Cameron faced off against the cop guarding the door to her hotel room, determined to get some answers.
The young police officer nodded sympathetically. “I know, ma’am, and I do apologize, but I’m just following orders.”
Maybe it was her frustration at being cooped up in her hotel room for what was now going on five—yes, five—hours, but Cameron was going to strangle the kid if he ma’am-ed her one more time. She was thirty-two years old, not sixty. Although she’d probably given up the right to be called “Miss” somewhere around the time she had started thinking of twenty-two-year-old man-boy police officers as kids.
Deciding that throttling a cop was probably not the best way to go when presumably dozens more stood right outside her door (she couldn’t say for sure; she hadn’t been permitted to even look out into the hallway, let alone step a toe out there), Cameron tried another tactic. The man-boy clearly responded to authority, maybe she could use that to her advantage.
“Look, I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but I’m an assistant U.S. attorney. I work out of the Chicago office—”
“If you live in Chicago, what are you doing spending the night in a hotel?” Officer Man-Boy interrupted.
“I’m redoing my hardwood floors. The point is—”
“Really?” He seemed very interested in this. “Because I’ve been trying to find somebody to update my bathroom. The people who owned the place before me put in this crazy black and white marble and gold fixtures and the place looks like something out of the Playboy Mansion. Mind if I ask how you found a contractor to take on a job that small?”
Cameron cocked her head. “Are you trying to sidetrack me with these questions, or do you just have some weird fascination with home improvement?”
“Possibly the former. I was under the distinct impression that you were about to become difficult.”
Cameron had to hide her smile. Officer Man-Boy may not have been as green as she’d thought.
“Here’s the thing,” she told him, “you can’t keep me here against my will, especially since I’ve already given my statement to Detective Slonsky. You know that, and more important, I know that. There’s clearly something unusual going on with this investigation, and while I’m willing to cooperate and give you guys a little leeway as a professional courtesy, I’m going to need some answers if you expect me to keep waiting here. And if you’re not the person who can give me those answers, that’s fine, but then I’d like it if you could go get Slonsky or whoever it is that I should be talking to.”
Officer Man-Boy was not unsympathetic. “Look—I know you’ve been stuck in this room for a long time, but the FBI guys said that they’re gonna talk to you as soon as they finish next door.”
“So it’s the FBI who’s running this, then?”
“I probably wasn’t supposed to say that.”
“Why do they have jurisdiction?” Cameron pressed. “This is a homicide case, right?”
Officer Man-Boy didn’t fall for the bait a second time. “I’m sorry, Ms. Lynde, but my hands are tied. The agent in charge of the investigation specifically said I’m not allowed to talk to you about this.”
“Then I think I should speak to the agent in charge. Who is it?” As a prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois, she had worked with many of the FBI agents in Chicago.
“Some special agent—I didn’t catch his name,” Officer Man-Boy said. “Although I think he might know you. When he told me to guard this room, he said he felt bad for sticking me with you for this long.”
Cameron tried not to show any reaction, but that stung. True, she wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with a lot of the FBI agents she worked with—many of them still blamed her for that incident three years ago—but with the exception of one particular agent who, fortunately, was miles away in Nevada or Nebraska or something, she hadn’t thought that anyone in the FBI disliked her enough to openly bad-mouth her.
Officer Man-Boy looked apologetic. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re so bad.”
“Thanks. And did this unknown special agent who allegedly thinks he knows me have anything else to say?”
“Only that I should go get him if you start acting fussy.” He looked her over. “You’re going to start acting fussy now, aren’t you?”
Cameron folded her arms across her chest. “Yes, I think I am.” And it wouldn’t be an act. “You go find this agent, whoever he is, and tell him that that the fussy woman in room 1307 is through being jerked around. And tell him that I would appreciate it very much if he could wrap up his little power trip and condescend to speak to me himself. Because I would like to know how long he expects me to sit here and wait.”
“For as long as I ask you to, Ms. Lynde.”
The voice came from the doorway.
Cameron had her back to the door, but she would’ve recognized that voice anywhere—low and as smooth as velvet.
It couldn’t be.
She turned around and took in the man standing across the room from her. He looked exactly the same as he did the last time she’d seen him three years ago: tall, dark, and scowling.
She didn’t bother to mask the animosity in her voice. “Agent Pallas . . . I didn’t realize you were back in town. How was Nevada?”
From his icy look, Cameron knew that her day, which had already been off to a most inauspicious start, had just gotten about fifty times worse.
