THE blur of throbbing red and blue lights acted like a beacon to signal to the world that a crime had been committed. They blinded her for a few seconds, and didn’t help her pounding headache. Her car was forgotten as soon as it was parked. She walked to the officer controlling the entry and exit to the crime scene. A strong, yet short, male huffed and puffed, probably because he was not getting any action standing outside the perimeter. Kismet lifted the yellow crime scene tape, and immediately pulled her badge to show the officer.
“Detective Kismet, precinct 99, San Antonio homicide, badge 1269.” She spurted it out as she had a million times before. The officer smiled smugly, then wrote her name and gave her booties and gloves. “Were you the first responder?”
“No, that officer is with CSU,” he said abruptly.
She just nodded sharply. Fucking short stop. She had no time for his attitude. Kismet scanned the area surrounding the scene. Downtown, tall buildings with small corridors between them, and the bustling people roaming up and down the sidewalks. The 360-degree look provided her with little information about the murder, so she went to the cluster of officers hovering in one area.
“Kismet.” Marlin appeared from out of the clusters of blue shirts. Her partner had called her as soon as he knew the body had a similar signature.
“So, what’s the deal?” she asked as she put on the booties.
“Deal is you got another body to add to the turd’s list.” He sounded hurt. “I have no idea what this one is symbolizing either.”
She pulled on the latex gloves and made herself breathe instead of scream. Fuck, here we go…again.
“Okay, let’s take a look.” Kismet reluctantly followed him into the fester of cops. She knew the smirks and talk would start as soon as she was seen. For some reason, the same detectives kept showing up at her scenes. Jeffrey and Ethan were funny, but sometimes they spoke ill of the victim. They were the typical cops—male, arrogant, and smug.
“Hey, Kismet, need my help after you are finished here?” Jeffrey asked. Kismet didn’t want to deal with him right before she examined the body.
“Let me see.” She paused. “No.”
His mouth dropped in false awe, but a smug smile followed. “I could help in other ways. You look stressed.” He snickered. “Maybe you need a night of hard, rough sex.”
Discreet, as always.
“Sure, that sounds great,” she smiled at his surprised, hell-yeah face, “but who with?” She tapped her chin.
“Me?” He flipped his blond hair.
“You? I would have better sex alone than with you.” Shocked laughter howled from Marlin and Ethan. Jeffrey’s shoulders received a few punches.
“Jeff, she always does that to you.” Ethan tried to change the subject for his partner. His pride did make a quick recovery when Kismet puckered, then licked her lips. She knew he would back down. He was all words and no action.
“I know. I just want to bang someone,” Jeffrey stated while pumping his hips like an uncoordinated erotic dancer.
“Okay then, I will find you a date,” Kismet suggested. “Ethan, go out with him. He needs a good banging. You could use your nightstick.” They both just looked at each other in silence as Marlin chuckled under his breath.
“Now, I have a crime scene, so shoo.”
Jeffrey hit Ethan’s shoulder to signal the “come on, let’s go now.” As they walked away, Jeffrey uttered over his shoulder, “I will see you soon, Kismet.” It sounded like a promise.
“Why don’t you say something? It’s sexual harassment, isn’t it?” Marlin suggested when they were out of sight.
“They are harmless. Besides, if I let talk like that affect me, I wouldn’t have even made it through the academy,” Kismet replied.
Marlin looked shocked and understanding at the same time. “Seriously?”
“Yep, even the lesbians get hit on,” Kismet explained. “And if it really bothered me, I would say something, but it really doesn’t. They are just kids.” Marlin nodded and moved so she could see the crime scene better. There she was, another death on her conscience.
The body was female, maybe early twenties, and lying face up. Her skin was bronze, and her hair appeared to be shaved off. A crude wig of black hair had slipped off the crown of her head. Her arms and legs were spread apart, making her whole body appear to be an X, like a De Vinci painting. “Her body is positioned like she was tortured,” Kismet exclaimed.
“Or tied up like that kinky stuff,” Marlin deliberately joked. Kismet smiled as if she had a secret. If Marlin only knew.
“Why do you think it’s connected to our other girls?” she finally asked.
“Look at her chest.” Marlin pointed to it.
