Twelve years ago Frankie Barker and Johanna Obrien became partners, then lovers, on the Philadelphia Police Force. After two years, the women were tired of city living. They quit the force and moved to Charlestown, Pennsylvania, where they built a log home and hung out their shingle as private investigators. In this first book of the series Partners, they take a case they feel will be a cinch to solve, before embarking on a much-needed vacation. But the case turns out to be much more than they bargained for! Graham McHenry hires Frankie and Johanna to follow his beautiful, much younger wife Cassandra, whom he believes is having an affair. They find the information their client is seeking, but the next morning they learn the woman has been murdered. The time of death places Cassandra at a motel, at the same time they had been following her to her mansion. Now McHenry wants to know who killed his wife, and Frankie and Johanna are determined to find out who they were tailing! Genre: Erotic Romance/Suspense And Mystery/Lesbian Rating: Erotic Romance - Explicit (Contains adult content, language, and graphic sex) Don't miss the next book in the thrilling sexy series by Kira Chase: PARTNERS: THE OTHER WOMAN
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Frankie glanced up at the skylight. She smiled. It had been her idea to have it centered directly above the king-sized bed. She sighed contentedly. The day had dawned bright and clear, a perfect summer's day. She hoped that the steady downpour of the previous night had swept away the oppressive heat and humidity which had enveloped the city for the past week. Last night the stormy weather had made for a cozy romantic night spent in bed, making love for hours, with the love of her life.
She stretched lazily, turned her head and stole a brief glance at the alarm clock, which sat on the nightstand. Ten more minutes until it would go off. She rolled onto her side facing Johanna, her partner, who slept peacefully curled up in a fetal position. Frankie gently touched her shoulder. "Hey, sleepyhead, time to get up," she whispered close to Johanna's ear.
Johanna opened her eyes slowly. She flashed Frankie a smile. "Is it Saturday yet?"
Frankie laughed. "No, but why should that matter? The last two cases we were on the clock seven days a week."
She made a face. "Don't remind me."
Frankie ran her fingers through Johanna's long auburn hair. "I missed you so much," she whispered.
"These past two days with you have been heaven." She planted a quick kiss on Frankie's cheek before sliding off of the bed. "I love lying in bed all day with you, but we've got to pay the bills. I'm going to grab a shower."
Frankie waited until she heard the water come on in the shower, then got out of bed and hurried to the bathroom. She pulled back the end of the shower curtain, stepped inside, put her arms around Johanna, and kissed the back of her neck. "I'll washyour back," she murmured.
Frankie lathered some soap in her hands and slowly massaged it across Johanna's slender, but firm shoulders, then down her strong back. When she reached Johanna's ass, she took her time running her hands over the perfectly rounded cheeks and then ran a fingertip in the crack. Johanna's sharp intake of breath aroused her.
"Don't start something you don't intend to finish," she warned in a throaty voice.
"Oh, I intend to finish what I hope I'm starting," she said softly as she removed her fingertip and brought her arms around Johanna as her hands cupped Johanna's large breasts. "Ah, your nipples are already hard."
"Just being near you makes me hot." Johanna leaned her head back. "Oh, that feels good." She grabbed one of Frankie's hands and placed it on her throbbing vagina.
"What do you want?" Frankie whispered hoarsely. "Tell me, baby."
"You'd better fuck me now or you'll be walking to work."
An hour later they sat in their moderately sized office at their desks, which were angled to face each other, but afforded them ample space between. The rest of the office consisted of six filing cabinets, a long counter, which held the printer, fax machine, and various office supplies. A small artificial tree stood in one corner. The off-white walls were accented with a few pieces of modern art, which blended well with the modern furniture. Two small windows with Barker and Obrien Investigations stenciled on them were situated on either side of the thick door. The office also contained a small bathroom and a storage room. The women especially loved the back entrance, which led to their own small private parking area. An accountant had occupied the office that was situated in the middle of a busy strip mall with a coffee shop and hair salon on either side. When the former tenant retired, Johanna and Frankie had jumped on the location, moving out of the cramped quarters they'd occupied upstairs of a luncheonette.
