Strays

By Jessica Grace All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Mystery

Blurb

This book is romance mixed with mystery. It is about an up-and-coming detective named Caleb Greene, a rookie detective named Emma Roxbury and a young woman named Camille. Caleb is very talented at his job, but prefers to work alone. However, he finds himself drawn to newcomer, Emma, and becomes her partner. Camille is a teenager who has everything going for her until she makes mistakes that send her life spiraling downward. Their stories are told parallel as Camille struggles through an unplanned pregnancy, a miscarriage, an abusive relationship and trying to find a way to pull herself out of the muck. Meanwhile, Caleb tries to uncover the secrets that Emma keeps hidden in her past. The stories come together in unexpected ways and they discover that they may need each other to find the lives they want.

Chapter 1

“You have the right to remain silent,” Detective Caleb Greene recited his cliché speech with his gun drawn, as the perp was holding a knife. Greene slowly approached, preparing to cuff him. “Anything you say can-”

Without warning, the suspect turned and ran, causing Caleb to sigh. Why did they always run? The man made it around the house as Greene took off after him, hesitant to shoot due to the amount of paperwork that would follow if he did. He turned the corner and was caught off guard as a knife lunged at his throat. He swore under his breath, narrowly avoiding the blade and mentally adding “assaulting an officer” to the man’s list of crimes. Fortunately for Caleb, the suspect was clumsy, being more accustom to beating drugged women than trained officers. He grabbed the knife arm and twisted it behind the perp’s back, forcing him to drop the blade as the detective slammed him, face-first, into the building.

“As I was saying,” Caleb continued as he slipped out his handcuffs. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” He read the rights as he made the collar and led him to the waiting car. Other officers were escorting the women out of the house. Caleb could see a look on their faces he’d learned to recognize over the years. Women who sold themselves always seemed to have a specific look about them. It was a combination of despair and desperation. They all looked as if they were missing a piece of themselves. The ones who sold themselves for drugs, like the ones this criminal offered, were that much worse.

Caleb roughly shoved the dealer into the car. The man’s name was Drew Hendricks. It had taken them a month and the testimony of a cuffed hooker to catch him. Now, his prospects looked grim. Greene climbed into the front seat and headed towards the station. Drew remained in sullen silence the whole way there. Caleb knew his type. The criminal probably thought he might still get off. They often believed their girls wouldn’t turn on them, but once the drugs or money stopped coming in, prostitutes didn’t prove to be the most loyal bunch. Some might stay quiet, but most would be sent home to find another fix after providing a statement.

He booked the man and headed to his desk to file a report.

“Good job out there today, Greene,” Police Chief Gregson told him, coming over to his desk.

“Thank you, sir.” Caleb gave a smile. “It was a group effort, though.”

“So, did you give any thought to our earlier conversation?” the chief asked, leaning against his desk.

“Look, I get that most of the officers feel the need to have a partner but I just don’t, chief.”

“Well, that’s not really your choice. We have certain rules we have to follow.” Gregson sighed. “But I’ll put off forcing a partner on you as long as I can.”

“I appreciate that,” he replied. Caleb liked his chief. Gregson was never one to pry or push the officers too hard, but that didn’t mean they could get away with being lazy or difficult. Every officer knew that as long as you did your job and treated each other with some degree of respect, there was nothing to fear.

“We’ve got Hendricks in interrogation room one,” Sargent Donovan told Caleb, who nodded.

“I’ll be right there,” he assured the man, as he stood and looked to his chief. “If you’ll excuse me…”

Gregson nodded. “Don’t let me stand in your way.”

Detective Greene grabbed the Hendricks file and headed in to where the man sat, still remaining silent. Well, he had the right to do that, after all. Caleb sat down, looking through the file and refusing to acknowledge the other man in the room for a few minutes.

This made Drew Hendricks uncomfortable, but he didn’t want to show it. “Are you here to question me or what?”

“Question you?” Caleb still didn’t look at him. He was calm, collected and in control, which made the criminal more nervous. “There’s no real need for that. Your girls will give us all the information we need. If they don’t give you up, they’ll certainly give up your clients and they’re not bound to be happy with you. Even without that, we found five pounds of coke in your basement and you tried to kill a police officer. Things don’t look good. I don’t need to question you.” He looked up at Drew, who was looking less confident by the minute. “I just thought I’d do you the courtesy of offering you a chance to clear your conscience.”

Hendricks shifted a bit. “I want immunity.”

Caleb chuckled. “Nice try.” He closed the file. “Tell you what, give me your client list and I’ll put in a good word with the DA.”

Greene could practically see the gears turning in Drew’s head. “I want protection.”

“We can do that,” Caleb promised, pushing over a pen and some paper.

Drew took it, hesitantly, and began writing.

Caleb received several pats on the back as he left the room with a new list of people to investigate.

“You’ve done it again, detective,” Donovan said with a grin.

Sargent Peter Donovan had been working on the force for a few months, making him the least senior officer. He was always trying to get along with everybody. Not all the officers appreciated his friendliness, but Caleb didn’t have the heart to get annoyed or take advantage of him like the others usually did. He had obviously gone to the academy right out of high school and still had no idea what he was doing.

