Authors: Edie Bingham
Cat moaned aloud, gasping, but still asked him, “And what part of me do you think is my best feature?” Almost before she realised it, he was easing her back onto her elbows, raising and parting her legs while still supporting them, and drawing up the hem of her dress. His voice was a whiskey purr. “When I've sampled them all, I'll be better able to judge.”
When hot-tempered Federal agent Catalina âCat' Montoya is partnered with her former lover on her first undercover investigation, she is determined not to let feelings get in the way of work. But the investigation into a charismatic criminal's latest enterprise â an exclusive members club on a supposedly haunted luxury train â soon envelops her in a passionate love triangle. As she travels through the most haunted areas of the Deep South, where sex mixes with the supernatural, Cat surrenders to the extremes of erotic experience and is finally forced to solve a fifty-year-old murder mystery.
Edie Bingham is a talented young writer of erotic fiction with a supernatural twist.
She is the author of
To the hard pounding rhythm of the train that carried them, the lovers moved their bodies together like pistons: the man driving deep into her, again and again; the woman clutching and squeezing him as another climax rushed through her.
The heat in the berth was stifling, unrelieved by the ceiling fan directly above them, and sweat matted the tips of her russet hair to her neck, before rolling down beneath the salmon-pink silk of her teddy. She wanted to take it off and be as naked as her lover, but he refused to unwrap his huge arms from around her, refused to stop using those full, strong lips and tongue.
She had no problem with that.
She sat in his lap, her thighs straddling his hips as he pushed up into her repeatedly, the tip of his shaft stroking the walls of her sex in all the right places. She felt like such a small thing in his embrace, but protected. One of his hands had descended along her spine to cup her cheeks, squeezing hungrily and sending tiny jolts through her like sparks on the rails.
Her teddy had become distracting enough for her to pull back and motion silently, until her lover got the idea and relaxed his hold on her. When she cast it aside, however, he bent her backwards until she thought she would fall from him, then he bent forwards and engulfed one of her nipples in his mouth, sucking sharply and making her yelp. Her hands gripped his arms for support, and she stared upwards, the whirling wooden blades seeming to mesmerise her.
And still he drove into her, even as she drove back, meeting
him thrust for thrust, while his free hand manoeuvred between their bodies, touching her bush, then her clit, his thumb providing a gentle but insistent teasing that made her weak with the sensations running though her.
âOh sweet God!' Riding the crest of it, she leant forwards once more, wanting to kiss him again, to push him harder, faster. She wanted him to lose control, wanted him to surrender to her for once, and fill her with his seed. She knew it would all be over, before either of them knew it.
Neither of them heard the berth door open . . .
âHis name is Jonathan “Jack” Wheeler, thirty-nine, born in Willoughby, Georgia, grew up in various foster homes, school record distinguished by a number of petty criminal cautions. From high school, he enlisted in the army, where he trained as an electronics engineer, earning an administrative discharge a year before his expected release date, the reasons for which remain unclear. Since then he has operated a number of confidence operations throughout the South-east, including telemarketing, property development and pyramid schemes. No arrests . . .'
Catalina Montoya, Special Agent for Criminal Investigations in the Internal Revenue Service, paused as she saw the high pink brow of her supervisor crease, a familiar sign that her words, at least for now, had reached the point of diminishing returns. She stood before his desk, blinking at the strong morning Miami sun pushing through the beige vertical blinds, caressing the potted plant in the corner.
Her attention returned to her supervisor, who was now turning a page in the report. Michael Hausmann was a short, unassuming man in his late forties, forever hiding behind small wire-rimmed glasses, and sporting a bald pate that creased with every smile or frown, as if seeking to amplify his particular state of mind. âAnd he currently operates this . . . Southern Spirits Tour?'
âYes, an alleged haunted luxury train that tours the backwaters of the Deep South, though given the places he advertises,
it primarily serves as a mobile swingers' party.' Catalina paused and added, âWhen couples meet to exchange partners for â'
âI know about swingers, Catalina,' Hausmann noted dryly, never looking up. âI even kissed a girl once.'
, insult your boss's intelligence, why don't you? She felt the sweat bead down her back beneath her blouse, resisted the urge to reach under her dark dress jacket and attack it. âIt's operated for the last year out of New Orleans, taking couples and parties on weekend tours. The last return received indicated he was barely making a profit.'
âAny evidence of money for sex transactions?'
âNo, sir. There are legal provisos in the online application form which stress that the fee is simply for the train tickets, accommodation etc.' She watched as he turned to a set of downloaded photos. âThose are from his website.'
