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Authors: Jessica Andersen

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Love Stories, #Colorado, #Police, #Romantic Suspense Fiction, #Suspense, #Policewomen

Rapid Fire (10 page)

BOOK: Rapid Fire
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Maya
cursed at the sense that she’d gone from house arrest in her own home to house
arrest in her friend’s home, but her grumble trailed off when she glanced
around the rest of the first floor, which she’d been too tired to scope out the
night before.

 

Apparently,
the wedding preparations were in full swing. Half-assembled decorations were
piled on the table, glittering with Alissa’s chosen green-and-silver color
scheme. Boxes stacked beneath the table held glass globes that would be filled
with green beads and flowers, to act as centerpieces, and a wipe board leaning
up against the wall held a seating chart drawn with the precision of a crime
scene sketch.

 

The
wedding was—Maya thought quickly—two months away. Where had the time gone? And
why hadn’t she helped more? Sure, she’d been fitted for her pretty bridesmaid’s
dress, and she’d made some of the initial arrangements, but in the past few
months, nothing.

 

The
realization made her feel even more shut out, more isolated. Her friendships
with Alissa and Cassie were based on shared experiences, shared jobs.

 

What
would happen if they didn’t have such things in common anymore?

 

The sound
of a vehicle pulling into the driveway beside the kitchen yanked Maya from her
thoughts and sent a spurt of adrenaline through her system. When she recognized
Thorne’s Interceptor, the adrenaline edged toward something hotter, something
more complicated.

 

She
watched him emerge from the car and stride to the kitchen door, and the sight
of his semi-familiar face—all hard angles and uncompromising lines in place of
the blurred detachment she remembered from before—gathered a hard, hot ball of
wanting in her midsection.

 

“Bad
idea.” She pressed a hand to her jittering stomach. “Really bad idea.”

 

But that
didn’t stop her from opening the door before he knocked, and it didn’t stop the
buzz of pleasure when he tipped down his dark shades and nodded to her shirt.
“Nice.”

 

She was
still wearing yesterday’s jeans, but the blue shirt had been a write-off. She’d
scrounged through Alissa’s drawers for something that was clingy enough not to
hang on her smaller frame, and had wound up with a pale yellow tank top that
was far too revealing, so she’d thrown a washed silk blouse over the tank, and
tied the tails at her waist. She’d told herself the effect was business casual,
but the flare of heat in Thorne’s eyes told her she’d misjudged.

 

Or else
she’d lied to herself and dressed to impress a man with just the sort of past
she was trying to outrun. A man who could very well turn out to be the chief’s
choice for her successor.

 

A man who
threatened her on too many levels.

 

His eyes
flicked from her shirt to the house beyond her. “Someone getting married?”

 

“Alissa
and Tucker,” she said, grateful for the neutral topic. “Two months from now.”
She made a face. “I’m a bridesmaid.”

 

He
refocused his attention on her. “You don’t approve of the marriage?”

 

She waved
him off. “It’s not that at all. They’re perfect together, even when they’re
fighting. No, I just don’t love weddings in general. Too much fuss over
something so personal. That’s why I went the Justice of the Peace route.”

 

That and
the fact that she’d been a rebellious eighteen, marrying a mid-thirties
journalist her parents barely tolerated. Not much to celebrate there.

 

Thorne
returned his shades to the bridge of his nose. “I remember you telling me
that.” He gestured back to the car. “You ready to go?”

 

Maya’s
brain froze as she realized what she’d said. What he’d said. She had casually
tossed off a detail from the life she’d left behind, the life she tried damn
hard not to think of, and he’d accepted it with a nod. “When did I tell you
that?” she asked, before she figured out exactly when that little tidbit must
have slipped out.

 

That
night. After the whiskey she barely remembered drinking.

 

He looked
at her sharply. “You don’t remember?”

 

“Of
course I remember,” she said too quickly. “Never mind, that was…” She shrugged.
“Just never mind, okay?” Before he could comment or press, she said, “Where are
we going? Back to the station?”

 

He gave
her a long, slow look through his glasses before he tipped his chin once, as
though acknowledging her lie. “Not the station. The prison. We’re going to have
a chat with Nevada Barnes.”

 

That gave
her pause. They were interviewing the Museum Murderer?

 

“Why
bother?” she said, voice sharp with remembered frustration from her own
attempts to question Barnes, who had confessed not long after Cassie and
Varitek captured him in the museum. “He hasn’t exactly been forthcoming in
previous interviews. He claims he acted alone, all evidence to the contrary.”

 

“We’re
bothering because this time he’s asked for a meeting. He says he has something
to tell us.” But Thorne’s closed expression told Maya there was more to the
story.

 

She said,
“Us as in the Bear Claw PD?”

 

“No.”
Thorne shook his head, lips pressed together in a grim line. “As in you and me.
He asked for us specifically. And I’ll give you one guess how he knew I was
involved with the case.”

 

A chill
raced through Maya, nerves battling with the hint of a break, with the thought
that she was going to be involved in it. “The Mastermind contacted him.”

 

And he’d
asked for her by name.

 

Chapter
Six

When they
reached the Interceptor, Thorne opened the passenger door for Maya.

 

She
paused and looked up at him with a frown. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t hold
doors for me. We’re not on a date.”

 

“Sorry.”
He held up his hands and stepped away from the door. “My mother taught me to
appreciate seventeenth-century Scottish poetry and hold doors for ladies. It’s
a habit.”

