"I never make promises I can't keep."
A little girl is missing, and Detective Kaitlyn Two Feathers has promised the child will be back in her mother's arms by Christmas. Her own troubled childhood still shadowing her, Kaitlyn is determined not to fail. When the kidnapper's trail takes her to Aurora, she must work with the local cops. Specifically, the frustratingly appealing Detective Thomas Cavelli.
Cavelli's own life is in chaos, the revelation of an unexpected family connection upending his world. But he puts it all aside to help Kaitlyn, the urgency of their investigation matched by the electricity that crackles between them. Together, they might have a chance to defeat their respective demons and give in to the redeeming power of love.
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Boy, some guys sure get all the luck."
The comment, half complaint, half good-natured envy, came from thirty-five-year-old Detective Angelo LaGuardia and was directed at the man he'd called a partner for the past two and a half years, ever since the latter had been assigned to the Missing Persons Division of the Aurora Police Department. LaGuardia, married for sixteen years to the woman he'd met his first day in high school, viewed his partner's life much the way a man on a restricted diet viewed an ice-cream sundaewith strong, unfulfilled longing.
"First you go from being an annoying Italian," Angelo continued, getting more specific when his partner glanced up from his computer screen, puzzled, "to an annoying crown prince"
Detective First Class Thomas Cavelli's sharp blue eyes narrowed. "I'm not a crown prince." There was a steely emphasis just beneath his ordinarily easygoing, laid-back drawl, as well as a warning look in his eyes. "And, as far as I know, I've never been accused of being annoying."
His sister, Kendra, another recently relocated member of the Aurora Police Department, chose that moment to walk by the detectives' desks on her way out on a case. Younger than Tom by three years, Kendra chimed in her two cents' worth even as she kept on walking.
"That is definitely up for a vote, big brother."
"See?" Angelo declared with a measure of triumph, rocking back in his chair, a wide grin on his equally wide face.
"No one asked you, Kenny," Tom pointed out, raising his voice so that it followed his sister out. And then he turned back to his partner. LaGuardia was built as short and squat as he himself was tall and lean. "You said 'first.'"
Tom braced himself for what came next, knowing he'd hear it eventually. Might as well get it over with sooner than later.
LaGuardia's head bobbed up and down in affirmation. "That I did."
When no more words followed, Tom prompted him. "Which means there's a 'second.'"
LaGuardia laughed shortly as he nodded more to himself than to his partner. "Easy to see why you made detectiveeven without your blue-blood connections."
Though he didn't show it, the flippant term rankled Tom.
Unlike some of his brothers and sisters, when the bombshell hit that the seven of them and their father were actually Cavanaughs rather than Cavellis, the way they had all grown up believing, Tom had more or less taken the news in stride. It was part of his basic philosophy of life: to deal with what was before him and then move on. So far, that philosophy had stood him in good stead.
It would be interesting to see if that would continue.
Tom reasoned that, Italian or Scottish, he was still the same person he'd been, still followed baseball games, particularly those of the Anaheim Angels, was still indifferent to the Lakers and the whole basketball scene in general. He still wrote with his left hand and operated power toolswhen he actually had the timewith his right.
And he still intended to work his way up through the department on his own merits and not by riding on the coattails of his siblings or his father. That went double for the coattails of the family he and the others suddenly and completely without warning found themselves a part of.
It was barely two months ago that the news had surfaced, traveling through every nook and cranny in the Aurora Police Department with the speed of a lightning bolt. It was hard to say who in the family had been the most surprised. They all had been shell-shocked by the news for a little while. Some more so than others.
It all boiled down to this: because of a mix-up in the hospital, his father, Sean, a newborn, was accidentally switched with another newborn male of the same size and weight bearing the same first name and a very similar last name.
And that, in a nutshell, was how Sean Cavanaugh became Sean Cavelli and vice versa.
The Sean who had actually been a Cavelli, their father was informed, had died before he reached the age of one. He was a victim of SIDS, an innocuous collection of letters that stood for sudden infant death syndrome, the insidious, mysterious disease that claimed so many infant lives and had snuffed out the real Sean Cavelli's life.
Blissfully ignorant of all this, Tom's father had gone on to grow up the youngest in a family of two brothers and two sisters, married Theresa O'Brien, had seven children with her and had lived a good, full life. By an odd twist of fate, he'd gone on to join the forensic lab in a nearby city.
With that in the background, Tom had been rather surprised to hearright after the bombshell hithis father confess that he'd always felt as if he was standing outside the family circle. That, try as he might, he just didn't feel part of the family in the true, one hundred percent way that he longed to, despite the fact that everyone had always been nothing but kind to him.
Unable to pinpoint why, he'd always felt, for lack of a better word, "different." Once he found out that he was actually a Cavanaugh and not a Cavelli, he understood why. It all began to make sense to him.
Something within him had been calling out to the parents who had actually given him life. Calling out to the people through whose veins ran the same blood as his. Once the mystery was unraveled, Sean no longer felt like a duck out of water.
Still, to say that the news ushered in an emotional upheaval within his tight-knit family was putting it mildly. Be that as it may, Tom had prided himself on being able to roll with the punches, no matter which direction they came from.
