Conspiracy in death, p.5
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       Conspiracy in Death, p.5

         Part #8 of In Death series by J. D. Robb
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  Whitney lifted his brows but managed to conceal amusement. It was a rare thing for his lieutenant to add personal temper to a verbal report. "Had you followed through. Lieutenant, we'd have a nice little mess on our hands. I assume, knowing exactly how thorough you are, that you or your aide has done a run on Officer Bowers. At least a minimal run, and are therefore aware of her record of transfer. She is what we call a problem child. The department tends to move their problem children from area to area."

  He paused a moment, rubbed a hand over the back of his neck as if to ease some ache. "Bowers is also a champion filer. Nothing she likes better than to file complaints. She's taken a strong dislike to you, Dallas, and off the record, I'm warning you that she's likely to make trouble for you, however she can."

  "She doesn't worry me."

  "I came down here to tell you that she should. Her type feeds on trouble, on causing trouble for other cops. And she's aiming for you. She copied Chief Tibble and her department representative on this complaint. Get the on-scene record, and your report, and a carefully worded response to this complaint on my desk before end of day. Use Peabody," he added with a slight smile, "on the last. She'll have a cooler head."

  "Sir." Resentment shimmered in her voice, in her eyes, but she held her tongue.

  "Lieutenant Dallas, I've never had a better cop under my command than you, and my personal response to the complaint will say so. Cops like Bowers rarely go the distance. She's stumbling her way out of the department, Dallas. This is only a hitch in your stride. Take it seriously, but don't give it more of your time and energy than necessary."

  "Spending more than five minutes of my time and energy on it when I've got a case to close seems excessive. But thank you for your support."

  He nodded, rose. "Damn good coffee," he said wistfully and set aside the empty cup. "By end of shift, Dallas," he added as he walked out.

  "Yes, sir."

  She didn't kick the desk. She thought about it, but her knuckles were still stinging from bashing them against another inanimate object. Rather than risk hurting herself again, she called Peabody in to deal with the machine and access the contact numbers for Snooks's next of kin.

  She managed to reach the daughter who, though she hadn't seen her father in nearly thirty years, wept bitterly.

  It did nothing to soothe Eve's mood. The closest she came to cheerful was watching Peabody's reaction to the complaint filed by Bowers.

  "That flat-faced, piss-for-brains bitch!" Red-faced, hands fisted on her hips, Peabody went into full rant. "I ought to go dig her out of whatever hole she's in and kick her ugly butt. She's a fucking liar, and worse, she's a lousy cop. Where the hell does she get off filing some whiny, trumped-up complaint against you? What house was she out of?"

  Peabody whipped out her memo book and began to call it up. "I'll go down there right now and show her just what a complaint feels like when it belts you between the eyes."

  "Whitney said you'd be a cool head," Eve said with a grin. "I'm so glad to see the commander knows his troops this well." Then she laughed because Peabody's eyes were all but bulging out of her head. "Take a couple of breaths, Peabody, before something explodes in your brain. We'll handle this in an appropriate manner through the proper channels."

  "Then we'll flatten the bitch, right?"

  "You're supposed to be a good influence." With a shake of her head, Eve sat down. "I need you to copy the on-scene record to Whitney and to write your own report. Keep it straight and simple, Peabody. Just the facts. We'll write them independently. I'll compose a response to the complaint, and when you have that cool head Whitney believes in, you can go over it for me."

  "I don't know how you can take this so calmly."

  "I'm not," Eve muttered. "Believe me. Let's get to work here."

  • • • •

  She got it done, keeping her tone coolly professional throughout. During the final pass of her response, the list she requested from Cagney came through. Ignoring the headache beginning to blaze a trail behind her eyes, she copied all discs pertaining to the case, made what she considered a rational, reasonable call to maintenance—she only called them morons twice—then took everything with her. It was end of shift, and by God, she was going home on time for a change, even if she did intend to work once she got there.

  But her temper began to simmer and spike as she drove. Her hands clenched and unclenched on the wheel. She'd worked hard to become a good cop. She'd trained and studied and observed and was willing to work until she dropped to stay a good cop.

