Slave to Love(10)

By: Nikita Black

He paused and made a quick check of how Caroline was doing. Her face had turned five shades of green looking at the dead man, but she was valiantly struggling against her natural reaction. She'd dropped the black murder kit and folded her arms tightly over her chest, and was now busy biting her thumbnail to the quick.

Forty-five seconds, max.

He carefully stepped around the front of the chair. “Stomach slit medially, sternum to lower abdomen.” He slowly eased out a breath over the top of the tape recorder. “Lots of blood, lots of guts pouring out onto his lap.” Not terribly scientific, but it would do.

From the doorway he heard a low female curse, followed by a choking sound. Damn.

Caroline spun from the bloody carnage and stumbled in her ridiculous heels toward the stairs, clutching onto the banister as she tripped down them.

“All right, guys, it's your show.” Mick scooped up the black bag and followed in her wake. “I'll be back up in a bit.”

He vaulted to the bottom of the staircase, grabbed her arm and steered her toward the back of the house. With her hand pressed tightly to her mouth, she struggled mutely against both him and the nausea that must be threatening to explode.

He shoved her into a small powder room off the hall and kicked the door closed behind them. She doubled over the pedestal sink, but on the way downstairs he had managed to whip out a plastic trash bag from the kit and he now held it up for her as she hurled.

“That's right, let it all out,” he murmured softly as she puked her guts out. “Just hang onto my arms. Try not to touch anything else.”

He stood right up against her back, bracing her between his elbows and legs, holding the trash bag to her face. She clung tightly to his forearms purging herself of the sight upstairs. Unfortunately, he knew it would stick with her for the rest of her life. The first one always did, and this one was particularly brutal. He was amazed she'd held out as long as she had. No doubt, she'd do well in Homicide.

Gradually, the heaves slowed, and finally stopped altogether. She made to pull away, but he clamped his arms tighter around her so she couldn't move. She'd be a puddle on the floor if he let her go now.

“Relax. Lean against me for a minute. Until you get your legs back,” he said quietly. When he was certain she'd obey, he carefully set down the trash bag in the sink and, one-handed, fished a container of wet wipes out of the kit. “Here. These'll help.”

He yanked one out for himself and wiped off a layer of sweat from his forehead.

“Sorry,” she said in a shaky voice. “Oh, God, what a wuss.”

“Don't beat yourself up. At least you didn't do it all over the crime scene. The techs hate that.”

She made a feeble attempt at a chuckle. He figured he was on a roll. “Look, everybody pukes over their first dead body. Kind of a rite of passage.” He took off his gloves.

“Did you?” she asked, resting her head back against his shoulder as she peeled off hers.

He tossed them and the used wipes into the kitchen bag, then answered truthfully, “No.”

But then, dead bodies had been small potatoes for him by that time. It was the ones that were still alive that made his stomach turn.

She angled her face up and looked into his eyes. “No?”

“Hey, I'm the Iceman.”

Suddenly, he was having a hard time figuring out what to do with his hands. Pretty much anything he did here would land him in trouble.

He fished her out a small bottle of sports drink from the kit bag. “It's as warm as piss and probably tastes worse, but it clears the palate,” he said. “You want to spit?”

She nodded and he held up the bag for her.

“Yuck. You weren't kidding.” Nevertheless, she took a long pull on the chartreuse liquid.

Ripping another towelette from the container, he started dabbing at her sticky forehead. “Feel strong enough to turn around?”

“I think so.”

Toe to toe now, she drank and he continued to work on her face, feeling oddly comfortable with the close quarters and his intimate task. He tipped her chin up and wiped the menthol from her lip. Smoothing another towelette over her temples and cheeks, he was taken by the softness of her lustrous skin and the intriguing angles of her cheekbones. He’d noticed those cheekbones in the photos he’d—

“Say, leave me some make-up, would you, McGraw?” she chided when he disposed of a suspiciously rosy-colored towelette.

“You don't need it,” he said without thinking. Aw, hell. He straightened. “I mean—”

She tilted her head. “You don't like my hooker make-up?”

“Sure I do, but you look just fine without any at all.” She always wore it to work, but he recalled the time in the market when he’d watched her, hidden in the next isle...