Sweet Arrest Copyright © November 2008, Jordyn Tracey Cover art by Aidan Books © November 2008 This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. Aidan Books USA www.aidanbooks.com

Chapter One A bakery was the last establishment she should own. A’isha glowered at her panty line, clearly visible through her jogging pants. A thong might have worked out better, except she had no wish to give herself a wedgie and her giggly butt needed the extra covering to hide the dimples. She slapped the offending round cheeks and drug in a resigned breath. The decision had been made months ago. With her new jogging outfit, designed in her favorite color— blue—she had no excuse not to get out on the trail through the park. Just after sunrise had to be early enough for no witnesses to her first lengthy exercise in three years. Popping a stick of sugarless gum in her mouth, she tucked her phone in her pocket and bound down the stairs of her family home. On the front steps of the row house, she placed her head phones on her head and set out. Twenty minutes into her walk-ten minutes, jog-for two, she was sweating, and her thigh muscles burned. At a curve in the trail, with a large bush obstructing the path ahead, she stopped. Her cell phone buzzed against her hip, and the vibration felt pretty good right about now. If only it were all over her stiff, painful muscles. She flipped the phone open and bent to remove her shoe lace from inside her sneaker. “Hello?” The hard body slammed into her, and her phone went flying. A’isha landed on her back with a man pinning her to the ground. She screamed, fighting for him to release her. “Hey, easy. I’m not the one who was bent in the middle of a blind spot.” His deep voice and bright blue eyes sent chills along her arms. “Now, if you’ll give me a sec I can haul myself and you up. Okay? Please, don’t scratch my eyes out.” His charming smile disarmed her. “Um, yes, of course. Sorry.” His tanned skin glistened from his run. His tussled brown curls were in wet ringlets on his forehead. He wore a sleeveless T-shirt and biker shorts. When he hefted his body up off her, she spotted the bulge at his crotch and blushed. He followed her line of vision, knowing what she was looking at, and he winked. A’isha scooted away from him. He stood, reached down, and hooked his hands beneath her arms to hoist her to her feet. “There you go. Are you okay? No permanent damage?” “No, thank you. I-I have to go.” Not wanting him to see her ass, she offered a half smile and faced him while she shuffled sideways pretending such a move was natural. The amusement in his eyes told her he wasn’t fooled, and probably that he thought she was an idiot.

I have to go. she let herself in and flipped the card to open on the door. She was facing away from him.” He nodded. On a tormented pivot.. The man must have had a screw shaken loose in the fall. “I’m Connor. It must have gone flying when we bumped. “Pretty. and her pants were too tight.. Mr. and someone’s shoes slapped against the concrete. Except to return her cell phone. . from a man. **** By the time she reached the bakery. he wasn’t commenting on her name. “Thank you. Her panties had ridden up despite being granny style. engulfing hers. Nice to meet you.?” “A’isha. she cleared her throat. Her car was parked at the south end of the park. “Excuse me. and she hadn’t started the donuts that needed to be fresh that morning. the jog dismissed. Gorgeous was out of sight. A’isha straightened her walk. Their gazes locked. the old man who lived at the end of the block would be in less than an hour expecting his usual to be ready. “You forgot this in the grass. His palm was rough but warm. She would have to circle around a least a mile to avoid him and get back. “Yes?” When he didn’t look up. Too late to turn now. oh well. wouldn’t look at her twice. He was too sexy anyway.” To her surprise. Very pretty. um. She grunted. A man with a face like that and a body to match. “You know. yeah. I—” “I have to go—” She was going to run away again. Stanton. but she couldn’t help herself.” He was probably bent over laughing his head off at her antics.” Sparks ignited at his touch. she glanced up to find his gaze where she least welcomed it.” She spun away. Groaning. “Oh.” He held up her cell phone. and this time jogged in the opposite direction than what she intended. If her thighs had to spontaneously combust. from an awkward situation. A’isha realized Cammie had not opened when she was supposed to. stomping along the path. “How embarrassing. The park came to life around them—birds chirped. a dog barked.” She stopped.When Mr.

The thought occurred to her that Cammie had been calling on her cell when she stopped on the walk. it was still too late for A’isha to do something about it. “Where’s that apprentice of yours. The therapy in baking a banana bread was heavenly. For a woman who claimed she wanted to be a pastry chef. I’d like to see a check in here!” She threw the waste of good trees on the counter and slipped into her apron. the usual. even as simple as beating eggs. mixing ingredients. warm pastry that . she sure didn’t take it seriously. I will keep an eye on things. “I have to sneak in the back. the cheap. Stanton’s stooped figure shuffled in. “Spilled milk. she popped open the industrial sized refrigerator she adored and brought out her blackberries. she was in the mood to make some Mississippi mud but had to settle for blackberry muffins. shoveled up the mail from the day before—delivered late—and scanned it between setting the coffee pot and pretending she was not on the edge of bankruptcy. Just help yourself to more of those donuts. Mr. Mr. Spilled milk. “Morning.” He glanced around. but never forgotten. not feeling like hearing the excuse this time. she turned and headed into the kitchen. Stanton. The bell over the door jingled. “Yes. Stanton not getting his breakfast. Sure enough. if she was calling out. just ignoring the world and baking. “Go on. would always start her day. the call had come from Cammie. A’isha didn’t have the luxury of being picky though. A flick of the switch on the radio to soft relaxing music and the scent of coffee in the air. Every day for two years they used the same greeting. if you don’t mind. Flour.” She fished her cell from her bag. she washed her hands with the thoroughness a surgeon could admire then readied her stove and ingredients for the donuts. A’isha. Her mother was gone. and Mr. Next. and every day for twenty he had given the same compliment to her mother. liver-spotted hand. eggs. having no formal training beyond her mother. A’isha.” She had many more issues to cry over than Cammie being late or Mr. in the back?” “Nope. Just once. Purely Sweets was small time. how is my beautiful flower?” “Good morning. She sighed and put it back. milk and sugar all on the table.A’isha flipped on all the lights. At that time of the morning.” He waved a wrinkly. Now it was hers. and it tore her insides apart knowing she was losing it. That’s how she liked it.” Blowing him a kiss. “Bills and credit card applications. for no reason. Yet. His pleasure but toothy grin brightened her day a little. Kneading dough. Purely Sweets had been her mother’s baby. Clearing her throat. missing in action. dear. She loved this part of her business. The blackberry muffins were a mainstay. The usual?” She poured his coffee at the counter. Stanton. she turned away to hide the mist in her eyes.

maybe her rear wouldn’t be so damn big.police are looking for Selena Goode who was last seen. Yet. A’isha.her customers would snatch up by the dozens. She chuckled thinking of it. “You do realize how hard it’s been lately. I will stay late and prepare everything for tomorrow. Later. and that meant more to pay bills. A grunt escaped her. A’isha imagined she wouldn’t get warm enough now that the season was changing. and she sometimes sprung out recipes for treats that had the customers smacking their lips for more. She had dated a white man a few years ago.. Not one! And you decide for whatever reason to not open up on time. the treats brought in extra money. Cammie plodded over to the small TV mounted on the kitchen wall and flipped it on. and unlike anyone else. The door burst open. Thinking of her rear brought thoughts of Connor to mind. and clothes rumpled as usual. but it had never gotten to anything physical. She hadn’t been exaggerating. .” Cammie caught her attention. feeling like they weren’t being completely bad. those same conscientious women and some men would sneak back in to grab a slice or two of her apple pie with all-butter crust. give you a break. “But Connor. “Thanks.” “What do you mean?” “Oh nothing.” “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for being late!” Cammie. with red hair flying every which way. The woman could withstand high temperatures. “Fine. “I called.. “. A’isha frowned. You had no experience and no training. Slapping her hands on her hips.. A’isha cringed. That woman would be the death of her. I won’t let you down. And I’ll come in early the rest of the week. The jarring voice of the newscaster invaded her sanctuary. After all. Cammie couldn’t be bothered to do anything beyond what was assigned to her. The flash of resentment was not missed. that package was huge.” She shuffled out to the front at the sound of the bell. It couldn’t be avoided. Cammie? I can’t afford to lose one single order. because you have real talent and a love of food like I do. and to not tell me early enough for me to get in here and do it myself?” While she shifted out of her extra clothing. I promise. Things are looking up for me anyway.. lately.. I kept you on. Oh he was hot. A’isha. “I had an appointment. But don’t let me down. Cammie could bake.” she mused. My mom gave you a chance when you begged for it.. buried herself in warm clothing even in summer.Damn. How’s that?” Her puppy dog eyes were tempting. Did you get my message?” A’isha didn’t address the question. Cammie. stood unbuttoning layers of clothing. “A’isha. A’isha rolled her eyes.” Just not the weight to go with it. A’isha had done all she could not to demand Cammie stop for the jealousy burning in her heart. If she developed more low fat or low sugar recipes.

” she mimicked Cammie. “What am I going to do?” She stood there. Greene. Surely it hadn’t bounced. “Yes?” “I need you to come in to talk about your mortgage payment. please not the electricity. **** A’isha forced herself to take each step after she had struggled from the car. and she recalled that she had taken the risk of jogging with only the street lights to illuminate her path—unsafe but necessary. If she lost this bakery. Her mother had a better handle on everything. “Oh someone’s at the door. Not that one at least. “It’s for your own good. I understand your difficulties. A’isha slammed down to the floor. but we can only go so far on good faith. “No. “Purely Sweets. forcing a smile. with no incidents this time.” the woman explained. Ms Lincoln. Her muscles cussed her out for what she had done to them. The sun hadn’t come up yet.. Can I call you back and confirm? Thanks. Approaching the shop. A’isha glanced up to find it missing. because I don’t have any money. including the finances. a delivery. Another morning of jogging. this is Tamara Lincoln at Town Bank. she shuffled in the direction of the kitchen. “I’ve been too lenient on her! Ma had a better handle.” She slammed the phone down with too much force. she tried to recall whether she had sent the check off to the electric company. and when she tried to step sideways thinking Cammie had set a delivery box in the way. A’isha sighed and picked it up. She shut the door and flipped the light switch. smelling her precious muffins burning. Her foot bumped something. How can I help you?” “Ms.” Her shoulders slumped. With her hands outstretched. banging her knee but cushioned by. “How does tomorrow at three sound?” Like it doesn’t make any difference. “I’m going to come in every day this week. Nothing happened. her foot slipped. knowing damn well she wouldn’t keep this up if it didn’t get a little easier.” she grumbled.. Cursing her assistant for not cleaning up the mess she made.a body? . with tears in her eyes. She had. she noted the lights still off and the blinds down..” Searching her memory.” A’isha’s heart rate kicked up a few notches. This is A’isha.The phone rang. The bell didn’t jingle when she opened the door.. She banged on the counter with her knuckles. but the hook it had hung from for years was still there.

her fingers slipped into the same mess her foot had. the counter blocked her from seeing who was lying dead on her floor. Someone banged on the door. In a daze. He was Connor. Of course. it wasn’t there. the officer outside the door tried the lock. Nausea threatened. she stopped and fought to get to her feet. She had a moment to consider if it was really the killer back to add her death to his crimes. Now she knew what it was. Too late. the store brightened. Grasping a stool. she turned her head to the wall where she had grasped her way to the kitchen door.She screamed. But the man holding the badge and brandishing a gun was not the bad guy.” Before she could register how they knew without her calling. At the toss of the switch just inside the doorway. Darkness swirled. Just short of throwing a soiled hand over her mouth. Her legs were so shaky. and her forehead knocked against the wall as she sank in slow motion. but she did see the pool of blood thickening. it took a while to cross the narrow space between where she stood and the kitchen. A bloody print was smeared there. she clamored around the counter and over to where the phone had been the night before. An authoritative voice called. Blood. Police. The coppery scent could not be mistaken. . Thankfully. “Open up. the sexy man from the park. Her print.

“Come with me outside where we can talk. her ass rubbing against his thigh. “A’isha. He had work to do.. “Are you alone?” She nodded. covered in what he guessed was the victim’s blood. where he could block her view of it. you need to calm down. he grew hard. “Can you come over here please?” He didn’t holster his weapon.” Why did he say it like that? “Come with you? I’m being arrested? I didn’t do it!” she screeched.” She continued to fight. “Stop it! I’m not going to hurt you! I’m not arresting you either.” He pretended not to remember her first name. As sweet as she had looked in her tight jogging outfit. Half way down the block. “Out there? They’ll see me like this. so he thought she had been about to faint. Her soft brown skin seemed paler.” He nodded with his head in the direction farthest from the body. she looked guilty. The moment his body had connected with hers. I guess. Connor bit down on an expletive when she jetted for the door... trying to keep his contamination of the crime scene to a minimum. When he had gotten the anonymous call about hearing screams for help in the bakery on Curzon Avenue. A’isha. and tears coated her cheeks. but from the horror of what someone else had done and left for her to find. “Y-Yes.” she whispered. setting his ears to ringing. he loved a woman with extra softness to her curves. She wiggled past him. He stepped farther inside. check it out.. He pushed those thoughts from his mind. Connor carefully picked his way around the body. Right away. He gently took he arm. he didn’t know what he would find. Just come with me. “Ms.at this time. “Everything will be okay. “Carl. For all intents and purposes. The woman could move in a panic. He clenched his jaw.” “Then come with me over to that corner there. but he did.” She sobbed. pinned her hands to her sides and shouted. But something in him wanted to believe she was pale and crying not from remorse at what she had done. Damn.” . Connor gestured to her.” As his partner disappeared in the back. But A’isha would never have made it to him without assistance. He knew she was taller. He did not expect to find the body of a young woman with her throat slashed nor the very beautiful. I can’t help you if you don’t. He growled.. he caught up with her and yanked her back into his arms. very sexy woman he had landed on top of in the park the other day.Chapter Two Connor froze in the doorway. his partner following with a curse falling from his lips. He put his gun away and took off after her. clawing his arms with her nails. I can’t. Carl called it in.

He would get nowhere here. He needed to get her story before the details began to fade. “Y-Yes. she nodded. he moved her in the direction of his unmarked car. and those full lips looked ripe for kissing just inches away from his. “You’re not going to run anymore. He spun her in his arms to face him. You’re not under arrest. he returned to the scene. He stepped back. but I don’t want you to try to run again. making her look like she was having mini-seizures. he hoped she wasn’t too far gone to hear him. the stains on her clothes snapped him out of it. who were so upset at seeing violent death. You don’t know this woman. male and female. “Ever seen a pocket knife with a pink handle? Not a giveaway at all. Shaking himself to focus on the task at hand. he wondered if she remembered him or if under normal circumstances she would date a white man. Connor. I’ll question you there.” . Connor sighed and flipped his book closed. Get a grip. A’isha. “Now. I’m going to put you in my car—” She shrieked. He took her arm in a gentle grasp. He hated himself for wanting nothing more than to comfort her. She wrung her hands and glanced around. I understand. All of them. Even while A’isha exhibited the symptoms. “A’isha. People had begun to arrive to open their businesses in the block. He tugged his notebook from his pocket. She fit in his hold like no woman had.Her shoulders shook. but stayed in their doorways when they spotted the police cars blocking the street. “Murder weapon?” Connor inquired. After slipping her inside. do you know who the victim is back there in the bakery?” Again. The tremors continued. She could have murdered that young woman. When he would have lost himself in a fantasy of kissing her. Carl approaching with a plastic bag in hand. he had come across many people. “I need you to speak to me. Carl held up the bag.” Irrelevantly. but watched her. “—and take you home. Do you understand?” In his line of work. If we’re going to find out what happened. I need the facts. She shook her head but didn’t speak. are you?” He narrowed a suspicious glare on her. they went into shock and had a hard time understanding simple statements.

but I’m going to need you to take off your shoes and hand them to this man. **** Pulling up to A’isha’s house. size six. Check this out. He should not be taking her home. and he locked onto her ass. careful not the rub across the surface. His train of thought zigzagged the second she stepped out of the car. “Ms. and the jarring attraction he felt for A’isha was screwing with his head. Testing will show. he hailed a tech and had the man follow him to his car.” Connor took the bag and examined the contents. he realized he had already broken protocol. he opened the passenger side door. I’m sorry. possibly marring fingerprints.” Did you really do this. He did not need another fiasco like what had happened four months ago. I’d say what.“Shit. Greene. After Connor had slammed the door. but it looks like Ms. but she obeyed. The first thing he needed to do was start thinking of her as Ms. He would go by the book. With trepidation.” Confusion clouded her beautiful face. The tech caught the shoes in an oversized baggie. It looks bad for Ms. one incident—a lie—and his reputation had been called into question. but not having had a woman in almost a year since his last ugly breakup. Thinking of her. climbed in on the driver side and pulled away from the curb. Outside on the street. added a note and strode away. His partner pointed with his pen. He grumbled as he stood and moved toward the door. Get in. Connor had a fetish for women who killed. A’isha? Carl squatted beside the now covered body and opened his notebook. “The vic is Cammie Clark. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. small.” “Fuck!” Carl glanced at him curiously. All we need now is a motive to bring her in. Greene. That was it. “See here? Footprints. . six and a half? And over here. Connor trusted his team and knew the CSI techs had already taken a million photos in the time it had taken him to chase down A’isha and calm her enough to wait for him in his car. He liked to think he was not normally led around by his dick. keep A’isha at a distance and do his job. question her and get out. zipped it. he decided he had better wrap this up before she lost patience and bolted. Clark was killed with that knife here in the store sometime before five. For fuck’s sake. she rests her hands there. Connor saw the wheels turning in his head as he wondered if the rumors had been true.” He pulled the covering down. Greene. A’isha Greene is the baker. “Whatcha got?” he asked Carl. Connor lectured himself. She worked as the baker’s assistant.

She returned wearing jeans. The tremors were no longer visible.” Fresh tears wet her lovely cheeks.” “Then if I do. We’ll just leave together as we arrived. “Just a neighbor.He suppressed amusement when she held her arms out to the side. John. they sat in the living room on a plastic covered couch. his trained observation skills snapped on the second he passed the threshold. he would say this was her family home. a tee and sneakers. An hour in A’isha’s presence. he took in the dated furniture in her living room and the family photos on the walls dating back to black and whites of folks in fashions from the fifties. Waiting for her to search out her keys from the expansive red leather bag she carried. Not cuffing her was not following protocol. If he had to guess. baby. shielding the direction of his eyes with his palm. Inside her house. wringing her hands. and he realized just how much his life sucked. “Hey.” “I thought you were going to give me a try after that last guy. “Sorry. “Silly.” At his raised brows. At her invite. Now you got you a white boy? What’s up with that?” He shouldn’t be. “Hey. I meant to take that off. because I liked to put sticks in my pockets as a child. While A’isha informed him she would locate another pair of shoes. and she seemed less pale. but she didn’t give him the chance to say anything. Connor would have approached the guy except she held a hand in front of him.” Strike two. “My mother was forever fussing at me to stay off of it. he would be out of a job before the end of the week. but Connor was ready to defend her against a man who thought there was nothing wrong with standing in a line to have a shot at her body. He wondered if her parents were still around or if she had any siblings. I won’t put them on you. A man leaned a shoulder on a streetlight not far away. hands turned upward while she tiptoed up to her front door. I don’t want him or anyone around here to know. He himself had one sister who barely bothered to remember his number these days. “Please.” . even the sexy ones like A’isha. With a deliberate movement. What’s up?” She jumped. At this rate. right? Especially when in the next few minutes. he lifted a hand to his hair. she continued. She blushed. and I come right back out of my house in handcuffs. Women never got to him while he worked. A’isha. he complained silently. but I guess I feel a little scared to do it. you could determine to arrest me.” she told him. he became aware that someone was watching them.

Greene. Was she playing him for a fool like that previous suspect? He had to admit pouting lips and big eyes did something to him.” At his words. When he opened them. He closed his eyes. aunts. especially since her nipples were defined through the thin fabric of her blouse and bra. You remembered me from the park. it made him want to stroke deeper and pull her closer to— He dropped his hand. “I don’t think you’re crazy.Disappointed and relieved at the same time. Silky and smooth. which usually sent the message home that he was in charge and wouldn’t accept any BS.” Her face fell. He thought she might have injured herself. but not that I would stuff the sticks in my pockets rather than toss them out. after all. you have a brother. “Oh. he gave her a steely stare and frowned.” “Ms. can you tell me—” “You called me A’isha before. and uncles. “Uh. she had a sweet personality from what he had seen so far. He imagined the kitchen in a bakery grew hot and called for minimal clothing. “My brother just thought I was crazy.” Coughing noisily. Never mind. forcing himself to focus. “I think I will stick to Ms. To add to his frustration. Reaching out without thinking.. Her entire body called to him. I wanted to be a gardener—to her horror— and I liked to clear away dead leaves and sticks from the yard out back. if you’d like. I thought. and Andre is the only close family I have left. But A’isha went beyond that.” Her eyes were dazed remembering. “Andre and I developed a sort of resentment about it over the years.” Suspicion rose in him. Shifting the position of the notebook was necessary to cover the tent in his pants. like you do. She did enjoy the weeding.” Her grin spread wide and brightened her eyes. “So. he came to the conclusion that she wasn’t all there. Where is he?” Sadness filled her eyes. and he had to fight not to stare at her heavy breasts. I tend to remember details. Greene. but we weren’t close. You can call me A’isha.” She offered a shy smile that had him growing hard of all things. I can’t figure out why I did that. “Iraq. My parents are gone. My parents never went into detail about why. “Sticks?” She chuckled then banged a hand over her mouth. The total package. he put a hand to his lips. yes.. He lost focus. This is a murder investigation. he took a lock of her brownish black hair between his fingers. We haven’t tried to mend the rift. she paled again. We have cousins. .” She shrugged. but made no comment. “At the time.

