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Title: Twisted Bond
Author: Emma Hart
Release Date: JUNE 11, 2015!!

"I’m an Italian-Texan woman in a family full of cops. I’m passionate and shoot before I think. You only f*ck with me if you’re stupid."
Photograph cheating spouses. Hand over the evidence. Cash my check.
That was my plan when I returned home to Holly Woods, Texas, and became a private investigator.
Finding the dead body in my dumpster? Yeah… Given the choice, I think I would have opted out of that little discovery, especially since all three of my brothers are cops. And my Italian grandmother is sure the reason I’m single is because of my job.
Of course, my connection to the victim is entirely coincidental. Until I’m hired by her husband to investigate her murder and shoved bang-smack into the path of Detective Drake Nash. My nemesis, a persistent pain in my ass, and one hell of a sexy son of a bitch.
Shame he still holds a grudge from that time I shot him in the foot twelve years ago, or we could have something. In another life.
So now all I have to do is avoid my nonna’s blind dates, try not to blackmail my brothers into giving me confidential police files, and absolutely do not point my gun at Drake Nash. Or kiss him. Or jump his bones.
All while I hunt down the killer.
Sounds totally simple—until a second body proves that sometimes things that start as coincidences don’t always end up that way…

Chapter One

I always wanted to be a Bond girl.
When I was seven, I proudly declared to my family that I would one day be beneath Sean Connery on a haystack, a la Pussy Galore. My mother laughed, my father choked, my brothers looked at me like I’d gone batshit crazy, and my Nonna yelled that I would only ever be beneath a good Italian boy, preferably a Catholic, and only on my wedding night.
Of course, their reactions were pointless. At my tender, young age, I hadn’t considered how much older Mr. Connery was—or that, by the time I’d be at a suitable age to bump uglies with him, he’d be replaced several times over.
Now I’m not saying that Daniel Craig is a sight for sore eyes. The man is drops for pinkeye, if you know what I mean. I’m just saying that, when I decided to be a Bond girl, I meant Hollywood, California, and James Bond. Not Holly Woods, Texas, and Bond P.I.
Not that I hate my job. I sure don’t. When I quit my job as a cop two years ago and left Dallas for my shoddy yet adorable hometown after a case gone wrong, my best friend immediately enrolled in a private investigator course. Bekah nailed the course, flew through the police academy training, and passed her concealed carry test with so many damn colors that there isn’t a rainbow in existence that hasn’t turned green with envy.
Maybe the shooting thing is a Texas perk. I don’t know.
Still, this wasn’t my life plan. Neither was becoming a cop. But when your grandpa was a cop, just like your daddy was and your three brothers are, it’s pretty much a given. I was basically born in the Holly Woods Police Department building.
So it was the parking lot, but close enough.
Being Noelle Bond is kind of super shit—not least because my mom decided Christmas day was a good day to have a baby, but because people hear my surname and assume I have a fucking Aston Martin DB5 in my garage.
I don’t.
I have a freakin’ Honda that needs a good seeing to by a scrapping machine because I’m too damn lazy to drive to Austin and visit the dealership. I also really hate cars salesmen. They think that, because I’m in possession of a pair of breasts and a vagina, I don’t know anything about cars. Well, I know how to drive one, so suck on that, fancy-suited assholes.
“I don’t think Mr. Luiz is cheating on his wife.” Bekah lowers her binoculars. “He’s been watching that porn for a while.”
“I agree.” I drop my zoomed-in camera. “At least he isn’t tonight. But I’d bet that Mrs. Luiz doesn’t know about her husband’s interest in gay porn.”
Bekah purses her lips. “Well, no. For the sake of easiness, though, I’d rather my husband watch gay porn than cheat on me.”
“You don’t have a husband, Bek. You don’t even have a boyfriend.”
“I know that.” She rolls her eyes. “Wait. Who’s that?”
