30 Soft, Slow and Sweet
He hated the sound of her voice.
It grated. Whined and insinuated itself into his head until he had wanted to reach across the scarred wooden tabletop that separated them and throttle her. Eddie hadn’t really needed another cup of coffee but he had needed to get away from her, even if just for a moment. The small dingy room still echoed with his shouts as he had braced his knuckles against the wood, leaning in and bellowing at her. He needed some air before he blew it.
“How the hell could he stand it?” he muttered to himself as he poured powdered creamer into the motor oil that passed for coffee. She must be a real spitfire in bed, because I just don’t see it. It bothered him that he thought Dom could do better because it wasn’t much of a jump from there to saying that Dom deserved better; he didn’t want to like Dom although he was finding it hard to hate him.
All the way back to Yuma, it was bitch, bitch, bitch. Letty had nothing good to say about anyone, anywhere, apparently. At least there was no worry that she wouldn’t talk; if anything, Eddie would have loved if she didn’t talk, even if it had only been on the drive into Yuma, which had felt like one of the longest of his life.
One cruiser, an ambulance and a fire engine had been sent out. With an agent on the scene and a secure place to hold the prisoners, the FBI had been content to wait until morning, when backup would be sent to take them into federal custody. One of the drivers was injured and so traveled back in the ambulance. The second was cuffed and traveled in the back of the cruiser.
To keep all of them separate, Eddie had insisted on holding onto Letty, who was clearly the one in charge of the heists and they all rode into Yuma with Brian. Letty hadn’t shut up on the entire drive. At first she had taken out her anger on Eddie and Brian. Immediately available, they had made likely targets, Brian more so, but Letty tired of it quickly and the rage seeped out against the real target. Dom.
Rummaging through a cupboard in the break room, Eddie swallowed a couple of ibuprofen that he found and washed it down with a pull of the bitter coffee.
As an afterthought, he prepared a large cup of coffee for Letty as well. On any other day it would have been an act of decency, if a counterfeit one. A way to get someone to open up. Good cop. It wasn’t what he had in mind as he dosed her coffee with an extra scoop of the powdered creamer. Instead he hoped that it would cause her at least as much discomfort as the bitter coffee would cause him. He wondered if being miserable would make her shut up, or make her worse. Something his mother used to say. Give her something to really bitch about.
The cop that had brought in the other driver closed the door to the interrogation room across the hall, turning to look at Eddie, the corners of his mouth curling up in a grin. “Getting anything out of her?”
“A fucking headache. You?” Eddie jerked his head in the direction of the closed door.
“He rolled on her before we even got here; he’s writing out a statement now. Little lady sure knows how to make friends.” The cop shook his head as he said it. In a way it really was sort of sad.
Not enough to have Eddie dump out the cup of killer coffee that he had made for her. “Yeah. I don’t think she sees it that way though.” Nodding at the cop, Eddie balanced the cups on top of each other and opened the door to the interrogation room. Letty glared back at him from where she sat. Not that she had much of a say in the matter.
As though she had never managed to get under his skin at all, Eddie pulled out the chair and sat across from her, placing the coffee within her reach. Letty didn’t thank him and he took another pull from the cup, wincing a little. Leaning back in the metal chair, Eddie put his feet up on the table, crossed at the ankles, as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Across the table, Letty glared at him but Eddie was quickly becoming immune.
The switch from anger to indifference had Letty on edge, uncomfortable, and Eddie took a certain measure of joy in her discomfort. In that, she was no different from Dom. Hot tempered, she was more at ease with something, someone, to push back against. It set her on edge when that fight was removed, especially if it was done suddenly for no explainable reason. With her off balance, Eddie pushed.
“Your driver is in the other room writing out his statement.” Eddie would have used the driver against her whether her driver talked or not; that he had only made breaking Letty easier. If that was even possible; she didn’t seem to understand the severity of the situation.
“So,” she sneered, wrinkling her nose in distaste as she swallowed the coffee. “What the fuck is he going to say anyway, he’s a fucking moron, you know…”
She looked tired, strung out, like someone that had spent a good deal of time jumping from one rock to the next. Letty was about to run out of rocks and it was too late by far for Eddie to feel pity for her. Letty made that sort of knight in shining armor act pretty difficult anyway which only made him wonder about Dom, and also Vince, all the more.
