Chapter Title: Chapter One: We Meet Again
Note: I like to thank every who read and also left reviews. I have not forgotten this or any of the other stories. They are all still in the works. I am always encouraged by the reviews that I get. As always I thank my Beta reader Sam.
Disclaimer: I don't in any way own the series CSI. Those are the sole property of Anthony E. Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment.
An angel's smile is what you sell
You promise me heaven, then put me through hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion's a prison, you can't break free
You're a loaded gun
There's nowhere to run
No one can save me
The damage is done
By Bon Jovi
God, her body hurt. At that moment Star wished she'd taken her chances against the dubious court system rather than go through what she was going through now.
At the time her only thought had been to stay out of jail, but now she didn't know if she would be alive to see the next year. It hadn't been hard to convince the Mafia heads in power that she hadn't turned against them. For all intents and purposes, it appeared now that it wasn't the Italian Mafia that had been the ones to set her up for the fall, but she'd already agreed to help the prosecution to get the goods on every aspect of the crimes that they were committing. She was now so far into the mess that she didn't know if she would ever be able to get herself out.
She'd made a connection with a valuable member of the family that dealt in the import and export of every type of illegal goods, from narcotics to stolen jewelry. Frankie Mala was a real time artist who worked for Sonny Sassone, using his paintings and sculptures as a means to move these items without being caught. The association was encouraged not only by the DA's office but the head of the Messer and Sassone families.
Of course all her movements were orchestrated by the District Attorney's office, which were keeping a watchful eye. They weren't the only eyes on her however. Frankie was a very jealous lover and didn't like to share unless he decided it.
Unfortunately for her, it didn't matter to the DA how much of a sadistic bastard Frankie was. The man had a wide range of fetishes from video taping them in bed to domination. He wasn't just into dominating, brutalizing would be a better term, but the marks were never anywhere that someone would be able to see. He left her face, arms, legs and back alone wanting her to wear dresses that would show off her best assets. That was the very reason she was still in bed at four in the afternoon.
Star knew she needed to get out of bed; Frankie had a high profile reception to go to that night; it was featuring some of his work. He would also grease palms and make political connections. She was going to need to be there, not only for Frankie but also as another extension of her spy work.
With a groan she rolled out of bed, unsteadily the curly-haired woman made her way to the bathroom to begin getting ready for another day. If God were watching maybe he would take pity on her today.
The Police Commissioner's Ball was in full swing when Mac Taylor made his appearance with his companion for the night. Dr. Peyton Driscoll was looking the part for the affair, dressed in a sleek dress of blue silk. Her dark hair was tied back in an intricate knot to show off her slender neck. Her arm was linked through his in a way that intimated that they were together.
Mac surveyed the room quickly hoping to recognize a familiar face. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Sheldon with Lindsay Monroe, the lab's newest Criminal Investigator. They were standing with Don Flack and Jennifer Angell.
Mac steered Peyton over to them, evading mingling clusters of attendees.
"Hey, Mac. I didn't think I'd see you here." Sheldon was mildly surprised to see his friend... and with a woman on his arm. Not just any woman either but the Coroner's newest Medical Examiner.
Mac's usual dour expression lightened marginally. "It was a non-negotiable invitation."
"That's not true. You could've declined." Peyton responded playfully.
Mac gave her an amused look, saying nothing, he knew that what the British woman said was true, but he had needed to do something to get thoughts of a woman he'd only met once out of his head. Going out with the pretty brown-eyed woman had seemed a good way of forgetting the gorgeous, curly-haired suspect who'd crossed his path six months before.
Don eyed the couple with interest, evaluating if this was a step in the right direction for his friend. "It's good to see you out of the office and not just in the park with Maggie."
Lindsay tried to hide her own surprised expression at her supervisor's almost complete change of demeanor out of the lab. The mention of another female in his life made the young woman's eyes widen. Before she could say anything to embarrass herself, Sheldon voice broke over her attempt to ask a question, "And how is my favorite girl?"
Normally, Mac would have shied away from any mention of his personal life but Maggie was different. If it hadn't been for her, he wouldn't even have made it through losing his wife. The dark curly-haired, blue-eyed, six years old was the glue that had held him together. She was the image of her mother, but with her father's personality.