I snap the camera to my eyes and stare at the car pulling onto the Luiz’s driveway. “That isn’t Mrs. Luiz’s car.”
“She drives an Audi TT, right?”
“Yep. A bright-pink one.”
“Who is that?” I narrow my eyes.
“Oh, shit. He hasn’t turned off the porn. Or put his pants on!” Bekah whispers harshly. “And he’s going to the door! Noelle!”
“I can see,” I hiss, snapping a couple of pictures. And boy, can I see. Mr. Luiz is packin’, and I ain’t talking about a suitcase.
“What’s he… Oh my sweet baby Jesus.”
“Nonna would have a fit if she heard you using his name in vain.”
“I called him sweet,” Bekah argues. “Where did they go?”
“Upstairs, I think.” I keep my camera trained on the bedroom window and zoom in. How the fuck did I forget my binoculars? “Oh, yep. Yep. Upstairs.”
We watch in silence as Mr. Luiz and the mystery man come together in a mash of tongues. And hands. And penises.
“Ooookay. I think we have enough.” I tuck my camera into my purse and swing my legs around to climb from the tree.
“Are you sure?”
My eyes shoot to my best friend. “Um, yes. I’m all for equality and rainbows and all that, but I can’t say any of my interests lie in observing gay sex.”
“I’m kind of fascinated by it,” she says thoughtfully, still watching.
Jesus. Don’t kill me, Nonna. I say it fondly. Fifty times a day. “We’re going. We have to compile this for Mrs. Luiz tomorrow morning. Come on, peeper.”
Bekah begrudgingly drops the binoculars and follows me down the tree. “I just wanted to see how it works.”
“Presumably the same way heterosexual anal sex works,” I retort dryly. “If you’re that interested, I’ll get you a subscription to PornHub or something for your birthday, okay? Then you can watch all the gay porn you like—on your own time.”
“I am not payin’ you to watch gay porn.” I switch my Chucks out for my shiny, new Prada heels. Yes, my car is shit, but my shoes are sexy. A girl has to have her priorities.
Bekah pulls a face and gets in the driver’s side of her Mercedes.
Rebekah Hough has been my best friend since I was five and Jean Thomas pushed me off of the monkey bars. Bekah saw her do it, and when Jean swung upside down and showed all the boys her panties, Bekah pulled her off of the bars and into the sand.
I knew right then that the carrot-haired girl in the tartan dress was my soul mate.
Of course, now, her hair is more of a dark auburn than carrot colored, and I’m more accident-prone than I was then—despite my permit to carry a deadly weapon (or several)—and we’re some twenty-three years older than we were in kindergarten, but I was right.
She’s my soul mate, best friend, and faithful cupcake buyer. And out of the three, the latter is by far the most important. She drives to Austin to Gigi’s Cupcakes three times a week just so I can get my cupcake fix. That’s true love right there. Who needs a man with a best friend like her?
Of course, my other employees also do it, but I have to pay them gas money for that. Bekah does it for a bottle of wine on a Saturday night, and that’s way cheaper.
She parks outside my office building. The two-story, painted-white building is a converted four-bedroom house that works perfectly for our needs. Besides me and Bekah, I have two other PIs, Dean and Mike. Dean is an ex-marine, and Mike an ex–FBI agent, so between us all, we have a wide range of experience.
So I’m still waiting for Bekah’s experience as a sales assistant at Forever 21 to show itself, but you never know in this job.
Aside from my badass boys as I call them, there’s Marshall, a twenty-two-year-old college graduate with the hacking skills of an alien. The guy can find out anything I want, whenever I want it, and it’s perfect. All I have to do is give him a name and I have their life stories on my desk within the hour. Then there’s Grecia, my secretary-slash-receptionist-slash-assistant. My little Mexican girl makes killer nachos, so she’s basically hired until she quits, retires, or dies. And she has her own little space—so it has no door and I think it used to be a bathroom, but don’t tell her that—so she’s happy.
If my employees are happy, I’m happy.