Feigning boredom, Eddie looked across at her, and cut her off coldly. “I don’t think you understand what’s really going on here, sweetheart.”
Her eyes narrowed at his choice of words but he was beyond caring about it. There were only a few hours available to break her; after that, FBI agents would come out, most likely from the San Diego office although he anticipated a fight over jurisdiction between Phoenix and San Diego. Either way, once she was in full federal custody, she was done for, and Eddie intended to get her statement before that happened. It would put the finishing touches on his case and he could finally write the thing off. He could go back to LA.
Gracefully, he swiveled around in the chair, his boots coming off the edge of the table and stamping on the cold cement floor. That she jumped at the sound gave him a small measure of satisfaction. No matter how hard she tried to hide it, she had to be scared and he was breaking her down. No matter how tough she acted, at the end of the day she wasn’t made for prison, which is exactly where she was headed unless she smartened up in a hurry. Even then, Eddie didn’t hold out much hope for her chances. She was stubborn to a fault, and so angry that it made it hard for her to see straight.
Street racing alone would be bad enough, but it didn’t hold a candle to a federal charge for the theft of weapons, for smuggling them across the border. If she didn’t talk soon, she would be left holding the bag because there was no one that would bail her out.
Not that Eddie expected that anyone would; all Letty had done so far was shit all over the people that made up her team. The other drivers, Vince, even Dom. In fact, especially Dom, despite the fact that Dom had had nothing at all to do with either the thefts or with her. Eddie had been in the weird position of defending him.
It had actually made him smile, as he explained that, precisely because of her actions and how she had painted a target on Dom, trying to make the thefts look like his old heists, there were FBI watching Dom the entire time since he had gotten out of prison. Which had ruled Dom out as having been behind the thefts, no matter how much Eddie had wanted them pinned on the mechanic in the first place. She was running out of people to finger.
“Everyone that was supposedly on your team has rolled on you. You’ve got two choices here, sweetheart.” His repetition of the term of endearment pissed her off, pushed her buttons, which is why he did it. “You can give up the guy that’s really in charge of the whole show,” he paused there to watch the reaction.
Realizing that she hated not being in charge, she hated just being someone’s lackey. If she didn’t get over it soon, her situation would get a whole lot worse. “Or you can dummy up. You’ll be left holding the bag when the FBI gets here in a few hours. Right now, your driver in there,” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the doorway where, on the other side of the hallway, her driver was making his statement. “He’s going to be the one to walk away with a deal. Whoever talks first walks first, right? They don’t want the people on the bottom. They only want the people in charge. You really the one in charge here? You really want to be?”
Her chin raised defiantly but Eddie had spent a lot of time sitting across from a lot of people. Most of them were far harder than Letty could ever claim to be. She made a lot of noise but there was nothing but hot air and bad attitude behind it. That’s all it had ever been.
Letty started to say something and stopped, the uncertainty clear in her body language. Eddie leaned forward and pressed for the advantage, his voice dropping. Softer, gentler, a play of compassion that he didn’t feel but that he was more than willing to use.
“That fucker left you holding the bag.” Eddie spoke about Brightman, but he knew that he might as well have said Dom; he wanted to use Letty’s anger over Dom against her. She almost made it too easy. “He left you behind, and now you’re stuck dealing with all the shit he left behind.”
Letty blinked, startled, as Eddie crunched the paper coffee cup. It sounded loud in the still room. Snorting, Eddie shook his head in disgust, gathering up the cups and making a show of slowly getting up from the table. There was no clock in the small room; whoever was being interrogated would have no concept of time. It could fly by or crawl, depending on the skill of the interrogator. Eddie was fed up with the whole thing and it showed.
He crossed the room and fired the crushed paper cups into a garbage bin nailed to the wall. His back turned to Letty, he couldn’t see her cringe, but knew that she had. Almost there. Sounding bored, resigned, he walked towards the door. “You should probably try and get an hour or so of sleep. Once the feds get here, you’ll be processed and most likely sent to a holding facility. They don’t make it too comfortable.”
“What kind of a deal are you offering?” Quiet, tentative, the bluster all but gone.
Leaving his hand on the doorknob, Eddie smiled to himself. “That depends on how truthful your statement is, Letty. It’s your call; we already know what’s happened, so it’s really up to you. I want Brightman. If I get him, if you cooperate, it’ll go easier on you.”
