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Authors: Janice Kaplan

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BOOK: A Job to Kill For
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“Can’t,” he said tugging at the top of my skirt. “I have a wife.”

“I don’t need to worry?” I asked as he pushed me backward toward the bed and we fell together onto the silk duvet.

“I still get excited around you, in case you can’t tell,” he said.

“Oh, I can tell. Too much to hide.”

“I assume you’re not complaining.”

“I’m only complaining that you’re still dressed,” I said, giggling.

“We can fix that.” He quickly stripped down, revealing his lean, tanned body. I looked at him admiringly and he came closer and began kissing my lips, my neck, then unfastening my top. “When did women’s clothes get so complicated?” he asked, fumbling with an errant hook-and-eye.

“I’m glad you haven’t been practicing on anyone else,” I said.

He paused, then propped himself on his elbow next to me. “Okay, what’s this about? What did I do wrong?”

I kissed him, not wanting to ruin the moment. “It’s just what you said when I came to your office. Or didn’t say. About flings being as common as brushing your teeth.”

He sighed and ran his fingers lightly over my cheek. “I don’t know what I said. All I could think was that someone had poisoned my wife. Call me crazy, but that upsets me. You had me worried.”

“You had
me
worried,” I admitted.

He kissed me tenderly, then again, his hand stroking my breasts. “What part of ‘I love you and only you’ don’t you understand?” he asked.

“Mmm, you know what they say. Show, don’t tell.”

He rolled on top of me, putting his finger to his lips, and then to mine. “Okay, I won’t tell,” he whispered.

But for the next hour, he showed.

 

 

Our Friday-night flight to Phoenix went smoothly, except that my Stila lipstick got impounded at security.

“You can’t carry this onboard,” the guard announced, removing it from the clear plastic bag I’d sent through the X-ray machine, with my three-ounce containers of travel shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, and Kiehl’s body lotion.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s not allowed onboard,” he said, not exactly clearing things up.

The matte silver aluminum packaging resembled a bullet, but a government-approved TSA worker could probably tell the difference between a cartridge and a cosmetic.

“That was my favorite color,” I said regretfully as the broad-shouldered guard tossed the lipstick into a box of impounded items—a discarded Poland Spring, two containers of Finesse shampoo, a tube of Vaseline, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. (Could it mask the taste of airplane food?) It didn’t make me feel any safer knowing none of those had made it on board.

“How come this one is okay?” I asked, pointing to a Clinique pinkberry lipstick that he’d left in the plastic bag.

He glanced at it. “Free gift with purchase,” he said scornfully.

I tucked the X-rayed items back into my Longchamp bag and walked, bewildered, to the flight.

“Do you think security only confiscates things you paid for?” I asked Dan, as we settled into our coach seats.

He shrugged and opened the medical journal he’d brought along for the flight.

“Maybe it’s part of TSA training,” I continued. “Guards learn how to recognize a bomb, a potential terrorist, and a Clinique gift with purchase.”

“How would you identify that last one?” Dan asked. He put down his journal, willing to abandon the latest research on Restylane for this breakthrough report.

“Different color packaging,” I said promptly. “The free gifts are pale green.”

“Something I’d never learn reading
The Journal of Plastic Surgery,
” he said.

“Stick with me,” I teased.

“I intend to,” he said, reaching across the armrest and squeezing my knee.

Barely an hour later, we landed in Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to the Phoenician resort. In no time, we’d been whisked upstairs to a gracious, oversized room, and I felt myself unwind almost immediately. In the marble bathroom, I changed into the fluffy terry-cloth robe hanging on the door, turned on the waterfall faucet in the enormous bathtub, and sniffed the bottles lined up on the vanity from the resort’s Centre for Well-Being. Hotels used to brag if they had room service. Now they all seemed to offer full-service spas with their own line of treatments. I tossed a generous handful of grapefruit-and-eucalyptus bath salts into the tub and closed my eyes as the scent filled the room.

“What’s going on?” Dan asked, coming in.

“Aromatherapy,” I said. “Ease the spirit and detoxify the body.”

“If you need to relax, I have my own technique,” he said, untying my terry. “It involves two naked bodies lounging in a tub.”