Hausman's eyes narrowed at some of the photos of revellers. âI wonder if my wife is free this weekend.' He looked up, his face remaining deadpan. âThat's a joke. At ease before you sprain something.' He turned the page, settling on a mediumsized photo of a blond man, with rugged facial features and a nose that looked as if it had been broken and reset. âAnd is this Mr Wheeler?'
âHow did he come to your attention?'
She'd already thoroughly explained this in her report, but understood his preferred method of operating. âDuring the Lateece audit, I found an amount of eight thousand paid as an out-of-court settlement from Wheeler to prevent a lawsuit regarding food poisoning. Then the Fitzsimons audit indicated “gambling winnings” of nine thousand while onboard the train. And the Valdez case declared an eight thousand dollar refund from Wheeler for a cancelled trip.' She breathed in. âI know it's just a hunch, sir, but . . .'
âBut nothing. Hunches like that keep us on the top of the chart.'
She nodded. The chart listed the various Federal agencies' conviction rates, and CI had the highest conviction rate, even higher than the FBI or Homeland Security. Moreover, in the year she had worked there, she had surprised herself with her hunger for noteworthiness, her diligence and attention to detail. She undertook all additional training offered. She made sure every report she filed was complete, concise and clear, all the metaphorical ts crossed and is dotted. Hausmann couldn't find fault with her work.
However, that didn't stop him from asking questions. âAnd your reasons for requesting an undercover operation?'
âThe named cases are noted for untraced assets. The amounts are all conveniently below the usual Federal minimal reporting levels. Given Wheeler's criminal background, and the interstate operative sphere of his business, it is probable that Southern Spirits Tours is being used for money laundering â'
âNo, I mean why have you requested to conduct the operation yourself? The Special Investigative Office has trained agents on hand.'
âNone of whom are currently female, sir. Wheeler's literature indicates that he accepts only single females or couples on his train.'
âThe SIO can request an appropriate female agent from another field office.'
âUnnecessary, sir. I have the proper undercover qualifications already. It would be a Class III operation, intelligence gathering only, low risk and limited to the weekend. And the suspect has no criminal history involving firearms or violence.'
Hausmann leant back in his chair, regarding her directly; for a man short in stature and slight of build, he had an intimidating,
penetrating gaze when required. âIs that your only reason for recommending yourself, Catalina?'
She swallowed, now regretting not taking up his initial offer to sit down. âSir?'
The director let his favourite gold pen slip down his hand to the tips of his fingers, then twirled it around like a miniature baton. âAre you looking for excitement? Danger?'
âNo, sir.' She had learnt long ago that despite her badge, despite the physical fitness and weapons proficiency training, the bulk of CI work involved following audit trails, recovering assets and decrypting records. No TV producer could ever make a show about her work that was both truthful and entertaining. âI'll leave those sorts of puerile desires for the boys.'
âWell then, is it curiosity about swinging? Intrigue about what goes on?'
âI know about swingers, sir. I even kissed a boy once.'
The corners of Hausmann's thin lips rose slightly. âYou've recommended on-site investigations before, but now you're requesting personal involvement. I can't help but play on my own hunch that this has something to do with Adcock's promotion.'
Despite herself, Cat bristled, mostly because he was spot on. Harry Adcock and she had joined the Miami field office at the same time, had possessed identical qualifications, applied for the same promotions â but somehow they selected him for promotion to Special Investigations. The feedback she had received following the interviews had been perfunctory, told her simply that Adcock's overall presentation had been marginally better. However, it made her re-evaluate how she could stand out more next time.
She hadn't discussed it with Hausmann before, and she chose to be honest. âYes, sir. An undercover operation, even
a low-risk one, would demonstrate more effectively my dedication to the job â'
He raised a hand. âI have no problems with ambition among my agents. Your dedication has never been in dispute. If anything, you sometimes come across as . . . overzealous. You don't show enough of that sense of humour I know you possess.' Now he leant forwards, his expression softening into an avuncular suppleness. âYou're more than just your work here, Catalina. You should show it more often.'
âI'll . . . try, sir.'
âGood.' He closed the folder. âI'll pass this on to Simon for a threat assessment, and let you know when I know.'
Cat bypassed her office, and ventured to the ladies' room by the elevators. She checked to ensure it was unoccupied, and then swore as loudly as she thought she could get away with. Her heart still thumping, she turned and looked at herself in the mirror, glared at the reflection of a woman quietly creeping into her thirties, with a lean face inexorably softening with time, a Latin complexion that brought out her bright, challenging olive eyes, her shoulder-length ink-black hair drawn back behind her ears.
It was fine for Hausmann to tell her to lighten up. He, and the other agents beneath him, all male, didn't have to fight against the thinly veiled chauvinism of their profession, constantly judged on their gender, their looks, their attitudes. He was symptomatic of the invisible hurdles around her, the cliquey network that would keep the little woman in her place.