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Caught Between [LeatrixSage x Mr Quixotic]

LeatrixSage

Fucking little Gorgeous Goddess
Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
550
Location
Vaucluse, SC
#1
Nimble fingers spun the dial clockwise, making the gears grind as she made sure the wheels were disengaged before she set the bell-end of the stethoscope next to the dial to listen.

Outside the wall of windows to her left it was raining.

Again.

That was New York for you.

”I miss the sun,” she though as she held her breath and turned the dial unhurriedly counterclockwise.

click… CLICK

The drive cam notch slid under the lever arm and she smiled as she flipped the dial 180 degrees and parked the wheels. One down, six more to go. It had always come so easily to her. A safe was like a woman, if you treated her well and touched her just so… she’d unveil all her secrets and expose all her most vulnerable places to you. Maybe that was why Val was so good at getting into them.

click… CLICK

Two down. The idea that there was any way she could caught picking a safe this easy was grating on her nerves and she hadn’t even gotten it open yet. Of course, there were extenuating circumstance involved. Under normal conditions, Valentina Ricci would have spent a couple weeks posing as a temp before meeting the boss for a midnight tryst when the building was empty, drugging him… well… a sideways glance to the right had her smiling at the middle-aged woman snoozing away on the floor a few feet away. There were quite a few things different about this job.

click… CLICK

Three. The primary difference was that it wasn’t a job. She wasn’t getting paid for this. Oh no, this shame was a quick ticket to free, armed security. She’d considered simply turning herself in, but that news would get to the wrong ears far too quickly. Viktor Curic was lucky enough to have friends in both low and high places. Val was not so lucky.

click… CLICK

Four, nearly there. Okay, if she was honest, it was her own fault she didn’t have friends. Val was a thief, and a hacker, and she was damn good at what she did… but, there’s no honor among thieves. Anyone that said otherwise was either lying or selling a con. Usually both. Cons required more working parts than she liked to deal with, more points of failure. Teams made mistakes, let you down, ripped you off, stabbed you in the back… and she’d do the same, given half the chance. She had, actually, which was why Curic’s people sniffing around.

click… CLICK…. Thunk

There it was. The anti-theft had been triggered. When she set the wheels, a silent alarm would be triggered, not that the police response would get there before she was waist deep into whatever was inside.

“Just about five minutes,” Val sighed, steeled her resolve, and set the wheels. There was a little electric tick, and the silent alarm was running. Now, for the big finish she had to pretend that she had no idea there was a silent alarm, and that she was not a professional, or Val Ricci. Her arrest would be a death sentence if she was taken under her own name. Of course, the name she’d been using the last few had been compromise as well, otherwise there wouldn’t have been men in her hotel this morning looking for her. There was no time to go create another identity, not when he’d already tracked her all the way up the east coast. She really should have taken up that one guy’s offer to make her some spares… what was his name again?

click… CLICK

Six, the last one. Val gave the dial a little jiggle, held her breath, and cranked the handle down. Steel slide against steel as the latch fell, and the safe door swung open. Grinning with self-satisfaction, Val reached inside the safe and brought out a pile of files to spread over the massive desk in the center of the room. She tossed some papers around and went back for more. Just some good old corporate espionage, nothing fancy or advanced. She’d claim to have been threatened by a competitor that had been stalking her ever since she’d gotten the temp position. They told her what to do, how to do it, really, she was scared for her life and had to call her husband who’d been out of state on business. They said they’d kill him.

She’d cry, her mascara would run, and the more hysterical she would get, the fewer questions they’d want to ask. They might not even double check her name before she got to make a phone call.

Flashlights zooming around and illuminating the blinds that were closed on the office windows that faced all the little cubical opposite the big-desk-in-the-corner-office -with-the-great-views gave away the NYPD’s most recent fail at being stealthy. Val gave her cheeks a few, quick pats to get them nice and red, messed her hair to be sure she looked good and wild, and took a few deep breaths. The door wasn’t locked, but an officer came smashing through it anyway, which she took as a cue to throw up the papers in her hands and scream.

“Get down on the ground!” one of them shouted from behind the safety of a sea of blinding flashlights held over firearms, all pointed in her direction. Typical.

“I’m not armed!” Val shouted back, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” Cue the tears.

“On the ground, now!” a feminine voice? Women were getting into everything these days. Male cops had more empathy for a female suspect. Women never have sympathy for other women. Empathy, maybe, but not sympathy.

“They’re going to kill my husband!” she shouted back as she got to her knees and laid down on the rough carpet. It really was awful, all grey and dingy, and the bristles were rough against her cheek. She might actually get rug burn if she wasn’t careful.

Not disappointing her, the boys in blue arrested her quickly, packed her up into a cruiser, and immediately delivered her into an interrogation room. Less time in a cell meant less time that she could spend behind bars with people Viktor could easily have paid to kill her while she was handcuffed. The fact that she could get out of them wasn’t really reassuring in this particular instance.

She cried.

Her mascara ran.

And they all became so uncomfortable that they gave up and just watched her from behind the glass for a while. The next time one of them stepped in and she asked for her phone call, they were so relieved that she wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably that they said “yes” just to keep her calm.

It was exhausting, but if they didn’t have any information, there was little that could find its way back to the devil that was chasing her tail. One dirty cop was all it took, which was why she was going to do the one thing she never dreamed she would even attempt. How long ago had he given her his card with his personal number written out in confidant angles on the back? Chances were that he might not even have the same phone number anymore. An officer led her to the painfully old phones that still hung on the wall, dialed the bogus number she gave them, and then walked away. As soon as they were out of site, she tapped the little button that rested under the receiver five times in quick succession.

“Hello?” a voice popped up on the other end.

“Hello, operator, I’m having trouble dialing a phone number, one of the numbers doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Yes, of course,” the operator was happy to help, and patched her over. Val tucked the little card back into her shoe while the phone rang. It took longer than she would have liked. Everything came down to this. Either she would be in protective custody that was put in place by a man who was rigidly unbuyable, or by some easily bought NYPD officers that simply couldn’t be trusted. When the ringing finally stopped and a familiar voice asked who was calling, she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and her heart started to beat again.

“Marshal,” she used his title rather than his name. “It’s Val, Valentina Ricci.” She paused to let that sink in, and to collect her thoughts before charging forward. “I decided to take you up on that offer you made a few years back. I’ll give you Viktor Curic on a Silver platter. All you have to do is keep me alive.”
 

Mr Quixotic

The Lowest Form Of Wit
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Joined
Dec 14, 2012
Messages
2,444
Location
Australia
#2
"Clear."

"Clear."

"Downstairs clear."

"Holding the elevator"

"Roger. On our way."

Cole Whittaker released the microphone button and glanced at the bespectacled figure pacing the room. The thin, nervous middle-aged man looked exactly like what he was. An accountant, named Elliot Adler.

An expression of contempt passed across Whittaker's rugged features when Elliot's head jerked up as he addressed him, and he could see the fear in the man's eyes, like a deer in the headlights. "Time to hold up your end of the deal, unless you'd prefer to chance it out there?" Cole nodded at the drawn blinds, alluding to the city outside. Not that man any longer possessed the choice, it was either testifying before the Grand Jury today, and at the subsequent trial, or spend the new few years avoiding bending over in the shower at Otisville Federal.

Elliot had rolled in two seconds flat without so much as putting a fight or even requesting a lawyer. The second the cops had knocked on his door with a search warrant, he'd spilled everything he knew. Which, thankfully, was enough to send his employer, Rafael Esposito, and the man's suppliers down for at least a nickel. It'd also take a boatload of heroin off the streets and with so much at stake the Federal Government had stumped up an offer of Witness protection for Alder in exchange for his testimony.

"I said, fucking move." The man had remained motionless, contemplating the consequences of his decisions, and Whittaker was not in the mood to be stuffed around. Adler made him nauseous, with the cowardly asshole's willingness to rat out his friends in order to save his own skin almost as deplorable to Cole as the crimes his superiors had committed. And he'd spent the night mollycoddling him.

"Sorry." Adler threw up his hands, breathed deeply to compose himself and nodded. "I'm ready."

'Then let's go." Cole reached under the tail of his shirt, removed the Glock .45 from its holster, checked the safety and indicated for the man to walk on ahead.

After nervously shuffling to the door, Adler paused and waited for Cole to open it, where the duo were greeted by Whittaker's partner, Rod Murphy, gun drawn and who'd secured the hallway. The Agency had commandeered the entire floor. Cole nodded at him and indicated to Adler. "Once we're free of this prick, I owe you a beer." Elliot didn't object to the insult.

'Sorry, can't, the wife's expecting me home to mow the lawn and she wears the pants." Both laughed, and Cole shook his head. The other man's six feet, four inch frame and two-hundred and fifty pounds of muscle towered over Cole's six foot one, one-eighty athletic build and his wife was half Cole's size, but both knew the statement to be true. The duo encountered no problems as they bundled Levine into the service elevator and rode down to the basement. An SUV flanked by two agents awaited, rear passenger door open.

"Enjoy the rest of your life." Whittaker placed his hand on the man's head, forced his knees to bend and half manoeuvred, half-shoved Adler into the back seat. After the other two entered either side and slammed the doors shut, he slapped his hand on the hood and watched the vehicle take off. A nondescript undercover vehicle fell in line behind the SUV when it exited onto the road.

Another task complete in the exciting life of a US Marshal.

If only the general public were aware of the boredom that accompanied the profession. Unlike what was portrayed on television and in film it wasn't a thrill-a-minute adrenaline rush comprised of never-ending gunfights, high-speed pursuits and rappelling down the sides of skyscrapers. Instead, it consisted of reams of paperwork and days and nights of ass-numbing surveillance or babysitting assholes like Elliot Adler. The higher up in the bureaucracy you got, the greater administrative duties and red-tape you encountered.

Fortunately, Cole hadn't made it that far that his days weren't still spent mostly in the field and despite the drawbacks, he loved the work. Both his grandfather and father had been cops in New York and it was in his blood. To Cole Whittaker, Law enforcement wasn't a career, it was a calling.

"You drive." His shift now over, he addressed his partner and fumbled for the keys in his pocket. Simultaneously, his cell vibrated. The keys caught at the hem of his trouser pocket, before he managed to urge them all the way out and toss them to Rod, then reach back in for his phone.

"Be with you in a minute." He held up a hand.

Rod nodded and headed on to their parked vehicle.

Cole recognised the voice before she'd even told her name, Valentina Ricci, and the breath caught in his throat and he opened his mouth to reply. However, before the words came out, she continued and the next name she mentioned had every fibre of his being on high alert.

Victor Curic

Realising he'd stopped right in the middle of the car park, in danger of being run over by any vehicle proceeding down the ramp, Cole moved aside and gathered his thoughts.

Had he heard her correctly?

I’ll give you Viktor Curic on a Silver platter.

Why, and could she do it?

Valentina possessed the contacts, of that he knew for sure.

Again, why?

All you have to do is keep me alive.

When he spoke, Cole displayed no hint of his inner excitement at the possibility that, after all these years, he might finally be provided the opportunity to take down Curic.

"Valentina, a pleasure to hear from you, it has been a while and whilst I appreciate the call, who says that I still require your help. Or, for that matter, that I'd be interested in keeping you alive." Cole smiled down the phone, then swiveled away from the prying eyes of Rod as his tone turned more serious. "However, I'm curious to know what you've done to piss off Curic and how bad of a jam you're in, which I'd rather not discuss over an open line. When and where shall we meet?"
 

LeatrixSage

Fucking little Gorgeous Goddess
Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
550
Location
Vaucluse, SC
#3
Just breath. Don’t rush it. He’ll bite.

“Valentina, a pleasure to hear from you,”

oh, that is not what your voice says, Marshal.

“it has been a while and whilst I appreciate the call, who says I still require your help?”

You just told me you did, by asking the question. If you didn’t need my help, you would have hung up the phone.

“Or, for that matter, that I’d be interested in keeping you alive.”

Okay, well… yes, if I didn’t have anything to offer, you’d let me burn. You may be the good guy in this twisted world, but that doesn’t mean you have any honor.

By this point, Val had to clear her throat to keep herself from laughing in amusement at her own internal monologue. She was sure the Marshal wouldn’t approve of her snappy come-backs, so she kept them tactfully to herself. After all, she didn’t need the man angry. Or, at least, not angry at her. If anything, she should appeal to the white-knight syndrome that so many of his master race were crippled by.

The cloying in his voice shifted and drew her attention back to the buzzing landline that probably hadn’t been updated since the sixties. He was already done toying with her. It was what separated people like him from people like her and Victor. U.S. Marshal Cole Whittaker didn’t know how to have fun.

“However,” his voice deepened as he flipped into ‘cop-mode’ and got to the point, “I’m curious to know what you’ve done to piss off Curic and how bad of a jam you’re in, which I’d rather not discuss over an open line. When and where shall we meet?” There it was, that ingrained need to protect, and likely the best target for her bait for the time being. If it wasn't for his strong moral backbone, this little lure would never work, which had Val admiring him... in a way. Of course, those were words that would never see the light of day if she had her way. Couldn't have him thinking she was anything more than a filthy criminal, that would just muddy the water.

“Any time before midnight would work well for me,” Val twisted around to look at a clock on the wall behind her, and chuckled when she realized how late it was. “You have a little over two hours before I hit general population in the Manhattan Detention Complex. These guys will give up trying to question me by then.” If she was honest, they’d likely give up sooner than that. Sure, she was good… but warm dinners and warmer wives were going to be far more interesting than the sobbing woman conned into stealing from her old boss in the very near future.

“Alayna Taylor was just arrested for drugging her ex-boss and trying to steal trade secrets for the competition. What do you know, the safe had some really hard to find security measures. Really, I’m embarrassed, I had no idea what happened.” Val laughed, but the sound was a little desperate even to her own ears. She told herself it had nothing to do with the constricted feeling wrapped her heart, or the way she forgot to breathe when she heard footsteps, or the fact that she felt naked without a gun, knife, anything on her. It wasn't that she was uncomfortable violence... she didn't want to die, that's all.

Rein it in or you’re going to scare him away before you get set the hook.

“Not to put any pressure on you, Marshal,” she added on an exasperated exhale, “but, we both know what happens to people Victor doesn’t like in any prison in the state. If you want to know how I can help you, get me before they do.”

Val didn’t wait for an answer, she hung up the phone. If he didn’t take the bait… well, there was always plan B.

The hell is plan B? Fuck, if I know.

