Lover Undercover
Author:Samanthe Beck

chapter Two

Trevor McCade cursed fate as he met shell-shocked blue eyes. He knew those eyes traveled in close company with the most heart-stopping albeit fake smile he’d ever seen, and the most mouthwatering—and beautifully real—body. Instead of the biker-girl bikini, she now wore a white T-shirt and cropped pink workout pants, but the comparatively sedate ensemble didn’t much distract from the spectacular curves beneath.

He’d been trying to get the whole irresistible package out of his head since leaving Deuces hours ago. Eight months ago, sanitation workers had found a businessman named Alex Montenegro in an alley a block away, beaten to death. Trevor had inherited the cold case just last week. With no solid leads, he had decided to check the club out on an unofficial basis, pretty much because it was the only edgy establishment in the vicinity. He’d walked out of Deuces feeling like his gut might have been wrong this time, but now, because he’d been masochistic or just plain stupid enough to answer his phone on his night off, here he was, investigating another homicide. And here was Stacy, in front of him again, this time in an official capacity. Or, more accurately, in his official capacity.

He’d been a cop for nine of his thirty years, and a homicide detective for the last three. He’d seen plenty of violence and depravity, but it hadn’t erased his compassion for the innocent or the vulnerable. And for whatever reason, something about the woman in front of him struck him as innately innocent and inherently vulnerable. A neat trick, considering her profession tended to leave its practitioners as hardened and dispassionate as, say, homicide cops.


She gave him a strange look and started to say something, but then caught herself. Nerves, he judged. Understandable. Cops made people jumpy. Homicide cops made people very jumpy.

“Yes, Officer…Trevor?”

Oh yeah, definitely cautious. He tapped the badge clipped to his hip. “Detective. Trevor McCade. You okay?”

She stared at him for a moment. Then her gaze flicked down to his detective’s badge, and then over his shoulder, to the scene. “I’ll live,” she said softly.

She would, but he wasn’t liking her pale cheeks or the way her attention kept drifting to the vic. Those eyes said shock. He shot a questioning glance at the paramedic standing nearby. The sturdy brunette nodded and murmured, “We’re watching her.”

“How’s your head?”

She took a moment to process the question. Long blond eyelashes cast shadows on her cheeks. “It’s okay. I ran into the Dumpster.”

He ran careful fingers over the bump. “Ouch.”

“It’s nothing.” Those baby blues tried to dart back to the body, but he kept his hand at the base of her head and shifted closer, blocking her view.

In the club earlier, she’d worn full makeup and infused all kinds of crazy volume in her long white-blond hair. Now, wearing no makeup, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she looked incredibly young and fragile. Light freckles dusted her nose. Full, unadorned lips trembled open as she drew a breath.

Wanting to give her something to concentrate on besides a dead body—which they’d get to soon enough—he said, “You know, I figured you’d made me as a cop tonight.”

Her brow scrunched. “Why?”

“During our lap dance you wanted to keep it legal. I thought maybe I made you nervous.”

“Did I seem nervous, Detective?”

He couldn’t restrain a grin, remembering how she’d gasped and jumped when he’d stood at attention. “Yeah. You might have seemed a little nervous. Why don’t you call me Trevor, since we know each other so well?”

She moved her head away from his hand and frowned. “We don’t really know each other very well.”

He fought an urge to brush his fingers over one smooth, pale cheek. “Oh, you might be surprised. I know you’re Stacy Roberts. You’ve worked at Deuces for two years, and right now, you’d dearly love to be anywhere but here.”

Her expression turned hopeful. “Can I go?”

“Sorry, no.” He watched the hope wilt out of her face, and actually did feel sorry. “I need to ask you some questions about what happened tonight. What you saw.”

She frowned again. “I want to help, Detective. Honestly, I do. But I’ve already told the other officers everything I know, which isn’t much. Someone took my statement. I reviewed and signed it.”

He knew she was tired. Fatigue painted light purple shadows under her eyes. But getting her statement tonight, watching her reactions with everything still fresh in her mind, would be far more valuable than collecting the information secondhand from other officers or arranging an interview tomorrow. “Can I trouble you to run through it again? For me.”

Her shoulders slumped a little, but she summarized her movements from the time she left Deuces until she found the body. When she recounted approaching the victim, her voice thinned and her breathing went shallow. He’d worked homicide long enough to know it wasn’t a good sign.

“Did you recognize him?” He kept his voice low and level, hoping to fast-forward her to a less traumatic point in the evening.

“No. I thought he might work at the club but…” She glanced over at the body and her eyes glazed.

He crouched until they were eye level and slipped his hand under her ponytail so he could rest his palm against the nape of her neck. Sweat covered her cold skin. “Easy, Stacy. Take a couple nice, deep breaths for me, okay?”

