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Authors: Loreth Anne White

Tags: #Suspense

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BOOK: Melting the Ice
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He wondered about Hannah. He knew the intimate corners of her body but he knew so little about her, really. Why had she come here to White River? Why had she quit the job she was so passionate about? Did she ski? What did she look like with a veil of fine white crystals, sitting like little diamonds in the gold of her hair? The image swam into his brain—Hannah, like a snow bride. He crushed it. The mere concept was outrageous. Where in hell had
that
come from? He had to get this job done and get the hell out of this place.

The matches. He pulled the book out and read the hotel name again, Fireside Lodge. Rex had found the book of matches on the loamy soil where Hannah had been pulled from the river. He had checked while she slept. CIA agent Ken Mitchell, under the alias Mark Bamfield, was registered as a guest at the Fireside Lodge.

The woman was still alive. It could end up costing them everything. He gingerly fingered the fresh suture along the top of his cheekbone. The local was starting to wear off, his cheek starting to throb. They were both in the way, Logan and McGuire. That
had
to be rectified before the conference.

He gently massaged his leg, wincing at the pain radiating out from his knee. They had until Friday—only four days. That was when the buyers would start to arrive.

Chapter 7

H
annah was sleeping. Rex wasn’t. Couldn’t. He’d tried, lying there in the next room with the connecting door open, listening to the soft rhythm of her breathing.

It hadn’t worked.

He’d come, instead, to look for Mitchell at the Fireside Lodge after bribing the front desk clerk at the White River Presidential to call him on his cell should anyone come looking for him or a Hannah McGuire.

Rex shifted slightly in the brown leather chair. It was almost midnight and still no sign of Mitchell.

He had intended to surprise the CIA agent in his hotel room while he slept. Picking the lock was a cinch, but the room was empty. Nothing in it to give him away, either. All Rex found was a scrap of paper with Hannah’s address scribbled in pencil. Under it was the name Grady Fisher and another White River address. Who was Grady Fisher and how was he connected? That would be the next step. Find Fisher.

The flames in the monstrous circular stone fireplace crackled in spite of the fact it was late August. The nights in these mountains were cool and the flames friendly, especially at this hour. The fireplace dominated the lobby. Rex had chosen his seat for its clear view of the front entrance.

He lifted his newspaper to cover his face when he saw Mitchell come in through the door. The CIA agent crossed the slate-tiled floor, making his way slowly toward the elevator. Rex saw he was limping, favoring his right leg. His face was battered, a puce colored gash under his right eye.

Rex stood up, casually folded his paper as Mitchell punched the button calling for the elevator. He crossed the lobby, still hidden from Mitchell’s line of vision. He waited for the CIA agent to get into the elevator and pick his floor. As the doors started to close, Rex slipped in between them.

It was just him and Mitchell now, in the confined space. The elevator started its climb.

Mitchell said nothing. He simply turned to watch the lights flick above the door. But Rex had caught the slight flare of recognition in the man’s eyes.

“Haven’t seen you since Marumba, Agent Mitchell, or is it Mr. Mark Bamfield?”

Mitchell tensed but remained silent, watching the floor numbers light up as the elevator slowly climbed. The muscle in his neck twitched. Rex leaned casually back and hit the emergency stop.

The car jerked to an abrupt halt.

He stepped forward. Mitchell took a small step back.

“So what happened to your face, Mitchell, and what’s with the limp? You take a bullet yesterday?”

“Would’ve gone to the cops if I had, Logan. Canadians don’t take kindly to citizens brandishing firearms.”

“You’re real funny, you know, Agent Mitchell. What’re you doing in White River?”

“Same as you
Agent
Logan. Here for a conference.”

Rex lifted his hand to touch the surgical tape covering the neatly stitched slash on Mitchell’s face. He pressed slightly. Mitchell winced.

“What happened here, huh? Got a bit of a gash?”

“Fell off my rental bike. Now get out of my face, Logan, before I have security haul your ass out of here.”

“Neither of us wants to draw attention to ourselves, now, do we?” Rex turned and released the emergency button. The elevator jerked, sputtered and started to hum. The doors opened on the seventh floor.

Rex held them open as the CIA operative hobbled out. “Oh, just a word of warning, Mitchell, I’m watching you. You stay clear of Hannah McGuire.” Rex watched the flicker of interest cross Mitchell’s eyes before they shut down. The subtle stiffening in his posture did not go unnoticed, either.

“Yes, she’s still alive. I find you within a two-mile radius of her and you get hurt, buddy. Real bad.”

“Don’t threaten me, Logan.” But Mitchell’s voice was weary. Rex watched him turn and limp down the passage. The man looked tired, spent.

