Cris gestured for the woman to walk in front of him. Garrett stepped in front of her and led the way. Cris detoured and went into the bathroom.
In the kitchen, Garrett pulled out a chair for her. “Sit,” he said, motioning the woman toward the chair he pulled out. She didn’t move. He noted her rigid stance. He also noticed again the chestnut-brown polish on her toenails. The rosy blush on her face had not yet faded. Surely she wasn’t embarrassed about his brief pat down? He’d barely touched her body. Not like he’d wanted to.
Despite his attraction to her, he was a completely trustworthy guy.
When Cris returned, she said, “Who are you guys?”
Garrett eased the wallet out of his pocket and flipped it open. He glanced through the contents, careful not to touch anything with his bare fingers. Driver’s license, credit cards, pictures, a condom, three hundred dollars. The usual you could expect to find in a man’s wallet. Still, Garrett had a hundred questions for the woman, and he switched into detective mode by habit. “It doesn’t work that way, ma’am. We get to ask the questions. Let’s start with your name. Sit,” Garrett told her again.
She sat down and folded her arms across her chest. But she didn’t offer any information.
Garrett handed the wallet to Cris and his partner took a quick look and then left the wallet to lie in the center of the table, driver’s license faceup, on top of the handkerchief.
Cris sat down across from her, rested his forearms on the table, and sighed. “I’m Detective Cristiano Rodriguez. This is Detective Garrett Deveroe. We were in the elevator with you. Not that you noticed. But I noticed you. I thought you looked a little stricken, as if you were upset about something.” Cris offered her an encouraging smile.
Surprise flickered in her eyes. “You’re detectives?”
“You didn’t hear us call out when we were trying to help you?” Cris asked.
She shook her head, her dark hair brushing her shoulders. “I may have already blacked out at that point.”
“So…you pilfered one of the kidnapper’s wallets. I’m impressed,” Cris continued. “Do you know him?”
The woman glanced at the driver’s license and shook her head. “I’ve never seen him before. He doesn’t look familiar in any way.”
Garrett inhaled and forced back a curse. Cris always had a way with women. Of course, his Cuban ancestry never hurt. The man’s darker skin tone was like a magnet, his raisin-dark eyes full of mischief. Garrett often watched in the background as women flocked to his partner, drawn to his daring, naughty, playful side.
Garrett was the more serious of the two. Aloof, reserved, and cynical.
But he used to find time for dirty play in the bedroom.
“Your name,” Garrett reminded her, his tone harsh.
She opened her mouth and then hesitated, as if she didn’t want to tell them. “I’m Loren…Archer,” she stated, her voice slightly breathy, as if she were nervous. She didn’t respond to Cris saying she looked upset earlier.
Garrett walked around her chair and looked down at her. “So let’s get this over with. Do you know why those men attacked you?”
“No idea at all? Did you recognize any of the others?”
She huffed as if annoyed. “Oh, yeah. I always let my friends rough me up.”
“Ma’am, please be serious.”
She raised one eyebrow. “Or what? You’ll tie me back up?”
Garrett snapped his teeth together. This was not going well. He never had difficulty questioning anyone in the interrogation room. But this woman seriously had a problem with him. She was the one who put a stranger’s wallet in her bra and didn’t immediately tell him about it.
Cris sat forward. “Wait a minute. I thought you looked familiar in the elevator. I think I’ve seen you at the courthouse. Archer
. Any relation to Judge Archer?”
Her head nodded in a brief jerk. “He’s my father.”
Stunned silence followed this confession.
“Son of a bitch. You’re that
Loren Archer? A fucking judge’s daughter.” Garrett almost choked on the words, his thoughts reeling at his earlier arousal. “That’s reason enough for her to have been kidnapped.”
“Yeah,” Cris agreed, narrowing his eyes at her.
“We just found out why she may have been kidnapped, and we discover we are locked up with a spoiled princess whose daddy dotes on her,” Garrett said.
She blinked hard as if slapped. “That’s totally unfair. My father doesn’t spoil me. I’ve worked hard for everything I have. And right now, the sweat and work has surpassed the possessions.”