  Her badge didn't simply define what she did but who she was. And in some ways, Eve knew, that badge, what it meant, had saved her.

  The first years of her life were either gone or a blur of pain and misery and abuse. But she'd survived them, survived the father who had beaten her, raped her, who had damaged her so badly that when she was found broken and bleeding in an alley, she hadn't even remembered her name.

  So she'd become Eve Dallas, a name given to her by a social worker and one she had fought to make mean something. Being a cop meant she wasn't helpless any longer. More, it meant she was able to stand for those who were helpless.

  Every time she stood over a body, she remembered what it was like to be a victim. Every time she closed a case, it was a victory for the dead, and for a young girl without a name.

  Now some stiff scooper with an attitude had attempted to put a smear on her badge. For some cops, it would be an annoyance, an irritation. For Eve, it was a deep, personal insult.

  A physical woman, she tried to amuse herself by imagining what it would feel like to take Bowers on in a good sweaty match of hand-to-hand. The satisfying sound of bone against bone, the sweet scent of first blood.

  All the image managed to do was infuriate her. Her hands were tied in that arena. A superior officer couldn't go around whipping on a uniform, no matter how much she deserved it.

  So she drove through the gates and up the gracious sweep of private road to the stunning house of stone and glass that was Roarke's. She left her car in front, hoping, really hoping, that tight-assed Summerset said something snotty about it.

  She barely felt the cold as she jogged up the steps and opened the tall front door. There she waited, one beat, two. It normally took Roarke's butler no longer to slide into the foyer and insult her. Today, she wanted him to, craved it.

  When the house remained silent, she snarled in frustration. The day, she thought, was going just perfectly. She couldn't even take a swing at her worst enemy to release some steam.

  She really, really wanted to hit something.

  She stripped off her leather jacket, deliberately tossed it over the carved newel post. But still, he didn't materialize.

  Bastard, she thought in disgust and stalked upstairs. What the hell was she supposed to do with this barely controlled fury bubbling inside her if she couldn't hammer Summerset? She didn't want a round with the sparring droid, damn it. She wanted human contact. Good, violent human contact.

  She stepped into the bedroom, intending to sulk in a hot shower before going to work. And there was Roarke. She eyed him narrowly. Obviously, he'd just come in himself and was just hanging his suit jacket in the closet.

  He turned, angled his head. The glittering eyes, flushed face, and aggressive stance told him just what kind of mood she was in. He closed the closet door and smiled. "Hello, darling, and how was your day?"

  "It sucked. Where's Summerset?"

  Roarke arched a brow as he crossed the room. He could all but see waves of temper and frustration pumping off of her. "He has the evening off."

  "Great, fine." She swung away. "The one time I actually want the son of a bitch, he's not here."

  Roarke's eyebrow stayed lifted as he slanted a look toward the fat gray cat curled on the bed. They shared a brief, silent stare, and Galahad, preferring to avoid violence, leaped to the floor and slinked out the door.

  Cautious himself, Roarke ran his tongue around his teeth. "Something I c
an do for you?"

  She whipped her head around, scowled at him. "I like your face, so I don't want to break it."

  "Lucky me," Roarke murmured. He watched for a moment as she paced, prowled, kicked halfheartedly at the sofa in the seating area. And muttered to herself. "That's a lot of energy you've got going on in there, Lieutenant. I think I can help you with that."

  "If you tell me to take a goddamn soother, I'm going to—" It was as far as she got before her breath whooshed out and she found herself tackled onto the bed. "Don't mess with me, ace." She shifted, bucked. "I'm in a pisser of a mood."

  "So I see." He barely blocked her elbow, managed to cuff her wrists with one hand, and used his weight to keep her pinned. "Let's just put all that to good use, shall we?"

  "When I want sex, I'll let you know," she said between her teeth.

  "Okay." Even as she hissed at him, he lowered his head and bit her lightly on the throat. "While I'm waiting, I'll just amuse myself a bit. You have a…ripe taste when you're mad."

