Book excerpt

Killer Deal

Molly Forrester Novels

Sheryl J. Anderson

St. Martin's Press

Killer Deal
One"YOU NEED A DEAD BODY. A really cool dead body," Cassady suggested."Is that something I order on-line or do they have a department upstairs?" I asked. Believe me, if there were a way to order up a stylish cadaver in Manhattan, Cassady Lynch would know. Networking is second nature to her and with her long legs, amazing figure, and cascading auburn curls, her life is overflowing with people eager to do her all sorts of favors."I'm fairly sure you have to special order those," Tricia said. "Especially one that's already been refrigerated."My two best friends and I were spending our lunch hour shopping--that's why granola bars fit in desk drawers--at the marvel that is the flagship ABC Home Store on Broadway. High heaven for shopping addicts, it is eight levels of treasures ranging from dainty little soaps to massive French country antiques. When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was about two kids who deliberately get locked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art overnight; I used to dream about doing the same. Now I dream about being locked in ABC Home. With a platinum card. That someone else pays off.We were on the first floor, helping Cassady search for a new pair of earrings. A fellow intellectual properties lawyerat the public interest group where she works had persuaded her to attend some sort of scientific seminar that night. She was having second thoughts, but didn't want to leave her colleague hanging, so she'd decided new baubles would amp up her excitement about going.Cassady frowned, gently enough to show displeasure but not deeply enough to start a crease. "At the risk of disparaging the mayor or the commissioner, there have been plenty of homicides in Manhattan this summer. I'm sure several of them are unsolved and worthy of your talents."Love and murder are my favorite topics as a journalist and as a person. What with the extreme behavior, the denial of risk, the blinding focus, and the will to succeed, being in love and being homicidal aren't as far apart as one might think. Or hope. And the place where those two mind-sets intersect fascinates me most of all. But it's a dangerous intersection, and this time around, it would prove to be an incredibly costly one."Believe me, I've tried," I said. "Not to sound like a ghoul, but whenever I hear about an interesting case, I pitch it to my darling editor, but she keeps shooting me down.""Maybe Eileen--and/or Fate--are suggesting you try a social crusade or a government scandal," Tricia suggested, examining a lovely pair of freshwater pearl dangles. "A less macabre route to greater journalistic glory."As opposed to the murder route I had been pursuing. While I'm best known as the advice columnist for Zeitgeist magazine, I've recently--through sets of unique circumstances--had the opportunity to solve two murders. I wrote articles about both investigations that were well received, but didn't quite launch the career transformation I'd hoped for. My editor continues to scoff at my desire to formally move beyond "You Can Tell Me" and build up an investigative resume. And while I love my column and the front-row seat it gives me at the demolition derby of love, a girl needs a challenge."Molly's got a gift, Tricia," Cassady said firmly. "We should encourage it.""I want to see her byline in the New York Times as muchas you do," Tricia agreed. "I was just hoping there was a less dangerous way to get her there.""I don't want to work for the Times," I told them."Of course you do. Everyone wants to be on the Times. I don't write and I want to be on the Times. You're pretending otherwise because Crew Boy is there." Cassady shook her head in disbelief. "Wimp.""Not wanting to work with Peter doesn't make me a wimp, it makes me smart.""Oh, bumper harvest of sour grapes. It's a mammoth paper with plenty of room to avoid him. Or better yet, get him fired in as messy and public a way as possible."Peter Mulcahey is a present rival and a former boyfriend. I was dating him--actually, in the process of breaking up with him--when I got involved with the first murder. And the detective investigating it. That dear detective is the one who christened Peter "Crew Boy." Behind his back, of course. But it does suit him. At that point, Peter and I were both working at magazines we saw as jumping-off points for our writing careers. I'm still at mine; he's jumped off to the Times, more through tenacious brownnosing than proven journalistic merit.Okay, Cassady's right; sour grapes abound but still: "I don't wish Peter ill," I said, trying to make amends."Really?" Cassady asked. "I wish him huge ill and I never