"Damn you for getting yourself killed," Detective Nick Sullivan muttered into the silence of the empty room. He stared out the second floor window at the view his brother, Jared, must have gazed at hundreds of times—the narrow street in the historic district of Savannah with its nineteenth-century homes and Spanish moss dangling from ancient gnarled oaks.
Jared had flirted with the dangerous edge of criminal activity too long, and now he'd paid the ultimate price. The murderer had made the car crash into the river look like an accident, but Nick knew the truth.
Because of everything he'd learned up to this point, along with a healthy dose of gut instinct, he believed he would find the most important piece of evidence—perhaps the stolen art object itself—hidden here at Jared's ex-wife's home. They'd been divorced a year and he doubted she knew anything about the object. But if she did, she could be in danger, too.
Illegal activity or not, Jared was still his big brother, and Nick loved him. He would do whatever it took to put the bastard who'd killed him behind bars. Since Jared's death three weeks ago, Nick kept remembering his freshman year of high school when the senior jocks had tried to beat up on him. Jared, a senior, had stepped in and defended him. How could he do any less for his older brother now that he was no longer able to defend himself or tell what happened to him?
Nick knew part of it, but he had to uncover the rest and see what kind of tangled mess Jared had gotten himself into.
Nick had spent the last hour searching through every closet, drawer and corner of the spotless Victorian house where Jared and Emily lived during their marriage. Since their divorce last year, when Emily received the house as part of the settlement, she'd lived here alone. The only thing Nick had learned so far in his search was that Emily was a neat freak.
Getting a whiff of a faint but familiar fragrance, he glanced aside at the mahogany chest to his right. She'd left the fancy lid off the bottle of spray perfume—the only thing out of place in the room.
He picked up the half-full bottle. The combination of lavender, vanilla and some other floral scent wafted up his nose.
Damn. The seemingly innocent fragrance reminded him of the two times he'd been near Emily—when he'd kissed her cheek and welcomed her to the family. The enticing scent also reminded him of the burning guilt that had always tormented him for being strongly attracted to his brother's bride.
"Don't think about that," Nick muttered to himself, setting the perfume down. He slipped across the oriental carpet that covered the creaking wood floor and passed between the small fireplace and a four-poster, mahogany bed to peer out the side window at the empty off-street parking area below. The last thing he wanted was for Emily to catch him snooping.
He knew he shouldn't rummage through her personal things, but this was the best way to find out if the object in question was hidden here. If Jared hid it well, she probably didn't even know of its existence.
Nick turned back to scan the bedroom, all frills, designer purple silk and embroidery. He didn't suspect Emily of murder. She was one of the most in-demand wedding planners in Savannah, and her whereabouts during the time of the murder were easily verified. Besides, he knew the murderer was male.
Though the home had obviously been remodeled recently, considering the updated kitchen and baths, it still retained some distinctive features like a dumbwaiter and slightly skewed doorframes. The house might also contain secret passages or hidden compartments.
If he didn't find anything during this search, he'd have to ask for Emily's help. His stomach tightened at the thought of seeing her again, face to face. He hoped like hell he wasn't as drawn to her as he used to be. The last thing he wanted to do was lust after his brother's ex.
Nick crouched and opened the nightstand drawer, filled with paperbacks. After removing them, he searched the bottom of the drawer. Nothing. As he replaced the books, the police badge, along with a man's bare chest, on one of the covers caught his eye. One of those sexy romance novels. He snorted, then scanned the others. They were all about cops except one, which featured a man in a kilt.
And then he made the connection.
"What the hell?"
A forbidden memory from three years ago invaded to his mind. The men in Jared and Emily's wedding party, including Nick as best man, had worn Irish kilts for their formal dress. During the reception at the hotel, after everyone was half-drunk on expensive champagne or scotch, Nick had a quickie with one of the bridesmaids upstairs in what was supposed to have been an empty suite.
