By Arlen Wils
"In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning."
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald
New York City
October 31, 1992 8:21 p.m.
He wasn't going to make it. Again. Falconetti was going to kill him this time, for sure. Sighing roughly, Mike Logan tugged a hand through his dark hair, the thick strands falling back into place, only a few straggling on his forehead. Glancing at his watch as he swung out of the car and followed his partner up the steps of the 27th precinct, Mike grimaced. It was her birthday, for God's sake. He wasn't much for birthdays, but Falconetti definitely was. She'd made such a fuss over his the month before, radiating such excitement that she hadn't been able to keep her plans a secret. Mike had to admit it had been nice having someone that excited about celebrating his birthday, even if the evening hadn't ended the way he'd hoped -- with him in Caitlin's bed.
And now he was hoping their celebration tonight might include some of the scenarios that had occupied his fantasies for two months now, since they'd had so many false starts and stops from the beginning of their fledgling relationship. Mike thought Caitlin was hoping for the same thing, judging from the subtle comments she'd made about their plans. He'd planned to spend Halloween night settled in Caitlin Falconetti's bed, indulging in a very adult version of trick or treat.
Instead he was tracking down a rapist who had become a murderer less than an hour ago, since Sarah Williams had died of the massive head wound she'd received in the attack. Settling into his aging, battered chair, Mike pulled out his notebook and picked up the phone, grimacing ruefully. It was going to be a long night.
Mike glanced up at the slightly chiding tone in Phil Cerreta's voice. Phil shook his head at his partner. "Go home. Get some rest." His eyes, set deep in his bull-doggish face, were resigned. There's nothing more we can do tonight."
Shaking his head, Mike opened his mouth to protest, but his words died under Phil's steady look. Stretching, he glanced at his watch and groaned. His night was definitely shot. Closing his notebook, Mike tucked it back into his pocket as he slid the suit jacket on. "Tomorrow morning," he said, flicking off his desk lamp, "we'll canvass the neighborhood again, see if anybody remembers anything."
He didn't sound hopeful. Phil nodded at him, donning his overcoat and pulling his hat down over his ears. "Go home," he repeated. "Enjoy what's left of your evening."
"Right," Mike growled, his thoughts straying to Caitlin, a sudden image of them together, her arms and legs wrapped tightly around him rising in his mind. Instead, he'd be going home to a cold, silent apartment. Maybe he'd stop off and get a beer first.
At the top of the precinct steps, he tugged his comfortable, disreputable leather coat closer, the wind biting at his ears. "Good night, Phil."
"Night, Mikey. Happy Halloween." Halfway down the stairs, Phil glanced up his younger partner, a slight grin creasing his face. "Hey, Mikey. She's a nice girl. You could do worse."
Startled, Mike stared at Phil for a moment, then grinned. "Yeah, Phil, she is." He chuckled, shaking his head. "And I have."
Malloy's Bar and Grill
New York City
"Hey, Mikey!" Dave was just locking the front door to the small, hole-in-the-wall bar as Mike approached.
"Hey, Dave," Mike sighed, realizing he'd lost another opportunity and hoping he had a couple of brews in the fridge at home. This just wasn't his night. "Knocking off early?"
"Yeah. Got a hot date, if you get my drift." Dave grinned, pocketing his keys. He patted his pocket as though he'd suddenly remembered something he'd tucked away there. "hey, Mike, I got a little something for you."
"Yeah?" Mike lifted his eyebrows, wondering.
"Yeah. Little brunette dropped it off earlier this evening." Dave chuckled, shaking his head. "Like she knew you'd be by."
Accepting the little white envelope, Mike eyed it speculatively, anticipation rising in him sharply. There was only one little brunette with whom he'd frequented Malloy's. He tore the flap open as Dave walked away with a wave. A key tumbled out into his gloved palm, and Mike grinned, pulling out a folded slip of paper that bore Falconetti's distinctive slanted handwriting.
Trick or Treat. Anytime tonight.
Pocketing the key, Mike started back up the street, whistling to himself.
Apartment of Caitlin Falconetti
New York City
Sinking lower in the warm water, Caitlin chuckled into the cordless phone. "You're bad," she said indulgently. "And I shouldn't be letting you corrupt me, either."
"You know you want to," the laughing voice retorted. "Admit it."
"Of course I want to," Caitlin replied, stretching her arm over her head and watching the droplets of water shiver down her bare skin. She wriggled her toes above the water line, critically eyeing the burgundy nail polish she'd applied earlier in a spurt of boredom. Leaning her head back against her makeshift cushion of a rolled-up towel, she spoke into the phone again. "And I'm old enough for my wants not to hurt me."
