If Delilah Watters thought she could go after her daughter, her little Victoria and get away with it, she had another thing coming. There was no proof yet of her involvement in the attacks against Vicki, but there would be soon. She would make sure of that. The Watters’ would never see her coming.
Christine picked up the cell, ten digits later the phone rang.
An impatient male voice answered straight away. “Hello.”
Perfect. “Detective Berkley?”
“This is Detective Bentley, yes. Who is this?”
Didn’t her mother tell her the detective’s name was Berkley? Whatever. “This is Christine Masterson. I was hoping to talk to you about my daughter’s case.”
A crash filtered through the line. The detective’s voice deepened. “Oh, Ms. Masterson, um, yes, wait one second.” Another crash and a curse word echoed back at her.
Uh. “Are you okay?”
“Sorry, I spilled coffee on my pants.”
Well that fit with her visual of the man. The few times she’d met him had been brief but memorable. He kind of reminded her of a teddy bear, all gruff whiskers mixed with a cuddly demeanor, and he’d had a funny tie on, red with a couple of cows on it. The farm animals impressed her. It took a big man to pull off such a novelty item. And now she was getting distracted. Focus.
“Are you okay?” she asked politely.
“Yes, I’m fine. What did you want to know about the case? We don’t have any leads at the current time.”
“But my daughter did talk to you about who she suspects is behind this, correct?” Victoria told her she had.
“Yes, but you see, there is this pesky thing called evidence.”
As if she didn’t know that. Christine huffed. “Who do you think you are talking to?”
“Why, Christine Masterson of the Pittsburgh Masterson’s, of course.” His tone was faintly mocking setting her teeth on edge.
“That’s right. I know about evidence and—"
“Was there something specific you needed?”
Did he just cut her off? She sputtered a second. “I wanted to know what you—“
Another crash sounded in the background. “Damn it, I’ve got to go.”
Christine stared at the phone dumbfounded. The detective had hung up on her. Who did he think he was? She had half a mind to go down there and tell him off. In fact, that is exactly what she was going to do. She’d had enough of high-handed male behavior in her life.
She gathered up her Kors purse, threw on her Burberry jacket and Hermes scarf, and sailed out the door. The drive to the station took under ten minutes, not that she was speeding. Okay, she cruised above the speed limit part of the way. After she parked, she walked toward the door with a quick pace. Why were police stations always in the seedier parts of town?
As she neared the building, she heard shouts. A second later, a body flew out the door past her nose.
She blinked. A thirty-something punk with a facial tattoo of tusks coming from the corners of his mouth started running down the street, a lone steel handcuff dangling from his right wrist. Bentley, at least she thought it looked like Bentley, came roaring out behind him with two other cops hot on his heels. The punk ducked behind a nearby car and crouched, but the police had already sighted him. Bentley went to the left while his partners went right.
Tusk Dude sensed them closing in and tried to take off again. He darted to the left from behind the Mazda he’d hidden, right into Bentley’s path.
Bentley tackled him and rolled him onto his chest, pulling his arms behind his back. He recited the Miranda warning, while securing the suspect with the cuffs still hanging off the punk’s wrist. It was quite the impressive display.
Christine found herself focused on Bentley’s ass as he brought the punk down. She’d remembered him as a teddy bear, stout and scruffy. This sleek cop was no teddy bear. How did she miss this before? Maybe it was the cheap clothes he’d tended to wear. Today, he wore a well-fitted navy suit, showing off a much leaner form than she anticipated, and the scruff was gone. He was actually quite attractive, and how he moved getting the kid down, ass rippling underneath said pants, woo, and then the cuffs. It awakened role-playing fetishes she’d never realized she’d had. She fanned herself a second.
Come on Christine, get a hold of yourself.
He was just a cop, an annoying one who hung up on people. Yet, it had been a long time since she did a double take when looking at a man, or when his sheer movement drew her eyes. Ever since Jonathan and his secretary—how freaking cliché was that? The divorce had been over four years ago. She’d dated, of course, proper men, intelligent schooled men, and not one of them had ever made her want to tie them to a bed and read them their rights. She’d been spending too much time with her mother, the born-again sex fiend—that had to be it.
She straightened and waited for Bentley on the steps as he tugged the tusked gentleman back toward the station.