"My car won't be ready for at least another day. They're having a problem getting a part," Frankie grumbled as she hung up the phone. "It's a good thing it didn't conk out before you got home or I would have had to rent something."
"I told you to trade in your old Chevy for a new one. I know you and that old car have been together a long time, but come on, babe, give the old girl a rest. Twenty years is a long time." Johanna smiled mischievously. "I might be persuaded to keep giving you a ride to work until your car's ready. But it's going to cost you."
Frankie wadded a piece of paper and threw it in her direction. The paper sailed past Johanna. "Wise ass!" She got up and bent over to pick it up.
"Nice ass," Johanna said, turning her head.
"Oh, if we weren't at work I'd show you just how nice it is," she shot back.
"Wasn't it only an hour or so ago that it was pressed up tight against me?" Johanna ran her tongue seductively over her full lips.
Frankie grinned as she walked back to her desk and sat in her chair. "God, woman, we'd better not get another case that keeps us apart for a week. You're a nympho!"
"Look who's talking!" She smiled. "But I have to admit, it was pure hell being away from you, too. I don't think I could have stood another night. It's a good thing I brought my vibrator with me." She seductively lifted an eyebrow.
"Mmmm. You loved the phone sex. Your panting and moaning drove me crazy and I was tempted to say the hell with everything and jump in my car and come to you."
"I wish you could have, but face it, that wreck wouldn't have gotten you far." She grinned. "Your sensual voice over the phone is the next best thing to you in the flesh, which is always on the top of my list."
Before Frankie could reply, the office door opened abruptly and a well-dressed man entered. His eyes glanced, for a moment, around the room before settling on them as he made his way to the space between their desks. "I'm looking for Francine Barker and Johanna Obrien."
"You've found us," Johanna said, rising. "I'm Johanna Obrien and this is my partner Francine Barker. How may we help you Mr.--"
"McHenry ... Graham."
Frankie stood up and walked over to Johanna's desk.
He eyed her as he cleared his throat. "I have reason to believe that my wife is having an affair. I'd like her followed. I'm assuming you do that kind of thing." His tone was matter-of-fact and to the point.
"Please have a seat." Johanna motioned him to a chair in front of her desk. Frankie positioned a chair at the side of Johanna's desk giving her an ample view of both of them. They waited until he sat before sitting.
Unless Johanna was tied up with another case, she generally handled the preliminaries while Frankie sat and observed, occasionally offering a comment. Through their unspoken body language the women determined whether they'd take a case or not. They hadn't turned down too many in their careers, but there was always an off-the-wall type that their better judgments warned them to avoid. They'd gained a reputation for working quickly and efficiently. Clients from Philadelphia often required their services since Philly was located only a half hour drive away from Charlestown. They were good at what they did so it was no surprise that their reputation had spread. Most importantly, they loved their work, but even more they loved working together.
McHenry pulled a photograph from his breast coat pocket and handed it to Frankie. "This is Cassandra ... my wife."
Frankie studied the picture, and then handed it to Johanna. "What makes you think she's having an affair?"
McHenry frowned. "Large sums of money are missing from the account and she mysteriously disappears for hours at a time."
"Have you questioned her?" Johanna asked. "Maybe she has a good reason."
He threw his hands up. "She gave me a lame excuse about a friend in need. The friend doesn't exist. Now will you take my case or not?"
Frankie caught Johanna's eye. Johanna nodded. These types of cases were a piece of cake and after their last case Frankie wanted something less stressful, but even more than that, a case that wouldn't put them at opposite ends of the state. They weren't often separated, but on the rare occasions they were, it tortured her. She glanced at Johanna, her pulse quickening as she jotted preliminary notes while her eyes drifted to Johanna's long, slender legs which were crossed at the ankles. Just looking at her beautiful lover and partner still caused her heart to skip a beat even after all these years. Today, Johanna was dressed in a navy blue skirt, white lacy top and navy blue blazer. Navy blue pumps adorned her feet.
Frankie rarely wore a skirt to the office and tried, with Johanna's help, to keep her office attire businesslike. She had chosen brown dress slacks, a beige knit pullover, and comfortable brown oxfords.