Her torso had an X sliced into it, deeper than the last bodies discovered. An object lay on top of the crude cuts. It was a shape of a circle, and what looked like horns or ribbons wrapped around it. They moved from the bottom of the disk to jut out the top on both sides. Jewels and gold coloring flashed against the red flesh of her cut muscles.
“Do we know what this stupid item means?” Kismet looked at her partner. The object looked handmade, maybe wooden or possibly metal. She would have to wait for CSU to know for sure.
“Not a clue.” He shrugged. “She does look like she was strangled like the others.”
Kismet just nodded in agreement. She studied her again, dead and still, yet calm. She wore no makeup or jewelry. Like a child. She looked like the typical young woman, not too beautiful but not ugly. She was impeccable—nails cleaned, legs shaved, flawless skin, cute little freckles across her nose, and small ears. She appeared healthy. What was the killer trying to say? What was the X slashing for? Was it even supposed to be an X? The objects must mean something to the murderer, or maybe to the victims?
“Let the ME’s office take the body now.” Kismet stood and removed her gloves with too much frustration.
“Don’t let it get to you, Kiss.” Marlin delicately hit her shoulder. “We are going to get ’em. The mystery will be solved.”
“I know.” She hit his shoulder, only with more force. “Any witnesses?”
“Not so far.” He grinned and held his shoulder.
“The scene looks immaculate as usual.” She took a deep breath. There was nothing—no blood, no trash, no debris, nothing.
“CSI will check, of course,” Marlin explained.
She just nodded and bent to remove her booties. “I’m gonna head in to the morgue to examine her more thoroughly,” Kismet said and immediately walked away from the scene.
* * * *
Many hours later, after speaking to the responding officer and medical examiner, Kismet sat on her couch, snuggling into the pillows, while she studied her notes on this strange case. Kismet looked at them for what seemed like hours. She observed only adult females were involved, different races, all young in age, and all were found nude with the X-cut on their torso. No connection had been found between the victim’s lives, but she knew there was one somewhere. She just needed to keep digging. All the crime scenes were immaculate. Nothing was found by CSU. There was no physical evidence, which was puzzling, because CSU always found something. Different and extra items, deemed “cultural artifacts” by the chief of police were found on each body. She really needed to understand the cultural items themselves. Did they mean something, represent something special? Kismet would have to find someone to help her identify them, and quickly before another dead, cut-up woman was found.
After finally putting her case files aside, she knew she needed to clear her head. Picking up her coat, and leaving her badge and gun, she strolled out the door and went to her home away from home.
* * * *
Mistress Red entered the room where her next client waited. She liked the control and power she wielded in there. The client had chosen her specifically. Apparently, she had a reputation now. She pushed the strung beads back to see that a man stood with his back toward her. He wore only black leather pants. Why do they always choose leather?
“Turn around and get on your knees. Keep your head down,” she ordered.
He complied, slowing kneeling in front of her. His head did not move down, so she pulled out her whip and snapped it near his face. She noticed a flinch.
“Only look at me when I say you can,” she asserted in a low voice as she walked to stand in front of him. “Now, look. I want you to see me,” she said as she placed the handle of her whip under his chin and moved his head up. He looked at her through his masked face. Oh, his eyes are blue. “You will call me Mistress Red.” She spoke with authority. “When I ask you to do something, you will say ‘Yes, Mistress Red’ while looking at me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mistress Red,” he replied.
Well, at least he is listening. “You will not touch me unless I command it,” she said through her teeth.
“Yes, Mistress Red.”
She left him in the middle of the room on his knees while she walked to her chest of goodies. He was one of those business professionals who needed a little dominance every once in a while. The mask must be for his privacy. She replaced her whip with a long, metal ruler. She deliberately hit her opposite hand with it as she came back to him. Standing in front of him again, his head only came to her waist. She demanded, “Lick my thigh.” She snapped the cold metal on his back when his tongue touched her and moved roughly over her upper thigh. She almost moaned, but caught herself. He was going to be a challenge. “Stand up,” she demanded, and slapped her palm again. He did not flinch this time. He was only a few inches taller than her. She moved around him, sliding the pointed edge over his chest. He winced a bit, so she pressed harder. The red streak of flesh popped up, but the ruler would not leave a permanent mark.
