Lover Undercover
Author:Samanthe Beck

chapter Five


Trevor looked up from his half-completed expense report and cocked a brow when Ian stopped beside the desk. His partner had a closed file folder and an equally closed expression. Behind him, the typical chaos of the detectives’ bullpen ran its Monday afternoon course.

“Vern Firth came through with the customer and employee lists.”

Trevor leaned back in his chair. “How bad?”

Ian shrugged. “Not terrible. Seven male staff members, including Firth, during the last year, and eleven Stacy regulars. I’m about half-done running the regulars for priors.”

“Anything interesting so far?”

Ian opened the file and handed him a stack of printouts. “Nada. Not so much as a restraining order from a past girlfriend. Nothing to suggest any of these guys has a history of disturbing behavior. They’re white-collar professionals—accountants, executives, lawyers. An evening at Deuces isn’t cheap, but her regulars can afford the hit. Not saying there aren’t any gainfully employed wackos out there, but if one of these men is our killer, he pays someone else to do his dirty work or he keeps his violent tendencies on a tight leash.”

Trevor leafed through the reports, giving the data a cursory scan. “Yeah. It’s a possibility, I guess, but bashing someone’s skull in and then working them over with brass knuckles doesn’t say cool-headed restraint to me…or hired hit. The face-work strikes me as personal. A pro wouldn’t sign up for something so messy and inefficient. I think our guy’s impulsive and relies on violence or the threat of violence to get his message across. Someone who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, so to speak. The combination usually leaves some kind of trail in the old permanent record—a domestic violence charge, assault, battery, stalking. It doesn’t scream accountant.”

Ian inclined his head. “I agree. So, we finish the regulars and then focus on the employees?”

“Yeah. Let’s finish the runs and see what we get.” Tapping the reports, he added, “In the meantime, I’ll contact the lovely and talented Miss Roberts and ask her to come down and chat with me about her biggest fans.”

“You think maybe she’ll remember some of them this time?”

He smiled. “Hope springs eternal. I do think I’ll be able to tell if one of them makes her nervous.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Because I make her nervous, and I can read it plain as day.”



Don’t act nervous, Kylie ordered herself and stilled her restless hands by folding them in her lap. Difficult instructions considering she once again sat in an LAPD interview room, beside Detective Trevor McCade. Sitting next to him was a nerve-racking way to spend a Wednesday evening, no matter what the reason.

Currently, silence stretched between them while he made notes in a file and she tried to look anywhere besides the triangle of bronze skin revealed by his loosened tie and unbuttoned collar. She tried not to dwell on their time together Saturday night—the way his eyes had moved over her body. Despite her resolve to put the incident behind her, she’d been reliving the encounter constantly, the unprecedented urges he’d drawn from her, the addictive new sensations. Now, with the living, breathing man in front of her again, her addled system jumped to high alert. When she found herself wondering how it would feel to trace her tongue over the scar above his lip, she gave herself a mental shake, fixed her attention on her hands, and assessed the course of the interview so far.

On the bright side, she was doing better with his questions this time…at least she thought she was. Thanks to Stacy’s “clients 101” crash course, she’d arrived for the interview armed with names, descriptions, preferences, and impressions.

On the not-so-bright side, she’d been a little surprised to learn that despite the intimate dances Stacy gave these men, her twin really didn’t know any more about her best clients than Kylie knew about her yoga students. Her sister considered all the men “nice,” by which she apparently meant docile and mildly pathetic. Stacy truly didn’t have information that would be helpful to a murder investigation.

Kylie’s attention wandered back to Trevor, and stalled there when she realized he was watching her. He gave her his easy half smile, and her insides fluttered so badly she had to force herself not to press a hand to her stomach.

“Your memory seems to have improved tremendously in the last couple days,” he observed, shifting closer.

“I’ve had plenty of time to think about my clients since Saturday. You’d be surprised what you can remember about someone when you’re considering whether he might be a killer.”

He closed the file folder and nodded. Lighter, sun-burnished strands of his hair gleamed under the fluorescent lights. “Let’s cut to the chase then. Do any of these men worry you?”

“No. My VIPs are harmless.”

