EXPOSURE

Parental Advisory Rating: L & AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!

Credits:

Director: TNovan

Executive Producer: XWPFanatic

Writers: Tonya Muir, TNovan and XWPFanatic

 

Episode Seven: Locked Up and Tied Down

I look in the mirror one last time drawing a deep, satisfied breath, very pleased with myself. I smooth my ivory skirt and adjust the white silk blouse, which includes lowering one more button. Smiling and humming to myself, I turn to my dresser and pick up the perfume bottle at my fingertips. As I rub my wrists together, I hear him snicker from the doorway.

"What?" I ask in the most irritated voice I can muster. Truth of the matter is it’s hard for me ever to be irritated with Erik. And, well, just the thought of where I am headed keeps me in a damn good mood.

He takes a deep breath through his nose as he saunters into my room to sit on the end of my bed. "Ah, Elizabeth is in town."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, for one, you are far too happy."

I scowl at him, but he is unaffected.

"And, two, the only time you wear that perfume is when you go to see her."

"That’s not true."

"Oh, but, Kels, my love, it is. That’s the most expensive perfume on your dresser and you save it for your little weekend trysts with her. It seems to be your ‘I’m sleeping with Elizabeth’ fragrance of choice. Tell me, Kels, does it turn her on?"

"Actually it does. Thank you very much, you little shit."

"So, I shouldn’t expect you back tonight, right?"

"Umm, no." I can’t contain my smile as I pick up my jacket from the bed.

Erik takes it and helps me into it. "Well, have fun, sweetheart. I’ll make sure I set the alarm before I leave tonight. So don’t forget about it when you come home." He pauses as he brushes the back of my jacket with a lint brush he has retrieved from my dresser. "If you come back at all."

"Oh, that’s right. You’re flying to New York tonight, aren’t you?"

"Yup, they want to do some publicity for the film."

"When will you be back?"

"Friday, at the latest."

I turn to him and wrap my arms around his neck. I can’t help but smile as I see the pride in his eyes. "Have a good time, my friend. Where are you staying?"

"Well, I’ll have you know," he moves in, whispering in my ear. "I’m at The Plaza." He laughs softly as he draws back.

"Oh boy, you have hit the big time. Too bad I’m not going with you. I could use a weekend of getting pampered."

"Nah." He turns me and shoves me out the door. "You need a weekend of getting laid. If you came to New York with me that wouldn’t happen. You two would have switched coasts. So go see your girlfriend."

"She is not my girlfriend. We have a very casual relationship."

"Yeah, and every time you get together, you fuck like bunnies." He laughs as he guides me to the elevator, grabbing my purse and car keys from the hall table on the way. He shoves them into my hands as he calls for the car. "Now go have some fun."

"Oh, I intend to." I give him a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck and have fun yourself. See you Friday." The doors open and I step in, giving Erik a wave before they close.

As I settle into the Mercedes and start the engine, I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face. Part of it is due to the fact that I am really looking forward to seeing Elizabeth again. The other part of it is that I am looking forward to ‘seeing’ Elizabeth again. We went to college together and we found that we liked a lot of the same things, including, but not limited to, sleeping together. The fun part of it was that we never pressured each other for a relationship, outside of our friendship. We both knew we were headed in our careers. So we accepted our relationship for what it was, genuine affection and a tension reliever. Boy, do I have some tension to relieve.

Elizabeth is a high profile junior partner with Andersen Kill. She belongs there. She’s a hell of a litigator, very aggressive, predatory even, befitting the law firm’s name. I grin as I realize all that aggression will be turned in my favor tonight and this weekend. My libido is at the cage door, waiting very patiently at the moment.

As I pull up to the hotel, it occurs to me that this is the same hotel where we decided on this arrangement. It’s a very "Same Time Next Year" kind of thing we have going, but it’s fun. I pop the trunk and the valet helps me out of my car. I smile as I hand him the keys. Just can’t seem to keep the damn thing off my face.

