The thing about Lana was control. She had it, and Kalinda didn’t, and Lana knew it. She also knew Kalinda hated it, that lack of control, but it wasn’t like it was a secret.
Kalinda wasn’t sure what turned on Lana more: the idea that Kalinda would say no and Lana had to work to convince her otherwise; or the idea that Kalinda would say yes and Lana would get her satisfaction. Either way Lana ended up with that cheshire cat smile, as if whatever choice Kalinda made it pleased Lana.
Kalinda didn’t like pleasing Lana. She didn’t really like anything about Lana, except perhaps her body, but that came with a price. One Kalinda wasn’t prepared to pay.
They had been playing this cat and mouse game for several years now; Lana tried to poach her from Stern, Lockhart & Gardner for as long as she’d been an investigator there, and Kalinda suspected she’d been on Lana’s radar even before then. She was never quite sure why. Kalinda knew she was a good investigator, probably one of the top five in the city, but she wasn’t the best–that credit went to a PI out in Beverly who was priced out of most wealthy people’s range and only took three clients a year, he was that good. And Kalinda could think of two or three other people she would’ve scouted before herself to recruit into the FBI.
And that’s why it came down to control. From the first moment they met, over a crime scene in Andersonville, there had been something almost tangible between them that Kalinda had done her best to deflect and that Lana had pursued with the dogged intensity of a legal stalker. They both knew how close Lana skirted with her little devotion campaign: a few too many comped meals, the sly insinuations that could be easily construed as veiled threats by unwary ears. Lana had always taken care to engage Kalinda in private meetings, where there were few wandering eyes and she could be as compromising as she wished to be.
What Kalinda didn’t understand was why she let herself get into these situations. Oh, sure, she could chalk it up to the long arm of the FBI, the usefulness of having a contact that could get her the information, or the action, that she needed. But she knew, she knew that it was convenience. She called Lana because it was faster than working her contacts at the 32nd. Lana would do things for her that she couldn’t get done as efficiently because Lana wanted to fuck her, and Kalinda liked playing a little too close to the fire.
Lana was fire, she was flame and ember all rolled into one unrestrained package, and every time Kalinda called her she stepped one inch closer to getting burned.
The funny thing was, this wasn’t true for anyone else. Normally, Kalinda prided herself on her self-control: for everything she did, she had a reason. She thought and planned and strategized, because it was her job, because she was good at it. Because she didn’t know how to work differently. There was never a hint of compromising herself for anyone else, not for Cary or the firm or even Alicia. And Kalinda knew just how much she would do, if Alicia ever asked.
But with Lana, it was as though Kalinda wanted something in herself to bend, bend under a firm hand, and she hated that. She hated that about herself, about Lana’s effect on her, about their entire fucked-up not-quite-a-relationship that kept cropping up in her path. What she hated the most was the part of her that looked forward to the next time they’d meet, to the ways Lana would challenge her, press up against Kalinda’s well-fortified boundaries like they were made of nothing more than paper. Run a stockinged foot up her leg and dare her to protest.
Kalinda wouldn’t protest. She knew that much about herself, about herself with Lana.
The only way to protect herself and the fortress she’d made of her thoughts and secrets was to pretend like there was no assault at all. To pretend like Lana was playing a game instead of throwing a challenge into Kalinda’s world. If Kalinda pretended that a kiss would satisfy Lana, if she played it like she didn’t know what Lana wanted, perhaps then Kalinda would survive another encounter to return to her own private castle intact. If nothing else, it kept the road clear for another skirmish between them, another small battle where neither walked away the victor.
A kiss was nothing. It was a favor–a princess’ handkerchief blowing away in the wind. Kalinda would not be won or lost on a kiss; she had given away more for far less than midnight access to a judge. A catered dinner for two pushed a little more–not neutral ground, but Lana’s own front line where the battle was pitched between the table and the bed. The offer of a job was a gauntlet, a weapon aimed at her with the twin attributes of legitimacy and oversight. If she worked for law enforcement again, her skills would be government-sanctioned. She wouldn’t have to go cadging for access; she’d have a badge and a piece to back up the shield. If she worked for the FBI–for Lana–she’d have all the support she needed to accomplish her tasks, with none of the accountability that came with being the only contracted investigator on staff.
Kalinda wouldn’t take the fall for a case gone wrong. And Lana knew, or guessed at, just how precarious her situation was on a day-to-day basis.
No. There was no chance she’d work for Lana, under Lana, knowing the price that came with the offer. She’d be in Lana’s bed as fast as she’d be under Lana’s thumb, and whatever appealed to Kalinda about ceding control to the bulldozer that was Lana Delaney, it wasn’t worth sacrificing her freedom.
But Kalinda had never been very good about shying away from danger, and it never hurt to have an ace up your sleeve. She’d worry about the threat Lana posed when she had something more to lose. Until then, the game was on.