even dated the man.""He didn't treat you well, Molly. It's our right to wish for anvils to fall on his head," Tricia said."I just want to figure out the next step in my career," I said, not so much to be noble as to stop talking about Peter."Wonderful. We'll switch to anvils falling on Eileen," Cassady suggested.Eileen Fitzsimmons is my editor at Zeitgeist. We're one of those glossy Manhattan lifestyle magazines that will instruct you to "Be Proud of Who You Are," teach you "Ten Bulletproof Ways to Seduce Him," and share the need to "Get Off Your Butt to Get Your Butt Off," all in the same issue and with no sense of irony. Eileen was brought in to "putsome teeth into the thing," according to The Publisher. At this point, the only place she's sunk her sharp incisors is into the tender hearts of the staff. Those who don't loathe her fear her. Best I can tell, she enjoys both reactions equally.Eileen has been good to me. Once. Which makes me nervous, since it brings to mind Don Corleone: "Someday ... I'll call upon you to do a service for me ..." Eileen's goodness was publishing my second investigative article, the one about Tricia's brother's fiancée being murdered at their engagement party. Perhaps you heard about it, maybe even read it.As part of Eileen's periodic efforts to toughen up the magazine, she asked me to write about the murder and the part I played in unraveling it. I wrote a strong piece (if I may say so), we got lots of great letters and e-mails about it, and I've been asking Eileen to let me tackle another investigative feature ever since. But she just scrunches up her nose like I'm a particularly mangy kitten, pats me on the shoulder, and sends me back to my column."Which brings us back to needing a body. One that will seem attractive to Eileen," I explained to Tricia and Cassady."Hmmm. Eileen as necrophiliac. Hadn't considered that before," Cassady said."Please. Like I don't have enough trouble looking the woman in the eye as it is.""Play your connections. Get the inside scoop from your scrumptious Sherlock," Cassady suggested.Tricia answered before I could. "Cassady, no. You know how Kyle feels about our investigations."Hearing Tricia refer to them as "our" investigations was delightful, because I certainly couldn't have solved either murder without their assistance, insight, and support. And she was absolutely right about Kyle; he'd be appalled at the notion of my actively scouting for another murder investigation. He's very protective--of me and of his turf. He'd prefer that the two not meet. And I can understand that, even if I don't always agree with it.Kyle Edwards and I met at a crime scene. Kyle was therebecause he's a homicide detective, literally one of Manhattan's finest. I was there because I'd discovered the body. We got to know each other very well very quickly, in part because he suspected me of being the killer. I felt it might clarify the situation if I solved the murder to prove him wrong. Not exactly Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the glass slipper, but we've made it work--most of the time--and are navigating the misunderstandings, drive-by shootings, and the other events that can complicate a romance between two people in our positions."A man doesn't always know what's good for him. Just ask Samson," Cassady replied."Kyle wouldn't stand in my way if I got a great story," I assured us all. "He's just not going to encourage me in that direction.""He's happy with you as an unfulfilled advice columnist?""Happy with people not shooting at me.""So when's he moving in?"I looked at my watch so I wouldn't have to look at either of them. "That soon?" Tricia asked."I need to get back." I leaned in to hug them both good-bye and was practically stiff-armed by Tricia, who glared at me mightily.Cassady arched one eyebrow, something she does effortlessly and eloquently. "Remind me to give you lessons in how to blow people off.""Gotta go back to the office," I insisted."Like you'd ever let Eileen put you on that short a leash," Cassady snarked."Molly Forrester, you're holding out on us," Tricia declared."Not at all. I'm just trying not to be premature in making any announcements.""Announcements?" The wedding bells were ringing so loudly in Tricia's head I could almost hear them in mine. Tricia is an events planner and derives immense satisfaction, as well as a nice living, from bringing order to other people's lives. The fact that she has known me for so many yearsand has yet to impose any order on mine both inspires and frustrates her. Because she's a petite, porcelain-skinned brunette, people make the mistake of assuming that Tricia is delicate and, therefore, meek. She's delicate all right--the same way a spider's web is. It's