HIS CAPTIVE KITTEN
It neared midnight when Julie showed her ID at the check-in counter and made her way into the bass-bumping lounge. A little later than she had planned to arrive at the club, but it had been a long day and an even longer night. She stepped into the club, letting the thumping of the music take her mind away from work and worry.
“Hey, kitten.” Joey, the bartender for the evening, waved at her. “Need a drink?”
“What I need, you don’t have behind that counter, Joey. Thanks though,” she said with a smile. Joey was a nice guy, and the very last thing she needed at the moment. “Have you seen Jimmy?”
“Nah, not yet.” Joey went back to wiping down the bar top.
Julie grimaced at the sensation of her phone vibrating. Digging it out, she swiped the screen to life.
Sorry, kitten. Not gonna make it tonight. Something came up.
Of course it did. On a night she needed the release, he had better things to do. But that’s what happened with casual playmates.
K, maybe next week, she sent back and put the device away.
Well, she was already at the club. Might as well at least check out the scenes, maybe live a little vicariously through one.
Making her way past the lounge area, she walked into the first playroom she came to. She smoothed down the fly-aways of her hair and found a corner to hide in and watch the scene unfolding before her.
She enjoyed this room. Couples used it because it had the look and feel of a domestic bedroom. The couches served as both props and seating for the voyeurs in the club. At the moment she fit nicely into the latter. Watching a scene warmed her up for what she really wanted, what she had trekked out into the chilled autumn air late at night to find. But she’d have to just enjoy the show for tonight.
The woman bent over the edge of the bed had already been stripped of her clothing, and her round buttocks blushed from the warmup her partner must have provided. Her hands were folded neatly beneath her cheek and her legs spread wide, waiting.
Her partner walked behind her, lightly touching her upturned ass and keeping his eyes focused on her back. Julie noticed the dark lines marking the flesh and wished she’d been able to watch the flogging. If she wasn’t going to be receiving one, she could at least find the enjoyment through the snap of the leather, the cry of the woman.
“You’ve been a bad girl, Alexis,” the man said with a jovial sneer, his hand rubbing circles on the woman’s ass.
Julie bit down on her lower lip. Role-playing wasn’t really her thing, and hearing another couple play with it made her want to giggle. But she’d endure the false alpha tone in order to get to the spanking. And there had to be a spanking.
“I-I’m sorry,” Alexis whimpered, not entirely forced. Perhaps there would be some realness to the scene.
The man pulled his hand back and delivered a quick smack to Alexis’s right ass cheek. Alexis cried out in what appeared to be agony, and Julie rolled her eyes with a heavy sigh. The smack wouldn’t warrant even a vocal grunt much less a cry like that.
Either these two were extremely new to the scene and Alexis had never received a real spanking, or they loved to ham it up for an audience.
Either way, Julie lost interest.
“Not enjoying the show?” a deep voice questioned when she turned to leave the room. She looked over her shoulder at the man attached to the voice. He appeared as dark as his tone. A light scruff on his chin, tense jaw, intense brown eyes that matched his hair color.
“I’m not really one for make-believe,” she smiled and stepped out of the room, hoping and fearing he’d follow her.
“What makes you think that was fake?” he asked with a bit more volume once they were out of the room and wouldn’t be overheard.
“Well, the first clue was his cliché verbiage. The second clue was her cry of pain from one wimpy smack to her ass.”
The right corner of his mouth kicked up in a half grin. “And you wouldn’t make a sound from being smacked on the butt?”
She rolled her shoulders back and stood straighter, still only coming up to his chin. Thank god she’d worn her heels.
“Only if it actually hurt. That swat didn’t look dangerous even to a housefly.”
“Huh.” He rubbed his chin. “So, roleplay not your thing, then?”
She studied him for a silent moment. Her answer could send him away, and he looked too damn attractive to send away so quickly. But she didn’t play false, in life or in the dungeon.
“No, not really. I’d rather it be authentic. A real spanking, a real flogging for the purpose of enjoying it. If it’s a punishment, it better be a real punishment, no faking it for the good sex afterwards.”
