Author: Lauren Layne
Series: New York's Finest #2
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Barnes & Noble
In hot pursuit.
Being a cop might be in Anthony Moretti's blood, but protecting and serving the city of New York has always been more than just the family business. If that means his love life stays locked up, well then that's just another sacrifice made in the line of duty. That is, until he sets eyes on the gorgeous new waitress at The Darby Diner and suddenly Anthony's morning coffee is leaving him a whole lot more hot and bothered than usual.
Though waitressing at The Darby isn't exactly Maggie Walker's dream job, it pays the bills and gives her time to work on her novel. Now if only she could stop fantasizing about gorgeous Anthony Moretti every time he sits down at her table, she'd really be in great shape. But when he needs her help identifying a criminal threatening The Darby—and Maggie recognizes her ex-husband—she fears her fresh start might be a pipe dream. Faster than a New York minute, Maggie and Anthony find themselves in one perilous pursuit that only gets hotter with each and every rule-breaking kiss.
For Captain Anthony Moretti, three things in life were sacred:
(2) The NYPD
(3) New York Yankees.
And on this breezy, September Sunday morning, two out of these three things were making him crazy. Not in the good way.
“What do you mean, you don’t want to talk about it?” his father barked, leaning across the table to help himself to one of Anthony’s pieces of bacon.
Maria Moretti’s hand was deft and practiced—the mark of a mother of five—as she swiftly swatted the bacon out of her husband’s fingers. “The doctor said you were supposed to take it easy on the bacon!”
“I am taking it easy. This is Anthony’s bacon,” Tony clarified, rubbing the back of his hand.
“Is it?” Anthony muttered, glancing at the now empty plate. “I don’t seem to remember actually getting to eat any of it.”
His youngest brother and fellow cop stabbed a piece of fruit with his fork and waved it in Anthony’s face. “Cantaloupe?”
Anthony gave Luc a withering look. He could appreciate that his baby brother felt man enough to get a side of fruit with his Sunday brunch, but Anth would stick to potatoes and fatty pig products, thanks very much.
“I think I’m going to hurl,” his other brother, Vincent, said to no one. “Shouldn’t have gotten the side of pancakes. Too old for this shit.”
Anthony felt the beginnings of a headache.
Item number one on his priority list (family) was also thehis number one cause of his frequent, Please, God, take me away to a deserted tropical island,prayers.
But there was no tropical island. Just the same old shit.
For every one of Anthony’s thirty- six years, Sundays had looked exactly the same. All Morettis filed obediently into their pew at St. Ignatius Loyola cChurch on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 10ten o’clock Mass.
Breakfast always followed, always at the same diner, although the name had changed a handful of times over the years.
The sign out front currently read The Darby Diner, named after…nobody knew.
But the Morettis had never cared what it was called. Or why it was called that. As long as the coffee was hot, the hash browns crispy, and the breakfast meats plentiful, they were happy.
Granted, the greasy-spoon food of Tthe Darby Diner was a far cry from the Morettis’ usual fare of home- cooked Italian meals, but Anthony was pretty sure they all secretly loved the weekly foray into pure Americana cuisine. Even his mother didn’t seem to mind (much) so long as her family was all together.
“So what did you mean, you don’t want to talk about it?,” Tony Moretti repeated, glancing down at Anthony’s plate, and scowling to see the bacon supply completely depleted.
Anthony scooped a mouthful of Swiss cheese omelet into his mouth before sitting back and reaching for his coffee. “It means that Ma doesn’t like cop-talk at the table.”
“Riiiiight,” Elena Moretti said from Anthony’s left side. “Because you guys always respect Mom’s no-cop-talk rule.”
Anth took another sip of coffee and exchanged a look and a shrug with Luc across the table.
Their sister made a good point.
In a family where four out of five siblings were living in New York, and three out of those four were with the NYPD, cop-talk was likely.
And when the family patriarch was the recently retired Ppolice Ccommissioner?
Cop- talk wasn’t just probable, it was inevitable.
Still, it was worth a shot to throw up his mother’s token rule of “no cop- talk.” Especially when he didn’t want to talk.
About any of it.
It had been a long time since he’d been the one in the hot seat, and he wasn’t at all sure that he cared for it.
Scratch that. He was sure.
He hated it.
But his father could be like a dog with a bone when it came to his sons’ careers. And today, like it or not, it was Anthony under the microscope.
He surrendered to the inevitable.
“Dad. I told you. It’ll get handled.” He went for another cup of coffee, only to find it was empty. Diner fail.
He scanned the dining room for the waitress, partially because he wanted more coffee, partially because he wanted a distraction. Partially because—
“You’ve been saying it’lls getbe handled for weeks,” Tony said, refusing to let the matter drop.
“Yeah, Captain. You’ve been saying that for weeks.” This from Anthony’s other brother Vincent. Two years younger than Anth, Vin was a homicide detective and the most irritable and irreverent member of the family. And the one least likely to kiss Anth’s ass.
If Anthony was totally honest, he was pretty sure that most of his younger siblings respected him, not only because he was the highest- ranking active family member, but simply because he was the oldest. He was the one they’d come to when they needed to hide that broken vase from Mom, or when they were scared to death to tell Dad about that D in Cchemistry, or in the case of his brothers, when it was time to learn their way around the female anatomy.