I also get paid, which makes me even happier. Because getting paid means more shoes. But shush. My family think I’m saving for a deposit on a new house.
I’m not. Since I already own my house, I’m kind of saving for a vacation I’ll likely never take, but I only buy expensive shoes when they’re on sale, so it doesn’t really count. Everyone does that.
Don’t they?
I drop into my office chair with a sigh and plug the small digital camera into my laptop. Every other private investigator I know—which is a grand total of two—have big-ass Polaroid cameras or fancy professional cameras. Fact is, my little Samsung camera has a kickass zoom and hasn’t failed me yet. It also fits in my purse for the times when I need to go from heels to Chucks and vice versa. My purses are Mary Poppins style for that reason and that reason only.
God bless you, Coach.
Taking my mind away from the sale I know Coach is having thanks to this morning’s e-mail, I highlight the best photos from our trip to the Luizes’ and send them to print at my picture printer. That’s right. My picture printer. I’m too lazy to change the paper to photo paper every time I need to print them, which can be a few times a day, so I have two printers set up in the corner of my office. Everyone laughs at me, but it’s just one of my quirks. It goes along with the adorable trait I have for randomly appearing bruises all over my body.
What can I say? I’m a catch, and it’s a wonder I’m still single.
I dial through to Grecia and ask her to call Mrs. Luiz to set up an appointment at her earliest convenience. Minutes later, Grecia returns my call and tells me that Mrs. Luiz will stop in after work tonight at around four p.m. It’s a little sooner than I’d like, especially since it’s Friday and Friday night is family dinner night, but it’ll do. I have to write a report out of necessity, but all she’ll have to do is look at the pictures for her confirmation of Mr. Luiz’s sordid activities.
Telling someone that their spouse is cheating on them isn’t nice. I’ve seen every reaction possible over the last two years. It doesn’t matter to the person in front of me that they walked into my building, into my office or one of my employees’ offices after hiring us. It just matters that we’ve proved what they didn’t want us to.
Some go crazy. Like call-the-mental-hospital crazy. Some cry, and that varies from hysterical call-the-mental-hospital to silent tears. Some nod, thank me for my time, and hand me my check. I like the last ones the best. Simple.
I have the horrible feeling, though, that Mrs. Luiz won’t be a nodder and a thanker.


I thought right.
Mrs. Luiz yelled a number of curse words in Spanish. So many, in fact, that I had to do a quick Google translate on some of her obscenities. Needless to say, I have a brand-new vocab to piss off my Nonna with. Add that they’re in Spanish and not in Italian and I’m set for a fun hour of discipline on how I’m disgracing my family legacy by speaking another language.
Ignore the fact that my name is derived from French and it makes total sense.
Of course, my name’s being French is no coincidence. My mom and nonna get along like oil and water, so my mom took it upon herself to name all four of her kids anything but Italian names. My father, half Italian and more than accustomed to the dressing down my nonna can give someone, attempted to convince Mom to give at least one of us an Italian name.
It didn’t work. Obviously.
Mom argued that, since she did the baby-growing and the whole labor thing, she was damn well picking our names. And I gotta say that it’s really freakin’ hard to argue with logic like that.
Add to this whole situation that my mom is your perfect Southern belle who uses “bless your heart” the way I use the word “fuck” and my nonna wishes she could disown all of us.
It makes Friday nights fun. Not wine-and-nachos kind of fun, but fun all the same.
I push the door to my parents’ house open quietly, biting my bottom lip as I wait for the standard greeting.
“No!” Nonna screams. “You cook-a the pasta for longer!”
I’ve no sooner shut the door than I rest my forehead against it. Here we go again. Fucking pasta.
“Dang it, Liliana!” Mom shouts back. “One day, you will leave me to cook in my own kitchen!”
“Pasta! From-a a bag!” Nonna follows it up with a stream of Italian.