Hannah felt a little more like herself after having showered and combed the wild tangle of knots from her hair. It was Tuesday morning. She’d lost yet another day, having slept off most of Monday. But she had to admit, it had done her a world of good. Despite the pain in her ribs and a general stiffness, her energy was coming back. Rex had found her a change of clothes, another pair of track pants and a sweatshirt, a white one. It was fleecy inside and soft on her skin, but huge. She really needed to get some of her own clothes, yet she was absurdly comforted by the voluminous warmth of his garments against her skin.

Rex had ordered breakfast and was serving it alfresco. Hannah pulled a chair up to the small round table on the balcony. Rex lifted the silver dome off a golden cheese omelette. There were small rounds of herbed tomato on the side. The steam curled up and was swallowed by the crisp morning air. Hanna pushed her hair back from her face and inhaled the warm, savory scent. “Looks good, Rex. I must admit, I’m starving.”

He slipped half the omelette onto her plate and poured two cups of Earl Gray before taking his seat at the little round table opposite her. The French doors behind them were open, and the curtains sighed gently with the wafts of cooler air coming in off the slopes of Powder Mountain.

Hannah drank it in. It had a different smell. She imagined she could smell the ice and snow of the glacier. She was sensing everything so keenly this morning. It was as if her world had been altered, a veil lifted to reveal crisper edges. She cut into her omelette and lifted a forkful to her mouth.

Rex was studying her, his gaze intense. “Hannah, I can get you into a safe house until we have this thing sorted out.” He sipped his tea, eyes unwavering over the cup.

She halted, fork midway to her mouth. She set it slowly down. “It’s that serious?”

He nodded.

She suddenly didn’t feel so hungry anymore. She pushed the food around her plate. “What do mean a ‘safe house’?”

“A place out of province where you can lie low until this is over.”

“Where?”

“I can’t say. But we could get you in there by tonight.”

This was bigger than she ever imagined. And she was slap-bang in the middle of it. But there was no way she could go to a safe house. Not without Danny. And she certainly didn’t want to tell Rex about her boy now. She wanted to keep him right out of this. He was safe with her mom on the island. She just had to make sure he didn’t return before things were back to normal.

Yet, deep down, she had a nagging feeling things would never quite get back to normal.

“Shall I make the arrangements?”

Hannah swallowed against the tightness in her throat. She reached for the sugar bowl and spooned sweetness into her tea. She stirred. Then looked up into his eyes. “How is it, Rex, that a pharmaceutical company can organize a safe house?”

“Hannah, these guys mean business. Someone tried to kill you.”

“You’re not answering my question.”

“Hannah—”

“It’s not Bio Can Pharmaceutical, is it? You work for some other agency, don’t you? The Bio Can thing, it’s just a cover.”

He sighed, set his teacup deliberately on the table. “Yes. You’re right, but I can’t tell you more. I’m sorry.”

He looked so damn proper. A British rogue. Hannah blew her breath out in frustration. “Forget the safe house.”

“It’s for the best—”

“Forget it.”

“Whoever killed Amy probably tried to kill you, Hannah.”

“Why’re you so sure she was killed?”

“I’m not. It just adds up.”

“Well, I’m in the middle of this now and I’m going to see it through.” She reached for her cup and took a sip of the sweet warm tea.

He leaned forward, dropping his voice. “Okay. You don’t want a safe house, you got it, no safe house. But you stay here, with me. Got that?”

Hannah drew the cool air deep into her lungs, drawing down resolve. “No. I told you, I’m not leaving my home.” It was her sanctuary. Where she felt grounded.

“Hannah, you really only have two choices. If you don’t stay here, at the hotel with me, I’m going to start making arrangements to get you out of province and into that safe house. And believe me, once I get the ball rolling, you’re not going to have any say in the matter.”

He meant it. She could see it in the frightening intensity of his eyes. She hesitated. It was the lesser of two evils, staying with him. At least she could maintain some kind of control over her life. At least she could leave Danny out of things. But the thought of being so close to Rex terrified her.

She cleared her throat. “If I stay here, will you at least tell me who you think tried to kill me?”

“I don’t know who it was.”

“Right.”

“It’s the truth, Hannah.” He leaned forward. “So what is it, safe house or me?”

She didn’t like the way he put it. But she really had little choice. This way she could buy time, keep Danny out of the picture, and maybe find out what happened to Amy.

“All right, Rex. I’ll stay here. But only for a while.”

“Good,” he said. “Now, tell me what you remember about the attack.”

She nodded, took a slow, steadying sip of tea, and called to mind the traumatic series of events. She told him about the bridge, the way the man had come over it, jerked and swayed it, about the mirrored glasses she had shattered, about the gash under his eye, the thick oozing black blood, the bandanna, the baggy pants and gray hooded sweatshirt.

