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Perfect Partner: New Orleans Detectives, #6

Perfect Partner: New Orleans Detectives, #6

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Perfect Partner: New Orleans Detectives, #6

224 pages
3 hours
Apr 1, 2019


Alarm bells go off in Detective Lexi Granger's head when a gun linked to a cold case disappears and a veteran officer sweeps it under the rug. After she receives a death threat, she must turn to the one man she knows she can trust—her ex-husband and acting commander, Chaz Trahan. Chaz is still in love with Lexi but won't admit it. He agrees to help her in order to exorcise his own demons concerning the gun that is the only link to the man who killed his parents twenty years before. But can the two of them solve the crime before the murderer finds Lexi?

Apr 1, 2019

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Perfect Partner - Melanie Atkins


Chapter One

Detective Lexi Granger ducked into the damp alley and pressed her back to the cold brick wall. Ragged breaths tore from her throat. Traffic rolled by on Dauphine, but it might as well have been a mile away. Blood trickled down her wrist from a deep cut on her arm. She winced and gripped her duty-issue Glock with both trembling hands.

Where in hell did Troy go?

The night was dark after the rain. So pitch black, she couldn't see her weapon, not in this run-down end of the French Quarter. Half of the streetlights had been shot out. The sickening stench of stale beer, old cigarettes, and rats tried to trick her into sneezing, but she didn't fall for it. She held her breath and listened.

The steady drip-drip-drip of rainwater trickling off the roof mingled with the wet whoosh of passing vehicles. A cat yowled, raising the hairs on the back of Lexi's neck. She sucked in a fortifying breath and moved toward the sound emanating from the dark courtyard up ahead. A sliver of light across the way split the darkness. She took another step, and gravel crunched behind her.

Looking for this, Lex? The man's deep, rumbling twang sent a shiver over Lexi's skin.

She whirled and leveled her weapon at her boss.

Whoa! Captain Chaz Trahan raised his own pistol in surrender. He kept his other hand wrapped around the bicep of the mutt who'd cut her and then escaped when she'd tried to cuff him. It's just me and your suspect. Don't shoot.

Damn you, Chaz, she whispered through clenched teeth. Leave it to him—her temporary captain, former partner, and ex-husband—to capture her quarry and shame her in front of their entire squad. What are you doing here?

Your job, apparently. He quirked his mouth, clearly knowing his words would ignite a flame of fury within her.

Lexi bit back another curse. Even back when they'd been partners, Chaz had possessed a sixth sense enabling him to find the scum they chased. She hated being bested by him, especially now, when he was head of her squad.

A dog barked down the street. Chaz holstered his weapon and touched her arm. Let's go. I've got him.

No. He's my collar. Lexi squeezed the Glock. Troy Coachman had sliced her arm to the bone. No way was she letting her ex take the credit for this arrest—even if he was her boss.

Another rivulet of blood ran down Lexi's wrist. She surreptitiously wiped it on the leg of her jeans and gripped the suspect's elbow. Let's go, Troy. We have a warrant to search your apartment.

Ain't nothing there. Troy glared. I tried to tell you.

So why'd you run? Chaz asked.

'Cause I don't like cops. 'Specially smart ass women cops.

You must have a real problem with me, then, Lexi snapped, resenting the coppery taste of fear in her mouth. She'd worked too hard to earn her gold shield in a field dominated by men to let her emotions—or Chaz—get in the way now.

The darkness seemed to close in around them as she tugged Troy down the damp alley. Yet each step she took toward the muted lights on Dauphine made her more confident.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, they reached the street and the darkness retreated.

Chaz looked down at her arm and gaped at her. You're bleeding!

It's nothing. She kept her eyes on Troy and away from her ex as they hiked the six blocks to the suspect's apartment. She was angry at Chaz for following her. They'd been divorced for over a year now, and he still didn't think she could handle herself alone on the street.

What made her even angrier was that tonight, he was right. She'd been unable to find Troy no matter how hard she had looked.

The darkness hid Chaz's face, but his intense stare scorched her skin. You don't have to keep proving yourself to make up for your old man.

Chaz, cut it out. She swallowed the urge to release Troy and slug him. Not. Now.

He was a bad cop, but you were just a kid.

Will you please shut up?

Troy looked at Chaz and laughed.

Lexi shoved him toward his building. Keep going, mutt. They're already executing the search warrant.

Hell. I don't want any of you people touching my stuff, lady cop.

It's Detective to you, Troy, Chaz said. And that warrant says she and CSU can touch anything they want.

You just have to keep pushing, don't you Chaz? Lexi gritted her teeth and dragged Troy past the CSU van pulled up at the curb.

One of the other detectives, Rick Alexander, met them on the steps, a wide grin on his broad face. We found the gun.

Troy looked away. Fuck.

What was that, Troy? Relief slid through Lexi. She smiled. Thank God. Get one of the uniforms to take it down to the lab, will you? We need ballistics on it yesterday.

