Love the Sinner by Avril Ashton

CHAPTER ONE

“It’s about Goddamn time one of you people showed up.”

Detective Gabriel Ashby closed the interrogation room door behind him and raised an eyebrow at the man who spoke. Draped in a chair, long dark hair flowing over and past his shoulders, Angelo Pagan scowled at him from behind dark sunglasses.

Gabe dropped into the chair opposite, laying out the crime scene pictures side by side on the gray metal table. “I didn’t realize you had someplace more important to be than here, helping us find your sister’s killer.”

“That’s because no one asked about my itinerary.” Pagan brushed invisible lint off his black leather jacket and leaned forward, lacing his fingers. “I’m here, without my lawyer, because I have nothing to hide. Finding my sister’s killer is my number one priority. Sitting around shooting the breeze with you? Not so much.”

His thick Brooklyn accent, rough and flavored with Spanish tugged at something inside Gabe. He frowned, fingers tightening on the edge of the folder he held.

“We haven’t been properly introduced, Mr. Pagan.” He held out a hand. “Gabriel Ashby. Lose the sunglasses.”

Pagan’s lips, full and firm-looking, curved “You’re new, aren’t you?” He grasped Gabe’s hand, enveloping him in rough heat.

The dull white walls of the room closed in on Gabe. A chill blanketed his skin even as sweat high-tailed it down his spine. He swallowed, fighting the urge to bolt like a scared kid rather than the twelve-year veteran he was.

When had he begun noticing men’s lips or the texture of their skin? Angelo Pagan cut a commanding figure even seated. From his considerably thick file, the leader of Los Pescadores, one of Brooklyn’s most notorious gangs, stood well over six feet. He wasn’t good looking, at least not in any traditional sense.

The man was hard. His body and face enhanced with its sharp-angled bone structure. The scruff on his jaw made him look like the dangerous man the NYPD knew him to be but couldn’t prove. The black sweater he wore molded to a solid chest and wide shoulders. His hair gleamed a vibrant blue-black in the deliberately dim lighting.

And here Gabe sat, fighting not to stare at his mouth. Cataloguing Pagan’s features like he would a woman’s. Christ Almighty. When did that happen? He shook his head to clear his thoughts, remembering Pagan’s question. “Yes, as a matter of fact. I am new.” Folding his arms over his chest, Gabe stared at his reflection in those Ray Bans. “Would you like someone you’re more comfortable with?” He didn’t quite hide his smirk. “Get rid of the sunglasses. I won’t ask again.”

“You’ll do for now, cop.” Pagan removed the sunglasses and winked.

That last word, delivered in a growl probably meant to denigrate, heated Gabe’s skin and hardened his cock.

He jerked. What the fuck?

Pagan’s lips quirked as his brown eyes locked on Gabe, holding him in place. His gaze flashed fire, sparking an answering blaze under Gabe’s skin and he couldn’t look away. The mocking glint in Pagan’s eyes dared him to break eye contact first. He swallowed, wetting his parched throat as he reminded himself of his job.

And Trish waiting patiently at home

This is nothing. This means nothing. Gabe coughed. “Where were you last night between the hours of ten p.m and one a.m, Mr. Pagan?”

“At a birthday party. Over one hundred people can testify to that. Do you think I killed my sister?”

He kept his tone calm, but Gabe detected the controlled anger on slow boil underneath and purposely ignored the question. “The birthday party was thrown by you, yes? As a surprise for your sister?”

A flash of pain, deep and wrenching crossed the man’s face before he blanked it and nodded. “Yes. She turned twenty-five yesterday.”

Sympathy welled up for a second but Gabe squashed it immediately. It didn’t matter that Pagan obviously cared for his sister. The woman had been gunned down in front his own home, in the middle of his street.

“Catarina was executed,” Gabe pointed out. “Who wanted to hurt you that badly?”

Pagan leaned forward then, elbows on the table. “I have no idea, cop.”

Gabe inhaled slowly, catching a whiff of mint blended with something exotic and wild. The way Pagan called him cop made his body react, made him need. He cursed his twitching dick, willing it to behave, to remember he was all about pussy, never cock. God, he couldn’t be attracted to this…person. Pagan was the wrong sex and a freaking criminal. If he wasn’t slowly losing his mind, he’d laugh at the irony. His cock had been playing dead for Trish the past few weeks but rouses at a husky word from a golden-eyed man.

A criminal.

A man.

Gabe didn’t find it funny.

“Do you think this is funny, Pagan?” He pushed the crime scene photos toward Pagan. The color photos of his sister lying dead in the middle of Forty-Seventh Street with one shot to the head. “She was executed because of your crimes.”
Pagan sat back, his jaw tight.

“Who have you pissed off lately?”

Pagan laughed, low and husky. “I’m the last person to get on anyone’s bad side, cop. I’m a charmer.” He winked. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

Gabe narrowed his eyes, searching to find a way to wipe the smug look off his face. All that bravado, he just knew it was a façade. What was Angelo Pagan’s true face? “Your sister found out the hard way, didn’t she? One of your enemies wanted to send you a message and she lost her life.”

Pagan’s eyes darkened, but he didn’t speak.

