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Cold & Deadly (EBOOK)

Cold & Deadly (EBOOK)

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Cold Justice® - The Negotiator (Book #1)

“Wow, just wow! This book got me so pumped up I just couldn’t put it down. This is my first book by this author, I love her style of writing she had me on edge all the time.” —Anna Kindle Friends Forever.

FBI Crisis Negotiator Dominic Sheridan is adept at dealing with high-stake situations under treacherous conditions. But nothing prepared him for the headstrong rookie agent, Ava Kanas, who seems hell-bent on destroying her fledgling career while in pursuit of justice.

When several agents die in quick succession it becomes obvious a killer is targeting the FBI, and Dominic in particular. Together, Dominic and Ava race to find the murderer, all the while fighting a forbidden attraction that will complicate everything, especially when a predator has them in their sights.


*Winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and the Golden Quill Award.

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The shooter nestled behind the low brick wall on top of the four-story building. The wet asphalt was rough on the knees, but the wall was the perfect height to support the barrel of the Browning X-Bolt Micro rifle with its Ledsniper hunting scope.
A quarter of a mile away, across a busy highway, a group of men and women in somber suits crowded around a hole in the dirt. Diamonds of moisture clung to the tips of fragile blades of lush green grass. A slight breeze ruffled the dense leaves on the sturdy oaks.
Details of the grief-stricken mourners’ faces were razor-
sharp. The crispness of pressed, white, cotton shirts. Grizzled whiskers poking through wind-reddened cheeks. The soft, plump curve of an earlobe pierced by an expensive, gold earring.
Crosshairs found the handsome face of Dominic Sheridan. His dark blue eyes were reddened at the rim, skin pinched as if consciously holding back emotion. A cleft marked his chin, underscoring a wide mouth set to grim.
Funerals did that to a person.
People milled about, supporting one another, united in grief, blind to danger—sad, devastated, hurting.
Would this tear them apart?
Would it destroy them?
Would it make them wake, screaming in the darkness, night after night, year after year, victims of relentless, perpetual anguish?
Would they understand? Or would they remain oblivious to the last man?
The trigger was smooth and silky to the touch. Index finger perched, delicately balanced on the precipice of life and death.
A long, slow indrawn breath. A breath that marked the moment everything changed. The moment the darkness became visible. Death became a reality.
A steady exhale found the body’s natural pause. Then, that seemingly endless moment of inertia as the trigger was gently squeezed, forcing the firing pin to strike the explosive charge in the bullet and retribution to obliterate flesh at 1700 miles per hour.
Now the endgame began. Now everything changed.

