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A Case of Love [MultiFormat]
eBook by Wendy Stone

eBook Category: Romance/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: Mackenzie Hunter was a small feisty woman with the will and drive, to do something her family wasn't happy about. Gideon Hawkins was a narcotics cop with a chip on his shoulder and the attitude to keep it there. What happens when Mackenzie goes undercover to find out information on the biggest Narc operation in the city? Will Hawk be able to save Mac when a serial arsonist decides he's her biggest fan? Will this become a murder case, or will it be their own, Case of Love?

eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Eternal Press, Published: 2009, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2009

13 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

* * * *

The streets were surprisingly quiet for a Friday night. Mackenzie Hunter yanked again on the skirt of the short dress she wore, cursing under her breath. It hadn't been her idea to be out here this late at night, especially not dressed the way she was. Damn Selena Jenkins the advice columnist and her stupid ideas to hell.

So yeah, truthfully, she could have said no. She could have gone about getting the story her own way and be doing it in her comfortable jeans and tennis shoes. She could have snuck back into the alley behind the huge warehouse, and climbed up on the dumpster like a good reporter should.

But no-o-o-o. She had to listen to the paper's big mouthed advice columnist. Yanking down her skirt once more and balancing precariously on the sky high skinny heels she wore on her tortured feet. She reached into the purse she carried, feeling the wires she'd pulled out of her car engine and then the tape recorder. Hitting the buttons, she set it to voice activation by feel and then reached out and knocked on the big door in the front of the warehouse.

Kenzie heard the sound of male voices inside, then footsteps heading toward the doorway. She shook her head quickly, making her short black curls dance around her heart shaped face. Her hand slid down past her waist, to rest on her hip, in a typical come hither type stance.

"What you want, girlie?" the deep, raw voice of the man boomed at her. He was tall, well built, but with a face that would send even the worst child to bed.

She jumped, startled by the sound of his voice after the quiet. "Uh...my car broke down," she said finally, turning to indicate the stranded vehicle that was just down the street. "I saw your lights on and wanted to know if I could use your phone."

"Hey boss!" he shouted over his shoulder. "We got us a honey out here who's got car troubles. You want I should let her in?"

Kenzie couldn't hear what was said, but suddenly her arm was engulfed in a huge hand that easily wrapped around her bicep, pulling her through the door and into the front of the warehouse. She was dragged unceremoniously across stained and oily concrete. She groaned, as the hated shoes were scuffed and scraped as she tried to keep up with the tall man's large stride, knowing Selena was going to kill her. They were her shoes, borrowed when she'd been conned into the stupid undercover act.

"Well, well," a new voice spoke up, forcing Kenzie to glance up from the hated shoes. "What have we got here?"

"M...my car broke down a little ways from here and yours were the only lights that I could see on. I...uh...need to borrow a phone to call my boyfriend and have him come and get me." Her eyes roamed over everything she could see as she made her little speech, eyeing the three men sitting at a round table, a sheet thrown over its stacked contents, hiding them from her eyes.

"A busted car? This is a dead end street, honey. What were you doing on it this late at night?" The man rose from his seat and Kenzie could see a white, powdery substance smeared on the edge of one cuff of his shirt.

Cocaine she thought, excitement making her pulse beat wildly. She knew it had to be drugs, she'd just known it.

"I'm lost," she giggled nervously, seeing the man's eyes roaming over her body, settling on her well defined breasts, in the tight red mini-dress that Selena had loaned her. "Then, when my car started sputtering, I turned onto this side street." She shrugged, watching as his eyes followed the slight jiggle of her breasts.

Her eyes narrowed as sudden recognition struck her. Jimmy "the Dog" Tanelli, head of one of the more bold drug cartels here in Monroe City. He was well known for being bold as brass with his dealings and had acquired his nickname because of his love of the ladies. Kenzie felt a thrill of excitement tingle over her, sending goose flesh to tease her skin. If Jimmy Tanelli was here, this was bigger news than she'd thought.