His brows shot up, speculatively. “I don’t know if we can trust your judgment there. After all, Long and Montenegro weren’t exactly harmless. One pulled you offstage. The other did something during a private dance that convinced you to have him bounced.”

She’d said as much to Stacy and was prepared to provide the same reply she’d received. “Carlton was drunk when he pulled me offstage. He didn’t normally drink much, but for some reason he overindulged that evening. The alcohol made him clumsy and overeager. He never intended to hurt me, he just forgot to let go when he took his seat. If the stage bouncer had been doing his job, the whole thing never would have happened.”

“And Montenegro?”

Embarrassment more than nerves had her fingers toying with the silver “om” pendant dangling in the vee of her light gray T-shirt. “Alex wanted to, ah…” Heat swept her cheeks, but she forced herself to spit it out. “He wanted to do a sort of spanking thing during a private dance. I don’t know what the other girls let a client get away with, but I don’t allow that kind of contact. I told him no. A few minutes later he tried it anyway. Ramon didn’t do anything—no big shock because Ramon is off in his own world most of the time—so I cut the music and told Alex if he didn’t keep his hands to himself I wouldn’t dance for him anymore.”

“He took it badly?”

“No, he took it like a mischievous boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But the disruption finally attracted Ramon’s attention and I guess he got worried I was going to tell Vern he sat around and did nothing while a customer manhandled me. He made a big scene and escorted Alex out of the club so he wouldn’t look derelict. I didn’t want Alex bounced. Ramon did that on his own.”

Trevor’s steady gaze met hers. “Would you characterize his reaction as impulsive and violent?”

“I’d characterize it as a shortsighted attempt to cover his butt.”

“Why shortsighted?”

“Deuces is an upscale club. The bouncers are expected to be discreet and professional when dealing with a disturbance, not create an even bigger one by dragging a customer out by his collar. I heard through the grapevine Vern gave Ramon grief for handling the incident as he did.”

“So Alex made Ramon appear unprofessional? Maybe put his job in danger?”

“I don’t know if I’d say his job was in danger.”

“But he didn’t look good?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Who was working the stage when Carlton pulled you down?”

Kylie opened her mouth to reply, and then stopped as the answer hit her. Shocked, she turned to Trevor. He nodded encouragingly.

“Ramon.” She barely managed a whisper.

“Carlton made him look incompetent at his job.”

She swallowed to ease the tightness in her throat. “Yes. I found out later Ramon left the stage unattended to take a personal call. Totally against policy. I think Vern threatened to fire him if he ever did it again.”

“Ramon’s the link between Carlton and Alex.”

Kylie shook her head. “You’re saying Ramon killed two men because they caused trouble at Deuces? Made him look bad?” She shook her head again, unwilling to accept the theory. “That’s no reason to kill someone.”

“Welcome to my world.”

The utter calm of his voice made her realize he was serious. Unbidden, Ramon’s dull, empty stare filled her mind. She shivered, but then straightened in her chair. “It can’t be Ramon. He wasn’t working the night…” Her words trailed off as the fuller implication of her statement sank in.

Trevor smiled, a panther closing in on his prey. “Ramon wasn’t working the night Carlton was killed.” It was a statement rather than a question, but Kylie answered anyway.

“No.”

“I’m liking it better and better. He’s got the size and strength for the job, he knew the men, and now, he’s got motive and opportunity.”

She blinked, so stunned she hardly dared hope this particular nightmare might actually be over. “Are you going to arrest him?”

“We’ll pick him up for questioning. In the meantime, if you could keep clear—?”

“Not a problem. I don’t work again until tomorrow night. But what about the other dancers? Are they safe?”

“They’re fine. We’ve never established a link between the dead men and any of the other dancers.” He looked as if he wanted to say something else, but held his tongue. Instead he picked up the remote control and tapped a button that she assumed stopped the cameras, then leaned back in his chair and looked at her. A strange awareness simmered in the depths of his dark eyes.

Now her nerves rushed back, along with something else—something she didn’t want to think about. Restless, she straightened the side seams of her gray workout tights.