Val was laughing at herself again as a gentle hand settled on her shoulder and pulled to turn her around.

“Some coffee, miss?” a friendly smile with cold eyes greeted her, and Val busied herself with brushing away a tear that wasn’t there with one hand as she accepted her coffee with the other. “Are you ready to talk, now?”

“Yes, sure, I mean,” she fumbled, and then nodded weakly. She hunched in her shoulders and kept her head down to look small, fragile, weak, anything but what she was. The officer’s eyes had set alarm bells off in the back of her head, but she had to play the part as it was written. Cole would come, Victor was too big to pass up.

Here’s to hoping to comes fast enough.
 

Mr Quixotic

The Lowest Form Of Wit
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Joined
Dec 14, 2012
Messages
2,444
Location
Australia
#4
Cole stood rooted to the spot, eyes widening in surprise as the woman continued and he realised, at least partly, what had happened to her and where she was. Then, he laughed aloud. That she'd been careless enough to have failed a job, let alone to subsequently allow herself to be apprehended, didn't sound like the Valentina Ricci he knew. However, she had, and now apparently relied on a false identity to hold up until a Knight in Shining Armour came to her rescue.

It was delicious, but before he could open his mouth to taunt her further by asking if she'd called for the name of a good lawyer, Valentina demonstrated that she'd at least retained some of her intelligence and cunning. There was nothing but a dial-tone on the other end.

"Shit." Swearing in frustration, Cole hit the end call button and ran the conversation through his head as he moved towards the waiting Murphy, who'd entered his car and fired up the ignition. Two hours, she'd said, until she hit general population. He glanced at his watch. Despite being fully cognisant of what Curic was capable of and that the screws at Manhattan detention were more bent than the inmates, Cole surmised the danger wasn't quite that immediate.

The authorities were likely running 'Alayna's' fingerprints through the AFIS database, and it'd take a while to return a match. Hours for that information to make its way inside and more would pass before Curic was notified. After he'd authorised reprisals or a hit, if he did, confirmation would need to be relayed back to those who'd carry out his orders.

He should stop for a nice dinner, then head home to sleep and leave her to sweat it out overnight. Maybe she'd be more forthcoming and agreeable when they met. Then again, once Valentina was processed and identified for who she was, attempting to gain access to her in lock-down would be a time-consuming bitch of red tape.

"Old flame." He shrugged in response to his partner's quizzical expression when he entered his vehicle. "Drop me at the bureau." His nerves still on edge, a mixture of adrenaline and uncertainty, Whittaker settled back in the passenger seat and gazed contemplatively out the window as Rod drove.

She'd thrown out the only bait that could have tempted him, but why should he help save her skin? Why not just ignore her plea, leave her to reap the consequences of what she'd sown, and continue to pursue Curic on his own?

Because he'd already tried and failed at that, and this could be his only realistic change. Out of the two, he'd prefer it be Valentina who remained free to walk the streets and considering her dire predicament, he'd hold the upper hand in any negotiations.

No matter how much of a metaphorical hard-on he possessed for Curic.

[hr]

Following a number of phone calls, he made it twenty minutes before the two hours was up.

"How can I be of assistance, Marshal."

The condescending emphasis the Desk Sergeant placed on the last two words had immediately told that he wasn't overly impressed with Cole's credentials.

"Alayna Taylor." Whittaker repeated it for a third time, increasingly certain he'd been heard the first two.

"Who?" He cupped his ear.

"Alayna fucking Taylor."

A smirk curled up on the other man's lips. "Ah, Alayna fucking Taylor, it is. I'll check if we have anyone by that name."

Cole almost jumped the desk and throttled the bastard.

It took the officer an inordinately long time to scroll his finger down the list on the computer screen, and lift his gaze back to Cole. "I'm sorry, she's indisposed, if you'd take a seat over there." He pointed to a row of uncomfortable plastic benches on the other side of the room.

That was it.

"What the fuck?"

"Listen, you measly prick." Whittaker gripped him by the lapel and lifted the desk sergeant off his feet and across to Cole's side of the counter, his intense blue eyes boring into the other man's fearful green ones. "I don't give a shit if she's in the middle of a conversation with the Queen of England. Alayna Taylor is a witness in a Federal Investigation and I want to see her now. Got it?"

The other man gulped, and smoothed out the creases in his white shirt when he landed back on his feet on the right side of the desk. "Yes Sir." All cockiness had departed his demeanour.

"Good, Interview Room One." Cole had attended the facility many a time and when he glanced up at the second level, he'd noticed the open door. "Bring coffee." Having presumed the room vacant, which proved to be correct, he didn't look back to see the scowl return on the man's face as he ascended the stairs, entered and made himself at home behind the desk, his back to the wall.

A pot of freshly brewed coffee and a half-full box of Krispy Kreme's arrived in short order.
 

LeatrixSage

Fucking little Gorgeous Goddess
Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
550
Location
Vaucluse, SC
#5
“You’re an ass, you know that?” where the first words out of her mouth after the door closed behind Val.
He’d taken his dear, sweet time about getting there, and she’d already been processed, stripped, showered, and packed into the god-awful orange jumpsuit reserved for the fresh population of what the locals lovingly referred to as, ‘the Tombs’. Not to mention the humiliating squat and coffee routine. Remaining quietly meek and mousey throughout the booking process had frayed her nerves to the point that she was spoiling for a good fight just to release all the tension. She was so ready to start an argument that she almost missed the heavenly scent of fresh coffee, but has she breathed in to launch into a list of all her grievances, it broke her train of thought.

Bright grey eyes darted from the coffee, to the Krispy Kreme’s, to the man who sat behind the desk with the same self-assured nature she remembered. It was funny how the sight of him made her want to grind her teeth, something she assumed was a by-product of pervious encounters from their younger years. Even so, if he was the barrier between her and a fresh cup of coffee... she could be nice for a little while.
Smiling ruefully, she took her seat in the cold, uncomfortable metal chair that was reserved for the one meant to be answering questions. The chill cut right through the thin jump-suit and made her shiver, something she tried to hide by pulling her long brown hair over one shoulder and shifting to tuck her left leg beneath her.

“I take it back, any man that gives me coffee can’t be a complete ass,” she mused as she leaned over the Krispy Kreme box and picked at its continents until she picked one that was somehow better than the others. “And donuts, too. Wow, suddenly I feel like I shout apologies. But, I look god-awful in this particular color of orange, and I blame you.” She spaced out the last three words, punctuating by bobbing the donut up and down to point in Cole’s direction with each word before taking a bite.

Val sighed as she chewed, her empty stomach grumbling at her. “Not to mention the fingerprints they are running. They’ll eventually end up running a wide enough net to figure things out, you know that. What took you so long anyway?” Even as she asked the question, Val waved it away, “Never mind that, doesn’t matter now, it’s already done.”

She took another bite of her doughnut and chewed slowly, obviously waiting for Cole to poor her a cup of coffee rather than doing it herself. It was more about establishing who was going to have the power in this little exchange than any laziness on her part. Control was key, and if she didn’t have it from the beginning, this entire endeavor was going to be an uphill battle. He’d already left her to wait, making clear the fact that she needed him, he was important. Fine, he could have that point, but he couldn’t be allowed to believe that she would just accept any deal that hit the table. Desperate or not, she’d give him nothing if she wasn’t satisfied with his offer.

’I have more chips than you think I do, Cole.’

“So,” she grudgingly broke the silence, well aware that it allowed him to keep the advantage, and determined to change that fact. “You know what I want. What is your price, Cole?” she asked as she relaxed back into her chair, allowing him to dominate the room by assuming a submissive posture.

’Strong men are easy to lure when they think they have the advantage, they stop looking before they leap when they think they have it all figured out.’

Men like Whittaker tended to kowtow those around them without even realizing what they were doing. Lesser men would hunch and become small and women would simper and flutter and flirt. He fancied himself good, decent, but he was as much a predator among sheep as any of the criminals he chased down and put behind bars. But, sitting in a room alone with Val, he seemed… on edge?

’Because he wants victor, or because of me,’ she wondered, amused, ’I hope it’s me.’
 

Mr Quixotic

The Lowest Form Of Wit
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Joined
Dec 14, 2012
Messages
2,444
Location
Australia
#6
Cole wasn't surprised by Valentina's uncomplimentary greeting. If he recalled their last encounter correctly, they hadn't precisely departed on good terms. Holding a coffee in one hand, and biting into a chocolate iced doughnut when she addressed him, Whittaker raised appraised her face, then ran his gaze over the orange jumpsuit. Even though it didn't detract from her looks, Cole smiled at the sight.

"Valentina, nice to see you as well." Determined to betray no hint of over-eagerness, Whittaker remained reclined in his seat. Maintain composure, don't let her know just how much capturing Curic means to you, That was the mantra he'd repeated as he'd waited for her arrival. When she poked at the Krispy Kreme's, he motioned for the officer's who'd brought her in, to depart. They stood motionless and stared hesitantly back at Whittaker until his unwavering gaze forced them to avert their eyes first. Neither spoke a word before they exited the room, slamming the door shut behind them.

Once he and Valentina were alone, Cole took a deep breath and returned his focus to the woman. "I think the shade of orange suits you." He crossed one leg over the other, and casually wiped crumbs that had flown from her doughnut as she'd flailed her hand at him, from his shirt. "Coffee? My pleasure."

He ignored her rant and poured the woman a coffee, the least he could do under the circumstances. After he handed it across, Cole rested both elbows on the wooden desk and leaned closer. "Freshly brewed, could be your last for a few years." Whittaker took a deep breath and pushed all thoughts of the woman out his mind, apart from those that related to the reason he'd come. Curic. Trying to gauge what emotions lay behind the spoken words, Cole sensed when she raised the subject of Victor up that Valentina possessed an even graver concern for her welfare than she was willing to acknowledge. Good, he'd use it against her.

"You're not the most important thing in my life, and I had other priorities. I'm surprised you needed my help anyway. Don't tell me using your feminine wiles to seduce your way out of trouble didn't work this time?" Cole arched a brow and, with faux nonchalance, plucked a second Krispy Kreme from the box, then nudged the remainders in her direction. "Wait until you hit general population. How long until your prints come back, an hour, two, three?" The intensity of his gaze belied Cole's resolution to appear dispassionate.

Now or never, one chance for Curic and he wasn't going to let Valentina play him, nor her presence to distract him from his task. No matter the effect her previously mentioned wiles charms might have on Cole himself - not that he'd ever admit to it - he remained in control. The Marshal was prepared to walk out and leave Valentina Ricci to rot in jail, or at least that's what he'd intended for her to believe.

The change in dynamic as she shrank back in her seat increased Coles confidence that Valentina knew he held the upper hand. "Curic's head on a platter. Names, dates, witness, and irrefutable evidence. More importantly, his location." Lyle's eyes continued to bore into the woman. "Viktor's gone underground, turned into a phantom, and I want to know where that bastard is, and for you to get me close. When I have the evidence, I'll bust his fucking door down and walk him out in cuffs in front of the media, this time with no way in hell to beat the rap. You're going to give me all of it. Otherwise."

He paused, then leaned back in his seat, and nodded towards the hallway outside the room. "You take your chances here. They'll likely let you survive for a while, at least until you've lost your looks and outlived your usefulness as the bull dyke's' bitch. I'll put in a word to the prosecutor, ask that he agrees to have you plead guilty to lesser charges and be released on probation. That's my price."

One she wouldn't pay, but why start with the best offer and leave no wiggle room for negotiation? Whittaker left the ball in her court to come back with a counteroffer.
 

LeatrixSage

Fucking little Gorgeous Goddess
Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
550
Location
Vaucluse, SC
#7
This shade of orange suits me?

The left corner of Val’s mouth twitched at that little comment. She was fairly certain he meant that she belonged behind bars, given the horridly shameful criminal that she was, but she left the comment alone until after she’d finished venting her frustrations. It wasn’t until he had poured her a cup of coffee and handed it across the table to her. There, that was one. It was small, but he had provided her something, given her something without her asking for it. He cared, maybe just because she was a living thing, but the why didn’t matter. What mattered as that he cared, and he was already predisposed to do trivial things for her, and that could lead to bigger things.

“I think your value of taste comes into question if you think this shade of orange looks good on anyone,” she rejoined on a long, airy sigh after a sip of the coffee. “But, I appreciate the fact that you still think I look good enough to make this jumpsuit seem attractive.” She gave him a little wink over her coffee cup, her antics more of a cover for her anxiety than anything else, and tried to ignore his comment about the cup of coffee being her last. He suggested a few years, she thought more along the lines of last coffee ever. It was a cheap shot, but very typical-cop to already be using the intimidation tactics.

Cole suggested she wasn’t the most important thing in his life… which she agreed with. Curic was the most important thing. Curic was why he was here. If she hadn’t had that name to throw down, the marshal never would have showed up, so that was rather obvious to everyone already. But, the jab at her wiles nicked her pride.

“Cole,” she admonished on a little whimper, “do you think for a second I ended up here by any other means than that I wanted to be here?” Shaking her head, Val gave him a ‘tisk-tisk’ sound as she leaned over the table to meet his encroachment into her space. He was settling strongly into cop-mode as he snagged himself another Krispy Kreme and plunged ahead with her precarious circumstances. It was interesting, though, the second she gave up physical ground he leaned forward to claim that space. His tension eased, he thought he’d taken ground, held all the power, and his demands tumbled out quick and easy.

…. And then back to the threats. Okay, it was to her advantage that this routine was predictable, but she often wished to be surprised every once in a while.

“The idea that you believe I would be anyone’s bitch is… laughable.” Val smiled down into her coffee as she shifted to draw both her legs into the chair to tuck herself into a tiny ball. Her posture would single that he was winning, that he had her right where he wanted her, that she was small, fragile, easily manipulated… her voice and her eyes, though… confident, strong, dangerous, and not the least bit intimidated by the marshal’s masculine display of some kind of control over what happened next. “If anything, the bull dyke would be my Bitch. Did you really think I was a bottom in your lipstick lesbian fantasies? Wait, you did make me a lipstick, didn’t you?”

Sure, it was childish, but it was funny, and Val needed a good laugh – and she did laugh, at the expression that flitted across his features for a split second. Did he just imagine her going all dominatrix on some hapless other woman?

Well, shit… now I’m thinking about it. That’s rather hot, actually, I need to try that.