"Why don't you let the sweet little girl go, Kenny," Jimmy said to the big man still holding her arm. "Go on out and check on her car, maybe we can fix it for her and save her from having to make that call." He reached out and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to him as his fingers trailed over the skin left bare by the halter topped dress.

"Whatever you say, boss." Kenny grinned, knowing what Jimmy had in mind and also knowing he'd be given his share when he got back in.

"Here, come sit on my lap while we wait, er...what's your name?"

"Ma...ry, Mary," she repeated, giving herself a mental shake.

"I'm Jimmy," he said, pulling her down on his lap as soon as he was seated.

"Uh, no," she said, trying to get back up. "If I could just..."

"Shut up," Jimmy growled. He wrapped his arm around her waist, stopping her from moving. Her soft ass pressed hard against his cock, growing harder as she wiggled to get free. "Kenny's gonna go and fix your car for you, the least you can do is show your appreciation." He chuckled, turning her slightly. "I know my friends over there would love to see you thanking me for being such a charitable guy."

"I...I think you've got the wrong impression," she said, her voice shaking as she felt him move under her, pressing against her. She reached out her hand, looking for something that would help her move away from him and grabbed a handful of the sheet that covered the table. Yanking on it she pulled it free, leaving the contents of the top exposed.

Her eyes lit on the bricks of white powder encased in heavy clear plastic, wrapped in tape. A few lines of the stuff were next to it and a large stack of money, more than Kenzie had ever seen before was next to that. "Oh," she gasped. "I...I'm sorry."

One of the other men rose quickly, grabbed the sheet and pulled it back over the table. In the process, his eyes met hers.

Kenzie gasped again, feeling the heat of his stare drill through her. He had brown eyes, the color of melted milk chocolate, beneath slashing black brows. His hair was shaggy as if three weeks past due for a haircut, touching the top of his collar. He wore a leather jacket and a soft gray tee shirt that clung to his chest, showing off a body that was hard and strong.

He stared at her as if he knew her, recognition shining in those brown eyes.

"Tanelli, we ain't got time for fooling around now, especially not with some bimbo out looking to get laid. We gonna do business here or not?"

"All things in due time, my friend," Jimmy said, his eyes roaming over the squirming figure he held in his arms. "This is the finest piece to fall into my arms in a long time. I think she needs to be savored, not rushed."

"No! I...I'm sorry. I..."

"Shut up, bitch," Jimmy said, drawing a knife from under the sheet on the table. He slid the back side of the blade across her cheek, pressing in enough to leave a welt. "You behave yourself and maybe I won't have to kill you when I'm through with you."

"I didn't come here to get involved in rape and murder," the stranger with the brown eyes argued. "I came here to conclude a business deal. Drop the bitch and let's get down to it."

"I don't like your tone," Jimmy growled, jumping up from his chair and knocking Kenzie to the ground. "Change it, Hawkins, or you'll be finding yourself six foot under."

"Whoa, Jimmy," Hawkins said, his hands raised. "Don't have a coronary. Can't you just hold off on getting your jollies until we conclude business? I got other people I have to see yet tonight."

Kenzie watched as the men argued, slowly sliding across the stained floor as she tried to reach the door before they noticed her. She kept her eyes peeled on the two men, inching her way backwards until she reached the wall. Turning to look for the door, she found herself staring at two huge boot encased feet.

Her eyes lifted slowly, taking in the dirty jeans that hugged hard thighs and slim hips, over the wide chest and finally up to the face of the man who'd opened the door for her in the first place.

"Going somewhere?" he asked, swinging her press pass in front of her face. "Mackenzie Hunter," he read aloud, catching Jimmy's attention. "Monroe City Press."

"Monroe City Press?" Jimmy growled. Stalking over to Kenzie he grabbed a hold of her hair to drag her to her feet. "You're a fucking reporter?"

Kenzie grabbed hold of Jimmy's wrists to keep him from yanking every hair out of her head. "Let me go!" she cried, kicking at his leg as hard as she could.

