Here’s me, bleary-eyed. The red-headed hellion was here until midnight looking for help with her math homework. She’ll be back for more help today. Guess who won’t be writing much?
My friend, Vivi Anna, has a new book and you should check it out! Hey, it’s 5:53 AM in the morning (the dogs got me up so they could go bark at the geese). No one’s meant to be eloquent at this time of the morning. It’s a good thing Vivi is.
Olena Petrovich had seen more than enough death and destruction in her three hundred years. Now the vampiress fought as a CSI agent. But nothing about this crime scene seemed right—including the arrogant outsider from Interpol who challenged her authority. Sexy and cocky, the human was downright irresistible…even to a vampiress who should know better.
Though Cale Braxton was out of his league facing the vampires, lycans and witches of Nouveau Monde, he matched Olena in the one way that mattered—passion. Olena had sworn she’d never love—and lose—again, especially a human with his own demons. She and Cale lived in two different worlds, but after only one kiss, Olena wondered how she could ever spend eternity without him….
Olena Petrovich had had close to three hundred years to perfect sin to an art form. In the past, she’d used her vampiric charms to get whatever she wanted in life—money, sex, power. It helped, she supposed, that she was curvy and possessed a mouth some men had said was made for sin. But it had always proven to be too easy.
She didn’t want easy any longer. She liked working for the things she received. Like this case.
This was Olena’s first time as lead investigator and she was excited about it. She didn’t want to make one mistake. It wasn’t often that Inspector Gabriel Bellmonte let go of the reins. But he had for her. Or it could’ve been because she had begged him for the past three months.
The crime scene at the National Bank of Nouveau Monde wasn’t typical for a bank robbery. Usually the robbers took the money, but instead these guys—four armed, masked men—had herded everyone in the bank into the vault, then blasted apart the safety-deposit boxes.
Olena and her team wouldn’t be able to get a clear view of the situation until they’d pieced together all the boxes that had been destroyed. And by the looks of the mess, that was going to take considerable time.
The odor of smoke still hung oppressively in the air as Olena eyed the wall of boxes, taking in the destruction. Charred residue marred an array of the shiny metal squares in a circular pattern. The explosion had caused a lot of damage.
“I wonder what they were looking for.” She glanced over her shoulder at her investigative partner, Sophie St. Clair, who was busy taking pictures of the metal and plastic shrapnel scattered all over the black-and-white-tiled floor.
“I guess someone must’ve lost his key.” After snapping her last photo, Sophie stood beside Olena and surveyed the destroyed wall. “Kellen called. He said he’d be on scene in about fifteen minutes,” Sophie informed her.
Olena nodded. “Good. He can figure out this blast pattern on the remaining safety-deposit boxes.”
Kellen, a recent addition to their crime-scene team, was a damn good ballistics expert. He had come from America to France for treatment for a rare blood disease and had ended up completely cured, with a new job on the team and an engagement to Sophie.
Fate had a grand sense of humor.
“What did the bank manager have to say?”
“He said that around nine-thirty, about the time that they open for business, four men with black ski masks burst into the bank, waving guns around, and told everyone to get facedown on the floor.”
“Could he tell if they were vamps or lycans or anything?”
“No. He said he couldn’t really get a bead on any of them.” Olena frowned. “But he did say one of them smelled like menthol.”
“The manager’s a lycan?”
Sophie shrugged. “Maybe that guy had a cold and he’s been using cold medicines.”
“Yeah, that could be it.”
“I have my moments.” Sophie smiled.
“Once everyone was on the floor, one of the gunmen demanded that the manager open the vault and another two herded all the employees and patrons into it. The same one took the keys from the manager and shut the vault with everyone inside.”
“So nobody saw anything after that?”
“No.” Olena flipped her notebook open and read from her notes. “But three of the ten people in the vault said they heard an explosion at around ten-thirty.”
Sophie glanced at her watch. “Let’s see. It’s one now, so two and a half hours. Not bad to be on scene already.”
“A regular bank patron named Madame Fonteneau called 911 when she couldn’t get into the bank at eleven-thirty.” Olena smiled. “Whoever cased the bank didn’t count on Mrs. Fonteneau’s fortitude to cash her monthly social-security check.”
“Did she see anything?”
Olena shook her head. “No. Unfortunately, she was so upset about not cashing her check that she cried through most of the interview.” She flipped her notepad closed and slid it into the inner pocket of her blue nylon jacket, the standard coat for all crime-scene technicians.
A young police constable stuck his head into the room. “Here are all the tapes from the security cameras.” He came in holding five tapes and handed them over to her.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him.
He blushed and continued to gape at her.
She glanced around. “Is there something else, Officer…?”
