Conspiracy in death, p.11
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.11
 

         Part #8 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  There were shadows under her eyes and the mark of violence on her cheek. One concerned him nearly as much as the other, and he had to remind himself yet again that each was a sign of who and what she was.

  The cat was sprawled over her lap and woke to stare unblinkingly.

  "Guarding her, are you? I'll take over now."

  The smile that curved his lips as he started forward faded as Eve began to moan. She thrashed once, a sob catching in her throat.

  He was across the room in two strides, gathering her up as she struggled and struck out.

  "Don't. Don't hurt me again."

  Her voice was the thin, helpless voice of a child, and it broke his heart.

  "It's all right. No one's going to hurt you. You're home. Eve, you're home. I'm here." It ripped at him that a woman strong enough to face death day after day could be so beaten down by dreams. He managed to shift her until he could sit, draw her onto his lap, and rock. "You're safe. You're safe with me."

  She clawed her way out and to the surface. Her skin was clammy and shivering, her breath a harsh burn in her throat. And she smelled him, felt him, heard him. "I'm all right. I'm okay."

  The weakness, the fear snuck out of the dream with her, and left her ashamed. But when she tried to draw back, he wouldn't let her. He never did. "Just let me hold you." He spoke quietly, stroking her back. "Hold me back."

  She did, curving herself into him, pressing her face to his throat, holding on, holding until the shuddering stopped. "I'm okay," she said again, and nearly meant it this time. "It was nothing. Just a memory flash."

  His hand paused, then slid up to soothe the muscles gone to knots at the back of her neck. "A new one?" When she merely jerked a shoulder, he eased her back to look at her face. "Tell me."

  "Just another room, another night." She drew a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Chicago. I don't know how I'm so sure it was Chicago. It was so cold in the room, and the window was cracked. I was hiding behind a chair, but when he came home, he found me. And he raped me again. It's nothing I didn't already know."

  "Knowing doesn't make it hurt less."

  "I guess not. I have to move," she murmured and rose to pace off the shakiness. "We found another body in Chicago—same MO. I guess that put the memory at the top of my brain. I can handle it."

  "Yes, you can and have." He rose as well, crossed to her to lay his hands on her shoulders. "But you won't handle it alone, not anymore."

  It was another thing he wouldn't allow, and that made her—by turns—grateful and uneasy. "I'm not used to you. Every time I think I am, I'm not." But she laid her hands over his. "I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're home."

  "I bought you a present."

  "Roarke."

  The knee-jerk exasperation in her voice made him grin. "No, you'll like it." He kissed the shallow dent in her chin, then turned away to pick up the briefcase he'd dropped when he'd come into the room.

  "I already need a warehouse for all the stuff you've bought me," she began. "You really need to develop a control button about this."

  "Why? It gives me pleasure."

  "Yeah, maybe, but it makes me…" She trailed off, baffled, when she saw what he took out of the briefcase. "What the hell is that?"

  "I believe it's a cat." With a laugh, he held the doll out to her. "A toy. You don't have nearly enough toys, Lieutenant."

  A chuckle tickled her throat. "It looks just like Galahad." She ran a finger down the wide, grinning face. "Right down to the weird eyes."

  "I did have to ask them to fix that little detail. But when I happened to see it, I didn't think we could do without it."

  She was grinning now, stroking the soft, fat body. It didn't occur to her that she'd never had a doll before—but it had occurred to Roarke. "It's really silly."

  "Now, is that any way to talk about our son?" He glanced back at Galahad who'd taken possession of the chair again. His dual-colored eyes narrowed with suspicion before he shifted, lifted his tail in derision, and began to wash. "Sibling rivalry," Roarke murmured.

  Eve set the doll in a prominent position on her desk. "Let's see what they make of each other."

  "You need sleep," Roarke said when he saw her frown at her computer. "We'll deal with work in the morning."

  "Yeah, I guess you're right. All this medical stuff is jumbled in my head. You know anything about NewLife replacement organs?"

