Dark in death, p.5
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       Dark in Death, p.5
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         Part #46 of In Death series by J. D. Robb

  “I’ve never been up here when there hasn’t been a party or the prep for one. How come you have furniture in here when nothing’s going on?”

  “Something’s about to.”

  She grinned at him. “That’s a point, a good point.”

  “And so you come to the only area of the house without an actual bed.”

  “Anybody can have sex on a bed,” she pointed out. “How many have sex in the middle of a big-ass ballroom?” She rose, walked to the center of the room.

  She pointed at the floor. “Right in the damn middle.”

  “We might as well do it right then.” He moved to a panel, flipped it open, danced his fingers over the controls within.

  The enormous fireplace flared on, blazed. Music, something low with a lot of bass, streamed on.

  She grinned again. “Not bad. That’s not bad.”

  He crossed to her, hooked an arm around her waist, yanked her against him. When she linked hers around him, prepared to drop to the floor with him, he circled her into a dance.

  “Damn it.” She let out a sigh. “That’s really not bad at all.”

  It might have been dreamy—the music, the lights, the man—then she remembered she was dancing in her underwear, while wearing her weapon.

  She tipped her head back, started to make some snarky comment about just that. He stopped the words with his mouth.

  Circling, swaying, with a long, long kiss, deep and lush with body pressed to body in a perfect fit. It topped dreamy by several points. What he brought her in a room built for glamour, for crowds? The simple and the intimate.

  He felt her slide into the moment with him, the just us, anytime and anywhere. And always. He couldn’t say why the fun and the foolishness she’d begun had struck such a strong, clear romantic chord in him.

  Now he could take that moment, this moment, their moment, to show her both.

  “I like your dress,” he murmured.

  “Oh, it’s just a really little something I pulled on.”

  His lips curved against her hair. “It suits you. Not everyone wears white so well, or with such powerful accessories.”

  “Yeah, it’s a stunner,” she said, making him laugh.

  “So’s my wife.”

  Again, she angled her head back. “So you’re married?”

  “I am, yes. Right down to the marrow. You?”

  “I got talked into it. It’s working out pretty well.” She laid a hand on his cheek. “He’s got this way of making me feel I’m the only person in the world.”

  “When I’m with my wife, when I’m holding her, she is.”

  She pressed her cheek against his, closed her eyes as they danced. “No one ever made me the reason before him. No one else ever made me the one.”

  “She changed my life the moment she walked into it. She’s the reason, and the one.”

  “I don’t know if I believed in love before, but I know I didn’t understand it. And now …”

  “And now.”

  This time, she tipped back her head, took his lips. And gave herself to the now.

  He hit the release on her weapon harness, slipped it off, letting it slide to the floor before he circled her back to the center of the room, of the moment.

  Together, they lowered to the floor while the music beat, the lights shimmered, the fire snapped.

  He let his hands roam—that long back, the narrow torso—over smooth skin under thin white cotton. The tough, disciplined muscles never failed to arouse. His woman was a fighter, a brawler, a tireless warrior, and still could offer him the soft and the sweet.

  Her hands roamed as his did, the short, unpainted nails digging in, letting him know his body, his touch, his needs pleased her.

  She smelled of soap and winter wind, tasted of woman and warmth.

  He tugged the tank away to cup her breast—small, firm, lovely—in his hand. Her heart bumped beneath his fingers.

  She tangled her legs with his, let herself float on the gentle surf of rising senses. The feel of his hands—always clever, now patient—on her skin, his scent, one she’d recognize among thousands, the taste of him as her lips skimmed along his jaw.

  All coalesced into one, into him, while the fire sizzled and snapped, while the music drifted through the air.

  She slipped his sweater up and away, wanting skin to skin now, craving heart to heart. Used hands and mouth to saturate herself with him, to indulge herself, to take what was only hers.

  When he pressed her back, she flowed with it. When he gripped her hands, she linked her fingers with his and held on. Held on as with mouth alone he turned her body into fire. One quick gasp escaped her, a gasp that shuddered into a moan as he churned her system into glorious chaos. Feasting on her breasts—his teeth adding a tiny, exquisite pain—he made her tremble.