She didn’t seem to hear him. “His face was just a bloody…mess.”

Impossibly, her skin went paler. She blinked, reached out blindly, and grabbed a handful of his shirt. “We have to stop spinning.” Then her eyes did a long, slow roll toward the back of her head.

Hell. Way to go, McCade. “Stacy.” He said it loudly—loud enough to have her dilated pupils looping back to his. Keeping his hand at her neck, he eased her limp body down to the floor of the ambulance. The paramedic hurried over with a dirty look, a cold compress, and some smelling salts. He ignored the look and laid the cold compress across Stacy’s forehead. The smelling salts he pocketed. Hopefully they wouldn’t need them.

“That helps,” she mumbled and closed her eyes.

Her color improved. Trevor took a seat next to her in the back of the ambulance. “Can you open those big blue eyes for me, Stacy?”

She complied, shielding her eyes with a hand. A clear, steady gaze met his.

“You’ll feel better if you stay hydrated. I’ll help you sit up when you’re ready, and you can drink some water.”

“I’m ready. I’m all right.” Her words sounded a little fuzzy, but her eyes remained clear and trained on his. Stacy Roberts might appear as fragile as a porcelain angel, but he already knew she was tougher than she looked. She’d stopped in the middle of the night, put herself at risk out of concern for her fellow man—and received a nasty reward for her bravery. Most women—and men, for that matter—would be heavily sedated by now. He couldn’t help admiring her guts.

Or the rest of her, which was, as of now, strictly off-limits. Keeping that in mind, he slid his hand under her shoulders and tried to repress the memory of her long, smooth back undulating in front of him.

“Okay, here we go.” He helped her into an upright position, and somehow ended up with an arm around her shoulders. The soft weight of her breast had nowhere to rest except against his side. Her cheek found a cushion on his chest. Clearing the tightness from his throat—and doing his best to ignore the tightness in vicinities farther south—he looked down at her. “How’s that?”

“I’m all right,” she repeated, and took a deep breath. “You smell nice,” she added, her voice a bit fuzzy, which told him she wasn’t exactly back to normal yet.

He laughed, mostly because he couldn’t smell anything except her—a sweet, tropical, positively edible scent. Whatever she’d slathered on her skin begged to be licked off, and his mouth watered to do the job.

You already have a job. Keep your mind on it.

“Tell me right away if you feel like you need to lie back down. See the paramedic over there?” He pointed and waited until she followed his gesture. “She thinks you’re gonna faint on me, but I’m betting no.”

“I’m not going to faint.” To prove it, she straightened and squared her shoulders. Her movements were as steady as her voice, which made him think she might be right.

“Good girl.” He pulled a bottle of water out of a cooler tucked against the wall of the ambulance, cracked the lid, and handed it to her. “Think you can handle a few more questions?”

She looked less sure about that, but took a sip of water and nodded.

“We’re almost done. I promise. Getting back to the victim’s identity, I know you said you didn’t recognize him. Not surprising, under the circumstances. What’s surprising is we found his ID in his wallet. His name was Carlton Long. Ring any bells?”

She rubbed the heels of her hands over her eyes, then sighed and shook her head. “No. I’m sorry. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a Deuces employee. I’m really not on a first-name basis with many people at the club. It’s not what you’d call a social workplace.”

“I’ll bet.” He glanced up and caught Detective Ian Ford’s deceptively lazy green stare. Ian whipped his slightly overgrown blond bangs off his forehead with a quick jerk of his head, and sent Trevor a questioning look. We done here?

Trevor nodded and shifted his attention to Stacy. “The officers have your contact information?”

“Yes,” she answered, staring at her feet.

“And you’re not planning any out-of-town trips in the near future, right?”

That brought her head up. “Am I a suspect?”

“You found the body. From an investigative standpoint, that makes you a person of interest. But, no, I wouldn’t call you a suspect.”

Wary eyes turned curious, so he explained. “Mr. Long was five-eleven, almost two hundred pounds, and, in my educated opinion, beaten to death. Limited defensive wounds suggest he didn’t put up an epic struggle, but he fought some. Unfortunately for him, his attacker was bigger, stronger, and overpowered him quickly. You’re what, five-six, maybe a hundred and ten pounds, soaking wet?” Without waiting for her confirmation, he went on. “Other than a bump on the head, you don’t have a mark on you. So, yeah, my remarkable powers of deduction tell me you didn’t do this to him.”

“I see.”

“We appreciate your cooperation with our investigation. I don’t have any more questions right now. Is there anything you’d like to add to your statement? Additional details? Corrections or clarifications?”

She paused, but then shook her head, and he got the feeling she was hiding something. Although he doubted pressing his hunch would yield any results, he pulled a business card from his pocket and held it out to her. “If you think of anything you want to add—no matter how minor—contact me.”

