DISCLAIMER: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the sequel to "Trial by Fire." You don't have to read that story to follow this one, but it might help. Thanks to darandkerry for the wonderful beta and title!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Playing with Fire
By Inspector Boxer
Nora stared hard at the cell phone gripped between her palms. Rain sluiced down the windows of the cab she was nestled inside, and her nose wrinkled a little at the smell of stale cigarette smoke and body odor that leached from the cracked and faded leather seat she sat on. This was not how this night was supposed to end. Twenty minutes ago, she'd had Nikki Beaumont pressed against a wall and was kissing her senseless. Nora wanted desperately to still be doing that now, preferably in a big bed with a lot fewer clothes.
"You trying to conjure a police emergency?" Nikki's voice came to Nora from the other side of the cab, easing into the distance between them and barely loud enough to hear over the rain pattering against the car.
"Huh?" Nora looked up at her.
"That's what you said to me at my daddy's party when you caught me staring at my phone." The faintest trace of a smile outlined Nikki's lips. She had an elbow propped against the door and her head resting against her fist.
Nora snorted. "No. I wasn't trying to conjure a police emergency." She looked back down at the phone. "I was wondering how long it would take Dan to figure it out if I changed my number."
Nikki chuckled, charmed by the response. "So he wouldn't interrupt any more moments?" she asked softly.
The blonde detective shivered slightly, recalling what Dan had interrupted all too well. She and Nikki had made it into the taxi just as the rain had started, but rather than heading for Nikki's as they'd planned, they were now detouring to David Wentworth's hospital room. "He always had the worst timing," Nora grumped before glancing at Nikki again.
Brown eyes studied Nora's face intently. "So no second thoughts?" Nikki asked hesitantly.
Nora swallowed and shook her head. "None."
Nikki had to look away, feeling as if she was drowning in Nora's regard. Nikki focused on the road ahead, seeing past the windshield wipers that were doing their best to keep up with the deluge as soft strains of zydeco emitted from the radio. The rain was so heavy the streetlights were nothing more than blurs of color against black and brick.
"You?" Nora asked, her voice all smoke and honey. It seemed to slide from Nikki's ears and pool between her legs.
Nikki wiped at her brow as beads of sweat began to gather there. She looked at Nora and slowly shook her head.
"So now what?" Nora asked, expelling the breath she'd been holding as she waited for Nikki's response.
"We check on David," Nikki suggested. "We have to put the case first, right?"
Nora smiled just a little before nodding. "Right."
Shrugging nonchalantly, Nikki added, "And when the case is done " She trailed off suggestively.
"There will always be another case," Nora reminded her.
"I know." Nikki glanced at her partner's cell phone. "But we can change our numbers then."
Nora chuckled at that.
"Seriously," Nikki said after a moment. "I I want to do this right. I want I want to do right by you if that makes sense." She licked her lips nervously.
Nora took a deep breath and nodded her agreement. "Perfect sense. I want to do the same."
Nikki licked her lips again. "So does this mean we're dating, detective?"
Nora couldn't help it. Her eyes darted nervously to the cabbie, but he didn't even so much as glance at them. Either he couldn't hear their quiet conversation or was intentionally tuning them out. Both options worked just fine with her. Looking back at Nikki, Nora smiled. "Looks that way." Her stomach flipped at the mere thought, like she'd just plummeted down the steepest hill of the world's tallest roller coaster. She tightened her grip on her cell phone, ready to hold on and enjoy the ride.
"Took you two long enough," Dan drawled as he met them in the hospital waiting room. Both of his detectives were soaked to the bone, getting drenched as they'd dashed around a handful of cars parked under the overhang at the emergency room door.
"Sorry," Nora replied as she ran a hand through her hair and shook out some of the excess water. "We were across town."
Dan paused and looked curiously at the two of them. "Together?"
Nikki watched Nora freeze at the slip. "We just grabbed dinner and some drinks. Talked about the case," she supplied easily.
"Ah. So your plans tonight weren't with another man. Good to know," Dan drawled with a sexy grin for Nikki. He turned the same smile on Nora. "Sorry to drag you both out in this mess," he said with a wave at the sheets of rain blowing by just outside the ER doors. "I figured you'd want to be here."
Nora wasn't so sure about that but didn't say so. "What have we got?"
"Like I said on the phone David tried again. Smashed open his window with a chair and tried to jump."
"Jesus," Nikki muttered. "Poor kid."
"His sister was here. She called for help and some orderlies managed to haul him back inside before he could take a flying leap." Dan shook his head and put his hands on his hips. "Poor kid is really messed up."
"That's putting it mildly," Nora answered. "Why wasn't he on suicide watch?"
"He was still is," Dan corrected. "They had him tied down, but his sister loosened his restraints."
Nikki and Nora exchanged glances.