"I don't think so, bitch. A reporter, a fucking reporter. How could you be so stupid as to let her in?"

"She don't look like no reporter, boss."

"She's probably wired," Hawkins groused, grabbing the sheet off the table as he stood. He threw the bricks of cocaine into a satchel, closed it and took hold of the handles. "I'm getting out of here now, before the cops show up."

"Sit your ass down, Hawk. You ain't going anywhere until we finish with our business."

"We've finished, Tanelli. You can't keep it in your pants long enough to finish the deal, you invite reporters in while we're doing this and you expect me to stick around? Fuck you."

Jimmy kept his hold in Kenzie's hair, dragging her back to the table. "Your shit's first rate?" he asked Hawkins.

"The best, cut so smooth it makes you feel as if you can fly."

"You got a deal," Jimmy said, leaning over and snorting the line on the table.

"Two hundred thousand cash, Jimmy. I can't take anything less for what I got."

"You'll get your money, Hawk. Now, to seal the deal, how about you come over here and help me with our little reporter?"

Kenzie felt his eyes roaming over her body and shivered. She was in a whole heap of trouble. "M...my editor knows where I am," she said quickly. "He's probably got the cops coming right now."

Jimmy laughed, using Kenzie's hair to throw her off balance he sent her stumbling towards Hawkins. "Come, my friend," he said in a courteous tone as if he were offering coffee to the man. "Take a taste of that sweetness and we can share her to celebrate our deal."

Hawkins caught her easily enough, using one arm to hold her against his body. She was soft and curved, slender with long legs and big amber colored eyes that were now wide with fear.

"Please, don't," she cried, pushing against him with her hands. But he held her easily, as if she were a mere child. Kenzie felt a sob grow in her chest and tried to swallow it back, she had to keep her wits or else, well, she didn't want to think of the or else. "You don't want to do this."

Hawk dropped his satchel onto the chair he'd been sitting on when she'd arrived, his free hand going to the back of her neck. "You shouldn't have come in here, little girl," he growled softly, just loud enough for her to hear. "It was incredibly stupid."

She stared up at him, her rapid breathing causing her breasts to heave against his chest. "Please," she said again, watching his face as he slowly leaned down to her.

"Oh, I will," he growled, right before his lips brushed against hers, hot and moist, clinging to the softness he found. He tugged on her hair, forcing her head back further, fusing his mouth to hers and twisting her lips apart.

Kenzie felt his tongue slip between her lips and she cringed, expecting to feel disgust and loathing. Instead, heat flared between them, surprising her. His mouth was sweet, tasting a bit like coffee. His tongue swept inside and caressed hers, causing a shiver of awareness to flood over her. She couldn't help the soft moan that escaped her, flushing as she heard coarse male laughter around her.

"I think she likes him," Jimmy joked, his hand coming down hard on Kenzie's ass. "What do you say girl? Do you like him?"

She started to struggle, mortified by the feelings that were running through her. Tearing her mouth away from his, she panted, glaring up at him with a look of loathing that he couldn't help but understand. "Leave me alone," she ordered harshly.

Jimmy grabbed her arm, dragging her out of Hawkins' arms and back into his own. His mouth came down on hers, hard and hurting, cutting the inside of her lips on her teeth. Blood flooded her mouth, leaving the heavy metallic taste that combined with her fear, made her nauseous. Fingers touched her back, left bare by her dress, going up to the tie that held the top of her dress up and deftly unfastened it. Other hands went to the zipper at her waist and she felt it slide down, exposing a goodly amount of flesh left uncovered by the red satin thong she wore.

She struggled, trying to bite the tongue he thrust into her mouth. Jimmy pulled away, his hand slashing quickly toward her. Kenzie ducked her head, trying to avoid the slap but it never came. She glanced back up and was startled to see Hawkins, his hand wrapped around Jimmy's wrist, easily stopping him from hitting her.

"Don't bruise the merchandise," Hawk said, the threat apparent even though his voice was soft.

"The bitch bit me," Jimmy growled. "She needs to be taught who the master is around here."