Please ask me what you want. To his disgust. he admired her for that. A glint of determination came into her eyes.” He grinned.” “Detective Pierce.Her full lips trembled. She caught her breath and stared down at his hard-on he’d forgotten to keep covered. he was mistaken. “Agreed. in throwing him or her into prison for the rest of his life. Please Officer Connor. but she stiffened her back and blinked the tears clear from her eyes. “Trust me. And when I do.” If he thought he would intimidate her into admitting guilt. I have to reiterate that I did not do this. and she said. he’d say she found him attractive. soft but firmly. this time succeeding in throwing her off. Ms. “I will do all I can to help you. Her beautiful lips tightened. find the person who killed my assistant. “Yes.” he corrected. I will find the one responsible. she could be shocked that he could be aroused in the midst of a situation such as this. and for a moment. If he didn’t know better. and I won’t be railroaded into taking the blame so you can look good in front of your superiors. you’re right. I will do all I can to assist the D. but I am not guilty. he thought she would break down.A. Shall we continue?” . despite how it looked. Then again. Greene.

she rubbed her hands down her pants legs. When was the last time she had had a man in the house? Detective Pierce’s natural male essence pervaded the room just as his physical presence did. “You might as well share everything with me.” “Did the two of you have a falling out?” Her throat went dry. and she swallowed several times. Damn. Curved and sensual. but she was too preoccupied. I always do. capturing her with steel in his blue eyes. He leaned back. tanned skin. she examined his lips. While he spoke.Chapter Three He was too sexy for words. and other than a pile of books. Who’d a thunk a man like him would be turned on by her? And he was turned on. was that he was attracted to her. Some self-conscious reminder told her not to turn her most hated body part to him as she paced over to the window. “Can you think of anyone who might want to hurt her? Did she have a fight with her boyfriend?” She passed a hand over her forehead thinking. I didn’t do this. “I reiterate.” Her voice grew thick. why would a man like him want me? Surely. the police department isn’t using that technique to get guilty women to talk! His cell rang. . she figured. “Are you always this confident or is it just to scare me?” She glanced around to find him tapping his notebook on his knee. Hard muscle. Ever since her mother died. She was attending the community college. He reached in a pocket of his shirt causing his biceps to flex. or for that matter where. Detective Pierce. she didn’t bring anyone by the shop. Strange. “I’m not sure Cammie even had a boyfriend. This was bad. this time not hiding his arousal. Flicking at the curtain she needed to take down and wash. And his scent. she said. really bad. She wondered when it would all end. she was drawn to him. But she knew the trouble she was in. they’d be nice to kiss. What was she doing thinking about that when she should be focusing on whether this man intended to pin the murder on her. The thought that it could be in prison hit her with a force that knocked her to her knees. if that rock his pants swallowed was any indication. and he excused himself to answer.” Surging to her feet. The ache of loneliness bit at her. keeping the bakery afloat had dominated her life. She licked her lips. fighting for calm. Even when he tried his damndest to intimidate her. She hesitated. because I will discover all in time. coal black hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed ever. I found Cammie as she was. and the only reason he hadn’t hauled her ass into jail already.

We watched a movie. John. How could she lie? But what else was she going to do? She needed time to sort out what was happening. . His feet came into her line of vision.Off in the distance beyond the pounding of her heart. No word passed her lips. but he didn’t come. yes. His brows shot down low over his eyes.” He stared until she shifted under his scrutiny. he yanked her up to face him. If John did stand in. squeezing her heart. Would he ask what they watched? Or would John even get that she needed him as an alibi? Regret sapped her of energy. then what? He might want to go out with her. Tears clouded her vision. Chewing off her thumb nail. where were you between seven last night and one in the morning?” She didn’t answer. What was she thinking? “The man from outside?” he finally said. the acid from her stomach would eat away his good looks and make him a lonely ugly man the rest of his life.” She was going to throw up. With any luck.” She nodded toward the only indulgence she allowed herself. “He left really late.” He waited. his countenance forbidding. “Ms. her collection of five hundred DVD movies. . . . A flip through his notebook with too much drama set her teeth on edge.” she croaked. “Yes?” “I was with him last night. facing her collection. she crossed the room and sat down on the edge of the coffee table. That’s what men did. Her gaze remained locked on the faded worn carpet beneath her fingers. A’isha. No moan. the snap of the cop’s cell phone closing reached her. I was . With no show of kindness or interest in her beyond his job. The slam of the front door a second later made her jump. but she didn’t feel the same shortness of breath and tingles in her nether regions when he stared at her ass or boobs. . She half expected him to come over and comfort her.” He pointed his pen at her and left the room. Panic rose in her chest. “Don’t move. The one who said he thought you would give him a try. Get a grip. “Ah. Greene? Did you hear me?” “I was . She had no alibi. “The man outside. He didn’t believe her. Greene. “Ms.

Mentally. In the limited space. Greene. a mistake.” . she couldn’t even make her mortgage payment. her bank account held about eleven dollars. At least here in her room. her hip brushed his groin. don’t cry. why the bakery’s not open. She had no business whatsoever of wanting him. And I will be calling when I have more questions. The horror of the situation she was in paralyzed her. she searched her house for the yellow pages and then slumped against the wall. not a good place considering she would be level with his dick. He was too close. I can’t afford to be closed for any length of time. He didn’t seem displeased with the prospect. Don’t cry. And for all she knew he was ready to slap the cuffs on. her chin digging into her chest. Indentions in that caused her to roll where she didn’t want to roll when she sat at the desk. Ms. Her credit cards were maxed out. Her head dropped.She jumped to her feet and ran up the steps to land on her knees at the base of the toilet. but if I confirm that you lied—and I know you’re both lying—I will arrest you. “Here’s my card. “I was wondering if or when my shop would be allowed to open again. wondering where I am. A’isha didn’t move. she could almost read his lightning fast mind coming to the same conclusion. “Mr. she didn’t realize he had stepped into the bathroom until she stood up and caught his reflection in the mirror. don’t cry! “He collaborates your story. She just needed to ask a question. Yes?” She stared at the floor. A—” “A’isha. “Ms. brushing her teeth. she dry hacked. She shook her head. snapping her mind back to the detective. or her bathroom was too small. the carpet was nice. Greene. “Detective Connor? It’s me. Please.” He nodded and was gone. and if the police didn’t clear her immediately to reopen her bakery. “Why don’t you get out of my house.” He cleared his throat. When she caught herself by the edge of the sink. Not having eaten that morning.” “I had no reason to hurt Cammie!” she screamed. Maybe she should call a lawyer. and go find the real killer?” She turned to confront him. Electricity threatened to send her back down to her knees.” She stood wiping her mouth and then washed at the sink. Bending to swallow down some water to ease the ache in her throat. a deep purple frieze. a sensation like rubber bands around her head weakening her further. “What am I going to do?” She trod into her bedroom and picked up the phone while squinting at Detective Pierce’s card. Except that it required a matt under her computer chair. He produced a card from his wallet. The heat of his body set her aflame. Stanton’s probably there. Call me if you have anything to add to what you’ve told me. don’t let me throw up in front of him. too heavy to hold up. His voice wasn’t that sexy and deep.

” “Oh. and know that my time’s coming. towering slightly. “You think I should sleep with you to be my alibi. with little muscle tone. “I can’t believe my good fortune today.” She scribbled down the number he recited. I been fantasizing about spending time with you. . “I might not have been here last night. “And you feel like you have the chance now that I’m obligated to you. The lock pressed painfully into her back. take this number down. Detective Pierce was just as tall and built to make a woman wet just looking at him. But then again. but she didn’t move.” “Hey. She had neglected to pull the shade there. he shook his head. “Hello.” His tone softened. She frowned. “Who could that be?” Her throat closed as she descended the stairs. “Yes. one that slid lower to the beginning swell of her breast. John. is that it? Lying to the police about being with me last night?” His heated gaze spanned her body from top to bottom and back again. “It may take a couple days at least.” He grinned. she opened the door. and just when she was tossing the phone on the bed. you will have to hire someone to come out and clean up. Her heart hammered.He sighed. the doorbell rang. Will that help?” She sniffled. Nostrils flared and a smirk on his face. He certainly didn’t waste any time. “I always stay positive. John dropped a heavy hand on her shoulder. and her mouth dried in an instant. He will get you done quickly. A crime scene isn’t something for the average person to handle. “Listen. but you can’t begin to know how much this means to me.” She cringed. Tell the guy who answers I sent you. I will be in touch. John’s head was visible through the lace curtains at the small window in the door.” He walked up on her. We need to be sure we have collected all evidence. In some corner of her mind. Steeling herself. thank you so much. Girl. “Good. but I could be tonight. After that. I will expedite things on my end and get him the proper release to do clean up. That should get you back in there in about two days. she noted that where John looked awkward at somewhere around six-five. baby.” She sagged against the door she had neglected to close. . A’isha just cleared his chin. .” He tapped his temples with his fingertips. I know you should remain neutral on this. revealing slightly yellowed teeth and stepped past her without giving her the chance or the choice to invite him in.” “I-I .” The line went dead.

“Yeah. After gathering them all.” he told her. I can’t handle anything. Returning to her files. We can go to dinner. she indulged herself in self-pity. I don’t want some snotty. “I’m so sorry. “Oh and wear something low cut so I can enjoy the view. “When do you want to do this.” After warming a slice of pumpkin mascarpone pie and adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the bowl. Her mother used to keep dossiers on customers and anyone who worked for her. . I can do that. stronger ones. Soon she was crying again. “I want to bend you over a chair and bang that ass until we’re both sore. don’t look down on me from heaven and see the mess I’ve made. Maybe she did have a boyfriend and they’d had a falling out. then maybe it wouldn’t matter if he knew the truth about her being alone. Everything I touch fails. Her physical files were in a dresser drawer in her room. but I’m not going to force you. Cammie’s file didn’t have much in it beyond her application for employment and her tax forms. Every trick I’ve tried just falls flat. caressing where his hand lay and blowing a warm breath in her hair. For now. Her lips parted on a small “pah” sound. I’ve ruined your business. copies of the originals at work and duplicates of what she had stored on both CD and her computer’s hard drive. She had every intention of helping Detective Pierce with his investigation to wrap this thing up. In a way. until she ran out of tears and had gone through the half-empty box of tissues she kept on the top of her computer terminal. I want you screaming my name and begging me for more. Tolerating him for a few dates was no big deal. but more like paranoid something would go wrong and she wouldn’t have records to prove something. she was glad he didn’t believe her. she carried her comfort food up to her office and began her search. moving to push the screen door open. like prove my innocence. Please. she would spend it trying to find out just what Ms. She slammed the door. John?” “Tonight.” He backed off. she deposited them into the trashcan with a mental note to empty it. Not that she was so efficient. she picked up the phone and dialed Cammie’s home. although it wasn’t likely he would ask her out. A’isha was under no illusions that she didn’t have the touch her mother had. I don’t know why you bothered to leave it to me. Cammie was up to that she had been missing so much time from work.“I want you. With the rest of the day free.” “Okay. Ma.” For a few minutes. I’ll settle for a date.” She shivered at the image he drew of her bent over a chair. If he had more suspects.” What happened to the man who turned her off but was at least respectful? Give him a little leverage. personal information she had picked up over time to make their visits to Purely Sweets a positive one. crying woman. Eight o’clock. and he was just as much of an ass as anyone else.

” Had the woman’s voice turned bitter? “This is Cammie’s mother. and A’isha wondered if she should just offer her condolences and leave it at that. The police are here. Then again.When no one answered after six rings. “Hello?” “Um. She was amazed he relented enough to help her when she called back. how she couldn’t wait to get out of there!” “H-Hated?” Spots danced before A’isha’s eyes. “I’ve just finished telling the detectives how Cammie hated working for you. A woman with a thick voice like she had something caught in her throat or a stopped up nose answered. She cried openly for a few minutes. They knew better how to conduct an investigation around a person’s emotional trauma. “Yes. I can’t talk now. where Cammie worked?” She couldn’t believe she had never called Cammie’s home or knew whether she lived at home with her parents or on her own. owner of the Purely Sweets bakery on Curzon. The clang of a prison door closing must be the product of her over-stimulated imagination. Detective Pierce had only been kind during the initial shock.” Her voice broke. she was about to hang up. this is A’isha Greene. After that he had turned cold. hi. Cammie’s mother continued. I know who you are. .

” “With one look?” Connor frowned. His partner pulled out his notes. Clark was so unhappy.” Connor bit back the retort he intended to that statement. The design is unique. He had bucked being paired with him. yes. Any prints from the weapon?” Carl shook his head. That woman had been rail thin. Might also be worth checking into its maker. but Connor respected his ability. I’d like to get a full background check on her and the victim. Greene?” He hated the hope that rose in him. pinched his nose. A pulse beat a tattoo at his left temple. Half the time it worked. He popped them on a daily basis trying to head off headaches. “Why because I’m black? No. They did work well together. “So what do you think?” Carl said. and he searched his drawers for something to relieve the pain. The man was young and had little experience. Her mother was sketchy. but too little on her bones. “You weren’t attracted to her. but I’m hesitant to believe she did it. and tried to banish the image of A’isha in his mind. But he downed them anyway. before you whisked her out of there. A’isha Greene than we first suspected. Carl followed.” Connor stood up to get some water from the fountain. “You saw her half a minute. He shrugged. “You don’t think it was Ms. beautiful. If Carl couldn’t see what a sexy woman A’isha was. I get the feeling like you that there’s more going on here.” “Yeah. were you?” Carl snorted. Not Connor’s idea of perfect at all. Chanting “be objective” hadn’t worked on him thus far. he considered whether he had become addicted or if it was possible. half it didn’t. then he was an idiot. but I don’t know. While opening the Excedrin Migraine. but he was pretty sure Carl saw it in his eyes. his instincts for the job. “I think there’s more to Ms. Find out why Ms.Chapter Four Connor dropped into his desk chair and ran his hands through his hair. Remembering the woman Carl had brought to the Christmas party last year made him realize the man was right.” That statement surprised Connor. she’s not my type. . With her. Wanna comment?” “No. “Not a one. and I can’t be sure she wasn’t just looking for someone to pin the blame on. Connor grumbled. but it had turned out the chief was right. A’isha wasn’t his type. I like to reserve judgment. Whoever did this wore gloves or wiped the knife down. Carl sat on the edge of his desk and crossed his hands in his lap. “Well.

pure and simple. But I’m going to let it stand for now until we have more. He had two real mugs in the bottom of his desk. I’ll let you know if I find out anything and add it to my report tonight before I knock off for the day. and sometimes he wondered if he needed to demand she back off. Connor approached with caution. the neighbors. given to him by Sergeant O’Hara. but he had no wish to encourage her.“Did the lab come back with anything useful? Any prints in the store?” Connor poured himself a cup of coffee. actually. The front door stood slightly ajar. there didn’t seem— The tape might have been broken by a passing teen wanting to make trouble. Beyond a curious glance or two at the police tape hanging from the doorknob. Besides. and he closed the door securely behind him.” He tossed the cup in the trash. “Coming?” “Nah. I’m about to run over to the shop and have a look around again before I give her the go ahead to open it up. I need to follow these leads. he had no interest in dating a cop.” Carl fell silent and seemed hesitant. He had intended to turn his vehicle in for servicing. her eyes were on his ass. You don’t believe it. No rest for the weary. he would fall into a groove. I don’t believe it. knowing it was two or three hours old. Everyone seemed to be going about their business. he’ll call us. They ran in his family. “Plenty of prints. he didn’t see anyone right away. but her pushy ways turned him off. “Before you demand to know why I’m not on it. . he would be a bear to work with. He hadn’t slept more than two hours the night before. It’s a bakery. **** Connor had to park on a side street almost a block away from the bakery as the area was crowded this time of day. Mud. and enough was enough. Any matches. Later. His coworkers knew the drill. O’Hara was pretty with that rich fiery red hair and rounded figure. do you?” Connor frowned down at the Styrofoam cup in his hand. Until then. but hopefully that same person had not also let themselves in.” He held up his hands. and sleep would return. trying to determine if anyone had undue interest in the bakery. Carl laughed at the face he made upon sampling the coffee. He strode along taking in the surroundings. After a couple weeks.” “All right. like a motive. “No. Inside. More often than not. but it would have to wait another day. I do have one of the guys checking the prints against the central database.” Connor checked his weapon out of habit and strolled to the exit. which was how he always was when starting a new case. “What? Spit it out!” “Her alibi.

She liked the feel of him on her? Let her look. a little longer. and she whimpered. He drew his weapon. he covered her mouth with hunger that scorched his mind. he glanced at a box on the counter that hadn’t been there on his last visit. don’t. The door creaked when he shoved it. His gaze fell on the paper in her hands. No other sound reached him. he parted hers and ran his other hand down to her ass. I was trying to defend myself. but there was more to A’isha than met the eye. Her moans did him in. and he paused again. Inching closer to the counter and the kitchen door beyond. he recognized A’isha but pretended he didn’t. he made no move to cover his swollen dick. “Hello?” The back door was barred with a deadbolt lock requiring a key. but before he could lose his footing. He squeezed. He grew stiff between her legs in less than a second. He slid his hand down to her neck and pressed his body along hers with her back to the counter. No one would have to know. “Detective?” Her lips were ripe for kissing. The wind whooshed from his lungs at the impact with the ground.” “You shouldn’t have been in here. “Please.Tipping her chin higher. “Getting rid of evidence?” “N-No.” she gasped. Just a little more. I’d just as soon get off this floor!” His flushed but hauled himself off of her and reached down to help her up. He peered inside. Showering kisses along the side of her face. “I thought you were the killer. With one thigh.” he growled. Pinning her hands above her head made her breasts push into his chest. He could be professional from here on out. I just—” She blew out a breath.Something smashed in the kitchen. sucked at it and pressed harder. . Nothing was as important as sticking his tongue in to sample her sweetness. He caught a whiff of honeysuckle and baby powder and crinkled his nose. Not the least bit put off by her statement. and a soft body landed on top of his. He could. And she did. he grabbed onto the counter and clipped the person rushing him. of course not. some with a past due stamp on the outside of the envelope.. Just one taste. This time. When the stars cleared from his vision at the hit. He flipped her and rolled until he was on top of her. Mail. He had thought she was a shy thing. His weapon went flying. as pleasurable as having you on top of me is. he moved in close to her to breathe in her delicious scent. he nipped her soft skin. adrenaline pumping high octane through his veins.. They would not do so without hitting the floor first. Detective. so he knew whoever was in here had to come past him. “Detective. Without warning the door slammed into his chin and knocked him off balance. Possible motive? He moved on. She stared up at him.

A look over his shoulder revealed her panting and straightening her clothes. He had been with a black woman only once in his life. She wanted him just as much as he wanted her. . You have no right to go through my things. and the experience hadn’t been pleasant. Boy. “Did I hear a threatening tone in your voice?” She seemed to consider that a moment. releasing her. He wanted to taste there too. The envelope said Air Mail. and I was responsible for it happening just the same. He guessed it was from her brother. A’isha was having money troubles. Suspect. “That’s mine. it wasn’t. Just as she had shown spunk a moment ago. I’m sure kissing me was not a part of that. getting on his high horse to stare her down. she could be playing him now. had enjoyed his touch. Greene.” He puffed up.” The look of disappointment on her face almost made him cross to her and take her in his arms again. could she seduce him with hips like hers. inhaling her essence and feasting to his heart’s content. Distance between them was the best thing right now.His shaft raged to get inside her. if for nothing else than to see if an address might catch his eye. It won’t happen again. he turned away and picked up one of the letters in the box.” he began. his kiss. A person’s race made no never mind to him. but his experience hadn’t varied much from Caucasian women. He walked around the counter to where she had left the box. but he didn’t want to think of her being guilty. “That was very unprofessional of me. and then her shoulders slumped. He should be trying to discover how that might tie in to her assistance’s murder. “You’ve been sure to remind me every time I’ve spoken to you. But that had to do with the woman rather than the color of her skin. Ms. The word exploded into his mind. He fought to keep from yanking her dress up to satisfy his suspicion that she was wet between her legs. that this is an official investigation?” “I know what it is!” she snapped. All night. He began sifting through her box.” He faced her fully. I wanted that kiss as much as you did. He drew back. “No. and she turned away to answer. Satisfaction rose inside him. With half an ear. What better way to throw a man off your trail than to seduce him. glimpsing again the overdue bills. “I apologize. and neither is my correspondence. “Might I remind you. but her cell phone rang.” She would have said more. He wanted to hang onto them and ride to his heart’s content. Clearing his throat. he listened to her conversation. She snatched it from his fingers.

