Dalton’s Kiss Series
Kelly Roman was good at her job. As a forensic anthropologist, she could help the dead and help the families find closure. The one thing she hated about her job was her boss, Shamus Van. That man was out to sabotage everything she did. And when he brought in the new chief of police, Bancroft Dalton, to make her look bad, that was the last straw. She’d quit before they had a chance to fire her.
When Bancroft showed up at her front door, he asked to be invited in, and when he told her he couldn’t lie to her, it set off all kinds of bells and whistles in Kelly’s suspicions. It wasn’t the fact that he was a vampire that bothered her, it was the part about him not being able to lie to her. She knew shifters couldn’t lie to their mates. There was no way in hell she was letting a man barge into her life and take over….
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Kelly played with the clay in her hand and thought about the work she still needed to do. The bust was coming along nicely, she supposed. But she had a feeling that the information she’d been given two days ago wasn’t correct. The skull, or what was left of it, wasn’t that of an older white woman at all, but that of a young child—a male. And he hadn’t been dead nearly as long as she’d been led to believe, the fifteen years that her boss had told her. She had also found other things that were wrong. “Well, Kelly, you’re not going to finish if you stand around staring at it while having a one-sided conversation. You know what you have to do. It’s start over or stare at this sucker until it fixes itself.” She made sure that she was at least reasonably alone before she tore everything off the partial skull to start over. She’d been talking to herself for years, and the dead didn’t mind it at all, she thought with a giggle. “Now, this is where it will start getting me sacked.” Kelly Roman worked as a forensic anthropologist, as well as working with the police in forensic clues in one of the most deadly cities in the nation. Always, someone that liked to be on top of things in the medical field, Kelly was a medical doctor, a coroner, as well as a registered police officer when she needed to wear that hat. Also, when they needed some specialized work, she would go to work with the FBI. And she hated it. Not what she did—Kelly loved working on the remains of the dead and solving their deaths, putting them together so their families could lay them to rest. It was her boss, Lord Shamus Van, that she disliked with a double side of passion. No one knew if he was a real lord or not. She personally didn’t think so, nor did she really care. She thought perhaps he’d been an overseer for someone when he was younger and the job had gone to his head. Shamus treated everyone like he was used to cracking the whip and people doing what he said. At two-thirty in the morning, just a little over six hours after she’d started over, she knew that she’d been correct. Not only was it a male, but he’d been younger than she’d first thought.
Only having the skull, and only part of that, made guessing harder if the information she’d been given was wrong in the first place. Instead of being ten to twelve, she was sure that his age was closer to five or six. Thinking of the other things that she’d been told, Kelly decided it was time that she stood up to stretch and look over those notes for a moment. She’d forget to do that at times and would stiffen up terribly if she sat for too long. “What are you doing here, Miss Roman?” Nearly screaming when his lordship spoke behind her, she dropped her glass of water and it went everywhere. “You were told there would be no overtime paid to you if you worked past midnight again. What are you doing here at this hour anyway? I want you out of here right this moment. And you’ll be here on time in the morning as well. Don’t think you can slack off on my—the work you’ve been assigned.”
Something about the way he kept looking around seemed like he was either thinking that they weren’t alone, or that she wasn’t. Or he was expecting someone and didn’t want her to know about the meeting—or whatever they were doing here. Instead of answering him, she asked him what he was doing there. “I mean, as far as I understand it, the overtime rule didn’t just apply to me. It applied to you as well. But now that I think about it, you rarely work forty hours a week as it is.” She glared at him. “That didn’t answer my question, by the way. What are you doing here?” “I come and go as I please, young lady. And I certainly do not answer to a second rate pathologist like you.” She watched as he looked at the clock that was behind him for the second time in as many minutes. “I want you to leave here this moment. I will not say it again.” “Good. I thought it was boring the first time you said it.” Kelly turned her back on him, shocked that she’d said that to him. “I’m working on that skull you had me working on this morning. Or I guess, yesterday morning. Nothing you told me was correct, by the way. What’s up with that mess?” Leaving him there, she decided that it felt pretty good to be able to say what she wanted. Not that she wanted to make a habit of talking back to someone. Kelly was exhausted yet happy, and that was what she was going to say if someone brought her to task about it. “I said for you to— What have you done? Why have you changed the specs on what you were given? Damn it. You’re going to ruin everything.” When he reached for the skull, she stepped in front of the table to block him from touching it. “You will tear up that monstrosity right now and do what you were told. This minute. You are going to regret this.