She was as much in love with Johanna now as she'd been when they moved in together ten years ago. They'd met two years before that when Joanna was transferred to Frankie's Philadelphia police precinct. As she listened to Graham McHenry drone on about his wife's alleged indiscretion, she allowed her mind to wander to the day she'd first been introduced to Johanna.
Frankie hadn't been sure what she thought of being partnered with a woman until she met Johanna. She'd been on the force for a little over a year and the men treated her well, but of course, she kept her sexual orientation under wraps. She doubted most of them would care since she knew some gay cops in the other precincts, but she also knew how many were ridiculed behind their backs.
She went out for drinks with her co-workers, but refused to share details of her private life convincing them her significant other, a career military man, was stationed overseas. The men who may have had a more personal interest soon got the hint that she wasn't available and definitely not interested. Most of the women were either busy with their families or looking for men. She had little in common with them so she supposed most thought she lived in her own private little world waiting for her soldier to return. What she was waiting for was her heart to completely heal after a rough breakup the night before she left for the police academy. As time went on it did heal, but she'd met no one who interested her. A couple of times a month she went to some clubs, had a few drinks, danced a little, but always came home alone. She'd had many opportunities, but one-night stands had never been her thing.
When she met Johanna Obrien, she felt like a teenager with a crush and knew it would take all the willpower she possessed not to throw herself at Johanna's feet. Johanna was a knockout standing five feet six inches, curvy, and oozing femininity. She kept her long beautiful auburn hair pinned up making her sleek neck look almost swanlike. Her clear green eyes caused Frankie's heart to skip a beat whenever Johanna looked at her. Frankie realized that Johanna probably had men beating down her door so she kept reminding herself to cool her fantasies about her co-worker. Johanna was obviously straight and it depressed Frankie to realize that after all this time, when her heart was finally ready to take a chance on love again, she'd not only fallen for her co-worker, but a straight woman to boot. But she couldn't stop the fantasies. She kept them buried deep inside and only released them in the cool darkness of the night where she'd lie in her bed tossing and turning as images of Johanna invaded her mind. She'd never seen a woman who looked so hot in uniform as Johanna did, and her fantasies let her slowly and sensuously remove the uniform and caress the soft flesh until Johanna begged her to take her. Her nighttime fantasies caused her to struggle for self-control during the day, working so close with her.
Frankie soon found out that working with Johanna was going to be a challenge. She was all work and no play. If talk didn't concern the precinct or a case they were involved in, she wasn't interested. All she knew about her new partner was that she was single. Johanna wouldn't offer even a glimpse into her private life and didn't appear to care about Frankie's.
Frankie missed the pleasant chitchat with her previous partner Sam Bolton. She'd enjoyed the stories about his twin boys' teenaged antics and devoured the wonderful treats his doting wife Britta often sent when they were on a stakeout together. Their partnership ended when a boating accident finished his career, forcing him to take an early retirement. Johanna filled his slot. All in all, though, Frankie enjoyed her nighttime fantasies, realizing for the first time in months, that her heart had fully recovered from her previous breakup. She could once again feel intense yearning and desire. Unfortunately for Frankie, her desire seemed to stay focused on the one woman she'd never be able to have. She'd be happy to settle for only friendship, but Johanna didn't seem interested in offering her that either.
It wasn't until months later at the precinct's annual picnic that she saw another side of Johanna. Frankie hated going to these functions and even though they were billed as a day of camaraderie and fun, it was mandatory to put in an appearance. She made her usual rounds, talking and laughing with the officers and their families or significant others. As was her habit, she'd come alone. When she spotted Johanna, her heart flipped upside down. Johanna looked uncomfortable surrounded by a group of their co-workers and Frankie assumed the single men were trying to get her to go out with them. She didn't blame them. Johanna could turn heads no matter where she went or what she was wearing. Today her long hair was down, cascading over her shoulders. She was dressed casually in a pair of tight jeans, a precinct tee shirt and tennis shoes.
Frankie caught Johanna's eye and smiled. Maybe out of work Johanna would loosen up a bit and she could find out what went on inside that beautiful head of hers. Johanna smiled back and Frankie took that as an invitation to join her. She walked confidently over to where Johanna was perched on a bench with a can of beer sitting in front of her on a picnic table. The men greeted Frankie and chatted with her for a few minutes, then drifted off to mingle with their comrades.
