“Is that all?” the stupid shit asked, brushing an invisible piece of lint off his shirt. “Because you’ve wasted enough of my time.”
Add arrogant to the list. “You were spotted at a murder scene, so no, that isn’t all. You’re under arrest.”
“I never kid,” Hector said. “Turn around and put your arms behind your head.”
Finally, panic. Gordman erupted into motion, a blur Noelle couldn’t lock on. Which was probably a good thing. They needed to question him further, and because humans couldn’t be stunned, the only thing her pyre-gun would do was kill him.
He threw himself at Hector, and the pair crashed into the wall, a tangle of hammering fists and kicking legs. They’d both lived on the streets, and it showed. They went for the throat, the groin, nothing held back.
Because his boss would never trust him again? Because his boss would kill him to eliminate a potential witness to past crimes?
Noelle would have sat on the table and watched from there, but… ick. So she stood off to the side and allowed Hector to impress her with his savage skill. And oh, did he impress her.
Every time Gordman dove for one of the discarded blades, Hector was there, kicking him in the head and sending him flying, blood spraying. Bastard always got right back up, though, barely winded, as if he had a steel plate in his head. Hell, maybe he did.
Then Hector palmed one of his own blades, and got down to business. How sexy he was, a bit battered, golden eyes glittering with purpose.
Hector threw out an arm, but Gordman blocked with an upraised knee. A fast spin, Hector going low, and he nailed his opponent in the thigh. Another howl from Gordman as Hector straightened and swung a fist into his cheek.
The impact sent Gordman flying to the side, the blade jerking out of his leg. Hector followed him, going lower still, and stabbing Gordman in the ankle before he could leap out of the way.
Gordman fell to his knees, no longer able to support his weight. Merciless Hector wasn’t done. He barreled into Gordman, sending him propelling to his back. With barely a pause to gain his bearings, he turned the blade, hilt protruding from his fist, and slammed the hard, rounded surface into Gordman’s temple.
Hector, being Hector, straightened and kicked him in the stomach. No gasp of pain, no flinching. Gordman was well and truly out.
Panting, sweating, Hector picked him up fireman style. Keeping his back to her, he said, “Well?”
“Well, your timing needs a little work, but your level of vicious is off the charts and highly—”
A low, rumbling growl erupted from his throat. “I wasn’t asking for a critique. I was saying that now that I’ve done all the work, aren’t you going to get the door?”
“Oh. No. I told you. I’m not touching anything, and that includes the ID panel. And your hands will need a through enzyme wash before they are allowed anywhere near me again.”
He laughed, the sound rusty, and yet the tension drained out of him.
I did that, she marveled, utterly awed. I amused him. Pride swept through her.
“I prefer the word intelligent.” She was getting through to him. Despite his fears, she was cracking through his resistance. I’ll have you yet, Hector Dean.
Outside, the storm had at last burst through the clouds. Rain had sent everyone scurrying for shelter and now beat against the concrete.
When Hector started to make a dash for their car, Noelle stopped him with a shouted, “Let’s find out which car belongs to Gordman. I have an idea.”
Without asking any questions, he pressed the bruiser’s limp hand into every ID panel on every car parked on the street. Took ten minutes, and they were soaked to the bone, but finally their efforts paid off. The locks to a black BMW automatically unlatched.
“Thank you,” Noelle said, sliding inside. Dirty water pooled around her, probably staining the seat, definitely leaving a ring. Hector couldn’t say he was sorry. The stupid bastard had cracked one of his ribs. He deserved this and more. “You can lock him in our car now.”
He did, with no finesse whatsoever, and returned to Noelle. “What are you doing?”
She’d already ripped the console apart, hooked her cell phone to the appropriate wire, and was currently scrolling through… something. “I’m checking his GPS. He has no known address, and I’ll bet that means he’s been living with his boss. Neither of them would have wanted that on the record, you know. Anyway, that’s the address he would have visited the most.”
A moment of silence as Hector absorbed her words. “Smart.” And damned impressive.
He grinned. Adrenaline still pumped through his veins, but his arms were chilled out, and that was good. Being worked over by Noelle before the fight had probably saved that building and everyone in it. Not that he could ever let something like that happen again.
His grin faded. “Can you record every address he’s visited in the past year?” His voice was harsher than he’d intended. “Maybe we’ll find where other women are being kept.”
“Now who’s the smart one? I’ll send each one to Mia.”
A few more minutes passed, the rain hammering at his bruised body. Damn, but Gordman had iron in his knuckles. Worth it, though. Had the guy gone for Noelle, Hector wasn’t sure what he would have done or how he would have reacted. He’d had only one thought: protect her. And he’d been willing to kill—and die—to do so.
“Most visited place is indeed a residence,” she said. “Wealthy side of town, two streets over from my mother.”
One step closer to the truth, to closing this case successfully. Saving lives. “Check and find out who owns the house—”
“Done!” Silver eyes sparkled with glee as she whistled. “We have a name. Xavier Phillips. I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen him around and I know his reputation. He’s respected, a real hardass in the import/export business. Blond… like the superhero sketch.”
And yet another step, because of Noelle. He couldn’t believe that he’d once thought she would ruin every case she worked. Without her, he wouldn’t have gotten far. He owed her, in more ways than one.
Hector and Noelle sat in Mia’s office. Biggest office in AIR HQ, but small nonetheless. The ceiling was painted to look like a bright morning sky. Her desk was cluttered with equipment and weapons. A holoboard consumed one entire wall, photos and notes from all ongoing cases like tiny neon signs throughout.