“In the interest of being honest,” she went on with a sigh, “I am more worried about the effort and anxiety involved in constantly looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life. While I am certain I can defend myself for a decade or so, eventually I’ll get tired, or make a mistake, and I don’t want to live that way if I don’t have to. But, let’s establish the fact that I will and can live that way if I have no other choice.” She paused to organize her thoughts, she couldn’t be too willing here, he’d get all suspicious and uneasy if she didn’t put up a struggle. However, Val didn’t lie. She was as good with a knife as she was with a safe, and she could keep herself alive if she had to, but it would be a life of neat death experiences until death finally won out.

That was not her idea of fun.

Taking a deep breath, Val settled in a gentler tone of voice, “Audio recordings, and I will testify if – and only if – you can guarantee I live to see the trial, and you all get to foot the bill for my relocation and protection after the trail as well. You will not allow me to become another dead body that shows up after the high-profile trail is finished and you got your man. In return from my testimony, I don’t want good words, I want my freedom. No probation, not ankle bracelets, no random check-ins. I volunteered, and you aren’t going to punish me for it. If you ever catch me on your own, then – and only then – can you punish me, Cole.”

Val’s lips twitched again, realizing what she said after it was already past her lips. The Marshal was not by any means an unattractive man, and the notion of him chasing her down to punish her for being a naughty girl was just too amusing to ignore.

What would U.S. Marshal, Cole Whittaker, considered an appropriate punishment, I wonder?

“Viktor on a platter I can and will give you,” Val snipped at him after taking a long pull of coffee to keep her wayward thoughts from showing through. “But if you want the world from me, then you are going to give the world back to me when our relationship has concluded, Cole.”
 

Mr Quixotic

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#8
Valentina Rossi appeared almost unflappable, demonstrated by her snappy retorts to his jab about her suitability for a jumpsuit and his threats. Cole had anticipated no less. To admit that she was anxious or deem to bow down to another living soul would belie the strong personality he'd become acquainted with. Whittaker possessed not a shred of doubt that she could take care of herself in prison. At least for a while.

Leaning across the table, he opened up his shoulders to appear larger and searched for any intimidation in her demeanour, respecting the fact he found none. "Cherry-blossom red." Whittaker leisurely sipped at his coffee, in no particular rush. "That's the shade I envisaged, though, given my apparent lack of style, it might clash with the orange. I'm not sure. However, Valentina, while I believe you'd fight tooth-and-nail, no matter how invincible you presume yourself to be there always exists someone to prove you wrong. But."

Cole's eyes dropped to linger on her body, and when he refocused on her face, he smirked. "The catfight would be a blast to watch while it lasted, I'd purchase front-row seats. Now, stop lying. What was it you said over the phone?

He mimicked Valentina's voice as he pulled her earlier statement from the recess of his memory. “Alayna Taylor was just arrested for dragging her ex-boss and trying to steal trade secrets for the competition. What do you know, the safe had some hard to find security measures. I’m embarrassed. I had no idea what happened."

When finished, he admonished her with a shake of the head, and a side of sarcasm. "Does that sound like a woman who ended up here by choice? If you craved my charming company that badly, a simple invitation to catch up outside of a jail cell would have sufficed. "

In control of the conversation, Cole settled back in his seat to hear his reply to his offer. Her stipulations contained no surprises. It was what he'd anticipated. The surprise came at the end and sparked a visible reaction.

"If you ever catch me on your own, then – and only then – can you punish me, Cole.”

The sexual connotations were apparent, and it gave him a start. The man's fingers tapped the desk, and the breath momentarily caught in his chest.

Taunt, or merely an unintended figure of speech?

Knowing Valentina, it was likely the former, and Cole couldn't say the idea wasn't intriguing in a 'what-if' kind of way. Internally berating himself for considering the proposition, he brushed it from his mind and turned his attention back to the matters at hand. He'd decided on the way to the meeting that he'd be willing to accept her conditions, but that didn't mean it'd be entirely on her terms.

Eyes raised to the ceiling, Cole tilted his head to the side and pursed his lips in a pose of deep contemplation. After thirty seconds, he looked at Valentina and nodded. "Audiotapes and Viktor's head on a platter. The complication is, I don't have the legal authority to sign off on any deal. That's up to the District Attorney, and the mood he's in, but considering the man's pleaded out worse for less, I'd say there’s better than a 50/50 chance he'll accept. If that's the way you want to go, I'll have you transferred to Federal prison and placed in protective custody. You'll remain there for a couple of months while the lawyers haggle over paperwork and hammer out the details."

Wondering if hidden cameras and microphones were capturing their conversation, Whittaker paused. The alternative he was about to offer went against instinct and procedure, but although he'd exaggerated the time it'd take to finalise a deal, he didn't want to risk a hit being carried out on Valentina in the meantime. She'd be safer on the streets with him. "Or I keep your involvement secret while we gather the evidence to bury Viktor. Then, with the guarantee that I'd back you every step of the way, we hit the Prosecutor with such an obvious slam-dunk guilty verdict that he'd be an imbecile to refuse any terms you demanded. My word is my honour, Valentina and you'd walk free tonight, but could I trust you? What's to stop you from fleeing the moment we left the building?

He partially answered that question by releasing the cuff's from his utility belt and throwing them onto the desk in front of her. "Except for these and that if you did I'd make it my mission, even more than finding Curic, to hunt you down and punish you. Not in a pleasurable way, Valentina." Whittaker flicked her a cheery smile, appearing calmer than he felt as the decisive moment arrived. "So, what's it to be?"
 

LeatrixSage

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#9
It was just a thing men did… that thing where they flare up and take up extra space, their lats splaying out to make their shoulders look twice as large and imposing… she’d seen it a thousand times before.

So, why is your mouth watering, Valentina? she asked herself as she begrudgingly admired the way Cole looked when he was being intimidating. It was a weakness of hers. Aggressive men, she loved the danger they presented, it was like playing with fire. Val was willing to bet that somewhere deep down, Cole Whittaker was as much a predator as the men he hunted. Or, maybe more so, because he was the hunter of the predators everyone else feared. What did that make her, predator or prey, or both?

Val followed the path Cole’s eyes cut as they dropped to seek out what little of her figure could be discerned through the orange jumpsuit with rapt interest. Particularly as a tingling awareness settled into her skin. Of course, she did not have the good graces to blush, and she schooled her features to remain relaxed. It wouldn’t do for the good Marshal to know he had an effect on her; certainly not that particular effect. But, what made her heart beat skip into a faster rhythm was the hitch in the good Marshal’s breath. Her eyes darted to his fingers as he tapped the table, noting the uncomfortable, startled tell for a later date.

Cling that control, Marshal, you’ll need it.

“First of all,” Val sighed as she dunked the last half of her doughnut in her coffee, “Cherry-blossom red is a lovely color. Secondly, I’m insulted if you believe I had no idea that safe had an alarm system. You’ve heard me be sarcastic before. Ah, but that is beside the point, isn’t it?” She nibbled at the moist bit of doughnut, licking her lips to catch a stray bit of coffee before she gave her attention back to Cole.

“More importantly, I know damn good and well that the recommendations of the unshakable, unbuyable Cole Whittaker carry more weight with any DA in the country than any legal authority you have to make a deal.” The smile she gave him was sweet and toothy, somewhere between cute and creepy. “Did you think I called you in particular for your excellent company? It’s your reputation that I want.” Val dropped her head back to delicately devour the last bit of the doughnut, and then lick her fingers clean of the sugary coating. She couldn’t push him too hard, but she had to push back somewhere. It created space for her to think, to put each piece in place and determine the next move. If she planned on maneuvering him, she had to be able to predict him, and she hadn’t seen his final offer coming.

Surprises made her uncomfortable. Nothing good ever followed something you didn’t see coming.

“I put myself here because I was compromised,” Val began carefully, her tone turning neutral and compliant. She wasn’t certain where to go from here, so she gave him something he valued, honesty. “My… well, Alayna’s long-term hotel room may or may not have a dead man in it.” She shrugged as she leaned forward, setting her coffee on the table and then leaning on her elbows, “I actually don’t know if he is dead, but I know he was there to kill me. I also know I’m not the first troublesome woman Curic ordered him to kill.” Val sighed and dropped her head to run her fingers up through her hair. There was a crack in her persona, and she didn’t like it.

Deep down, bottled up somewhere, she was terrified. The memory of a meaty hand on her neck made her swallow and close her eyes. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been in her fair share of confrontations, and she knew how to defend herself, but it was the first time she’d known her attacker meant to kill her. Not subdue her, not catch her, kill her. To make matters worse, she’d never had to kill anyone, either… and now she very well may have. Val told herself it was unlikely, surely the metropolitan police would have already found her hotel room by now, and no one was talking murder charges, so it stood to reason he was still alive. But, was that better or worse?

No time for that now.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to get you your man, Cole, I just don’t want to die.” Val sighed as she dropped her hands and looked back up to meet the marshal’s gaze with a sad smile. “And, lastly, I can slip those cuffs, and the catfight would indeed be a blast.”
 

Mr Quixotic

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#10
When Valentina clarified the deliberate nature of her arrest, Cole listened on with an expression of benign amusement, brow slightly raised and lips curled into a smirk. It was possible, even likely, that she spoke the truth, and he'd experienced her penchant for sarcasm first-hand on occasion. However, Whittaker wouldn't provide Valentina with the satisfaction of retracting his disbelief.

As she finished, he stifled a faux yawn and flicked the last remnants of doughnut crumbs from his shirt. "If you say so, and it wouldn't be the first time I've insulted you, nor likely the last. But, really, the result is that you need the US Marshal's service to come to your rescue. Exactly what we sign on for; to ensure criminals like you remain free to roam the streets."

Cole felt the bitterness of those last words on his tongue. Plea bargains and Witness protection arrangements might be a way of life in Law Enforcement, but he'd prefer a system that didn't reward some simply because their misdeeds were less egregious than others. The fact that she'd likely noted his reaction to her earlier sexual innuendo didn't help his attitude towards the woman.

Then, so what? Valentina Rossi, despite her lies and the company she kept, was a good-looking woman. There was no harm in admiring her assets, and even admitting to that admiration, as long as he didn't allow his mind to stray too far. Cole almost convinced himself of that, but not quite, by the time he spelled out her options.

Whatever route she decided upon, he'd anticipated an argument or debate. However, she proved him wrong, and he soon understood why. "A pity I can't say the same for your reputation, but we all have our crosses to bear." His eyes had widened at the mention of the dead man in her hotel room, and Cole stared at her.

Taken aback by Valentina's show of vulnerability, - it wasn't like her to allow that to rise to the surface, if only briefly - he refrained from swearing, took a deep breath and admonished her with a tut-tut shake of the head. "You're full of surprises, aren't you? Let's hope for both our sakes that you didn't kill him. Or that, if you did, his friends arrived to clean up the mess before anyone screamed dead body."

He tapped his fingers on the wood again, a nervous habit that Whittaker was barely conscious of, and chewed over the situation. With no mention of murder on her charge sheet and no crime reported, at least not yet, he'd keep the knowledge of a potential homicide under wraps and hope that it wouldn't come back later to bite him on the ass.

Decision made, he slapped the desk and moved to his feet. "Thanks for the tip, but for now can you just humour my fantasy of seeing you cuffed and at my mercy." Cole flicked her a smile, and stepped around beside her, "Stand, arms behind your back." They still had to collect 'Alayna's' possessions and negotiate their way past the desk Sergeant, and the last thing he wanted was for the man to question why Cole would treat an attractive female differently than any other prisoner by leaving her unshackled.

The last vestiges of Cole's smiled faded as he gripped her elbow and began to yank her out of the seat. "We'll head to a safe-house in Newark, figure out our next move from there. I guarantee, Valentina, that if you stick to your end of the bargain and deliver Curic, I'll stick to mine and keep you alive. To get to you, they'll need to come through me, and the last two assholes who tried ended up with life stretches in Rosewood Cemetery. I'd be more than happy for an excuse to send some of Viktor's goons to the same place." Unlike Valentina, the US Marshal was licenced to kill.
 

LeatrixSage

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#11
” Exactly what we sign on for; to ensure criminals like you remain free to roam the streets.”

The words kept ringing around her head like an endless echo. They were filled with the bitterness behind the accusation he had tossed at her feet, but she couldn’t deny that she had earned it. What did it take for a man like Cole to make a deal with a devil, even a lesser one like herself? What was the cost he paid when he closed his eyes at night? It was his powerful since of right that made him a natural extension of the lawful and the just, and Val found herself wondering if she’d stolen a piece of the man’s soul. The thought was somehow… appealing. She was a thief, after all, and what could have more value in this world than the very things that built the personas that kept our worlds rational and organized?

What if I broke the lies you believe about this world, she wondered as she watched the inner conflict that raged somewhere behind his eyes. The question very nearly made it past her lips, but her wandering thoughts snapped back to more important things as the Marshal was taken aback by her revelation. It was interesting to watch him weigh his options, and then choose to keep his mouth shut about the potential dead man. He was standing on a slippery slope, and he was losing the battle before it had even really started.

Foot-in-the-Door, Cole. You know how this works; one small favor leads to another. First you kindly pour me a cup of coffee, then you give me more than you should in return for something you want a little too desperately, and now you knowingly, without me even asking for it, cover for me because it advances your own goals. You are now a willful conspirator to a crime, and a criminal, just like me.

Val jumped when he slapped the desk, genuinely startled, and then sat back in her chair as he stood up. He thanked her for telling him she could slip the cuffs, and then dropped a dubious line about fantasying about seeing her in them and at his mercy. It was a curious concept that might have made her laugh under different circumstances. But, coming from him, it sounded strangely more like a threat than a promise of a good time… and yet, it was the kind of threat that made her ache to poke the dangerous animal with a stick just to see what would happen next.

However, as he came around the table and told her to stand, Val chose to let the tenuous peace between them go unchallenged. Sliding her arms behind her back, she stood patiently as he clicked the cold metal cuffs into place. She was almost certain he gave them an extra click to make them unnecessarily uncomfortable, but she didn’t complain as he grabbed one of her arms to pull her around her chair and push her out of the room. As he manhandled her, he took his opportunity to remind her that, while she wasn’t a killer, he most certainly was. Whether it was meant to be reassuring, or just a reminder that she needed him and should be thankful, Val wasn’t entirely sure. Either way, she let the comment go unchallenged.

Thankfully, collecting her possessions was a relatively smooth process.

Relatively.