He had left a pad of paper and a pen on the tabletop when they had begun and, as he turned to close the door behind him, Eddie watched as she pulled them towards her for the first time. He would give her a few moments of silence, wondering if he intended to come back at all. Through a peephole in the door, he would be able to watch her easily. Once she started to write in earnest, he would come back in.
Back in the break room, he leaned against the wall, his head back, not wanting to risk another cup of coffee. There was a snack machine in the corner. Stale chocolate on top of rotgut coffee would leave him a wreck the next day, but it was too late to worry about it now, the next day was already here. He dropped a few coins in the machine and punched in two sets of numbers. One for him and one for Letty. Unlike the coffee, it wasn’t done out of mean-spiritedness.
Leaving them on the counter, he moved to the sink and cupped water in his hands, splashing it over his face and wiping the sweat off the back of his neck. Running more water in the sink, he held his face under, trying to clear his head. Letty wasn’t the only problem that he faced.
Handing his car keys over to Vince when they had all been out in the desert had seemed like the right thing to do. Now, in the break room of the Yuma police station, he realized that he was out the cost of the car, to say nothing of the damned paperwork involved in losing it. Stating how he lost it. Unless Vince brought the car back and Eddie wasn’t holding his breath on that. It was almost easier to take a soaking on the cost of the car.
The little red number was taken in a drug seizure, not off a car lot, but he still had to account for it. The headache was back in all its blinding glory. There was just shy of $24,000 in his bank account, which didn’t even come close to covering the cost of the car, seizure or not and filling out a statement about what had happened was unthinkable. It could cost him his career, which made him think of Brian.
“That bad, huh?” Brian leaned against the doorway of the break room. In his hand he held a cardboard tray from a coffee place around the corner; he had headed out while Eddie had been in the interrogation room with Letty. “Did she break?”
Flicking water out of his hair, Eddie drained the sink and composed himself before he turned around. If there was anyone that had to know what Eddie was facing, it was Brian. Not that Eddie cared much for Brian’s choice; it hadn’t ended all that well for the ex-agent, definitely not career wise and Eddie didn’t want to be sacrificing his career. Not for Dom. That was a line that he wasn’t willing to cross.
“Think so. She fought it pretty hard but there’s not much choice for her.” The last thing that Eddie wanted was more coffee but he took the cup from Brian anyway. Taking a sip, he sighed in relief. It was good, nothing at all like the acidic black swill that passed for coffee in the station.
Brian snorted, recognizing the face immediately. “Don’t tell me you drank that slop!” he laughed as he swung one of the metal chairs around and sat at the worn table, tossing the bag of sandwiches that he had brought with him.
“I gave a cup to her in there.” Eddie didn’t want to laugh. Tried to hold it in and couldn’t.
“I guess that explains why she talked. Torture.” Brian pulled out a tuna sandwich and left a roast beef one for Eddie, poking the bag across the table until Eddie sat down on the other side and took it out of the bag. “What’s going to happen to her?” Brian had a pretty good idea of how it would go but he was out of the loop, only there as a courtesy and because the police in Yuma knew him. The moment the feds came in to get Letty, he would have to be gone.
Eddie chewed slowly, enjoying the feeling of having something real in his stomach, something that hadn’t come out of a vending machine. That went for the sandwich as well as the coffee. It recharged his batteries a little.
“I guess that depends on her statement. Right now, her driver’s already rolled on her. She can’t pin it on Toretto. It’s her, or Brightman. I hope she’s smart enough to roll on Brightman. With the charges she’s facing, she’s screwed if she doesn’t.” Eddie had no idea why he spoke so freely with Brian. He shouldn’t have, should have played it close to his chest. The simple truth of it was that he felt comfortable talking to Brian, and wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that.
Brian set the sandwich down on the paper sack it was wrapped in and sucked sauce off his thumb. “They gonna soak you for the car?”
Eddie looked across the table at Brian, wanting to say ‘no’ but that’s not what came out. “Yeah. I’ve probably got enough to cover it.” It sounded dead, wooden, like Eddie was working out the words to see how they would sound. They sounded like a lie.
Brian picked up the sandwich again. It was a sound he recognized. Desperation. Having to go back and explain what had happened. “Vince’ll bring it back.” Brian wasn’t entirely sure that he would; there was never a guarantee. It was a hope, if one with more weight than Brian had faced when he handed his keys to Dom.