But he did have trouble with, though he did his best to keep his reaction under wraps, being viewed differently by the people who worked alongside of him. Some of them just assumed he would change because of the very nature of his connection to the family that some viewed as police department royalty.
That really bothered him.
Tom knew that, for the most part, LaGuardia was kidding. But even so, he also suspected that there was just the tiniest kernel of truth in what the older man had just said. Angelo, as well as several others in the department, did perceive him to be a "crown prince" of sorts because not only was the chief of detectives a CavanaughBrianbut the former chief of police Andrewwas a Cavanaugh, as well.
And that didn't even begin to take into account the rest of the clan which was so prominently present on the police force. It was a standing joke that the Cava-naughs needed only a few more members in order to form their own country.
Now he was part of that, part of themwhether he chose to be or not.
Oh, there was no pressureneither Brian nor Andrew were known for being the sort to apply undue pressure to get their own way. But pressure or not, that didn't change the reality of things. He'd thought of himself as a Cavelli from the first moment he realized that people had last namesand now he was a Cavanaugh, whether he acknowledged the fact by embracing the new last name or not.
Blood was blood.
A German shepherd was still a German shepherd even though his owner might proclaim him to be an Irish wolfhound. Like it or not, the Cavanaughs were perceived differently. And Tom didn't want to be treated differently. He'd worked too hard for that.
"So what's the second thing you're bemoaning?" Tom asked again since LaGuardia had deliberately left him hangingand waiting impatiently. The man might be bursting with information, but he still liked to be coaxed to reveal it. Tom knew he'd have no peace until he obliged and played along with the game.
"And now that walks into your life," Angelo said, clearly envious as he gestured toward the tall, leggy redhead who had just crossed the threshold and entered the squad room.
It was all Tom could do to keep his mouth from dropping open. Looking at the woman was like seeing the sunrise for the very first time. Hard to put into words, but definitely affecting.
Tom silently reminded himself to breathe.
The woman moved with precision, as if each step had been measured out and allowed only so much distance to be used before the next step began.
Poetry embodied in a physical form, Tom caught himself thinking as he struggled to maintain a poker face.
Tom shifted his chair a little to get a better view. No doubt about it, the woman was exceedingly beautiful. She was also as serious looking as a judge rendering the date of a convicted killer's execution.
"From where I'm sitting," he observed, his voice deceptively mild, "she's walking into the squad room, not my life."
LaGuardia ignored the protest. "But she is heading for you."
Tom shifted his chair back to look at his partner, sitting at the desk next to his. "And you know this how?" he challenged.
Wide, sloping shoulders rose and fell in a careless fashion. "I keep my ear to the ground."
"That explains why you're so hunched over all the time," Tom quipped. But LaGuardia appeared to be adamant, so he asked, "Seriously, why would you think"
"Overheard her talking to the old man," Angelo confessed, lowering his voice as if to keep this source between the two of them. "This one doesn't beat around the bush." There was admiration in his voice as he watched the woman make her way across the wide room littered with desks and personnel. "She went straight to the top to get her information."
Tom wondered exactly what information his partner was referring to. First things first, though. LaGuardia had a tendency to be vague at times. "She talked to Lt. Chambers?" he asked, referring to their direct superior in the division.
"Nope, to your new guardian angelthe chief of Ds himself," LaGuardia added when Tom focused his intense blue eyes on him, silently telling his partner to get to the point.
"And she asked for me?" There was a hint of mocking in Tom's question. He didn't know who the woman was and he sincerely doubted if she knew him, so there was no way she would be asking for him. This had to be LaGuardia's lame idea of a joke.
No doubt irritated by the mocking note in his partner's voice, LaGuardia said peevishly, "When she talked to your new uncle, she asked for the person with the best track record for finding missing children."
"Best" in this case was still not good enough in Tom's opinion. "Best" to him would have meant that he located the children every time one was reported missing or kidnapped instead of only seventy percent, which was where his record stood at the moment.
According to the law of averages, that was something to be proud of, his father had told him. But he had no patienceor the timefor pride. There'd be time enough for pride when every child's file that came across his desk was marked "closed" and it had been resolved with a happy ending.
And a happy ending occurred only when the child was found.
Tom's doubts as to the veracity of LaGuardia's claim began to dissipate as the tall, willowy redhead drew closer. Apparently the woman was heading straight for his desk.
It crossed his mind that this could still be either LaGuardia's idea of a joke, or someone else's. Someone who wanted to pull his leg. If so, whoever was orchestrating this had to have a black sense of humor. There was nothing remotely amusing about the set of circumstances that would bring a woman to him, seeking his professional help. Had he not been as content and well adjusted as he was, Tom was fairly certain that his job, particularly the failures that went hand in hand with the caseload, would have haunted him beyond the point of human tolerance.
He wasn't sure how others survived within this particular environment, but as for him, for the most part, he focused on the successes. Focused on them to almost the exclusion of all else because he knew he had to keep a good, optimistic frame of mind in order to keep on doing what he was doing. And he had to keep going because there were children who needed someone to find them, to bring them home and to punish the person or persons who were responsible for having taken them away in the first place.
For a moment, his thought froze in place as he watched the woman coming closer, a lyrical song in heels that were far from sensible. It struck him that, despite her austere expression, this woman cared about appearances. At least her own.