He turned, towing the perp back inside. That was when he saw her. He almost dropped the cuffs in his daze. Christine Masterson. Since the first time he’d met her, she had starred in all his late-night fantasies. She was just so incredibly hot in this pinned up proper and snotty way that made him want to mess up her hair and get down and dirty. And that was totally unlike him. He was slow and steady Bentley, rugged, reliable, like a used truck. At least that is what his ex-wife always used to say with a sneer.
Anyway, there was no way a stone-cold fox like Christine would be interested in a guy like him. So time to pull his head out of his ass and figure out what she was doing here. As if he didn’t already know. This day kept getting better and better.
“Detective Bentley,” she said as he passed. “I would like to talk to you.”
Of course, she did. “One second. I need to book this guy and then I can talk. Why don’t you go to my office, and I will meet you there in say, fifteen minutes.” That would give him a fair bit of time to get his hard-on under control.
Christine nodded and tucked a strand of her hair back into its fancy up do. Her fingers then ran down her sides and waist to lace in front of her as she turned and preceded him into the station.
And that was not helping. Now he had an up close and more personal view of the woman’s butt. He’d dreamed about that butt a lot lately. And he needed to focus.
The perp continued to pull at the restraints, but at least his ranting, “I’m innocent, dude. The marijuana you found up my bung hole wasn’t mine. Someone must have planted it,” had tapered off.
“Come on Beavis,” Bentley muttered.
It took the full fifteen minutes he promised her, plus some, to roll through the paperwork and join her in the office.
When he entered, the room appeared the same as it always did, with its single desk opposite the door, in front of the lone window, a filing cabinet on one side, bookcase on the other, and two generic chairs. But seeing her there made the space that much more intimate. Christine dusted the shelves of his bookcase with some Kleenex. That was odd. He’d had this one fantasy of her in a French maid outfit kind of similar to this just last night leading up to other, more rigorous, activities. And all that time relaxing went down the shitter. Damn it.
He shifted his pants and knocked on the door to get her attention, taking it as a personal smack to get his head in the right place, both of them.
She twirled and blushed. “Sorry. I can’t stand clutter and all your figurines were dusty and unorganized. I just…” She cleared her throat awkwardly and sat, smoothing her skirt over her crossed legs, which drew his attention further south. He’d always been an ass man but given more proximity, he’d be willing to bet Christine could change that. This would grow to be embarrassing if he didn’t get his dick under control.
Bentley grinned. “I have no problem with you cleaning my office. Anything vital is locked up so, help yourself.” He waved around the room and proceeded to his desk.
She twisted her fingers in her lap.
The nervous action intrigued him. So far, Ms. Christine was the picture of lady-like composure and the thought of getting under her skin delighted and appalled him at the same time. “So what brings you to the station in person?”
“I wanted to know what you are going to do about the Watters’.”
Bah, he figured that was why she was here. “So far we don’t have any new information. We haven’t found anything linking either David or Christine to the bombings or the attacks. From what your daughter says though, David definitely knows something. We are waiting for him to come out of surgery so we can interrogate him.”
“That is unacceptable. They hurt my daughter!”
“I know and we are doing everything we can to correct that. Right now, Vicki is safe and in protective custody with Mr. Lawrence and she will stay that way.”
Christine shifted forward apparently unaware of how that made her dress gape, but Bentley noticed. Oh yeah. “Is there anything I can do? I have connections you know. I could get more information—”
He could think of plenty of things for her to do. Wait. Oh no. “No Ms. Masterson, the police are fully capable of handling this situation. For right now, your best bet is to be patient.”
She straightened. “I am going to go have it out with that old witch.”
Bentley’s jaw hit the floor. How did asking her to wait turn into a confrontation? And he did not just hear that, the proper Christine threatening bodily harm to someone? It was every bad girl daydream come to life. “Uh.”
“Uh? That’s all you have to say? I am going to do it.” She smirked and stood up to leave the room.
Her expression annoyed him. He wanted to take that smirk and turn it into a much different expression. He was thinking the 'oh' face. Probably too soon but a guy could dream. Again, his mind shot straight into the gutter.