For a long moment she simply stared at the card, and he could almost hear her inner debate. There was something else. To his frustration, if not surprise, she took the card and said, “Am I free to go?”

Shit. Sometimes it sucked to be right. “Yep. You’re free to go. Would you like us to call someone to pick you up, or have an officer drive you home?”

“No, no. That’s not necessary.” She hopped out of the ambulance. “I can drive myself. I don’t have far to go.”

“Uh-uh. Bad idea. A few minutes ago you nearly passed out. Fainting and driving don’t mix.”

“I’m good now. Honestly. Check my pulse, pupils, whatever. I can’t leave my car here. I need to be somewhere first thing tom…today.”

He assessed her. Admittedly, she seemed steady. Wired and stressed, but not about to conk out. “Okay, fine. Far be it from me to stand between a woman and her wheels. Go wait in your car. I’ll have a black-and-white follow you home. You can take off as soon as you see it in your rearview mirror.”

She exhaled a pent-up breath and started walking toward her car. Then, like a schoolgirl remembering her manners, she turned back to him. “Thank you.”

“Thank me by driving home safely and contacting me if you decide to add anything to your statement.”

She slipped into her car and saluted. “Will do.”

Yeah, right. Maybe she’d drive home safely, but he knew with a bone-deep certainty she’d never contact him again of her own accord. Why not? He stared after her, frowning. Because something about the entrancing Stacy Roberts didn’t quite add up.

Kylie gripped the wheel and drove home with the care of a teenager taking her driver’s exam. Through the rearview mirror, she watched the patrol car follow close behind. Like a shark stalking a guppy, she thought uneasily.

Dear God, what have you gotten yourself into?

Well, she’d lied to the police, for one. She hadn’t planned to, exactly. In fact, when the first officers had questioned her, she’d been in such a daze, she was pretty sure she’d given her name. When they’d asked to see some ID, she’d opened her wallet and handed them her driver’s license, completely forgetting she had Stacy’s. By the time she’d tuned in to the proceedings enough to realize the mistake, one disturbingly observant Detective Trevor McCade stood in front of her, clearly recognizing her as Stacy Roberts, low-flying lap dancer.

Certain she could do her pathetically small part to help them investigate poor Mr. Long’s death and be on her way, she’d rolled the dice and let the mistake stand. Confessing she’d posed as Stacy would only have raised a bunch of questions and possibly gotten them in trouble with Deuces…and maybe the authorities too? Impersonating someone sounded shady—possibly illegal.

Little did she know finding the body made her a “person of interest.” Now here she was, involved in a murder investigation, trapped in a lie, facing a detective whose piercing brown eyes told her he knew she wasn’t telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sweating like a fugitive, she pulled into the narrow, stacked parking spot in front of the apartment she and Stacy shared. Their dark apartment, she noted with a scowl. The place would be lit up like the Sunset Strip if Stacy were home. Even at…she glanced at the clock on the dash and groaned…four in the morning. Guilt immediately washed over her. Yes, she’d be sleep-deprived the rest of the day, but at least she’d have a day. Carlton Long couldn’t say the same.

The patrol car pulled to a stop at the mouth of the driveway. Kylie stepped out of the car, forced a smile of thanks to her lips, and waved to the officer behind the wheel. He waved back, but stayed put while she climbed the stairs to their second-floor unit. After opening the door, she waved again and exhaled a long, relieved breath when the black-and-white slowly pulled away.

She trudged inside, kicked the door shut, and hit the wall switch. Harsh yellow light from the living room’s ugly overhead fixture bounced off cracked, tobacco-stained plaster walls.

Home sweet home. Stacy and she had done what they could to make the place livable. Cheaply framed but colorful prints of dancers graced the dingy walls. A faded rug they’d found in a thrift store covered scuffed hardwood floors. More secondhand furniture and flea-market finds filled out the rooms.

She dropped onto their slipcovered sofa, which leaned more toward shabby than chic, and set Stacy’s heavy hot-pink bag on the floor. Every muscle wept with relief. An aggrieved little voice in the back of her mind warned that in less than an hour and a half she had to be showered, changed, and on her way to her 6:00 a.m. yoga class.

Resting her head on the back of the sofa, she closed her eyes, inhaled for a count of ten, and tried to enter a sitting savasana.

Where the hell was Stacy?

Her eyes snapped open as she released the breath in a single, undisciplined burst. Wherever her twin was tonight, she obviously wasn’t coming home, despite—or maybe even because of—Kylie’s demand. Typical. Stacy did exactly as she pleased, whenever she pleased, and left Kylie to deal with the fallout.

