First Temptation(3)

By: Joan Swan


Rio had spent eight years undercover all over South America, only recently returning to the states as the Director of Investigations for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Zoe had worked with Rio gathering information for investigations in the past and knew he’d be a great boss.

“How’s Cassie?” she asked.

“Amazing.” His expression softened when he spoke of his pregnant wife. “Finally getting a belly.”

He held the café door open for Zoe, and as she passed through, it seemed every gaze turned toward her. She was used to that—the uniform and the weapon always drew attention. Tenfold on a woman.

As soon as they chose a table, the waitress poured coffee and took their orders.

When the menus were gone, Rio said, “I didn’t want to ask you this over the phone when we talked the other day, but I’d like to know if your transfer request has anything to do with your teammate’s death last year?”

Zoe’s throat closed around a sip of coffee. She choked, forced the liquid down, and coughed into her fist. “I love that about you, Rio. Get right to the heart of it. And, no,” she lied. “I’ve been on Border Patrol for eight years. I’m ready to get out of the harsh conditions.”

Rio nodded. “Okay, then. Here’s what I’ve got.”

Zoe set her coffee down. Excitement bubbled in her gut. The stories she’d heard from investigators at ICE intrigued her. She knew she’d love working in the department, would enjoy working for Rio, and would be fascinated and challenged by the complexity of the cases.

“We have credible intel on a new tunnel leading into the Otay Mesa area here in San Diego from Tijuana,” Rio said. “Word is it belongs to El Diablo. The tunnel isn’t quite finished yet. In the next week, the architect will be making a visit or two to inspect the structure.”

“That’s a freaking long tunnel.” Zoe spun her coffee cup between her palms, keeping her voice low. “Shortest distance between Tijuana and Otay Mesa is over five hundred feet. It would be a modern marvel.”

“Which is why we want to get a hold of the architect. Not only so he won’t keep designing these marvels, but so we can get intel on El Diablo.”

Zoe nodded, staring at her cocoa-colored coffee. “What store is fronting it?”

Rio’s green gaze made a casual sweep of the café before returning to hers. “A smoke shop in the Otay Mesa Premium Outlets.”

“That mammoth mall at the border?”

Rio nodded. “The store requires membership to shop there, which is an effective way to keep people out. I had one of our guys go in last week to inquire about membership, and he was told they aren’t taking new members at this time.”

“Convenient. What’s your plan?”

In her peripheral vision, movement at the edge of the table alerted her to the waitress’s return, and Zoe sat back so the woman could set her meal down.

Rio glanced up. The moment he smiled, Zoe knew the waitress wasn’t the person standing there. The grin was for someone Rio knew.

Zoe cringed and sent up a silent prayer that she didn’t also know their visitor. By now, last night’s events had surely passed through the grapevine, and she didn’t want to rehash the harrowing experience. Nor did she want anything to overshadow this opportunity with Rio’s department.

Zoe cast a sidelong glance toward the man shaking Rio’s hand and focused in on a tight torso covered in a fitted black tee.

Hmm. Nice.

Very nice.

But Zoe’s fried brain couldn’t absorb any more eye candy. She was exhausted and just wanted him to go away. She rested her chin in her hands and tried to keep her eyes open.

“Hey, boss.” The man’s voice vibrated in a smooth, rich timbre that made Zoe want to close her eyes. “Looking good. How’s your girl?”

No, Zoe definitely didn’t know this man. She would never forget a voice like that. It curled through her body like the first sip of her hot coffee, tingling down her chest and spreading through her belly.

She was either really, really tired or this guy was really, really yummy.

As Mr. Yum talked to Rio, Zoe glanced up, appreciating an overall build as delicious as his abs and his voice put together, but his face was blocked by the brim of her uniform ball cap. Just as well. This was not the day to meet a hot guy—immediately after the night from hell, in a dirty, butt-ugly uniform. No makeup, hair knotted in a ball cap. In fact, if she didn’t want in on this little operation so bad, she’d cut the meeting with Rio short and meet up with him later.

“Let me introduce you to Agent Brooks,” Rio said.