The three women stood fascinated, waiting to hear a little about the mysterious man that ran the New York City Crime Lab. Peyton's face held a look of particular interest as this was the first bit of information that was un-work related from the allusive man.
Mac shifted self-consciously as five pairs of eyes watched and waited for his response. "She's good. Just tonight she was wondering when Uncles Donnie, Sheldon and Danny would visit." The man's usually harsh features softened at talking about his little girl. "She made it clear that if you three didn't stop by soon she was just going to have to place a call to your superiors."
The women were amused by the child's threat. Little did they know that the threat was said in all seriousness. The two men however knew and grimaced at the thought.
"Mac, I've been at the lab for eight months now. This the first time I've heard that you had any children. So when do I get to meet her? " Lindsay quizzed with unintentional callousness.
Mac's face almost instantly closed off, he knew that Lindsay was just curious about her colleagues but he safeguarded his private life. However much his friends wanted him to become more social, he always had to be mindful of how Maggie would take such things. "The crime lab isn't a place for small children who aren't involved in crimes."
Don wanted to shove the blonde woman out one of the many windows. Jennifer, standing next to her, stared, unable to believe the younger woman's ill-mannered inquiry. Sheldon leaned in close to Lindsay whispering in her ear, "Lindsay, Mac shields Maggie from knowing to much about his work".
"Well, I need to use the lady's room," Peyton announced, breaking the uncomfortable air that had manifested after Mac's curt response. Jennifer voiced similar needs, nudging Lindsay as she passed. She got the hint and followed the other two in search of the ladies room.
Sheldon fiddled with his drink, a wistful look falling across his normally smiling countenance at seeing that his glass was empty. "Either of you want a drink; my treat?" The dark skinned man inquired, gesturing to the bar at the other end of the large room.
"No, thanks, Doc. I'm on call tonight." Don sighed with disappointment.
Mac gave Sheldon a tiny smile in an attempt to get back into the spirit of the event, "Sure, Hawkes."
As the former Medical Examiner walked away, Don also strove to lighten the mood. With dancing blue eyes he turned his attention to the one time Chicagoan. "So. How long have you been going out with the lovely Dr. Driscoll?"
"Flack, you know I'm not one to kiss and tell," Was Mac's swift comeback.
The men were facing away from the crowded room when the New York Police Commissioner and his wife steadily made their way over to the two, followed closely by another couple. "Ahh... Detective Taylor, Detective Flack, I'd like you to meet Mr. Frankie Mala and his lovely companion, Star." The Commissioner jovially introduced his company. Both dark haired detectives turned at the older man's voice just in time to greet the newcomers.
"It's a pleasure." Charm oozed out of, Frankie's voice.
A look of nervousness briefly flashed in Star's green eyes before it vanished. "Always nice to see some of New York's finest out of uniform."
Don gave a forced, token smile in response. "Have you seen many out of uniform?"
Star just tilted her head a little giving the young detective the once over, meeting his eyes, a bawdy smile spread across her face. "Only the ones I've seen tonight."
Mac didn't even attempt a smile, though he was unable to take his gaze off of the curly-haired woman. He wasn't the only one either. The statuesque brunette was a picture of both classic beauty and sexual vamp, with her hair perched on top of her head with jeweled pins, leaving her long neck bare. The red dress she wore hugged her curves as if it was a part of her, held up by a string looping around her neck. The way it cinched at her hips, molding over the curves before drifting down straight, made him wonder how she could walk, though when she moved it was apparent how easy it was for her: there were slits on either side that went all the way to just below her hips and when she turned just right a long bare expanse from her neck down to her lower back was revealed. Any attempt he'd had to get rid of her memory was all in vain.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Mala. Miss Berlusano." Mac greeted in a neutral voice.
The artist looked from his lover's face to that of the unsmiling man. It seemed to him that both were trying to conceal a physical attraction to the other; it was exceedingly obvious to a man who produced art and dealt with some of New York's more unsavory sorts. The deep possessive side of his self surfaced, clouding the objectives for that night's excursion.
