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Blue Moon (Chapter 15)

"When do you get off?" Cadotte asked.

"Any second now if you don't move," I muttered.

He laughed and stepped away. Without the heat of his body against mine the room felt cool, though I knew it wasn't. Though the day had not yet warmed beyond the fifties, his office was like a furnace.

How did he stand it?

"I meant, when do you get off work?"

I scrubbed my fingers through my hair. I was a mess. No sleep, a night in the forest. Hell, I hadn't brushed my teeth since yesterday. Why on earth had he continued to kiss me?

Cadotte stepped close and rubbed one thumb against my chin. "Quit thinking so much."

"What kind of statement is that for a teacher to make?"

"Just answer the question, Officer."

"I'm already off. You got overtime."

"Above and beyond. I'm flattered."

"You should be."

"I suppose you practically bribed someone else to come here so you wouldn't have to."

I blinked. Close enough. How did he know me so well when he didn't really know me at all?

Cadotte slipped on his glasses. I wondered again what he'd look like wearing those and nothing else. I really, really liked his glasses.

Picking up a folder, he scowled at the label, then put the folder back down and chose another.

"Would you meet me for dinner tonight? I'll tell you what I found out about the totem."

"Meet you?" I echoed.

"You'd rather I picked you up?"

"No. I mean… " I wasn't sure what I meant.

The thought of having dinner with William Cadotte, in public, caused no small amount of unease. For one thing, I didn't date. Dinner with a man would raise all sorts of questions. Dinner with this man would raise even more.

He was Indian; I wasn't. He was pretty, same thing. He was off-limits, according to my boss.

Cadotte could be more trouble than he was worth. I let my gaze wander over him from the tip of his black, shiny hair to the toe of his… toe.

He wasn't wearing any shoes. His feet were tanned, smooth, his toes straight, the nails clipped and clean.

Damn. I was even aroused by his feet. Trouble, trouble, trouble.

I still wanted to see him. More than I'd wanted anything for quite a long time.

"Come to my place instead," I blurted.

Cadotte glanced at me over the rims of his glasses. "Why?"

I had quite a few reasons, the most important being we couldn't seem to keep our hands off each other – even in public. I'd think there'd been a spell cast over me, if I believed in such things.

"Because," I said, and left it at that.

He frowned and a flicker of uncertainty passed through his eyes. I'd never seen him uncertain before.

"What?" I asked.

"' You don't want to be seen with me?"

"No! It isn't that."

And it wasn't. Not really. I wouldn't mind being seen with him; hell, I'd love it. What woman wouldn't? What I didn't want to face were the questions, the stares, the speculation.

What on earth was a man like him doing with a woman like me? The inevitable answer: I must be an incredible lay.

"What is it then?"

He'd taken off his glasses so he could stare at me through naked, intense, searching eyes. I glanced away.

"I don't want to discuss business in public."

He didn't say anything. I heard the rustle of papers, the thud of a book. "Fine." His voice was cool and brisk. I wanted the heated huskiness back. "I'll come to your place at… ?"

"Seven."

"All right. I'll bring my notes. You bring the totem."

"What?" I shot him a startled glance.

He juggled two books and three folders as he walked past me, then shoved his bare feet into the sandals he'd left by the door. "Bring the totem so we can compare the markings to some of the drawings I found."

The totem again. I ran a thumb over the stub in my pocket. For an instant I could have sworn the thing was hot to the touch. But that was no doubt just my skin – still flushed and sensitive from Cadotte's assault.

He opened the door and paused, giving me a chance to study him. I found no hint of deception in his steady gaze. If he'd wanted the totem for himself, he wouldn't have given the thing back.

I let my eyes wander over the ransacked office. Hell, he'd have the perfect alibi right here. Pretend the totem was stolen, then keep it. I'd be the one taking the heat for letting him have the evidence in the first place.

"I'll see you tonight." He jerked his head toward the hall. "I've got a class."

"Sure. Tonight. I'll –  um –  order a pizza."

He smiled. "Pepperoni and black olives?"

"No way. Sausage, mushroom, and onion."

He tilted his head and his earring swung free, glittering gold like a harvest moon in a midnight sky. "How about half and half?"

I had a feeling I was agreeing to more than a pizza, but what the hell? "Deal," I said, and then he was gone.

I was left alone in his office with a whole bunch of questions.