  "Damn it, Roarke." But his tongue was doing incredible things to the side of her neck, and the juices stirred by anger began to swim in a different direction. "Cut it out," she muttered, but when his free hand closed over her breast, her body arched toward him.

  "Nearly done." His mouth skimmed her jaw, then crushed onto hers in the fierce and feral kiss her mood seemed to demand. He tasted temper, the edge of violence, the whip of passion. His body tightened, his own needs flashed. But when he eased back, he gave her a bland smile. "Well, if you'd rather be alone—"

  She broke his loosened hold on her hands and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "Too late, pal. Now I want sex."

  Grinning, he let her shove him onto his back. She straddled him, planted her hands on his chest. "And I'm feeling mean," she warned him.

  "Well, I did say for better or worse." He reached up, releasing her weapon harness before he began to unbutton her blouse.

  "I said mean." Her breath was already coming short as her fingers curled into the black silk of his shirt. "How much did this thing cost?"

  "I have no idea."

  "Just as well," she decided and tore it open. Before he could decide whether to laugh or curse, she pounced, her teeth digging into his shoulder. "It's going to be rough." Empowered by the taste of flesh, she fisted her hands in his hair. "And it's going to be fast."

  Her mouth dived to his, taking greedily, driving the kiss toward violence. Glorying in it. She clawed at him, ripping at his clothes as they rolled over the bed.

  Wrestling now, hands grappling to take, mouths ravenous. Frantic groans, quick shudders came from both of them as weaknesses were sought out and exploited. They knew each other's bodies and those weaknesses well.

  All the frustrated energy peaked into hunger, a need to take and take quickly, to take all. His teeth on her naked breast, his hands bruising her flesh in their rush to possess, only heightened the appetites. Her own breath was in rags and her mind in tatters as she arched up, pressed sex to sex.

  There was a feral sound in her throat as he yanked her up to her knees, as their bodies met, torso to torso, and mouth plundered mouth.

  "Now, damn it." Her nails bit into his back, scraped, slid off skin gone damp with sweat. Desire, of the darkest and most dangerous hue was swirling inside her. She saw something of the same mirrored in Roarke's brilliant blue eyes as they dragged each other down again.

  She rose over him, lowered onto him in two agile motions, and arched her back with a moan, as pleasure lanced through her.

  Then it was all speed again. Speed, motion, still more greed. More and more was all she could think as he pounded into her, harder, faster. The orgasm had claws.

  He watched her give herself to it, to him, her body bowed back now, gleaming with sweat, her eyes dark and blind to everything but what they brought to each other.

  And when she shuddered, when she screamed, he yanked her down, shoving her onto her back. And dragging her hips high, thrusting deep, deeper, drove them both over.

  *** CHAPTER FOUR ***

  Lazily, Roarke nuzzled Eve's throat. He loved the dark, rich taste that good, healthy sex brought to her skin. "Feel better now?"

  She managed something between a grunt and a moan and made his lips curve. In a slow roll, smooth with practice, he reversed their positions, stroked her back, and waited.

  Her ears were still ringing, her body so limp she didn't think she could fight off a toddler with a water laser. The hands gliding up and down her back were lulling her gently toward sleep. She was teetering on the edge of it when Galahad, deciding all was clear, padded back into the room to leap cheerfully on her naked ass.

  "Jesus!" Her jerk of protest caused him to dig for balance with his sharp little claws. She yelped, swatted, bounced, then crawled off Roarke to safety. When she twisted to check for blood, she caught Roarke's grin and saw the cat now purring maniacally under his long, clever fingers.

  There was nothing to do but scowl at both of them. "I guess the two of you think that was funny."

  "We each like to welcome you home in our own way." Even as her lip curled, he was sitting up, taking her face in his hands. Within that frame, her cheeks were flushed, her mouth sulky, her eyes sleepy. "You look very attractively…used, Lieutenant." His mouth cruised over hers, nibbled, and nearly made her forget she was annoyed with him. "Why don't we have a shower, then, over dinner, you can tell me what's upset you."

  "I'm not hungry." She muttered it. Now that the temper had flashed, she wanted to brood.

