Chapter One

Callie Burke jerked her head up and reached for the gun in her shoulder holster. The laughter coming from the passenger side of the car reminded her where she was and what she was doing. Or at least what she was supposed to be doing. Sleeping was definitely not it. She scrubbed her face with her hands and sat up straighter in the driver’s seat, gripping the steering wheel tightly to keep from strangling the man in the seat next to her.

“You’re an ass, Chambers,” she said as she stretched her neck and sighed at the satisfying pop it produced. “Have I told you that lately?”

“Pretty sure you find a way to tell me every day, but I know you love me anyway, Burke,” her partner, Harry Chambers, replied, still laughing. He was a lifelong cop with the Rochester Police Department, and at almost sixty years old, he was just about twenty years older than Callie, who had celebrated her thirty-ninth birthday a few weeks earlier.

“Yeah, I do, but it doesn’t change the fact you’re an ass,” Callie said, unable to stop the smile his laughter produced. As far as partners went, she could have done a hell of a lot worse. She knew she had Amanda Rodgers, her lieutenant, to thank for pairing them together. Harry didn’t have a problem with women on the police force like some of the other male detectives in homicide. “You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you.”

“No, I’m pretty sure you’re the one who’s lucky you didn’t shoot me. The department kind of frowns on things like that, you know?”

“How long was I asleep?”

“Just a couple of minutes.” He reached into the backseat and produced a thermos of the best coffee Callie had ever tasted. She quickly grabbed her cup and held it out for a refill, which caused another bout of laughter from him. “And I can pretty much guarantee Deb would never make coffee for you again if you shot me.”

“Then you’re lucky I like her coffee so much. Just fill my cup, old man,” Callie tried to stifle a yawn but was unsuccessful. She glanced at the clock on the dashboard and a feeling of relief washed over her. Their shift was almost over, and Callie couldn’t have been happier. She hated spending so much time on stakeouts, especially when the perp they were after hadn’t been seen anywhere in the area for well over twenty-four hours. She took a sip of the coffee and closed her eyes with a satisfied groan. “Remind me to kiss Deb the next time I see her.”

“Not sure that’s going to happen.” He chuckled and shook his head.

Yes, Callie owed a debt of gratitude to Amanda for partnering her with Harry. Not only was he respectful of women, but he could have taken offense to what she’d just said. In fact, many of the other guys on the squad would probably have given her a rash of shit for making a suggestive comment about one of their wives.

“I can’t wait to get out of here and home to bed. I’m beat,” he said with a yawn of his own. “Who knew sitting in a car all night could zap your energy? You going dancing tonight?”

“No, not tonight.” Callie had no desire, or energy, to dance tonight, but she could sure as hell use a beer or two. Her sister Quinn was the head bartender at a bar in town and working tonight. Maybe she’d stop in and see her for a few minutes. The bar was within walking distance from her apartment, so if she ended up drinking too much she wouldn’t have to worry about how she’d be getting home.

Callie watched in the rearview mirror as another car pulled in behind them. The driver flashed their headlights once before cutting the engine.

“I’ll go fill them in,” Harry said, reaching for the handle.

Callie closed her eyes and tilted her head back against the headrest. She should probably just go home and sleep, but she hadn’t seen Quinn in a few days. She had to stop and think about what day it actually was, because when you were doing stakeouts, the days had a tendency to all run together. She was pretty sure it was Thursday, which meant it had been four days since Sunday brunch with Mom, and the last time she’d seen Quinn.

“All set,” Harry said as he got back in the car and rubbed his hands together in an attempt to warm them. “It’s going to be another rough winter, I think. It’s too freaking cold out there, even for mid-November.”

“Shut your mouth, Harry, or you’ll make me want to go back to Atlanta.” Callie checked her mirrors before pulling out into traffic and heading back to the station. She was kidding because other than the warmer winters in the south, there really wasn’t much she’d liked about being there. Especially considering the reasons she’d come back home.

No, she didn’t miss Atlanta at all.

 

v

Callie took a deep breath before opening the door and walking into the bar. It wasn’t a big place, but during the school year it was usually pretty busy with college students. The bar was to the left, a few tables were scattered around a small dance floor, and a separate room in the back had pool tables and dart boards for the people not interested in dancing.

