Tender Is The Night

By: Barbara Freethy
One


"Yes, he's probably cheating on you. No, you didn't do anything wrong. Yes, you should absolutely find out, and, no, you won't find anyone better than me for the job." Devin Scott ended his cocky monologue by sitting back in the worn leather chair behind his desk and giving the beautiful blonde in front of him a weary, cynical smile.

Although he was fairly certain he knew exactly why this woman had come looking for a private investigator, he couldn't understand why any man would want to cheat on her. She was one of the prettiest women he'd seen in a long time with shoulder-length, thick, wavy blonde hair, honey gold skin, and slender, athletic grace.

Then again, appearances could be deceiving.

As she stared back at him with a pair of intense, intelligent blue eyes that made his nerves tingle, he suddenly wasn't at all sure why she'd come to his office.

"You think a man would cheat on me?" She crossed her legs, revealing a bit more thigh under the cream-colored knit dress that clung to her curves. "Why?"

"Because you're looking for a private investigator."

"And I couldn't have another reason for coming to see you?"

"Most women who show up here don't."

"Interesting."

He sat up in his chair, instinct suggesting he might have misjudged her.

"Do you want to know what I think?" She tucked a strand of shiny hair behind her ear and gave him a challenging look.

He had a feeling he didn't want to know what she thought, but since it had been a really long time since anyone had surprised him, he said, "Yes."

"I don't think you're anywhere close to being the best investigator in the business, because I don't have a boyfriend or a husband, and if I did, and if he were cheating on me…" She paused. "I'd catch him myself, and I'd make him very, very sorry."

Seeing the steel fire in her eyes, he had no doubt that she was capable of backing up her words.

"I'm also not here to hire you," she continued. "I'm here to help you."

He raised an eyebrow. "Help me? How?"

"It's my understanding you've requested assistance from the FBI."

His heart sank, and his stomach turned over. "Hal sent you?" He couldn't help but emphasize the word you, because when he'd asked Hal for help, he'd hoped for a seasoned agent or a team or anyone besides this young woman, who couldn't have been on the job more than a year.

She stared back at him, her gaze unwavering. "Why shouldn't he send me?"

"How long have you been working for the Bureau?"

"A year, but that shouldn't matter. I'm good."

He appreciated the proud glint in her eyes, but having been a special agent with the FBI for almost a decade, he didn't think she had any idea just how good or bad she was. "No, thanks."

Her right eyebrow shot up in surprise. "Seriously? You're turning down my help?"

"Yes."

"You're not even going to give me a chance?"

He shook his head. "Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because you have no idea the massive number of things you don't know, that the Bureau didn't train you to know, and I don't have time to teach you."

"You have no idea what I'm capable of, what I already know," she retorted. "But putting my level of experience aside, here's the bottom line—it's me or no one. That's coming straight from Agent Roman. Apparently, you've used up whatever credit you had on account with him. I've been assigned to help you for five days."

"Forget it," he said, disgusted and angry with himself for actually believing the Bureau might help him solve the murder of his former partner and finally get justice for her death. "I'll take no one."

She folded her arms across her chest, drawing his eye to her beautiful breasts, which were more than a little distracting.

"Then apparently you're as stupid as they said you were," she said.

It took a moment for him to get his focus back, and he frowned at her blunt words. "Who told you I was stupid?"

"Some of your old buddies. They told me you were once a brilliant agent, but you got caught up in your emotions, and you were too stupid to realize that you were obsessed with a truth that didn't exist. Maybe they're right. Maybe you have lost it."

She made him feel like he was a hundred years old instead of thirty-four. "I'm still brilliant, and the only thing I lost was the illusion that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was actually interested in investigating the death of one of their agents."

"If they weren't interested, I wouldn't be here."

"Lip service," he said dismissively.

"I might be able to help you more than you think."

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