Hawk's eyes sparkled for a moment. "Yeah, so do you," he said, pushing the man back. "Let me show you how it's done."

"I thought you didn't want a piece."

"I changed my mind," Hawk said, pulling Kenzie close to him. He grabbed the ties at her neck and let the bodice of the short dress fall to her waist, exposing full, rounded breasts tipped with red nipples. His hand came up, cupping one, his thumb brushing back and forth against the turgid tip, feeling it grow harder, either from his caress or from the coldness of the air in the warehouse, he wasn't sure.

The dress started to slip further, but Hawk stopped it, dragging her up against his chest so that her breasts were flattened into him. He leaned closer, his mouth finding hers for a short moment before sliding to her jaw and nibbling his way to her ear. "Play along," he whispered, running his tongue around the whorl of her ear. "The cops will be here soon."

She turned her head, her eyes staring up into his, narrowing as she studied him. Then with a low moan, she moved closer to him, her hands moving up and over his chest, wrapping around his neck... Her mouth found his, this time by her own initiative, her soft lips clinging moistly.

Hawk groaned, pulling her even closer. She was responding to him wholeheartedly, her body moving against his, her lips and tongue tempting him to take her. He felt her stomach brush against the hard ridge of his cock and he felt the insane urge to lift her in his arms and take her somewhere they could finish this in private.

He could hear the men making lustful remarks and calling out encouragement, but it was a dull buzz of noise behind the taste of her mouth and the feel of her body. He was going up in flames and didn't care if he burned to the ground, not now.

"Police!" The front door of the office burst open, the battering ram that had done the deed thrown to the side as black garbed officers in heavy tactical armor flooded the room. "On the ground! Now!" was shouted.

Hawk lifted his head, breathing a sigh of relief as well as a sigh of disgust for the timely interruption. He quickly retied Kenzie's top, hearing her gasp as he zipped up the skirt as well.

Then he felt himself pushed to the ground, and he turned to lie on his stomach as he was instructed, his legs crossed and his arms behind his head. He was patted down and cuffed before being lifted to his knees. He saw the girl standing over by one of the officers, holding out her identification even as another cop handed her a blanket to wrap around herself.

She seemed to feel him staring and turned, meeting his eyes with the beautiful amber of her own. "Mackenzie Hunter," he said softly, sending her a smile that she quickly turned away from.

Then he was led outside and put in a cruiser.

* * * *

"Damn it, Hawk, next time I get to go undercover you get to sit in the van and listen to me kissing the babes."

Hawk grinned as his partner Detective Angelo Gutierrez stormed back and forth in front of his desk. "Yeah, sure, Ang, I'll make sure you get the undercover assignment with the babes. But what are you going to do when an anonymous envelope full of incriminating pictures, arrives at your door addressed to your wife?"

Angelo turned, grinning sheepishly. "You wouldn't...you would," he answered himself, seeing the shit eating grin on Hawk's face. "Dammit all, Hawk!"

"Shut up, Ang, you know Carla is everything you ever wanted in a woman. You'd cut off your own dick before you'd hurt her." He laughed as his partner got that lovesick puppy dog expression on his face as he thought of his own beautiful Carla.

"I got lucky, Hawk. Maybe someday, if you can quit playing the field long enough, you'll have a grown up relationship with a woman." He patted his partner on the head as he passed his desk in the Narcotics bullpen, going to his own desk to sit down and finish his report.

"I've had relationships," Hawk growled, glaring at Angelo. "Just because I don't want to walk down the aisle and subject some innocent woman to the life of a cop's wife doesn't mean that I don't have relationships."

"We work too many long hours, it's dangerous..." he began.

"...and the divorce rate for cops is out of this world," they finished together, making Angelo laugh and Hawk grit his teeth.

"Yeah, buddy, so you keep saying. So how come Carla and I have been together so long?"

"She feels sorry for you. Pity is a huge inducement for women."

"Fuck you," Ang laughed. "She just can't get enough of this sexy body of mine." He glanced down at the soft flesh that ringed his middle, patting it with his hand.