Bread tasted like wood in his mouth and Eddie tried to wash it down with coffee, succeeding in not choking, but just barely. Hope was a bitter taste in his mouth, something that he momentarily resented and shouldn’t have. Pride was something he’d have to save until later. “Think so?”
“Pretty sure. If not, maybe we can work up something damned close. Make sure Letty’s okay.” It wasn’t a question; it was a bargain. Take care of Letty as best he could, and Brian would do what he could to get the car back.
“Thanks.” They shook hands across the table and Eddie rested his head on the wood as Brian closed the door to the break room.
It’s a set of keys, not a live snake. Get a grip of yourself, woman.
Amber froze when Dom dropped the keys in her hand, not understanding what it was that he wanted from her. A drive. She could handle a drive. “Where do you want to go?” She was still a little puzzled, thinking that there was something that he had to do, too tired to drive himself.
They were outside in the still cool morning air, Dom one step down from her on the front stairs of the diner. It was odd to not have to look up at him, to be able look at him directly; he continued to hold her hand as he stepped back onto the driveway, taking her with him. It was affectionate and subtle, the simple action far deeper than it seemed. It was comfortable.
“It doesn’t matter, anywhere you want to go. The car’s yours.” It made him happy to see the shocked, shy look on her face; he had said that he would give her a car, but it was one thing to say it, another to hand her the keys. Feeling the heat creep up the back of his neck, he turned and pointed down the road, east, the road cold and clear without the heat mirage that would make it shimmer later on. “That way’s good.” It didn’t matter where they went, he’d go anywhere with her.
Not a destination, just a direction. It was enough to have her step off the last stair. The two cars, Dom’s Chevy and Brian’s Toyota, were parked close to each other, so Dom let go of her hand when they reached the nose of the car, walking around to the passenger side.
It felt weird getting behind the wheel, having to make adjustments. The seat was way too far back, the wheel too high, and she spent a minute or so fiddling. Shared a smile with Dom, who slumped down comfortably in the seat as she made final adjustments to the rear view and side mirrors. Anything else and it would have been farcical.
It was nothing at all like her little blue car. Her safe, dependable, reliable little blue car. The Chevy was masculine. Felt male, smelled male. It smelled like Dom in a way that couldn’t be explained away by his presence next to her; he had left his mark on every part of the car. Including me, she flushed at the thought.
Turning the engine over with a roar had Dom raise an eyebrow at her. Backing out of the driveway and squealing the tires as she hit the street had him flash her with a thousand watt grin that he quickly hid behind his hand as he looked out the window.
“I didn’t have you pegged as a woman that would drive fast.” It had surprised him a little, her ease behind the wheel; he had only ever saw her drive her blue car and she never drove it fast.
“I wasn’t,” she said with a smile; until now, she wasn’t. She didn’t speed, had never gotten a ticket. She wouldn’t dare. Before.
The past tense wasn’t lost on Dom either and he turned to watch her as she drove, the cloud of dust that she had stirred washing over the hood and gone. There was something he should say, that he wanted to say but he didn’t like the heavy unfamiliar way it sounded in his head.
Drive. That thought was clearer. When she had shifted gears, he reached out and nudged her with his hand. They didn’t hold hands, it was just contact. Dom had always hated holding hands while he was driving, all it did was get in the way. Amber didn’t press and she didn’t seem to mind; she would shift and then rest her hand on the seat next to his. After a while, he covered her hand with his and they drove like that for a while.
It was still cool and her skin rose in goosebumps but she didn’t want to roll the window up and Dom didn’t ask either. Dom didn’t say anything at all. It was quiet and still even as she flew down the road to some point in the distance that didn’t matter.
Every once in a while Dom would look over, check the gauges; a habit as natural as breathing. As he watched the indicator on the speedometer sweep right in a slow arc, he looked up to watch Amber, from the corner of his eye. She was smiling, really smiling; he had never seen her smile exactly like that before.
The needle swung even farther to the right and he looked out at the road once more, enjoying the speed with her. He had driven faster cars. Hot engines hopped up on nitrous that bore almost no relation to anything else on the road. None of them could hold a candle to the simple beauty of a stock muscle car. One look at Amber’s wide smile as she floored the accelerator let him know that she got it too, even if she understood nothing at all about the mechanics of it, she understood the pure freedom of it.
