“Miss Wood?”


            She kept her eyes closed, feigning indifference, when the exact opposite was happening to her.

            The door closed, but she didn't believe anyone else had accompanied him into the room. Curiosity got the better of her, and she opened her eyes to see him standing so close, she could have launched herself into his arms.

            “Sorry to bother you, but we need to talk.” Without waiting for her to reply, the detective pulled one of the chairs closer to where she was lying and sat down.

            Now she could smell him. This close, and she could smell his deodorant, the sharp tang of the chemicals the dry cleaners used on his pants, and something else. Something rich and dark. Musky.

            His man smell.

             Normally Cutler ignored such things. What few itches she had needed scratching in the past, she'd been able to partly satisfy without too much hassle. Yet, this guy was getting to her, and in a bad way. No, not a bad way. A good way. A sexual way. In that dark, primitive way that affected her all the way to the tips of her fingers and toes. But that was bad. She didn't have the time or business going one-on-one with a cop. At least not now. Not when that diamond inside Jonas Poll was still running around free to mercilessly slaughter his family members so conveniently gathered around him. Still, it was getting damn hard to concentrate with him sitting there, staring at her with those gorgeous eyes. Why do men have to be blessed with long lashes?

            “Want me to speak up so the mics can get every word?” Her comment was slick with nastiness. Hungry, tired, and now horny. She was afraid to wonder if it could get any worse, because the moment she did, it just might. God has a wicked sense of humor.

            “There are no mics in this room. And, no, I'm not wearing one. This is just between us. I'm here because I just put my job on the line for you, and I need some answers.”

            Cutler blinked, not sure if she'd heard him correctly. Slowly she turned her head to look at him straight on. “Yeah. Right.”

            He dropped his head for a moment in thought. It was then she realized he was telling her the truth. This man had gone the extra mile for her, and now he needed something that only she could give. Something that would assure him that all his risk-taking wasn't in vain.

             “Mary… Okay, first off, what's your real name?”

            Layers peeled off of her, leaving her vulnerable and emotionally naked. Something, some little voice inside her head, whispered she could trust him. Trust him in a way she had not allowed herself to trust anyone except for Christine. And Bar. But they were her peers, her superiors. And they were female. He was a total stranger she'd just met. And a man. And a cop.

            She swallowed and discovered her mouth was dry. Her palms were sweaty, and the room felt stuffy. There was no reason or explanation why she felt like this. Or why she would answer him with only the truth.

            “It really is Mary, but I haven't been called that since I was nine. Now I'm called Cutler. Cutler Glass.”

            He didn't appear surprised to discover she used an alias. In fact, he seemed relieved. “Thank you. I promise, everything you tell me is not going any further than this room.”

            She glanced over his shoulder toward the door. He seemed to read her mind.

            “Yes, there's a guard outside, but it's SOP. Sorry.”

            Cutler forced a small shrug. “Hey, it's a police station. So what else do you want to know?”

            “Were you there to kill Jonas Poll?”

             Instead of answering, she lifted her knees and laid her forehead on them. She heard the detective sigh. He was trying to be patient, but she knew it wouldn't last forever.

            “We found a smear of blood on the skylight. It's your blood. We examined it and found it has elements in it we can't explain. Can you tell me why there are minerals in your blood?”

            “I thought all blood had minerals in it.” Shit, yeah, she was being evasive, but it was instinctive, even though everything in her yearned to open up and spill it all.

             “That's not what I mean, and you know it. Your blood glitters like it has crystal fragments in it, and there's no reasonable explanation for it.”

            She kept her eyes averted from him and prayed the sizzling heat between her legs would abate. Or at least cool enough to where she could tolerate him getting closer. If he put one hand on her, one hand anywhere, she would not be able to escape. Much less refuse him anything. The hold he had over her terrified her. Neither could she wait to see how far this game they were playing would go.

            “Any other questions, Detective?”

            The silence dragged into a full minute before he spoke again. “What does Poll mean when he says to beware of your teeth? Was he talking about cannibalism?”

             Cannibalism? Oh, now, that is funny. Cutler couldn't stop the soft chuckle coming from her. Was what she did cannibalism? “If you're asking me if I eat people, the answer is no, Detective.”

            To her trepidation, he leaned forward and propped his elbows on his thighs. The movement brought his face so close, she could almost lift her lips and kiss him.

             Kiss him? Oh, God, help her! If she wasn't careful...

            “Miss Glass... Cutler, I'm trying to help you here. I told my captain you weren't at the Poll residence to kill him, but I distinctly heard you say, 'Why don't you just shut up and die, diamond?' Why did you say that? Explain that to me. Why?” His voice had dropped so low that there was no way anyone else could have overheard him. Cutler stared up into his garnet-colored eyes to find nothing hiding in the shadows behind their clear depths. The man was being totally honest with her. “What did you mean when you said he was going to kill?” the man asked.

             “Exactly what I said,” she whispered, keeping her voice feathery soft. “The man is infected with a disease that medical science cannot track. It's eating away his brain. And once the disease rots away every trace of his humanity, Jonas Poll will turn on those he loves first. He will slaughter them in the most gruesome and demeaning ways he can devise. Yes, Detective. I was there to put it down. Not him, not Jonas Poll, but the creature he'll become once his brain has turned to mush. My job is to stop the disease from spreading, and Poll knows that. The thing inside him is not a cancer. It's a living organism, like a virus, but it's also sentient. It infects indiscriminately. The company I work for tracks the disease. Yes, I need to kill Poll, but not because he's infected. It's too late to save him. I have to do it to save the lives of the people he'll kill, and then the lives he'll take once the creature leaves Poll's dead body to find another host. The infestation's already at stage four, which means he's primed to kill. And he'll keep on killing if no one stops him. If you hadn't stopped me, Poll would be dead now, yes, but his family would still be alive. The infection has reached its zenith and the slaughter is ready to begin. Tonight, tomorrow, soon, if not now. The clock is ticking, Detective. The longer I languish in here, the greater the chance you'll be called out to the Poll house and find carnage like you've never imagined.”