Forbidden Fires (Bondage & Breakfast)
Author:Jodie Griffin

chapter Five



Jesus. Filter much, Butler?

Delia looked shocked too, that he’d voice the question. Growled it, really, his fists clenched at his side. He purposely had to relax his hands and she noticed that too. She opened her mouth and closed it like a fish gasping for air, then drew herself up and squared her shoulders.

Oh, shit. Here came the fireworks.

Instead, she gave a little shake of her head and sidestepped his question. Again. “I think this is the key to the case. It looks like at least two of the three crime scenes involved people who live a BDSM lifestyle. I’ll bet if we poke around carefully, we’ll find the McDonoughs were also involved. I’d love to know what their basement looked like.”

He stifled his annoyance and let her words stew around in his head for a long moment, turned the idea over and examined it from more than one angle. “Possible.”

Delia cocked her head, and one delicate eyebrow raised. “And what about the fire you investigated last night, at the club?”

Well, shit. The unexpected insights into Delia’s sexual interests had pushed that scene from his brain. “Fuck. If you’re right, then we need access to all that evidence too. And wipe that look off your face. Smug doesn’t suit you.”

She laughed, and his gut tightened. In spite of their chaotic past, or maybe even because of it, he found himself dying to kiss her, desperate to get lost in the fire they always seemed to create together. Wrong time, he reminded himself. Wrong place. And hadn’t he learned anything last time? They’d started seeing each other during the case, got wrapped up in each other so much he’d been distracted at that last bombing. He’d been damned lucky all he’d gotten was a broken arm. He could’ve gotten them both killed, a thought that still turned his stomach.

With that brutal reminder, he ruthlessly turned his focus back to work.

“We need to map these out, Colin. We can pinpoint other clubs that might be targets, but it’s not like we can track other people who might be in danger in their own homes. That’s not information people would give out freely.” She paused for a moment, biting her lip like she always did when she was thinking deep thoughts. “I wonder if there’s any other connection between these people who’ve been targeted. Did they know each other? Did they go to the same clubs? Did they even go to a club, or keep their play private?”

“Good questions.” Another thought crossed his mind. “What about business connections? Is it possible this isn’t about their sexual lifestyle, but about money? Maybe the bondage thing is just coincidental.”

Delia shrugged. “It seems unlikely to me, but you’ve been investigating this longer.”

He agreed. “Still, we should check into it.”

“Absolutely.”

With that, they headed back to his truck.

Delia reached inside and grabbed her regular shoes. She leaned against the truck and started to tug the heavy fire boots off, nearly losing her balance in the process.

“Here, let me help you with those.”

She stuck a foot out, and he bent over, pulling the boot off. He dropped it to the ground, but didn’t let go of her. He dug his thumbs in, massaging her heel and arch through her thin sock, and she groaned out loud.

The sound went right to his dick, making him hard as stone. He looked up at her through lowered lashes. Her eyes were soft and unfocused, and pink lit her cheeks. The temptation to rub her foot against his cock was nearly his undoing. He hesitated for the briefest of seconds, then took the shoe from her and slid it on her foot as though she was Cinderella to his Prince Charming.

She held up the other foot, and he did the same thing, eliciting another groan from her, sending another bolt of lust to his groin. Christ, keeping things casual was killing him. With shaking hands and an equally shaky conscience, he slipped her shoe on and let go of it. His voice came out gruff, but he couldn’t help it. It was that, or take her in his arms, right here, right now. “There.”

Her eyes widened and filled with hurt.

He let fly a vicious curse. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m trying my best to not get too personal. You’re the one who pointed out we’re on a case, remember?”

Her spine stiffened. “Right.”

“Damn it, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at me.” He scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “Fuck, I need to keep my hands to myself. But when I get around you, I can’t seem to help it.”

“I know the feeling,” she said quietly. “But what are we going to do about it?”

“Not a damn thing. Not until we get justice for those eight victims and stop this asshole from adding any more to the list.” He reached out, squeezed her hand, the only thing he trusted himself to do right now. “After that, though, all bets are off.”

