FBI agent Jules Cassidy walked out of movie star Robin Chadwick’s hospital room and life at the end of 2005’s Hot Target. The two men haven’t seen each other since then. Here’s an excerpt from August’s Force of Nature, the 11th installment in my Troubleshooters series:
Robin was dressed and pouring himself the evening’s first drink when someone knocked on his hotel-room door.
It probably wasn’t Dolphina or another of his handlers — there was still a solid hour before he had to leave for… whatever event was happening tonight.
Well, maybe it was Dolphina, who’d recently decided she no longer hated him and that she’d rather be his mother. Over the past few days, she’d made sure he ate right, found time to exercise, and, if he drank a little too much, she got him safely back to his room ? all without ending up in his bed.
Although, that might no longer be true. Last night he’d been particularly shit-faced, and as he’d stumbled over the seam between the suite’s living-room tile and the bedroom carpeting, she’d caught him and kept him from breaking his nose. He’d repaid her by dragging her back with him onto his bed, because she was not unattractive, and when he got skunked, sex of any kind seemed better than no sex at all.
As so often was the case when he drank too much, that was where his memory went from murky to dark.
So yes, it was probably Dolphina a-knockin’ on his door. She knocked again ? louder this time.
Robin looked through the fish-eyed lens of the peephole and…
Holy dancing Jesus. He almost dropped his drink. He looked again.
He took off the chain and opened the door, and yes, it definitely was Jules Cassidy standing in the hotel corridor.
Dressed in eveningwear similar to the tuxedo that Robin himself had on.
Other than the tux, Jules hadn’t changed at all in the past few years. Same short dark hair, same trim, compact body, same handsome face, same warm brown eyes.
Same molten attraction in those eyes that didn’t fade even when he smiled.
The man had a ridiculously sweet smile, even when it was tentative, as it was now.
“Sorry to surprise you,” Jules said. “I called your cell, but you didn’t pick up.”
Robin didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He no longer spoke English ? it had been flabbergasted out of him. Instead, he stepped back and gestured for Jules to come inside.
Jules, of course, hesitated. “I was actually thinking we could go down to the bar.”
A stiff drink would be great right about now. But then Robin realized he was holding a glass of rum in his hand. He hadn’t yet added the Coke, but what the hell. He took a healthy sip, and his ability to speak returned. “I’ll be mobbed. Down there. I can’t just go to a bar anymore. Well, I can, if I grunge up, but not on the opening night of a film festival like this.”
Jules nodded. “I should’ve realized. I’m sorry, I’m… Congratulations. I’ve heard great things about the movie and… Your career’s really… Congratulations.”
He was as flustered as Robin was. Maybe even more so. And he’d known who was going to be on the other side of the door before it had opened.
“Please come in,” Robin managed.
Jules looked past him and into the suite. It was huge ? and set up as a living room. Sofa and chairs, and even a full-size dining table. No king-size bed for them to have to pretend not to notice. That was on the other side of French doors that Robin kept tightly shut, mostly due to the fact that he was a slob.
“Thanks,” Jules said as he came inside, as Robin shut the door behind him, putting the chain back on ? which Jules noticed. Of course, FBI agents tended to notice everything.
But God, he still smelled exactly the same. And suddenly Robin went from just barely able to speak to unable to shut the fuck up. “Jesus, I’ve missed you,” came spewing out just as Jules said, “I’m here on business.”
From Force of Nature, by Suzanne Brockmann, available in hardcover from Ballantine Books on August 14, 2007. Š 2007 Suzanne Brockmann