Chapter 1

Caution: This Erotica Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, .

Desc: Erotica Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Cupid is dead. Who is responsible? Did he spread too little love? or too much?



Cupid was dead.

There was a three-eighths inch hole above his nose, the edges stippled with gunpowder, and still slowly leaking bright red blood. His eyes had a startled expression, and his face retained a half smile, as if he had been about to greet someone when he was shot.

Shell casings littered the area around the body, which was dressed in nothing but a white cloth diaper, with a hint of white briefs peeking above the edge of the material. Two huge safety pins secured the diaper at the victim's hips. On his feet were a pair of white soft canvas slip-ons. Feathered wings lay smashed under the body. His bow and six arrows were scattered around him, and his hand still held the now-empty quiver.

Detective Kaitlynn Cambridge stood over the body, careful to keep the tips of her well-worn boots out of the crimson puddle that surrounded the victim. She wasn't worried about the boots, she just didn't want her footprints to add to the jumble of others as she worked the scene. The coppery scent of blood permeated the air as she crouched down, lifting one of the shell casings on the end of a ballpoint pen.

"9 millimeter. That's a pretty big gun to bring into a party." She looked around at the guests that were still milling just outside the taped off area. "All these casings and only one hole in the victim. And no one saw a thing."

"They were all in the bathroom," a deep voice said, and she saw another pair of shoes, shiny, black and expensive, stop next to hers. She knew that voice, and felt a thrill of pleasure shiver through her that she quickly squelched.

"Jake," she said in greeting as she stood to face the man her body craved. Detective Jacob Temple, the department's golden boy, and both her bane and source of excitement, smiled down at her from his 6 feet, 1 inch height. "What are you doing here?"

Green eyes looked past her at the ornate surroundings, and took in the party decorations and glasses strewn around the room. With an elegant, long-fingered hand, he scooped back thick brown hair that was just a bit too long, and which brushed the collar of his suit jacket and played over his wide forehead. "The brass thought you could use some extra help on this one, Kate, nothing more. Don't get your knickers in a twist." He smiled, full lips crimping over impossibly white, impossibly perfect teeth.

"My knickers, twisted or not, are none of your concern, detective." She hissed the words, disgusted with herself for letting him get to her. "And I can handle this case just fine by myself."

"Valentine's Day party at the mayor's house and one of his guests turns up dead? The press will be all over this, Kate. You need my help." Before he could stop himself, he reached out a hand and gently pushed off her forehead a lock of her tawny blonde hair that had escaped the ponytail she habitually wore to work.

She managed, barely, to keep from slapping his hand away, reminding herself that they were almost center stage in the public eye right now. The last thing she needed was a picture of that on the front page of the Times in the morning. She could see the headline now: "Lovers' Spat Over Cupid's Corpse.".

"Fine," she growled. She pulled out her notebook, flipping it open to the page she'd been using for notes. "The victim's name is Reginald Holton, 32, single. Shot once, point-blank range by a 9 millimeter pistol. So far that's about all I know. I've got uniforms taking names and searching the property. It was a big party."

Jake's eyes slowly traversed the crime scene, and then the assembled guests. All were in costume. He remembered the invitation he had received a few weeks ago. A Valentine's Day costume party with a theme of "Lovers Throughout the Centuries." He could see quite a few lovers here, a crying Juliet being comforted by her hovering Romeo. Bonnie standing quietly next to Clyde, their Tommy guns lying on the floor in front of them. Next to the couple, a loincloth-covered Tarzan, a stuffed monkey hanging from around his chest, had his arm around a leopard skin-clad Jane. And those were only some of the few the costumes he did recognize.

"Who was our victim with?"

"No one. I guess he's a friend of the mayor's oldest daughter, Sarah. Maybe that's why the Cupid getup. He's here to spread love and joy."

Kate stepped back when a man, dressed all in black, walked up. "Hey Doc," she said,. About time you guys showed. It can't be too busy down at the morgue tonight."

"Do you have any idea how many people committed suicide tonight?" Doc Weston, the county coroner, put down his black bag and pulled out what looked to be a long meat thermometer. He slid it gently into Cupid's side and pierced the liver. After reading the digital numbers in the front, he pulled it out and wiped it off with a sterile alcohol swab. "TOD is approximately 10:30 p.m. I'd say COD is pretty easy to establish."

"Well I don't think he was stabbed with an ice pick." Kate stepped closer. "I need everything you can get, and quick, Doc. This case is hot and the press is already outside. I especially want to see his blood tox screen."

"You'll get it as soon as I get it," Doc said, standing up. "Why aren't you off on some romantic dinner tonight, Kate?"

"Doc, you know damn well good homicide detectives don't have personal lives, or romantic dinners. Those are for normal people." She patted the man on the back. "Soon as you can, okay, Doc?"

He waved in his men and the rest of the CSI crew as Kate and Jake stepped back.

"I want to interview Sarah tonight." She turned and looked at the tall man beside her. "I suppose you want in on that."

It was more a statement then a question, but he answered it anyway. "Yeah, I love watching you work, Kate. You go straight for the jugular, take no prisoners. It's terrifying."

"Great," she rolled her eyes and started to walk away to where she could see the mayor and his family standing just outside the line of sight of the press. They stood huddled, the mayor, a tall thin man dressed in a cutaway coat and breeches, a pristine white cravat tied around his throat, with his arm around his daughter, a petite blonde whose curves were threatening to burst free of the shimmery gown she was wearing. His other daughter, standing behind the mayor, was a mousy thing, and wore a staid black dress with long sleeves and a tight collar. His wife, who wore a fabulous bustled ball gown which swept the floor, stood off to the side, a disinterested party who seemed more taken with what one of the waiters was doing than the fact that someone had been murdered in their home.