When she returned to him, she took the flat side of the ruler and moved it over his erection, pressing into it. He almost reached for her, but he stopped himself. “Take these off,” she said as she tapped his groin.
“Yes, Mistress Red,” he whispered as he awkwardly pulled off his leather pants. He wore no underwear.
“I like this.” She used her hand to slowly rub his waistline. She again rotated around him, moving her fingers, then the ruler, achingly slowly around his entire body. “Bend over,” she said as went to face his back.
“Yes, Mistress Red,” he said as he bent at the waist. He hesitated a moment, probably because anything anal was in his hard limits. She almost giggled.
“If you swallow during our session, you will be punished,” she stated.
“What? Uh, yes, Mistress Red.” His voice cracked.
She took the opportunity to reach between his legs and grab his manhood. “Do you understand?”
He groaned when she fully grasped him. “Yes, Mistress Red,” he finally got out in between ragged breaths.
He must be sensitive or he likes anticipation. She was going to love this guy. She let him go. “Back on your knees.” He did, and whispered what she wanted to hear. He remained quiet, which she liked immensely. “Sit on your feet.” He did, and again said what he was supposed to say.
Mistress Red returned to her chest of goodies before she came back to the kneeling man with a riding crop. She touched his chest with it, which was well-defined, and swept it down past his abdomen to the top of his goody trail. First, she slapped his skin, then pushed the tip through his pubic hair and skimmed it around his cock to glide over his inner thigh. She did the same to the other side. He tried, unsuccessfully, to control his breathing. She hit his balls, and he yelped. She laughed under her breath, and then he swallowed.
Oh no, can’t have that. “You just swallowed. Stand up.”
He did and quickly, almost as if he’d done it on purpose. She stood in front of him and moved him to the bench with her palm flat to his chest. He smiled, so she slapped the crop, hitting his balls. He winced. This will shut you up. His eyes teared up with pain, and she smiled. “Sit,” she demanded. He just nodded. He could not talk right this minute, but he managed a weak, “Yes.”
The bench was small, but had a piece for his back to lean on, and it had restraints. She strapped his thighs in the leather-bound cuffs, and then his wrists. He was slightly leaning at an angle, making his genitals spring up. Well, well, well, he is so ready for me. She leaned forward and placed her mouth over the head, swirling her tongue around it. He clenched his hand into a fist, and let out what sounded like a baby’s cry. He must not do this very often.
“Head back,” she said, but then thought he needed to be blindfolded to really enjoy this next part. She left his bound body for a brief moment, returning with her favorite blindfold. She put it over his eyes and mask, then briefly kissed his lips. He became antsier, which she liked. He tasted good, and she normally did not kiss, but it was as if his mouth beckoned her. She trailed soft kisses down his chest while standing between his legs. She could tell he liked soft better than rough. He moved his hips forward, making his cock poke her in the belly. “Oh no, no, you have to wait for it,” she said between kisses. She bit the spot where his hip became his leg. He moaned. He is certainly vocal.
Mistress Red stood tall above him. He was straining in anticipation, fisting his hands and curling his toes. Maybe he needs rough now. She leaned over his chest again, this time scraping her teeth down the entire length of his chest. And that was all it took. He became flustered, yelled something incoherent, panted through his teeth, and came with force. Well, that didn’t take long. She was in triumph in that moment, and the next she was saddened. He would be leaving now, and so would she. Her room might even become a memory to him. Damn.
Mistress Red showered, and put on clean clothes. Her S&M gear was very uncomfortable, but it always put her clients in the mood she wanted right from the beginning of their session. She thought back to her client’s orgasm, so quick, so intense, and smiled to herself. She had done her job and then some. She walked out of the club where she worked as Mistress Red and became Detective Sarah Kismet once again.
* * * *
The next morning, Kismet was determined to find out what the cultural items left with the victims meant, if anything. She had found a professor of mythology, a Dr. Lexington Hurt, at the local university online last night, and had made an appointment to visit with him. Maybe this Dr. Hurt could figure the items out, and, either way, he looked good in his picture. The visit was going to be after one of his lecture classes, and she still had to find the room.