” . “John? All right. making no move to help her open it. This was strictly mom and pop. trying to pick it. thank you very much. “Do you think someone was trying to get to the recipes. He crossed to join her and eased the lock from her fingers with the tips of his. Connor raised his brows. but do we have to go out every night? I have to— Okay. because she felt someone might want to steal them. I’ll check with my partner to be sure they didn’t already see this. yes. but she stopped and turned back. she offered a tight smile.” When she hung up. I can take it into the office now. In fact. I can get the guys to lift prints.” “You’ll be cleared when the fingerprints are drawn from this lock. The woman’s livelihood. the cleaning crew comes.. her chest swelling. “I doubt it. “I almost forgot. and Cammie caught them? Maybe that’s why they killed her?” He took in the serious expression on her face. Jealousy rose in him at that thought. “Why?” “Because someone has tried to get into my personal closet. I’m leaving. I’ll be ready. Instead. “My mother’s prized recipes. if you slip it off.. “I think someone was in here before me. “Unless you meant something else?” He thought of John. Greene had more sense than to sleep with him to keep his support.” He tried the doorknob. “Oh. “Nothing I can’t handle. I said okay! Eight. After that.” She slid the box off the counter after dropping the rest of her letters into it..“Hello?” Her voice dropped lower. Concentrating to block the sensations passing through him at their contact. “How do you know?” He scanned the area and stopped on the second of two doors which she stood before holding a heavy duty lock. This was no million dollar establishment with clients the world over. Yes. “What’s in here. I can’t come close even with access to her secrets.” He smirked. and why the special lock?” She grinned proudly. but changed her mind. I don’t have another lock.” He watched her walk to the door.I had hoped to have this solved quickly. “If there’s nothing else. Ms.” She dropped the box. She kept them tucked away. She believed that nonsense she had just spouted.” He went on the alert. “Looks like someone has been working at it.” Her face fell. “I can’t give it to you now. and you’re clear. She seemed about to tell him where he could stuff his assumptions. Hopefully. he examined the lock. the opportunistic new boyfriend.” She passed into the kitchen with him close behind. “Problem?” She rolled her eyes.” She gasped. I’m in sort of a hurry. but nothing more. Her baked goods were insanely addictive..

He crossed his arms. “You don’t honestly believe someone wants to steal old cake recipes, do you?” “Prove they don’t!” A chuckle rumbled up in his chest. He held out his hand, palm up. “Keys.” “What?” “Your keys.” He wiggled his fingers. “I will not take the lock off until you bring me another lock, but neither will I allow you back in here until it’s clear. So, you can give me the keys to this place, and gather your things. We’re leaving.” Slapping her hands on her hips, she bellowed, “You have no right—” “We’ve been over that, and I affirmed that I do.” He took her by the arm and shuffled her toward the kitchen door. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Five A’isha scowled at her reflection in the mirror. Detective Connor Pierce was hot, and that set up some intense fantasies in her mind of doing much more, but his ordering her around had to go. For all she knew, he had settled on blaming her for the murder, and only needed the motive to push for an arrest warrant. She’d seen the cop shows on TV and knew that all he had to do was threaten John, and he would cave. Then she’d be in hot water. No, this investigation was up to her. Except for the fact that she had no leads and no access to whatever the police had access to. She couldn’t run prints as Connor had said or force people to talk to her. “Then again, I could ask the neighbors if they saw anyone snooping around.” Her lips curled at the thought. That was a start. If someone did see a stranger in the area early in the morning or late at night, the description might be familiar. Maybe the killer was someone she knew. That made her shiver. She prayed she didn’t know anyone capable of murder. But first things first. She needed to find a way to turn John off. The man had been insistent on nightly dates for the past few days, and he didn’t know how to keep his hands to himself. Her temporary buoyancy evaporated. John wouldn’t give up too easily. He might even get to the point that forcing her to sleep with him or else would no longer weigh on his conscious. “What would you do if a man said sleep with me, or I’ll let you get tried for murder?” she asked her reflection. Flicking a last curl in place around her heart-shaped face, she stared into her sad eyes. “I’m not Braveheart. I would sleep with him.” A wave of nausea hit her, but she swallowed it down and stood. Time to face him whether she liked it or not. Just as she reached her bedroom door, the bell rang. Not bothering to hurry, she went down to answer. John stood at the door in dress slacks and a dress shirt. He was half way decent except that he had taken his braids out the day before and didn’t bother to cut his hair. She tried not to center on the wild mess that it was. “Hello, John. Where are we going?” Instead of an answer, he jerked her into his arms and kissed her, full on the mouth. He ran his tongue along her lower lip, trying to force entry. If she thought about throwing up earlier, she really did now. She shoved at him, but his arms were wound like a straight jacket around her waist. When she tried to knee him in the nuts, he closed his legs. Finally, when frustrated tears fell, and he tasted the salt, he released her.

“Damn, your mouth tastes good.” He grinned, ignoring the fact that she had been fighting his kiss. “Except for that salty part. Let me look at you. My girl’s gotta be hot when we go out!” At his command, she twirled. His offending gawk was glued to her cleavage. Just as he requested, she wore a lilac-colored top with a button closure at the neck and a teardrop opening below that to show off the swell of her breasts. She hated the stretchy fabric, because it showed off her love handles a little too much. The black jeans she had paired with it hugged her hips and ass enough to make John salivate. After he had smacked her rear, squeezed and slid his fingers a little too low back there, she was contemplating killing someone for the first time. They left the house without him telling her where they were going. “It’s a surprise.” He grinned. The surprise turned out to be dinner at a midlevel restaurant with tasteless entree and questionable dessert, followed by dancing at a new club called Fire ‘n It. A’isha decided to make the best of things and try to have fun. Soon A’isha was shaking her thing to the loud music and had even been scooped up to dance with a few other fine-looking brothas to John’s fury. Two surrounded her, one in front, one in back. There had to be no more than an inch or two between their groins and her body. “Damn, baby,” the taller, older, of the two groaned in her ear. “That ass is doing things to me. Shake it for me.” She didn’t prefer to be spoken to like that, but it was all in fun for the moment. While she shook it a little harder to the guy’s howl of delight, she glanced up to see the fire in John’s eyes, but she kept her gaze moving before he could demand she get off the floor. Losing her balance, she fell against the man in front of her. He encircled her waist, grinding into her hips, but her concentration had zeroed in on Detective Connor Pierce leaning against the bar with a drink in his hand and his eyes on her. A woman with broad shoulders and a pretty face strolled up to his side. She rested a hand with familiarity on his shoulder and grinned up at him. When Connor turned his head to her, their faces were inches apart. Jealousy rose in A’isha, white hot and uncalled for. John strolled over and took her by the arm, yanking her from the man sandwich she was trapped in. “Get your motherfuckin’ hands off my woman,” John spat. “Go find your own.” The man who had been holding her frowned and walked up on John. “Maybe you should look after her better before someone comes along and takes her.” “Is that so?” John puffed out his chest, shoving A’isha behind him. “You think you’re the man to do it, huh?”

Connor was close behind but said nothing. John stalked over to her and took her arm. “Look. For some reason. she might give in. I’m not in the mood to get in the middle of a fight between you and those two guys. you want to break it up. She was a cop. “Frankly. allowing his friend to deal with the scuffle. she was fooling herself.” She flashed her badge. The blaring music kept her from hearing whether he followed. a smirk on her face. he thought Connor was interested in her and wanted to stake his claim. He drove her into his chest and dropped wet kisses along her cheek. or do I need to break it up for you? I haven’t locked anyone up in the last hour. threatened to go back on his word. “I’m going home.“Stop! I choose who I’m with. Wrenching herself free. If he pushed. following with his body to trap her. John wouldn’t see fit to follow. I’m ready to go. She wasn’t interested.” She didn’t wait for his answer. Maybe he could find a woman in the club to give him some action and take him home later. She rolled her eyes. I think they’d beat you anyway. only to be shoved back. Now.” “Oh. it was fun. He spun her around and banged her back against her car. I deserve something in return. A’isha?” She thought he was about to hit her but he ran a hand down over her hair and caught her by the back of the neck. “This white woman happens to be a cop.” A’isha stepped between them. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” She spun around. you got jokes. With any luck. but I am with John. The jostling had her reaching to hold onto John’s arm to keep from landing on the floor. gentleman?” A’isha glanced up to find the woman who had been hanging on Connor’s every word. “Problem here.” “Not my body!” She bluffed. “John. just like I said. I don’t need no white woman interfering. With . “Who are you? Get lost. John sneered. She pushed through the door to the parking lot and paused at the blast of cool air. His attention was on Connor who he had spotted behind his friend. wiggling from his hold. The drop in temperature was a refreshing change to the oppressive heat of the club. okay?” John reached around her to shove the man. she flinched and looked him in the face. I’m due!” When John’s hands came around her waist and rose to the underside of her breasts. I lied to the police for you. “Feel that? My dick’s hard for you. but marched past heading for the exit. she glared at him.” She crossed her arms. If she thought John was letting her off without a fuss. too. Pivoting on the ball of her foot she strolled in the direction of her car.

Her knee made impact this time. “Why? I didn’t do anything?” Connor’s voice didn’t rise above conversational level. Watching his long stride to his car.. “I’m sure you know about a little thing called obstruction of justice. I’m glad you’re here. her trembling fingers wouldn’t still long enough for her to get them in the lock of her car. She peered at Connor. but give her one night.” “I think I can. desire rose inside. because I’d have to inform you of your rights. “Get in. I will follow you home to make sure you get there safely. to take your hands off of her.” He turned and fled. the jealousy returned.. His expression made A’isha tremble. Ford. A’isha’s eyes were drawn to them. John faced Connor with defiance. “She’ll be fine. His thumbs were hooked in jeans that fit him so right. She wondered if he intended to spend the night with that woman.” He took her keys from her fingers and unlocked her door. “You can’t begin to imagine.look. but don’t call me. “Um. and she’d enjoy the ride. and she sagged against the car. John’s fingers left her hair..all the strength she could muster. girl. “Yeah. My hero.. A’isha. Mr.” He shut the door. “Thanks so much.” she whispered.” “What!” John took a step back. she would have been at her neighbor’s mercy. Never would she have imagined he would attack her.” She slid into the driver’s seat and turned over the engine. I gotta go. I could name others that apply. She wanted him. forward then back. a man she had known for years. A’isha breathed a sigh of relief. “You bitch! You’re going to pay for that!” While he labored to get to his feet. You’re too much for even me to handle.. It was nice and everything. Nothing serious could ever be between them. resting her face on the cold surface of her window. and she wasn’t the one he focused on. If Connor hadn’t come along when he did. . “What about your friend?” Despite herself.. She screamed. she flung her leg up to catch him between his. He was too beautiful. John closed his fingers in her hair.” John held up his hands. yeah. like he didn’t know if he wanted to run away or not. I wanted say—” “What?” Connor’s eyebrows arched. His knees buckled. if they were already lovers. “I’m sure you’re not about to tell me that you want to change the story you gave me a few days ago. Her quiet little neighborhood with older families and only one or two from her generation with kids went from safe to undesirable. “You have one second.” A’isha’s teeth clattered together.uh.

tugging her along. She waited for what seemed like hours for him to return. The scene before her eyes made her knees buckle. While the woman had a pretty face. “Yeah right. he peeled the keys from her fingers and unlocked the door. spun her to face him and lowered his head to just above her lips.” Her eyes widened at his freeing his weapon from the holster and disappearing through the door again. but grim. She sighed. Reminding herself of her reality. “Were you watching me? Is that why you were at the club?” “Policemen party too. She peeked up him through her lashes. she had nosey neighbors.odd. “Wait here while I check it out. since all the good spaces were taken. This was what feeling secure was like. Her heart palpitated at his gentle treatment.” “Uh-huh. The TVs are in place. Besides. But didn’t everybody? Someone would have been watching out their window. to let her taste his amazing lips once more. she drew up to her house and parked well down the street. which pegged her as a suspect. Of course. Before she could hit the floor. He placed her on the porch chair. That didn’t look like your scene. Connor wrapped an arm about her waist and hauled her outside. Not that a man like him should date just model types. Appears that they were looking for something. When they reached her house. she stepped through into the entryway and flicked the light on. A half hour later. she was overbearing. Just like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to do. Connor double parked.. She willed him to make the connection. Connor wrapped an arm around her shoulders. threw on his hazard lights and walked alongside her. He came back calm. and on the heavier side. They trashed the place—upstairs and down. Connor continued walking. A big man with a big weapon at her side. not even a foot tap. telling everyone they could find that A’isha Greene was out in the street kissing on the investigating officer in the murder case.Seeing him with the other officer was a surprise. scanning the area. She nuzzled close. but your .” He stopped her from walking.. but he withdrew.” She laughed. “Someone has jimmied the lock on your back door. Her heart pounded at the dual entendre.” “It wasn’t my song. but seeing a real-sized woman on his arm was just. and she shivered. you weren’t even dancing.

” She gaped. “Someone was at your shop trying to get into that closet. You’re safe. You can stay at my place tonight.” He caressed her cheek. “That I didn’t do it. She closed her eyes enjoying every second of it. locked it up and turned to her.. “Don’t worry. “Are you sure?” “You can’t imagine. you believe me?” she uttered.” . I’m here. trying to be strong. “Just doing my—no problem at all. We did lift a fingerprint from it. I’ve felt alone in this.computer is trashed on the floor.. ”Come on. but I don’t even have a girlfriend to turn to. but have no matches so far.” “Thank you so much.” He smiled. he cupped her face. Dropping to a crouch. There’s no way a different person for another reason was searching your home. Connor. and when I do.kill Cammie?” He nodded. Did you keep any other valuables in the house. I’m going to catch this creep. Thank you. “A’isha. and I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. and I don’t want to worry my brother when he can do nothing about it.” He flipped off the lights in her house. he’ll pay for hurting you.” she breathed out. “That means so much to me. But I need to know everything if I’m going to get this person. jewelry perhaps?” She didn’t answer.” “So.

Not to his house. if she didn’t expect him to stay there with her. Connor. “Oh no. sucking them between his. he crossed to the couch and sat down.” he hurried to explain. Ignoring his internal warning. But he also wouldn’t have gotten as far as he had if he didn’t know when to follow his gut. He hadn’t begun his career yesterday.” He held out his arms. A’isha. And his gut was telling him A’isha was not the killer. paced back and forth in front of her.” Don’t kiss her sweet mouth. Sliding her onto his lap nearly had him coming. he stood. I don’t want to be responsible for that.” Grumbling at her logic. “Mm.” She ran her thumb over her mouth. She wiggled out of his arms. With clenched fists shoved into his thighs. He knew she could have set up all that he had found up to now—someone to scratch the lock at work. crushing her body to him. and he nearly wept. He reached for her. “What’s wrong?” “We shouldn’t do this. “I just meant so you wouldn’t be staying here. “You’re right.” “Huh?” She glanced up from the chair where she sat huddled like a scared little girl. His job wouldn’t have been in jeopardy if he dropped her at a hotel.” Her giggle sounded shaky. he kept his hands off of her. he fought it. “I just hope it’s my gut speaking and not my dick.Chapter Six What the hell did he think he was doing? Even if he did believe she was innocent. What then? Shall I take you to a hotel?” She blushed. That’s what insurance was for.” “Says the man who’s seven feet tall. and the couch isn’t comfortable. He couldn’t get enough. baby. I guess. He ran through what she had . All he desired was to hold her. “Come here. Her beautiful eyes widened.” He tried to eat her lips. “I know you didn’t mean that. Connor. “Nothing. “Come here. “You could get into trouble. but drew no clue as to what the problem was with the hotel.” He watched her fiddle with her fingers. I’m in enough all by myself. For the last ten minutes. Don’t do it. I didn’t mean it like that. but she moved out of reach. But how could he? She trembled with fear. This is a one bedroom apartment.” He shouldn’t have brought her here. but she stood up from the chair and stumbled the few steps over to him. His shaft was so hard it ached. he had no proof. and someone else to trash her house while she was at the club.

” “I don’t suppose you have anything big enough to fit me? Like a gigantic T-shirt?” She emitted a trembling giggle. and jammed a chair beneath the knob. and I do mean with me. not destroyed. putting her hands on her hips. She was dealing with being accused of murder. “Stop picturing me naked.said about her family.” Her voice turned wooden. I locked it again.” He wanted to yell. but didn’t.” Dare he hope? “You could just wear nothing. We can get things squared away at your house tomorrow. The words were a punch to his gut.” Her eyes widened. I can’t walk around buck naked. But no. She spun around to follow and grabbed his ass chuckling. stay with me. how did you secure the back door?” “As I mentioned. After a while. He did everything he could not to snatch her into his arms and take what they both wanted.” “That works in real life?” He nodded. lingering on the more interesting parts.” She blushed then grew serious. I look forward to it. along with the insecurity of a failing business.” If he thought he would shock her.” he began. A lesser person would have crumbled by now. His words had excited her. I have something for you all right. the lock was jimmied. “You can stay here with me. hoping one of them could take her in. she stood and stumbled in the direction of the hall. He wanted to push her to stay with him. and tell me if you have something for me. “First door on the right. but she looked like she squeezed her legs together. “That reminds me. Feeling selfish.” .” With all the innocence he could muster. “Mm. she had said they were not close. Can’t wait to have you wrap your hands around it.” When he took in her body from head to toe. he strolled past her just allowing his arm to brush across her nipples. she grumbled.” Shame stole over her face. “Oh. Or I can give you the money for the hotel. “Yes. “My credit cards are maxed. “It’s the only safe alternative. he was surprised. he didn’t want to give her the money. “You have two options. “Where’s the bathroom?” He pointed. “I mean after that. my bank account all but empty.

and it was igniting his lust like nobody’s business. He pushed his jeans low on his hips.” He stopped moving. Pushing himself at the gym and sometimes on the jogging trail was a requirement to keeping it that way.Connor scoured his drawers for a tee and then readied the shower. she moved her mouth close to his shaft flashing those wide eyes at him. As she rolled her palms over the outsides of his legs.” Where he had wanted to take his time. . Just last year. baby?” He wiggled his eyebrows while unfastening the button at his waist. Now he wanted to get to it. that would have torn her apart. “What are you thinking about? You have a serious look on your face for a man about to get a blow job. She liked his strip tease. She swallowed. hard as it was. This was sating their lust. He intended to coax her into taking one with him. he tossed the change of clothing on the bed and faced her. “Come here. He panted. Her lips parted. bring her and him to a violent orgasm. They were adults. A smattering of curly sable hair peeked out. Guilt at using a woman who should be loved instead ate at him. Her intake of breath hadn’t skipped by him. in the bedroom she hung stiff by the doorway looking like a scared little mouse. “Not changing your mind?” He linked his hands behind his head. I want you to finish undressing me. “Yes. but he knew he had a decent body. but while she had been forward in the living room. Suspecting she would forget her shyness if excited enough. He wasn’t vain. he crossed his arms over his stomach and grasped the ends of his shirt to pull them above his head. “What are you doing?” she shrieked. and she loved him.” “You’re very bossy. Kicking off his shoes.” She hesitated. Keep going. Not him. His rod twitched. His erection held his pants up. He would only cause her heartache. and her tiny pink tongue darted out to swipe across them. taking his boxers with them.” she teased. Let me see what you have for me. A’isha moaned on glimpsing his bare chest.” She scooted over and dropped to her knees. “You don’t want it?” He pulled her to her feet. A’isha. grinning. She was too sweet for him. That was all. Come let’s start this in the shower while the water’s warm. “You like what you see. “I want it. She wanted this as he did. A woman like A’isha should have a softer man. he’d had to have a bullet dug out his side. one who treasured her and gave her the world. If he knew her then. “Don’t say that.

smacking hungrily like she . While insecurity had her wanting to cover her dimpled rear. “No!” he exploded. A’isha. She protested.” He climbed in front of her and slid the shower door closed. Stepping into the shower. was driving her insane. gauging her reaction to him. making it pop from his lips only to rush taking it in again to repeat the process. A’isha groaned and pushed her fingers into her swollen center. Like she did. he watched her. I can’t believe the treat I’ll have sucking those nipples. burrowing between her labia and on into her tunnel. He all but stuck his tongue out like a hungry puppy. Her fingers slick with her juice. “Oh Connor. He could scarce rinse the suds down the drain before taking her puckered nipple between his teeth. She cried out. And if she had to seduce Connor and take what she wanted from his hot body. she ignored it and rotated the bar of soap in her hands until they were foamy. the anticipation of knowing he was about to eat her. She would get him worked up enough under the warm spray so he missed her many physical flaws. they’re big.” “Not yet. he soaped his hands. The sounds! He lapped at her.**** Something told her he saw her just as many other men had seen her. seeking blindly for the rail above the soap dish to keep from falling. Licking his way down her body. She chewed her lip to keep from laughing. but he backed off the second time.” In a few words. The sensations tightening the muscles in her womb. The same tormenting treatment brought her to the edge of an amazing orgasm. teasing her nipples with her thumbs and tilting her head back with a moan. she glanced over her shoulder at him in the bathroom doorway. She knew sometimes her personality could give the impression of innocence. He had to know that! His tongue dipped between her legs. Please not yet. I’ll do it. Raising one foot to the side of the tub. Then she ran palms over her breasts. even density.” He left the one nipple and moved to the other. I want to come right now. he washed her doubts away at whether he found her desirable. his eyes reflecting the eager longing he had to get his hands on her big breasts. Like she was a doll to be coddled and treasured. she would do it. slurped and dragged her juices into his mouth. she pushed her hips forward. “Don’t do that yourself. let me pleasure you. and she pinched her nub between her fingers. how can you be so beautiful? Come here. she knew. He sucked hard. But she had a build up of serious sexual need inside just like anyone else. “Damn. pulling until she cried out. glided deep in and out. baby.

but Connor was perfection. the button was too sensitive. She jumped away. His face had grown red.. Kissing along his thighs.” she told him. “What’s wrong?” She had asked the question just before tucking him between her lips and drawing on his tool. But Connor made her desperate to have him. “Don’t talk like that. “I’m guessing you liked that.” “I want to taste you. “Do it. “Sexy detective? Any woman would be leaping on your lap at the snap of your fingers. “You don’t have to. hitting the wall with softer punches. when she washed away the suds. and he gripped her ass to drive her hard to his mouth. “Your turn.” She gave him her sexiest smile. He panted. but she pulled back. He tugged on her little nubbin. Just as he did. growling. She rode out the orgasm while he never stopped sucking until she sagged.” “You should be used to getting any woman you want.” He howled again. sliding him out of her mouth. “Fuck. I’m going to come too soon! Your mouth. tightening in her womb and making her body vibrate with its force. Connor jumped. splashing down over her body. The climax came without warning. She’d never been bold with a lover as she was now.” she teased. she tasted his salty flesh.” He looked away. She reveled in the color. “Your body is amazing. “Connor!” she cried out.” His balls rose. she glanced up. she waited for him to settle. I can’t believe you’re here with me.” “You’re not getting off easily.” She retrieved the soap and began to wash his massive body. He shouted and drove a fist against the shower wall. A white man. I just want you so much. weak toward the tub floor. pushing deeper. the tanned skin even on his stomach and upper thighs. Fear could not stand in the way of it. After he had greedily licked away every drop of her come. taking his erection in her hand. It hurt too good.was the best-tasting dessert he had ever enjoyed. capturing her again to feast. She wondered if he laid naked in the sun. When he moved to her nub. Checking to see if she had hurt him in some way.” He sucked and ate harder. She had never dreamed of it. “I’m sorry. His cruel mouth showed no mercy. Every inch of his skin was taut across solid muscle. A’isha.” She slapped his shoulder.. A’isha took hold of the back of Connor’s head and pumped his face.” . She kissed the bulbous tip and swiped her tongue over it. He grunted. “You’ll suffocate yourself. He followed. he drew back.