Chapter One

Van Stamos—FBI retired—had eaten his gun. According to the powers-that-be it had been an accident. Van had gotten hammered one night last week and mistakenly shot himself with the service weapon the Bureau had so generously let him keep after thirty years of dedicated service.
Dominic Sheridan wasn’t fooled.
Van had been walking around occasionally drunk and in charge of a loaded firearm for four decades, first as a beat-cop and then as an agent. It seemed like a hell of a coincidence the guy suddenly got careless enough to make a hole in the roof of his mouth right after he retired.
Dominic pressed his lips together as he and his fellow pallbearers eased the casket onto a pedestal beside the grave. He silently fought the frustration and anger that filled him every time he thought about this kind, decent, hard-working man taking his own life. Dominic should have been there for him. He should have known this might happen. He blinked away searing tears that burned for release. He wanted to walk away and find a dark corner and howl out his grief, but he knew how to hide his emotions better than most.
Van had done more to keep him alive and employed in those early days as a new agent than the rest of the FBI combined. Dominic had loved the guy but was still too pissed or repressed or goddamn screwed up to cry at his funeral. What was worse, Van would have totally understood and forgiven him. He was that good a person.
Sweat beaded Dominic’s temple. The fine wool of his black jacket was too heavy for the hot, sticky humidity of a late Virginia summer. His shirt clung to his back, making his skin prickle uncomfortably, the same way his mind itched for answers. The monotonous rumble of the priest’s voice competed with the incessant buzz of a deer fly who wanted a piece of him. He ignored them both, the same way he tried to ignore his friend’s body laid out in that wooden casket.
Right now, it was hard to think about anything else.
Dominic had known the transition was gonna be hard on a guy who’d been a mover and shaker in his time, who’d helped put away notorious mobsters and violent serial killers. Playing golf and joining the local bridge club was hardly in the same league as keeping America safe, although Van had assured Dominic he was looking forward to peace and quiet after a long, satisfying career.
He’d put in his time, Van had told him with one of those ironic little smiles. And then he’d eaten his own fucking gun.
A bead of sweat ran down Dominic’s temple and into his starched collar. This was the third funeral in the last year for agents he’d worked with at the New York Field Office (NYFO). Dominic was fast thinking the most dangerous thing a G-man could do was retire. The fact Van’s death had been officially deemed an accident rather than suicide meant Van could be buried with his beloved wife, Jessica. If the diocese had denied Van that right, Dominic would have come down here in the dead of night with some fellow agents, a few good shovels, and moved the damned casket himself.
A woman’s voice cut through the service. Angry and sharp. It punctured the somber atmosphere the way a shard of glass pierced flesh. Dominic recognized Special Agent Ava
Kanas arguing with Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Raymond Aldrich, the man who’d become her boss upon Van’s retirement.
Realizing she’d caught people’s attention, the agent lowered her voice. Judging from her body language, though, she was doubling down on her argument with her boss. Her jaw was iron hard, body tense, pale fingers gripping the material of her black blazer so hard that her knuckles gleamed.
Dominic narrowed his eyes. He’d been introduced to Kanas at Van’s farewell party a couple of months ago. She was a rookie agent in her first office assignment (FOA) and looked young even for that. She’d worked with Van at the Fredericksburg Resident Agency in Virginia—Van’s final posting—and they appeared to have been close. His old friend and mentor had had only good things to say about the woman but then, even before his wife’s death, Van had always been a sucker for a pretty face. Dominic liked to form his own opinions and hadn’t had the chance nor reason to assess Kanas’s capabilities. He’d been busy catching up with Van and other old friends. Many were also here today. Nobody felt much like partying.
The younger agent hadn’t stuck around for glory days or good-old-boy stories. Dominic didn’t blame her.
She grabbed Aldrich’s arm. Her boss tried to pull away, but she wasn’t letting go. Dammit. They were about to cause a scene. Dominic excused himself from Van’s two grownup daughters and went to head off the brewing confrontation. It only took a few seconds to reach the fuming agents who were standing beside a gnarly, old oak at the edge of the crowd.
Kanas eyed him warily. Her brown hair was pulled into a pony so tight it tugged at the skin beside her eyes. Maybe that explained the furrows of pain etched on her brow, but he didn’t think so.
“Whatever the two of you are arguing about,” Dominic said quietly but firmly, “how about you rein it in until you’re back in the office.” He masked his ire but not his impatience.
Kanas’s chin lifted, and he was pinned by fierce, hazel eyes.
Dominic stared right back. He didn’t want Van’s funeral to be anything other than the respectful memorial the man deserved. More importantly, there were a lot of powerful people here today. Dominic didn’t want Kanas creating a spectacle of herself and possibly ruining her fledgling career. Van would have wanted Dominic to look out for her—the way Van had looked out for Dominic all those years ago.