“And good sex follows a real punishment?” He tilted his head with the question.
“Well, it can,” she offered.
“Hmm. Well, I would disagree with you there. In my experience, no sex follows a punishment.”
“I suppose some couples do it that way.”
“I don’t follow what other couples do, just what works for me,” he clarified, stepping toward her and closing the gap between them. “What if that smack actually hurt poor Alexis, would you forgive her outcry then?”
“If that little pat hurt her that much, I’d feel bad for her, but it didn’t. They were play acting for the crowd, I’d bet my best boots on it.” She stood her ground when he inched closer still, refusing to back up from him.
Silently, his eyes roamed over her face, then moved down to her neck. He picked up the name tag hanging off the thin pink collar she’d worn for the evening.
“Kitten?” he smirked and dropped the tag. “Is your owner with you tonight?” He lifted his gaze from her own and looked behind her, as though some man would jump out of the shadows and throw a fist in his face for touching her.
“I don’t have an owner, or a boyfriend, or anything like that. I just like it.” She touched the tag lightly. It had been an impromptu purchase, but one she’d not regretted. The tag came in handy at keeping away some of the unwanted attention a single lady could find at a BDSM club.
“Well, kitten, I wasn’t actually looking for someone to play with tonight, but I don’t mind a change in plans. I promise not to be cliché, and I guarantee every stroke will be very real, if you’d like to have a scene with me.”
No flowery words? No quick come-on, just a straightforward question. She could get used to that sort of proposition. Especially when it offered exactly what she’d come to the dungeon for, and was being offered by one of the most attractive men she’d met in a long time.
“What sort of scene were you thinking?” she asked. She couldn’t just jump in with a yes. No need to appear needy.
“Well, I didn’t bring my toy bag tonight, just my belt. Impact play okay?”
“Didn’t plan on playing tonight or just not prepared?” she teased.
His jaw tensed briefly and then relaxed. “I’m always prepared, but like I said, I hadn’t planned on playing. I stopped by to talk to the manager. He’s a friend of a friend, hadn’t planned to stick around, but something caught my eye when I was walking out.” He smiled down at her, and she could feel the heat creeping up her neck.
She blinked and cleared her throat. “Impact play is fine.” It’s the exact thing she’d ventured out of her apartment to find.
“My belt is good?”
She stepped back to take a look at the leather strip around his athletic build. Thick, black, and looked like it had seen a few bottoms before. Perfect.
He smiled again. “Not one for club gear either?” He gestured at her outfit. Just a plain pair of black jeans and a dark purple t-shirt that hung off one shoulder. “Are those your best boots?” he asked. She looked down at the worn-out half-calf leather boots.
“No, these are my comfortable boots. My best boots come up past my knees, and have a four-inch heel.” They were her best boots only because when she wore the torturous beasts, it didn’t take more than an hour of being at the club before she was peeling them off for some play.
“Ah, chose comfort over fashion tonight? Weren’t planning on playing either?” He placed an open hand on her back and began to lead her to a larger playroom in the back of the club.
“Oh, I was. I mean, that was the plan. I just didn’t feel like getting all dolled up to do it.” Sometimes her honesty made her cringe. Perhaps a filter would get her a bit further in the men department.
“Ah, I see.” But he didn’t. How could he? “Just practical play tonight? All business? Come in, get your spankings, and go home?” He didn’t sound offended by the plan—which he’d hit right on the head—so she nodded.
“Pretty much.” Jimmy was as direct as her when it came to what they both needed. They enjoyed playing together, but it never went further than that.
“Well, then I’m glad I ran into you.” He led her to an empty play space with a spanking bench. “Clean off the bench, kitten,” he ordered and stepped back from the bench.
She picked up the cleanser and sprayed down the brown leather.
“General club safeword okay?” he asked while she wiped down the bench with the provided paper towels.
“Sure.” She nodded and crumpled up the towels in her hands, looking for a nearby trash can.
