“I don’t want to leave this bed until morning.”

“You don’t have to.”


Confused, he turned his head and peered up at her. She’d propped her rosy cheek on her upraised hand, both balanced by her elbow. The long length of her lashes cast spiky shadows on her cheeks. God, she was lovely.

Her strawberry tresses tumbled to his chest in absolute disarray. He brushed several strands from her mouth and hooked them behind her ear. “What do you mean?”

Grinning, she held up her bra with her free hand. “Camera.”

He barked out a laugh, even as he reeled inside. That grin of hers was carefree and real, her entire face lit with her amusement. “So you did have a camera.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t take any pictures of you.”

“Shit,” he said, still grinning and shaking his head. “I had no idea. You’re a better agent than I am.”

“No, I just have the right tools.” Her smile widened. “The camera’s in the center of the bra, and that’s why my dress was so low cut. So men would stare at my cle**age and the camera could easily capture their eye patterns for retinal scans. If necessary.”

He scrubbed a hand down his face. No telling what kind of expressions he would have been wearing if the thing had been turned on. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

“It isn’t much.” She scooted from him and laid the bra on the bed. Lines of concentration formed around her mouth as she twisted the underwires.

She was adorable when she focused.

As with any holocamera, a blue screen materialized above the lens.

“All right,” she said. “This is Nolan’s entryway.”

Normal enough, with open spaces and a wrought-iron bench, though there were family portraits on the walls. Human portraits. Jaxon frowned. “You sure this is Nolan’s place?”

“The apartment belonged to one of the victims,” Mishka explained.

“Not one I know about, because this address isn’t in any of my files.”

“No. Estap has kept her identity and a few others to himself.”

“Bastard,” he said, meaning Nolan and Estap.

“Yeah.”

“Did Nolan kill her?”

“He says no.”

Jaxon arched a brow. “You believe him?”

She shrugged and pressed the wire. “I haven’t figured him out yet.” Another picture appeared. “Okay. This is the living room.”

He studied the brown syn-leather couch, matching love seat, and concrete floor with a red and orange rug. “Homey.”

“Yeah.”

A cell phone suddenly buzzed. He recognized the fast-fast-sloooow pattern, which meant it was his phone, not Mishka’s. He frowned at the carpet, where his pants lay. More buzzing. “Probably Dallas. Or Mia.”

Mishka stiffened and he didn’t have to guess what thoughts were running through her mind. They wanted him to leave her. Lock her up. Something.

“I’ll call her back.” Soon he was going to have to talk to his friends about their treatment of his woman. Mishka came first. That’s the way it had to be. That’s the way he wanted it. He wanted them to like her, but if they couldn’t, if they refused, he…he didn’t know what he would do.

Relaxing, Mishka twisted the wire again. “Bedroom.”

He saw a queen-size bed with a bright red comforter, a stone vanity, and a dresser painted with flowers and vines.

“What’s the bubbly plaster in the wall from?”

Her gaze sharpened on the photo. “What bubbles?”

“There.” He pointed to the wall beside the closet, nearly hidden by shadows.

She messed with the wire until the wall came into better focus. Her frown deepened, a mirror of his. “I don’t know. Not from a punch or kick. It’s too thin.”

“Looks like someone plastered a hole, didn’t know what they were doing, and let the mold get too hot around the edges before it dried.”

“Think he’s hiding something there?”

“Could be.”

“I wasn’t in there long enough to study it. He didn’t like me in the apartment, so I had to sneak in. And unless I’m with him, he doesn’t leave. So I had to walk in, snap some shots, and walk out fast.”

“I want an inside look.”

His cell buzzed again.

Mishka sighed. “Answer it,” she said, devoid of emotion. “They wouldn’t be calling back if it wasn’t important.”

He pressed a kiss to her lips and lumbered from the bed, hating the tension humming from her. He dug for the unit. Though he didn’t recognize the number, he held the cell to his ear. “This is Agent Tremain.”

“And this is Senator Estap,” the voice on the other end proclaimed. “We have something to discuss.”

CHAPTER 21

Two-hour flight from New Chicago to New D.C. in a cramped ITS, an ionic transport system that ran on vibrations of subparticle strings of energy—no problem. Two burly guards greeting him at the airport, pyre-guns hidden below their coats as they frisked him and removed his weapons—whatever. Forty-five-minute drive to a palatial office building in the heart of the city—fine. Ten-minute walk along the streets—why not twenty?

Being forced to leave Mishka behind—a killing offense.

He’d finally found her, only to be dragged away. The person responsible would pay.

He’d told her he’d been called away, that he’d be gone for a few days, and her face had washed of emotion and feminine softness. She’d paled, losing the rosy glow of satisfaction, and her naked body had stiffened.

Where are you going? Why are you going? she’d asked, almost desperate.

I’ll talk to you about it when I get back.

Ha! I’m coming with you.

No. Sorry.

Yes, damn it! What’s going on?

Miss me while I’m gone, ’cause I’ll damn sure miss you. Just trust me and stay here. And don’t kill my friends, okay? And don’t go inside Nolan’s without me. He’d dressed, kissed her—not that she’d kissed him back—and left with only one backward glance. That glance had nearly destroyed him, though. She’d been sitting cross-legged on the bed, hair tumbling around her shoulders, ni**les peeking through the strands. Her hazel eyes had been glacial.

All he’d wanted to do was gather her in his arms and hold her close. Damn, I’m worse than a woman.

On the way to the airport, he’d called his friends and told them to work with her, not against her, and had warned them to play nice or else. They’d hung up on him. He didn’t think they’d attack her, but he couldn’t be sure.

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