“What the fuck do you mean a woman?” Corporal Marc Bryson all but sputtered over the chief’s desk and the too-tidy piles of paperwork, which were perfectly spaced apart on the spotless surface.
The chief, who just happened to be his older brother, lifted an eyebrow. “I would hope you would know what a woman is by your age, Marc. Though, now that I think about it, you never did bring any women home when you squatted at my house.”
“Oh, very funny. And I wasn’t squatting. I gave you money every month.”
Max Bryson snorted.
“Anyway, let’s get back to this discussion—”
Max cut him off at the knees. “There will be no discussion. Period. I hired her and you’re going to be her FTO.”
Marc didn’t want to be some woman’s Field Training Officer. No way, no how. Women shouldn’t be cops. Ever.
“Why do I have to train her? Why not Dunn?”
“Because I said so.”
What the fuck. Big brother says so and that’s all, folks. Fellow officer Tommy Dunn wasn’t going to be the new rookie’s FTO because he was too easy going, he would coddle the female, not train her for the real world in policing. And Marc would. Plus, Dunn wasn’t certified to be an FTO. Though that was just semantics. Right?
Shit. Marc wouldn’t give any slack to a woman fresh out of the academy. Max knew how much he opposed women in law enforcement. If she wanted to be treated as an equal, then Marc would have no problem being tough and inflexible with the rules just because she was a w—new recruit. Right.
Fine. But he didn’t have to be happy about it.
“Let me just remind you that you’re a corporal now. I warned you when you accepted the promotion that with the buck more weekly salary increase you’re getting”—Max snickered—“comes more responsibility.”
Max was obviously enjoying this, not giving a flipping fuck how Marc felt about this new “responsibility.” If his older brother could find a way to bust his balls, he did it.
Fighting this would be pointless. Marc exhaled loudly in defeat. “When does she start?”
Max glanced at his black G-Shock wrist watch. “As soon as Dunn is finished issuing all her equipment.”
Marc’s head snapped up and he thought he’d have to shove his eyeballs back into their sockets. “Today?”
Max laughed. “Got a problem with that, Corp?”
Marc took another deep breath. He kept playing into Max’s hands. He needed to act like this whole thing didn’t bother him. Otherwise, Max would ride him hard until he broke. Big brothers were assholes like that. The power of becoming chief had gone to his head. He didn’t know how his wife put up with him.
Oh, that’s right. Amanda didn’t take any of his shit. One misstep and that woman brought him to his knees. Whap! Marc looked down at the floor while he chuckled.
“Something funny, brother?”
“Nope. Max, you interviewed her, so what does she look like?” He hoped she wasn’t someone prissy, more worried about breaking a nail than doing actual police work. Nor did he want a beast. A woman who would look like she could break Marc in half.
“It shouldn’t matter what she looks like. Get your priorities straight. She graduated the academy at the top of her class. That’s what’s important.”
“Chief, we’re done,” Tommy Dunn called out from the hallway as he turned the corner. His large, lanky body suddenly filled the office doorway and Marc couldn’t see the new officer.
Apparently neither could Max. “Why don’t you get the hell out of the way, and let her through? Get back out on patrol. I’m sure Mrs. Johnson needs her cat rescued again.”
The redhead shuffled his feet. “No problem, Max.”
Marc shook his head and chuckled softly just waiting. Dunn never learned.
Max cleared his throat loudly and gave Tommy the stink eye. “Excuse me?”
Dunn’s face paled which illuminated the countless freckles that covered his face. “I meant chief. Sorry, Chief.” With a mumble, Dunn backed up, then jerked forward as he bumped into the person behind him. He excused himself and rushed off.
Marc leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms and ankles and waited, a frown front and center on his face.
After a few moments of no sign of the rookie, Max barked, “Grant, get in here!”
A figure appeared in the open doorway and she stood at attention, her body stiff and tight. Marc did a preliminary inspection, starting at her feet. She wore black tactical boots, the dark blue summer uniform of the department, a full duty belt that looked like it weighed more than she did, and as his gaze rose, her torso looked out of proportion. What the hell?
There was something seriously wrong with her Kevlar vest underneath her uniform.
Marc jumped to his feet and stood with legs apart, pointing at her chest. “What’s wrong with your vest?”
A blush rose from the tight collar of her shirt into her cheeks as she stared at his finger. “Sir, it’s too big, Sir.”
