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A Lot Like Love (FBI.US Attorney #2)

By´╝ÜJulie James

or six years, and he found Davis to be a fair boss and a straight shooter. And the entire time Nick had worked in the Chicago field office, he'd never heard of Davis asking anyone for a favor. Which made it virtually impossible to say no.

He sighed. "I'm not saying yes. But out of curiosity, what's the assignment?"

Davis sensed the beginnings of his capitulation and leaned forward in his chair. "I'd call it a consulting job, of sorts. There's been an unexpected development in an investigation being run jointly by the financial crimes and organized crimes divisions and I need to bring on someone with your level of undercover experience. Things might get a little tricky."

"What kind of case is it?" Nick asked.

"Money laundering."

"Who's in charge of the investigation?"

"Seth Huxley."

Nick had seen Huxley around the office, but probably had exchanged less than ten words with him. His first-and only-impression had been that Huxley seemed very . . . organized. If Nick remembered correctly, Huxley had come to the Bureau by way of the law program and had gone to some Ivy League school before joining the financial crimes division. "What do you need me to do?"

"I'll let Huxley fill you in on the details of the case. We're meeting him in a minute," Davis said. "I've assured him that you're not being brought on board to take over-he's been working on this case for a couple months now."

Nick realized that his agreement had been somewhat of a formality the entire time. "So why do you need me?"

"To make sure Huxley isn't in over his head. It's his first undercover assignment. I don't like holding back an agent, and Huxley hasn't given me any reason to do that here. Everyone has to have his or her first undercover assignment sometime. But the U.S. attorney has her eye on this case, and that means there's no room for error."

"Is there ever room for error in any of your cases?"

Davis acknowledged that with a grin. "No. But this time, there's particularly no room for error. It's the way I classify things: basically no room for error, no room for error, and particularly no room for error. It's very technical."

Nick thought about something Davis had just said. "You mentioned that the U.S. attorney is watching the case. Is it part of the Martino investigation?"

Davis nodded. "Now you understand why there can't be any mistakes."

He didn't need to say anything further. Three months ago, a new U.S. attorney, Cameron Lynde, had been appointed after a scandal that resulted in the arrest and resignation of her predecessor. Ever since Lynde had been appointed, she'd made the Martino investigation her top priority. As such, it was the top priority of the FBI's Chicago field office as well.

For years, Roberto Martino had run the largest crime syndicate in Chicago-his organization was responsible for nearly one-third of all drug trafficking in the city, and his people extorted, bribed, threatened, and killed anyone who stood in their way. Over the course of the last few months, however, the FBI had arrested over thirty members of Martino's gang, including Roberto Martino himself. Both the attorney general and the director of the FBI had declared the arrests to be a major victory in the war on crime.

Since he'd been working undercover on Operation Fivestar for the last six months, Nick hadn't been involved in any of the Martino arrests. Some of the other agents had received all the glory on that front, a fact that somewhat rankled his competitive ego.

"Want to find out more?" Davis asked, a knowing gleam in his eyes.

Hell, it was less than a week, Nick figured. Over the next few days, he could lend his much-learned undercover expertise to a junior agent, score brownie points with his boss, kick some gangster ass, and still be in New York by Sunday to sing "Happy Birthday" to his mother. From where he stood, it was a win-win situation all around.

"All right," Nick nodded. "Let's go meet Huxley."

AGENT HUXLEY WAS already waiting for them in the conference room. Nick did a quick assessment of his new partner: carefully groomed blond hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and an expensive three-piece suit. His eyes held on the article of clothing Huxley wore underneath his suit jacket.

A vest.

And not the bulletproof kind. A sweater-vest. As in, Huxley wasn't wearing just a suit; he had this whole ensemble going: dark brown pants and jacket, crisp pinstriped shirt, V-neck vest, and tan silk tie.

Nick, on the other hand, was dressed in his standard-issue, no-frills gray suit, white shirt, and navy tie. Because men who grew up in Brooklyn didn't do ensembles. And they certainly didn't do sweater-vests. True, it was early February in Chicago and about ten degrees outside, so he supposed the vest served some sort of functional purpose in keeping Huxley warm, but still. In Nick's opinion, the only accessories an FBI agent should pair with a suit were a shoulder harness and gun. Maybe handcuffs, depending on the formality of the occasion.

Nick nodded at Huxley and said a quick greeting as he took the seat opposite him at the marble conference table. Davis sat at the head of the table and got things started. "So I told Nick how you've been working on the Eckhart investigation for the past couple of months."

At least he had a name now, and one he was familiar with-a name many people in Chicago were familiar with. "Xander Eckhart? The restaurant guy?"

"Nightclubs and restaurants, actually," Huxley corrected him. He adjusted his glasses, sitting straight in his chair. "Eckhart owns three restaurants and four bars in the Chicago area, all expensive, upscale establishments. The crown jewel is a French restaurant, Bordeaux, located just west of the Loop. It sits on the river and has an exclusive VIP-only wine bar that caters to a wealthy clientele."

"I've already filled Nick in on the fact that the investig