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Authors: Virna DePaul

Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction

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BOOK: Shades of Temptation
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Straightening, she tilted her head inquisitively before
narrowing her eyes. “Boy, you’re on a roll here, Jase. What’s wrong? You don’t
think I can do this alone?”

He pushed himself back so he was no longer leaning against her
car. “Did I say that? It always helps to run things by a partner. That’s why Mac
asked me to help him with the Monroe murder several months back. Do you honestly
think he couldn’t have done it alone? You have a chip on your shoulder, Carrie.
You might want to do something about it before it ends up getting you or someone
else hurt.”

His words struck home. He was right. She was overreacting and
sounding more emotional than logical. She was making her decision for purely
personal reasons and, even worse than that, out of fear. Even though she’d
thoroughly reviewed the files and formed her own conclusions, why not run them
past Jase? He had more experience than she did. She shouldn’t dismiss his offer
for help just because she was afraid of the sexual attraction between them. What
kind of cop would that make her?

“I guess I could use your help.”

There was no hint of triumph on his face, which enabled her to
relax even more.

He nodded. “I’ll follow you home.”

As he walked away, she called, “No funny business. I mean it,
Jase. This is purely one cop accepting another’s offer for help on a case.”

He turned to face her but kept walking backward with his hands
in his pockets. “Of course it is, darlin’. You’ve made it clear you don’t want
to act on the attraction between us. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just one of
the guys now.”

He couldn’t know how much that statement hurt her, especially
since she smiled brightly after he said it. “Great,” she said. “Just keep that
in mind and we should be fine.”



house, or rather, to her floor of a tri-level house on Divisidero Street, Jase
was startled by how girly it was. He was used to seeing her at work, in the
detective’s pit with its straight-lined masculine furniture and her dressed in
her button-down shirts and khakis. He knew she chose her clothes to appear
androgynous, but he never thought of her as anything other than a woman. In
fact, sometimes her professional facade had him salivating to unwrap the
feminine package he knew lay underneath. Still, if he’d had to guess what kind
of decor she preferred, he’d never have picked the shabby-chic stuff his frilly
sisters were wild for.

Several soft watercolors, done in hazy washes of blues and
purples, decorated the yellow walls. Her couch was covered with a faded floral
slipcover, and her dining-room table was a polished cherry with curvy legs.

Cinnamon. The scent surrounded him as soon as he walked in.

Once inside, Carrie turned almost nervously to him. “Make
yourself at home,” she said while avoiding his gaze. “I don’t think there’s much
in the refrigerator. I’m going to take a quick shower and change.” She pointed
to a nearby door. “Guest bath is right through there.”

Jase nodded. She walked into another room and shut the door. He
heard the lock engage and then the sound of the shower a few minutes later.

For a moment, he was overcome by images of her naked body. Her
naked, wet body. Her naked, wet, slippery body. He groaned. He’d never been so
sexually obsessed with a woman in his life. What was it about her that got to
him? And what had compelled him to offer his help with The Embalmer case anyway?
He had the next few days off. If he wasn’t getting the lead on The Embalmer
case, he should enjoy them. Visit the family. Play hoops with his cousin. Call
Kelly Sorenson and see if the promise in her dark eyes turned out to be as good
as it seemed.

Instead, he was going to put in extra hours helping Carrie on a
case he’d wanted and that he wasn’t quite sure she was ready for, while at the
same time trying to control his attraction to her.

What the hell was wrong with him?

Sure, he thought she was attractive, but she wasn’t the most
beautiful woman he’d seen or been with. She was a cop, for Christ’s sake. One
who’d often claimed she could kick his ass and fully believed it. Instead of
turning him off, the recurring threat had always conjured images of them rolling
around on the floor together, their bodies touching and rubbing until they were
ready to rip each other’s clothes off.

Jesus, he had a one-track mind. Carrie wasn’t just a cop, and
she certainly wasn’t a sex toy for him to play with and then toss aside. She was
a complex woman, one he didn’t know all that much about. Jase paced her small
living room, looking for clues about the woman beneath the proverbial

Based on the books on her shelf, she was an avid reader,
although she didn’t read true crime. She either went for science fiction or
historical romance. That surprised him. She was so pragmatic and no-nonsense at
work. Like her taste in home decor, her reading preferences made him wonder what
else she hid from the world.

