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Authors: Elizabeth Finn

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“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

He stopped dead in his tracks and fought with himself about
turning back to her. A quick, polite, professional and impersonal response was
what he should give her. But he didn’t. He turned to her slowly. She held a pan
in her hand and as she met his eyes, she set it on the stove.

“We just can’t. I’m Sorry.” And he was. He may not have
outright admitted he wanted her but he may as well have. He simply couldn’t
stand the idea of rejecting her when all he really wanted was to have her.

Chapter Six

 

He didn’t expect to see her again so soon but as he snatched
up his cell phone the next afternoon, he sucked in a quick breath as he heard
his partner’s words. “Your vic’s here from the home invasion the other night.”

“Why?”

“The asshole left her a nice little message. Not sure how
the hell to play it. Do we even have something that will play those little tape
thingies anymore?”

“I’ll be there in ten.” He hung up and seven minutes later—he
might have sped—he was walking back into the precinct.

He found her sitting beside Stephens’ desk alone. Stephens
had obviously abandoned her, not that he was surprised to see that—he was a bit
of a dick. “Hi.”

“Hi.” She held up a small tape in her hand with a somewhat
sheepish look on her face.

“I had no idea they even made such things anymore. Haven’t
you heard of voicemail? Or even a digital answering machine?” He smirked at her
before he could stop himself and her face relaxed.

“But then I wouldn’t have these great little tapes to tote
around when psychopaths call me and leave me romantic messages, now would I?”

She had him there. He caught himself smiling again but even
as they looked at each other, her face fell. She was nervous. Of course she was
nervous—a psychopath had left her a romantic message.

He slipped his suit jacket off his shoulders as she watched
and he tossed it over the back of his chair before sitting and facing her.
“Where’d Stephens go?”

“To find a tape player. He’s not nearly as nice as you.”

“And I ain’t that nice to begin with.” He was smirking at
her again and she was smiling.

“No you’re not.”

“Care to tell me what we’re going to hear on this tape?” Her
cheeks instantly burned scarlet and she looked away from him.

“Not really. In fact, I’d rather just leave the tape and let
you listen to it when I’m not around.” She looked hopeful.

“And I’d rather you be here. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to
be uncomfortable but it’s important. I need to be able to ask you questions.”
She took a deep breath through her nose as her eyes flashed to the ceiling. He
could only guess what could make her so nervous about this. It didn’t take long
to find out.

“It’s not going to happen again—you know that, right, you
stupid little cunt? You’re not going to scare me off again. Don’t worry. I
don’t want to kill you, at least not right away. Not until I’ve gotten what I
want. You’re all the same—you know you are. You act sweet, you act nice but
you’re not. You’re all the same. Fucking dick tease. Fucking bitch.” The voice
was rambling and Katrina was trembling. “I’m going to fuck you, you know that,
don’t you? You can’t stop me. The fucking cops can’t stop me. And I’m going to
make it hurt. It’s going to more than hurt. It’s going to tear you in half and
leave you wishing you were dead.”

His jaw was tight as he listened to the deranged voice
threaten her. Stephens was sitting quietly by staring at the recorder in front
of them and Katrina couldn’t seem to do anything but stare at her hands. “It’s
been awhile since you’ve gotten laid, hasn’t it? I know it has. Months. I’ve
watched you, you fucking slut. I know how much you enjoy getting yourself off.
I’ve heard the moans from your bedroom. I’ve watched you writhing around with
that fucking fake cock of yours you enjoy so much. You fuck your pussy hard and
fast, crying out and groaning like a whore. Why shouldn’t it be me?”

He was starting to understand just why this might be
uncomfortable for her.
Fuck
. It was uncomfortable for him too. “It’s
going to be me very soon.”

The call disconnected and Stephens stood. “I’m going to go
call the phone company.” He looked between the two of them in the small private
room they’d used to listen to the tape. Dillon was struggling to maintain his
composure far more than normal. He’d seen plenty of crazy in his day and this
shouldn’t be bothering him but she was sitting across from him trembling and
refusing to look up to him.