Ever since Debbie left him five years ago, he’d gone through a dry spell. It was part of the job. Being a cop was rough on the family, especially his. He tended to obsess about his cases and get lost in them. It took a strong woman to accept that. He’d thought Debbie was that woman until he learned of the other men. Yeah. Not happening. The divorce was quick and brutal due to overwhelming evidence of infidelity, and when it came right down to it, Debbie made more. They both got back what they brought into the relationship and that was fine and dandy with him.
“Sit down, Ms. Masterson,” he said with a grimace, making sure to adjust his jacket before he stepped in front of her. “There is no going to confront anyone today.”
She crossed her arms. “Says who?”
His eyebrows winged up. “Says me.”
“What are you going to do to stop me?”
Huh. He could think of a plethora of ways to keep her occupied. None of which were appropriate for a police station. His shoulders fell. “Listen, it would not be smart to get into a fight with the main suspect right now.”
“Are you calling me stupid?” Her voice went up a decibel and this cute pink flush started on the apples of her cheeks.
Bentley backtracked. “Of course not, I am saying you need to calm down, woman.”
“Did you just call me a woman?”
There was no good answer to that question so he remained silent. His hands went to his hips. “Now listen—”
“I am out of here.” Christine pushed past him and marched to the door behind them.
Bentley put his hand on her arm. “Please don’t do this.”
She whirled back. “Which way is out?”
Bentley folded his arms, causing his jacket to strain across his what she now realized was a well-muscled chest. “I am not telling.”
“What are you, a three year-old?”
“You started this. I am not helping you do something idiotic.”
Urgh, wasn’t that just like a man. Christine hung a left into a room swimming with computer desks and testosterone. All commotion ceased as soon as she entered. She grabbed the closest uniform’s arm. “Which way is out?”
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Bentley shaking his head no at the officer. Christine pointed her finger at him. “You, stay out of this busy-bee.”
His jaw clenched when the room ignited in snickers. “My name is Bentley.”
She returned her attention to the uniform. “Which way?”
He indicated a hallway to the right. She went in that general direction with Bentley shadowing her every step and croaking at her. The young man’s directions appeared incorrect though as they led to another room full of office equipment, chattering men, and the overwhelming smell of coffee. “Rrr.”
“I must say, I do like when you growl,” Bentley murmured lightly.
Huh? She rounded on him. “What did you just say?” And was he staring at her bottom?
“You would pay attention to that wouldn’t you?” Bentley stepped back and lifted up his hands which, for some reason, reminded her of her restraint daydream from earlier. “I said nothing.”
Her eyes were drawn to today’s tie as well. Lime green with dancing pink elephants edged in navy. Who picked this man’s clothes? And well, back to the conversation, er, where were they? “That’s right. You don’t get to say anything. I am a full-grown woman and I am allowed to make my own choices. I am getting out of here and confronting that old biddy.”
He leaned closer and put his hand on her forearm, touch light. “It is not that. I don’t care if you confront her. I just don’t want you getting into trouble while doing so. The woman could be dangerous. Do not risk it.”
Well. The concern in his voice set her back. “Why do you care?”
“I don’t like seeing people hurt, period, and I find myself even less inclined to see you hurt.”
His words and earnest expression tugged at her heart strings. She’d never had anyone look at her quite that way before like they would sacrifice themselves to protect her. It was…nice. She put her hand over his. “I won’t get hurt.”
“You can’t guarantee that. There is no reason for you to do this.”
“Again, you can’t stop me.”
“Yes I can.” His fingers curved into her arm.
“No you can’t.”
“I could arrest you.”
“Being aggravating comes to mind,” he grumbled.
Ha. “Well, you can’t arrest someone for that.”
“I wish.” They shared a grin. “Please don’t do this.”
“I, well, I want to do something. I want to talk to her, just talk, how about that?”
“No goddamn it.” Both of his hands came down on her arms and he shook her.
“Stop it.” She retaliated by stomping on his toes.
He hopped back a step or two and then reached out and grabbed her arms. “Ouch, damn it, fine, that’s it. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be held against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you are unable to afford one, one will be assigned to you. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?” As he spoke, he took out his cuffs and placed then around her wrists.
He couldn’t be serious could he? “What are you arresting me for?”
“Assaulting an officer of the law.”
