Authors: Amy Valenti
"Not the point, Faye."
the point?” she demanded, frustrated. “I mean, how can you act so crazy when Laura says it was only casual between the two of you?"
I didn't know how to answer her. The fact she was topping Laura made me a little jealous, but Faye was right—we had only been seeing each other casually, and it didn't affect me as much as the other side of the coin did. Telling her my jealousy was double-edged would only complicate matters, but the thought whispered through my mind nevertheless.
You should have been mine.
It was ridiculous—I had no way of knowing if she was as sexually submissive as I sometimes imagined she was, and it wasn't my place to ask, but the confirmation that she was on the local BDSM scene was enough to make me possessive. Sometimes I had trouble remembering I could only control her as part of our working relationship, and even then, only to a point.
Instead of answering her question, I asked, “Did you manage to call her in?"
"Yeah. We were meeting for lunch anyway, at the bistro down the street. I just moved the time forward a little. We should go if we're gonna make it."
Is it serious between you?
I couldn't ask—as much as I hated to admit it, I didn't want to hear the answer. Instead, I nodded curtly. “The rest of the team don't need to know this, understand? I used to date Laura, and you're dating her now. That's all the background they need."
"Got it,” Faye said with an ironic mini-salute.
The opening was just too tempting to pass up. “No ‘Sir', Faye?"
Grinning, she started down the stairs. “I don't submit easily."
During the short walk to the bistro, Pierce got around to asking the question that mattered. “Did you know Laura was a pickpocket?"
I shook my head, thinking back over the past couple of months. “She never acted suspiciously around me...even when she had Leigh's wallet in her purse. She lifts his wallet, and now he's dead? It could be a coincidence..."
"No such thing.” I'd been pretty sure he was gonna say that. “You go on ahead and meet with her. I'll wait a couple of minutes, then join you."
"You think she'll run if she gets spooked?” I kinda doubted it, but I was the scientist, not the cop.
"She can try,” he said, almost to himself.
I watched him thoughtfully. There was a tension in him I'd rarely seen before—it was as if he was carefully holding back what he really wanted to say.
I wanted him to question me about the things I'd revealed to him that day. I wanted him to ask if I submitted as well as topped, and how often that happened. I wanted him to tell me about his involvement in the local scene, about his kinks and desires, about what he looked for in a submissive. Okay, I probably didn't fit the bill, but I could dream, at least...
But instead he was shutting me out. He hadn't acted this reserved around me since the first month I'd worked at the precinct. I didn't know what he was afraid of, and until this was over and done with, it wasn't a good time to ask. So I focussed on the plan instead, lengthening my stride to put distance between us.
Within a minute, the bistro came into view, and a familiar figure was waiting by the door. The dark-haired, curvaceous woman smiled as I approached, stepping forward to hug me. “Ready for peach pie and ice cream?"
Returning Laura's embrace, I forced myself to act normally, though the thought of food turned my stomach. “Definitely."
While Laura headed for the door, I glanced back down the street, relieved to see Pierce approaching slowly. He nodded encouragement and I shot him a brief, anxious smile before following my submissive inside.
I took a seat across a small table from Laura, who was watching me with concern. “Are you okay? You look a little worried."
"That's one way of putting it, I guess. Work's a little confusing right now."
One of the things I really liked about Laura was that she didn't act overly submissive unless we were in a scene. She was mostly talkative and laid-back, though her wit occasionally had bite. Picking up her menu, she rolled her eyes. “Let me guess.
's running you into the ground again."
Frowning a little at her obvious disdain, I shook my head. “Actually, no. I haven't even started the forensics yet."
"But you have time for an early lunch? Must be an interesting case.” Laura's expression was curious.
"Yeah... I can't tell you much, but a businessman turned up dead, and it wasn't pretty.” I didn't mention the vicious beating the guy had received before he died—it wasn't the kind of detail I was authorised to repeat during an open investigation. Especially not
"Maybe you'd know him, Laura?” Pierce's voice made me jump—I'd known he was coming, but I hadn't even heard him approach. “Name's Samuel Leigh."