Of course, the county wanted their awful, orange jumpsuit back before she left, and while Cole dealt with paperwork and every little piece of red tape they could throw at him, Val got some time to catch her breath. The Marshal had always been fun to cross paths with, but this was… different. Not because of Cole, though.

Because of Viktor.

Valentina stood in the small bathroom they were allowing her to change in, forehead resting against the cold tiles of the wall, and held her breath to listen. Down the hall, she could hear what sounded like a progressively heated exchange between the Marshal and the desk Sergeant over the transfer of custody paperwork, but that wasn’t what she was listening for.

The guard with the cold eyes was the one posted outside the door to the restroom, and she was waiting for him to make his move. He was patient, or afraid to waste his chance, because by the time he finally slipped inside and locked the heavy metal door behind him, Val had developed a very impatient tick that made her drum her fingers against the side of her leg where she would have normally kept a stiletto for just such an occasion. This was his final chance, though. He would come quickly.

He yanked the door to the stall open and, emboldened by finding a naked woman with her back turned toward him, he rushed into the smaller space where his greater mass and strength counted for nothing. The thrust of the knife came quicker than she expected, and as Val slid sideways, the blade nicked her side. The pain was a shock, but it was barely more than a paper cut. Val’s smaller frame allowed her mobility, and she slipped into the corner beside the toilet where the tiled wall and the side of the stall met to face her would-be attacker. His cheap pocket knife snapped from being jammed into the tiled wall and he drew back, the bulky toilet and confining space making him awkward as he tried again. His heart wasn’t in it, and his weapon wasn’t effective. He wasn’t there to silence her, he was just a messenger.

He had come to take her back.

Idiot.

As his arm flung forward and Val slid sideways along the wall of the stall, toward her attacker, the broken blade passed harmlessly by. As it did, she snatched his wrist with her right hand to hold it extended and turned into him, her back landing against his chest, to bring her left elbow down over his own. There was a solid, thick crack and a fleshy tearing. To his credit, the guard mealy grunted as he dropped the knife. He began to back up, and Val went with him until he backed himself out of the stall and up against the tiled wall opposite the line of stalls. As soon as they came to a stop, Val turned back around, pushing his broken arm down by his side while her left arm slid up under his chin to push his head up and apply pressure across his adam’s apple.

“How much did he pay you?” Val asked as quietly and calmly as she could. Cold, empty eyes were her only answer, and Val twisted the broken arm out of frustration. The Guard ground his teeth, but the last of his fight was fading fast. “Not enough to be worth this, maybe? Good, because I am not going back to him.” It was risky, but Val released the man’s arm and backed away from him, back into the safely of the narrow stall. The guard watched her, weary and bewildered, and Val sighed.

He was done.

“I can’t kill you,” she explained as she grabbed her pencil skirt out of the box containing her clothes and stepped into it. She did a little hop to pull it up to her waist, the fabric stretching around her curves in a way that was comfortable and empowering. The right outfit was as good as armor to a woman, after all. “I need you to cuff me and lead me out of her back to Marshal.”

“He’s not going to give up,” he finally spoke, and Val paused to give him a smile.

“Oh, I know.”

He grunted at her as she folded up a piece of toilet paper and pressed it to her side, using the waistband of the skirt to hold it in place. That would keep the blood from showing for a while at least. He waited quietly while she slipped into her bra, and then her blouse and heels. He eve kept his eyes downcast for the most of it, and Val found herself feeling sorry for what she had done to him. He was likely in as difficult a situation as she was. With a deep sigh, she picked up the hand cuffs and slid one around her left wrist.

“Dr. Connor, at the local ER,” she spoke as she put her arms behind her back and waited. She let him weigh his choices, fully aware of the risks she was taking… and then he stepped forward and clicked the other cuff closed with his undamaged left hand. “Tell him I scent you, and he’ll take care of the arm. Do you have any family?”

He hesitated, and then as she turned around, he nodded.

“Tell him,” she urged quietly, knowing full well that most people stuck in the trap he was standing in never listened. “He can get them somewhere safe, but you might not be able to go with them.”

No comment seemed forth coming, and before she could say anything else, he walked back to the door and unlocked it before holding it open for her. He followed her down the hall, keeping his right arm still at his side, and guiding her with his left hand gently pushing at the small of her back. He’d dug himself a hole that he couldn’t climb out of. That wasn’t her fault. She shouldn’t feel guilty. But, she did.

She was chewing on that guilt while Cole went back to excreting his dominance by pushing and pulling her by her arms. Once she was stuffed unceremoniously into the back of his car, she was able to breathe again. At least for a little while, she could rest.

“Hey,” she called up to the front seat once they were on their way. “Have you eaten yet? I haven’t had anything since lunch. What do you say to little Taco Bell date-night? That’s cheap enough for a first date, right? I’d offer to go dutch, but I don’t have my pocket book.”

That seemed to rankle his feathers, and Val smiled at him from the rearview mirror.
 

Mr Quixotic

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#12
If the hotel room did contain a corpse and Valentina had lied to him the circumstances behind how it'd come to be there, Cole's decision possessed the potential to derail his career. However, the honesty in her tone and the brief display of vulnerability told him that she'd spoken the truth. The Marshal contemplated the consequences before he made up his mind.

When he responded, despite the confidence he exuded, a chill run down his spine. Maintaining eye contact with Valentina, he wondered what other compromises he'd need to make along the way. For as simple as the plan sounded; get the audio tapes and get Curic; it'd be much more complex and involved than that. Once out of the precinct house, she was his responsibility. Could he trust her at all, or did the woman possess ulterior motives? Was it even possible that, gracing him with a performance worthy of a Hollywood actress, she was deliberately setting him up for a fall? In the end, however, the answers were irrelevant because of one name, one man. Viktor Curic.

Thankfully, Valentina offered no resistance when he cuffed her. Cole led her by the arm out of the cell and handed her over to one of the guards, who seemed more content to take her off his hands than Whittaker expected. "A pity we can't take the jumpsuit with us." His parting stab before they headed downstairs and he confronted the desk sergeant.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing. She's not going anywhere. You want to take her submit a formal request in the morning."

The Sergeant's confidence was as irritating as his arrogance. This time, after he'd again dragged him across the desk by the lapels, Whittaker curled his fingers in the man's hair, jerked his head back and forced his eyes up to his. Whittaker could smell garlic on his breath. "'I told you before, asshole, she's a Witness to a Federal Investigation. The woman is coming with me. Now get out of my fucking sight before I jump that desk and embarrass you in front of everyone in this goddamn station. Capiche?"

"I'll have your badge for this Whittaker."

It was an empty threat, and both knew it.

"No, you won't."

The sound of the man bouncing off a metal filing cabinet coincided with Valentina's reemergence from the bathroom.

Whittaker's attention was first drawn to the pencil skirt; he had to admit the jumpsuit paled in comparison; then to her face and the man adjacent. His brow furrowed. The scene struck a discordant note, but he couldn't put his finger on why.

"I'll take it from here." After he'd walked over, he gripped the woman's arm and jerked her away from the guard. Adrenaline still rushed through his veins from the encounter with the desk sergeant and manhandled her more roughly than intended out of the station and into the backseat of his car. Once they were on their way, he caught her eyes in the rear-vision mirror. The first words out of Valentina's mouth elicited a grit of Cole's teeth. She was going to be a royal pain-in-the-ass.

"Taco Bell lowers your life expectancy." He glanced over his shoulder. "So, instead, you can rustle up a healthy dinner for us once we get to the house. After all, the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and our relationship won't stand a chance if you can't cook." Cole grinned; finding the thought of Valentina Rossi as a kept woman amusing. Not to mention, highly improbable. "In the meantime, keep yourself occupied while I make some calls." Whittaker claimed a small victory when he hit the button to raise a perspex screen between them, cutting off any further chatter from the back seat.

By the time they arrived at an unremarkable two-story residence in Newark a short while later, Cole had appraised his immediate superiors of the situation - at least, a version of it - and ensured they'd have the safe-house at their disposal for the next week. He opened the garage door with a remote and after parking inside, rolled down the perspex screen to address Valentina. 'Come on in, and be quick about it. I'm famished."

Leaving her to deal with exiting the vehicle and maneuvering while still cuffed, he stepped out of the car, keyed off the alarm and entered the house through the interior access door. Cole headed straight for the liquor cabinet to quench his thirst for alcohol. It'd been a long day.
 

LeatrixSage

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#13
“Taco Bell lowers your life expectancy,” he threw the caustic remark over his shoulder after he had managed to relax his jaw. Val’s smile only shifted into a sly smirk as he went on, “so, instead, you can rustle up a healthy dinner for us once we get to the house. After all, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and our relationship won’t stand a chance if you can’t cook.”

He was grinning. Fancy that, he looked almost care free. Just a little while ago he’d admitted to wanting to murder a man, and now he was grinning like a man that was ruthlessly teasing an old friend. Before she could unleash a stream of snappy come-backs, a patrician rose between them. Shaking her head, Val laughed softly and shifted in the seat to try to get comfortable. The cut on her side was burning, the sensation flaring every now and then in time with her heart beat. It wasn’t deep, but she would have to do something about it at some point.

Over the relatively short drive, she squirmed around in the back seat for some time before deciding it was pointless to keep up pretenses. She did tell him already that she could slip the cuffs. What was the point in being uncomfortable? And, sense he wasn’t keeping an eye on her, she wouldn’t be giving away any secrets, either. It took a little stretching, but there was a twisted hair pin stuck in a small pocket sewn into side of her left heel, the ends of which had been filed into sharp points. Once she got her fingers on it, it was no time at all before the cuffs clicked loose and Val was shaking out her hands.

So, when the vehicle stopped and the perspex screen began to slide down, Val simply tucked her arms behind her back as Cole told her to ’Come on in, and be quick about it.’ Apparently, he was famished.

Well, Marshall, let me help you with that.

The ass left her to her own devices, but she supposed it was all fair play. As she slid from the car, Val snagged the cuffs – tucking them through the little belt she wore primarily as a fashion statement – and followed his path into the house. It was small, plain, non-descript: a safe house. It smelled of dust, mold, and old B.O. that had permeated the fabrics so deeply that is was a permanent fixture. The walk ways had been trod so thoroughly that you could see the wear as pathways down the center of a hall, or crisscrossing a room. It was well used, which meant a lot of people knew the building. She was still trying to decide if that was good or bad when she heard the clank of liquor bottles. The sound led her to a cabinet that served as a tiny bar, and beyond that, a sparse kitchen. She eyed the fridge, curious to see just what exactly was kept in a safehouse and if there was anything remotely useful to easing the clawing emptiness in her stomach.

But, first…

Oh, she damn well knew it was dangerous, but Valentina Ricci was not going to be out done. As Cole poured his drink, she slipped out of her heels and dropped them a faded chair in the hallway before she walked up behind him and slid one arm around his waist to rest her hand over his belt buckle, while the other settled on his shoulder. She wasn’t daring enough (or stupid enough) to put either hand anywhere near his side arm, but she was not above pressing her curves into his back as she raised up on her tiptoes to place her chin on his shoulder.

“Correction,” she whispered, her lips brushing the side of his neck as she spoke. “The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his rib cage.” Valentina nipped at the Marshal’s ear, and – after promptly untangling herself from the caged animal before it lashed out at her – pranced over to the fridge. As she crossed the kitchen, she unbuttoned her blouse and shrugged it off in order to toss it over a chair. Beneath was a thin undershirt that barely disguised the lace pattern of the bra beneath, and neither hid the slightly darker, honey-colored flesh that peaked her breasts. Pulling the door wide, she bent down at the waist to peer inside.

“Believe it or not,” she spoke as she poked around at the contents. “I am actually a damn good cook. Lasagna, Enchiladas, Jambalaya, and Goulash as some of my favorites. But, I can tell that men that don’t cook anything that doesn’t go into a microwave are the ones stocking this fridge.” Frowning, she shut the fridge and opened the freezer, only to laugh aloud at what she found there. “How do you feel about Hungry Man frozen dinners? I call dibs on anything with chicken in it. At least it tastes like meat. The soy-beef never tastes like actual meat.” Pulling out a couple of meals, Val tossed one onto the stove top and flipped over the other to start reading the instructions. “Did you know there’s some old take-out in there growing mushrooms? Well, it looks like mushrooms anyway, but green and…”

Val’s voice trailed off as she looked up and met the Marshal’s gaze. She wasn’t entirely certain what she was seeing there, but it made the baby hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Her heart picked up a rhythm that was somewhere between excitement and panic, and she felt the skin of her neck and chest warm with an uncharacteristic blush. She was actually trying to be amiable, but the tension she thought she had been shaking off came back in spades, along with an awkwardness that made her wish the ground would just open up beneath her feet.

“Right,” Val sighed and tore open the box to slide out the frozen dinner trey. She stabbed a few holes in the plastic wrap by poking it with her fingernails, and then tossed the dinner into the microwave and tapped the 5-minute speed-cook button. “When it dings, find a fork and stir your mashed potatoes. Then it needs 2 more minutes, and it sits for 2 more before you eat it.”

Her confidence was shaking. Why? What was making her so damn uneasy?

“So, bathroom?” she didn’t wait for an answer, and it wasn’t difficult to find. Once behind a locked door, she was able to take a deep breath.

What the fuck was that?

A few more breaths, and Val pushed herself away from the door to stare at the locked handle. Now that, that was a mistake. Slowly, purposefully, she unlocked the handle. It wouldn’t do for him to think she was trying to run, even if it meant he could invade her privacy. She was going to have to make an effort not to lock doors behind herself. More than that, she was going to have to make an effort to not alienate her bodyguard. At the end of the day, she needed him, and pissing him off wasn't the best idea.

Maybe another tactic thin...

In the distance she heard the microwave ding, and Val turned to the mirror to look herself over. The woman looking back at her didn’t look as shaken as she felt, that was good. One more deep breath, and she flushed the toilet to make it look like she hadn’t just runaway with her tail tucked between her legs. Out of the corner of her eye, just as she was about to leave the bathroom, a spot of bright red caught her attention. She'd bled through her Macgyvered bandage and it was seeping into her shirt and the waistband of the skirt.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," Val hissed at herself in a whisper as she pulled the undershirt off and held it under the sink faucet to run cold water over the stain. She wasn't really worried about her clothes, she was worried about the Marshal noticing and asking questions. She really, really did not want to explain herself. Or have him poking and prodding at her like a wounded house cat.