The smile broke into an honest laugh and then the needle slowly swung in the opposite direction as she decelerated. “I’ve always wanted to do that!” The car slowed a little more and she turned to him, her eyes sparkling. “How could I have gone this long and not done that?”
Dom knew why. Knew why in one single word. Brightman. She had been afraid to before, afraid to do a lot of things. Not anymore. “There’s a spot up ahead. It’s a drop off and there’s no fence, but if you’re careful you can get pretty close.”
It was a spot that he liked, one of his favorites if he was honest, something he had discovered on the first few days after he had bought the garage. At first he had even taken a few women up to the spot and, while a few had found it nice, it wasn’t something that he continued for long.
The road continued straight and true as far as the eye could see. Dom knew from experience that it would make a few curves later when it hit Organ Pipe National but that was still some distance away; they weren’t going that far.
At a dirt track he had her turn right and settled for leaving his hand beside her thigh on the seat as she needed both hands to drive. Dirt plumed and obscured the road behind them, quickly whipped away in the stirring morning breeze. It would be hot in a couple of hours, if that, and nothing would move, not even the dust.
Dirt became more compact the farther they drove from the main road and soon Amber could drop her hand every once in a while to touch his. A gentle nudge with his knuckle against her thigh and she slowed down, turning off in the direction that he pointed. The going was rockier and Amber crept slowly when they reached the flat stone outcropping, stopping well before the edge.
She had never known anywhere like this existed, outside of a postcard. The land was a small rise, right before it sloped back towards sea level, racing out languorously across desert scrubland towards the Gulf far beyond, twinkling bright and blue in the distance against the cool azure desert sky.
“If we could keep going, we’d hit Puerto Penasco, right on the Gulf. I thought about it, when I first got out. Maybe going all the way down the coast to Guadalajara.” That was something that he had never shared with anyone, how badly he had wanted to run, even though he was pretty sure that Mia and Brian probably knew.
He was too old to run, to just leave, knowing that he would have to keep running. Dom had nothing anymore but what little family he had left, it was all that he had, but he couldn’t stop coming to this spot to look out across the desert.
“It’s…I had no idea this was here,” she said quietly, lamely, knowing that the incredible panorama before her deserved something more. She settled for her first thought. “It’s beautiful.”
Pulling his attention away from the blue sea at the horizon, Dom studied Amber again as she leaned forward in the seat, arms braced on the steering wheel. She gaped slightly, not stupidly, it was more subtle awe than anything, as she looked out. He didn’t need to know what she looked at; the harder scrub and hardy low bushes of the last of the rise, the desert falling away to the Mexico border, the sea. The land rose slightly again on the left side as it ran towards Organ Pipe National Park. She took everything in, completely oblivious to his presence. He wondered how often she had wanted to run.
Kissing her was comfortable; turning her to face him with a knuckle under the chin, he hummed with deep satisfaction at the soft feel of her lips. She hadn’t expected it, sucking in a breath at the feel of his tongue against the bottom curve of her mouth. Another woman would have expected it, and been all over him the moment the car stopped. Probably before then.
He smelled bad and knew that he needed a good long shower and at least eight hours of sleep but it would have to wait and Amber didn’t seem to mind. Her sudden quiet gasp as he lifted her out of the driver’s seat and into his lap made him smile against the skin of her neck, before he kissed her again, his hands roaming at her waist, rucking up her shirt to touch her skin.
Toying with the ticklish spot under her ribs, Dom leaned back against the seat, pulling Amber even closer to him until she straddled his lap. “Missed you,” he repeated, softer than before, holding eye contact this time. The flush across her cheeks was sudden but it was the flare of heat in her eyes that really held his attention.
“Hi,” she whispered shyly, feeling stupid the moment it was out, wishing that she had anything better to say. Dom wouldn’t let her drop her head into his shoulder, catching her under the chin and holding her there. She could feel her cheeks burn but Dom didn’t laugh at her, he didn’t even smile, just that intense look from when he had first kissed her in the kitchen.
From where he was beneath her, he had to tilt his head up to kiss her lips. “Hi,” he returned, his hands caressing over the skin under her shirt as the tip of his nose nuzzled against her cheek. Dom loved to hold a woman like this, to feel the full weight of her in his lap, her breasts and body, her neck, her face, everything accessible to him.
