He blinked and stopped the flex. Not what he’d expected.
Then a thought hit him, an unbelievable one, and Luke paused. “Worried about me?” Because with her, he never knew where he stood.
The tight nod she gave had his eyes widening.
She turned away from him. “I heard about the stabbing. Right after—”
She’d heard, and she hadn’t come rushing to his bedside. No big shocker. Not like it was his first injury. “Just another scar to join the others.” He lifted his hand, rubbing his right cheek.
Monica’s mark. Stupid, the way he’d gotten that. For her.
She glanced back at him. Her gaze darted to his hand. The mark. Then right back to his eyes. “You should’ve had backup.”
Ah. Not gonna talk about her mark, not yet. “I was interviewing witnesses. Didn’t need—”
“In the SSD, you do.” She set her shoulders. “That’s why we’re going together. The perps we hunt here—you can’t take chances with them.”
So he’d learned with Carl Malone, aka the Sorority Stalker. An ex-psych professor who’d crossed the line into straight-up crazy. No longer content to just watch the pretty young girls, he’d had to touch them. Then kill them.
I stopped the bastard.
Luke set his shoulders. “Give me five minutes in the shower, and I’ll be ready to go.”
Stamping down hard on the lust—because yeah, it was there, was always there when she was near—he headed across the room. One bathroom. Great. The room would smell of her.
But then, he smelled of her too and…
“Thank you, Luke.”
He stopped right beside her.
Her hand lifted, rising over his cheek. Her fingers trailed past the early morning stubble and up to the scar.
Was she thanking him for that long ago night, when they’d been in the alley and that bastard had come out of the bar swinging that knife?
He’d been kissing her then. Tasting her and feeling the weight of her br**sts crush against his chest. They’d snuck outside, away from the others who were celebrating the end of a brutal training session.
Monica hadn’t normally gone with them on the celebrations. But she’d gone that night, for him. He’d had to get her alone.
Luke just hadn’t counted on the drunk idiot with the knife. The fool looking for money who hadn’t realized he’d walked straight into trouble.
But then that idiot had made the mistake of turning his focus onto Monica. With her shirt slightly undone and the top of her br**sts just peeking out—
Luke had taken the bastard down. So what if he’d gotten a little scratch? No one was hurting Monica on his watch.
“Last night…” Oh, hell but that voice of hers was like a stroke right to his groin. “I needed you.”
His jaw dropped.
“Thank you.” She cleared her throat. “When you’re dressed, we’ll go get the evidence file and see what we can turn up.”
He caught her hand. Brought it to his lips. “There’s no going back.”
Her eyes met his. Held. “I’ve never wanted to go back.”
No, Monica had always struck him as a living-for-the-moment kind of woman. No past. And no future.
“If Hyde finds out…” She exhaled. “He’ll bust our asses.”
Probably. But some things were worth the risk.
“You folks here about the Swain murder?”
Monica looked up at the deep voice. Her nails were flat on the counter of the sheriff’s office. Luke stood beside her—
And a shiver worked through her body.
Her focus narrowed on the man strolling toward them. Tall, thin, with a mop of red-blond hair. His brown sheriff’s uniform was perfectly straight, and his gold star glinted.
She pulled out her badge. Her fingers were rocky steady. “Yes, I’m Monica Davenport with the FBI.” A flash of her ID, just to show him she wasn’t bullshitting.
His golden eyes dipped to the badge, then met hers. The briefest curl lifted his thin lips. “The FBI, huh? Don’t get many Bureau folks down here.”
Not surprising. Gatlin was a small speck on the map, lodged between the swamp and the woods. Not exactly a prime hotspot for crime.
Well, unless you were talking body dumping. Because the swamp would sure be great for that.
“I believe you were contacted by my supervising officer, Keith Hyde. We need to see the crime records for Saundra Swain’s—uh, is everything all right?”
The guy’s eyes had narrowed, and he crept forward, that intent gaze on his face. “I… know you.”
She felt the ripple of movement beside her as Luke suddenly came to attention. Monica made herself blink. Once. Twice. Then she shook her head slowly. “I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure, Sheriff—”
“Martin. Jake Martin.”
The name meant nothing to her now. Just as it had meant nothing when Hyde told her she’d be meeting up with the fellow.
“Huh. I don’t usually forget faces.…”
“Neither do I,” she told him quietly.
That stare lingered a little longer, then Martin’s gaze drifted to Luke. “You her partner?”
She caught his shark’s smile. “Luke Dante.”
A grim nod. “Got those files for you. Sherri will be bringing them along and—” His gaze came back to her. “I know you.”
Monica forced a shrug, but sweat began to dampen the skin between her shoulder blades. Because of the insane southern Louisiana humidity, of course. One of the many reasons she preferred to spend her summers up north.
“I don’t believe we’ve ever met personally before.” Her words came out smooth and easy. “But I have worked several high profile cases with the SSD. Perhaps you’ve seen a photo of me in a newspaper or caught an interview on TV.” Though that was really more Kenton’s specialty with his pretty boy face. She shrugged and let her lips curl. “Or maybe I just have one of those faces.”
“I’m good with faces,” the sheriff murmured, shaking his head. “And I’m sure we’ve met.”
Now the guy was starting to get under her skin.
“Sheriff, you said the files were ready?” Luke demanded, his tone a little sharp.
“Ah, yeah, they’re—”
“Here you go, Sheriff!” A woman’s high voice called out. A small lady with a mop of gray curls bustled from the back. She had an old, yellowed box in her hands with “Swain” written in black marker across the front. “Found it in the basement.”