Fuck that double sir shit. Academy bullshit that was drilled into you. While attending the academy, you could be at the grocery store on the weekend and have to ask a stock boy a question and you’d start and end the question with a sir. Sir, where are the kumquats, Sir? The teenager would look at you as if you’d grown two heads.
“I’ll order you a new vest,” Max said. “Just bear with that one for now. I don’t want you going without. It’s in our Field Regulations.”
“Sir, yes, Sir.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, drop the sir echo,” Marc barked. Okay, maybe a little harsh for the first day, but he was annoyed. Just a tad. This whole FTO thing was a flaming bunch of bullshit. And now he was stuck training someone who probably would faint at the sight of blood and hide when shit went down. “And stop standing in the doorway. Get in here front and center.”
She rushed to the center of Max’s office, heels together, fists clamped to the sides of her thighs, head up, eyes staring forward focused on some spot above Max’s head.
“By the way, Grant, the corporal here will be your FTO.”
Marc narrowed his eyes at the wide smile his brother wore. Then he caught the quick flick of her gaze toward him before pinning it straight ahead again. He circled her closely, looking her up and down. He checked the tuck of her uniform shirt into her pants, he checked the crease on her sleeves—it had to be centered from her shoulder directly through the patch to the hem. It was. He moved around to stand directly in front of her, less than a foot away. By being in her personal space he was testing her. Would she step back or stand her ground?
He flicked her name tag with his index finger. “Your tag is crooked. Fix it. Did you even read the regulations?”
As she repined the black and silver tag that said GRANT straight with trembling fingers, Marc wondered if Max had even provided her copies of the department’s Administration and Field Regulations as well as their SOPs—Standard Operating Procedures—yet.
“Corporal,” Marc corrected her sharply.
“Corporal…” Her eyes jumped to his nametag. Confusion crossed her face, but it was hidden in a flash. “Bryson. I have studied the SOPs, the FRs, and the ARs as required.”
Well, well, well. Max was on it. Good for big brother. And good for the recruit. But she’d have to do a lot more than that to impress him.
“Every day while you’re in field training expect to be inspected like this. Get used to it. And make sure you’re squared away before beginning your shift.”
He studied her from head to toe one last time. But this inspection was of her, not her uniform. She stood about five-six. She probably weighed a hundred and twenty pounds at best. And she was young. Maybe twenty-five. Young enough to think she could make a difference out in the world. She may be disappointed.
He sucked in a deep breath, steeling himself for what, he didn’t know, but it turned out to be a mistake. A big one. He inhaled her unmistakable scent. Not perfume, no. It was light, floral. He couldn’t help sniff a little more, trying not to be obvious. It was her shampoo, or her soap, or her body lotion. Something that caught his attention. Her dark hair was pulled back into a thick, tight bun, not a stray hair to be seen. It made him wonder how long it actually was when let down. Her thick eyelashes surrounded amazing hazel eyes. It had to be his imagination when they flashed different colors, from gold to brown to green, all within a dark outer ring. Had to be; irises didn’t change colors. Her nose was thin and straight, her cheekbones high and blooming with color from his detailed inspection. And her lips…
Fuck. Marc stepped back and cleared his throat.
Max cut into his thoughts. “Grant, why don’t you go and wait in the patrol room. Your FTO will be with you in a couple minutes so he can start showing you the ropes. Close the door on your way out, would you?”
“Thank you, S—Chief.” She spun on the ball of her right foot and marched stiffly out of the office.
Polyester uniform pants were never flattering on anyone, man or woman, but somehow she managed to make her tight little ass looked good in them. A sigh almost slipped past his lips.
“Was it good for you?” Max asked him.
“You stripping her bare in your head.”
“I didn’t,” he grumbled. Was it that obvious? He didn’t want to check for it, or even look, but he might have a chubby.
“Keep it professional. Don’t make me have to write you up, or worse, for doing something stupid.”
“Why did she have to be so—”
Max slammed his palm on the desk top, making Marc jump. “Don’t fuck this up, Corporal. We’re already shorthanded and I need her. We need her. With Matt still overseas and since Chief Peters retired, there’s been a gaping hole. Unless you want to work constant doubles, then do everything you can to make sure she’s trained properly and is an asset to this department. As for you being stuck with all sixty days of her training, I have no other option. You’re it until our baby brother gets his feet back on American soil. And even then, I don’t think his head will be in the game enough to train another officer.”
Once their youngest brother gets back from his stint in the Marines, it could be possible that he would need refresher training anyway.
Like it or not, Marc will have to spend the next two months as their new female recruit’s shadow. He was so screwed.