Oh no he didn’t. Christine tugged discretely at her wrists and then gave Bentley the stink eye.
Wrists secured, he tugged her down the hallway. Police dodged out of the way, a few giving him a curious glance as they did so. Two lefts and one level downstairs and they arrived in a small holding area. No one was around, and Bentley took her to the nearest steel cage, opened it, and pushed her inside.
“I can’t believe you are arresting me.” Christine flopped down on the sole cot in the room, turning her back on the Neanderthal.
“I wouldn’t have had to arrest you if you would have cooperated.” Bentley pulled up a chair and sat down in front of her cell.
“I am cooperating, you jerk.” She whirled to glare at him.
“Calling me names is not cooperation.”
“I came down to get information.”
“And I told you on the phone we don’t have any information.” He tugged off his tie and threw it to the ground. “What is up with you Masterson women anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
He leaned his elbows on his sturdy thighs. “I mean you! You’re so, urgh.” He motioned down her body.
“I am so urgh?” What pray tell did he mean by that? Her stomach tightened.
“You’re so tidy, and perfect, and snobby.”
“I am not snobby. I will concede to the perfect part.” She tucked a curl behind her ear. She wasn’t a snob dang it. She grew up poor. The fact that she had money now was gravy. She would never take what she had for granted. She’d worked too hard to get it and keep it.
“You are the definition of the word, lady.”
“You’re wrong.” Christine turned her head fighting back tears. This was too much.
He touched the bars near her hand on the cot. “Don’t tell me you are crying?”
“No,” She wiped away a tear and ignored him.
“You are crying.” He tugged the chair closer with a squeal. “Listen I didn’t mean that in a bad way. I meant—”
“How can I not take it in a bad way, it is a negative expression.”
“I meant that you are always so well put together and groomed. Look at me. Coffee stain. Wrinkled shirt. I am a slob. In comparison, you glow.”
Christine blinked and narrowed her eyes. Glow? That didn’t sound too bad, and he didn’t want her hurt. Did the detective perhaps like her? A grin formed on her lips.
Bentley shifted his chair outside the bars. “Listen. We don’t need to charge you. Next time, don’t get in my way okay.” He went to open the doors.
Nuh uh. “Oh no, you don’t, I want my day in court!”
“Court? Who said anything about court? In about fifteen minutes, they are going to give you your phone call. Knowing your mother, Mrs. Betty June is going to have you out in another fifteen and the charges will be dismissed, not that any formal charges have been filed in any case.”
“What do you mean there haven’t been charges? Why am I in here then?”
“To get you to listen! You can’t go charging off to Delilah’s house, it isn’t safe, and I won’t have you risking yourself. Do you understand? You are going to let the police do their job. You are going to let me do my job,” he reiterated.
“Why do you care? That biddy went after my daughter.”
“And we need proof.”
“Give me five minutes with her. I will get you your proof.” Christine cracked her knuckles then stared at her hands appalled.
A laugh escaped Bentley. “What, you going to beat it out of her?”
“I will have you know I am an expert pugilist.”
“The fact that you know the word pugilist argues against that being a possibility.”
Christine rattled the cage. “You make me so mad. Just because I am a lady doesn’t mean I can’t be tough. You try growing up with my mother!”
Bentley tilted his head and snorted. “I can imagine.”
“No, you can’t. My mother loved me, that I never doubted, but she forgot I existed ninety percent of the time after my dad died. I used to have to steal to get food.” Err. Maybe she shouldn’t have mentioned that last bit to a cop. Even if he was hot, and concerned.
“You?” he scoffed, “Doubtful. I can’t see you getting your hands dirty.”
“Now who’s being snotty? Huh?”
Bentley blinked and leaned against the bars, he appeared to be considering his words. “I guess I am being snotty.”
Well hallelujah, a man that admitted he was wrong. “Yes, you were. My life hasn’t been all roses you know. I worked hard to get where I am so that there was never a possibility that I would end up back there in that row house begging for food or contemplating worse.”
“That would have never happened,” he said sounding certain.
“How do you know?”
“You are much too spunky to be defeated.”
She felt herself flushing. Spunky was a much better adjective than snobby. “That’s right, I won’t be defeated.” He should know that already.