He loved to hold Amber like this but it was her face that he watched. Light brown hair did whatever it wanted to do, falling this way and that, some of it falling across her forehead where it cast shadows. Wide-eyed, she looked down at him as he held her, his hands shifting and sliding over her body to hold her face.
With his thumb, he traced the corner of her mouth, absently stroking along the outer line. Top bow. Bottom. Back again. He felt her blush under his hands, the heat rising across his fingertips. He didn’t press the advantage she so clearly gave him; he had no intention of pressing for advantage even though he knew that if he pushed, even a little, that she would do anything he wanted her to do. Physically, he knew that he could make a woman do pretty much anything he wanted, instead he just soaked it in, before he pulled her down and kissed her.
Stubble scraped over her chin as she tilted her head, sinking deeply into the softness of his mouth. How could his mouth be so soft when his chest, the rest of his body, was so hard? Dizzy, she pulled back, sucking the wet off her lip, savoring the taste of him even as it cooled.
Her skin burned but she looked down at him again, holding herself away from his chest, her hands on his shoulders. “Maybe we should go back.” It was beautiful, one of the prettiest places that she had ever been, but she wanted him. Right now.
Dom dropped his hands to her hips again, caressing her skin in slow circles. He could feel her fidget, and feel her fight to keep still. Thighs spread, she was open to him. That they were both still clothed didn’t matter; he knew she was wet and ready. She knew it too. “You’ve never done this before, have you?” he asked softly, his voice traveling no farther than it needed to, just for her.
Done what?! But she knew anyway. “No. Not really.” Not ever.
“Just in a car or outside, period?”
Dom didn’t tease her although it would have been pretty easy. There was a lot that she had missed out on. Not a virgin by any means, but there were just some things, stuff that a lot of people probably took for granted, that hadn’t made it into her life. “Neither. Can you believe that?” she huffed in self-depreciation, tilting her head back to look at the roof of the car. Neither. It was stupid.
“We can go back if you want.” He didn’t want to go back, not yet anyway, but he would.
That Dom didn’t press, that she knew he wouldn’t, made her mind up easily. “No. Here is good. First time for everything, right?” Still blushing, she looked down at him again before she lowered her head to kiss him again, deeper this time, wanting to say ‘yes’.
“Yeah,” he sighed against her parted lips, dropping his hand beside the seat to ease the seat back, bringing her with him. The back seat would have made a better choice but Dom did the best with what he had; knowing that stopping might result in Amber losing her nerve. Fingers spread, he rubbed hard over her hip, cupping her ass and squeezing, pulling her hard against him as a slow kiss grew to something more. Hot, wet and deep, they moaned against each other, in one heartbeat they were back in the diner’s kitchen, taking up where they had left off.
“Kick your shoes off.”
A simple demand not so easily followed. Spread across Dom’s thighs, Amber tried to bring up her left knee and push off the back of her shoe. Instead, she cracked her knee into the door panel, making a funny face that had Dom drop his head into the hollow of her throat, holding in a laugh. Letting go of her ass, he reached down and pushed her shoe off. They repeated the clumsy motion on the other side.
“What do we do for an encore?” The moment it was out, Amber blushed furiously and stammered, making a half-assed attempt to take it back.
Too late, Dom was already chuckling but she realized that it was with her and not at her. In answer to her question, Dom raised her shirt a little more, the question not quite asked. It was too late to blush, too late for shy, and Amber sat up to make it easier for Dom to pull her shirt over her head, dropping it onto the driver’s seat. His shirt followed, and then her bra was quickly unclasped, left on top of the other clothes.
Running her hands over his chest, she trailed the tips of her fingers over the trail of hair that began a little under his belly button. She could feel that her face was bright red and she didn’t give a damn; it all felt too good, being with him. The top button popped and Dom stayed her hand but didn’t hold her for long, opting instead to help her with her pants.
“Damn, I really should have worn a skirt,” she cursed, as she hit her knee on the door panel again, pulling one leg free while he held her still. Dom put his head back against the seat and held her waist as she struggled to get her pant leg off. Amber laughed and muttered under her breath, but he didn’t. Just admired the view as she stood on one leg and tried to pull the other free.
Amber was laughing by the time she got the second leg free and Dom pulled her back into his lap. It was weird to laugh considering the circumstances; it had been a long time since he had been in a position where it fit. It fit now, it was comfortable and, as he held her in his lap, he tried to remember the last time it had been like this. If it had ever been this good.