Hawk snorted, kicking his feet up on the corner of his desk he leaned back in his chair. "I can't believe we got him, finally."

"Yeah, Jimmy Tanelli is going down, possession with the intent to sell, kidnapping, assault, and we found three pistols in the back of the warehouse. Ballistics has them now and they're going to see if they match the bullets found at the scene of the three murders we think he did. You did good, partner."

"It's going to be good to go home to my own bed tonight. That motel the captain set me up at was the worst ever. I swear the bed had bugs." He leaned back a little further while stretching, and a yawn caught him by surprise, almost popping his jaw. "I think I'm going to get out of here, Ang. You can finish writing this up, can't you?"

"Yeah, I got it. Go home, get some sleep. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Hawk grabbed his jacket and the roll bag he'd picked up from the motel before he'd been dropped off back here and headed out. Narcotics was on the fifth floor of the biggest precinct in Monroe City. They had the entire floor, a nice set up with conference rooms and offices as well as a room they called The Crib. It held cots, set up with blankets and pillows for anyone needing ten minutes. Hawk had spent his fair share of time trying to blank out the noise of the precinct to catch five minutes of sleep to keep him going when things got hairy.

Now he had a couple of days off. He'd been eating, sleeping, and breathing the Tanelli case since that bastard came to town two years before. No one had been able to get close enough to him, no one until Hawk. It had taken him months of careful planning to be able to infiltrate Tanelli's world and get close enough to him to be trusted.

Mackenzie Hunter came to mind. She'd almost blown it for him tonight, showing up at exactly the wrong time. How had the press gotten wind of the deal happening tonight? He'd been careful, well more than careful; he was almost obsessive-compulsive over his dealings with Tanelli.

Well, there was only one way to find out. He whistled as he got on the elevator, hitting the button for the basement parking lot. He glanced at his watch, it was only a little after two a.m. What could be a more perfect time to find out?

* * * *

Mackenzie finished her story, sending it in by email to her editor. She rose, pulling the ties on the dress and yanking it off, leaving it on the floor as she went into the bathroom.

Minutes later, she emerged flushed from her shower, her hair still wet, curled riotously around her head. She pulled on a big soft tee shirt over her still damp body, grabbed a pair of boxers out of a drawer and slid them over her long legs before heading out to the kitchen. She hadn't been able to eat earlier today, too nervous about what she'd decided to do.

Opening the refrigerator, she groaned, realizing she'd forgotten once more to go to the grocery store this week. She pulled out a bottle of water and a box that contained leftover Chinese from two nights before, slipping it into her microwave and turning it on.

While she waited, she leaned against the counter, her mind on what had happened tonight. He'd saved her, Hawk or Hawkins, whatever his name was. He'd saved her from being raped right there in front of all those men. What was he, a criminal with a conscience?

There was a loud knocking on her front door and she sighed, setting down her water. It had to be Selena. Only she would be up this late at night and think that everybody else would be as well. She headed toward the door, picking up the dress from where it lay, wrinkled on the floor.

"Thanks, Selena," she said, as she undid the four locks and the chain on her door. "I appreciate the loan. Let me know how much the dry cleaning...is...... What are you doing here?" she rasped harshly as she opened the door and saw who was on the other side.

"I thought you might be hungry," Hawk said, holding up a pizza box that had a six pack of beer balanced on top of it. "I know I always am after closing a case."

He walked in, not waiting to be invited, hearing her gasp at his audacity. It made him smile, she was such a prickly little thing, and in that tee shirt and boxers, she'd have looked almost twelve if it weren't for the lush curves that rounded underneath that soft material.

"Who the hell are you?" she gasped, reaching over and grabbing her cell phone off the charger. She started to close the door, thought better of it and left it open a crack. "I thought you were arrested tonight along with your partner Tanelli?"

"Ah, darlin' that's what you get for thinking too much." He set the box down on her counter just as the microwave beeped. Opening it, he brought out the box that now steamed with heat, bringing it to his nose to sniff cautiously at the contents. "Eww, tell me you weren't planning on eating this." Without waiting for an answer, he dropped it in her trash can.