Jake stood and watched Kate for a moment, wondering why the hell he couldn't get her out of his head. She was beautiful, yes, with long tawny hair that seemed to curl with a mind of its own, defying rubber bands and bobby pins when any attempt to tame it was made. Her eyes were strange, a hypnotic blending of greens and golds that seemed to shift with the light. In the right eye, just to the left of the pupil, was a tiny brown spot, like a beauty mark. Her face was oval, with high cheekbones, a patrician nose, and sweetly kissable lips. They all added up to top off a body that stirred a man, no matter how many times he'd been stirred before.

And they'd had one incredible weekend, two unforgettable days and nights, where he'd done his best to purge from his system this need he had for her.

It hadn't worked. He could still taste her on his tongue, feel her under his hands. He dreamed about her at night, waking with sweat beading on his forehead, and her name on his lips. He'd catch a whiff of her scent, spicy and warm, and he couldn't help but look for her, watch her. He wanted her again, in his bed, under him, crying out his name in need and release.

He took a deep breath and lifted his hand, amazed to see it shaking slightly. He had to get over this need for her. He could still remember dropping her off outside her apartment. She'd brushed a kiss across his lips, thanked him for the fun weekend, and walked away without a second glance. As if it hadn't meant a thing to her. And she'd stayed away from him since, avoiding him as if he had the plague. Her attitude when forced to be with him was always antagonistic.

Kate turned to look back at him and he quickly blanked his thoughts, hurrying to catch up with her. He could play this game just as well as she could.


"Sarah, how long did you know the victim?" Kate asked, jumping right into the interview. They had borrowed the mayor's study for the interview. Leather chairs and a long black leather couch were grouped off to one side of the huge desk that otherwise dominated the room. Thousands of books graced the mahogany shelves. Expensive antique objets d'art were everywhere. The room reeked of wealth, and made Kate nervous.

Sarah, her mascara smeared, tears still flowing, and her Tinkerbelle green sheath glittering with dozens of sequins, sniffled and took the handkerchief Jake handed her. "Um, we met at Daddy's offices about six months ago. He works -- worked there. Why would anyone want to kill my Reggie?"

"That's what we're trying to find out, Sarah. You two were close?"

"We were in love. We were going to be married." The tears started streaming again and Kate flinched at the wail that came from the pretty blonde.

Jake picked up the glass of water he'd gotten her and handed it to her. "Then I'm sure Reggie would want you to do everything in your power to help us find his killer, don't you, Sarah?"

Sarah gulped audibly, wiping black mascara from under her eyes with the square of linen. She nodded as she swallowed again, visibly calming herself down.

"You and the vic... er... Reggie were engaged?"

"Oh, well, not officially yet. But it was only until he got the money thing straightened out. As soon as he did that, well, then he was going to get me a ring and make it official." Sarah folded the handkerchief into a tiny square, opened it, and started again.

"Money thing?" Kate asked, her eyes sharpening.

"He owed some guy some money, um, that guy that owns the casino north of town. Bobby Barker, that's it, like in that old game show."

Robert Barker, big time hustler turned con artist turned casino owner, and all-around scum bag.

Kate had had cause to invade Mr. Barker's privacy on more than one occasion, and by far wasn't his favorite person.

"Some money, Sarah? Or a lot of money?"

"Oh, um, Reggie didn't talk about those things with me." She sniffed and used the handkerchief again. "He always said I shouldn't worry my pretty head over things like that. That it would give me wrinkles." Huge tears glistened in her big blue eyes that she turned Jake's way, batting her eyelashes and letting one tear slide down her pale cheek. "He's gone now, and I'm all alone."

"Uh, yeah, Sarah?" Kate called the blonde's attention back to her. "Can you think of anyone who'd want to hurt Reggie? Anyone at all?"

"His ex-girlfriend. That slut. She didn't want to let go of my Reggie, said she'd get even with him for dumping her. Aurora Conway." She watched Kate write the name in her notebook. "I bet she did it, she killed my Reggie."

Kate almost groaned out loud as she saw the sobs starting to build in the blonde again. They weren't going to get much more out of her tonight. But she had one more question.

"Where were you when Reggie was shot, Sarah?"

"Reg... Reggie asked me to get him some water, said he wasn't feeling too well. I went to hunt down one of the servers. That's when I heard the shots."

"Okay, Sarah, and thank you. If we have any more questions, we'll be in touch."

"You'll get him, won't you, the person who killed my Reggie?" Sarah asked as she stood up to leave the room.

Jake stood with her and led her to the door. Kate could hear him making all the right noises, saying all the right things. It was one of his best attributes, besides being a top detective, he always knew the right thing to say.

Unlike her. Damn. She didn't need the memories of that weekend in her head right now. That unforgettable, intensely passionate weekend. She hadn't known what to say to him when he dropped her off, had waited to hear him say he wanted to see her again, but he hadn't. He hadn't called, he hadn't come by her place. He hadn't done anything since that morning except be a thorn in her side.

But oh, for that one brief, beautiful weekend, she'd known passion, and need, and desire. She'd known what it felt like to have a man want you with everything in him, to look at you with eyes that seemed to sear your skin, and reach deep inside to send a girl's heart fluttering madly. She'd known the power of seeing a man bursting with need for her, of hearing him groan that need when she touched him, when she kissed him. The power of making him lose control with her hands, her mouth, bringing him pleasure so intense he'd turned almost wild, throwing her to the bed, and taking her until her nails scoured his back.

Kate felt the blush suffuse her face, and cleared her throat. This was work and she wasn't going to think of that weekend anymore. It was over and done, just as they were.

Jake turned, and for one second, he saw in her eyes the same thing he'd seen that weekend, the woman she kept hidden so well at all other times. He took two steps forward, then saw the blankness fall in front of her eyes like a shutter slamming shut.

