Black On Black (Quentin Black Mystery #3) (6 page)

BOOK: Black On Black (Quentin Black Mystery #3)
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“Talk you into what?” I said, smiling.

“Fucking,” he said, blunt. He seemed to feel me flinch. That heat coming off him intensified. “I think you’re starting to wear me down...
 
in fact, I’m pretty goddamned sure you are. I spent most of this morning fantasizing about you on that couch you were just complaining about...”

I laughed, shaking my head. “Nope. I asked twice. It’s your turn, Black.”

“Come on,” he said, his voice cajoling. “Third time’s the charm.”

I let out another involuntary laugh.

Walking over to him, I slid into his lap, curling my arms around his neck.

A plume of heat left him as soon as I rested my weight. He closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around me in the robe. Tugging me deeper into his lap, he let out a contented-sounding sigh once I leaned against his chest, right before he rested his forehead against my shoulder. I could still feel the other thing on him though.

“Are you okay?” I said, combing his hair with my fingers.

I’d been asking him that a lot over those few days.

Like most of those other times, he didn’t answer.

Sighing a bit, I decided not to ask again.

Leaning past him, I reached for the heavy-looking envelope sitting on the bed.

He felt me and immediately stiffened––right before he dove for it, getting there just before me. Before I could try to get past him to wrestle it out of his fingers, he shoved the whole package across the bedspread. He shoved it hard enough that it fell off the edge of the bed, hitting the carpeted floor with a thud.

When I frowned, starting to climb out of his lap to go after it, he gripped me tighter in his arms, holding me in place.

“Leave it, Miri. Please.” He pressed his face to my neck. “Please, honey. Please.”

“Black,” I said. “You need to tell me what’s going on.”

He shook his head, his face still against my neck.

Then he looked up. I saw the conflict in his gold eyes.

Those lighter, almost translucent flecks seemed brighter somehow as I watched him study my face. I saw some part of him that may have wanted to tell me, to talk to me about whatever was bothering him...
 
to trust me with the truth.

In the end, some other consideration overpowered whatever flicker of openness I saw there. The look in his eyes hardened. I saw the window close.

I saw it, and I didn’t do anything.

I didn’t even say anything.

I was still watching his face when he pulled my mouth down to his.

He kissed me tentatively at first...
 
then, after a bare few seconds, roughly. His hand tightened, clenching in my wet hair. Heat flared off him not long after we started, an intensity that hit at my muscles and joints, rising as he deepened the kiss, pulling me flush with his lap. He used his tongue and lips differently that time, more intimately somehow, almost like he was drinking from me...
 
an inexorable pull that stole my breath.

Too much lived there. Enough that I should have been worried.

More worried, I mean.

Longing lived there. Desire. That strange pain-that-wasn’t-really-pain. Possessiveness. Emotions more subtle and better shielded from my mind. What might have been memory. I felt him wanting me...
 
wanting me almost violently, briefly letting himself feel the depth of that want. I felt grief there, too, what might have been regret.

I don’t have better words for any of it.

It all sounds so inadequate to me now.

He wanted something from me, the kind of want only tangentially related to sex. His arms, his hands, every part of him pulled on me for that thing he wanted. I could feel him desperate for whatever it was. At the same time, I could tell he believed he’d never get it.

The realization broke his heart on some level.

Or maybe it just threw him into denial. Maybe even resentment, although that resentment didn’t feel aimed at me.

I don’t know how long we kissed like that.

I don’t even remember how it ended, or what we did immediately after.

Ate breakfast maybe. Talked.

I do know the manilla envelope remained on the floor when we left the room. I know when I went back to look for it, maybe an hour later, it had disappeared.

Most of all, I know that later that day, Black was gone.

Black was gone, and I wasn’t to see him again for a long time.

Four

FEBRUARY

Three months later

7 PM, Pacific Coast Time

San Francisco, California

HANG ON A second, doc...

It was late where he was. Or early, depending on how you looked at it.

Early morning hours, I guessed. Maybe only a few hours before dawn.

I tracked each detail obsessively, looking for clues.

I’d spent weeks after he left trying to figure out where he was exactly, taking any hint he gave me, any glimpse of his surroundings, any breath of presence or snapshot of the buildings or people he walked through or beside.

I still paid attention to every flicker of detail, no matter how small.

I’d watched him in meetings in high-ceilinged rooms. I’d watched him on the street, snowflakes melting as they touched the skin of his face and lips. I’d seen him on bridges, lying in beds, sitting on couches and in leather chairs. I’d seen him in coffee shops, in restaurants. I’d seen him with other people.

