Designed for Murder (Killer Style 4) by Avery Flynn
“To be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” —Coco ChanelCarlos Castillo surveyed the Thursday-night crowd at Feeny’s hole-in-the-wall bar. It was a step above a dive bar and several stories below what most people in Harbor City would call a respectable establishment, which made it perfect for Carlos and the other guys from Maltese Security when they needed to blow off a little steam after closing a case. It also happened to be the site of his impending public humiliation at the hands of his fellow investigators who’d come to Feeny’s with him.“Don’t even think about pussying out, ’Los.” Cam Hardy tapped his shot glass against Carlos’s. “You lost the bet, you pay the price.”Fuck. What human being could eat fifteen pickled eggs that had been sitting in a jar on the bar for God knew how long? Apparently Cam, who’d chalked up his success to the fact that neither he nor his live-in girlfriend, Drea, could cook for shit and his taste buds had gone into hiding.“What about one of them?” Will Roscoe asked, nodding toward the trio of women in a corner booth.“The redhead’s hot,” said Alex Lee before taking a long draw from his beer.Carlos tossed back the last of his shot before he said anything he’d regret about redheads. The last redhead he’d dated had nearly killed him—literally—and he’d had to return the favor.“Not his type,” Cam said.Unlike Roscoe and Alex, who were relative newbies to the team, Cam knew the real reason behind Carlos’s aversion to redheads. While Cam would shame Carlos into embarrassing himself in a bar full of people, he wouldn’t say anything about the shooting that had changed Carlos’s life forever.Cam nodded toward the women in the booth. “The girl on the end is more his speed.”Right at that moment, the woman in question slid out of the booth and stood up. She couldn’t be more than five-five even in the thigh-high leather boots with their wicked high heels. She wore skin-tight jeans that clung to her legs like they were made for her tight body and a top made out of some sort of shimmery material that caught the dim lights when she walked, drawing his attention to the way her tits moved as she strutted across the bar like she owned the joint.The full-body profile view was enough to make him reach for another shot, but then she pivoted at the bar, turning so she faced their table, and he couldn’t do a damn thing but stare. Almond-shaped brown eyes, full pink lips, and more than a hint of trouble in the way she tossed her long light brown hair and laughed at some undoubtedly lame joke from the bartender.“Roll your tongue back in your mouth, ’Los.” Cam shook his head and finished his shot. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you still spent all of your free time pretending to be a warlock or some shit on the computer.”The verbal nudge was more than enough to bring him back to reality. After the shooting, he’d replaced Magic Battledome role-play online gaming with the gym and had spent the past year working to make the team at Maltese realize there was more to him than just amazing computer geek skills. And as tonight’s celebration of a job well done proved, he’d done it. He worked cases in real life now, not just at the keyboard.Carlos settled back in his seat, keeping his gaze locked on the woman as she carried three beers back to her booth. The change in direction gave him an ideal view of her curvy ass. “Like most of the guys in this bar wouldn’t pretend to be a wizard if that’s the game she wanted to play in the bedroom.”“I would find a cape right fast.” Roscoe raised his shot glass in salute before downing the whiskey.“Well then, I’d say you found your target.” Cam smirked. “Go get her, ’Los.”As far as challenges went, it was friendly. But it was still a challenge. And Carlos never backed down from a challenge.For the past year, there hadn’t been a single one the Maltese team had issued that he hadn’t met head-on—and he always would. This was who he was now; the former geek supreme didn’t exist anymore. He’d pushed that guy and his guilt for pulling the trigger so far into a closet that he would never see the light of day again.“One dance?” Carlos pushed back his chair and stood, already primed for action—just like any time Scarlett’s ghost came haunting.“Yep. The longest slow song you can find on the jukebox,” Alex said, barely keeping his laughter in check. “And then she has to buy you a beer.”Carlos took one last swig of his beer. “You’re all a bunch of assholes.”Not bothering to stick around to hear their responses, which no doubt would just be an agreement, he strode across the bar, his sights set on the hot brunette with a body made for the best kinds of trouble.