Stephens cleared his throat. “Cool?”

“Yeah.” It was unspoken between him and Stephens which of
them would be questioning her. Dillon was always the front man with victims. He
simply had a better personality for it, though the woman in front of him might
have disagreed with that the first time she met him. There were hard questions
to be asked and he and Stephens were both well of aware of that fact. Stephens
was also without doubt wondering what the fuck was making him so damn
uncomfortable all of the sudden. Stephens left, shaking his head.

“Katrina?”

“Hmm?” She was still refusing to look up.

“I have to ask you some questions.”

“Great.” Her sarcasm was biting.

“He mentioned it’s been a long time since you’d been with
anyone. Is there truth to that? I need to understand just how much of what he
said is true to determine if he’s really been watching you or just wants you to
think he’s been watching you.”

She finally looked up but she still couldn’t meet his eyes
and hers settled on some place over his shoulder. Her humiliation showed
clearly in her crystal-blue eyes. He wanted to touch her, reassure her that it
was okay but there was nothing he could do to make this less embarrassing for
her. She had no idea just how much he was okay with hearing the more private
parts of her life but he couldn’t say that to her.

“I was in a relationship late last summer through fall with
a man I met at a Starbucks of all places. He ended the relationship about three
months ago, just didn’t think we were going anywhere.” She used finger quotes
on “going anywhere”.

“We only dated for four or five months and he stayed over a
few nights a week on average. That is what you wanted to know, right? How often
I was getting laid and this creep was watching. Should have kept my fucking
blinds closed, huh?” She sounded angry. She had every right to be but she
didn’t need to be aiming it at him.

“You have every right to be upset, Katrina, and yes that’s
what I need to know. I need to speak with your ex-boyfriend. Can you give me
his name and contact information?”

“Sure. It’s not him. He had blue eyes like the man who came
into my house but that’s not his voice and he didn’t like me nearly enough to
want to fuck me in half. That is what that asshole said, isn’t it? What the
hell does that even mean?” He wasn’t even willing to entertain the idea of what
exactly that might mean to a lunatic.

He handed her a slip of paper and watched as she wrote down
the name and information of her former lover and she slid it back to him. She
was still refusing to look at him and just stared at the tabletop. “We need to
talk about some of the other comments he made as well.”

He didn’t need to explain that to her—the look on her face
as she shook her head in disgust made it clear she understood exactly what he
was saying. It didn’t mean he expected to see her stand and stalk to the door.
He stood quickly and then she turned to him, meeting his eyes for the first
time.

“It’s all very likely true.” Her eyes closed as the
humiliation ate away at her and then she left him staring after her. He wanted
to follow her but there was nothing he could say to her to make this better.

Instead he did his own stalking all the way to the chief’s
office. “I want more protection on Katrina Page.”

“And how am I going to justify that?” Chief Greenwood wasn’t
being rude but he did need a damn good reason.

“He left her a message threatening her. He also suggested
that he’s been watching her for some time and particular statements left in the
message have been confirmed by the victim. There is little doubt in my mind at
this point that he’s a danger to her.”

“Okay. We’ll put a uniform outside her house when she’s
there. I’m not going to sacrifice the man hours during the day when she’s
working but she’ll be covered at night when she’s home. Anything else?” He
shook his head and left. He felt marginally better about the fact she’d
insisted on going home but he was anxious and he didn’t like it. When he made
it back to his desk, Stephens was there.

“You gonna tell me what’s up with that witness?”

“She’s freaked out—she’s upset. Does that seem odd to you
for some reason?” Stephens harrumphed and stared at him. He and Stephens had
been teamed together for a few years and they got on just fine—but Stephens had
the personality of a meat grinder.

“Wasn’t really talkin’ ‘bout that. You two act like you’re
fucking or something. All weird around each other. And not just her, by the
way.” It was Dillon’s turn to harrumph. Of course he knew it was likely true.
He couldn’t seem to pretend to be quite as professional as he ought to around
her and she just seemed damn uncomfortable.

“Greenwood’s putting extra security on her. What did you
find out with the phone company?”