"Well, I think we need to pay some calls on a few people. That is, if you plan on tagging along?" she said. Her tone and face held no expression as she waited for an answer. He was a complication she couldn't afford, but yet a part of her hoped that he'd say yes.

"Can't think of anything else I'd like to do at almost midnight on Valentine's Day but go and get people out of bed. After you?" He held open the door, waiting until she had left her card with the mayor and checked in with the CSI's. She stopped and gave the officer in charge some instructions, walked out with Jake, and then they got into her car. Using her radio, she got addresses for the two names Sarah had given her.

The first, Aurora Conway, lived in the city, and worked as a waitress down at a small dive close to the harbor. Bobby Barker had a swank joint outside of town where the rich folks with "new" money lived. But she had an idea she'd find him at his casino playing lord and master, and keeping an eye on things.

"What's your gut say?" she asked Jake as she put the car in reverse to back out of the mess of cops vehicles and party vehicles still surrounding the huge home.

"Barker's going to be easy to find. His place don't close until it has to. I say we go with the ex-girlfriend first."

"My thoughts exactly." Still in reverse, she wheeled between two cars, with only about an inch of spare room on either side, and made it through to the gates. Looking over at Jake, Kate had to grin. He had his eyes closed, and she swore she'd heard an amen coming from his side of the car just seconds ago. "You can look now," she said, shifting the car into drive.

Jake cautiously opened his eyes and then caught sight of the grin on her face. Her smile, the way it lit up her face, caught at his gut. "You know, that's a good look for you."

Kate spared him a quick glance before returning her attention to her driving. "What's a good look?"

"Smiling. I don't think I've seen you do too much of it recently. Not since that..."

"I don't want to talk about that," Kate jumped in, interrupting him. "It was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. And now it's over, so we can just forget about it."

Jake saw the way her body tightened, and her white knuckled grip on the steering wheel. Everything about her body language said the subject was off limits, but he hadn't gotten to where he was by doing what he should do. "Why was it a mistake?"

"Jeez, Jake, can't you drop it? It's in the past, okay?" Kate shrugged her shoulders to get rid of the stress that was starting to creep up into her neck.

"What if I don't want it in the past? Dammit, Kate, I miss you, I miss the way we used to be. We were friends as well as co workers, and we liked each other. That weekend was..." He stopped when she swerved off to the side of the road.

"Either you drop it or you can call a car to come and get you and I'll do this on my own." She didn't want to hear what he thought of their weekend, and she didn't want to know if he regretted it. She didn't, and couldn't, regret it herself even though she now couldn't be in the same room with him without her hands getting sweaty and her thigh muscles weakening as she remembered what he did to her.

"It's dropped," he said flatly, meeting her stare head on. For now, he thought, gazing into those bewitching eyes that narrowed with her glare.

They got to where Aurora Conway worked, a place that could only at best be loosely termed a restaurant. It was a dive located off one of the main streets downtown. Just far enough off for visitors to not notice, and strangers to be wary. They walked in the front door, noting right away how half of the very few patron there slunk down in their seats, making them as cops from the start.

"If you'd keep your face out of the media, maybe we wouldn't be so recognizable here," Kate hissed at Jake as she made her way to a booth.

"Hey, I can't help it if the press seems to like me."

"They just like your pretty boy looks and smooth smile," she tossed at him as she slid into a cracked leather seat. The table was slightly sticky, and stained with old rings from cups and glasses. She almost laughed as Jake gave the seat a disgusted look before slipping partway in and sitting gingerly.

Two menus were slapped down in front of them, two cups rattled in saucers and thumped on the table. "Coffee?"

Kate looked at long legs encased in pantyhose, under a pink polyester waitress uniform with a white frilly apron. Both were marked with unrecognizable stains. A name tag was pinned on the material which strained across large breasts. The name tag read "Aurora." This was their girl.

Kate took a second look when she got to the girl's face. She was gorgeous, with deep red hair that flickered with fire from the light of the bug-stained fixtures, and misty gray eyes that held a hint of sadness and a whole barrel of streetwise. Full lips were painted red, and she had a tiny indentation on her chin, all in an oval face with skin that was pale perfection. Out of principle, Kate hated her on sight.

"Is it drinkable?" Jake asked.

"It's about the only thing in this dive that's palatable." Aurora smiled widely at Jake as she filled his cup, keeping it fixed on Jake and at 100 watts as she slopped some coffee into Kate's.

"Aurora Conway?" Kate asked, moving the cup out of the small puddle of coffee on the table, and getting out her badge. "We need to talk with you. Take a break."

"Oh, fuck!" Aurora banged the coffee pot down on the table hard enough so that it should have broken, making both Kate and Jake flinch. "What'd that bitch say I do this time?"

"Who would that be, Aurora?" Jake asked carefully, scooting further over in the booth.

Aurora plopped down in the empty space and snapped her gum angrily. "That bitch Sarah, the mayor's kid. She thinks I want that two-timer back, and keeps sending you guys out after me, trying to frame me for something. It ain't my fault he keeps sniffing back around here." She turned and looked at Jake, batting mile-long eyelashes at him. "Can you just imagine that?"

"Are you talking about Reginald Holton, Aurora?" Kate got out her notebook and pen.

"Yeah, Reggie. That no good scum. He weren't ever good enough for me. That jerk got himself in trouble and he wanted me to hook to get him out. I ain't never hooked and I won't start now."

"What kind of trouble was he in?"

Aurora looked at Kate, then back at Jake. She held up long-fingered hands tipped with lethal red painted nails. "What's this all about? What're they saying I did?"

"Reggie Holton was shot tonight, Aurora. We need to know where you were at approximately 10 p.m."

"He's dead?" Those gray eyes glittered as she stared at Kate.

