Excerpt from Hard Evidence
Tessa turned her rental car into the underground parking garage and had to drive down
two levels before she found a spot. Not only had she lost her car—the
first new car she’d ever owned—but her parking karma sucked. She
turned off the ignition, grabbed her briefcase, glanced at her watch.
She was late for her interview with Chief Irving and the head of the gang
taskforce. Did Christiana Amanpour or Barbara Walters or Jane Pauley have problems
like this? Somehow she didn’t think so.
They don’t have Tom Trent for a boss either, girl.
She’d arrived at the paper this morning to find photocopies of her mug
shot stuck on bulletin boards throughout the building with the word “WANTED”
typed above it. She might have found it funny if she hadn’t lost so much
sleep last night, first arguing with Julian in her imagination and then fighting
nightmares. Even a triple-shot latté hadn’t been able to restore
her sense of humor. She’d vented to Sophie about the arrest and the interrupted
interview—taking care to keep Julian’s name secret—and was
astonished when Sophie smiled.
“I think Holly’s right,” Sophie said. “He likes you.”
“Oh, well, lucky me! I suppose if he loved me I’d be in federal
Then, to make matters worse, Tom had spent forty-five minutes after the I-Team
meeting grilling her for every detail of her arrest, clearly gearing up to bellow
in Chief Irving’s ear. It had taken every evasive trick she knew to keep
from giving him the arresting officer’s name. In the end, she’d
had to resort to the truth.
“I can’t give you his name. He’s an undercover officer.”
And I want to punch him right in his sickeningly handsome face.
Tom hadn’t been pleased, but, as a staunch advocate of reporter-source
confidentiality, he hadn’t been able to object.
Now she was a full twenty minutes late. She could only hope Chief Irving hadn’t
given up on her. She hopped out of the car, locked it and hurried to the nearest
stairwell, rehearsing her questions as she ran up the steps, the staccato click
of her heels reverberating off the concrete walls.
If there was so much violence between gangs and the city’s homeless,
why was so little being done to combat it? How many reports of attacks against
the homeless had they received over the past five years and how many had they
investigated? What was being done to protect homeless youth from gangs and other
It wasn’t the news story she was looking for. It didn’t answer
the question of who’d killed the girl. But it was a worthy issue on its
own, and she felt sure there was at least some connection between all of this
and the shooting.
¡Por favor Señor, ayúdeme! ¡Me van a matar!
Please, sir! Help me! They're going to kill me!
The girl’s terrified screams echoed in Tessa’s mind, made her
Gun shots. Shattered glass.
So much blood.
Lost in her thoughts, Tessa ran headlong into a wall of chest and found herself
staring up into a pair of dark blue eyes.
Startled, she jerked back from him, lost her balance.
Strong arms grabbed her, steadied her, held her fast. “We just keep running
into each other, don’t we, Tessa?”
He was dressed as he’d been the first night she’d seen him—dark
hair tied back in a ponytail, black leather jacket, jeans. His jaw was clean
shaven, his eyebrows dark slashes on olive skin, his lashes long. And those
She remembered only too well what it felt like to be kissed by those lips,
the shock of it, her body’s response. She wished he’d been bald
or toothless or had a vicious scar on his face—anything to make him less
handsome. Somehow just the sight of him was enough to make her mouth water and
her brain go blank. Then she remembered how much she disliked him.
“What are you doing here?”
Clever, Tessa! He’s some kind of cop. What do you think he’s
“I’m the ‘shadowy criminal type,’ remember? Criminal
types belong at the police station.” He bit his lower lip, measured her
through narrowed eyes. “But if I didn’t know better, I’d say
you’re following me.”
The opposite was closer to the truth, and they both knew it. He hadn’t
run into her by accident last night. He’d tracked her down.
She laughed. “Why on earth would I want to follow you? It’s not
as if you’re going to get all chatty and tell me what angle you’re
working on this shooting.”
“Not likely.” Then his mouth turned up in a slow, sexy smile that
made her insides skitter. “Maybe you’re hoping I’ll kiss you
Heat rushed into her cheeks, and she gaped at him. “You’re delusional,
He grinned a self-satisfied, smug grin that told her he knew exactly what
that kiss had done to her. “Am I?”
She forced her expression to go ice cold and pulled herself out of his grasp.
“I hate to wound your male pride, but I haven’t given that little
peck on the lips a single thought. Besides, that wasn’t really a kiss.”
Head high and shoulders back, she stepped around him.
Julian was tempted to laugh. She might pretend to have sleet for blood, but
he’d never known a woman to melt down quite like she had over a single
kiss, pretend or otherwise. He could feel her arousal. But why argue with her
about it when he could prove it?
In one move, he had her up against the wall, her wrists shackled by his hands,
her arms stretched out on either side of her head. “You’re right.
That wasn’t a kiss, but this is.”
“Shut up.” He ducked down, brushed his lips down the curve of her
cheek, ran the tip of his tongue over the whorl of her ear. She smelled good
enough to eat, her perfume subtle and sexy and so female. Hungry for her, he
sucked her earlobe into his mouth, pearl earring and all.
He heard her quick intake of breath, felt her body tense.
“You… are sooo… arrogant!”
“I said shut up.” He released her right wrist, cupped her chin,
tilted her head upwards.
Then he kissed her deep and hard.
And she melted.
Her body seemed to go liquid, every soft, feminine inch of her pressing against
him. The contact sent a bolt of lust blazing through his gut, made him painfully
hard, his erection straining to be someplace more welcoming than his jeans.
In a heartbeat, the kiss turned rough. Teeth scraped skin, bit, nipped. Tongues
invaded, clashed, plundered. He felt her hips move, betraying her need. Then
her arms wrapped around the back of his neck, and she whimpered.
The sound was like gasoline on the fire already raging in Julian’s veins.
He groaned, felt his control slip. He hadn’t meant for it to be like this.
He’d kissed her to wipe that conceited look off her face, to prove to
her that she wanted him despite her words last night—not to get caught
up in wanting her.
But he wanted her. Right now. Right here.
Trailing little bites down the silky skin of her throat, he slid his hand
up her silky nylon-covered thigh and under her skirt to cup her through her
panties. They were silk. And they were already damp.
Tessa was lost. She was lost in his scent, in the hard feel of him, the heat
of his lips on her skin. If there were some reason she shouldn’t be doing
this, she couldn’t remember what it was. God, she hated him, wanted him,
She felt the pressure of his hand against her, and her knees went weak. Rather
than hitting his hand away, she found herself pushing against the pressure,
parting her legs for him. “Oh, Julian!”
Heat spread in a liquid rush through her belly. And when he flicked his thumb
over the hard bead of her nipple, she moaned, the sound reverberating up and
down the stairwell.
A door opened.
He growled deep in his throat, cupped her hard, pressed his erection against
her belly. Then he whispered. “If you try to tell me next time I see you
that you haven’t been thinking about fucking me, I’m going to call
you a liar.”
With that, he released her and was gone.
Shaking, her body on fire, Tessa struggled to compose herself. She straightened
her skirt, picked her briefcase up off the floor where it had fallen, and smoothed
her hair. How had she let this happen? My God, she’d practically been
having sex with him in the stairwell! And she’d enjoyed it!
A police officer passed her on his way down the stairs, gave her a nod.
And then she remembered.
She glanced at her watch — damn damn damn! — and ran
the rest of the way up the stairs.
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