She spent the morning with a murderer.
He'd been under guard in a hospital bed recovering from a near-fatal wound—courtesy of a misstep by his partner in crime—but she'd had no sympathy.
She was glad he'd lived, wished him a long, long life—in an off-planet concrete cage. She believed the case she and her team had built to be solid—as did the nearly gleeful prosecuting attorney. The sprinkles on the icing of this particular cupcake was the confession she'd finessed out of him as he'd sneered at her.
Given that he'd tried to kill her less than twenty-four hours before, the sneer was small change.
Sylvester Moriarity would receive the best medical care New York could provide, then he'd join his friend Winston Dudley behind bars until what promised to be a sensational, media-soaked trial, given their family fortunes and names.
Case closed, she told herself as she pushed her way through the heat-soaked Saturday afternoon traffic toward home. The dead now had the only justice she could offer, and their families and friends the comfort—if comfort it was—that those responsible would pay.
But it haunted her: the waste, the cruelty, the utter selfishness of two men who were so puffed up by their own importance, their station, that they'd considered murder a form of entertainment, a twisted sort of indulgence.
She maneuvered through New York traffic, barely hearing the blasts of horns, the annoyingly cheerful hype of the ad blimps heralding midsummer sales at the Sky Mall. Tourists swarmed the city—and likely the Sky Mall as well—chowing down on soy dogs from the smoking glide-carts, looking for souvies and bargains among the shops and street vendors.
A boiling stew, she thought, in the heat and humidity of summer 2060.
She caught the lightning move of a nimble-fingered street thief, bumping through a couple of tourists more intent on gawking at the buildings and their ringing people glides than their own security. He had the wallet in the goody slit of his baggy cargos in half a finger snap and slithered like a snake through the forest of people lumbering across the crosswalk.
If she'd been on foot, or at least headed in the same direction, she'd have pursued—and the chase might've lifted her mood. But he and his booty smoked away, and he'd no doubt continue to score well on today's target shoot.
Life went on.
When Lieutenant Eve Dallas finally drove through the stately gates of home, she reminded herself of that again. Life went on—and in her case, today, that included a cookout, a horde of cops, and her odd assortment of friends. A couple years before, it would've been the last way she'd have spent a Saturday, but things had changed.
Her living arrangements certainly had, from a sparsely furnished apartment to the palace-fortress Roarke had built. Her husband—and that was a change, even if they'd just celebrated their second year of marriage—had the vision, the need, and, God knew, the means to create the gorgeous home with its myriad rooms filled with style and function. Here the grass was rich summer green, the trees and flowers plentiful.
Here was peace and warmth and welcome. And she needed them, maybe just a little desperately at the moment.
She left her vehicle at the front entrance, knowing Summerset, Roarke's majordomo, would send it to its place in the garage. And hoped, just this once, he wasn't looming like a scarecrow in the foyer.
She wanted the cool and quiet of the bedroom she shared with Roarke, a few minutes of solitude. Time, she thought as she strode toward the doors, to shake off this mood before the invasion.
Halfway to the doors, she stopped. The front wasn't the only way in, for Christ's sake—and why hadn't she ever thought of that before? On impulse, she jogged around—long legs eating up ground—crossed one of the patios, turned through a small, walled garden, and went in through a side door. Into a parlor or sitting room or morning room—who knew? she thought with a roll of tired brown eyes—and made her way as sneakily as the street thief across the hallway, down and into the more familiar territory of the game room, where she knew the lay of the land.
She called the elevator and considered it a small, personal victory when the doors shut her in. "Master bedroom," she ordered, then just leaned back against the wall, shut her eyes, while the unit navigated its way.
When she stepped into the bedroom, she raked a hand through her messy cap of brown hair, stripped the jacket off her lanky frame, and tossed it at the handiest chair. She stepped onto the platform and sat on the side of the lake-sized bed. If she'd believed she could escape into sleep, she'd have stretched out, but there was too much in her head, in her belly, for rest.
So she simply sat, veteran cop, Homicide lieutenant who'd walked through blood and death more times than she could count, and mourned a little.
Roarke found her there.
