Fantastical Page 84

“You had me under surveillance?” I whispered.

“Clue in, Cora, I’m a cop. Jesus, f**k, are you that dumb?” he asked. “Christ, you found my f**kin’ badge, looked right at it, held it in your hand for f**k’s sake, lookin’ at it like you’d never seen anything like that in your life. I was comin’ out of the bathroom and I saw you. You put it right back where you found it, diggin’ through my clothes, I might add, and after, you didn’t change a thing. We were together for weeks after that and you didn’t change one f**kin’ thing. Freaked me out, didn’t know your game, didn’t expect to be at your place with my badge but you jumped me and I had no choice but to roll with it. And in the end it worked for me. No offense, babe, but you aren’t too bright unless you’re countin’ cards so I figured, what the f**k?”

Oh boy. Cora would do that because she’d actually never seen anything like a badge in her life.

My back went straight and I informed him. “I know you’re a cop.”

He jerked his chin up and his eyes went hard. “So, you actually aren’t too bright and thought you were playin’ me,” he decided then leaned in, his face carved from stone. “Advice. You gotta get better at the game.” I stared at him and he went on, “Like, say, that kiss you gave me before you booted my ass out or, better, the one you just gave me. That’s bein’ better at the game.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked. “Doesn’t this interfere with your investigation?”

“I brought down the games a week ago, babe. My guess is, you sensed that shit was goin’ down since you packed my stuff and stopped goin’ to the games. I thought you were history and, sorry to say, I wasn’t too broken up about it. That was until continued surveillance on you gave me the info you were goin’ to an OB/GYN and gettin’ pregnancy vitamins. Unfortunately that meant I had to come back.”

“Why were you continuing to watch me?”

“Because you like the game, Cora, you like the money, you like the clothes and shoes and all that shit.” He threw an arm out toward my bedroom. “You like it better, thinkin’ you’re f**kin’ someone over, counting cards. You get off on it. In fact, I reckon it’s the only thing you get off on. You got off on it so much, you didn’t even care you were f**kin’ a cop. You led me to one racket; it’s in your blood, you need your fix, need it so much you made me and, still, you didn’t stop so I knew you’d find another game so we stayed on you.”

Oh. That made sense. It was annoying but it made sense.

Then a thought hit me. “Is it normal operating procedure to sleep with people you’re investigating?”

He crossed his arms on his chest and his eyes moved the length of me from top-to-toe and back again. “Babe, you were all over me. You’re hot. I thought it would be hot. It was not. But it went that way, you thought you had me by the balls and I had to go the way it went.”

“That’s not very nice,” I whispered, stung, though I didn’t know why since he wasn’t talking about me and his eyes narrowed as his head tipped to the side.

“Not very nice?” he asked back, his voice soft.

“To talk that way,” I explained, “about, um… me.”

He stared at me through narrowed eyes then he leaned back an inch. “Well, f**k me,” he murmured. “She’s got feelings under all that ice.”

“No,” I whispered, “she doesn’t, but I do.”

His head jerked then he asked, “Come again?”

I stared at him. Then it came to me.

I had a previous address and a first name, Clarabelle.

And he was a cop and cops had access to databases that had all sorts of information.

And it would kill me, being around someone who looked like Tor and sounded like Tor, but if I could convince him to help me find Clarabelle, I was going to do it.

The problem was, I had no freaking clue how to convince him.

“I’m in love with another man,” I said quietly.

“Well, congratulations,” he replied, his mouth not quite but almost curling in a sneer.

My mind whirled and then I hit on it, a tactic that had worked before with my boss Dave.

Soap opera.

“And,” I tried, “you knew Rosa, not Cora. I’m Cora and Rosa is my twin sister. Identical twins but she’s the evil twin. She’s a pain in my ass. She was watching my place when I was –”

“Jesus,” he cut me off, his brows going up, “seriously?”

I stared at him.

Okay, clearly Noc was not as bubbleheaded as Dave, my boss, who bought the amnesia story without a peep.

Shit.

“No, that was a lie,” I admitted.

“No shit?” he asked sarcastically.

Shit!

Then I decided to stall in order to come up with a different strategy so I asked, “Do you want a beer?”

“No, I wanna talk about what you’re gonna do about our kid,” he answered.

“I think you need a beer,” I told him.

“No, babe, I need to discuss this mess so I know what I’m dealin’ with. What you gotta get is, I’m a cop. You have the kid, can’t say that’ll make me happy, but I’ll take care of my kid. What I won’t do is bust my ass payin’ a shitload of child support so you can have fourteen hundred dollar shoes. And you’ll also have to get off your lazy ass to do somethin’ other than countin’ cards and goin’ shoppin’ ‘cause my kid’s Ma is not gonna be doin’ that shit. None of it. You get me?”

Hmm. Seemed he had Cora’s ticket too.

Not good.

“I’m getting you a beer,” I stated and started to the kitchen.

He caught my arm as I walked by him and I turned and tipped my head up as he exploded, “Fuck, Cora, I don’t want a f**kin’ beer!”

That was when I announced, “I’m in love with a man from an alternate universe. It isn’t your child I’m carrying, it’s his. He looks exactly like you except he has a scar on his face…” I turned fully to him, reached up and touched his temple lightly. His face, I noted distractedly, was frozen with shock but my eyes moved to my finger against his perfect skin. “Starting here,” I whispered then curved my finger down his cheekbone, “and ending here.”

“Fuckin’ shit, you’re insane,” he whispered back, his eyes, when mine shifted to them, were moving over my face.

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