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Pretty Broken Bastard: A Standalone Novel by Jeana E. Mann (1)

Chapter 1

Carter

For the better part of a year, I’d been tailing Clarence Mortimer Benson III. And, for the better part of a year, I’d always been ten steps behind, ten minutes too late, or ten blocks away from capturing him. His girlfriend lived in the building across from a small independent coffee shop, so I started hanging out in the neighborhood, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. The ten-thousand-dollar bond on his head kept me focused.

From my seat on the bench across the street, I stared through the window of Joe’s Java Junction. The petite barista inside kept stealing my attention. Jo Hollander, bustled behind the counter, confident and commanding. Damn, I loved a self-assured woman. The tail of her long brown ponytail twitched as she moved between the cash register and the espresso machine. It wasn’t her hair that had me mesmerized. It was those tits. Big, bouncy, and too large for her tiny frame, they taunted me from a dozen yards away. I dreamed about those breasts at night, taking them in my hands, sucking her

I cut myself off. Hell, it didn’t matter what I thought. She was absolutely, undeniably, one hundred percent off-limits. At least, that was what my best friend, Rhett, said. The temptation of forbidden fruit made her even more attractive. Normally, I’d have blown off his warning and shagged her in the alley behind the coffee shop or in her apartment elevator or wherever she’d have me. In my opinion, all women were fair game as long as they weren’t married. Jo, however, was his future sister-in-law, and Rhett was one of the few people in this world whom I respected. I went along with his request, but it couldn’t keep me from spying on her or jacking off in the shower to fantasies of her hot little body.

My phone rang. I hit the accept button. “Hey, Darcy. What’s up?”

“One of our tipsters called. Your guy just got on a plane to New York.” In the background, her long fingernails clacked on the computer keyboard.

“Shit. This guy is slippery.” For a college preppy from old money, Clarence possessed impressive criminal skills. Then again, in my experience, the older the money, the more questionable the morals. Of all people, I should know, coming from a long line of corrupt politicians. I tossed down the magazine I’d been pretending to read. “Get hold of the Brooklyn office. See if they can help us out.”

“One step ahead of you, boss.” Darcy’s quiet efficiency emanated through the phone.

“Have I told you lately how awesome you are?” I smiled at the mental picture of her in the office, dressed in a low-cut top and too-tight pants, her platinum blond hair in some kind of outrageous, elaborate updo.

“Nope. Tell me now.” The typing ceased. “Or, instead of words, you could give me a raise. And if that isn’t possible, how about a nice couple of weeks in Tahiti?” Her voice lifted hopefully.

“I’ll do better than that. If we catch this motherfucker in the next ten days, I’ll buy you a new car.” Since we’d met, she’d been tooling around town in a geriatric Lincoln Continental held together by duct tape and prayers. “Any car you want.”

“Anything I want? Anything?” She held her breath.

“Sure. Within reason.”

“I’m thinking Mercedes. Convertible. Powder blue.” Excitement raised her voice an octave.

“Give me Benson, and we’ll talk.” I jerked the phone from my ear as her squeal pierced the air waves.

“On it.” The phone went dead, and the dial tone buzzed in my ear. That was one of the things I loved best about her. She didn’t waste time on words when there was work to be done.

Pocketing my phone, I walked to the intersection. My lips pursed in a tuneless whistle. A pretty redhead gave me the once over. I winked at her, enjoying her smile. Across the street, Jo hung the closed sign in the display window and locked the door. I waited for the light to change so I could cross the street to the nearby parking garage. A few seconds later, a petite blonde emerged from the alley next to the coffee shop wearing dark sunglasses. Jo? I squinted against the bright sunlight. Yes, it was her. She might have hidden her dark hair, but those tits couldn’t be denied.

The light changed, and I crossed the street. Jo tucked her chin against her chest and brushed past me. What was she up to? Some kind of kinky role play? Dual identities? No matter what the reason for her costume, Jo Hollander just climbed a few notches on my radar of interest. Unlike most men, I enjoyed a little bit of crazy in my bed. I glanced at my watch, warring between curiosity and responsibility. With three appointments and a court appearance on my calendar, the mystery of Jo Hollander would have to wait until tomorrow.