Dirty wicked, p.10
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       Dirty Wicked, p.10

         Part #11.5 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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  She lay a gentle hand on his forearm, trying to ease his tension. “We’ve got him. This should be enough to send him to prison for a long time.”

  “You better fucking believe it. We need to figure out who to give this to. Who will make sure this evidence gets into the hands of someone with enough power to take Clifford down? Since he’s the one responsible for prosecuting crime in this parish, it won’t be simple. And you can bet he won’t prosecute himself. New Orleans isn’t my town, so I don’t know who to trust.”

  “I’ve been thinking…” She gnawed on her lip and thought the idea through. It was risky, but doing nothing was deadly. “Make a copy of this on the hard drive. We need a backup.”

  “Already done, and as soon as we hit some reasonably secure Wi-Fi, I’ll be sending it to the Santiago brothers for safekeeping. Their backup system is incredibly hack-proof, fireproof, and redundant. Now what?”

  Sasha had never seen Nick any way except sure of himself and his direction. When she looked back, he’d done so much to help her, make sure she had a future. What if she could expunge his record and give them both the vengeance they sought? What if she could give him a happy future, too?

  “Mike had this coworker Josh. He’s a sweet guy. A real crusader. He once got into hot water at work for listening to a defendant’s side of the story and wanting to drop all charges. In the end, Josh was right, the guy Clifford wanted to charge with the crime was innocent. I remember Mike coming home and shaking his head because their slimeball boss didn’t care that he might send an innocent man to prison. Clifford only cared that the police had no other suspects, so without this slam-dunk trial, his conviction rate didn’t look as dazzling.”

  “Yeah.” Nick snorted. “No one knows better than me that he’s got a hard-on for sending the innocent up river. So this Josh guy can help?”

  “I think so. After that incident, the mayor put him on a citywide crime task force. From what I can tell, he made a lot of high-powered friends. I’m betting if we contact Josh he can put us in touch with the right people. I mean, Josh and these folks went over Clifford’s head once. Why wouldn’t they do it again?”

  Nick hesitated for a moment, then nodded, the gesture gaining strength the more he thought about it. “Yeah. You know how to reach Josh?”

  “I think so. Let me double-check with some Internet searches.”

  He thrust the computer in her direction. “Be quick. The laptop battery is dying. We need to plug this thing in.”

  “Where? We checked out of our motel.”

  “I’ll hunt down another one.” He grabbed his phone. “You find Josh.”

  For a few silent minutes, they both scoured their respective devices. It didn’t take long to find Krandall, Joshua. She found a home address, no phone number. Of course, it was midday Monday, so he would likely be at the office. How could she reach him under Clifford’s nose?

  “Got one,” Nick burst into the silence. “I found a motel right off Highway 61, not too far from the DA’s office. It’s a dive, not affiliated with a chain. Their website says they’ll take cash.”

  Sasha conveyed her findings about Josh. “We might have to call his office and arrange something this evening.”

  “Too risky. It’s damn likely all calls in and out of the DA’s office are recorded.”

  Nick was right. “Then we may have to wait until he gets off work and drop by his house.”

  At first, Nick scowled at the delay, but Sasha watched his thoughts working as he seemingly considered all their choices and possible outcomes. “All right. That gives us time to grab some more ammo and prep a game plan for approaching this guy. And a nap. I barely slept a fucking wink last night.”

  Sasha hated to hear that. “Insomnia?”

  Nick slanted a glance at her that silently asked if she was serious. “I can’t sleep next to you when I’d rather be inside you.”

  She felt heat crawl up her cheeks…and swirl between her legs.

  Of course he hadn’t rested. She’d had an amazing orgasm. And he hadn’t. No, that wasn’t quite true. He had given her a mammoth, earth-shaking, jaw-dropping, scream-worthy, life-changing cataclysm of pleasure. Then she’d allowed him to goad her into anger, and all thought of throwing herself at him again had fled.

  Sasha felt more than vaguely guilty. She wished she’d given him pleasure in return instead.

  “Then I’ll give you some space so you can rest. If you don’t mind, I’d like to drive by Josh’s place first, make sure he really still lives there. He’d actually just purchased a house shortly before Mike’s death, so chances are good but…”

  “Let’s go.” Nick took the computer back from her hands as she navigated the traffic to Mid-City.

  Thankfully, she didn’t need the GPS on his phone to remember Josh’s location. She and Mike had come here, hand in hand, to mingle with friends and celebrate new beginnings. Had that been a mere two years ago?

  Sasha stopped in front of the starter home. It was long on charm, with brick steps, craftsman pillars, a wide porch, and what appeared to be original stained glass in the transom above the front door. However, the cottage was short on space, looking dwarfed by much bigger neighbors on either side. But it had been freshly painted, was well maintained, and had original hardwoods inside, as she recalled.