” He shut off the tap. He shifted her heels to the air . I don’t care what other men want. He filled her.” She rolled over to obey. I have special tastes. “For fuck’s sake. “You’re just horny.He sighed. he dried her body and his own. His gaze swept from her eyes to her lips.” She shook at his intensity “Take me. stretching her insides.” “Then I would die an insanely happy man. A’isha. Damn. “You’re going to make me come before I get started. my hips and my thighs. The lust has blinded you to my belly.” “What kind?” She kissed the underside of his shaft. The fit was tight.” She squirmed under his scrutiny. all the way to the hilt just as he had said. I want you.” He plunged in. how can you be this tight!” He growled.” He pulled her up from her knees. Her knees sprung up. I can’t control myself. “Look at you.” She laughed. Soon they were face to face on the bed. woman.” he demanded. farther to her apex. be my master!” He positioned himself between her thighs. A’isha.” “How can I not be with you talking like that and looking at me?” She considered him with her head tilted to the side. and guided her out of the shower. It had been so long. I’m going to need to make love to you all night long. rough and fast. you’re sexy.” She couldn’t respond. “You would suffocate. down to her breasts. and Connor was more than average in thickness. “Problem with that is. and he drilled deeper. He ran a hand down over her breasts and tucked a fingertip in the valley between them. “Get on your back. “I have always loved a woman with meat on her bones.” “Then lust. He pushed her legs apart to examine her there too. driving in and out. I’m going to do it buried to the hilt in you. It twitched. “A woman with a body that’s so soft and curvy. Breasts wonderfully more than a handful. “If I’m going to come too soon. “Wet again. I am always ready to come when I’m around her. then tugged her into his room. “I want to move in right here. and when she takes my dick in her mouth. With gentle hands. Soft and luscious.

” He kissed her ear. “I’ve never had a man to bring me to orgasm seven times in a single session. and his hips spasmed. His shaft touched on that sweet spot inside her passage. A little more. When she neared her seventh orgasm. “That was amazing.” “A little more. She screamed when another orgasm took her. She shouted his name. It’s been a long while.” She laughed. Time to clean you up so I can enjoy the best meal I’ve ever eaten. his eyes closed.” “And I feel like preening like a lion at your compliments. “How old is that commercial? But yes. “Wow. I feel like I could bow to your prowess. Did I hurt you? I was a little too enthusiastic.. give me a few moments. I lucked out.” She came for the third time. I’ve heard tell of the. So powerful. he sighed.. massaged her thighs. His stuttering words spoke volumes about the bliss he experienced to rival her orgasms... “Come on. but she rolled into a fourth.” She flipped over to face him. I can’t take it.and bounced deeper. Settling at her side and drawing her into his arms. he came. and each hit of his wide head sent waves of pleasure coursing over her body. “You didn’t hurt me. I will be ready soon.” “Oh!’ . A body couldn’t come so soon with little rest.G-spot? That had to be it. huh? A man who can go like the Energizer bunny?” He smirked.what is it?.” “For me too. she lowered her gaze to his chest. he reached up to pinch and twist her nipples. Pulling his shaft all the way out. Finally.” Her shyness returning. he watched her through slitted eyes then drove in.” He laughed. perfect woman. all while he pumped deep inside her. The warm flow coated her womb. “I was serious about making love to you all night. sitting up and pulling her. baby. I realize now. He nipped and licked the insides of her knees. “Connor.

He hadn’t lied or exaggerated. But like he had admitted. We went out a few times. Jen. And she had kept reaching peak after amazing peak. Connor. If she saw A’isha. If you could spot me a few dollars for a taxi. I realize now that wasn’t the best idea. “Hi. it had been a long time for both of them. baby. “I thought we were out on a date. “Hey. He must have turned off the ringer. I apologize. Jen. I think it’s time for me to leave. “Last night was. How he could sustain a hard-on so long was beyond her. I can go home. Good thing she didn’t just show up at his place.” His voice was so cold. and he would be fired. But I’m not going to risk your job.” They both grew silent.” She turned to face him. “After that. She hoped there would never come a time when he would dismiss her with the same lack of emotion. Instead. You couldn’t have told me something. Oh no! The woman he had gone out with the night before was there. She turned the doorknob and inched the door open a crack to pick up what they were saying. She winced tossing her feet over the side of Connor’s bed. I’m sorry. “I will not be questioned in my own home.. Greene and her friend. Nothing serious. I think you need to go. she might tell his boss.” All she wanted to do was to jump in his arms and kiss him. Connor argued with a woman. “But you go haring off after that woman in the club and never came back. A moment later. or answered your phone?” A’isha didn’t remember hearing the phone ring.Chapter Seven A’isha woke with a satisfied smile on her face and a sore cootchie.” He hesitated.. The door opened and slammed shut. she walked over to the bed to gather her clothes. A’isha shivered where she was.” . I did try to settle things with Ms. I should have called.” “You’re not serious?” “Please leave. “Look. Last time I checked. She hoped he wasn’t out there kissing the woman! “Whose jacket is this?” She paused.incredible. “Smells like honeysuckle. Connor. but caught nothing.” the officer yelled. He attacked her in the parking lot. Connor stepped into the room. I had some things to take care of. The man had parted her thighs on up until four in the morning. A’isha strained to hear more.” There was a rustle of fabric. Shouting voices caught her attention. A’isha sagged against the wall. I’ll get you the money back after I reopen the shop. She shuffled over to the closed door and pressed an ear to it. that was my job.

Knowing his soft spot for her. “I enjoyed last night too.” She scooped up her clothes and headed into the bathroom. They would each be better off if she walked away. The police report of the break-in didn’t look promising. Paper thin door. and I’ll drop you off on the way. A’isha had gained some semblance of control over the madness on the first floor of her house. she unlocked the door. Sex that good isn’t something I’m willing to give up quickly.” She grumbled. That should get a little fire going to capture whoever had done it. She tiptoed to the door. the cleaning crew had come to the bakery. she would see him hanging around the neighborhood like he didn’t have a job to go to.” “Connor. sexy. brave. No. “There you go again. thinking you’re in charge of my life.” “Not a discussion. everything would be fine. The only reason why I’ll go with you is I can’t force you to give me the money. but as soon as my shop is re-opened. but Connor had promised he would treat the incident as being related. and by four-thirty. Not in a million years would she find a man like Connor again. Her guess was the man was still smarting over Connor’s threat to arrest him. strong. a person could hear everything going on inside from the front porch.. Bitter disappointment hit hard. but today she hadn’t seen him at all. She set down the mop. making as little noise as possible. she guessed. she locked it. because for some reason. Glimpsing a man who looked like a messenger through a slit in the shade. if he kept his hands to himself. done their work and had gone. While she scrubbed the kitchen floor—the fingerprint powder Connor’s men used on the back door was everywhere—someone rang the doorbell at the front. windows or wall. hoping it wasn’t John. And best of all. **** By one in the afternoon. No. might make him more apt to look hard for the real killer than someone else on the case. “Yes?” . having to remove the chain at the same time. you will not catch a taxi. we’re not seeing each other again. Maybe all three. generally a good person. Feeling safe in her home was a thing of the past.. Now. When the door clicked shut.He dropped a kiss on her forehead. I have to go into the office. she had made the right decision. Normally. A’isha. he wanted her! She would never forgive herself if she let her physical urges cause a man that good to lose his job.

but used infrared. Coming to his senses.” She plucked the manila envelope up from the table and dumped its contents out on the table.” She hesitated. waiting for a chance to hang something over her head. What they didn’t know. right?” she asked no one. yelling like a madman. just last night for goodness sake.“Ms. “Sign here. I have no enemies. “Too thin for a bomb. he burst through. Open the envelope. it stopped and her cell phone buzzed. probably causing a scene with his siren and lights.” . “Nobody would kill me. A’isha Greene?” he asked. High quality photos with a really good camera. Anyone thinking Purely Sweets had money they could steal weren’t from around these parts. before the murder. she would have said the same about Cammie. “Pictures of me and Connor having sex. “Just do it. “Why didn’t you answer?” “I got mail. her hair and her neck. that’s for sure. she tossed it on the kitchen table and stared at it. tears obstructing her view.” She stared up at him. or a cop come to haul her away. “A’isha. he let her go and frowned. Connor had said to her. The phone blared to life for the second time. He kissed her lips. Her rear growing damp from the still wet floor.” Then again. one she thought that might have a lens which didn’t require a flash at night. The calls continued for a half hour before she began to hear a siren blaring in the distance. mumbling. When she affirmed it. Photographs. he held out a thick envelope and a clipboard. Something didn’t feel right. When she finally got the door opened. Not looking inside the envelope. she had a sudden drop in her stomach. Soon tires screeched in the street outside. It could be something good.” Sliding down to the floor. “Are you okay? I called over and over. but he offered a kind smile that had her reaching to do his bidding. please. she heard the phone ring but didn’t answer. open the door!” Connor stood outside. She hurried along the hall and struggled with the locks and chain. That meant they had been following her around. Whoever it was could not remove the horror of knowing someone had been watching her with Connor. and someone banged on the door. Greene? Ms. When she didn’t pick up. Strolling back to the kitchen while opening the envelope. she scooted to the corner between the baker’s rack and the wall. was whether this was pre-meditated or Cammie stumbling in on a burglar. slammed it shut and drug her into his arms. waiting for her to slip up.

otherwise. “Mine came with a note. it’s not going to be okay!” She pulled away from him although she was calmer now. and he removed the heirloom from her trembling fingers. Everything is so hard. I’ve got to figure out what to do about this. she said. “A’isha. “A’isha. but this shows I’m not the one.” “No. “I’m sorry. “No.” . so karma’s back with a vengeance! Why is this happening? Why can’t I make my life work? What’s wrong with me?” She ran about the house. “We’ll work through this together. I’m not some bad person who went around screwing people over. His scowl darkened as he sifted. The room spun and tilted while black dots zigzagged before her eyes. I’m not superstitious in the least. “Okay.“The pictures? Where?” When she told him.” In disgust. “Shouldn’t you be handling them with your fingers on the edges in case of fingerprints?” “You think I’m going to report these?” he snapped. I got the same exact photos. Hugging herself. Connor. “Well that’s kind of a good thing.” he soothed. Your boss may not like that we were lovers. Dumping over trashcans that had just been filled with trash. Connor’s arms came around her. the chief will get these. “You don’t know what this is like.” “A note?” She touched his arm. but I feel like I’m cursed. He held up a hand. “Hell no!” She flinched. isn’t it? It proves I’m not the one.” She shook her head. “What did it say?” “It said to drop the investigation on you.don’t. ripping open drawers and searching the contents for who knew what. It’s going to be okay.” He jerked his fingers through his hair. she muttered and cried all the way. Just. don’t. can’t be. he flung the pictures on the table. You’re not obstructing the investigation. What did I do to deserve this?” she screamed. I’ve ruined your life. don’t you get it? The note said to drop the investigation on you—you!—not on Cammie’s murder or even on the shop.. “No. This only makes you look like an incompetent murderess trying to get the heat off yourself. terrified of asking but needing to know. A’isha. “Damn it.” She perked up. and there’s no way anyone can mistake it’s you and me.” Her jaw went slack.. he marched into the kitchen and picked up the photos to flip through them. When she was lifting a vase her grandmother had given her mother years ago to smash it to the floor.

I—” “You what?” “I thought we had something.” . Connor. where I sometimes run when I want a change in scenery. “You need it.” “Everything you’ll lose if you keep seeing me.. I don’t want to risk my job anymore than you want me to.” “So I should fuck you. Believe me. she turned her attention to him. but she pulled away. and hated having to answer to an inept shop owner like me. so do I. He questioned the landlord who admitted that Cammie mentioned starting her own coffee shop slash bakery. “A park I know of. “Out! Away from this place and this situation for a while. I bet she thought she could do so much better.” A’isha’s eyes glazed over. “Carl just learned that Cammie had recently put a deposit on a storefront shop a few doors away from yours. Connor had her tucked in the car. and walk away. He sighed. I have the resources. Is that it?” He took her hand. A’isha. Had she not been so devastated. leaving you to fend for yourself. He stroked her cheek. why she hated working for me.” “Th-That must be why she resented me. At Connor’s exclamation. I’m cut out for it.It gives me a motive. and frankly. outside the city. On the way. “What is it?” she whispered. but you’re pushing me away.” He tightened his hold at her waist. I love it. that she was not dressed properly to go anywhere or to check her hair.. threading his fingers through hers and holding tight when she would have resisted. A’isha spun to the trashcan she had overturned and began clearing it up.. her arms folded across her chest. interrupting what he had been about to say. but I’m here for you. and was speeding along the highway. the training. But I’ve also had it with women who just don’t work with me.“I know it—” His cell rang. fearing the worse. “Where are we going?” she muttered. he snatched up her jacket and purse. He grunted. And it. “We’ll be careful. she would have found it comical of him with his triceps bulging and a purse slung over his arm. I know you’re afraid. Connor pulled her to her feet and directed her toward the front door. I’m not making a declaration of love here.. “Where are we going?” she asked again.” A’isha didn’t get the chance to protest further.

“Thanks. I knew it wasn’t any more than good sex,” she grumbled. “I didn’t need the reminder.” “Damn, you’re infuriating!” She laughed. The tension broke without warning. “So are you, but I bet you’ve heard that a lot. Look, I already know I don’t have much to lose. I didn’t have much in the first place. But you have a lot more going for you. I don’t want to screw it up.” She held up a hand. “Before you say anything, I’m not coming down on myself. Sorry about that whole episode where I lost my mind. I think I actually did for a second there.” He kissed her hand. “You shouldn’t apologize for that. This is a lot to deal with for anyone.” “Yeah, well anyway, I think it’s not smart to see each other right now. And I do believe”—she glared at him—“you’re still thinking with your small head. You want me, and you’re not willing to give me up. Plus you’re a man. Guys take more risks.” “Did you just stereotype me?” “What if I did?” She smirked. “That’s almost a smile.” “I think you have dead bodies in your closet.” “What?” He laughed, taking an exit off the highway and slowing for the light ahead. “Where did that come from?” “You’re too good to be true, so there has to be some deep-seated flaw in you. Not that I’m looking for it.” “Uh-huh.” He parked. A’isha followed him out of the parking lot to a nearby trail. Like they had been doing it for years, they clasped hands and walked along side by side. A’isha peered up at him, and he kissed her. “I just figured it out!” she declared. At his blank expression, she went on, ticking off his flaws on her fingers. “You’re stubborn and bossy. You don’t take no for an answer. You don’t respect a woman’s decision to be old and lonely.” “Okay, okay.” He laughed. “Got it.” “If you’re forcing me to date you, or be your lover—whichever—then I’m going to have to know more about you. Ever been married? Any kids? Siblings?”

This time he ticked off the facts. “No, I’ve never been married. No kids, and I have a sister, but she doesn’t speak to me much.” “Why not?” “Long story.” His handsome face reddened. “I told her, her second husband was gay.” A’isha stopped walking and burst out laughing. “Oh goodness, you did not tell her that.” He nodded, shame written all over his face. A’isha felt sorry for him. She nuzzled in close and rested her head on his chest, stroking his back. “I guess you’re not perfect after all. I can breathe a sigh of relief. Do you hate gays then?” His eyes widened. “Of course not. I just happen to know that this man in particular is just using my sister. I tried to present her with my evidence, and let’s just say, she’s too in love right now.” Despite his flippant attitude, pain flashed in his eyes. The rift with his sister hurt him. “She’ll come to her senses sooner or later. Look at it this way, for now, she’s very happy. We should cherish those times; guard them like a precious gem.” “Hmm, you’re probably right.” A’isha hadn’t noticed how long they were walking until she realized the sun had gone down, and it was becoming harder to see. The trail curved away from the street leading out of the park at that point, with trees all around. The walkers who had been ahead and behind them had long gone. “Shouldn’t we get going?” Connor grinned. “Why? Getting scared? Don’t worry, baby, I’ll protect you.” He tugged her tight against his chest while his mouth descended on hers. For a long while, they stood kissing, A’isha savoring the velvety smoothness to his warm mouth, and the tingles of awareness shooting through her body. She could have stayed right there, oblivious to the world forever, but the dull thunk followed by Connor dropping unconscious to the ground ripped her back to the reality of her assistant’s murder.

Chapter Eight “She’s missing, damn it! I’ve already explained it to you!” Connor winced as he stuck the bag of ice on his head. Whoever had caused the painful lump and grabbed A’isha would pay with their lives. “Well, explain it again, detective, until I get it,” his boss, the chief bellowed. “Because I’m having trouble understanding how you were out on a date with the primary suspect in this murder case.” He slapped the file on Connor’s desk. “And while you’re doing that, you can talk about this.” Another folder followed the first. Connor’s heart sank. He could guess what was inside. He flipped open the file to find the pictures of he and A’isha in the throws of passion. Apparently, he hadn’t moved fast enough for whoever sent him the warning. He had been out all night long searching for evidence of where A’isha had been taken. He’d initiated an APB to keep a look out for her. With no sleep, he wanted to rip someone’s head off. The chief’s was not the one to aim for. “You were cleared of that other incident, Connor, but not to my satisfaction. Far as I know, you came on to that woman and changed your mind later. Then she couldn’t take no for an answer. Had to take it further. What’s your excuse this time? Ms. Greene attacked you? Made you go down on her like you’re doing in this picture?” He held up the photo. Connor snatched it away before anyone else could see it. “It’s not like that.” He was the biggest fool in existence. A’isha had warned him, had even accused him of thinking with his dick. Maybe he was. He couldn’t phantom her with anyone other than him, had dreams of taking her again. Shit! “Chief, I didn’t intend for this to happen. A’isha and I just...” Nothing sounded right. It would be lame to say they clicked. He ran a hand over his neck. “I screwed up—” “You damn right you screwed up! Fucked up, too! Give me your badge and weapon.” “What? No, chief, please. I can fix this.” “No, you can’t.” The chief shook his head, the man Connor had admired for all of the fifteen years he had been on the force for his dedication, and even for his adherence to keeping a strong healthy body despite sitting behind a desk. “I can’t brush this under the table, Connor. IA is involved now. They were called in the second these photos surfaced. You’re suspended until further notice.” “They were called in?” Connor stood, un-strapping his gun from the holster. He couldn’t believe his chief didn’t back him, but he wasn’t going to argue any longer. “Okay, but she didn’t do this, chief. There’s someone else out there. We didn’t take these damn photos and send them to you, that’s for sure.”

You go home and think about how you’re going to keep your dick in your pants long enough to get your job back.” A woman? Never in a million years would she have thought it was a woman. there was no way he wouldn’t spill his guts. But that was a moot point if he didn’t find her. She wondered what permanent damage could be done with no circulation in her hands and feet. She tried not to move to keep from alerting whoever might be around.” The woman released her. “Got it?” She nodded. if I did. you’ll be brought on charges. and you will answer. waiting for the spinning to stop. Footsteps echoed around the room. The cracking stopped. “Shut up. “You’re awake. As he left the station. and she tilted her head to the side. Trust me. she choked on the musty scent in the air. “Good.“Be that as it may.” He was screwed. Carl will lead this investigation from here on out. She wanted to ask if Connor was safe. where are the papers?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I would give them to you. If you do. he prayed she was okay. A’isha’s head snapped back and forth until she cried. that the guy hadn’t hurt her. selfish bitch. What could possibly have given this woman the impression that she had anything of value .” An accent she couldn’t place reached her ears. If IA decides you were obstructing this investigation because she was giving it up to you. coming closer. A’isha didn’t want to provoke her to hurt him as a way to get A’isha talking. I will ask you questions. exaggerating to bring Connor down. “Don’t play games with me!” She took A’isha by the shoulders and shook her. Dragging in a deep breath. Her ties were checked. “Do I know you?” She got a smack for that. What she assumed was a chair scraped back. The result was more pain. Good. “Tell me where. “Now. and her hands and feet tingled indicating she was tied up. If IA spoke to John. I don’t have your papers. even if he risked A’isha’s freedom along with it. but didn’t dare.” Selfish? “Please. If this mad woman had him tied up.” Her voice came down near A’isha’s ear. A blindfold covered her eyes. and you will never work as a cop again. **** A’isha came to consciousness at the sound of something cracking. What papers?” A’isha struggled against her bonds.

