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Copyright ©2012 B.J. McCall
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Rilee Winter stared at the computer screen and picked up the receiver of her ringing desk phone. "Agent Winter." She'd spent the morning updating case files and hoped the call would give her a reason to get out from behind her desk. Los Angeles was experiencing a heat wave, but Rilee preferred the streets to doing paperwork.
"The captain would like to see you. And Rilee, look your best."
Ceci, the captain's assistant, was all business, often to the point of bluntness, but never personal. Being summoned to Captain Powers' office was a rare event. Rilee wondered which of her current cases had brought her to the boss' attention. "When?"
The line disconnected. Ceci was part of Rilee's pack, and to ignore her advice would be foolish.
Rilee ducked in the restroom, tidied her hair, tucked in her black Federal Paranormal Crime Unit issued T-shirt and dusted muffin crumbs off of her black slacks. Feeling presentable, Rilee hustled down the corridor and entered the outer office. Ceci was seated at her desk.
"Go right in. They're waiting for you," Ceci said. "Do the pack proud."
Rilee tapped on the office door and stepped inside. The scent of man and spicy aftershave hit Rilee's nostrils. The captain was seated at his desk, his hand wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee. A second cup sat before the captain's guest. Whoever the visitor was, he was someone important. Captain Powers, a wolf who usually worked in his shirt sleeves, had his suit jacket on and his tie cinched.
"Agent Winter, this is Pierce Brannan."
Brannan rose and turned toward her.
Rilee sucked in a breath, and her heart did an odd thump. Stunned by Brannan's movie star looks, Rilee's mind went blank and her toes curled. Her nose twitched and her senses reeled. His scent was sexy, delicious, and his face bordered on beautiful with refined bone structure that brought the word elegant to mind. His hair was so dark it was almost black and his long dark lashes accentuated the pale green of his eyes.
She struggled for words that would not come and for a long moment Rilee and Brannan stared at one another.
The chief cleared his throat, then Brannan extended his hand. "Agent Winter."
Rilee grasped Brannan's hand, and a sudden fire flashed through her. Wow. His touch was like a hot brand. If she were in wolf form her tail would be wagging.
"Have a seat, Winter."
The captain's order snapped Rilee out of her sensual trance. Settling into a chair, she faced the captain and forced herself to start thinking like a cop. Rilee glanced at Brannan. She figured he was in his early thirties, an inch over six feet tall and weighed about one eighty. He had a slight lump on the back of his head that made his hair stick out, the only visible flaw on an otherwise perfect human specimen.
"A valuable diamond has been stolen from Mr. Brannan's home in San Francisco." The captain hesitated for a beat, then continued, "Mr. Brannan says your sister, Ariel, is the thief."
Rilee flinched. Brannan might be important, but it appeared he was no better than a long list of moonstruck human males who had fallen head-over-heels for Ariel. From middle school to college, her twin had always been the one that the boys desired. Rilee already knew the scenario. Ariel had become Brannan's lover, and while his pants were down, she'd ripped off his diamond.
She pushed the image of Brannan with his pants around his ankles out of her mind. "When did the theft occur?"
"Last night," Brannan said.
A shock rippled through Rilee. Last night she'd awakened with a jolt. She'd dreamed about Ariel, something that hadn't happened in months. Rilee's heart had pounded, and she'd felt Ariel's excitement as if it were her own. At the time, Rilee didn't understand why her twin was so stirred up. Now, she did.
Since she was old enough to remember Rilee had known when her twin was hurt or in trouble. And Ariel was often in trouble. Her twin had a penchant for pilfering things that didn't belong to her and was capable of lying without hesitation. Stealing was a rush, and Ariel was addicted.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Brannan, for the theft of your property, but I haven't seen or spoken to my sister in years. If I hear from her, I'll inform Captain Powers." Rilee looked at the captain, expecting to be dismissed. She wanted to get away from Brannan and she didn't want to be involved in Ariel's troubles.
"Since a shifter is the suspect, the PCU has caught the case."
The Paranormal Crime Unit handled all criminal cases involving a shifter. Although many shifters were employed by police departments, a national agency of highly trained shifters was better equipped to handle dragons, felines and werewolves, and serve the paranormal community.
"I'll help the assigned agent in any way I can," Rilee said.
"The San Francisco office isn't handling the case. At Mr. Brannan's request, I'm assigning the case to you."
The captain didn't ask if she wanted the case, nor did he caution her not to lose her perspective because she had a relationship with the suspect, but Rilee knew an order when she heard it. Brannan must be filthy rich to have lost a valuable diamond and be very politically connected to have the captain granting his personal request.
Captain Powers slid a piece of paper across the desk. "These are your contacts at our San Francisco office and the SFPD. Both will give you any assistance you require."
Rilee picked up the paper. "If your schedule is clear, I'd like to interview you within the hour, Mr. Brannan. My partner, Agent Holt, will join us."
"Agent Holt will continue to work on your current cases," Captain Powers said. "You're assigned exclusively to Mr. Brannan until your sister is apprehended and his diamond is found."
Exclusively assigned? Brannan must be mega rich and have a senator or two in his back pocket.
Brannan stood and Rilee was once again aware of his size. If the shoulders of his expensive suit weren't padded, he had an excellent build.
"I'm looking forward to working with you, Agent Winter. Pack a bag. A driver will pick you up at your apartment in an hour."