Laura's eyes widened, then her expression became guarded as she looked from him to me, and back again. “What is this?"
"Need to talk to you about his death. Let's go over to the precinct, where it's a little more private.” Pierce's eyes were hard as he watched his ex, and that was more intriguing than I liked to admit. Something was going on in his head, but I couldn't fathom exactly what. Yet.
"I've never even heard of him. You can't force me to go anywhere."
Pierce held his badge out towards her, his face impassive. “I can legally detain you for questioning."
"On what grounds?” she snapped. “I know my rights."
Wow, she's defensive.
I'd never seen her like this. “Laura..."
She sighed, speaking for our ears only. “Faye, don't Mistress me outside the bedroom. That's not what we negotiated."
Taken aback, I stared at her. That had been the furthest thing from my mind, and, if she didn't know that, we had a serious problem.
Before I could speak, Pierce intervened. “On the grounds that we have surveillance footage of you stealing his wallet the night before his death."
She was beaten, and she knew it. With a sigh, Laura glared at me and got to her feet. “This better not take long. I have a meeting at two."
While she gathered her jacket and purse, Pierce touched my shoulder, leaning in close to murmur, “Careful. She's playing you."
Before I could process that, he followed Laura outside. A million questions flitting through my mind, I brought up the rear, shooting an apologetic look at the confused waitress hovering nearby.
the girl I'd been seeing for the past few weeks? And what side of her had Pierce seen that I hadn't?
We escorted Laura back to the precinct in near silence, and when we headed into the squad room it wasn't just my team that had its collective eyes on us. Gossip travelled fast, and I was almost certain Santoro was to blame.
I could deal with him later. “Beaumont. Escort Ms Morgan to an interrogation room."
Beaumont rose immediately, nodding to Laura. “Follow me, please."
Faye made as if to follow them, and I spoke her name quietly as she passed, shaking my head. Her brow creased in a frown, and she pulled me aside. “She's my submissive, and I need to talk to her. I'm not gonna help her set a story straight, or fill her in on any case details. If I'd wanted to do that, I could have called her in private or gone back to my desk to email her, or told her before you joined us at the bistro."
It wasn't exactly standard operating procedure, but this was Faye, and I had a weak spot where she was concerned. After a second's hesitation, I stepped away, and she continued after Beaumont and Laura.
"What do you have?” I snapped at Layton and Santoro, who were trying to figure out what was going on.
They gave me a babbled rundown of Leigh's background, which included no mention of Laura. On Laura herself, they'd barely started, and could only tell me that she had no criminal record. When they'd exhausted themselves, I told them to keep going and made my way towards the rear of the building where the interrogation rooms were.
I passed Beaumont on the way, nodding my thanks as she told me which room she'd left Laura in. Instead of going straight to interrogation, I opened the adjacent door, the door to the observation room.
Faye was sitting cross-legged on the desk in the middle of Interrogation One, looking down at Laura, who sat in the suspect's chair. “So, what—you just decided you were a little short on cash? He's dead, Laura!"
"And you think I killed him?! Gee, thanks,
.” Laura's sarcasm was caustic.
"No! If I thought you'd killed him, I'd have walked in here, told you it was over and left again. I just wanna understand... Can't you see that?” Faye was annoyed, confused, a little sad—but she wasn't heartbroken. Laura hadn't dug her claws into Faye's heart yet, and I was relieved, for more reasons than I should have been.
I knew the heart-to-heart wouldn't get us the information we needed, so I cut their relationship talk short, leaving observation just as the audio-visual tech entered and headed into interrogation.
"Need the forensics, Faye."
She and Laura both stood when I walked in and Faye swallowed whatever she'd been planning to say to me, turning to Laura instead. “Talk to you later."
"Yeah.” Though a little reluctant, Laura let herself be drawn into a brief hug, her brunette hair mingling with Faye's amber locks.