"Having fun yet?" Frankie rolled her eyes then smiled.
Johanna laughed. "I'm putting in my obligatory appearance and then I'm out of here. You?"
Frankie looked into Johanna's beautiful sea-green eyes. "We have to work with them all week, but I definitely don't care to spend my leisure time with them." She sat on the picnic bench across from Johanna, folded her hands, and placed them on the table.
Johanna nodded, then picked up her can of beer and took a long swallow. "You look even more anxious to get out of here then I am," she said as her eyes swept over Frankie. "Got a hot date tonight?"
Frankie was surprised with Johanna's unaccustomed comment. "No. I'll probably clean my apartment and maybe rent a movie." She shrugged. "That's the highlight of this weekend."
Johanna's eyes narrowed. "For some reason I find it hard to picture you sitting home alone watching TV on a Saturday night."
She shrugged again. "I go out once in awhile, but I enjoy the serenity of my apartment after dealing with the shit we have to on the job." She carefully eyed the other woman. "Maybe I shouldn't say this, but we've been working together for a few months now and I know very little about you."
Johanna stiffened. "I'm a private person. I don't share details of my personal life with those I work with." She cast her eyes down then brought them back up level with Frankie's. "I learned my lesson the hard way."
Frankie picked up her can of beer, took a sip and watched Johanna as a dark shadow crossed her flawless face. She chose her next words cautiously for fear of getting her head verbally knocked off. "Were you involved with someone on the force in your previous precinct?" she asked softly. "Is that why you're so aloof?"
"It's none of your damned business," Johanna snapped. She abruptly stood up. "I'm out of here. I'll see you on Monday."
Frankie's jaw dropped. She scrambled to her feet and hurried after her. "Wait up. I'm sorry if I offended you. I was just trying to make conversation."
Johanna stopped, and then whirled around facing her, hands on her hips. A gentle breeze lifted her silky hair and the light scent of her perfume filled Frankie's nostrils. Her face was flushed. "I don't mean to be rude, but I have to go."
As she turned, Frankie touched her elbow. "Look, there aren't many women in our precinct. I just thought you might be lonely since your transfer to Philly."
"I enjoy my solitude."
"I'm sorry what I said before. You're right, it's none of my business. I need to think before I speak." She shrugged. "I really didn't mean to pry into your personal life. I'm sorry if I offended you. I promise in the future I'll limit any conversation only to work issues." She turned and started walking in the opposite direction.
Johanna grabbed her arm. "Wait. I'm the one who owes you an apology. You're only trying to be friendly." Her face softened. "Would you like to get a drink somewhere? Maybe it's time I got to know my partner." She smiled shyly.
Frankie grinned. "I know just the place."
A few minutes later they were seated in a small bar two blocks from the park where the picnic was held.
"No special man in your life?" Johanna asked as she toyed with the edge of her paper coaster. "Oh that's right. Your significant other is stationed overseas. A couple of the guys told me. They weren't really gossiping. I asked about you." She raised her eyebrows. "So when will he be home? You must get lonely."
Frankie was silent and sipped her glass of wine. "I made that story up so the guys would leave me alone. I've been flying solo for a long time now."
"Well, we have something in common besides work then."
They spent the next hour chatting about their experiences on the police force, gossiping about their co-workers, then drifted to their current cases before lapsing into a few minutes of comfortable silence.
Frankie relaxed and enjoyed the conversation, but even more enjoyed learning about Johanna's likes and dislikes. She was pleasantly surprised with how similar their tastes were in books, music and movies and the resemblances in their personal lives. They were both only children and their mothers were widows. As she looked at Johanna, Frankie yearned for a part of her she knew she could never have. She'd have to settle for friendship, but at this point, just spending time with Johanna was a joy she hadn't known for a long time.
Frankie saw a sadness creep into Johanna's eyes as their eyes met and briefly locked. "Is something wrong?" she asked quietly. Johanna's hand trembled as she set her wineglass down.
Johanna bit her bottom lip. She peered cautiously at Frankie. "Do you remember when we were called to that bar a couple of months ago because of a gay bashing?"
She nodded. "Yeah, that was rough."