“Nothing yet. They’ll call me when they have something. I’m
guessing the psycho’s not so stupid he’ll use a traceable landline or cell. Even
the biggest idiots in the world know to use a disposable phone now a day. Good
thing Greenwood’s putting more people on her. I think she may just need it.” He
stood and walked away, leaving Dillon staring at his desktop.

Chapter Seven

 

“Hey, Ms. Page?”

“Yeah, Seth, what’s up?” She peered up at him, feeling all
the humiliation looking at him as she felt around his father. It was just so
damn odd having his son in her class. They looked so much alike it seemed as
though every thought which passed through her mind revolving around Detective
Adler was somehow staring right back at her in Seth’s eyes. It wasn’t and she
was just being paranoid. She was also exhausted and likely losing her mind.

She had ended up sleeping on her bathroom floor the night before
with the door locked and a knife lying by her side. She’d had a nightmare and
even though she could see a patrol car parked outside her house nothing much
seemed to calm her paranoia. She simply couldn’t tolerate being alone in a room
with windows for some reason and so she ended up in the bathroom.

“Here’s my free writing.” She took the paper from him,
smiled and he turned back to his desk. It was only second period and she wasn’t
at all sure how she was going to stay awake all day, especially given she had
an adult-education class to teach downtown that night.

She managed somehow, sucking back coffee and downing a Five-Hour
Energy drink after lunch but after the last of her students walked out the
door, she quickly snatched up her coat and bags and staggered out her door. She
nearly choked on her tongue as she caught sight of Detective Adler towering
above the tops of the other students’ heads about twenty feet down the hall
with Seth another ten feet beyond that.

“Dad. I’m doing fine in Ms. Page’s class. Shit!” Katrina’s
brows shot up as Detective Adler wheeled toward Seth.

“Say that again and see how long I can make your Xbox
disappear.” She almost laughed but then the humiliation set in again. He hadn’t
even seen her yet and she contemplated high-tailing it down the hall in the
other direction.

She decided there was little reason. He was obviously there
to see her and that meant there was a reason and it involved her case or Seth.
He wouldn’t be paying her any social visits—he’d made that abundantly clear in
her kitchen. Actually the first time was the parking lot. She couldn’t stop
humiliating herself around him and now the phone message?
Sheesh! Why? Why?
Why?

“Go wait in the car. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
Detective Adler tossed his keys to Seth, who threw his hands up in the air in
frustration as he turned around and stomped off down the hallway. It was all
rather cute and heartwarming really. She’d never actually witnessed them
together.

When he turned toward her, she had a small smile on her face
and the moment his eyes lit on hers, his mouth pulled up in his own small
smile. Hers faded quickly and she turned back into her classroom.

“How are you?” He closed the door behind him as he walked
into her room.

“Detective, I’m sorry. I just—”

“Dillon, please.”

“Dillon. I’m sorry about yesterday evening at your precinct.
I was just embarrassed and—”

“You shouldn’t be. Not around me, okay?”

She nodded but her eyes dropped down along his tall and
strong body to settle at his feet. Don’t be embarrassed about having the most
private part of her life exposed to him against her will?
Yeah, right
.

“I wanted to let you know the phone trace was a dead end. We
suspected he would likely use an untraceable disposable phone and he did. I’m
sorry.” She nodded. Just her luck. “We’ve put extra security on you at your
home address in the evenings and overnight. You may have noticed.”

She nodded again but still remained quiet. “Katrina.” She
finally looked back up to him and his expression was serious but incredibly
calm. “I’m sorry about all of this. I wish things were different…”

The subtlest of head shakes suggested he’d overstepped a
boundary. She wanted him to overstep it again. She needed his need—the need he
was hiding and withholding from her. She’d deal with the humiliation of what he
knew about her if she could just absorb and experience some of that incredible
strength of his.

“You don’t look good.” Her mouth dropped open as he spoke.

“Thanks?”

He smiled and she finally did too. “You look exhausted.
You’re not sleeping, are you?”

