Ruthless
he tore off a bite.
    She had to admit the scent coming from that bag was undeniably mouthwatering. Her stomach abruptly rumbled loud enough to have Harper glance her way. She winced. “I guess I’m hungry after all.”
    He made a sound of agreement. Conceding, Jess unwrapped one for herself. She’d barely chewed off a bite when, surprised, she let out a little moan of her own.
    By the time they reached the office, Jess had consumed two of the flaky biscuits and juicy sausage sandwiches.
    “Told you,” Harper pointed out.
    She could feel the belt she’d cinched tightly to prove her abdomen was as flat as ever cutting into her waist.
    No way could she be pregnant.
    No way.
    Before they got to the office she warned Harper about the message from Spears.
    He stalled, looked directly at her. “I get my hands on that son of a bitch, he’ll know just how much of a handful I can be.”
    The sausage roiled in her belly.
    She had drawn yet another of those around her into this sick game.
    Birmingham Police Department, Special Problems Unit
    “Good morning, Chief,” Officer Chad Cook called from his desk.
    “Good morning, Cook.” Before she could get out a greeting to Lori the detective was on her feet and following Jess to her desk.
    “I had a couple of scenarios about the Man in the Moon case I thought you might be interested in hearing.”
    Jess smiled. “Good morning to you, too.”
    “Sorry.” Lori tapped the folder in her hand. “I got a little excited about this. Good morning, Chief.”
    “Pull up a chair.” Thank God for work. She needed to work. She needed to be with her team. Whatever else was upside down or sideways in her life, it would straighten out in time. Solving this case was long overdue.
    Harper strolled over to join them. A good kind of tension instantly started to hum between him and Lori. The smile she attempted to hide was priceless. “Chief Black dropped off a list of retired and former cops who worked on the Man in the Moon case. If you’re going to be in the office for a while,” Harper offered cautiously, looking from Jess to Lori and back, “Cook and I could start the interviews.”
    “Get on it,” Jess said without hesitation. “If I need to leave the office Detective Wells will accompany me.”
    When he hesitated, Lori sent him an evil eye.
    He held up both hands, conceding the idea he hadn’t dared to suggest out loud. “Okeydokey. We’re gone.”
    Jess exchanged a look with Lori. There would be more.
    Just as she suspected, both men hesitated at the door. “If you need either of us,” Cook offered, as he held his hand to his face in the call-me gesture, “you know what to do.”
    “We’ll be fine,” Lori assured him.
    With the testosterone out of the room, Lori huddled closer to Jess. “Before we get to the case, I told Chet I went to the movies with my mom and my sister last night, but what we actually did was talk to his mom. His birthday is Sunday.”
    So that was what the girls’ night out was about. Maybe there wasn’t any trouble in paradise. The vibes Jess had picked up between them hadn’t suggested problems.
    “Are you planning him a surprise party?” Jess wasn’tso sure how their work schedules would go this weekend, but she didn’t want to miss whatever Lori had in mind.
    “With the Spears case and this one I didn’t consider anything that complicated.” She gave a hopeful shrug. “I thought maybe lunch Sunday afternoon at his favorite restaurant. His mother traditionally prepares dinner for him, so I don’t want to step on her toes.”
    Jess opted not to ask about his son and ex-wife. Life was complicated these days. Seemed everyone had one kind of baggage or another.
    “Count me in.” Even if they were working they had to eat.
    “Do you think it would be okay to ask Chief Burnett?” Lori ventured.
    “I’ll ask him.” She and Dan spent most weekends together, when they weren’t on duty. Why kid herself about the upcoming one, on duty or

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