“He’s as rich as I am,” Noelle said, “and we won’t be able to book an appointment to see him. Well, we will, we just won’t see him. We’ll flash our badges and his employees will pretend to cooperate. His attorneys will call us back—they’re always on site, guaranteed—and inform us that Phillips is out of town. An emergency. We’ll make another appointment, but there will always be something keeping him away.”
“Plus, we don’t exactly have any hard evidence against him,” Hector said. And he doubted Gordman, who was currently in lockup, sealed tight and being kept unconscious—just in case he had a cyanide pill they hadn’t found or had a way of contacting his boss—would give them anything.
The GPS from the car was considered circumstantial. Gordman could have been threatening Phillips, an attorney would say, visiting his property without permission. Or even that Gordman had been working on his own, without Phillips’s knowledge.
“So what do you want me to do?” Mia leaned back in her chair and folded her arms over her middle. She’d pulled her hair into a high ponytail and looked as young and innocent as kindergartener, not at all like the stone-cold killer she was.
“There’s a charity gala this weekend, and I’m betting he’ll be there,” Noelle said. “Tickets are two thousand a pop, and I have two.”
The reminder of her status made him uncomfortable, but nothing like before. She’d made her feelings for him clear. Respect. Desire. She was, by far, the world’s most amazing woman.
Mine. I want her to be mine. Only, ever mine.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “We can question him there. Try to trip him up, maybe get him to say something stupid that we can use against him later.”
“He’s too smart for that,” Mia said.
“Maybe. But around a crowd of rich people? I don’t like it.” The head of AIR frowned. “He’s a ruthless murderer, and if he strikes there…”
“With Gordman under arrest, and our agents raiding his warehouses”—already eight otherworlder females had been found, drugged out and awaiting auction, but they still couldn’t prove Phillips had anything to do with it yet—“he’ll know we’re hot on his trail,” Hector said. “We have to strike now.”
Heavy silence. A heavier sigh. “I had a holophoto of Phillips the moment you gave me his name. We showed it to each of tonight’s girls. Nothing. Gordman, on the other hand… they went hysterical at the sight of him.”
“Don’t you want to nail the man who put such a tool in charge?” Noelle asked, sly, so sly. “The party will allow us to gift-wrap him for you. But, okay, fine. You’d rather wait, give him time to hide evidence and kidnap more girls, that way—”
“God, you’re annoying.” Mia waved a hand through the air. “Fine. Go to the charity thing. Talk to Phillips, but no casualities or I swear to God you’re both fired.”
Noelle blinked innocently, and Hector had to stifle a laugh. No one mentioned her taking someone else, and for that he was grateful. He knew Dallas would have been a better choice. Smoother, able to suck up with a smile. Hector would be prickly and out of place, but no way in hell would he let Noelle go in without him.
“By the way. My anonymous tipster contacted me again. He said he’s helped us out so much, it’s our turn to help him. He wants to know the name and description of every female we find. I think someone he knows was taken, and he’s searching for her.”
“And you have no idea who he is?” Hector asked. “Or how he knew what we’d found.”
Another round of silence. Mia splayed her arms in a what the hell are you waiting for gesture. “That’s it. Dismissed.”
For Hector, the rest of the week ticked by torturously, every second agony. Not just because he foamed at the mouth to confront Phillips, a man he knew was responsible, but because of Noelle. Every day she grew bolder, said something naughtier, wore something more provocative. He’d thought resisting her before was tough.
This was tough; this was hell.
He would walk by, and she would make sure to brush against some part of him. He’d sit next to her, and she would play with a strand of his hair. He’d decide to snack, and she would decide to feed him by hand.
His resistance was crumbling. He yearned to take her up on her nightly offer and stay over. Quite simply, he wanted to be with her, whether he could touch her or not. He wanted to breathe her in, laugh at her smart-ass remarks. And they were funny as hell. A guy never knew what she’d say next.
Like the time he told her to stop dressing like she was asking for it, and she said, “Wait until you see the outfit that begs for it.”
The next day she’d examined her red satin sandals and with a frown said, “I’m thinking about buying two snakes.”
His are you kidding me “Why?” had caused her to shrug.
“I’d name them Leftie and Rightie and when they were big enough, they’d become Mamma’s boots.”
Dallas had heard Hector’s laughter as he’d passed by his office. The agent had stopped, looked inside, and though he’d smiled at them both, there’d been fear in his eyes.
His vision hadn’t yet happened. Hector hadn’t woken up naked next to Noelle, but if this kept up…
He had used every spare moment of his time trying to control his ability. So far, no luck. He’d scorched dozens of vegetables and nearly burned his house down. Now sexual frustration was a constant knot in his gut. In fact, his arms were currently itching, and his fucking tux offered very little relief.
None of that. He stood in Noelle’s foyer, waiting for her to come down. Tonight was the night they would nail the slaver’s ass to the wall.
No other enslaved women had been found, but no one else had been abducted or killed, so, gold star on that front. As Hector had figured, Gordman had refused to talk. Now it was time to see if Phillips would slip up and—
Noelle glided down her staircase, and Hector’s mind simply stopped working. His heart stopped beating. Her lips were plumped and glistening, color high in her cheeks. Her eyes were heavy-lidded, almost slumberous. Silky brown hair cascaded in luscious waves.
Her dress glimmered against her body like violets trapped in sunlight, one creamy shoulder left bare. The material flowed over her curves, molding to her like a second skin.
“I know what you’re thinking. I do look good in a variation of blue.”
A slit rode the length of her legs, revealing a mouth-watering glimpse of thigh with every step she made. But the best part? A studded amethyst choker wrapped around her neck. Bondage and seduction at once.