“Over the jeans, over the panties, or bare-assed?” he questioned when she returned from tossing out the towel.
“Uh, I’m okay with any of those.” She leaned against the bench. This part always felt so clinical, going through a checklist with a new top. But since she rarely turned a club scene into a real-life anything, she put up with it.
“Good. Take off your boots and put them under the chair there. Then remove your jeans and fold them nicely and put them on the chair. I want your shirt off, too so if you’re comfortable with that, fold it on top of your jeans.”
She sighed. Another list checker. Fine, just so long as he delivered the burn she craved.
She kicked out of the boots and tossed them under the chair and quickly slid out of her jeans and shirt. She plopped the rolled-up jeans on top of her folded shirt.
She turned back to him, in her underwear, glad she’d decided to go with the set trimmed with lace. She expected to see him take another look at her, appraise her with his eyes. Instead, he raised an eyebrow and shook his head.
“Try again.” He pointed to the chair.
“What?” she asked. “I put everything where you said.”
“No, you didn’t. Try again.” He folded his arms and spread his legs, like he was willing to stand there all night if need be.
She huffed, but bent down and picked up the boot that had fallen on its side and placed them neatly under the chair and went about folding her shirt and jeans properly and put them back on the seat. “There.”
“Nope. Try again.” He shook his head.
“What? It’s neat.” She pointed to the pile.
“In what order did I tell you to place your shirt and jeans?” he asked, dropping his arms.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, really?” She laughed and bent over, switching the jeans with her shirt in the pile. “Is that better?” she asked, gesturing to the pile with both hands.
“Much. Now bend over the bench, knees on the pads, your hands stretched out in front of you. Don’t use the hand grips on the sides. You’ll hold yourself up on your own.” He moved over to the bench but gave her plenty of room to obey.
Once she positioned herself, she felt his fingers on the elastic of her panties.
“Pretty,” he whispered just before yanking them up and bunching the material between her ass cheeks. “But I think we can make it even better.” And with that a hand landed on her ass. She jolted forward, unprepared for the smack, but didn’t make a sound. The second swat landed on her other cheek, but she was prepared and didn’t move.
He continued to pepper her bare cheeks with a steady and firm hand. At first, she thought he would be gentle in his warmup, but quickly he turned the eased swats into harder and harder smacks. She bit down on her lip to remain silent. After all, she’d complained about poor Alexis crying out; she couldn’t very well get vocal during the warmup.
After a dozen well placed, perfectly timed, and deliciously hard swats, he rested his palm on the small of her back. The warmth of his skin against hers radiated up her spine, and fully ignited when he leaned over her body and wiped her hair away from her ear.
“I’m taking off my belt now, kitten,” he said in a low tone, his warm breath spreading over her earlobe. “Then I’m going to really light your ass on fire. If you need me to stop so you can breathe, I expect you to use your safeword.”
“Okay. I got it.” She nodded, trying to see him out of the corner of her eye and failing.
“I want to touch you, are you okay with that?” His hand moved down her back and over her ass, creeping close to where her panties were bunched.
“Uh, yeah,” she agreed.
“Do you think that’s how you should address me right now?” he asked with a sharp swat to her thigh.
She jumped at the jolt of pain.
“Yes, Sir. I mean, no, that’s not how I should, but yes, Sir, touching is okay.” Ugh, if she could make herself sound any more foolish, she’d burn up with embarrassment.
He didn’t respond but removed his hand from her body. Before she could turn around to see where he had gone, she heard the jangle of his belt buckle. If Pavlov did a study with submissive women instead of dogs, he would have found that sound created as much hunger as the fucking bell.
The leather zipped through his jean loops, creating another of her favorite sounds. Those two melodies would make great ringtones.
“Ready, kitten?” he asked, splaying his hand on her back.
“Yes, Sir. Ready.” And waiting, desperately wanting. It had been too long since she made a date with Jimmy. Which could be why he blew her off. Some passive-aggressive way to show her he had a life, too.
