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Authors: Adrienne Giordano

The Chase

BOOK: The Chase
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THE CHASE

 

by

 

Adrienne Giordano

 

Hard-driving attorney Jo Pomeroy is as determined as she is sexy-in other words, a major pain in NYPD Sergeant Gabe Townsend's butt. Working together on a high-profile task force charged with busting sales of counterfeit goods has been rocky from the start. And Jo's penchant for trouble is as difficult to ignore as her spectacular legs.

 

The world of knock-offs isn't as frivolous as it appears. The purses are fake, but the danger is all too real-and Jo seems hell-bent on putting herself in the middle of it. Her investigations have uncovered valuable leads for Gabe's team, but they've also drawn the wrong kind of attention.
 
Now, she's on the radar of a mysterious smuggler not afraid to use violence to evade the law. At the risk of their lives—and their hearts—Gabe and Jo must find him before he finds them.

 

Chapter One

 

Joanna wandered Chinatown, trying to blend into the chaotic crush of shoppers milling at each storefront and street vendor’s stall. Sherry, a young investigator who’d worked for Jo’s law firm for the past six months and her partner on this excursion, angled around the late morning crowd. An unusually warm November wind blew, and Jo dragged a few stray strands of her wig from her face and tucked them behind her ear.

Across the street, a gaggle of middle-aged females and what appeared to be their teenaged daughters, made their way through the throng of shoppers. Tourists maybe. Their leader, a young Asian woman, glanced over both shoulders, then scanned the area around her. When her gaze swept in Jo’s direction, Jo turned her head, pretending to gawk at a near-miss pedestrian smackdown.

After a moment, she checked the group leader’s progress and found the troop moving along at a good clip. Jo latched onto Sherry’s elbow and tugged. “Let’s go.”

Against the red light, the two women darted into traffic and nearly got flattened by an irate taxi driver. Sherry flipped the cabbie off. With much enthusiasm, he returned the gesture and offered a stream of inaudible words.

Life in New York.

“What is it?” Sherry asked when they reached the relative safety of the sidewalk. Jo jerked her chin. After a moment of analyzing the crowd, Sherry nodded. “Gotcha.”

The line of women marched into a clothing store on the corner and just before the last person entered the shop, Jo and Sherry quietly took up the rear. Inside, the smell of dank stifled air indicated the only breeze in the place came from the door opening and closing. They needed to open some windows.

Jo held her breath for a second while the group wound through circular racks stuffed with cheap T-shirts of every color imaginable. They reached the back of the store and everyone dutifully followed the leader to a second doorway. The young girls in front of Jo giggled.

Oh, please
. For what seemed like the ten-thousandth time, Jo wondered if the older women—the mothers presumably—had hesitated, for only the briefest moment, to ponder the potentially dangerous situation they could be exposing these girls to. Even she, a ballsy attorney who took undeniable risks, never came to Tower Street without an escort.

At the bottom of the staircase, the group leader opened an unmarked door and everyone piled in. A sudden round of
oohs
and
ahs
filtered to the back of the line as each person entered. Soon enough, Jo and Sherry squeezed into a narrow room where floor to ceiling shelves on three walls were stuffed with high-end purses, shoes, sunglasses—you name it. A veritable bounty of accessories.

The leader shut the door behind them as customers pointed and perused the merchandise.

The back of Jo’s neck warmed as she scanned the names on the items. Gucci, Fendi, Coach—and yes—Barelli.
Winner
.

A teenager ogled a so-called Gucci. “Is this stuff the real thing?”

“Yes,” the Asian woman answered, her English clear, but obviously not her native language.

A real knock-off
. What were these women thinking? If this stuff was authentic, it would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t be in a stuffy, smelly storage room in the basement of a clothing store. Nope, the
proprietors
would have security devices stashed on the handles and in the pockets.

And Jo wouldn’t be here trying to scrape together information about the smuggler bringing these fake goods—particularly those with her client’s name on them—into the city. Once again, she surveyed the room and catalogued the different brands. For now, she focused on the Barelli handbags.

Time to go to work.

She pointed to a black tote. “The Barelli. How much?”

The tiny woman took in Jo’s long coat and silk scarf—
yes, I can afford it
—and bee-lined to the tote. She snatched the bag from the shelf and held it for inspection. “Sixty-five.”

Jo did her typical hemming and hawing and, for extra effect, tugged on her bottom lip. “Forty.”

The woman nudged the bag closer. “Fifty? Feel. Good leather.”

Feigning indecision, Jo shifted to Sherry, who shrugged. Like method actors, they’d gotten good at this. Jo handed the purse back. “Forty-five and I’ll take it.”

Beside her, one of the other shoppers asked about a Fendi handbag and the Asian woman glanced her way.

Time to get serious. Jo retrieved her wallet and smacked bills on the grimy glass counter. “Forty-five. There you go.”

“How about that Prada?” one of the other tourists hollered.

The woman eyed the bills, looked at the shelf then came back to Jo.

Come on
.
Take the deal.

All at once, the woman snatched the bills and handed Jo the purse before moving on to her next customer. A flurry of activity ensued. Bags and shoes and cash exchanged hands faster than the action on the floor of the Stock Exchange. This group obviously had money to spend and by the end of the frenzy, the Asian woman had probably taken in more than two thousand dollars for items that were worth, if the shoppers were lucky, less than a tenth of that.

