Cuff Me

Cuff Me

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Meet New York's Finest-three hot brothers sworn to protect and serve the city they love . . . and the women who've stolen their hearts.

Vincent Moretti is one of the NYPD's top homicide detectives-and one of the most eligible bachelors in town. His family, however, thinks he should date his longtime partner, Jill-a sassy, sexy, smart-mouthed blonde who drives him absolutely crazy.

Behind the quiet authority, tough-guy demeanor, and dark aviator glasses lies a man with a big soul-and a hard body that can soften any girl's heart. After years as his coworker, Jill Henley has given up hope that anything could happen between her and Vin. Besides, loving him would break all the rules. But seeing Jill with someone else triggers feelings in Vincent he never knew he had. Now he'll have to stop playing good cop/bad cop-and find a way to convince her to be his partner for life. . .

Accolades
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Year (Romance)
  • RT Nominee: Best Contemporary Romance
  • "A high-profile murder case is the backdrop for this cleverly crafted finale in Layne’s New York’s Finest contemporary trilogy." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Excerpts

That kiss had been…

There were at least half a dozen reasons he shouldn’t have done it. The fact that she belonged to another man being number one.

But reason number two was a very close second.

He shouldn’t have done it, because now he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Couldn’t stop wanting to do it again.

Except longer this time, he would linger. Let his hands explore her curves as his tongue slipped into her mouth, learning what she liked…

And last, but never least, there was Vincent. Her partner. In some ways her best friend, although in a way that was different from her relationship with Elena.

But as much as Vincent sometimes seemed like two parts of the same whole, he’d always held a bit of himself back from her. From everyone.

He’d made no secret of the fact that he had no intentions of getting married, ever. Any fantasies Jill had had that her partner would one day wake up and see her were long gone.

Vincent barely heard any of this.

He was too busy watching the way Jill happily devoured her doughnut.

She was holding the delicacy with her left hand.

Which was adorned with a brand-new diamond that was threatening to break the heart he didn’t know he had.

He watched her face, feeling almost shy…wondering if she would accept the shared burger for what it was. A peace offering.

And from the sunny smile she gave him, he warmed just a little. She understood.

But the warmth vanished as quickly as it arrived with her next words.

“You asked about a wedding date. We’re thinking June.”

June. That was in four months.

The fry and ketchup in his mouth suddenly didn’t taste as good.

It was the second time in twenty-four hours that Jill Henley had dropped a bomb on his head, but this time, his subconscious must have been prepared.

Because no sooner were the words out of her mouth, then Vincent knew.

Knew that there was no way he was letting Jill Henley walk away from him. Walk away from them, and what they had.

Whatever that was.

He only knew that the thought of her moving away…

… it felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“Are you jealous, Detective?”

She glared at him. “Jealous of what?”

He nudged her shoulder. “That your boy over there is the center of attention. That for once, you’re not the funniest, brightest person in the room?”

Her face fell a little, and he instantly regretted his teasing. He itched to tell her that she was always the brightest person in the room. That she was his light.

Jill still hadn’t lifted her eyes from his torso, and he put his hand on the doorjamb, leaning just slightly.

When her eyes finally met his, he was wearing an all-out grin.

“Why are you…panting?” she asked.

Why are you? he wanted to ask back.

Instead he shrugged. “Doing some push-ups.”

“You do those every night?” she asked.

“And every morning.”

Actually, his twice-daily workouts were usually a good deal more than push-ups, but he was in a tiny-ass motel room. He did what he could.

“Huh.” Her eyes drifted lower again.

He smirked. “Can I help you with something, Henley?”

“Um…”

There was a very satisfying pause, and Vincent felt his grin grow wider.

She fished out an M&M, started to lift it to her mouth, and then frowned at it.

“Everything okay?” he asked, tongue in his cheek. This disgruntled version of Jill was kind of…cute.

“I don’t like the brown ones,” she said, as though this were completely reasonable.

She held it out to him between two fingers, and Vincent surprised them both by leaning forward and nipping it out of her fingers with his mouth.

The lips-to-fingers contact was brief. A second at most, but he felt it in his gut. Heard it in her intake of breath.