"What?" Dan asked, reading the look between them with ease, thanks to years of experience on the force. "You think the sister had a hand in this?"
They both shrugged, but it was Nikki who answered. "She pissed us both off. Not sure that makes her a killer, though."
"Not in a court of law. Nothing but the truth, ladies. We need cold, hard facts."
Nora wanted to roll her eyes at her superior. She couldn't count the number of times Dan had said those exact words or some variation thereof over the years. "Where are the Wentworths now?"
"David is useless to you tonight. He's been sedated. We've got the sister in the nurse's lounge."
"Thanks, Captain," Nikki replied. "We'll get moderately dried off so we don't drip everywhere and then we'll question her."
"Let me know what you find first thing in the morning," he told them.
They both mock saluted Dan's back as he walked away before turning to face each other.
"We're going to be up all night," Nora muttered.
"I was planning on that before," Nikki answered saucily.
Nora coughed a little to cover the very un-detective-like gasp Nikki's cheeky comment wrung out of her.
Sarah Wentworth looked up from stubbing out her cigarette in a makeshift ashtray and frowned when she saw the two detectives who'd questioned her early in the day. "Oh. They sent you two again."
Nora gripped both ends of the towel she now sported around her neck and willed herself not to give Wentworth the verbal sparring match she was jonesing for. "We heard about David. We thought we'd swing by and see how he was doing."
Sarah waved a dismissive hand at both of them as she fished in her purse for her pack of cigarettes. "They gave him enough drugs to drop a water buffalo. He's exactly where he likes to be right now doped up and oblivious."
Sadly, Nikki thought, that was probably true. "So what happened?"
A fresh cigarette appeared between Wentworth's fingers, and she lit it with an engraved silver lighter. She took a moment to suck down a good lungful before blowing out the smoke in the detective's direction. "He was whining about the restraints being too tight. I loosened them a touch thinking there was no way he could get free." She snorted. "Silly me."
Nora suspected Sarah Wentworth had never done a silly thing in her life. "You aren't supposed to smoke in here," she pointed out.
Sarah gave her a smirk as she brought the cigarette to her lips for another drag. "Arrest me."
"Confess to having a hand in killing your parents, and I'll gladly do that," Nora promised.
"A hand?" Sarah asked as she leaned back in her plastic chair and regarded the detectives, standing wet and bedraggled before her. "You mean you don't think I could push daddy dearest's fat ass over the side of his yacht?" She chuckled a raspy sound. "I'm so disappointed."
"You don't seem very upset that the members of your family are dropping off at an alarming rate," Nikki re-entered the conversation. "Maybe that has something to do with a hefty inheritance?"
Sarah smiled, her first genuine grin since the detectives had met her. "And it is quite hefty," she agreed. "Your daddy would be green with envy," she said with a sneer at Nikki.
"I doubt that. My daddy thinks there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing."
"There is no such thing as too much money, sweetheart," Sarah chided Nikki. "But what would you know? Being a public servant and all "
Nikki bristled, but Nora stepped around her, blocking her view of Wentworth and snapping her back into the moment.
"And being public servants, we're willing to toil away for long hours until we catch killers, Ms. Wentworth. I promise you, we will catch the persons or person responsible for your parents' deaths." Nora looked down on the woman with disdain.
"I feel so much safer already," Sarah said with an airy laugh, before taking another drag on her cigarette. "You think I had a hand in killing my mother and father, Detective? Prove it."
"Is that a dare?" Nora drawled, her voice sinking to its lowest register.
Wentworth hesitated at the intensity in Nora's sharp, green gaze. Instead of responding, she merely took another puff on her cigarette and smiled.
"Too bad David didn't try to take her with him," Nikki hissed as they walked down the hall a few minutes later. "That woman makes me want to scream."
"Why would she be baiting us unless she either: A, wants to draw us away from the real killer, or B, is the mastermind behind this whole damn thing and thinks she's too damn smart to get caught." Nora stopped walking and turned to face Nikki who drew up next to her. "This is a game to that woman. She doesn't care that she's playing with people's lives here."
"All she cares about is the money," Nikki agreed.
"Looks like you were right about motive," Nora congratulated her partner's astuteness.
Nikki shook her head. "Money is big motivator here," she agreed, "but my gut tells me you might have hit on something with the revenge idea, too."
"Yeah?" Nora crossed her arms and listened.
"She talks about her father and mother with such disdain," Nikki recalled. "Sarah hates them both. We need to find out why."
"Maybe the business partner will be able to tell us," Nora suggested.
"Maybe." Nikki sighed and shouldered open the door to David's hospital room. They had both wanted to see if he was safe and sound before checking out the room just down the hallway where the disturbed young man had tried to leap to his death.
Nora sighed when she saw him strapped to the bed. He was sleeping hard, the drugs in his system making him practically comatose. "Poor, stupid kid." She fished her cell phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. "I'm gonna see if I can get some security on him. I don't want Sarah Wentworth to be alone with her brother another minute."