"Yeah, he's dead."

"Oh," she said quietly, looked down at her lap, her fingers playing with a frayed hem on her apron.

When she looked up, her eyes were hard. "I wish I could say I was sorry. I mean that's what you're supposed to say when someone dies... 'I'm sorry.' But I'm not."

"We need to know where you were, Aurora," Jake urged quietly.

"Here." She ran one red tipped finger across the table, her eyes watching it. "I got on shift at 7 p.m. tonight. Had a fifteen minute break at around nine. My lunch break's coming up. You can't think I had anything to do with it?"

"We have to ask," Kate said.

Aurora looked over at Kate and then back at Jake. "Reggie was a taker." Her hand closed into a tight fist, and she dropped it into her lap. "He'd take until he took it all, and then he'd move on to the next and the next. When I wouldn't hook for him, he dumped me. Said I didn't love him if I'd let some shark's guys rough him up over some money that I could get for him easily."

Jake patted the hand that she had fisted. "Who was the shark, Aurora?"

"Bobby Barker. Reggie liked to play poker, got himself enough cash somehow to get into one of the high stakes games that they have up at the Rough Diamond, Bobby's casino." She smirked. "Reggie couldn't play poker worth a damn. Had too many of them... tells? Is that what they call it?"

Jake nodded.

"Anyway, he got wiped out and I guess Bobby realized what a sucker Reggie was and gave him some credit. Reggie lost it all." She shook her head, not in pity, but in wonder at the stupidity of it all.

"And he couldn't pay it back." Kate picked up her coffee and took a drink. "Do you know how much?"

"Fifty grand." Aurora smiled as Kate almost choked. "Yeah, I did about the same thing when I

found out. Couldn't believe that anyone could be such a schmuck to get that deep into it."

"When was the last time you saw Reggie, Aurora?"

"Hmm, must've been about two weeks ago." She stood and took the rag off the side of her apron, wiping up the coffee spill, and picking up the pot. "He came sneaking back here when the rich bitch let him off his leash. Wanted a quickie for old times' sake. I told him what he could do with his old times and he left. I ain't seen him since."

Kate took out her card and handed it to the beautiful redhead. "If you think of anything, anything at all, you can reach either me or Detective Temple at that number."

The smile Aurora gave Jake was like that of the cat who ate the cream. "Detective Temple? I'll make sure I hold on to this card."

Kate rolled her eyes behind the girl's back and watched as Jake preened in the attention, smiling and holding out his hand as he rose. She took some money out of her coat pocket and threw it on the table, more than enough to cover the coffee and tip. And then, ignoring the two, she started out of the diner.

Jake caught up before she got half way to the car. "Hey, wait up."

"I didn't want to interrupt your moment," she snarled at him, jealousy eating at her.

"Hey, just because you're not interested..." Before he could finish the sentence, she'd knocked him backwards and into an alley, pushing him against the brick wall of a closed dry cleaner.

"We aren't talking about that," she growled at him, jabbing her finger into his chest. "Remember?"

"Fine," he growled right back, his tone matching hers. He knocked her finger away and grabbed her arms, twisting and pushing her against the wall he had just been backed up against. "We won't talk about it." His lips came down, capturing hers before she could evade them.

For one instant, shock kept her still. And then all those feelings that she'd kept tamped down, feelings of passion, lust, and pure heat, roared to the surface. Her mouth didn't surrender under the rough attack of his. Instead, it provoked, biting and twisting, opening so that her tongue could duel with his.

He felt her response and it enflamed him even more. Jake grabbed her hard, pulling her against his body before slamming them both against the wall. He held her there, his hands groping under the leather jacket she wore, feeling the cool cotton of her shirt covering the taut flesh beneath. His hands filled with the soft globes of her breasts, such a beautiful contrast to the rest of her. But it wasn't enough, he wanted to feel her hot skin in his hands.

Kate felt his hands tugging at her shirt, and sucked in her stomach as it came untucked. Then his fingers were on her skin, moving over her ribs, the calloused tips rough against her sensitive flesh. Her bra was pushed up, the band at the bottom rubbing against nipples already hardened by his touch. She shivered, a little at the chill, but more because of the need that pulsed through her, a need she hadn't felt since that weekend.

And when he finally captured the naked beauty of her breasts, she felt her knees buckle in pleasure, and she was held up only by the pressure of his hips against her own. His hands were cold on her hot skin, as they molded and shaped her softness.

He tore his lips from hers, his breathing harsh in the silence surrounding them. He stared down at her, taking in the picture of her green eyes, slightly unfocused in passion, her lips swollen from his kisses. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair mussed and curling riotously around her face. Her head was thrown back, her back arched to push her breasts farther into his capturing hands.

He noticed the smell, not the intoxicating scent of her arousal he'd expected, but the harsh smell of the rotting garbage that sat in the dumpster next to them. It penetrated the fog of need that had surrounded them. He couldn't do this here, tear at her clothing and rut with her like a dog in heat. He pulled her bra back down gently, stepping back as she looked at him in confusion.

The confusion didn't last, and the emotions that had swum across her face were snuffed out as the control she used as a shield slammed down, shutting him out. He held out his hand, trying to stop her from moving, after she'd pulled down her clothing.

"Wait, Kate, it's not what you think. I want you. You don't know how much I want you," he said with a self-deprecating laugh. "But we can't, not here..."

Kate walked around his hand. Her posture stiff with a don't touch me attitude, she stalked to the car. How could she have let him do this to her again? He touched her and she melted. She'd have gone down in the muck in the alley and willingly allowed him to... no she had to be honest, at least with herself. She'd have taken him down into the filth in that alley and made love to him willingly.

What did that say about her? That he affected her so much physically that she'd do anything to have his hands on her body? She cringed with shame inside. Outside, her demeanor was cool as she clicked off the locks on the car and opened her door. She stared at him across the roof of the car. "If you're going with me, get in the car."