He called upon all his experience as one of the FBI’s top negotiators to dampen his own grief and anger and contain the situation. “I can see you’re angry, which sucks. But whatever the issue is, this isn’t the place.” He used a soothing voice without any inflection that could be misinterpreted as antagonistic. It was mellow and understanding and had helped talk down prisoners and desperados in hostage situations around the world.
Kanas opened her parted lips to speak, but her boss beat her to it.
“She doesn’t think it was an accident,” Aldrich murmured softly and nodded toward the coffin.
Dominic’s gaze slid sideways to Kanas. The anger in her pretty eyes was replaced by a pain so raw it almost hurt to look at. She bit her lip and steadfastly examined her sensible black leather shoes.
“None of us believe it was an accident.” Dominic’s gaze shifted back to the polished wood of the casket, and a fresh wave of guilt crashed over him. “But the last thing the family needs is anyone questioning Van’s right to be buried beside his late wife.”
He shifted his feet, and the scent of wet grass and damp earth rose around him, thick and cloying. Combined with the setting, the scent spawned a sudden surge of memories that bombarded his brain. He shook them off.
Suicide pissed him off.
“You don’t understand.” Aldrich’s lips barely moved. “Ava thinks someone murdered Van. She wants the funeral stopped so the ME can conduct more tests.”
Dominic’s eyes widened in surprise.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Kanas hissed, her voice low and urgent. “He called me last Tuesday afternoon.” The day he died. “He was fine. We had plans to meet for coffee after work on Wednesday.”
Dominic urged her and Aldrich farther away from the rest of the mourners, out of earshot. Some people were starting to glare.
“I’m assuming there was an investigation into Van’s death?” Dominic stared the rookie in the eye. He stood only a few inches taller, which made her close to six feet.
“Evidence Response Team treated it like a crime scene, and there was an autopsy. No indication of foul play,” said Aldrich.
Kanas looked mutinous. Dominic touched her arm to try and calm her and felt her jolt through the thin material of her blazer.
“What makes you doubt the findings, Agent Kanas?” Because as sick as it might be, the thought of Van being murdered was a whole lot more appealing than the idea that his old friend had committed suicide. Guilt was a terrible thing. Catholic guilt was a bitch on wheels.
And maybe that was Kanas’s problem too. Guilt that she hadn’t saved the man. That she hadn’t realized he was depressed or suicidal.
“It doesn’t feel right.” She pressed her lips together and couldn’t hold his gaze.
He’d never tell anyone to discount their gut feelings, Van had taught him that, but now wasn’t the time to cast doubt based on nothing more substantial than wishful thinking.
He took in the devastation in her eyes and the slight trembling of her hands, and something else occurred to him. She was a beautiful woman and Van had technically been single...
Dominic cleared his throat. “Do you know something the rest of us don’t? Were the two of you...involved?”
Her chin snapped up. “I loved him, the same way you loved him and countless other people loved him. How many of them have you asked if they were sleeping with the guy?” She kept the volume down, but every word felt like a whiplash against his skin.
“No one else is causing a scene at the man’s funeral.” He searched those angry hazel eyes for truth. “Except you.”
She swallowed and looked away. “We were friends, nothing more.” Then she whispered urgently back at him, “I don’t believe it was an accident, and I don’t believe he took his own life.”
Dominic took a deep breath. As tempting as it was to buy into her theory, there was no proof. Stopping the funeral would cause hurt and uncertainty for Van’s daughters, and the man would not have wanted that.
“Look. He’d just retired from one of the most exciting jobs on the planet. His wife of thirty-five years lost a long battle with cancer less than two years ago. Van was hurting. I don’t want to believe it either—”
“Except you’re not exactly fighting to figure out the truth,” she said bitterly.
Ouch. That stung.
He leaned in close so not even God almighty could overhear them. “Because the truth is he shot himself.” Grief and anger merged. “And that truth will hurt the people who have more right to mourn him than we do.” Dominic looked pointedly towards Van’s daughters who were leaning on one another in their sorrow. “Just because we don’t want to believe it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
Wasn’t that the goddamned truth.
Kanas’s face crumpled, and tears swam in her eyes, and Dominic felt like an asshole. He put his hand on her shoulder, to give some comfort, but she jerked away.
He let his hand drop, and the impulse died. “How about we get back to the service and discuss this later—”
A loud crack rang out through the blustery morning. It took Dominic a fraction of a second to identify the sound.
“Gunshot!” he yelled, turning and grabbing the nearest civili
an and pushing her behind the tree. But rather than running for cover, people were milling around in confusion. Some were bending down near the graveside. Had someone been hit? Damn. Another gunshot echoed through the morning air so loud and lethal it gave him chills. “Active shooter! Everyone find cover. Active shooter!”
The crowd finally understood what was happening and spilled in different directions. He ran towards Van’s daughters who were so wrapped up in grief they hadn’t heard the shot and were bewildered by the sudden surge of movement. He wasn’t gentle or easy. He wrapped an arm
