Her statement finally triggered his response. “I’m not a threat,” he said.

“Then why are you packing a—?”

“I used to work for the FBI.”

She bunched her brow, disturbed that her interest hadn’t been quelled. And neither had his electrifying effect on her. She’d hoped that learning the truth would put the kibosh on it. Help her focus again. She should have known better.

“And why is an ex-FBI agent chasing me down?” she said.

He shifted to face her, his imposing presence no less intimidating after the truth. Just like love and hate, lawmen and criminals were just the flipside of the same dangerous coin. He said, “To ask how long you plan to use your family connections to harass me.”

Stunned, she tried not to gape as a flush washed through her body. Use her family connections? Apparently he was under the mistaken impression her father was an asset to her. And any discussions regarding her dad were bound to get intensely uncomfortable.

She hiked her chin, glad her excuse was real. “Unfortunately I don’t have time for a discussion. I have another interview to get to.”

His previously amused expression had crossed into decidedly un-amused territory, making him more intimidating than before. Apparently he had no intention of letting her go so easily, and her heart sank as her attempt at escape was nixed.

“In that case,” he said, “I’ll tag along.”

THREE

Hunter sat in the back row of the old theater, empty save Carly, sitting beside him, the crew, and the three naked men on stage, dancing and singing Shakespeare to an electric guitar. “Hamlet, The Musical!” was unique enough, and he supposed nudity added that extra edge needed in a town as jaded as Miami. But if there was a god, and s/he was benevolent, this would end soon and he could get back to his regularly scheduled confrontation.

He shifted in his seat uncomfortably and whispered, “When are you supposed to interview Hamlet?”

Carly whispered back, “As soon as the dress rehearsal is over.”

He stared at the three actors, bereft of clothing. “They still call it that?”

“They have to do a run-through in costume. Or, in this case, in the nude.”

Hunter flinched as one of the male actors twirled across the stage, his male parts a victim to centrifugal forces. “This goes beyond nudity,” he muttered.

Her voice held more than a hint of humor. “Wednesday I’m interviewing a participant in the Pink Flamingo’s annual drag queen pageant, if you want to accompany me there as well.”

He shot her a skeptical look. “What kind of reporter are you, anyway?”

“A lifestyle journalist. I do arts and entertainment pieces.”

On stage, the actors formed a brief chorus line, and the image of the three naked gentlemen doing a cancan almost caused Hunter to throw in the towel and leave. “You’re a little liberal with your definition of entertainment,” he said dryly.

Carly leaned closer, her fresh scent teasing him, her amused voice almost...hopeful. “Are you feeling uncomfortable with the play?”

He stared down at her, not knowing which was worse: the intentionally flirty vibe emanating from her beautiful face or the monstrous scene on stage. One sight scorched his vision, and the other could leave him scarred for life.

She was a manipulator who used her charms at will, yet a part of him was impressed with her courage. A person had to be either stupid or brave to enter that alley in such a dangerous section of town. Initially he’d thought she was the first, but it was evident now that it was the second. And that hint of seduction beneath her pretense of assessing his clothes—all to get a look at his gun—had both tickled him and turned him on when it should have ticked him off. He was dismayed to realize he’d crossed the line. He liked her.

An unfortunate complication.

“No. I’m not uncomfortable with the play,” he lied, convinced she was hoping the outlandish musical would get him to bolt. But he had no intention of leaving without finishing their discussion. Like her or not, he would protect his interests. He turned his focus to the stage, hoping he had the fortitude to stick it out. “I will, however, admit I’m more comfortable in the back alley of a crime-infested neighborhood.”

“Two artistic gangsters are preferable to three actors?”

“They are when they wear clothes.”

“I suppose it makes it easier to hide their weapons if they’re hostile,” she said, obviously amused he’d misinterpreted the men’s intent.

“At least I have a concealed weapons permit. I doubt those two did. And I’m ninety-nine percent positive they were carrying,” he said. Then he nodded in the direction of the stage. “That’s a pretty hostile sight right there.”

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