There was an icy silence in the car on the drive to the casino, a silence that Jake wasn't sure how to break. She hadn't taken the time to fix her hair, hair mussed from his hands, and It flowed around her face in tawny waves. Memories pressed in on her as she recalled how her hair seemed to have a life of its own, curling around herself, and caressing his skin as she rode him, or lay under him. She remembered her body straining against his as they enjoyed an intense hunger and pleasure.

Now, Jake noticed that hair, as it seemed to beckon his hand. He found himself almost reaching out to her. The only thing stopping him was the knowledge that he'd probably pull back a stump, considering the mood she was in right now. And she'd be right. They had a case to finish. But when it was done, this time, he would find a way around that huge wall she'd built. Or he'd knock the damn thing down. There was something between them, something that he damn well wanted to explore, whether she was willing to or not.

Kate pulled into the casino parking lot, the brightness of the neon encasing every visible inch of the building making her headlights superfluous. She pulled up close to the doors, ignoring the valet who came forward. Instead she turned to Jake. "This is my show."

He nodded. "No problem."

Her eyes narrowed for an instant, as if she could bore her will into the man who seemed to be able to steal it on a whim. She got out of the car, flashing her badge at the valet, staring him down. "That stays right there," she said, pointing at the auto. "Or, when I come out, I'll come looking for you."

The valet backed off, his hands up. He went back to his kiosk, mumbling words under his breath she couldn't hear. For some reason, that made her feel better.

Opening the doors into the Rough Diamond Casino was like opening the doors into another world. A world full of lights and whistles, chimes and bells, shouts of triumph, and moans of despair. There were people everywhere, some dressed to the nines, tuxes and floor length gowns brushing against people dressed in jeans and tee shirts. People laughed and talked, cursed and cried.

Kate walked in and ignored it all, seeking out the first person she could find who could her to what she wanted. She grabbed a man dressed in the Casino's uniform of black shirt and pants, a bright white nametag on his chest that read, simply, "Tony."

"Tony," she said softly, making him lean forward to be able to hear her. She flipped her badge out, keeping it low so that it remained between the two of them. "I need to speak to your boss, Bobby Barker. Get him for me and I won't have to flash this for everyone to see."

Tony looked at the shield, and hurriedly went to a phone against a wall and speaking into it briefly, all the while looking nervously back to where Kate waited, her eyes calm and steady, as she looked around the casino. He was back quickly, standing at his post until a man in a black suit, his shirt and tie both the same slate shade of gray, hurried forward, his hand out.

"Detective, what can we here at the Rough Diamond do to help you?"

Kate ignored the hand and stared up at the man. His suit fit well, across broad shoulders, and tapering down to slender hips. His hair was as black as the shirt, his eyes a bright and amazing blue.

"Where's your boss?"

"He's busy," he dropped his hand. "I'm his personal assistant, James Dandridge. What can I do to help you, Detective?"

"I need to speak with your boss, Jimmy." Kate watched his eyes grow cold at the nickname. "Now, he and I can do this here, nice and civilized, or I can have him taken downtown and we can do it in a cozy interrogation room. Either way, I will have a conversation with the man." Jake started to step forward, but she turned hard eyes toward him, the hint of a warning clearly evident.

"I'm afraid, Detective, that..."

"It's okay, James." Bobby Barker said, stepping out of an elevator just behind the man. "I know Detective Cambridge. We're old friends. Ain't that right, Kate?"

"Yeah, Bobby," Kate said, stressing the familiarity. "See, Jimmy, it's okay." She smacked the man lightly on the cheek with her badge wallet, ignoring his scowl. "So, Bobby, where you want to do this, here or downtown?"

"My office?" he asked, maintaining the same lighthearted repartee that they had started. He led the way to his private elevator and she watched as he hit the button. When the car came, she got in first, followed by Jake. Just as the doors closed, sirens went off, lights strobed, and a scream could be heard from the other side of the casino.

Bobby growled and grabbed a phone on the side of the car. He spoke into it rapidly and then hung up. "Damn slots are paying out left and right tonight. That's the sixth fucking time."

"Life's rough all over, Bobby."

The doors opened into an office unlike anything she'd ever seen before. A glass wall ran the entire length of the west side of the office, overlooking the casino and giving them a bird's-eye view of almost the entire establishment. The rest of the room was decorated in a manner befitting a man of his stature. Chrome and glass were predominant, and with black leather furniture and a desk the size of a lake, Kate decided it was a room meant to impress.

Too bad the man didn't. Short, and with a figure that one could only describe as pear-like, Bobby Barker looked more like a skinnier Dom Deluise than a businessman. Thinning dark hair, combed over a bald spot, made him look older than Kate knew he actually was. He was shrewd and he was cunning. But he was lazy, and hated to get his hands dirty when someone else could so easily be paid to do it for him. Kate knew that if Bobby had killed Reggie, the blood wasn't going to be on his hands, but on those of some flunky.

She sat in the chair she was waved to, declining his offer of refreshments. "This isn't a social call, Bobby. My partner and I are here about Reginald Holton."

Bobby sat behind his desk, his fingers steepled and tapping against his jaw, making the double chin under it wag slightly. "Reggie? What does that lowlife have to do with me?"

"We hear he owes you some money, Bobby. Quite a bit of money, actually." Kate sat forward slightly, watching the man intently.

"Yeah. The idiot got himself involved in high stakes Texas Hold'em. He got cleaned out and wanted a line of credit. It was a business decision to grant him that credit. Can I help it if he can't play poker?" Bobby smiled easily. "He asked for some time to get the money together, with accrued interest, of course. Again, a business decision to give him that time."

