JASMINE DELEVIGNE ADMIRED HER NAKED BODY in the mirror. She was twenty-four years old, with smooth cafe au lait skin, long, slender legs and a new set of perfect silicone breasts, a birthday present from a powerful client. Cupping them lovingly in her hands, Jasmine thought, No. He's more than a client. He's my lover. I adore him.
It was unlike Jasmine to get attached to the men who paid to share her bed. The daughter of a French businessman and a Persian princess, Jasmine Delevigne didn't need the money she earned as a hooker. She did it for the thrill. Just knowing that rich, powerful men, men with beautiful wives and even more beautiful mistresses, found her irresistible, so intoxicating that they would pay for the privilege of bedding her, gave Jasmine an incredible high. It was years since she'd dipped into her trust fund. Her Fifth Avenue apartment, her vintage MG convertible, her wardrobe full of couture dresses and thousand-dollar-a-pair shoes; Jasmine's perfect body had paid for them all. Other people might call her a whore. People like her father, who lavished all his attention on Jasmine's mother and never noticed his daughter's efforts to please him. But Jasmine didn't care what they thought.
I'm a feminist. I fuck who I like, when I like, because I like. I answer to no one.
She wandered into her dressing room and picked out some underwear. Chocolate-brown, silk La Perla panties and a matching camisole. Classy and feminine. Just how he likes it. It had been weeks since Jasmine had seen him and she was excited. There were others, of course. All her clients were good-looking, successful men, and all of them were good in bed. Jasmine Delevigne was the best, and she only worked with the best. But none of the other men had gotten to her the way that he did.
The buzzer rang.
He's early. He wants this as much as I do.
Jasmine opened the door coolly, like the princess that she was.
He grabbed her by the throat. "Take your fucking clothes off. Now."
Jasmine's pupils dilated with excitement. I've missed you so much.
Gavin Williams tightened the knots around Grace Brookstein's wrists. Then he lifted the cane and brought it down hard across the backs of her legs. Two livid red welts joined the others. Gavin Williams smiled.
"I'll ask you again, Grace. Where is the money?"
She was crying. Begging. Lenny Brookstein's wife, his most treasured possession, was begging him, Gavin Williams, for mercy. But Gavin Williams would show no mercy.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.
He felt himself getting hard. He lifted the cane again.
"Excuse me, sir? Are you okay?"
Gavin Williams's fantasy evaporated. He was back at his desk at the SIBL, the Science, Industry and Business Library on Madison Avenue. The librarian was standing over him. Stupid, meddlesome bitch. Why couldn't she mind her own business?
"Are you sure? You look very flushed. Would you like me to open a window or something?"
"No," Gavin snapped. The old woman got the point and returned to her seat.
It was ridiculous, being forced to work in a public library. After Harry Bain had summarily dismissed him from the Quorum task force, Gavin's bureau chief had insisted that he take a paid leave of absence.
"You're stressed out, Agent Williams. You need some time off. Happens to all of us."
It happens to weak idiots like you, you mean. Not to me.
"I'm fine. I'm ready for service."
"Take the vacation, Gavin, okay? We'll call you in a couple of months."
A couple of months? Gavin knew what was going on. John Merrivale had been conspiring against him. Poisoning the well. They all think I'm crazy. Obsessive. But I'll show them. When Grace Brookstein leads me to that money, they'll be eating their words. I'm close. I can feel it.
Gavin Williams pulled an antiseptic wipe out of his briefcase and started cleaning the spot where the librarian's fingers had touched his desk. Then he closed his eyes and tried to recapture his fantasy: Grace Brookstein, at his mercy, tied up like an animal.
It was no use. She was gone.
"SIR, TAKE A LOOK AT THIS."
Mitch leaned over the younger detective's computer screen.
"You asked me to do some digging on Senator Warner. This e-mail just came in from vice squad."
Mitch read the e-mail.
"No one ever followed this up?"
"It appears not, sir. Senator Warner's a big supporter of NYPD causes."
I'll bet he is.
"This is all off-the-record. My buddy in vice was doing me a favor. I told him we'd handle it sensitively."
"Do you have an address for the girl?"
"Yes, sir. It's a pretty swanky address, too." The detective clicked to another window. "Do you think maybe we should send a female officer out there first? We don't want to spook her."
JACK WARNER SAT IN THE BACK of his limousine, feeling the adrenaline course through his veins. Being with Jasmine again, touching her, fucking her, gorging himself on her body...it was the best feeling in the world. Knowing that the whole of America idolized him as a Christian conservative, a walking embodiment of righteous ness and family values, only added to the thrill. Jack remembered Fred Farrell's advice to him, about his gambling.
"I get it. It's a turn-on. All this risk. But is it as much of a turn-on as being the next president of the United States? That's what you have to ask yourself, Jack. You could lose everything."