Moving to the trunk, I fetch a small bag that could double for a soft sided briefcase. You learn all kinds of tricks about how to be discreet over the years. I open it, slip my purse inside, then put the bag on my shoulder. When the bellman approaches, I shake my head and tighten my hold on the bag.

I see her immediately when I enter the lobby. My libido stands up and does a hula dance in my chest, accompanied by the pounding drum of my heart. So much for waiting patiently at the cage door.

God, she is gorgeous. Oh Lord. You know as I look at her now it occurs to me how much she looks like Sharon Stone. No wonder I want her. She smiles as she waves at me, then holds out her arms to me.

Finally! A very friendly embrace. Oh yeah!

"Kels, God, it seems like forever." She smiles at me as we part, her hands run down my arms slowly, erupting goosebumps along long-neglected flesh.

"It’s been too long, Beth. How are you?"

"Working my ass off, sweetheart, and you?"

"Oh, please." I roll my eyes as thoughts of Harper come crashing into my mind, then, thankfully, leave just as quickly. "Too much to tell in the lobby of the hotel."

"Well, okay." She takes my bag and hands it to the bellman. "There was some problem with my room, a computer foul up of some kind, so they're getting another one ready. Let's go to the bar and have a drink while we catch up."

"Let me get my purse," I start to reach for the bag only to have Elizabeth grab my arm and guide me to the bar.

"Nope, you don't need it. Your money is no good with me. I heard you got a new addition to your show. Harp…"

I cut her off with a wave. "Please, don't say it," I groan out as we settle into a small booth.

She slides in next to me, giving me a concerned look. "Say what?"

"Her name. You would not believe the turns my life has taken since she showed up. And it’s only been a little more than two weeks."

"Not good?"

"So very bad." I give her a smile. "Please, let's not talk about it. I didn't come here to talk about her. I came here," I pause, knowing it will only serve to heighten her interest in what I am about to say, "to lose myself in you for a weekend. To remind myself why I thought you were the best thing about Brown."

"I was the best thing about Brown," Elizabeth replies easily. "Don’t ever forget that."

 

* * *

 

We’re on our second round of drinks when Elizabeth’s pager goes off. We both look at the small device with disdain, knowing it has the power to ruin our weekend together. I feel a throb deep within, reminding me that I will die if something interferes with us now. Why didn’t I just drag her upstairs and skip the drinks?

Elizabeth removes the pager from her skirt waistband and stares at the numbers. "Damn! It’s Aguilera. I need to go to our room and return the call. He’s gonna wanna bitch at me about the hearing on Friday."

I look at her warily. "Will you have to go back to New York?"

She smiles the smile that has won her many clients over the years, the same one that first made my sexuality wake up and take note more than a decade ago. "Would I leave you in your hour of need? Let me go calm him down." She leans forward, giving me a pleasant view. "Then I can calm you down."

"Promises, promises."

She winks and pushes away from the table. I watch the gentle sway of her hips as she disappears from view.

I let my eyes wander around the bar and take in the scenery. It is a nice view. There are quite a few gorgeous women scattered around its confines. One, who is particularly easy on the eyes, smiles at me when we make brief eye contact. It’s not unusual, a lot of people recognize me from the news.

As I wait for Elizabeth to return, I watch the other patrons. It never ceases to amaze me how old, fat, ugly men are able to date young, vibrant women and no one seems to note or care. When I’m fifty, would people think it’s normal for me to go out with some young thing?

Somehow, I doubt it. For a variety of reasons.

I am lost in my thoughts until I notice that a number of dark suited men have suddenly joined all of the beautiful women around the room. There is one standing by my table as well. "Yes?"

He opens his wallet and presents me with his badge. "I’m Officer Gibson of the Los Angeles Police Department. I need you to come with me, ma’am."

"What’s this about?"

"You’re under arrest, ma’am. Please get up from the table and come with me."