The Microwave dinged again, and she was officially running out of time. The bright red was down to a dull pink when she pulled the shirt back on. She left it untucked, but still had to fold some extra toilet paper over her waistband, using her belt to hold it in place, to hide the spreading blossom of red beneath.

"It's fine," she sighed to herself. "Make your food, eat, go to bed. He's irritable. And drinking. He won't want company anyway." Pulling her frayed nerves back together, Val focused on how wonderful it would be to go to bed with a full stomach and a fluffy pillow to snuggle, slapped a smile on her face, and left the bathroom.
 

Mr Quixotic

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#14
Cole didn't glance back before he entered the musty house. With the heavy door having come down behind the vehicle in the windowless garage, he left Valentina with two options. Follow him in, or remain where she was as a form of protest. He wouldn't have put the latter past her, except for the fact that she hadn't yet received an opportunity to respond to his comment in the car. She wouldn't be able to resist.

Despite the pressure of the day, and the circumstances, Cole felt buoyant and in a light mood. It wasn't an unusual reaction for him, as humour seemed to be the best medicine to relieve stress. He hardly noticed the state of the carpets after he'd on the lights; his sole focus on the level of liquor in the bourbon bottles. He was surprised to find one was half-full and a second with the seal unbroken. Whittaker found a glass and poured three fingers as Valentina made her way in. He didn't ask if she wanted one.

Instead, eyeing her intently, the Marshal lifted the glass to his mouth and savoured the warmth that flowed from his throat to the pit of his stomach. He refrained from spluttering it back out when his gaze drifted down to the sight of Valentina kicking off her heels. Then to her un-cuffed hands. She must have freed herself in the vehicle, though how was the question.

Before he could ask it, she surprised him. Without warning, Valentina pressed the swell of her breasts to his back and placed a hand on his belt buckle. Cole tensed, fighting his instinctive urge to grab her wrist and pull it away from his sidearm before the sensation of her hot breath floating against his ear elicited goosebumps. When he turned his head, scowling and with pupils narrowed, he locked eyes with her. Valentina's mouth was close enough to kiss.

For a second Cole's fist clenched around the tumbler, threatening to shatter it before the man relaxed. The events of the day were fucking with his mind, and he wasn't going to let her bait him. "I'll trust your word on that, Valentina. Not the right way to go about getting a second date, I wouldn't think." He forced a smile when she walked away, doing everything in his power to pretend the view of her unbuttoning her blouse had no effect.

After he'd polished off his drink and joined her in the kitchen, Cole grabbed one of the Hungry Man containers and scanned the contents. "Don't blame me, I didn't stock the place, and takeaway's not mine either." He shrugged and handed the package back, "I'll take either. I mean anything that's not chicken still tastes like chicken, right? And while I'm not surprised at all to hear you're a dab hand in the kitchen, I don't trust you not to try to poison me on purpose. Plus, believe it or not, I'm quite the cook myself. Have even microwaved my own dinner once or twice in the past. So, really, there's no need for the detailed instructions."

Cole's good humour faltered, and he looked away. There was an awkward, almost cozy, domesticity about the exchange that had put him on the back foot. Valentina must have felt something too, for when he refocused on her face, she expressed a sudden desire to use the bathroom. Whittaker nodded and stood aside. He followed her path with a quizzical expression.

When she'd moved out of sight, Cole approached the room she'd entered and heard the lock click behind her. Lips pursed, he decided not to demand that she undo the latch, and walked to the entrance foyer. Blinking red lights on the security panel confirmed that it was armed. Any attempt to open an exterior door or window without entering the correct six-digit pin number, from inside or outside, would set off an alarm loud enough to wake the dead. Surveillance cameras also covered every inch of the perimeter; the live feed of which he could view on his phone or laptop. He'd set the internal motion detection sensors when they retired for the night. Satisfied they were secure, and that Valentina couldn't escape, he partially drew back the living room curtains. Cole peered out at the deserted street, contemplating the task ahead.

The ding of the microwave brought him out of his reverie. Whittaker entered the kitchen and slid out the tray. He popped it onto the bench, slid Valentina's into the oven, and began to stir the potatoes as she returned. "Once your dinner's ready." He spoke while he carried his meal around to the small dining table close by. Cole placed the food and two sets of cutlery on the wood. "I want you to tell me about those audio tapes." Best to cease any casual chit chat and keep it strictly business, he'd concluded in her absence. Don't pretend they were friends, and don't treat her as one. He arched a brow, flopped into a seat and jabbed the prongs of a fork in Valentina's direction. "While you're at it, I'd like to know what went on with that guard at the precinct."

By the window, Cole had run the scene back through his mind and realised what he'd found discordant about it. Rather than the man holding Valentina, it'd appeared more as if she been propping him up. His gaze bore into her, "Lying would not be a good idea," before his tone softened. A smirk tugged at his lips. 'In exchange for honesty, presuming you'd like a change of clothes and would rather not risk returning to the hotel to get the ones you left behind, I'll take you shopping in the morning." He neglected to add that they'd pick up an electronic ankle bracelet on the trip.
 

LeatrixSage

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#14
Valentina padded quietly down the short hallway and let out a long, slow breath before she stepped around the corner, and then back into the kitchen. She found Cole stirring his mashed potatoes and her meal in the microwave, where she walked over to watch the black container spin. It crossed her mind to thank him for starting her food for her, but he spoke up and cut her off before the thought could cross her lips. He wanted to know about the tapes. Of course, she knew the conversation was going to happen, but she was rather hoping she’d get to sleep first.

Glancing over her shoulder at him, she watched the Marshal stab his fork in her direction, looking strangely something like an irritated boyfriend. The image made her smile… but the expression faded as he asked about the guard, and she hid her face by turning back toward the microwave.

Lying would not be a promising idea, he was right about that. And, if he didn’t pay attention to detail, then he wouldn’t be the man she needed for the job anyway. But, she felt like she was losing… something… if she told him. Val couldn’t put her finger on just what exactly it was, but it was something, and she was not fond of losing in any sense of the word. His further offer to take her shopping rankled her nerves in a way that she wasn’t expecting. That and the smirk he was wearing made her want to lie to him. Or smack him… both? What would really set the bastard back on his heels if she kissed it off of him. That thought made her smirk, but she smoothed the expression away as the microwave beeped and she pulled out her food.

“How do you know if I’m lying or not,” she asked as she set her food down and took a seat opposite him. It was more to give herself time to think than a serious question, but she let him mull it over anyway. How could the truth hurt her really? It couldn’t, not really, but that guard… it could hurt him if Coal couldn’t keep himself from pointing out the snake in the grass.

“All right, Cole,” she sighed as she picked up her fork, “the guard attacked me in the bathroom. I’m not sure what he thought he could accomplish. I’m not even sure he knew himself. He was desperate man, and he made a desperate man’s mistake. He’ll heal, but his arm won’t work the same. I gave him the name of a contact that can help him and his family, and… I think it’s best you don’t know the gritty details. Not best for you, but… best for him.”

She offered him a flat, bland smile before taking a few bites. The chicken was dry, but that was to be expected. If nothing else, it was warm, and it tasted good, and there was something on her stomach other than sugary doughnut.

“So,” she took another bite and then covered her mouth with her hand, “did I tell the truth?” Val gave his narrow look a wink in response, and then chuckled a little before going on. “The tapes are more important anyway. They are with a friend.” She paused for a few more bites before giving him the condensed version of events. “They were a… life policy, for a while. I,” she hesitated, her choice of words shifting a few times before she went on, “had built up a few favors working with Curic off and on. I got complacent, thought I was safe. Stupid, I know, but arrogance gets us all at least once in life.”

Sure, it was the understatement of the century, but it would have to do.

“Here recently, he has cared a lot less about whatever I have documented over the past few years,” she sighed before taking a few more bites, and then sitting back to chew thoughtfully before going on. “Deal is typically, my friend doesn’t hear from me and they send copies to all the major news outlets. Mostly meetings between him and other known criminals, but they are all the type that have so much money it’s hard to pull them down to our level.” She offered Cole a smile and shrugged. “I don’t know what out of it all that you can make stick to him. But, I need him safely behind bars as much as you want him to be. I think I have enough to get us started on accomplishing that.”
 

Mr Quixotic

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#16
Cole stared at Valentina, gauging her reaction. To the questions, and the fact that he'd immediately turned to business. He noted the momentary hint of a smile before she looked away. If his raising of the subject of the guard had shocked her, it wasn't evident. Then, she was a consummate performer.

As she removed her dinner from the microwave, Cole ceased jabbing the prongs of the fork in her direction. He sawed off a piece of what, according to the package, was supposed to be Salisbury steak, added potatoes and shovelled the food into his mouth. The meat had the taste and texture of rubber. "Delicious."

"Okay, Cole."


After Valentina sat opposite, he didn't utter a word. Cole maintained eye contact and waited to see if she'd lie. When she revealed the news of the attack, although his demeanour remained impassive, a shiver crawled its way down his spine. He'd arrived at the cells in the nick of time. He shrugged at her smirked query and indicated for her to continue. Pushing the steak to the side, he dug into potatoes and gravy.

After she'd finished, the Marshal pushed his plate aside, stood and approached the liquor cabinet, still not having responded. He returned, dropped a tumbler in front of Valentina, filled it with bourbon, and poured one for himself. "I hope this guard didn't collapse in the station after we left, and can keep his trap shut. All I need is for the prick of a desk sergeant to issue a fucking arrest warrant for assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer."

His eyes narrowed as if to intimate that the attack was her fault, before he sighed, gulped a mouthful of liquor and waved off his annoyance. "You did what you had to do. It proves how much of a hard-on Curic has for you, and how far his reach extends. Though I'm surprised Viktor neglected to tell the asshole to take more care. Valentina Rossi isn't a woman to be screwed with."

That backhand compliment the closest Cole would come to an apology, he changed the subject. "I assume you wouldn't be arrogant or complacent enough to have left the tapes with a friend whom you didn't trust with your life." A rhetorical question. "I've no idea if they'll be enough until I listen. I doubt it, because to nail Viktor, the case has to be so airtight that there's no way in hell he or his cronies can buy their way out of it. They'll likely only be the first piece of the puzzle. Call tomorrow, and organise access." He issued that as a demand, not a request.

"Oh, and to answer your previous question.," Cole bent over the table and placed both palms on the wood; his face bare inches from Valentina's. "You revealed part of the truth, but not the entire truth." Whittaker dropped a hand to her side and pinched it. Next to where a patch of crimson had seeped through to stain the material. "Stand up, I want to ensure you won't bleed out on me."

He stepped back, confident that if the injury were severe, Valentina would not look as healthy as she did, so in reality Cole was unconcerned about that possibility. Instead, the Marshal's motivation lay in demonstrating that there existed no reason or point in Valentina hiding anything. He'd catch it eventually. "Normally, I wouldn't care, but can't put Curic behind bars if I don't keep you alive and breathing, remember." Plus, the situation provided him with an opportunity to exact payback for her ear-whispering game earlier. This time, he'd be in control. Whittaker tossed in a sweetener to accompany his humoured expression. "Then, the King bed in the Master Suite's all yours."

He'd intended to stay downstairs on the sofa, anyway. Sleeping with one eye open to catch Valentina if she tried to flee. ''Come on, to your feet and lift that top. Don't be shy; it's not like nature graced you with anything I haven't seen before."
 
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LeatrixSage

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#17
The glass tumbler hit the table with a heavy thunk, a surprising declaration of its quality. Whoever stocked this place had cared less about their food and more about their drink. Something further evidenced by the scent of vanilla, honey, or maybe butterscotch, that wafted off the bourbon as Cole poured her a glass. She picked it up and swirled the fluid within, admiring its golden color and the play of yellow light on its surface while Cole insinuated that she had deliberately attacked that guard. Or at least caused the confrontation.


“Don’t be an ass,” she sighed before taking a long pull of the bourbon. A biting sweetness bathed her tongue, and when she swallowed, it cut a fiery path down her throat before spreading a relaxing warmth through her limbs. Maybe their choice of food was crap, but the bourbon was quite fine. “And, thank you for the complement. But, I don’t think Viktor see anyone other than himself as dangerous.”


He wasn’t going to admit that she had been right. Or that he should have gotten there sooner. Or that he should have been more careful and taken her warnings about the officers and guards more seriously. But, it was something. An acknowledgement, if nothing else. And then he had to go and change the subject to a comment about her friend that made her roll her eyes as she took another drink. It wasn’t a question that was meant to be answered, so she let it go.


Val, however, had the same fears about the tapes that Cole had. Sure, she could tell them who the voices belonged to, testify to who was in the room, all of that but… that was barely better than hearsay, and it wouldn’t even take a good lawyer to bring her character as a witness into question in the eyes and minds of the jury.


And a good one might learn too much for my linking...


She was so busy thinking about what she didn’t want anyone to know, that it wasn’t until Cole bent over the table that she realized he was closing in on her. Startled, her grip tightened on her fork as she sat back in her chair. She let the instinct to defend herself come and go, ignoring the adrenaline kick that sped up her heart beat. Cole Whittaker wasn’t a threat, that was the point, that’s why he was here. Still, he came close enough that she could smell the bourbon on his breath blended with what she guessed was aftershave. Her eyes sharpened as she met his gaze, darkened like angry, grey storm clouds, and an electric thrill snaked up her spine. She accepted the fact that she had withheld some of the truth from him. She wasn’t going to argue that point, it would just be stupid, because it was obviously true. As he reached for her side she stiffened, not because she was bashful, but because she was restraining the urge to protect herself from him. He pinched her side, pulling the skin and opening the little slice she’d worked so hard to get sealed shut. It stung, and she very nearly gave into the urge to smack him for it.


After commanding her to stand, he moved away, outside easy striking distance. Val breathed out slowly, releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Cole was an observant man, he noticed the details, and they both knew damn good and well that she wasn’t bleeding out.


What was the game then, she wondered. His excuse that he needed her to put Curic behind bars was true, but weak. She wasn’t going to die from such a little scrape. Hiding it had been something of a matter of pride, maybe breaking that pride was the point of his insistence? Val wasn’t certain she believed that, either. He was up to something. Her curiosity deepened as he promised her the King bed in the Master Suite, as if she wasn’t going to be sleeping there either way, and with or without him in the bed as well.


He gestured for her to get to her feet as he told her not to be shy, and a smirk twitched at the left corner of her mouth despite the impassive expression she tried to maintain. If he was trying to insult her, or get a rise in her ire, he was missing his mark by miles.