Ah, yes. But that was the thrill, wasn't it? Knowing you could lose everything. Fred Farrell knew about the gambling and the extramarital flings. But he didn't know about Jasmine. Only one person had ever known about Jasmine.
And that person was a rotting, worm-eaten corpse by the name of Lenny Brookstein.
JASMINE DELEVIGNE POURED TEA FROM A silver pot into two porcelain cups. She handed one of them to the policewoman.
The officer, a nerdy, pale young woman with short black hair and thick plastic-framed glasses, looked around the sumptuous apartment and thought, I'm in the wrong business.
"Oh. No, thank you. You have a beautiful place."
"Thanks. I've worked hard for it." Jasmine leaned back on the Ralph Lauren suede couch and crossed her long legs demurely. "So. You want to know about Senator Warner?"
When the female cop had showed up unannounced, asking questions about Jack and his relationship to Leonard Brookstein, Jasmine's first reaction was panic. Her second was loyalty. Jasmine loved Jack. She couldn't betray him. But it was her third reaction, self-interest, that eventually won the day. This could be her chance to pry Jack away from his wife at last. He only stayed with Honor because she was necessary to his political ambitions. It stood to reason that if those political ambitions were to die, then so would his marriage.
"How long have the two of you known each other?"
Jasmine took a sip of tea. "Socially, about five years. We've been lovers for three. Cookie?"
This girl's a piece of work.
"No, thank you. You say 'lovers.'"
"You're right. I should probably clarify. Senator Warner is a client of mine. He pays for my services." She spoke without a hint of shame. "Nevertheless, I would characterize our relationship as a love match. We adore each other."
"I see. So Senator Warner confides in you?"
"I wonder, did he ever talk to you about Lenny Brookstein?"
"He did. Lenny knew about us. He was the only one who knew."
"Jack told him?"
"No! God, no. He found out somehow. Lenny Brookstein was blackmailing Jack. He was a vicious, bullying man and he made Jack's life hell. When I heard he'd killed himself, I was pleased. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."
The policewoman sat up, startled by the girl's bluntness. Jasmine noticed the reaction.
"I'm sorry." She shrugged. "I could lie about it, but I don't see the point. I hated Lenny Brookstein. Jack and I both did. He was a manipulator and a fake."
"Ms. Delevigne, in your opinion, did Senator Warner hate Lenny Brookstein enough to want to have him killed? Or to kill him himself?"
Jasmine smiled. The policewoman thought, Even her teeth are perfect.
"Did he hate him enough? Absolutely. Lenny was threatening to destroy everything Jack had ever worked for. He would force Jack to swing votes in Quorum's favor, back when they were rewriting all that hedge fund legislation, you remember?" The policewoman nodded. "Every time Lenny would tell Jack, 'This is it, one more vote and you're off the hook.' But every time he would come back for more, squeezing and squeezing." Jasmine shook her head angrily. "Jack hated Lenny Brookstein with good reason. But he didn't kill him."
"You sound sure of that."
"I am sure. Jack was supposed to be out sailing that day, you see. The day of the storm, when Lenny Brookstein went missing."
The policewoman looked at her notes. "That's right. He did go sailing. The Nantucket coast guard rescued him, six miles off Sankaty Head. He returned to the Brookstein estate at around...six o'clock that night."
"The coast guard didn't rescue Jack. At least, not in the way you mean."
"I'm sorry?" The policewoman frowned. "I don't follow."
"Jack never took the boat out. He was with me all day, in a beachside cottage in Siasconset. The coast guard covered for him."
"You mean the coast guard helped Senator Warner to give a false alibi? They lied?"
Jasmine laughed, a low, sensual vibration that brought her whole body to life. "Don't look so shocked. It happens all the time. Senator Warner's a powerful man. People scratch Jack's back so that he'll scratch theirs. I'd have thought, in your profession, you'd be used to that sort of thing. I certainly am in mine."
Jasmine politely showed the officer to the door. As she left, Jasmine asked her, "So the police think Lenny Brookstein might have been murdered? I've been following the case but I hadn't heard anything about murder."
"It's a possibility we're considering."
"Do you think that means things will come out now? About me and Jack?" Jasmine cocked her head to one side, hopefully. The policewoman thought, So that's it. She wants people to know. She's hoping to force the senator's hand so he'll leave his wife.
"I don't know, Ms. Delevigne. That's not for me to say."
Jasmine leaned forward conspiratorially. "My money's on his mistress. That woman is as hard as nails."
The policewoman smiled. "I think you must be mistaken. Mr. Brookstein didn't have a mistress."
"Sure he did. Connie Gray, his sister-in-law. They were lovers till Lenny abandoned her and went crawling back to his wife. Didn't you know?"