"That was my dinner," she gasped.

"Oh no, Mackenzie, you can't eat something like that, stunts your growth," he said, noting her diminutive size. "Anyway, my name is Gideon Hawkins, or Hawk if you like." He held out his hand to her, watching her eye it like it was a venomous snake. Smiling, he dropped it and turned to start going through her cupboards.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for plates," he answered, glancing back at her and noting where her eyes alighted when he said that. He opened the cupboard, pulling down two plates and then grabbed a couple of paper towels off the roll on the counter. "I hope you like mushrooms," he added, opening the box and pulling out thick gooey slices of pizza. He picked up both plates and set them on her coffee table, before picking up her bottle of water and grabbing a beer off of the plastic rings. "Dinner is served," he announced, settling himself on her couch.

Kenzie stared at him as if he was deranged. She held her cell phone opened, 911 already typed into it, her finger on the send button. "I thought you were arrested tonight."

"Well, you thought wrong. I was working undercover tonight. You almost blew my case for me." He took a bite of his pizza and chewed thoughtfully as he stared at her. "Well, you can either make that call or come here and eat dinner with me while we talk, choose one."

"Your case?" she asked, closing up the phone though she kept in it hand. "What do you mean, your case? Are you a cop or something?" She moved two steps closer, wrapping her arms around herself protectively.

"She finally catches on," he said, glancing up at the ceiling. "Hallelujah."

Her eyes narrowed and she glared at him as if she could kill him with one look. "Who are you?"

"Detective Gideon Hawkins. I thought we'd been through this before. I'm Hawk, you're Mackenzie Hunter, a very pretty name by the way. Now that we've got this out of the way, you should come and eat some of this pizza before I scarf it all and end up hating myself."

She stepped around the couch, sitting gingerly on the very edge of the cushion, her eyes watching his every move. "You were working undercover?"

"Yeah, for the past ten months." He watched as she leaned forward and grabbed her tape recorder, setting it up on the coffee table in front of him.

"You don't mind if I tape this, do you?"

"Yeah, I do. I work undercover with criminals, Mackenzie. You write anything that has to do with me and it could end up getting me killed." He reached out, grabbing the tape recorder out of her slender fingers, shifting on the seat he set it down out of her reach.

"Okay," she said slowly. "Do you mind if I ask what you're doing here, especially at almost three a.m.?"

"Pizza," he said, pointing at his half eaten slice. "I'm celebrating. I thought you might like to celebrate too, since you made it out of there with your life."

"Thanks to you," she said. "If you hadn't stepped in, that man would have hurt me. I guess I owe you a thank you."

He waved it away. "Just have some pizza. I have the next couple of days off, you wouldn't want to go out with me, would you?"

He said it quickly, as if he could just slip it into the conversation. It startled her as she reached out and picked up the pizza, taking a bite as she stared at him. "You want to go out with me?"

"Yeah. I don't think either of us was imagining the attraction we felt earlier."

She felt the blush climb into her cheeks, thinking of earlier reminded her of being half naked in front of all those men and the way his hand had felt as he'd gently cupped her breast.

"I...I don't..."

"Oh no," he said, shaking his head sadly.

"What?" she asked, her eyes narrowing again as she tried to keep up with his continual changing of subjects.

"Well, you were about to tell me you didn't feel anything earlier. Then I'd have to call you a liar and that's not the way to start any kind of relationship." He reached out and laid his hand against hers, hearing her gasp as he felt that same shock of awareness he had before. "See what I mean," he said, his voice growing husky.

"How do you know I'm not already seeing someone?" she asked, pulling her hand away from him.

"Are you?"

"Well, no. But you didn't know that."

"I'd like to hope that a classy woman like you would never lead a man on," he said, reaching out and tugging on a lock of her hair. "So, will you go out with me?"

