Damaged Goods(8)

By: Cynthia Dane

Joseph turned off his phone and placed his half-empty bottle of beer on the counter. Tired fingers fumbled with the buttons on his dress shirt, his equally tired feet leading him to the bathroom. Stella, huh? When was his other ex-girlfriend not causing trouble for everyone in Portland?

It was supposed to be simple. When Joseph went undercover in Xavier Crow’s circle of sex fiends, he had to have a girlfriend to get in. Stella Moore was an up and coming agent who had conveniently forgotten to mention her thirst for fame and fortune when she was investigating alongside Joseph – or groaning in orgasm beneath him, whatever.

Supposed to be simple. Not the first agent Joseph had hooked up with (and the fact Crow’s club commanded they have public sex together helped,) but she was the first one he kinda-sorta fell in love with. They had talked about moving in together after the investigation was over, but Xavier Crow was barely in handcuffs when Stella turned around and started selling the story to the press in exchange for millions of dollars. She even refused to testify at Crow’s trial after leaving her job and getting snatched up for a tell-all book deal. Joseph dreaded how he was going to be painted. The press had already dressed him as Commander Stone’s Little Baby Boy, and for several weeks he was a bigger laughing stock than usual at the office.

This new investigation, recently signed off by his mother the commander, was going to be the turning point of his career… like what going undercover before was supposed to have done. Now if I strike out three times, I’ll know it’s time to retire early and start an exciting new career as a barista.

The shower water massaged his skin as he soaped up and rubbed the top of his head. Before the mirror hanging beneath the faucet fogged up, Joseph checked his facial hair already growing in like crazy. There wasn’t time to shave that morning. He’d be lucky to have time when he got up. Unfortunately for him, there was a strict facial hair code in his department. Unless he planned on growing out a full forest on his face, he needed to shave. Now.

Like he trusted a razor at the moment. He barely trusted himself driving home.

He picked up his soap and washed the rest of his body, too tired to get excited by anything below the waist and too wasted on a lack of dinner to be concerned that some of his carefully toned muscle was turning into fat. No time to work out recently. Joseph was a heathy thirty-two and in no mood to turn into the pudgy beat cop. Besides, didn’t exactly get him the ladies like having washboard abs to show off did.

Sylvia was definitely checking me out tonight.

Shit. Sylvia.

Choosing who he wanted to go undercover for his investigation was not easy. Dozens of female profiles had crossed his desk over the past two weeks, some from the area, most from across the country or even the world. Mexico was particularly interested in taking down Alexander Sheen if it meant fewer of its women trafficked through the infamous I5 corridor. (The east Portland gangs, however, were not impressed.) One Mexican agent had penned a passionate letter to Joseph imploring him to choose her since she was convinced her sister had been kidnapped by Sheen’s operation. That meant she was a loose cannon, though. Joseph had seen firsthand what happened when things got too personal during these investigations.

Plus, he was not convinced that having an agent was the best bet. He had played with the idea of using a civilian to do the brunt of the evidence gathering for a while now, but it wasn’t until he heard that Sylvia Rogers had been brought in that he realized she would be the perfect candidate – whether his mother approved it or not.

He also had not realized how badly he still had it for her.

If falling in lust with Stella had been a surprise, then enjoying his time with Sylvia during their tenure in Crow’s club was shocking. When they met, she was the (paid, although he didn’t know it at the time) girlfriend of Sebastian Fletcher, Crow’s right-hand-man. (Which Joseph also hadn’t known until the FBI raid.) One of the things they had to do to stay in Crow’s good graces was participate in swinging, and the first time Joseph was paired with Sylvia, he had not expected to have such a good time.

It had just been sex, though. Even though he had thought about her for days afterward, all while Stella – who wasn’t shy about fucking Sebastian, one would note – expressed her jealous ire by locking him out of her bedroom.