Read Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel Online

Authors: Elizabeth Bemis

Tags: #Mail Order Bride, #FBI, #military, #Police

Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel (11 page)

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
4.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

As he made his way toward the cash register, he tossed in a bag of rawhide chews and a couple of rope bones and chew toys. Flea shampoo followed—because even though it was November and well past flea season, that was one mangy mutt. Before he could talk himself into buying anything else, he paid for his purchases and stepped toward the exit.

The do-it-yourself dog tag machine mocked him as he passed it on his way out of the store. He stopped. Shook his head at himself and contemplated the machine. While calling himself a fool, he balanced on his crutch, sliding his wallet back out of his hip pocket. He pulled out a couple of dollars and fed them into the machine.

Before he could talk himself out of it, he keyed in the dog’s name.
Hvala
. Owner’s First Name:
Dana
. Owner’s Middle Name:
Not
. Owner’s Last Name:
Deck
. There. He was absolved of responsibility. It wasn’t his dog. He keyed in his phone number since Dana didn’t have one of her own, and pressed the “make tag now” button.

After a few moments of grinding and clicking, the tag dropped, and Deck pulled it out, tucking it into his pocket.

Christ. There should be a law against being this ridiculous.

Deck headed back out into the rain, leaning on the cart for support in the puddle-infested parking lot. He crammed his purchases in the backseat, returned the cart to the carousel, and slid in behind the wheel, soaked to the skin.

It took only minutes to return home.

He heard a shriek and then a laugh. He found her in the laundry room, up to her elbows in suds, the dog in the laundry tub between the washer and dryer. On the washer sat his clippers.

The ones he used to cut his own hair.

He should be annoyed as hell. His hair was going to smell like some horrible combination of wet dog, raw sewage, and disgruntled skunk the next time it needed to be cut.

Somehow, however, he couldn’t summon much irritation. Perhaps because Dana provided an excellent distraction. Her face was flushed from the exertion of bathing the dog, and her top had a number of damp patches, leaving the white cotton of her T-shirt semitransparent.

In the trash next to the washer were piles of dirty, wet, matted dog hair, and the dog’s pink skin was noticeable under what little short wet hair was left on his body.

Dana still hadn’t noticed him, but the dog did. He barked as she began rinsing him off.

The dog barked again, this time more insistently.

“What did you do to that dog?” he asked.

Dana jumped, obviously startled.

“I…I cut hair.”

The dog yapped several times in a row, clearly displeased with the whole affair. “You’ve turned him into an angry naked dog,” he said, suppressing a grin in spite of himself.

“Not naked,” she said, indicating the end of the dog’s tail that had just enough hair for a pom-pom.

“Oh great. So he’s a sissy, angry, naked dog.”

She giggled, her dimples going deep, and Deck lost what little was left of his mind as all the blood in his brain headed south.

He stepped toward her and slid his fingers into the damp hair behind her ear, cupping her cheek. His eyes bored into hers for a long, long moment. In a choked voice, he hoarsely voiced the only remaining thought in his head. “You are so fucking pretty.” For endless seconds, electricity held them together. Slowly, so slowly, he leaned toward her until their lips met.

It felt like…

Coming home.

Her lips were warm, soft, gentle. He pressed, retreated, pressed again. A soft whisper left her throat, and he moved in closer, leaning his weight against the laundry tub, pulling her closer with the hand that had somehow made it to her waist.

Dana slid her arms around his body, pressing him to her with her hands against his shoulder blades. She turned her body to face him fully, and she whimpered when his arousal hit her belly. Or maybe he was the one who whimpered; he couldn’t say for sure.

For that moment, nothing mattered. Not the cold rain soaking his clothes, not the dog, who he suspected was going to make an escape attempt at any moment, not his leg, and not the woman whom he didn’t know a damn thing about or what the hell he was going to do with.

He thought of nothing but the sweet taste of her mouth and the feel of her fingertips on his back, the soft pillow of her breasts against his chest and how much he wished he could abracadabra their clothes away.

