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SLEEPWALKER
by Karen Robards

Genre: General Romantic Suspense, Romantic Suspense

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“I can’t just live here with you.” Sex with Jason – that’s what was suddenly, annoyingly, uppermost in Mick’s mind. Both of them were as close to naked as it was possible to be – one dropped towel each away from the full monty. It would be so easy to succumb to temptation, to give in to the attraction that had been present practically since she had first set eyes on him, to finish what they had started in the sleeping bag the previous night. Just remembering how hot he’d made her then made her hot now.

But if she slept with him, it would make what she had to do just that much harder.

“I don’t see why not.”

“Because I can’t.” She shook her head. “You know as well as I do that I’m going to have to go back to Detroit. In a day or two, maybe, after I’ve had a little time to regroup, but still.”

His brows snapped together. His grip on her arms tightened. The sudden tension he emanated was palpable. “Like hell I do. Mick, you can’t go back. What part of bang-bang you’re dead don’t you get?”

She was burningly aware of how powerful his body was. Some primitive part of her liked that he was bigger than she was, stronger and more muscular than she was. Her own body responded by tightening and quickening deep inside. Traitor, she accused it silently.

But she could sleep with him. There was no real reason to walk away from the sizzling electricity they generated together. Except for what he was, and what she was. And the fact that there was no future in it. At most, they would have one, or maybe two, passion-filled nights.

That would do nothing but complicate an already complicated situation.

“I have to straighten things out. I have family. Friends. A life. I can’t just disappear forever.”

He looked down at her like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You say that like you think you have a choice: you don’t. You have to stay here.”

With both of them barefoot, the top of her head barely reached his chin. Looking up, she drank in every detail of his lean, hard-jawed, handsome face – including the determined snap of his blue eyes, the impatient curve of his mouth, the hard set of his jaw. He was in subjugation mode, she could see. Which at least part of her was glad of, because it made her decision to stay out of his bed that much easier. She was the last person on earth to ever let herself be subjugated.

Pulling her arms free of his hold, she took a few steps back and glared at him.

“I don’t have to do anything.”

His eyes narrowed in reply. “Tell me you’re not too damned stubborn to listen to what I’m saying. Detroit is over for you. When you came with me, I thought you understood: there’s no going back.”

“Okay, I admit it: when I agreed to come with you I wasn’t thinking clearly. So sue me. I should have let you go, and gone straight to my captain. By running away like this, I’m letting those thugs get away with murder. I’m letting them blame me – and you – for murder.”

“By running away like this, you’re saving your own damn-fool life.”

“I swore an oath –“

“To hell with that.”

“That’s what somebody like you would say.”

“Somebody like me?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do indeed, Investigator.”

“Jason. Don’t you see? It’s not the robbery the authorities are concerned about any more, it’s the murders. If you’re worried that I’ll tell anybody about you and Jelly and Tina, don’t be. If they ask about you, I’ll say you dumped me somewhere and I don’t know where you went. I’ll take a commercial flight back, one with connections so that it’s not so easy to trace.”

“You’re not going anywhere.”

That got her hackles up. “You think you can stop me?”

He folded his arms across his chest. “I know I can.”

“How? Keep me locked up in this house forever? Never let me out of your sight? Or – oh, wait, this one will actually work – kill me?”

His eyes narrowed. “Don’t tempt me. And I sure wouldn’t mention that last option to Jelly.”

“I shouldn’t have come here with you. I made a mistake. I’m going to put it right.”

“You’re going to get yourself killed, is what you’re going to do.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Forget it.”

“What do you mean, forget it? You can’t tell me to forget it.”

“I can and I am.”

“You know what you can do with that.”

She got the impression that he was grappling to hang onto his temper. “You know what? This conversation is over. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.”

“You’re right: this conversation is over.” Whipping around, keeping one wary eye peeled for Iggy, she marched back toward the bedroom she would be using, flinging the bottom line over her shoulder at him. “I’ll probably leave tomorrow, if I can get a flight. No later than the day after.”

“Damn it to hell and back anyway.” She heard him coming after her. Glancing back, she found him right behind her. From the glint in his eyes and the grim set to his mouth, she got the feeling that his hold on his temper was slipping. “So how are you going to pay for your ticket? What are you going to use for ID to get on the plane? Want to tell me that?”

It hit her like a baseball bat to the head: she didn’t have a penny. Or any identification. That she hadn’t thought of, and in an instant she realized what a huge problem it was. Stopping dead, she turned to face him.

“You’d love to be able to use that to keep me here, wouldn’t you? I’d appreciate it if you’d help me out. If you won’t, I’ll have to call my captain. Under the circumstances, I’m sure he’d be glad to get me a plane ticket home and do something about my lack of ID. Of course, I’d have to tell him where I wanted to fly back to Detroit from, which you might have a problem with.”

His eyes flared. “Are you threatening me?”

“Hell yes.”

“Unbelievable. After I saved your damned life.”

“I saved yours first.”

“You’re actually going to stand there and try to make me think I owe you.”

“That’s because you do.”

“Let’s get real. The only reason you helped me back at Marino’s house was because you were saving your own ass at the same time.”

“So? Your ass got saved.”

“So did yours. And guess what? You’re here and you’re staying here. You’re not calling anybody. And you’re not going anywhere.”

She smiled at him. It was not a nice smile. “Try and stop me.”

His lips compressed. He scowled down into her eyes. She stuck out her chin and scowled right back at him. After a couple of seconds in which neither of them gave an inch, his eyes slid over her face, and he made an exasperated sound. “Goddamn it, Mick. Do you have to be a pain in the ass about every single thing we do?”

“Just for the record, there’s no we in this. There’s me, and there’s you. Cop and crook. Dog and cat. Oil and water. All those things that don’t mix. Got it?”

“Oh, yeah. I got it.” Reaching out, he caught her upper arms and hauled her hard against him. If it hadn’t been for her less-than-secure towel, Mick would have taught him the dangers of that in an instant. But even as she fantasized about slamming him to the floor she felt the sacrifice she would have to make to do it - allowing the towel to drop - would be a mistake. Already she could feel heat sizzling where their bodies touched. It did nothing to sooth her. “But you’re wrong about that. In case you’ve forgotten, we mix just fine.”

Glaring up at him, Mick was just opening her mouth to blast him when he bent his head and kissed her.