There had been a short while, with Letty. Living with her had been hell for the most part but there had been brief moments when it had been like this too. Comfortable. It was better with Amber because he didn’t hate her at the same time. It was good.
“I could get to like this.” It was out before he had thought too much about it. It wasn’t a line, just something that felt right to say. He meant it. They were both still smiling but there was something soft in his expression as he said it.
Amber fumbled over something to say in return but it all felt weird and she didn’t really know where to go with it. Dom may have had to go back a ways to find a place in his life where there had been that comfort, if fleeting, but it was completely foreign to her, new territory. Like Dom, she liked how it felt.
“Lift up a little,” he murmured against the skin of her cheek. He didn’t have half the battle that she did in taking off her pants but then again, he’d had practice and he wasn’t taking them all the way off anyway; to the knees would be fine. Reaching around her hip he fished out first his wallet and then a condom, nudging her thigh out of the way as he got ready.
Warm breath fanned across her breast and she could feel him smile against her skin as she raised up a little higher on her knees, her nipple brushing across his cheek. “No wonder you like this so much.”
Soft, slow and sweet, that’s how it would be. He watched for a second as she sank deep and then rested his head back against the seat so that he could watch her face. Amber’s flush had deepened, her skin so hot that the gentle breeze blowing through the open windows raised her skin in goosebumps.
Her breath was fast as he sucked in her lower lip and Amber melted against him; it felt like falling as they deepened the kiss. They didn’t rush; as he held her hip and pressed up into her, it was almost an afterthought, in perfect counterpoint to their mouths.
Soft, slow and sweet.
Their kiss broke and he let go of her hip, cupping her face as he leaned back, just watching her. They could have moved faster, changed positions, fucked harder. But it wasn’t about fucking; that was secondary. Their noses touched as they moved slowly to a quiet cresting wave, a quiet orgasm that was more about holding.
Amber trembled a little as he held her tightly, his powerful arms wrapping around her back. It was an odd intensity that felt like they should both be saying more, saying something. It left her shaky and exposed, as though her whole heart was exposed to him. She didn’t pull back and neither did he.
Dom buried his nose in her hair and closed his eyes, just breathing her in as he fought everything that wanted to spill out. He didn’t know who he would scare more with it, her or himself, but he wasn’t ready to deal with all the heavy emotions at the moment. Just wanted to hold her tight until she stopped shaking; whatever he felt, she clearly felt it too.
“We should get home before it starts to get too hot out here,” he rumbled quietly against the side of her neck. Amber swallowed at his wording, the ‘we’ and the ‘home’ part; there was no way to know what he meant or even if he knew what he said. And it was starting to get hot. Already the sun had made the interior uncomfortably warm. They could talk later, or not. It didn’t matter, she found. What they had simply was and she was okay with that. It was good.
“Ow.” Straddling him was odd for her and her thigh cramped up when she made to move; it had them both laughing quietly again as he helped her back over to the driver’s side once more. The seat was hot enough that she pulled her ass up off the seat again quickly, quickly reaching for her clothes.
Dom was closer, and reached down to help her find her panties and the one shoe that had managed to end up underneath the seat. “Next time we’ll have to bring a blanket.”
Next time. “I like that. Maybe if it was earlier?” The conversation had her drop her head and smile as she turned the engine over. Am I really having a conversation about when?
“Or later.” He thought of how she would look against the backdrop of a desert sunset, stretched out on a blanket, and had to take a deep breath, putting his head back against the seat before he pulled the seat forward again.
Dom waited until Amber had driven back out onto the dirt road before he reached across and swallowed up her hand in his, the fingers interlacing. He was asleep long before they got home.
Hollabird didn’t think twice when the call came an hour before dawn that morning. Scribbling a quick note to Marsha to let him know he would be out that morning; where he would be and how he could be reached. Ten minutes after the phone was set in its cradle, he was in his cruiser hauling ass across the desert.
Sheriff Garrison didn’t have to call him at all and definitely didn’t have to wait until he could drive out to El Centro. At the most, Hollabird thought that Garrison would maybe give him a call when it all hit the fan. They had found something; the Sheriff hadn’t said what but he wouldn’t have bothered to call if it wasn’t Janet Arlington.