 

But as he
walked around the vehicle while she shut her own door, Thorne admitted privately
that he didn’t hold doors for every female cop.

 

Face
it—it was just her. She touched something inside him that had gone so long
unrecognized that he barely remembered it anymore. She made him think of his
mother’s dark, lively eyes, his father’s military precision and the simpler
times when he’d known who he was and what he wanted. That was what had drawn
him to her five years earlier.

 

It drew
him still, but he had no right to want her. Not when he hadn’t decided whether
he was going to do as the chief asked. Assess her, the chief had said, figure
out whether she’s stable enough to be reinstated to duty, whether in Bear Claw
or somewhere else. And for God’s sake, keep her away from Wexton Henkes. It
sounded reasonable, but the chief’s subtext had been clear.

 

Give me a
good reason to let her go and the job is yours.

 

There
were too many agendas in Bear Claw, too many things designed to distract the
police department. Politics, infighting, personnel problems. Hell, Thorne had
even picked up a rumor that a few members of the city council were pushing to
have Chief Parry himself replaced, though that was patently ludicrous.

 

In all,
the Mastermind couldn’t have picked a better year to strike.

 

“We’ve
got to get focused,” Maya said, startling him with the realization that her
thoughts had paralleled his.

 

He pulled
out of her street and headed toward the highway, toward the grim penitentiary
that straddled the border between Bear Claw and Red Rock. They had a half-hour
drive ahead of them, it stood to reason that they should use the time to
discuss the case.

 

Instead,
he found himself saying, “Do you want to talk about that night?” When she
flinched and turned to him, he shrugged with a forced casualness he suddenly
didn’t feel. “You browned out, didn’t you? How much do you really remember?”

 

“Enough,”
she snapped, color riding high in her cheeks. “And no, I don’t want to talk
about it.”

 

“Suit
yourself.” He concentrated on driving for a minute, surprised to feel the burn
of frustration. With her. With himself. He needed to focus, and not just on the
case. But that was a good place to start, so as he turned onto the main
highway, he said, “Okay, here’s your chance. I’m a captive audience. Tell me
why you think Henkes is the Mastermind.”

 

It was
her turn to fall silent. She crossed her arms and stared out the window at the
scenery as it transitioned from the well-planned city of Bear Claw to the deep,
dark greenery of the Bear Claw Canyon State Park. They rolled past the section
of the park where Bradford Croft had kept the kidnapped girls, the place where
he’d nearly killed Alissa before Tucker had come to her rescue.

 

They had
passed the park entrance before Maya finally drew breath and said, “Henkes’s
son was admitted to Hawthorne Hospital twice in two weeks for unrelated,
suspicious injuries. I tried to build a case, but the evidence didn’t hold. All
I had were a few inconsistent statements from the wife and son, and the kid’s
medical records. Neither of the family members would press charges, the judge
is one of Henkes’s tennis buddies, and after what I did…” She lifted one
shoulder. “No case.”

 

“So you
decided to go after him for something else.”

 

“No,” she
snapped, “I’m not blinded by him the way the others in this community have
been. I’m not ready to kiss his butt because he’s some local boy done good
who’s throwing money around now.” She paused and lowered her voice. “Look,
let’s consider them two separate cases for a minute. Granted, I wouldn’t have
looked at Henkes in the first place if it hadn’t been for Child Services
calling me in when Kier—” she stumbled on the name, “when his son wound up
hospitalized for a fractured wrist. But let’s say for a moment that Henkes
developed as a suspect through other channels.”

 

Though he
thought she was seriously reaching, Thorne nodded. “So stipulated.”

 

She
twisted her hands together in her lap. “Once I started looking at Henkes, I
found that he’s involved with the state park commission and the board of the
Natural History Museum. While just about anyone could get into the state park,
the museum was closed for renovations when Nevada Barnes lured Cassie and
Varitek inside and tried to kill them. Barnes had keys and the proper codes,
but we’ve never figured out where he got them. Then there was the attack on the
Chuckwagon Ranch yesterday. Henkes is a part owner of the place.”

 

“Sounds
thin,” Thorne said bluntly. “There’s nothing to say that a board member
would’ve had access, either. And it doesn’t make sense to say that Henkes would
be targeting his own properties. If anything, the reverse would be true. Maybe
the attacks on Henkes’s properties indicate that he’s become a target.”

 

“That’s—”
Maya stopped herself, and then grudgingly said, “That’s possible, I suppose.
Damn it.” She scowled. “I know it sounds strange, but I want…” She trailed off.

 

“You want
it to be Henkes because if he’s the Mastermind, you’re vindicated,” Thorne
said. “What is now being played like a cop attacking an influential private
citizen in his own home becomes a psych specialist one step ahead of her own
superiors. You’d be a hero.”

 

She
turned back to the window and her voice was small when she said, “I don’t want
to be a hero. I just want to be back on the job.”

 

He wanted
to tell her there was no chance, that the chief had already made up his mind to
shuffle her off the Bear Claw force, the only question remaining was whether
she could carry a badge while she did paperwork somewhere else. But even as
that impulse formed, Thorne turned into the Red Rock Penitentiary and drove
through the narrow, guarded tunnel that formed the first layer of containment
for the prisoners. The tunnel lights were sodium-based, casting the road in
orangey brown light.

BOOK: Rapid Fire
2.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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