I waited until Faye had closed the door to speak, though I wasn't naive enough to think we were alone and unheard. Even if Faye had actually heeded my words about the forensics and gone to her lab, Layton and Santoro wouldn't pass up the opportunity to eavesdrop on me interrogating an ex.
Taking my time, I shrugged off my jacket, hung it on the back of the chair and settled myself into a seat, the one-way window at my back and my case notes in a folder on the desk between us. Laura fidgeted across from me, steepling her fingers, then twisting them together.
"This is an official investigation, and I need to state for the record that anything discussed during this interview will remain pertinent to the case, disregarding any personal history between us. If that's not acceptable, I can get another cop in here to question you on my behalf.” I kept the words formal and clear, to be picked up by the microphone recording everything.
Laura hesitated and I raised an eyebrow at her out of habit—the way I'd always indicated to a submissive that an answer was required. Her gaze turned stormy, but her words were calm. “It's acceptable."
Nodding, I turned my mind to the case. “Did you know a man named Samuel Leigh?"
"I already told you, I've never heard of him,” she said, overly patient.
I took Leigh's picture from my folder and slid it towards her. “How about now?"
Something shifted in her expression and a piece of my own personal puzzle slotted home within my mind. The first time I'd taken Laura to my place, she'd wandered around my living room while I made coffee. I'd returned just as she was reaching out to pick up the picture Faye had handed out to all of us last Christmas. Using her digital know-how, she'd manipulated the image so Faye, me, my team and a couple of others we worked with were all grouped together for the shot.
When Laura had picked it up from my mantelpiece, something in her face had changed. I hadn't known her well enough to interpret it, then, but watching her in the interrogation room, it became clear to me. She'd recognised Faye, just as she recognised Leigh right then—she'd probably seen her around at Rack and Ruin.
I had no idea why she would go after Faye after I'd broken up with her, but that was something I could mull over later.
Faced with Leigh's picture, Laura chose to play dumb. “I don't recognise him."
"We have surveillance footage of you stealing from him,” I reminded her mildly.
"How do you know it was me? Those cameras barely show enough detail to pick out a black cat in the snow."
I turned to the one-way glass and gave the standard signal, then crossed to hit the switch on the side of the TV mounted on the wall. The smoking area footage ran, then froze on the clearest shot of Laura's face as she turned to leave, stolen wallet in hand. “We know it was you."
Her mouth twisted bitterly and she sighed, leaning back in her chair with an air of defeat. There was nothing submissive about her tone when she asked, “What do you want?"
"Where's the wallet now?"
Her voice was flat as she answered my questions.
Yes, she'd taken the wallet. No, she hadn't kept it or spent the money. Had she given it to someone, or stolen the wallet at someone else's behest? No—she'd lost it.
It was right about then I started to lose my cool, but I kept outwardly calm. Had there been anything in the wallet that wasn't cash, credit cards or ID?
No. And no, she hadn't chosen Leigh on purpose—he'd been in the right place at the right time.
I didn't believe a word she said, and she knew it.
"What did you do when you left the club?"
"I went home with your forensic scientist, Zach.” Her tone was a little smug, as if she delighted in rubbing it in my face.
Biting my tongue until the urge to snap at her passed, I clarified, “Faye Tate."
"Stay with her all night?"
"Yup.” She gave me an angelic smile with an edge, as if she knew exactly how much that got to me. “You're welcome to check with her. We didn't even get out of bed until eleven the next morning."
I didn't take the bait, though it was tempting. “Did you know the victim was dead before I told you?"
"Nope. Are you done? Can you just charge me, or whatever it is you do, so I can go?” She drummed her fingernails on the table, feigning boredom.
"Not done yet. Can you think of anyone who would want him dead?"
"No.” She rolled her eyes, belligerence radiating from every pore. “Come on, Zach. What are you expecting here? Petty theft and murder are two totally different leagues."
My cell phone rang, and I glared down at the display.
“I'll be back,” I tossed over my shoulder as I left the room, and shut the door before she could reply.