Callie perused the area and noted the high number of women dancing with women, and men dancing with men. Despite the owner and the head bartender both being lesbians, the place had never been advertised as a gay or lesbian bar. The clientele had made it that way. Her eyes stopped on Taylor Fletcher, the owner of the establishment, who was behind the bar talking to Quinn. Callie shook her head and allowed a small smile at the way her heart sped up at the sight of Taylor.

She noticed a couple vacating their stools at the bar, and quickly made her way over to snag one of the seats before anyone else could even think about freezing her out.

She watched silently while Quinn and Taylor finished up whatever business they were discussing, and then Taylor glanced at her and looked like she was about to say something, but then simply shook her head and went back to her office. Callie sighed in defeat.

Taylor had caught her eye not long after her sister started working there, about fifteen years earlier. She had dark brown hair that looked better when it was cut short, as it was now. And although Callie never considered brown eyes attractive, Taylor’s were such a pale shade it was nearly impossible to not notice them.

Quinn set a pint in front of her without asking what she wanted. Callie knew her quick look at the rest of the people seated at the bar was all Quinn needed to know she had a few minutes to talk before anyone needed a refill.

“What’s up?” she asked Callie.

“Just needed a beer.”

“Rough day?”

“Incredibly boring day.” Callie chuckled and leaned back in her seat. “I hate stakeouts.”

“All the more reason you should come with us for Thanksgiving.”

“I can’t, Quinn,” she said for what felt like the twentieth time. “I’ve only been back with the Rochester PD for a few months, and there’s no way I could ask for a week off so soon.”

What she wasn’t going to admit to Quinn, or anyone else for that matter, was she would feel uncomfortable at their sister Meg’s house. After so many years of not even speaking to Meg and their oldest sister, Beth, it was just too weird to think about visiting for the first time. She was happy they were getting closer, at least to Meg, and Callie even spoke with her on the phone every few days, but talking on the phone and being at her house for a week were worlds apart in her opinion.

“Quinn, you have customers,” Taylor said as she walked up beside her.

“Be right back,” Quinn said to Callie before heading to the other end of the bar.

Callie was about to say something to Taylor, but she walked away quickly. Yes, she’d always been attracted to Taylor, but she and Andrea, one of Callie’s closest friends, had been married, so she never even thought about acting on the attraction. When Andrea, a firefighter, had been killed on the job over three years ago, Taylor never wanted to talk to anyone but Quinn about it, so Callie had kept her distance, which meant she hardly ever came into the bar anymore. She always knew Taylor didn’t like her anyway, so staying away wasn’t too difficult. She took a sip of her beer and then Quinn was back.

“Don’t know what her problem is tonight,” Quinn said, looking in the direction Taylor had gone.

“I’m her problem tonight,” Callie said without meaning to speak out loud. But since she had, and Quinn’s expression gave away her confusion, she went on. “For some reason, the woman hates me.”

“Bullshit. Taylor doesn’t hate anyone.”

“Whatever.”

“Why do you think she does?” Quinn leaned forward with her elbows on the bar.

“I know she does, Quinn. Andrea told me as much.”

“I don’t believe it.” Quinn shook her head and straightened to wipe the bar down with a towel. “I know Taylor, and she isn’t capable of hate.”

“She thought I was a bad influence on Andrea.” Callie held her glass with both hands and stared into the beer as she spoke. “She thought I was reckless and worried my carelessness would somehow rub off on Andrea. I wouldn’t be surprised if she blamed me for Andrea’s death.”

“You’re crazy.”

Callie had a feeling there was more to it than what she’d stated to Quinn. Taylor didn’t like her because she represented everything Andrea had given up to be with her. Andrea made a commitment, and Callie was still out there, a different woman every night, and Taylor had been worried Andrea would start to miss her old life. At least that was her take on the situation.

But Callie had known Andrea was perfectly happy to give up the life she’d been living. She was so in love with Taylor it made Callie envious. She wanted what they had together, and she thought she’d found it with Jan, who she followed to Atlanta a few months after Andrea died. What a miserable mistake moving with Jan turned out to be when she’d discovered a couple of years later her girlfriend had fallen in love with someone else. She’d left the same day she found out and came back home, only to discover a reawakening of feelings for Taylor she thought had been buried long ago.

