f Shannon Joyce had learned anything in life, it was never to argue with the guy who'd just slapped handcuffs on your wrists. But this wasn't just any guy and these weren't those kinds of handcuffs.
“Are you crazy?” she hissed. “I haven't seen you in thirteen years and the first thing you say to me is âyou're under arrest'?”
The asshole said nothing.
She kicked the back of his car seat. “Noah Monroe, don't ignore me.”
“Stop that,” he tossed her over his shoulder. “Or I'll add damaging federal property to the list.”
He was toying with her. “I'm so scared,” she said with a snort. “Even if I did kill JJ, which I
, what do the feds have to do with it?” How could this be happening to her? The career she'd worked her butt off to haveâthe clients who needed herâwould go down the toilet with this bogus charge.
After she'd gotten over the initial shock of Noah calling her this morning, she'd had to deal with him telling her that her father was dead. Was she supposed to mourn his loss? JJ Lewis was scum. Lower than scum. Her father swindled people. Good, honest people, and he'd dragged her sorry ass into his schemes one too many times. She'd considered killing him herself, would even shake the hand of whoever had done it, but it wasn't her. She'd left that degenerate behind when she was sixteen, and only recently had she discovered he wasn't in jail, where he belonged. She wasn't sorry to hear someone had finally given him what he deservedâa one-way ticket to a wicked bonfire.
“Evidence says different,” Noah said, not bothering to answer her question.
If stares could kill, he'd have a hundred daggers sticking out of his head. “What evidence?” When he didn't answer again, she went on the defensive. Later she'd panic. “I know my rights.”
“You should also know to wait for an attorney.”
an attorney.” One who was going to sue someone's ass off if word of this got out. He was lucky she'd decided to work late or she wouldn't have been alone when the dumbass had taken out his handcuffs. She'd worked too hard to have her reputation ruined by the death of a man whose one good deed in life was leaving her alone for thirteen years. Not that he'd done it voluntarily. She'd made damn sure that bastard couldn't find her. At least not until three months ago.
“You're a civil attorney. Murder is a crime, and if you didn't already know, it's not wise to defend yourself.”
To think, she'd once loved this guy. “And you have no authority to arrest me, and I have
to defend myself against,” she argued, squirming while trying to get comfortable with her hands behind her back. “Plus, you know very well I didn't kill him.”
“I don't know any such thing.”
Now he was just taunting her and she didn't care for it. “How? How do you not know?” What did they have on her? “And why the hell didn't you tell me that over the phone this morning, instead of going on about JJ getting involved in yet another con.”
“If you hadn't blown me off,
, I'd have explained things to you.”
Either he was mad that she'd hung up on him or he didn't like that she was going by Joyce instead of Lewis. Which didn't make any sense. Why would he care? He'd have to be a complete idiot not to figure
one out. Why would she keep the name of the man who'd caused her so much grief?
“The last thing I wanted to hear about was another of JJ's get-rich schemes. What that asshole does . . . did, is none of my business.” Not anymore. Even back then she hadn't much cared.
The light turned yellow. He made no attempt to stop. She hated when people did that. Was he in that much of a rush to put her behind bars? Was this as simple as a thirteen-year grudge? He didn't have to share probable cause for the arrest; still, they had dated for two years. They'd been kids. But you weren't supposed to forget the first person you made love to, the first person you'd given your soul to. At least she hadn't.
She'd left small-town Tweedsmuir under the protection of night, but she'd known exactly what she was leaving behind. She wasn't only running away from an abusive father and her part in a man's death, she was forgoing the love of her lifeâhim. She'd had no choice. They were so young. She assumed she'd get over him. And she
. She gave his seat another kick, hating that he'd called her. Hating that he'd brought up feelings she'd forced herself to forget. Talking to him had been bad enough; seeing him had torn her in two. She'd nearly been dumb enough to throw her arms around himâthen he'd
, failing to cooperate with a federal agent won't do you any good.”
“Ms. Joyce? Ms. Joyce.” He really was asking for it. She leaned forward as far as her seat belt would allow, as close to his arrogant face as possible. “Okay, Stick-up-the-ass Agent Monroeâ”
He'd failed to mention that when he'd called. “Special at what? Being a dickhead?” She'd shared her darkest secrets with him, things she'd never even told Maggie. Why was he treating her this way?
“No,” he said smugly. “Financial fraud task force.”
Shannon stopped breathing, and for a few seconds she swore her heart didn't beat. Could it get much worse? Numbly, she slid back onto the seat. Was that what this was about? She swallowed and forced her mouth to work. “Fraud?” she asked, grateful her voice hadn't broken.
“Yes, Ms. Joyce. You know, the kind where innocent people lose their money . . . or worse.”
The bastard; how could he be so cruel? She'd been a stupid kid. Her father had conned her the way he'd conned those people.
She could tell herself that all she wanted. Reality was, she hadn't been that dumb. She'd known what she and JJ were doing. Her blame lay in not doing something about it sooner, or realizing the consequences could prove deadly. It was only money. Or so she'd naÃ¯vely thought. Until it was too late.
“Nothing to say, Ms. Joyce?” The light turned red and this time he stopped.
The asshole was enjoying this. “Stop calling me Ms. Joyce. I know how big your dick is. So put it away and start talking to me.” Enough was enough.
While he said nothing, white knuckles on his steering wheel said she'd hit a nerve. Whether because he didn't like being reminded they'd been naked together or something else was anyone's guess. Either way, she decided to try a new tactic. “Did I hurt you so badly this is your way of getting even?”
“Hurt?” he said, feigning ignorance. “If you're referring to our childhood . . . thing, I got over that the day after you left.”
