Allison McFadden walked slowly in the cool night air, her arms tightly wrapped around her slim body to keep the wind from whipping at her Acoat. The man with her saw her shiver and gently put his arm around her, sending an electric jolt of anticipation through her.
She laughed softly, slightly giddy from the dirty martinis he had bought for her all night. He’d actually taken her to Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel; it was possibly the most romantic place she had ever been, complete with live piano music and a sophisticated, old-fashioned ambiance that had seduced her just as completely as he had.
He was witty and charming, and he was good-looking and chivalrous almost to a fault. He hadn’t even stolen a kiss yet.
Allison smiled as she remembered how he’d taken her up to the murals that lined the walls of Bemelmans and told her about them; how some writer who had lived in the hotel had painted them and they’d been part of some children’s books. She had tried to listen, but she had only been able to concentrate on his hand, resting just a little lower on her back than it had been earlier in the evening, and his lips moving next to her cheek as he spoke. She only remembered that the paintings were of animals in Central Park. There had been an elephant skating. And he had pointed out an armed rabbit stalking its fellow bunnies with an automatic weapon in one of the cartoon-like murals.
They’d both laughed at the morbid humor of it, and Allison loved the way he laughed.
Now, he was walking her home, like a true gentleman. He had asked the cab driver to stop several blocks away from her building to have the privilege of doing so. It was only their first date, and Allison couldn’t believe that she was going to do what she was planning.
“Do you … would you … I mean, would you like to come up? For coffee, or ….”
He smiled, and Allison was lost in the way it made his eyes warmer.
He reached up and ran his hands through her hair, watching the way the blond strands glimmered in the artificial light of the street lamps.
“Is your roommate home?” he asked her softly, his intimate voice cutting through the chilly wind and right into her.
She licked her lips and nodded. “But she won’t bother us,” she insisted quickly, her words almost breathless as she reached out and smoothed her hand over his lapel, feeling his badge under the material.
“Then lead the way,” he murmured with a smile.
It would have been the perfect time for him to kiss her, she thought, as she took his hand and led him into the building. It would have been just as ridiculously romantic as the rest of the night. But, she supposed, nothing could be perfect.
Hours later, as Allison struggled for her last breath, she couldn’t help but wonder if he’d never kissed her because it would leave his DNA behind.
THE phone call could not have come at a worse time. FBI Special Agent Ty Grady was still pissed off and cursing about its unfortunate timing two days later as he sat alone in his living room.
Four weeks of undercover work—round-the-clock surveillance, phone taps, wires, bribing informants, and some high-speed tailing—all shot to shit because some rookie hotshot forgot to leave his cell phone at home.
Bums begging on the street do not ring to the tune of a Mozart orchestra, and unfortunately for the team of tired undercover FBI agents tailing Antonio de la Vega, their target was aware of that particular bit of random information.
He’d disappeared just as quickly as the rats on the New York sidewalks as Ty and his team had scrambled.
The operation had been blown, their target was now in some other country where they had no jurisdiction, and all their evidence would be bagged, tagged, and stuffed in a box in a basement, never to be seen again.
The fact that most of what they’d done had been under Ty’s direction and slightly irregular, depending on a high-profile collar in order to keep them from getting their asses fired and thrown in jail, was not helping Ty’s mental state.
He sprawled on his sofa, still covered in sweat from his attempts to work out his frustration at the Bureau’s Baltimore gym, and stared out at the city through the large windows on either side of the television. He could see his own reflection in the black screen of the plasma TV on the opposite wall, and he looked even more exhausted than he felt. He needed a shave; most of his handsome face was covered in three days’ worth of beard, and his dark hair could probably use a trim. He was a large man, nearly three inches over six feet, and he usually carried his frame like a large cat, lithe and easy.
Tonight, though, there was a slump to his broad shoulders as he sprawled. He had no intention of moving any time soon.
Not until his cell phone began to trill demandingly. With a heavy sigh, he snapped it off his waistband and flipped it open. “Grady,” he answered curtly, his West Virginia drawl still pronounced after all the years he’d spent away from home.
“Special Agent Grady, Assistant Director Burns would like to see you,” a clipped, professional voice informed him.
“When?” Ty asked flatly.
“Special Agent Grady, the Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigations Branch does not call to make appointments. He expects you in thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes!” Ty blurted. “Do you have any idea where I am?”
“In your dirty underwear, no doubt. Be here in thirty,” the voice answered in the same flat, businesslike tone before hanging up.
Ty closed his eyes and mentally kicked something. Thirty minutes to get into DC was going to require the flashy blue lights. Ty f**king hated the flashy blue lights.
“GREAT job, Special Agent Garrett. You are a credit to the Bureau,” the Division Director said as he shook the man’s hand. “A commendation will go in your file for your work, of course.”
“Thank you, sir,” FBI Special Agent Zane Garrett answered curtly as the other agents murmured quiet, slightly reluctant congratulations.
“And I get to reward you for your work well-done,” the Director continued smoothly. “You’re being promoted out of the division. I’m very sad to see you go,” he said smoothly, still pumping Zane’s hand vigorously.
Zane shook his hand somberly, his face a mask of pure professionalism that covered the brutally honest thoughts he harbored beneath it. “I’ve enjoyed working for you, sir. But you know me; always looking to be where I can do the most for the Bureau.”
“That’s a good man. Say goodbye and get yourself upstairs. Assistant Director Burns wants to see you in ten.”