From Higher Calling (Book 3)

From Chapter 12

Rogue IRA operative Sean Dwyer met Lynn Turner, a bargirl, at Connolly's Pub, in Manhattan, the night before —

Dwyer sensed the light and felt he'd woken in heaven. He'd begun to stretch under the quilt when a hard snap against his left arm startled him. He reached for the gun beneath the pillow.

"It's not there," she said.

Coiled, he blinked and looked at her. Lynn Turner stood naked, the wet bath towel in her right hand, his gray pistol in the other. She wasn't aiming. The gun dangled from a finger in the trigger guard as if she had no use for it. The business end faced the wall.

"Didn't want you shootin' before you looked," she said. "I'm showered and starvin'."

He relaxed and leaned up on an elbow. "Gun doesn't bother you?"

She looked back without a smile, holding her ground and the weapon. "Feels odd."

"Made special — plastic and ceramic. Gets by metal detectors."

"Are the bullets plastic, too?" She peered at the weapon as if she could see into the clip.

"Ah, I'd be revealing trade secrets." He studied her face and found nothing but curiosity.

She laughed at him. "I know how to use it. For sure it would bother if it pointed my way."

The night flashed through his mind, the sex, her tenderness once he'd cracked through. She'd found the gun: Had she been afraid he'd use it on her? He lay there astonished at how well she'd dealt with it. He knew he should dump her. He didn't need entanglement, especially during an operation.

Behind her, he saw the chair on which she'd piled her clothes. Frayed pink panties lay on top. He wondered if she had much of a wardrobe or her own place. In the light of day the colleens faded, but this girl's body would make a sack look good.

"You due at work — got somewhere to be?"

She folded her right arm, covering all but her left breast with the green towel. "Not if you're providin' breakfast. Eggs and bacon would be nice, and rolls. I love hot rolls in the mornin' — " the excitement in her voice collapsed — "but I never get 'em. Or I'll be on my way."

"Put that thing down and get in here." He folded the quilt back.

"Not till you feed me."

"Aarrr!" he growled, without moving.

He saw the hand holding the pistol splay at the unexpected sound: She'd have it on him fast. Had she been trained? There's more to her than the body, he thought, considering his options.

When she got the jest, she chuckled and let go of the towel. Very gently — it impressed him — she laid the automatic on the night table, muzzle facing away. The mattress rocked as her knees hit the bed. She pulled the cover off him and looked down. "Sean, I like holdin' you, but that's it till after food. I'm really hungry, so pack in the gear."

"Food's your fee?" he said, and saw her tense, sparks in her eyes. She must believe he'd called her a whore. "Ah, we gotta joke about the world or it'll bite us."

She looked at him hard and then smiled. "You're a funny one." She dropped on top and he hugged her as her curves nestled. Her face burrowed against his neck. Grady Finn's apartment was one of so many rooms throughout the world, all of them transient. But it was suddenly glowing.

"What makes you so wild?" he asked, speaking through her hair.

"Never thought about it." She lifted her head, looked at him from inches above and frowned. "Never charged in my life either, not even for food."

His laugh shook them both. "Well, don't start charging, but tell me what I asked."

"Why bother?"

He shifted, brought her down beside him, to his left, and locked eyes. "Why not?" If she'd been trained, had she been sent to get him? The night spoke against that — and he realized she'd had him, could've blown him away while he slept and gone home.

"You're not lookin' at my tits," she said.

"Your eyes are shining."

"You give me breakfast money, I'll throw it back, and we'll nod to each other in passing at Connolly's."

"You think that's what we'll come to?"

"Sure I do. I picked you up, we had our night. Breakfast together would be good —" she averted her eyes, as if she'd revealed too much — "but I don't care."

He had to know what had found him the night before — and what he'd found that morning. "What's made you so wild, then?"

She pouted. "It's not worth goin' over that crap."

"Could be."

"You a gun-totin' shrink?" She grinned at the thought. "Naah. Had fun last night. Time for me to go, now."

But she didn't move. Ah, he recognized something in her. "Tell me," he insisted.

"Before or after we eat? You tryin' to ruin my appetite?"

"Tell me and I'll take you out. Buy you some clothes, too, or — whatever you like."

"You a rich one?"

He pursed his lips. "I got money."

"Money, a plastic gun, I don't know about your future."

"You think much about yours?" She had no comeback. "Get you lunch if you want," he said. "Not because you're good in bed — "

"'Cause you like me, right? Oh, I heard that one before."

"Bet you have. Maybe I'm different. Tell me."

She looked at him oddly, turned onto her back, locked hands behind her head and spoke at the ceiling. He could have the body any day; he listened.

"The usual. Sweet family, lived in Armagh. Dad taken away. My mum walked to the post with our bills--blew up in her face. Foster care for me at thirteen. Old enough to show, not to know. A rapist and his accommodatin' wife — English, Irish, Protestant, Catholic, who cared — till I ran off."

She'd told it flat but he found it alive in her, rearing and biting. "Sex your weapon of choice?"

She smiled without turning her head. "Worked on you. Yours is the gun." Her arms came down and the hands clasped over her belly.

He saw she had no tan lines, probably never lay on a beach. Ivory skin that touched back.

"You're the one's crazy," she said into the silence, and looked up past the ceiling. "I'm only beat up."

He bit his lip, wanting to protect her, to make love until she responded and forgot. Until he forgot. "Bet you were brilliant in school," he said.

She turned, confusion in her eyes. "No one's told me that since Mum. When I went, I passed. Why'd you say it?"

"You're quick and clever."

Her expression made a joke of it. "Come on, you're raggin' me."

He knew that she'd have to decide whether to stay. He didn't want to frighten her off. "I'm not, but believe what you will."

She pushed up onto her right elbow and brought her head level with his. Her loose hair swayed, and the confusion in her eyes turned into something else, probing him. That close, he liked the soft cheeks, the strong brow. Green flecks in the searching eyes.

"You talkin' the truth, now?" she asked.

"Yeah." For moments, he couldn't read her. Then the expression changed again.

"Dinner, too?"

"Anywhere but Connolly's."

She laughed.

He had her. "How do you feel about the ones killed your family, did this to you?"

That surprised her. She looked back at him, pools in her eyes letting slip what he needed to know. Then she leaned even closer. "Who did it to you?"

It shocked him into silence. She'd distilled him. Her eyes were on him, twinkling. She knew what she'd done.

"When you're ready," she said, "tell me. I do wanna know." As she watched him, she giggled without realizing it. "If you won't look at my tits, a girl's gotta do somethin'."

"How old are you?" He couldn't hold in the question, amazed at what he'd found — and then knew she'd have to take it wrong.

The frown came back, quickly tempered by the start of a smile. "Won't get you in trouble," she said.

"Ah," and his arms reached for her, "but you will."