While Cassie was going down on him, he'd seen movement from the corner of his eye, near a closet. In the dimness, the person appeared to be wearing a white dress. It must have been Emily. She hadn't said a word from behind that closet door, and neither had he. In fact, the knowledge that she watched had turned him on even more.
A bolt of sexual excitement burned through Nick now just as it had back then, along with guilt. But not enough guilt to keep him from opening one of Emily's erotic novels to a dog-eared page. In the scene, a police officer had handcuffed a woman to the bed and she loved every minute of the sensual torture. The descriptions were vivid and the sex scene graphic. Was this the type of thing Emily fantasized about?
"Hell." That was something he definitely didn't need to know.
He closed the book and shoved it into the drawer. But he couldn't shove away his own arousal. The sizzling image of Emily handcuffed naked to a bed taunted him. She'd be spread out before him, at his mercy. She'd beg him to touch her, to lick her. He'd be tempted to do that and more.
Cursing, he searched the chest, then moved to the dresser. A jumble of lacy panties of every color filled the top drawer. He stopped short, hesitant to touch them. This had to be forbidden. Everything about Emily was forbidden. But he had a job to do, a very personal job that had nothing to do with being an undercover narcotics officer in Atlanta.
A red lace thong lying on top caught Nick's eye and he held it aloft. "Damn," he muttered. He could easily imagine her in this. Not that he'd ever seen her anywhere close to naked. But he knew she had a cute little ass. That was obvious even in the dresses she usually wore. And this thong would look sexy as hell strung between her round ass cheeks. His cock throbbed. Unable to resist, he brought the lace to his nose and sniffed. Of course she'd laundered it, but he still smelled her perfume on it.
Dropping the scrap of lace and forcing himself to concentrate on the job, he dug beneath the frilly lingerie and encountered a box. It could be the antiquarian object he'd been suspicious about. He removed the box and flipped it open.
"What the hell?" he muttered. Angelic Emily had been using a vibrator? Need spiked through him, making his cock rock hard.
Emily was beautiful, with curly, honey-blond hair and big blue eyes. But she was also classy, wholesome and innocent—at least he'd thought she was—and not his type at all.
So why did he get a hard-on any time he thought of her? Why the hell did he have to force himself to stay away the whole time Jared had been married to her, and after?
She was a female, that's why. He was attracted to almost any beautiful female. No big deal.
He slammed the box closed and stuffed it back into the bottom of the drawer.
He was going to have to totally shift his concept of Emily. She might look like innocence personified, but clearly she was a woman with a healthy sexual appetite.
Perhaps an appetite that matched his own.
Naughty Emily—that was his new name for her.
A door slammed downstairs.
He crammed the lingerie back into the drawer and softly closed it. Footsteps echoed up the creaky old steps. He slid across the polished hardwood boards to hide underneath the high, four-poster bed a few seconds before she strode into the room. He watched her feet in those sensible beige heels. Emily, you are such a chameleon.
Now how was he going to get out of here? He hadn't expected her to come home at two in the afternoon. He hadn't heard a car in the driveway—then again, his attention had been diverted to other things.
Emily slipped off her shoes, then removed her skirt, hose and other things he couldn't see. Okay, she was probably naked. His erection raged back to life. He hated that Jared's wife had always made him horny, but he couldn't help it. She was lickable.
She disappeared into the connected bathroom and turned on the shower. Now was his chance. He silently slid from beneath the bed.
* * * *
The shower took forever to heat up in this old house. Emily Grant twisted her hair into a knot on top of her head and clipped it. Walking to and from her bridal shop in the Savannah heat, she sometimes had to shower twice a day. Thank goodness she was done for the day and could spend the rest of it in bed with a book. But first, she had a new, delicious-smelling, pomegranate shower gel to try. She hurried back to the bedroom to retrieve it.
A man was creeping across the floor away from her. She screamed and froze.
Muttering curses, he spun and faced her. Broad shoulders, longish blond hair and silver eyes.
His gaze darkened to smoldering, then slid slowly down her body and back up. "Good god," he muttered, low and deep.