpower I had not to glance to my left and make sure that trash can was still within reach. There was no point in breaking eye contact and giving myself away.
Right then, the phone on the desk rang. I almost jumped out of my skin. Gutiérrez rolled his eyes and gestured past me. “Answer that.”
Not that I liked being treated like a secretary—that had gotten old a week into being one of only three women in the precinct—but at least it gave me an excuse to turn away.
And that trash can was still where I’d left it. Noted.
“CFAO White Beach, MA3 Lockhoff speaking. How may I—”
“My office, MA3.” Stanton’s voice was a low growl. “Now.”
The line went dead.
I hung up the receiver and took a deep breath, telling myself my mouth wasn’t really watering. I wasn’t really going to get sick and—
Behind me, Gutiérrez sighed impatiently.
And I couldn’t stop it.
I dropped to one knee, grabbed the trash can with both hands, and vomited onto the crumpled papers and sandwich wrappers.
“Fuck!” Gutiérrez flew back a step as I threw up again. “What the hell?”
When I was sure nothing else would come up, I coughed and spat into the trash. “I’m sorry,” I croaked. My head was still spinning, and now my face was burning, too.
One of Gutiérrez’s boots appeared in my peripheral vision. Then the other. I closed my eyes, bracing for him to fly off the handle.
What I didn’t expect was a hand on my shoulder.
I cleared my burning throat and lifted my head, blinking my eyes into focus.
His expression had changed completely. All the sternness was gone; his eyes were wide and his forehead creased. I couldn’t remember seeing so much concern on his face before, especially not seconds after he’d been ready to read someone the riot act.
In a gentle voice, he asked, “You okay?”
I nodded and sat back on my heels. “Yeah. I should . . .” I gestured at the trash can. “Shit. I need—”
“Lockhoff.” When I looked up again, his eyebrows had pulled together. “Does this have something to do with why Stanton wants to see you?”
I let my face fall into my hands, and just as I couldn’t hold back the nausea a moment ago, there was no stopping the tears. Shame. Fear. Nerves. God, I couldn’t even put my finger on what it was. Could’ve been the fucking hormones for all I knew, but damn it, I wasn’t ready to surrender anything to them yet.
“Hey. Easy.” His voice was lower now, as if he’d knelt beside me. Then his arm was around my shoulders. “Take it easy.”
I got my shit together as quickly as I could and wiped my eyes. “I didn’t think anyone knew.”
Gutiérrez sighed. “Rumors are what they are. They’re—”
The phone on the desk rang again, startling me so bad I would’ve fallen if he hadn’t held me upright.
“Shit,” I whispered. “That’s Stanton. I need . . . I have to . . .”
“Just sit tight for a second.” He guided me back so I was sitting against the desk. Then he reached over me and lifted the phone off the hook. “CFAO White Beach Security, MA1 Gutiérrez, how may I help you, Sir or Ma’am?”
I didn’t hear Stanton’s voice. I felt it. It seemed to vibrate through the floor, across the desk, down from the walls, straight through my skin, and right to the bone.
“I understand, Sir,” Gutiérrez said. “I needed her to take care of an urgent— Understood, Sir. I’m sorry, Sir. Yes, Sir. She’ll be on her way in a moment, Sir.” Lieutenant Stanton snarled something and then went silent. A second later, Gutiérrez rolled his eyes and hung up the phone. “Jesus.”
I let my head fall back against the desk. “I’m so fucked.”
Great choice of words, Kim.Real cute.
Gutiérrez touched my arm again. “Do you need someone to go in there with you?”
Please. Please don’t make me do this alone.
But Stanton would kick him out in a heartbeat, and I didn’t have the balls to explain why I couldn’t face the Lieutenant by myself. I shook my head slowly. “No. I . . . I have to talk to him.” My eyes flicked toward the trash can. “Fuck. I should—”
“I’ll take care of that.” Gutiérrez helped me to my feet. “Give yourself a minute if you need to.” He nodded past me in the general direction of the ladies’ room across the hall. “I’ll get this squared away.”
“Thanks.” I forced a smile. His didn’t look much more genuine.
I went into the restroom and splashed some water on my face. My eyes were still a little red, and my makeup was jacked up, but there wasn’t much I could do about that, so I straightened my uniform and headed for Stanton’s office.
On the way there, I clenched my jaw. There couldn’t be much left in my stomach, but the nausea was back in full force. As long as Stanton was in the building, my guts would be on a hair trigger. It had been that way for the last week or two. No wonder the rumors were flying. One mad dash to the bathroom with a hand clapped over my mouth could be blamed on some ill-advised food or getting used to a foreign country’s cuisine. Maybe some hard drinking the night before. The guys got away with it, anyway.
A second sprint, especially if it happened before noon, wasn’t so easily explained.
And when a female third-class petty officer got called into the security officer’s office right now in between bouts of incriminating puking?
Yeah. That wouldn’t pour gas on the fire.COLLAPSE
on Publishers Weekly:
STARRED REVIEW - Gallagher’s well-drawn, multifaceted characters revitalize traditional plot elements, and the sexually explicit love scenes show sweet tenderness within the women’s refreshingly forthright embrace of caring and trust in a world where few seem worthy of such generosity.
Gallagher...really makes the short novel format work: spare, lean, and erotic, without a wasted word.