  He wanted her to quake, wanted to feel her quake and break beneath him. He needed to drive her into helplessness before her power whipped back and conquered him. She would give, he knew, he knew, as his mouth played over that lean torso, she would cry out in surrender and yield all.

  So her hips pumped up, body arched, breath sobbed, as his tongue slid over her, into her.

  Hot, impossible pleasure broke over her, swamped her. Helpless, yes. Helplessly she rode the torrent to its dizzying peak, trapped there in a kind of glorious madness before tumbling down, weak and dazed.

  He exploited, he plundered, and she, still wrecked, could only writhe under the assault. The next orgasm ripped through her, velvet claws. And still.

  And still.

  She tried to say his name as her mind whimpered: too much. It’s too much.

  But when the word slipped from her, the word was “More.”

  So he used his hands on her, and gave her more.

  Half-crazed now, he moved up her body, his only clear thought to take, to have.

  “Wait.” Her heavy eyes met his. “Wait.”

  “Eve.” He pressed his lips to her throat, prepared to beg if he must.

  She gathered what little strength and sanity she had left, rolled. Simply laying her head on his chest while she found her breath.

  “Eve.” Fighting the animal clawing inside him, he gripped her hips. “I need you.”

  “I know.” She rose up, looking into his eyes as she straddled him. “I know.” Letting out a long sigh as she took him in. “I know.” Pressing one of his hands to her heart, she began to move. “I know.”

  So her power whipped back, built, built. She surrounded him, accepted him. Conquered him.

  When she melted, heated honey, against him, they lay together, tangled, dazed, in the center of the ballroom.

  Fleetingly, he wondered if he’d ever not think of this when they had the room full of people, food, lights, and music. He also wondered how he’d find the energy to carry her to their actual bed if—as he thought she might—she fell asleep on top of him.

  Then she stirred, let out a long, low sound of satisfaction.

  “Well, that’s another checked off the list.”

  Adoring her, he laughed. “You have a list?”

  “It’s just a mental list, for now. How many rooms do you figure we have yet to hit?”

  Adore her, hell. He bloody well worshipped her. “I’ll have to do a count.”

  “Do that.” She pushed up enough to look down at him. “Because we have to hit them all. Big house, so it’ll take awhile. But we have to hit them all, even if we hit the last one when we’re old and creaky.”

  He skimmed a finger down her chin. “We might save one for when we are. As a kind of incentive and reward.”

  “That’s a good idea. I like it. I think I can get up now, especially since I don’t have to worry about the clothes I left scattered around out there because, hey, Summerset-free.”

  She rolled off. “I’ve got to get my stuff, though. Badge, ’link, like that.”

  “You get that, I’ll get what’s in here—including your weapon.”

  “Deal.” Eyes still he
avy, face still flushed, she got to her feet. “It’s a good deal,” she said when he got to his. “All around.”

  He took her hand, kissed her fingers. “The best of deals.”

  “Now I’m walking in a ballroom naked,” she said as she crossed the gleaming floor. “How many people can say that?”

  4

  Eve woke in the predawn dark with a weight on her chest. When she opened her sleep-blurred eyes she made out a silhouette that had her reaching for her weapon with one hand, balling the other into a fist. Before she punched the shadow, as her brain cleared enough to remember she wasn’t wearing her weapon or anything else, the shadow let out a familiar, growly sort of sound.

  “Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with you? Lights on, ten percent.”

  In the low light, Galahad’s bicolored eyes stared, hard and steely, into hers. “What’s your problem?” She hauled him up, dumped him on the bed beside her.

  Those odd feline eyes only narrowed. The growly sound clicked up to an actual growl.

  “Watch it, pal. I’m bigger than you.”

  Eve scrubbed her hands over her face, called for the time.

  The time is five-thirty-three. Current temperature is nineteen degrees.

  Eve shot a finger at the cat. “I had another thirty coming to me.”

  Galahad’s response was a snarl.