“Mmmm…I’m willing to try that,” I said. At home, Dan took an efficient four-minute shower every morning and would happily have turned our tub into adjunct storage for medical books. Thank goodness for vacations.

We got into the warm water and I lounged against Dan, my back to his chest. He gently massaged my shoulders, then let his hands slip forward to my breasts.

“Very romantic,” I murmured, my eyes half closed. The steam from the water wafted around us and my own heat index began to rise, too. I twisted around to kiss him just as he hit a switch that made the Jacuzzi jets come alive.

“Yikes!” I yelped, buffeted by the power of the swirling water. Trying to right myself, I slipped and landed smack against Dan, our noses bumping. We both pulled back with quick howls of pain, then burst out laughing. He reached around to turn off the jets, somehow sending me splattering across the tub—which only made us both laugh harder.

“Yup, very romantic,” Dan said, finally stilling the swirling water.

I wiped water from my eyes, still giggling. “Actually it’s pretty dreamy that after all these years, we still have fun together,” I said. “Of all the great feelings in the world, sharing a hoot with your husband has to be in the top five.”

“And making love with my wife is in the top four,” Dan said. He stood up and scooped me out of the water and into his arms.

“Careful!” I yelped, worried that he’d strain his back. But I managed to squelch any mood-wrecking remark, and Dan just grinned, lifted me higher, and carried me dripping wet into the bedroom. He put me down gently, then lay on top of me on the bed. We grabbed at each other eagerly.

Twenty minutes later, I decided that aromatherapy worked after all.

“I’m glad we still like making love,” I murmured, once we both were sated and satisfied.

“I love making love,” Dan said. “And I love you, as previously mentioned.”

He pulled himself off me, and our wet (now with sweat) bodies made a
thwuck
sound as we separated. We lay with our arms around each other, contented and calm. A few minutes passed, and finally I couldn’t resist.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

“Nothing special,” Dan said, as men always do. Then he added, “Though frankly, I’m wondering when you’ll tell me what this weekend is really about.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my shoulders tensing.

“A weekend away. No questions about where we should go—you made reservations yourself. I noticed when we checked in that you’ve already signed me up for eighteen holes of golf tomorrow. Something’s up. I know you.”

“I just wanted to be with you,” I said.

“You’re not with me on the golf course.”

Honesty won the day. “No, I thought I’d make a little visit to Cassie Crawford’s parents. Hank and Lydia Taylor. They live in Scottsdale. About five miles from here.”

Dan sighed. “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?”

“Because you wouldn’t have wanted to come.”

“But now I’m here.” He rolled onto his back.

“Don’t be mad,” I whispered, snuggling close.

“Of course I’m not mad.” He stroked my hair gently. “I can worry, but I’ll always encourage whatever you want to do, Lacy. You know that. You’ve done it for me since the day we met. It’s the least I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” I said, thinking what a good team Dan and I had always made. One thing I’d learned about the marriage game: If you wanted to have fun playing, you couldn’t keep score.

“I’ll always be on your side, but I wish you had a different hobby,” Dan said. “I’m a lot happier when you’re decorating than when you’re detecting.”

“Isn’t that a tad patronizing?” I asked.

“Absolutely not. There’s nothing patronizing about wanting to protect somebody you love. Even Gloria Steinem must know that.”

“Probably,” I admitted. “Remember when she dated that rich guy and said she liked being picked up in limousines and taken care of? Then she married some South African businessman. Don Bale, I think his name was. No, David. He died a few years ago, but officially Gloria Steinem is Christian Bale’s stepmother! Isn’t that cool?”

“Uh, Christian Bale?”

“The really cute actor who played Batman,” I explained eagerly. “Oh, and he was in
The Prestige
, which I like a lot. We can watch the DVD when we get home. It’s about two magicians in nineteenth-century London.”

“Magicians in London,” Dan repeated. He glanced over at me with an amused smile.

I laughed. “Sorry, sweetie. I guess I went from patronizing to
The Prestige
kind of fast.”

“I like trying to keep up with you,” Dan said, kissing my forehead. Then getting back to the main subject he added, “But the magic for me is going to be keeping you safe, and keeping the whole family out of danger while you try to solve your case.”

