For the next several days I’ll be doing a FREE CHAPTER READ of each of my books. Next up is Out of the Shadows. Keep reading to get to know Shane and Tyler…
For K-9 Officer Shane Walker, transferring from the Tulsa police department to the elite L.A.P.D. was a dream come true. He nearly forgets he’s in Hollywood until he responds to a 911 call that brings him to the home of actor Tyler Donovan.
It appears that Tyler has it all – a career that’s on fire and a loving, long-term relationship with his partner, Alex. But then Shane uncovers the truth that Tyler had been trying to hide, and the illusion comes crashing down.
Can Shane help Tyler break free of a life he’s convinced he deserves before it’s too late, and in the process help them both find love?
A small smile played across the face of 28 year-old L.A.P.D. officer Shane Walker as he gazed out the open passenger side window of his squad car. Life is good, he thought as he breathed in the warm California air, the bright lights of Hollywood illuminating the night sky all around him. Shane let the small smile turn into a full fledged grin. Tonight marked the accomplishment of a goal it had taken him months to achieve – his last day of field training. Come Monday morning he’d be on his own as a K-9 patrol officer, this time for the Los Angeles Police Department.
It’d been a long road to get here, a long way from the Tulsa Police Department K-9 division where Shane had gotten his start in law enforcement three years ago. Shane was proud to wear the police uniform of his hometown, but it had always been his goal to work for the elite L.A.P.D. So when he heard about the opening in their canine unit, he had immediately put in for a transfer.
That was six months ago. During that time Shane had gone through a rigorous interview process and psychological screening before being accepted, along with his partner Chase, into the L.A.P.D. After that it was packing up and leaving home, leaving his family, and entering into the academy for 18 more weeks of training. Even though Shane was already a cop, he needed to learn the way the L.A.P.D. wanted things done. It was hard work, more like boot camp than anything, but Shane excelled, graduating at the top of his class.
But he wasn’t ready to hit the streets quite yet. For the next month he and Chase worked with the L.A.P.D. K-9 instructor, proving that the German Shepherd was just as good an officer as his master.
Then it was finally time for Chase and him to be assigned their squad car, their call sign and their beat, and begin their month of field training with Sergeant Nick Hansen. Nick was an excellent FTO officer, committed to the job and drilling into the rookies valuable knowledge that could save their lives. Nick was tough, but underneath that gruff exterior was a warm, funny guy, and he and Shane hit it off pretty much right from the start.
He raked his fingers through his wind-blown shaggy brown hair, and turned to look at Nick in the driver’s seat. Shane smiled. “Shift’s almost over, Sarge. Gonna give me an A+ on my final eval?”
Nick glanced over at Shane. “Oh, there’s still plenty of time for you to screw up, Walker.” He grinned.
Shane chuckled and looked over his shoulder through the mesh grating at Chase lying in the backseat. “It just pains him to admit I’ve been his best rookie ever, right, boy?” he said, and the big dog gave a small whuff as a response.
Before Nick could reply, the radio crackled to life with a series of beeps, drawing both men’s attention, Chase’s ears perking up at the familiar sound.
Over the speaker came the voice of Stephanie, one of the dispatchers. “Six-Adam-Twelve.”
Nick snagged the mic and depressed the button. “Six-Adam-Twelve, go.”
“Six-Adam-Twelve…Code 242 at 441 Highland Avenue. Please respond.”
Shane saw Nick’s jaw tighten. “Six-Adam-Twelve, responding,” the sergeant answered Stephanie, shaking his head and muttering, “Great,” as he replaced the mic back in its cradle.
Shane’s cop sense immediately started tingling. “Something tells me you’ve been out there before,” he said, needing to know if there was a repeat offender in his beat. “Battery call then, too?”
Nick sighed and nodded. “This is the third domestic call out there in four months.”
Now it was Shane’s jaw that tightened. “What’s the story?”
“House belongs to Tyler Donovan, who’s regularly getting beaten up by his partner, Alex Campbell, whenever Alex gets high. Donovan is never the one that calls, it’s usually the neighbor, and Donovan never presses charges. So we do it for him.”