"What’s the charge?" There is no way in hell I’m getting up. This has got to be some sort of practical joke.

"Prostitution." He leans down and takes hold of my upper arm and begins pulling me out of the booth.

"Stop it!" I swat at his hand. "Let go of me!" I raise my voice, I want attention; this man is insane. "Do you know who I am?"

He rolls his eyes, unimpressed. "If I had a nickel for every time someone in this town said that to me." His grip around my upper arm tightens and he hauls me out of the booth, manhandling me all the way out of the bar and through the lobby.

"I am Kelsey Stanton. I am the anchor on the channel four news." I find myself standing outside and I wonder exactly how I got here.

The officer calls over another dark-suited man. "Sarge, she says she’s some news person."

"Kelsey Stanton, Channel Four," I add.

The older man looks me over, his gray eyes studying me carefully. After a long moment, he turns to the junior officer. "Nah, she’s too short. Put her in the van. I don’t want to cause a scene here."

"I am Kelsey Stanton!" I lose it. I can’t believe this is happening. Will I never get laid again in my life? Are all the gods of the universe conspiring against me obtaining any relief?

"Well, if you are her, show me some identification and I’ll let you go," the Sarge offers magnanimously.

"Thank you!" I huff and reach for my purse.

Which is in the room with Elizabeth.

Shit. Damn. Fuck.

"Look, my friend has my purse in her room …"

The two men laugh. "Uh huh, right." The younger one guides me into a waiting van where all of the attractive women from the bar are awaiting me. "We’ll help you make ID down at the station."

He leans over and handcuffs me to the seat, just the same as the other women. Stepping out of the van, he swings the doors shut and locks them, patting on the metal. At the sound, the driver starts up the engine and pulls away.

What in the hell just happened to me?

 

 

* * *

 

I get my customary single phone call.

"Los Angeles Inter-Continental. How may I direct your call?"

I sigh. This is so humiliating. "Elizabeth Hill, please."

"One moment." I hear the operator’s long fingernails tapping on the keyboard. "I’m sorry, ma’am, our computers are down at this time. What’s her room number?"

"I don’t know. She didn’t tell me. Look, I know she’s staying there. I was just having a drink with her at the bar. Can you please call her room?"

More tapping. "I’m sorry. I have no way of connecting you without her room number."

"You’re kidding me."

"No, ma’am. Not with the computers down."

I groan. Elizabeth, where the hell are you?

"Ma’am, if you call back later, I’m sure we’ll be able to help you."

I bang my forehead against the back of the telephone receiver. This can’t be happening.

 

* * *

 

Three hours later the Inter-Continental’s computers are still down. It’s midnight. And, unless I plan on spending the night here, I’m down to a single option.

 

* * *

 

The phone rings loudly by my bed, awakening me from a very pleasant dream. My hand snakes out from under the covers and clutches the receiver. I pull it under the blanket and press it against my ear. "Kingsley."

"Oh thank God, you’re home!" Kels gushes.

"Kels?" I manage, pushing myself up on my bed, turning to look at the clock. The LED readout tells me it is after midnight. "What’s going on? Why are you calling me?"

"I need your help, Harper."

I stop moving, stop breathing. With my free hand, I pinch my other arm. Yup. I’m awake. "Come again?"

"I. Need. Your. Help."

I am awake now. It has to be important for Kelsey to want my help. "What’s wrong?"

"I need you to …" her voice breaks. I can’t tell if she’s crying or not. She takes a deep breath and exhales, the air whistling into my ear. "Come bail me out of jail."

I can’t help it. I lose it. Involuntarily, I convulse with laughter, dropping the handset and guffawing loudly.

When my laughter subsides, I grope for the phone and pick it up again. Only to be overtaken by another laughing fit. "I’m sorry, Kels …" I manage. "I just … wasn’t expecting that." Snort. "Uh … which precinct?"

"The Fifteenth."

"What’s the charge?"