also beautiful and surprisingly tenacious."Slow down, cowgirl. He's moving some stuff in this weekend, that's all. No significant exchange of jewelry, no contracts of any sort, just ... stuff.""What kind of stuff?" Cassady pressed. "You're well past the toothbrush and one change of clothes point, right?""Not up to me."Cassady and Tricia turned to each other, delighted by this tidbit. "You know what that means," Cassady said to Tricia for my benefit."It was his idea," Tricia nodded."Why don't I go back to work and let you two carry on at your own pace?"Tricia beamed. "We need to have a party.""Great," I said. "Your place? Kyle and I will try to stop by.""I meant your place," Tricia said."Oh, no, no party. This isn't an official declaration of any kind. Just a little step in the right direction.""So, is he going to be there every night?" Cassady asked, pulling me back to where I'd been standing at the counter. I made a half-hearted attempt at resisting, in part because I really did need to get back to the office and in part because I was concerned they were going to ask me questions I didn't have answers for.Interestingly enough, my friends weren't looking to me for answers. They were supplying them themselves. "I doubt it. He works a lot of nights," Tricia said to Cassady."Because we can't exactly crash there whenever we want to if he's going to be living there," Cassady continued."Good point.""Not necessarily a point at all," I interjected. "He's not living there. He's moving some things in, in preparation forpossibly living there at some point, but is not currently taking up primary residence.""I thought I was the lawyer.""You've taught me well, Obi-Wan.""Not well enough. If I were in your Blahniks, that boy would have been installed full-time months ago and possibly wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.""You've never been that possessive in your life.""Never had a man that worthy of possessing."I let the compliment hang in the air while Cassady purchased a stunning pair of Sarah Macfadden earrings, delicate interlocking hoops of hammered silver. I didn't mean to downplay the importance or the excitement of Kyle and me inching toward a more permanent relationship, but the fact of the matter was, I was nervous. I'd never lived with a man before; most of my relationships had imploded well before keys were even swapped. And I'd never been so crazy about a guy that he could make me come unglued just by walking in the door the way Kyle did. It was terrifying.Giving my arm a squeeze, Tricia murmured, "I'm so happy for you.""How long do you suppose it'll take me to mess it up?""Stop it," she said briskly, miming tossing salt over her left shoulder to ward off the Devil.Cassady tucked her new purchase into her bag and steered us toward the door. "Much as I'd like to stay and teach Miss Molly to have a little faith in herself, now I am the one who has to get back. If I'm actually attending this Concerned Geeks Saving the World thing, I've got motions to file before I go, and motions to file before I go.""Somehow, Frost made it sound more attractive," Tricia said wistfully as we all made our way back onto the street.Robert Frost could have made anything sound more attractive. Save, perhaps, Eileen. She's one of those women who can stop you in your tracks when you first see her--but once you get to know her, you'll never slow down in her vicinity again. Early in her tenure, I wondered if it was possibleto structure my work hours so I'd only be at the magazine when Eileen wasn't--say, in the middle of the night. But then the rumors about her never going home, just sleeping in her coffin in her office, started, and I figured I had to get used to placing myself in her path on a regular basis. Especially because I'd already seen her dismantle several careers with nicely crafted lies whispered in The Publisher's ear and I didn't want to make it any easier on her to get me fired than I had to.Which is why my heart skipped a beat when Eileen's office door flew open just as I was walking to my desk. She stepped out with one hand extended portentously, like the Ghost of Christmas Future. A diminutive specter, barely five feet tall minus her Chloe wedges and clothed in an Elie Tahari chiffon skirt and paneled blouse, but scary nonetheless. "Just the person I was looking for," she said, curling the hand slowly to summon me.I resisted the temptation to look back over my shoulder, knowing that anyone who had been standing there was quivering under a desk by now. "Lucky me," I said, wishing it were so."We were just talking about you." Eileen flicked at her spiky black bangs as though the conversation had been exhausting, then gestured vaguely at her office. From where I