Shane’s jaw dropped open and he sagged back against the seat, trying to process what Nick had just said. Tyler Donovan…the actor that Shane just happened to be a fan of, and had admired for years now. And if truth be told, had a bit of a crush on as well.
Like Shane, Tyler was an Oklahoma boy, from Broken Arrow. Tyler had started on the soaps when he was just a teenager, winning several Daytime Emmy awards before making the leap to dramas in his early twenties. He was on several hit shows in a row for the next six years, then decided to jump to the big screen and a movie career while his star was on the rise. It was a smart move. His first movie was a hit and his popularity jumped. He was on the verge of becoming a huge star, and his next movie, due out in about six months, should do it for him, if the early buzz was anything to go by. At age 33, Tyler seemed to have it all – a skyrocketing career and a long-term, loving relationship with Alex Campbell.
Or obviously not so loving, as Shane was finding out, despite all the photos and red carpet appearances that showed them as a happy couple, holding hands and smiling
“Tyler Donovan? I just…I can’t believe it,” Shane said, shaking his head.
“Pick up your jaw, kid,” Nick told him as he flipped on the lights and sirens and Chase started barking. “You’re in Hollywood now.”
There was already one other squad car at the Donovan residence when Nick and Shane arrived. Shane recognized the squad number as belonging to Officer Brooks and Officer Moore. Leaving Chase in the car, much to the dog’s dismay, Shane exited the vehicle and automatically smoothed his hands down his chest, straightening his dark blue uniform over his Kevlar vest, then adjusted his heavy gun belt.
He took in the scene quickly as he approached the house – Officer Hailey Brooks was out front, standing near the steps leading up to the front porch, talking to Tyler Donovan, who was seated on the steps, a towel pressed to his left cheek. The front door was open, and Shane could hear the voices of two men inside – Officer Sean Moore and Alex Campbell. And standing on the edge of Tyler’s yard was another man, watching intently at everything going on, his arms crossed over his chest, a frown on his face. He had to be the neighbor that called 911.
Officer Brooks turned as Nick and Shane walked up, her short blonde ponytail bobbing with the movement. “Sarge,” she greeted them, nodding at Nick.
Nick nodded back. “Brooks. You mind letting Walker take over?”
Officer Brooks shook her head and flipped her small notebook closed, tucking her pen back in her shirt pocket. “Not at all, Sarge,” she replied, “Maybe he’ll have better luck getting something out of him.” She cocked her head toward Tyler, then went to step past Shane, knocking her fist on his arm. “You got this, rookie.” She grinned in encouragement, then went inside the house to join her partner.
For a moment Shane froze, staring down at the man he’d seen so many times on his television and in the movie theaters, not really believing he was actually standing in front of him. Tyler was dressed casually in a gray t-shirt, well-worn blue jeans and gym shoes. His short blonde hair looked soft to the touch, free of the gel that usually made it stand up in short spikes. His eyes flitted up to Shane’s, then away as he lowered the towel from his face.
One look at the angry cut on Tyler’s cheek and Shane was immediately all cop, pushing aside his awe at being two feet from his favorite actor.
“Mr. Donovan, I’m Officer Walker and this is Sergeant Hansen,” Shane said, taking out his own notebook and pen. “Can you tell me what happened tonight?”
Tyler again wouldn’t meet Shane’s gaze, looking off to his left instead. “Nothing,” he said flatly.
“Nothing?” Shane cocked his head, pointing at Tyler’s face. “How did you get that cut on your face, then?” he asked, his voice soft and even.
A brief look at Shane, then away. “I tripped and fell down the steps, okay?” Tyler answered defensively.
Shane’s head whipped to the right, to the man at the edge of Tyler’s yard who had just uttered the curse. The man stepped forward as Shane took a step toward him. He was much shorter than Shane’s six-foot-four frame, with a stocky, muscular build and long black hair. And he was pissed.