Vin lifted his eyes to hers, but the second he did, she looked back at the M&M’s bag, shaking it violently until she found a blue one.

She rattled the bag again, going at it like a raccoon with a take-out bag, and he reached out, touched her hand. “Jill?”

“Do you think I’m making a mistake?”

His chest clenched. Don’t ask me that.

The other reached out toward him.

He froze, staring down at her small hand where it lay between them on the bed.

She hadn’t been reaching for him, obviously. She was asleep. Didn’t know that he was there.

And yet, he suddenly found it hard to swallow. Found it hard to look away from her pointy little nose, and the way a few strands of straight blond hair escaped her ponytail to lay against her cheek.

Before he realized what he was doing, he slid his hand along the bed until his fingertips were millimeters from hers.

And then he touched her hand. Just softly. His fingertip against her knuckle, the rough pad of his finger against her smooth skin.

He allowed himself to linger, just for a moment, his finger tracing each of hers. Drawing circles on the back of her hand.

Vincent wanted to flip her hand over. Wanted to touch his fingers to the nerve endings of her palm. Wanted to press his lips there. Wanted to lever himself over her, and—

Vincent pulled his hand back. Slowly

He moved imperceptibly closer. She felt his breath on her face, coffee mingled with the mint, and suddenly she couldn’t look away from his mouth.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” he said in a gravelly voice. “You were right before. You were the one who left. You were the one who met a man. You were the one who got a ring on your fourth finger in record time. You left me, yes. But I don’t resent you for it, and I never have. You got that?”

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I got that.”

“I may not be the effusive type, but I care about you, Henley. I want you to be happy, even if that means you and I part ways, you got that too?”

Vincent lifted his hands to his sides as a wide grin spread over his face, and then he looked at his hands in surprise, as though not sure what to do with them—not sure what to do with the unfamiliar sensation of happiness.

And then he apparently figured it out. Vincent’s hands found their way to either side of her face, and he bent his head to hers.

And kissed her.

The kiss was over before Jill even realized it had begun.

Nothing but a firm meeting of lips.

A victory kiss, if you will. The type of kiss a friend gives another friend in an impulsive moment of triumph.

There was nothing romantic.

Nothing sexual.

Vincent had already moved away from her, his attention shifted back to his precious board.

Jill lifted her fingers to her lips.

It was nothing. It meant nothing.

But if it was nothing…why was her hand shaking? Why were her lips tingling?

If it was nothing…

Why did she want him to do it again?

That kiss had been…

There were at least half a dozen reasons he shouldn’t have done it. The fact that she belonged to another man being number one.

But reason number two was a very close second.

He shouldn’t have done it, because now he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Couldn’t stop wanting to do it again.

Except longer this time, he would linger. Let his hands explore her curves as his tongue slipped into her mouth, learning what she liked…

He forced himself to meet her gaze steadily. “Don’t leave, Jill. You belong in New York.”

You belong with me.

She set her beer carefully on the table. “It’s not that I want to leave New York, Vin—”

“Then don’t.”

“It’s not that simple,” she said, her voice rising a notch.

“Well make it that simple.”

She snapped her notebook on the table. “You’re impossible. Just because you’ve got this whole lone wolf thing going on doesn’t mean that the rest of us want to be alone forever.”

Now it was his turn to toss his notebook aside. “Who said shit about being alone together? That’s why you’re moving to Chicago? You think you’re alone?”

“No, I just—” She reached up and tightened her ponytail the way she did when she was stressed. “Come on, Vin. You knew things were going to change when one of us met someone. We can’t just keep doing this forever, being each other’s everything.”

He knew she didn’t mean her words to hurt, but they cut life a knife all the same. “I’m not asking you to be my everything,” he said quietly. “I just hate that this guy swoops into your life for all of a couple months, and you’re ready to throw it all away.”

Vin didn’t look at her as he said it. It was the closest he’d come to admitting…something, and he couldn’t bear to see what might be laughter on her face.

He heard the sound of her chair scooting backward before she moved closer, dropping into the chair right next to his.

Her hand found his knee. “Is that what you think? That I’m throwing you away?”

He said nothing.