She didn’t have time to contemplate her missed play date; the leather strap sent her ass ablaze with the first stripe. She arched her back, but didn’t leave the bench.
The second lash made her cry out, but she didn’t chastise herself for it because there was no time, the next and another came down, stealing her breath away. She’d been strapped before, by some pretty stern dominants she had thought, but even they didn’t hold a candle to this man.
“How’s my kitten doing?” he asked. Had he paused?
“Good, Sir. I’m good.” She fisted her hands, gritting her teeth and waiting for him to continue.
“I’m glad to hear it.” His fingernails dragged along her sensitive, swollen skin, eliciting another groan from her. One finger slipped between her legs, along the folds of her sex. Even with her panties still on, she could feel her own arousal soaking through. “Perfect,” he whispered into her ear and pressed a soft kiss to the spot right behind her ear. “Another round, I think and you’ll be where you want to be.” He patted her ass and moved his positioning.
His hand wasn’t on her back anymore; she could feel a light breeze from where it had been. He’d stepped back, his belt no longer folded over, but hanging at length at his side. He fisted the buckle.
She swallowed and clenched her eyes shut, not wanting to see him draw back, but impatiently waiting for the stark pain to cross her ass. He was right, she was almost where she wanted to be, almost ready to fly off into the place she could forget her worries, could bask in the pleasure, could let go of all control and just exist.
“Oh, fuck!” she cried out when the tail end of the belt snapped across her flesh. Just above her thigh, the tender spot she hated to be touched. Again, he struck her, and again he targeted the up-curve of her ass. She pressed her forehead into the bench, taking the pain and absorbing the electric buzz it sent through her body.
He lashed her again and again, each time he praised her. “Good girl.”
And each time, she let the pain settle into her body.
“How are you?”
“Good!” she screamed, nearly there. Tears were hot on her face. When had she started crying? She never cried.
He pulled back, landing the leather right across both cheeks. Her mind buzzed then went hazy. He didn’t stop, she felt every lash, but the burn eased into a comfortable heat. The swats became more spaced out, he touched her ass more, rubbing her tender flesh, caressing the pain.
She turned her head, burying her face into the leather of the bench, and took a gulping breath. He dropped the belt, letting it land on the bench before her, and she stretched out her fingers to grasp it. The leather, the well-worn leather became her lifeline.
His hands were on her back, soothing her, rubbing her down as though she were a thoroughbred who had just finished her paces. Light touches to her ass, and gentle kisses to her neck.
After long moments stretched without sound, she turned again and opened her eyes to find his boring into her.
“Hello there.” He smiled. A wide-lipped, toothy smile. He had a deep dimple to his right cheek.
She smiled back. “Hi.” She started to push herself up, but he held her down.
“Give yourself another minute. You flew off pretty quick, I don’t want you to crash.” His fingers still ran up and down her back.
“I think I’m good.”
“Think or know?” he questioned, his expression growing more serious.
She took a deep breath. “Okay, another minute maybe.” She closed her eyes and let him continue caressing her body. He pulled at her panties, putting them back in place.
“You’ll have a few marks tomorrow, I think,” he said with a light touch to a particularly sore spot. “You welted a bit, but I didn’t break skin.”
“Okay, I’m good.” She waved her hand in the air to let him know she was getting up and he helped her up to her knees and held her still when she stepped down from the bench. She wiped the hair from her face; several strands had plastered themselves to her cheek with the tears.
“Let’s get you seated and I’ll wipe down the bench.” He walked her over to the chair and moved her clothes before she sat down. “I don’t have my blanket with me.” He sounded regretful. “I can ask if they have one for you to use?”
She waved her hand again. “No, no, I’m good.”
He gave her a cynical stare but went about wiping the bench. While he was busy cleaning, she forced herself to get dressed. He’d known exactly where to lay the lashes, how hard to bring down the leather, and knew exactly the moment she’d soared off. He had been in more tune with her than her usual playmates.
When he came back over to her, he didn’t look pleased. “You shouldn’t have gotten up yet.”
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “In fact, I really should be going. Thank you.” She tried to smile, but his dark glare only grew darker.
