Fatal Justice (Chapter 9)

Late on Friday night, Freddie brought his battered Mustang to a stop at the curb in front of Elin's apartment building and cut the engine. His heart beat fast with nerves and desire. All he had to do was send the signal and he could spend the night in her bed. But now that "the moment" had arrived, he was filled with uncertainty. The decision that had seemed so clear a few days ago was back in play. Twenty-nine years of celibacy had come down to this.

She turned to him and rested her hand on his arm. "Do you want to come in?"

Studying her, thoughts and images of all kinds spiraled through his mind and landed in his lap in a surge of lust.


"Can I take a rain check?" He couldn't believe the words were coming out of his mouth. "Sam's got us working funky shifts so she can touch base with everyone. I'm wiped, and I have to work again at seven."

"I've been reading about her and the senator in the paper."

"She  all the attention they're getting," he said, rolling his eyes.

"I can imagine."

Freddie hadn't expected to enjoy being with Elin as much as he did. He found her easy to talk to, engaging and funny. She had caught on right away that he had come around the gym looking for more than personal training, and when he suggested dinner, she enthusiastically agreed. He'd spent most of the night trying to rein in his raging hormones. He hadn't even kissed her yet despite the signals that she'd be receptive.

He knew if he touched her he wouldn't stop until he had all of her.


"Hmm?" He glanced at her and found her watching him. In that moment, he remembered learning during the O'Connor investigation that she had a heart with a Cupid's arrow tattooed on her left breast and her nipples were pierced. His cock twitched, and he shifted to ease the ache.

She reached for him and crushed her lips to his.

Startled, his eyes flew open to find hers closed as she ran her tongue over his bottom lip. He sank his hand into her hair to tug her closer. Her fingers danced over his chest, unbuttoning his shirt and tunneling in until skin reached skin. When she scraped her fingernail over his nipple, he almost came in his pants.

Tearing his lips free of hers, he caught her hand. "Elin."

"Yes?" she asked with a sexy grin as she ran her free hand up over his thigh to cup his straining erection.

Freddie swallowed hard and fought to keep his mind off the fire burning in his lap. He had never been with a woman who was so brazen, but that was what had attracted him to her in the first place.

She stroked him through his jeans.

He let his head fall back against the seat in surrender.

"Are you  you can't come in?" she asked, sliding her tongue along his neck.

"Got to work," he said through clenched teeth. Locked in a haze of desire and temptation, he was unaware of her freeing him from his pants until the cold air hitting his fevered skin jolted him out of his reverie. "Whoa."

The words died on his lips when she bent to take him into her mouth. Oh God. He figured he should at least try to stop her, but couldn't seem to get the neurons in his brain to form the words he needed. This was going to be fast. And damn if the woman didn't know exactly where to squeeze, to lick, to suck.

"Elin, honey," he said, his voice full of warning.

As if he hadn't spoken, she took him even deeper, and he climaxed with a roar that surprised him. His breath came out in puffy white clouds as he fought to recover from the intense orgasm.

She sat up and licked her lips, looking quite pleased with herself. "Too bad you have to work so early," she said with a playful pout.

"Yeah," he gasped. "Too bad."

"Next time?"

"Sure," he said, still having trouble catching his breath. He glanced at her and rested his hand on her leg. "What about you?"

She smiled. "I can take care of myself. Don't worry."

Something about the way she said that stirred his recently satisfied libido back to life as he imagined her "taking care of herself." He released a ragged deep breath, feeling like he was in way over his head here. "I should go."

Leaning over, she touched her lips to his. "I had fun tonight. Thanks for dinner."

He caressed her baby-soft cheek. "My pleasure."

"Call me?"

Freddie nodded, knowing he should walk her in but not sure his legs would follow his directions. He watched her until she was safely inside and then zipped up his pants and started the car. For a long time, he sat there trying to collect himself before he shifted the car into gear and drove home.

With the media clamoring for justice for the murdered family and Sam pursuing her own personal agenda, they tore apart the Reese home the next day. Hours later, the house lay in tatters, and the only interesting thing they'd found was ten thousand dollars in a metal box in the basement.

"At least we know now what he was after," Freddie said, referring to the fat wad of hundred-dollar bills.

"He's desperate and on the run," Sam said. "He needs money to get out of the city, and this is probably all he has. I'd bet my badge that he'll be back for it."

"I talked to Gonzo. They've scoured the neighborhood, but no one's seen him."

"Or they're protecting him."

"Why would they protect a guy who did what he did to his family?"

"Who knows? Neighborhood dynamics and loyalties run deep."

Freddie's handsome face shifted into a scowl. "I guess no one was loyal to Tiffany and her kids."

"She didn't grow up here. I read that she moved here from Pennsylvania seven years ago."

"Then she had the good fortune to meet Reese."


"There's not much more we can do here, Lieutenant."

Sam took a hard look around the messy living room. "I know."

"You want to split?"

"I'm going to hang for a while. See if he comes back."

"You can't stay here by yourself," he protested.

She rested her hand on the weapon holstered to her hip. "I won't be by myself."

"I'm not leaving until you do." He plopped down in a chair and crossed his arms defiantly.

"Suit yourself." She took another chair and put her feet up on the dilapidated coffee table. After a long period of silence, she fixed her eyes on her partner, noticing once again his above-average attire. "Since we have some time to kill, why don't you tell me about your girlfriend?"

"What girlfriend?" he sputtered, his blush giving him away. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Uh-huh." Sam settled into the chair, warming up to bust his chops. "How about we examine the evidence?"

"Here's a big idea: let's not."