  Nick sidled out of the SUV and opened the mailbox at the curb. “Empty.”

  He headed to the side yard. Tucked against the fence, adjacent to the patchy concrete driveway, sat a huge plastic trash can and a recycle bin. He pretended to trip over the bin, nudging the lid off the squatty receptacle and spilling out most of the contents.

  “What are you doing?” Sasha frowned.

  “Double-checking.” He glanced around to ensure none of the neighbors were being nosy. But in this neighborhood, people worked. It seemed unlikely that anyone would be watering the flowers on their porch or taking their dog for a walk right now.

  Sasha believed in respecting others’ privacy. She totally valued hers. But locating Josh quickly and quietly could well be life or death. “Find anything?”

  After he bent to tuck away the newspapers and the empty, rinsed milk carton, he did an amazing imitation of someone picking up flyers, ads, and discarded envelopes without actually reading a word.

  “Bingo. He still lives here. He tossed the water bill, presumably after he paid it, into the recycle bin.” Nick shook his head as if Josh had made a critical mistake.

  Despite the tense situation, Sasha had to laugh. “He didn’t shred, so off with his head.”

  The smile that spread across Nick’s full lips took her breath away. White teeth flashed against his olive complexion. His dark eyes sparked with something both funny and alive. He almost looked…happy. It was a breath-stealing sight.

  “Okay, maybe not that severe but I believe in being careful. Identity theft is serious business. Why make those fuckers’ crimes easier?”

  “You’re right.” She helped him put the last of the paper back into the bin. “So we’ll come back later?”

  Before they could answer that question, a pretty redhead stepped out the front door, with a little white furball on a leash. She glanced warily at Nick. “Can I help you?”

  Sasha stepped forward. “Are you Josh’s”—she looked at the woman’s bare left hand—“girlfriend?”

  She shook her head, the ginger strands of her quirky bob swaying. “No. His dog walker. I’m Hannah. This is Monster.”

  When the six-pound pup barked in a tone Sasha was sure he meant to be menacing, she tried not to smile.

  Hannah laughed on her behalf. “Ferocious, huh? Are you friends of Josh’s?”

  “We are.” Nick took her hand. “My girlfriend and I rolled into town late last night. We’re staying a few days and we’d like to visit him. Will he be home tonight?”

  The dog walker looked Nick’s way, then stepped back, as if suddenly put off by his size or intensity. “I don’t know. I only walk his dog. I’ll tell him you’re
in town. What are your names?”

  Nick managed a false wince of regret. “I wish you wouldn’t. We really want to surprise him. We haven’t seen him since his housewarming party.”

  “That’s right.” Sasha nodded to ease the woman’s suspicions. “Shortly after he made that task force at the DA’s office, right?”

  “Exactly.” Nick sounded as if he knew that for a fact.

  The details helped smooth the woman’s skeptical expression. “Oh, it has been a long time since you’ve seen him. Okay, I won’t mention it. He should be home around six.”

  “Perfect. Thanks for your help.” Sasha smiled, then reached out to the dog. “Bye, Monster. Cute little guy.”

  The canine barked happily and allowed her to pet his head, then swiped his affectionate tongue over her wrist.

  Hannah eased back. “Have a great day.”

  With a wave, they jaunted back to the SUV, then headed to a strip mall that had both a sporting goods store and an electronics boutique. Errands managed, they went to the motel Nick had scouted out. It had a colonial facade and a traditional brick-and-shutters front, along with an air of glory days long past.

  “I’m sorry it’s a shithole,” he murmured beside her as they parked.

  She shrugged. “It’s a bed and a shower. I’ve gone days—sometimes weeks—without either. I’m grateful.”

  His face tightened with something that looked an awful lot like regret. “We’re going to nail Clifford so you never have to go without either again.”

  She believed he would do anything to make that happen. He was the kind of man who kept his word. He had even gone to prison to keep a promise to Mike.

  They exited with their purchases and luggage, then entered a sad lobby with brown floors and a big fleur-de-lis affixed to the front of the check-in desk. An old man who couldn’t have acted more bored checked them in. Up a narrow stairwell, past a broken light fixture, then down a hall with green turf open to a dingy pool atrium below, they found room 218.

  Nick shoved the key in the cinnamon-colored door with rusting accents. Inside, the burgundy-and-beige-patterned carpet didn’t quite hide the stains. Same with the brown bedspread splashed with red, blue, green, and pink blobs that might have once been flowers. A musty, moldy odor wafted from the air vents and blended with the stench of cigarette smoke.

  “Jesus, this place is worse than I thought.” Nick grimaced.

  It was, but that wasn’t really Sasha’s concern right now.

  The big blue numbers on the nightstand’s cheap digital clock read five minutes after two. They had four hours to wait. As antsy as she felt, how could she kill the time?

  A glance at Nick gave her ideas that made her body flash hot.