“Thanks, kid,” Caleb replied.

He was only a few years older, but Peter had an innocence that just made it impossible not to think of him as a kid. He had blonde hair and fair skin. Add in his bright, blue eyes and he came off looking more like a porcelain doll than a police officer.

Peter smiled and walked off, looking for ways to be helpful around the precinct.

Caleb watched him for a moment and sighed, shaking his head. The boy was bright and optimistic, but he would learn. They all did. He returned to his desk to get started on the paperwork. After his shift, Caleb packed up and headed out, saying farewells to his coworkers as he passed them.

He returned to an empty apartment and flipped on the light.

“I’m home,” He called out to no one in particular.

He hung up his keys and folded his coat over a chair before preparing a frozen dinner, which he ate while reading a science fiction story a friend had recommended.

There were plenty of books in his apartment, but he’d read very few of them. Mostly, they were books his sister picked out for him; detective novels. He’d liked them as a child and she failed to notice he no longer read them since he actually became an officer. Now, they seemed too unrealistic. Everything was exciting in the books. They always managed to leave out the hours of meticulous planning, days of stakeouts and piles of paperwork, all bound by a ton of red tape. Detective novels were unrealistic and, if he was going to read something unrealistic, science fiction suited him better.

He finished his dinner, brushed his teeth and went to bed. Being a detective wasn’t glamorous, but he was satisfied with his lot and slept peacefully.

Camille was a regular high school girl. She lived in a small town, nestled within the mountains, where sports ruled everything. She wanted the same things every high school girl wanted: love, family and to get into a decent college. They were simple goals and she never doubted she could achieve them. She was beautiful, as well. She had long, golden hair that had never seen dye and big, blue eyes that almost seemed to be made of glass. She was head cheerleader, dating the captain of the football team. What more could any girl want?

“A kiss for good luck?” her boyfriend, Tyler, asked before their game. He was just under six feet. He had brown hair, a perfect tan and a smile that made every girl’s heart skip a beat.

Camille smiled, playfully. “I don’t believe in luck.”

He smiled back and leaned closer. “A kiss because you love me, then?”

She could feel his breath on her face and she found herself forgetting to breathe. “Who said that I love you?” Her voice was soft as she allowed him to kiss her, returning it without hesitation. As she pulled back, she grinned at him. “You better win after that.”

He laughed and ran off after his team as she joined the cheerleaders on the sidelines.

“Your lipstick is smudged,” her best friend, Kate, pointed out, causing the other girls to “ooooh” at Camille who smiled and grabbed a compact from her bag, fixing her lips and checking the rest before she looked back at Kate.

“Better?” she asked and her friend nodded. Camille set the bag under the bench. She clapped, gaining the full attention of her team. “Formations everyone.”

The gaggle of girls quickly transformed into rows of perfectly-synchronized beauties, ready to cheer their team to victory. Camille smiled, brightly. What more could any girl want?

“Hey, Greene.” Sargent Jameson came to his desk when he entered the precinct and leaned close, conspiratorially. “You see the new girl, yet?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“New girl?” Caleb shifted through his paperwork, not really interested. Turnover was high enough to make it dull when someone new arrived.

“She’s in Gregson’s office. Apparently, she just got promoted from drug division. She’s supposed to be brilliant,” Jameson informed him, clearly oblivious to his lack of interest. “Wait until you see her.”

As if on cue, a girl came walking out and even Caleb stopped to look. He understood what had gotten Jameson so worked up. They got new officers often enough, but this girl didn’t look like an officer. Her thick, brunette hair was pulled back into a bun, clearly trying to look professional, but it only further revealed her porcelain skin and big, brown eyes that made her look much too innocent to be a cop. She wore a suit with her detective’s badge visible as her jacket shifted. It was a perfectly ordinary suit which had clearly been selected in an attempt to blend in, but was failing miserably.

“She’s too young for you,” Greene stated, bluntly, looking back at his paperwork.

Jameson chuckled. “A guy can dream.” He looked at Greene and nudged him. “Not too young for you, eh?” He winked and walked away.

Caleb looked up at her again, watching as Gregson showed the girl to a desk and gave her some work to do. He resisted the urge to sigh. She was pretty and looked frail, as well as innocent. She was the kind of girl who didn’t last long there, no matter how brilliant she was.

Within minutes, one of the male officers was trying to chat her up. Caleb figured he was probably being polite enough, offering help or something. He watched as the girl looked up, giving him what was clearly meant to be a courteous smile as she attempted to turn him away. However, the guy didn’t take a hint and leave immediately, so Caleb, against his better judgment, walked over and handed him a folder.

“Could you take that to the file room for me since you don’t seem to be busy?” Greene smiled, cordially, and the officer nodded, taking off quickly, clearly embarrassed.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Greene turned to the girl and shrugged. “I didn’t want to go to the file room myself. It smells funny.”

She fixed her gaze on him. “In the future, handle your work and I’ll handle myself.”