Alright Cole, you want to play? Then lets play.


“Would you like me more if I was shy and demure, Marshal?” she asked with an air of honest curiosity as she stood. Sure, she could have just lifted her blouse and maintained her modesty… but where was the fun in that? Without preamble, she lifted the blouse over her head, folded the delicate fabric and set it on the table. The white, lace bra beneath had been well hidden under the thin blouse, but without it, the bra did next to nothing to hide the soft, honey-colored flesh that tipped her breasts. Reaching behind herself, Val popped free the hidden button on the waist band of the pencil skirt, and then let the fabric slid down her legs to puddle around her feet on the floor.


“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” Val murmured as she turned sideways to him, the little thong doing as much to maintain her modesty as the bra she wore. “But, I am neither shy, nor demure.”


Val gave him a little wink, and then reached around to pull the little bit of now red toilette paper stuck to her skin off of her side. There was a small twinge of pain as she pulled up the scab that had been forming, and she dabbed at a fresh little trickle of blood before it could run down her hip. Between his pinching and her tearing the scab, the wound was back open and weeping, and that made her a touch irritated. She would rather it didn’t become yet another scar.


Val had her fair share of those for Cole to see now that her armor was stripped away. On the back of her left shoulder was the remnant of a stab wound, high on her right arm was a pock-mark scar from a bullet, which matched a couple on her left thigh. Beneath her right arm, near her arm pit and just past the swell of her breast, was a burn scar the size of a cigar. And, if he pulled back her hair and peaked behind her left ear, there was the place where someone had once held a knife to her skin and threated to sink it into the jugular vein hidden beneath it. One did not live the life she had without picking up a few mementoes along the way.


“Well,” she watched him, her eyes sharp and keen, like some hungry, jungle cat that was waiting for its next meal to get close enough to ambush. She’d been watching his eyes, the changes in his expression, and she had the feeling that whatever Cole’s goal had been, it hadn’t turned out quite has he had planned. “Are you going to come take a look, or not? While I don’t mind standing around, nearly naked, it is rather chilly in here, and I would like to stop the bleeding again, if you don’t mind.”
 
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Mr Quixotic

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#18
Cole's determination to keep it strictly business had lasted a total of five minutes. Not exactly an achievement to write home about for a man took pride in his strong will and iron determination. He justified it, by telling himself it was no more than an excuse to repay the woman for her earlier antics and didn't allow the other reasons that nagged at his mind to fully surface. That, despite them being on the opposite sides of the Law and the woman representing all that he despised, he was attracted to the strength of her personality.

When she stood, Cole did not expect Valentina to be shy and demure in the slightest. She'd either deny him with a smirk or make the most of the opportunity to play along. If it were the first, well that would provide him with an excuse to manhandle her into acceding to his demands - she could either remove the top, of he'd damn well do it for her, and demonstrate who was the boss. If the second? He'd relish the performance.

He removed his hand and stepped back. Cole shook his head at her question. It appeared she was going to play along. "Shy and demure isn't my type. I prefer women who bite, scratch and give as good as they get. What's your type, Valentina, men like Curic? Are you turned on by bad boy assholes?" The sarcasm slipped out before Cole was distracted by her movements. A hitch in his throat stopped his words cold as she removed her blouse and skirt.

Whittaker lingered on the honey-coloured skin of her breasts encased in white-fabric, and when a whiff of Valentina's perfume filled his senses, he unconsciously pressed his thigh together. A tension similar to what he'd experienced earlier in the kitchen hung in the air. Torn between averting his eyes and pretending her body held no particular attraction, and brazenly ogling her revealed flesh, he chose the latter. Cole's last relationship had destructed a year ago, and it'd been over two month's since he'd been able to appreciate a woman's assets in person.

After she spoke, he replied without lifting his gaze. "Some men like to take their time, Valentina. What's your rush; can't wait for me to get my hands on you?" He continued his appraisal, however, Cole found his attention not drawn to her breasts, or the thin piece of fabric between her legs, but to the wound and varying scars that adorned her flesh. The damaged skin glimmered like stars under the lights overhead. His gaze roamed over each with interest. Even more than her near nakedness, they'd caught him off guard. The injuries bespoke of a woman who'd been through hell and endured, and whom he only superficially knew. He felt compelled to ask the story behind each, and compare to those of his own.

Sensing, rather than noticing her hungry gaze, Cole glanced up and the momentary kinship he felt with Valentina dissipated. She looked like a predatory feline stalking its dinner and was likely internally mocking him. A man caught up in her body, susceptible to her feminine wiles, and easily manipulated. That was not Cole Whittaker; not since his High School days had he allowed his cock to overrule his brain, and that single expression on Valentina Rossi's face brought him out of his reverie. "Sorry to disappoint. It looks superficial, so no need for my magical healing touch. Especially as you seem to have had plenty of previous experience tending to wounds. But, thanks for the striptease. As promised, the Master suite is yours."

A slight tremor in his voice and the white-knuckled grip he maintained on the liquor tumbler betrayed Cole's attempts at nonchalance. He polished off the last dregs of his bourbon and motioned towards the stairs with the empty glass. "Now, leave me in peace. We have a long day ahead, and I've already been on the go for twenty-four hours. I'm beat."
 
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LeatrixSage

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#19
Valentina held her breath.

She had no choice.

If she didn’t, he’d notice.

It was bad enough that her nipples had tightened into hardened buds under the thin fabric of her bra. That hitch in the Marshal’s voice had been a thrilling little thing to hear, but it was the blend of hungrily devouring and sternly controlled passion behind his eyes that made her skin tingle with sensation wherever his attention traveled.

"Some men like to take their time, Valentina. What's your rush; can't wait for me to get my hands on you?" the timber in his voice made the air shiver, and Val smirked at the remark. She considered pointing out that by the looks of things, it was him that couldn’t wait to get his hands on her, and then decided better of it as his attention lingered over one scar, and then another… and then another. Normally, she didn’t feel much about them one way or another. But, there was something about his appraisal that became… intimate, and uncomfortable, and made some secret part of her soul want to run screaming in the opposite direction. The sensation was in direct conflict with everything that Valentina Ricci was, and suddenly she wasn’t holding her breath anymore to hide her heightened interest in the man that was devouring her.

Now it was hiding something else.

His gaze came back up to her own, and whatever it was had been so fragile that it died instantly. The emotions behind his eyes changed again, and Valentina slowly released the breath she had been holding while her heart started to beat again.

“That is disappointing,” she rejoined the conversation only after he had emptied his glass and bid her to leave him in peace. Even after taking the time to collect her thoughts again, she felt strangely scattered. To give herself time, she collected her skirt and her blouse with a languid leisure designed to hide her tension. “While I am capable of waiting for the opportunity to feel strong hands on my skin, I did hope you’d at least take that chance when it was presented to you.”

Her clothes in hand, Val crossed the kitchen to stand before Cole. And, taking a page from his book, she stopped with bare inches between them as she smiled up at him. “And, to your earlier question… the one about Curic… No, I don’t like bad boy assholes. I like men. Powerful, strong, dangerous men capable of handling every bite, and scratch, that I can give him.” Val paused, switching gears mid thought, and then looked down at clothes she held in her hands.

He was drawn tight as a bow string. If his grip tightened on the tumbler he might very well crack the glass if it was thinner than it seemed. And his voice was trembling.

So was she tense, too, and her voice was trembled despite her vallent efforts to appear unaffected.

“Thank you,” she spoke again after several seconds had passed, “for seeing more than… well, what everyone else sees.” Feeling unusually warm toward the Marshal, Val gave him a small, honest smile before stepping around him to head down the hallway to the bedroom. After the day they had had, they could both use a little peace, and a lot of sleep. “Don’t forget,” she called back as she reached the bedroom. “You promised to take me shopping, tomorrow. And, your welcome for the tease!”

Valentina didn’t expect a reply, and she let the bedroom door close with a soft click of sound. Safely behind a closed door, she leaned against it for support and let her forehead press against the cool wood as she let out a long breath. Slowly, the death grip on her clothing relaxed, and Val let them slip through her fingers to land on the floor. With them, she dropped the heavy weight of the day’s events. She was too tired to deal with it, and she wished she could truly be rid of it all so easily. Of course, tomorrow she had to pick it all back up again. But, for just right now, she was going to pretend she was safe. Maybe if she pretended well enough, she'd sleep through the rest of the night and some of the morning before the dreams started.
 

Mr Quixotic

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#20
The agent stared back, meeting Valentina's challenge before the brief exchange ended and she collected her skirt and blouse. "We can't always get what we wish for, Valentina. Or Curic would be in jail already, and I wouldn't need you at all."

He shrugged, eyes sliding across her form until she turned back toward him. Cole's returned his focus to her face and steeled himself for her approach. Valentina's scent once more filled his nostrils and her body heat radiated against his when she stopped before him.

“And, to your earlier question… the one about Curic… No, I don’t like bad boy assholes. I like men. Powerful, strong, dangerous men capable of handling every bite, and scratch, that I can give him."

Those words, and the way she looked at him, the way she taunted. He tried to brush away the effect both that and her proximity had on his libido. Cole gritted his teeth, and the carotid artery pulsed in his neck. It required all of the man's resolve to refrain from shoving her out of his personal space. Or from wiping the smirk off her face with a slap.

But that's not really what you want, is it Cole?

You want to slam her against the wall and fuck Valentina Rossi into oblivion.

Thankfully, he was able to stop himself from doing something he'd later regret. On the verge of recovering his composure, the woman shattered it again with her sudden change in demeanour.

“Thank you, for seeing more than… well, what everyone else sees."

While he struggled to interpret that, and the accompanying smile, she disappeared into the bedroom.

"Shit." Cole slammed a fist into the wooden surface of the dining table.

"Shit." He muttered the second profanity under his breath, clutched one hand in the other and appraised his knuckles. No permanent damage.

What had it all meant?

Nothing except a game of cat and mouse between two strong personalities, each staking out their territory and testing the other's boundaries. He'd dealt with that dynamic before, and come out on top, and he'd do so again.

As for his thoughts about screwing her?

A combination of tiredness, stress, tension, alcohol, frustration and Valentina's smugness. Naught to do with the woman herself; it could have been any.

After Cole had convinced himself of that and the adrenaline calmed in his veins, he collected a blanket from the linen closet and made a bed on the sofa.

Sleep came fitfully, but it came, and he rose hours later after being awakened by the sun's rays filtering through the curtains.

Yawning and stretching, Cole entered the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee and then freshened up in the bathroom. On the way out, he paused and glanced up the stairs at the closed Master Suite door.

He decided to let Valentina alone for the time being, and sat at the table with caffeine for company and called his partner. Despite Rod's eagerness to join the hunt for Curic, Whittaker declined the offer, but promised to keep the man in the loop. Not happy about it, but knowing Cole and his preference to work alone, Murphy agreed to continue with the rest of their cases. He'd call in favours from fellow agents when necessary, and they'd keep the informal arrangement from their superiors.

The light of a new day had soothed his concerns about the exchanges with Valentina, and by 8 am, he'd become restless and wanted to get on the move.

"Rise and shine." Cole barged into the Master Suite without so much as a knock or a warning, placed a hand on Valentina's shoulder under the covers and shook her. "We leave in thirty minutes." He rolled her over, tugged her towards him and waited for the woman's eyes to open.

Whether they were focused and she was capable of comprehension was another question entirely.

"Get up, shower and be ready to go. Unless you'd rather fend for yourself here, and leave me to guess your sizes?

If not, Cole anticipated that would garner her brain's attention more than the aroma of coffee coming from the mug he'd placed on the bedside table.

"As fun that would be for me, men do tend to over or underestimate depending on our preferences, and I'd hate to cause offence."

Using humour to cover his impatience, Cole also intended to call into his one-bedroom Dogbox in Downtown Manhattan, where he kept an arsenal secured in a gun-safe. With Curic involved, the greater variety of firepower at his disposal, the better.

"So, come on, do as you're told, and I'll forget about the ankle bracelet I had planned."

Cole had already changed his mind on that, secure that Valentina relied on his protection and wouldn't attempt to flee. The last thing he felt like was getting caught up for hours in red-tape at the Justice Centre. Particularly, because whilst he was there, he'd also be expected to request authorisation to use his Government-issued card to charge the costs of their shopping expedition to the taxpayer. Permission would be denied.
 
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LeatrixSage

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#21
Sleep had come quickly and easily. Mental and physical exhaustion had taken their toll, so she wasn’t surprised when she cracked open one eye to find bright morning light already leaking through the curtains pulled shut over the windows to the right of the wonderful, pillow top mattress she was snuggled into. What did surprise her was that the dull ache she had gone to sleep with had become a more insistent need during the night and was now pulsing deliciously between her thighs.

Val sighed as she stretched beneath the sheets to enjoy the way the fabric glided over her skin. It made her shiver, and she smirked as she slid her left hand up over her chest, cupping one of her breasts to feel the sensitive nipple tighten against her palm. Closing her eyes, she nuzzled her face into her pillow, and slid her right hand down over her flat stomach to nestle between her thighs where her clit was already gently pulsing in time with her heart beat. As her fingers found the sensitive bud, she whimpered softly into her pillow, and then shifted her legs so that she could slowly stroke the little nub to make herself pant and tremble. So, absorbed was she in one of the best ways to wake up in the morning, that Val didn’t catch the scent of coffee from below, or the light steps on the stairs as someone bounded up them. Instead, she was completely focused on muffling the little noises that where escaping her throat while she methodically pressed herself toward a much-needed orgasm.

Until Cole barged into the room like a drill sergeant on the warpath.

The bedroom door banged off the wall as he called out, 'Rise and shine,’ and stomped across the room to drop a cup of coffee on the nightstand. Val froze and held her breath, startled into silence. She expected him to march right back out again, but then he reached out to grab her shoulder and shake her. She growled at him to leave her alone, but it was muffled by the pillow she was hiding her face in. Then those powerful hands grabbed her and rolled her over. Val’s heart went straight to her throat as he tugged her toward him, his show of strength was as nerve racking as it was an aphrodisiac to her already heated blood. He tossed her around as easily and carelessly as he would a ragdoll, and it sparked a violent reaction that she fought to keep contained.