  "I am." He simply pulled her off the bed with him.

  • • • •

  He let her sulk, let himself speculate, until they were down in the kitchen. Knowing Eve, he decided whatever had put her blood on boil was job-related. She would tell him, he thought as he chose stuffed shells for both of them from the menu of the AutoChef. Sharing her burdens wasn't a natural act for her, but she would tell him.

  He poured wine, then sat across from her at the cozy eating area tucked under the window. "Did you identify your sidewalk sleeper?"

  "Yeah." She ran a fingertip up the stem of the wineglass, then shrugged. "He was one of those post-Urban War dropouts. It's unlikely anyone will be able to say why he traded an ordinary life for a miserable one."

  "Maybe his ordinary one was miserable enough."

  "Yeah, maybe." She shrugged it off. Had to. "We'll release his body to his daughter when we're done with it."

  "It makes you sad," Roarke murmured and had her gaze lifting to his.

  "It can't get inside you."

  "It makes you sad," he repeated. "And the way you channel that is to find who killed him."

  "That's my job." She picked up her fork, stabbed one of the shells on her plate without interest. "If more people would do their jobs instead of screwing with people doing theirs, we'd be a hell of a lot better off."

  Ah, he thought. "So, who screwed with you, Lieutenant?"

  She started to shrug again, wanted to act as if it didn't matter a damn. But it came bubbling up her throat and out before she could stop it. "Fucking stiff scooper. Hated me on sight, who knows why."

  "And assuming a stiff scooper is what its colorful name indicates, does he have a name?"

  "She. Half-ass Bowers from the one-six-two filed a complaint against me after I gave her a wrist slap for sloppy work. Over ten years on the force, I've never had an official complaint on my record. Goddamn it." She snatched up her wine, gulped.

  It wasn't the temper that had him laying a hand over hers but the sheer unhappiness crowded with it in her eyes. "Is it serious?"

  "It's bullshit," she tossed back, "but it's there."

  Roarke turned her hand, palm up, to his, squeezed once. "Tell me about it."

  It spewed out of her with considerably less restraint than the formal oral report she'd given Whitney. But as she snapped the words out, she began to eat without realizing it.

  "So," he said when she'd run down. "Basically, you pissed of
f a troublemaker who retaliated by filing a whiny complaint—something she appears to have a habit of doing— and your commanding officer is officially and personally in your corner."

  "Yeah, but…" She closed her mouth, simmered in silence for a moment because he'd encapsulized it all so neatly. "It's not as simple as you make it sound."

  It wouldn't be, Roarke mused, not for Eve. "Maybe not, but the fact is, if anyone put your record against hers, she'd just look like more of an idiot than she does now."

  That cheered her a little. "She put a smear on my record," Eve continued. "The goons in IAB love to look at smears, and I had to take time away from a case to answer her stupid accusation. Otherwise, I'd have been able to run data scans on the surgeons Cagney sent me. She doesn't give a damn about the case. She just wanted to take a shot at me because I dressed her down and sent her off for coffee. She's got no business on the force."

  "Very likely she's never made the mistake of going after a cop quite so clean and well-respected as you." He watched her brows draw together at his comment, smiled a little as she squirmed.

  "I want to go stomp on her face."

  "Of course," Roarke said lightly. "Or you wouldn't be the woman I adore." He picked up her hand, kissed her fingers, and was pleased to see a reluctant smile soften her lips. "Want to go find her and beat her up? I'll hold your coat."

  This time she laughed. "You just want to watch two women fight. Why do guys get off on that?"

  Eyes deeply blue and amused, Roarke sipped his wine. "The constant hope that during the battle clothes will be ripped away. We're so easily entertained."

  "You're telling me." She glanced down with some surprise at her empty plate. She supposed she'd been hungry after all. Sex, food, and a sympathetic ear. Just more of the wonders, she thought, of marriage. "Thanks. Looks like I do feel better."

  Because he'd put the meal together, she thought it only fair she deal with the dishes. She carried them to the dishwasher, dumped them in, and considered the job done.

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