“I can help you. you’re dead.beyond the crap that filled her small old house? If she was the one that had trashed it. tears springing to her eyes. She must have bitten her lip. when it’s dark out. I know you tried to get into that one closet.” The woman didn’t answer. and I can go get the papers.” A’isha thought fast. Holding her breath. You already know what I’m talking about. Now. huh? I made sure to get the finger pointed at you just in case. but who knew you were such a whore. but you’ll have to take me with you. they might both end up where Cammie was. “I knew you would see it my way.” She pressed her lips closed. My mother had it put in many years ago when I was a child. her cheek stinging. but fear seemed to clog her hearing. and if you don’t tell me where to find them. “If you tell me more about what you’re looking for. I don’t know where the papers are. Someone had once said if you were going to lie. “No. “There’s a secret hideaway no one knows about at my bakery.” She heard the smile in the woman’s voice. As they marched along. her mind . I—” “Stop lying to me!” The slap sent her head to the side. And if A’isha couldn’t escape to find Connor. This woman wasn’t going to listen to reason.” A’isha cried out. sleeping with the investigating officer. right? It’s in there. She searched for an idea that would get her free. Cool night air bathed her warm face. I’m going to take it out on your boyfriend.” **** Something ground like metal against metal. Okay.” she offered. Her captor shoved her forward into the night. keep it simple. Her story had run close to revealing itself to be fantasy. maybe it will jog my memory. and A’isha imagined a warehouse door sliding open. tell me. “Hello?” “You don’t need to know anything more. You win. I have to show you. “But if you’re lying to me. we’ll go. because there are a series of steps to take to reveal the compartment. she waited for the woman’s response. “Better to talk than to end up like your friend.” Something cold ran along A’isha’s cheek. don’t hurt Connor. Every time she focused on a sound. because she tasted blood. Tonight.” “I can’t tell you. A’isha tried to take in her surroundings with reduced senses. “All right.” She patted A’isha’s cheek. she already knew that.

Now she heard the pounding feet somewhere in the darkness.” She slammed a hand down on A’isha’s head. A’isha rammed her. The ropes grew tighter. The bumps in the road will cause me to hit my head. Footsteps clattered past. she realized that wetting the rope only made it draw up. The sickening thud of the woman’s head hitting the ground almost made her throw up. A’isha ducked down and slowed her run. trying not to think about the germs and single-celled living creatures in it. A’isha guessed where the woman’s foot was and came down on it with brute force. She lay in a narrow alley between two buildings. A’isha caught the distinctive click of a car’s trunk unlocking. I won’t be able to remember how to do the code. “Now get in the car!” “No!” With her arms tied behind her back and the blindfold still in place. “Help! Somebody help me!” “Where are you? A’isha!” The woman had come to. Then again. she tumbled forward to land on the ground. she scraped her face along the ground. where the fuck are you!” The woman’s voice faded. She found the bumper of the car to lean on to stand and took off running. all the while praying there was no drop off somewhere that would cause her to break her neck. Soon they stopped. She tried again. but the noise of her panting and the slap of her feet on the road muffled all other sounds. she wasn’t getting it off no matter what she did. and be free by now. you better hope you remember.” She was rambling out of control. “Oh. With a sob. landing on the ground. If she could figure out how to get the rope off. laying there half in the water. When she doubled over with a shout of pain. but the pain in her ankle sent her down for the second time. Voices in the distance caught her attention. She attempted to steady her breathing so she could hear behind her. and didn’t want to make it a habit. but couldn’t pull herself together. They both went over. but A’isha swallowed and rolled to her knees. Maybe the echo off the buildings had led her in the opposite direction.went blank or the sounds became distorted. “No. I’ll run out of air. you can’t put me in the trunk. She sighed. The disgusting stale liquid coated her face. and this time. He dealt with violence every day as a part of his job. she could make some head way in her escape. Connor in the same situation would take it all in. This time she rolled down steps to land in a puddle of water. Now. Stepping wrong off a curb. “A’isha. The blindfold slid up a small way so that she could peek out with one eye. she tried to stand. The voices she had heard were silent. Instead. Inhaling the air . She was new to all of this. From the nearby freight storage containers. she guessed she was near the docks. She ran harder. Rolling to her knees. She shook her head to get it off. I’ll be knocked out and disoriented. he was trained.

Or that woman will get me and drag me back to the warehouse. She pushed on. A taxi drew up. She had never seen the woman in her life. An old boyfriend had taken her there on their second date. filled to capacity with cars but no people separated her from help. Her hands had gone numb. She caved with no strength left in her body. the woman spun around. A’isha wobbled on her swollen ankle. I’m going to remember so I can tell Connor. A man stumbled out the door. One thing was for sure. Please. Where she had been too confused and afraid to pick up the scent earlier. The shoddy upkeep and wild patrons were not her cup of tea. A’isha took a tumble over a pebble in the road. She had broken it off soon after. she struggled to sit up. The woman didn’t look right. No one heard.” Keeping to the shadows and stopping every so often to listen. thin with short hair that looked like it hadn’t seen a perm in. a wide parking lot. Come to think of it. but she pushed on. Now that she could see where she was going. And no one will notice until morning when it’s too late. Something made her pause instead of calling out for help. and she had to pee. but the woman moved off in the opposite direction. to carry her the rest of the way. she could run faster and get help. “Never knew I had such strength. The rickety old front door came into view. Finally on her feet. she lay there unable to force her muscles to lift her. her throat dry. If it’s you. but her date loved it. There were always people working at the docks. the beat of the club’s music filled the air.never. Flipping to her other side. she sighed. she came across a woman several feet away. If she had known. The blindfold shifted to her forehead. Around a corner. she smelled the water now. Come on. there was a club not far. About her height. attempting to call out. she hurried in the direction she remembered the club being. As if she had heard A’isha’s silent demand. A’isha picked up the pace. or just hanging out.confirmed it.. but her face dipped into the shadows before A’isha could study her features. Her back was to A’isha. So close.. turn around. Can’t give up now. A’isha searched the area for a weapon. I’m going to die here. After alternating between running and hiding. she scraped her face on the ground a second time. . She could only assume her kidnapper didn’t know about the club. followed by a couple with their tongues down each other’s throats. she would have checked there by now. Her eyes uncovered. A warbled grunt escaped her lips. no.

and here all tied up for us was a sweet thing. she cried out. fellas. “What the—” “What’s down there. A few guys. young by the sound of their voices. ribbed each other about the ladies giving none of them any play. When the toe of one of their shoes impacted with her head. early twenties. we were working that club all night. maybe late teens. Tavon?” another asked. “A woman. The guy who had kicked her bent down and brushed the hair off her forehead. but produced no tears. They headed in her direction. Her small mewls must sound like a frightened kitten. right beside our car. and he stopped. Damn. Who would hear over the man singing something about a cheating spouse anyway? Ruckus laughter burst from the club. racking sobs that shook her weakened body.She cried. .

” “Shh. “She’s just waking up.. and Carl stepped inside. We can talk later. Just rest.” Her sweet mouth formed an O. The doc had given her something to help her rest.” Connor nodded. It might give us more to go on. “Those teenagers. wrapped you in a jacket and tucked you in their car until the police and ambulance arrived.” “Shh. Go ahead.” At least his partner looked sympathetic. “Fine. He waited. He stuck to the fact that Connor had screwed up. but was too weak to. baby. She’s had a rough time. I’m here. He’d see to it. “I need to question her while this is still fresh in her mind. You’re safe. He hadn’t been reinstated despite new developments. her eyes drifting closed and then open again. They cut your rope off. but he imagined the horror she suffered came flooding back with consciousness. “No. Carl sighed. He shouldn’t feel this emotional over her.. and no one is going to hurt you.” Connor stroked her cheek. but that can’t be. He drew her into his arms. the interview is over. she’ll cry. She fell flat against her pillow. “I. Connor eased A’isha back against the pillow. I thought they were going to. “They said. Connor. a look of disbelief in his expression.. The door opened..” She jerked like she would be sick.. “If she cries.” Carl’s eyebrows shot up.” He tried to soothe her.” “Just question her!” . The person who had taken her would pay for hurting her. don’t try to talk..” She cried as she had been doing in her sleep when he arrived at the hospital. but make it fast. You’ve just met. a glimmer of pain and fear coming into the unfocused eyes. The chief didn’t care if it looked like someone else was involved in this. but the sense of fierce protection still rose inside him. Can’t this wait?” “Afraid not.They were going to.” “Damn. not having known her that long. “One would think you were in love with her.. the guys who found you called the police. but she insisted on speaking.. letting her get out what she felt she needed to. Those guys saved your life.” He crossed his arms over his chest. She pursed her lips and frowned. Of course. “No.Chapter Nine Her eyelids fluttered.

Sh-She asked me about some papers. but used the mechanism to raise the bed higher. He guessed she was afraid they wouldn’t believe her.” she whispered. “Her name is?” “Mildred Servant. he slipped his hand in A’isha’s willing her to take some of his strength. my mother did used to have a partner. This woman couldn’t have been Mil. I don’t believe she was involved. it will help us catch this guy. “It’s going to be okay. which used to belong to your mother.” “Woman. Maybe she was an ex-partner or—” “Partner!” A’isha struggled out of Connor’s hold. “Yes.” “What did she look like?” Carl’s voice was too sharp. “It was a woman. the rope had cut through. That was eight years ago. Carl’s eyes narrowed. From her wrist to half way up her forearms bruises discolored her skin. I have nothing of value at all. “You said you didn’t recognize her.” She began to sob.” . baby. In some places.” he encouraged her. Nothing.” Carl was not to be put off. He didn’t care what Carl thought. making her tremble. “I don’t know what she looked like. “If you tell the detective all you can remember. I can’t believe I forgot her. Loud and obnoxious. Could she be an old friend? She first struck at the bakery. He tucked her onto his lap and rocked her gently. He just wants to ask you a few questions.Connor leaned forward and brushed the hair from her face. She couldn’t cook worth a damn. But that raw skin on her wrists wasn’t staged. “She was anything but.” Connor reached for her. “It’s okay. They had a falling out. It wasn’t until I got away from her that I got it off by scraping my face on the ground. Connor stood.” Carl took down the information in his notebook. A’isha went on. She first looked at him and then Carl. her voice. The woman had no business being in my line of work. would think she had set the whole mess up. His light touch caused her eyes to drift open again. She nearly cut Connor’s circulation off as she gripped his hand. She acted like she knew me. She kept a blindfold on me the whole time. but then she was ditzy. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Connor pressed her down. Not giving a damn what Carl thought. Ma never said what it was about. “It’s okay. and she bled.” A’isha rolled her eyes. “Come again?” She drew in a shaky breath and tried to sit up. but she waved him off. but I just assumed she couldn’t take Mil’s baking anymore.

this wouldn’t have happened to you. drawers... “You’d be surprised at the masks people wear. “What?” “You know what!” she snapped. He assisted her up the stairs to his apartment and insisted she lay down. He wondered if he would ever . “Don’t blame yourself.” “A’isha. because I could have wet my drawers. he breathed in her sweetness.” After a few more questions.” He burst out laughing despite the seriousness of the situation. he needed to protect her. “Why?” “Because.” She pulled his hands until he sat down on the bed beside her.” He pushed her chin higher. but I just want to forget everything. You don’t have to hover like a mother hen.” She covered his mouth with a fingertip. She gritted her teeth and scowled at him. “She said she would hurt my boyfriend if I didn’t give her the papers. Not just lovers. This is all her. but Connor wouldn’t allow her far from his side. If it is Mil. “Your drawers?” “Yeah. what did you say?” Her eyes widened. been on alert. huh?” Tracing her soft lips with his tongue. and he hovered. I’m much better. forcing her to look him in the eye. “Connor you’re driving me crazy. he nodded to Connor and left as quietly as he had entered. I would have given her what she wanted. and he would when this was over. I don’t know. smarty pants. **** A’isha’s injuries weren’t great. For now. How I found the courage. He wanted to date her. “She could have—” “Don’t. but not panicky and weepy like yesterday. And me really. still scared mindless. Connor. and—” “Whoa. “Because. if I had been doing my job. We’ll find her.Carl snapped his book closed. “Could have but didn’t. “When she said that. Don’t worry.” He lifted her chin and planted a kiss on her lips.well I’ll deal with that when we know.” Her eyelids lowered. He offered an innocent look. I got away. He studied her beautiful face. He made sure she was comfortable. just the bruising and somewhat sore muscles. forget she threatened to hurt you if I didn’t cooperate.” A’isha blushed at calling him her boyfriend. and figured he would like to be.

” He pinched the buttons of her shirt open to reveal her lacy white bra.. dipped a finger inside her tunnel and pulled it out. One way to find out. he breathed in her heady scent. and he frowned. This is all about you for now. He let her watch him suck his finger clean. Careful of her injured wrists. She quivered under his touch.” “I’m okay.It feels nice not to worry. but he welcomed the discomfort. he ripped his own shirt over his head and tossed it away. followed by her panties. “You’ve been hurt. between her breasts to her neck. Unzipping them. He licked his lips. reaching out to touch him. She was most certainly ready for him. “What?” “You taste like my snatch. She mewled.” “We can scream together. but he moved out of reach.in a million years get enough of her. He climbed back up her body and kissed each before gently placing them at her sides. “You want me to eat it. “Uh-uh. An animal growl erupted when he had freed her of her blouse and bra.” She wiggled her brows. he took in the view. Her breasts swelled above the delicate material making his mouth water and hunger for a taste of her nipples. he was distracted by the bandages on both arms as she rested them on her chest. “Yes!” For a moment. maybe then. he eased her back against the pillows.” She laughed. knowing the reward he would soon receive.” A shudder went through her. He chuckled.. dipping his tongue between her lips. Spreading her legs. “I’ve never had anyone take care of me. not for a long time anyway. “It might get you all hard and ready. Let me make you feel better. unsure whether she wanted to invite him farther or squeeze his hand against her hot center. even if for a moment. He kissed his way down her belly to the band of her pants.” . He leaned back and slipped her pants off. His shaft grew stiff in his pants. To test his theory and her reaction. but I don’t want to eat myself. She pushed him back. Connor. he slipped a hand inside her pants to cup her mound. but I give it everything I have. She opened and closed her legs. She squirmed and moaned. baby?” She panted. When I’ve made you scream a few times. “I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Sweet come ran down from her opening to caress her ass. Not taking his eyes off her luscious body. It. Connor made the decision for her. and he bent down and licked a line from her navel. I guess I’m not good at it.” He took her mouth.

Before he could draw on her bud more than a half dozen times. loving how she appreciated his body as much as he did hers. He plunged his tongue inside her and sucked to his heart’s content. I said this is about you. What had he been thinking? That move was all him. he watched them pucker and tighten into little peaks ready for him to suck. She ran a hand over his dick. her breathing harsh. dipping in for more. he moved to her nipples. Finally. Anticipation built in him when he hovered above her nub. He pulled away. he guessed. A’isha groaned. I can’t. Her hips bucked.” Not waiting for her comment.” She shrugged with a grin. Suddenly done with delaying. I can’t. running his tongue around the rims. Running his tongue from the bottom of her moist opening to the top. the only sound in the room. moaned and fought. and she relaxed. luxuriating in her color and the texture of her skin. He pushed his chin against her opening. He laughed. She would come and come hard. he tugged. Her juices filled his mouth. Tweaking them.“No?” He winked. She moaned. He exerted himself to hold her still. I’ll come. he gripped her hips and buried his face between her thighs. He coated his finger and leaned over to push it into her mouth. and he nearly exploded at the one touch. She screamed. and he swallowed. “Well what?” she grumbled. and then the other. smeared his pre-come over the tip. and I’m going to keep it that way until I’ve satisfied you. “You don’t know what you’re missing. he moved out of her reach and unzipped his pants. he lapped until she squirmed. She whimpered. her thighs quivered. Again. He took in first one. coaxing her to climax. the spasms eased. but he held on. His shaft tightened and grew thicker while she worked his finger like she would work his dick. grinding against his face. a sure sign she was about to come. He watched her take in the sight of his erection. He clamped down. Kneading the bud between the roof of his mouth and his tongue. Ah!” She had been wrong. “Woman. “Well?” he asked. if you don’t stop. She cried out a second time. The warm flow coated his chin as he continued to suck her nubbin. He stroked himself. “Connor. “Have I pleased you?” .

” Resting his cheek against hers he whispered.” . “I want to be the only man with the right to do this. slow and easy. He barely knew A’isha. letting his dick rest at her soft tunnel. Connor. in synch.” He entered her. I want you to be the woman I can love. their bodies merged. finding our rhythm?” She groaned.” She continued to scowl.” she began... “Do you want me inside you? Do you remember how great it felt. I’m not going anywhere.” “No. And then they came. They breathed out hot and heavy. “Connor. Something told him A’isha was just as amazed at how good they fit together. He pressed deep. tears in her eyes. She arched her back. your touch make me want to bow down and worship you. and couldn’t love her this soon. She sniffled. “I don’t want you to worship me. I bet other women have told you that. Your body. A’isha. lifting her legs higher. savoring. “Connor. needing more than just the physical. Connor. tasting. being hungry for satisfaction. “I’ve been told that once or twice. how right for us to be molded together. rest.” He kissed her. He wanted to ram himself inside. he drove his staff into her passage. he pulled out until his swollen head pushed against her nub. but the gleam in her eye was unmistakable.“You can be very anal sometimes. The only man to please you. If they spent more time together learning about each other. grinding her hips to his. but he resisted.. together. Their eyes met. how they matched sexually. Repeating the sensuous mating. He climbed atop her. baby. lingering on her top lip.” He shook his head. emotionally? Carl had to be wrong. would they fit mentally. Savoring this time with her was more important than him reaching his peak..” With his hands on either side of her waist. And just as deliberate. “Just your words set me on fire. I want you to feel like I’m the only man that can run a thumb over your nipple and make you have an orgasm. “Shh.

Connor was leaning a shoulder on the wall. She slipped from the bed and strolled out into the hall. No. his arms folded over his chest. she tiptoed around to see who it was. Time to go. From her vantage point. Hearing her. she might sample his goods for herself. Thinking about it drove her just short of putting her fist through the window where she watched them. followed by her boy toy. even dressed. “Connor?” No answer. “Not alone. A’isha was made of sturdier stuff. although she hadn’t been longing for a man. he glanced over his shoulder. Looking like her feather-headed mother meant nothing. A’isha!” A shriek on her lips. After they finished making love. she wanted to see the fear and pain in A’isha’s eyes. That woman could come back at any time. Hearing a car roll up around the front of the house. She prayed he was just in the living room or kitchen. but he would be ready now. but she was still terrified of being alone. **** A’isha woke to find herself alone in bed. something to take into account when next she made her move. After she made A’isha suffer for that little stunt she pulled. On some level. knowing Connor would be able to examine her from head to toe had been a good thing. They always had backup weapons. and his eyes went wide. Unlike the bitch she had killed years ago for her betrayal. The partner. she had caught him glancing around. Neither of them were fools. she was too embarrassed to go back.Chapter Ten She wanted him. Now. watching the house. A’isha had especially surprised her with her inner strength. Her body may have stopped quaking. She considered breaking in now to kill them while they were out. he appealed to her. She had heard he turned in his gun and badge. What would the other person out there be thinking of her? . making her sick to her stomach with all the tenderness. lying between her whoring legs. When she took him captive. Time for planning. she darted her naked plump body back in the room and slammed the door. His hand had never left the gun strapped to his body except to unlock the door. But she held back. No. Then everything would be right. somewhere around the house. But she would be more careful now. Sneaking up on him in the dark had been a good move. The fact that she had been confident enough to stroll out there naked. they fell asleep in each other’s arms. but thought better of it. far out of sight. She’d seen him walking A’isha from the car to his house. but cops were sneaky. peering into the dark corners. She needed to break her to force her to confess where the papers were. Then A’isha would die. a plan was better. He seemed almost to catch her scent in the air at one point. She sat up.

you have no choice. On the Southside of town was where those who couldn’t afford much lived. and I’m not leaving you alone.” She pulled away. they might both be arrested. less so at night. “Anyway. I should have thought before I acted. So get dressed. If they could. Dragging her hand to the rock in his pants.When she didn’t move off the side of the bed for a good twenty minutes. “I understand how you feel. Drug activity was a given. but he might as well have. and the gate leading in was busted. and worse. he might never get his job back. Sure she had a house. The entire piece fell over with crash to the ground. baby. His grin annoyed her. but the place was in major disrepair with many of the windows boarded up. Trash littered the yard. we’re going over to her last known address to check it out. I insisted on going along. and ignored her ugly attitude while he stole kisses along her cheek. Carl glanced at Connor and then kicked it. She had moved around a lot without leaving much of a trail behind her. “Too late for me. neck and nipples. “Who was out there? I’m embarrassed. “Feeling shy now?” “Go to hell. but unfortunately.” she grumbled. Connor opened the door and shut it behind him. . A’isha considered how far down the woman had fallen. you’ll have me all hot. A’isha had often thought she was just a step from that fate. If he let Connor’s boss know about it. Sure he hadn’t seen A’isha naked. He laughed.” He winked. Mildred’s house was on one of the worst streets.” “What do you mean?” “Carl’s located Mildred Servant. and the news stations had quit reporting on all the murders that happened down that way. “I’d love to enjoy the view while you walk around my house. they were out the door with A’isha very unhappy about Carl having caught her at Connor’s house. As Connor opened the car door for her and offered her his hand to get out. he said. She would never forgive herself if she ruined his life. Makes you wonder.” she complained. “Stop it. they would have moved away long before now.” He teased her a little longer. then moved to lean on the edge of the dresser.” “Save it for when you know we’re alone.” A’isha popped into the shower for the briefest wash she’d ever taken and then had to spend another fifteen minutes dodging Connor’s grabby hands before she was dressed and ready to go. doesn’t it?” He shrugged. The neighborhoods were not a good place to visit during the day. Finally.