She starts to reply but stops herself. "You’ll have to find out when you get here, Tabloid. Now hurry up. I need identification."

I’m barely listening as she tells me where it is and how to get to the hotel, I’m still so in shock that she would actually call me. "Okay, okay … I’m on my way."

Oh, this is gonna be fun! I get out of bed and dress quickly, whistling a happy tune.

 

* * *

After trying the hotel and asking for Elizabeth for what seems like an hour, I give up on their lame computer system and decide to get Kelsey’s media credentials from the station instead. She keeps her credentials in her desk drawer, always prepared. She must have been a Girl Scout. (I was a Girl Scout who got thrown out for eating a Brownie. Or so goes the old joke.) I hope that her station identification will be good enough. I can talk my way out of or into anything, so I’m certain those skills will come in handy.

The Fifteenth is in downtown, and I notice that the station seems quiet and somewhat lazy as I make my way inside. Los Angeles’ downtown at night is desolate. Anyone with any good sense got out during rush hour. Only a few hotels catering to business travelers are here. Wonder what Kels was doing in this part of town to get herself arrested.

It takes only a few questions until I’m being led back towards holding. When I glance inside the cells, it seems that most of the women occupying them are gorgeous, well dressed and appear harmless; unless you consider long fingernails raking across your back in the moment of ecstasy harmful. I don’t. I arch my eyebrow at my young escort and the cop grins.

"High class prostitution ring," he offers without my asking. I don’t often have to ask a lot of questions, people seem to volunteer information to me. Must be my baby blues.

"You’re kidding," I reply dryly, trying to hold in the guffaw that threatens. Oh, Kels, this is priceless.

"Nope. That your friend?" he stops in front of a cell and motions with his arm. Sure enough, Kelsey is sitting on a bench against the back wall. She’s in a corner and appears to be asleep so I take a moment to look her over. She’s dressed classily and obviously had plans for this evening. Even slightly rumpled, her ivory skirt suit and white blouse are showing off the best of her attributes. Her blonde hair is plaited away from her face, highlighting the delicate bone structure to good effect. She is beautiful.

"Yeah," I nod, smiling. "Wake up, Sunshine," I call across the distance between us.

She stirs and blinks open those emerald eyes and actually smiles when she sees me. Then the look is hidden by her mask of indifference. "About time," she grumbles, rising to her feet and smoothing her clothes.

"Careful," I warn, smirking. " I could leave."

She looks worried for a moment that I might do just that so I wink at her. I’m here now. Unless there’s a reason I can’t get her out, I don’t plan to leave her here. She seems to relax as she comes forward to the cell door, clutching the bars like all the women in prison movies do.

"Did you get my purse?"

"Stupid hotel computer was still down, Kels," I say by way of apology. "But I stopped by the station."

She nods her understanding and turns her eyes to the cop who has been watching us. "Well?" She obviously expects him to be doing something helpful and not just gawking.

"Let me get someone who can help you," he stammers and trots away, leaving us alone. Well, mostly alone. There are the other women milling around in various cells.

"So," I say, unable to wait for her. "Please, tell me you aren’t in here on prostitution charges."

She looks away for a moment and then glances back, already blushing. "Don’t laugh at me, Harper," she says softly.

She looks tired and strung out, more than a little embarrassed, and I manage to find some sympathy for her. It’s not easy. I tend to live my life as I see best with little regard for how that might impact others or their opinions of me. Something about Kelsey appears to curb that tendency. "I’m done laughing," I tell her, realizing I mean it.

"I was meeting a friend at the hotel. We were going to go out. I guess these sluts were working-"

"Hey!" one of the women glares to Kelsey. "Watch it, pretty girl."

I shake my head as Kelsey turns to the lady and gives her the bird.

"Anyway," I prompt.

"Anyway, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Without my purse."

"What about this friend?"

"She’d gone up to her room to make a phone call and the stupid hotel computers ..." her voice trails off and I nod.

