Forbidden Fires (Bondage & Breakfast)
Author:Jodie Griffin

chapter Two



“There has got to be more to this than meets the eye.” Delia muttered the words under her breath as she stared at the case board she and Colin had set up the day before. A full day into the joint investigation, slogging through other peoples’ notes and trying to put them in some kind of cohesive order, and she’d found nothing substantial to help them get justice for the eight people killed by the fires or to prevent other deaths.

In fact, the only real thing she’d learned in the past day was she still ran hot for Colin. As in five-alarm, blazing inferno hot.

The man on her mind stepped into the room carrying a tray with four cups of steaming, fragrant coffee and a bag emblazoned with the logo of the local bagel shop. Her heart beat triple time, and not in anticipation of the hit of caffeine or the garlic bagel she smelled. It had far more to do with the way Colin looked in his uniform. Black cargo pants showcased a tight rear and long, muscled thighs. His dark gray uniform T-shirt clung to his wide chest and broad shoulders. The weapon and shield attached to his belt only added to the total package that shouted real man.

She shook herself out of her reverie and reached up for the offered cup. “Thanks. Hey, I’ve got a question.” Actually, now that things were organized the way she liked them, she had a bunch of them. She wrapped her hands around the cup and took a long, bracing sip.

“Good morning to you too.” He set the other coffees and the bagels on the table, a bad-boy grin teasing his lips.

She felt herself blush. “Sorry. Good morning, Colin. I’ve got a question.”

He laughed, his hazel eyes sparking. “Brat. Go ahead, shoot.”

Thank God they’d been able to put their past—and their still undeniable attraction, as proven by that explosive kiss she’d laid on him the other day—on the back burner. They’d reverted to the flirty, teasing banter and rapport they’d had while working the bomb task force. She didn’t have any illusion the peace would last indefinitely. Not with her temper, his stubbornness and the unresolved issues that had caused their breakup. “Who did the interviews for the two people who survived the Baltimore fire?

He frowned, all business now. “Baltimore P.D., I think. Why?”

She pointed to the board. “Jake and Elizabeth West are listed as the property owners. The police report says they were interviewed, but I don’t see any transcripts.”

“Probably just an oversight.” He lifted a shoulder. “We can check with the Baltimore P.D.”

“I’ve already traveled down that road, coffee boy. While you were still lounging around in bed.” She said the words teasingly, trying hard not to wonder if that bed was occupied by some other woman these days. None of your business, she reminded herself. “I submitted a query online, and left a message for the Baltimore case officer.”

“Showoff. But we don’t all get a break at night, part-timer. Some of us got called to another scene last night and were up until three this morning.”

She blinked. “Related?”

He shook his head. “No. Arson, yes, but I doubt this is tied to our serial case. It was at a bondage sex club in the warehouse district in Baltimore. No deaths, just minor property damage. The club has top-of-the-line alarms and fire suppression equipment. I guess when your business is tying people up you want to make sure the danger to them is minimal. You wouldn’t believe the things they had in that place.” He grinned, wide and sexy. “The line guys who worked the scene are going to talk about that one for a long time.”

Heat rose up from her toes to settle in her cheeks. Her nipples peaked, and moisture gathered between her legs. She didn’t have any trouble imagining exactly what kind of things they’d have in a club like that. She’d never been to one, but bondage was the fantasy that she craved to be reality. She and Colin hadn’t been together long enough for her to share that secret desire with him, but damn, she’d thought about it. She was thinking about it now. A shudder rippled through her body before she could stop it.

She dropped her eyes from Colin’s before she gave away too much in them, and crossed her arms, hiding her suddenly aroused nipples. She stared at the case board for a long minute until she wrestled her wild imagination back under control, willing her traitorous body to behave. “You’re working other cases? I thought this was it for you right now.”

He shrugged. “It’s supposed to be, but the local deputy marshal was at the hospital with his wife. She went into labor last night. I was free, and I was close, so when the call went out, I volunteered. It’s the least I could do.”

His generosity with others was the one thing—other than their immediate, explosive chemistry—that had drawn her to Colin. She’d never met anyone else who put others first more often. It was also one of the things that had driven her crazy and put a wedge into their relationship. Every first responder was used to having scheduled plans interrupted. That, she could deal with. But every time he’d volunteered for another off-duty assignment, she’d been jealous of the time taken away from them.

“Some things haven’t changed.” She softened the words with a light smile. Words that, a year ago, would’ve started a heated argument. “That was nice of you.”

Red spots rose on his cheeks, although he ignored her comment and turned the conversation back to work, which, she reminded herself firmly, was where it should have been in the first place.