No answer after four more forceful kicks that seemed to rattle the foundations.A’isha frowned. But he hadn’t denied having a second weapon either. why hadn’t she thought of that? If it turned out Mil was involved with Cammie’s murder. She found herself wishing he hadn’t had to give up his weapon when he was suspended. This time the barrier held. Servant?” They shuffled inside. “Damn. She pushed the thought away and waited. You shouldn’t get your fingerprints anywhere. but didn’t care. so she couldn’t be sure if he had a second weapon. y’all are good. I mean it. Connor? People on the street see a door busted in.” Her eyes grew wide until they hurt. Got it?” She shook her head. Holding her on the other side. She remembered he had kept his hand at his side where he used to wear his gun when he brought her home from the hospital. she thought she was no safer in that position. he’d looked at her like she was an idiot. The rickety lock shattered. and using the same method that had worked before.” Carl shrugged. he had blocked her view. In the movies and TV shows policemen had a smorgasbord of guns. Not that he had any other option. Her throat dried up. Carl kicked the door. but don’t touch anything.” He reddened. I’m staying with you whether you like it or not. “Police! Mrs. Anyone could come by and . “No. Have you ever been in a neighborhood like this. He cast her a stern look. they ascended to the front door.. Looking over her shoulder. Connor forcing her to stay well behind. The wood was weathered enough to have splinters. she knew. and they come to see what they can grab before the cops come. unprofessional. Oh goodness. “An electric bill was paid in person by Mildred Servant as early as two days ago. the top hinge soon matched the doorbell.” He frowned. Carl drew his weapon. and the bell hung from frayed wires. and the door flew in so hard. Picking their way over broken stairs. Connor shuffled her around behind him. “Stay right here by the door.. she could get . “Stand back.” She gasped. looking pleased with the compliment. When she had suggested as much to Connor. “Fine. Connor threaded his fingers between A’isha’s. I’m not staying over here. “Is this gothic or what?” A’isha mused. “Are you sure someone lives here? It looks abandoned. His eyes scanned the area.” he muttered a little too dramatic for A’isha’s taste. and he held his shoulders stiff. but not visible from the street.

Once in the car. stairs that when fully resting on the ones they occupied were shown to be covered in blood. Carl. she fought against hurling up the bagel they’d stopped long enough to buy on the way over here. closer. “What’s happening?” He looked grim. At the top of the stairs. “You saved my life. “That’s what I’m here for. releasing Connor. her gaze fell on the ceiling above the stairs. close those so we can get down. Connor wrapped an arm around her waist. Her stomach churned. “Carl. In a split second. but her stomach wouldn’t allow it. I’m taking her outside to the car. “This Mildred Servant—she light brown skinned”—he waved a finger back and forward over his top lip—“semi-thick mustache and a penchant for wearing bad wigs?” A’isha swayed. I would have hurtled down the steps. Another set of stairs sprung down.” Carl cleared his throat.” He kissed her again and jogged back inside the house. “Wow.herself implicated with Mil if they found evidence she was here. Connor nuzzled her cheek. Carl was headed to the rickety stairs with Connor and then A’isha behind him. A’isha couldn’t wait to get out of there.” she grinned. that sounds like her. and keep it locked. she stumbled on the area rug and fell against Connor’s back. he strolled out of the door with Carl at his side. She could have sworn she heard rats overhead and couldn’t shake the image of one falling down on her shoulder. yell for me. inches from his mouth. barking into his phone. reached up to grab hold of the thick rope hanging from the ceiling and pulled. Anyone come near.” . A’isha jumped from the car and ran up to him.” He ran the tip of his tongue along her lower lip. How could anyone stand facing such horror every day? When A’isha thought she might scream for Connor just to get out of the car. I promise I won’t be long. you’re strong. A’isha would have protested. “What’s that?” Both men stopped. The place was creepy. “Yes. and A’isha jumped to attention. A shiver travelled over her body. So did the second. and he punched the locks with a tight expression on his face. The first floor turned up empty. She just hoped the fancy stuff done on TV wasn’t real. and she wrapped her arms around his neck. Her muscled lover easily held her up. she lifted her chin to let Connor kiss her. She could be incriminating herself just by coming today. As it was. She pointed. and smelled stale. like finding a microscopic piece of something to grab DNA from. When she glanced up. The only consolation was that Carl knew she was with him when he arrived. “Stay put. Connor spun A’isha around and marched her back up the steps.

but I’d say it’s a sure bet she was not involved in Cammie’s murder.” He pulled her close and slanted a hand over her mouth to stop her monologue.” A’isha buried her face in Connor’s chest. Connor?” A’isha complained.” **** “Why are we here.” Connor informed her. It was a flyer for your shop. does it? Just a coincidence?” He rubbed her back and turned away to speak with Carl. busted and disgusted. “No. but I know what my mother told me. It’s nothing but piles of old books with hand- . but she yanked his arm to force him to face her. See if she would make his ass another treat after his insinuation about her mother’s recipes. And what connection could it have to me?” She glanced up. “It doesn’t.“Someone murdered her.” Connor sighed. “We should have come here long before now. I have no luck in business. Still think it’s unrelated?” The blood rushed from her head. “Don’t believe me if you don’t want to. No. She shuddered. I think I have a black thumb or something. “Carl noticed something clutched in her hand. I have a huge amount of debt to pay off behind this money pit!” Her words were harsh and uncaring. “The flyer had a circle. She and my mother were always arguing. “So? That was one of my many attempts to get more customers.” A’isha grumbled while placing her freshly-baked chocolate chip scones with bananas mixed in on the counter. but Connor gave her a knowing look. As they say. not at all. Not that I expect to get much if anything. and I made the decision last night to sell. but instead. “What aren’t you telling me. I don’t know. This was her mother’s place.” “A’isha. I had like a thousand of those stupid things printed up only to get little or no return on investment. Connor?” He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut before answering. “I’ve come to hate this place.” She shrugged. and I’ve been in that room. “We’re still running our investigation. but I would never want her dead. Shame made her want to curl into a ball and cry her eyes out. “I never liked her much. she was broke. “The mystery woman was looking to get inside this room you claim is where your mother locked away her prized recipes. lined over many times around your phone number. she pretended none of it mattered. He knew she was putting on a brave face. We should have searched it from the start. And hand written was a note that said ‘Call A’isha to warn her’. and she had failed to keep the dream alive.

And on top of that. let’s get started. his eyes dark blue and serious. And I will stay right by your side as we do it. A’isha kissed crumbs from the corners of his mouth.” He brushed her hands away from the plate of treats and helped himself to one. Someone else validating the idea of making her mother’s work into cookbooks seemed to make it a little more okay to do.” Pointing a half eaten treat at her. After the killer was caught was soon enough. A’isha. “Thanks. Was he saying what she thought he was? She didn’t dare believe it. the business end of baking isn’t for you. “But first we solve this bigger problem.” “You should seriously think about it.” A’isha’s heart skittered for a moment then went back to normal. her eyes cast down. “Another great idea. you’d make a fortune. “I’ve thought about teaching too.” He lifted her chin. And I’ve thought about it at my most desperate times. “Okay. and still warm. She kept them in themes like Western or Mexican or formal gatherings. Damn. She was still going to sell the bakery. when it’s over to help you choose the path you want most. but I felt guilty.” He took her into his arms. perfect as I thought.” .written recipes in them. he spoke with his mouth full. Maybe you’re right. “I will still be here. but that doesn’t mean you have to give up what you love.” she admitted. The sooner this is over. he was beautiful. the better. “Mmm. but Connor had suggested a great alternative to finding some lame job she didn’t want.” Now her heart did pound. Life was not as bad a she thought. “Have you considered turning your mother’s recipes into cookbooks and getting them published? If you mother was half the baker you are. like that. She blushed. he was offering himself.” He put her out of his arms. if you want me.

“Do these racks come out or are they attached to the walls. Any excuse to get his hands on her. If she meant these. Two rows of both were stacked with thick notebooks. “This is it?” he wondered aloud. It’s all gross spiders.” He stomped in various places on the floor. Okay. The sight of them made him wonder if her mother wasn’t much more of a business woman than she was. but what looked like handmade stacks of thick paper. Suddenly. “Connor. “What do you mean.” He snickered. and fill her with his rock hard erection.” “But hardly worth killing for. A vision of him riding that round delight the night before flashed through his mind. forgetting that she thought this place was as valuable as Fort Knox. you said yourself that the killer referred to papers. where do we start?” He moved around her into the room. All of it would have gone on a single CD.. The entrance is through the other closet. “I’m sorry. all he wanted to do was lay her out on the counter. baby. and he slapped her ass. A’isha. His dick swelled. Racks lined the walls on either side with four shelves each. hole-punched and tied together with lacey ribbon. making his gaze zero in on her ass. . surely she would have said the recipes?” Her shoulders slumped. It’s down there. Trying to speak while clenching his jaw was difficult. My mother never used it.” He pulled her resisting into his arms and kissed her neck. darkness and dust down there. She said it was too unsanitary.Chapter Eleven For all A’isha’s going on and on about her mother’s secret work. “Might be a secret basement too.yeah!” She rolled her eyes. we can move them into the kitchen and check the walls for any secret compartments. but there must be something more. If they aren’t.” She laughed. “Look at all these. Her hands sprung up to her ample hips. “What makes you think my mind was in the gutter?” The rack wasn’t nearly as heavy as she let on. Metal scraped on cement floor and made his teeth ache. will you get your mind out of the gutter and help me with this?” He looked up to find her dragging on one of the racks. They’re treasure. not books. “So it’s safe to say she wouldn’t use it to hide something she wanted no one to find?” “Uh. “Not so secret. “You’re right. Besides. They weren’t the composition type. ‘this is it’?” she demanded. Connor didn’t know what he expected to be in the storage closet once she unlocked it..

“This person we’re looking for is entirely to blame.” He stopped dragging the rack and disengaged her fingers from it as well.“Because your eyes were riveted to my rear. It’s a real possibility. compressed his lips and said nothing.” “Actually. woman?” He raised an eyebrow. “I can understand that.” He tipped her head up and stared into those melted chocolate eyes.. Turning her to face him..” He knew he was making dumb excuses that no one was guaranteed tomorrow. told him to forget she existed. she appeared thoughtful. But Jill works as an accountant. I wish my mother was still here with me and that my brother wasn’t thousands of miles away. and she gave a reluctant nod.” He nodded. but she ducked out of reach. he was surprised when she turned the conversation.. She’s young. It’s mine. she pushed him away. Connor stiffened.. flashback from his preteen years. too. He.” she announced. “You feel you’re responsible for me getting suspended. A’isha.we.. I.” “I told you it’s not your fault. handling each with tender care.have to figure this all out so you can get your job back.” “Yes. It’s not your responsibility to solve this case. Now keep your mind on your work.. Last time I checked. but he shook the thought away. Figuring A’isha would push about his sister.” “Yes.. general!” He tried to swat her rear. he drew her close and guided her head to his shoulder.worse. “I think you should call your sister and make up. “So what about your parents?” . but for some immature. Now back to work. he had thought his sister would always be there for him. This is about you. Instead. For a moment.” “It’s mine. he thought he could drown in them and never wished to be saved. “Good. a rational fear. “I will work it out.” Her soft mouth under his tasted right. her pastime could cause a person to fall asleep just hearing about it. “Family is everything.. As she removed the books to the counter in the kitchen. He had to be satisfied to watch as she sauntered back into the store room. it’s Carl’s now. got it. Sometimes I wake up wondering if this is the day I’ll get that call that tells me he’s been injured or. She’d chosen the wrong man and didn’t believe him when he had brought it to her attention. That both pissed him off and other feelings he was not willing to explore too deeply.

because she was.” Connor announced. demanding they take a lunch break. wouldn’t see again. He didn’t resist. She joined him not five months later. A’isha touched his arm.the best. I could scream it out.. I’m so sorry. “I had this dream last night.” Pausing. sat down and tucked her onto his lap. but fight and hide it. It came on suddenly. Still nothing. so you were blessed. The women would tear up. He rubbed her back while she indulged in a little cry. an amazing cook.” **** By lunchtime. he continued. “I miss her so much.” She drew him into her arms.“Determined aren’t we?” He shrugged. He felt a little like calling her perfect herself. but my mother was perfect!” Her silly grin teased the ache in his chest away. and my brother and I worshipped the ground she walked on. I’ll get the other rack out. Sure. “I’m starting to like your cookbook idea. but this one was special. She commiserated. they had found nothing. The store room was barren with all its supplies on the table or floor in the kitchen. Connor had stood on chairs to bang on the walls out of reach. “Over sandwiches or something we can think up a new strategy. “I didn’t know my dad. Something told him she wouldn’t agree. he wondered how he thought he could be flippant about it. and you knock on the walls. but I also smile. There was no sense hurting her feelings when she wanted to comfort him. the emotions roiled inside him. it had been a few years. Dad contracted cancer when he was seventy-two. tightening his chest. “I call a break.” She shrugged. let’s finish this.” “Any decisions on where to go from here?” She glanced at the dusty tomes on the table.. I don’t have to feel guilty about losing the bakery. After he passed. “How did she go?” “Heart failure. He pretended not to feel it. But she bounced back quickly. Maybe she was just like her mother. Connor guided her to a chair. funny. but then when does anyone know ahead of time?” Tears filled her eyes. I felt like my mother was telling me it’s okay. I’m not one of those people who get guidance from their dreams. Eccentric. “Now.” Connor had never imagined anyone could burst into a speech of the perfection of a parent. but even now. A’isha was different. Now that was more natural. hurt.” “Good. That new deli down the street looks promising.” . His stomach growled. Most men he knew would react like he did. “He suffered long and hard. but he did not like talking about his parents. He blew out a breath and glanced up at the ceiling. with joy even. “Nothing much to tell there. “Anyway.” He flipped her off his lap and onto her feet. Mom faded quickly.” “Connor. knowing they were talking about someone they had lost. Clearing his throat.

” he read and looked up. I’ve never heard my mother mention her. I have some old papers of my mother’s at my house. Sliding the two books aside. “I’m not—” “Going to pay.” She stroked his belly which did not alleviate his hunger a bit. “Selena. They were words.” He dried his hands on the towel she handed him while strolling over to the table. Okay. but did you ever look through each of these books.” He pointed to the book. Maybe she was an old friend of my mother’s. he took a closer look. which were atop the one he was interested in. breathing in her scent while he waited his turn.’ Any idea who she is?” A’isha crinkled her nose and shuffled over to take a look. he stretched his arms above his head. just as he thought. “We’re looking for papers. “Trust me. another thought occurred to him. close. After tossing the towel on the table.” He kissed her. “For Selena. grumpy hungry man. “Sorry. “It’s mostly bills and other paperwork for the bakery. she ran a reverent hand over one and headed toward the sink. I could eat a large animal—raw!” She stood up from the dusty floor inside the closet and brushed her pants legs down. faded but visible at the bottom right corner of one of the books.” She dismissed the idea with the wave of her hand.” Connor glared at her like she’d lost her mind. “You have papers that belonged to your mother. The papers could be tucked between the pages. The books had seemed to be the perfect location. “Oh well. I’ve turned all of those pages a hundred times over the last few years.” . just enjoying my mother’s unique style. But I can look through it again to see if I find a reference to Selena. et cetera. “Okay. When he bent forward to arch his back. the sometimes zany comments she put in with each recipe. let’s go before you have a cow. “Who is Selena?” “What?” A’isha turned to face him. I’m not going to argue with you. and you failed to mention that sooner than now?” She laughed. “On the bottom of this particular book is written ‘To Selena. While he considered nibbling her neck. the bill of sale. It was a thought. I’m starving myself. Maybe there’ll be something in there about her. Nothing’s there other than the recipes.” As she passed the books.” He frowned. I’ve gone through every one. “My treat. the license. which could be anywhere. Connor stood behind her. a dedication of sorts.A’isha hesitated. “No. his glance fell on words. Let’s go. forcing the muscles on one side to expand and then the other.

which made the whole incident unnecessary and vindictive.I’m not going to have a cow. except for the fact that his ex-wife and I. and Connor wasted no time in ordering a hot brisket on sourdough with a side of potato salad and a large half and half. and under awful circumstances.. I consider myself a connoisseur in that department.” “Just?” “A few months ago. She came on to me.” She laughed.” He sighed.” A’isha stared..” “Turns out that she was innocent.. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking. they claim the chips and salsa are fresh and delicious. I was innocent too.. I almost lost my job because a female suspect filed a complaint. It’s just. “I think my boss would have brushed the whole thing off and wouldn’t have given a damn. “Not now exactly. catching the condensation along the sides with his thumbs. “Me? Yes.. She took it hard. “A’isha.you know. whether she thought he was depraved or just a victim of a sadistic woman. we’ve only been seeing each other a short while.” He shrugged.” “And you?” She picked up a chip from her bowl having been just set before her and dipped it into the salsa. “I should be honest with you. what do you think about moving in with me?” “Ah!” Her eyes went wide. but he knew she was serious.” he grumbled. I rejected her. Soon they were ensconced at a table at the deli. Like him she had ordered a half and half. so they better be.” “You weren’t before?” “I was. but after this is cleared up. “Where did that come from? Connor. said that I had come on to her and insinuated she could get off my suspect list if she.” He twiddled with his drink. but remained silent.. A’isha ordered a chicken quesadilla with fresh chips and homemade salsa on the side. “Okay.” “Connor!” . That’s not a good idea right now.

He considered forgetting about the rest of the search and taking her back to his place to make love to her. I promise you that.” He laced his fingers with hers.” “You’re right.” He raised an eyebrow at her.“Had a short thing before they ever met. but what I have had is one mistake after another. but I am going to hold on to you now that you’re here. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be making a mistake if we rushed things. wondering if she remembered their first meeting. “If I recall. let me warn you. A’isha. I had nothing to do with finding you. And when I’m not choosing. “I am not a womanizer. they fall in my lap. but I haven’t had a lot of relationships. stirring something inside him. and I believe you when you say you’ve had bad breaks with women. and then just to hold her in his arms.” She blushed. “Connor. in the park.” She glanced around the restaurant. I know that sounds bad. you ran into me.” “Anyway. when she had stood in the middle of the path. Before he could make the suggestion. but there’s so much between us and building it. You’re absolutely right. we can’t be sure. “However. Romeo.” he finished. I know all about that. the few I’ve had as well.” . “I feel like we can have something pretty good. I see a beautiful woman that is more than I’ve ever imagined in sweetness and sexual appeal. pausing to look out the window and then back at him. I understand what you’re saying. having turned back to the picture window at the front of the restaurant. there’s someone out there watching us. she paled.” “Semantics.

Normally. Guilt closed her throat even more.” A’isha whispered. Her hair was really long. Connor. but everyone seemed to be going about their business. She rolled her eyes.” She shook so hard. and even though she was on the other side of the street by that van there”—she pointed out the one she meant—“I could still tell there was this evil look in her eyes. A’isha imagined he had been about to flash his badge. she was there. “I-It’s her. but remembered he didn’t have it anymore. The screen flashed Private Caller. He took her hands in his.” Connor scraped his chair back and took her hand to lead her outside. . it buzzed again. tall and thin. Teeth chattering too much. “Hello?” “Aisha. he took the phone and put it up to his ear. “There was something about her. the person who grabbed you. something to draw her to come to us. “Remember.Chapter Twelve The woman had been there a moment before. They searched the area. If she is looking for some important papers.” A buzz in A’isha’s pocket distracted her. Connor glanced down at her. When Connor handed the phone back. they should show respect and be open. She was brown-skinned. She was standing there on the other side of the street.” He shook his head and drew her close. and they both spun around to look again. “Hello? Who is this? Hello?” From her short distance.” A shiver caused goose bumps to pop out on her arms. “I swear. He shuffled her back inside the restaurant door. “What did she look like? What race?” “African American. Connor had to hold her up. she didn’t answer such calls. She answered anyway. A’isha heard the signal of a dropped connection. “I recognize her voice. we’re looking for a woman. She held the phone straight out and had to force herself to hold onto it and not drop it in the gutter.” Her heart slammed against her chest. but when A’isha turned to tell Connor. He answered with no one speaking to him the second time. “What’s wrong? Who is it?” When she didn’t say anything. she was gone. probably ready to pounce should they run off without paying for their food. You think I’m crazy?” “Of course not. If a person wanted to speak with her. we’d do better finding them and having something to bargain with. A waiter hovered nearby. she couldn’t speak. Connor flicked up the end of his shirt at his belt and then yanked it down with a sigh of frustration. She pulled out her cell and examined the caller ID. and they stood in the lobby. oblivious to Connor and A’isha.