"Suck," I finish for her.

"Hmmm," she agrees. "Do you think they’ll drop the charges?"

I look over my shoulder where a uniformed cop is approaching and I glance back to Kelsey. "Leave that to me." I walk after the cop with a swagger in my step.

***

"Did you bring some identification?" Officer Crane looks to me over the report in his hands. He’s moved me to his desk across the room, leaving Kelsey in the cell.

"Mine or hers?" I ask with a smile.

He smiles back and I’m relieved. "Both."

I pull out my own driver’s license and put it on his desk. Then I place Kelsey’s credentials there as well. He eyes them slowly.

"Don’t you have her driver’s license or something?"

"Her purse is at the hotel with a friend and the hotel computers have been down. This is the best I could do."

He looks them over carefully and eventually nods. "She told us she was an anchor. Wanted to believe her. She’s different from the others."

"Yeah," I agree, glancing back across the room and winking at a very relieved Kelsey. "What about her record?"

"Record?" he was already pulling together her personal items and stops to look up at me. "Oh. No record. I didn’t book her. Like I said, I wanted to believe her. None of this will be official. As long as she doesn’t press charges. If she does, then I’ll have to let the whole story out." It’s a barely concealed threat but I don’t care.

"Not a chance. I’ll take care of that."

I’m grinning as we head back to the cell. Kels will think I worked wonders to get her off. She doesn’t need to know the whole truth.

 

***

 

It’s only a few hours before dawn when we leave the precinct and arrive at my Harley. Kelsey’s footsteps are slowing until she stops. When I turn to look at her, her head is cocked and she’s eyeing my bike.

"I can’t ride on that," she announces.

"Sure ya can. Best thing you’ll have had between your legs in months."

She glares at me and murmurs something about ‘what could have been’ but I don’t get the whole sentence or the meaning behind it.

"C’mon," I motion her forward. Eventually, she’s shuffled so she’s standing next to the Harley while I’m straddling it. "Put this on."

Following my instructions, she dons the helmet.

"And this," I hand her my leather jacket after I shrug it off.

"But you’ll be-"

"I’m fine. Naturally warm blooded." An understatement, I know. "Put it on."

Without another word, she shrugs into the thick black leather and lets me zip it up for her. I have a sudden vision of a small Kelsey, being dressed up for her first day of school. I catch myself about to kiss her forehead. Gruffly, I say, instead, "Now, hike up your skirt and hop on." Ah, things that sound dirty, but aren’t. That could be a fun Jeopardy category.

Behind the smoky visor, I’m guessing she’s glaring at me again. After a moment, she does as I’ve instructed and settles behind me. Slowly, her arms snake around my midsection and I pat her linked hands.

With a rumble, we’re off. Her arms tighten around me and I can’t help but grin at the warmth of her body so close to mine. Oh, the things I would do.

Too soon we pull up to the hotel only the place has turned into a media circus. I even see one of our own trucks outside and we catch comments about the prostitution ring and it being the biggest high class bust to date. Great.

Kelsey pulls off the helmet, still seated behind me, and looks into the lobby which is buzzing with reporters and cameras. She sighs.

"Put the bucket back on," I tell her, making my decision. As much as I enjoy teasing Kelsey, that doesn’t involve public embarrassment and ruining her career. Especially when her career and mine are so intertwined at present.

"Huh?"

"Do it."

***

"So, this is where you live?"

I don’t respond since it’s a dumb question. I am, after all, putting a cover on my bike in the parking lot of an apartment building.

She follows me silently to the elevator. Once we’re headed up, she looks to me. "Thank you."

I brush it off. Despite how I may seem, I’m not one to hold a kind act over someone’s head. I didn’t do it so she would feel indebted. I did it because, on some level, I do consider her my friend. I know she doesn’t feel the same about me.

"You think the computers are fixed?"

"Maybe."

"I should tell my friend I’m okay. She’ll be worried."

