Chapter 1

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Chapter One

“You lucky bastard.”

Sergeant Jake Baldwin looked up from his desk and found Mark Donaldson, the new detective in the department and his sometime partner, leaning his head inside the office door.

“Why am I lucky?” Jake asked and shouldered back in his chair.

Donaldson’s chickenshit grin widened. “She says she needs you, and only you will do.” He looked down the hall, then shot off as if someone chased him.

“Hey, who needs . . . ?” Jake’s question tripped over his lips as a blonde, a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe in her chubbier years, sashayed into his office. She didn’t walk. She sashayed.

About a foot from his desk, she stopped moving, but her body didn’t. Her breasts, squeezed into a low-cut red tank top, continued to bounce. Up. Down. Up. Behind her, two Houston police officers paused, their tongues dangling out like hounds’. Jake’s tongue remained in hristichihis mouth. He’d never been a Monroe fan.

His visitor leaned over to pull out a chair, and he got a peek at her cleavage—which led him to realize maybe you didn’t really have to be a true fan to appreciate a look-alike. He glanced away. Gawking was crude. Besides, he’d stopped letting women know they had the upper hand. They still had it, of course. He was, after all, flesh and blood, but he refrained from giving them the leverage that came with knowing. His ex-fiancée, now sister-in-law, had taught him better.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, but his male mind was already considering options. Then he gave her another once-over. She was twenty, maybe? At thirty-one, Jake refused to date anyone who might still believe in Santa.

Miss Monroe opened her mouth to speak, and Jake waited for her sweet husky voice to flow over him, sound effects to add to the fantasies that no doubt he’d have later on. His fantasies had no problems with a twenty-year-old. And lately, fantasies were all he had.

“My name’s Ellie Chandler.” Her voice, some would call it cartoonish—a really bad cartoon—came out two octaves above chalk screeching across a blackboard. “You’re Jake Baldwin, riiiight?”

Jake jerked, knocking over his coffee mug. God help him. No, God help her, he thought, grabbing the cup and saving his files from the spill. No wonder the Almighty gave her that body. He’d been trying to make up for the voice.

She continued talking, and Jake would have done almost anything to shut her up. Anything, but be rude. For the son of a Baptist preacher, rudeness wasn’t an option, even for a religious backslider like himself. He finger-locked his hands in front of him and forced his attention on her. Every spoken syllable was like bowel surgery.

“I’m here to report a murder.”

He sighed. “Then you need to talk to Homicide. I work Robbery.” Please God, let it be that easy.

God wasn’t listening.

“I want to talk to you.”

“Why me?” he asked both the blonde and the Almighty.

“Because you know what he’s like. You’re the one who put him away.”

“Put who away?”

“David Tanks. My ex-boyfriend.”

Jake remembered Tanks. Too many tattoos. A dealer with a mean streak and a drug habit of his own.

“And because I love Billy now, David’s threatening to kill him. He’s even threatened Billy’s sister. He called her one dead bitch.”

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