Honestly, the woman has lived in the States for almost fifty years. You’d think she’d give up the accent, but nope. She’s as stuck on Italy as she was when she came here. Which explains the pasta disagreement.
I run past the kitchen and into the living room before either of the crazy old bats notice me and drag me into the pasta debate. I’ve been there way too many times, and it’s never pretty.
My little brother, Brody, is relaxing on the couch next to my big brother, Devin.
“Where’s Trent?” I ask, squeezing between them.
“Sick kid,” Devin replies. “Aria.”
Ahh, Trent. The favorite grandchild because he married a Catholic woman with a tenth of Italian blood and gave both their children Italian names. Golden boy.
I love Alison and she’s one of my best friends, but, pah.
“Nasty. She’s okay though?”
“Just a bug,” Brody grumbles. “Her third one this year, mind you.”
And it’s barely April.
“Such a fucking liar,” I mutter. “I’m gonna get married and have a kid to be sick all the time so I don’t have to come to these dumb dinners.”
Devin snorts. “When you find a man who’ll marry you, I’ll pay you five hundred bucks.”
I cut my eyes to him. “What does that mean?”
“Noelle, you fall over thin air.”
“Maybe clumsiness is attractive to some guys.”
“Yeah. The kind who hope you fall over when you wear a skirt,” Brody retorts.
“So, if I weren’t your sister, you’d be attracted to me?”
He screws up his face. “I’d rather be attracted to a fuckin’ bobcat.”
“Look in the mirror and you’ll find one.” I poke my tongue out as he prods my side.
“Do you ever stop fighting? It occurred to you that you’re no longer in your teens, yes?” Dad stops in the doorway when Nonna screams in Italian again. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “I’m in the wrong room.”
I grin.
Dad has serious and final words with both Nonna and Mom, which end with him telling Nonna to cut the Italian sassing and get her ass into the front room before he makes her move.
My smile drops.
Fuck me. The man hates me.
“You married yet?” she demands the second she sits down.
“Yeah. Last Saturday, I found a good Italian boy who’s so Catholic he bleeds the Bible and snores your favorite passages. He even sings hymns in the shower. Bagged him before I closed my open infidelity case,” I reply, my eyes on the television. “He’d be here tonight but you can’t see him. He’s invisible, and I think you might be sitting on him.”
She curses in Italian. “I should-a have taken you back to Italy years ago. I might-a,” she threatens.
“Not a good idea to threaten kidnap in a cop’s house.”
“I’m-a saving you.”
“Pretty sure you kidnapping me and dragging me to Italy is closer to murder. Attempted at the very least.”
After twenty-eight years of her changing my name to make it sound something close to Italian, I’ve given up trying to correct her. “Yes, Nonna?”
“Look-a at me!”
I swallow down every thread of annoyance and look at her. “Yes, Nonna?”
She raises her eyebrows.
Sweet fucking Jesus. “, Nonna?”
So un sacco di veleni.” She raises her eyebrows even higher.
“Nonna, I don’t give a shit how many poisons you know,” Devin interrupts without taking his eyes from the television. “I’ll arrest you for every damn one of them.”
“I know-a love spells,” she replies, waggling her eyebrows.
“Never consuming anything you give me,” I squeak.
“Cops. You-a so suspicious.”
“Not a cop,” I remind her.
Brody frowns as Nonna gets up, presumably for pasta round two with Mom. “But—”
“Leave it, bro,” Devin says. “Don’t make her try the fucking potions. She already thinks I should have Amelia popping babies out like they’re bursts of air on bubble wrap.”
“Speak for yourself,” I grumble. “She’s been calling me all week for a date with ‘some-a nice-a Italian guy from-a Houston for-a date-a.’”
“What did you tell her?” Brody glances at me.
“To kiss-a my-a ass-a.” I grin. “Then I hung up. She either forgot, or she’s still too mad at my sass to mention it.”
Devin shakes his head. “You’re as bad as she is. Just find a nice guy and settle down, Noelle.”