“Thank you for your help, Stacy.” His expression, the timbre of his voice, triggered butterfly wings in her chest.

“My pleasure.” Concerned by the weak, almost longing sound of her reply, which echoed the weak longing in her heart, she stood. Time to put some space between herself and Detective McCade.

He rose as well, and unnerved her by taking her hand. “It’s been my pleasure, actually.”

Her mind flashed back through a montage of erotic memories: Trevor watching her onstage the first night she’d danced, giving him a lap dance…the private performance. “Not entirely,” she admitted, as heat snuck into her cheeks.

She stole a glance from beneath her lashes. The raw desire she saw in his expression warmed her face even more.

“You’re a beautiful, intriguing mystery,” he said quietly. “Scrupulously honest, but clearly hiding something. An experienced exotic dancer who somehow manages to project a sweet innocence. Nothing fits.”

“I’m not trying—”

“I know you’re not. That’s the hell of it. But I’ve always loved a mystery, and damn if I can resist you.” In hypnotic slow motion, he tilted her face toward his and lowered his mouth, stopping with his lips a mere hairbreadth from hers. Her eyelids drooped. She inhaled in anticipation.

He hovered there, his warm breath feathering over her lips, while his big, strong hands moved. One cupped her neck, and the other slid down her back with an intimacy that made all the calculated eroticism she’d attempted at Deuces pale in comparison, and left her hungry for more. Desperate to satisfy the craving, she gave a tiny warning cry, then surged to her tiptoes and pressed her mouth to his.

Such a simple thing, really—just lips against lips—but oh, she felt the magical electricity of it all the way to her toes. Rather than sate her hunger, the gentle kiss was like a taste of chocolate to a starving woman. She wanted, needed, couldn’t deny herself more. Her fingers threaded through his hair and held on, as if she possessed the strength to keep him in place if he decided to move. But he didn’t. He stayed absolutely still while she brushed her tingling mouth over his upper lip, with its fascinating center dip and the tiny, vulnerable little scar riding the outer edge.

When she strayed to his lower lip, captured it between hers, and slowly nibbled the irresistible curve, he groaned, low and deep. The hand at the small of her back slid lower, cupped her backside, and hauled her against him. Her breasts crushed against the warm, solid wall of his chest, and all the barriers—her workout bra, her thin T-shirt, his dress shirt—might as well have evaporated. She parted her thighs, so her soft, yielding parts aligned intimately with the hard ridge straining the fly of his gray trousers.

A subtle tightening of his hand on her butt lifted her higher. The blunt head of his erection found and pressed a pleasure button she barely knew she possessed.

She practically crawled up his body, curling her arm around his neck, wrapping her leg around his hip, arching and opening so the place he’d discovered was his for the taking.

And he took, sliding back and forth over the throbbing spot, capturing her helpless sighs deep in his mouth with a long, overpowering kiss. Heavy, luscious heat pooled between her thighs. She needed to rub them together, or rub against him, or…something, but he kept up the slow, steady stroke until she thought she might lose her mind.

A frustrated sound built in the back of her throat. Jamming the arch of her foot into his calf for leverage, she rocked her hips against him in a frantic, imprecise effort to put deeper, steadier pressure on the aching little spot he’d teased to unbearable sensitivity. “I want…I need…”

His lips found her ear. “Easy. Easy. I know what you need. Don’t worry—”

A loud knock at the door reverberated like a shot in the quite room. Her eyes jerked to his.

“Shit.” He breathed the word slowly, and reluctantly loosened his hold. “Excuse me for a moment. I have to go kill someone.”

Arms crossed, she stayed where she was, facing away from the door, while he stepped over to answer it. She recognized Ian’s voice, but was too mortified to look. One glimpse of her and she feared he’d know Trevor had held, kissed, and caressed her to the very brink of insanity. Even now her body trembled with deprivation, primed and ready and unwilling to relinquish what, seconds ago, had hovered so exquisitely close.

After a brief conversation she didn’t bother trying to follow, the door shut. Moments later Trevor rested his hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry.” His breath fluttered the hair at her temple as those strong, capable hands turned her to face him. “Bad timing on my part.”