  Since she didn’t have Roarke as backup—already up and buying a solar system or selling a small country, Eve imagined—she rolled out of bed, snagged the robe her husband, who inexplicably thought of every damn thing, must have tossed on the foot of the bed.

  As she pulled the robe on, the cat stalked to the edge of the bed. Sat. Stared.

  “Look, you’re creeping me, okay? Knock it off.”

  She walked to the wall panel, opened it to the AutoChef, programmed the first cup of life-sustaining coffee.

  And got it.

  No Summerset, and Roarke in one of his emperor-of-the-business-world meetings. Still, the man who thought of every damn thing usually fed the cat when the house was Summerset-free.

  Turning, taking that first gulp of good, strong black coffee, Eve eyed the cat.

  “Are you bullshitting me, tubby?”

  He jumped off the bed—a definite thud. Sat. Stared.

  His bullshit generally took the tack of sucking up, rubbing that pudgy body against legs, looking sad or appealing.

  Now he just looked pissed. Righteously.

  “Okay, I’m buying it.”

  She programmed kibble, and though he didn’t deserve it after costing her a half hour down, she added some salmon.

  When she set it down, he strolled over, tail swishing. His body language clearly stated: It’s about damn time.

  “Yeah, you’re freaking welcome.”

  Eve took the coffee with her into the shower.

  Fully awake, considerably less grumpy, she came out to see Roarke standing in the bedroom. Dressed in one of his impeccable suits, he gestured at the empty bowl across the room while the cat wound between his legs and sang his sad song in pathetic meows.

  “I can see the bloody empty bowl right there. I’ve eyes. And no doubt if I lowered myself to take a whiff, I’d smell tuna or salmon on your breath.”

  “Salmon,” Eve confirmed.

  The cat glanced over, obviously concluded the jig was up. He strolled toward the fire, sat, and began to wash.

  “You didn’t feed him before, right?”

  “I didn’t,” Roarke confirmed, “as he was both sprawled out and snoring, and I knew I wouldn’t be more than forty minutes or so.”

  “He woke me up, sitting his tonnage on my chest and staring holes through my brain.”

  “If we put a micro AC on his level, he might learn to operate it.”

  “He doesn’t have to,” Eve pointed out. “He operates us.”

  “Entirely too true.”

  Eve went back to the AutoChef, put herself in charge of breakfast. Which meant a Summerset-and oatmeal-free day.

  While she contemplated her choices, Roarke switched on the financial reports, muted the sound. He stood a moment, studying what would always remain incomprehensible to her, while she settled on berries, bacon, and mmm pancakes.

  She topped it off with a pot of coffee.

  “Did you add a planet to your collection?” she asked as she carried plates to the table of the sitting area.

  “Not this morning. I’ll get the rest.”

  She sat, drenching her pancakes with syrup while he brought over the berries and coffee. “So, what’s on your plate today?” she asked him. “Besides breakfast.”

  “As it happens, I just agreed to pay a quick visit to an ag complex I have an interest in. In Bristol.”

  “Where’s Bristol?”

  “England. Since that requires considerable shuffling of the day’s schedule in any case, I’ll likely check on the rehab in Italy before heading back. A pity you have a case,” he added as he poured coffee for both of them. “Or we could take a day or two.”

  To the bone, Eve knew she’d never take to the idea of casually shuttling off to Europe. “Do you need a day or two? For the work, I mean.”

  “No, a few hours. It’s more for public relations than work in Bristol. For Italy, I think it’s time for an unexpected drop-in. I expect you’ll be in the field quite a bit today.”

  “Starting with the morgue.”

  “Lovely. My best to Morris, of course.”

  Considering, Eve ate more pancakes. “You go to Europe, I go to the morgue. That about sums it, right?”

  “And yet here we are.” Roarke patted her leg. “Sitting here having breakfast while our cat calculates if he can manage to snag some bacon.”

  “He can’t.” Lifting a slice, Eve gave the cat the same quality of stare he’d given her. And crunched in.

  Once she’d hit her limit on pancakes, she went to her closet to dress, and to line up her morning agenda.

