Authors: Amy Valenti
I didn't think it was possible for her to get any paler, but she managed it, whispering, “Is that how he killed that guy?"
If she hadn't been a hell of an actress that would have been all the proof I needed to find her innocent—Leigh had been beaten to death. Because it was Laura, I lied. “Yeah. And the thing I've found about coincidences like that? They're not coincidences."
She drew into herself, staring at the table top without seeing it. “I didn't know, I swear. I just... I lay awake that night, after Faye fell asleep, a-and I wondered what Garth would ask me to do. I knew he was working up to
involving her, and my mind, it just threw up all these possibilities... Earlier today, I wanted to hurt her, I wanted to scare her, but I swear to God I didn't—"
Satisfied with her answer, I got to my feet, and she blinked up at me. “What...?"
"He wasn't knifed,” I said, and watched her face darken with anger at my ruse. If I'd been within arm's reach, I was pretty sure she'd have tried to slap me right about then. Maybe she'd even have been justified. “I needed to test your innocence, and you passed."
"Great,” she said sarcastically. “I'll just take my conviction for petty theft and get back to my ruined life. Thanks, Zach."
Sighing, I offered my hand to her. “C'mon. I'll escort you out."
"Don't you have to charge me or something, first?"
"If I was gonna charge you, yeah. As it is, I'm letting you off with a caution.” The conflicted gratitude and loathing on her face was hard to watch. “Do you wanna talk to your husband first?"
Laura stared at her hands, rubbing the finger that must have held her wedding ring, when she wasn't trying to fool people into thinking she was single. Abruptly, she rose, and there was steel in her posture and voice as she replied, “No. Let's go."
She didn't speak on the way to the foyer, and neither did I. There was only one thing left unspoken, and I waited until she stepped out of the elevator to say it.
She turned to look at me, her bravado almost crumbling to misery as her eyes met mine.
"Take care of yourself."
Surprised into speechlessness by my statement, she just stared at me, unable or unwilling to process the concern. I reached out and pressed the button that would take me back to the bullpen, and as the elevator doors slid shut she spun and began to walk quickly towards the exit, scrubbing at her face with her hand.
If she looked back, the doors closed before it happened.
I expected Pierce to call when he'd finished in interrogation, but I heard the scuttlebutt about Morgan's conviction from Palmer, who'd heard it from Layton, who'd been in there with Pierce when it happened. Allegedly.
So when thirty minutes had passed without a call from him, I started to worry. Our friendship had survived Pierce learning about me and Laura. It had survived Laura's vicious words in the interrogation room, though
had definitely strained things a little. It had survived Laura's revelation that she'd been using me to hurt Pierce, and Morgan's that he'd planned to do God-knows-what to me.
That tense, breathless, electrifying moment when we'd almost kissed might have been the last straw. What if I'd lost his friendship in a search for something more?
Curling into my desk chair, I watched my computer screen flicker as AFIS discounted print after print. It was gonna be a while before I got anything, and technically I had other stuff I could have been doing, but I needed a few moments to order my thoughts first.
The lab phone rang, and I almost jumped out of my skin.
Could it be Zach?
"Hey, Faye.” It was Santoro, and I suppressed a disappointed sigh. “Guess who just got roped into a two-day firearms safety workshop?"
"I'm guessing you?"
"All of us,” Santoro said glumly. “Me. Layton. Beaumont. Even Pierce."
was where he was. “They're making a team leader take a firearms safety workshop?"
"Public relations pacifier after that uptown cop misfired and killed a civilian. It's mandatory—commissioner's orders. We got unlucky by wrapping up a case in time to be in the first wave. They're even putting us up in lodgings for the night so we don't skip out. Guess Pierce's reputation precedes him.” Santoro sounded about as impressed as I expected Pierce was.
"So why are you calling me? Need me to bust you out?” I teased him.
"Just call me if you find any leads to follow up on in
of our active cases?” Santoro pleaded.