* * * *

Chapter Two

* * * *

Mackenzie Hunter walked into the newsroom early the next morning despite the lateness of her night before. She carried her briefcase in one hand and a huge cup of coffee in the other. As she left the elevator, a round of applause started from the people already gathered at their desks.

"Great job, Mackenzie," her boss and Editor-in-chief Ron Brent said, as he walked up to greet her. "Front page is all you."

Kenzie took the copy of the Press that he handed her, dropping her briefcase down on top of her cluttered desk as she did. Her byline ran under the heading "Dog Caged In Warehouse Raid". A picture of the warehouse from the air and another of Jimmy Tanelli were prominent under it. "Thanks, Ron." She sat down, scanning the piece quickly. "You ran it almost word for word."

Ron stared down into her astonished face, patting her flushed cheek. "It was a good piece. It really didn't need much editing. Keep at it kid."

Selena sauntered up as Ron turned away. The tall redhead stood on another pair of four inch heels. They made her legs, showcased in thin black silk hose, look endless. A tiny black leather skirt covered what was absolutely necessary, to keep her out of jail for public nudity. It hugged her hips, leaving a good three inches of exposed taut stomach between it and the hem of her sweater.

"I told you the dress would work," she said, tapping a bright red, lethal looking nail against the paper. "I hope you remember that when you win the Pulitzer. I expect a thank you."

"I owe you that and a new pair of shoes." She said the last quickly, muffling her voice behind her cup of coffee.

"What was that?" Selena's painfully arched brows raised. "What did you do to my shoes?"

"Damn, what are you psychic?" Kenzie sighed. "They got scuffed up on the cement and then the heel snapped as I was walking back to my car."

"You've got to be kidding me," Selena screamed, drawing all eyes to her. "Do you know how much those damn shoes cost? They were..."

"Yeah, I know, expensive, came from Italy, cost two weeks worth of salary and you probably only wore them once," Kenzie broke in, stopping the tirade. "I'll buy you new ones."

The tall, slender woman stared down at her seated companion. "You couldn't afford them. Besides," she said finally, "they were last years. I was getting ready to give them to Good Will anyway." She bent, giving the men in the room stiff necks as they tried to get a better look up her skirt, and buzzed a kiss by Kenzie's cheek. "You really did do good, kid."

"Thanks." Kenzie watched her saunter away, male heads turning as she passed, and took another sip of her quickly cooling coffee. She'd done it, she'd gotten the story and come out the other side alive. This wasn't her first front page story since leaving Texas and her tiny little hometown, but it was the biggest and the most dangerous. This front page of the Monroe City Press was definitely being framed.


She looked up, and saw Ron standing at the door of his office. "Yeah Ron!"

"Apartment fire on Third and Houston. They called in the Arson Squad. Get down there and quit resting on your laurels." Ron grinned as she shot up, grabbed her purse and headed out of the newsroom.

* * * *

Hawk's radio squawked loudly with static buzzing, and then a loud voice came over the airway.

He reached out, batting at his clock radio, knocking it off the nightstand. When it kept making a noise, he reached down, ripping the cord out of the wall and threw it across the room. With a sigh, he settled back into the warm nest of his blankets, his eyes closing.

Next to his door another radio blared, heavy metal music screaming into the room. The shock forced him to sit up, glaring at the damn machine where it sat safely across the room from him. "O-fucking-k, I'm up," he growled, pulling himself out of his bed and slamming his hand down on the off button. "Whoever decided that morning starts at six a.m. needs to get their fucking heads examined."

He tossed a wistful glance over at his bed and then sighed heavily. He couldn't get back in it. He had court today on another case and he wasn't going to miss it... With his eyes half opened, he made his way into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Staring into the mirror while the water heated, he scratched at the heavy stubble on his chin, yawning again.

Sleepy, blood shot brown eyes stared back at him. Set in an oval face with a stubborn jaw and a mouth that was just a touch to wide to be symmetrical, he considered himself to be a good enough looking guy. He usually didn't have any problems wooing the ladies when he set his mind to it. So what had happened last night?