"How did you really feel about the gay guy? I mean if you weren't in uniform would you have still tried to protect him?"
"He didn't deserve to be beaten regardless of his sexual orientation. I'm glad the judge threw the book at the bastards who did it."
"The point is they simply beat him because he is gay. I doubt they would have touched him if he were straight. How would you have reacted out of uniform?"
"The same way I did in uniform. It disgusts me. He's a human being for God's sake."
Johanna looked at her. "I like you, Frankie. This is a nice break for me, talking to you like this outside of work. I should have done this a long time ago" She twisted her hands together. "I want to tell you something and I pray to God that I can trust you. Trust doesn't come easy to me, but I'm going to take the plunge."
"We're partners and I hope now, also friends. If you can't trust me on or off-duty, then we'd have a serious problem." She smiled. "I don't think trust comes easily to most people, but I trusted you to have my back the minute we were partnered."
"This isn't about the trust we have while we're working together. This is about trust when a friend confides in you."
Frankie was elated that Johanna considered her a close enough friend to share her confidences. She was eager to hear what Johanna wanted to tell her, but had to stay calm. "I'm listening," she replied softly.
Johanna picked up her wineglass and held it for a moment before setting it back down. "You asked me earlier if I was involved with a co-worker before I came here." She picked up her wineglass again, took a sip, and then set it down. "I was." She raised her eyes level with Frankie's. "When we broke up it didn't end well and I put in for a transfer." She cautiously eyed Frankie. "I hope you don't think too badly of me. That was the first time I ever got involved with someone I worked with. Now I know why it's not recommended. It's great when things are going well, but when it sours ... well, you know."
Frankie saw the pain in her eyes. "I'm sorry. Breakups are never easy under any circumstances. Your secret is safe with me and I would never judge you." She cleared her throat. "Now I'll tell you something to prove you can trust me. No one on the force knows this." She hesitated and bit her bottom lip. "My last girlfriend was a real bitch. She walked out on me when I entered the police academy and I've been single ever since."
Johanna's eyes widened. "Did I hear you right?"
She nodded as her face grew warm. She lowered her eyes not daring to see the reaction in Johanna's eyes. "If you want another partner I'll understand, but please keep what I said only between us. There are a couple of guys on the force who are real homophobic assholes."
"Wow!" Johanna grinned. "That's a relief. I promise not to tell if you don't."
Frankie raised her eyes and smiled weakly. "Excuse me?"
Johanna grabbed Frankie's hand and squeezed it. "My ex was a woman. When we drifted apart she threatened to tell everyone I came on to her when in reality she was the one who did the pursuing. The tension and her threats became so unbearable that I elected to leave. I wanted to get as far away from her as I could, so here I am."
A tremor shot through Frankie's body as Johanna took her time releasing her hand. "It must have been rough leaving your friends and everything you've known," she said in a wobbly voice.
"It was, but in retrospect most of my friendships were superficial. My mother still lives in Sacramento. I try to visit her a couple of times a year, but for the most part, I'm a loner and I put all of my energy into my work."
"I've been a loner most of my life, too. I never thought about it, but I suppose I have more acquaintances than real friends, also. I'm happy so that's all that matters."
"Are you really happy, Frankie?"
"Yes. I am."
Johanna smiled. "I can now say that I have a new friend."
Frankie's heart was beating so fast she thought it would pop out of her chest.
Their working relationship improved and they enjoyed discussing the latest movies and books, but Johanna made no mention, either verbally or physically, of taking their friendship to the next level. At the end of their shift they went their separate ways.
At first Frankie assumed Johanna just wasn't attracted to her in any way other than friendship. It made their working relationship more pleasant and after a while, she concluded that Johanna might be afraid to get involved with someone she worked with, because of what had happened in California. Even though she knew it was a risk for both of them, it was a risk she was willing to take. Sometimes she caught Johanna gazing at her with a strange look in her eyes. In any event, Frankie was undeniably interested in her and needed to find out, one way or the other, if she stood a chance. The not knowing was driving her crazy. One chilly night, weeks later, she got up the courage to ask Johanna out on an official date.
Johanna smiled. "I wondered when you'd get around to it."
Frankie frowned. "If I'd waited for you to make a move I'd be old and gray."