Callie downed what was left in her glass and gave Quinn the money for her drink. She put her coat on and turned to leave, but Quinn reached across the bar and grabbed her wrist.

“I don’t believe she hates you, and she talked to me a lot in the weeks and months after Andrea died. If she blamed you for what happened, I’d know it. She’s never said a word about you to me at all.”

Callie wasn’t sure what was worse. Taylor not liking her, or Taylor not even caring enough to say anything about her to Quinn. None of it mattered anyway because they were obviously never going to be friends. If for no other reason, Callie was sure every time Taylor saw her she thought about Andrea.


Chapter Two

Taylor sat in her office after closing, finishing up her work for the day. She was distracted, and she really didn’t like being distracted. She was at her best when she was focused solely on what she was doing. What should have taken her fifteen minutes to complete was now going on an hour. She sighed and took her glasses off before rubbing her tired eyes.

She didn’t understand the strange attraction she was experiencing toward Callie. It wasn’t logical, and quite frankly, it was unacceptable. Not to mention completely out of character for her. But what bothered her the most was it made absolutely no sense. It was Saturday night—no, technically Sunday morning—and she hadn’t seen Callie for two days. So why the hell was she popping up in her mind now?

“I’m not sure I even like her, for God’s sake,” she said to the empty room. She took a deep breath and tried to get back into her work. After a few minutes, her mind began to wander again. “Damn it.”

After Andrea died, Taylor knew it would have been reasonable to turn to Callie for a shoulder to cry on, but for some reason, she hadn’t. Other than her, Callie was the one person who knew Andrea the best. In fact, she was sure Callie knew things about Andrea even she didn’t know, and she’d been her wife. Callie had to have been hurting after the loss as well, but in the beginning, Taylor found it easier to place the blame for Andrea’s death on Callie. It was wrong to do, and deep down she knew it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Andrea had run back into the burning building to rescue a child, but she never made it back out. Three other firefighters had died in the same fire. It had been a bad day for the Brockport Fire Department.

“At least I can think about it without choking up now.” She wondered briefly when that had happened. And the talking to herself. She’d never made a habit of it before. She stood, knowing full well she wasn’t going to be able to finish her work tonight, so she grabbed her coat and turned out the lights. She’d just have to come in early tomorrow and finish it.

The drive home took her just about ten minutes, and she smiled when Blaze, her five-year-old golden retriever, met her with his usual puppy-like enthusiasm. The day Andrea brought him home, Taylor fell head over heels in love with him. And every day since then, she loved him even more. They’d leaned on each other after Andrea died, and Taylor was convinced he was just as upset as she’d been when Andrea never came home again.

After she took off her coat and shoes, she led him into the living room and got on the floor with him for their nightly wrestling match. For Blaze, it was more of a love-fest though. Taylor hardly touched him and he flopped over, exposing his belly for a rub.

“You’re such a good boy, aren’t you?” she said as he wiggled around on his back looking up at her and smiling. She knew he wasn’t really smiling, but it certainly looked like he was. He stopped moving and his tail began to thump against the floor.

While he went into the backyard to take care of his business, Taylor washed the few dishes she’d left in the sink before leaving for work earlier. Once Blaze was back inside, she went to the bedroom with him close behind. As usual, he waited patiently for her to get into the bed and get comfortable before jumping up and stretching out beside her, pressed back to back. Taylor glanced at the picture on her bedside table and smiled sadly.

The photo had been taken on their wedding day, and had always been Andrea’s favorite of them together. They were laughing at something the photographer had said and looked like they hadn’t a care in the world. Taylor sighed as she rolled onto her back, and Blaze rested his chin on her stomach with a whimper. It was almost as though he knew she was sad, and he was trying to tell her it would be all right.

And for the first time in over three years, Taylor was starting to think it just might.

 

v

 

It was sickening, really. Quinn and her girlfriend, Grace, were still in the “can’t keep their hands off each other” phase. Callie rolled her eyes from the other side of the table as Grace fed Quinn a piece of bacon with her fingers.

“Get a room,” Callie said before shoving a forkful of scrambled eggs in her own mouth.

“Jealous much?” Quinn asked with a smirk.