“The family doesn’t have anything to do with this,” I said.

“Maybe more than you realize,” Dan said mildly. “Ashley saw the police drag you away at a party. Not so terrible, maybe. But Grant’s getting invited into that secret society because of you is something different.”

“How do you know all this?” Dan had been busy at the hospital lately, and I hadn’t bothered to fill him in on details. Or maybe I’d been avoiding the subject.

“The kids talk to me,” he said, with just a hint of pride.

“Well, Ashley’s story is true,” I admitted “But I didn’t have anything to do with Grant being asked into Delta ij.”

“Think about it,” Dan said. He kept his voice even, but I could hear the hint of agitation. “Why would an exclusive college club open its doors to a high-school senior? It sounds to me like the weird professor who’s involved is using Grant, for reasons we don’t know. Maybe he’s trying to send you a message. Or find out something about Cassie. I’m not sure. But I hate to think that by the time I
am
sure, it’s going to be too late.”

“Too late for what?”

“To save you. To save Grant. God knows, Lacy, somebody involved here has already killed two people. You think he’s going to be stopped by some skinny little woman chasing him down?”

I lay back against the thick pillows, my heart racing. I didn’t want to put my family in danger. Never would. But I also objected to Dan’s frightening me this way. His warning seemed too dramatic. I should ask him to take it back.

And if he hadn’t called me “skinny,” I probably would have.

 

 

When I opened my eyes the next morning, Dan had already left to start his eighteen holes. I lolled in the comfy bed for a few minutes, but I couldn’t exactly have a romantic morning solo. I tossed on a T-shirt with khaki shorts and flip-flops and left the room. Downstairs in the lobby, I wished I’d dressed better, because a tall man in a well-cut suit nodded pleasantly and said, “Good morning! Have a lovely day!” Since the resort seemed well-staffed with doormen, receptionists, and concierges, I figured he must be the hotel’s official greeter. Not a bad job. But how did you explain it on a résumé?

Outside, I took a right past a raft of eager car attendants and went up a few stairs to the cactus garden. Small signs described each of them, and I strolled happily, studying the difference between the tall branched saguaro and the flat broad-leaved prickly pear. When I was at home, I loved the graceful fragility of my hothouse orchids, but here the sturdy cactus made me smile. I liked the thought that they flaunted their prickly fronts in the face of predators and the hot dry desert air. How brave. Could I be as courageous under the onslaught of detectives, Dan, and death? Maybe I needed to grow a few more prickles.

I wandered to the end of the garden, then ambled back along another path and finally, deep in thought, headed up a steep incline. Suddenly, a golf cart came around a corner and began careening down the hill.

“Watch out!” I screamed.

But the vehicle was going too fast to stop. I tried to leap out of the way just as the cart whizzed by, but the front corner slammed into my hip, knocking me off my feet and onto the hard gravel.

“Ouch!” I yelped. Tiny pebbles pierced the bare skin on my legs, and my palms burned from the impact. At the bottom of the hill, the cart finally came to a stop. I tried to get back up, but my badly twisted ankle wouldn’t support my weight. Two men got out of the cart, but they didn’t seem in any rush to help me.

“You’re on the golf course,” one of them hollered.

“You hit me,” I shouted back, my voice hoarse with tears.

“Path’s for carts only,” he snarled. “Didn’t you see the sign?”

If there’d been a sign, I missed it. But given that I was now lying on the ground with blood dripping from my leg, wasn’t that beside the point?

One of the men marched up the hill toward me, his head down, his arms swinging apelike from broad shoulders. In his black turtleneck and pants, he didn’t look dressed for eighteen holes in the Arizona sun. He put his beefy hands under my arms and lifted me up.

“You better watch yourself,” he said scowling.

Something about him seemed familiar.

“Do I know you?” I asked. Tentatively, I tried to put some weight on my right foot. It hurt, but the pain seemed bearable.

“Doubt it,” he said. “But you might know my boss. Mr. Crawford.”

“Roger,” I blurted, shocked. No wonder the man seemed familiar. He had a different face than the last Crawford thug I’d met, but the same clothes, bearing, and style. Good that I had both feet under me or I would have fallen over again.

BOOK: A Job to Kill For
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