Convincing Alex. Nora Roberts
to it. Not knowing what she was, what she did. Her chin came to a slight point, and with her prominent cheekbones it gave her face a triangular, foxlike look.
The clinging tube top and spandex capri pants showed every inch of her curvy, athletic little body. He’d always been a sucker for the athletic type—but he reminded himself just where this particular number got her exercise.
In any case, she wasn’t the one he was looking for.
Now or never, Bess told herself, feeling her new acquaintance’s eyes on her.
“Hey, baby…” Though she hadn’t smoked since she’d been fifteen, her voice was husky. Saying a prayer to whatever gods were listening, she veered in on Alex. “Want to party?”
“Maybe.” He hooked a finger in the top of her tube, and was surprised when she flinched. “You’re not quite what I had it mind, sweetie.”
“Oh?” What next? Combining instinct with her observations, she tossed her head and leaned into him. She had the quick impression of pressing against steel—hard, unyielding and very cool. “Just what did you have in mind?”
Then, for a moment, she had nothing at all on hers. Not with the way those dark eyes cut into her, through her. His knuckles were brushing her skin, just above the breasts. She felt the heat from them, from him. As she continued to stare, she was struck by a vivid image of the two of them, rolling on a narrow bed in some dark room.
And it had nothing to do with business.
It was the first time Alex had ever seen a hooker blush. It threw him off, made him want to apologize for the fantasy that had just whipped through his brain. Then he remembered himself.
“Just a different type, babe.”
In her heels, they were eye-to-eye. It made him want to rub off the powders and paints to see what was beneath.
“I can be a different type,” Bess said, delighted with her inspired response.
“Hey, girlfriend.” Rosalie strutted over and slipped a friendly arm around Bess’s shoulders. “You’re not going to be greedy and take both of these boys, are you?”
Pay dirt, Alex thought, and shifted his attention to Rosalie. “You two a team?”
“We are tonight.” She glanced from Alex to his partner. “How ’bout you two?”
Judd searched for his voice. He’d rather have been facing a gunman in an alley. And he simply couldn’t put his hands on this big, beautiful woman, when a picture of his wife’s trusting face was flashing in his head like a neon light.
“Sure.” He let out a long breath and tried to emulate some of Alex’s cocky confidence.
Rosalie threw back her head and laughed before she stepped forward, bumping bodies with Judd. He gave way instinctively as a dark red flush crept up his neck. “I believe you’re new at this, honey. Why don’t you let Rosalie show you the ropes?”
Because his partner seemed to have developed laryngitis, Alex took over. “How much?”
“Well…” Rosalie didn’t bother to look over at Bess, who had gone dead pale. “Special rate tonight. You get both of us for a hundred. That’s the first hour.” She leaned down and whispered something in Judd’s ear that had him babbling. “After that,” she continued, “we can negotiate.”
“I don’t—” Bess began, then felt Rosalie’s fingers dig into her bare shoulder like sharp little knives.
“I think that’ll do it,” Alex said, and pulled out his badge. “Ladies, you’re busted.”
Cops, Bess realized on a wave of sweet relief. While Rosalie expressed her opinion with a single vicious word, Bess struggled not to burst into wild laughter.
Perfect, Bess thought as she was bumped along into the squad room. She’d been arrested for solicitation, and life couldn’t be better. Trying to take everything in at once, she grinned as she scanned the station house. She’d been in one before, of course. As she always said, she took her work seriously. But not in this precinct. Not downtown.
It was dirty—grimy, really, she decided, making mental notes and muttering to herself. Floors, walls, the barred windows. Everything had a nice, picturesque coat of crud.
It smelled, too. She took a deep breath so that she wouldn’t forget the ripe stench of human sweat, bitter coffee and strong disinfectant.
And it was noisy. With every nerve on sensory alert, she separated the din into ringing phones, angry curses, weeping, and the clickety-clack of keyboards at work.
Man, oh, man, she thought. Her luck was really in.
“You’re not a tourist, sweetheart,” Alex reminded her, adding a firm nudge.
The vibrant excitement in her eyes was so out of place that he stared. Then, with a shake of his head, he jabbed a finger toward a chair. He was letting the rookie get his feet wet getting the vitals from Rosalie. Once they had her booked, he’d take over himself, using charm or threats or whatever seemed most expedient to make her talk to him about her two murdered associates.
“Okay.” He took his seat behind his battered and overcrowded desk. “You know the drill.”
She’d been staring at a young man of about twenty with a face full of bruises and a torn denim jacket. “Excuse me?”
Alex just sighed as he rolled a form onto his typewriter. “Name?”
“Oh, I’m Bess.” She held out her hand in a gesture so natural and friendly he nearly took it.
Instead, he swore softly. “Bess what?”
“McNee. And you’re?”
“In charge. Date of birth.”
His eyes flicked up, arrowed hers. “Why what?”
“Why do you want to know?”
Patience, never his strong suit, strained. He tapped a finger on the form. “Because I’ve got this space to fill.”
“Okay. I’m twenty-eight. A Gemini. I was born on June the first.”
Alex did the math and typed in the year. “Residence.”
Natural curiosity had her poking through the folders and papers on his desk until he slapped her hand. “You’re awfully tense,” she commented. “Is it because you work undercover?”
Damn that smile, he thought. It was sassy, sexy, and far from stupid. That, and those sharp, intelligent green eyes, might have fooled him. But she looked like a hooker, and she smelled like a hooker. Therefore…
“Listen, doll, here’s the way this works. I ask the questions, you answer them.”
“Tough, cynical, street-smart.”
One dark brow lifted. “Excuse me?”
“Just a quick personality check. You want my address, right?” she rattled off an address that made both of Alex’s brows raise.
“Let’s get serious.”
“Okay.” Willing to oblige, Bess folded her hands on the edge of his desk.
“Your address,” he repeated.
“I just gave it to you.”
“I know what real estate goes for in that area. Maybe you’re good.” Thoughtful, he scanned her attributes one more time. “Maybe you’re better than you look. But you don’t make enough working the streets to pop for that kind of rent.”
Bess knew an insult when it hit her over the head. What made it worse was that she’d spent over an hour on her