Kismet was at the designated time and place, but she immediately knew his class was not over because he was still speaking, so she quickly sat in the closest seat to her.
“So not only can we study the future by looking at the past, we can enjoy all these wonderful stories about sons getting it on with, well, basically everyone, including their sisters and mothers.” He paused for the laughter eruption. “It is interesting to know that sex is in almost every epic, every poem, in every oral tradition of the ancient world. So you can think of this class as sex education if you like, but this is not a ‘how to’ class. Only knowledge will be offered.” Everyone giggled hysterically, especially the young ladies in the first row.
Kismet looked at the enthusiastic Dr. Hurt. She could tell he loved to teach by his lively animation, but then again, what else could he do with a degree in mythology? Dark mahogany hair fanned across his forehead, and his eyebrows peaked through the strands. His face appeared clean with a masculine edge, and his nose was cute and button-sized. His grin never left him. Well, he is talking about sex. He was infectious with his students, and apparently her. She smiled smugly down at him.
His teeth even looked sexy. Good for nibbling. His body was slender, but she could see the hint of muscles under his T-shirt. His jeans hugged him, and hung low on his hips. His stance was breathtaking, powerful, yet relaxed. Not at all like male cops. He rested his hip against the podium, and she was even mesmerized by his nonchalant leaning technique. Maybe Kismet had met her next challenge, maybe she could talk him into her little room, instead of her murder investigation. She never knew her clients’ identities. She preferred it that way, but this hunk of man made her mouth water. Kismet had to shake her head because her mouth was open. She was almost panting. What the fuck, Kismet? His voice seemed to fill every cell of her body, and that soft, sensual sound invaded her thoughts. She woke up from her heated daze when he said, “That’s all for today.” She straightened, swallowed, and stood. What is wrong with me?
The kids filtered out in droves, but a few stragglers hung back to ask Dr. Hurt questions. Kismet waited at the top of the room, still inspecting him. He was very gentle when he spoke to the students. When there was only one left, she headed down the stairs to him. She took them slowly, not wanting to fall, and to give enough time for the last student to leave.
Dr. Lexington Hurt stood motionless while she slowly walked down the stairs to him. She thought she could feel his gaze look her up and down. That grin of delight and intrigue spread across his face. She knew that smile well. She had seen it on almost every man she met, especially the first time. She knew she was beautiful and desired by men, but that goofy curve of lips always confirmed it.
“Dr. Hurt?” she asked. He fidgeted as she stepped off the last step.
“Yes, call me Lexington.” She looked straight into his eyes to challenge him.
“Lexington,” she said quietly when that grin faded, and she knew he’d accepted her challenge.
“I’m Detective Kismet,” she thrust her hand toward him, “we spoke on the phone.” He took her offer.
“Did you say Kismet?” Yes, idiot, that’s my name. Why am I so snappy all of a sudden?
“Yes.” She nestled her palm farther into the handshake when he leaned in to ask her about her name. She ignored a shudder of tingles, and her craving for more of him to touch. What is wrong with me? He grasped her hand more firmly, and urged her toward him. She went like a lost puppy dog. Maybe he is not an idiot.
Face-to-face, silent, and still touching, she felt as if they were having a staring contest. She had moved to within inches of his mouth, and in what seemed like a panic, she broke the tension. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, Kismet.” What was I doing? She was so close. He could have kissed her. Maybe I want that.
Kismet just nodded, afraid her voice would crack. He kept holding her hand, and they were still achingly close. She slipped out of his grasp as she took a step back. Yes, distance should relieve the tension, but it didn’t.
“Let’s go to my office,” he appeared to reluctantly say. “It will be more comfortable there.”
She could only nod. Her mouth was still dry. Kismet did love the view as she followed him. His body was shaped nicely and flowed well when he walked. He had an unusual walk, more like a stroll, with slightly swinging arms. The papers he held near his hip shuffled back and forth on his jeans. And those fine-ass jeans, double wow.
His office was tiny. One desk with towers of papers took up most of the space, and a tiny round table with two chairs crowded the only window in the room. Kismet could not see if the desk had a chair over the paper stacks. “Behind on grading?” she asked as he sat.