But Vincent had authority issues and was always the first to jump at the chance to gently mock Anthony’s status as Ccaptain.
A title that had been hard -earned, and still felt new. As though it could be ripped away at any time.
Which was exactly the reason his father was on his ass right now. Anthony had passed his Ccaptain’s test three months ago, and his father had every intention of him climbing the ladder all the way to the top. The very top.
It was a path Anth had never questioned. A path that, up until recently, had been remarkably smooth.
And then Smiley had happened.
“Well surely you’ve got a couple leads to go on,” Tony said, leaning forward and fixing Anthony with a steady look.
Anthony looked right back, hoping the bold gaze would counteract the hard truth. That Anth didn’t have a damn clue who or where Smiley was.
For the past two months—the majority of Anthony’s tenure as Ccaptain of the tTwentieth pPrecinct—the Upper West Side had been plagued by a smug and relentless burglar.
Nickname? Smiley. Courtesy of the idiotic, yellow -smiley- face sticker he left at each of his hits.
The plus side, if there was one, was that Smiley hadn’t proven dangerous. If it had been a violent criminal on the loose, Anth’s ass would have been on the line weeks ago.
But still. It had been eight weeks since Smiley first hit, and the man was getting bolder with each passing week, hitting three brownstones last week alone.
And Anth wasn’t even close to catching him. Neither was anyone else in the department. Hence why number two on his life priorities—the NYPD—was making him crazy.
“We’ll get him,” Anthony said curtly, referring to Smiley.
“You’d better,” Tony said. “The press has gotten a hold of it. It’ll only get bigger from here.”
“Yeah, thanks for the reminder,” Anthony muttered.
His phone buzzed, and a quick glance showed it was a text message from his grandmother, letting him know that she’d self-diagnosed herself with tuberculosis, but that whiskey might help, and could he bring some by when he was done with breakfast.
Anth put the phone away without responding, picking up his coffee up again. Still empty. “Damn it. Where the hell is what’s-her-name? Is it too much to ask to get some damned coffee around here?”
“Now there’s a good plan,” his sister mused. “Blame poor Maggie because you can’t catch a pip-squeak cat burglar.”
As if on cue, poor Maggie appeared at their table, coffee pot in hand.
“I’m so sorry,” the waitress said, a little breathless. “You all must have been waiting ages for more coffee.”
Anthony rolled his eyes, even as he snuck a glance at her. Her friendly smile was meant to hide the fact that she was frazzled, and for most ofover her customers, that apologetic, dimpled smile probably worked.
It was a damned good look on any woman, but especially her.
Maggie Walker had become their default waitress at the diner back when their old waitress Helen had retired a couple months ago. And while Anthony missed Helen and her too-strong floral perfume, he had to admit that Maggie was the better to look at.
She had a wholesome, girl-next-door look that appealed to him mightily. Brown hair that was always on the verge of slipping out of its ponytail, wide, compelling green eyes that made you want to unload all your darkest secrets.
Curvy. Hips that were exactly right;, breasts that were even better.
And then there was that smile. It managed to be both shy and friendly, which was handy because he was betting it was very hard for even the most impatient customers to get annoyed at her.
But Anth didn’t buy the doing-my-best routine, and seeing as she was dealing with an entire table of observant cops, he was betting the rest of his family wouldn’t buy it either.
Then Luc leaned forward and gave Maggie an easy grin. “Don’t even worry about it, Mags. Didn’t even notice I was running low!”
Luc’s girlfriend, Ava, smoothly reached up one hand and swatted him on the back of the head, the gesture so graceful, so practiced, that she never once sloshed her coffee. Anthony nearly smiled.
To say that Ava Sims was good for his little brother would be an understatement. The big brother in Anthony would be forever grateful that the gorgeous reporter had helped Luc vanquish his demons. But the big brother in Anth was also grateful that Ava helped keep his younger brother in line. Or at least tried to.
He rolled his eyes as Luc shot a guilty smile at his girlfriend, but even as he slid his mug towards the edge of the table so Maggie wouldn’t have to reach as far.
Then Anth watched in utter dismay as Vincent did the same.
Vincent. The guy who’d practically devoted his life to being perverse, was trying to make life easier for their inept waitress.
Anthony was so busy trying to figure out what about the frazzled waitress turned his brothers into a bunch of softies that he didn’t think to move his own mug to be more convenient, and Maggie had to lean all the way in to top off his cup.
It was a feat that their old waitress could have handled readily, but Helen had retired months ago and for reasons that Luc didn’t understand, the rest of the Moretti family had embraced Maggie as Helen’s replacement.
Anthony didn’t realize that his mug had overflowed until scalding coffee dripped onto his thigh.
“Son of a—”
He caught himself before he could finish the expletive, grabbing a large handful of napkins from the silver dispenser and trying to soak up the puddle of coffee on his jeans before it burned his skin.
“Nice, Anth,” Elena said, tossing another bunch of napkins at him. Like this was his fault.