He noticed some photo albums. Took one out and flipped through
it. He smiled at the pictures of her in various stages of adolescence. She’d
been all arms and legs, awkward. Despite the fact she was only five feet six
inches now, she’d towered over her classmates at various stages, boys included.
He imagined she’d endured some heavy teasing, especially because of her flaming
hair that had been more orange than red when she was younger. Still, the Carrie
he saw in the photographs appeared happy. Confident. Which for a high-school
student was pretty damn unusual.

At some point that seemed to change, however. After high-school
graduation, she grew more serious. Several photos were of her with an equally
serious-looking man, sometimes wearing his police uniform, sometimes not. Others
were of her with several men, all in uniform, all with the same red hair and
blue eyes. Not many pictures of her mother. It looked as if she’d disappeared
when Carrie was very young.

Jase put back the album and pulled out another one. This one
was a scrapbook, with article clippings and little mementos and her full name
written in scrolled lettering.

His eyebrows rose into his hairline. According to her
scrapbook, she was a first-class markswoman. She’d competed in the Olympics when
she was seventeen. She’d been the youngest member of the USA’s shooting team and
had won a silver medal. Several years later, she’d graduated from the police
academy and joined the Army. And a few years after that, she’d become the first
female sniper to join the Austin SWAT team.

She hadn’t been kidding when she’d said she could kick his ass.
He’d known she’d served a year on the SFPD SWAT before she’d joined SIG, but how
come she hadn’t told him she was a markswoman? And if she was such an incredible
shot, it made the fact she’d initially failed to shoot Porter even more
disturbing. Once again, he couldn’t help wondering what had really happened that
night. Or if his pushing things between them beforehand had played any part in

She hadn’t given a whole lot of details in her report about
that night, and Jase had gotten the distinct impression she’d been deliberately
vague. Was she hiding something? Something she was ashamed of? Whether she
wanted to admit it or not, she’d had trouble dealing with what that old lady
back at the bar had done to her, and that didn’t jibe with who he knew her to
be. Cops met resistance and dealt with ugly confrontations all the time. Hell,
he’d seen Carrie go toe-to-toe with guys twice her size and who had records that
would make Al Capone look like a choirboy. Yet she’d freaked out because an old
lady had spit on her and accused her of killing her baby boy?

Baby boy, his ass. Kevin Porter had shot Carrie, then tried
beating her to death. If she hadn’t taken him down, she’d likely be dead. She’d
done what she had to do. So why did he get the feeling she was ashamed of what
she’d done? Of killing Porter? Of being a good cop?

Jase heard the shower turn off and replaced the scrapbook. Yes,
she had good reason to be proud of her accomplishments, but instinct told Jase
the scrapbook had been compiled by someone else. Someone who was proud of her.
It showed someone cared about her and that she occasionally lowered her guard
with others. At least, she had at some point.

He ruffled his fingers through his hair and looked around
again. Several files and stacks of paper were strewn out on her dining-room
table, and she’d placed the files she’d brought to McGill’s on the table, too.
He shuffled through them, frowning despite himself when he saw the crime-scene
photos. He’d heard about the most graphic aspects of the case, but it was always
different when you had specifics in front of you. The Embalmer was a sick fuck,
all the more sick because he was so organized and methodical. According to Mac,
who’d talked to the Fresno P.D., everything The Embalmer did had a purpose.
Special meaning. No one had been able to figure out exactly what, though.

Knowing Carrie would want to get started immediately, Jase used
the hallway bathroom. It was just as frilly as the living room, with a lacy
shower curtain, rose-colored towels and little flower-shaped soaps next to the
sink. When he washed his hands, he once again inhaled the heady, sweet smell of
cinnamon. He dried off with one of her rose-colored towels. She seemed fond of
the color, which was odd. She never wore it. Always went with neutral colors.
Nothing feminine.

Again, questions came to mind. Why was she ashamed of shooting
Porter? Because she’d done it only after he’d gotten the drop on her? Or because
he’d gotten the drop on a female cop? Now that he was here, seeing how
ruthlessly she separated the two parts of herself—the woman and the cop—he was
sure he was right. It also made him wonder if it was the real reason she fought
him so much. Because he made her feel like a woman when she was on the job, and
it was the last thing she could handle.

When he came out of the bathroom, Carrie was in the kitchen
with her back turned to him. For a second, he simply enjoyed the sight of her
looking as casual as he’d ever seen her. She wore a loose T-shirt and sweats.
Her hair was still damp and hung loose around her face. Her feet were bare.