"Mackenzie Hunter," he said quietly, enjoying her name. She was an enigma, hot as hell in his arms in that warehouse but she'd stonewalled him last night. She'd eaten his pizza, talked to him, hell she'd even laughed at him, but when he'd asked her out, she'd gone cold.

He turned when the mirror fogged over with steam, stepping into the hot water with a sigh of relief. His shoulder ached and his right leg twinged, reminding him of the bullet that had almost taken his life. He turned, letting the water soak into him, letting the heat relieve some of the worst of it before grabbing the soap and getting cleaned up.

Twenty minutes later, it was a much different looking Gideon Hawkins that locked his apartment door, by passing the elevator to run the ten flights of stairs down to the lobby of his building. He passed his door man, Fred Grayson.

"Hey, Hawk, I see you got him," Fred called, lifting up his copy of the Press. "Great job."

"Yeah, thanks. Press got a hold of it already," he sighed, shaking his head. News people were the bane of his job.

"That sassy Mackenzie Hunter got front page," Fred grinned. He'd been drooling over Kenzie since he'd first seen her picture.

"You know Mackenzie Hunter?" Hawk asked, slowing his step and turning back to Fred.

"No, but oh do I wish I did." He clutched the paper to his heart, sighing dramatically. "I saw her on this awards show once on the television. She's got the best set of tits I've ever seen."

Hawk wondered what Fred would say if he knew that he'd been fondling those very same tits last night. "She seems pretty gutsy."

"Too gutsy. Considering what she says in this article, she was right there when the cops broke down the doors of the warehouse. She could have gotten shot." Fred shook his head. "Wait, that was your deal. Did you get to meet her?"

"I gotta go, Fred," Hawk said, turning away without giving an answer. "Talk to you later."

"Wait a second, you did get to didn't you? Oh come on, Hawk, give me something," Fred called as Hawk hurried down the front walk towards his car.

Hawk just waved and kept going.

Traffic was light this morning and he made good time getting to the office, parking his car in the underground parking lot he grabbed the elevator up to the fifth floor. He needed time to review his notes on the case in court today, and it was quiet enough to give him the chance.

It wasn't until he reached his desk that he saw the smoke.

* * * *

Two blocks over, kids were getting ready to go to school, parents were hustling them into clothing and through breakfast, anxious to get to work. Television sets were blaring, babies were crying for breakfast and one man stood in a bare stairwell, a small can empty of its gasoline sitting next to him. He played with his lighter, flipping it open and closed, staring at the streamers of gas that he'd trailed up and down these stairs.

The smell saturated his nose; it crept into his senses and made him moan as only a well known lover could do. The sounds of the building, the creak of pipes, the voices of the people, the clattering of dishes and the raucous noise of all those televisions assaulted his ears. Fire would be his vengeance. Fire would stop the voices, stop the attacks and make them sorry.

Fire...his fire.

The lighter opened and he flicked the round wheel, sending a spark to the wick. With glee, he watched it ignite, the smell of the lighter fluid a different kind of lover. With a tiny giggle of insanity, he set the flame to the gas on the carpeted steps of the old building and watched it flare.

Then the dragon was loose, free to eat, to consume and render, to tear at the bowels of the building and its incessant noise. He watched it for a few short moments, his hand slowly stroking over his hard cock, wishing he could free himself and stroke to climax here, to feed the fire with his seed. But that could leave a clue for the police and firemen and he couldn't do that, not if he wanted to stay free.

He had to stay free. He had to or else the noise would take him over and he would lose himself forever. Picking up the gas can, he turned it on its end so that any gasoline would drip out, leaving it sitting on one of the stairs after wiping it down one last time to rid it of any fingerprints. Then he hurried down the stairs, pushing through the outside door, he stripped off the gloves and pushed the lighter back in his pocket.

He turned to walk away, refusing to look back even though the sound of the fire called to him, whispered insidiously to him. He'd come back, but only after the fire trucks were there, only when he could see his greatness written in the black inky smoke that would stain the sky.

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