“Bullshit!” the man swore again, pointing. “I saw him hit you, Tyler! I saw him kick you after he knocked you down!”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tyler jump up and Nick putting a hand on his chest to prevent Tyler from going any further.
Shane put his hand up in front of the other man. “Sir, I need you to calm down and tell me who you are.”
The shorter man took a deep breath and looked away from Tyler. “I’m Logan Miller. I live next door.”
Shane wrote Miller’s name in his notebook. “And what exactly did you see tonight?”
Logan’s voice was controlled anger. “I was just coming home, walking up to the house when I saw Tyler and that asshole Alex come out. Tyler was going toward his car and Alex was screaming at him about God knows what. Tyler was ignoring him, so Alex grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and hauled off and punched him in the face. Tyler went down; then that bastard kicked him in the stomach.”
Shane nodded, jaw tight as he wrote down the information in his notebook. “And was it you that called 911?”
“You bet your ass I did,” Logan answered forcefully.
“Goddamn it, Logan!” Tyler yelled, still held back by Nick, blue eyes flashing in anger. “Mind your own damn business!”
“I won’t!” Logan yelled back. “Not when I see it happen right in front of me!” Then he swallowed and his voice dropped several octaves. “You’re my friend, Ty. I can’t stand to see you treated like that.”
Tyler’s anger deflated at Logan’s sincere words, and he opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment Officers Brooks and Moore came out of the house with a handcuffed Alex Campbell between them. He tried to lunge at Tyler, but Moore and Brooks held him back, while Nick stepped between him and Tyler.
“Screw you, Tyler!” Alex spat, struggling against the officer’s grips. “How could you do this!? Have me arrested?”
Tyler shook his head. “I’m sor-“ he began but Nick cut him off.
“No. Don’t say it,” Nick told him, voice hard, then turned toward the dark-haired man in handcuffs, whose brown eyes were dilated into blackness. “You know very well the L.A.P.D. can press charges even if the victim doesn’t, if there’s clear evidence of domestic violence, Campbell. This isn’t your first rodeo.” Nick nodded at Brooks and Moore. “Get him out of here,” he told them, then turned back to Tyler as the two officers put a still struggling Alex Campbell into the back of their squad car.
“What’s he on?” Nick asked Tyler wearily. “Is it coke again?”
Tyler looked down and away, nodding, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
Nick sighed. “You’ve got to get away from him, Tyler,” he told the injured man, then walked over to Shane and Logan.
“I’ll take Logan’s statement,” Nick said to Shane. “You go finish up with Tyler.”
“Sure, Sarge,” Shane replied, then beckoned Tyler to follow him over to his squad.
“Do you need medical to come out and look at that cut?” Shane asked Tyler.
“No!” The other man sharply shook his head, then lowered his voice. “No, I’m fine, really. I don’t…I don’t need anyone else out here,” he finished, glancing up and down his block.
Shane nodded. “Okay, but be sure to clean it and put some ice on it to keep the swelling down.”
Tyler was quiet for a moment, looking at Shane oddly, a question in his eyes. “Thanks,” he finally replied. “I will.”
It was the first time that Tyler had actually looked at Shane for more than a split second and Shane found himself holding the actor’s gaze, feeling a sudden, sharp connection to the other man, while staring into blue eyes that were filled with shame and embarrassment.
“Sergeant Hansen was right,” Shane said quietly. “You need to get away from Campbell. Don’t go down to the jail and bail him out tonight.” He popped open the trunk on the squad and opened the briefcase that was inside. He shuffled through a stack of papers before pulling out several and closing the trunk.
He held out a few of the sheets to Tyler. “This is how to go about getting a restraining order. Since it’s Friday night, Campbell won’t be able to go before a judge until Monday morning at the earliest for sentencing. If you fill this out and get the paperwork going, he can’t come back here if the judge cuts him loose.” He handed Tyler another sheet of paper. “This is information on a victim’s advocacy group that the L.A.P.D. uses.” He paused, and when he spoke again his voice was imploring. “Call them. There are support groups and counseling available if you just ask.”
He reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew a card, then impulsively scribbled a number on the back. “Here, this is my card, if you have any questions…or if you just want to talk. I put my cell number on the back.”
Again Tyler remained quiet, with that same question in his eyes. But this time he asked it. “Why do you care what happens to me? You don’t even know me. Aren’t I just another case number and pile of paperwork to you?”
Shane shook his head. “I became a cop to help people, not just strut around with a badge and a gun, acting like a tough-ass.” He paused, glancing down at the ground, then back up at Tyler. “And I know first hand how this kind of violence can destroy people. No one deserves to be treated like this. And there are ways out.” He reached out, his hand curling around Tyler’s upper arm. “Please. Fill out the restraining order.”
And there it was again, that wide blue gaze looking back at him, that connection pulling at him from deep inside. And Tyler was staring back at him just as intensely, causing Shane’s stomach to twist and flutter.
The moment was broken when Nick approached, closing his notebook. “Are we finished here?” he asked.
Shane blinked, dropping his hand from Tyler’s shoulder. “Umm…yeah, Sarge,” he answered, backing away from Tyler, who remained silent as Shane climbed into the passenger side of the squad. But he never broke eye contact with Shane, even as the squad pulled away into the dark.
Shane didn’t sleep that night.
He lay in bed on his back, staring up blankly at the ceiling in his dark room, Chase’s heavy weight pressed up all along his side. He absently stroked the big dog’s belly as he replayed over and over in his mind the events of tonight with Tyler Donovan.
How did a man like that end up in an abusive relationship? Being a fan of Tyler’s for years, he’d naively thought he knew the older man. He’d watched and read countless interviews with him, had seen him with Alex Campbell at many events over the past three years, looking like the picture perfect happy couple. Little did he, or anyone else, apparently, know what was really going on between them. He respected and admired Tyler – a solid, down-to-earth Oklahoma boy who never let the Hollywood life corrupt him, who put family above all else, and was a gifted and talented actor – and the thought of him going through this tore at Shane.
He had to convince Tyler to leave Alex. His gut was giving him a sense of foreboding, telling him he needed to intervene. And he knew by now, with his many years on the police force, to trust his instincts. But he also knew convincing anyone in an abusive relationship to leave their abuser was a massive uphill battle. They all had their reasons for staying and Shane knew all too personally what the end result could be.
He’d never forgive himself if he let the same thing happen to Tyler.
The next morning found Shane driving back out to Tyler’s house, with Chase in the backseat, his large head sticking out the window, happy as a clam to be going for a ride. Shane almost always drove with the radio on, singing along – badly – to his favorite songs, but the ride out to Hollywood was spent in silence as he went over and over in his head exactly what he wanted to say to Tyler.
Pulling into the actor’s driveway twenty-five minutes later, Shane sat for a moment and took a deep, steadying breath before getting out of his truck. He let Chase out of the backseat, clipped his leash to the dog’s collar and walked them both up to Tyler’s front steps, where he looped the leash around the railing. He climbed the steps, then paused before knocking, wondering what he’d do if Campbell answered the door, having been bailed out by Tyler.
But to his relief it was Tyler himself who answered his knock and stood in the open doorway. He was barefoot, wearing khaki cargo shorts and a plain maroon t-shirt today. The cut on his face was an angry red with a vivid bruise now surrounding it, and Shane unconsciously clenched his fist at the sight.
Tyler’s brows drew together in confusion. “Officer Walker?”
Shane smiled at the official title. “No uniform today. Name’s Shane, Mr. Donovan.”
Tyler’s mouth quirked slightly. “That always sounds like my father. Please, call me Tyler. Is there something I can do for you?”
“I was wondering if I could come in for a few minutes.”
“Umm, sure, yeah,” Tyler answered, stepping aside, and Shane walked into the house.