He could only see the faintest hint of her heels below the hem
of her sweats, but those few inches of pale creaminess were enough to make his
mouth start watering. Just like that, he wanted to remove her clothes and kiss
her from bottom to top, but he knew he couldn’t. He’d offered his help, and that
was what he would damn well give her. All he was going to do tonight was work
the case with her. He wasn’t going to flirt with her. Wasn’t going to try to
kiss her again. Certainly wasn’t going to wheedle his way into her bedroom and
prove to her that no matter what she did for a living and no matter how hard she
tried to deny it, she was first and foremost a beautiful, desirable woman.

He didn’t care. He was looking forward to a few hours talking
shop with her far more than he’d anticipated any of his dates or bedmates
in…well, he didn’t know in how long.

He cleared his throat, and she turned to face him.

She was wearing glasses. Sexy librarian glasses that reminded
him of a favorite fantasy of his.

“So did you have a chance to look at any of this?” she

He thought of the album and scrapbook he’d viewed. Wanted to
express his admiration for her. Wanted to ask her about her life. All the things
he didn’t know about her. Instead, he said, “I sure did. Looks like you’ve got
your hands full with this one, Carrie.” And maybe because he was trying so hard
to ignore his desire for her, he said the worst thing possible. “Now more than
ever, I’m surprised Mac and the commander agreed to give you the lead.”

* * *

left his mouth, Carrie could
see Jase regretted them. Briefly closing his eyes, he shook his head and
groaned, “Way to go, Jase.”

It was the only reason she held back her instinctive urge to
gouge his eyes out.

He held up his hands surrender-style. “Look. That came out
wrong. You’re a good cop, Carrie, but even as far as serial cases go, this one
looks complicated. And we both know you’ve never worked a serial case before,
that’s all I meant.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” she said mildly.

“Sure, but this one? With a killer who’s this organized? This

“Most serial killers are. That’s how they’re able to get away
with multiple killings before they’re caught. Also, I might not have actually
worked any serial-killer cases, but I’ve taken advanced courses on them.
Assisted on plenty. I know how they work. I can find him.”

“If you were at the top of your game, I’d have no doubt about
that. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. You’ve been gone for a
month. Don’t you think you should ease into things a little more slowly?”

She crossed her arms over her chest and snorted. “Ease in by
giving you the case? Forget it. And if you’re done, you can leave now.”

Instead of leaving, he leaned against the wall and crossed his
legs. “Why? Because I’m questioning you? That’s how you’re going to handle
things? By avoiding them? I’m not the only who’s going to be questioning your
assignment to this case.”

“Because I’m a woman,” she said.

“No. Because you’re still learning and you’re in a shaky frame
of mind.”

“We’re not robots, Jase. Cops have to deal with personal stuff
all the time and still do the job. I can find this guy just like anyone could.
Mac knows that and that’s why he gave me the case. He believes in me.”

“Damn it, don’t pull that bullshit. I believe in you, too.”

“Then act like it. You offered your help and I wasn’t too proud
to accept it, Jase. I know I have less experience with serials and that you’ve
worked these kinds of cases before. Stop trying to convince me that I’m not the
right choice for this assignment and help me catch this guy instead.”

He worked his jaw for a second before straightening. “Okay.
Let’s sit down.” He sat on her couch.

Slowly, she did the same. “That’s it? No more badgering

“I won’t say another word about it. Not tonight anyway. Tell me
what you’ve come up with.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she did. She told him about the
victims all being teachers and her plan to interview witnesses at their various
schools. She’d also made some guesses as to the serial killer’s actual
profession. Teacher? Administrative staff at a school? Mortician? Medical
student? Doctor?

When she mentioned her plan to track purchases for embalming
supplies, he nodded.

“That’s good. You should definitely make that a top priority.
Also check with nearby hospitals and have them do inventory checks. See if any
relevant supplies have suddenly gone missing. Same with local mortuaries or
crematoriums. He burns the victims after he’s done with them, which means he’s
got to have access to a kiln. If he installed something like that in his house,
someone should have noticed it. I’m banking on the fact he has access to one
professionally, though. It would make things easier for him.”

She made notes. “That’s good. I didn’t think about the kiln.”
Swiftly, she looked up at him. “But I would have.”

Jase smiled. “I know. No judgments from me. Like I said
earlier, working these cases is always better when you’ve got two minds to look
over the evidence. Did Mac or Stevens mention assigning you a partner?”

BOOK: Shades of Temptation
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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