"Not a very smart one this time, Bobby." She watched the man as she spoke the words, watched his eyes for even a flicker that he knew. And saw nothing but confusion.

"What are you talking about, Kate?"

"Reggie Holton was shot tonight," Jake said, speaking up for the first time.

"Shot? And you think I had something to do with it?"

"Did you?" Jake asked, intentionally baiting the man.

"Hell no. Is he dead?" Bobby looked from Kate to Jake, his expression changing from irritation, to annoyance, to just plain pissed off.

"Yeah, Bobby, he's dead."

"And you think I did it? God, Kate. You know me, all those times you ran me in for something, was it ever violent? No, it was running drugs, shop lifting, maybe some B & E, but nothing heavy. I never carried. You know that if I had, I couldn't run this place. Besides, him dead leaves me out a pile of money."

"Then be straight with me here, Bobby. You knew Reggie, you knew who he was when he came in that night to play, didn't you?" Kate pushed. She wanted to know exactly what Bobby knew. He'd had a reason for granting that credit and then for giving Bobby time to pay it back. She knew he did.

"Yeah, I remembered him from the streets. We didn't run together, but I'd seen him. He wanted in the game, asked me himself. He had the stake, so I agreed."

"And when he lost all of it, the original stake? Why grant him credit, Bobby? That's not like you." Kate watched the big man, trying to read him. His eyes were inscrutable, his hands still steepled, but he no longer looked so cocky.

"He was a patron of my establishment. He asked for a line of credit. The run we did on him came back clear. It was a business decision." Bobby shrugged his shoulders. "A bad one, as it seems, but that's the breaks sometimes in business."

"Oh, come on, Bobby. Fifty thousand's not just a bad break. That's a shitload of money," Jake said, his voice incredulous. "You can't tell me it didn't make you mad when he came whining to you, telling you he couldn't pay the money back?"

"Fifty thou may seem like a lot to a couple of cops, but that's won and lost here 20 times every night," Bobby shrugged again, a mean smile on his face.

"What do one of those quarter slot machines pay out? Five thousand? Ten? You were pissed off on the way up here because another paid out. And you're telling me that with Reggie, it was just bad business?" Kate pushed, and she pushed hard. She didn't want to take him downtown. He'd lawyer up in a second if she tried it. This was their one shot to talk to him, to get information from him, without some slimy mouthpiece fucking up the works.

"Okay, so maybe he pissed me off some, but why'd I want to kill him? He said he was getting the money, plus the interest. He said he had something in the wind. Reggie, he always had some scheme. He told me I'd have it by next week."

"And you believed him, Bobby? Knowing Reggie from the streets, and what he was like, and you actually believed him?"

"There are circumstances a person can get into where it ain't in their best interest to lie, if you know what I mean. He told me he was going to be sittin' pretty." Bobby put his hands down on his desk and leaned forward. "He knew the consequences of crossing me. I gave him till next week. I had no reason to kill him."

"He didn't tell you what it was?" Kate sat back in her chair, seemingly at ease, but her eyes were trained on Bobby.

"If I know Reggie, it wasn't legal." Bobby stood, signaling an end to their conversation.

"One last question," Jake said, standing as well.

"Fine," Bobby said impatiently.

"You got a permit for that piece you slipped into your desk when you sat down?"

Kate just smiled.

Bobby sank back down in his chair. "You know I can't carry a weapon in this state."

"Yeah, Bobby," Kate said, "we do know that. So if I open that drawer, am I gonna find the piece my partner here mentioned?"

Bobby eyed them both, searching their faces. "Okay, listen. Reggie said he was going to be getting a pay-off, something big. He said it was going to set him up for a long time, but he'd have to leave town for a while."

"Pay-off from who?" Jake asked.

"He didn't say, only that this guy was a sucker. And that either way it went, he'd be rolling in the dough before long." Bobby looked up. "And that's all I know. Honest."

Kate stared him down for a second, and then rose. "Okay, Bobby. Ditch the piece. If I have to come back here and I see it, I'm running you in and closing you down. Got it?"

"Yeah, yeah, I got it. Now get out of my joint. You make the clientele nervous." He keyed a code into the elevator but didn't see them out. Instead, he went back to his desk and sat, taking a big white handkerchief out of his pocket and wiping his face with it.

"Fucking cops," he muttered before picking up the phone to call down to make sure they left.

Kate heard the wall phone ring as they walked away from the elevator and headed across the red and gold swirled carpet toward the wide front doors. To her left she could hear a croupier, his voice projecting loud enough to be heard above the milling masses, "New shooter coming out, folks! Place your bets!"

To her right was the constant sound of coins clinking and rattling, and slot machine handles being pulled. The chimes of the machines as they sang to the people playing them were cheerful and melodic. A roulette wheel spun, the ratcheting noise and the whirling of the ball as it made its way around the wheel almost hypnotic. The excited noises of the people who won and lost, the diversity of the patrons' plumage, from dark suits to Hawaiian shirts, all were lost on Kate as she ran what they had learned through her head.

By the time they reached the car, she was smiling.

"Care to tell me what has you so happy all of a sudden?" Jake asked carefully.

"We need to check out Reggie's apartment. I'm betting we'll find out that Reggie was blackmailing someone." Kate got in her car after smiling at the valet she'd bullied earlier.

"Who?" Jake asked.

"We figure that out and I think we've got our murderer." She put the car in gear and they headed back across town toward the harbor. Reggie's apartment was in an older section of town, not dilapidated as yet, but slowly going to seed. Most of the people in Reggie's building were still up.

After all, it was Valentine's Day.

Kate got hold of the super, and they entered Reggie's apartment.

It was a pigsty. Half empty food containers littered the floor and coffee table, unopened mail spilled across another small table and onto the floor. Ashtrays were full, the stale smell of cigarette smoke and rotten food pungent in the closed-up rooms.

