Midnight Sins Page 41


Was sizzling. Water droplets on an iron skillet. Empanadas scorching his tongue.


He set the camera on the scrollwork tabletop, stretched out his legs, and wishing for a glass of water, laced his hands low on his belly. Outwardly, he was cool, a pro. He knew his business.


It was his insides that were scrambling to figure out how badly he’d fucked up. If she’d pegged him as more than a tourist, how great was the chance that he’d also been made by his mark?


His dark lenses hiding anything she might see in his eyes, he finally came back with, “Guess you won’t buy it if I say I’m just taking in the sights?”


She shook her head, her hair a colored mix of brown sugar and honey. “You want to sell me on anything, sweetheart, you’ll have to do a better job than that.”


“What gave me away?” he asked, still not admitting to any particulars.


She settled into the chair, which looked like it was fashioned from licorice strings, crossing her legs and revealing a whole lot of thigh where her skirt fell open at the side. And not just thigh, he quickly came to realize, just as quickly tugging his gaze from all that bare skin back to hers.


“This is the second time this week I’ve seen you and your phallic equipment in front of my store,” she said.


“You don’t say.”


She inclined her head, indicating the designer boutique across the way. “Either you’re a competitor looking to see what’s selling, or you’re keeping tabs on someone who frequents the area.” The area being a ritzy and exclusive shopping spot near Miami Beach.


“Which is it?”


He reached up, pushed his sunglasses a half inch down his nose, glanced over, and winked. “I just like taking pretty pictures.”


She narrowed her eyes, her long dark lashes as thick as the bristles on an artist’s brush. “More like you don’t surveil and tell.”


He shrugged lazily. He wasn’t one to commit. “You mentioned telling me everything you know. Whenever you’re ready…I’m all ears.”


She looked across the street, where cars no longer drove, where trees now grew in beds lush with shrubs and tropical flowers, her mouth twisted up as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to say anything at all.


He studied her while her attention was elsewhere, certain she knew exactly what he was doing, while not the least bit bothered by the invasion of her privacy.


It was ten a.m. It was early October. Meaning it wasn’t hot enough or far enough into the day for her to look as disheveled as she did.


She’d said the store across the street, Splash & Flambé, was hers, and that led him to believe that she had an intentional reason for looking like she’d just tumbled out of bed, her caramel hair swirling this way and that where it fell free from the clip holding it.


She leaned forward, then propped an elbow on the table’s edge and rested her chin in her hand as she met his gaze, daring his to keep from drifting into her cleavage.


But he was a guy, and it was there in the deep V of her neckline, where the lapels of her jacket gaped over her blouse, and he wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.


He managed not to swallow his tongue and didn’t even bite it when she used the tip of one slender finger to stroke his big lens.


“What would it cost to hire you?” she asked, and he started to tell her she could have him for the price of a post-coital cigarette.


But he didn’t smoke, and because he still wasn’t sure if she knew he was a PI and wasn’t spying for a competitor, he asked, “Hire me for what?”


She inclined her head, her long gold earrings dangling against her neck. “You do this professionally?”


He nodded, still avoiding commitment.


“I need to have some portraits done.”


“Www.yellowpages.com.”


“Cute,” she said, with a smirk. “I don’t want a random photographer. I want you.”


She thought he was a photographer…or was this some sneaky female test to trap him into admitting otherwise? “You don’t know me. You haven’t seen my work. You’re picking me up on the street. How is that not random?”


“I’ve seen you. You’ve seen me.”


Oh yeah. Understatement.


“I’d say that qualifies as the start of a beautiful friendship.”


He sat straighter, cupped his hands around the metal seat, and lifted the chair, turning it so he could better face her. The legs scraped against the concrete of the sidewalk as he sat, scraped again as he scooted closer, conducting a sneaky-man test of his own.


“Is that what we’re doing here? Becoming friends? You, me, and my camera?” Something was going on here. He needed to know what the mystery was.


She uncrossed her legs, then crossed them the other direction, her foot swinging in the space between his calves, her skirt leaving nothing to the imagination where the side slit opened. Her thigh was bare long past the spot where it became her hip, and her skin was bronzed and sleek.


“I have a friend,” she began, back to toying with his lens, her nails long and painted with a coat of clear shine. “He owns an art gallery. He’s been after me for a while to hire a photographer before he hires one for me.”


Like he’d thought. A mystery. “Why haven’t you let him? Save yourself the cost and the hassle.”


“True,” she said, her head still inclined, her fingers now fondling the charms on her earring. “It’s just the nature of the pictures he wants. The nature of his gallery. I don’t do what I do for just anyone, and so only the right photographer will work.”


His antennae twitched. He wasn’t sure this was anything he wanted to know. But he had to ask. “What do you do?”


She cut her eyes to his. “I let people look.”


Uh, whoa. Just whoa. Finn found his head nodding, like he couldn’t keep it still with that picture bouncing around inside.


She let people look.


The next question should probably have been, “At what?” But the way she’d said it, he didn’t need to ask.


He knew.


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