Authors: J. D. Robb
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Love stories; American, #Short stories; American
She spent the morning with a murderer.
He’d been under guard in a hospital bed recovering from a near-fatal wound
—courtesy of a misstep by his partner in crime—but she’d had no sympathy.
She was glad he’d lived, wished him a long, long life—in an off-planet
concrete cage. She believed the case she and her team had built to be solid—as
did the nearly gleeful prosecuting attorney. The sprinkles on the icing of this
particular cupcake was the confession she’d finessed out of him as he’d sneered at
Given that he’d tried to kill her less than twenty-four hours before, the
sneer was small change.
Sylvester Moriarity would receive the best medical care New York could
provide, then he’d join his friend Winston Dudley behind bars until what
promised to be a sensational, media-soaked trial, given their family fortunes and
Case closed, she told herself as she pushed her way through the heat-soaked
Saturday afternoon traffic toward home. The dead now had the only justice she
could offer, and their families and friends the comfort—if comfort it was—that
those responsible would pay.
But it haunted her: the waste, the cruelty, the utter selfishness of two men
who were so puffed up by their own importance, their
, that they’d
considered murder a form of entertainment, a twisted sort of indulgence.
She maneuvered through New York traffic, barely hearing the blasts of
horns, the annoyingly cheerful hype of the ad blimps heralding midsummer sales
at the Sky Mall. Tourists swarmed the city—and likely the Sky Mall as well—
chowing down on soy dogs from the smoking glide-carts, looking for souvies and
bargains among the shops and street vendors.
A boiling stew, she thought, in the heat and humidity of summer 2060.
She caught the lightning move of a nimble-fingered street thief, bumping
through a couple of tourists more intent on gawking at the buildings and their
ringing people glides than their own security. He had the wallet in the goody slit
of his baggy cargos in half a finger snap and slithered like a snake through the
forest of people lumbering across the crosswalk.
If she’d been on foot, or at least headed in the same direction, she’d have
pursued—and the chase might’ve lifted her mood. But he and his booty smoked
away, and he’d no doubt continue to score well on today’s target shoot.
Life went on.
When Lieutenant Eve Dallas finally drove through the stately gates of home,
she reminded herself of that again. Life went on—and in her case, today, that
included a cookout, a horde of cops, and her odd assortment of friends. A couple
years before, it would’ve been the last way she’d have spent a Saturday, but
things had changed.
Her living arrangements certainly had, from a sparsely furnished apartment
to the palace-fortress Roarke had built. Her husband—and
was a change,
even if they’d just celebrated their second year of marriage—had the vision, the
need, and, God knew, the means to create the gorgeous home with its myriad
rooms filled with style and function. Here the grass was rich summer green, the
trees and flowers plentiful.
Here was peace and warmth and welcome. And she needed them, maybe
just a little desperately at the moment.
She left her vehicle at the front entrance, knowing Summerset, Roarke’s
majordomo, would send it to its place in the garage. And hoped, just this once,
he wasn’t looming like a scarecrow in the foyer.
She wanted the cool and quiet of the bedroom she shared with Roarke, a
few minutes of solitude. Time, she thought as she strode toward the doors, to
shake off this mood before the invasion.
Halfway to the doors, she stopped. The front wasn’t the only way in, for
Christ’s sake—and why hadn’t she ever thought of that before? On impulse, she
jogged around—long legs eating up ground—crossed one of the patios, turned
through a small, walled garden, and went in through a side door. Into a parlor or
sitting room or morning room—who knew? she thought with a roll of tired
brown eyes—and made her way as sneakily as the street thief across the hallway,
down and into the more familiar territory of the game room, where she knew the
lay of the land.
She called the elevator and considered it a small, personal victory when the
doors shut her in. “Master bedroom,” she ordered, then just leaned back against
the wall, shut her eyes, while the unit navigated its way.
When she stepped into the bedroom, she raked a hand through her messy
cap of brown hair, stripped the jacket off her lanky frame, and tossed it at the
handiest chair. She stepped onto the platform and sat on the side of the lake-sized
bed. If she’d believed she could escape into sleep, she’d have stretched out, but
there was too much in her head, in her belly, for rest.
So she simply sat, veteran cop, Homicide lieutenant who’d walked through
blood and death more times than she could count, and mourned a little.
Roarke found her there.
He could gauge her state of mind by the slump of her shoulders, by the way
she sat, staring out the window. He walked to her, sat beside her, took her hand.
“I should’ve gone with you.”
She shook her head but leaned against him. “No place for civilians in
Interview, and nothing you could’ve done anyway if I’d stretched it and brought
you in as expert consultant. I had him cold and cut through his battalion of
expensive lawyers like a fucking machete. I thought the PA was going to kiss me
on the mouth.”
He brought the hand he held to his lips. “And still you’re sad.”
She closed her eyes, comforted a little by the solidity of him beside her, by
that whisper of Ireland in his voice, even by the scent so uniquely him. “Not sad,
or… I don’t know what the hell I am. I should be buzzed. I did the job; I
slammed it shut—and I got to look them both in the face and let them know it.”
She shoved up, paced to the window, away again, and realized it wasn’t
peace and comfort she wanted after all. Not quite yet. It was a place to let it go,
let it out, spew the rage.
“He was pissed. Moriarity. Lying there with that hole in his chest his pal put
into him with his freaking antique Italian foil.”
“The one meant for you,” Roarke reminded her.
“Yeah. And he’s pissed, seriously pissed, Dudley missed and it wasn’t me on
a slab at the morgue.”