As he dragged her close, she didn’t want to open her eyes. Her jaw was clenched to hold back a string of venom, and her mind was working a mile a minute. But, as he hovered over her she didn’t seem to have a choice. He wasn’t leaving until she responded, and Val slowly opened her eyes to look up at the Marshal. Her cheeks were flushed and her grey eyes were bright, hungry, and angry. Her heart was pounding in her head, and one of his legs was so close to the juncture of her thighs that she was tempted to lift her hips to rub against him. The quilt and sheets were between them, but they barely kept her nakedness hidden as they bunched up between them.

"We leave in thirty minutes." He told her, his hands still holding her shoulders, and her arms caught between them. “Get up, shower and be ready to go. Unless you'd rather fend for yourself here, and leave me to guess your sizes? As fun as that would be for me, men do tend to over or underestimate depending on our preferences, and I'd hate to cause offence.” Oh, that was a laugh. If he didn’t want to cause offence, he shouldn’t march so brazenly into a woman’s bedroom. Even if it wasn’t really hers to begin with. “So, come on, do as you're told, and I'll forget about the ankle bracelet I had planned.”

That last bit made Val arch a single eyebrow at him. The attempt at intimidation burrowed under her skin and seared her ire like nothing else could. This wasn’t how this was supposed to work. She was the bad guy here, not him. If anyone was going to be nervous, it was going to be the good Marshal. In that moment, Val decided what the tone of the day was going to be. She needed to work the edge off, and she had a feeling he wouldn’t mind working out some of his frustration. Whether or not he would allow himself the opportunity… well, let’s find out.

“Now Cole,” Val said on a yawn as she stretched out beneath him. There was a viciousness somewhere beneath Cole’s cool exterior, if she could bate it out, then this could be fun. “That is not how this works.”

She reached up one hand to slide over the back of his neck, cradling his head and sinking her fingers into his hair while the other snaked its way up beneath his shirt to flatten against his chest. Cole was already stretched out from leaning across the bed, his balance was precarious, and Val’s smile became a wicked grin as she latched onto the man with her legs and twisted to bring him down into the bed with her. She slid over him as she pressed him onto his back to straddle his hips. In the process, the sheets fell away, leaving Valentina Ricci sitting in all her naked glory in the early morning light across Cole’s hips. The honey colored tips of her breasts were darker now that her nipples were tight and aching, the little buds standing tall and proud while her damp slit was nestled against the zipper of his jeans. Her hair was left to tumble in messy waves over her shoulders as she leaned out over the Marshal.

“That’s better,” she practically purred at him. One hand was still fisted in his hair at the back of his neck, as the other was creeping downward, just enough to allow her fingertips to press into his abdomen at the edge of his pants so that she could feel the delicious play of muscle beneath skin as he tensed under her. “I like you better on the bottom.”

Taunt or challenge?

It didn’t really matter. Hell, she didn’t even care if he threw her off of him and onto the floor. It was the principle of the thing. Cole wasn’t afraid of her, and while she admired him for it, she didn’t want to let him get the idea that she was safe, predictable, or that he was the one in control. She may enjoy being manhandled by him, but it couldn’t go unanswered. Releasing her hold on his hair and straightening above him, Val arched her back and reached behind herself to rest her hands on his thighs and let her head fall back to expose her long neck that was just begging for a fist around it.

Without so much as a by your leave, she rolled her hips to stimulate her clit and make herself gasp.

She was waiting, even as she pleasured herself at his expense, to see what he would do.

It was a much more direct assault on his senses than she had originally planned. A slow seduction over time, something to lure him in gently, that had been the plan. But, she had already come to the conclusion last night that Cole was a man of formidable will. Where most other men, even moral and good men, would have taken that opportunity to touch what they wanted and rationalized it out later, he had not. The direct approach could be a better option. If he wouldn’t be drawn into being the aggressor, then Val was more than happy to be. Even so, it took everything she had to remain soft and pliant above the potential explosion of male fury she currently had nestled between her legs.
 
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Mr Quixotic

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#22
Whittaker had barged into the room in an impatient state. He'd wanted to arrive at the mall early to lessen the chances of being caught up in a crowd, call into his apartment and then commence the hunt for Curic. By sunset, he'd have listened to the audiotapes and planned their next move. Safe and secure in the house, when he placed the coffee on the bedside table and shook Valentina, he was thinking about nothing else, and let his guard down.

"That's not how it works, Cole.'

He should have known better, he should have recognised that she'd been faking sleep. The rebuff came too easily, not from the fogged mind of one who'd just woken. Leaning over her with one hand planted on the mattress, and one leg off the floor, he shook his head. 'Yes, it is......"

The rest of Cole's sentence was cut off when the fabric of his shirt stretched, and his foot slipped under him, causing the man to topple over. Valentina was strong and lithe, and she'd pounced like a cat. Cole flailed his arms but failed to recover before she'd latched her legs around him, rolled him onto his back and sat astride his hips. The man's jaw dropped in shock, and his body tensed. Beneath her, he instinctively coiled every muscle and readied himself to explode out from under. However, he didn't. His attention had been grabbed by the sight of Valentina's perfectly formed breasts swaying above him; nipples erect.

When she pressed down against his hips, an unbidden moan left his lips. Not stemming so much from the pleasurable sensation of her grinding on his crotch, but by the sound of her gasp, Valentina's unexpected sexual aggression and the realisation of what he'd disturbed. She'd been masturbating, not sleeping. As she pleasured herself on him, the Marshall found himself unable to move, mesmerised by the wild look in her eyes. "And, to your earlier question… the one about Curic… No, I don’t like bad boy assholes. I like men. Powerful, strong, dangerous men capable of handling every bite, and scratch, that I can give him."

If only she hadn't spoken just then.

"I like you better when you're on bottom Cole."

That did it. The bitch was toying with him, and the challenge turned his arousal into animalistic fury. Cole reacted in a blur of movement, straightening his legs and bucking his hips off the bed. The impetus lifted Valentina in the air, and as she flew up, he grabbed her shoulder, twisted, and slammed her onto her back. Within a split second, he'd pinned her to the mattress, dug his knee into her thigh and spread her legs apart. "You want me to screw you, Valentina, is that what you want?"

The man lowered his face to within an inch of hers, expression darkened with anger and wrapped a hand around her throat. "Pound you so hard that after I'm done, you won't walk straight for a week? Cole's facial muscles twitched, the veins in his forehead pulsed, and his words came out as a hiss through gritted teeth. He slowly increased the pressure on her neck. Not enough to cut off her air, but letting her know that he easily could. "Who's on top, huh?"

"Who's in fucking charge now?" He loosened his grip on her throat and tapped Valentina's cheek with a palm - a mocking slap that contained little impetus - then grasped her chin between thumb and forefinger. Cole's narrowed gaze bore into her and he maintained a vice-like hold on her face as he ground against her clit, mimicking what she'd done to him. His nerves were on fire, and every sense and sound was amplified.

She's wet and ready for cock, so why not give it to her?

Because it is what she wants.

Why?

That unanswered question and the certainty that Valentina possessed ulterior motives that went beyond mere sex allowed him to regain control. Cole's scowl morphed into a grim smile as he shifted his knee from between her legs, and dropped his free hand to her body. After squeezing a tit, he trailed his touch down her flesh, over Valentina's taut stomach. Lower and lower he went until his palm brushed her clit and the pads of his fingertips rested against her slick folds. "Nice to know you're dripping for me." He slid his middle finger second-knuckle deep into Valentina's slit, then withdrew it, released her face and planted a hand on her scalp. Whittaker shoved Valentina's head into the pillow and used that as leverage to clamber to his feet.

His chest heaving and breathing still ragged, Cole exhibited no shame for his reaction or the hard-on he sported as he ripped the sheets and duvet completely off, tossed them on the floor and stared down at the naked woman on the bed. "You now have twenty-five minutes. I'll finish myself off while I wait."
 
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LeatrixSage

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#23
"You want me to screw you, Valentina, is that what you want?"

Val had barely had time to blink before she found herself in the air, and then back where she had started her morning: on her back, sprawled out beneath the Marshal. Only, this time, the sheets were missing, her thigh was aching where he’d dug in his knee to push her legs apart... and then his hand closed around her throat. Her jaw clenched against the surge of awareness that answered the intimate contact, along with a profound sense of vulnerability. She stamped it out before it threatened to make her weak in more than just the knees. Despite the anger burning behind his eyes, he was remarkably controlled. Cole had reacted with more intensity than she had expected, but he hadn’t lashed out to hurt her. Even his grip on her neck, while unyielding as steel, had begun relatively gently before it tightened threateningly.

"Pound you so hard that after I'm done, you won't walk straight for a week?”

It was on her lips to say ‘yes,’ and then his grip tightened still further and Val reflexively reached up to rest her hands against his abdomen. It was a feather light touch that was trapped somewhere between the urge to get out from under him, or to pull him down over her. Val decided she wasn’t strong enough to push him off, not without playing dirty, so she didn’t bother trying. She was fairly certain that, while he was fully capable of throttling her, he wasn’t really planning on it. He just wanted her to know that he could if he wanted to. What she needed was something to do with her hands, so she grabbed onto his shirt and held on tight.

“Who's on top, huh? Who’s in fucking charge now?"

That question made Val’s lips twitch.

Who was in control?

She watched him closely as his grip on her neck loosened, her mind busy with trying to decide what the answer to that question was, and then he slapped her. Well, not slapped, exactly, but enough to make her blink at him before raising her eyebrows incredulously.

There was some snappy comeback on her lips, but she lost whatever it had been as he caught her chin to hold her face still, keeping her trapped beneath his scrutiny as he ground his hips between her thighs. Val pressed her lips together to smother the sound that threatened to pass them, not that it could hide how her body trembled beneath him or the way her eyes dilated and darkened. Cole was all caged ferocity above her. She doubted he had any intent to do anything beyond trying to humiliate or intimidate, but her body was humming with the awareness of his all the same. He was so close that his eyes were all she could see, his breath mingled with hers, and the warmth of his body was seeping into her skin to make her shiver. He saw too much, he looked too closely, and it put a dent in her otherwise unflappable confidence.

His expression shifted, and her attention sharpened as adrenaline spiked through her system and his hand dropped to her chest. She watched Cole’s eyes with a new sense of defiance as her nipple tightened and ached beneath his palm. She realized, as she trembled from the sensation, that she could stop him if she wanted to. Stubbornly, Valentina released her death grip from his shirt and slid her arms up over her head as she arched her back to raise herself up to him in yet another unspoken challenge. She refused to be intimidated, and therefore, refused to hinder his progress as he trailed a path of fire down her body. His touch was startlingly light as it passed over her ribs and across her stomach; it was more disarming than his aggression. She knew what his goal was, but she still wasn’t prepared for him to follow through with the unspoken threat.

"Nice to know you're dripping for me."

Some wiser inner voice spoke up to tell Val to keep her pretty mouth shut, and then her world collapsed to the single finger that pushed so brazenly inside her. The muscles of her slit clenched down reflexively around that digit as a surprised gasp escaped her lips. His grip on her chin never wavered, kept her trapped, and made certain she could hide nothing from him; Cole never looked away. While he appeared unmoved, she felt the heat that rose in her cheeks and radiated down her neck. It wasn’t shame, fear, or embarrassment, but somehow the rush of arousal that answered his touch was as effective as the other emotions might have been in bringing another woman to heel.

Who’s in fucking charge now?

Then that digit was gone as quickly as it had invaded, and the moment passed as the jerk pressed her face into the pillow and used her head as leverage to get off the bed. He ripped the covers from the bed as he straightened up to leave Val without defenses. Despite the new space between them, she could still feel his hands on her skin, and acknowledging how deeply he’d affected her was irritating at best.

"You now have twenty-five minutes. I'll finish myself off while I wait."

Val drew herself up onto her elbows as she studied the man carefully. Everything about him was contained. His tone was controlled, he was slowing his breathing, but he was not retreating. If she wanted to break that control of his down and crawl under his skin, she was going to get bruised along the way. Backing him up against the wall and continuing her assault from a position on her knees was a temptation that made her hesitate. Her gaze slid slowly down Cole’s body to admire how he looked, lingering curiously on the hardon he didn’t bother to hide before her eyes came back up to watch his. There was the chance that if she tested his tolerance, what interest was there could turn to disgust, and that would drop her into a place that she’d never crawl back out of. She had accidently struck a nerve, one she felt might be worth remembering. He’d been fine with the sexual advance, but implying she had control over him had ignited a response beyond anything she’d expected. The idea of the Marshall trying to fuck her into submission made her ache to see just how far he could be pushed before he tried to do just that.

“Are you finishing in here?” she asked as she slid to her feet. Val was careful to keep a reasonable amount of space between them. Just enough to have a good chance at getting away if he lashed out, but not enough to give the impression that she was the least bit worried about it. Her pride wouldn’t let this go, it couldn’t, and she quietly thanked her lucky stars that her voice was level and strong. “You might as well, I will be.”

Valentina smiled deviously as she turned to sashay her way into the master bath to get the water running to warm up. While it was far from the first time a man had been a little rough with her, something about the iron will that contained all that masculine fury and hunger in the Marshal had shaken her. Her heart was still beating against her ribs so hard that she was almost surprised he couldn’t hear it.

What would the man be like if he lost control?

How long would it take her to find out?

Face it, Val. You want everything he just offered you, and not just because it stands to make him easier to dupe.

She wrinkled her nose at the thought, flatly denying it even as she thought it. Sure, Cole was mouthwatering, but that didn’t negate the point behind getting the Marshal in bed. If he became complacent and relaxed with her, it was all the better for her when this was all said and done. She hadn’t suspected the straight-laced Marshall would actually already be interested in killing Curic, but that was fine. If he already wanted to kill him, that was all the better for her. What she needed was for Cole to trust her well enough not to see a double-cross coming from a mile away. If she enjoyed seducing him, well, that was just a bonus.

“It wouldn’t kill you to relax, Cole,” she called while she waited for the shower to begin to steam and came back to stand in the door way to the bathroom and lean against the doorframe as she casually reached down to rub slow circles over her clit with her fingertips. “You look like you could use a hot shower, too. We can take turns, if you like. I don’t mind if you need to watch. You know, to make sure I’m safe. A naked woman alone in a shower is horribly vulnerable. And then, when it’s your turn, I’ll watch you.” She was smiling as she teased him, feeling more relaxed by the second. While not trapped beneath him, she could think so much more clearly. Still, when the shower began to steam, she didn’t wait for him to answer her offer.

