FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
James figured, as he lounged against the grungy alley wall waiting for his snitch, that if he could just find the right way to crack Tommy, he could be free to give Kiki what she obviously wanted. He wasn’t stupid. She was making all those typical female noises about meeting the friends, maybe even the family. But they’d only been together a little over a month since they’d met at her party. And ‘together’ was stretching it a bit. Sure, they talked every day, saw each other more days than not, but that didn’t mean they were together together. And even though it was also true he couldn’t get her off his mind, found himself thinking about her at odd moments in the day, found excuses to see her when he really should be focusing on the case, still… they had barely started whatever it was that it was.
She was beautiful and intelligent and sexy and fun to be with, surprisingly so given how young she was, but going public and making it official with friends and family instead of the nameless strangers at museums and parks? He wasn’t sure even if he wasn’t trying to work her family for information if he would be ready for that. But what he did know for sure was that it couldn’t happen before Tommy agreed to get Downey on board. It would complicate things too much. Everyone would have their two cents to put in, and Downey would no doubt run the other direction or demand Kiki stop the relationship. Or both. And neither thing sat well with James.
But something was going to have to be done. Take this morning, for instance, she springs on him that they’re supposed to be meeting up with Tommy and Ginny for drinks after work. And he, naturally, balked at this idea. First, she said it while trailing her manicured nails down his lower abdomen, tracing a teasing pattern that had his mind and willpower at seriously subpar levels, and second, she cloaked it in a manner in which he didn’t have a logical reason to refuse.
“You and Ginny and my brother will just go out for Happy Hour like you’ve been doing most days. I already told my brother I’d join him and he thought it was a great idea. He doesn’t have to know you knew in advance I’d be there. We can just feel them out. We don’t have to acknowledge that we’ve already been seeing each other but it could be, like, a dry run. Ease them into the idea. You see? And anyway, Tommy needs help with Ginny, she obviously likes him and I think he likes her, but a snail could move faster—”
“Mmnnn… Katherine, you’ve got to stop with these games. People aren’t dolls… Ahhh, stop that, baby, I got to get to work,” he had said as she teased him with her hair and one delightful fingertip.
This girl ought to just change her name to Mata Hari.
But he’d ended up agreeing, because what else could he do? If he all of a sudden made an excuse not to go to Happy Hour with Tommy and Ginny it would confirm Ginny’s suspicions, and she might go to Tommy, and that would derail his progress. It was frankly a miracle she hadn’t said anything yet, especially after stupid Ted’s drunken ramblings last weekend. Added to that, he could tell by the stubborn, challenging glint in Kiki’s eyes that if he refused it would cause trouble between them.
Besides, maybe Kiki had a point. Maybe if they simply openly admired each other, flirted a bit, it wouldn’t seem like he was using her to Ginny and then she would back off her meaningful glares and pointed looks. And Tommy wouldn’t have to know he and Kiki had already been together until after they’d bagged Bonanno. If they were even still together then. Because who knew where this thing would lead? Surely something this hot and heavy would burn out soon enough. That’s why he didn’t want to involve anyone else. It was confusing enough without her family and his family weighing in on it.
James checked his watch again, worried he wouldn’t make it back to headquarters in time if his snitch didn’t show. He’d gotten a mysterious text from one of O’Rourke’s crew saying he had info on the hit on his boss, and since this confidential informant had dropped some fairly reliable info in the past for him in exchange for getting let off on a midlevel narcotics charge, James had sacrificed his lunch break to meet him. Besides, he’d obviously be seeing Kiki tonight for the Happy Hour of Doom. Maybe she’d be so grateful…
He heard a car door slamming and turned, walking towards the noise on the other side of the abandoned building. His neck prickled. He probably should have brought Tommy along for back-up but he wanted to keep this guy to himself. An O’Rourke snitch was a rare breed. He un-holstered his weapon and crept around the side, using a pocket mirror to see what was down the other alley. His CI was walking forward darting nervous glances left and right. Behind him was a man who seemed vaguely familiar standing in front of a black Lincoln.
Yep, shoulda brought backup. He flattened back against the wall.
“Hoffman! Hey, Hoffman! Come out,” he heard his snitch O’Brien say, voice trembling. “Hoffman, ain’t no use man. They already know you’re meeting with me. They just wanna talk.”
James battled with the desire to know who ‘they’ were versus the obvious disadvantage he had. It couldn’t be O’Rourke’s people or the snitch would already be dead. O’Rourke had a less than zero tolerance for rats. Meaning he tended to go the extra mile and kill a guy’s entire family to cement the message when he so much as suspected a leak. But then again… O’Rourke was now dead. Hmmmnn. He heard another car door slam.
“Come on out and play, Jimmy. Isn’t this what you’ve been angling for?” a gravelly voice James clearly recognized said.
Not the Downey I’d hoped to spend lunch with, he thought with dark humor.