"What kind of friend is she?" I raise my eyebrows.

Kelsey sighs and shakes her head. "Just a friend."

"Whatever," I think she’s fibbing but I’m not interested in getting into a fight now that we’re stuck with each other. Instead, I lead her down the hall and open my apartment door, shoving her through quickly.

"Wha-" She’s baffled by my quick actions.

"Cat." I point to the feline in question who loves to slip out into the hallway. He’s watching us with those green eyes when I turn on the living room light.

"He’s beautiful," Kelsey whispers.

I shrug. He is. He’s a red Abyssinian from a show cattery. He came to me after he’d been retired. He belonged to a friend of my parents and, even after the pounds I’ve added to him, you can tell he’s not a mutt cat. He has sleek short fur that’s a rich auburn color, his limbs are long and tapered. Those green eyes watch us curiously.

"What’s his name?"

"Trouble."

"Really?"

I nod, removing my jacket from her shoulders and placing it in the closet. I put our helmets there, too, before closing the door.

"I love animals," she announces.

I roll my eyes. There’s a shocker. "Do you have any?"

"No. Too busy." She sounds deflated.

"Cats are easy, Kels. He was an adult when I got him, so no destructive kitten phase. You could do it."

"I suppose. Is he friendly?"

"Oh yeah. Have a seat on the couch. Are you hungry?"

She’s eyeing me suspiciously and I know she’s not sure how to take this side of me. I’m not pushing her or teasing her, not demanding anything from her. And my social skills are impressive and unimpeachable.

"It’s been a long day, Kels. No strings, I promise. Have a seat, you look beat."

Warily, she agrees and makes her way into the living room. Trouble is on her lap almost before she sits down. When I come back into the room with cold pasta salad, bread and cheese, she and Trouble have bonded. When I bring in a bottle of wine and two glasses, Trouble, the shameless flirt, is stretched up against Kels’ chest, pressing his cat nose against her human nose, and purring loud enough to wake the dead.

Hell, if I was stretched up against Kels, I’d be purring too. So would she.

We eat in silence, once Trouble acquiesces to moving away from her chest for a few minutes. He remains huddled close to my partner. I watch as Kels mindlessly strokes her fingers through the cat’s fur. Never in my life have I wanted to be a cat so damn bad.

"Thanks for dinner," she says softly as she sips her wine.

"You’re welcome. I’m guessing you and ‘your friend’ didn’t get to have dinner?"

"Umm, no. We didn’t." She looks at her watch. "It’s nearly two-thirty. Wonder if I should try calling her again."

"Well, it depends, Kels," I offer as I pick myself up off the floor and place myself down on the couch, on the other side of Trouble. Trouble gives me a dirty look, as if his private turf has been invaded. "Will she be worried about you?"

"Un-huh."

I pick the cordless up and hand it to her. "Then call her."

She gives me a wary look as she fingers the phone.

I stand up and collect the dishes. "I’ll give you some privacy." As I move to the kitchen, I thank God for my good hearing. I know I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but, damn, it’s killing me not knowing.

I hear her talk to the hotel operator for a moment. I assume since she’s not ripping into them, that the computers are fixed and she’s being connected.

"Beth?" She pauses for a moment before I hear her voice hitch and she continues. "No, no. I’m fine really. Just tired and embarrassed about this whole mess that happened. I’ll explain everything later. I just don’t want anything to screw up our…."

She lowers her voice a bit and now I have to strain to hear. She’s not making it easy. So what’s new?

"Yes, honey, you’ve got my car and keys…"

Honey? Honey? She lowers her voice again and now I can’t hear her, but I did definitely hear ‘honey.’

"See you soon," she ends louder, stronger, happier.

I take a deep breath getting control of the jealousy I’m feeling. Where in the hell is this coming from anyhow? I do not get jealous. Well, I didn’t used to get jealous. I shake it off and head back into the living room. "Get a hold of her?"