“Please.” Callie shook her head and leaned back in her chair.

“Admit it. You’ve been jealous of me since the day you were born.”

“Both of you knock it off,” their mother said. Her tone belied the affection evident in her eyes and the slight smile she gave them.

“We’re just teasing each other,” Quinn said.

“Well, stop unless you want to send me back to the hospital,” she told them.

Callie and Quinn shared a worried glance before Callie turned to their mother.

“Are you feeling all right?” She never wanted to go through that again. Callie was the one who’d found their mother on the floor the day she’d had her heart attack earlier in the year. The feeling of helplessness had been overwhelming, and it had been one of the few times in Callie’s life she’d actually been overcome by so much emotion she cried.

“I’m fine,” her mother responded with a smirk of her own. “I was just teasing.”

“Christ,” Callie and Quinn said in unison.

“I swear, sometimes I think you two are still children the way you pick at each other,” her mother said as she finally took a seat at the table with them and began putting food on her plate.

“Come on, Linda, if they didn’t pick at each other, how would they know they love each other?” Grace asked. When Callie glanced at her, Grace batted her eyelashes and gave her an innocent smile.

“When are you guys leaving for Philly?” Callie asked, looking down at her plate to hide her grin. Grace knew them so well it was unnerving at times.

“Trying to get rid of us?” Quinn asked.

“Absolutely.” Callie nodded and stood to get herself another cup of coffee. “I have big plans for a party at your house, so I need to know when I can tell everyone to show up.”

“We’re leaving Tuesday morning, and we’ll be back on Sunday,” Grace said without even looking at her.

Callie could tell they all knew she was only joking, which almost made her want to really throw a party. Almost. If there was one thing she hated, it was being predictable.

“Cool. Friday night it is,” she said before topping off everyone’s coffee.

“If there is anything out of place when we get back, you’re never house-sitting for us again,” Quinn said. Callie smiled and took her seat again after returning the coffee pot to the counter.

“Why do you need a house sitter, anyway?” Callie asked. “You don’t have any pets, and you have no plants. Which, I should point out, if you did have plants, they wouldn’t still be alive by the time you got back.”

“Because it makes me feel important to tell people I have a house sitter.” Quinn shrugged. “And I thought you might want to stay somewhere other than the one-room apartment you live in above Grace’s book store.”

“Hey, now, I lived there for years and you never seemed to care then,” Grace said.

“Why don’t you come with us?” her mother asked as she placed a hand on Callie’s forearm. Callie was just grateful she’d changed the subject when she did. The only thing worse than Quinn and Grace all lovey-dovey was Quinn and Grace arguing. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it made Callie uncomfortable. “I really don’t like the idea of you spending Thanksgiving all alone.”

“I won’t be alone, Mom.” Callie sighed. It wasn’t a lie, because she’d no doubt be working on Thanksgiving. Unless something broke in the case and they managed to locate their suspect, which at this point seemed highly unlikely.

“Hot date?” Grace asked with a grin and a wink.

“I’m not sure Harry Chambers would ever be accused of being a hot date.” Callie chuckled. Now she was going to lie, but she figured it was small enough to not hurt anyone, and besides, it would make her mother feel better about going without her. “He and his wife invited me for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Really?” her mother asked, her tone indicating she didn’t believe her. “That’s awfully nice of them.”

“They’re good people.” Callie took a sip of her coffee. “Although I don’t know what I’ll do next Sunday without all this food.”

Sunday brunch was a tradition their mother started when Quinn had moved out on her own. Their mother had been afraid she’d never see Quinn again, so it was a way to guarantee she’d come visit once a week. Once started, the ritual never stopped, and Callie secretly looked forward to it every week.


Chapter Three

Callie looked at the clock on the dashboard and sighed loudly. Seven thirty, which meant they still had over three hours until the end of their shift, and she was fighting to stay awake. She glanced at Harry and saw he was struggling as well.

“Deb didn’t send nearly enough coffee with you tonight,” Callie remarked.

“It’s the biggest thermos we have,” he said. “Can’t send more than there’s room for.”

“Maybe I’ll get you one of those huge ones for Christmas.”

“Jesus, we’d better not still be out here doing this in another month.”