I’m telling you right now that—” “Is there something going on here? Something that I need to be aware of? Shamus, you asked me to come here at this ungodly hour. What did you want?” She didn’t know the voice, nor the man when she peeked at him around Shamus. “Shamus, leave that young woman alone and answer me.” “Well, I was hoping to do this without her here, but since she has broken the rules—again, I might add—then this will be as good a time as ever. This is Miss Kelly Roman, the bane of my existence. I wanted you to see the work she’s been doing.” Shamus put his hands on her shoulders as if to move her. “Just let me show you what she’s been doing. Oh my, Kelly, what are you doing with my bust?” “What? Your bust? I’ve been working on this all evening. We just had a conversation about it not ten seconds ago. Did you hit your head again when you fell? You’re forever falling on the floor in those ridiculous shoes you wear.” He didn’t have to move her—she turned herself to see what he’d been talking about. “This is my head. You’ve only just arrived here, as I said.” “No. No, you don’t have that right at all. I’ve been here all night. You just came and told me that you were taking my work.” Shamus looked at the stranger. “I was working on this head when she came in here yelling at me to give her the head. I was bent over it working to make sure that we had the correct head. I wanted you to see the notes that she has. They’re nothing like the ones we were given at the meeting, sir.”
Kelly knew she was going to be in deep trouble here. What bothered her most was the way that the stranger was watching her, like she was something he’d caught in a trap. Turning back to Shamus, she tried to salvage her job. “What meeting? I didn’t write those notes. You handed them to me at nine o’clock this morning and told me that what the chief of police was saying the skull was supposed to be was written there. It’s not right, as I’m sure anyone above second rate can see.” Kelly looked at the man again and dawning became clear. “You’re the new chief of police, I’m assuming. You’re here to look at…I’m assuming he told you that I wasn’t playing ball with the new department head, and brought you in here to see the original skull that I’d been working on. The one that wasn’t right from the start.” “Mr. Van was at the meeting this morning when I called everyone in to tell them about the case that was sitting on my desk for six months before I was hired.” He looked her up and down before continuing. “Mr. Van told me that you were out the night before with your boyfriend, and refused to get up and come into a mandatory meeting. Is that correct?” She looked at Shamus, then at her bust. As much as she hated to admit it, she was finished. Not because he told her that she was fired, but because she didn’t have it in her to try and salvage her job every day she had to work here. Not only that, but she just couldn’t bring herself to defend herself to a stranger who was looking at her like he was. Shamus was forever putting her on the spot about this or that.
Whatever was said by her now would only make her look worse than the picture that Shamus had painted of her. It was a clear case of the boss said this and his employee didn’t say what he wanted to hear. Nodding once, she picked up her bust and crushed it against the table. It was her work, and she wasn’t going to leave it behind to be used by either of these pricks. Going out the door, making sure that she knocked against the table enough that the bust fell to the floor, she left the room. There was cursing and laughter, but she didn’t turn to see who was doing what. Kelly was just too pissed off to care anymore. Gathering up her things, she emptied her locker—there wasn’t much in it anyway—then grabbed her jacket and went to the timeclock. It was hard to see through her tears, but she refused to let them fall where anyone here could see them. Clocking out, no one tried to stop her. When she was checked for anything she shouldn’t be taking with her at the front door, she handed her badge to Joe, the security officer on duty. “Kelly? What’s going on?” Shaking her head, she told Joe, the nicest security guard she’d worked within the eight years she’d been here, that she’d had enough. “This have anything to do with his lordship?” “I have to go now. All right? I’ll come over later, when I can, and tell you about what happened.” He nodded at her this time and she left. Kelly was nearly to her car when her cell phone started ringing. Taking it out of her pocket, she turned it off and took it back to Joe, as it was a company phone. He handed her a receipt not only for the phone but also the lock that she’d turned in and her badge.
