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Tender Is The Night

By:Barbara Freethy

One


"Yes, he's probably cheating on you. No, you didn't do anything wrong.  Yes, you should absolutely find out, and, no, you won't find anyone  better than me for the job." Devin Scott ended his cocky monologue by  sitting back in the worn leather chair behind his desk and giving the  beautiful blonde in front of him a weary, cynical smile.

Although he was fairly certain he knew exactly why this woman had come  looking for a private investigator, he couldn't understand why any man  would want to cheat on her. She was one of the prettiest women he'd seen  in a long time with shoulder-length, thick, wavy blonde hair, honey  gold skin, and slender, athletic grace.

Then again, appearances could be deceiving.

As she stared back at him with a pair of intense, intelligent blue eyes  that made his nerves tingle, he suddenly wasn't at all sure why she'd  come to his office.

"You think a man would cheat on me?" She crossed her legs, revealing a  bit more thigh under the cream-colored knit dress that clung to her  curves. "Why?"

"Because you're looking for a private investigator."

"And I couldn't have another reason for coming to see you?"

"Most women who show up here don't."

"Interesting."

He sat up in his chair, instinct suggesting he might have misjudged her.

"Do you want to know what I think?" She tucked a strand of shiny hair behind her ear and gave him a challenging look.

He had a feeling he didn't want to know what she thought, but since it  had been a really long time since anyone had surprised him, he said,  "Yes."

"I don't think you're anywhere close to being the best investigator in  the business, because I don't have a boyfriend or a husband, and if I  did, and if he were cheating on me … " She paused. "I'd catch him myself,  and I'd make him very, very sorry."

Seeing the steel fire in her eyes, he had no doubt that she was capable of backing up her words.

"I'm also not here to hire you," she continued. "I'm here to help you."

He raised an eyebrow. "Help me? How?"

"It's my understanding you've requested assistance from the FBI."

His heart sank, and his stomach turned over. "Hal sent you?" He couldn't  help but emphasize the word you, because when he'd asked Hal for help,  he'd hoped for a seasoned agent or a team or anyone besides this young  woman, who couldn't have been on the job more than a year.

She stared back at him, her gaze unwavering. "Why shouldn't he send me?"

"How long have you been working for the Bureau?"

"A year, but that shouldn't matter. I'm good."

He appreciated the proud glint in her eyes, but having been a special  agent with the FBI for almost a decade, he didn't think she had any idea  just how good or bad she was. "No, thanks."

Her right eyebrow shot up in surprise. "Seriously? You're turning down my help?"

"Yes."

"You're not even going to give me a chance?"

He shook his head. "Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because you have no idea the massive number of things you don't know,  that the Bureau didn't train you to know, and I don't have time to teach  you."

"You have no idea what I'm capable of, what I already know," she  retorted. "But putting my level of experience aside, here's the bottom  line-it's me or no one. That's coming straight from Agent Roman.  Apparently, you've used up whatever credit you had on account with him.  I've been assigned to help you for five days."

"Forget it," he said, disgusted and angry with himself for actually  believing the Bureau might help him solve the murder of his former  partner and finally get justice for her death. "I'll take no one."

She folded her arms across her chest, drawing his eye to her beautiful breasts, which were more than a little distracting.

"Then apparently you're as stupid as they said you were," she said.

It took a moment for him to get his focus back, and he frowned at her blunt words. "Who told you I was stupid?"

"Some of your old buddies. They told me you were once a brilliant agent,  but you got caught up in your emotions, and you were too stupid to  realize that you were obsessed with a truth that didn't exist. Maybe  they're right. Maybe you have lost it."

She made him feel like he was a hundred years old instead of  thirty-four. "I'm still brilliant, and the only thing I lost was the  illusion that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was actually  interested in investigating the death of one of their agents."

"If they weren't interested, I wouldn't be here."

"Lip service," he said dismissively.

"I might be able to help you more than you think."         

     



 

"How so?"