  Morgue, then Cop Central to put her board together there, check any reports, update. Schedule a consult with Mira—get Mira the data. A visit to the victim’s apartment, Eve added. See how she lived, fill in some blanks. A talk with the people in charge of the auditions, the casting. Another talk with the vet assistant who took the bogus emergency.

  As she planned it out, she pulled on black trousers, a white shirt, yanked a gray V-neck sweater over that when she remembered the temperature. Shifted to grab a black jacket at random, but Roarke beat her to it.

  He stepped in, took another—a sort of tweed, maybe—of deep forest green with touches of gray and black woven through.

  “There’s an undertone of green in the sweater,” he pointed out.

  She frowned down at it. “It’s gray.”

  “With a green undertone.”

  She shrugged, took the jacket from him, then deliberately grabbed brown boots.

  “You’d be breaking my heart if I didn’t know you’re winding me up.”

  “Serve you right if I wore them anyway.” She switched them for black.

  “I need to go deal with the schedule changes, which will likely have Caro set her hair—or maybe mine—on fire.”

  Eve sat to pull on the boots, imagined Roarke’s steady-as-a-rock admin would handle it all, without flames. “I’ll see you when we’re both back.”

  “Meanwhile, take care of my cop.” He bent over to kiss her.

  “I will if you take care of my traveling gazillionaire.”

  “That’s a deal.”

  Alone, she strapped on her weapon, filled her pockets. She gave Galahad a quick scratch and rub—no point holding grudges—then jogged downstairs.

  Coat, scarf, snowflake cap, then out into the cold where her car sat, engine and heater already running thanks to the man who thought of everything.

  And, thanks to the cat, she ran thirty ahead of schedule. No ad blimps blasting yet, she noted, and traffic at the edge of insane rather than fully over the line.

  Some commuter trams, overhead and
on the street, carted the night shift one way, the early shift another.

  Eve used her wrist unit, dictated a text to Peabody.

  Skip the morgue, go straight to Central. Get me a consult with Mira, and clear the way for us to go through the vic’s apartment.

  More time saved, she thought as she played weave and dodge on her route downtown. Time she’d spend getting that subscription list for the vid palace, running down the names.

  Somebody knew you, Chanel, knew a lot about you, Eve thought. Coworkers aren’t ringing so far. Exes aren’t ringing.

  A neighbor maybe, somebody who belonged to the same gym, or shopped at the same market.

  A friendly woman, everybody said. A happy one. Friendly and happy tend to talk to people.

  Neighbors, she thought again. Markets, a gym if she used one, bank, beauty salon. And the vid palace.

  Somebody you see regularly, but more important, who sees you.

  Before you know it, you’ve got a target on your back.

  Or on the base of your skull.

  Those angles played in her head all the way downtown.

  When she walked through the white tunnel of the morgue, her boot steps echoed. She heard muted voices behind a set of doors, smelled bad coffee, something fried. Hash brown cake, she decided, which somehow managed to be both disgusting and delicious.

  She stepped into Morris’s theater and a chorus of voices singing about … making the match.

  “Early and bright,” Morris commented, turning the music down to a murmur.

  He stood beside Rylan’s body in a navy suit with thread-like stripes of maroon. His shirt matched the stripes and the tie played both colors together in a pattern she thought they called—for whatever reason—paisley. He’d braided his long, dark hair, then twined it with maroon cord.

  His eyes, exotic, sort of beautiful, smiled at her from behind his safety goggles.

  Rylan’s chest, already spread, lay open to him.

  “The cat woke me up, so I got an early start.”

  “Our Galahad’s not ill, I hope.”

  “No, fat and healthy. He wanted breakfast, and apparently we’re there to serve. Anything I can use yet?”

  “As you see, I haven’t gotten far, but I can tell you that at this point, I see a healthy, well-proportioned female who took care of her body. Though slightly underweight—as many are in her profession—she has exceptional muscle tone. A lovely face as well, and no signs I’ve found thus far of any surgical enhancements.

 
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