She slid her arms up around his neck, urgently bringing his head down to her, rising up on her tiptoes so she could get even closer. Deck cupped her rear with both hands, pulling her hard into his body before he began to sway. Before he ruined the moment by falling to the floor, he picked her up, turned, and deposited her on the washer, stepping between her thighs so he could lean against the sturdy washer and her.

His lips never once left hers.

In a move that surprised him more than he could say, she clamped her legs around his body, pulling him in. The erection already straining against the fly of his jeans met the hot, soft cradle of her thighs, surging until the line between pleasure and pain blurred.

To say that her passionate response was a surprise was a monumental understatement. If he’d thought about it—and he’d really tried not to—he would probably have expected that her reaction to a kiss would be sweet, reserved, and timid.

There was nothing timid about her at all. This wasn’t just a kiss. They were inhaling each other. Some almost sane part of Deck knew he should stop things while he still could.

He just wasn’t certain that that moment hadn’t already passed.



Deck’s lips hesitated against hers, and Dana realized instantly how out of control the situation had gotten.

The situation.

How out of control
she
had gotten. Almost a year without physical contact of a sexual nature was obviously too long. She relaxed her thighs from around Deck’s taut hips. She had to physically make herself release her hands from around his torso and pull back. She died a little death for each micrometer that separated them. Deck’s breath was as unsteady and uneven as hers. They both sounded like they’d just run a marathon.

She rested her forehead against his T-shirt, realizing only then it was soaking wet from the rain. Steam nearly radiated from his body. She tried to regroup, but she was surrounded by the scent of fabric softener and Deck, which made it hard to concentrate.

Deck’s hold around her body loosened fractionally, and his hands slipped slowly down her back to rest carefully at her waist. He turned his head to drop a kiss at her temple. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she felt…

Cherished. Cared for.
Loved.

No! No! No!

She should not be getting ideas about Deck Murphy. She knew that as soon as he found out who she was, he’d probably never speak to her again. And she’d go on to the next case and her life would return to normal. And she didn’t want normal to include a broken heart, which it most certainly would if she started even thinking words like
love
when it came to Deck.

Looking for a distraction, she glanced right and caught a glimpse of the dog sitting patiently in the laundry tub, his head cocked to the side with a “what strange little humans these are” look on his face.

She straightened, pulling even farther away as a giggle caught her by surprise. Deck’s gaze went the same direction, and a short rusty chuckle burst out of his chest.

Even wearing his everyday grim expression, Deck was phenomenally attractive, but with a full smile on his face, he took her breath away.

“You should do that more,” she said. Without quite intending to, she found herself cupping his jaw in her hand, realizing too late that her accent had slipped. She made an effort not to flinch with the realization.

“Do what?” he asked, nuzzling just a bit into her palm. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed.

She tried to remember the accent in spite of the pounding of her heart. “Laugh. Smile.”

His hands, still resting lightly on her hips, tightened for a second. “Believe it or not, I’ve laughed and smiled a lot more in the past week than I have in the past year.”

Something tightened in her chest. And just how sad was that?

He pulled away, retrieving his crutch from where he’d hooked it over the edge of the washtub.

“Your dog needs a towel,” he said, grabbing one from the stack in a laundry basket he had yet to put away and handing it to her.

So that was the end of that. She should be grateful he had the control to stop things. And while she envied his control, she definitely wasn’t grateful. The line between cover and reality was blurring, and that was dangerous. She was playing his hopeful bride. But her heart needed to remember it was only an act.

Dana slid down off the washer, feeling bereft. She took the towel from his hands. She crooned to the dog in Croatian as she rubbed the towel over his dripping body, scrubbing at the fur on his legs so that he didn’t leave wet footprints all over the house when she let him down. She picked him up, holding him like a baby in her arms so she could dry his belly.

He put up with the treatment without any fuss.

“Good doggie,” she said, remembering to keep her accent firmly in place.

He reached out his tongue for a little lick of her chin. “
Hvala
,” she said to the dog, before peeking up at Deck. “We need to name dog.”