“Like you are with Amelia, your girlfriend of five years, you mean?”
He doesn’t reply after that.
You’re never too old for word-spars with your brothers.
And I totally won that one.

Chapter Two

I grab the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake with the mini cookie sticking out from the top of the frosting before I’ve even sat down. Today was obviously Bekah’s turn to make the run into Austin to go to Gigi’s, because this cupcake is our favorite and, whenever the guys go, there’s never two in the box like there is right now.
And I didn’t have a receipt for gas money taped to my door.
Sometimes, I think the guys forget I’m their boss. One day, I’ll pay them a monthly wage of ten dollars for shits and giggles.
I open my giant planner and scribble as I lick frosting from the cupcake, listening to everyone telling me their current cases for the week. I say current because these things can snap open and shut quicker than a damn oyster having its pearl stolen. Tomorrow, it could be a whole different bunch of cases.
That’s also the most exciting thing about this job. It can change in an instant, without you even realizing.
I nod and everyone except Bekah leaves to get on with their work for the day. PI’s don’t get Saturdays off. Kinda sucks sometimes, the seven-days-a-week thing, but at least I can turn my phone off when I want everyone to piss off. Couldn’t do that as a cop.
I grab the lone lemon cupcake from the box and set it in my drawer for later, reasoning that I have thirty minutes of treadmill time penciled in for this afternoon so I can totally fudge the extra cupcake.
Plus, it’s Gigi’s cupcakes. I think it’s actually borderline illegal to justify sneaking a leftover cupcake into your desk drawer for later.
If I didn’t do it, Dean would be back in here the second my back was turned to take it. Pain in the ass.
“How did it go with Mrs. Luiz last night?”
Dropping into my comfy leather seat, I sigh. “About as well as if you tried to run my Nonna over with a monster truck.”
Bekah winces. “Ouch.”
“Yeah. I almost called my brothers to escort her out of the building.” I shake my head.
“Where were Dean and Mike?”
“Mike was out working a case, and I think Dean went for coffee. Or he was just hiding from her crazypants. I can’t say I blame him.” My cell chooses this moment to shrill from my purse. I dig it out from inside one of my Chucks and answer. “Whatever it was, I didn’t do it.”
My oldest brother sighs. “Really, Noelle? You can’t answer the phone like a normal person?”
“Never. What’s up?”
“I have one of your clients here,” Trent says wearily. “Picked him up because his wife was scared someone was following her.”
“This is a new one. Who is it?”
“Samuel Beauford.”
“Samuel Beauford…” I mutter, looking at Bekah.
She frowns.
“Oh! His wife is pregnant,” I say, snapping my fingers. “But according to fertility tests, he’s almost firing blanks, so he’s certain she’s cheating on him.”
“Maybe there was a strong swimmer,” Trent replies. “Like The Rock of sperm or something.”
“That’s what I’m trying to prove. She does nothing but visit Target in Austin, the post office, and browse baby things.”
“Great. Well, he wants to talk to you.”
“I’m not a freakin’ lawyer,” I mutter.
“I know. But I can’t keep him in for anything because it’s the first call. All I can do is give him a tellin’ off.”
I love it when he talks down to me. “Yeah, I remember. I was a cop once, ya know.”
“Seems so long ago,” he teases. “Here you go, Mr. Beauford.”
Mr. Beauford immediately talks into my ear, his words coming at a mile a minute. I can barely understand a damn thing he’s saying, and I have to hold the phone back from my ear a little because, good grief, the man talks ridiculously loudly. Bekah grins from her perch on the tub chairs I have for clients.
“Mr. Beauford,” I say as soon as he takes a breath. “We’ve been following your wife for two weeks now and there’s no evidence of her stepping out on you. Please, sir, leave the investigating to the professionals or you’re likely to find yourself in jail for a short time.”
He agrees and tells me that he’ll call in a week for an update. Then I mercifully hang up.
“Some people are certifiably weird,” Bekah says, breaking through the silence.