"Commissioner, we have many people to meet." Frankie took Star's wrist in a punishing grip, half-leading, half-dragging her off. They almost ran head-long into a blonde individual as they passed each other.
Danny Messer avoided direct eye contact as he walked by; he gave Star a nervous look as he passed. "So how's it going?" the younger man asked as he came up to Mac and Don, sliding his hands into his front pockets of his dress pants.
Don grimaced in annoyance, keeping a watchful eye on the couple as they were introduced to some prominent people. "What does it look like?"
Mac had seen the look that his young protégé had given the woman even as he attempted to regain control over his urges. "Do you know her, Danny?"
The young blonde jerked as if he'd been caught reading a dirty magazine. "What?"
The ex-marine just gave the younger man a hard look.
"She's a distant cousin. I don't really know her, just... you know... seen her a few times when I was a kid." Danny shrugged his shoulders, looking uncomfortable with the conversation and the fact that he was wearing a tux.
"Look who we found in the ladies room!" Lindsay announced as she, with the rest of the female contingent, returned. Aiden had joined the others, walking up to stand next to her partner. She slipped an arm through Danny's with practiced ease.
"Who was the lovely lady that the Commissioner was introducing?" Sheldon asked as he appeared with a tray of drinks. He had anticipated the arrival of Danny and Aiden and added to the order, getting something for the whole group.
The women of the group looked curiously at their companions.
"If you want to call a former murder suspect lovely," Don commented as he took the proffered glass of soda.
The look on Mac's face had everyone dropping the subject, which had effectively turned the discussion back to safer conversation: the music, weather and 'work'.
But, even trying to act normal, both Mac and Don kept a watchful eye on the Commissioner's guests. They weren't the only ones.
It had been a long night of meeting and greeting people from the upper echelon of New York's social jungle. Star's head ached from the inane talk and the loud music that was coming from the dance floor. She had done some of her best acting that night, having come across more than one of the attorneys from the District Attorney's office, especially the one that she was in direct contact with for this little game of 'spy'. At the time she had been very aware of the fact she was wearing a wire. That brief encounter, plus the one earlier with Detective Taylor, still had her nerves on edge.
Unexpectedly, Frankie swept Star into a dark secluded spot with no one around. She was surprised when he began to grill her on how she knew one of guests they'd been introduced to.
"So how do you know this Detective Taylor?" Frankie's voice was seething. He had watched the way the two had clearly avoided coming back into each other's company. It had fueled his jealousy over their apparent mutual attraction.
"Jeez, Frankie, it's not what you think. The guy's so... straight-laced and stiff-necked. I doubt he's even aware what sexuality is. I've only met him once." Inside Star was quivering with fear and loathing at her companion. She was a good actress but it was going to take more than faking pleasure in bed to convince him of her lack of interest in the stony-faced detective.
The black-haired man studied her appraisingly. "How is it then?"
Star took a drink of her wine before answering, as if the question was of little importance. "He was one of the cops that was interrogating me about Armando's death."
"Was he?" A look of speculation ignited in the artist's eyes. "Then I think it's time you establish a friendship with the Head of the NYPD crime lab." Even through his possessive nature he could see an opportunity when he saw it.
"What? You want me to sleep with him?" the curly-haired woman asked incredulously.
"If that's what it's takes to get the man either in with us or with enough dirt that he'll turn a blind eye." Frankie shrugged. He didn't like doing it, but he also had responsibilities that needed taking care of. The crime lab in the past year had become a thorn in his people's affairs.
"Frankie, I don't think that's going to work. The man obviously hates me. I don't think he's into women with an arrest record; besides, he's married." Star knew that arguing was fruitless, and it was not only going against Frankie but the DA who wanted every dirty little secret exposed.
Without warning, Frankie pushed her up against a wall, a hand encircling her neck. "Just do it, Star." He whispered harshly. He then rubbed a roughened fingertip along the side of her cheek, pushing away the hair that had fallen out of its artful tower. "I know that you can do anything that you set your mind to."
Star just nodded, looking not at the man but the finally crafted combs that had held up her hair. They were littering the floor in pieces having been stepped on by her 'boyfriend'. She known that even if she was able to do what Frankie wanted she was still going to be in trouble come the next day. The DA was going to be hacked that their expensive equipment was now just a pile of trash.