Bring them to me. What choice did she have? The woman laughed. The few bites of her food threatened to come spewing back at any second. A’isha. all the while her stomach churning. A car passing by crunched it beneath its front tires and kept rolling down the street. Connor hurried her up the street to the shop.” She pressed the button to open the connection and lifted the phone to her ear. A’isha.” He used a handkerchief he had pulled out from somewhere to wipe her mouth. listen carefully. a hallow sound that sent shivers of fear coursing over A’isha’s body. A’isha listened with only half her attention to him speaking to Carl on his cell phone.. She broke free of his hold.” The contents of her mouth spewed from her lips. Connor. and they slipped into his car. her mind too fried to make any decisions of her own for the time being. so you don’t have to be afraid. It’s okay. she could scarcely get a word out.The cell phone rang for the third time. There was no telling what papers she wanted in the first place.” “Why should I?” She must be crazy for antagonizing this woman. Finally. and to act like she knew was a mistake. I can’t do this! I’ve never been so scared in my life. He stood like a sentinel over her while she locked up. I want to see what she has to say. she really did drop the phone. “What should I do?” He flipped it open and handed it to her. Connor.” It was the same woman. Hell. “Hello?” “That’s better. Maybe that was just it. I’m tired of waiting for what I want. . She even knew the color of your sheets. but I’m here. she explained between sobs.” A’isha screamed. “She’s been watching us have sex. not answering. or I will come for him. A’isha stared at Connor. and then led her back inside the restaurant where he paid their bill. A’isha allowed herself to be led from point to point.First I will ride him like you enjoy doing in that big bed with the green silk sheets. I can’t do this.. “Answer. easy! What did she say? Tell me!” He kissed her eyes. She had always thought she was a strong woman who could handle anything that came her way. When she had caught her breath. I’m not going anywhere. Or rather she ran outside the restaurant and threw it out into the middle of the road. “Bring me the papers that your mother kept for me. her cheeks and her lips so much. She didn’t stop screaming until Connor gripped her arms and shook her. Connor bent her over the gutter and rubbed her back.” “Easier said than done. and then I will kill him slowly. “She’s been watching us. This time. “Now. The papers. “A’isha. please!” “Shh. she’d escaped almost on her own from Cammie’s killer when she’d been kidnapped.

good. although he probably didn’t realize it. Things had moved fast with them. A’isha headed upstairs to shower and change. “Selena Goode. sexy. Yet. wanting to ruin all of that. but we’ll check it out. has been spotted near. the first inkling that you’d stumbled on the person who will be the one.” Connor said as he paced in the limited space of her bedroom. He squinted at the screen. They would overcome this situation. That first spark.” she whispered. Playing solitaire and listening to music had always helped her relax. Connor spent his time on the phone with Carl and making other phone calls. and her lids drooped for a moment and then popped open. “Baby. She sat up straight. leaned on one fist and stared unseeing at the headline. she had only the music..” He spoke into the phone. “What is it? What’s wrong?” A’isha pointed. pull up MSNBC really quick. Or she would. Now that her computer was busted. She had pulled out all her oldies but goodies. Giving Connor up was not an option. She knew of a couple of women who had had it happen that way for them. had staked his claim on her. along with being the one to find Cammie. I want to check the news. Every part of her was attracted to him. Listen. He settled on the tee and a sheet wrapped around his narrow hips after his shower while A’isha stuffed his things in the washing machine. On top of that. But this wasn’t the time. She was already missing his house. threatening to hurt Connor. he was much larger. still married to the same man and crazy in love. She was living it. while A’isha settled at her desk lamenting the loss of her computer. we found that name.yeah. the woman was still out there.” A’isha streaked. It had begun in the park. she realized why he had jeopardized his job for her. No! A’isha might be scared mindless. She just couldn’t. See if there’s any . he’d gone back to his conversation and wasn’t paying attention. A’isha sighed. **** At her house. a man in uniform. “Carl. He was patient and kind. they could kiss her ass. Her biggest T-shirt stretched across his massive chest and had her wanting to rip it off him to get at his body.. While she wasn’t small.. on a cookbook at A’isha’s shop. and dig something out for Connor to wear. “Might be a coincidence. A’isha glanced over at him. escaped mental patient. For the first time. but that wasn’t unheard of.. Here they were fifty years later.. he was attracted to her in return. “Selena Goode. well. here was this woman she didn’t know coming out of nowhere. Although she had pulled it up. but she couldn’t let it happen. Selena. Connor was on her in seconds. Anyone who thought it couldn’t happen. the escape mental patient. great in bed. you’ve heard about her. They had to.After all of that. and her shoulders were just beginning to ease down an hour after she and Connor arrived at her house. Her eyes crossed..

A’isha studied her. I can’t sit here twiddling my thumbs. Jill knew it too. “I’m going with you. “The only one?” “Yeah. She was tough that was apparent. Connor took his time getting out. and they met at the back end of her car. they held hands and touched foreheads. pack a bag with some changes of clothes so you can stay at my place. I think I’m going to go down to the hospital where she escaped from and see if I can find anything out there.. Like two childhood playmates. A’isha tried massaging Connor’s shoulders.” **** The drive over to Connor’s house was done in silence. the one I told you hasn’t spoken to me in years?” She flicked an eyebrow up at him. “Funny. “Jill. Are my clothes dry? I don’t want to see my sister after so long dressed in a sheet.” “A’isha. a black BMW was already parked in it. but the tension there seemed determined to stay. . He strolled up to her. but her eyes were dry. “My sister. as did Jill. A’isha wondered what the woman did for a living and remember Connor had said she was an accountant. except with longer hair dyed almost red and the curves of a woman.” This time when he hung up. sis?” he asked. and I’m afraid of what she’ll do next. She didn’t answer.” A’isha was getting antsy herself. or her husband did. When Connor disconnected the call. and her cheeks were flushed. She was the spitting image of her brother. His cell interrupted. When they pulled up to his driveway.” He ran his hands through his hair. Just in case. “Yeah!” he barked into the phone.connection between the two.” The warning in his tone let her know they were about to disagree. she spoke up. Her bottom lip quivered. “Well. and then his blue eyes widened. “Damn. She dared to ask. Jill was almost as tall as Connor. “What’s up?” “My sister. and after all this time. She’s getting antsy.” A’isha grinned.” He shook his head in disbelief. The woman had money. She’s sitting outside at my house right now. baby. The dark rings around her eyes spoke their own story. this is a day. huh? Come on. the color leaving his cheeks.. Something told A’isha Connor had been right. he said nothing.

but Connor hurried to grab it from her. this is A’isha. damn it! You knew. To find out her man wanted another man instead of her was a worse blow. I can stay in a hotel. Jill twisted her fingers together. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” Jill commented. A’isha.” “Thank you.” Connor pulled her to his side.” Jill’s mouth grew round.” “Why should you be in the way? I have two extra bedrooms.“We should move inside. “I’ll give you two some time to talk. How many women searched for a man who would have no problem committing? It scared her. I believe you can pull through whatever you’re dealing with. wait. He should be relieved that his sister had finally seen the truth. before A’isha walked back to Connor’s bedroom. She stood to go demand he show a little sensitivity but stopped. but at this point. I don’t want to get in the way. And don’t worry. “Now you see the truth after all these years. and at least the two of them were speaking again after so long. A’isha couldn’t figure out why he was so angry. She’s staying with me. That hurt like hell under any circumstances.” A’isha held up her hands.” “No. they all trouped into the house. I didn’t know I was going to walk in on him and his lover!” A’isha cringed. While she cleared space for her things inside Connor’s dresser drawer. sure. This situation was none of her business. . “If it makes you feel more comfortable. She patted Jill’s arm. I’m pregnant. “I warned you. but I’m so embarrassed. I’m not keeping anything from her. I just wanted you to meet her and for her to meet you. maybe he went both ways. A’isha reached for her suitcase. “You knew. “Jill. she heard yelling and paused. I’ll be in the bedroom.” “Say no more. And you want to have his baby?” “I have no choice. She tugged her bag out of the trunk. “I’m glad to meet you. we can talk in private.” Connor yelled. He was serious.” A’isha suggested. You look like a really strong person. Connor was fussing at his sister. Still she couldn’t help overhearing their conversation with the elevated voices. Jill. but it was also exhilarating. When he had gathered Jill’s as well.” He sighed. “More than a lover then. Neither A’isha nor Connor said anything more. “I’m okay with you telling her.” Connor’s voice was tight with emotion. but you didn’t want to see the signs.” Jill pulled her in for a quick hug.” A’isha shook at the import of his words. Then again.” “Oh.

Now. Connor stood in the doorway. he should have told her. but I wasn’t sure if you and I. Shock flooded her system.” “I know.. but after they were deep in love with one another was not the time to do it either. Still. I don’t understand you. Go. Feeling eyes on her. Jill. I would like to get down to that hospital before it gets too late.” he said. A’isha glanced up. The front room had gone quiet. “I’ll be here when you get back. overhearing it wasn’t a great way to find out. With all that was happening.” “I understand.” . I promise.” Could he mean him? He couldn’t have kids? She and Connor were nowhere near talking about having children together. when maybe she could think about it with a clear head.“Some of us can’t have kids.” “When I get back. “We’ll talk.” She sighed. and you have a baby with an asshole who couldn’t give a flying fuck one way or the other. he would not have found the time. Connor’s words replayed in her mind over and over. “Some of us can’t have kids. “I should have said something.. I just don’t get it!” A’isha dropped the blouse she held in her hands and sank down to her knees on the carpet.. “You heard?” She nodded..

” “Of course. Where the fuck would she get antimony?” “That.” Connor stopped. They are kept under strict watch. He blinked several times. is what I would like to know.Chapter Thirteen Connor didn’t know what to expect when he drove down to City Hospital two towns over. “Page twelve. did she at any time make this recipe. Until she escaped. his habit was to think through each and every possible direction a killer might take. “Detective Pierce?” He turned from surveying Selena’s hospital mates walking along the sanitarium’s paths outside the office window. and no patient exhibiting tendencies toward violence to themselves or others are allowed in the program. to think like him or her. if she ever had any visitors and who among the patients and staff were closest to her. “What I need to know is. Some of the counselors feel it is therapeutic for them to bake or help out with making meals for the others. his blood running cold.” Connor closed his eyes. weariness making his facial skin appear gray. detective.” “Cinnamon. I have to think she either didn’t get to use the poison or never intended to use it here before she escaped. What he found terrified and shocked him. They’re recipes. Right away. Rather than jump to conclusions. Read it. He prayed Carl would find out what the connection was between Selena and A’isha’s mother. second recipe. “What did you find?” The man dropped down in his chair. detective. After. Selena had been on her best behavior. “This is what we found hidden in Selena’s room. fearing it wasn’t. I need this information ASAP. never causing trouble.” “Did you find anyone with symptoms matching antimony poisoning?” The man shook his head.. We supply the ingredients for our patients who enjoy cooking.. “Antimony. I thought they were not important. sugar.” . working his way through the killer’s steps. or even during. that process. “Yes?” The administrator held out the envelope he had been searching for in a file cabinet. “Not a one. he took things one step at a time. thinking. hoping his mind was playing tricks on him. He didn’t see anything of interest on a glance either.” Connor took the offered folder and flipped through the sheets. But something made me go back over them last night. but didn’t want to dispose of them for when she is found.

Connor inquired about her symptoms but was told she’d had foot surgery. A’isha was everything he needed. Blue eyes met his and immediately became wary. as if the act alone cut off her breath. “This is the visitor’s list for Selena Goode. The person he most wanted to talk to was the woman in charge of the patients when they worked in the kitchen. no markings on the wall. the patient swallowed. his expression letting her know he wasn’t interested.Connor questioned more people than he cared to in the next few hours. “I don’t know who Ida Wellington is.” . Connor smirked and moved on. he paused to listen to and watch a young man working with a patient in a living area. Unfortunately. Connor was happy to find even while she did fit his profile of a desirable woman. The ladies love him. Joel is a good kid. I hope you’ll find it useful. “Yes?” He stood and strolled toward her. As for the intern.” He let her go after that.” He perused it quickly and pointed to a name. which he considered to be a poor choice of words. and he’s not a full time employee. That was unrelated. I need to talk to you for a few moments. he didn’t want her. she extended a sheet of paper out to him. “I’m not poisonous. a knock sounded on the open door. she was out sick. but Joel is our intern. “Detective Pierce. even the really off ones.” she muttered. She reddened. he planned to question him right now. and he knew it. He glanced up.” She rolled her eyes. the woman was attracted to the man. Connor didn’t find it funny. Something was up with this guy. a smile aimed to allure spread across her pretty face. With a disappointed frown. no secret compartments. “I might need you to identify anyone on the list. but Connor stopped her with a light touch to her arm. Worried. “Joel?” he called when he reached the living area again. Probably an intern. His instincts were still functional. but there was nothing to be found. The same nurse stood in the doorway. He would just have to visit her home later. “Any idea who Ida Wellington is or Joel Stevens?” The nurse shook her head.” “Why would your intern visit Selena?” She waved her hand. His best bet was to head back to the front and question the woman at the front desk for a description of Ida Wellington. and she dropped the humor. Connor could feel it. He drew back as if burned. He bet anything it was a false name. As he stooped examining the floor and wondering about his next move. “Oh.” She turned to go. Each time he flipped his hair back from his forehead. If he didn’t miss his guess. He searched Selena’s room. “He probably had to sign in on the guest list since he wasn’t working that particular day. As he strolled along a hall behind a nurse who was to lead him to Selena’s room.

well. I am going to find out what else you’ve been up to.Joel came.” He shrugged. So when I offer to look after this one or that calm one. to be his most intimidating. He was sure of it. He paced to the door and looked out through the window in the center. From Selena’s records. “Katherine Jacks. “We were lovers. “And when I do. “Nothing you’d be interested in.” Now Connor swung to face him fully. Connor saw the tension.” “Come again?” “We were lovers.” . “I don’t have anything else to add. from anger to acceptance. he spoke the truth. the fear tightening his muscles. “What other things did she tell you?” The intern’s eyes jerked left and right. if reluctantly. Poor woman had spent all of her adult life locked up. the nurse on 2D. and so am I.. “It’s easier than you think in here. if I find you haven’t told me everything. but hesitated. Therefore. That’s it.. Joel would snap and tell him all. that Katherine brought her things from the outside as Selena put it.” He looked guilty. Selena is. With a little pressure.. she was thirty-five years old and had been in the hospital for about nineteen years. As much as he tried to appear calm. you had no right to do anything with her. “Who?” Connor stopped with his hand on the doorknob to leave the room. she’s beautiful for a head case. “What was your relationship with Selena Goode?” “What?” Various emotions flitted over Joel’s face. She came onto me. Joel.” Connor was sure to tower over the intern. Selena is a consenting adult. they leave me alone. Finally.. “She used to tell me things when we were.” “It was Katherine!” he blurted. The nurses battle patients who want to fight or who try to skip their meds all day. Now. There was more here than just sex. Inside a private sitting room. You know.” “As if that matters? What else do you want to tell me?” Connor had been about to inform Joel that he had broken the law. anywhere but focusing on Connor’s face.you know. So what?” “Selena has been deemed incompetent to make choices for her life. which Connor didn’t expect without a battle of wits. I will use my influence to charge you to the fullest extent of the law. Selena said Katherine and she were good friends. not the other way around. and back again. Connor cut to the chase.

” Connor ran his hands through his hair... I don’t like you out there. He prayed she could get past the fact that he couldn’t make children. I’ll be there soon. “Baby? Everything okay?” he breathed into the phone. I’m safe. and you’ll wish I’d give you a break. His cell rang. he wanted to tell her he loved her. “I can’t wait to get me some of you.” He heard the relief in her voice. and then I’ll be headed back.boy! Why the hell couldn’t he just spit it all out? Why did he give him pieces? If he had his badge. I already asked Carl to get a guy to sit out front when the sun goes down. His gut told him this was coming to a head. Soon I’ll be there all over you. . He yanked it out and pointed a finger at Joel to wait. and Jill is a master in Tai Kwan Do if you can believe it. A vision of her chocolate beauty slipped into his mind. It’ll be dark in another hour. If anything happens to you.” He laughed. A’isha. “Connor. teasing him. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay. Truth was. “Your girl?” Joel asked when Connor focused on him again. man.. The moment he finished things here. I’m scared. Don’t worry. Connor caught him by the back of his shirt. “Listen. “Don’t be stupid. They hadn’t been seeing each other long. Will you be finished soon and headed back?” “I will.. I have to question a couple more people. His heartbeat picked up seeing it was A’isha. he’d rush back and get himself another long and unhurried taste of her.” He glanced up in time to find Joel trying to sneak away.” “It won’t. I promise. and that they could have a future together. She threatened to hurt you. but as it was he’d gotten in purely from Carl’s phone call vouching for him.” “She used to say that I’m the only one that wants her.” She laughed.” “Really?” “Really. All he wanted to do was beat all of the truth out this. Somehow he needed to put the pieces together and fast. But truthfully. he would have arrested him by now. and that’s why she’ll get her revenge. hoping she wouldn’t feel that way.” He clicked his phone closed before he could say anything more. She said the world threw her away.“Try me. but didn’t want to scare her.

“Yes. She was expecting him. he might just call it a day and come back tomorrow. “What else did Selena say? Who did she plan to get revenge on?” Joel shrugged. Even if Selena was not the same person as the one on the cookbook. but he had no choice. “Go.. Mostly. the revenge and the world turning its back.“Not your business. He heard the scrape of her trashcan when she pulled it over to her and emptied the contents of her stomach into it. Connor. She said that stuff regularly. I need you down at the City Hospital now. I was stupid.” He hated having to wait for his partner to arrive. like she had some deep down hurts.” “Who is Ida Wellington?” “Don’t know. . this crap for a mental institution was not a tightly run ship. She didn’t tell me that.” “Murder?” The woman swayed.” Connor tightened his hold. because I love her. “You want to tell me everything?” he offered. “Carl. Katherine Jacks sat with a straight back at her desk. like I said. would bet she had no idea what she was reading.” He tugged his phone out of his pocket and dialed Carl. Connor ignored the male instinct to comfort her. If not. “I didn’t know. “I don’t know. Jacks shared.” “I’m Detective Connor Pierce.I did. I did it. Connor released him. Hopefully. No. Whatever involvement she had in helping Selena was serious. If I have any more questions. to tell her it was okay. Jacks?” “Yes. she hinted around at things.. From the looks of things so far.” She cried noisily. “Ms. And he didn’t doubt she had. This whole thing needed to be official if Katherine Jacks had broken the law. he needed to be here for what Ms.” With a grumble. I know where to find you!” Soon Connor was headed up to 2D where Joel said he could find Katherine Jacks. I’m investigating Selena Goode’s connection with a recent murder. because it wasn’t okay. standing in the doorway watching her. she would have all the information he would need to identify this Ida Wellington and be able to tell him what Selena’s plans might have been.

” He ran a hand over his face. call your lawyer. He needs to be here when my partner arrives. Jacks.” .“Ms. “Ms. what is it that you did for Selena Goode?” “I got the antimony for her. Jacks. or he can meet us down at the station. so we’re straight for when my partner comes.

.” Jill’s eyes grew wide.” A’isha shook her head. “Yes. “You better believe it.” “Huh?” A’isha blushed. Jill joined her.. I’m seriously independent.Island Spice Cake. but it remained stubbornly silent. realizing Jill wouldn’t judge her for the color of her skin. A’isha relaxing. and I thought I found that in my husband. Ah.I don’t know. the kind with the damsel in distress.. “Yes. I can see how much it hurts.” A’isha moved away and flopped on the couch with her arms crossed. I will not panic. But then. he’s there. A’isha drew back the curtain. Is that true?” She nodded. The policeman was there in his car. I will not panic. but was still tense that she couldn’t reach Connor.. She sighed in relief that he was. She took a deep breath and turned around. my favorite. you don’t have to go into it. but she couldn’t be sure how the woman felt about her brother dating a black woman. “That sounds corny. “A’isha?” Jill touched her shoulder. A’isha pretended she didn’t hear. or I am for the most part.” It wasn’t a question but a statement. “It’s okay. I love him. and he didn’t answer. “Really? Because I eat desserts!” The two of them burst out laughing. For a while. Earlier when I spoke to Connor. he said you are a master at Tai Kwon Do. in real life.. She sat forward.Chapter Fourteen “Is he out there?” Jill asked A’isha.” She laughed. She seemed genuinely happy to be back in Connor’s life and that he and A’isha were seeing each other.” “You love my brother. I like to fantasize about a guy who sweeps me off my feet. huh? I read trashy romance novels.. Yeah. but where is Connor? He said he’d be back soon. She’d called three times. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him look at anyone like that—like his next breath depended on you.” A’isha covered her hand. I didn’t even need the books. “I think it’s wonderful that my little brother has found someone.. even if we talk about. “I make desserts for a living. I can tell the way he looks at you that he feels the same. She stared at the phone on the coffee table. willing it to ring. “I never would have pegged you as the type. If you feel you need a woman to talk to I’m here. Jill had been kind.

that’s for sure!” A’isha blew out a breath. A’isha would have to feel her way.” “You know nothing of love!” she screamed. “You’re just trying to get me of the house. “I know a hell of a lot more than your lying mother. I figure I’ll be in town for a while. “I’m trying to get you to save your boyfriend. I’ve decided I’m going to publish my mother’s old recipes. She couldn’t have him. Go on. A’isha.” Jill patted her knee.” she whispered with little conviction. A’isha. isn’t it? I saw your name on my mother’s cookbook. Focusing on the caller.“Great. “What’s happening with you and Connor? He didn’t tell me much. I just feel like if we had these papers or at least knew the connection she has with me and my family. Connor was at the hospital. “Selena. She barely noticed when she hit her chin and her teeth clacked together.. trying to calm herself.” A’isha lost all strength in her body and crashed down on top of the coffee table. then we could end this. or Connor dies. “Connor?” “Guess again. “What do you want?” “You already know that. stepby-step and hope anything she said wouldn’t set the woman off. Bring them to me at the shop. hard and cruel. but I get the feeling you’re in a lot of trouble. “You’re not as dumb as you look. That’s your name. “So.” The woman’s laughter was devoid of emotion. “Hello.” Selena wasn’t going to make this easy on her. I’m so worried about Connor. and bring on the desserts. away from the policeman.. she tried a different tactic.” The phone rang. I want the papers. I have closed my shop and will be selling it. She knew you. you see. Enjoying your time with the detective’s sister?” “H-How do you know about that?” She didn’t want to show her fear but couldn’t help it. She glanced up at Jill who was riveted to her side of the conversation. A’isha sprang up off the couch to snatch it up. and there were too many people there for her to grab him. I’m happy to have someone to test new recipes on. But if you don’t love him. or try at least.” the snide voice teased. “Good for you.” Her expression grew serious.” A’isha explained everything to her they had discovered and experienced up unto then. Getting information out .

