Home > Boots on the Ground (Birch Police Department #2)

Boots on the Ground (Birch Police Department #2)
Author: April Canavan







Before salsa slipped off my taco, I shoved the entire thing in my mouth and groaned with pleasure.

It’s better than sex. Almost.

Dishes clanged together, cooks hollered, and waitresses talked shit about the people treating them like crap, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my shitty-ass day than to stuff my face with tacos. Especially the delicious tacos that my best friend’s restaurant served.

Lucy’s was busy as hell, but I got to sit right next to the kitchen, away from the crowds, and eat as much as I wanted to without the judging stares from people who thought I was depressed. They just didn’t understand that I had a deep and wonderful relationship with tacos.

“Hey, Kennedy.” Violet Ortiz appeared at the side of my table with an empty tray in her hand. “You doin’ okay?”

“Yeah, Vi.” I smiled at her before taking another bite of the never-ending taco plate I’d ordered. “Just got off shift; you know how that goes.”

Vi cracked a smile before shaking her head. We went to school together, even started training to be dispatchers together before she decided that she’d rather go to medical school to try and save lives or some shit like that.

“Holler if you run out of tacos.” She walked away with a small wave over her shoulder, and my entire day was made just a little bit better.

There actually wasn’t anything on Lucy’s menu about never-ending tacos. But one of my best friends was the manager, and I liked tacos. So, she hooked me up with a killer deal, and I made sure to tip the cook and waitstaff who brought them to me, too.

Everything was going great. My tacos were hot; no one watched me eat, and I got to unwind after a particularly aggravating shift answering 911 calls. Until a shadow appeared on the edge of my table.

“You’re going to get fat, Kennedy. You should stop eating.”

Royal fucking Prince. Prick. Ex-fiancé. Asshole. Everything under the sun. I hated his voice more than almost anything. Except maybe for the sharp pang of terror that it sent down my spine as I remembered every single thing he’d ever done to hurt me.

I didn’t even know how he managed to find me, but honestly, I wasn’t surprised when I looked up from my plate to see him sneering, with a pretty blonde at his side. The exact opposite of me, I might add. She had to be at least five six, and she was thin enough that I’d be able to blow at her and she’d fall over. She was also a complete and utter bitch, which I knew from experience. She was a nurse, but more like Nurse Ratched than anything else. I almost felt bad for her, but not quite. She’d done more than enough in the time that I’d known her to prove just how malicious and terrible she really was.

“Wow, Mallory.” I smiled at her even though my stomach was turning sour just being in her presence, and the chances of me keeping down my food grew slimmer with every passing second. “I didn’t think you’d lower your standards to sleep with a lawyer.” Completely ignoring the fact that I’d slept with him, too, I kept the smile on my face even when my skin felt like it would shatter into a thousand pieces.

Mallory sniffed and then raised an eyebrow at me with a cocky expression on her face, smiling with her lips pressed together so she looked like a constipated duck.

Before she could say whatever toxic bullshit she created in her head, I held up a hand to silence her and tried to ignore the slight tremble as I did so.

“I don’t give a shit what you have to say. You’re interrupting my lunch, and I’ve had a long day. Go away, and take Royal with you.” I gagged on his name, remembering the wasted year of my life I’d spent with him.

Royal glared at me, using the same expression he’d mastered during our time together, when he tried to change me into the perfect wife. Clearly he’d failed. And I was left avoiding the disappointment I could literally feel burning into my skin with his gaze.

“I just thought you should know.” He finally broke the tension. “Mallory and I are getting married.”

She held out her hand, sticking it directly in front of my face, and I snorted at the small diamond she sported. “You’re an idiot.” I’m not sure which one of them I was talking to, though, because they were both stupid. Her for getting with someone who’d abused me for a year, and him for being born. “I hope you’re happy together, but can you leave me to my tacos?” The slight waver in my voice was from hunger and irritation instead of fear, at least that’s what I told myself.

Neither person moved, and I started to weigh the option of leaving before I’d finished eating or having to deal with them standing over me, turning everything I ate into a nightmare.

“I’m not leaving,” Mallory bit out snidely. “We came to eat, and you don’t have a monopoly on the places in this town, just because of your family.”

My heart kicked up a beat, and my palms started to sweat. The knife sitting on the table in front of me called out silently, beckoning for me to use it.

I picked it up, clearly losing my mind, and started tapping it against the table idly. Every single click of metal hitting the wooden tabletop, I pictured it stabbing Mallory in the eyeball, drawing out her pain and agony, without an end in sight. There wasn’t anything left to say, though. I’d already asked them to leave, and they weren’t going anywhere.

I grabbed my purse from the bench at my side and tried to get out, but Royal was there. Too close, like always. My mouth dried up, leaving nothing but ash as I started to panic. Royal smiled down at me.

“Move,” I croaked, my throat convulsing on the word, making it impossible to say anything else.

Royal knew every single button to push in order to get me to react, and the proof was in my heart continuing to pound in an out-of-sync rhythm against my aching chest. Time slowed, and I felt everything in my past come running back with a vengeance. Things Royal fucking knew about, and yet he still thought it was okay to treat me like shit.

“We’re not done talking.” Royal sneered. “I didn’t say you could leave, Kennedy. There are things we need to discuss.”

My day couldn’t possibly get any worse at that point, so I closed my eyes and prepared for whatever he was about to say to ruin my week. Royal scared me, and my pulse hammered, echoing in my head and drowning out the background noise of the people going about their lives around us, completely oblivious to the fact that I was falling apart.

I had nowhere else to go with Royal blocking my only exit, so I did the only thing I could think of. I called my big brother for help. I should have called him as soon as Royal appeared, but I froze. Before Royal could stop me, I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed.

“Remy,” I said into the phone as soon as he answered. “I need help.”

“Shit,” he gasped on the other end. “I just arrested someone, Kenny.”

Tears stung my eyes, and I tried to ignore the way Royal snickered in front of me, even when I was staring at the ground.

“It’s Royal,” I whispered.

Remy cursed in the background. He didn’t know the entire story with Royal or what happened to me. But he knew that I didn’t want to be around him, and I hated physical confrontation more than anything else in the entire world.

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