“I think you should wait a few more minutes. I can drive you home if you didn’t bring your car, or I’ll get you an Uber.” Okay, so chivalry wasn’t completely dead, but she needed to get home and let the evening wear off. Otherwise she might start to believe it was possible for a man to be caring, generous, and hot at the same time. And that unicorn didn’t exist.
“I’m good. Really.”
“Okay.” He let out a harsh breath. “Fine. At least give me your number so I can check in on you tomorrow? Or maybe we could meet up for some coffee or something?”
Now he was asking her out. Any other time she’d rip his phone from his hand and give him her phone number, email address, and possibly her home address. But she had to keep her head on straight. She had a job to do. She had a goal to keep in mind. She couldn’t be distracted right now.
“Sorry. I don’t think so. I promise you I’m fine, and if I have trouble tomorrow, I have friends in the scene I can call.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “Thank you though, tonight was, well, perfection.”
Before he could press her further, she turned and hightailed it through the dungeon and made a beeline for the exit. Her ass hurt when she walked, and sitting on the bus wouldn’t be comfortable either, but she hadn’t lied to him.
The night had been perfection.
And now her mind was clear and she could get to the job at hand.
John Hamish maneuvered his sedan into the only spot within blocks that didn’t require a resident permit. City parking was scarce enough without having to put those damn stickers up every other block.
Locking the car, he zipped up his jacket and made his way down the street to the apartment building he’d been visiting daily for nearly a week. Doing favors for friends should come with a warning label. Because when you do a friend a favor, he’ll ask you for another. When you do the next favor, he’ll request an even larger one. And when you think you’re all done, he’ll call you and ask you for one last one to check on a friend of a friend of a friend.
Great, he was starting to sound like a children’s book he read to his niece. Obviously, he needed a busier social life.
He walked up to the entrance of the quiet apartment building. The lights in the garden apartment were on from what he could tell from the dark curtains. Just like the other five times he’d stopped by trying to catch the woman at home, the front door was unlocked. He took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor. Music blared through the door on the second-floor apartment as he made his way up. Music poured out of the apartment each time he’d come.
Once up at the top floor he pressed the doorbell and took a step back, making sure he would be seen through the peephole of the door.
Maybe he should have shaved before coming over. A single woman already fearful of the people in the building probably wouldn’t throw open the door with the sight of his muscular physique, zipped-up leather jacket, and the dark scruff on his chin standing on the other side of it.
John heard a window slam and a woman’s soft yelp just before the doorknob jiggled and the door yanked open.
“Kitten?” He blinked and double checked. Her jeans and sweater had been traded in for a pair of light pink scrubs, and her long dark hair was braided down her back. But the fresh blush on her cheeks and the brightness of her eyes were completely the same as the woman who’d blown him off at the club three nights ago.
“Are you stalking me?” she demanded, holding her door close to her body, as though her slight build could keep him out if he wanted in.
“Are you Julie Sampson?” he asked, though he had more joviality in his tone than she did.
“Yeah. Did you follow me home after the club the other night?”
“Yeah, that’s what I did. I followed you home and waited until Monday after a long-ass day to stop by.” It wasn’t her fault he’d worked a twelve-hour shift and gotten nowhere on the case he was working, but her accusations trampled on his already irritated nerves.
Her lids narrowed and her lips pressed together firmly. “Okay, then what are you doing here?”
He huffed. “Are you this nice to all your visitors, or just me?”
After a long moment she pushed back the door and gestured for him to enter the apartment.
He brushed past her, inhaling her scent as he did. A soft perfume, or maybe just a body wash, but it suited her.
“So, what are you doing here?” she asked, shutting and bolting the door behind him.
“A friend of yours, Kara. She’s friends with a buddy of mine, and she said you were having some trouble with some drug dealers in your building?” He glanced around the room. Candles of various sizes and colors scattered across the table tops. The throw pillows varied in hues of reds and purples, accenting the neutrality of the gray couch. Everything technically matched but seemed out of place at the same time.