“Anderson,” he supplied. “Ah, yeah, sorry. There’s a guy up front who asked to see whoever was in charge of the scene.”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know, ma’am. My superior officer just told me to deliver the tapes and to escort you to the lobby of the bank.”
Olena glanced at Sophie, who shrugged her shoulders. “Beats me. Could be from the mayor’s office. This is the biggest and most prestigious bank in Nouveau Monde. I bet a lot of bigwigs bank here, and they’re all worried about their money.”
“I hope not. I hate bureaucrats. There’s nothing more boring than someone with a political agenda.”
Before following the officer out of the room, Olena bagged and tagged the security footage and placed it into her crime-scene collection suitcase.
As she walked behind Officer Anderson, he kept glancing at her over his shoulder with a goofy grin on his boyish face. Olena sighed inwardly. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-three. A lycan, she had no doubt. A vampire wouldn’t have been so eager to please her. He would’ve had enough years of experience that a mere innocent smile from an attractive woman wouldn’t have sent him into a tizzy. Where were they getting these whelps? The puppy pound?
There was a lot of commotion in the lobby as Olena and the young officer approached. The bank manager looked as if he was arguing with another officer, frantically gesticulating.
The bank patrons who had been locked in the vault were still being interviewed. But standing out from all the commotion in the middle of the lobby, looking commanding but at ease, was a tall, ruggedly gorgeous man in an expensive-looking tailored suit.
Olena wasn’t easily impressed. Having lived so long in many different countries, she’d come across her fair share of attractive men. Libertines, princes and lords, all with power, prestige and perfectly formed butts. But this man stood out from them all.
She thought it was because he didn’t appear to be posturing for anyone or anything. He just was.
She wondered who he was. A high-powered investor inquiring about his holdings at the bank, or maybe the owner of one of the safety-deposit boxes, curious as to what had been stolen.
When the officer led her right to him, her heart picked up a few beats. And butterflies took flight in her stomach when his piercing gaze met hers and studied her with a clinical eye.
She was impressed. Most men started their study of her from the toes up, stopping periodically on her long legs and ample chest. His gaze never left her face.
Officer Anderson motioned toward the gentleman, then proceeded to move in another direction, his task complete.
“Are you in charge of this crime scene?” He had a deep voice and an accent. British, she thought, maybe Welsh. And he was definitely human.
“Yes. Olena Petrovich, NMPD crime-scene division.” She offered her hand. “And you are?”
As he took her hand in a quick, firm shake, he flipped open a badge wallet. “Inspector Cale Braxton, Interpol.” He shut the leather folder and slid it into his front pants pocket.
“Interpol? That’s a first.” She smiled, but he remained stoic.
“I’ve already spoken with Superintendent Jakob Weiss, and he assured me that there wouldn’t be a problem.”
“A problem with what? You have not even told me why you’re here.”
“This robbery. I’ll be heading up the investigation.”
Olena’s stomach flipped over. It felt like the floor had just dropped out from beneath her feet. She hadn’t worked this hard for this long to have her case yanked out from under her, not by anyone—even if he was a tall, light-brown-haired, ocean-blue-eyed, sexy man with a rugged jawline and full lips that looked as soft as satin.
“Why would Interpol get involved in a simple robbery case?”
“I’m sorry, but that information is above your pay grade.” He stepped around her as if she were nothing. “Now, if you could lead me to the actual crime scene.”
Olena looked him up and down, her first impression of him slowly starting to shift. She liked confidence in a man, even sought it out, but arrogance? That was one thing she could never stomach.
And this man had it in spades.
Instead of leading him anywhere, Olena dug into her jacket pocket, pulled out her cell phone and called Gabriel. She kept Cale’s gaze as she dialed. He wasn’t going to intimidate her. No one intimidated her. She’d been part of Marie Antoinette’s court in France, for Pete’s sake. One sexy British agent wasn’t going to get under her skin.
He answered on the first shrill ring. “Inspector Bellmonte.”
“Why is there a human from Interpol demanding to be on my crime scene?”
“He got there fast.”
“I take it you know about this.”
“Yes, but just barely. The call came in from the superintendent about five minutes ago. I was about to call you and give you a heads-up.”
She turned away from Cale’s gaze, not wanting him to see the anger and disappointment on her face. She wasn’t a woman who liked to be read easily. Her emotions were her own, and she didn’t like anyone having an insight into them.
“I’m sorry, Olena. I know how much you wanted to lead this one. But I have strict orders from the superintendent to grant the agent anything he needs on this case. Interpol is running the show on this one.”
“Fine. I’ll try to be nice to Agent Braxton.”
Cale cleared this throat at that, and she swung around to look at him. His lips twitched, and she could tell he was fighting a smile.
“Olena.” She could hear the warning in Gabriel’s voice. “Your ni…