Read Temperature's Rising Online

Authors: Karen Kelley

Temperature's Rising

SOMETHING
IN
THE
AIR
SEEMED
TO

SHIFT
BETWEEN
THEM

Like she realized they were actually carrying on a conversation, and he didn’t think she liked him that much.

And why should she? Not after he’d arrested her. At the very least, she seemed edgy around him.

“You were right.” He stared at her, liking the way her eyes widened just slightly when she looked at him.

“About what?” she asked.

For a moment he forgot everything except the expec-tant look on her face; then he remembered what he’d wanted to tell her. “The stew. It was good.” She suddenly laughed. His senses absorbed the light and beauty of the sound. The dying notes wrapped around him, bringing an unfamiliar longing that settled in the center of his chest. He held his breath, not wanting the moment to escape.

The spell broke and Conor exhaled. What the hell had just happened? One minute he had everything under control, and in the next, he was lost in the sound of her laughter, and wishing he could get to know her better.

She sprang from her chair, grabbing her bowl, but instead of ceramic, her hand closed over his. The room grew quiet. Her fingers were soft and warm. His insides quaked.

Her pupils dilated, and she leaned just a fraction toward him. The urge to pull her into his arms and taste the sweetness of her mouth was almost unbearable. Conor didn’t think she’d put up much resistance.

Hell, why not? One kiss wouldn’t hurt. He set the bowls on the table and pulled her into his arms, lowering his mouth to hers.

Also by Karen Kelley

COSMIC SEX

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE SEXY KIND

THE MORGUE THE MERRIER

DOUBLE DATING WITH THE DEAD

HELL ON WHEELS

SOUTHERN COMFORT

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE

TEXAS BAD BOYS

BAD BOYS WITH EXPENSIVE TOYS

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation Temperature’s RRising

Karen Kelley

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

This book is dedicated to my son-in-law, Special Agent
Skip Wheeler. I admire your courage and strength. The
word “can’t” isn’t part of your vocabulary. You are a true
hero.

To my father-in-law, Charles Kelley, who says if you
want it bad enough then don’t let anything hold you back.

To Mary Duncan, longtime friend and writing buddy.

My life is so much richer because of you.

To Angie Kappel, friend and fan. Thanks for showing
up at my book signings!

Chapter 1

Jessica Nelson was out to impress only one person today. It was going to be a damn good impression. She wouldn’t settle for anything less.

She adjusted her rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of her reflection. One eyebrow cocked upward.

She could easily see herself as the poster girl for female real estate agents across the country.
I am woman, hear
me roar!

John Bitters
would
make an offer for the property and she’d prove to her family once and for all she could make it in a job outside law enforcement, the fire department, and the blasted medical field. She’d turned in her badge . . .

and made the right decision.

Her hands tightened on the steering wheel. Yes, it
was
the right decision.

“You are a female,” she told herself with conviction.

“No more uniforms. No more guns. No more being
Jess
, one of the guys.” She drew in a deep breath—just like the spiritualist had taught her on the discounted CD she’d found in a bookstore bin. “Yom-da-da-da-da.” This was her day to shine.

8

Karen Kelley

POP! Psssssstttttttt! Thump

thump

thump

thump
. . .

She flinched. Or maybe not.

Damn! Not today. She slapped her turn signal on and limped her car into a vacant parking lot. No, not today of all days. She eased her foot down on the brake and when the car jerked to a stop, shifted into Park. Great, she thought as she glanced around. The streets were practically deserted on this side of town, and she knew why: broken windows, bottles, and graffiti decorated the buildings. If she called a service station it would be at least an hour before anyone showed up.

One glance at her watch and she began twisting the top button on her blouse. She was supposed to meet John in ten minutes. She had everything timed so she wouldn’t appear overeager to sell him the property. Now, she was going to be late.

Deep breaths. Calm. She closed her eyes. “Yom-da-da-da . . .”

Oh, screw it. She’d just change the damn tire, and if she was late, she’d apologize. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t changed a tire before. Maybe growing up with mostly male cousins and a brother hadn’t been
that
horrible.

She’d come away with a few useful talents.

She opened the door, grabbed her keys out of the ignition, and hit the button that popped the trunk. Good thing she had a spare—even if it was the doughnut. The smaller tire would get her to her appointment, then to a service station.

She cringed as she strode past the flat tire. They were practically new.

Once she was at the back of the car, she raised the trunk and leaned inside, flipping aside the gray carpet so she could get to the spare. You’d think the manufacturer would . . .

TEMPERATURE’S RISING

9

“Hey, baby. I like what you’re showing me so far, but I think you can do better than that.” She stilled.

“The lady looks sweet, Frankie. Maybe she wants to party with us.”

Her father would tell her it was her own fault. She’d taken a shortcut to get to the property, right through the seediest part of town.

“Come on, baby, show us what you got.” She shrugged. If that’s what he wanted. She slid her hand to the right, lifting the lid off the small, wooden box that she always kept in the trunk of whatever car she owned at the time. It was a gift from Daddy on her six-teenth birthday eleven years ago, along with the 9mm.

“Maybe she don’t hear so good.” His voice hardened.