“Drug dealers?” Julie scrunched up her face. “Oh!” She grinned with whatever realization she came to and pushed off the door with a laugh. “They aren’t drug dealers. Or at least I don’t think they are. They’re just a pain in the ass and the landlord doesn’t do anything about it because of who they work with or for or know. That’s what freaked her out.”
Julie walked over to the short island separating the living room from the dining room and grabbed a pack of cigarettes, flipping the box open and pulling one out. She moved to the window behind the couch and pushed it up, letting the crisp autumn air into the room.
“Who do they know?” he asked while watching her light her smoke and tuck her knees beneath her as she hung her hand and head outside the window to take a drag.
“The guy who rents the apartment is a Cardone. He’s just loud; I mean did you hear that music blasting? It’s not even good music.” She took another drag and blew the cloud out the window.
“I’m guessing this is supposed to be a smoke-free building?” he asked her when she came back inside.
“No, I just hate the smell.” She took another drag and ground out the cigarette in a small ashtray on the ledge.
“You hate the smell, but you keep smoking?”
After shutting the window, she hopped off the couch. “So, are you one of Devin’s friends?”
“No. Blake asked me to check in with you.” And now he had. Everything seemed fine, other than an asshole living beneath her apartment, yet he didn’t find himself in a hurry to get out of the apartment. “You a nurse?” he asked, pointing at her scrubs.
“No. Ophthalmic technician.” Her plump lips curved into a grin while he tried to process the term. “Don’t worry, no one knows what it is. I work in the eye-care field, for an ophthalmologist. Sort of between medical assistant and nurse. What about you?”
“Cop.” He unzipped his jacket and pulled it away to expose the shield on his belt. “So this Cardone guy downstairs, he have a lot of visitors and such?” He walked over to the windows overlooking the street and peered through the sheer curtains.
“He’s just an asshole. Kara overreacted. I was bitching about the music and the landlord, not about the guy. He’s just some kid.”
John had heard about plenty of investigations digging into the Cardone family. Nothing ever stuck, and the FBI took most of the leads in regards to the Cardones. The kid was probably no concern as most of the younger generation seemed to be staying out of the family business from what he’d heard. Unless he was the son of the head of the family. Though it seemed doubtful he’d be living in a three-flat apartment near Wrigley Ville.
“Okay, if you’re really not worried.”
“I’m not. But thanks for checking in. I’ll call Kara tomorrow. I’ve been busy as hell and haven’t been able to return her calls.”
He looked around the apartment again. Her laptop was opened on the coffee table with papers spread out on both sides. “Working on a project?” he asked, pointing to it.
“It’s nothing.” She shut the laptop. “Was there anything else?”
“No, I guess not.” He picked up a piece of paper. A police report dated two years ago. Before he could read anything else on the report, she snatched it out of his hands.
“Well, then I guess you need to go, right? I mean, plenty of bad guys to catch?” She forced a smile.
“And bad girls.” He moved closer to her. “I always catch them, too.”
Her eyes widened, just a hair, but enough that he’d seen it. “Look. I know Kara sent you—”
“I think there’s more going on here than just a loud neighbor. Or maybe that’s not the problem, and you’re hiding something else. But something is not all neat and tidy here.”
“Don’t think just because we played at the club we have any sort of friendship or whatever.” The bristle in her words didn’t quite sink into her tone. A false bravado to hide what? Was she in trouble or causing trouble?
“I would never presume such a thing. You made it pretty clear you didn’t want anything other than what you got.” His irritation seeped into his voice. He wasn’t a fly-by-night player. Playing with her that night had been the first time he’d even considered playing with a woman he didn’t know let alone actually going through with it.
But when he’d seen her watching the bedroom scene between the two hamming it up for the crowd, he’d ventured over to her. She was beautiful; he could admit the physical attraction easily with her plump lips, her round curves. She made his fingers twitch to touch every inch of her. His tongue tingled at the thought of tasting her. But that hadn’t been what made him move over to her, no, it was the stance she’d had. The way she’d tucked herself into the corner like if she needed to escape in a hurry she could. The slight look of disapproval in her expression as she watched had clinched his decision to approach.