James walked around the corner and faced Kiki’s father. O’Brien was shifting back and forth on his feet like he was preparing to run. The man in the suit next to the limo fondled his high caliber weapon.
Well, shit on a stick.
Downey smiled and walked forward, leaving a distance between him and the other men. James quickly weighed his options and went with his instincts.
“This isn’t about the hit, is it?” he asked politely, attempting to remain professional.
“On the contrary. I have information you and your friends might find interesting. And I’ll give it to you for a reasonable price,” Downey replied silkily.
James’ guts knotted up. This was too easy. What was going on? Downey’s eyes held cold menace, but his smile was pure honey. The classic phrase ‘Make him an offer he can’t refuse’ rang in his head.
“Depends on the information,” James replied.
Downey chuckled. “Come on now, Jimmy boy, we both know this is what you’ve been angling for,” Downey repeated. “This is why you’ve been sniffing around my daughter and schmoozing up my oldest son, isn’t it?”
James’ heart stuttered a bit. “What are you talking about?” he bluffed.
“Your little toy here’s been quite the chatty Cathy. Been selling his information to the highest bidder for quite some time now. Luckily, I find it useful to keep my ears and eyes open even in my retirement, know what I’m sayin’? With O’Rourke gone, it’s only natural the little mice come running to the nearest protector. He tells me you’re investigating an acquaintance of mine, you might even call him family. And we all know there’s nothing more important than family… ain’t that right, Jimmy?” Downey sneered.
“It’s James, Mr. Downey, and if you’ve information to aid us in our case we’d be more than happy to take it, confidentially of course,” James said as calmly as he could.
“Tell me. What kind of a man uses an innocent little girl because he doesn’t have enough balls or competence to get the job done himself?” Downey replied.
James’ ears were ringing from a combination of anger and fear. He looked Downey in the eyes and forced himself to walk forward.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” James answered slowly and firmly.
Downey reached into his coat and brought out an envelope which he opened lazily. He took out pictures of Kiki and James kissing at Grant Park. James gritted his teeth. So much for keeping the families out of it. He looked back at Downey and kept his poker face on.
“And?” he asked.
Downey looked mildly impressed. He stepped forward. They were now almost toe-to-toe. James forced himself not to step back.
“This is how it’s going to go,” Downey said softly. “You’re going to take this envelope, with these pictures and some information on O’Rourke’s connection to Teplov’s operation. You’ll find there’s nothing on Bonanno, nor will you get anything from me on him. But in exchange for this information on the Russians, you’re going to break things off with my daughter immediately. No one ever needs to know of this. See, your snitch O’Brien over there has delusions of grandeur, fancies himself moving up the ranks now his former boss is gone. So he’s going to keep his mouth shut about this meeting, because I’m going to help make his petty little dreams come true. His mouth speaks only what I tell it to speak from now on, and he understands what’s at stake if he doesn’t. You seem like a real smart boy, Jimmy, so I don’t suppose I gotta explain what’s at stake for you either. So this is a real simple case of quid pro quo between me and you. Now, I can’t make you stop fraternizing with my son since you work together, but you damn well aren’t ever going to lay a perverted hand on my daughter again. If you take this information, and you don’t leave my daughter alone, I will make sure my son and daughter understand the extent of your betrayal and then I will have your badge. Don’t delude yourself into thinking I don’t have that kind of clout in this city,” Downey finished.
“You’ve miscalculated, Mr. Downey,” James said. “Kiki and I made an agreement the first night we met. She knows exactly what I’m after. So does your son for that matter. She’s been very willing to help me.” The petty part of him enjoyed the quick flash of betrayal on Downey’s face.
“I don’t believe you,” Downey replied.
“Well, that’s probably because you’re imagining all sorts of sinister motives here and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Your daughter, as usual, is thinking of everyone but herself. She wants you and Tommy to have a better relationship. Why? Because it’s what you want. I’ve agreed to help her because it benefits me to do so. And because I think it’s a goddamned shame she has to twist herself into a pretzel just to get your attention. But she knows what I want and she agreed to help me because I convinced her that you have nothing to do with the trafficking ring, and by encouraging Tommy to spend time with you, she’d be helping her brother and me get the information we need. But I don’t need her to get that done. I need Tommy. But so far, your son refuses to ask you to help. You’ll also be gratified to know your daughter steadfastly refuses to believe you’d ever give us the information you’re dangling in front of my nose right now.”
James grabbed the envelope. “And I don’t give a rat’s ass if you believe me or not,” he finished, then turned on his heel and walked off before his courage could fail him.
He half expected to hear a bullet wiz by or Downey shout after him, but nothing happened. He made it back to headquarters in a completely numb daze and handed the information over, explaining he’d gotten it from a CI. That was enough at first to keep them occupied, but his lack of enthusiasm for this final big break did not go unnoticed. He somehow made it through the afternoon ignoring the puzzled and curious looks Tommy, Ginny, and Jack were giving him. He’d shaved months off their investigation but he couldn’t muster up interest. He couldn’t get the sick ball of lead feeling to go away in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t see a way out of the deal he’d just made with the Devil.