"I promise, Santoro.” Biting back a grin, I placed the phone back in its cradle, feeling a lot better than I had a couple of minutes ago. Now Pierce's absence was explained, I was less freaked out.
Plus, it gave me a little breathing room to figure out my next move. Not that I had any idea what that was.
Being stuck in one of the precinct's safehouses with a bickering team of cops, an hour's drive from my place, wasn't what I'd envisioned for the evening. I pointedly stayed out of their way, sitting out in the garden, staring up at the stars and tuning out the faint noise of their conversation.
I didn't need to be there, but I didn't have a choice. It was all about politics and nothing to do with actual proficiency, so all I could do was sit there and overanalyse the events of the day.
Part of me wanted to call Faye, just to hear her voice. I didn't even know what my next step with her would be. The way our last conversation had ended, I couldn't even be certain what she expected from me.
All I knew was what I wanted to believe—that Laura's words about Faye wanting me were accurate. That she wanted to submit to me as much as I wanted to top her.
At least I didn't have to worry about how to tell her I was in the BDSM scene.
Guess all I can do is wait until I next see her, scope her out and go with my gut.
I'd never had much difficulty picking up on Faye's train of thought, even if it sometimes took me a couple of days.
If she really was too dominant to submit, the way Laura insisted she was... I could cross that bridge later.
My focus tonight should be on not letting my imagination run away with me. If I start taking for granted that she'll want to be my sub, I'll miss signs I'd pick up on otherwise.
But, God, the thought of ordering her to her knees was a tempting one.
"What do you have for me, Faye?"
I'd had a while to think about it, and I thought I had it figured out. Okay, so it had taken a fairly sleepless night and a lot of stupid ideas to get there, but at least I had a plan of action.
Shooting a smile and a sideways glance at Pierce, I answered, “What do you want?"
Allowing him a second to process the question, I spun and looked at the evidence strewn over the table. “Ummm...shell casings, fingerprints, carpet fibres, blood. Take your pick."
He shrugged. “Lady's choice."
He was smiling a little, but with Pierce that could have meant anything. And he'd just missed a perfect chance to give me an order. Did that mean he was stepping back, saying he wouldn't get involved with me? Or was I overthinking?
"Okay...” I immersed myself in the science of the case, shoving my insecurities to the back of my mind...for now. Part of me wanted to look at him while I gave my reports, but I was too afraid I'd see rejection in his face, or lose my train of thought and stutter like an idiot. So I just kept focussed, giving him what he'd asked for.
Maybe it was the only thing he'd ever want from me.
When I'd finished, he leaned in closer to me, and it was almost instinctive to tilt my cheek towards his kiss. It was the first time he'd touched me since the hug we'd shared out by the river—the hug that had started out comforting and ended awkwardly.
His fingers were warm against my skin and I looked up into his face, startled that he hadn't just kissed my cheek and left me to think over his latest actions. His touch was gentle, his gaze searching, but there was something deeper about this connection.
He could have ordered me to my knees with a word, and I couldn't hide it from him. Not when I could
the darker desires beneath the concern and affection in his face.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, then let it go.
He dropped his hand from my face to my shoulder and squeezed, the move simultaneously reassuring and possessive. Then he spoke, and I forgot how to breathe.
"Do we need to have a conversation, little tease?"
My brain might have played over the pet name dozens of times, visualising over and over the scenario Laura had described. I might have whispered the words last night, alone in my apartment, my hands wandering and my breath quickening.
Hearing him address me as
for the first time was still a million times better than I could have imagined. Acutely aware of his touch, I opened my eyes to meet his gaze.
"I think so, Sir."
He smiled, and there was as much relief in it as there was hunger. “I'll come by your place when we're done for the day."
I nodded, and he leaned in to kiss my cheek, changing course at the last moment to nip at my earlobe. The pain was mild but glorious, and I bit back a plea for more as he withdrew completely.
