Josephine 'Jo' Rayburn has no luck with love. Between the demands of her job as a homicide detective, finding the perfect yarn for her knitting projects, and her nosy family, she doesn't have time to find her happily ever after, nor does she really believe it exists. Until she's assigned to the Gravedigger task force where she meets Rhysian 'Rhys' Harrison, the sexy Coroner's assistant.
Rhys Harrison thought he had found love with the perfect woman. But his parents' death forced him to choose between his fiancée and caring for his brother, he chose his brother. His only regret, the medical degree he abandoned to work in the Coroner's office. When the Gravedigger leaves his latest victim at the gates of a cemetery, Rhys and Jo are thrown together, her prickly personality interests him, but it's her deeply hidden romantic side that captivates him.
After one of the task force members is shot, Rhys's fears of losing Jo, like he's lost so much already, threaten to rip them apart. Can she convince him that love is worth having no matter the risk? Or will he play it safe, leaving before his heart becomes too attached?
They rounded the corner and Jo released a startled gasp when Rhys led her to another booth. “And this is the reason I wanted to bring you here.”
Her gaze bounced from all the colorful yarn in front of her, to him. She narrowed her eyes. “Did Sullivan talk? Because if—”
“Sullivan knows?” Rhys held his palms up, shaking his head. “No, I kind of spied on you . . . sort of.”
She took a careful step back. Could she have read him wrong? God, she had the absolute worst luck with men.
“Get that look off your face. I wasn't following— Wait, I kind of . . . Dammit.”
It was the first time she'd seen him at a loss for words and had heard him curse. He took a deep breath, then released it as he rubbed his palms across the sides of his pants. Nervous was good . . . maybe.
Rhys's gaze tangled with her and she read the sincerity in it. “I take my brother to the library on Wednesdays. They sponsor a reading program, and I like him to have real books. Borrowing the books teach him to take care of items, especially if he's responsible for turning them back in or paying for damages out of his allowance.”
“I thought I saw you on the escalator, but . . .” she trailed off unsure if she wanted him to know she'd almost followed to see if the man really was Rhys. Jo hadn't followed though, not wanting to embarrass herself if she were wrong.
“Yeah, probably. I followed you—”
“And saw the knitting books. Crap.” Jo stepped into his space, jabbing a finger at him. “No telling anyone. Sullivan knows, but I have enough blackmail video of him that he won't ever spill.”
“I'm not going to tell anyone, Jo. I mean I don't get why it's a big secret—” Rhys's hand caught hers, linking them together again.
People who didn't work in law enforcement rarely understood the weird sense of humor and pranks that occurred because of it. “If any of my coworkers know, I'll get orders showing up on my desk for knitted speedos, with sizes I'm sure—”
“Are you kidding?” Rhys's mouth fell open when she shook her head.
“With just the Digger case, Sullivan and I have gotten three different adverts for zombie apocalypse survival kits. Not to mention a few axes, and tons of emails with videos on how to survive a zombie attack.”
“I thought cops had more important things to do.”
Jo snorted. “They do, but they also know levity keeps you from sinking into the deepest darkest hole you can find. We see the absolute worst humanity has to offer. Grandmothers killing grandkids because they were high. Or parents selling their kids. Kids shooting parents or other family members. If someone can dream it up, we've seen it.”
He gently pulled her close, cradling her in his arms. Safe. His chest was solid under her cheek. His heart a steady beat in her ear, she stifled a gasp at how right he felt.
“I know. I've only worked for Jim for a few months and I already know I'm not cut out for it.”
Gathering her composure, Jo kept their hands linked and leaned back. “You wanted to be a doctor? I thought I heard that.”
“Yes, a pediatrician.” His thin lips softened from the hard-flat line they'd been in. “I planned to go into practice with a couple of friends I'd met in school. One was studying to be an OBGYN and the two others were studying general medicine. I wanted to help kids.”
“And what stopped you?”
“My parents died, and I needed to take care of Rian.” Rhys set her away from him. “And this is depressing. How about we get off these subjects and back on this amazing yarn.”