“Something like that,” he said as he motioned for her to sit in the chair next to him.
She did, but not as gracefully as she wanted. What was wrong with her? Could she not sit?
His laugh annoyed her. She didn’t like being embarrassed in front of men. “So you wanted help with something. I don’t know how I can help with anything you do.”
“You would be surprised where we look for help.” She smiled bluntly, trying not to lose her concentration. “I am working on some homicides I think were committed by the same person. They have a unique signature that might be something you can help identify or maybe have some insight on what it is the killer is trying to say.” She sat straighter and pushed her knees together.
“Okay, I am following you so far,” he said.
She glanced up at his sarcastic tone, but stopped her comment about being serious because he was admiring her legs. She felt herself flush under his gaze. Wow, that hasn’t happened in a while.
She shook her head, and asked, “Would you like to see photos or hear the descriptions?”
“Photos,” he said nonchalantly. Kismet grabbed her huge bag, rummaged through it, and pulled out manila folders. She placed them on the tiny table, and the extra weight almost broke it. The folders seemed to slam down, even though she had a firm grip on them. She opened the top folder and pulled out an 8x10 glossy photo. She handed it to him, and he took it. He grinned like a kid in a candy store until he looked at what he held, and his face turned a puke-green.
His slender frame fell over, breaking the chair. It happened so fast, she was not quick enough to stop his hard landing. She couldn’t help but giggle at the unconscious mass of man at her feet. The view was breathtaking. She could drool over him, or do anything she wanted to him. Touch something she shouldn’t…but after some thought, she decided she wanted him awake if that was going to happen. When it will happen…no doubt I will have him aching under me soon.
Lexington woke up on the floor in her arms, and his head rested on her chest. She gently stroked his cheeks, playing with his earlobes, and sweeping his hair off his forehead. He inhaled deeply, and for the first time she smelled him. Books, pencil lead, grass, rain, and something sweet. He was like a spicy, savory treat that was forbidden to taste. She licked her lips.
Kismet watched his face as he slowly came back to reality. She should have warned him. “Hey there,” she said softly as she slid her thumb over his cheek. He was so gorgeous up close. Eyes like ice. He was hypnotic, yet so adorable, fainting at her feet. Lexington’s head snuggled deeper into her breasts, and lightning struck her insides. Slowly, his eyes opened more, and she could see the horror spread over his face as he slowly realized what he’d just done. “First time seeing a dead body?” she asked, but she knew the answer already. That face of seeing death firsthand was very familiar in her line of work. She had even worn it before, when she’d been a rookie on the streets. He nodded, making his head graze her breast again. Just a small touch, a brief one, and her heart thumped hard. Well, his name was Hurt. If he only knew.
“Maybe stick with descriptions for now,” he said and sat up slowly, holding his head. There they were, on the floor, so close, and she was concerned about him. She never pictured that “mother-like” emotion coming from her. She was stern and authoritative. She had no soft side. Right? He stood before her, and to her surprise, held his hand down for her. She accepted it. Shit, I’m doomed.
“How long was I out?”
Standing for a moment, next to him, she hesitated, not used to feeling such intensity. “Not long. Why don’t you go splash some water on your face?” Kismet gestured toward the door, hoping he would leave so she could collect herself. She did not like to be vulnerable. She really didn’t like that his touch already affected her, and she barely knew anything about him. Nothing really.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Nah, it won’t make me feel better.”
But maybe, she thought, he would be more alert and able to answer my questions. Her mothering him was forgotten, and she was now back on her case. “Okay, then sit,” she said harshly, as if she didn’t like that he would not do what she suggested. Lexington brought his desk chair around, sat, then placed his ankle over the opposite knee. When the chair rocked back, she saw his erection. She coughed. Well, that didn’t take long.
“I will leave names out for privacy, or just in case you get too sentimental again.” She paused to laugh under her breath. His attempt to hide his predicament began with him sitting up straighter, then leaning forward, and finally joking.
“What? Don’t think I can handle it?”
“Oh, Lexy, you have already proved that.” She smirked, then winked. Am I trying to be funny or seductive?
