"I need a lover who will drive me crazy in all the right ways..."
Detective Drew Alwyn tapped his pen to the beat of the song in his head while he waited for Lieutenant Wallace to begin the briefing session.
In his twelve years with the Carrington Falls Police Department in Ohio, Drew had never imagined being alone. Wasn't a cop supposed to have a good woman to come home to? The next time he walked into his apartment, a wilted spider plant would offer the only comfort, and Drew wasn't the type to talk to greenery.
The scent of day-old coffee and industrial cleaner wafted into the cramped, grey discussion room. Drew rubbed his stomach to quell the rumbling. Coffee sounded awful, but a sandwich sounded so good-something with roast beef and cheese. When had he eaten last? The club sandwich at eleven-thirty. He flicked his wrist to check the time on his thick watch. Five-fifteen. Damn. vHe grabbed the bottle of soda from his backpack and uncapped it, then took a long draw. The sugar wouldn't quiet his hunger, but the caffeine would keep him awake when he ventured on duty in an hour. He took a pen from his notebook, clicked the button at the top and began doodling. The sound of conversation in the hallway did nothing to take his mind off the undercover operation or the death of his friend and colleague, Sergeant Randy McCall.
Drew's partner, a bear of a red-haired man named James Mateo, strolled into the room and sat down in the closest chair. "You ready for this one?"
Drew looked up from his sketch. "This one what? We knew the bastard couldn't stay underground for long. We just gotta prove he's the one who took McCall down and put him in the dumpster." He shuddered thinking about the photos of Randy hacked up and left to rot behind the gentlemen's club.
James crossed his legs and flipped open his notepad. "True. Randy was one hell of an officer, even if he chose the damn stupid name of Slade as a cover. Tiny's always looking to make a quick buck. You think he's shaking down the girls? It was a stroke of genius to send you and Nester in as customers. You know the lay of the so-called land and Tiny thinks you're clean. As clean as a bouncer in a strip club can be."
Drew added some details to his drawing and frowned. The woman in the sketch had begun to take on the features of the elusive female from down the hallway in his decoy apartment building. The soft-spoken brunette with the sparkling ice-blue eyes. The girl who lugged the enormous art portfolio down to the parking lot each morning. The one whose smile warmed his heart on the coldest evenings. The one woman he wanted to get to know better, preferably naked...and she had no idea.
He ground his teeth together. With this new undercover operation, any meeting with the sweet-natured female was out of the question. At least, not under the pretence of the truth.
"Is she your new girlfriend?"
Drew crinkled his brows. "No. I can't get with her." vJames elbowed Drew's ribs. "Why the hell not? If she's as hot as your scribble there, then you'd better hit that."
Drew shook his head. "I can't get involved while undercover. You know the rules as well as I do. Plus, if Carlie found out she'd kill me."
James slapped the pad on the wooden desk. "Bullshit. She walked away from you to screw around with Troy Balleswicz over in Vice. She doesn't deserve your second chances. So what's this chick's name?"
Drew tossed his pen onto his own graffiti-decorated desk. "You're right. I don't owe Carlie anything, but Wallace put her in the Silver Steel as one of the dancers-Gold Dust Woman, if I'm not mistaken. If I get the security detail, then I gotta work with her. She'll make life hell for any other female in my life. I don't need that kind of crap right now."
James folded his arms. "You didn't answer my question. What's Scribble's real name?"
"I'm not sure what her real name is. They have stage names." Drew raked his fingers through his hair. "I still haven't worked up the nerve to speak to her. She's quiet and always on the move. I can't pin her down unless she's at the club and I don't want to spook her by coming off as a pervert or another guy wanting to cop a quick feel." He averted his gaze from Mateo. "Trust me... If I could, I would ask this girl for a private dance."
Lieutenant Frank Wallace strolled into the room with retired Detective Ross Malsam in tow. James dug his elbow into Drew's ribs again. "When this is all over, you got a month of vacation time coming. Why not hunt her down and tag that?"