"Good job,” he murmured, and then he was gone. I stared after him, still not a hundred per cent sure I hadn't imagined the conversation.
It was around nine when Pierce called up to my apartment. I let him in with a tiny smile, trying to quell my nervousness. “Rough few days, huh?"
"That'd be an understatement.” He followed the scent of fresh coffee to my kitchen, helping himself as he had for the past four or five years.
Nothing new about that.
I waited for him to sit, knowing our dynamic had changed enough that I shouldn't fall into my usual habits. When he'd chosen his spot on the couch, I acted on instinct, kneeling at his feet and glancing up to take in his reaction.
Nodding approval, he took a sip of coffee, then set the mug aside. Something in his ice-blue gaze heated, and I tried to keep a straight face as I lowered my eyes.
It didn't fool him, and I could hear the answering smile in his voice. “Questions, Faye?"
I had that one all planned out. “What happens now?"
It was a tactically-worded question, and it put the ball squarely in Pierce's court. He hesitated for a moment, then said slowly, “Laura said a few things...that we need to talk about."
"I know,” I said, my voice emerging almost too quiet for him to hear it.
We stared at each other, neither of us willing to speak. The words Laura had spoken hovered in the air between us—intangible, invisible memories, yet with enough presence to leave us both mute. When Pierce finally broke the silence, he was as evasive as I was. “Any of it not true?"
...she'll never be yours. She's just too sadistic...
He hadn't been expecting that. Though he was already completely focussed on me, his gaze sharpened still further. “Tell me."
"She said I was too sadistic to submit to you."
He leant forward, tilting up my chin with a firm touch. “I don't doubt you have a sadistic streak."
"How about you? Masochism?” It would have been so easy to let myself fall completely under his spell. The submissive mindset was within easy reach, but I wouldn't go all the way there...not until this conversation was through.
Pierce tugged a lock of my hair—a reprimand. “That's not on offer."
I hadn't been expecting any other answer. “Anything Laura said about
not true? I mean, aside from that you set her brother up?"
She'd thrown more at him than she had at me, including an incredibly personal moment between them. At least when she'd described the way I topped, she hadn't singled out a specific example.
His expression was a little guarded—after all that had happened, he still wasn't totally sure how I'd react.
"No, little tease."
A better submissive would probably have lowered her head, waited for his orders and obeyed them.
I'd already overheard him telling Laura obedience wasn't as important to him as other things.
I'd been sitting on my heels, but now I rose to my knees again, slipping a hand to the back of his neck and kissing him. There was a breathless moment before he reacted, but then he took control, his answering kiss growing in intensity when I moaned encouragement against his lips.
He gripped my shoulders firmly, pressing down to force me back onto the floor in front of him, and the gesture was all it took. I closed my eyes, resting my head against his knee and waiting for his first command, anticipation heightening my senses.
Looking down at the expectant, smiling woman at my feet, I ran my fingers gently down her face. She was ready for my orders, my touch and everything beyond.
"On your feet. Hands behind your back."
She obeyed, standing straight and lacing her fingers behind her. I figured her head would be clearer if she was standing, and it needed to be, for this.
"Give me the basics of what I need to know, as you'd expect it from your submissives."
Faye listed a few limits and boundaries, none of which surprised me. By the time she'd finished telling me she had no injuries or illnesses that I was unaware of, and had given me her safe word—'chemistry'—I almost had our first scene mapped out in my mind.
She fell quiet, and I got to my feet, stepping into her personal space and making no attempt to hide the slow path of my gaze down her body. “I don't mind a little resistance—so long as you know I will put you back down where you belong, little tease. You want a full-on resistance
, we discuss that beforehand. Clear?"
"Clear, Sir,” she murmured, her voice lower and more husky than I'd ever heard it. Her bedroom voice...and it just so happened I had one to go with it.
"Strip down as far as your underwear."