Sure he did. And she was Mother Teresa. This was getting her nowhere. But like hell was he getting the last word. “Keep telling yourself that,” she muttered. She decided to bite her tongue for the rest of the drive until, glancing out the window, she realized she'd been too busy being a hellcat to notice they were on the wrong road. “Are you lost? Doesn't the government give you GPS?”
“I know exactly where I'm going.” He took a right turn, going in the opposite direction from the police station.
What the hell? “Care to share?”
“This could have been avoided if you hadn't hung up on me, so no.”
No? “Noah.” She'd stay calm if it killed her . . . or she'd get charged for murdering someone for real. “Where are you taking me?”
“In due time. Now, I suggest you sit back and stay quiet, before I add driving a federal agent to the brink of murder to your list of offenses.”
Part of her told herself to relax. That was his dumb attempt at humor. So how serious could this be? The other part said he was seriously pissed at her, and maybe she should be worried. Noah might be holding a grudge, but he'd never hurt her. No one could change that much. Then again, she wasn't exactly the same kid who'd run away from home. There wouldn't be a person in Tweedsmuir who'd expect her to amount to anything, let alone an attorney. For now, she'd keep her mouth shut, see how this all played out.
They eventually stopped at the last place she'd expected. The airport. Noah got out of the car and got in the backseat with her.
“What's going on?” She should be sitting in an interrogation room, not visitors' parking at the airport. “Is my father really dead?” May God have mercy on her soul, but she hoped so.
Noah nodded once.
“How did he die?”
He lifted a dark eyebrow.
“Cut it out. You know damn well I didn't kill him.” She didn't lie, not anymore. “Am I glad he's gone to a far worse place?” She shrugged. He'd not only screwed up her life but countless others'. His victims were in the thousands, if not more. “But when I left him, he was alive.” Not very happy but alive.
“When would that be?” he asked.
She considered telling him to go take a swim in shark-infested waters, then thought better of it. She had nothing to hide. “Two days ago.”
“What did the two of you discuss?”
“The weather,” she said.
. No way would she admit to her father extorting money from her. Thirteen years ago she'd have told Noah everything. Thirteen years ago he hadn't been a special agent assigned to a task force that could put her behind bars.
“Shannon, even if you and I didn't know you hated the guy, the only time he ever talked to you was to coerce you into one of his schemes. So what was it this time?”
She nodded pensively, taking a close look at the ass sitting beside her. “
it's Shannon? A few minutes ago it was Ms. Joyce.” On the phone he'd called her Shannon, as if he'd phoned to catch up instead of wanting to discuss her scumbag father. “What? Are you playing good cop/bad cop with yourself?”
He grinned. “Always the smart mouth.”
She'd had to survive an abusive father and an apathetic mother. A smart mouth had kept her sane. “Too bad you didn't have a few more smarts. Or that I'm still not that pathetic kid who did what she was told. And, more importantly, do you honestly think I would risk my career? I'm one of the best civil attorneys in Vegas; hell, the state. There isn't anything he could have said or done that would have gotten me to go along with one of his schemes. No one pushes me around. No one,” she said, giving him a pointed stare. “So if you thought you had cause to arrest me, you're wrong. I wasn't involved in any federal crime with dear old dad.”
“And yet you flew home to see him.”
“No, I flew to Tweedsmuir to see him. My home is here.”
Something flashed in his eyes. Anger maybe, then it was gone. “Fine,” he gritted out. “Why did you fly to Tweedsmuir?”
“I didn't. I flew to Boston, then took a car to a bar in Hanover, just outside that sad, small-minded town.”
Noah blew out a breath. She was annoying him. She had to say it was amazingly satisfying. Not only had he been a total ass, but by handcuffing her as she was leaving her office, he'd risked her reputation; hell, her firm.
“Why?” he repeated.
She didn't want to interfere in a police investigation, nor did she trust him. “I missed him.”
“Damn, Shannon. I can't help you if you don't tell me the truth.”
me? You call hauling me off in handcuffs helping me? You're lucky none of my staff saw what you did. I have two partners to think about. And you still haven't told me what evidence you have. What the hell links me to his murder? And why,” she nodded toward the window, “are we at the airport?”
“If I'm honest with you, will you return the favor?”
Favor? She glanced outside. Under the bright bulbs of the Vegas airport, a man dressed in a gray suit opened a car trunk and removed black luggage. A woman stood on the curb waiting. Noah hadn't taken her to the police station. And neither had he read her Miranda. She considered her next move. “Are you going to uncuff me and tell me why we're at the airport?”
He stared at her a long moment and said nothing. But she read it on his face. Some things never changed. He was trying to figure the best way to say something that wouldn't lead to a violent outburstâhers. What he didn't know was that she no longer did that kind of thing. She wouldn't have gotten as far as she had, or as quickly, if she hadn't learned to control her temper and emotions, outwardly at least. In your head you could call a judge every name in the book. Say it out loud and you'd not only lose a client but your freedom.
After unbuckling her seat belt, he motioned with a finger for her to turn around. She did as asked. He uncuffed her. With her hands free, she faced him.
“You shouldn't have hung up on me.”
“So what, this is payback for not wanting to talk to you about JJ?” She hadn't believed her ears. The love she'd sacrificed for
sake even more than hers called and he wanted to talk about her miserable father. She'd been mad . . . and scared. The moment
had come out of Noah's mouth she'd gone on alert.
“Okay, what if I tell you I know why you went to see your father?”
“Do tell.” Shannon licked her lips and waited. She looked down at her cuticles while counting to ten slowly in her head, calming her breath. When she was done she forced herself to meet his gaze head on. No way he knew. Intimidation was a civil attorney's best tactic. And that went hand in hand with bluffing. She wasn't going to allow sinfully golden eyes to throw her off her game. And this was a game. She didn't deal with many police in her practice, but she'd learned enough over the years to know they liked games. Federal agents were no different.