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Three years later
County Task Force HQ, vice squad office
"I ask for one lousy female and I get another grunt dug up out of who the hell knows where!" Lieutenant Ty Jamerson slammed down the file he held on the nearest surface, which happened to be his desk. Glaring at Jase, who'd had the misfortune to hand him the file, Ty grunted in male understanding. He wouldn't kill the messenger. After years of working together, Jase knew it, too. He grinned back good-naturedly.
"Maybe we can dress him in drag," Jase offered. "Get him some falsies and get him up onstage." He laughed heartily. "Now that'll draw every creep outta the woodwork."
Ty ran his fingers through his shoulder-length hair. He'd be glad when this assignment was over. The last three years in vice had taken its toll on him and his team. They needed to come up for air soon, or they'd morph into the seedy underworld counterparts they sought to put away.
"Serious up, Jase," Ty chastised. "We've lost one of our own. It's balls to the walls now." The high energy in the room accelerated.
"She's just missing," Reese said.
Ty glanced across the room at Reese, another brother in blue and his longtime point man.
Ty slammed his hands down on the desk. "Just missing? Just missing for two weeks? What about the other two, the ones who've been missing for months? I'll bet my retirement those ladies are either dead or worse. Shipped off to some third-world sheik for his amusement."
Ty stalked the short space of the stuffy room, his frustration nearly out of control. He spun around and stopped, glaring at both of his men. "I told those brass assholes we needed an experienced officer, not some fresh-faced male rookie six months out of the academy." He looked down at the scattered file on the desk. "Now they can't even bother to read my request form. I need this" he grabbed the file and looked at the name tab "Phil Zorn like I need another one of you dickheads."
As he turned away he stopped in his tracks, realization dawning, then grabbed the file and opened it. His eyes scanned the information. "Shit!"
He tossed the file back onto the table, and the door to the small office opened. Three sets of eyes widened, and one set narrowed.
Philamina's heart plummeted to her knees. This was a mistake, she thought. Not even close to what she'd put in for. Two men she did not recognize smiled no, leered the other, the one who she hadn't stopped thinking of the past three years, scowled.
She felt like a sacrificial lamb who had just walked into a den of hungry wolves. She swallowed and steeled her nerves. Her last three years in IA hadn't taught her to shrivel up and die. No, she'd learned a few things about survival, even among these beasts.
Phil contemplated Ty's tall muscular frame, his long dark hair, and the severe cut of his short goatee. He looked every bit the hard-ass he'd sold to the grunge underworld of vice. Her heart picked up an unsteady pace. No way was she going to let him see how he affected her. She smiled, exuding confidence. "So, you made lieutenant. I thought for sure you would be hosing down kennels at the pound by now."
"I thought for sure you would be riding a meter cart handing out unwarranted parking tickets." Ty's cock twinged. He admired her tall slender form. Couldn't help it. She still came across prim and proper in a sleek navy pantsuit, but now experience, and no doubt anxiety, gave her soft features some depth. Her eyes, that unusual shade of dark blue, no longer held that hungry, I-want-to-get-the-bad-cop gleam. No, something else replaced that first flush of bravado he'd found so disconcerting three years ago. She'd grown up some, and the new mature lady cop before him unnerved him more than the innocent firebrand.
"What's the rat squad want with vice?" Despite the hum his body produced at her entrance, he wanted her out of his office and out of his life. He had no room in either for a distraction like her.
"Officer Zorn reporting for duty, sir."
Ty swore under his breath. Neither Jase nor Reese wasted a minute in welcoming what Ty had specifically asked for, an experienced female officer to go undercover. In their zeal to welcome her, they bumped into each other.
"Sergeant Reese Bronson at your service."
Ty scowled when Bronson kissed her hand.
"Knock it off, Bronson, she's a cop, not the frickin' queen of England." He moved in and pushed Bronson aside. "You're mistaken, Zorn, your services are no longer required here."
She wasn't having it. She stepped into his space like he had done to her so many years ago. The fire burned hot in her eyes now. He liked it.
"Sorry to disappoint, Lieutenant. You requested an experienced female, and so you've been assigned one."
Ty ignored the soft musky scent of her anger. "I never have and never will work with a rat."
The words hit her hard in the face; he almost felt sorry for her when she blanched.
"I'm not now nor have I ever been a rat, sir. I followed my job to the letter of the law. If you happened to get caught in the crossfire, that's on you."
Ty's fists slowly opened and closed. He'd see about this. "Excuse me."
He flung the door wide and exited the office, his finger punching the sheriff's number on his cell phone.
"Sheriff Bellicheck, Lieutenant Jamerson, sir."
"Make it quick, son, I'm on my way into a meeting."
"One word. Zorn. As in Philamina Zorn, an IA rat!"
"That was more than one word. What's your problem?"
"I requested an experienced X for my undercover operation and I get a letter-of-the-law rat. How the hell am I supposed to work with the Wicked Witch of the West? She'll be writing my guys up for spitting on the sidewalk."
"Look, Jamerson, she's all we could come up with. She's single. No kids, no family to speak of. She's perfect for this operation."
"But, sir, my men can't work knowing she's keeping book."
"She's out of IA. I give you my word, nothing you or your men do will be used to incriminate you, so long as you produce. I want the person responsible for kidnapping Officer Marten and those other two women. Use Zorn, she's no shrinking violet. Now stop your bellyaching and get back to work."
"Sir, I " The drone of a dead line reverberated in Ty's ear. "Son of a bitch." He slapped his cell closed and prowled back into the office to find his two men gallantly entertaining Officer Zorn. Her eyes shone with excitement and her straight white teeth startled him in their brightness. Shit-fuck-damn!
"It looks like I have no choice but to have you on the team, Officer Zorn." He moved closer and lowered his voice. "But be warned. If it were up to me, we'd be slapping a skirt on Vaughn here and having him shake his ass for dollars."
Phil stepped toward him. Her case against him three years ago fell apart, but she was determined not to let this case get away from her. "Consider me one of the guys, Lieutenant, and I assure you I will produce results."
Ty smiled. "Oh, you'll produce all right. Let me fill you in on the case you'll be working."
Philamina didn't like his tone or the way his dark green eyes glittered. Reese snorted and Jase stood quietly grinning. Why did she feel like the joke was on her?
Copyright © 2006 by Karin Tabke