"My name is Kate Callaway. My uncle, Jack Callaway, is deputy director  of the San Francisco Fire Department. My cousin, Emma Callaway Harrison,  is an arson investigator with SFFD, and I have two brothers and a bunch  of cousins who are San Francisco firefighters. The case you're working  involves a serial arsonist here in San Francisco. Who on earth would be  better to help you with that than me?"

She made a good point. "When you put it like that … " he drawled.

"Exactly. I'm certain Agent Roman sent me because he thought I could help you and not just to get you off his back."

He wasn't as certain of that as she was, but her contacts with the SFFD could be of value. Still, he hesitated.

The fire in her eyes, the sexy, confident smile, and her very attractive  shape reminded him that there was probably an even better reason to  send her away than the fact that she was a green agent. He couldn't  afford to be distracted. It had been months since he had a good lead. He  couldn't blow that now. But was he really going to send away a resource  who was extremely well-connected to the local fire department and arson  unit?

Contrary to what his former coworkers thought, he'd never been stupid, and he wasn't going to start now. "Fine."

"Fine?" she echoed. "That's it?"

"You can help me."

"I'm so honored," she said sarcastically.

"You're going to be a pain in the ass, aren't you?"

"I'd say you could count on that. So, do you want to read me in?"

"On the way," he said, his gaze catching on the clock on his wall. It  was almost five thirty. He got to his feet and grabbed his keys.

"On the way to where?" she asked, as she stood up.

"The Allure nightclub. I have to catch a cheating husband on his way home from work."

"That can't wait?"

"No."

"Maybe I can meet you later-or tomorrow," she said, following him out of the office.

"We can talk in the car."

"Or we could start in the morning."

"We'll start now." He paused at the top of the stairs. "Let's get one  thing straight, Special Agent Kate Callaway-I'm in charge of this  investigation."

"You're not even with the Bureau anymore, Mr. Scott, so how can you be in charge?"

"Because I am. Because I've spent every day of the last eighteen months  looking for the person who killed my partner, and I'm not going to stop  until I catch them. If you want to stay, that's the deal."

"You shouldn't be calling the shots," she grumbled.

He shrugged. "Take it or leave it."

"If I leave it, you'll have no one. You'll be on your own," she pointed out.

"That's true. And if you want to walk away from a case that could put  away the murderer of a special agent, then you can walk away. God knows  you wouldn't be the first."

She stared back at him with doubt in her eyes. "I don't believe anyone just walked away."

"Do you see anyone else here?" he challenged. "You can make excuses. You  can tell me the Bureau believes the arsonist is already dead. You can  say that terrorist threats and sex trafficking and any other number of  other crimes have had to take precedence, but the death of an agent  should never be forgotten or go unsolved. Samantha Parker gave her life  to the Bureau, and until her killer is in jail, I will be working her  case. Got it?"

Kate nodded. "Yes. I'll stay, and I'll follow your lead until you do something stupid. Then the deal is off."

He'd probably already done something stupid when he'd agreed to work  with her. But it was too late to back out now. For better or worse he  had a partner-for several days anyway.



* * *



Devin Scott wasn't what she'd expected at all. While he might have been  described to her as a burned-out ex-agent with a crazy obsession and a  huge chip on his shoulder, no one had mentioned that he was also  extremely attractive in a scruffy kind of way, with wavy brown hair,  intense dark brown eyes, and a day's growth of beard on his jaw. From  the way his jeans and knit shirt clung to his lean, powerful frame, he  also appeared to be incredibly fit. Whatever he'd been doing since he'd  left the Bureau, he'd obviously kept in excellent shape.

Not that she should be thinking that much about his body. He was a  job-just a job. She'd worked with good-looking men before, and his  arrogant cockiness was nothing new, either. She had three older brothers  who were as alpha as they come, and as a woman in a predominantly male  field, she knew how to hold her own. She just hadn't expected to have to  fight for an assignment that she didn't really even want. The only  reason she'd said yes was because her boss had asked her to do him a  favor.         

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