Will do, Detective, Rick said with a small salute.

Chaz grabbed Troy's arm and hauled him up the steps. We've got you now, big boy. You're going down for Maggie's murder.

We'll see about that, he snarled.

Yes, we will. Lexi laughed and followed them inside. Since they now had the gun—if it proved to be the right weapon—they had the suspect dead to rights for killing his girlfriend, Maggie Barnes, after he'd supposedly caught her cheating on him.

She wrinkled her nose and looked around. The place smelled sour, yet was surprisingly clean.

Sit. She nudged the suspect toward the brown leather couch. Make one single itty bitty move, and you're toast.

Screw you. I need a fucking doctor.

You sit, Chaz snapped. You're bleeding less than she is.

Lexi glanced at Troy. Blood dripped from his swollen nose and upper lip, thanks to the blows she'd landed before he fled, and that served to diminish some of the anger she'd directed at herself for letting him get away. He hadn't stolen her gun or killed her, and she'd gotten in enough licks that he'd be feeling those injuries for a while. Bully for her.

Another uniform officer knocked on the door frame and then clambered inside, followed by his partner.

Chaz fixed them with a heated glare. About time you got here. Where have you been?

Breaking up a bar fight over on Bourbon, the younger one said.

The older one shot him a sheepish look. Sorry, Captain. The suspect was drunk as hell, and we just—

Next time one of my detectives calls for help, he broke in, I expect you to drop everything and get your asses in gear. Got that, officer? Lexi could've died out there tonight.

Yes, sir, the cop said, locking eyes with his partner.

Despite her relief at having wounded Troy, Lexi wanted to go through the floor. Chaz had snapped at the uniforms because of her. Because she'd called for help and ended up in that alley all alone. They deserved it for not responding, but she didn't need Chaz to fight her battles. Sure, his fury on her behalf warmed her heart—but it also fanned the blistering flames of her anger back to life.

Eager to get away from him, she turned and came face to face with her reflection in a mirror hanging beside the couch. Her shirt was damp, her blonde hair had frizzed, and some it had escaped the rubber band holding her ponytail. Her cheek sported a big, charcoal gray smudge. The icing on the cake was the bloody gash on her arm. She cursed and marched away.

Chaz caught her elbow. Your arm's still bleeding. Let me see it.

No. Needing to be alone, she jerked away from him and ducked into the kitchen. Damn him for being just as rugged and sexy as he'd been when they were together. His short dark hair, stormy blue eyes, and broad shoulders reminded her of better times. Hell, even when she was furious with him, a deep, visceral pull dragged her toward him. She clenched her teeth.

Not this time.

She had no problem putting her hands on some paper towels, and after wetting them she did her best to clean the cut. She'd bandage it later. With an aggravated groan, she washed her hands, scrubbed her face, and repaired her pitiful ponytail.

You okay? Chaz halted in the doorway.

She wiped her palms on her jeans and started for the door, hoping he'd let her pass. I'm fine. I don't need your help.

Just like you found Troy without my help? He didn't move. He was a freaking brick wall blocking her path.

She narrowed her eyes. I would have, if you'd given me the chance. Now, get out of my way. I need to get him downtown.

You were injured, and backup was nowhere around. I wasn't going to leave you hanging out there.

Okay, then. Fine. You did your job. Blood oozed from the cut on her arm, and she wiped it away. Rage filled her. Am I going to have to keep asking you to move?

Don't be in such a hurry. You need to get that cut stitched up. The gash marred her skin just below her elbow, and a trail of drops dotted her jeans. If you weren't so damned stubborn—

I was going after a suspect. A muscle worked in her jaw, just like it had during every fight they'd had when they were married.

The pit of Chaz's stomach roiled when he thought of what could have happened to her out there tonight. She was always diving into situations without considering the consequences. And that included her kicking him out and filing for divorce. He made a fist.

You don't take care of yourself. When are you going to realize you're not invincible?

What is your problem? She slammed her hands onto her hips. We're not married anymore, Chaz. We're not even partners. You're my boss. My captain. Yet you follow me around like I'm some dumb rookie.

You're going to get yourself killed.

Why should you care?

Good question. Chaz glowered at her and stepped out of her way. Damn her for still tugging at his heart. He followed her back into the living room, where she spoke to one of the CSU techs, then turned to the suspect he'd cornered for her.

Get up, Troy, she snapped. Time to go.

Bite me, he snarled.

Chaz strode around Lexi and yanked Troy to his feet. Better talk nice to her, buddy, or I'll let her kick your ass.

Like she could. The suspect snorted and shot Lexi a disdainful glance.

With a laugh, Chaz leaned close. You have no idea what she could do to you.

Lexi shook her head and led the way out the door. She halted beside one of the uniformed officers and jerked her thumb at Troy. Take him down to the lockup for me, will you?