He could gauge her state of mind by the slump of her shoulders, by the way she sat, staring out the window. He walked to her, sat beside her, took her hand.
"I should've gone with you."
She shook her head but leaned against him. "No place for civilians in Interview, and nothing you could've done anyway if I'd stretched it and brought you in as expert consultant. I had him cold and cut through his battalion of expensive lawyers like a fucking machete. I thought the PA was going to kiss me on the mouth."
He brought the hand he held to his lips. "And still you're sad."
She closed her eyes, comforted a little by the solidity of him beside her, by that whisper of Ireland in his voice, even by the scent so uniquely him. "Not sad, or… I don't know what the hell I am. I should be buzzed. I did the job; I slammed it shut—and I got to look them both in the face and let them know it."
She shoved up, paced to the window, away again, and realized it wasn't peace and comfort she wanted after all. Not quite yet. It was a place to let it go, let it out, spew the rage.
"He was pissed. Moriarity. Lying there with that hole in his chest his pal put into him with his freaking antique Italian foil."
"The one meant for you," Roarke reminded her.
"Yeah. And he's pissed, seriously pissed, Dudley missed and it wasn't me on a slab at the morgue."
"I expect he was," Roarke said coolly. "But that's not what's got you going."
She paused a minute, just looked at him. Stunning blue eyes in a stunning face, the mane of thick black hair, that poet's mouth set firm now because she'd made him think of her on that slab at the morgue.
"You know they never had a chance to take me. You were there."
"And still he drew blood, didn't he?" Roarke nodded at the healing wound on her arm.
She tapped it. "And this helped sew them up. Attempted murder of a police officer just trowels on the icing. They didn't make their next score. Now they have to end their competition with a tie, which oddly enough is what I think they always wanted. They just planned for the contest to go on a lot longer. And you know what the prize was at the end? Do you know what the purse for this goddamn tournament was?"
"I don't, no, but I see you got it out of Moriarity today."
"Yeah, I wound him up so tight he had to let it spring out. A dollar. A fucking dollar, Roarke—just one big joke between them. And it makes me sick."
It shocked, even appalled her a little, that her eyes stung, that she felt tears pressing hard. "It makes me sick," she repeated. "All those people dead, all those lives broken and shattered, and this makes me sick? I don't know why, I just don't know why it churns my stomach. I've seen worse. God, we've both seen worse."
"But rarely more futile." He stood, took her arms, gently rubbing. "No reason, no mad vendetta or fevered dream, no vengeance or greed or fury. Just a cruel game. Why shouldn't it make you sick? It does me as well."
"I contacted the next of kin," she began. "Even the ones we found from before they started this matchup in New York. That's why I'm late getting back. I thought I needed to, and thought if I closed it all the way, I'd feel better. I got gratitude. I got anger and tears, everything you expect. And every one of them asked me why. Why had these men killed their daughter, their husband, their mother?"
"And what did you tell them?"
"Sometimes there's no why, or not one we can understand." She squeezed her eyes tight. "I want to be pissed."
"You are, under it. And under that, you know you did good work. And you're alive, darling Eve." He drew her in to kiss her brow. "Which, to take this to their level, makes them losers."
"I guess it does. I guess that's going to have to be enough."
She took his face in her hands, smiled a little. "And there's the added bonus that they hate us both. Really hate us. That adds a boost."
"I can't think of anyone I'd rather be hated by, or anyone I'd rather be hated with."
Now the smile moved into her eyes. "Me either. If I keep that front and center, I could be in the mood to party. I guess we should go down and do whatever we're supposed to do before everybody gets here."
"Change first. You'll feel more in the party mode without your boots and weapon."
By the time she'd changed trousers for cotton pants, boots for skids, and made it downstairs, she heard voices in the foyer. She spotted her partner, Peabody, her short, dark ponytail bouncing, summery dress swirling. Peabody's cohab, e-detective and premier geek McNab, stood beside her in a skin tank crisscrossed with more colors than an atomic rainbow paired with baggy, hot pink knee shorts and gel flips.
He turned, the forest of silver rings on his left earlobe shimmering, and shot Eve a wide grin. "Hey, Dallas. We brought you something."
"My granny's homemade wine." ...