Jo glanced at Sherry, who nodded toward the door. Yes, they should go. For the moment, this mission was complete.

—:—

Gabe stood in the doorway of Bev Richards’s office thinking the fifty-eight year old grandmother and sexy pain-in-the-ass Jo Pomeroy were surreptitiously sexually harassing him. He couldn’t prove it, but every time he showed up for a meeting with them they exchanged some sort of meaningful eye contact.

And that eye contact screamed sexual harassment. Years of working to get into the NYPD’s elite Emergency Services Unit hadn’t prepared him for the tag team of Bev and Jo. Handling these two took finesse that he’d spent almost ten months honing.

When it came to the pushy intellectual property attorney, Gabe was all in. This was a woman who’d managed to talk the mayor into Operation Clean Sweep, a task force designed to bust traffickers shipping fake luxury items into the city. From the second he’d met her, she had, in equal parts, infuriated and enthralled him.

That first day, he’d nearly pissed himself. She’d marched into the mayor’s office wearing her fancy spiked heels and a suit just tight enough to let a man’s imagination run more than a little wild, and immediately Gabe started conjuring sexual positions he’d like to test with her.

Then she’d opened her mouth.

And hadn’t shut up since.

He’d say this for Jo Pomeroy: the woman knew how to get shit done. Her long legs, nice rack and shoulder-length blond hair were a bonus.

Bev, the mayor’s point person on Operation Clean Sweep, waved him into the office and he smacked his notepad against his thigh. Going into meetings with these two scared the hell out of him.
Suck it up, pal
.

“Good morning, ladies. Tom got called away. You’re stuck with me.” Tom was Gabe’s boss, who usually attended these meetings with him.

Bev pointed to the vacant guest chair. “Then it’s our lucky day. Have a seat.”

Jo turned her baby blues on him and grinned. “Hello, Sergeant.”

Apparently, she wanted to play. He nodded. “Ms. Pomeroy, you haven’t called me sergeant in nine months. Why the formality?”

She flipped a page on her notepad. “Thought I’d give you a thrill.”

She puckered her lips and the movement accentuated the curve of her cheek. Once again, Gabe corralled his baser needs and grinned. “You know I always appreciate that.”

Oh, shit.
He shouldn’t have said
that
in front of Bev. Blame it on Jo. In the months they’d worked together, they’d curbed the amount of fake goods coming into the city and figured out one guy—who they still couldn’t find—was responsible for seventy percent of the items. With Jo’s team helping with investigations and Gabe’s team making the busts, they had fallen into the habit of one-upping each other in the verbal combat department. To his count they were about even, but he might have a few on her. Not that he’d tell her that.

As reasonable, professional people, they tended to keep the snarkfest out of his superiors’ offices. Given her opening parry, she must be stoked about something, and that meant she would dive headfirst into telling him how to do his job.

Bev sat forward and held a hand to Jo. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

From beside her chair, she swung a kitchen garbage bag to the desk and stood to dump its contents. Out of it came a large black purse, a couple of watches and a pair of boots.

All high-end.

All new.

All, no doubt, knockoffs.

She held up the purse. She’d call it a tote bag, but whatever. “I bought this one yesterday morning. My investigators picked up the rest of this stuff last night.”

Bev scrutinized the watch. “All at the same place?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re sure they’re fakes?”

“Absolutely.” She held the bag closer to Bev. “See this stitching around the handle? It’s wrong. Barelli trains us to know what their stitching looks like. This isn’t it. I’m telling you, that place was loaded with counterfeits.”

Gabe jotted notes as the women talked. “Got an address?”

She handed him a few sheets of clipped paper. “Here’s everything I could find. I included a map of the inside for you.”

He shuffled the papers until he got to the map. Detailed. Extremely. The woman was a pain in the ass, but she was a pro. She stepped closer to him and her perfume, check that, probably soap—Jo wasn’t the perfume type—had his hot-woman radar beeping.

She leaned down and pointed to the map. “I saw a back door right here. I’m not sure where it leads and I didn’t want to get caught snooping. I can send one of my investigators, though.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Gabe said, dragging his eyes from the long blond strands sliding over her shoulder.

Egotistically speaking, he didn’t like having other people do his job, but the overburdened city budget didn’t allow for law enforcement to chase every counterfeiter in the city. The problem was too huge and other cases, like people dying, were given priority.

Until Jo came along with her proposal for an anticounterfeiting task force. Her law firm agreed to hire private investigators, funded by luxury brand clients, to do the grunt work. The investigators, Jo included, went out and found the hidden places people sold the goods and identified those goods as counterfeit. Jo got the proof and ESU busted the merchants. In the first month the task force was in action, they’d seized more than a half-million dollars in fake goods. Since then, it had been bust after bust of high-end knockoffs.

A political win for the mayor and a professional coup for Jo, who made no bones about wanting to form a nationwide initiative to reduce the counterfeit trade in the U.S. For Gabe and his boss, it meant being in favor with a tough, politically savvy mayor. Never a bad thing with Gabe wanting to make lieutenant.

Yep, if he did his job well, this task force would be his ticket to a better rank and higher pay grade. He liked to think of himself as an honest cop who played by the rules, but he also wasn’t afraid to bend those rules if it meant cleaning up a city ripe with criminals.

By confiscating knock-off purses.

BOOK: The Chase
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