I glance up, rubbing my temples. “Ya think?”
“Damn suspicious, too. And people wonder why we aren’t married. No one in this town seems to be able to keep it in their pants.”
“Do me a favor and come to family dinner next week and explain that to my nonna.” Damn woman won’t stop trying to marry me off, lest I become a zitella. I swear she thinks that, if I’m not married by my thirtieth birthday—in twenty months—no man will ever want me.
She already thinks the reason I’m single is because I carry a gun and, apparently, men prefer the quiet type.
I’m not sure what men she knows, because my mother isn’t the quiet type, and neither is Nonna, and they’ve both married.
Bekah wrinkles her face. “More dates?”
“Every week. One day, I’m going to find myself a date for family dinner and give the vecchia a heart attack.”
“Nah. She’d skip the heart attack and go straight into planning your wedding.”
I shudder at the thought. “Don’t you have work to do instead of scaring the shit out of me?”
She snorts. “All right. I get the message.” She stands and tugs her jeans up. “Stop for lunch at twelve?”
“It’s a date.”


After lunch, I collect my messages from Grecia and return all necessary calls. This means I set up two appointments, give a case update to the wife of a subject, and arrange to have my hair done.
Hey, no judging. PI’s need nice hair, too.
“Miss Noelle?”
“Come in.” I look toward my door, where Dean’s head is poking around it.
I spent the first month of his employment telling him to drop the “Miss” in front of my name, but twelve months later, he still insists on calling me it. It’s kind of sweet, really. He’s also really big and kind of scary since he’s ex-military, and I don’t want to piss him off, so I gave up arguing.
“What’s up?” I ask as he sits down.
“We have a problem,” he replies, his voice wavering.
I slowly close my laptop, eyeing him. There’s sweat beading on his upper lip, and his face is pretty pale. Add in the tremble of his hands and I’m worried. Nothing shakes Dean—except possibly spiders, but I’m still confirming that.
“Talk to me, Dean.”
“There’s a body in the Dumpster in the parking lot.”
I blink harshly several times. Did he just say a body? In the Dumpster? In the parking lot? “I’m sorry. What?”
“There’s a dead body in the Dumpster in the parking lot.”
“Like a bird or a deer or something?”
“No, miss. A human body.”
Well, snap.
“Okay,” I say slowly. “There wasn’t one there when I went for lunch.”
“Well, Miss Noelle, there is now.”
“Let’s go take a look.” Thankfully, I wore a loose blouse for work today, so I slip my Tiffany-blue  Glock 26 into the waistband of my jeans. It’s a bit of a squeeze since they’re skinny jeans and not made for guns, but it slides in in a hurry.
Dean leads me down to the door to the parking lot. “It ain’t pretty.”
“Dead people usually aren’t, in my experience.” Unfortunately, I have plenty.
I see it as soon as I step out the door. The Dumpster is in the far corner of the parking lot to keep any smells away from the building, and a pale, white foot is peeking over the top. A shiver runs through me as I scan the immediate area for anyone, but there’s nothing other than the usual driving of cars and people strolling along the sidewalks.
“Miss Noelle—” Dean says softly as I approach the Dumpster.
“Oh, shit,” I whisper.
The rancid smell of burning flesh fills the air, and I pinch my nose so I’m not tempted to breathe through it and smell it any more than I have to. The naked body clearly belongs to a woman, but her face is mutilated. Long, gaping cuts crisscross their way across her shoulders and chests down to her breasts. And her breasts… I swallow back the bile crawling its way up my throat.
Her breasts have all but been cut off, and the only things I can see connecting them to her body are ragged bits of bodily tissue. Dark-red, dried blood flakes off her skin in broken patches, and black burn marks char her otherwise perfect, white skin.
Refusing to look any further, I step back and grab my phone. I dial the number for dispatch, and before Mariana can say a word, I ramble, “Mariana, it’s Noelle. I’ve got a ten thirty-three at the agency.”