Garrett walked past her, to her other side, and looked down at her. “Is it unfair? My own father is a lawyer. He moves in the same circles as your father. Rumors about you circulate at parties and around town. If you think for one second Cris and I are going to bend over backward for you, you’re mistaken.”
Surprise flickered in her eyes as she looked up at him over her shoulder. Her eyes were a navy blue, which contrasted with her dark brown hair. He could drown in those stormy depths. Garrett scowled at himself. He needed to find out why
they had been kidnapped. Not think about the color of her eyes or the way her long, silky eyelashes framed them. Not ream her for being a daddy’s girl and not working a day in her life.
But that didn’t make sense. She’d been in the elevator with them, loaded down with a bulging briefcase. If she didn’t work, what had that been about?
Questioning her was the place to start. And she’d better start coming up with some answers. Now
The logical side of his brain reminded him she was a victim and to calm the hell down. But the stress of the situation made him want to punch someone. Unfortunately for her, she was the recipient of his stress and aggravation.
He repeated his earlier question. “You didn’t feel a familiarity with any of those guys?”
She looked from him to Cris. “No. I didn’t get a good look at their faces.”
Garrett knew what she meant. The men had worn bandannas. She’d only been able to see so much.
“Do you know of any reason why someone would want to hurt you? Kidnap you? To the extent that they would risk getting shot by police officers? Any reason besides having a hard-ass judge for a father?”
“No. I don’t. Why would I?” Her fingers curled into fists.
Her attitude was not helping. Right now Garrett wanted to punch someone, and since the kidnappers weren’t handy, the wall was looking pretty good.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” Garrett changed his line of questioning as he walked past her again, glancing at her toes. “What were you doing downtown today? Shopping? Getting a pedicure?”
He wanted to recall his words as soon as he’d snapped them out. However, he was in a bad mood, and he felt his control slipping.
She sat back and twisted her head to look up at him over her shoulder. “Are you fucking serious? I was taking my dog for a walk,” she said sarcastically. “I work there. Okay
? I’m a lawyer. I work downtown. I was at the courthouse most of the morning. I was in the parking garage to get my car and head back to my office. What sinister facts do you derive from that, double-oh-seven?”
Cris snickered and then wiped the smile off his face when Garrett glared at him.
Garrett stopped pacing. Her cheeks were not as pink, but her expression hardened. Her defenses were up, and she was not backing away from his questioning. “You work? As a lawyer? What a joke. Do you think we’re that naive?” Damn it. Maybe he should leave the questioning to Cris. Attacking her motives or her lifestyle was not helping.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Apparently your party rumors have not extended as far as my career. Those stories you have heard about me are fabrications. If you would put your bias aside, we may get somewhere.”
Dabbing his bruised cheek with the damp cloth he still held fisted in his hand, Cris caught her attention. “Do you have any clients who might want revenge against you?”
Did Cris believe her lies? That she was a lawyer? Garrett forced the fuzziness in his brain to clear. He thought back, thinking of the bulging briefcase she’d lugged with her earlier.
“Probably. Because I’m a boring public defender who has mobsters chasing after her,” she snapped at Cris.
Garrett inhaled deep, not amused. “We need you to be serious, ma’am.”
“My name is Loren.”
Garrett calmly planted his palms down on the table next to her and lowered his face toward her. “Answer the question, Ms. Archer.”
“I’m not in a good mood today, Detective. I need you to get out of my face. If I’m under arrest for being kidnapped, get on with it.”
“I’m not… Shit. We just need your help, Loren.”
She was a feisty little thing. Garrett felt his lips start to quirk. But he was not having a good day either. He’d rather be at his brother’s restaurant, sharing a pizza with Cris and drinking an ice-cold beer. And since he was supposed to be off for the next two days, that was what he had planned to do.
Loren Archer swiveled her hips to the side and pushed away from the table. She glanced at Garrett and then Cris as she walked across the small kitchen and leaned back against the counter. “Look, I don’t know why those men attacked me and stuffed me in that van. Can’t we work together? Shouldn’t we try to do some CSI stuff so we can figure out who’s behind this?”
