Delicious Torment(3)

By: Linsey Lanier


But it was too soon. He was too aware of her pain. Of those dark, tempestuous feelings that simmered just below her surface. Those emotions had given them a decidedly rocky start. He had to give her space and time to settle in again. Work was what she needed now. Nothing hazardous, of course. Not yet. Just a small case or two. Something to rebuild her spirit.

He longed to see that spirit back in full bloom. She had tremendous strengths. A keen eye. A sharp mind. The persistence of a bulldog. And she had a few weaknesses. Those, he would handle. Once he finished training her, she would be one of the finest investigators the Parker Agency had ever had.

Not in all his years as an investigator had he ever met anyone quite like Miranda Steele.

She was a kindred spirit. A defender of the defenseless, driven by his own fervent passion to protect the helpless and avenge the innocent. No one had ever touched him so deeply. Or exasperated him so thoroughly.

Stubbornly, Miranda beat back the lusty emotions her boss had aroused. This wasn’t a date, no matter how much Parker wanted it to be. She was on assignment. And Witherspoon and Simmons were rubbing noses like Eskimos. She tilted her head and once more allowed the mini-cam to “capture the memory.”

Then she scowled. Would this evidence be enough? “These shots aren’t like catching them together in the sack,” she complained. “Do you think they’ll be enough for Witherspoon’s wife to take him to the cleaners?” Poor woman.

Parker waited a beat, sipped his drink. “What makes you think our client is female?”

She blinked at him. Huh? “Does Witherspoon swing both ways or something?”

Almost imperceptibly, Parker shook his head. “Objectivity, Miranda. Mr. Simmons is our client. It’s Farrah Simmons who’s the primary cheat. Witherspoon is single.”

What the hell? “That wasn’t in the file. I’d have seen it.”

“Yes, you would have. I left it out.”

Her mouth fell open. She glared at Parker. “What?”

“I wanted to see if you’d ask. You didn’t. You assumed.” He gestured toward the targets.

Miranda snapped her head back in place and thought of the pages in the file. There had been several references to “the client,” with no name specified.

“The client” thought Witherspoon had been seeing Simmons for about a month. “The client” thought they had been sweethearts in college. “The client” reported that Simmons was an old flame. Miranda had assumed “the client” was Witherspoon’s wife.

She exhaled an exasperated huff. “You trying to show me up, Parker?”

“Not at all.” He chuckled, those sexy laugh lines forming at the corners of his eyes.

She shifted in her seat, grinding her teeth. “Oh? So what’s with the double-cross?”

“It wasn’t a double-cross. It was a test.”

She arched a brow. “A test?”

“A lesson in objectivity. Without objectivity, you risk going off on tangents. You waste valuable time.” He reached over and patted her hand. “Don’t take it to heart. Everyone brings their own biases to a case. Every investigator has to learn his or hers.”

“Ever the teacher, aren’t you?” She pulled her hand away and ran her fingers over the condensation on her almost untouched champagne. “I’m not biased.”

“Not even a little bit after all you’ve been through?” There was tenderness in his voice. He knew her too well.

She’d been through a lot, but that didn’t make her unfair. “Mighty thoughtful of you to point that out.”

Parker frowned, annoyed she wasn’t getting the point. “Miranda. You’re tough, sharp, and you have an uncanny instinct for cutting through bullshit and getting to the gritty truth underneath. But…sometimes you jump to conclusions too quickly. You need some objectivity. Objectivity can protect you. Objectivity can—”

“Don’t tell me. Save my life?”

“Yes.”

He’d said similar words to her before. She sat back and blew out a breath, wanting to lambaste the sneaky PI. “So is this case for real? Or is it just an excuse for a date?”