“Then he just let go of my ankle and let me drop into the river.” Just talking about it had her chest tightening up again. She hugged her arms into her waist. “I don’t remember anything after that.”

“So you wouldn’t recognize him if you saw him again?”

“No, not for certain. Anything that might have distinguished him was hidden.”

Rex mulled over the facts. The man he’d seen bending over Hannah, the one he’d fired at, could have fitted that description. He must have tossed the hooded shirt, though. He wasn’t wearing that, or glasses from what Rex had been able to see in the dim light. As far as he could tell, it had been Mitchell hunched over Hannah on the riverbank. It had been Mitchell he’d shot at. Mitchell with the gash under his eye, the limp. The bastard had probably gone downriver to finish her off.

But Rex had to bide his time, be sure. At the same time, he needed to keep Hannah from further harm.

She looked so fragile, so small and pale in his huge clothes. Yet she was so strong. He’d do anything in this world to keep her from getting hurt. But, Christ, he was hurting inside. He couldn’t bear being so near, not being able to take her in his arms, not being able to share the truth of his life with her. This was torture. But he had to bear it. Move forward. “Hannah, do you know a Grady Fisher?”

Surprise lit her eyes. In this light they were luminous pale gold. And he could see those pricks of forest green.

“Grady Fisher, he’s the one who signed out those books you found in Amy’s apartment. I haven’t had a chance to tell you.”

“Do you know him?

“No, and the librarian wouldn’t give me his address. Why?”

“Found his name in Mitchell’s room. I think Fisher’s address is number 10, 256 Hillside Road.”

“You were in Mitchell’s room?”

Rex shrugged. “Technically.”

Hannah looked away. He could see she was struggling. He reached forward to touch the smooth skin on her hand.

She pulled away, turned to him, her eyes bright. “I don’t know you at all, do I, Rex Logan?”

A band tightened instantly across his chest. He felt his cold mask slip into place. He didn’t want to go there. Couldn’t.

“It was all a lie, wasn’t it? In Africa?” The moisture pooling in her wild honey eyes tore at him.

“Hannah—” He reached out to her.

“Don’t.” She stood. “I have my pride, Dr. Logan. As much as I need to know, I’m not going to prostrate myself, beg for answers. If I was worth it, you’d tell me.”

She’d thrown down the gauntlet. Lanced him to the core. She turned, walked back into the room. But not before he’d seen the emotion in her eyes overflow and tears slide silently down her cheeks.

He got up to follow her. But she was in the bathroom. Door closed. He could hear her soft sobs.

His gut twisted with self-loathing. He lifted his hand to knock, dropped it, stalked across the room. “Christ!” He stormed out onto the balcony, gripped the railing, turned his face up to the sky. “Lord, help me here.”

By the time she came out, her face was wan, her eyes rimmed with red. But there was a steel resolve in the line of her mouth, her posture. She walked straight up to him.

“Let’s go, Rex. We’ve got work to do. I need to get this over with.”

“Go where?”

“The Mad Moose. If anyone knows who Grady Fisher is, it’ll be Amy’s friend Cindy. She runs a café in the village.”

He nodded. Yes, they needed to get this the hell over with. “Fine. We’ll go there as soon as we’ve picked up some clothes from your place. And as soon as you’ve phoned Al Brashear and told him you need a few days off work.”

Rex pulled up in front of Hannah’s condo and started to climb out of the SUV.

She turned to face him. “Please, wait out here in the car. I’ll be quick.”

“What’s the deal with your house, anyway?”

Her home, her belongings, Danny’s things, they were like her last frontier. “Please, just give me this space.”

“Not this time, Hannah.”

“You have to. Or you can forget my cooperation. I’ll go to the cops.”

“Christ, woman.” He dragged his hands through his hair in exasperation.

She didn’t budge from the car.

“All right. Take the phone and leave the door open. And make it snappy this time. I’ll give you fifteen minutes to grab some gear, otherwise I’m coming in after you.”

Hannah left Rex in the car and unlocked the door to her condo. It wasn’t the same. That familiar warmth she used to feel coming home was not there. The hallway seemed empty, cold. In spite of her earlier spurt of renewed energy and hard-won bravado, Hannah felt suddenly lonely and sapped in her own home, her sanctuary. Her world really had changed since Friday.

She climbed the stairs, feeling tired and sore. She walked into her room and looked at the double bed with its pale-green duvet and matching pillows. She hadn’t shared that bed with anyone. She had not had a love interest since Rex, not since Danny was conceived.

BOOK: Melting the Ice
6.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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