Excerpt from Savage Disclosure
Juggling both the take-out bag from Mikey's Bar and Grill and the yogurt she snatched from home, Nickie stepped into the elevator and pushed the button to the top floor. Except, this was Northridge, New York, which meant the top floor to the tallest downtown building was a whopping four floors. And yet the man the local newspapers called The Taste of L.A. stayed for her. Here. And bought the top floor of the tallest building to serve as an office he used only part-time.
The doors opened and she stepped into the hallway, her mind still rolling through the roadblocks of her frustrating new case. She understood the reluctance rape victims had to pointing fingers at their assailants, but the college dean? As she spotted his morning receptionist's empty chair, Nickie realized how late it was for lunch. Luckily the bag from Mickey's was heavy.
It wasn't like her to walk into anyone's office unannounced, especially when the door was closed. With the absence of his receptionist, Nickie attempted to raise her full hands to knock. The door opened before she had the chance.
Duncan greeted her with a half smile. He took the Mikey's bag from her, then wrapped his free hand around hers. Twirling her wedding ring between his thumb and forefinger—the habit he'd picked up since their marriage—he leaned in and kissed her softly. The familiar scent of him dove into her lungs and settled next to her heart.
"There you are," he said just as softly. She blinked three times in order to regain her composure.
Turning, he headed back for his desk with his bag, opening it as he walked.
"Am I so late that you waited by the door for your lunch?" she asked as she sunk into the guest chair on the opposite side of his enormous desk. She lifted a boot, ready to plop it on the top before noticing the polish of the glass and letting it fall to the floor.
Pulling out the over-sized tenderloin from the bag, he gestured to the monitor at the side of his desk. "I saw you on the security cameras."
"Sorry for leaving you hungry. And for the hectic past few days. It doesn't look like the next few will be any better."
"Hmm," he said as he swallowed bites of the French fries, never one to talk with his mouth full. "That it a shame since I haven't seen you naked in seventy-two hours."
Opening her half-empty yogurt container, she considered. "What about the other night?" On the stairs. Yum.
"You weren't naked."
She smiled. It couldn't be helped, but it was followed by the frown created from her predicament with her recent case.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"Hmm? Oh." She shrugged and dunked some of the blueberries she'd thrown in the container on her way out of the house. "Roadblock on a case. Alleged college rape."
"You use the word 'alleged' often. I know better, but others view this as assumed innocence."
Another shrug. "Innocent until proven guilty and all that. The girl sounds legit, but no need to throw some bloke under the bus until I have proof. Which is where we come to my roadblock. Statistically, these things don't come in isolated cases. I've got the alleged victim." Oops. There was that word again. "I've got the dude's ID." She dug in the pocket of her blouse and pulled out the photo she'd downloaded of him. Waving it around with her free hand, she took another bite before continuing. "I can't exactly stand in front of his Drama Club practice and show his picture to girls as they leave, making accusations. I'm a NPD detective."
Duncan set down the burger that so ironically mismatched everything about him and walked around to her. Would the reaction of her heart rate to this kind of simple gesture ever wane? He reached down and placed his hand beneath one of her calves, lifting her leg and setting her boot on top of his desk. Before repeating the process with the other leg, he snatched the photo from between her fingers. "I, however, am not a cop and would enjoy an afternoon on the beautiful Heritage Junior College campus."