He dug a hand in his pocket and pulled out a small red aluminum tag shaped like a dog bone. “I guessed at the spelling,” he said.

She had to laugh when she read both the dog’s name and the owner’s.

She found an answering grin on Deck’s face. It was everything she could do not to toss the dog back in the tub and launch herself at him again.

That would be a monumentally bad idea—not only for her cover, but also for her heart.

“Spelled right,” she said. His eyes caught hers. “Hvala,” she said.

He winked.

It was such an outrageously flirtatious thing for him to do, she didn’t know how to respond. Before she could say anything, he handed her a bag with the PetSmart logo on it. Dog toys and treats, a water dish and food bowl, leash, collar. Flea shampoo.

“So much…”

“Just your basic new-dog starter kit,” he said, shrugging.

She knew he never would have done this if not for her, and she was touched.

He stepped back toward the kitchen, leaning on his crutch. “This mutt of yours has kept us from dinner. You hungry?”

She nodded.

“I’m starving.”

She followed him in, keeping the dog in her arms. He was mostly dry now, but holding him gave her something to do with her hands besides molest Deck, and the dog certainly didn’t seem to mind. He’d gotten pretty mellow as she continued to stroke him.

Eventually, she draped the towel over the barstools next to the one she was sitting on and just held Hvala on her lap.

While Deck had been at the pet store, she’d tossed the ruined food and cleaned the pan. Now Deck picked it up and started a new batch of rice.

As they waited for the water to heat up, he pulled leftovers out of the fridge and arranged some leftover turkey and green beans on two plates.

“Anything I do to help?” she asked.

He quirked an eyebrow. “I think we’ve already determined your talents lie elsewhere.”

She thought about responding but figured he’d probably said that the way he had so she wouldn’t understand…given her
limited
English skills.

She had to tell him the truth.

After that kiss, she just couldn’t keep lying to him.

The question was, when she did come clean, would he ever speak to her again?

And of course, there was the matter of her boss canning her ass if she disobeyed a direct order.

Chapter Nine

Sunday, November 30—8:15 p.m.

Twenty miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio

“I’m on my way to the city,” he said when the phone was answered. “I’m counting on you for entertainment.”

“This is kind of last minute,” was the nervous reply.

And perhaps it was, but he really wanted to see Anka. And he didn’t want her to feel lonely, so he needed to bring a friend.

“And that is my problem how?”

“Didn’t we agree on once a month?”

“I do recall that was your recommendation. I don’t recall agreeing to it.”

The other man cleared his throat, and he rather enjoyed listening to him squirm.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be possible this time. My contact is out of town.”

He kept his breathing controlled. Now was not the time to lose his restraint. There would be plenty of time for that when he was lying in Anka’s sweet arms.

“And what am I to do? We have an arrangement.” He didn’t think the reminder was needed. “I want to party early.”

“I’ll be happy to prepare your usual lodgings and the woman.”

It amused him how he refused to say her name. Amused and irritated. She had such a beautiful name.
Anka.

Undoubtedly, she missed him as much as he missed her.

“Don’t fuck with me.”

“What do you want from me? I can’t conjure someone up from thin air. If you want another woman that bad, rent a hooker.” The line went dead.

His nostrils flared with distaste. A prostitute was out of the question. He liked his women young and clean, without drugs or disease running through their veins. Where could he find such a woman?

And why was he being forced to?

Clearly his associate’s last lesson into why his orders should be followed to the letter hadn’t been taken seriously.

He’d have to remind him.

But first, it was time to take matters into his own hands.

He couldn’t wait any longer to see Anka.



Monday, December 1—7:00 a.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

It was physical therapy day, and Deck was dreading it as much as usual. He showered, shaved, and made his way down to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, yawning as he slowly inched his way down the steps.

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
4.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Frozen Heat (2012) by Richard Castle
Excalibur Rising by Eileen Hodgetts
My Childhood by Maxim Gorky
The Forbidden Land by Kate Forsyth
Navajo's Woman by Beverly Barton
Never Been Loved by Kars, C.M.