They both watched the building again for a few minutes, but then Callie felt her eyes growing heavy again.

“Time for dinner?” she asked. There was a hamburger joint a couple of blocks away, and it was Harry’s turn to make the walk to get their food. Thank God for that. It was too cold to have to go out there.

“The usual?” he asked as he reached for the door handle.

“I’m feeling adventurous tonight,” she said with a grin. “Get it with onions this time.”

He chuckled as he got out, but he leaned down and looked at her before closing the door. “If he comes out of there, you call for backup and wait here. No heroics, Burke, understood?”

“Yeah, yeah” she said absently as she redirected her gaze to the building their suspect was currently living in. At least they thought he was still living there. No one had seen him at all in almost a week. He was probably on the other side of the country by now. “Understood.”

She watched Harry until he turned the corner then grabbed the thermos that held what little remained of Deb’s heavenly coffee and poured it into her travel mug. Just as she took her first sip, she saw the front door of the apartment building open, and their suspect stuck his head out to look up and down the street.

“Holy shit,” she muttered as she fumbled for her police radio. She called it in and slouched down in her seat as she watched him heading in the opposite direction of where Harry had gone. Wasn’t this just typical. There alone, and backup was five minutes away. And the asshole picks now to show his face. When he disappeared into an alley, Callie had to make a decision. Did she sit there and wait for backup, or did she go after him on foot—and alone?

Without dwelling on it too long, she pulled her service weapon out and opened the door. If she had anything to say about it, this was the last night they’d have to sit out here in the car for their entire shift. She tried to be quiet as she kept against the wall of the building and made her way slowly down the alley.

It was dark, and the only light came from the streetlamps behind her and the streetlamps at the other end of the alley. A noise a few feet ahead of her made her stop and hold her breath, her heart racing as her eyes strained to adjust to the darkness. Maybe going after him on her own wasn’t the smartest idea she’d ever had, but it was too late to turn back now.

“Stop! Police!”

A feeling of relief washed over her momentarily at the voice coming from the opposite end of the alley, until she realized there was someone running right toward her. She stepped away from the wall and aimed her gun low so she could hit him in the leg, as well as to not do any significant damage to the officers chasing him back toward her if she were to miss.

“Shit!” she heard, right before she felt the searing pain in her right shoulder that came in near unison of the sound of their suspect firing his gun.

Callie dropped her gun and fell to her knees before she heard Harry and a couple other voices yelling, and then everything went black.

 

v

 

“This day is never going to end,” Taylor said to Camille, her head bartender in Quinn’s absence. “I can’t believe it’s only nine o’clock.”

“Tell me about it,” Camille responded. “And there’s almost no business on top of it.”

“If it stays like this, I’ll probably let you go home early.”

Taylor headed back to her office, but before she got there, she felt her phone vibrating in her back pocket. She pulled it out and grinned when she saw it was Quinn. The woman couldn’t even take a vacation.

“You do know you don’t need to check up on me, right?” she said by way of answering the call.

“Taylor, thank God,” Quinn said, sounding frantic.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay? Grace? Your mother?”

“What? No, we’re all fine, but I got a call from Strong Memorial.”

“What happened?”

“Callie’s been shot.”

Taylor heard a slight hitch in Quinn’s voice, and felt her own breath catch in her throat. She knew how close Quinn and Callie were, and she couldn’t imagine how Quinn might handle it if something were to be seriously wrong with her younger sister.

“Is she okay?” Taylor somehow managed around the lump in her throat. Despite her best efforts, her mind flashed back to the day Andrea died. The tone of the call then had been much different though. She shook her head. This wasn’t the same thing. Callie had to be all right. For Quinn.

“The doctor said she should make a full recovery, but I’m not convinced she didn’t persuade him to assure me of that,” Quinn said with a nervous laugh. “I was hoping I could talk you into going over there and checking on her for me.”

“Of course.” Taylor grabbed her coat and somehow managed to get it on without taking the phone from her ear. “I’ll head there now and call as soon as I know something.”

“Thanks, Taylor. You’re the best.”

Taylor ended the call and hurried out to the bar. She was suddenly glad it was a slow night as she tapped Camille on the shoulder.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to let you go early tonight.” Taylor quickly checked to make sure she had her keys and her wallet before buttoning up her coat. “Quinn just called from Philadelphia, and Callie’s been shot. I need to run to the hospital to make sure she’s okay.”