Nikki nodded as she watched the slow rise and fall of David's chest. "You know the forensics are going to come back in a way that implicates him in his parents' deaths," she whispered.
"Hey, Dan, it's Nora. Call me when you get this. I want to get some security on David Wentworth." She snapped her phone closed. "He killed them, Nikki. I know it in my gut."
"But you think someone was pulling his strings," Nikki guessed. She had the same feeling.
"And I think we both know who that is," Nora murmured bitterly.
They both stared at David Wentworth as he slept the sleep of the dead, wondering if they should feel sorry for him or not.
Nikki felt sunlight, warm and welcoming, on the side of her face. She stirred sleepily, groaning a little as her back protested the odd position she'd fallen asleep in. Dan had finally called back two hours after Nora had requested a security detail and complained about overtime and lack of manpower, leaving Nikki and Nora to wait out the night in hard plastic chairs, instead of curled up in a nice big, soft bed with each other.
Recalling how their plans had been interrupted, Nikki pouted as she approached wakefulness. The scent of coffee arrived when she inhaled deeply, and she blinked her eyes open to find Nora standing over her, a soft, beautiful smile on her lips. "Hi," Nikki croaked.
"Hi," Nora greeted in return.
"How long have you been standing there?" Nikki wondered.
The corners of Nora's eyes crinkled as her smile widened a fraction. "Brought you some coffee and a bite to eat," she replied, evading Nikki's question.
Nikki watched with interest as Nora wheeled a tray over and set a white plastic bag and coffee cup on it. She had the strong suspicion that Nora had been watching her sleep for quite some time. The thought was enough to perk her right up and make her stomach sommersault. She cleared her throat. "Why didn't you wake me when you left?"
"The reinforcements finally arrived." Nora pulled a chair closer to her partner and sat down. "A protective detail is out in the hall."
A quick glance through the small window of the door proved the fact to Nikki. "You really are stealthy. I didn't hear you leave."
"Didn't want to wake you. Long night." Nora tore open the bag and handed Nikki a Styrofoam container. "Cinnamon roll."
Nikki moaned almost orgasmically eliciting a raised eyebrow from Nora. "Coffee and pastries in the morning. You know how to treat a girl right."
"I'll have to remember that," Nora replied faintly.
Brown eyes locked on green, and Nikki felt her whole body heat. "Um " she scratched the back of her neck. It really was amazing how Nora could get her hot and bothered with the most innocent of words. She chuckled and pointed a finger at her partner. "No fair. I can't have witty banter until I've had my first hit of coffee."
"Was I being witty?" Nora took a sip from her own cup of coffee as Nikki did the same.
"You were being something," Nikki accused, giving Nora a wink. She scooped up her fork and began to go to work on her breakfast, shifting her mind off her partner and back onto the last twenty-four hours of their case. They'd inspected David's previous room last night, but there was no proof to be found that Sarah had released her brother and encouraged him to attempt a swan dive from the fifth floor. Finding something to use against her was unfortunately going to take a lot more digging.
"I called Maxwell Anderson, Charles Wentworth's business partner. He said he could see us at ten," Nora said, before taking another sip of coffee.
Nikki glanced at her watch. "Perfect. That gives me time to run by my place and change." She glanced at Nora. "What about you?"
"I can change and shower at the station. I always keep a few sets of clothes on hand for occasions just like this." Nora brought her coffee cup to her lips.
"You can shower at my place," Nikki offered innocently.
Nora choked, sitting up quickly as she tried not to pour coffee down her shirt.
"Whoa, tiger," Nikki said on a laugh. "Relax. I'm not going to climb in there with you," she teased. "When I start something with you, I plan on taking my time to finish." She winked again, hearing Nora swallow audibly. Nikki paused, wondering if Nora had reconsidered things in the light of day. "Unless you're "
"No second thoughts," Nora cut her off quickly, but gently. She wiped at her chin. "You just caught me by surprise. My mind sorta went "
"Into the gutter?" Nikki suggested.
Nikki smiled triumphantly. "Don't crawl out of there on my account, sugar."
Nora laughed, feeling the sexual tension between them ease to a more bearable level. "We need to get going if we're going to clean up before meeting Anderson."
Shoveling in another bite of her breakfast, Nikki got to her feet. "Right behind you."
"By the way," Nora said hesitantly, an edge of bashfulness in her voice before she opened the door.
Nikki looked up expectantly.
"You're beautiful when you sleep."
Nikki felt her breath catch deep in her chest as Nora flung the door open and strode out of the hospital room, greeting the officer on duty as if she hadn't just said something disgustingly romantic. Nikki brought her coffee cup to her lips and bit the plastic rim, hoping it would hide the sudden, uncontrollable grin that lit up her whole face.
To Be Continued
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