Standing at the bar, Mac let his mind drift as he waited for his order of drinks. He was only vaguely aware that another patron had stopped next to him.
"Hey there, Sailor," Star teased as she positioned herself beside the dark-haired man.
Mac gave her only a passing glance as he tried to avoid looking at the sensuous woman, also not answering to a comment that would demean his Marine background.
"You know, it's rude to ignore someone that just greeted you. Didn't your parents teach you better manners?" Star was trying her best to provoke the man. She needed to talk to him but he wasn't cooperating.
Mac continued to ignore the pretty brunette, which was difficult for she was practically plastered up against him. Finally he'd had enough, turning cold blue eyes on her. "Miss Berlusano, what is it that you want?"
Star flinched inwardly at the detective's tone and look. She didn't want to involve the man, but she didn't have a choice. Frankie was watching, which made her feel like she was on 'Candid Camera', but instead of having a good laugh at being made fun of, she was standing with the man who had tried to put her into jail. It was ironic that this, their second meeting, was also in such a formal setting. It was very disturbing that after six months she was still turned on by the stern-faced detective, which she knew she shouldn't be, considering she'd noticed a gold wedding band on his left ring finger. She had to remind herself of the consequences if she didn't play her role well; they could be painful, if not deadly.
"What I want is to dance with a handsome cop," Star purred as she slid a trembling hand over the lapel of his jacket, up to his shoulder, and behind his neck. She leaned up, placing her lips near his ear, "I need to talk to you."
Mac's body tensed at the intimacy of the woman's actions. He had barely heard a word as he felt her warm breath caress his ear. It took him a few seconds to register what she had said and just as long to have an internal debate. In the end his curiosity got the better of him; he gave a forced nod as he turned his head a bit to look into the brunette's green eyes. Mac was struck by the fierce emotions that were on display in their depths and that her hairstyle had changed drastically since he'd last spotted her in the crowd of partiers.
Placing a firm hand on the middle of her bare back, Mac guided Star away from the bar to the sparsely occupied dance floor. They easily arranged themselves; Star's hands slid up Mac's chest, over his shoulders, to wrap around just behind his neck. Mac's bigger, calloused hands were positioned with one resting on her slim waist, while the other was situated just below her breast. They melded together, from head to foot, as if they'd known each other for years.
Star wished she could just melt into the embrace but that wasn't an option; that, and the fact that her earlier pain was returning with a vengeance; the bruises were again making themselves known with each step and the press of the front of their bodies.
"You wanted to talk. So talk." Mac was uncomfortable with how well they fit together.
Stifling the pain, Star smiled, looking up into Mac's blue eyes. "Haven't you heard that patience is a virtue?"
Mac moved as if to walk away, "All right we'll deal with the impatient way instead. You're in danger. You have two choices: either you back off from some of your cases or you can watch your back."
"Did your boyfriend tell you to threaten me?"
"No, he wanted me to seduce you then he would have blackmailed you. In my opinion that would be difficult, considering how well you look with your wife."
"So why are you telling me this?" Mac let the wife remark slide for the moment.
Star shrugged her slim shoulders momentarily forgetting the bruises she had. Expelling a breath she tried not to collapse on the dance floor. She clutched hard onto her dance partner. With surprising grace he swung them into a dark corner of the dance floor. He kept her up-right, wondering at the sudden weakness in the woman's limbs. Without meaning to, his grip tightened, causing her to muffle a whimper into his shoulder.
Mac spotted a row of unoccupied chairs and there he let his companion down. He briefly thought to get her a glass of water. An uncountable anger came over him, "You're not the type of woman to stand by and let a man abuse her. What is going on?"
"What's with the concern?" Star asked breathlessly, looking up from where she sat. His concern had warmed her but she was leery of it as well.
Mac was having a hard time coming up with an answer to her question. Why did he care whether or not the brunette was in an abusive relationship? She had been the lead suspect in a murder investigation... but would they really have been able to arrest her?
