Slave to Love(6)

By: Nikita Black

“Thanks, Chief,” she said distractedly.

Caroline looked as pale as if she'd seen her first corpse. Hell, this would probably be her first corpse. Mick frowned when he noticed sweat beading on her lip. “You sure you're up to this, Palmer?”

She glanced his way, and abruptly her spine straightened and her expression calmed. Swiping at her lip with a finger, she said, “No problem.”

He doubted it. “Look, you don't have to—”

“I said I'd be okay,” she snapped, then regrouped and pushed out a slow breath. “If I'm going to be a part of this, it's best I see exactly what we're up against.”

Bobby gathered the files from the desk. “She's right, you know.”

“Yeah, okay,” Mick conceded, then looked her over critically. “You got a badge hidden there somewhere? You'll need it.”

From the back pocket of her miniskirt she produced her badge hanging from a thin neck chain and held it up. “Never leave home without it.”

He headed out. “We can bring you up to speed on the ride over. We’ll take my car.”

Bobby let out a snort. “Now, there's a shock. Hope you don't like driving,” he remarked as Caroline preceded him into the elevator. “'Cause if you're working with him, you're shit out of luck.”

They had this same discussion every time they went out on a call. “I happen to like the car I was assigned. As opposed to that pile of crap you insist on driving. It's a downright embarrassment.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I could drive a Lamborghini and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. You just don't like not being in control, even for a five minute drive.”

Bobby was right, of course. But Mick wasn't about to admit that. If you let control slip away, there was no telling what would happen. And it was always bad. He led the way into the parking garage and unlocked the white, almost new Camaro Z28 convertible which had been seized from a drug dealer last year, then stepped back to consider who would climb into the back seat.

Bobby was way ahead of him. “Ladies first,” he said with a gallant sweep of his arm toward the open passenger door.

Caroline made a face. “In your dreams, hombre.”

Seemed Mick was the only one lucky enough to get a floor show today. Shaking off the memory of her lithe body bending over at his feet, he ducked into the driver's side to get the portable cherry light before a smile could crack through. Everyone in the department knew Officer Palmer’d had a crush on him when she came over from Traffic. Until he’d set her straight, of course. Still, it was enough to inflate a man's ego. They’d all tried to attract her attention. He was the only one who’d succeeded. Not that he’d tried.

He stuck the cherry onto the dashboard of the car and slid into his seat. It wasn’t his thing. He had a strict hands-off policy with women on the job. To her credit, Caro had ceased her flirtation almost immediately, as soon as she'd introduced herself in the lunch room and he'd treated her to the I'm-Not-Interested stare. But he’d also noticed he wasn’t the only one who didn’t pick his friends and lovers from among fellow-cops.

Like he didn't get enough of them on the job that he had to take them home with him, too. No thanks. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt from hell.

But he wondered why she didn’t. She was, after all, the darling of SIS. She could have her pick. Those men who weren't won over by her sultry blond just-out-of-some-guy's-bed looks, were sure to be impressed with her ability as an officer. She was good. Damned good.

Which was the only reason he'd picked her for this assignment.

When he'd first suggested recruiting Caroline for this undercover gig, the choice had been just logical enough that he'd escaped raised eyebrows. The chief would have immediately suspected any other man in the department of having ulterior motives. Christ, the woman was liquid sex.

But not him.

Mick pulled out of the garage and made a right onto Colorado, forcing himself to pay attention to the narrative Bobby'd started about the case.

“Two married couples,” his partner was saying, “the Atkins and the Connors. The Atkins were killed four weeks ago in their single family home in north Pasadena. Middle class neighborhood. Ages thirty-two and thirty-three, no kids. He was a stock broker, she was a lawyer.”

Mick flipped on the cherry light and siren and took a sharp left across traffic onto El Molino, then interjected, “We checked out the disgruntled investor angle and also went through her client list looking for an ex-con with a grudge, but didn't find anything particularly suspicious.”

Caroline glanced over at him, brow raised.