“I expect he was,” Roarke said coolly. “But that’s not what’s got you going.”
She paused a minute, just looked at him. Stunning blue eyes in a stunning
face, the mane of thick black hair, that poet’s mouth set firm now because she’d
made him think of her on that slab at the morgue.
“You know they never had a chance to take me. You were there.”
“And still he drew blood, didn’t he?” Roarke nodded at the healing wound
on her arm.
She tapped it. “And this helped sew them up. Attempted murder of a police
officer just trowels on the icing. They didn’t make their next score. Now they
have to end their competition with a tie, which oddly enough is what I think they
always wanted. They just planned for the contest to go on a lot longer. And you
know what the prize was at the end? Do you know what the purse for this
goddamn tournament was?”
“I don’t, no, but I see you got it out of Moriarity today.”
“Yeah, I wound him up so tight he had to let it spring out. A dollar. A
fucking dollar, Roarke—just one big joke between them. And it makes me sick.”
It shocked, even appalled her a little, that her eyes stung, that she felt tears
pressing hard. “It makes me sick,” she repeated. “All those people dead, all those
lives broken and shattered, and
makes me sick? I don’t know why, I just
don’t know why it churns my stomach. I’ve seen worse. God, we’ve both seen worse.”
“But rarely more futile.” He stood, took her arms, gently rubbing. “No
reason, no mad vendetta or fevered dream, no vengeance or greed or fury. Just a
cruel game. Why shouldn’t it make you sick? It does me as well.”
“I contacted the next of kin,” she began. “Even the ones we found from
before they started this matchup in New York. That’s why I’m late getting back.
I thought I needed to, and thought if I closed it all the way, I’d feel better. I got
gratitude. I got anger and tears, everything you expect. And every one of them
asked me why. Why had these men killed their daughter, their husband, their
“And what did you tell them?”
“Sometimes there’s no why, or not one we can understand.” She squeezed
her eyes tight. “I want to be pissed.”
“You are, under it. And under that, you know you did good work. And
you’re alive, darling Eve.” He drew her in to kiss her brow. “Which, to take this
to their level, makes them losers.”
“I guess it does. I guess that’s going to have to be enough.”
She took his face in her hands, smiled a little. “And there’s the added bonus
that they hate us both. Really hate us. That adds a boost.”
“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be hated by, or anyone I’d rather be hated
Now the smile moved into her eyes. “Me either. If I keep that front and
center, I could be in the mood to party. I guess we should go down and do
whatever we’re supposed to do before everybody gets here.”
“Change first. You’ll feel more in the party mode without your boots and
By the time she’d changed trousers for cotton pants, boots for skids, and
made it downstairs, she heard voices in the foyer. She spotted her partner,
Peabody, her short, dark ponytail bouncing, summery dress swirling. Peabody’s
cohab, e-detective and premier geek McNab, stood beside her in a skin tank
crisscrossed with more colors than an atomic rainbow paired with baggy, hot
pink knee shorts and gel flips.
He turned, the forest of silver rings on his left earlobe shimmering, and shot
Eve a wide grin. “Hey, Dallas. We brought you something.”
“My granny’s homemade wine.” Peabody held up the bottle. “I know you’ve
got a wine cellar the size of California, but we thought you’d get a charge. It’s
“Let’s go out and open it up. I’m ready for some good stuff.”
Peabody kept eye contact, quirked her brows. “All okay?”
“The PA’s probably still doing his happy dance. Case closed,” she said, and
left out the rest. No point in adding the details now that would leave her partner
as troubled as she’d been.
“We’ll have the first drink with a toast to the NYPSD’s Homicide—and
Electronic Detectives divisions,” Roarke said with a wink for McNab.
The wide stone terrace held tables already loaded with food and shaded by
umbrellas, and the gardens exploded with color and scent. The monster grill
Roarke had conquered—mostly—looked formidable, and the wine was indeed
Within thirty minutes, the scent of grilling meat mixed with the perfume of
summer flowers. The terrace, the chairs around the tables, the gardens filled
with people. It still amazed her she’d somehow collected so many.
Her cops—everyone who’d worked the Dudley-Moriarity case—along with
Cher Reo, the ADA, newlyweds Dr. Louise DiMatto and retired licensed
companion Charles Monroe stood, sat, lounged, or stuffed their faces.
Morris, the ME who’d inspired the impulse for her to arrange this shindig to
help with his lingering grief over his murdered love, shared a brew with Father
Lopez, who’d become his friend and counselor.
Sort of weird having a priest at a party—even one she liked and respected—
but at least he wasn’t wearing the getup.
Nadine Furst, bestselling author and ace reporter, chatted happily with Dr.
Mira, department shrink, and Mira’s adorable husband, Dennis.
It was good, she decided, to blow off steam this way, to gather together to
do it, even if gathering together wasn’t as natural for her as for some. It was good
to watch Feeney kibitz Roarke’s grill technique, and watch Trueheart show off
his pretty, shy-eyed girlfriend.
Hell, she might just have another glass of Granny Peabody’s wine and—
The thought winged away when she heard the bright laugh.
Mavis Freestone rushed out on silver sandals that laced past the hem of her
flippy, thigh-baring lavender skirt. Her hair, perched in a crowning tail, matched
the skirt. In her arms she carried baby Bella. Leonardo, beaming at his girls,
“I thought you were in London,” Eve said when she was enveloped in color
and scent and joy.
“We couldn’t miss a party! We’ll go back tomorrow. Trina stopped off to
talk to Summerset.