“Mine, too.” Not just the last few minutes, but the last few days. Had they met at a different time, under different circumstances, who knows what they might have meant to each other? But they’d met over lies and murder. The combination doomed their chances for something else. Trevor upheld the law. He wasn’t the kind of man who would appreciate being deceived.

It hurt, but there really was only one thing to do. Kiss him good-bye and get the heck away.

He took her hand and smiled. “Come on. I’ll walk you out.”

Her return smile felt wooden. Somehow she kept it in place as they walked to the street. The city lights glowed diamond-bright against a black velvet background of evening.

Again he took her shoulders, turned her to face him. Held her captive with those patient, perceptive eyes. “I want to see you again, Stacy, without this case between us.”

Hardest thing ever, but shook her head. “I’m sorry Trevor. I can’t. I wish I could but…” But what? I’m not who you think I am. I’ve lied to you since the moment we met. Blinking back tears, she settled on, “It’s not going to work.”

He stepped closer and she placed a restraining hand on his chest. She meant it as a distancing move. Unfortunately her fingers ruined the gesture by curling into his shirt. He cocked a brow at the mixed signal, but dropped his hands from her shoulders. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel what I feel whenever we’re together, because I won’t believe it.”

She shook her head. “Lust isn’t high on my priorities.”

“If you think this is only lust, you’re kidding yourself. Aren’t you the least bit curious to see where this could lead?”

Chin to her chest, she shook her head. “The cop and the stripper?”

“The cop thing is a problem for you, huh?” He jammed his hands in his pockets and took a step back. “Fair enough. It is for some women. Lousy hours, less than extravagant pay, occasional risk to life and limb.”

Some painful history there, she realized, and because of that, couldn’t bring herself to take the easy way out. “It’s not your job,” she said quickly. “I think what you do is heroic. Any woman would be lucky to spend time with you.”

“Any woman but you.”

“I’m not—” She broke off. Those consuming eyes of his interfered with her ability to craft a lame explanation. Shifting her attention to the center of his chest, she tried again. “I’m not at a place, at this point in my life, where I can date.”

He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and stared at her for several seconds. “You’re afraid,” he finally said, his voice a combination of disbelief and certainty. “A woman brave enough to follow her conscience into a dark parking lot at two thirty in the morning is scared to follow her heart toward something right in front of her.”

Her heart felt like an anchor at the moment, heavy in her chest, incapable of leading her anywhere. When she didn’t reply, he dropped his hand and gave a small, humorless laugh. “You’re a tough one, Stacy Roberts, and yet something this simple scares you to death. I don’t know why I’m surprised. You’ve been a bundle of contradictions from the start.”

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, and forced herself to take a step away. At least she didn’t have to lie. She was afraid to pursue a relationship with him, just not for the reason he assumed.

The jaded smile stole across his lips. “One look from those baby blues and I almost believe you.”

Before she did something stupid, like burst into tears, she turned and started walking to her car.

“Hey, Stacy, wait.”

Something reluctant and resigned in his voice stopped her, like he’d tried to talk himself out of saying whatever he was about to say.

“Ever consider another line of work?”

She looked over her shoulder. He stood there, so big and solid and fundamentally good, his concerned expression practically shattered her resolve. Land’s sake, this man cared. Of course, thanks to her ridiculous charade, he was wasting his care on someone who didn’t need—or deserve—it.

“Sometimes,” she replied. It seemed like a safe answer.

“I think you’ve got a lot of untapped potential. Someone so smart and observant could go far in any career she chose. The stripping?” He shook his head. “It’s not for you.”

Yeah. Mustering up a smile, she said, “Oh, I don’t know. Some say I’m pretty tough.”

“As nails,” he agreed. “But you’re not the one I’m worried about. Have some pity on those poor saps sitting in Deuces, kidding themselves into thinking for the price of admission you’ll share some of your mysteries with them.”

She wanted to tell him “Deal,” just to wash the world-weary cynicism out of his face, but it wasn’t her gig to surrender. “At least you don’t have to come down to Deuces and pose as my client anymore.” That alone should have been a load off her shoulders, but instead the realization sent her anchor of a heart sinking deeper in her chest.