“No problem. Go, I’ve got this.”

Taylor was halfway to the hospital before she allowed herself to think about Andrea again. It had been months since she’d reflected on the day her life had changed forever, mostly because she knew dwelling on it wouldn’t bring her back, and damn it, it was downright depressing.

She’d rushed to the hospital then too, but the difference back then was she’d already known Andrea wasn’t going to make it. She was going there to say good-bye, but Andrea hadn’t even known she was there. Andrea’s chief had called to tell Taylor the extent of her injuries and to let her know she was in grave condition and unresponsive upon arriving at the hospital. They managed to keep her alive long enough for her to get there, and Taylor seriously thought she was going to die that day too because her heart had hurt so much.

She shook her head and roughly brushed away the tears. This was totally different, she reminded herself again. She wasn’t going to walk into the hospital and find Andrea lying on a gurney, clinging to the final moments of her life. It was more likely she’d walk in and find Callie flirting with any attractive female in the vicinity. At least she hoped she would for Quinn’s sake. Taylor had no siblings, so she had no idea of the bond the two of them shared.

Quinn had apparently told the staff she was going to be coming by, because when she told the woman at the desk who she was there for, she was immediately taken to Callie’s room. The sight of Callie, motionless and pale, stopped her in her tracks.

“The doctor should be in shortly,” the nurse said quietly as she left her there alone.

There was a man asleep in a chair next to Callie’s bed, and Taylor wondered who he was. He was older, and she briefly wondered if it could be Callie and Quinn’s father. She dismissed the thought almost as quickly as it surfaced though because Quinn told her their father had left when she was just seven, and they’d never seen or heard from him again.

As she made her way quietly into the room, she noticed the badge on his belt, and it dawned on her he must be Callie’s partner. She cleared her throat in an attempt to wake him without being obvious about it.

His eyes popped open and he sat up straighter as he watched her warily. She figured it must be a trait inherent in police officers. He stood and gave what seemed to Taylor to be a forced smile as he extended his hand.

“Harry Chambers,” he said, his voice strained, whether from sleep or emotion she couldn’t say. “I’m Callie’s partner.”

“Were you there when it happened?” Taylor shook his hand briefly before turning to look at Callie again. She seemed so helpless.

“I’m sorry, but who are you?”

“Oh, I apologize,” she said, her cheeks heating with embarrassment because her parents raised her better. “Taylor Fletcher. Callie’s sister, Quinn, works for me. She’s in Philadelphia for the holiday and asked if I would come check on Callie for her.”

“I see,” he said, seeming to finally relax. He went to the edge of Callie’s bed and looked down at her with what appeared to be genuine affection. “She went after a suspect in an alley. Uniformed officers came in from the other end, and the guy was trapped. Since there were two of them, and Callie was alone, I guess he figured his chances were better against her.”

“Why was she alone? Weren’t you with her?”

“I’d gone to get dinner for us.” Harry shook his head slightly, and when he glanced at her, she saw a tear rolling down his cheek. It was clear this guy cared very much for Callie. “I told her to wait for backup if he happened to show himself, but she must have thought he was going to get away.”

“Reckless,” Taylor murmured. Just like Andrea told her. She’d always said Callie would chase after the devil himself if she thought she had a chance in hell of catching him.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Harry said, shaking his head. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m pissed as hell at her for not waiting, but I can certainly understand why she did it. Surveillance is a boring job. We’d been out there for over a week and never set eyes on him once. She saw the opportunity to end it and went after him. You should know she did radio dispatch to send other officers first though.”

“Damn right, I did,” Callie muttered just before her eyes fluttered open. She glanced around the room, stopping when
her eyes met Taylor’s. What the hell is she doing here? She closed her eyes again, mostly because the overhead light was way too bright. “I did exactly what you would have done, Chambers.”

“Yeah, you did,” he said as he grasped her hand. “I have to go call Deb and let her know you’re awake.”

Callie lay there with her eyes still closed until she heard the door shut, then opened them again to see Taylor watching her. She looked like she was seriously irritated.

“Are you going to be all right?” she asked quietly. “What did the doctors say?”