"Yeah, thanks. I hope you don’t mind, she’s going to come here to pick me up. She’s on her way. It shouldn’t be long."

"Umm, no, that’s fine." YES! I’m gonna get to see Beth. I’m gonna get to see what type of woman lights Kels’ fire. This should be interesting.

"Harper?"

"Hmm?" I take my seat on the couch again and I, too, give Trouble a couple of strokes.

"I don’t know what will happen when she gets here, what will be said. I … Beth and I are more than old friends. She was an occasional lover during college." I watch as she drops her head.

Straight, my ass. Yes! Confirmation from Kelsey herself. I know she’s neglected to mention that she went to the hotel to screw Beth’s brains out tonight – I’m shocked she thinks I’m that dense – but I accept this admission for the offering of trust that it is.

I can see she’s searching for more of an explanation, knowing how lame it sounds, so I let her off the hook. "You don’t have to explain anything to me." I smile gently as I look at her. "It’s not like we’re going steady or anything."

"But, hey, I did let you carry my books." She laughs a little as she looks up at me. "Thanks for everything."

"You’re welcome."

"I’m sorry if I ruined anything for you. I mean if you had company or…." She glances at what she assumes to be my bedroom door, wondering if I have someone lying in my bed, waiting for me.

"No. Actually, I was sound asleep."

With the knock on the door twenty minutes later, it’s all I can do to keep from leaping over the back of the couch to get to the door. Somehow I manage to walk over and pull the door open. Aww, shit! She just had to be beautiful. Stunning, actually. Oh man, I could be a happy filling in a Kels and Beth sandwich.

"I’m looking for Kelsey Stanton."

"Ah, yeah, she’s right in here. Sorry." I step back and allow her to come in watching as she makes her way to Kels and kneels by the couch.

I look as I close the door and she runs her fingers through Kels hair and murmurs to her. "You okay, sweetheart?"

Kels nods, but then the tears start and she moves closer to the woman who folds her up in her arms, moving up on the couch to comfort her. As I observe this scene, I notice an ache in my own arms. Snap out of it, Harper!

"Let’s get you back to the hotel and let you get some rest."

I watch as Kels nods and Beth helps her up. She straightens as she wipes her eyes and looks to me. The jig is up and she knows it. She gives me a look and all I can do is offer a smile. I was right, but now is not the time to rub it in.

Kels takes a deep breath and smiles at me before turning to Beth. "Before we go, let me introduce you to my new partner."

I move closer to them.

"Harper Kingsley meet Elizabeth Hill."

I extend my hand. "It’s a pleasure. Wish it could have been under better circumstances."

"The pleasure is mine." She takes my hand and I can understand why Kels likes the feel of them on her body. Mine would be better though. "Thank you for helping my girl tonight."

Your girl? Your girl? When in the hell did she become your girl? "No problem. That’s what friends do for each other." I give Kels a glance. "Right?"

Kels nods. "Right."

Beth wraps her arm around Kels’ shoulders and starts for the door. "Well, I’m going to take her back to the hotel and let her get some rest. Thanks again for your help, Ms. Kingsley."

I don’t correct her and tell her to call me Harper. I hope she won’t be around that much. "Anytime." Oh, hell, I can’t resist all temptation. "Hey, Kels!"

"Yeah?"

"The next time you get busted, try to do it before midnight, huh?"

She laughs a little as she steps out into the hallway. I scoop Trouble up because I know that he’s going to try and make a break for it. I lean against the doorframe watching them go. Kels stops and turns around to me. She smiles and gives Trouble a little scratch on his head (eliciting a major suck-up purr if I’ve ever heard one) before she leans forward and gives me a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thanks again, Tabloid. Don’t know what I would have done without you tonight."

"No problem, Little Roo." I watch as they disappear onto the elevator then I close the door. I look at Trouble. "I need a cold shower. And, you sure don’t act like you’re fixed."

 

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