around each woman’s shoulders and forced them into a position where they were protected by Van’s coffin and a large marble mausoleum.
“Stay here and stay down.” He would never forgive himself if anything happened to Van’s kids.
Dominic crouched as low as he could, pulling his Glock-22, scanning the surrounding area to assess the situation even as he called it in. The priest was cowering behind another tree, and people were crying as they huddled in terror behind any cover they could find.
Goddamn son of a bitch.
“Gun shot fired at St. Michaels’s Catholic Church.” He peeked his head over the marble and saw a crumpled form lying in the wet grass. Calvin Mortimer.
Shit. They’d worked together in New York.
The emergency operator was still on the line.
“Federal agent down—we need immediate medical help. Might be an active shooter situation,” he added, even though it would delay the ambulance. He couldn’t in good conscience let first responders walk unsuspectingly into gunfire.
Another bullet pinged off the tombstone above his head, making Van’s daughters shriek in fear.
“You’re okay as long as you keep your head down. Do not
break cover.” Assuming the shooter didn’t move firing position. He didn’t tell them that. He doubted that would happen. It seemed more like a sniper attack than a terrorist assault and law enforcement should be able to isolate and capture this UNSUB in situ.
His gaze went back to Calvin lying motionless on the wet grass. The perfect target. Dammit. Dominic couldn’t leave the guy exposed like that. The distant scream of sirens sliced the air.
He looked around and locked gazes with Ava Kanas who had drawn her weapon. She tipped her head toward Calvin. Dominic nodded, tucking his weapon back in its holster before sprinting from behind the headstone, expecting a bullet for his trouble.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kanas dodge from one tree to another, hopefully drawing the shooter’s attention away from him for a few precious moments. His ragged breath and the loud beat of his heart reverberated in his ears. He hauled Calvin up and over his shoulder, never
hesitating even as a bullet bounced off a grave marker nearby.
Dominic ran for cover, holding tight to the man, hoping like hell he wasn’t doing more harm than good. He laid Calvin carefully on the ground behind the engine block of the nearest vehicle.
Another shot rang out, splintering wood inches from where Ava Kanas sheltered. She raised her Glock and took aim, but whoever was firing the long gun was well out of range, and Kanas resisted returning fire and potentially injuring innocent civilians.
Cool under pressure. He admired that.
He turned his attention back to the wounded man. Calvin didn’t seem to be breathing, and there was a bullet hole on the right side of his chest close to his heart. It looked bad, and the basic first aid Dominic knew wasn’t nearly sufficient enough to deal with this situation.
“Let me through.” One of the mourners crawled toward him. “I’m a trained RN. Let me in.”
Dominic tapped the man crouched beside him on the shoulder. “What’s your name?”
“Help the nurse, Richard. Try to keep this man alive until the ambulance arrives.”
The man nodded, and the nurse started working to stem the blood flowing from the wound, before moving on to chest compressions.
Calvin had lost a lot of blood.
Dominic scanned the area. Most people were keeping safely out of the line of fire. There had been a short lull in the shooting. Dominic didn’t know whether the gunman was waiting to pick off anyone foolish enough to give them a clean target or if he was making his escape. It all depended on the shooter’s endgame.
A few agents closer to Van’s casket were working their way gingerly toward where the shots had come from, but they were going to be hampered by a wide-open piece of ground they’d have to cross to get there. Dominic glanced at Calvin’s blanched features. Blood covered the man’s shirt, and Dominic’s. The clock was ticking for his survival, and the bastard who shot him might be getting away.
“Stay down until local police tell you to move. I need to make sure the shooter is no longer a threat before the ambulance will be allowed in.”
As he spoke, Agent Kanas took off sprinting down the road behind him, using the line of parked vehicles as some measure of cover.
Dominic ran after her, half expecting a barrage of gunfire. Neither of them had body armor, but there was no way he’d sit around while another agent attempted to tackle the gunman alone.
She was fast, but he was faster. He caught her as she reached the road, and they raced across four lanes of traffic together, dodging oblivious drivers who honked their horns at the two handgun-wielding lunatics. He heard the screech of brakes and hoped the shooter wasn’t poised
in a position to take out innocent civilians who stumbled onto the scene.
The idea of being in the crosshairs pissed him off, but not as much as having one of his colleagues shot in front of him.
“Did you see where the gunshots came from?” Dominic shouted at Kanas as they sprinted full out.
He glanced at her face. Blood dribbled down her cheek. His mouth went dry. She’d been only inches from death.
“I saw muzzle-flash on the roof of a low, yellow-brick apartment block two streets over.”
“You okay?” he asked quickly.
Dominic concentrated on doing his job. Ava Kanas was a trained professional same as he was. Still running, he hooked his creds on his belt not wanting to get nailed by a local cop mistaking him for the gunman. Kanas did the same.
They hit the main street, dodging pedestrians.
“Active shooter,” Dominic shouted. “Find somewhere to shelter and don’t come out until the cops tell you it’s safe.”