The ride back to their temporary office was rife with tension, and he was grateful when they arrived so he could put some much-needed physical distance between them.

She dumped her purse into the desk drawer and turned on her laptop. “I’m going to map out the incidents we know about, and I’m going to search for anything else we might have missed.”

He frowned. “I already did a search for commonality. Didn’t find anything else.”

She raised an eyebrow. “And did you include any bondage search terms like wrist restraints or spanking bench?”

Those words, coming out of Dee’s mouth? His ears got hot, and his dick got hard. “Point to the smartass cop.” There. That was better. Keep things sarcastic, the typical kind of ribbing between colleagues. Not personal. He could do this.

She lifted a shoulder. “Yeah, I didn’t think so. But I want to see if I can get a handle on the what so maybe we can get a fix on the who.”

He looked at his watch. “I need to check in with my boss, let him know where things stand and make sure there’s nothing else going on. I’ll catch back up with you in a bit.”

She shook her head. “Unless I find something big, I’m only going to be here another half hour. I’ve already got plans for tonight, and I don’t want to cancel if I don’t have to. We can catch up in morning, if that’s okay.”

An unbidden shaft of jealousy pierced his gut. He wanted to ask what plans, wanted to make her miss them, whatever they were, especially if they were a date with some jerk. Not that it was any of his damn business.

Fuck, what was wrong with him? He wanted to keep things casual, right? Wrong. Wanted to, no. Needed to, yes. Big difference, and a complication he didn’t need right now.

“You reachable if something comes up?” he asked gruffly.

She looked at him with eyes that said more than her one-word answer did. “Always.”

Still feeling restless and antsy, he nodded sharply and headed off to the conference room to make his calls.

He felt the weight of her stare long after he was out of her line of sight.

* * *

Delia blew out a long shuddery breath as Colin left the small office they’d been assigned. Thank God he’d decided to make his calls elsewhere. His scent and his voice and even his presence were killing her resolve to keep things all business.

If she’d known today would be such a roller coaster of emotions, she might’ve begged off the case. She snorted. No, she wouldn’t have. Professional pride demanded she ignore the ex-boyfriend and focus only on the case. That was the cop talking. The woman beneath the shield lusted after the sexy, cream-her-panties, want-to-eat-him-whole guy who starred in her kinky bedroom fantasies, even now.

Those kisses. Christ, he could still kiss like nobody’s business. She’d been right to shut him down out in the field, but if they hadn’t been at a crime scene, she might have given in to her baser instincts.

She only had about twenty minutes before she needed to leave to head home for her standing date with her granddad, but she needed to get this done. She turned back to the case board, frowned, then pulled up a mapping program on her computer. First, she input the addresses of each of the fires, along with the dates, the incendiary device used and the number of deaths. She thought for a moment, then added the address of the bondage club, saved the whole thing and sent the results to the printer.

Once that was done, she set up the search for additional fires that fit the parameters, including the BDSM angle. She might not get anything there, but it was worth a shot. And damn it, it felt right. It couldn’t be all coincidental. Since the second fire had destroyed everything, there was no evidence that pointed to them being a couple in the lifestyle, but she’d do some more checking tomorrow. Online purchases from adult toy stores, internet accounts, that kind of thing.

But for now, done. She didn’t want to be late for her date. The first Wednesday of every month, she and Pops met for dinner and a movie. When she’d been a rebellious teenager, these dates had been her salvation. Now that Pops was retired—and bored—they were his.

Colin still hadn’t returned, so she shot him a quick email about what she had planned for the morning, shut off her laptop, then grabbed the papers off the printer and stuffed it all into her bag. She’d look at it later tonight. With a final glance down the hallway where he’d headed, she slung the bag over her shoulder and left. She’d told him she was going, so why did she feel as if she was leaving part of herself behind?

* * *

Pops was waiting for her, and the grilling started the minute she got to his door.

“Find yourself a man yet, Red?”

