THIRTEEN

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Mark was in his car, heading home. The only good thing about the holidays was the fact that most other people were preoccupied. He was looking forward to a peaceful evening with no interruptions.

His phone rang, the peaceful evening off to a slow start, and he hit the hands-free button a little harder than usual. "Spinelli."

Bruce's voice filled the interior. "Hey, boss. You remember that cop who showed up here at the house back in the summer?"

His jaw certainly did. "Yeah, what about her?"

"She's nosing around your office."

"Damn it!" Mark checked the traffic before yanking hard on the steering wheel and forcing the Ferrari into a skid. Other drivers slowed to a stop though they were nowhere near him. He probably would have done the same. After seeing that kind of erratic driving, it's only smart to take precautions.

On the other side of the one-eighty, he kicked down hard on the accelerator and realized Bruce was still on the line. "I'll handle it," he growled before disconnecting.

It took all of fifteen minutes to get there.

Mark could see the jerky dance of light in his office as he rounded the corner from the elevators. He found her by his filing cabinets, squatting on the ground in front of an open bottom drawer, passing the beam back and forth over the papers spread out in front of her. Hitting the switch, the fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling fluttered and caught just as he slammed the office door. She jumped and wrenched her head around, shocked to see the office's rightful tenant.

"What the hell are you doing?" He crossed the distance between them and kicked at the drawer. It slid away from her with a raspy clatter and closed with a dull thump. "Is breaking and entering considered part of your job?! I should call the cops, embarrass the hell out of you!"

"Go ahead!"

He pulled his shoulders back. Okaaaay . . . not the answer he was expecting.

Getting up from her crouched position, she turned off the flashlight and hitched it to a loop on her belt. "I'm looking for more evidence." She jutted her chin, matching his glare with her own.

"These are corporate files. All legit," he snapped. "And private property."

For once she was silent. He could sense her disappointment as she shifted her gaze to the cabinets lining his wall. She looked tired-the dark circles under her eyes and stoop in her posture were new. He took a deep inhale, forcing himself to calm, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"I guess this means you believe me about your partner?"

Her eyes found the ground. "Was he stealing, skimming, whatever you want to call it? Is that why they killed him?"

"No. I told you, I don't know who started the fire or why, but I would have heard if he was getting too greedy."

"But he had so much money," she said, doubt dulling her fervor.

"The jobs pay well. Over the years it would add up." He shrugged and headed over to his desk, halting as a disturbing thought popped into his head. He turned to look back at her with aversion. "Why, you interested?"

"No!"

"Good . . ." When her eyebrows arched up, he decided to change the subject. "How did you get past the guard downstairs?"

A smug smile tugged at her lips. "We all have our secret talents, Spinelli."

He stood still, utterly captivated. He'd thought her beautiful before, but there was power in that smile. At the moment all the anger and sadness were gone, her face becoming softer and full of life. He couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to see her laugh.

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