“So. What’s next on your plate, Detective? I want to revisit each of the scenes, and take a more thorough look. Want to ride along, or do you have other investigative work you need to do from here?”

Here was a conference room in the State Fire Marshal’s Metro Regional Office in Westminster. It wasn’t his home base or hers, since working out of her office, near her uncle, would be uncomfortable considering the sparks between them, and working out of his home office, two hours away in western Maryland, would be inconvenient. Neutral ground.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing the scenes. Not that I’m expecting to find any real evidence at this point, and fire evidence is your game, not mine. But I like getting a feel for things.” She looked up at the board. “Where do we start?”

* * *

Just over an hour later, in southeast Baltimore County, they stood outside a large estate home on a secluded piece of property surrounded on three sides by high iron fencing, and by the Middle River on the fourth. The first fire had occurred here, nearly three weeks earlier, and two people had died.

Colin looked down at Delia’s casual shoes and frowned. While probably good for chasing perps, they wouldn’t be sturdy enough for tromping through all the debris left behind by a fire. He went around to the back of his truck and grabbed a pair of steel-toed firefighter boots. “You’ll need these. They haven’t started clearing the house yet.”

Delia nodded and looped her giant shoulder bag across her body. “Thanks.”

She reached out to take them from his hand, but the devil on his shoulder made him hold them out of her reach. Two days of seemingly harmless flirting had left him hard and aching, but they hadn’t had any real time alone together. But right now? Not another soul in sight. She’d probably kick his ass for this, but he had to try. Or lose his sanity. “Come and get them.”

Fire flashed in her eyes, and he felt the jolt straight to his cock. “What are you doing? Give me the damn boots.”

“Hell if I know.” He winced when she tucked her fisted hands against her hips. “Things didn’t work out so well for us last time. But something’s still there, isn’t it? You felt what I did in the conference room back at your station. You can’t lie about that.”

She bit her lip, looking unsure, ticked off and turned on. All at once, but it was the uncertainty that did him in. Another bolt of lust slammed into him.

“Oh, hell,” he muttered under his breath, dropping the boots to the ground. He reached out and pulled her into his arms, making the decision for both of them. He’d stop if she protested—maybe—but he wasn’t waiting another minute.

His mouth slanted over hers, not gently like a first kiss between new lovers, but with all the passion of someone who’s been away from home far too long. He shuddered as his heart pounded, adrenaline racing through his veins like wildfire. When he splayed his hands against her back, the ends of her red ponytail brushed across his knuckles, and another shudder ripped through him.

As she moaned low in her throat and opened her mouth against his, he wrapped the long, silky strands around his fist, and pressed deeper against her mouth, tongues battling for dominance. Shit, it was always like this with Dee, and never like this with anyone else. How could one kiss be so wild, so out of control, so heart-stopping and dick-hardening?

The pressure behind his zipper was killing him, and he needed something more. He loosened the fist in her hair, put his hands on her waist and walked her back against the truck, never removing his mouth from hers. With a heartfelt groan, he hooked his hands under her rear and tucked her tight up against his erection, until he could feel the searing heat from her core.

The next thing he knew, Delia slammed her palms against his chest and sent him backward, nearly stumbling over the boots he’d dropped on the ground.

“What the hell is that?” Her voice was unsteady, arousal coloring her cheeks a bright red as she tilted her chin up at him, glaring. Her chest rose and fell with ragged breaths.

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” he retorted. “It’s an erection. I tend to get one when I’ve got a wild woman sucking on my tongue.”

Her face flushed even darker. “Jesus, Colin. We’re working.”

He’d seen this side of Dee before and knew it was time to back off. For now, anyway, but he wasn’t giving in without the final word. He held up both hands in supplication. “Look, I’m sorry. My timing sucks, okay? But don’t you dare tell me you weren’t into it.”

She opened her mouth and then snapped it closed again. Without another word, she turned and stalked away from him, muttering under her breath.

He wanted nothing more than to reach out and shake her. Damn it, she was shutting him out, the way she always did. As he watched her retreating back, the angel on his other shoulder demanded equal time from his conscience. A little voice—an annoying one—reminded him that he knew why she did it, and he understood it. Now he just needed to accept that she was looking for a little space to regain her equilibrium.

And damn it, she was right. They were working. Eight dead bodies should be enough to keep his libido in check—and keep his mind on the case. Eight. Disgust rolled through him and he swore, then picked up the boots and brought them over to her.

“Here,” he said quietly, talking to her back. “You can rip me a new one later. I was out of line, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

She turned to face him, and his heart clenched painfully. Her eyes brimmed with unshed tears and, if he was right, self-recrimination. Which was totally fucked up.

