The first bullet struck the driver-side door. The dull ping shoved Mike into instinct mode. He dived behind the car as he drew his weapon.
"Shit!" His rookie joined him and crouched down, the top of his blond head still a sniper's wet dream.
"Get your fucking head down," Mike snapped.
Nathan York's face colored as he dropped lower. He gave Mike an apologetic look.
Mike didn't want apologies. He wanted his latest trainee, his boot, not to get shot in the fucking head. He tapped his radio. "This is A73. We have heavy fire at this address. Request SWAT at our location."
Another bullet hit the side of their car, but Mike couldn't see the shooter. A quick glance over to York again. Had to be sure he was beside him, safe, and in position. Nate was there, eyes wide but hands steady on his GLOCK.
Mike nodded his approval before turning his attention to the house. "LAPD!" he yelled. "Put the gun down and come outside, hands on your head."
No response. Mike stayed low, gaze raking the scene, trying to get a visual on the shooter. Domestic disturbance calls were always a bitch, but he figured they'd only be in for a lot of "he said, she said," with this one. They'd never received a call to this house before. Normally that meant they'd leave the scene with everyone in love again and no one wanting to press charges. Instead they had shots fired.
That was what he got for trying to predict the job.
"Far left window of the house. It's shot out," York said.
Mike focused on the window. That would be the location of their shooter. Proving York right, Mike saw the long end of a rifle ease through the broken glass.
"That's it. Looks like a thirty-aught-six."
"Shit," York muttered.
Yeah. Shit. It was far from ideal, even though he couldn't ask for a better training scenario for his boot. Nathan York needed to learn that in this job there were never any simple calls. Nothing was predictable, not even to a fifteen-year veteran. Every call had the potential to go mushroom cloud on your ass. Just like this one.
Another unit responded, stopping farther down street. They slid out of their car and took cover.
"I know you're out there!" the shooter yelled. "I can smell you. Fucking pigs! Back off! Back off, or I'll kill them all!"
A scream came from somewhere inside the house.
Mike didn't think it was possible, but York's eyes grew bigger. He looked at Mike, waiting for his lead, waiting for his command, like some pup in obedience training. The analogy wasn't too far off.
Problem was, veteran or not, there wasn't much Mike could do. There was no magical command he could issue to his training partner. Information was sketchy at best--unknown number of perpetrators, unknown level of firearms, unknown access to the building or location of civilians. Going in there with guns blazing would be stupid and careless, and Mike was neither. The best they could do was secure the perimeter, call for backup, and try not to get shot.
York shuffled on his feet. Leaning against the car, he turned fully toward Mike, face as white as dress gloves on the parade ground. "What do we do?"
Question of the century. "Wait for SWAT and keep down. We can't go in there. We'll just add to the body count and be of no fucking use to anyone. A dead hero is still dead. Remember that."
York blinked as more yelling continued. At least the shooting had stopped.
Two more shots rang out. Never mind.
The radio buzzed. "You two all right?"
Mike could see the other two officers farther down the street, hunched low behind their squad car. He tapped his radio. "We're fine." Well, York was pale but steady. The kid had backbone. Still, if Mike had a choice, he wouldn't put him through this. Not yet. And where the fuck was SWAT? Mike leaned into his radio again. "This is A73. What's the ETA on our damn backup?"
"A73, SWAT is en route, ETA less than one minute."
They could hold out for a minute.
"We've got movement at the front door," the other unit called over the radio.
Mike shifted and peered over the hood of the car. A man stood in the doorway, blood-splattered shirt, rifle hanging from his hand.
Mike leaned over the car hood, gun aimed. "LAPD! Put the gun down and get on the ground!"
The man staggered forward on the porch, rifle still in his hand, head on a swivel.
"Put the gun down and get the fuck on the ground. Do it now!" Mike ordered, fingers tightening around the base of his GLOCK.
The shooter didn't listen. He bolted forward; his entire body sparked to life. He screamed and raised the rifle.
Mike took him down. Two shots, center mass.
The man fell in slow motion, the scene playing out like a silent movie. He landed hard, faceup, an inglorious flop to the ground as the red-and-blue lights of the SWAT van finally turned up. Black-clothed cops poured out and swarmed the yard.
Mike looked for York. Nate was there, lowering his weapon from where he'd had it aimed at their shooter. He looked like a coil ready to snap, body tense, muscles of his forearms still flexed. Ready.
Mike approached the yard as SWAT swept the house. They found two dead and one in critical condition. The paramedics worked on a woman in her early twenties as they loaded her into the ambulance.
The scene was dismally familiar. Family gathering. Guy went mental and took out his relatives over some stupid argument. Just another day on the job.
Mike's shots had been almost textbook, if a book existed for shit like this. He'd done everything right, justified use of force. Still, there'd be interviews with IA. And questions. So many fucking questions, each one forcing him to relive the moment over and over, as if that helped.
He walked back to the patrol car, his feet weighing twenty pounds each. York wrote in his notebook, pure focus as he scribbled. The kid had promise, even if he did radiate rookie from the shine of his boots to the top of his perfect short hair.
Nate looked up, green eyes dark, death grip on his pen.
"Not what we expected," Mike said. What else could he say?
York shook his head, still watching Mike's every move, ready to follow his lead. As if there was a grand procedure following shit like this. Sadly, it wasn't the first time Mike had been through a shooting. What did it say about him that he wasn't as wide-eyed and tense as York anymore?
"Get in." Mike tilted his head toward their car. "We have to make a report. And I've got some time off with warm, fuzzy counseling sessions ahead. You can have the same if you think you need it."
York shook his head as he moved to the passenger door.
The really sick thing was, Mike was relieved. Pleased even. Not at the situation with the victims. Only some twisted fuck would be relieved about that. No, the biggest relief a training officer felt was keeping their boot safe. He'd done exactly that. Nate was still alive and well, making notes, and turning down counseling.
Mike had to be tough on him, every day. He'd been a damn good mentor for plenty of boots, which sometimes meant being an unforgiving asshole. Most days he rode York too hard. He knew it, but he was the same with any new trainee. He wanted to keep Nate alive so he could do the job.
He was protective of every trainee, so of course he was protective of York. It made sense how relieved he was right now. Nathan York was no different than any other fresh-faced boot. This was Mike's job; his concern for Nate was purely professional.
York gave him one last look before he moved to get in the car. His navy-blue pants stretched, pulling taut around Nate's narrow hips and across his ass. Mike couldn't look away. He recalled the dream from last night. He wasn't in the habit of dreaming about his trainees, but Nate had popped into his head...and there he'd stayed.
All damn night.
Strong hands, hot skin, avid mouth, the rush of adrenaline as pure need had kicked in. Mike swore the musky scent of sex still clung to the air when the alarm jarred him awake.
Mike knew who he was and what he liked, but his sex life had no place on the job. For fifteen years it'd served him well to stay in the closet, so that was exactly where he remained.
Nate's blond head turned, and he looked through the open car window at Mike. "You okay, sir?" His green eyes were still dark with concern.
Purely professional. Right.