He wasn’t sure just what sort of clout Downey had to get his badge stripped but he knew that he could insinuate all sorts of things by way of James’ association with Kiki if he did continue to be with her. Sometimes his feverish mind would think the Hoffman and Dobson families had plenty of their own sway in Chicago, the majority of them being involved in government or politics in some way; he could fight fire with fire. But he couldn’t be certain. He had to get this case wrapped up first to be sure of anything, and he had needed this information to do it. The needs of those exploited children outweighed his desire to be with Kiki. It had to. But the rightness of the decision didn’t make the sick feeling go away.
“Hey, Francis, lighten up,” Tommy said, nudging James as they walked into the sports bar after work.
James forced a smile. “Sorry, I guess my mind is already on indictments and depositions and so forth,” he replied, looking around.
God… what am I going to tell Kiki?
“Well, I’m just happy we didn’t need to ask Tommy’s father for anything. The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I feel better just going with what we gathered on our own about Bonanno and Teplov,” Ginny said.
James winced and sat down. Tommy shrugged before joining him.
“I don’t think he would have given us Bonanno anyway. We’ll have to hope we have enough on our own. I actually spent an entire day in his shop with him on Sunday. Just him and me. It was weird,” Tommy said. “This man is my father and I had no idea he was such an accomplished woodworker.”
“Yeah, he’s very talented,” James muttered without thinking.
Ginny and Tommy stared at him with marked curiosity.
“Downey is into carpentry?” Ginny asked, eyes narrowing at James. Tommy was still looking at James enquiringly. James thought quickly.
“I’ve seen some of his works in the paper before,” he lied, gambling on the fact neither Tommy nor Ginny were from Chicago and wouldn’t know any better.
Tommy nodded and relaxed a bit, “He told me he mostly does furniture by request and word of mouth. He sells a few pieces at some of the smaller consignment shops around town. Not that the man needs the money or anything,” he finished with a chuckle. It was good Tommy was finally opening up about his father with them, but to James, it felt like a knife twisting in his gut because of what he was about to do.
He saw Ginny smile at something over his shoulder and he turned to see Kiki enter. She took his breath away she was so beautiful. She had done that from the first moment he saw her in person at her party, but at the time he had thought it was just because he had built her up as this fantasy in the papers. He kept thinking it would go away as he got to know her, but it had only gotten worse, this ache for her. She was dressed in a simple and elegant pair of slacks and blouse, her gorgeous chestnut curls tamed into one of those fancy braids crowning her face, the rest left loose.
She smiled a radiant smile at him. He swallowed the lump in his throat and deliberately didn’t smile back. Her smile slipped a bit and her brows hinted at her confusion, but she kept walking towards them. Tommy got up to hug her and she exchanged pleasantries with Ginny, finally sitting across from James at their table.
“It’s good to see you again, James,” Kiki said in a knowing tone, smirking.
Good Lord, this girl would never be able to play poker she was so bad at hiding her feelings. He nodded indifferently. Ginny looked between them, eyebrows raised, mouth pursed in suspicion.
“Should we order appetizers?” Tommy asked without looking up from the menu.
“Sure, it might be sometime in May before they get here though with the game on,” James replied, avoiding Kiki’s gaze.
All through drinks and appetizers he forced himself to smile and laugh with Tommy and Ginny acting as if Kiki weren’t there. Her confusion and hurt were obvious on her face. They weren’t going to announce their relationship tonight but the plan had been to flirt with each other at the very least. Yet he was shutting her down, rebuffing her advances. Tommy seemed not to notice much, but Ginny was looking at Kiki with increasing concern.
By the time their checks got there, Kiki looked delightfully furious like she had the first night at her party. He said a very forced and overly polite goodbye to her and drove the long drive back to his home in Downers Grove, trying to erase the look of hurt in her eyes from his memory. He walked into the house he had bought from his parents and shared with no one, and sat in the silence trying to figure out how he could go back on the deal and keep his relationship with Kiki without losing his badge… or his life for that matter.
The silence seemed to mock him, as did the acceptance they had a relationship just as he was about to lose it. He wished he could rewind the last several hours and not take the envelope, but then he would have the guilt of knowing he could’ve done something to help hundreds of innocent children and didn’t, made them wait a little longer for justice just because he was stuck on a pretty girl. There was a pounding on his door and repeated ringing of the doorbell. He got up and knew before he even opened the door it would be her.
She looked like an angry spitfire on his door step and his groin throbbed in need. He had a wild thought, just one more time… Just one more before he had to say goodbye.
“Just what the hell was that about tonight, James?” Kiki spit out.
He grabbed her and yanked her in, shutting the door with her body as he kissed her madly, like a desperate man.
Which, of course… he was.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
WHEW! That was half the book, peeps! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting such a large peek! 🙂
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