“Dee—”

“Don’t, Colin. Just don’t.” She shook her head, her voice on the verge of breaking. “Give me the boots.”

As she kicked off one of her shoes, he knelt down in front of her, holding the boot upright so she could step into it. Her hand dropped onto his shoulder to steady herself. He sucked in a deep breath but kept silent, helping her with the second boot.

While his head was bent, her hand landed softly on his hair for a long second. “You’re right, I was into it.” Her voice was soft, as if the admission pained her. “But we need to focus. Or you need a different partner.”

With that, she turned and clomped off toward the house.

* * *

Tremors shook Delia’s hands as she waited for Colin at the foot of the steps to the mansion. She might be pissed off at him—and herself—but she wasn’t stupid enough to go into the house without him. She didn’t know much about structural integrity or arson, so she didn’t know what to look for or where it was safe to walk.

She felt him step behind her, to the side, and tensed as one arm came around her shoulders. He squeezed once, pressed a soft kiss against her temple and then let her go. His simple acknowledgement of her feelings made her heart stutter.

So much for being over him.

“I don’t want any partner but you, Delia Robinson,” he murmured softly in her ear. “I can’t think of anyone else I want at my side and watching my back.”

“Then let’s get to work,” she said, wincing at the husky tone to her voice. Tears did that to her. Really, they did.

Colin gestured to the house as they walked up the steps. “The fire was confined mostly to the back side of the house, from the second floor down to the basement. There’s water damage everywhere, though, so be careful and follow where I walk.” He broke the crime scene seal across the front entrance and unlocked the door, letting it swing wide.

She’d seen some big houses, but this one was monstrous. The pictures in the file hadn’t done the size of the home any justice. This acreage sat along the Middle River waterfront but was very private. A sailboat was docked at the water’s edge, and the biggest deck she’d ever seen ran the entire length of the house.

With a deep, steadying breath, she stepped into the large foyer and looked up at light fixture hanging there. Nearly the height of the two upstairs floors, it was made of iron and crystal, and looked to be one of a kind. Hundreds of faceted, shaped crystal tubes hung from iron globes, all of which hung from a circular piece of ironwork.

“It’s safe to walk under,” Colin said, a grin ghosting across his otherwise serious face. “Gaudy as all get-out, but safe.”

“Where did the fire start?”

“They found broken windows—blown in, not out—on the ground floor in the Wests’ sunroom. It looks as though multiple pipe bombs were tossed through the windows. Luckily, the room was empty at the time or else we would’ve had more dead.”

“Can we go up to the third floor and work our way down?” she asked. “I want to look at the fire scene, but I want to look at the rest of the house too.”

Colin nodded and started up the curved staircase.

“There are empty spots on the walls, and stands that look like they held vases or sculptures,” she mused out loud as she followed him.

“According to our report, once the scene was cleared, the owners were given the go-ahead to remove their art collection,” Colin said, flipping through a file in his hand. “Apparently, it’s worth a great deal, and with the back side of the house open from the fire, their insurance company didn’t want to risk the loss, even with guards posted.”

“That makes sense.” As she hit the second floor landing, she came eye to eye with the gigantic light fixture. Sunlight streamed through the Palladian window and struck the crystal pieces, creating prisms in the air. Her thoughts died when she slammed into Colin’s back. “Why’d you stop?”

He stepped aside, and her mouth dropped open. Transfixed by the shadows cast against the wall by the iron-and-crystal fixture, she said the first thing that came to mind. “Are those penises?”

Colin choked. “It sure looks like it to me.”

“Well, that must’ve made for an interesting discovery, the first time sun bounced through that window.”

Colin snorted. “No doubt.” He held his hand out and motioned for her to go in front of him. “This part of the house is solid.”

When she got to the landing on the third floor, the chandelier was just below her view, and what she saw made her heart stutter. This time, Colin crashed into her.

He reached out and grabbed her waist, steadying her when she would’ve fallen forward. “Easy there. Now what?”

She shook her head, keeping the thought to herself. “Nothing. Just trying to figure out where to start.”

“You sure?”

“Yep.” But she wasn’t. Because the large X across the circular portion of the light fixture looked an awful lot like a St. Andrew’s Cross, and the chains that held it up were wrapped around each arm of the cross. What the hell was wrong with her that she kept seeing sex everywhere she looked?

She almost snorted. That was easy. She was with Colin, and he made her wish for things she couldn’t imagine with anyone else. But their history had proven they wouldn’t work in a long-term relationship, so she needed to put on her big-girl panties and just deal with it.

Still looking dubious, Colin held out his hand and pointed to the door at the far end of the hall. “So, let’s head to the master bedroom.”

This time, she couldn’t hold back the snort.