It would be just like his lordship to sue her for not turning her crap in. Both of them, she and Joe, knew it. She was halfway home when her personal cell phone rang. Turning it off—she was too distraught to talk to anyone at the moment—Kelly made her way home. Pulling into the drive to the apartment complex she was living in, she had a moment of fear. Two cruisers with their lights on were near her front door. Then she realized they were there for the couple that lived next door to her in the apartment she rented. Domestic call, one of the officers told her when she asked if she could go into her home. Giving her permission, he asked her to look in her front room for any kind of bullet holes, as the couple had been trying to kill one another. After checking and finding nothing, she told him and then locked herself into her place. The tears were coming almost as soon as the lock engaged. Kelly was good at what she did. She’d been doing sculpting for the police force for several years before she started working with the bureau. She wasn’t employed by the Feds, but she did do work for them when they had bones that they couldn’t identify. The extra money was good, and she had banked every penny of it for her first house. Shamus had hated that she did theirs over the work that he wanted her to do. Actually, Shamus hated everything that she did. Tonight had been the last straw. It was him or her, and she knew enough to know that she’d never be able to work with someone like him again. Changing into her soft jammies, she sat on the couch and turned on the television. If there had been a murder going on in front of her, she wouldn’t have noticed. Her mind kept going back to the skull she’d been working on, as well as Shamus trying to take credit for her work.
When someone knocked on her door, she thought about ignoring it but got up when the pounding became harder. Pulling the door open, she glared at the person standing there. “What the heck do you want? I think I’ve had enough crapola happen to me for one day, how about you?” The man, the chief of police, asked if he could come in. She moved back from the door. Kelly waved her hand to show him he could enter, but he just stared at her. “You have to invite me in, Kelly.” It took her a full minute to figure out what he was saying to her. “Yes, I’m a vampire. And if you’d allow me to come in, I’ll explain things to you. I also want to talk to you about Shamus Van. I have some questions about his work ethic, as well as some of the things that he—” “No.” He cocked a brow at her. “No, that’s what I said. No. I’m not inviting you in so that you can do whatever you want in here. I’d like to think that I’m strong enough to fight you off, but we both know that since you’re more than likely older than my parents, you have shit going on that I can’t even understand right now. What do you want?” “I came to see you about the remains that had been found. I swear to you, that’s all I need for the moment.” She just stood there, tapping her foot. “All right—that’s the truth. I can’t lie to you anyway, but I did go there to see what you’d come up with on it. I had no idea that Shamus had sabotaged your working there. But in the three weeks, I’ve been working as chief, I’ve heard more about your bad work habits than I have about all the other men that are working for me.
He’s a little bastard if you ask me.” “I didn’t. But that’s not a bad description of him. Why did you allow him to go on telling you that he’d done my work? Or for that matter, why did you have to go there with him? He hates me, you know.” The chief, she thought his name was Bancroft Dalton, told her that Shamus did hate her. “Well, that was harsh. Couldn’t you have just said you didn’t know? Not that it matters. I’m not going to work for him or you anymore. I have had enough of being treated as a— What did you just say to me?” “Which time?” She glared at him. “Well, we have had quite an extensive conversation while I’m standing out here where people can see me. Perhaps you could narrow it down just a little.” “You said that you can’t lie to me.” He said that he couldn’t. “I don’t know that many vampires—just two of them—but I do know a great many shifters. When they say crapola like that it means that they’re mated or something. Please tell me that isn’t what it means to you as a vamp.” “I’m afraid it does.” She slammed the door in his face, and she heard him laughing. That ticked her off enough that she opened the door again to yell at him. Mrs. Miller, the woman across the hall from her, was speaking to Bancroft. “Yes, ma’am. We’ve had a little spat, and I’m trying my best to make it up to her. She’s very stubborn.” “A woman needs to be stubborn nowadays. If they’re not, then men will think they’re nothing more than the rug under their stinky feet. You should have come on your knees with flowers, young man. It never hurts to be bringing her pretties, even when you’ve not screwed up enough to have you on the other side of the door.” Mrs. Miller looked at her. “You’re home late, honey.
You might want to let this man in to keep you safe. There are all kinds of monsters out there that can hurt you.” “I would never hurt her.” Mrs. Miller told him to see that he didn’t. “Yes, ma’am. I wouldn’t hurt her for any reason. I just want to speak to her for a little while here. She’s stubborn, as I said.” “Get in here, you fool.” He stepped over the threshold, and Kelly had the wind knocked out of her when his magic or whatever hit her. “You did something. What did you do? I’m telling you right now, I’m not going to be putting up with any shenanigans. I have enough crapola going on in my life without you interfering.” “Shenanigans? Crapola? How old are you?” He laughed, then sat down where she’d been on the couch. “Since I’m assuming you don’t want to talk about us, then I’m going to talk to you about the skull you were working on. You were told that it wasn’t a small child, I’m assuming.” “He said that it was that of a small adult female. When I started on it, having that in mind, it wouldn’t work at all. And there is never going to be an us, you idiot. I don’t want anyone in my life that is going to be there at the end of the day to tell me what a lousy job I’m doing.” He asked her who had done that to her. “No one that you’d know. I’m not going to work for Shamus anyway. The Feds have offered me a full-time position, and I’m going to take it. I’ll have my own office.