“If you promise not to go charging off to Delilah Watter’s house the minute I open this tank, I will let you out of here.”
“I want to talk to her.”
“That won’t help this situation at all. Do you want to make things worse for your daughter?”
“Of course not.”
“Then listen to me. Your mother called in the Feds and they are all over the Watters’ financials. Vicki and John are safe. The guy that attacked your daughter is in custody, and it won’t take us long to get him to talk. We have got this taken care of. What I want you to do is settle down.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”
Bentley’s hands curled around the bars like he was envisioning strangling her. “I tried. You wouldn’t let me!”
She leaned her head against the bars, her forehead brushing his hands. “Okay fine. I won’t go after her. It just…I need to be there for my daughter.”
“I did exactly what my own mother did to me with Vicki. I ignored her and worked. I let nannies raise her, and I pushed her into marrying that prick. She wanted to break up with him when she was younger and we argued with her against that. I feel somewhat responsible for this whole mess now.”
“Oh please. Did you know that the family was nuts?”
“Then you can’t hold yourself responsible for this situation.”
“You don’t understand. Vicki and I, we have never been close, but when this happened, she came to me. She asked me for help with David and Delilah. I need to be able to look at my daughter and help her.” Her eyes clouded with tears again. Damn allergies.
Bentley unlocked the doors and tugged her into a hug.
“Come here,” he said gruffly.
Christine resisted at first then melted into his embrace, her cheek to his chest. “Why are you being nice to me?”
“Because despite myself, I like you, Ms. Masterson.”
Wait what? “Like me how?” She had never been one to beat around the bush. And what did he mean, despite himself?
His hand, which had been brushing the back of her head, stopped its motion. “I really don’t think there are two interpretations of the expression.”
“There is. There is like, as in aww, isn’t that cute as a button. Or there is like, as in I want to nail you against the wall.”
He sputtered out a laugh.
Her head rose. Their noses were an inch apart, if that. She smelled the coffee on his breath and the faint hint of musk. This close, she could see his eyes clearly. Light blue and intent with laugh lines at the corners and his soft, sensuous mouth. Oh my.
His cheeks turned ruddy. “Well, I would have to go with the later, Ms. Masterson.”
Oh. “You can call me Christine.”
His hands slid to her waist. “All right, Christine. This is completely inappropriate you know.”
“Why, I’m not a suspect.”
“True, but you are under arrest,” he said.
“I thought you said I hadn’t been charged?”
“True,” he murmured, moving closer. His lips brushed hers tentatively as if he were asking permission.
She stood stunned a second, not responding, her eyes widened.
His expression dimmed and he started to back up. “I am sorry. I—”
Her hand slipped behind his neck tugging him close, her mouth pressed to his, her tongue swept his bottom lip demanding entrance. In a blink, her back was to the bars, and he was kissing her back. He’d tilted his head to get a better angle, his thigh slipped between hers.
God, it was everything she’d ever wanted, hot, wet, and above all passionate. Everything that being with Jonathan had not been. His hands went straight to her ass. He tugged her onto her toes and pressed her back further into the steel cage behind her.
One of his hands rose and went to her chignon. It took him all of a second to get the pin out and her hair fell around her face in a thick blond wave.
He combed his fingers through her hair and smiled. “That’s better.”
His lips met hers again, deeper and wetter than before.
A loud wolf whistle penetrated her fog. She peered up to see one of the officers from the hall holding his fingers to his mouth and clapping.
“Umm.” She buried her face in his chest, cheeks flaming.
“Good Lord.” He made a shooing motion at the guy and then tipped her head up. “Sorry about that.”
Oh. Some of her euphoria seeped away. “The kiss?”
“Oh no, definitely not that. I meant the audience.”
“Oh, well, good.” She remained cradled against his body and then realized something. “What is your first name?”
He blinked and laughed. “It’s Charlie, er, Charles Bentley.”
“Well Charles, would you like to go out sometime?” Look at her making the first move, kind of. Her mom would be so proud.
“You’re kidding, right? I would be honored to go out with you.”
Good. That was good. They shared a smile.
He leaned closer right when his phone began to ring. “Damn it, sorry,” He picked up the receiver. “Bentley.”
“This is Sergeant Larsen. You need to get down to the hospital as soon as you can.”