“Sure I am. I slept on the bathroom floor last night, nearly
stabbed myself with a large kitchen knife I was cuddling with for comfort.” She
smirked. It was humorless but he seemed to appreciate her sour mood.

“If you feel that way, call me. I never sleep through the
night and I’m used to being woken up constantly. You don’t need to just suffer
that type of fear alone.” His eyes softened and her insides turned soft too.
She was melting into his strength again, turning into a mushy pathetic woman.
“Let me walk you out.”

She nodded and they walked from the room together. “Can I
ask about Seth’s mother?”

He turned to her as they strolled slowly down the now
deserted hallway. She thought perhaps
she’d
overstepped a boundary that
time but she suspected he was too busy worrying about his own boundaries to
judge too much.

“She died when Seth was six months old. Car accident.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. I mean, thank you, but it was a long time ago. I
feel bad for Seth more than anything. He never knew his mom and that’s a bit
heartbreaking for me to stomach on his account, but in truth he doesn’t miss
her because he never knew her.”

“What about you? Do you miss her?”

He thought for a moment as they walked and then he stopped
and turned to her. “Not really. Don’t get me wrong, I did for a long time but—it
was just so long ago at this point. I guess I miss what we had but because it
was so long ago and my life has changed so much since it’s hard to connect with
the life I had then. I’m not sure that makes sense.”

“What was she like?” Talk about overstepping boundaries but
he humored her interest.

“She was great. She was beautiful, kind, honest and moral.
She was everything I wanted. I thought we’d be together for the rest of our
lives. Her name was Shannon. We met our first year of college, married our
junior year and she was pregnant before we’d even graduated.”

They were taking a damn long time walking at a snail’s pace
through the hallways. “What about you? You’ve never been married?”

She shook her head slowly as he studied her. “Nope. Not even
close. Nothing even remotely interesting in that category.” He smirked.

“What are you doing this evening?”
Going on a date with
you
. She wished.

“Teaching. I have a creative writing class I teach downtown
on Wednesday nights.”

He tensed beside her for a moment. “And you drive yourself?”

“Of course. There’s a parking garage attached to the
building. Why?”

“I should probably check it out. Can I meet you there later
on at the end of your class?”

“Sure.” She was more than happy to see him later in the
evening, even if she wasn’t entirely sure why he suddenly seemed so concerned.
It was a busy building, it was a busy town. She actually felt safer there than
her quiet little home at the moment.

“Oh, I don’t talk cases with Seth, if you were curious. In
fact, I don’t talk cases with anyone not related to my job.” He eyed her for a
moment as they approached the door. “So…Seth thinks I’m getting a progress
update from his favorite teacher. Beneficial for a couple reasons. Keeps him on
his toes and lets me chat with you without him being the wiser.”

She chuckled as he held the door open for her. “Such a
dishonest thing to do to your son.”

“Yeah? Well, I expect you to play along.”

“If it makes you feel any better, he’s doing well. He’s a
great student and he seems to be doing well with the reading group too. He’s
participating a lot and that’s a good sign.”

“Glad to hear it. See how productive we can be together when
you’re not hating me for being late and I’m not hating you for being rude to
me?” His shit-eating grin had her smiling before she could remember she had
nothing to smile about.

Katrina gave him the building address and room number of her
class that evening as they walked toward the parking lot where his SUV was
pulled up in the loading zone.

“If you have a crush on my teacher, Dad, I’m going to puke.”
Seth was hollering out the window, very intentionally trying to embarrass his
father and given the rather flushed look on Dillon’s face, he’d managed it
beautifully. Naturally it left Katrina’s cheeks burning too.

“Sorry about that,” he muttered.

“It’s okay. I already know you have a crush on me.” It
popped out, as such comments often did, before she could stop herself. She
sauntered away from him before he could say anything further and before he
could see the furiously burning red of her cheeks. She forced herself to keep
her eyes forward. It was a small victory for the sake of her humiliation and
she reveled in it even as the embarrassment coursed through her veins. She’d
had few victories recently and she deserved that one.