  His brow lifted, but she was too distracted to notice. "I might. We'll talk about it in the morning. Come to bed."

  "I can't contact anyone until tomorrow, anyway." Burying impatience, she saved data, disengaged. "I might have to take some travel, go talk to other primaries in person."

  He simply made agreeable noises and led her to the door. If Chicago held bad memories for her, she wouldn't be going alone.

  • • • •

  She woke at first light, surprised by how deeply she'd slept and how alert she was. Some time during the night, she'd wrapped herself around Roarke, legs and arms hooked as if binding him to her. It was so rare for her to wake and not find him already up and starting his day that she savored the sensation of warmth against warmth and let herself drift.

  His body was so hard, so smooth, so…tasty, she thought, skimming her mouth over his shoulder. His face, relaxed in sleep, was heart stopping in its sheer male beauty. Strong bones, full, sculpted mouth, thick, dark lashes.

  Studying him, she felt her blood begin to stir. A low, spreading neediness filled her belly, and her heart began to thud in anticipation and in the knowledge that she could have him, keep him, love him.

  Her wedding ring glinted in the light pouring through the sky window over the bed as she slid a hand up his back, nuzzled his mouth with hers. His lips, already warmed, opened with hers for a slow, tangling dance of tongues.

  Slow, easy, and no less arousing for its familiarity. The skim and slide of hands over curves, planes, angles well known, only added to the excitement that built, layer by layer, in the clear light of dawn. Even as his heart began to pound against hers, they kept the rhythm loose and lazy.

  Her breath caught once, twice, as he cupped her, as he sent her up that long, long curve to a peak that shimmered like wine in sunlight. And his moan mixed with hers.

  Every pulse in her body throbbed, every pore opened. The need to take him into her, to mate, was an ache in the heart as sweet as tears.

  She arched to him, breathed his name, then sighed it as he slid into her. The ride was slow, slippery, a silky ebb and flow of breath and bodies. His mouth met hers again, with an endless tenderness that swamped her.

  He felt her soar again, tighten around him, tremble. Lifting his head, he watched her in the harsh winter light. His heart stumbled, love destroyed him, as he watched the glow pleasure brought to her face, watched those golden brown eyes blur even as they stayed locked on his.

  Here, he thought, they were both helpless. And bringing his mouth to hers again, he let himself go.

  • • • •

  She felt limber, steady, and very close to cheerful as she showered. When she stepped out, she heard the muted sound of the morning news on-screen and imagined Roarke half listening to the headlines as he studied the stock reports and sipped his first cup of coffee.

  It was so married, she thought with a quick snort and jumped into the drying tube. When she came out into the bedroom, it was exactly as she'd imagined. He was drinking coffee in the sitting area, scanning the financial data on the computer, while Nadine Furst gave Channel 75's take on the news of the day on the screen just over his shoulder.

  When she moved by him to the closet, his eyes followed her. And he smiled. "You look rested, Lieutenant."

  "I feel pretty good. I need to get a jump on the day, though."

  "I thought we already did."

  That made her toss a grin over her shoulder. "I should've said on the workday."

  "I should be able to help you in that area as well." He watched her shrug on a plain white shirt, button it bri
skly. "Last weather update calls for high in the mid-teens. You won't be warm enough in that."

  "I'll be inside mostly." She only rolled her eyes when he rose, crossed over, and selected a navy pullover in thin, warm wool. Handed it to her. "You're a nag, Roarke."

  "What choice do I have?" When she dragged the sweater over her head, he shook his own and adjusted the collar of her shirt himself. "I'll order up breakfast."

  "I'll catch something at Central," she began.

  "I think you'll want to take time to have it here so we can discuss a couple of matters. You mentioned NewLife products last night."

  "Yeah." She remembered only vaguely. She'd been tired and still a little shaken by the dream. "It's an angle I'll be looking into later. They're artificial replacements made from this longevity stuff discovered at the Nordick Clinic, but there may be a connection with the organ thefts I'm dealing with."

  "If there is, we're both going to be very unhappy about it. I bought out NewLife about five years ago."