“Oh my gGod,” Maggie said, her voice horrified. “I’m so sorry, Officer…”
“It’s Ccaptain,” he snapped, his eyes flicking up and meeting hers.
Silence descended over the table until Vincent muttered douchebag around a coughing fit.
But Anthony refused to feel chagrined. The woman had waited on the family every Sunday for weeks;, one would think she could get his title right. To say nothing of mastering the art of pouring coffee.
Her green eyes flicked downward before turninged away with promises to bring back a rag.
He watched her trim figure for only a second before glancing down at his lap. A rag wouldn’t do shit. He now had a huge brown stain on his jeans.
And this wasn’t the first time.
Last week, it had been ketchup on his shirt. Maggie had been clearing plates, and a chunk of ketchup-covered hash browns from Vin’s plate had nailed found its way onto Anth.
The week before that, it was a grease stain from a roguerouge piece of bacon that his father had somehow missed.
And it was always the same, oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-sorry routine, and his family would lament the unfortunate “accident” and tell Maggie not to worry about it, even though none of them had basically tripled their laundry efforts since Maggie had taken over their Sunday brunch routine.
“I don’t know why you always have to do that,” Elena snapped at him.
He gave his little sister a dark look. Elena was basically a female version of Luc. Dark brown hair, perfectly -proportioned features, and bright blue eyes. His siblings’ good looks had worked very well for them with the opposite sex, but with their brother? Not so much.
“I didn’t do anything,” he snapped.
His mother—his own mother—gave him a scolding look. “You make Maggie nervous, dear. All that glowering.”
“Wait, sorry, hold up,” Anth said, abandoning the futile effort of blotting coffee from his crotch. “It’s my fault that the incompetent woman can’t do even the most basic requirements of her job?”
A startled gasp came from the head of the table, and too late—way too late—Anth realized that Maggie had reappeared with a clean white rag and what seemed to be a full cup of ice.
“I thought…I wanted to make sure it didn’t burn your skin,” she told him brightly.
To her credit, her voice didn’t wobble, and her eyes didn’t water, but damned if she didn’t look like she wanted to cry, just a little.
“I’m fine,” he muttered.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Tony said kindly, taking the rag and ice from Maggie. “Maybe just the check when you get a chance.”
“Of course. And really, I’m so sorry,” she said, not quite glancing at Anthony. “You’ll send me the dry-cleaning bill, right?”
“He’ll do no such thing,” his mother said firmly, reaching across her husband to grab Maggie’s hand. “I can get any stain out of any fabric. I’ll take care of it.”
“You hear that, Anth?” Luc said. “Mommy’s going to wash your pants for you!”
Anth shot his brother the bird.
“I just can’t believe Mags called you Officer,” Vincent said in sham reverent tone. “I don’t know how she missed the nine -hundred and forty- two reminders that you’re a Ccaptain now.”
“Well she damn well should remember,” he muttered. “Is anyone else remembering that she spilled iced -tea all over me at my coronation party?”
“She spilled itin on your shoes,” Elena said. “Which were black.”
“Still,” Anth said, glancing around the room this time to make sure she wasn’t with in earshot. “I don’t know why we have to act like she’s a new member of the family when she can’t seem to go a single Sunday without spilling somebody’s breakfast on me. It can’t be an accident every time.”
“Maybe she wants to get your attention. Your humble, pleasantcharming personality is so charming,” Ava said quietly into her coffee mug.
Anth looked at Luc’s girlfriend. “Et tu, Brute?”
And then his dad leaned back in the booth, folded his arms, and glared at his oldest son. “So tell me again what you’re doing to close in on this Smiley character.”
“Oh my God, he’s like a dog with a bone!” Elena said, throwing her arms up in exasperation, before turning her attention back to her cell phone. “Also, is Nonna texting anyone else? I’ve been getting mucous every five minutes.”
“Yes,” everyone replied at once.
“She just sent me a wWikipedia link on phlegm,” Vincent grumbled.
To say that his grandmother had been upset to miss brunch because of a lingering head cold was an understatement. She’d been punishing them all with updates on her illness.
Anthony glanced at his watch, and mentally counted the minutes until he could relax with a beer and watch the Yankees game.
Of the three sacred things in his life, the New York Yankees had always been a very distant third to family and the Department.
Now he was seriously rethinking his priorities.
Of the three sacred things in his life, the New York Yankees had always been a very a distant third to family and the Department.
Officer Luc Moretti had no idea that his dive into the East River would have him drowning in a media frenzy. No matter how many times he tells reporters he was just doing his job, they’re determined to make him into NYC’s newest hero. Coming from a long line of NYPD’s finest, Luc knows that being a cop has nothing to do with headlines and viral videos, and he’s more than ready to get back to life away from the cameras-until he meets the gorgeous but jaded journalist assigned to film a TV special on him . . .
Ava Sims may be the only woman in NYC who isn’t in love with Officer Moretti. That’s why she’s going after the real story-to find out about the man behind the badge. Ava’s determined to keep things strictly professional, but the more time she spends around Luc, even she has to admit there’s something about a man in uniform . . . and she can’t wait to get him out of his.
Coming March 29th!
Arrested by love.
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…