Balls to the Wall (Birch Police Department #1) by April Canavan

I also made sure that I drove by her place every other day or so. Just to make sure that she wasn't in any trouble. Not to make sure she hadn't vanished into thin air. Nope. Not me.

I had a promise to keep, and I'd do it even if I hated every second of it. Even if it drove me crazy and cut into my chest and tore my heart out over and over again, I’d do it. I owed Parker that much.

Daisy's ears perked up a moment later, and I watched as the sliding glass doors to the emergency vet opened. A very tired-looking Parker walked out, holding Nox by the hand, and Daisy whined again.

She knew Parker and Nox, and no doubt wanted to go say hi and sniff them. She loved Nox. Everyone who met the kid loved him. He was a clone of his father, his uncle, and every other male in his father's family. The Hayes genes ran deep.

Speaking of Nox's uncle. I picked up my phone and hit Linc's contact, waiting for the line to connect.

"What?" he barked into the phone on the second ring.

"It's me, asshole."

I followed Parker out of the parking lot and set my phone in the cradle, using Bluetooth to talk to my best friend.

"I know," he countered. "That's what caller ID is for. Now why are you calling me in the middle of the night?"

I didn't pull any punches. "Parker’s dog is dead."

Linc didn't say anything, not for a long minute. When he finally did, his voice came out broken, hoarse. "You sure?"

"I gave her an escort to the emergency vet," I explained. "Saw him for myself in the back seat. Nox was with her."

"Fuck." He groaned. "Danny got her Boo."

I knew that. Linc knew that I knew. Hell, the three of us were inseparable our entire lives. To be honest, there wasn't much about Parker and Danny's life together that I didn't know.

"I'm sorry," I told him. "I'm gonna follow her home. You might want to stop by tomorrow."

"Yeah," he sighed deeply. "This is gonna crush everyone."

Linc's family loved Boo. They loved Parker and Nox too. I knew for a fact that losing this piece of Danny was gonna hurt every single Hayes family member in Birch County. I wasn't even a Hayes, and my heart ached.

"Thank you, Remy." Linc sighed again, the sound coming more from his soul than anything else I'd heard from him recently. "It never gets easier, does it?"

"He was your twin." I clenched my fist. "And we were both there when he died. I don't think it'll ever get easier."

There was silence on the other end of the line, followed by a mirthless laugh. "Fuck, man. We gotta stop these late-night heart-to-hearts."

Trying to break the tension, I did the only thing I could, I gave him shit. "I mean, sure thing, as soon as you pull your head out of your ass and tell Kennedy how you feel."

Linc bristled on the other end of the call. I could practically see it, and I heard him shift in his seat. "Shut the fuck up, Remy. You know I can't."

"I know she's my little sister," I pointed out. "And I know that she's got a date to Casper and Cole's wedding in a few months. One that isn't you." The words cut deep, like I knew they would. Anyone else might think that I was an asshole, but I knew Linc. He needed me to get him out of his head. He needed me to help him forget, if even for a moment, that his twin was dead and that we were all left to pick up the pieces. Even if it was five years later. “You’d be crazy to let her go. We already lost Cassie this year, man. I don’t want to lose any more.” The pain of my sister’s death hit again, always there like a weight on my fucking chest.

"I don't care."

The lie burned through the line between us, and we both heard it.

"Keep telling yourself that," I barked. "But remember that when he pops the question and she marries a douche."

"She deserves to be happy." Linc responded so quickly that it was obvious he'd rehearsed the line. Probably over and over, in the mirror, to convince himself not to go after the woman he loved.

"She's gonna marry a lawyer, Linc. A fucking lawyer. My dad is gonna lose his shit." Alex Townsend, the chief of police for Birch, my father and soon-to-be boss, did not like lawyers. He hated them, almost as much as he liked to joke that he hated firefighters. The difference between the two was that he didn't actually hate firefighters. But he hated lawyers. We all did.

"She's not going to marry a lawyer," Linc growled.