  She stared. "Shit, Roarke."

  "Yes, I thought you'd feel that way about it. Though I did tell you one of my companies manufactures artificial organs."

  "And it just had to be NewLife."

  "Apparently. Why don't we sit down? You can tell me how you worked your way around to NewLife, and I'll do what I can to get you all the data you need."

  She told herself it was useless to be irritated, as she dragged both hands through her hair. It was certainly unfair to want to snarl at Roarke. So she snatched trousers out of the closet and jammed her legs in.

  "Okay, I'm going to try to look at this as a good thing. I won't get any runaround or a bunch of company bullshit when I need information. But damn it." She yanked the trousers over her hips and snarled at him anyway. "Do you have to own everything?"

  He considered a moment. "Yes," he said and smiled beautifully. "But that's really a different matter. Now I want some breakfast."

  He ordered them both a plate of high-protein waffles, some fresh seasonal fruit, and more coffee. When he settled back into his chair, Eve was still standing. Still scowling.

  "Why do you have to own everything?"

  "Because, darling Eve, I can. Drink your coffee. You won't be so cross once you do."

  "I'm not cross. What a stupid word that is, anyway." But she sat, picked up her cup. "It's a big business, artificial organs?"

  "Yes, NewLife also manufactures limbs as well. It's all quite profitable. Do you want financial statements?"

  "I might," she murmured. "Do you have doctors on the payroll, as consultants?"

  "I believe so, though it's more of an engineering sort of thing." He moved his shoulders. "We have an ongoing R and D department, but the basic products were refined years before I took over the company. How does NewLife fit in with your investigation?"

  "The process for mass-producing artificial organs was developed at the Nordick Center, in Chicago. They have connections to Drake. I have bodies in both cities. I've got another in Paris, and I need to see if there's another health center that connects to these two. NewLife was the product Westley Friend endorsed specifically."

  "I don't have the information on Paris, but I can get it. Very quickly."

  "Did you know Dr. Westley Friend?"

  "Only slightly. He was on the board at NewLife during the takeover, but I never had cause to deal with him otherwise. Do you suspect him?"

  "Hard to, since he self-terminated last fall."

  "Ah."

  "Yeah, ah. From what I can gather from the data I sifted through, he headed the team that developed the process for mass-producing organs. And at the time that was implemented, the research on reconstructing human organs was cut. Maybe someone decided to start it up again, in his own way."

  "Hardly seems cost effective. Organ growing is time consuming and quite expensive. Reconstruction, from the little I know, is not considered viable. We can manufacture a heart at somewhere around fifty dollars. Even adding overhead and profit, it can be sold for about twice that. You add the doctor's take, the health center's cut of the operation, and still you have yourself a new heart, one guaranteed for a century, for less than a thousand. It's an excellent deal."

  "Cut out the manufacturer, deal with the subject's damaged organ, or a donor's, repair, reconstruct, and the medical end takes all the profit."

  Roarke smiled a little. "Very good, Lieutenant. That's a clear view of business at work. And with that in mind, I believe you can feel safe that none of the major stockholders of NewLife would care for that scenario."

  "Unless it's not about money," she said. "But we'll start there. I need everything you can give me on the deal you made, who was involved on both sides. I want a list of personnel, concentrating on research and development. And any and all medical consultants."

  "I can get you that within the hour."

  She opened her mouth, waged a small personal war, and lost it. "I could use any underground data you can get me on Friend. His suicide seems very timely and convenient."

  "I'll take care of it."

  "Yeah, thanks. In at least two of the cases, he went after flawed organs specifically. Snooks had a messed-up heart, Spindler dinky kidneys. I'm betting we'll find it's the same deal with the other two. There has to be a reason."

  Thoughtfully, Roarke sipped his coffee. "If he's a doctor, practicing, why not confiscate damaged organs that are removed during a legitimate procedure?"