Growing up, Stacy had borne the brunt of the disapproving glares and cruel comments from Two Trout’s vicious gossips, ensuring for the most part they left Kylie alone. In return, she’d assumed the role of Stacy’s behind-the-scenes rescuer, good for everything from completing homework to a 2:00 a.m. pickup from a party three counties away.

The dynamic didn’t work so well as adults. She loved her sister, and knew Stacy loved her, but they enabled each other’s worst habits. So why had she let Stacy talk her into this ridiculous switch?

Her mind replayed their conversation from five days earlier.

Kylie, Deuces is a top-tier club. It’s very exclusive, and competition for featured dancer slots is intense. If you don’t dance my shifts, I’m out of a job.

Her suggestion that Stacy find another job, preferably one that didn’t involve sliding around a pole half-naked, had fallen on deaf ears.

Name another gig where I can rake in enough to cover our expenses and still have my days free for auditions. Without a high school diploma, my options are limited.

Kylie had held her tongue instead of pointing out that her twin chose to drop out of high school their senior year. The decision still boggled Kylie’s mind.

Then again, school hadn’t exactly been a picnic. Growing up as the result of a reckless night of passion between their town tramp of a mom and some pretty-faced drifter she could never quite pin down invited comment, to say the least. The fine citizens of Two Trout had zero compassion for such irresponsibility. They considered Debbie Roberts a bed-hopping bimbo and assumed her daughters were cut from the same cheap cloth.

Stacy had rebelled by meeting quite a few of their low expectations—though not as many as the busybodies liked to think. Between fact and rumor, she’d gained her “wild twin” reputation, and a bone-deep aversion to authority in any form. Kylie, the “quiet twin,” had done her best not to give anybody anything to talk about. She’d dressed conservatively, spent her spare hours working at the library, and never, ever dated or partied.

Sadly, none of her restraint made the slightest difference. The cynics of Two Trout assumed blood would tell and it was only a matter of time before she fell off her straight and narrow path.

Yeah, well, what did they know? Just because tonight she’d made her debut as a pole-dancing stripper, found a dead body, lied to the cops—that didn’t prove anything.

Actually, it proved things had to change.

Kylie dragged her tired bones off the sofa and made her way to her closet-sized bedroom. She turned on the light and dropped her bag on the floor inside the door. Her phone tumbled out, and she saw she had a missed call. Three guesses as to the mystery caller, she thought as she picked up the phone, plopped down onto her bed, and listened to the voice mail message. Sure enough, Stacy’s voice came over the line.

“Sorry, can’t make it home tonight. My ride fell asleep, and I don’t have enough cash for a cab. I hope you made it back to Deuces in time to grab the boots, but I’m not holding my breath ’cause I couldn’t reach anyone at the club when I called. Oh well. You can get them tomorrow after your morning classes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Kylie hit delete. Tonight, while she’d been risking her dignity—and, oh yeah, her neck—to keep them from hurtling off their own fiscal cliff, Stacy had only managed to break away from her latest bar-hound long enough to worry about overpriced boots?

Enough was enough. Kylie had worked hard to build a following for her yoga classes, and recently accepted a teaching slot at one of the biggest, most respected studios in West Los Angeles. Professionally, things were starting to come together. If she continued to fill her classroom, she’d earn real money for a change, which in turn meant she could start planning the next step—her own studio. But she couldn’t very well plan her future if she constantly allowed Stacy and her habit of getting into trouble distract her. And working at a strip club for the next six to eight weeks qualified as one big, messed-up distraction.

Anger fueled her through her shower, her commute, and her morning classes. Not a terribly enlightened motivator, but surprisingly effective. She was driving back to her apartment for a much-anticipated nap—without a stop at Deuces for the stupid boots—when her cell phone rang. She grabbed the earpiece from the dash, inserted it, and said, “Hello?”

“Hello,” a deep, familiar voice replied. “This is Trevor McCade.”

His cool, sexy smile swam before her eyes as her heart stalled and then nose-dived straight to the pit of her stomach. “Detective,” she replied on a rushed breath. “What can I do for you?”

“We have some follow-up questions. Can you come down to the station?”

Her blood chilled. Down to the station? That sounded bad. “Today?”

“Yeah. I know your shift doesn’t start until ten tonight. I’m betting you can work us in sometime before then. If not, I’m sure if my partner and I come down to Deuces, management will let you take a break to speak with us.”

The traffic light up ahead turned from yellow to red, and Kylie hit the brake just in time to avoid slamming into the car in front of her. Concentrate!

She took a deep breath and tried to think clearly. Nothing good would come out of making the police question her at Deuces. Better to meet with them this afternoon. How long could it take, given that she didn’t know anything?

With her fantasy of a long nap evaporating before her gritty eyes, she watched the signal change, hit the gas, and replied, “I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”