EJ Beaumont is one big flirt. Not exactly the best trait for a cop, but it's an asset on his current undercover investigation for the HotWires team. He's flirting big-time with sexy online psychic Charlotte Gerard, who's reportedly running a lonely hearts scam. He is going to nail her cute butt but good!
Charlotte can sense there's something special about her newest client, Ethan Jared. All the cards point to the fact they will be passionate lovers--soon. But it's the hints of danger troubling her most. And when she's forced to run to him for protection, can she really trust him with her heart and her life?
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“So, you’ve made contact?”
EJ nodded. “Last night was our second meeting.”
“Here’s the transcript.” He ignored Sarah’s chuckle as he shoved a file folder in Ian’s direction. “But no, not much. Yet. It’s early.”
“It may take a little while. They could be feeling you out.”
EJ agreed, but he was still hoping to crack this case sooner than later. If nothing else, he was getting tired of online sex talk – he liked his sex real and in person. They’d been working on the paper trail for weeks, tracing scattered evidence regarding large thefts that had no seeming connection, but after sifting through piles of notes and paperwork, one commonality finally appeared: all of the victims had been subscribers to an online psychic service: SexyTarot.com.
Finally, EJ was closing in. That single, real thread of evidence had led them right to their own back yard, Norfolk, Virginia, where said service was owned by a single player: Charlotte Gerard. That was the common denominator among all the people who had lost money – at one time or another, she’d read for the victims.
He focused back on the file. A background check had revealed zip in the way of a criminal past, though Ms. Gerard had experienced a less than stellar childhood. Raised an orphan up north in New Hampshire, she went the usual route and lived in several foster homes until she’d moved to Norfolk three years ago. She didn’t own a car and had no priors, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a late bloomer to a life of crime.
Ms. Gerard was twenty-nine, single, and eighteen months ago she’d started running an online service called SexyTarot.com that offered psychic readings focusing specifically on clients’ love lives. It seemed innocent enough on the surface, but the service was an ideal cover for luring people in and gaining information that could lead to bank accounts, credit cards, and even home addresses. However, the catch was that other than the circumstantial evidence of all victims having paid for readings, EJ couldn’t find any hard evidence connecting the woman directly to the thefts, yet. It was his job to get it.
Ian looked at him speculatively. “What’s your gut telling you?”
“That the sooner I can drag her out from behind the screen, the sooner I can get this settled. I’m hoping I can force her hand if I set myself up as a target she can’t resist. A chance for one big score.”
“What are you thinking about?”
He grinned, winking at Sarah and watching her roll her eyes.
“Just a little not-so-innocent flirtation. I figure heating things up a little and trying to draw her out, maybe for a date, would be the easiest way to go. It happens online all the time these days and is unlikely to cause any suspicion. At worst, she’ll think I’m an online pervert and say no. But if she’s checked me out via the registration information and card info I gave her, I think she’ll bite.”
“Then do it. You’re certain the woman you’re interacting with Charlotte Gerard?”
EJ smiled, but there was a slight predatory gleam in his eye – he loved tracking down the bad guy – or bad girl, as the case had it. “Sure as I can be. Goes by ‘Charley’ – not exactly a masterful disguise. But meeting her for real will cement things, if I can get her to go for it.”
“Good. Remember, she could just be a little fish fronting a larger scam, which is why we can’t find anything tied directly to her – could be she just lures in the marks, and the real action goes down somewhere else.”
EJ nodded, still looking at the photo, wondering what pushed a young woman like Charlotte into criminal career. She looked like a sweet thing, paid her taxes even on the pittance she appeared to earn on the website and at odd jobs. She was, perhaps, a little too squeaky clean. Unfortunately, EJ knew he lived in a world where if someone was too clean, they were probably dirty.
She’d been engaging, entertaining and yet apparently sincere while she’d read for him the night before. And sexy, without a doubt. She’d said things to him that scored a direct hit on his desires – he loved a woman who wasn’t afraid to talk about sex in frank terms. A female voice saying the right thing in his ear could turn him on faster than any touch.
Charlotte was particularly talented at drawing him into the conversation, making him lose track of his objective and almost luring him into admitting some things that he didn’t easily discuss with anyone. What he wanted in bed and from life. From love. He dismissed it as the same phenomenon as airplane talk – talking with people online was a lot like talking to strangers in airplanes – you could say anything, because you were never going to see them again.
But deep down, he also knew there was a grain of truth to the things he’d shared with Charlotte, and he didn’t like how she’d pulled him in to whatever spell she wove. In general, he considered himself immune to that kind of thing, and it rankled that he’d felt a sense of connection when he should have been focused only on business. She was a suspect, for crying out loud.
But her smooth ability to get people to feel comfortable, to get them to talk, was even more proof against her – in his gut, anyway. The best con artists were very difficult to dislike and they knew how to read people, how to get the information they needed. But, so did EJ.