stood, I couldn't tell whether it contained other writers, editors, or a death squad. I wasn't in any hurry to step up and find out.The great thing about the bull pen in our office is that lives are played out in the open; the lousy thing about the bull pen in our office is that sometimes the life played out is yours. The wall-less floor plan, with row on row of desks, makes it physically impossible to keep a secret or tell a lie. Of course, when colleagues start sleeping together, they somehow forget those facts, making coming to work much more entertaining for the rest of us."What can I do for you, Eileen?""We need to talk about the Garth Henderson article."I ran through a couple of appropriate responses in myhead and chose the most polite one, since half the bull pen had stopped what they were doing to witness this exchange: "Excuse me?" Until recently, Garth Henderson had been a self-proclaimed "advertising rock star" known for his bold flair in both his campaigns and his social life. Then, three weeks ago, Garth Henderson became a corpse, having been murdered in one of the fancier rooms of the Carlyle Hotel. Specifically, he'd been shot once in the crotch and once in the head. In that order, apparently. No arrests had been made, but the police had spent quite a lot of time talking to his ex-wife Gwen Lincoln and to Ronnie Willis, whose advertising agency, Willis Worldwide, was poised to merge with Garth's at the time of the murder. There was tremendous pressure on the police--primarily from Garth's many influential friends--to make something happen soon and I was glad for Kyle's sake that he hadn't caught the case.Garth Henderson had specialized in blurring the line between provocative and incendiary. His clients often got extra bang for their advertising buck because Garth's campaigns, with their hefty dose of sexuality, received vociferous attention from the media. So you not only saw his ads in the places he'd paid to run them, but on news programs and in magazines that critiqued them, often finding them salacious and inappropriate. Clients generally found them hugely effective.The only publicly unhappy client in recent memory had been Jack Douglass, the CEO of Douglass Frozen Foods. To launch Douglass' new soy ice cream line, Garth and his agency had designed a campaign that featured a buxom young movie actress, best known for appearing on late-night talk shows in a drunken tizzy, apparently about to perform oral sex on a soy fudgsicle. The television commercial had shown her stripping the wrapper off the fudgsicle with mounting excitement, then slowly raising it to her mouth while she licked her lips. The tagline of the campaign was: C'mon, you'll like it. You know you will.Sales had soared, particularly among college-aged men, but the critics and pundits had howled mightily. And Mr.Douglass, a neo-con who was reportedly being wooed by heavy hitters to segue into a political career, found himself being excoriated by those very same wooers as the media tempest crescendoed. Even when it died down, Mr. Douglass' political future was now said to be dim at best. But Garth Henderson signed several new clients."The Garth Henderson article," Eileen repeated with that vinegary touch of impatience that makes us all love her so. "I have a new take on it."Apparently, the new take included actually doing it. When the news of Henderson's death broke, all the murmurs of Gwen Lincoln's name intrigued me. That only sharpened when the police investigation seemed to stall. I'd pitched the idea of an article on the couple--and the murder--to Eileen but she'd shot it down, dismissing Garth's death as "when good divorces go bad." So why this change of heart?As I pondered that question and whether I dared ask it, a tall, angular man with marvelous cheekbones and a wild and thick head of sandy blond hair stepped out of her office. I placed the hair before I placed the face; it was Emile Trebask, the ascendant design demigod. You can find his reflection on some surface in all his print ads, smiling approvingly as dazed teenagers who have partially pulled on the clothes he designs grope each other for the camera. It's become a game to find Emile when each new ad comes out--sort of like finding the "Nina"s in Hirschfeld's drawings. Or perhaps more accurately, the fashionista's version of Where's Waldo?I was surprised to see him walking out of Eileen's office. We go to people like him, they don't come to us. Eileen smirked at my reaction, thinking I was impressed. "Molly, you know Emile, don't you?"Of course I didn't. I'd slapped down plenty of cash over the past few years to buy his clothes, but I'd never met him. I'd have to do some serious social climbing to even approach his strata. Eileen