They stood now in the front yard of a small white bungalow that had seen better days, on the outskirts of the El Centro industrial park.
The sun crept higher, drawing curious people out from the surrounding homes. They were held back, barely, by yellow caution tape and a burly deputy that had no issue at all with bellowing at them. If he was true to his word, he would either arrest them all or start swinging his baton, raising knots on a few heads. Hollabird would bet money on the latter.
In front of him, the surly present occupants of the house stood out in the yard just to the inside of the tape. Sheriff Garrison had set a deputy to stand with them; it didn’t look like consolation. Hollabird had no idea who they were.
A firm handshake, the same clipped, professional voice that he had employed over the phone, Hollabird stood before the Sheriff of El Centro and came to the conclusion that Garrison was, to all appearances anyway, his polar opposite. Lean, hard, almost military in bearing. Hollabird would bet money that he had been military at some point. They both greeted each other as “Sheriff.”
Hollabird took another look around the yard. Crime scene dogs fidgeted near the front bumper of a police cruiser in the shade. “What are we looking at here?”
Garrison took another look at the growing crowd at the other side of the tape and began to walk towards the gate at the side of the house. Once they were around the corner of the house, and eerie quiet descended as the sound from the front yard was cut off. “The house is currently a rental but at the time when Ms Arlington went missing, it belonged to the Brightman family.”
Another one of Garrison’s men gave Hollabird a hard look as they approached the back of the yard, where the chain link fence had been cut up the middle, the two sides rolled back against the rest of the fence. “I’m not here officially, son,” he held his hands up in mock surrender, even as the young officer stepped back, offering his hand to help Hollabird down the steep slope of the ravine.
They both scrabbled down the side, sending small avalanches of stones down into the wash below. “Brightman’s family?”
“Some of the older families in the neighborhood said the parents were often away. There was apparently some talk that they might have abandoned their son here. We’re looking into it now.”
It gave Hollabird a chill, knowing what he did about Brightman and he looked over at Garrison as they reached the bottom of the gully. There was no one to hear their conversation and it was off the record anyway. “Have you looked into the possibility that Brightman might have killed them first?”
“I’ve considered it, yes. The dogs are doing a sweep farther out. I have some of my men asking the other neighbors when the last time they remember seeing them.” Garrison pointed out towards the desert where a team of men with dogs beat the ground in carefully constructed grids.
Hollabird didn’t know what could be found at this late date but at least it had started. Whether it would end up in a court of law would be another matter. He followed Garrison, stepping carefully into the other man’s footsteps. It was a habit hard broken; who knows how many people had come down and trampled over this spot, how many animals had done the same in the years that had passed, but the two policemen treated the area like a fresh crime scene. Minimizing the damage of their passage.
Small flags delineated where Garrison’s men had found the bones. It had likely been a shallow grave at one point, as evidenced by the large stones places over the denuded skeleton. Over the years, sediment had washed down through the gully and covered her further. If not for the recent rains that had cleared some of the branches away, the dogs likely wouldn’t have found it before.
Three men crouched over the scene, excavating the body carefully using brushes and small shovels. They paid no attention to Garrison and Hollabird as they neared, stopping at the ring of flags.
Hollabird tore his eyes away as the men continued to work. “No one looked for her here before.”
The flat statement drew no condemnation from Garrison; he was new, without the baggage that came with the crime haven taken place on his watch. “No. No one looked for her before. It was believed that she was a runaway.” Garrison didn’t look like he believed it but it’s what he had to work with; it would be for the FBI to take apart the case.
“You’re sure it’s Arlington?” Hollabird didn’t want to use the young woman’s first name, not while he watched as the three crime scene investigators unearthed her fragile looking skull from the clutter of debris.
“There’s no way to be sure without taking the remains back to the lab and running the DNA. We’ve got something to compare it to, so that should be made easier.” Garrison had turned away, making his way back up the side of the gully, holding clumps of hardy grass to pull himself up. “Unofficially, it’s her.”
At the top of the rise, the two men cut back through the chain link fence and stood in the miserable back yard, looking out over the desert. Hollabird felt empty; there had been a part of him that wanted to disbelieve the private detective. That Janet Arlington would be found alive somewhere. Married maybe, with a brood of kids. It wasn’t to be.
“It’s done then.”
copyright © 1 June 2008 xxxevilgrinxxx