“This is it.” Kanas’s lungs were bellowing by the time they reached a century-old building.
“Get behind me.” He held his pistol high and waited for Kanas to fall into position with her gun barrel pointed at the ground. They went through the apartment building’s unlocked front door, falling back on basic training to start clearing the area—training Dominic hadn’t used since transferring to the Crisis Negotiation Unit five years ago.
“You take the stairs, I’ll take the elevator.” Kanas’s voice was hoarse. At least he wasn’t the only one out of breath.
“No. We stick together and take the stairs.” The idea of being trapped in a tin can while someone opened up on them with unknown firepower... Nightmare scenario.
Her eyes narrowed in disapproval, but he was the senior agent on the scene and she had to follow orders. Another reason he loved the FBI. They cautiously opened the door to the stairwell and went quickly up, clearing each flight, fluidly covering one another against potential threats.
At the top of the stairs, they paused at the door that led onto the roof. His heart hammered, sweat slick on his body, as he deliberately slowed things down to prepare for whatever lay beyond. It could be anything, from an innocent bystander to a terrorist, to a person experiencing
a mental breakdown to a gangbanger with a grudge. This whole scenario might be a trap to lure law enforcement officials to their death. He glanced at Kanas. He did not want to lose another agent today.
He wiped his brow on the shoulder of his jacket, forcing himself to ignore the stark reality of Calvin Mortimer’s blood vivid on his white shirt.
They used hand signals to communicate which direction to go. Dominic eased open the heavy fire door, but stood clear. The most important thing was to get through the portal quickly as it made them easy targets. It wasn’t called a fatal funnel for nothing.
He and Kanas exchanged a look as they waited. No shots were fired. He couldn’t hear anything beyond the sounds of traffic and distant police sirens.
Dominic counted down with his fingers and stepped through the doorway, hooking right as he swept his gaze and weapon over his section of the rooftop. Kanas simultaneously went left and did the same. They moved swiftly, circling the heating vents and maintenance hut, working in formation as if they’d practiced together for years. They made a good team, seamlessly following each other’s lead.
The roof was clear.
Neither of them dropped their guard. They scanned nearby rooftops in case they were mistaken about where the bullets had originated or the sniper had moved.
There was no one to be seen, but then snipers weren’t always obvious.
“You sure this was the place?” Dominic asked finally, catching his breath.
Kanas bristled. Clearly the woman did not like her word being questioned.
“I’m sure.”
That was good enough for Dominic. “We need to call in uniforms to help canvass this whole area.”
They walked to the southwest corner of the roof—the area with the best view of the graveyard.
Both kept their eyes peeled for footprints or other evidence but the gritty surface of the flat roof revealed no obvious evidence.
Sunlight gleamed off something brassy on the ground beside some litter.
Dominic photographed the bullet casing with his phone before popping it into a plastic evidence bag. The sooner they got that to the lab the better.
He dialed an agent on the ground. “Shooter’s in the wind. We need this building cleared and secured. The other rooftops in the area also need to be checked, roadblocks set up. Send an evidence response team to this roof.” He waved his arm in case they didn’t know his exact position. “How’s Calvin?”
The answer made him close his eyes and draw in an unsteady breath. He hung up without saying another word.
“He didn’t make it?” Kanas asked.
Dominic ran his hand over his face and shook his head. Calvin had a wife and two kids in high school.
“You were friends?” she asked.
He nodded again, the lump in his throat expanding until it was too big to talk around.
“I’m sorry.”
She was beautiful close up, her expression warm with concern, skin smooth and fine—except for the cut on her cheek with its ugly smear of blood. He raised his hand to check the wound, and she flinched away, arms coming up in instinctive defense.
They both froze.
His gaze narrowed and lifted to the scar that rode the delicate arch of her right eyebrow. She held herself with poised readiness. Not just the wariness of a law enforcement professional, but the hyperawareness of someone who’d been a victim.
“You’re bleeding.” He was careful to keep his tone neutral as something hot and virulent surged through his blood. He wanted to ask what had happened, but it wasn’t his business and this wasn’t the time.
She raised her hand to her cheek. “It’s just a scratch.”
He nodded, and they both pretended she hadn’t given away something important. They holstered their weapons, and he watched her out of the corner of his eye as she rested both hands on her hips, staring intently at the tiny figures in the graveyard a quarter of a mile away.
“I told you there was something hinky with Van’s death,” she said as they watched as ambulances arrived on scene.
He frowned. “This might not be connected.”
Her expression raked him with so much scorn he almost laughed. Almost. Because a few minutes ago someone had opened fire at his best friend’s funeral and shot dead a good man, endangering countless others.
Someone had murdered a fellow member of the FBI, and there was nothing even remotely funny about that.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
Deeply Engrossing Romantic Suspense

