Luc sat for a moment in the cool interior of the Beemer and watched the woman shift from one pretty leg to the other. He made no move to get out of his car. He wanted her to wait. Or try to run. She shifted again.
His informant had been quite specific in his description. Their target was a female, very short with arrow-straight, platinum blond hair. She wasn’t reported to be armed, nor was she considered to be particularly dangerous. She drove a beat-up blue Nissan and wasn’t above using her feminine wiles to get what she wanted. But Matthias hadn’t told Luc she was a memory, all grown up and prettier than ever.
Little Kaylee Stephens. My, my, my. She was the last person he had expected the K. Stephens to be. When he’d heard the name, she hadn’t even crossed his mind. It had been what…? Ten…fifteen years? He mentally did the math. Sixteen. It had been sixteen years since he had seen her. And she’d looked a sight different now. Back then she had been the awkward, tag-a-long sister of his two best friends. All pigtails and braces and now…well, now she wasn’t.
She checked her watch, then cast a frustrated glance in his direction. She had to be smothering in that raincoat. The temperature was at least a hundred and three. She looked as if she had something to hide, bundled up the way she was. The statue? A weapon?
Luc had glanced into her car while he wrote her citations, but the interior of the Nissan looked like a twister had recently blown through. He would have to search it if he was going to find what he was after. Damn what a day this was turning out to be.
She whirled around as he opened his car door. Her silvery hair contrasted starkly with the black of her raincoat, and he wondered how it would look splayed against his chest. How it would feel.
Luc quickly steered his thoughts from that direction. He needed to keep his mind on the business at hand, a priceless, pre-Columbian statue. Terribly ugly, reportedly cursed, definitely stolen.
“Amarillo PD has reason to believe you have stolen property in your possession. Would you mind if I take a look inside your car?”
“Stolen? I—is this some kind of joke?”
“Not at all.”
She shifted in place and eyed him suspiciously. She opened her mouth, then obviously thought better of it and closed it again. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Are you saying you’re not going to let me search your vehicle?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, pulling the coat even tighter around her. “Not without a warrant. Do you have one?”
He’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this. “No.”
She nodded her head as if to say, So there you go.
“But I can get one.”
Her satisfied smile faded. “But it’s Sunday, and that might take—”
“All day,” he finished. “I thought you were late.”
“I am, but—”
“I’ll go make the call.” He had only taken three steps toward his car when her musical—but clearly annoyed—voice stopped him.
“Fine. Search the car. But hurry.”
Luc opened the passenger side door and resisted the urge to close it again on the chaos that ruled inside. No matter how messy she kept her car, he still had a statue to find.
A bright yellow envelope lay on the passenger seat next to a headband with a pair of furry white rabbit ears attached. He picked up the headband and almost tossed it aside.
He cast a glance back at Kaylee.
Her nervous fingers played with the lapels of her coat, keeping it closed almost to her throat. A trickle of perspiration ran down the side of her face.
Luc looked back to the ears, then tossed the headband to the driver’s side seat.
The floorboard of the passenger side revealed nothing out of the ordinary, except for a set of pom-poms and a lasso.
“Yee-haw,” he muttered under his breath and redirected his attention—and fantasies—back to the search at hand.
Full-blown helium balloons secured to a small gift box filled the back seat. Luc opened the box. Inside was a crystal paperweight of a large mouth bass. Expensive, but a far cry from pre-Columbian.
“Hey,” Kaylee protested. “That’s for—Oh, never mind.”
Aside from a paper sack containing finger paints, an unopened package of Oreos and a large cardboard box piled high with someone’s casts offs, the back seat of the Nissan held nothing suspicious.
“Will you open the trunk, please?”
She rolled her pretty blue eyes heavenward, perhaps praying for the rain she obviously expected, but did as he asked.
“What are you looking for?”
“A very valuable statue,” he said as he ducked under the trunk lid. “Cursed pre-Colombian. Want to tell me about it?”
“Seems like you know all there is to know.”
Luc grunted and turned his attention back to the search.
Surprisingly, the trunk had been spared from the catastrophe that reigned inside the car. He made quick work of his search, but the statue wasn’t under the spare tire or in any of the nooks and crannies the space harbored.
There was only one place left it could be.
“Kay—Ms. Stephens, I have reason to believe you may be hiding the statue on your person. We’ll need to go down to the station and request a female officer conduct a search.”
“Are you kidding?”
She shook her head. “I’m not going to the station with you.”
“If you won’t come to the mountain,” he muttered. “I’ll radio down and have an officer meet us here.” He paused. “If you’d rather do this on the side of the interstate.”
“I’d rather not do it at all.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not one of your options.” He kept his tone business like and impersonal. Tomorrow he’d be removed from the case, but tomorrow might be too late. Matthias said she was moving the statue today.
“No.” She said the word with such conviction that Luc had trouble remembering the question.
“We can do this here or at the station.” He removed his sunglasses and pinched the bridge of his nose to stay the beginning pangs of a headache. “The choice is yours.”
“Then I choose not at all.”
“Will you cooperate, or should I handcuff you for the ride?”
Seconds ticked by with the speed of ice thawing at the North Pole. Then with a growl of aggravation and frustration, she reached for the belt of her shiny black coat. She removed it with lightning speed and flung it at him. It hit him square in the chest.
Almost nothing could have prepared Luc for the sight of what she wore underneath the raincoat, and that’s what she wore: almost nothing.
Car horns honked. Tires squealed. Traffic slowed, and Luc’s breath quickened. He felt himself grow hard.
Her legs were long for her height, their smooth lines emphasized by sheer black stockings. Lord, he loved black stockings. The remainder of her ensemble was black as well and reached from the apex of her slender thighs to barely cover the tops of her breasts. There it ended in a wisp of white ostrich plumes that only enhanced the creamy satin of her skin. The fabric, slick and clingy from her own perspiration, molded itself to her every curve. Luc could only stare. Had he said something about handcuffs?
“So that’s what the ears are for.” His voice was near a whisper. And if that’s what she did with bunny ears…. His mind wandered to fingerpaints and lassos.
“You can forget it right now.” She stamped her foot for emphasis, sharply snapping the heel off her left pump.
“I don’t do parties.”
Too bad. “That’s not what I was thinking at all.”
“Sure.” She rolled her eyes, then glared at him. “Are you going to search me, or are you going to stand there and gawk?”
Gawking sounded like a fine idea. So did a search. A long search that lasted all night and into the dawn. Instead, Luc tore his gaze from her slender form, cleared his throat and began to look through the pockets of her coat.
Finding nothing, he held it out to her, hooked on the end of his finger. It was obvious she didn’t have anything concealed on her actual person. “You can put this back on now.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to frisk me first?”
Frisk her? He ought to arrest her. It should be against the law for a woman to look that good.
“No,” he muttered instead, turning his head in delayed chivalry.
As she reached for her coat, a car whizzed past, trailing a shrill wolf whistle behind on the fumes of its exhaust.
Kaylee jerked her coat away from him and hurriedly shoved her arms into the sleeves.
“I’d like to apologize again for your delay.” Luc tore the citations out of his ticket book and handed them to her without looking her in the eye. Little Kaylee had grown up nicely. “It was good to see you again.”
He didn’t wait for her nod as he turned and walked stiff-legged back to his car.
He opened the door, but stopped before folding his length into the luxury interior. He couldn’t leave without knowing. “Where did you say you worked?”
She flashed him another of her gigantic smiles. “Self-employed,” she replied. Then she reached into her car and placed the furry ears on the top of her head. “I’m the Easter bunny.”