Nick rushed through a quick shower and shave, while reviewing his mental checklist for the dinner party one final time. The last week had been beyond chaotic. He'd closed on the new place, moved in and focused all his energy on getting the downstairs portion of the house ready for tonight's gathering – on top of contacting half the senate to rally support for John's immigration bill.

The second floor was a maze of boxes and unassembled furniture. He expected Laine would want to see the upstairs, but she'd understand about the mess.

Nick hated disorder. He hated chaos, and more than anything, he hated that Sam seemed to be avoiding him. While pursuing Clarence Reese with relentless determination, she'd also been working crazy shifts as she attempted to connect with all the HQ detectives who now answered to her. Other than a few rushed phone calls, Nick hadn't had any time with her since the night he discovered her reading Congress for Dummies in his bed a week ago. She had been sleeping at her dad's house because, as she said, she didn't want to disturb him with her middle-of-the-night comings and goings. He hadn't succeeded in convincing her that he wanted to be disturbed by her.

"Maybe I'm the dummy," he muttered to his reflection.

He knew she was uncomfortable about acting as his co-host at the dinner party for Julian, which was why he'd limited the guest list to Julian, Graham and Laine, and refrained from discussing it with her during their brief conversations. Caterers had handled the food, a florist had taken care of the flowers and he had set what he considered to be a rather elegant table for the five of them. All she had to do was show up. He glanced at his watch, dismayed by how close she was cutting it.

That he had to wonder if she was going to show up at all flat out pissed him off. It wasn't like he asked so much of her. No, you've only asked just about everything of her, and you're unhappy because she's not ready to give it to you.

As he tugged a burgundy cashmere V-neck sweater over his head, Sam came flying into the room, her cheeks red from cold and exertion. "Sorry, sorry, sorry."

"For what?" he asked, working to keep the frustration out of his tone.

"I'm running late. Today was the funeral for Reese's family, and the day got away from me."

He turned to her and was wowed by the beaded top she wore over form-fitting black dress pants. "How was the funeral?"

"A total horror show," she said with a sigh as she used the mirror on his dresser to fix her hair, which she had left down the way he liked it best. "We interviewed brothers, sisters, friends, cousins. No one ever heard Reese talk about my dad. And no sign of him, either."

"I'm sorry, Sam."

She shrugged. "Another dead end." Rolling her head on her shoulders, she added, "The longer he's in the wind the less likely we are to find him."

"You should talk to your dad about what you found at Reese's house. He's stronger than you think, and he might be able to shed some light."

"You're right. I was thinking the same thing earlier." She turned from the mirror to face him. "The house looks great. I can't believe how fast you got it done. You've even got pictures on the walls!"

"Any of it can be changed if you don't like it."

"What's not to like?"

He bit his tongue to keep from telling her he didn't like the way she was avoiding him. Instead, he said, "You look gorgeous."

"Thank you." She reached up to adjust the collar of his shirt. "You're not looking too bad yourself." Going up on tiptoes, she planted a kiss on him. "I've missed you."

Because he couldn't help himself, he looped his arms around her waist and brought her in close to him. "Me, too."

"What's wrong?"


"Something," she said, stealing his usual line.

He shook his head. "Thanks for coming tonight."

She looked up at him, studying him. "Of course I came tonight. It's important to you, but I wish you'd tell me what's wrong. Are you mad because we haven't seen much of each other – "

Bending his head, he captured her mouth in a deep, passionate kiss.

" – the last few days," she muttered against his lips, her eyes closed, her cheeks flushed anew with color that had nothing to do with cold or exertion.

"If you lived here with me, we'd see more of each other."


He rested his forehead on hers. "I know. You don't want to talk about that." Releasing her, he went to find his shoes.

"You're pissed. I knew it."

"I'm not pissed." He shoved his feet into loafers. "I'm frustrated."

Sam nibbled on her bottom lip. "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing to me," he snapped, his tone sharper than he'd intended.

She came to him and slid her hands up over his chest. "Why? It's my fault. You've offered me so much, and I'm holding back. I know that bothers you."

"I want this to work so damned badly," he said, surprised by the urgency he heard in his own voice. "I want it more than anything."

"I do, too." Her eyes implored him to believe her. "We knew it was going to be crazy."

"I don't want to go days without seeing you. I can't stand that. I need you, Samantha."

"Do you think it's  working?" She massaged his shoulders. "Is that why you're so tense?"

"It's working," he said but hardly managed to convince himself.

Her hands fell from his shoulders. She wrapped her arms around herself protectively, a gesture that tugged at his heart. "Wow. You're really wound up. I'm sorry I had to work so much this week."

"You're apologizing again."

Her eyes flashed with anger and what might've been panic. "Then tell me what I'm supposed to say, Nick! What do you need to hear? That I love you? You know I do. If you're doubting that – "

"I'm not."

"Ugh!" She threw her hands into the air. "This is exactly why I haven't gotten involved with anyone since I split with Peter. I can't deal with this!"

A blast of fear charged through Nick, leaving him staggered in its wake. "I'm the one who should be sorry. I've been burning the candle this week, and I'm fried." He ran a hand through hair still damp from the shower. "I don't know why I'm taking it out on you."

"Do I need to be worried?" she asked, her face a study in vulnerability, which was in sharp contrast to her usual confident, cocky demeanor. He hated that he had given her reason to question him – to question .

He went to her and hugged her fiercely. "No, babe. No worries. I just need some time with you."

She clung to him. "I'm off until tomorrow night at eleven. I'm all yours."

"Good," he said, his voice husky with emotion and relief as he held her close to him. How had this even happened? How had he managed to give them both reason to doubt the only thing in his life that truly mattered?

The doorbell rang downstairs.

He released her reluctantly. "Ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

"I love you," he said, kissing her hand, "and I'm really glad you're here."

"So am I."