Cris lowered the ice-filled cloth he’d held to his face every few minutes or so. He pushed away from the table, stood, and strode to the sink, tossing the cloth inside. “I guess you will expect the CSI team to strap on their guns and go arrest the bad guys too,” he said, not looking at her.
Loren narrowed her eyes at Cris’s back. “Do you think I’m stupid? I told you I’m a lawyer. The CSI team jogging out to arrest the bad guys is one big bullshit myth created by popular television shows,” she stated, her mouth looking pinched and tight with anger.
Garrett dragged a hand over his mouth to hide the beginnings of a grin. Although the last thing he felt like doing was laughing. This woman had him tied up in knots.
She was petite, probably not much more than five feet five, and yet anger steamed through her, tightening her rigid spine. Garrett was pretty sure she could blacken his eye if she tried.
“True,” Cris agreed with an amused grin.
“CSI teams secure the scene,” she continued. “They take photos and collect evidence, among other things. Mostly they’re in the lab working. Going out to make the actual arrest is not in their job description. In this particular case, I think we need to collect our own evidence before we move around and destroy it, if there is any.”
Garrett glanced at Cris, to see what he made of Loren explaining police myths to two detectives. Cris might be playful and friendly, but when it came to his work, he was damn intelligent.
“If we’re going to figure out how to get out of this, I think we need to go into CSI mode. While you two detectives were out cold and I was hog-tied, I lay there thinking. The courthouse let out early today. How did someone know I would return when I did? I think whoever tried to go in the front door with a bomb look-alike tool in their bag did it on purpose, working in tandem with the kidnappers. Meaning, they wanted the courthouse to empty. Someone wanted me to return to my car at that time, earlier than I would have.” She crossed her arms and tossed her hair back off one shoulder. “When I came to in the van, I pretended that I was still knocked out. The afternoon sun was to my right, so I think we headed south. We drove for hours. If I’m right, we’re somewhere in central Kentucky.”
Garrett watched her, fascinated by her energy. “You really are a lawyer?”
She huffed again, as if she thought he hadn’t heard one word she’d said.
Loren walked off, all five feet five inches of her, pure attitude in the tilt of her head and stiff shoulders. Garrett moved his gaze back to Cris, his eyebrows raised in a what-the-fuck-do-you-make-of-her look. But his partner wasn’t looking at him. His gaze had followed Loren, his eyes focused low. Garrett turned his head toward the hall. Cris’s gaze was on Loren Archer’s curvy ass. Disbelief made him snap his eyes back to Cris.
When he couldn’t hear Loren anymore, he said in a hoarse whisper, “Are you fucking crazy? You cannot be thinking about sex right now. Not with her. A judge’s daughter.” Like he himself hadn’t been thinking of sex since he’d first laid eyes on her.
A slow grin curved Cris’s mouth, and he shrugged. “She’s hot. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice that when you had your hands up her skirt. You couldn’t take your eyes off her in the elevator. Don’t get all hot under the collar because I’m attracted to her too. And while we’re on the subject, don’t think I didn’t notice her stockings lying in a little sexy heap on the floor. When did those babies slide off?”
Garrett snapped his teeth together. He needed to get his brain back on track. “We need to know what we are dealing with. Did that fight knock your brains out? We’ve been kidnapped, drugged, and stolen right out of a fucking downtown parking garage. And we have no idea why. We need to figure this out, fast.”
“Keep your zipper up, man. Tell me you didn’t notice what a curvy little body she has. You had your hands all over her.”
“She had a suspicious bulge in her bra. Besides, we didn’t know who she was. She could have had a hidden weapon.”
Cris laughed, his dark Latino eyes twinkling. “If you really thought that, you would have frisked her within the first few minutes of that drug wearing off. But just for the record, if she comes under suspicion again, it’s my turn to pat her down. And I’ll make sure she enjoys it.”
Garrett cursed beneath his breath. Cris was obsessed with sex lately. Soon, Garrett would ask him what happened with his girlfriend, Trudy.
Garrett forced air through his nose and went after the woman.
Since he’d first glimpsed Loren struggling with all her belongings in that elevator, his blood had rushed like a team of race cars. Frustrated at his partner’s playful mood, he left the kitchen, Cris’s laughter following him.