Val let out a long sigh when she stepped into the shower and the warm water spilled over her, easing out the tension and adrenalin. She simply enjoyed the hot water and steam for a few moments before she leaned back against the shower wall and ran her hands down her body. They started at her neck, slid down over breasts to squeeze them briefly and make herself shiver despite the warmth, and then down across her taunt stomach. There, their paths changed, one hand slipping down to find her clit with her fingers to give it a little pinch while the other slid around her hip and over her butt so that she could slip two fingers into her damp slit from behind and stroke the ridged flesh of her g-spot. It meant she had to lift one leg a little, but maintaining her modesty was simply not on the table anymore. She was getting her rocks-off whether he participated or not, but she hoped he took up her offer. Not only would it go a long way to demolish some of the man’s iron will, but it’d be hot as all hell to cum while she could look him in the eye.
 
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Mr Quixotic

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#24
Cole almost lost it with Valentina. His fingers twitched when he'd wrapped them around her throat, and he'd fought the desire to squeeze harder. To force her eyes to close, and to distract his mind from the feel of her body underneath him, and the throbbing in his groin. She'd never know how much will it had taken from him not to slap her with more force or refrain from ripping her head back by the hair and throwing her off the bed and onto the floor. However, even that was nothing compared to the self-control it'd taken Cole to desist from spreading her legs and fucking her senseless.

That she was wet had gotten to Cole. Wet for him, or merely wet? Had she'd been imagining it being Whittaker inside her as she'd masturbated? Had she felt the same sexual tension the previous night as he had, or was Valentina merely seizing the opportunity he'd provided to goad him into screwing her? But, why, what was in it for her? On the flip side what was wrong with him getting his rocks off and thinking nothing of it afterwards? It wasn't like Cole hadn't had a one-night stand before or screwed a woman just because they'd both been in the mood and in the same place at the same time, so why was this different?

The answer to that question was simple.

Because it was Valentina Rossi. A woman who twenty-fours ago and still, if not for her ability to get him to Viktor Curic, he'd have been content to see locked away for whatever stretch the State saw fit. One who'd treat the seduction of a federal agent as a challenge, and see his capitulation to her feminine wiles as a weakness to exploit.

He'd noticed that Valentina hadn't flinched, that she didn't attempt to break away as his muscles had trembled and his jaw flexed. He knew that was precisely what she was after. She wanted to see him lose control and make an impulsive decision that he couldn't retract. She intended to goad him into taking her roughly, tiptoeing the fine line between aggression and violence, and she'd almost achieved her goal. Almost. However, the man was nothing if not stubborn. The way to regain ascendancy over Valentina was not with intimidation and hostility, but calm.

When he moved off her and to his feet, the storm had passed. He didn't care that her eyes slid to his hard-on, noting the effect she'd had on him; the same as he appraised Valentina. His gaze traversed her form, roaming over the blemishes on her flesh, lingering on her breasts, and finishing between her legs. As she stood, he stepped back to allow her room and crossed his arms over his chest. A brow raised when she asked where he was going to finish.

"Haven't decided yet, and I am relaxed. Don't know if I can say the same for you?" Cole shrugged and followed her with his eyes. Fortunately, with her back to him, she couldn't witness him squeeze the bulge in his pants as her buttocks flexed with each step. Her stated intention to finish herself off in the shower and invitation to join should have been his cue to leave. However, Cole found his feet rooted to the spot. He lifted his gaze to meet her eyes after she'd turned on the water and graced him with a taunt. The Marshal attempted to push away his rising annoyance when she wouldn't let it go. Not directed at her, but his own thoughts.

Believing he'd managed to keep it hidden when he responded, there was a slight hitch in his throat elicited by the sight of her drawing circles on her clit. "I think you'd be safer without me watching, don't you, Valentina. Or are you attempting to rile me again?" He shot her a smile. "It won't succeed this time, and big deal if you've got me hard. I'm a guy; we get it up for any woman who pays us attention."

One fist clenched as he spoke, and Cole dug his nails into his palm; hoping his tone had conveyed the sarcastic indifference he'd aimed for. He sighed in relief after she stepped in and the gathering steam obscured her nakedness from view. However, the relief didn't last long as the visage of her silhouetted movements; one hand between her legs and the other cupping her breasts; was more of a turn on. His brain filled in the gaps, bringing forth a groan, and the woman would not shut up. Her words only exacerbated his arousal.

"You want to play, then let's play." Cole had kicked off his jeans and boxers and tossed his shirt on the floor by the time he entered the shower. He glared at Valentina, gripped her wrist and jerked her hand away from her pussy. Chest heaving and the defined muscles of his stomach rippling from the exertion of keeping his emotions in check, the knife scar that ran down his side from under his right armpit to his third rib pulsed bright red. Despite that, his expression was more amused than pissed.

Maintaining hold of that wrist, Cole tugged her toward him and grabbed her other. Then he shoved her against the wall, forced her arms above her head and secured Valentina in that position with his superior strength; rock-hard erection pressed to her skin. "The problem is that you haven't told me the rules of the game." Whittaker shifted his weight and used one forearm to keep her locked in place. That allowed his second limb free reign. "So, I've made up my own, and as desperate as you might be for it, they don't involve you getting fucked."

Not by his cock.

Smirking, with his eyes locked on hers, Whittaker's spare hand dropped, and he buried two fingers in her slit. He curled them inside her, searching for her g-spot, and moved his arm in a blur. The calloused skin of Cole's palm ground against her clit as he slammed his digits in and out of Valentina's slick pussy; finger-banging the woman he had pinned to the shower tiles while the water poured down from above and soaked them both to the skin. "After you come, I'll finish myself off in here. You can stay and watch if you must."
 
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LeatrixSage

Fucking little Gorgeous Goddess
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#25
Valentina was not the kind of woman that would normally run from something just to survive. Retreat, surrender, defeat, they were abhorrent to her. Even her calculated flight from Curic, despite its necessity, was a barely tolerable tactic. Walking away from the Marshal was just as difficult for her pride to swallow.

Her ego had gotten a much-needed boost that eased the sting when Cole’s eyes had dropped to watch as she played with her clit. He had suggested she’d be safer without him watching her, prompting her to smile, and then tossed her a little taunt about men getting it up for any woman that gave them attention, which had just left her swallowing back laughter. Sure, she was willing to admit there was some truth to that statement. Getting a mad hard wasn’t rocket science. But, if it wasn’t a big deal, why did he have to say so? A lesser man would have not only taken advantage of his opportunities the night before, but would haven’t had a qualm about it, either. A lesser man would now be wrapped so tightly around her little finger that she could say ‘jump,’ and they’d ask, ‘how high?’ Of course, that was the very thing that made them boring and forgettable in the first place. Cole was cut from a different cloth, and if she was affecting him, it wasn’t just because she looked good naked, despite what he might want to tell himself. Dripping sarcasm or not, she didn’t believe him.

Particularly when she took into account the fact that he had effectually already told her no.

Twice.

It made his need to say that it wasn’t a big deal so much more telling.

It highlighted the sense that she was playing with fire; that feeling of doing something dangerous and getting away with it, she lived for it. It made Valentina who she was, and the man that stood in the bedroom, watching her through the steam, was quickly becoming the living embodiment of that very thing. His response to her actions made Val feel alluring and powerful, because he was exciting and dangerous, and she could get under his skin.

Adrenaline hit her blood in a fresh wave as he again picked up the challenge she’d given him and came after her. Alarm bells were going off in the back of her mind, but she ignored them. There was this funny thing about men’s clothing, she never could tell exactly what was hidden beneath them, so it was always a treat to see them finally come off. Watching the marshal undress as he made his way to the shower was particularly sweet. He was a man of action, and it showed in every ripple of lean muscle beneath his skin. His arms and legs were lean and sturdy, even the simple movements of shedding his clothes hinting at the sinewy strength they contained. Her heart thudded painfully against her ribs, and her fingernails dug into the skin of her breast as she watched him close the short distance far too quickly. She didn’t get to look as much as she would have liked before he was climbing into the shower with her and her eyes snapped up to meet his glare with an unwavering grin. There was an intensity about the man that sucked her in, threatened to consume her, and then Whittaker grabbed her wrist and yanked her hand out from between her thighs just as her clit pulsed and her body shivered.

“That’s not watching, Cole,” she hissed at him. She’d been so close that she practically snarled at him as she tried to pull her hand free. His grip was utterly unyielding, and while she considered being more vicious about it, he tugged her flush against him. Her free hand landed on her his chest in her effort to catch herself. The hammering of his heart beneath her palm was beating out a rhythm nearly as fast as her own, and a shiver shot down her spine.

Val’s eyes snapped back up to his as he captured that wrist as well. She sucked in a breath through her teeth, but the Marshal was looking down at her in what she thought was amusement, and it took her off guard. The world shifted under her feet again as he used his larger body to push her up against the tile wall. He lifted her arms and she pulled down against him, tried to resist his greater physical strength for the sake of resistance, but they were pinned into place high above her head all the same. Val was a tall woman, but Cole was a taller man, and even standing on her toes, she was stretched out beneath the weight of him. The hard angles and plains of dense muscle pressed into her softer curves as surely as the white-hot heat of his erection was a brand against her abdomen that was impossible to miss. If she squirmed, it’d only burn her all the more, so she sat still. She wasn’t certain which was more distracting, that heat, or the way her soft breasts were pressed flat beneath the hard expanse of his chest while his breath fanned across her face.

"The problem is that you haven't told me the rules of the game," Whittaker shifted his weight to use one forearm to keep Valentina’s arms pinned down. It took some of his weight off of her body as his torso lifted off of her, but it made her wrists ache beneath the pressure. Val didn’t complain, didn’t struggle, she was waiting to see what he planned to do. "So, I've made up my own, and as desperate as you might be for it, they don't involve you getting fucked."

“Who said anything about their being rules to this game,” she asked him, smiling doggedly up at the smirk he gave her, unashamed of the breathless quality her voice had taken on, and utterly disbelieving that he’d pinned her against a wall to not fuck her. A heart beat later her eyes went wide and unfocused as her back arched off the tile wall. Surreptitiously, she adored the fact that he didn’t hesitate, didn’t ask permission, he just slipped his fingers inside her slit as if he owned it, found that wonderful bundle of nerves within, and then laid siege. Valentina didn’t see the trap coming as she opened herself up to him. She was already claiming victory, already fully convinced she’d dented his restraint enough to make him slip.

Who’s in fucking charge now?

Even if she hadn’t damn near cum just a few moments before, the all-out assault on her silt would have had her pussy soaked and ready in no time at all anyway. As it was, Valentina clenched her jaw against a far too enthusiastic moan that he stole from her. Her eyes closed as her legs trembled, and then snapped opened again as his voice cut through the rush of sensation like an ice-cold knife.

"After you come, I'll finish myself off in here. You can stay and watch if you must."

That underlying feeling of power slipped and her unfocused, pleasure-drunk gaze sharpened on his eyes. In the blink of an eye he’d turned it all around on her. A second before she had been happily taking everything he was giving, imagining she’d somehow broken down his restraint. Now, he wasn’t giving her anything, he hadn’t lost anything at all.

He was taking it all from her.

Val gritted her teeth against the wonderful clenching of muscles in her abdomen and the way her clit throbbed as his palm slid back and forth over it, and then began to writhe beneath the cage he’d made of his body to keep her contained. She jerked at her arms, one after the other, but the pressure against her wrists held them fast despite the warm water that spilled over them. She couldn’t get any leverage against him. His assault didn’t ease, his pace didn’t falter, and god damn him, but he knew what he was doing.

Denying herself pleasure wasn’t something Val had any experience with, and despite the glare she gave him, she was going to have to live with the fact that he’d just out maneuvered her with a single statement and two very talented fingers. Her hands clenched into fists as her body shuddered for him, and in a last-ditch effort to take back something, anything, Val pulled herself up just enough to wrap one long leg over Cole’s hip and yank him closer, followed meticulously by the other to lock them together. She refused to give him the gratification of placidly accepting his control. A heart beat later her hips bucked against his hand, the muscles of her slit clamping down around his fingers, and she turned her head to press her face against her arm to muffle an unbidden shout. Valentina rode the talented fingers buried inside her and ground herself against his callused palm as her body twitched and writhed. She used her legs - wrapped tight around his hips - to keep him from taking them away from her.

When she remembered how to breathe, and the spasms rippling through her body had passed, Val faced him again, utterly annoyed by the masculine satisfaction written across his face, and the fact that he had every right to feel that way. Ricci was spitting mad, absolutely spoiling for a fight, and still shivering from a wonderfully toe-curling orgasm.

Fuck!

There was no graceful way to reclaim this.

He’d won.

She’d lost.

Somehow, someway, she was going to make him pay for it.

Val tightened her legs around his waist to lift her body and press her weight into her shoulders to take the tension off her arms long enough to get enough leverage to jerk one out from beneath his forearm. Part of her mind knew this was a bad idea. Possibly a horrible idea. It risked absolutely everything. But, with his hand still caught between them - his fingers soaked with the proof of the orgasm he’d taken from her - Valentina lashed out to sink her fingers into his hair, grab on tight, and yank the man’s head back. Her abs clenched to straighten herself up, and then she used her legs to raise herself up in order to look down at him.

Something within her hated him, something else wanted more from him, and still something else already missed what it had felt like to have Cole Whittaker touching her as if he owned her. For the span of a breath, conflicting emotions warred behind the swirling grey of her eyes. She could taunt him, sneer at him, try to demean him, but that was all childish, petty, and stupid at best.

Instead, Val held on tight to her grip on his hair as she slanted her lips across his in a ravening kiss. Her tongue slipped across the hard line of his mouth in a single, brief touch, and then she released him. She let go of his hair, rested herself back against the shower wall, and her now free hand slid down his side to let her fingers dance across the bright red scar that marred his skin. She’d patched up the wound in her pride, and she smiled up at him as she wiggled the fingers of the hand still trapped by his forearm.

“My fingers are going numb,” she explained, breathless, but calm again. “I believe that is a bad sign. Would you mind letting it go?”

Valentina hesitated, and then her eyes dropped to the scar her fingers were mapping as she committed it to memory. They weren’t really done here, even if he had been the victor of this little battle.

“You won’t win this little war between us, Cole,” she murmured as she politely uncurled her legs from around him, setting them down one after the to stand on her tiptoes again. Taking a deep breath, she tilted her head back against the wall to meet his eyes, uncaring if he could see her excitement or her fear at the prospect. “I won’t give up, and you can’t break me.”
 
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