She rolled her eyes but grinned. “Too busy with work. Besides, no one measures up to you.”

He grinned back. “True. But I’m not gettin’ any younger, you know. Want some great-grandkids while I can still horse around with ‘em.”

She snorted, not bothering to hide it. At seventy-five, her grandfather was no old geezer. He’d just retired from his job as head of security for a government agency, and before that, he’d done some kind of covert ops. He was fit and lean and in better shape than most men her age. Not Colin, her brain whispered. His shape was...

Pops cleared his throat. “Earth to Delia Mae. Where’d you disappear to? You’re doin’ that drifting-off-to-nowhere thing you did when you were seein’ that fire cop last year.”

“What?” She gaped at him. She had no idea he’d known.

He dropped the slow country drawl and sharpened his voice. “The deputy fire marshal you worked with on the bombing task force. I’m not deaf or blind, Red. And I was a cop longer than you’ve been alive. Give an old man a little credit.”

She ignored the churning in her stomach. “I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s go or we’re going to have to skip dinner so we don’t miss the movie. And you know how cranky I get without food.”

He agreed and ambled out to his truck, but once they were on the road, he started in again. “So who’s the guy who’s got you all starry-eyed now? Roy Oakes?”

She swallowed hard, slid a glance his way. “The fire cop.”

Her grandfather’s face tightened, and so did his grip on the steering wheel. “What the hell is he doing back in town? Jesus, Red. You moped around for months after he disappeared. Had me worried sick.”

She winced. How had she not realized she’d been so transparent? She’d tried to keep quiet about the relationship because it had been new and she’d still been unsure of it, but obviously she hadn’t been successful. “He’s here for a case. He came to the department and asked for my help. We’re working together again.”

Pops was silent about it all through dinner and the drive to the movies, but she knew he wasn’t done with the conversation. He had a way of waiting things out, one that had gotten her to spill her guts to him many times over the years and had surely served him well interrogating people during his career.

With drinks and popcorn in hand they found seats, and as the first of the previews started playing, her phone vibrated in her bag. Shit, it was a text from Colin. Call me when you get a sec. Got something.

Pops looked over at her and frowned. “Work?”

“Nothing that can’t wait,” she said, stuffing the phone back into her bag. She’d leave it on her lap so she’d feel it if he texted her again, but it didn’t sound urgent. “It was Colin.”

His eyes narrowed. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing, kiddo.”

She understood he was talking about far more than answering a text message, and yeah, so did she.

Two uninterrupted hours later, she and Pops headed out of the theater as the closing credits rolled by on the big screen. “So what’d you think?”

“They don’t make movies like they used to.”

She laughed. “That’s true. Maybe next movie night, I’ll make dinner and we can stay in and watch a classic.”

They got to the truck and Pops opened her door. They don’t make men like they used to either, she thought sadly. And then she backtracked. Colin was a lot like her grandfather, when it came to manners and how he treated women.

She was quiet on the ride back to Pops’s house, and when they pulled into his driveway, he shut off the engine and turned to her.

“You look like you’ve got a lot on your mind, Red, and not just about the fire cop,” he said gruffly. “Want to talk over the case any?”

While she appreciated the offer, since he really did have more experience than she had years of life, she couldn’t imagine bringing up the specifics of this particular case. He probably wouldn’t bat an eye, but she didn’t think she could even speak the words anal plug or spanking bench to her grandfather. “Thanks, but I’m good. Just trying to sort it out in my mind. Besides, I need to check in with Colin and see what he’s got.”

He nodded sharply. “You know where to find me if you need me.”

They got out of the truck and she gave her grandfather a tight hug. “Love you, Pops.”

“Love you too, Red. And watch yourself with Butler, you hear me?” She cringed at the realization he knew Colin’s name, and he barked a laughed. “Yeah, I know his name. Had him checked out, too, when you were seeing him last year.”

She sighed. “Pops...”

He waved her off, his face hard. “And if he gets outta line, feel free to tell him what I used to do for a living.”