She’d told him she didn’t like pretend discipline or roleplay, and he couldn’t agree with more on that front. If it’s a real punishment, make it real. He had spent the last days wondering if she’d ever had a real punishment, or had she spoken out of fantasy.
“Did I bruise your ego because I didn’t let you come home with me to fuck?” She folded her arms across her chest.
“No.” He rubbed his chin. “But if I had known you were going to run off after we played, I wouldn’t have played with you. That’s my fault, though. I should have checked with you about what aftercare you needed or wanted.”
Her cheeks reddened a touch. “If I had said no need, you wouldn’t have played with me?”
“No, I wouldn’t have.” He folded his own arms across his chest. “I don’t play with anyone who I can’t contact the next day. Some subs drop the following day and I make it my business to be sure they are doing well. If I’d known you weren’t even going to stick around until your heart stopped pounding, I would have moved on.”
Her jaw tensed. “Moved on? To what, another girl?” Did she realize her voice hitched when she threw the accusation at him?
“Nope.” He looked down at the mess of papers on the coffee table since she seemed distracted with her annoyance. “I wasn’t there to play. I told you, I was just talking with a buddy of mine and had planned on leaving. I saw you—” He paused to take a mental note of the names on another police report laying on the table before continuing. “And decided to say hi.”
“Well, as you can see, I’m fine.”
He zipped his coat back up and caught her gaze. “Yeah. I can see that all right.” Pulling a card out of his back pocket, he handed it to her. “Here’s how you reach me if you need something. Anything. If that guy downstairs starts doing more than just blasting his shit music, or if you need a ride home from a club, or whatever.”
She eyed the card, chewing on her lower lip for a long moment before snatching it from his hand. “Fine. I mean,” she sighed, “thanks. You’ve been—well, nice, and I don’t mean to come off like a bitch. I’m just real private, and I don’t typically play with people I don’t know either. Friday night was different.” She blew out a harsh breath and plastered on a smile. “But it was good. I mean, playing with you, it was nice.”
He wanted to laugh. Nice. He’d never been called that before. But she didn’t know his type of play or how he ran his relationships. She got a glimmer of his compassionate side. She obviously was a masochist who needed the burn of his belt, and he’d been the lucky sadist in the room willing to make it happen. But nice was not him.
“Call me if you need anything. If I find out you had trouble and didn’t call, I’ll be pissed.” He flicked the edge of the card with his fingers. “And don’t give me that whole we don’t know each other bullshit. I don’t care about that. A friend of yours asked a friend of mine to make sure you were safe, and he put that on me. Which means like it or not, I’ll be checking in on you from time to time.”
“Wow, you take your promises pretty seriously.” A genuine smile, and it lit up her brown eyes.
“I take everything seriously, kitten.” He gave her a smile and stepped over the coffee table to make his way to the door. “And you really shouldn’t smoke.” He didn’t give her a chance to respond; he opened the door and stepped into the hall. He waited until he heard the bolts slide into place before jogging down the steps, tempted to stop at the second floor and tell the jackass to turn down the music but left it. If he wasn’t causing her any real trouble now, he wouldn’t do anything to rattle the nest.
Once back in his car, he dialed up Paul at the precinct.
“Hey, John. I thought you were off tonight.”
“Yeah, I am. I need you to look up someone for me really quick. Can you pull up the records on a Marie Sampson and email them to me? Her date of birth is May seventh, nineteen sixty-three.”
“Sure thing. This for a new case?” The clicking of Paul typing on his computer echoed through the phone.
“Just need a background on something before I know what to do with it. Thanks.”
“Marie Sampson. Got it. Wow. Not a short sheet. It’ll be in your inbox in a few minutes.”
John looked back at Julie’s apartment building and smiled. She hung out the side window again, lighting a cigarette.
He’d deal with that later. First, he needed to find out why she was digging up police records on this woman.