Caleb fixed a smile on, trying to hide a grimace. She was a girl with something to prove. There was no way that would end well.

“Fair enough. Have a good day then…” He looked at the name on her paperwork, “Officer Roxbury. Welcome to the precinct.” He made his way back to his desk, not giving her a chance to respond.

She watched him walk away and looked back at her work. She knew he would probably think she was rude, but that wasn’t her problem. All she needed to do was focus on her work and makings friends wasn’t part of that.

Camille’s heart raced. Tyler’s lips were locked with hers as they lay in his bed. Her cheerleading top lay discarded on the floor, along with his football uniform. Their bare flesh pressed together, looking almost like he might absorb her. He ran his hand up her thigh, hiking up her skirt. She pushed him away, gently, taking a breath.

He looked at her, his big, hazel eyes filled with concern. “What’s wrong? I thought you wanted this.”

She smiled, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. “I do.” She placed her hand on his cheek. “I really do. It’s just…it’s my first time, you know.” She caressed his hair a bit, hoping he understood.

“It’s okay.” He returned the smile with more confidence. “I know it’s scary, but you’ll see.” He kissed her neck and she leaned into it as he spoke softly. “It’s really not that bad.”

She looked into his eyes and nodded. “Okay.”

She kissed him again, trying to seem as bold and certain as he did. The remainders of their clothes were dropped gracelessly to the side and she felt the warmth of his skin against hers. She gasped as he entered her, feeling the shock of her virginity tearing away. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and held on for dear life.

Caleb sighed as he exited his chief’s office. He was already regretting his decision and wondering why he had done it in the first place. She’d made it clear she didn’t want anyone looking out for her, but he couldn’t resist. She was going to get herself into trouble if no one was there to stop her. He walked over to Roxbury, looking a bit sullen.

“Seems we’re partners.” He left out the bit about requesting it.

She looked at him for a moment and nodded. “I’m sure there is plenty you can teach me.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. It was the right response and much more humble than he’d expected. “Well, I’ll do my best.” He looked down at her paperwork. It was mostly grunt work, given to rookies to get them started. “When you get done with that, look at these.” He dropped some files on her desk. “They’re some witness statements I want you to look over for a case I’m-we’re working on.” He knew better than to push for her to work his case first. She was new to the division and, regardless of her badge, she had to go through certain steps or the other officers would call favoritism.

“Another prostitution ring?” She didn’t look up from her work.

He shook his head, then remembered she wasn’t looking at him. “Some break-ins that may be gang-related.”

She nodded, still focused on her work. “I will let you know when I am able to look it over. This shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

He doubted that, but didn’t argue. He just returned to his desk and started on the paperwork for stake-outs and warrants. Another day, another pile of papers to swim through. He was buried deep in his work when she walked over and dropped the files on his desk.

He looked up in surprise. “What’s this?”

“These aren’t gang-related,” she told him, brusquely. “They’re obviously just some neighborhood kids who think they’re being clever.” He gave an amused smile and she frowned at him. “But you already knew that.”

He shrugged. “The case landed on my desk. I wanted to see what you were made of, so…” She gave him an annoyed look and he stood, smiling as he picked up the file. “Relax. You’re doing fine. I’ll just send this to the right department, shall I?” He walked off, not giving her a chance to respond.

Emma watched him go and sighed, inwardly. She didn’t like being patronized, but she knew she had to pick her battles, so she returned to her desk without saying anything.

Camille closed the door quietly as she returned home that night. She grimaced at the soft whispering of the door sliding across the floor. She was sure her heart could be heard pounding through the whole building. She carefully navigated over the wood floor, avoiding the squeaky boards as she made her way to her room, not daring to breathe a sigh of relief until the door to her room was safely closed.

“So where were you an hour past curfew?”

Camille jumped and switched on the light, turning to face her foster mother, Julia. “What are you doing here?”

Julia raised an eyebrow, giving her that special, disappointed look that only a mother could pull off. “Waiting for you.” She stood up and crossed her arms. “Now, it’s your turn to answer my question.”

Camille paused, guilt written all over her face. “I’m sorry. I lost track of the time…”

Julia was silent and unmoving as she continued to wait for an answer.

“I was…with friends. We were celebrating.” She supplied a half-truth, knowing it would be more likely to pass scrutiny. “I’m sorry.”

Her foster mother considered the answer for a moment before she walked out.

“Grounded for a week,” she added as she passed Camille. “And your lipstick is smeared.” She closed the door behind her, leaving the girl alone.

Camille breathed a long sigh, glad it wasn’t worse and she hadn’t had to confess what she’d actually been doing. Since Julia often took care of children from unsuitable parents, she tended to frown on teen sex…or any sex where the participants were not ready to have children. Camille wasn’t worried because they had used protection, but she still didn’t want Julia to know.

At least she didn’t snap her fingers. Camille suppressed a giggle at that idea.

Pushing those thoughts out of her head, the girl lay on her bed and smiled. It might have been awkward and a little frightening, but she had done it. She was sure her relationship with Tyler would be stronger than ever, now.

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