  He unloaded their luggage and purchases onto a desk shoved in the corner and frowned. “I’m fucking beat.” He lowered the spread on the king-size bed, then sat and doffed his boots. “Let’s get this video copied so we have backups. Then we can grab some shut-eye.”

  “Are you going to e-mail one to the Santiagos?”

  He grabbed the computer, plugged it into the outlet, and connected to the Internet signal. “Not on this hotel’s Wi-Fi. It’s not secure. Getting on the network didn’t even require a password. I’ll send the evidence using my hot spot.”

  The file took a while to send, but it finished and he closed the laptop’s lid. “Done.”

  “So the evidence is safe?”

  He nodded. “Clifford can’t squirm away now.”

  Sasha closed her eyes in relief. This violent, tragic period in her life might really be over. She wanted Mike’s killer punished so she could finally live again. It seemed so surreal that after fifteen months of fear, danger, and near death, this nightmare might be over in four short hours.

  Where would she and Harper go then? Where would they settle down? What would they do with the rest of their lives? How would she feel when she didn’t have to spend her every waking moment with Nick?

  Empty. She didn’t want to live without him.

  “Wake me in an hour,” he insisted.

  “All right.”

  “Thanks.” He tugged off his shirt.

  With the fabric gone, Nick exposed tribal tattoos that swept up his lean ribs on one side, covered his bulging pectoral, drifted around his solid shoulder before changing direction to cascade down his rippling biceps and thick forearm. Sasha tried not to swallow her tongue as he lay on one side of the bed, closest to the door, and his body stilled.

  In seconds, he dropped off. His deep, even breathing was barely audible in the room. And she was still staring at him, dazed by the sight of his wide back bunched and defined with more muscle.

  Goodness, Nick Navarro was a beautiful man.

  He wasn’t Mike. No one was. But she’d loved her late husband the way a girl cherished Prince Charming. She’d given her heart to him in a sugary drop, fallen with him into a champagne bubble of warmth and comfort. His death had burst that. With the pretty pink bow of forever ripped away, Sasha had been forced to push through thorns and become a woman.

  Her sweet prince would never ride up on his white horse to save her because the villain had killed him. But the big, dark Beast beside her now would vanquish the demon, with her at his side. And she would fight to the death to protect her child—and her future with Nick.

  There was nothing soft or sweet or innocent about the way she wanted him. She ached for him desperately, urgently, passionately. He challenged her between the ears, roused the flesh between her legs, and ignited a blaze between her ribs she knew would burn eternally.

  Asking how or why was a stupid waste of time. Mike’s murder had proved that no one was guaranteed a tomorrow. She was going to wring every moment—and experience—she could from her time with Nick. She was going to tell him what was in her head and her heart. If he didn’t want her for more than a night…well, she would at least have the satisfaction of knowing she had given herself completely and honestly.

  Suddenly, as if he sensed her gaze—or her decision—his eyes flashed open. Sasha found herself freefalling into his relentless stare, which seemed to remove every stitch from her body, despite the fact he wasn’t touching her at all.

  “Nick?” She heard the breathlessness of her own voice.

  “I need a shower,” he growled as he bounded off the bed and nearly ran to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

  Sasha frowned. He was…so jumpy. Tense. Wound up.

  Sexually frustrated?

  Suddenly, all the showers he took—morning and night—made sense. He wasn’t a clean freak or a germophobe. If he had been, they certainly wouldn’t be staying in this dive of a motel. He was masturbating in the shower to curtail his desire so he wouldn’t jump on her like the ravenous Beast she suspected he could be.

  Like she wanted him to be.

  It was up to her to prove she could not only handle that animal part of him, but that she craved it.

  They still had hours to kill before they could return to Josh’s place, so now was the perfect time to show Nick exactly the woman she’d become.

  His woman.

  * * * *

  Son of a bitch. Nick yanked on the tap and jerked off his jeans. He unwrapped the toy-sized bar of soap resting in the dish in the stall, then stepped under the weak spray.

  He had to spend another night beside Sasha, sharing her sheets, wrapped in her sweetly female scent. How the fuck was he going to stop himself from stripping off every stitch she wore, baring all her sugar-soft skin to his greedy gaze, then crawling between her legs to shove his way home? Because that’s how he thought of her now. His person. His woman. His home. With her was where he belonged.

  Jacking off wasn’t a substitute for her anymore, and he swore he’d lose his goddamn mind if he couldn’t touch her, taste her flavor on his tongue, and feel her every limb and orifice cling to him soon.

  He could lie to himself, but why bother? He didn’t just want her because he hadn’t had sex with a woman i
n well over a year. He didn’t burn for her because she was beautiful. He coveted her because she was good and warm and giving. She was his sun and lit his darkness with so much light. Now that he’d seen the fierce survivor and protector in her, he only hungered for Sasha more.

  Last night, she’d looked about as eager to take him deep
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