* * * * *

He snuck into her classroom toward the end of the evening,
taking a quick seat in the back row. It was an adult education class and there
were fewer than fifteen students there. Stephens was trolling the hallways at
the moment, checking out the building security but Dillon was more interested
in the students—very specifically the ones in her classroom. He watched them.
Most hadn’t even noticed him entering, though Katrina most definitely did. She
was speaking, something about the importance of dialogue in fiction writing—but
her cheeks were the most incredible shade of pink. He was making her nervous
and he was enjoying that fact after the comment she left him with in the
parking lot earlier.

She’d nailed him. He did have a crush on her but she failed
to see just how inappropriate it was. It wasn’t something he could let get away
from him—no matter how much he might want to. But he’d be damned if he could
stop fucking thinking about her. This had never been a struggle before and he
couldn’t quite figure out why she was testing him so much.

He’d worked with plenty of attractive witnesses and had
never been so tempted, as he was every time he was with her. And she apparently
knew it. He was obviously doing a shit job of hiding his desire from her and he
knew he had to get a handle on how he responded to her or she was going to
continue to push his buttons—however subtly she might choose to do so. But he
didn’t relish the thought. In fact it was torturous to even think of.

He watched her as she walked casually in front of the class.
About a third of the class were men and he let his focus travel to each and
every one of them. He watched exactly how they regarded her. He couldn’t see
their entire faces but from his position he could see an angle of their
profiles and he watched. One ignored her completely and was far too focused on
his iPhone than what she was doing. He was sunk back in his seat casually with
his legs sprawled out before him. Other than wanting to kick his feet and pull
him up by the collar for his obvious lack of respect for Katrina, Dillon
certainly didn’t see him as a threat to her.

The second one he watched for only a moment. He was at least
in his sixties and while he couldn’t rule the man out on that fact alone, his
demeanor was far too fatherly when he watched her. There was no hunger in his
eyes at all—nothing at all like he felt in his own desire to watch her. Desire
was desire regardless and he was looking for it. It might be coupled with
contempt or malice or it might be puppy drunk love that made the lunatic look
more like a buffoon than a threat to her but the desire had to be there.

The third man he focused on for a long time. He kept his
chin down but Dillon could see the man’s eyes following her wherever she
happened to walk. Of course her students were expected to pay attention to her
but he didn’t like the look on this guy’s face or the way he refused to pull
his chin up. It was as if his body language was trying to hide himself in some
way but his eyes couldn’t seem to stop following her.

Dillon dismissed the fourth and final man in her class
quickly. The man was obviously gay and there was simply no reason to watch him
further. Dillon’s eyes returned to man number three and he studied. There were
about fifteen minutes left of the class and he was hoping she wouldn’t release
them early. He wanted the time to focus on this man’s body language and how he
regarded Katrina. But by the time the fifteen minutes were up, he was no closer
to getting a handle on the man.

Dillon stretched his legs out crossing his ankles under the
desk in front of him as the students started collecting their belongings and
heading out the door. The women all regarded him curiously or tried to flirt
with him with their eyes. He ignored them all, keeping his focus on man number
three. The man stood quietly, pulled his jacket on quickly and tucked his chin
down to his chest. He said nothing to any of the other students and stalked
with his head down from the room. Dillon wasn’t sure what to make of the man
but he intended to do some digging.

Katrina approached him, sitting in the desk in front of him
and which his legs were stretched out under. She faced him, pulling one of her
legs up and leaving the other in the aisle. “Brushing up on your creative
writing skills?” She was just too good at making him smile.

“Busted. Tell me about the guy who was sitting toward the
back of the group, early- to mid-thirties, dark hair, likes to stare at you.”
He was sounding more jealous than suspicious. Dillon raised his hands up to
rest on the back of his head as he watched her and waited for a response.

“Josh? He’s harmless.” He hated it when women made such
statements. He especially hated hearing Katrina make that statement. It meant
she was naive about her predicament, and moreover her safety. He had no doubt
she was worried about it but the fact she could make such a statement so
offhandedly was concerning.

BOOK: Conflicting Interests
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