J. D. Robb
Ritual in Death
Eve Dallas and husband Roarke – #33
One owes respect to the living; to the dead one owes only the truth.
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
– JOSEPH CONRAD
Her feet were killing her. And made her imagine traveling back in time, hunting down whoever had invented stiletto heels, and beating the crap out of him.
What was the point of them other than throwing a woman off balance, making it next to impossible to run, and inducing foot cramps?
The question occupied Eve’s mind as she tuned out the bulk of the party conversation buzzing around her like a hive of drunk hornets. What if one of the guests at this shindig went off and… stabbed somebody in the eye with a shrimp fork, for instance? How was she supposed to take him down dressed like this? And a foot pursuit in these stilts? Forget about it.
It was a hell of a getup for a cop, to her way of thinking. The flimsy excuse for a dress left most of her exposed. And she glittered. You couldn’t have diamonds hanging all over you and blend.
Of course, you couldn’t go to any sort of snazzy function with Roarke and blend.
The only advantage to the ridiculous damn shoes that she could see was the fact that they boosted her up so that she and Roarke were eye-to-eye.
They were stupendous eyes, bold and brilliantly blue. A look from them could give her a tingle in the belly-even after nearly two years of marriage. The rest of him didn’t suck either, she reflected. The black silk fall of hair framed a billion-dollar jackpot of a face. Even now, as he glanced at her that sculpted, delicious mouth curved up in a slow, secret smile.
All she had to do, Eve reminded herself, was tolerate the goddamn shoes a couple more hours, then she’d have that mouth-and the rest of the package-to herself. Screaming arches were probably a small price to pay.
“Darling.” Roarke took a glass of champagne from the waiter passing them, and handed it to her. Since the glass he’d traded it for had still been half full, she interpreted it as a signal to tune back in.
Okay, okay, she thought. She was here as Roarke’s spouse. It wasn’t as if he demanded she gear up like this and attend excruciatingly boring parties every day of the week. He was smooth about it-and as the man had more money than God and nearly as much power and position-the least she could do was play the part when they were doing the public couple thing.
Their hostess, one Maxia Carlyle, glided over in some kind of floaty number. The wealthy socialite was-by her own words-kicking into New York for a few days to catch up with friends. All of whom, Eve supposed, were wandering around Maxia’s expansive tri-level hotel suite gorging on canapés and sloshing down champagne.
“I haven’t had a minute to talk to you.” Maxia put her hand on Roarke’s arm, tipped her face to his.
They looked, Eve decided, like an ad for the rich and the gorgeous.
“And how’ve you been, Maxi?”
“Oh, you know how it goes.” She laughed, shrugging one perfect bare shoulder. “It’s been about four years, hasn’t it, since we’ve seen each other. Never seem to land in the same place at the same time, so I’m especially glad you could make it tonight. And you,” she added with a sparkling smile for Eve. “I was hoping I’d get the chance to meet you. Roarke’s cop.”
“Mostly the NYPSD considers me theirs.”
“I can’t even imagine it. What it must be like. Your work must be so fascinating and exciting. Investigating murders and murderers.”
“It has its moments.”
“More than moments, I’m sure. I’ve seen you on screen from time to time. The Icove case in particular.”
And wasn’t that one going to dog her forever? Eve mused.
“I have to say you don’t look anything like a police-woman.” Maxia’s perfect eyebrows arched as she gave Eve’s dress a quick scan. “Leonardo dresses you, doesn’t he?”
“No, I usually do it myself.”
Roarke gave her a little elbow poke. “Eve’s oldest friend is married to Leonardo. Eve often wears him.”
“Mavis Freestone is your oldest friend?” Now, in addition to interest and curiosity, considerable warmth infused Maxia’s face. “I love her music, but my niece is a slathering fan. I took her to one of Mavis’s concerts, in London, and arranged for a backstage pass. She was so sweet with my niece, and I’ve been the undisputed champion of aunts ever since.”
She laughed, touched Eve’s arm. “You do have a fascinating life. Married to Roarke, friends with Mavis and Leonardo, and chasing killers. I suppose it’s mostly head work, isn’t it? Studying evidence, looking for clues. People like me glamorize it, think about policework the way it is on screen and at the vids. All danger and action, chasing madmen down dark alleys and firing off your weapon, when in reality it’s brain and paperwork.”
“Yeah.” Eve controlled the urge to smirk. “That’s about it.”
“Being married to Roarke’s action enough. Are you still dangerous?” Maxia asked him.
“Domesticated.” He lifted Eve’s hand, kissed it. “Entirely.”
“I don’t believe that for a minute. Oh, there’s Anton. I need to snatch him away and bring him over to meet you.”
Eve took a long, long drink of champagne.
“We’ll meet this Anton, mingle another twenty,” Roarke said, the faint hint of Ireland in his voice, “and slip out and away.”
Eve felt a tingle of joy, right down to her numbed toes. “Seriously?”
“I never intended to stay above an hour or so. And certainly owe you for the points I’m making by bringing a Homicide cop to the party.”
“It’s all paperwork,” Eve said dryly.
He skimmed a finger down her arm, where a knife had slashed only days before. “Yes, your work is nothing but tedium. But I have to agree with Maxi. You don’t look very coplike tonight.”
“Good thing I don’t have to chase down any psycho killers. I’d fall off these stupid shoes and embarrass myself.” She curled her toes in them-or attempted to while she flicked a hand at the short, choppy crop of brown hair she’d recently taken the scissors to herself. Old priceless diamonds dripped from her ears. “I don’t get parties like this. People standing around. Talk, talk, talk. Why do they have to get all dressed up to do that?”
“To show off.”
She thought about that over another sip of wine. “I guess that’s it. At least I don’t have to gear up like this for the shower deal for Louise. Still, another party. More talk, talk, talk.”
“It’s a ritual, after all. When a friend’s about to marry, her friends gather together, with gifts, and… well, I have no idea what happens then.”
“If it’s anything like mine, some of them drink till they puke, and others strip it off and dance.”
“Sorry I’ll miss it.”
“Liar.” But she grinned at him.
“Here we are!” Maxia came back, towing a portly, mustachioed man somewhere on the shady side of sixty. On his arm like a whippy vine twined a woman well shy of thirty with full, pouty lips, a bored expression, and a short red dress that covered very little of her expansive breasts.
“You simply must meet Anton and his lovely companion. It’s Satin, isn’t it?”
“Silk,” the bored blonde corrected.
“Of course it is.”
Eve caught the quick glint in Maxia’s eyes and understood she’d mistaken the name deliberately. And liked her better for it.
“Actually we met a few years ago.” Anton stuck out a wide, pudgy hand. “At Wimbledon.”
“It’s nice to see you again. My wife, Eve.”
“Yes, the American cop. A pleasure, Detective.”