“Don’t know,” Callie said with an attempted shrug, but she winced at the fire shooting through her right shoulder at the movement. “I just joined this party myself.”

That was when she noticed her right shoulder was bandaged, and her arm was immobilized against her body. She gently lifted the hospital gown with her left hand and saw some blood seeping through the bandage. There wasn’t much, but it brought back what had happened with amazing clarity. She’d been shot. God damn, it hurt.

“Good to see you’re awake,” a male voice said from the doorway. Callie grinned in spite of her pain at the sight of Dr. David Randall. She’d known him since high school. “How are you feeling, Calliope?”

“You know damn well my name isn’t Calliope, David,” she said with a slight growl in her voice and a quick glance at Taylor. She didn’t want anyone thinking her name was actually Calliope. It wasn’t necessarily a bad name, but it just wasn’t for her. He’d started calling her that in their junior year, and he continued to do it every time he saw her for no other reason than he knew how much it aggravated her.

“All right, all right, I’ll give you a break this time, but only because you’ve been shot.” He threw his hands up in mock surrender before turning his attention to Taylor with a smile. “And who is this?”

“Taylor Fletcher,” she answered, looking back and forth between him and Callie.

“David Randall,” he said as he took Callie’s chart from the end of the bed. He opened it as he asked, “And how long have you two been together?”

“What?” Taylor asked, the surprise evident in her voice. She shook her head a little too aggressively in Callie’s opinion. “We aren’t together.”

“My sister works for her,” Callie said quickly.

“Quinn? How is she doing?” he asked. “I spoke to her briefly when I called to tell her you were here, but it didn’t seem to be the time for chitchat.”

“She’s doing great,” Callie said as she rested her head back against the pillow. “But I’m more interested in how I’m doing at the moment.”

“You’ll survive,” he said with a grin. He placed the chart back where he’d gotten it and pulled a penlight out of his pocket so he could check her pupils. “The bullet passed through without hitting anything vital. A little more serious than a graze, but not by much. Basically, all I had to do was clean it out and stitch you up.”

“When can I go home?”

“Ready to leave so soon?” he asked, placing a hand over his heart as though her words wounded him. He laughed when she just glared at him. “As long as you don’t do anything to piss me off between now and then, I don’t see any reason why you can’t be discharged in the morning.”

“Thank God,” she said.

“Of course, you’ll need someone to stay with you for a few days. You’ll have limited mobility in your right arm for a while.”

“I live alone, and Quinn’s out of town until Sunday,” she said, but then she worried Quinn might be rushing back home. She looked at Taylor. “She’s not coming home early because of this, is she?”

“I don’t think so. She called and asked me to come check on you. I just assumed as long as you were okay, she wasn’t going to cut her trip short.”

“If you don’t have someone to stay with, I can’t let you go home.” David shook his head and checked her blood pressure.

“She can stay with me.” Taylor said, looking about as shocked at having said the words as Callie felt upon hearing them. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and held it up. “I should go call Quinn and let her know you’re all right.”

“You sure you aren’t together?” David asked when she was gone.

“We aren’t even friends.”

“Uh-huh,” he said as he wrote something in her chart. “Maybe you should rethink things, Burke. She’s quite the looker.”

“Yeah, trust me, I know.”

“Does she play for your team?”

“Jesus, do you know how juvenile you sound? Yes, she’s a lesbian, so don’t even think about it.”

“I won’t, and my wife would have my head if I did.” He smiled as he walked backward toward the door. “But I think you should give it a lot of thought, if you know what I mean.”

He was gone before Callie could even think about forming a response. She sighed. She was certain Taylor only saw her as Quinn’s little sister. And her late wife’s best friend. Oh, yeah, and as a woman Taylor didn’t even like. She was already looking forward to Sunday so she could stay with Quinn or her mother. Callie had a feeling it was certainly going to be a long few days until then.

On the other hand, it might give her an opportunity to convince Taylor she wasn’t so bad after all. To show her she wasn’t a reckless buffoon. Maybe this kind of challenge was exactly what she needed. Maybe it could end up being what they both needed. The thought made her smile.

It was nice to fantasize sometimes, and she hoped she could keep the fantasy going, at least in her mind, until Sunday.