Deciding to go along with him, Jo turned and fell into her second love. Knitting. Jo wanted to dig into all the questions she had: why Rhys quit medical school, why he'd taken a job at the Coroner's office and why he still drove his father's car after they'd been dead for two years, she tamped down the urge. Focusing on his smiles and laughter. But especially the bubbly feeling of happiness he drew so effortlessly from her.
Character: Josephine 'Jo' Rayburn
Book: Gravedigger – The Rayburn Mysteries Book One
Occupation: Homicide Detective
Jo shifted in the chair and tapped the table, her nerves getting the better of her. Her hostess had left Jo to relax and get comfortable before they started the interview... the hostess's words, not hers.
She hated interrogations unless she was the one doing the questioning. Then she was in her element digging into the perp's mind. A warm hand landed on her shoulder, and she turned with a smile. Rhys always calmed her. Which was why she had brought him to this thing.
“This isn't an interrogation, hon. It's just a getting to know you chat.”
Jo frowned. “I don't want people to get to know me.”
“Sure you do.” Rhys patted her shoulder and took the seat next to her setting down two cups of coffee. “Now, you have the interview questions. Why don't you look them over? Maybe fill them out so you can refer back to them.”
Sighing, she took the pad and pen he passed her and started reading the list of questions the hostess had given Jo.
If Cap hadn't still been pissed that she left that rookie at the side of the road, Jo never would have gotten roped into this. The rookie deserved it talking crap about her quitting now that she had a sugar daddy. As if she would ever let Rhys support her. Screw her? Yes. Hug her? Yes. Even love her, she was on board with all of that. But not paying for her stuff. Besides nothing short of death would take her from police work. She was born to be a cop.
Taking a deep breath, she dove into the interrogation. Because no matter how you sliced it or shot it, this was an interrogation...
What do you look like?
I'm plain. Plain brown hair, skinny build, and short, but I've been told my icy blue eyes can make perps run. *shrugs* probably depends on the perp, and whether I'm pissed. Which if they make me run after them usually pisses me off. Alabama is not known for its cool climates add in a bullet proof vest under a shirt and jacket and I'm not in the running mood.
Who is the significant other in your life?
Like my boyfriend? God, I hate that term, but that would be Rhysian 'Rhys' Harrison. Or if you're talking about the guy who has my back when bullets start flying, well that's my partner Sullivan Krane, also known as Icky which I will never use. Though now that we're on the zombie case I've been calling him Sully. He hates it but that's what partners are for to irritate each other. It shows we care.
What do you prefer wearing?
It depends. If I'm headed to a crime scene, then I prefer black or dark colors in case blood gets on me. Or in case I have to chase a perp. If I'm going out with Rhys, then I might wear something in blue as he loves that color.
If we could only hear your voice (but not see you) what characteristic would identify you?
My snarky replies. My partner, Sullivan, brings it out in me. As does working with my half-sister, Karma.
Please tell us about your education.
I grew up around cops. My stepdad, Carl Rayburn, is the Chief of Police in Moody... well, he's retired now. My two older brothers are cops, pretty much all Carl's family are cops, so I've grown up dissecting crime scenes and hearing about cases as they would sometimes bounce ideas off each other around the dinner table or watching football. I also have a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in psychology. But I am by no means a head doctor, I just like to know how the perp thinks.
Are you book-smart, self-taught, widely-experienced?
I wouldn't say book-smart as I don't have much time to read. I'd probably go with self-taught as spending time sparring and at the gun range is me teaching myself to be better.
Do you get by, live comfortably, live extravagantly?
I live in a one-bedroom apartment. My most extravagant thing in there is a table my mom wanted to donate to Goodwill, but it held too many memories. So I took it. My other extravagance would be the corkboard that takes up an entire wall. It's where I hang my tough cases on to try to puzzle out as I knit in my recliner. *Narrows gaze* Yeah, I knit and that needs to be kept close to the vest.
What is your viewpoint on wealth?
I don't have a problem with wealth. Rhysian's wealthy, he and his brother live in a house in Mountain Brook that looks like a flipping castle. But that's their money not mine.
Do you rely on any special skills?
No. Only my brains and my gut. I can beat Sullivan at the shooting range and Karma in a no holds barred sparring match when she fights fair but otherwise, I'm just an average detective.
What skills do you have? And are they a source of pride or embarrassment?