Kate walked in, waving a hand in front of her face. "Geesh, Reggie, would it have killed you to clean up every once in a while." Her face twisted in a grimace, as she grabbed a pair of latex gloves out of her pocket and pulled them on.

"I've seen you at a crime scene where the victim had his head bashed open and blood and brains were everywhere. You didn't even flinch. This bugs you?" Jake asked, amazed. He pulled on his own gloves and picked up the mail that was on the floor.

"Everybody's got a problem spot," she said, blowing out a long breath as she saw flies buzzing around on some of the uncovered food. "Places like this are mine."

"I can do this if you want," Jake offered.

"No. I'm fine." She swallowed audibly. "I'm going to check out the bedroom."

"Okay," Jake said, flipping through the stack of mail he'd picked up. He counted at least three unopened phone bills, and two from the electric company, the last one with a big "Final Notice" stamped across it in red ink. "There has to be at least three months worth of unopened mail here," he called to Kate. He looked around at the mess. "I'm betting he never brought the mayor's daughter here."

Kate walked out of the bedroom, a lacy bra hanging off a pen she held carefully. "I'm betting he brought someone here. But this isn't near big enough to fit Sarah's um..."

"Bountiful bosoms?" Jake supplied, a smile on his face.

"Funny. But true. And I don't think it belonged to Aurora either."

"No. Oh, look at the tag. Cosabella... not cheap. Certainly not something Reggie bought." Jake reached over and picked up the lacy, red silk bra.

"How do you know so much about women's underwear?" Kate stared at him, seeing him turn red.

"Three sisters who leave magazines scattered all over the house." He dropped the bra back in her hands and started to go back to the kitchen. And tried to ignore the spurt of laughter he heard from Kate. "Do you have any idea what you're looking for?" he called back to her.

"I think I just found it. Our Reggie kept a diary. And he was really prolific." She walked up, the book open in her hands. "Listen to this."

"She showed up at my door. I don't even know how she knew where I lived. I never even brought Sarah here, never. I never brought any of them here. This bitch knew though. She walked in here like she owned the place, looking down that stuck-up nose of hers. She said she knew my plans, knew what I had in store for the old man. And then she stripped. I couldn't believe it. Here's this tight-ass bitch who wouldn't even look at me before, in my apartment dressed only in this red silk number.

Anyways, she told me to forget it. That if I didn't go through with it, she'd fuck me whenever I wanted. Like I'd give up all that money for a bitch. But I don't look a gift cow in the milk. So I fucked her."

"Pig," Kate said under her breath as she finished reading. She skimmed a few more pages. "He never gives names. Except for Sarah's."

"But you know, don't you?" Jake said. They both knew. "We need to get a team in here. I bet her prints are all over this place."

Kate made the call and they waited until the CSI's showed up, leaving a uniform at the door while they did their work. "You find anything probative, anything at all, you call me," Kate told the point tech.

"Morgue?" Jake asked.

"Yeah." They left the apartment, with Kate's mind running fell throttle. She had the scent, now all she needed was the evidence to pull her in. And that meant waiting for the crime scene guys to do their jobs.

The drive to the morgue was quick in the early morning traffic. Parking was even easier. They stopped in front and got out, Kate locking the doors behind her, and dropping the keys in the pocket of her jacket. Pulling her badge, she quickly yanked open the lobby doors and flashed it at the guard standing inside the booth. He waved her past the metal detector, and she waited for Jake.

It took a few minutes for someone in the autopsy rooms to answer their signal and buzz them in, as the front desk was closed and empty. By the time they got back there, Kate was looking around nervously. All the black body bags made her nervous. She wasn't some screaming ninny who jumped at every sound, but, looking at those temporary shrouds, she always wondered what would happen if everyone in them sat up at the same time and came back to life.

Impatient with herself, she shook off the thought.

Doc Weston greeted them at the door to the main autopsy room. Reginald Holton was center stage, his face pulled forward, his skull opened. Kate could see the Y incision, already made and stitched back up. She could also see just the hint of grayish-white in a stainless steel bowl sitting on a tray.

"Well, your boy was in sorry shape," Doc said, walking toward the body.

Kate grabbed a mask and put it over her face as she came toward the steel table that held the body. "What do you mean, Doc? I mean, except for the obvious, he doesn't look too bad to me." She elbowed Jake when he snorted.

"If Mr. Holton here hadn't been shot, he'd have been dead in about ten more minutes anyways." He looked up at their startled faces. "He was poisoned."

"What?" Kate grabbed the report that Doc handed her. His tox screens had come back showing he had ingested a high concentrate of maliathon.

"Maliathon? What's that, Doc?" Jake asked, reading over Kate's shoulder.

"It's an insecticide, not seen that often here in the city. It's more commonly used in larger farming communities. It takes quite a lot of the substance ingested at one time to cause death, unless its in a relatively pure form."

"Sarah had said that Reggie felt sick, and he'd asked her for a glass of water," Jake said.

"So is this overkill? Or is this two killers? Why poison someone if you're planning on shooting them anyway? Maybe the poison wasn't working fast enough, so the killer decided to hurry Reggie along some?" She shook her head, staring at his body. "Poison is usually a woman's method of murder. It's cleaner, no blood. Her hands stay lily-white," she sneered.

"Doc, did you dig out the slug?" Jake asked.

"Yeah, turned it over to Johnny in Ballistics at the Crime Lab. He said he'd run it and get back to you."

"You got anything else?"

"Your victim recently had sex. Sperm found on the inside of his underwear and a vaginal contribution was also present. I took swabs and sent them to DNA." He smiled when Kate patted him on the back.

"Thanks, Doc, you're the best."