Dominic and Ava are FBI agents, and a dear friend of theirs has died. Everyone, including Dominic, believes it was by his own hand, but Ava’s convinced it’s murder. As Dominic begins to look into it, his life is in jeopardy, and he finds more deaths that begin to look suspicious. While Ava and Dominic work together to find out the truth, their feelings for each other grow. Just as the case and their personal relationship are heating up, things come to a head which could cost them both their futures as well as their lives.

This story has a constant pulse of suspense and sexual tension that will keep you riveted. You are pulled in so deep the rest of the world just melts away, and you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation of what’s going to happen. It’s an intriguing and suspenseful romance, full of drama and hot, steamy passion. The romance and suspense are intense and so well integrated throughout the story that you will be kept captivated from beginning to end. You'll never guess who it is. I highly recommend this extremely exciting and gripping love story!!


Dominic is a seasoned FBI negotiator and Ava is the FBI rookie. These two had an immediate chemistry but tried to ignore it because they were working together. They are on a difficult case trying to find out who is killing fellow agents. Dominic gets very protective of Ava as their attraction continues to grow and Ava does everything she can to prove she can be a great agent.

I loved this book and the characters were great. This story was a page-turner that was full of so much suspense I could not put it down. You kept finding yourself wanting to solve the mystery and guessing who it could be. What a great beginning to a new series and can't wait to see what's next.

A. Cooper
Another home run!

Loved this book. As always the characters are believable, the suspense is spot on, and the chemistry is fabulous! Can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

Audrey Jeter
Nothing is more deadly than a cold psychopath

What could be just another FBI procedural is so much more. With POVs from our H/h and others the story has so much depth. The suspense is enthralling, the mystery keeps you guessing, the tension between this couple as they try to resist their chemistry is titillating. The story pacing is breakneck with just enough action and intrigue. I felt like I came to know Ava and Dominic their doubts and fears, and the way they investigate each case. Hang onto your hats this tale is one thrill ride of a read and a sexy heartfelt romance.

Amy P.
A new series from Toni Anderson!

4.5 Stars!

Toni Anderson’s Cold & Deadly is the first book in her new Cold Justice: Crossfire series. This new series is a spin-off from her original Cold Justice series. Cold & Deadly is a standalone, and while some characters from the Cold Justice series will appear in the book as secondary characters, it’s not necessary to have read any of the books in that series first.

Toni Anderson never disappoints me with her books. This story starts off with a bang and is filled with twists and turns while effortlessly blending in some romance.

Ava Kanas is a badass rookie FBI agent. After her friend and mentor dies of an apparent suicide, she’s the only one that feels he was murdered. She stands up to her superiors to fight for what she believes, even though it goes against the way things are done in the FBI.

Dominic Sheridan sees something in Agent Kanas. He can not only tell that she’s good at her job, but he is also attracted to her. He works with her to find the truth about what happened to their friend, while trying to fight their attraction to one another at the same time.

I loved Ava and Dominic together. They worked well together while on the job, and I also felt they worked well together as a couple.

I really look forward to seeing where this series is headed!