Her fingers squeezed and she leaned down, trying to catch his eye. “I’m always here for you. Even if I’m in a different time zone, you can call me anytime and I’ll come running. You know that.”

He swallowed. He did know that. Knew that he’d do the same for her.

He also knew that if he kept on with this push-pull thing, he’d risk losing her. He’d put a rift between them that couldn’t be fixed with a doughnut.

There was a moment of silence before she gave his leg a little squeeze. “We’re okay, right?”

“Sure.”

She pulled back, looking frustrated. “Would you talk to me? Please. I feel like there’s so much going on inside your head, but the second we get anywhere, you pull back. It’s almost like—”

“Almost like what?”

Their eyes clashed for several long tense moments, until she finally shook her head. “Nothing. Almost like nothing.”

Vincent felt a brief stab of disappointment until he reminded himself that it was for the best. That this was a conversation they could never have.

She squeezed his waist hard, and he felt her cheek nuzzle against the center of his back. Vin wasn’t particularly tall, but Jill was downright short. Perfect.

She’d always been perfect.

“We’re gonna be okay, right?” she asked, her voice muffled against his shirt.

Vin closed his eyes as his hand closed over clasped arms, his head hilting back so that the back of his head rested lightly on the top of hers.

And because he cared about her—cared about her so damn much—he did the only thing that he could.

He lied. “Yeah. Yeah, we’re gonna be all right.”

Vincent could feel Jill’s heartbeat against his palm as he roughly pushed her back into her apartment.

He told himself the feel of it didn’t excite him—that her excitement didn’t excite him—but he’d be lying.

And it was excitement Jill was feeling, at least for a moment. He saw it in the flash of her eyes, the catch of her breath.

“Of course we do. We’re friends. Although we won’t be if you keep this up.”

Vin yanked his palm back from where it had been resting against her collarbone.

It was as though she burned him. Not by the warmth of her skin, but by the white-chill fire of her words.

Friends.

Jill thought of him as a friend.

Vincent swallowed.

When had friends stopped feeling like enough?

When had that one simple word ripped down to his very gut?

She didn’t pull away, but her features went immediately wary.

He didn’t know what he was going to say, only knew that he had to say something, had to convince her that she belonged here. In New York. With him.

That he couldn’t imagine what his days would look like without her.

That he didn’t know how to be without her.

“Jill, I—” The words got lodged in his throat.

Vincent purposefully held her gaze—as though knowing exactly what she was thinking and daring her to look away.

His smile had faded, but the warmth in his eyes hadn’t. If anything, his gaze heated, and then it dropped to her mouth.

His hand lifted slowly. His thumb brushed her cheek, just for the briefest of moments before this thumb and forefinger closed around a strand of hair that had escaped her ponytail.

“I wish—” He cleared his throat. “I wish…”

Slowly, his hands lifted until they found her waist. He didn’t return the kiss. Not just yet. His palms molded to her sides, learning the shape of her before sliding back until his fingers met at the middle of her back, allowing his fingertips to trace her spine.

And then Jill bit his lip.

A fierce, sweet little nip of her teeth against his bottom lip that shattered the last of Vincent’s self-control.

Vin’s hands flattened against her, one arm sliding around her hips to jerk her forward. No more space separating them.

Vincent lifted a hand to his face, his thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly. “Here’s the thing, Henley…if I tell you the truth…you’ll have no reason to believe me.”

“Try me,” she said, rolling onto her side and looking down at him.

He dropped his hand and met her eyes. “When you were gone for three months, I was…I felt…”

Vin blew out a breath, then tried again. “That day you got back from your mom’s, I was going to ask you out. On a date.”

Her jaw dropped, and he rolled over so they were face-to-face. “I swear to God, Henley, my wanting you has nothing to do with you getting engaged to Tom. It took me awhile, yes. It took me far too damn long to realize that I wanted to be more than your partner, but I did realize it.”

She reached out and lightly touched the back of his hand. “And then I came back…engaged.”

He swallowed. “Yeah.”

“What about now?” she asked softly. “Do you still want to ask me on a date?”

One-Liners
  • A quiet, tough-guy homicide detective tries to find the courage to tell his partner and best friend his true feelings ... just as she shows up invites