Kate, followed by Jake at his more leisurely pace, hurried out the doors and was back at the car in record time. She took a deep breath of city fouled air, gratefully accepting its pollution over the purified and circulated air inside the morgue, air that held the smell of chemical cleaners and death. No matter how much they perfumed it, it still smelled like death to her. "God, I hate that place," she muttered to herself.

Jake heard her and his hand itched to rest on her shoulder, to show her some support. He knew it wouldn't be welcome, just as any comment he made acknowledging he had heard her wouldn't be welcome. Kate hated weakness, in any form. She put up a front as tough and no nonsense and would damn anyone who thought otherwise.

He remembered once coming up on her, as she sat alone in her car that long ago weekend. She'd had her head down on the steering wheel. And when he'd knocked on the window, she'd looked up at him with tears shining out of those big golden-green eyes. It was a case, a little girl killed by her mother, and the sight of the body, so young, that had gotten to her.

Jake sat in the car with her, and he'd talked her into a drink, which then turned into two, and another, when they got to the bar. Kate had asked to go home with him, not wanting to be alone. She'd sleep on the couch. And then her nightmare, and he'd come to the rescue again, but this time, he hadn't been a gentleman, had taken what her eyes had begged him to take. And their friendship had been damned.

"Wake up, Jake." Kate waved her hand in front of his face making him realize he was standing on the sidewalk, just staring at her. "You were a hundred miles away. I asked if you wanted some coffee before we head back to the mayor's."

"Yeah," he said softly. "Coffee would be good."

"It'll give CSI a chance to go and check out the gardener shack on the property," Kate said, unlocking the car. "And for them to run the DNA to see who Reggie boy was making it with."

She pulled into the all-night diner that was the hangout for their precinct. At this time of the night, it was virtually deserted. A waitress who had been sitting on a stool, resting her feet, and refilling sugar shakers, got up when they walked in. She brought over two mugs and a coffeepot, two menus stuffed under her arm.

"Hey, Detectives. Quiet night?" she smiled as she plunked down the mugs on the table in front of them and filled them with coffee.

"Sure is, Sheryl." Kate shook her head at the offer of the menu. "Just coffee, we've only got a few minutes."

"Okay, sugar. You two want anything else, just give me a yell." She walked away with the coffeepot and went back to filling her shakers.

"So what's got you so dazed, Jake?" Kate asked, her hands cupping the warm mug before bringing it to her lips. The first sip sent warmth through her and she sighed appreciatively.

"Honestly?"

"Yeah."

"You do," he said. He twisted his mug around and then dumped a creamer into the murky liquid. "I keep trying to figure out what happened."

Kate felt her heart pick up a beat and couldn't blame it on the caffeine. "We aren't talking about that weekend, Jake. We agreed."

"When did I agree, Kate? Because I don't happen to remember agreeing to that. I want to talk about it. I want..."

"I don't care what you want. I don't know why you are so all fired determined to bring it up." Kate kept her voice low, shooting a worried glance over to see if Sheryl was looking.

"And I don't know why you don't want to talk about it," Jake retorted, pitching his voice lower also as he noted the direction of her glance. "I think we were pretty fantastic together."

Kate ruthlessly squashed the jump her pulse took at his words. "Were, Jake. It can't happen again." She took a drink of her coffee and stared at their reflections in the window. She could see the way he was looking at her, how he was staring. "Jake," she turned and put her hand on his for one second. "It was fantastic, better than anything I've known before, but between departmental rules and the problems cops have with relationships anyways, anything we started would be doomed." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "It's just better we don't let it start."

"Better for who?" He stared down into his coffee, stirring it slowly. "I can't see how not finding out what can happen between us, and finding out where this thing we feel might go, is better for either of us." He put down his spoon. "I've got feelings for you, Kate. A hell of a lot more than lust. I don't know if it's love because you won't give us the chance to find out. I think I deserve a better reason than departmental regs."

"Jake, we have a case. If you..." she stopped and took a deep breath. "If you don't think you can work this case with me, then maybe you should take yourself off it."

The words that then came spewing out of his mouth were foul, to say the least, and of such imagination and quantity that Kate swore the air turned blue around his head. His eyes turned hard and icy-green as he stared at her and continued, "Kate, I've sat back and let you run this case. I haven't said a thing. I've let you walk all over me, more than I've ever let any other woman do, because I thought it would be the right thing to do. I've kept away from you because I thought that was what you wanted."

"I di..." Kate began, only to be interrupted by a harsh snarl.

"Shut up." He snapped the words out harshly. "This is my turn and you are going to sit there and listen. I'm done doing things your way. You don't kiss a man the way you kissed me in that alley if you don't still feel something for him. And don't tell me it's just lust, since you and I both know there has to be something behind that lust to make it that strong. When this case is done, you are going to dinner with me. We are going to find out what we have."

Kate's phone rang before she could reply, and she snapped it open angrily. "Cambridge," she growled into the phone.

Jake looked down at the spoon he had in his hands, the spoon that was now just a twisted piece of metal. His breathing remained ragged and harsh, and he could still feel the rage he had provoked singing through his system. He took a drink of his coffee, hissing as it burned his tongue. And he blamed her for that as well.

"The daughter's prints were in Reggie's apartment. They also have semen stains on the sheets and they're looking for a vaginal contribution. The DNA came back with no matches in the Combined DNA Index System. They're sending someone out to get samples from the family. The bullet wasn't in the Integrated Ballistics Identification System and they haven't found a 9 millimeter at the mayor's home. He isn't registered for one either." She slid her phone back into her pocket. "We should get over there, be there while they are taking those samples. And pick Stella up for questioning."

"Fine," Jake said, dropping some money on the table and standing up. "We'll work the case. But when it's done, we are going to talk this out."

Kate just glared at him as she walked past him and out into the parking lot.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic /