She was already itching to get to work, to put her field notes into some sort of order, to do her first runs, but she turned to the house scanner.

“Where is Roarke?”

Welcome home, darling Eve.

As usual the recorded voice using that particular endearment had slivers of embarrassment pricking at her spine.

“Yeah, yeah. Answer the question.”

“He’s right behind you.”

“Jesus!” She whirled, biting back another curse as she saw Roarke leaning casually in the archway to the parlor. “Why don’t you just pull a blaster and fire away?”

“That wasn’t the welcome home I’d planned. You’ve blood on your pants.”

She glanced down. “It’s not mine.” Rubbing at it absently, she studied him.

It wasn’t just his greeting that spiked her heart rate. That could happen, did happen, just by looking at him. It wasn’t the face. Or not just the face, with its blinding blue eyes, with that incredible mouth curved now in an easy smile, or the miracle of planes and angles that combined into a stunning specimen of male beauty framed by a mane of silky black hair. It wasn’t just that long, rangy build, one she knew was hard with muscle under the business elegance of the dark suit he wore.

It was all she knew of him, all she had yet to discover, that combined and blew love through her like a storm.

It was senseless and impossible. And the most true and genuine thing she knew.

“How did you plan to welcome me home?”

He held out a hand, linking his fingers with hers when she crossed the marble floor to take it. Then he leaned in, leaned down, watching her as he brushed his lips over hers, watching her still as he deepened the kiss.

“Something like that,” he murmured, with Ireland drifting through his voice. “To start.”

“Good start. What’s next?”

He laughed. “I thought a glass of wine in the parlor.”

“All by ourselves, you and me, drinking wine in the parlor.”

The glee in her voice had him lifting a brow. “Yes, I’m sure Summerset’s enjoying his holiday. How sweet of you to ask.”

“Blah blah.” She strolled into the parlor, dropped down on one of the antique sofas and deliberately planted her boots on a priceless coffee table. “See what I’m doing? Think he just felt a sharp pain in his ass?”

“That’s very childish, Lieutenant.”

“What’s your point?”

He had to laugh, and poured wine from a bottle he’d already opened. “Well then.” He gave her a glass, sat and propped his feet on the table as well. “How was your day?”

“Uh-uh, you first.”

“You want to hear about my various meetings, and the progress of plans for the acquisition of the Eton Group, the rehab of the residential complex in Frankfurt and the restructuring of the nanotech division in Chicago?”

“Okay, enough about you.” She lifted her arm to make room when Galahad, their enormous cat, landed on the cushion beside her with a thump.

“I thought so.” Roarke toyed with Eve’s hair as she stroked the cat. “How is our new detective?”

“She’s fine. She’s loaded down with paperwork yet. Clearing up old business so she can start on the new. I wanted to give her a few days as a desk jockey before she takes her shiny new detective’s badge out on the street.”

He glanced down at the bloodstain on Eve’s pants. “But you’ve caught a case.”

“Mmm.” She sipped the wine, let it smooth out the edges of the day. “I handled the on-scene solo.”

“Having a little trouble adjusting to having a partner rather than an aide, Lieutenant?”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know.” She gave an irritable shrug. “I couldn’t just cut her loose, could I?”

He flicked a finger down the shallow dent in her chin. “You didn’t want to cut her loose.”

“Why should I? We work well together. We’ve got a rhythm. I might as well keep her around. She’s a good cop. Anyway, I didn’t tag her for this because she had this whole big night planned, and she was already gone. You get enough plans fucked in this job without me pulling her in and botching her big celebration.”

He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Very sweet of you.”

“It was not.” Her shoulders wanted to hunch. “It was easier than hearing her bitch and moan about losing reservations and wasting some fancy dress or something. I’ll fill her in tomorrow anyway.”

“Why don’t you fill me in tonight?”

“Planned on it.” She slid her gaze in his direction, smirked. “I think you could be useful.”

“And we know I love being useful.” His fingers skimmed up her thigh.

She set down her glass, then lifted the tonnage of Galahad, who’d sprawled his girth over her lap. “Come along with me then, pal. I got a use for you.”

“That sounds… interesting.”

He started out with her, then cocked his head when she stopped halfway up the stairs. “Problem?”

“I had this thought. You know how Summerset took that header down the steps?”

“I could hardly forget.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry he busted his pin and so on, even over and above the fact that it delayed his getting the hell out of the house for several days.”