The line was so silent. She swallowed with her eyes closed and then spoke into the phone. “I need to find those papers. She needed this over. A’isha needed to figure out the truth. A’isha clicked the Off button and set the phone down. She ran a hand over her lip to find blood on her fingers. “Okay. Without warning. or she would have boasted about it to terrify A’isha all the more. Only now that she had been chatting for a few minutes did she wonder if somehow they should have gotten the police to trace the call. “You had some type of relationship with my mother. Jill slipped out of the room and then hurried back with tissue. this woman is dangerous. A’isha wondered if she was there. She wanted to slam the phone down. What she said had upset Selena. Were you an old partner? Did she cheat you of some profit or credit for something?” “Ohhh. She glanced up at Jill. Tears of frustration filled her eyes. the line went dead.” A’isha continued.” Selena’s humming stopped. Up for going back to my house with me?” Jill hesitated. Her teeth had cut her mouth. “Hello?” she called. Somehow. A’isha paced from the front door to the opening into kitchen and back again. and it pissed her off all the more.of her that might help Connor’s investigation would be difficult. So let’s say you’re right. “You sound familiar. Selena hummed. She seemed unwilling to offer anything. Have I met you before in person?” she asked. She wracked her mind for what to say next to Selena. I think we’ve established before now that I’ve never heard of you beyond discovering your name on a cookbook. back to being dumb. but A’isha knew the woman believed her. A’isha took it with a mouthed thanks and held it to her lips.” Selena laughed.” . Something had to give. I thought it before when you called. “You’ve thrown slurs on my mother’s character as if she wasn’t as good a person as I think. Let’s say she never told me about any papers. A’isha pounded on the table and stood. and she’s already killed for what she wants. “Are you sure that’s the best course right now? From what you’ve told me. and pretend none of this was happening. had she told me that would mean she also told me about you. After all. she got the impression that Selena did not have Connor.

I can’t bear the thought of him being hurt. “I thought you were going to search your mother’s room. She won’t stop until she’s caught or I give her what she wants.” She ran a hand over the shawl. She’d banged on every square inch of her bedroom’s walls and stomped everywhere on the floor. and told myself I would be closer to her anyway where she spent many hours writing out recipes at her desk. and then stayed outside. “I guess that does make sense. I did leave the desk in the other room. A’isha slipped into the room across the hall. she found Jill in the .” She tugged a shoebox down from the top of the closet in her mother’s room. “I’ve spent too long separated from my brother to let some maniac take him away from me. “Yeah. I switched for comfort.” **** After leaving Connor a note at his house and a voicemail on his phone. A’isha and Jill left with the policeman following them in his car over to A’isha’s house. every stitch and took the larger room. and mine had always been too hot. I don’t remember seeing the name Selena. I moved her things over here. but her room had always been too cool for her. then it would be there not here. but Jill stopped her. “I didn’t do it lightly though. but then I wasn’t looking for it either.” With renewed hope. The officer did a quick sweep of the interior.” A’isha thought about it. “No. A’isha led Jill to the second floor. Isn’t this it?” Jill gestured to the outdated furniture. This mess could be over within the next hour if she was lucky. After she did. If she had a hidey hole in the closet or the wall or floor. while I search her room for any secret cubbies” She headed for the door. “You look through here. “I’ve only ever seen the few papers my mother left. Her mother had enjoyed chatting with the nearest neighbor over the porch railing in the evenings. A’isha had never felt safer back then. especially a vision of her mother wrapping her in that shawl and sitting her on her lap on the front porch. the shawl tossed across the bottom rail of the bed like her mother would come in and wrap it around her shoulders at any moment.” “Okay. the rocking chair in the corner. I didn’t say. she didn’t find anything. but she’s threatened to hurt Connor. and that might be why when Selena broke in here.” Jill stood. this was my room before my mother passed.“I don’t see where I have a choice.” Jill nodded. That would be too much. She’d even dragged the dresser out into the hallway finding nothing. Glancing up. It took me awhile. which were more bills than anything else. A’isha swallowed and blinked moist eyes at the memories it produced. Three hours later. let’s do it. A’isha was ready to cuss lady luck out. I’ve caused him to lose so much already.

“Poor thing. You just told me I look like a cheap doll. I think she got more fun out of that house than I did. They dragged out boxes of Christmas decorations and old clothes. She always set that particular doll up there in the attic in a rocking chair that matched the one in her room. I’ve been bungling around looking for it. “You are that overexerted from looking through papers?” Jill laughed. boxes of books she just had to keep. or what she was thinking. “No. She had wrapped bright pink holders around the ends. A’isha had to shuffle through junk from years ago to get to the back of the closet where she could just see the house.. and I remember telling her that they were no Barbie doll.” . She’d left them there after removing her Halloween costume from last year.. My mother brought it as a lark about five years ago. it’s in the basement. Come on. the house has an attic. because she thought houses with attics were creepy. and one of them has hair in the same style and color as yours. But they all have personal notes.” “It was the red hair and two braids that did it.” She stood up from the floor. She stuffed it with these cheesy dolls. because I had always wanted one as a child. She rolled her eyes. Jill probably thought they were cute. “I should be embarrassed that you see what a pack rat I am.” A’isha told her. I had grown out of the desire to play with dolls as an adult. but didn’t look insulted.” Jill frowned.” A’isha laughed. They were cheap. but—” Jill’s eyes widened. Anyway.Actually your mom did that a lot. I found a recipe scribbled on a napkin. like where she was when she thought up her combinations. one in particular said something about an attic. “Anyway. parted down the center and braided.” They all but tumbled down the stairs to the first floor and then on down to the basement. which A’isha knew had been on her mother’s dresser. who she was talking to. “Thanks a lot. “What? I see wheels turning in your head. “No. None of the houses around here have attics. A’isha laughed. I don’t know what my mother was referring to.” A’isha tossed her a pitying look. “Come again?” A’isha pointed to Jill’s flyaway red hair. and my mother used to say it was the only one she ever liked.doorway wiping sweat from her forehead. “Your hair like that reminds me of this old dollhouse I used to have. of course not. Part of it was torn off.

No matter how hard it is. was placed beneath a tiny area rug her mother had knitted.” “That remains to be seen. A bit of advice. her mother had loved the house more than she did.” a voice said behind them. I hear relationships that start out like this. But I should have hired someone to handle the business side. Now I have to face the fact that I screwed up and lost the shop. because I know I won’t throw any of it out. Yeah. because when it forces itself on you—and it will—it will hurt all the more for your lost time and your lost self-respect. I will have to hire a company to transport it all. I think you’ll be good with Connor. We found the papers Selena’s been looking for. I know it. An envelope. with their fingers mentally crossed. don’t last. Maybe not as good as my mother was. “Please. “This has to be it.” A’isha reached the house and dragged it out. she saw it. At first she thought there was nothing there. A’isha slipped the envelope out and held it between trembling fingers. It just wasn’t my area. I knew from the get go that I was a terrible business woman. “I don’t see that I have any other choice. I have a lot myself.” A’isha squeezed her hand. Jill.Jill waved her hand. because you should have known better.” Her throat dry and knowing what she would see. “Now the truth can be known. face the truth. In the middle of the floor. “Good. but then. A’isha opened the house and peered inside the attic area.” “Finally. “So you’ll move back here?” The pain in her new friend’s face was plain. too. “I hear you. I will pick myself up somehow.” Jill hugged her. . but I am really good. rather thick. Don’t fool yourself. A’isha spun to face Selena with a gun pointed at her chest. I can bake.” A’isha paused.

In this picture. “I should kill you now!” “Freeze!” . She had the family resemblance. A’isha had always thought her mother looked like a movie star with her silky black curls perfectly styled about her head. A million and one thoughts fought for dominance in her head. sure it must be a mistake. it’s right. lying mother would abandon me? Well she did! And she never told you she had a child. and all the blood seemed to rush from her head so she felt like she would faint. and her hair was all over head like she’d just had a rough time of it. Selena’s birth certificate. did she? No. That was impossible. “Oh. This was why Selena looked familiar.” She read the year over and over. One was her favorite. She read it aloud for Jill’s benefit. just like you said. now having a pretty good idea what she would find. Two fucking decades! And you! You thought she was so perfect. “Open the papers. I’m sorry. I—” “Would never think your whoring. she just let me rot in that hospital for nineteen years.” A’isha obeyed. I never knew. I can’t believe this. She pressed a hand to her forehead. A’isha almost didn’t want to see what it was. Theories. Her face was somewhat bloated.” “You should have!” she screamed. so wholesome! Bah!” She marched forward and jerked A’isha up off the floor by her collar. She pressed the gun into her cheek. How could she not pick that up right away? One of the papers was just what she had suspected. The woman’s eyes were riveted to the picture. her mother in a red plaid coat with black fur color. “Open the envelope. and her tone of voice was a close match to A’isha’s mothers.Chapter Fifteen Selena waved the gun at her. A’isha was too terrified to do more than hang from A’isha’s hold. “Selena. Now!” With trembling fingers. A young woman lay in a bed holding an infant in her arms. A’isha flipped the picture over. The choked sound from Selena’s mouth caused her to look up. her mother didn’t look so well. “This can’t be right. She held the picture by the corners and lifted it closer to examine. It’s right.” she whispered. A’isha recognized the woman. suspicion that she knew what was going on.” Selena snapped. “Selena and Mom at the hospital. A picture slipped from the pile and feel in her lap. goodness. fear and disappointment. A’isha tore the seal open and pulled the papers from inside. bitch. This was years before either she or her brother was even thought of. Jill screamed. She’s seen countless pictures of her mother when she was around twenty-three. “Oh.

If they hospital knew.” Selena cried. She remembered that time.” “Who. And now I’m making sure her favored daughter pays for it. why hadn’t they warned her when Selena escaped. Oddly. and stayed quiet with everyone else to see what Selena would add. one of his hands extended palm down as if that would calm her. She visited the hospital. “Her mother—my mother. so pale. A’isha had respected her privacy.” A’isha’s stomach tightened. but always when she would return.All three of them spun to look toward the stairs. and his lips tightened. She desperately wanted to know what was really happening. because he was so afraid for her. and A’isha remembered thinking her mother looked like guilt was weighing her down. “This is my time now. He held his gun more firmly. and she had kept from A’isha where she was going on those weekend visits. Not to be intimidated by the police. was still ashamed of me. every other weekend. and A’isha knew she was crying.” A’isha looked at the two officers. Did her mother abandon her infant and have her locked away in a hospital all these years? But why? And why wouldn’t she tell anyone? Selena sniffed.” Carl tugged a sheet of paper out of his jacket and flipped it open.” Selena yelled. your mother didn’t know that—” “She did know! She fucking knew about me. she dragged A’isha in front of her and pressed the gun to her temple. She took everything. still worked up. “You’re not taking that away from me. “I begged her. “I begged her to take me out of there. she’d be so ill. but she wouldn’t. The blood drained from his face. “Selena. “She abandoned me. Both Carl and Connor stood there with their guns trained on Selena. A’isha felt her hold loosen. Her mother and she were very close. and she could drag in a breath. she came to see me. The jerks had probably been trying to cover their own butts for letting her escape in the first place. Used the name Ida. She would come visit for a little while. because she wanted to hide who she was. it seemed to work. But she had dismissed the thought thinking it impossible. “Six months before she died. Now she knew differently. They must have found out that much from the hospital.” Connor asked her. A’isha stared at Connor. Selena. Neither seemed surprised by that admission. She wondered if he would do something crazy. Selena went on.” .” A’isha had jumped at the outburst.

A’isha’s head whirled. They landed in a tangle of arms and legs. but Selena recovered enough to fire. “I’m okay. and one of the men grunted. Jill screamed. I got it from here.” Carl looked to Connor. Selena punched her and tried to raise the gun toward her. I have no need of this stuff. A’isha scrambled forward and brought her knee down on Selena’s arm.Selena sunk to the floor. and she was still fighting. and the heel of her hand caught Selena under the chin. She quickly scanned it and then read aloud. I love you too. Just a scratch really. The woman went down. Carl joined her and mashed her fingers hard enough to make her let go. “Oh. A’isha saw the blood staining the ugly green linoleum her mother had installed in the basement. but she was still alert and holding the gun in a tight grip. “No!” She lost all sense of self-preservation. Someone else yanked at A’isha. She just wanted Selena dead. no you don’t!” Jill gave what A’isha assumed was one of those callouts they taught her in Tai Kwon Do. make it quick. “You just made the pain in my arm tolerable with those words. “Can you wait just a second and let me she what else is in this packet? Please?” she begged Carl. . Connor. A’isha felt sorry for Selena. A’isha hurried to Connor who to her relief was sitting up shaking his hand and holding his arm.” Not having to be asked twice.” He tugged her tighter to his chest and held on. We got her at last. She kicked at her unwanted sister and scratched her hands. “Fine. He lay face down on the floor. “I love you.” A’isha opened the page to find a letter written in her mother’s handwriting. Someone jerked Selena’s arms while she was distracted. When Selena wrapped a steel band like arm around her waist and hauled her backward. She threw herself into his arms. dragging her nails along the skin that matched hers until she drew blood. He picked up the gun and shoved it into his waistband. And she still wanted to know the whole story as well. It came from Connor. dragging A’isha along with her. A’isha turned around to see what was happening. let her go. I have a right.” He nodded to Selena. He cried out but held onto her. Carl had Selena in handcuffs.” She pressed her lips on his although he was grinning like a school boy. “Okay. They’re my papers!” Despite her trying to kill her. She clutched Connor’s hand like she couldn’t let him go and moved out of his arms long enough to snatch the sheets from the floor. “I need to know. “She does have a right. and he nodded. I’d die it anything happened to you. ladies.

because at the time. and I made sure the second time we were together that she would find us. she went to live in the state hospital. On the surface. The reason they hated us all so much was that the man I seduced was my aunt’s husband. by accident. the secret I kept from you all these years. He tried to poison me. I thought it would make her leave him and come to me. my heart was shattered when the doctors told me Selena had fought a good fight but hadn’t made it through the night. the woman who had taught her how to cook. You see. I’m so sorry that I waited so long to talk to you about my past. It didn’t. despite the evidence. she stayed with him. Not her mother. I know now. Instead. who turned away from all things immoral. This had to be someone else. to make me abort the baby. I say surface. who had instilled a sense of justice in herself and Andre their entire lives. had sent Selena away to live with someone he paid to care for her. planted bugs in his ear to rid himself of me. he was someone else’s husband at the time. I seduced him. but her mind had been damaged from the poison. they had a great relationship. But Selena was strong. that I was justified in what I did. I wanted to believe he was miserable with her. She couldn’t believe it. It was lust. . It wasn’t until year later that I learned your uncle had bribed them. but I tried every immortal trick ever committed to get that object of my lust. and while it is more common these days what with women—and girls for that matter—having babies out of wedlock left and right. I was ashamed. I learned that no only had Selena survived. Connor eased the letter from her shaking hands before she could ruin it with her tears. I should not have found it so hard to confess the truth to you. not love as I also convinced myself at the time. I know what you’re thinking. and I gave birth to her. I won’t go into details. He looked into her eyes. A’isha burst out crying. Years later. I fell in lust with a man who was not my husband. The entire family turned its back on me when I became pregnant. Andre and A’isha. From the age of sixteen. She came through all right. I got him to my bed. someone she had never known. She was unstable and violent. and she nodded for him to continue aloud. This is the rift that has caused our family not to associate themselves with us. Later. and the answer is yes. In fact.My Dear Children. not the most amazing person in the world.

A’isha.” Connor seemed to think about it. I will. We were okay for a while. Please know that you will always be in my heart no matter where we are. I know it’s selfish. I decided to stop visiting her. She knew me. aren’t you? It’s not likely she’ll get out of wherever she’s going to for a long time.” A’isha shrugged. She had the chance to make things right. visiting that way. and told her so the last time I visited. and we had a last snack of tea and dessert together. I don’t know how. I couldn’t do that. whipped Selena away and rushed her up the basement stairs. seeming to sense the urgency. She took it well. A’isha and Andre. A’isha blew her nose and wiped her face on the handkerchief Connor gave her and looked up at her sister. or rather one of them”—he winced. “Looks like we’ve all got some doozies in the closet skeleton area.Ma By the time Connor had finished reading the letter. take her out. but Connor shouted over her. “Selena’s lover. The nurse felt herself so in love with Selena that she didn’t think twice about getting the poison Selena requested for a recipe Selena wanted to make. but she did. . but there’s something else you should know. I’m ashamed of my actions and sorry that I hurt us all. Her lover squeezed her and murmured his love for her over and over before approaching the news he had to share. Selena and Jill were all crying. “Carl. She opened her mouth to speak. probably realizing that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree—“was a nurse at the state hospital.” Selena’s face held only bitterness. She can hear whatever you’re going to say.” Connor and Jill laughed nodding in agreement. “It’s okay. For that I’m truly sorry. and I love you. A’isha tried to brace herself for the worse. She screamed for her mother’s letter and her birth certificate the whole way. Andre and A’isha. but she didn’t. A’isha heard Carl telling her she’d get it once she calmed down. Now!” Carl. but Selena began to beg me to take her home. Selena. I still love Selena.I waited two months before I visited her under an assumed name. I didn’t want to lose the respect and admiration I saw in your eyes for me everyday. “I’m sorry.” He glanced at Jill who stood. I rationalized and convinced myself Selena was better off in the hospital. and a wild look came into her eyes. “You are going to let her have it. “Yes. but I loved the relationship I had you. A’isha looked up at Connor.” .

Right here. “Poison?” He grunted. It’s okay for you to love her back. People make horrible mistakes. Your mother was young and foolish.” “Oh baby. “I’m not going anywhere. “I loved her more than anyone. it’s likely that Selena’s mind would never let her forgive or let her think anything other than that everyone had abandoned her.” She sniffed. and she let her own fear get in the way of making things right. It was horrible.” “Just know I’m here.” she sobbed.” She didn’t think she had any tears left. Selena murdered your mother. blew out a heavy breath and continued. But even still. but her tear ducts proved her wrong. “Yes. We took so long getting back. still loving you.” . I’m guessing with that last meal they had together. “No. I thought she was perfect. Baby. when Andre comes back. “She was my best friend. What he did wasn’t a mistake. And I’ll have to go through all of this again.” A slow smile touched the corners of her mouth. Maybe that’s why she was taken from me. And as bad as Selena was. This was a tragic situation.” He kissed her mouth and wiped her tears with the pads of his thumbs. antimony. “You’re right. she’s looking down on you.” He pushed strands of her wet hair off her forehead and cheeks. A’isha. One of the side effects to it is heart failure. It will about destroy him as well. But know that wherever your mother is. She sobbed on Connor’s shoulder. I know. that’s not why. I thought she was practically a god among people. and he rocked her for a long time. knowing he was hurting an innocent child. because we had to get a court order to exhume your mother’s body. But it hurts all the same. “Promise?” “Promise. speaking soothing words.A’isha stiffened. it was ultimately her father who caused her to be that way.

She grinned and crossed over to him. Perfect! . “Connor!” A’isha stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips. he had Connor Junior. but still able to make him hard on sight.” She rolled her eyes at him. I think I can be persuaded to practice making another baby.” She burst out laughing. He let his gaze rove over her as he pictured her naked. “He was quiet and sleeping. Have you seen our son?” He grunted and kissed the top of his little one’s head. One that he gave A’isha the credit for. he placed his precious bundle in his bed and took A’isha in his arms. His infant.” She winced. As much as he hated thinking of people and things as being perfection. let’s talk about his nickname. We don’t have much time before Lisa brings her new boyfriend over. Carefully. Connor pushed his tongue inside her mouth. “But. One for you this time. his doctor had diagnosed him with a low sperm count. even with his stronger than ever relationship with Jill. How had it happened? A miracle. I need to be well rested before I interrogate him. She shook hers. but she drew back. only after A’isha had consented to marrying him with no hope of having kids had he stumbled on an alternative treatment. Oddly. he thought with love swelling in his heart. “You’re nuts. baby. “How about you and me go in the bedroom and make another one. “Our son. As a teen. He offered a sheepish grin and ducked his head. and he couldn’t be happier. you know that?” “For you and for Junior.Epilogue Connor leaned down over the crib and lifted his infant up into his arms. “Okay. was just that. “Oh you can forget about that. but his shaft twitched in anticipation. he couldn’t help it. dragging him toward the door. Come on. His life with A’isha and Connor Junior.” “Ah.” He blinked away the moisture in his eyes.” “I can’t help it. I’m planning to wear your thing out. “What happened to my tough as nails cop for a husband?” “Domesticated by a wife and son. Connor groaned. You’re going to spoil him. Slightly wider hips. How he loved that her breasts had grown bigger since being pregnant. Connor felt he would burst he was so happy. Now.” She wiggled her eyebrows at him.” They kissed. detective. His baby boy. well that and turned on. and I’m thinking marathon. I’m just getting my drive back. He frowned.

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