His beaming expression was all the evidence she needed to stop flirting and continue with the reason she was there. So back to the case, and off him. “All the victims had a slashing cut shaped like a X on their chest area.” She remembered the awful blood-red. “They were all strangled, using bare hands probably, but after they were cut.” She stopped, looking up. Was she checking on him? “All of them had extra items in their vicinity. They had nothing to do with the COD.” Kismet waved her hand to emphasis her statement. She looked up again and saw that he was now looking down at his hands. “Are you all right? Should I come back later?” she asked.
“No.” It squeaked out. He appeared flushed. “Maybe I will splash some water on me.” He rose quickly and sprinted out of his office. The door slammed shut behind him. He can move fast.
Kismet held her laughter until he left, then it just burst out. She did hope he did not hear it. She knew what was going on. If he only knew about her other life. His erection actually began right after she’d picked up his head after he’d fainted. It’d creeped up slowly after he woke up. It was nice she could do that to him without her room. For a moment, she was sad and hoped she had not embarrassed him. It passed almost as quickly as she thought it. Her dominant side was coming to life. Maybe it was his arousal, or maybe it was just him. He was extremely attractive, and she was attracted to him. Kismet recalled his head on her lap, the horror on his face, and the incredible fulfillment in his eyes when he’d woken up in her arms. Her heart thudded once against her chest so hard, it moved her ribs. What was that? Was she having a heart attack or was it something else? Her subconscious blared loudly, It is something else, stupid.
Kismet was getting aroused just thinking about what he was doing in the bathroom. Water falling over his naked flesh sprang into her mind. Flushed and slightly embarrassed by her sudden thoughts, she decided she needed to leave now. She would not wait for him to return.
She gathered her files. Her mind raced with thoughts of him instead of her case. “Going somewhere?” he whispered right beside her ear.
She jumped, dropped her files, and elbowed him in the nose. With a roll of her hips, and a complete lack of resistance from him, she had him on his back in a police hold. Kismet realized what had happened, and immediately let him go. “Sorry, but you should not surprise a cop, especially from behind,” she said as if he should have known. What the hell was he doing? And by her ear? Speaking? Breathing.
They got up awkwardly, mostly because he tried to help her. “Look,” she blurted as soon as she found her feet. “Maybe this was a bad idea. I would have a confidentiality issue, anyway.” She was talking herself out of being near him.
“Why don’t you leave it for me to look through?” Both bent over, then kneeled on the floor to pick up her scattered files. Damn, this was getting too intense too fast.
“I can’t just leave criminal files with you.” She sounded flustered.
“I won’t say anything,” he said. Her hands now gathered papers and folders more frantically. What am I doing? Slow down. She put all the papers and files, which were all bent and torn, into her bag. Stuffing them in hard, she stopped only to take the stray papers he had picked up. Kismet halted mid-movement and took a deep breath. Get a grip, Kismet.
“How about you leave just the descriptions? Would that be legal?” he asked.
“It might not be a matter of legality if I left my notebook. I am just…I don’t like…”
She stumbled, then he finished, “To give control of your case over to a stranger. I understand.”
She was stunned silent. How did he know? Had he figured her out already? Oh, what I could do to him right now to wipe that grin right off him. Kismet wanted either her room or her killer, she guessed. Right at that moment, she would have neither. A furious breath escaped. With her free hand, she moved her hair from her forehead while she watched him being so calm, standing nonchalantly. It aggravated her. Why is he so calm? She wanted to ask, but decided it was not for the best. She could tell he was going to be trouble for her. Her body was already beckoning him closer. Maybe she should leave her notebook, just to have a reason to see him again. Did she want to see him again? Maybe I can get those jeans off him. More importantly, she needed his expertise for her investigation. That was a good reason to see him again.
“I will leave you my notes. They are not as gory as this other stuff,” she said as she picked up her bag. He nodded. She produced her notebook from the broken files and handed it to him. “Wait,” she reached in her back pocket, “here is my card. Call me if you figure out anything useful.”
“And if it is not useful?” he teased.
“Call me anyway,” she said fast, without thinking, but when she saw his ridiculous grin, she shut him down in a sultry voice. “To get my notebook back.” His grin faded, but hers grew wider. She picked up her bag, slung it over her shoulder, and walked out without turning around or saying anything.