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Chapter 1

“Fuck!” I screeched, flinging the front door open wide. The alarm system started to beep loudly and in just a few seconds would go off, alerting the world to my imminent demise.

I had rushed to the front door with my trusty dog, Sadie, by my side; and wondered who the hell could be here this late. It was almost eleven o’clock. I’d been reading in bed, just about to nod off for the night.

I hoped whoever was at the door was either my brother or one of my girlfriends in the midst of a man-made crisis since I was only wearing pink pajama pants and a tank top, no bra. Nope, no luck; as usual. Jackson, the bane of my existence, stood tall and sexy, still in his Dallas Police Department uniform. Next to him was another sexy guy, the uniform was different, though.

Realizing that this office was from McKinney PD, a suburb of Dallas, where I lived, in the back of my mind, I sensed that something was wrong, but my body and mind were not on the same page. Seeing the two hotties, made my nipples press against the thin fabric of my cami. Even with the heaviness of the air, my tiny pajama shorts were wet at the sight of them.

Luke had been my secret crush for years. I was a tall woman, but Luke still towered over me, he was at least six-foot-four. His shoulders and chest were so wide, I felt tiny next to him. Anytime he stood near enough for me to smell him, a rich masculine scent, sandalwood and powerful man, my core melted. My pussy would surely pull him in, if only she could figure out how.

The other uniformed officer with him was tall too, not quite as tall as Luke. If the McKinney officer had been alone, I would have paid closer attention to how attractive he was.

After clearing the alarm, I shook my head to clear my wayward thoughts. Noticing the sorrowful look on Luke’s face, my heart raced, finally understanding that something was seriously wrong. Thankfully, I was able to focus my mind now and control my wayward body.

There was no reason Luke would be here in uniform like this, no good reason anyway. I knew he never wore his uniform off duty, not even driving home, it just wasn’t safe. Panic started to set in.

“Luke, what’s going on?” He was looking to the side of the door, but obviously not really seeing anything. I could see that his features; with high defined cheekbones, and a strong jaw; were now pale, and his usually bright and mischievous, hazel eyes were red-rimmed and weary.

“Aurora!” He stood looking at me for several heartbeats, his voice relieved, desolate and nervous all at once; then he continued. “Can we come in?”

I could see the strain in his posture; tension was written all over him. I stepped back and opened the door wide, so both men could enter the house. Luke let the other officer walk in first before he pulled me into his arms and buried his face in my hair.

Immediately, I wrapped my arms around his waist and held on tight. I had no idea what was wrong, but whatever it was, Luke needed my comfort. I imagined that I would need his as well. He pulled away, closed the door and said, “Let’s sit down.”

Nodding, I walked into the living room ahead of him; where the other officer stood. He was handsome, had almost midnight black hair and bright cobalt eyes. “Rory, this is Dan Dupree, he works for McKinney.” Luke had called me Rory for as long as I could remember; he was the only one who ever called me that. The only one I let get away with it.

“Dan, this is Aurora Williams.”

Dan reached out, clasped my hand to shake. His was strong; giving me a reassuring squeeze. Officer Dupree made eye contact with me throughout the exchange and I could see interest there. If Luke hadn’t been standing next to me, and if these men weren’t about to tell me something horrible, I’d have shown some interest myself. “Nice to meet you, Ms. Williams.”

“You too, Officer Dupree.” I gave a weak smile to the other man and motioned to the couch. We all sat, and Luke chose the spot on the loveseat, right next to me.

“God, I’m so sorry.” My heart raced, something was horribly wrong here, he was a mess and Luke was never a mess. “It’s Nolan.” The mention of my brother’s name caused even more panic to well up inside me. His lips tightened and I could see a sheen of wetness cloud his eyes “He, um — he’s gone – fuck, Rory, he killed himself.” The news was ripped from him, I could hear the horrid pain in his rushed words. Luke spoke in a rush, obviously trying to purge the horrid words from his mouth.

I could hear the heartrending sadness in his tone, but it took a minute before the actual words he spoke registered in my brain. Once they did, I shook my head several times; I wanted to deny it, to tell him I didn’t believe him, to run away and say it wasn’t true. Anything! The last thing I wanted to do was to accept it.

Not Nolan, not my brother. I’d just spoken to him yesterday. He loved me. He’d never leave me. He couldn’t leave me, not like everyone else had.

I could feel the wetness starting to leak out of my eyes as I sobbed. “What? How could he have done that? Why?” My cries increased in volume, as I tried to pull myself together.

Luke pulled me into him, rested my head on his chest, as I completely lost it. I cried so many tears; his uniform shirt was wet. Instead of the warm heat of his hard chest, I could feel the unforgiving Kevlar vest he wore underneath. His wool shirt was rough against my damp face, but this was the only place in the world I wanted to be right now.

Luke’s body was trembling. I wasn’t sure if it was from my wracking sobs, or from the expression of his own grief. His arms were tight around me and his cheek pressed down on the top of my head, as we clung to each other in despair.

Nolan had been my older brother, and Luke’s best friend. I’d known that Nolan was struggling, but thought he was getting better pulling his life together. He’d seemed to be getting stronger, and more focused in the past few weeks.