“What it is, honey?”
“A dead body.”
“They’re on their way.”
I hang up and turn to Dean, my hand running through my long hair. “Make sure no one comes in or out of the agency. Tell Grecia to set up the answering machine. The police are going to need to talk to all of us, and this place is now a damn crime scene.”
“Got it.” He turns on his heel and stalks into the building.
A little more bile rises in my throat, so I step away from the Dumpster. I can feel my lunch swirling in my stomach, and it takes everything I have not to let it make a swift reappearance as I lean against a tree trunk.
It’s not the dead body thing. I saw plenty in Dallas. Hundreds, probably. Death doesn’t scare me or even faze me. It’s how she died—it was obviously brutal and slow. Not a way anyone, save the kind of person who did this horrible act, should die. I can’t begin to imagine what this poor woman went through.
Sirens blare through my thoughts, and I look up in time to see Brody and Trent making a beeline for me.
Trent’s hands curl around my shoulders. “You okay?”
I nod at my eldest brother. “Dean found her. I’m warnin’ you—it ain’t nice.”
He squeezes gently and releases me. Brody steps forward, and they both look into the Dumpster.
“Shit,” Brody mutters.
“Yep,” I say to myself. “Shit indeed.”
Cops swarm the parking lot, and a hint of yellow tells me that they’ve blocked off my office. Great. Looks like I’m working out of my living room and Skyping my employees for the next couple of days.
Having my workplace as a murder investigation: the last thing I need.
I stand back and watch as the cops do their thing. Glancing at the office, I can see everyone looking out the window of the kitchen to see what’s going on. They’ll all know by now, but they’re also all smart enough to follow Dean’s orders and let me deal with this.
“Ms. Bond,” drawls a familiar voice.
An unwelcome, familiar voice.
“Detective Nash.” I grit my teeth and turn around. “How are you?” I ask politely, my eyes rising to meet the imposing cop’s.
“Worse for this,” he responds, motioning to the Dumpster. “Do you have anywhere we can talk?”
“In my office.” I lead him inside the building, stopping at the kitchen.
Bekah opens her mouth, but I cut her off by raising my hand.
“Can all of you go to your offices? Someone will be in to talk to all of you soon.”
A chorus of yeses rings out, and I offer them a tentative smile before leading Detective Drake Nash into my office.
Man, I seriously dislike this guy. Mostly because he’s so damn attractive. It’s one of those things you can’t help but notice. He’s the guy who gets everyone’s attention when he walks through a grocery store.
It could be the tan skin or the ragged, dark hair that always seems to be shiny. Then again, it could also the glacier-blue eyes that seem to see right through you, or it could be that chiseled jaw. That said, I’m betting it’s the biceps.
His being a plain-clothes detective has its perks for the female population of Holly Woods. His shirts are always impeccably fitted, and you couldn’t miss the bulging muscles in his upper arms if you were blind.
It’s just a shame he’s an arrogant asshole. If it weren’t for that, we’d get along impeccably. And I don’t just mean at work.
“Take a seat.” I sit in my big, comfy chair and remove my gun from my waistband.
Drake cocks an eyebrow. Slowly, he lowers himself into one of the tub chairs. “You found the body?”
“No. Dean found it and came to tell me.”
“Why would he tell you before callin’ the police?”
Now I raise an eyebrow. “Because it’s on my property, perhaps?”
“You always keep a gun in your pants?” He nods toward my pretty on the desk.
“Only when I have conclusion-jumping detectives in my office and a dead body in my Dumpster.” I smile sweetly, totally hating that he caught me in a stupid moment. Damn it, I know better than shoving a gun in my pants. But, hey—dead body in the Dumpster. Desperate times and all that jazz. “Can you get to the point of this conversation, please?”
Drake focuses his steely gaze on me. “Tim thinks the body was placed there recently.”