He was saved from answering right off when a ringing sound came from his jacket pocket. With a little fumbling, he retrieved his cell phone, briefly looking to see who the caller was. A smile alighted on his face at the name that was scrolled across the display. He turned away, bringing the device to his ear. "Hello, sweetie."
"When are you coming home, Daddy?" asked the little voice on the other end.
"It's only Eleven o'clock, Maggie. It's not yet time for the princess to turn into a pumpkin," Mac teased.
Laughter came from the phone, "Daddy, I don't think Dr. Driscoll is going to become a vegetable."
Star felt her heart constrict, as she consciously kicked herself. 'Star, you idiot, he's a married man with children. You have no reason to be jealous.'
She had given him her message; it was time to escape. Standing, Star made to leave, wanting to get away before she screwed up anymore than she already had that night.
"Trying to get away without finishing the discussion?" He asked as he tucked his cell phone away and stepped into her path.
Star gazed at his stark white shirt not wanting to make eye contact. The bombardment of emotions she felt that night were making it hard to keep up the act that she had agreed to play. "There really isn't any more for us to talk about. I've warned you. You can go back to your wife and kids. It's up to you if you want them to be causalities in this."
"What makes you think that I'm married?" He stiffen at the remark about Maggie possibly being targeted by the Mafia.
"Well the wedding ring is a dead give away. The pretty brunette you came in with; you also had a minimum amount of alcohol and have periodically looked at your watch, which would indicate that you have children at home. Plus the call you just took." With each word Star utter she wished it was herself. That the 'little girl dreams' she'd had would've actually been with this man. She knew it was a wasted effort and she needed to focus on the reality of life. She wasn't the type for
"Miss Berlusano, I dislike threats. I no longer have a wife; she died in the Trade Center. I'm also a former Marine, it would be inadvisable to go after my daughter." His voice was hard, unyielding and with a trace of the pain that still was left from that tragic day.
Star finally looked up to him with sympathic green eyes, understanding shone in the moist orbs. "It's not my intention to threaten you. I told you it was either back off from certain Mafia cases or they'll come after you."
"There's another solution. Even if it means I'll be getting dragged into what the DA's office is doing," Mac whispered, stepping into Star's personal space and forcing the brunette into a wall.
She could feel the heat rush through her body at the closeness of Detective Taylor's body, before the realization that he knew what she was doing flashed through her mind. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Leaning down to her ear, his breathe lingered, "Remember I was there. I may not know exactly what they're using you for, but it's most likely for information on the Tanglewood operation. I just am wondering what your boyfriend, Mr. Mala, has to do with it... though I'm getting a good idea."
"Really?" Star queried even as her body was focusing on more physical needs.
"Oh, Yes," a slight amount of smugness permeated ex-marine's voice. However he mentally wanted to keep his distance from the gorgeous woman. His body and emotions were getting in the way.
"So, how do you think there's a solution to not stopping your investigations?" Unconsciously Star licked her lips, apprehensive of his reply.
"We're going to let everyone think we're have an affair," Mac stated bluntly.
Star watched him, wide-eyed for a moment, "How's that going to help?"
"It will keep up appearances that your doing your job and any information you provide the DA will be passed on to me as well. I want to know what's going on." He knew he had been stonewalled on some of his cases; now he had a way to find out what truly was going on, and if he had to use the woman before him then so be it. He just had to get by the fact that he might have other reason for doing it.
"What are you personally getting out of this?" She knew for herself that she might be able to get the guy out of her system.
His voice was cold, even deadly, "What I get is that you make sure that your 'boyfriend' and his associates do not find out about Maggie."
Star could see that the most important part was the protection for his daughter; she nodded voicing her agreement, "All right. But what do I get out of this?"
Mac backed off, looking into the brunette's face, "I don't reveal your cover."
Star's head jerked back as if stung. Even though she knew that was coming it still hurt for reasons she didn't want to delve into, but one thing was for sure: now she was more tangled in the situation; there was no way of escaping.
With more defiance than strength, she pushed the dark-haired man away. "Despite what you may think, I'm not a murderer and I don't sell myself to the highest bidder." Star stated as she walked away with her head held high, leaving a shaken detective behind.