Frost Moon - By Anthony Francis Page 0,1

trying to ignore him as he stalked briskly towards me. The woman waved me in, and I swept through the metal detector just in time for him to corner me. I sighed, folded my arms, and stared down at the black man. He was tall, but I was taller. Wonderful. He’d known I was coming—and probably engineered this whole thing.

“Dakota,” he said, voice forced cheeriness, sparkling eyes genuine. He was twice my age—I’d bounced on his knee when he and my father had been partners—but he was still a fashion plate, if you go in for the whole GQ look. “Your dad will be glad to hear you’re doing well—”

“Hey, Rand,” I said, smiling, shaking my head—half at his infectious grin and half at whatever he was planning. “Let’s get this over with. Where is he, and when did he get in? You know, I do have a cell phone. He could call me. There’s no need for the goon squad—”

Rand’s face fell. “I—your dad’s not here, Dakota. We needed to see you.”

“We?” I asked.

Rand’s face went stony, blank. “Homicide, Dakota. Homicide needs to see you.”

We got in the elevator and Rand punched the sixth floor, motioning to me to join him in the back. The officers—big men, almost my height—stepped in front of me, making me feel even more like a prisoner… or perhaps someone being guarded? But the guard theory evaporated when a sandy-haired older man slipped past the officers and joined us in the back of the elevator, leering at me and nodding to Rand.

“Hey, you old cockroach,” he said. After a moment his eyes slid to me, my tattooed arms, and my bare midriff, then forward to the officers. “Forgot to pay your fees?” he leered.

“What the fuck?” I asked.

“Miss Frost isn’t here for floor five, Jack,” Rand said. “She’s working with me.”

“Well lucky you,” the man said, slapping his shoulder. He caught my pissed-off, puzzled look and shrugged, with the conspiratorial leer suppressed but still trying to peek out. “Floor five is where you get your stripper license.”

“And fuck you too,” I said.

“We don’t license for that,” Rand said, deadpan.

“I’m just saying, girl, you could do the job if you wanted.”

“Which one?” one of the officers said, and the other one chuckled.

“Floor five is also where you get your license to do magical tattoos,” I snapped, “which always sounds funny until you wake up with a working asshole tattooed on your forehead.”

Suddenly the cab got quiet. The two officers stiffened up, and Rand jammed his hands into his pockets and leaned against the back wall of the cab. He was trying to look pissed, but he looked so hot he came off more as a brooding GQ model.

But the sandy-haired Jack was staring at the officers, suddenly serious. “Cut the boys a little slack,” he warned me. “Things are crazy. You don’t want to go to jail tonight, do you?”

“Kind of feels like it,” I said.

“Nobody’s going to jail tonight, unless it’s you, Jack,” Rand said.

“Already been,” Jack replied, not the least bit perturbed. “Second time this week—”

“Oh, no,” Rand said. “Don’t tell me your boys messed up bookings—”

“Nope,” Jack said, grinning, “one of your boys tripped a power cord. Again.”

“Jeezus,” I said, abruptly hot under the collar. One of the only college jobs I’d enjoyed had been lab tech, and I couldn’t stand people who fucked up my computers. “You should set up a webcam to find out who’s doing it.”

Jack blinked at me. Then smiled and said, “Not a bad idea, for a girl.”

And just when I was starting to warm up to him. “Blow me, you old cockroach.”

The doors opened, and Jack just grinned. “Not a bad idea either.” Jack strolled out to the right and began beeping a door’s keypad, and we followed.

Once again our footsteps echoed hollowly down a long, narrow corridor. On the left were conference rooms and APD offices, but on the right was a long wall of tinted glass with a Fed-smelling seal engraved on it. Behind one window I saw a figure standing; as I drew closer I saw dark sunglasses and a devilish goatee. Sunglasses, at night. Come on.

We paused before another keycoded door, and I became acutely aware that the man behind the glass was checking me out, staring at me, sipping his government coffee. Finally, I looked over and saw a trim form inside a crisp black suit. He was looking straight back at me, raising his cup towards me in salute, his

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