NSA field agent Mal Laughlin is a man with a mission: Bring down DeMarco Investigations for playing a role in the death of his partner. He doesn’t care that Grace and Frank DeMarco are two of the most decorated and venerated U.S. spies. He doesn’t care that Nic, their oldest son, is a man he’d want at his back in a fight or that second son Jimmy is a brilliant geek with a wicked sense of humor. And he most certainly does not care that youngest child, Janey, is as good if not better with computers than he is and beautiful and sweet and… Well, maybe he cares a little. Or maybe he cares a little too much…
The woman’s voice wrapped around Malcolm Laughlin like humidity on a ninety-degree day, making him unseasonably warm for a cool April morning.
From the adjoining office, Janey DeMarco’s husky tone soothed. “No, don’t panic. I can talk you through this. You have to slide off the cover on the tower to remove the hard drive.”
He had no idea who she was talking to. Didn’t matter. Her voice mesmerized—calm, logical, competent. Mal stifled a groan. Sexy as hell.
With a rising sense of dread , he stared blindly into the monitor in front of him. He tried to shut her out, to imagine himself anywhere but the Philadelphia offices of DeMarco Investigations.
A nice arctic oil field or Mount Everest, maybe.
“No. Not the modem. Don’t mess with the cards. I need you to pull the hard drive.” She paused. “What do you mean, should you unplug the machine first?” Now her voice showed the slightest hint of agitation. “Oh for—Damn it, Nic, haven’t I taught you anything?”
Her brother. She was talking to her brother.
“You can’t just—no, don’t—Stop! Just stop.”
She laughed then, a rich, melodic sound that completely erased the irritation.
God damn, she had a great laugh. Gave him a hard-on every damn time. Luckily for him, in the month he’d been here, she hadn’t had much to laugh about.
Mal used his forearm to sweep a clear spot on his desk. Ignoring the pile of discs that fell to the floor, he doubled over, resting his forehead on the cool, polished wood.
“Yes, I know you don’t normally do this, but—No! You can’t just pull the plug! You have to shut it down first.” She paused again, as if to take a deep breath. “Nic, work with me here. I need that hard drive.”
Ah, hell. Another groan twisted his insides into knots.
Gallagher had said three weeks, in and out. No problem.
Well, he’d been here four, and he hadn’t found a damn thing. This case was not as cut and dried as he’d been led to believe.
“Damn it, Nic. I can’t believe you let it go this far. You should’ve called me earlier—”
And the DeMarcos were not what he’d expected. He’d imagined “The Sopranos.” Instead, he got “Ozzie and Harriet” with a little “La Femme Nikita” thrown in for flavor.
It was confusing as hell, and confusion generally pissed him off. He liked to have all his facts in a row. Who the players were. What their roles were.
These damn DeMarcos wouldn’t stay in their boxes. Whenever he thought he had them figured out, they threw something new at him.
“No, you can’t do that. No… You could wipe the disc.”
Mal knew his limits. Knew his strengths and weaknesses. He was controlled, meticulous. He could be a cold-blooded son-of-a-bitch who didn’t take shit from anybody. And he never, ever, let his libido dictate his actions.
“Alright, put her on,” Janey said. “Toni, honey, it’s going to be okay. You’ll have your term paper by the end of the week, even if we have to make Nic rewrite it. I swear, everything will be fine.”
A goddamn term paper. Jesus. He was screwed.
Still, if she told him the sky was green and the ocean pink right now, he’d believe her. If she told him to hide under his desk because the sky was falling, he’d do it in a heartbeat.
And if she ordered him to strip naked and lie on his desk for her pleasure…well, shit, he’d think he’d died and gone to heaven.
Christ Almighty, didn’t he have enough problems without lusting after the suspects’ daughter?
Fighting the urge to kick his desk into submission, he lifted his head and tossed the glasses he hadn’t worn in years onto the mess on his desk. He rubbed at his eyes then applied pressure to his temples, trying to ease the throbbing.
Yeah, he knew it was a lost cause. He dropped his head again, this time banging it on the desktop. Hard enough to make him come to his senses, although it would probably take a sledgehammer to sort this case into any kind of order.
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Stephanie Julian is the author of the Forgotten Goddesses, Magical Seduction, Lucani Lovers, Darkly Enchanted, The Fringe and DeMarco Investigations series. A former reporter for a daily newspaper, she enjoys making up stories much more than writing about real life. She’s happily married to a Springsteen fanatic and is the mother of two sons who love her even when they don’t have any clean clothes and dinner is a bowl of cereal.
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