knew that and, I suspect, was enjoying the fact. "Haven't had the pleasure, Mr. Trebask," I said, offering my hand.He shook it gently, as though one of us might break. I'm pretty sure it wasn't me he was worried about. "Ms. Forrester, I'm so glad you're going to be talking to Gwen," he said with his famous clipped accent; it was much debated in the fashion press whether it was Swiss or Affected.Proudly, I did not gasp. Not only was there suddenly an article on the Garth Henderson murder, but I was doing an interview with the prime suspect? What did Emile Trebask have to do with it? More to the point, what did Eileen get out of it? I smiled and said, "Thank you, Mr. Trebask," while I tried to find the connection between all these interesting questions."I thought the world of Garth, a terrific talent, but to try to lay it at Gwen's feet. It's absurd. Gwen could not step on an ant, much less blow off someone's balls."At first, the last word sounded somewhere between "bowels" and "bells," so I thought he was trying to be discreet. When I realized he was being anything but, I bit the inside of my lip to maintain a professional demeanor and nodded. Mr. Trebask took that as encouragement to grow even more animated. "It's very important people understand exactly what's going on here." Since I myself was a little confused on that point, I nodded again. "Gwen's being made the scapegoat and that is not right. If we let people know the truth, then the police will have to look a little harder, won't they, and allow people to get on with their business. And their lives."I refrained from nodding yet again while my memory frantically Googled itself for some connection between Gwen Lincoln and Emile Trebask. Then Trebask pressed a small glass vial into my hand and I remembered."Success," he murmured.Lifting the vial to my nose, I sniffed gently and smelled cedar and honeysuckle, undercut with something smoky and musky. The sweet smell of success indeed."It's lovely," I said. Success was going to be the first perfume in the new Trebask fragrance line and Gwen Lincoln was Trebask's partner in the venture. She'd been anexecutive at several cosmetics firms, but equally important, her first husband had died young and left her incredibly wealthy. There'd been a fair amount of talk after Garth was killed that he'd found some weak spots in their prenup and was going to wring her out in divorce court. She'd dodged a bullet and he hadn't. Twice, actually. Or so that rumor had gone.So had Emile come to Eileen looking for an article to prop up his business partner during a crucial time? It was a noble gesture on his part, but I couldn't figure out what Eileen was getting out of it, which was always the pivotal part of any equation involving her.Trebask lightly touched my hand again and, for a moment, I thought he was going to take his perfume sample back. "Your piece on the murder of Lisbet McCandless was very powerful. I'm sure you'll do just as well here.""Thank you," I said, still improvising."And you." Trebask turned back to Eileen. Her reptilian smile grew, consuming even more of her tiny face than I'd thought possible. "You will be an amazing addition to my celebrity model lineup at the gala.""Emile, I'm so honored."The pieces slid into place with slimy ease. Horse-trading was alive and well at Zeitgeist. Trebask was looking for help in swaying public, if not police, opinion and Eileen had bartered an article in the magazine for an ego turn in one of Trebask's fashion shows. Since he'd said "gala," it was probably the show he was putting on to launch the perfume while raising funds for the Fashion Industry Mentor Project, which encouraged at-risk youth to consider careers in fashion through internships and mentorships. I'd donated money to them before and suddenly felt very protective of the organization, imagining teeny meanie Eileen prancing down the catwalk and pretending to be a model at their expense.But I couldn't dwell on that now, because I was grappling with the most thrilling part of this strange symbiotic seduction: I came out of it with a feature article assignment."Please let me know if there's anything I can do, any doorI can open," Emile said, squeezing my shoulder as gently as he'd squeezed my hand."Thank you, I will," I said, already brainstorming on how to give Eileen and Emile what they wanted while doing what I wanted. I would find a way."You understand what I need here," Eileen said flatly when she returned from escorting Emile to the elevator. I was waiting in her office, despite her new assistant's efforts to bodily remove me from the sofa--if you can call it that. Sculpted slab would be more accurate. Eileen's office is decorated like Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono attempted to set up housekeeping together. Everything's bright and shiny and bold and there isn't a single comfortable spot to sit in the whole place."An interview with Gwen Lincoln that mentions both the new perfume and the Garth Henderson murder, in that order," I answered. She gestured for me to elaborate. "And that points to the distinct possibility of her innocence in the latter," I continued gingerly."Good girl."Not to bite the hand that was suddenly feeding me, but I had to ask. "What if she's not innocent?""Then you can have the cover."I wasn't expecting that. "Didn't you tell your new buddy we'd do an article to help his friend and partner?"Eileen leaned against her desk and swatted at her bangs again. "Molly," she said, her impatience moving from vinegar to venom, "haven't you ever said something to a man just to make him go away?""Millions of times. I turn them away in droves.""Oops. Didn't schedule time for you to try and be funny this afternoon. You'd better go." She slithered behind her desk and perched in front of her computer. Not to do any work, just to remove me from her line of sight.But I wasn't going anywhere without more information. I had to know my boundaries, especially if I was going to push them. "But you did tell him we'd write an article to help Gwen Lincoln.""I did not. I told him we'd write an article about GwenLincoln. Now, if he made poor assumptions about the contents and point of view, just because he thinks she's innocent, he's really the one in the wrong, wouldn't you say?""So I have latitude here to consider her potentially guilty and investigate accordingly."Her icy green eyes slid in my direction for a moment, then zipped back to the screen. "Theoretically, but I doubt it will even be an issue. Why don't we just wait and see if you get that far?"The wave of adrenaline I'd been surfing dumped me on my head. Distracted by the potential of this article, I'd stopped considering Eileen's point of view. "You're assuming I won't come up with anything.""I'm demanding that you come up with an interview. Beyond that, Molly, I won't be holding my breath."I knew that was less a statement about Gwen Lincoln than one about me, but I tried not to rise to the bait. "If I'm going to touch on the murder at all, I'm going to have to look into it. I want to go into this interview armed with facts and no preconceived notion of anyone's guilt or innocence.""If that's your process, so be it. Honestly, Molly, this little hobby of yours is cute, though rather twisted, but let's pause a moment and be realistic, shall we? Garth Henderson isn't some corpse you're related to. This is a high-profile murder that has stymied the police. It's out of your league."So Eileen's real issue raised its catty little head. She thought I was incapable of solving this mystery because I didn't have any personal connection to the crime, as I had in my previous articles. She was, in her own twisted way, telling me I couldn't do it. Which is a sentiment I take as a challenge."I'll do it anyway."Eileen studied me for a long moment, then let her face slide into a sickly, curling smile like the Grinch looking down on Whoville. "I had no doubt."She was claiming to know me so well that she could count on my hunger for a great story to override any other concerns. Maybe she was right, but I didn't want to give herthe satisfaction of admitting that this early in the process. "I need to know you'll support my efforts to do this the right way," I pressed."Fine.""And keep your predictions about my failure to yourself.""Your implication wounds me.""Yours doesn't exactly warm my heart.""I'm trying to be frank. You want to turn that into something malevolent, that's your business."No, that's your strength, I thought, but for a change, I had the sense not to say it out loud. "Wonderful. I'll get to work." I pushed myself off the slab and headed for the door.Eileen sat back from the monitor and folded her thin arms across her chest. "Just keep in mind you still have to do your column and that piece on dating divorced men, too.""I will.""All in two weeks.""Right.""And be careful."Interesting. I never would have suspected Eileen of giving a second thought about my personal safety. "Thank you, Eileen," I said, trying to sound more grateful than surprised."God knows I don't want you infuriating some homicidal idiot who's going to come after you here in the office and hurt someone else, namely me. Investigations aren't good for your coworkers or the carpet."Okay, so she wasn't thinking about me at all, except in relation to her own comfort. The upside was, my suspicion that Hell remained a frost-free environment was confirmed. "I'll do my best.""You're smiling too much and I can't bear it. Go now," Eileen said with a dismissive wave.Back at my desk, I couldn't even sit still. This was the opportunity I'd been looking for and I was going to make the most of it. Third time's a charm and I was going to make sure this article got me where I wanted to go.I began by making lists and notes. I'd been following the news about the Henderson investigation out of personal interest,but I wanted to assemble everything I could and make sure I was fully up to date. I needed background research on Gwen Lincoln, too, to make sure I got the most out of my interview. Gwen would be expecting puff-piece softballs, but I didn't want to miss a chance to dig deep.I was also going to have to find out how much information the police would be willing to give me. Since it was an ongoing investigation, it probably wouldn't be much. I tried to remember who Kyle had said had caught the case.Kyle. I needed to tell Kyle. Telling Tricia and Cassady, especially in view of our lunch-hour conversation, would be great fun, but I couldn't be sure Kyle would be as enthusiastic. He worried about me, which I appreciated hugely, so he'd probably be pretty low-key about it. But he'd be happy, too.I called Cassady and Tricia, who were both thrilled to hear the good news. Tricia made me swear we would reconvene for celebratory cocktails at some point later in the evening; I mentioned that to Cassady, who said she was sure she'd be ready to ditch her fund-raiser quite early, so count her in.Then I took a stroll and called Kyle from the steps of his precinct. I'm very respectful of professional space and the last way in the world I want to be perceived is as the flighty girlfriend who's forever dropping by to intrude at the worst possible time. Especially now that I might be interacting with some of his colleagues on a completely new level."Hey, where are you?" he asked, sounding calm and pleased to hear from me."Out front. I didn't want to interrupt, but I happened to be in the neighborhood.""Why?""Because I have great news.""I'll come down and you can tell me in person."There's something so delicious about watching the man you're crazy about come walking toward you. You get that great anticipation of how he's going to feel, smell, and taste as he moves closer. But it's also having those momentswhen you're too far away to say anything, when you can just appreciate the marvelous way he moves with that effortless, muscular gait, the way the sunlight catches little hints of auburn in his hair that fluorescent light ignores, how the blue in his eyes shines from a hundred yards away, and the way his head tilts to one side because he's thinking about other things right up until the moment he opens his mouth and says:"Hey."He kissed me gently and quickly. He keeps things muted in public, especially in front of his workplace. Even as he straightened back up, I could see his eyes moving over the passersby to check who might have been watching us."Nice appetizer," I said."You want the main course, make a late reservation. I'm not finishing up any time soon.""That's too bad. We have some celebrating to do.""What's up?""I need to talk to one of your fellow detectives.""One thing at a time. Go back to the celebrating.""That's it. Eileen finally gave me a real assignment. I'm doing an article on Gwen Lincoln.""What kind of article?""An investigative piece.""Define 'investigative.'""It's supposed to be a profile on her new business, but I'm going to have to address Garth Henderson's murder.""Why?""People still suspect her. Don't they?"He pinched his bottom lip thoughtfully. "Haven't been keeping track.""Well, I'll find out.""What else are you going to find out?""Whatever I can."Kyle smiled gently and a little sadly. I figured he was thinking of how consuming his current case was, then adding on how much I was going to have to be working toget this article done right, and figuring out what little time together that would leave us. "What makes you think Gwen Lincoln will talk to you?""Her business partner brokered the deal.""Yeah, I bet.""Eileen assigned it to me. This is a huge step forward in her perception of what I can do for the magazine.""That's great."He let go of his lip and I waited for his mouth to curl up into a congratulatory smile. But that didn't happen. Instead, the man of my dreams chose that moment to say those three little words that can make your heart skip a beat, make you feel dizzy, and change a relationship forever. Three little words:"Don't do it."Copyright © 2006 by Sheryl J. Anderson and Mark Edward Parrott. In addition to writing novels, Sheryl J. Anderson has been a television producer and writer, and a writing teacher. She lives with her husband and children in Los Angeles.