“You’re entirely too sensitive, darling Eve. It can’t be good for you to take on the weight of the world this way.”

“Ha-ha. So it’s like bad luck. The stairs, I mean. We need to fix that or one of us could be next.”

“How do you propose to-”

It was impossible to finish the question, and difficult to remember what that question was when her mouth was hot on his, and her hands already busy tugging at his belt.

He all but felt his eyes roll up in his skull and out the back of his head.

“Can’t have enough good luck, to my mind,” he managed, and spun her around so her back hit the wall and he could yank off her jacket.

“If we don’t fall and kill ourselves, then we’ve broken the curse. This is a really good suit, right?”

“I have others.”

She laughed, pulled at his jacket, bit his throat. He hit the release on the weapon harness, shoved at the straps so it and the weapon thudded down the steps.

Restraints followed, and pocket ’links, a raw-silk tie, a single boot. He had her pinned to the wall, not quite naked, when she came. Her nails bit into his back, then slid down so she could squeeze his butt. “I think it’s working.”

With a breathless laugh, he pulled her down to the steps. They bumped and rolled. Thumped down, climbed up. In self-defense, she flung out a hand and gripped one of the spindles of the banister, hooked her legs around him like a vise to keep them both from tumbling down in a heap to the bottom.

He ravaged her breasts while her arching hips drove him toward delirium. When she shuddered, when she choked out his name, he pressed his hand between them and watched her crest again.

For all that he’d wanted the whole of his life, he’d never wanted anything as he did her. The more he had of her, the more he craved in an endless cycle of love and lust and longing. He could live with whatever had come before, whatever would come after, as long as there was Eve.

“Don’t let go.” He cupped her hips, lifted them. “Don’t let go.” And drove himself into her.

There was a moment of blind, blasting pleasure, and her fingers trembled on the wood. The force of his need for her, and hers for him, rammed together, all but stopped her heart. Dazed, she opened her eyes, looked into his. She could see him lose himself, as linked with her now as if there’d been steel forging them.

So she wrapped herself around him and didn’t let go.

They sprawled together on the stairs like two survivors of an earthquake. She wasn’t entirely sure the ground didn’t tremble still.

She had on one boot, and her pants were inside out and stuck on one leg at the ankle. She had no doubt it looked ridiculous, but couldn’t drum up the energy to care.

“I’m pretty sure it’s safe now,” she commented.

“I hope to Christ, as I don’t fancy having a go at it on these stairs a second time right at the moment.”

“I’m the one with a tread in my back.”

“So you are. Sorry.” He rolled off her, sat up, skimmed back his hair. “That was… I’m not entirely sure. Memorable. I’d say memorable.”

She wouldn’t forget it anytime soon. “Most of our stuff’s at the bottom, or nearly.”

He looked down, as she did. For a moment, while they pondered, there was no sound except their ragged breathing. “There, you see, this is where having someone come along picking up after you comes in handy.”

“If a certain someone-who shall remain nameless for the next wonderful three weeks-was here to pick up after us, you wouldn’t have gotten your rocks off on the steps.”

“Point taken. I suppose I’ll go gather things up then. You’re still wearing a boot,” he pointed out.

She debated for a moment, then decided working the boot off would be simpler than untangling the trousers. Once she had, she picked up whatever was reasonably in reach.

Then she sat where she was, chin on fist, and watched him tidy up the mess they’d made. It was never a hardship to look at him naked. “I’ve got to dump this stuff, throw something on.”

“Why don’t we eat while you tell me how else I might be useful?”


Since they’d eat in her home office for her convenience, she let him pick the menu. She even manned the AutoChef herself for the lobster salad he had a yen for. She decided the sex had burned the alcohol out of her system and allowed herself a second glass of wine as they ate.

“Okay, woman who owns the residence-private town house, Upper East-was out of town for two weeks. A female friend was house-sitting. Owner comes home this afternoon, late this afternoon, sees her living area trashed. Her statement is that the doors were locked, the security alarm set. She goes upstairs. There’s a strong odor, which pisses her off as much as the mess downstairs. She walks into her bedroom, finds her house sitter dead. Dead for five days, according to my on-site. Throat slit. No other visible injuries. Indications are the attack came from behind. The security camera at the entrance was deactivated, disks removed. There’s no sign of forced entry. The victim was wearing a lot of baubles. Possible-even probable-they’re fake, but her wrist unit was a good

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