“You put the people you claim to care about in jeopardy and here you are, burying your sister. How does it feel to be the reason your sister’s dead? The reason your mother is heartbroken?”

Pagan just stared at Gabe, his lips curved, eyes mocking. Unmovable. Unreachable.

Gabe ached to punch him in the jaw, knock some sense into him. Some morals. Most of all he ached to touch the man, test the texture of those lips, and wasn’t that the most fucked up thing of all? Before he stepped into this room his most pressing concern was how to react if Trish brought up marriage again and now this.

Lusting over a criminal. Gabe pushed back his chair and got to his feet, spinning away in an attempt to hide the bulge in his jeans. He headed over to the door and opened it before turning to Pagan. “You can leave, but trust me when I tell you we will find the person responsible for this.”

Pagan got up, grabbing his sunglasses. He walked past Gabe, brushing up against him, body heat reaching out to scald him. Gabe hissed in a breath, schooling his features into a blank slate. His fingers twitched, itching to fist in the thick luxury of Pagan’s hair.

“I’d warn you not to take justice into your own hands, but I’m hoping you’ll try.”

Pagan stopped and met his gaze with a raised eyebrow.

“I want you to try something ‘cause I’ll be there watching,” Gabe growled. “And I’ll get to lock your ass up. Take you off the streets finally.” 

A slow smile spread over Pagan’s features, genuine and real, catching Gabe completely off guard. He fisted his hands at his body’s hungry reaction, glancing away before Pagan caught any signs of his attraction in his eyes.

“I’ll be seeing you, cop.”

Gabe turned back to him, watching as Pagan allowed his mask to slip for a second. There. Written behind those flashing gold eyes was the same heat. The same attraction.

Then he blinked and it was gone.

Pagan sauntered off, leaving Gabe’s heart thumping and his body aching.

* * * *

“Everyone in position?”

Focusing on the heavy door of the warehouse hiding Angelo Pagan’s newest shipment of guns, Gabe spoke into his earpiece. “Ready.”

The other men—eight in all—situated at different positions around the building answered in the affirmative. Seems business didn’t stop even if the gang leader’s sister died. Gabe tightened his gloved fingers on his gun and waited for the all clear. He salivated at the thought of locking up the bastard Pagan, maybe then he’d get some rest from the erotic thoughts running through his head in the three days since he’d laid eyes on him. He shouldn’t be wondering about the feel of Pagan’s lips on his or what he’d taste like.

Not that he had anything against gays. His brother was gay for crissakes, but Gabe had a live-in girlfriend who wanted a commitment. He couldn’t very well tell Trish the reason for their non-existent sex life was his fantasies about another man.

“All right, people,” McCabe, the task force leader, spoke into the earpiece. “We’ve got warm bodies. Two in the bottom and one up top. Watch your asses. Go. Go. Go.”

Beside Gabe, two other officers knocked down the warehouse door with two swings of the battering ram. They all filed in.

“NYPD, nobody move!”

The occupants of the warehouse scurried through the crates piled all over the place, floor to ceiling.

Gabe turned to his left as cops and criminals alike scattered, moving toward the sound of footsteps with his gun at the ready. Heart thumping, he stepped carefully, one foot in front of the other as he peeked around the corner. He caught the silhouette of a body hurrying up to the second level.

Gabe climbed the stairs, treading lightly. “NYPD, come out with your hands up.” Low voices reached his ears. “Angelo Pagan, please show yourself.” They had no real proof of who was in the warehouse tonight, but Gabe couldn’t imagine Pagan staying behind the scenes. When the informant told them of the new shipment arriving tonight, everyone on the 72nd’s Gang Task Force automatically seized the opportunity to nab Pagan and his crew.

Reaching the second floor landing, Gabe moved swiftly, searching the first of the two rooms cluttered with barrels and crates. The place was empty so he moved on to the next.

A low crash reached Gabe before he entered the next room. He paused, finger on the trigger. “Whoever’s in there come out with your hands up.”

A bullet rang out, whizzing past his head. “Fuck.” Darting behind a barrel, he crouched low. Was it Pagan shooting at him or had he ordered his people to take care of Gabe? The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth.

The sound of gunshots died down. Running feet and shouts echoed from downstairs. He crept from behind his hiding place, gun raised. Satisfied the area was clear, he took a step forward and froze.

Angelo Pagan and another man emerged from behind a door, assault rifles pointed at him. Gabe ignored the other man, keeping his attention on Pagan.

“Pagan.”

Those eyes flickered. “Cop.” Something akin to regret washed over his face before he smoothed out his features.

Gabe shook his head. “Pagan, don’t—” He didn’t hear the shot, but he felt the fiery burst of pain in his left shoulder. His knees buckled and he went down. And out.

4 Responses to “Love the Sinner by Avril Ashton”

  1. The Blue NuN October 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    VERY GOOD, KEPT MY ATTENTION.

  2. Lorraine Nelson - Author October 17, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Well done! Lots of emotion, inner angst and action.

  3. Kellie Kamryn October 22, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Wow – awesome!

  4. Morticia Knight October 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    This is my hands down favorite – great job! I would buy this book right now based on the first chapter.

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