“We want to see more,
baby
.” The gun felt good in her hand—almost like an old friend. She turned, pointing the barrel at them. “And just what exactly do you want to see, boys? The bullets? I have a full clip. I can show you a hell of a lot more than you expected to see.”

They paled.

Ah, Jessica, shame on you.
They couldn’t be more than seventeen, and wearing baggy pants that showed more than half their dingy underwear. They didn’t look like gang members. At least, they didn’t wear the colors.

She sighed. But if they wanted to play with the big boys—or in her case, girl, then they had to take the con-sequences.

They raised their hands and backed away. “Hey, lady, we didn’t mean nothin’.” His laugh was more like a high-pitched squeak.

“Yeah, lady. We were just jokin’ around.” She twirled the gun once, not an easy feat with a loaded 9mm, bent her knees, and waved the gun back and 10

Karen Kelley

forth between them, making the face that always scared the hell out of her cousins when they were growing up. It was a cross between sucking on a lemon and baring her teeth all at the same time. “I just got out of a mental institution. Maybe I
would
like to play. What say, boys?” She began to twitch her right eye, then her shoulder. “Are you up for a little Russian roulette? But I get to hold the gun.”

“Shit!” They turned and took off so fast she’d be surprised if they hadn’t broken some kind of speed record.

She shook her head. “Kids.” Apparently they didn’t want to play, after all. She laughed. Her gaze fell on her watch. Damn! She had to be at the property in five minutes. She replaced her gun, and brought out the jack.

By the time she’d loosened the lug nuts she was hot and sweaty. It was worth the few seconds it took to toss her jacket into the backseat.
Better
. Cooler, if nothing else. She glanced at her watch: one minute before her meeting.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry.” She tugged on the punctured tire. It came off with a whoosh.
Rip!
She landed on her butt with a splat.

The tearing sound couldn’t have been her skirt. Not good. Her pulse quickened.

“Yom-da-da-da-da.” Deep breaths. She could almost hear the spiritualist’s soothing voice, like gentle rain on a tin roof,
“Relax the mind, then the body.”
Assess the situation
, she told herself. With one eye closed, she glanced down. She jerked her head up.

Don’t hyperventilate!
It wasn’t
that
bad. The slit in the side of her skirt was only . . . only a few inches higher.

She twisted her button, wanting to scream. No, she wouldn’t scream.

She was a big girl—having a really bad fucking day!

Okay, she could get through this. Gathering her wits, and her dignity, she stood. All was not lost . . . if she hur-TEMPERATURE’S RISING

11

ried. She grabbed the smaller tire and slapped it on, throwing all her one hundred and twenty pounds into tightening the lug bolts.

Ten minutes later, she put the bad tire in the trunk, and pulled out of the parking lot. Her gaze moved to the dash clock. If nothing else slowed her down she might not miss her appointment. Any normal person would wait a few minutes.

She glanced in the rearview mirror and flinched. So much for looking professional. Ten minutes in a bathroom would do wonders for her appearance, but she just couldn’t spare the time. She wiped her hand across the smudge on her cheek. Her lipstick was gone, and she’d lost the clip that had held her hair in its tidy little French twist. She could live with loose hair. She just wasn’t sure about the run in her hose. Okay, more like the Boston Marathon.

After all this, John better be waiting.

The closer she got to the downtown property, the slower traffic became as people rushed home from work.

The minutes ticked by until finally, she pulled behind the property and parked her car.

Jessica rushed around to the front of the building, smoothing her hands down the sides of her skirt. She was only twenty-five minutes late. Maybe John was still waiting.

The sidewalk was empty. No one waited.

Damn! Damn! And double damn! She strode up and down the sidewalk, twisting the top button on her blouse and frowning.

I’ve probably lost the sale.

This couldn’t possibly be happening to her . . . Okay, so maybe she didn’t have the best luck in the world. But today?

She drew in a deep breath to calm her jangled nerves 12

Karen Kelley

and inhaled the acidic taste of fumes from the rush-hour traffic. Her eyes were already starting to water from the noxious odor.

Her gaze skimmed the commercial district of White Plains, or at least what she could see of it. Not one blue car zoomed past. Every color in the rainbow except blue.

Come on, John, show up!

The ink wasn’t even dry on her real estate license. This would really impress her boss, and her family was already taking bets she’d return to the force within six months. Her pride wouldn’t let it happen, but if John didn’t show in the next ten minutes, she’d be forced to grovel and hope he’d reschedule. She’d wanted this sale to go smoothly. Stupid flat tire . . .

As she strode up the sidewalk, she caught her reflection in the plate-glass window. Her belly flip-flopped. She slowly walked closer. Oh, this was really bad. She furiously twisted her button in the opposite direction. If the slit were any higher, she’d be arrested.

Good thing her father was the police chief.

She almost laughed, but remembered her predicament and sobered. This was no time for hysteria.

Okay, think. Troy had told her that his brother John would meet her at the property around five-thirty. She glanced at her watch.
After six
. Had he already been here and left?

Exhaling a sigh of regret, she walked to the small parking area behind the building where she’d left her car and unlocked the door. Maybe Troy would know something.