"Sure you are," Markie, her oldest friend from her small, Texas hometown, teased. "Go ahead. Order the damn Chinese food." Her laughter trilled over the line. "It doesn't sound like you're getting any other form of gratification tonight."
"Oh, please." Caitlin rolled her eyes. 'You --"
"I have to live vicariously through your exciting big-city life," Markie pouted, a distinct grin in her voice. "Especially since I'm stuck down here in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas."
"You're less than an hour's drive from Houston," Caitlin began and stopped, arrested by the distinctive sound of her front door lock sticking moments before she heard the door swing open. A frisson of nerves, followed quickly by awareness, ran down her stomach. "Mark, I've got to go."
"I'll talk to you later," Caitlin said, clicking off the phone and dropping it on the rug by the tub. She scrambled from the tub, snatching up her robe, suddenly nervous now that Logan was actually here. This was the right thing. She wanted him; he definitely wanted her. She knew he did; his visible, vocal frustration on the three occasions when they'd gotten this close before being interrupted by his job or hers was evidence enough for her. God, please let this be the right thing...
"Cait?" His voice echoed through her apartment, his footsteps sounding on the bare wood floor of her hallway.
"Just a...sec," Caitlin called back, dripping wet, dragging on herrobe just as Mike appeared in the doorway between the bath and her bedroom. The sight of his tall, sturdy frame sent another shiver of nerves through her lower abdomen. He looked tired, lines bracketing his expressive eyes, his hair ruffled from the frigid winter wind. Caitlin clutched her hands together behind her back, wanting to rub her fingers into the dark thickness of his hair, suddenly nervous now that he was here and the reality of what she'd planned for tonight was so close. She forced a smile to suddenly numb lips. "Hi."
Mike stared down at her, eyes tracing over her, taking in her hair piled untidily on top of her head, her robe clinging wetly to the slim line of her body, the droplets of water that sparkled on her long legs, and the polish on her toenails. A slow grin curved his full mouth, and he lifted his eyes to hers. "Hey. I got your note."
"No kidding," Caitlin replied, relaxing. This was Logan. He was the one man she felt she could trust. With Mike Logan, what you saw was what you got. And what she saw was an honest man who would never lie to her, never let her down.
Never hurt her.
"I'm glad you came," she whispered, moving closer to him, and watched his grin widen.
His hands settled at her waist warmly. "So am I," he rasped, tugging her closer to him, his warmth spreading through the thin satin of her short robe.
Reaching up, Caitlin stroked a finger gently over his temple. "Rough day?" she asked, reading the soul-deep weariness in his eyes.
An image of Sarah Williams flashed through his mind, and Mike brushed it away. He didn't want to think about anything but what was finally going to happen between him and the woman he held in his arms. "Something like that," he growled and lowered his mouth to hers, his tongue teasing her lips apart before stroking inside.
Clutching the smooth lapels of his leather coat, Caitlin swayed into him, meeting his kiss fully. His hands moved, sliding warmly up her ribcage, one large hand splaying over her breast. Backing her against the open bathroom door, Mike fumbled with her robe's belt, parting the thin fabric and baring her body to his touch.
Pulling his mouth from hers, Mike stared down at Caitlin, his eyes glittering with a sudden rush of desire. Lifting his hands, he pulled the clip from her hair, the dark mass falling about her shoulders. "You're incredible," he rasped, long fingers smoothing over her skin with a feather-light touch before he lowered his head and closed his mouth over one tightened, dusky nipple.
A moan strangling in her throat, Caitlin tangled her fingers in his hair, holding his head to her as electricity zinged between her breast and the arousal pooling in her low in her abdomen. "Logan," she whispered shakily, trailing her nails down his nape and onto the leather covering his shoulders. "I want to touch you."
Pulling slightly away, Mike shrugged out of the coat, letting it fall to the floor. Caitlin stopped him as he started to do the same with his suit jacket. "No," she murmured, hands already sliding his jacket down his arms. "Let me."
He did, allowing her to undress him slowly, groaning audibly as her hands and mouth teased everything she uncovered. When she encircled him with one slim hand, her tongue exploring his navel, Mike jerked her to her feet, kissing her, plundering her mouth as he moved them to her bed. Breaking the kiss, he muttered, "If my beeper goes off or your cell phone, someone dies."