Sure thing, Detective. The young officer walked over to Troy and gripped his arm.

Chaz let go of the suspect and started after Lexi, who was hurtling toward her car as if someone were chasing her. She obviously couldn't wait to get away from him. Hey, Lex—

A shot rang out, the slug smacking into the bushes beside her, followed by two more. An engine roared.

Get down! Chaz shouted, hitting the ground and coming up ready to fire as a fourth slug ricocheted off the worn bricks.

Lexi had flattened herself to the ground behind the CSU van, her Glock clutched in both small hands. Fury glinted in her eyes as she peeked under the vehicle. Those were cheap shots.

You okay? he rasped, scared to death she'd been hit.

Yeah. She cut her eyes at him. Did you see him?

No. Adrenaline blasted through Chaz as he scrambled up beside her. The other cops on scene fanned out to their left and right, weaving between parked cars and doing what they could to identify the shooter.

Rick Alexander, another detective who'd been about to get into his car, shouted over to them, It was a drive by, Captain. An older model Chevrolet. Blue. I didn't get the tag, but the shooter had gray hair.

Thanks, Chaz said, dragging himself to his feet. With the shooter driving away, they were temporarily out of danger. Still, his senses were on red alert. Get that info to dispatch and see if you can get anything off the traffic cams, surveillance cameras, anything. Have the uniforms do a quick canvass, see if the neighbors saw anything.

Yes, sir.

Where's Troy? Lexi re-holstered her Glock and looked around frantically. He has brothers. If they were trying to—

Over there. Chaz bobbed his head. Look. Kelly's putting him in the cruiser now.

Thank God. If he had escaped again—

He didn't. Chaz focused on her. The shooter was going after you.

No, he wasn't. She set her jaw. I just happened to be in their line of fire.

Believe what you want. But I'm not letting you out of my sight. He slid his pistol into its holster.

She shook her head. Chaz—

Forget it. I'm going to talk to CSU about those rounds, and then we're going to my place.

No way. She lifted her chin.

He fielded her hot glare and matched it with an intense one of his own. Your arm was slashed tonight, you lost a suspect in the dark, and now some dirtbag has shot at you. Going to my house, where you'll be safe, doesn't make you weak, Lex.

That's not why—

Yeah, it is. You're afraid somebody will think you're about to fold like your old man. That you can't take the stress and might off yourself like he did.

You son of a bitch. Her face turned red.

He leaned closer, hoping to jar her into complying, and ended up sabotaging himself with the inhalation of her sweet vanilla scent. He ground his teeth. Get in the car, Lexi.

No. I don't think—

That's just it. You don't think. He unlocked the sedan, gripped her arm, and pulled her over to it. Now, get in and wait for me.

I'll go with you on one condition. She jerked away from him and crossed her arms over her chest.

His heart hammered with the urge to just toss her into the car and drive away. What's that?

I go in my car. You can follow me if you want, even stay on my damned bumper. I don't care. But I need my own transportation in case one of us gets called out.

He hated it when she made sense. All right. Where's your ride?

Over there. She pointed out her late model coupe parked about halfway down the block.

He nodded and gripped her arm. Fine. Let's go.

She opened her mouth as if she wanted to protest, but instead snapped it shut and allowed him to walk her to her car.

Chaz made sure she'd locked the doors before marching down the sidewalk to one of two CSU techs who'd been helping them search Troy's place. Chaz asked the tech to let him know about the slugs as soon as he had any ballistics information.

You bet, Captain, he said. We were just about to leave, and now we have to work this as a crime scene.

Chaz commiserated with him for a moment, then walked over to his department issue sedan and climbed into the driver's seat. Lexi fired him a heated glower as he pulled up to her car, but she backed out without confronting him and allowed him to follow her to his place. He wasn't sure how she knew where he lived since she'd never been there and he hadn't given her directions, but he chalked it up to her being a detective. She'd probably tracked him down just for spite.

As he paused behind her at a red light, he realized they hadn't been alone together except for occasional work situations since their divorce. Regret poured through him before the familiar burn of anger knocked it out of the way. She'd booted him to the curb, not the other way around.

The drive to his house seemed to take forever, but finally Lexi pulled into his driveway. He parked on the street and got out, knowing she wouldn't be in the mood to talk.

Still, he couldn't help himself as he walked her to the door. You took a big risk out there tonight.

No more than usual, she said, irritation evident in her clipped tone. Is that why you brought me here? So you can criticize me?

I'm worried about your safety. This case just took a strange turn.

No kidding. She clutched her purse and let her gaze roam over the tree-lined street. We know Troy killed Maggie—that's a given. But something else is going on. Something much more sinister.

Something that almost got you killed.

You were there, too. She sent him a cool stare, and then followed him up the steps to the tiny porch. Someone was retaliating because we arrested Troy.

One of his brothers?


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