I’ll work only on cases for them, and I’ll not have to put up with Shamus.” “I don’t want to burst your bubble or anything, Kelly, but there are Shamuses everywhere you look.” She knew that but didn’t bother answering him. “I would like for you to come back and work for the city in this case. If at the end of the case, you still don’t want to work for us, then I will give you a glowing recommendation and help you move to whatever station they put you in. However, you have to keep in mind that as of the moment we met, where you go, I go. I won’t keep you from your work, but I can’t live without you now that I’ve found you.” Kelly sat down on the chair and thought about what he was saying. She needed a job. While she had been offered the job at the federal level, she wasn’t sure she wanted to take that either. It would mean a move, one that she would have to make if she wanted the job. There were just too many things that were depending on her being local. The most important thing was the little house she’d been dreaming of since she’d been about ten. “I’ll work on the remains, but if Shamus so much as breathes in my direction, I’ll walk out, and you’ll never find me. I know enough to know that since you’ve not touched me, finding me would be difficult. I’m not saying impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy. And I won’t be. Easy, I mean. I don’t want this at all.” He told her that he understood.
“When I tell you to back the heck off, you’d better do it too.” “I will. I won’t rush you.” He stood up when she did. “I need this done as soon as you can get to it. There are a great many people that need to know if it’s their child or not. I have made sure that you have everything you need, including the correct paperwork. Please, could you come back with me today and work on it? Shamus Van is no longer working for the city.” ~*~ Bancroft looked over the paperwork in front of him without seeing it. She was only a few floors below him, and he wasn’t allowed to go and talk to her. Not even to see if she had everything she needed. Kelly had told him, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t want him breathing on her. Bancroft thought that she was the most beautiful, refreshing woman he’d ever met. “Sir? You asked me to tell you when Dr. Roman needed something. She’s asking for the key. Since I don’t know what that might mean in her department, I thought you might know.” He didn’t but got up to go see what sort of key hadn’t been turned in by Van. “Something about supplies. I know that she’d need them, but as for what it might be, I’m clueless. Did you know that she can carry a gun, but won’t?” “No, I didn’t. Why would—? Did you say that she was Doctor Roman?” He said that it was on her new name badge. Bancroft made a mental note to find her file and look it over. “I had no idea. I need to get to know all the people that work for me a little better. Do you have a good idea about the men and women here?” “Yes, sir. I’ve been the mailman here for nearly twelve years. I know them all.” They were in the elevator when he turned to him. “My name is Roger Dodger. I know what you’re going to ask—did my parents hate me or something?
I believe that they might have. Everyone just calls me Dodge.” “I’d like for you to work with me for a while. Perhaps forever. I need someone that can keep track of me. Do you think you can do that? You’ll be working with me at my home. As I said, I need someone that can keep track of me and my day.” Dodge’s chest looked as if it expanded three times as he started nodding. “Good. I’d like that. I’ll find you an office someplace where I live, and we can work on your duties while we get acquainted. Ask for Jamison when you get there, and he’ll introduce you to the staff. It’s important that you get to know all of them as well. All right?” “An office too? My goodness.” The elevator opened. Bancroft heard the cursing, at least Kelly’s version of it before Dodge did, and while Dodge was afraid, Bancroft thought it funny. Whatever had happened since he left her, she wasn’t the least bit shy about venting about it. “Doc, I asked, and he said he didn’t know. He’s come down to help you.” “He took the key. Not only that, but he must have changed out the frigging lock so that I couldn’t get to the items that I need. I hate that man.” She glared at Bancroft. “I thought I told you to go away. You’re a pain in the bottom.” “I would love to hear where you’ve picked up the colorful way you were cursing before I got here. What’s in there that you need? I’m not saying that you don’t need it, but I have a way of getting into the room when no one else can.” She said she needed calipers, as well as depth markers. “I’m not sure what the second one is, but I can get in there without a key.”