Caitlin laughed and pulled him down to her. Mike let his own hands roam her body, his mouth following the trail of his caresses. Suddenly, he froze, sagging against her, face buried in her neck. "Shit," he swore roughly. "Falconetti, we can't. I don't have anything-"
Curving her hands along his jaw, Caitlin lifted his head and forced him to look at her. "Bedside table, Logan," she grinned, fingertips caressing his high cheekbones. Mike lifted an eyebrow at her, and she actually flushed under his scrutiny. "I bought them for you," she admitted in a chiding tone, and Mike laughed in relief, rolling away to retrieve one of the foil-wrapped condoms from her drawer. His hands shaking a little in his eagerness, he ripped the packet open, but Caitlin closed her hand over his. "No," she said again, an impish smile lighting her face. "Let me."
Mike gritted his teeth through her exquisitely slow process of unrolling the condom onto him. When she was done, he pulled her mouth back up to his, his fingers moving between her legs, gliding over her, testing and teasing until Caitlin moaned into his mouth.
Mike rose over her, his eyes glittering in the semi-darkness. "Are you sure?" he demanded hoarsely, his fingers still moving against her, into her, driving the need higher. He knew; the answer he sought was in her eyes, but he wanted the words, wanted to hear that she wanted him. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Caitlin closed her eyes on a wave of sensation, her short nails digging into his shoulders as she arched under his questing fingers. "God, yes, Logan," she whispered, the words torn from her on a gasp. "I've never wanted anything more in my entire life."
He sat up suddenly, tugging her with him, and disorientation crossed her face at their sudden change of position. Then he was pulling her over his thighs and driving himself into her with such force that she gasped again, the sensation pushing her into climax. Her arms wrapped around his neck, she sobbed his name into his dark hair, almost unable to bear the intensity between them, and at the same time, never wanting it to end.
It was too much. The thought flashed through Mike's mind in an incoherent jumble. He'd wanted this to last, for it to go on and on, but she was too hot, too tight, too wet. He wasn't going to make it --
His own climax slammed through him, shaking him with the force and electricity of it, his teeth grazing her shoulder, her name leaving his lips on a smothered moan. He held her for several long moments until finally a shaky laugh escaped him. "Damn, Falconetti."
"Yeah, I know," Caitlin laughed, pulling away from him and flopping back on the pillows, her dark hair fanning out over the pillows, her face still flushed. She levered up on her elbows, grinning at him. "You know, Logan, you are as good as you say you are."
"Thanks," Mike said dryly, resisting the impulse to wrap her up in his arms and crush her to him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed with a woman like this after sex. Actually, he couldn't remember sex like this, like pure voltage shooting through his body. "I'll be right back," he said, rolling off the bed and disappearing into the bathroom.
Turning over, Caitlin buried her face into her pillow, smiling. "I'm not going anywhere," she whispered to herself, pleased to find no doubts edging in on the well-being spreading through her body. Closing her eyes, she listened drowsily to the sound of running water in her bathroom.
The bed dipped beside her with Mike's weight, and she opened her eyes, smiling up at him. Mike touched a finger to her bare shoulder, stroking warmly. "Regrets?" he asked, his eyes suddenly serious.
Caitlin shook her head, watching as he tugged on his boxers. "No. You?"
"Nope," he grinned, sliding into the bed next to her, the weariness of the day pulling at his body. "Not one."
"Good," Caitlin whispered sleepily as he pulled the comforter over them. Mike sighed and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his face to her neck and inhaling the faint trace of her light perfume, and let sleep claim him.
"No...No...NO!" Caitlin's scream brought Mike from a dead sleep to total awareness in mere seconds. She was sitting straight up in the bed, her body shaking and a hand pressed to her mouth to cover the near-hysterical screams.
"Falconetti?" Heart pounding in reaction, Mike touched her and she flinched from him, curling her head to her knees and rocking slightly.
"Oh, God . . ." she whispered, voice shaking, and Mike brushed her hair back, watching her worriedly.
"Caitlin, what's --"
Caitlin shrugged off his gentle hands and scrambled off the bed, hand clutched to her mouth as she ran for the bathroom. An awful retching noise reached Mike's ears, and he followed her, fear for her crawling under his skin. Shivering, she flushed the toilet and sank back against the tub, tears streaming down her face. She covered her face, sobbing brokenly into her hands. Quietly, Mike got a washcloth and dampened it, kneeling beside her. Tilting her face up, he smoothed the cool cloth over her face, his eyes watching her worriedly. Pull it together, her mind commanded as their eyes met. This is Logan. Clinging is not an option here. Pulling away from him again, Caitlin covered her eyes with a shaking hand, blowing out a calming breath, trying desperately to control the sobs and fear. "I'm okay," she whispered. "It was just a dream."