Five years ago, the team of Marines my brother and Luke were a part of, was deployed to Afghanistan. From what I understood, there was some sort of ambush at a checkpoint. They were engaged in a firefight, and my brother was shot; seven times. The bullets hit him mostly in the upper right thigh and twice in the shoulder. Dylan Wright, a fellow teammate, and longtime friend; was pulling Nolan to safety, when he had been shot and killed. Dylan died instantly. Nolan never forgave himself.

Nolan’s injuries were severe enough, that after a long stay at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Germany, he was medically discharged. Since coming home, Nolan had been struggling with PTSD, as well as the lingering effects of his injuries.

My brother and I had always been close; but since his return home, just over four years ago, he’d been a different man. He was still the protective older brother. Installing a top notch security system on my house, interrogating any guys I wanted to date; he was almost like the father we no longer had.

Nolan and I still spent time together; but I felt that there was something underlying, a level of anger within him that hadn’t been there before his service. I’d asked, but he wouldn’t delve deeper into his hurt with me. He wouldn’t open up, but I did know he had nightmares a lot and still had pain in his leg.

I pulled my head back, to look up into Luke’s pain filled eyes, and asked, “What happened? What did he do?”

“Rory, you don’t –“

“Tell me! I need to know!” I demanded; louder than I’d intended.

“He shot himself.” Luke’s words were spoken in an emotionless voice; I knew it was because of the pain of losing his best friend. It was just too much to bear. He was trying to distance himself from the pain, long enough to give me the information I needed. This was his cop voice.

I shook my head violently for a few seconds and did a face plant back into the hardness of his chest. Feeling Luke, stroke my hair in comfort; was about the only thing I had to hold onto at this moment.

My parents were both gone. My dad died when I was fifteen, and my mom just over a year ago. I was completely alone in this life now, everyone in my immediate family was gone.

I felt my Australian Shepherd, Sadie’s soft fur pushing closer into me. Knowing she could sense my pain and she was attempting to protect, and comfort me, I reached my hand out, and placed it on her head, which I then realized was lying on Luke’s knee.

I muttered into Luke’s chest; “How did you find out?”

Luke’s quick intake of air had me pulling back to look at him once more. He closed his eyes, and finally replied “He called” pausing for a minute, I could tell that he didn’t want to tell me the rest. “He called me, to tell me goodbye, and to make sure you weren’t the one to find him.”

My gasp had Luke opening his eyes to study me. He stroked a hand over my cheek and went on. “He wanted me to tell you, that he loves you, that he’s sorry. God, Rory; I tried to stop him. I called McKinney PD on the radio; but when units arrived on the scene, it was already too late.” The remorse and guilt Luke showed was awful. His eyes seemed to be pleading, for what, I wasn’t sure.

“God, I’m so sorry! If I’d only said the right thing; gotten to him sooner, then maybe – I could have helped him. I should have made him talk to me before tonight. I thought he was starting to get better; you know? It’s my fault, Rory, I’m so sorry, so fucking sorry.” Luke hung his head, clasped me tighter and let out a mournful sounding groan.

“NO! Luke, it isn’t your fault!” I shouted, I had to make him see that I didn’t blame him. I didn’t want him to take the responsibility on himself either. “You can’t say that. It isn’t! I thought that he was getting better too, thought he was getting his life back on track. These past few weeks, he’s seemed more focused; I don’t know, driven maybe? We had these long talks, about mom, about all kinds of stuff. He’s been so much more open with me, telling me he loves me every time we talked. I didn’t see it coming either.”

I grabbed some tissues from the box sitting on the end table and wiped at my face. After calming down, I looked to the officer sitting on the couch. “I’m sorry, Dan, right?”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you, can I get you anything, a drink?” I was pretty sure that I could use a drink at this moment but didn’t mention that. My mother had been the consummate hostess and she’d ingrained those traits in me.

“No, ma’am, is there anything you need? Anyone else I should contact?”

“No, thanks, Dan, Luke and I will take care of that.”

The officer nodded and stood from the couch. “I got all the information I needed from Luke, but needed to make content with you, to give you my information. May I contact you if I have any further questions?”

“Yes, thank you so much, Dan.” I walked to the side table and grabbed a business card for Indulgence out of my handbag and wrote my cell number on the back, then handed it to the officer.

“Thank you. I am sorry ma’am, Luke; if there’s anything I can do to help, please give me a call.” He handed me his business card in return, Luke and Dan exchanged the strange male head nod greeting and Dan left.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do; should I call someone, the team, the funeral home?” I felt like I needed a task, something to do to keep my mind busy, maybe I should cook something, or make some arrangements. I knew that my mind has been in panic mode, just trying to busy itself with anything other than this pain.

“No, the police department is taking care of everything at Nolan’s, I’ll call the guys. Do you mind if I change? I’ve got some clothes in my truck.”

“Luke, you don’t have to stay with me, I’ll be all right.” My breath hitched with the words ‘all right’ and Luke caught it. His faint smile and shake of his head was all I needed, to know that he didn’t buy it.

“I’ll be right back; I’m just going to my truck.” Luke stood from the loveseat, displacing Sadie’s head. She grunted and moved toward me, filling the space that Luke left as best as she could. I stroked her soft gray and white fur and cuddled her close.

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**Minor changes and edits may occur prior to the book’s release**

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