I've been studying killers up close and personal since I was twelve. I know them and can get into their skins. However, each case leaves a heavy toll and makes it hard for me to get close to civilians. They're so oblivious to every day dangers and so easily hurt. It's one of the reasons I'm nervous about letting Rhys in, if something ever happened to him...
Do you have any interesting things in your pockets or purse?
Nooo? *Shuffles through purse* I have my badge and a few things that help get me out of a jam. Like a Swiss army knife. A sewing pack which can be turned into a compass using the magnets built into my purse. A few Ziploc baggies. You know some of the things you'd need in case you were dumped in the woods and needed to survive until you get back to civilization.
What's your family like? Are you close to them?
My mom, Maddy, and stepdad, Carl, are amazing. I have two older stepbrothers and a younger half-brother and half-sister that are Maddy and Carl's biological children.
My biological dad keeps his distance. He's not to be trusted. I've got three half-sisters from him. I'm on the fence about those three.
I'm very close with the Rayburns. They've always been in my life and all of them have my back when I'm in the field.
Are you involved in your community?
As long as you consider arresting bad guys and making sure we have a rock solid case community involvement... then yep, I'm all kinds of involved.
How well do you know your neighbors?
Neighbors? Wait you mean the people in the other apartments? Hmmm, I don't think I've seen them. But then again I work some odd hours.
What's your take on right and wrong? Do you see it as black and white or are there shade of gray?
If you did the crime, then I will arrest you. The right and wrong of it are for judges and juries to decide, not me.
I deal in homicides, which means someone's killed someone else which is wrong so it's up to me to make sure we put away the right person and have all the evidence to back it up. Now, if they go free after that, then my partner and I usually get pretty upset. But we'll go over what we did right and what we did wrong so we don't make a mistake like that again.
Who would you NOT want to see from your past?
Are we talking perps I've arrested or just regular Joe's? Nevermind... That's gonna be a long list. Do you have more paper?
Can you keep a secret? Why or why not? And do you know someone else's secret that you've not shared with anyone?
Yes, I keep secrets. It's called blackmail fodder. And usually I have videos to back it up, just in case.
As for a secret no one else knows... I think my biological dad is a hitman and I think he ordered the hit on the group of men who kidnapped me when I was five. I've never told anyone that and I won't share that willy-nilly. But you seem like the type who can keep a secret.
What is your biggest need?
My biggest need would be for Rhysian not to leave me because of my job. No matter how dangerous it can be. He needs to have faith that I'll do everything I can to come home in one piece.
What do you consider to be your biggest flaw?
I'm prickly. I don't let just anyone get to know me and I don't trust many people. It's turned a lot of men off which is fine, if they can't handle it then they shouldn't be dating me anyway.
Are you expressive emotionally or shut off?
Rhysian draws my emotions from me and makes me softer. For everyone else, no... just no. I have a gun and I am not afraid to use it if you get in my personal space. Just so you know.
When you lie or stretch the truth do you have a tell?
Not much. I interrogate criminals for a living, if I can't lie worth a damn then I don't need to be in this line of work. Those that know me claim I have a tone to my voice when I lie. I can't say since I don't listen to myself.
Is there anything else you want readers to know?
Don't believe anything Sullivan tells you. My partner can hold a mean grudge. And the whole knitting speedos... ain't gonna happen so don't go there. Quit looking at those patterns...
About the Author:
I'm a geek, a gamer, a music lover, and a voracious reader. I love Star Trek and B-grade movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Sharknado. I enjoy figuring out software and learning new things and applying them to whatever book I'm currently working on.
I write romantic adventures. Mostly, I live vicariously through my characters. I can be a knife-wielding forager who saves her family from deadly kidnappers or a slinky thief who must outmaneuver her sadistic cousin. My male characters aren't cookie cutter either. There's so much diversity in the world that one size does not fit all. It's the same for love. My male characters are diverse. I have several he-men, alpha types, but I also have nerds in glasses who can kickass when needed, whether in a board room or in a parking garage. I have characters who are blind and some who have lost a limb putting their lives on the line to save others.
The one thing they all have in common is they are people who learn to move past their hurdles and find love.
I can be found at: