Desert Isle Keeper
Cuff Me is the third story in Lauren Layne’s New York’s Finest series, centered around a family of police officers. There are four brothers and one sister, two of whom (Luc and Anthony) featured in the first two stories in the series (Frisk Me and Steal Me) both of which I quite enjoyed, so I was looking forward to reading Vincent’s story. In particular, I was also intrigued because I knew it would feature a ‘workplace romance’ of sorts – that of Vincent and his partner Jill. They’ve been paired together on cases for six years, have a solid friendship and working relationship, but have never veered into inappropriate territory – until now.
Jill has just returned from three months away taking care of her injured mother, and she’s come back with a big surprise – while away she met someone, and got engaged! Vincent, who had one of those ‘absence makes the heart grows fonder’ epiphanies while Jill was away was all set to take a big leap into the unknown and see if things between them could take a turn in a new direction, so her news knocks him down – but not out. He wants Jill to be happy and senses that her relationship with her new fiancé isn’t all she wants it to be. But is he willing to risk opening up to her about his true feelings?
This is a slow burn romance with oodles of sexual tension (my favorite!). With Jill’s return, she and Vincent discover that the easy partnership they’ve had for six years has disappeared and in its place is a cautious, awkward, trying to get back to the way things were, friendship. Vincent’s tendency to hide his emotions serves him well as a homicide detective, but not so much on the relationship front. Realizing how much he missed Jill has made him determined to start things off with her on a different foot when she returns – a plan Jill foils with the news of her engagement. Instead he’s got to figure out a way to cope with the idea that he could lose his partner for good.
On Jill’s end, she’s just doing what she needs to do to move on with her life. She’s had unresolved feelings for Vincent for a long time, but has come to the realization that if she wants a husband and children, it’s not going to be with him. Her fiancé Tom on the other hand, is perfect – a true gentleman, wealthy but not a snob, friendly, good in the sack, a mirror image of Jill herself. But now that she’s back home, she has a harder time convincing herself that she’s doing the right thing. There is no cheating in the story, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Jill obviously doesn’t end up with Tom. He’s a good catalyst for Jill and Vincent to deal with the issues between them though. I felt a little bad for Tom at first as he obviously cares a lot about Jill, but he seems to do alright for himself in the end.
By the time Vincent and Jill acknowledge what’s between them and get down to the ‘down and dirty’ (and whoo boy, they light things up in some very sexy scenes!) we’re well into the second half of the story. I am glad that they didn’t rush into anything, and that it happens in a realistic time frame. Even when they get to the good stuff, there’s lots still to work through. Though they’ve been partners at work, it’s a whole other ball game to be partners in an intimate relationship. They have to learn to communicate and, in Jill’s case, to recognize the effort that Vincent is going through to put himself out there for her. He’s not vocal, but he works at showing Jill that he really loves her, and it takes her a while to recognize it.
The Moretti family is highly entertaining. With everyone (save for Mom and Nonna) in law enforcement, or the criminal justice system (Vincent’s sister Elena is a defense lawyer, much to the cop brothers’ dismay) Sunday family brunches are a highly spirited affair. Jill has a special place as Vincent’s work partner but has become good friends with Elena too, and they have some fun scenes together. The brothers act like real brothers, so there are lots of laugh out loud moments, and some serious ones too as Vincent’s brothers (and his dad Tony) help him see that Jill is the one for him.
Throughout the course of the story, there is a murder mystery playing out, so while Jill and Vincent are working through their own issues, they are also tracking a killer and that aspect of the story is equally enjoyable, including how Jill and Vincent work together and their individual roles in solving a crime that make them such good partners. I had no idea who the murderer was (they do solve the case by the end) so it’s well plotted and keeps some good suspense running through the story. Cuff Me perfectly blends family, work and romance into a delightful contemporary story.