  "I don't know." And it irritated her that her brain had been too mushy the night before to see that chink in her theory. "I don't know how it works, but there'd have to be records, donor or next of kin permission, and the medical facility would have to endorse his experiments or research or whatever."

  She drummed her fingers on her knee a moment. "You're on the board, right? What's Drake's policy on—what would you call it? High-risk or maybe radical experimentation?"

  "It has a first-class research department and a very conservative policy. It would take a great deal of paperwork, debate, theorizing, justification—and that's before the lawyers come in to wrangle around, and the public relations people get into how to spin the program to the media."

  "So it's complicated."

  "Oh." He smiled at her over the rim of his cup. "What isn't when it's run by committee? Politics, Eve, slows down even the slickest wheel."

  "Maybe he got turned down at some point—or knows he would—so he's doing it on his own first." She pushed her plate away and rose. "I've got to get going."

  "We have the Drake fundraiser tonight."

  Her eyes went grim. "I didn't forget."

  "No, I see that." He took her hand, tugging her down for a kiss. "I'll be in touch."

  He sipped his coffee as she left and knew this was one time she would be on time for a social event. For her, for both of them now, it was business.

  *** CHAPTER EIGHT ***

  As her plans had been to dive straight into work, Eve wasn't pleased to see IAB waiting in her office. She wouldn't have been pleased in any case.

  "Get out of my chair, Webster."

  He kept his seat, turned his head, and flashed her a smile. She'd known Don Webster since her early days at the academy. He'd been a full year ahead of her, but they'd bumped into each other from time to time.

  It had taken her weeks to clue in to the fact that he'd gone out of his way to make certain they'd bumped into each other. She remembered now that she'd been a little flattered, a little annoyed, and then had dismissed him.

  Her reasons for joining the academy hadn't been for socializing and sex but for training.

  When they'd both been assigned to Cop Central, they'd bumped into each other some more.

  And one night during her rookie year, after her first homicide, they'd had a drink and sex. She'd concluded that it had been no more than a distraction for both of them, and they'd remained marginally friendly.

  Then Webster had shifted into Internal Affairs and their paths had rarely crossed.

&
nbsp; "Hey, Dallas, looking good."

  "Get out of my chair," she repeated and walked straight to the AutoChef for coffee.

  He sighed, rose. "I was hoping we could keep this friendly."

  "I never feel friendly when the rat squad's in my office."

  He hadn't changed much, she noted. His face was keen and narrow, his eyes a cool and pleasant blue. He had a quick smile and plenty of charm that seemed to suit the wavy flow of dark brown hair. She remembered his body as being tough and disciplined, his humor as being sly.

  He wore the boxy black suit that was IAB's unofficial uniform, but he individualized it with a tie of screaming colors and shapes.

  She remembered, too, Webster had been a fashion hound as long as she'd known him.

  He shrugged off the insult, then turned to close the door. "When the complaint came down, I asked to take it. I thought I could make it easier."

  "I'm not a whole lot interested in easy. I don't have time for this, Webster. I've got a case to close."

  "You're going to have to make time. The more you cooperate, the less time you'll have to make."

  "You know that complaint's bullshit."

  "Sure, I do." He smiled again and sent a single dimple winking in his left cheek. "The legend of your coffee's reached the lofty planes of IAB. How about it?"

  She sipped, watching him over the rim. If, she thought, she had to deal with this nonsense, best to deal with it through the devil you know. She programmed another cup.

  "You were a pretty good street cop, Webster. Why'd you transfer to IAB?"

  "Two reasons. First, it's the most direct route to administration. I never wanted the streets, Dallas. I like the view from the tower."

  Her brow lifted. She hadn't realized he had ambitions that pointed to chief or commissioner. Taking the coffee out, she handed it to him. "And reason number two?"

  "Wrong cops piss me off." He sipped, closed his eyes in pleasure, sighed gustily. "It lives up to the hype." He opened his eyes again, studied her.

  He'd had a mild thing for her for a dozen years, he thought now. It was just a little mortifying to know she'd never realized it. Then again, she'd always been too focused on the job to give men much attention.

 
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