He looked at Dodge. “I would appreciate it if you said nothing about what you’re about to see or hear. I’m a very old vampire.” “I knew that already, sir.” When Bancroft only shook his head, he disappeared from the room they were in into the locker room. Kelly wasn’t going to be any happier about the state of the room than she was about being locked out, he was afraid. Turning the lock, he stood in front of the doorway before she could enter. As soon as she looked around him, he could tell that not only was she royally pissed off, but hurt too. He could only stand there and watch her as she dealt with the emotions on her own. Bancroft had promised not to touch her until she was ready. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been gathering these things up so that we’d have a good working station? Years of hitting garage sales and auctions. Now, look at it. It’s all but ruined. Why would he do this?” She started picking things up and putting salvageable things into the boxes that were there. He asked her if he could help. “I need all the glasses put into a box if you don’t mind. I guess it doesn’t matter if the lenses are in them. But I do need the glasses.” As he picked them up, tossing out the lenses on the ones that were shattered, Dodge started separating the depth markers, or landmarks, she’d called them—little dots of dowel that would not just measure the thickness of the skin, but also keep it all evened out. He was a little disconcerted when he noticed that there were hundreds of eyeballs looking at him from all over the room when he finished with the glasses.
It took them nearly two hours to get the place back in shape. There had been a great deal of destruction of the equipment. He made himself a mental note to figure out the cost of each thing and charge Van for it. Bancroft was also going to make sure that Kelly had a cash allowance to spend on things that she picked up where she could. She was more than likely saving the city a great deal of money by picking up things like glasses and wigs that didn’t come from a wholesaler. He had security look for the key to the room, and it wasn’t found, so he called someone in to fix that. Calling a locksmith to have the locks changed seemed to cheer Kelly up. When he walked into the room where he’d first met her, he couldn’t believe the skull work that she’d gotten done already. “It would have been a great deal better had I had all the skull, as well as more bones,” Bancroft said that he had them. “Van told me that the police had only found the partial skull. Why wasn’t—? Never mind. I can answer that one on my own. He didn’t want me to have them. May I have them please?” She was upset again, and he didn’t know what to do to comfort her. His beast wanted to find Van and tear him up. But that would only piss her off more, he thought. Bancroft went to the storage room and picked up the box of bones. He did have a moment of fear that Van had gotten to them as well, but they were still in the evidence bag that had been in his office up until yesterday morning. “I’m going to reconstruct the body, then I can have a better idea of what I’m working with. Did anyone try and do any kind of DNA off the bones?” He pulled out the paperwork that had been with the evidence bags and handed it to her. “Seven months ago?
And you’ve not heard back from them? What the heck, Chief Dalton. Are you slacking on your job as well?” He nearly laughed again, thinking that she was so adorable, but thought better of it. She was in a mood. While he didn’t know all her moods yet, he was sure that laughing at her might get him hurt. “I’ve only been here for three weeks. I did mention that, didn’t I?” She growled at him, and he let go of a burst of laughter. “How about I go and call someone to find out what is going on with the results? That will give you plenty of time to work on that growl you have. You need to have it come from the belly. That way, it doesn’t sound so wimpy.” He left before she built up the nice head of steam that he could see coming. Christ, she was beautiful. The fact that she didn’t hold back in speaking to him made him feel like he could spend the day pissing her off just to be delighted by her reactions. Bancroft had a feeling that mate or not, she’d murder him in his sleep, so he would hold back on that fun for a while. Bancroft had to call three different places before he was able to run down the tests that he wanted. The first company hung up on him, telling him that they’d never work for the city again so long as Shamus Van was there. He didn’t get a chance to tell them that he didn’t work there anymore, but he did make himself a note to email them, as well as pay the overdue balance that the city had with them.
The second testing office that he called had been out of business for a year. If he was going to make this work, he was going to have to update the phone numbers that were in the old fashioned Rolodex that was on his desk. By the time he got the right place, several hours had passed, and he was exhausted. Going to the sublevels again, it occurred to him that he could have called Kelly to let her know, but he was glad that he hadn’t when he found her. She’d fallen asleep at the messiest desk he’d ever seen and was snoring slightly. Turning around when Dodge said his name softly, he was astonished at how much work she’d gotten done while he’d been gone. The bones were laid out to form a body. He could see that she’d even marked a couple of places where bones were missing as to what they were. Walking around the table that she’d used, Bancroft could see things that he’d bet no other human could have. This wasn’t just a case of a missing child, as he’d been told. This was murder.