“It was,” I say, confirming the coroner’s suspicions. “I threw some trash in it before I went for lunch with Bekah, and she definitely wasn’t there then.”
“When did you go for lunch?”
Drake glances at his watch. “So she’s been there for an hour at most. Did you see her when you came back in?”
“I generally don’t gaze at Dumpsters unless I’m using one.”
“Your sass is doin’ nothing but pissin’ me off, Noelle.”
I stare at him flatly. “I just saw a mutilated dead body, Detective. Excuse me if I happen to have a mechanism that helps me cope with such incidents. If it bothers you, spit out whatever it is you have to say and bug my employees so we can get back to work.”
“You’ll have to close the office for at least twenty-four hours,” he says, his voice sharp. “We’ll need to search the building.”
“How did I know you’d say that?”
“I can get a warrant if I need one.”
“Believe me, if my desire to piss you off was stronger than the one to keep my business going, I’d refuse you entry until you had a warrant and gave a flamingo a striptease,” I bite out. “As it is, I have a job to do.” I pull my spare set of keys from the drawer and throw it at him. “They’re all labeled. I’ll be outside at four p.m. tomorrow to collect them, and that goddamned yellow tape better be nowhere except for the parking lot.”
Drake’s lips curve. “You know you can’t take anything home with you.”
I lean forward. “Do cops have a thing about patronizing ex-cops or is it just the detectives at HWPD? I’ve already had it from my brother this morning. I’m more than aware that I can’t take anything out of the office that’s currently in it. Which is why I’ll be printing copies of all my current cases to take home so that I can still work.”
“It’s much easier to do this job when you’re not working against an ex-cop.”
“If you think this is me working against you, Detective, you don’t know me very well.” I get up and walk to the door. “Are we done here? Because it looks like I have a busy afternoon, and as pretty as you are to look at, you’re not the greatest company.”
His smirk comes back as he stands, my keys in his hand, and walks toward me. I pull the door open and glare at him when he stops in front of me. Looking up at him, I’m aware of how much bigger than I am he is, both height-wise and muscle-wise. He has a good three inches on my height and I’m wearing freakin’ high heels.
“Keep it that way, Noelle,” he says in a husky, dominant tone. “I’d advise you not to work against me. I’d have no problem putting you in cuffs.”
“And I’d have no problem spending the night in the lockup for impaling your penis with my stiletto.”
He holds my gaze for a long moment. “I want all of your staff out within ten minutes after they’ve been interviewed. You’ll get your keys tomorrow as promised, providing we don’t find anything in here.”
My body tenses at his insinuation. “My staff aren’t murderers, Drake.”
“That’s Detective Nash.”
“Then it’s Ms. Bond.”
“One day,” Trent says, appearing to the side of me, “you two will give up the sick foreplay and just fuck.”
“I’d rather shoot myself in the foot,” I snap, smirking at the burly man in front of me.
Drake takes a deep breath. “You should. That way, you may think twice before doing it to other people.”
“Perhaps. But you still haven’t learned not to piss me off when I have a gun in my hand.”
“You don’t have a gun in your hand, Ms. Bond.
Two seconds later, I have my brother’s 9mm dangling from my finger and directed at Drake Nash’s chest. Both men tense, and my smirk becomes a grin as I turn to Trent.
“You should really secure that better. I didn’t even have to try.” I pass it to him and look back at Drake. “Well, Detective? Are you going to stop harassing me and move on to my staff now? I’d like to print my reports.”
“Your brother will wait with you to make sure you don’t remove anything from your office.” Drake’s eyes flit across the room then settle on me. “Try not to piss any of my men off, Noelle.”
“Ms. Bond,” I correct him. “Try not to drink all of my coffee in the kitchen.”
“All right,” Trent interjects. “Noelle. Inside. You’re not doin’ yourself any favors.”

“Neither is the dead body outside,” I mutter, turning away from that bastard Drake Nash and walking back into my office.

By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies - usually wine - and writes books.
Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.
She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.


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