Tyler’s home was large, but had a comfortable, relaxed feeling to it. The living room held an overstuffed leather couch and two chairs, with a rough hewn wood coffee table between them. Above the couch hung an oil painting of a breathtaking sunset over a desert landscape. A fireplace was along one wall, the mantle holding several framed photographs, flanked by two bookcases. On the opposite wall was an entertainment center that contained a flat screen TV, DVD player and stereo. The house wasn’t flashy or Hollywood pretentious, exactly what Shane would expect from an Oklahoma boy like himself.
Shane stepped into the living room, not seeing or hearing any sign of Alex inside as Tyler closed the door behind them, then moved to stand across from him.
“I just wanted to stop by and see how you were doing,” Shane started, and again that same curious look crossed Tyler’s face, just like last night, like he couldn’t believe anyone cared about him. “And to see if you’d filled out the paperwork for the restraining order.”
At that Tyler’s face closed up. “I’m fine,” he replied curtly. “And no, I’m not filling out the paperwork.” He went to move around Shane, to open the front door, but Shane stopped him with a hand on his forearm. The skin to skin contact was like a little electric spark that raced through Shane’s entire body. It startled him, and from the way Tyler was looking at him, the older man had felt it, too.
“Please,” Shane said softly. “Give me five minutes.”
For a long moment Tyler remained silent, and Shane thought for sure the other man was going to show him the door, but then Tyler nodded slowly and took a step backwards, breaking their contact, leaving Shane’s fingertips tingling.
Tyler turned and led Shane through the living room to the large kitchen, to the bright breakfast nook filled with morning sunshine. He indicated Shane should sit, then pulled out his own chair on the opposite side of the round table.
Shane took a long breath, remembering all that he wanted to say to Tyler. “I’ve been a fan of yours for years,” he started. “I’ve seen countless pictures of you and Alex together, how happy you both looked.” At this Tyler looked down and away, but remained silent, so Shane continued. “But after last night I know that’s not true. At least not anymore. You have to know that this relationship isn’t healthy.”
Shane spread his hands out. “I just…I don’t understand why you stay. You don’t fit the mold that nine out of ten abuse victims do – that you’re dependent on your abuser. They have no job, they have children, they wouldn’t have anywhere to live, they’re smaller physically and can’t defend themselves.” As Shane ticked off the points on his fingers he could see Tyler becoming uncomfortable, but he pressed on. “But you’re none of those things. You’re the successful independent one and you could easily take down Campbell in a fight.”
Agitated now, Tyler pushed back from the table, scraping his chair across the floor. “You don’t understand,” he told Shane through clenched teeth, standing with his fists balled up at his sides.
“Then help me to understand,” Shane implored.
“It’s my fault! I deserve this!” Tyler yelled.
Shane closed his eyes and shook his head. “Every abuse victim says this, Tyler, and it’s not true,” he said gently. “You’ve done nothing to deserve this, no matter what Campbell told you.”
Tyler shook his head, blue eyes brimming with guilt. “I’m the one that got him hooked on cocaine! I deserve this, it’s my punishment!”
At Tyler’s words Shane went absolutely rigid. He couldn’t believe that Tyler was a drug addict. “How long have you been doing drugs?” he asked, voice stone cold.
Tyler shook his head, pacing. “Never. I’d never touch that shit.”
Shane relaxed his posture at Tyler’s answer, but it left him confused. “Then how are you responsible for Alex’s habit?”
Tyler shook his head. “I’m done talking,” he said tightly. “Please, just go.”
Shane stood, playing his trump card now that Tyler had shut him down. “I’ve been doing this job long enough to know that the police may have been out here three times, but Campbell has hit you more often than that. It’s only been three times that someone’s seen or heard it.” He paused, swallowing, voice rough. “Just like my older sister. Her husband ended up killing her.”
He let the statement hang for a moment, watching as Tyler’s face registered the gravity of what he’d just said. “Alex is going to escalate, I can guarantee it, especially being on cocaine, and I…I don’t want to see you end up like my sister,” Shane finished, voice wavering slightly.
And with that sobering thought, Shane turned and walked out of the house, leaving Tyler standing stock still in the middle of his kitchen.