Catch Me If You Can

E-book

March 2010, Samhain Publishing

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Trade paperback

February 2011, Samhain Publishing

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Trade paperback

Japanese edition

Translated by Shinshokan

February 2013

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Catch Me If You Can

An excerpt from the first Romano and Albright novel

I opened the door, six o’clock Monday evening, the sun setting, the pigeons roosting on the ledges, and Dan Albright stood on Nana’s doorstep with a scowl on his face and those shades covering his eyes. He had a shiny black helmet under his arm, which he thrust into my stomach with a wop. “Put this on. We’re going for a ride.”

I slapped it back into his gut. “No, Mr. Albright. Go screw yourself.” I would have said fuck but I didn’t have another quarter for the jar.

I tried to slam the door, but he stuck his boot in the threshold and held the front door open with his palm.

“Everything all right, Caesar?” Nana called from the living room. “You’re missing tears.”

“I’m fine,” I called. I said to Dan, “Isn’t this police brutality, Detective?”

Dan pointed at my sock-covered feet. “C’mon. Grab your goddamn shoes, and let’s go. We need to talk.”

“Why?”

“Because you turned off your phone. I have work to do, you know. You’re being a pain in my ass.”

Excuse me?

He sighed. “I need to talk to you about Poppy. We can have this fight later. Please. I need your help.”

That was the magic word. Not please, but Poppy. I waved goodbye to Nana who was hooting into her popcorn, slid on some loafers and grabbed a cardigan—purposely seeking the most ridiculous wishy-washy attire to wear on Dan’s beefy man-cycle.

He smiled like he was forgiven. “You are such a feisty thing.”

“And you are such an arrogant dick. I’m not doing this for you.”

He stuck the helmet on my head and dragged me into the street. “Mount up.”

“Excuse me?”

Dan climbed on and I tentatively mounted up, two pissed-off fellahs, ready to hit the open road on a suicide machine. “Are you able to drive? I’ve never actually been on a motorcycle before.”

“What? How is that possible?”

“I just…don’t…like to…they’re dangerous. I prefer cabs, the subway, walking.”

“You know, you’re a wuss. You’re so lively on the outside, but inside, you’re scared of the entire world. What’s up with that? Live a little. Take a fucking chance.”

I swallowed hard. His casual comment was painfully astute.

“Just hang on. Close your mouth so you don’t get bugs, and keep your big Italian feet where they belong.”

“Fine. But I don’t like this.”

“Noted, Romano.” He ooched forward, or whatever it is that one does on a bike, his long legs walking the two of us into traffic, and then we were off. Sort of. It was loud, and we stopped fairly often, merging here and there. Dan guided us with painstaking effort through the Monday gridlock until, at long last, wind in our hair, we moved up a single block. This is why I take the subway.

We crawled toward Manhattan. I was clueless as to why. I just sat there, feeling my nuts vibrate, checking out the city as it made its breathtaking transition from day to evening, and trying to keep my fingers from circling Albright’s beefy neck.

He relaxed back, his thick body between my spread knees, one hand on his thigh as we crossed the bridge. He should drive with two hands, shouldn’t he? That was alarming. But I was going to do this if it killed me, which come to think of it, it might.

Most of the traffic was flowing away from the city, so we had a clear stretch across the bridge when Dan hit the throttle and cold air blasted me. I curved against his back, the smell of leather and cardamom and smog mixing together, and stole warmth from Dan’s body.

It was sort of invigorating and, for the first time since last night, when Dan last led me into thrilling new territory, I enjoyed myself. I was flying again.

Until I realized we were headed uptown. “Where are we going?”

“Shep’s apartment.”

My knuckles tensed around his shoulders. I flexed my fingers. I was going to strangle him when I got off this thing.

It took twenty-five minutes to drive four miles up the FDR. It was nearly seven when we pulled to a stop a block from Shep’s building. The streetlights were on, and I was freezing. “You should have told me to wear a jacket.”

“And spoil your snit? No way. I have one in my saddlebag for the trip back. Calm down.”

“Stop saying that to me. I’m not going up there. I just watched his miserably antigay Mr. Potter, and I’m liable to gut him with a ballpoint pen.”

“Caesar. I need you to be the bad cop. Do you hear me? You can be as pissed as you want, that’ll work. Take your aggression out. Neuter him. I don’t care. I need Shep to load this software on his computer.”

“Why?”

He said flatly, “Because the PayPal account Mallory was told to use this morning? It’s Poppy’s.”

I swallowed.

“I want to see if Shep’s being blackmailed by the same person. And Rachel. Because you asked me to help you. Okay? I’ll be good cop. It certainly worked yesterday.”

I wanted to trust him. I did. “Fine. As long as you know that I’m only doing this for Poppy.” In the elevator, I tucked in my shirt and ran my fingers through my hair. “Do I have helmet head?”

“A little. But I like those jeans. Your ass is beautiful. Tight. I’d like to taste it again.”

“That’s out of the question.”

He laughed.

We made it to Shep’s door and Dan said, “Look. I’m sorry about this thing. I lied. I had to. And then there didn’t seem to be a good time to tell you.”

“Really? How convenient for you to tell me right here. That’s not good enough.”

Dan smiled his smug, knowing smile. He stepped close. His rough finger soothed my neck, right where I had a noticeable bite. I remembered his mouth there, his beard burning, his tongue, and my flesh sizzled under his touch. He leaned in, and his lips hovered a hairsbreadth away from my whiskered skin. He whispered, “It is good enough, baby. You’re just being difficult.”

My stomach dropped, and instinctively I turned my mouth toward his. He was so close, so warm, so—

Shep ripped the door open, eyes blazing. Dan took his time moving away from me. This was his idea of good cop?

copyright 2009-17, l.b. gregg