"Some dream," Mike muttered. "Your neighbors are probably dialing 911. Cait, honey, what the hell were you dreaming about?"
She shook her head, although she did know. She always knew. "I-I don't know." Caitlin glanced up at him, eyes swimming in tears and confusion. "It-it's gone now."
Mike gathered her to him, helping her to her feet and supporting her slight weight against his solid frame. "C'mon," he whispered gently, kissing her hair. "Let's go back to bed."
Shaking her head, Caitlin pulled away. "No," she said. "You go. I'm going to get something to drink and stay up a while." Clad only in a thin nightshirt, she shivered, rubbing her bare arms. "I'm cold."
Mike frowned, eyes concerned. "I'll go with you."
Not bothering to argue, Caitlin tugged away from him and went into the living room. She stopped to fire up the gas logs in her fire place before disappearing into the kitchen. Standing in the middle of her living room, Mike ran a hand through his ruffled hair. He briefly considered following her into the kitchen, but he had the feeling she needed a few minutes to find her customary control. Concern tugged at him as he remembered how out of it she'd been. Whatever she'd dreamed of, Mike didn't for a minute believe it was nothing.
Caitlin returned bearing two steaming mugs. Not meeting his eyes, she handed him one and went to the fireplace, sinking onto the braided rug in front of the hearth. Her hands wrapped around the mug of hot chocolate, she stared into the dancing gas flames.
"Falconetti?" Mike joined her on the rug, but she didn't glance at him. "Want to tell me what that was all about?"
"No." Still staring into the fire, she shrugged. "It was nothing. I'm okay."
"Falconetti, you're still shaking like a fucking leaf. That's not nothing," Mike said, irritated at his level of concern for her. She said it was nothing. He should just let it go. "And you're not okay."
Glancing up, she glared at him. "All right," she snapped. "I'm not okay. But I'm better than I was a year ago. I can sleep with the damn lights off," she whispered. "And I'm better than I was six months before that. I can function and I can work."
Shaken by all the grim possibilities running through his mind, Mike moved closer, rubbing his hand down her bare arm. "What happened?" he asked, part of him wishing he'd taken her denial. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. That part of him wanted their relationship on the easy terms of friendship and sex. But another part couldn't let her keep this awful hurt wrapped up inside.
"I walked through hell and back," she whispered, and Mike searched for where he'd heard the words from her before.
The Minderhurst case, when he'd first met her. He'd taunted her about how closely she identified with the murdered women they saw, and she'd snapped at him that it was easy the women had walked through hell and back before
they died. "Cait," Mike murmured, "did someone hurt you?"
"I . . . I had a stalker," she said, so quietly he almost didn't hear her. She was staring into the fire, and Mike wasn't sure she was even aware she was talking to him. She seemed lost somewhere in the past. "And he tried to kill me." Caitlin shrugged, still not looking at him. "I think his exact words were that if I didn't want him, he didn't want me to be able to want someone else." A bitter smile flitted across her face. "You can't want someone if you're dead, Logan."
"No kidding," Mike muttered, anger surging through him. He didn't pause to question the protective instincts clamoring in him. "The fucker's in jail, right?"
"Not exactly," Caitlin sighed, a small smile touching her mouth at his aggressive tone. She finally glanced at him, and Mike was relieved to see that the awful darkness in her eyes had receded slightly. "He's dead."
"Good." Savage satisfaction curled through him at her words.
Caitlin laughed then, the sound actually containing real humor. "That's what my grandfather said," she said, her tone of finality telling him the subject was closed for now. She wasn't ready to share more with him, but Mike sensed that the admission itself meant that she'd given in to trusting him. The idea warmed him more than he cared to admit.
Reaching out, Mike tugged her into his arms, and Caitlin hesitated only briefly before relaxing into him. Again, the sensation of security, that this man would never hurt her, whispered through her mind. Mike leaned against the couch, his hands absently stroking her arms as he stared into the flames. "Tired?"
"Yeah," Caitlin whispered, although sleep was far from her mind. She was tired, tired of fighting demons she couldn't see, demons that only came out in the dark of night now. The darkest part of the night. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was almost three in the morning. Caitlin let her head rest against his bare shoulder. "Logan?"
"I'm glad you're here."
"Me, too, Falconetti. Me, too."