Johanna laughed. "I'm not good at making the first move. Okay, that's not true. I'm scared, but I'm willing to take a chance. Just promise me that if things don't work out for us we won't let it destroy our working relationship."
Frankie's joy was so acute that it rendered her speechless and all she could do was numbly nod.
"How about tomorrow night?"
After their first date they were almost inseparable, having dinner out or at each other's apartments and going to movies and the theater. There was still a part of Johanna that Frankie couldn't reach, though, and she began to worry that Johanna's feelings for her weren't going to amount to anything more than a deep friendship with a few quick sisterly-type kisses thrown in every so often. Frankie tried to pull in the reins and gain control over her own emotions, but it was to no avail. She had fallen in love, but was smart enough to know she had to let Johanna take things to the next level if Johanna felt the same way.
If Johanna didn't, and had decided that she did indeed only want a close friendship, then Frankie would have to accept things as they were. She'd relish every moment she could with the woman who'd captured her heart without doing anything that would damage their friendship.
Several weeks later they'd returned to Johanna's apartment after seeing a movie and were sitting on the sofa enjoying a glass of wine when, much to Frankie's delight, Johanna took their relationship to a new level, also taking Frankie by surprise.
Johanna took Frankie's glass of wine and set it next to hers on the coffee table. Neither said a word as Johanna looked into her eyes. All Frankie knew was that those lips she longed to kiss were almost upon hers. She slightly parted her lips as Johanna's moved closer. A surging heat coursed through her body when their lips finally met and Johanna's tongue eagerly sought hers. Frankie had never felt such desire and her hands trembled as she wrapped her arms around Johanna's neck. When the kiss ended, Frankie's body was visibly shaking with desire.
Johanna leaned her head on Frankie's shoulder. Frankie smelled the scent of her perfume and wanted to taste her lips again. Her fingertips lightly caressed Johanna's arm. Johanna shifted her body, and without saying a word, pulled Frankie down on top of her. Her lips hungrily sought Frankie's, causing Frankie's passion to erupt as her hands, at last, were allowed to seek the treasures she'd waited so patiently for. Trembling, she stared in awe at Johanna's beautiful nakedness.
They maintained a low profile at work, but when they were alone, they fell into one another's arms, their desire for one another insatiable. For the next two years they kept their relationship private, then mutually decided to leave the police force, pool their resources, move out of the city, and open their own private detective agency. Neither had regretted the decision and their love and respect for one another had blossomed and grown through the years.
Frankie snapped back to the present, stifling a yawn, as she trained her eyes on Graham McHenry. She didn't like him. Something was off. She couldn't put her finger on it, but it would eventually come to her. It always did. He was arrogant, and by the looks of his expensive tailor-made suit, it was apparent that he expected others to bow to his every whim.
Johanna handed McHenry a contract. He looked it over for a minute, signed it, and then slid it across the desk to her with a check. "Here's five thousand dollars to start. Let me know when it runs out." He rose abruptly. "I'll call you in a couple of days. I've got to go out of town on business."
"When are you leaving?" Frankie asked.
He flicked a piece of lint from his suit coat. "Late this evening." He handed her a business card. "If you need to contact me, my answering service will put your call through." He stood up, nodded, then turned and swiftly made his way to the door, exiting as swiftly as he had entered.
Johanna leaned back in her soft leather chair and frowned at Frankie. "I don't like him. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something off about him."
Frankie laughed. "You've read my mind. Great minds think alike."
"Ah, that's why we work so well together." She glanced at the notes she'd taken. "So, any ideas? Or were you tuning him out? You seemed to be daydreaming."
"I can't help myself when you're dressed the way you are today. All I have to do is look at your legs and ... well you know."
Johanna threw her head back and laughed. "I never dreamed I'd ever find someone who still turned me on as much as the day we first met."
Frankie grinned. "That's what I was daydreaming about. It was torture waiting and hoping that you'd want me as much as I did you when we first met. I knew the first time we made love that I'd never get enough of you."
"That goes double for me, baby. So, where do you want to start with the Cassandra McHenry case?"
"I suppose tonight we should stakeout the mansion and see if Cassandra leaves and where she goes."
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