So far, at least––I hadn’t seen him screwing any of them, though.

He’d gotten offers. Lots and lots of offers.

Of course, I had no idea how much he hid from me.

I knew he sat on a windowsill now in a darkened apartment, staring down at a cobblestone street. I glimpsed flickers of awareness around him as he checked for others watching this particular stretch of dark road. I felt him looking for open windows, using his mind to scan for stray thoughts and presences. I felt the low hum of his own mind in the background, his attempts to distract me as he focused down on a green-painted door damaged by water and wind.

He couldn’t keep me out anymore though. Not like before.

Something had changed between us.

I had no idea what that thing was.

Our minds were tangled together in ways I couldn’t explain to myself––or to him, although I hadn’t really tried to do either. I didn’t talk to him about it. I didn’t want him to know really, since I suspected he might just use that information to find some new way to shut me out.

I felt his heart beat in his chest.

I felt him slow his breathing. I saw clouds of vapor as he exhaled through the open window.

It was cold. Not snowing, but cold. His gloved fingers were almost numb.

He repositioned his arms, squinting through the scope as he stared down on a dark street. He’d been given a time to be here, an exact location. They’d been precise.

Even now, as he checked his watch, noting just
how
precise they’d been, I felt him wonder fleetingly how they could have possibly known he would need to be in a place like this at this particular time. Downstairs in that building, people shot up heroin and fucked prostitutes. I felt the thought create a ripple of pain in him and fought not to react to that, too––not to take it personally. Really, if anything, it was a good sign.

I had to hope that his hair-trigger reactions to pretty much anything to do with sex stemmed mostly from the fact that he
wasn’t
getting any.

He’d agreed to this job. It wasn’t the first one he’d agreed to.

Of course, it was a leap of faith that they’d been telling him the truth about this person, about what he was. But all of the research Black had done on his own confirmed the basic facts.

The guy liked to watch women killed.

He didn’t like it to be prostitutes either, so he paid to have them kidnapped prior to their torture and death. Most were poor girls, immigrants. Dark eyes, dark hair, olive skin. Some were from Eastern Europe, but increasingly, they were from the south.

He got off on watching them beaten to death.

Black grimaced, reminding himself this was a time-limited thing.

It was a job. But it was temporary.

In the meantime, he could try to do a little good. Get one more sadistic psychopath off the streets. In the end it was only six months of his life. They owned his ass for six months.

He repeated that to himself. Reassured himself.

I kept my thoughts quiet, a glass mirror in the background.

I’d ceased to feel guilty for eavesdropping on where he was...
 
what he was doing...
 
even what he was thinking. I wasn’t doing it to invade his privacy. I wasn’t even doing it because both of us had gotten possessive enough for it be outright alarming at times. In all, my watching him had very little to do with the fact that he and I were more or less dating––if you could call it dating, given how things stood between us.

I wasn’t spying on him to be controlling.

I was
worried
about him.

When the slight-framed blond man emerged from the stained green door at the bottom of an ancient apartment building on a narrow, cobblestone alleyway, the second hand on Black’s watch had just ticked onto the top part of the minute.

Oh-three-hundred and fifty-three...
 
precisely.

I felt him try to push me further out of his immediate consciousness, right before he switched his attention back to the earpiece he wore.

“That him?”
he said only.

He felt the person on the other end checking.

He didn’t ask how they verified his target, but I felt him wonder about that, too. Were they seer? If so, he couldn’t feel it on them. For all he knew, they had a drone hovering overhead. For all he knew, involving him at all was utterly redundant.

Either way, Black knew he had the right person. He would never pull a trigger without knowing exactly who or what waited at the other end of his gun.

He also knew the final word wasn’t up to him.

“Target confirmed. Engage when ready.”

Black’s his jaw tightened, but again, he didn’t ask.

The first clear line he had, he took.

The kickback from the rifle pushed his shoulder and body back. He compensated with a precision that awed me, moving slightly on his seat on the wooden sill even as he kept his firing line utterly still. He had another bullet chambered by the bolt before he’d looked back through the scope to assess the results of the first shot.

“Direct hit,”
the voice said through the earpiece.
“Nicely done, Mr. Black.”

Black kept the gun aimed at the body now bleeding out on the icy sidewalk.

“Insurance?”
he queried.

He’d learned to ask. They didn’t want him to take a piss without their okay.

There was another silence, then the voice rose.

BOOK: Black On Black (Quentin Black Mystery #3)
13.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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