* * *
Excerpt from Chapter Three
Jack Pallas made quite an impression on her the ﬁrst time he and his partner walked into her ofﬁce. Cameron suspected nearly everyone who met him had the same reaction: with predatory brown eyes, nearly black hair, and dark facial scruff, he looked like the kind of guy that women—and men—should avoid in dark alleys. He had a cast on his right forearm, presumably an injury inﬂicted by Martino’s men, and he wore a navy T-shirt and jeans instead of the standard-issue suit and tie most agents were expected to wear. From the look of him, she was not at all surprised the FBI had chosen him for undercover work.
And three years later—as he stood across from her in that hotel room that suddenly seemed far too small, with his eyes glittering with a low-simmering anger, and, yes, even despite the standard-issue suit and tie he wore this time—he looked not one bit less dangerous.
“I want to talk to a lawyer,” Cameron said.
“You are a lawyer,” he said. “And you’re not considered a suspect, so you’re not entitled to one, anyway.”
“What am I considered, then?”
“A person of interest.”
This was bullshit. “Here’s the deal: I’m tired and not in the mood to play games. So if you don’t start telling me what’s going on, I’m walking,” Cameron said.
Jack eyed her yoga sweats and Michigan T-shirt, looking unconcerned with her threats. Thank God she wasn’t still hanging out in her underpants.
“You’re not going anywhere.” He pulled the chair out and gestured. “Take a seat.”
“Thanks, but no. I think I’ll just stick with the plan where I walk out.” Before he could call her bluff, Cameron grabbed her purse and headed for the door. The hell with her stuff, she’d get it later. “It was nice catching up with you, Agent Pallas. I’m glad to see those three years in Nebraska didn’t make you any less of an asshole.”
She threw open the door and nearly ran into a man standing in the doorway. He wore a well-cut gray suit and tie, appeared younger than Jack, and was African American.
He ﬂashed Cameron a knock-out smile while precariously balancing three Starbucks cups in his hands. “Thanks for getting the door. What’d I miss?”
“I’m storming out. And I just called Agent Pallas an asshole.”
“Sounds like good times. Coffee?” He held the Starbucks out to her. “I’m Agent Wilkins.”
Cameron threw a knowing glance over her shoulder. “Good cop, bad cop? Is that the best you’re capable of, Jack?”
He stalked across the room and stopped in the doorway, towering over her. “You have no idea what I’m capable of,” he said darkly.
As he reached over and took one of the coffee cups from Wilkins, Cameron made a mental note to be careful when taunting a man who carried a gun, blamed her for nearly wrecking his career, and who was over a head taller than she was. She internally said a few profanities for her earlier decision to put on gym shoes; she needed at least three-inch heels to face off against Jack Pallas. Although that still would have only put her at his chin level. Not to mention that she would’ve looked like a major jackass wearing Manolos and yoga pants.
* * *
And yet another excerpt…
“I told you, we’re not ﬁnished with our conversation.” Jack smiled slightly. “What’s wrong? Don’t trust yourself around me?”
Cameron raised an eyebrow. Hardly. “Fine. Let’s get this over with. Where’s your car?”
“Parked on the street in front of my apartment.” He pointed behind her. “We’re taking that.”
Cameron turned and saw a motorcycle parked in front of the building. She was no expert on motorcycles—far from it—so later when Collin interrupted her at this point as she recounted the details of the evening to ask her ﬁve thousand damn questions about what kind of motorcycle Jack drove, the best she could tell him was that, no, it wasn’t a Harley, and no, it wasn’t one of those crotch-rocket sport bikes either.
It was silver and black, and it was deﬁnitely a bad-boy bike, she decided as she looked it over. But bad-boy in a reﬁned, understated sort of way. It suited Jack well.
But still. It was a motorcycle.
“I’m not getting on that,” she told him.
“Never been on a bike before?” he guessed.
“Ah, no. Not my thing.”
“How do you know they’re not your thing if you’ve never been on one?”
“For starters, they’re dangerous.”
“Not in the right hands.” Jack walked over to the motorcycle and climbed on.
Cameron had a retort ready, but it died on her lips.
Holy shit, he looked ridiculously hot on the bike.
Jack nodded. “Come on—let’s go.”
She walked over. “How am I supposed to ride that thing in a dress?”
He didn’t so much as blink. “That slit at your thigh should do the trick.”
He’d noticed the slit of her dress.
Cameron hiked up her dress and climbed on, showing a lot of leg in the process. Oops. She adjusted her jacket to cover up, wondering how much Jack had seen. From the look on his face when she glanced up, he’d seen plenty.
“Oh yeah—the dress works just ﬁne,” he said with a warmer gleam in his eyes than she was used to seeing.
Cameron looped her purse around her wrist and settled it into her lap. She searched around the seat for her handles. “What do I hold on to?”