Cadotte hadn't been the one to trash this place, so who had? Since nothing had been taken and nothing had been ruined, there wasn't much of a crime. I could call in a fingerprint tech, but we'd have to cross-reference everyone who had been in here.

I thought of all the students, all the teachers, all the staff. "Good luck," I muttered.

My radio crackled. "Jessie?"

Clyde's voice made me jump. What was he doing on the radio?

"Yeah?"

"What's going on out there?"

"Nothing much." I filled him in on what had happened.

"Tell me you got that evidence back from Cadotte, and that it's safely tucked away in the evidence room right now."

I tugged the totem from my pocket and twirled the stone round and round in my fingers. Why was everyone so damn concerned with this thing? It was a carved wolf, nothing more, nothing less.

Interesting, but not life-changing –  no matter what Cadotte believed.

"Jessie!" Clyde snapped. "Where is that totem?"

I didn't like his tone. It made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. I'd learned over the years to listen to those hairs. They always signaled trouble.

Of course they'd been standing up and dancing since Professor Cadotte had walked into my life. Maybe that was what was wrong with them now, but I didn't think so.

I folded the tiny wolf into my palm. "I got the totem back."

"Good."

Was his sigh of relief just a little too relieved? When had I stopped trusting Clyde? I wasn't quite sure.

"But it isn't in the evidence room."

"Why the hell not?"

Well, he had to find out sometime. Better now, when he was on one side of town and I was on the other.

"Because someone's been in there and everything having to do with Karen Larson's accident is gone."

"Everything?"

I took a deep breath, then did something I had never done before. I lied to my boss. "Everything."

I might be sorry later, but I didn't think so. I opened my hand and stared at the strange little wolf –  no bigger than my thumbnail –  that lay in my palm. Too many people were far too interested in this thing.

Until I found out why, maybe it would be better if they all believed the totem had disappeared.

As I listened to Clyde rant and rave, I pawed around on Cadotte's desk until I found what I needed. A piece of twine, probably used to bind books or papers, which fit perfectly through the tiny hole at the top of the wolf.

I still had a hard time believing someone was after this bit of rock. But since the other evidence had disappeared, I was going to make certain this didn't, too. I was going to keep it in the safest place I could think of –  on me.

One knot later, I dropped the icon over my head and under my shirt. The totem slid into the hollow between my breasts, and if I didn't know better I'd swear it snuggled in close and went to sleep.

Which is what I did as soon as I got home. I should have gone in and filed a report on Cadotte's office, as well as one on the missing evidence. But since I didn't want to meet Clyde face-to-face right now, I turned off my radio, my cell phone, and my house phone, and dived between the cool, welcoming sheets of my bed.

I slept and I dreamed. Of wolves with human eyes. Of people I knew with the eyes of a wolf –  Cadotte, Clyde, Brad, Mandenauer, even Zee.

Someone was chasing me through the forest. I was naked, which explained why I was so afraid. No place to carry my gun.

And whatever was chasing me sounded big, mean, gun-worthy. Branches thrashed; sticks cracked; heavy footsteps pounded in my wake. But more than two feet. Two people? Or perhaps four paws.

My side ached. I'd been breathing through my mouth, fear making me forget all my lessons in endurance. I hated being afraid as much in the dream as I did when I was awake.

I glanced back. Always a mistake. Something big, black, and furry was after me. I knew what it was.

I stumbled over a branch and hit the ground hard. I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was going to die. Then suddenly air returned to my lungs. I gasped greedily.

Something leaped on top of me. I twisted, grabbed fistfuls of fur. My fingers tangled in rawhide and a wolf totem swung in front of my face, hanging around the animal's neck like a collar.

The big black wolf with human eyes went for my throat, but instead of biting me, he licked my collarbone, then moved lower and lower still. 1 shuddered, aroused, and began to come.

I awoke with an audible gasp to find myself on the floor, the sheets tangled around my ankles, the twine tight at my neck. I was slick with sweat and on the verge of an orgasm.

"Hell. Shit. Son of a bitch!" I loosened the twine, shoved sweaty hanks of hair from my forehead.

Thankfully I was alone, so no one heard me curse like a dockworker or saw my hands shaking as I went into the bathroom and turned the shower to a temperature somewhere between ice-cold and lukewarm.

I stepped into the tub and stuck my head under the spray, gasping as chilly water cascaded over my heated skin. My mind cleared instantly, but I couldn't stop trembling, even when I turned the water from cold to hot.

The dream had disturbed me far more than any other I'd ever had.

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