Read The Murder That Never Was: A Forensic Instincts Novel Online

Authors: Andrea Kane

Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thriller

The Murder That Never Was: A Forensic Instincts Novel (6 page)

BOOK: The Murder That Never Was: A Forensic Instincts Novel
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CHAPTER SIX

Casey rolled over in her bed, blinking away the early-morning sunlight. She wished she shared an iota of the sun’s energy and perseverance. But this morning? Not a chance. She was too exhausted to even think of moving, much less rising. And the chest wall of the hard, muscular man pressed against her was the reason.

She buried her face in her pillow, determined to eclipse the day for just a few short hours.

“Morning, lazy.” Hutch clearly had different ideas. His deep voice came from just above her head. And it sounded very much awake.

“Lazy?” If Casey weren’t so wiped out, she’d laugh. “You kept me up until almost four a.m. I can tell it’s barely dawn. Besides, don’t sound so smug. I topped you in stamina last night.”

A chuckle. “That’s a pipe dream, sweetheart. It’ll never happen. And you’re certainly not helping your case now. Where’s that stamina you’re boasting about?”

“Recouping.”

“You’ve had two hours to recoup. Time to resume.”

Casey groaned. Hutch was a twenty-four seven kickass guy—mentally, physically, psychologically. He’d shone in his years as a DC cop, blown through his FBI new agent training at the top of his class, excelled throughout his career at the Bureau, and was now the unspoken leader of his team at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico.

It was disgusting how productive one human being could be. People called her a dynamo who could survive on little sleep. Well then, Supervisory Special Agent Kyle “Hutch” Hutchinson was one step away from superhuman.

He was already kissing the side of her neck. “Wake up, beautiful.”

“I can’t.” But Casey could already feel her body responding. When it came to Hutch, it always did.

“Try.”

She did, and with great success. It wasn’t a surprise; she was as starved for him as he was for her.

The problem was, with Hutch stationed in Quantico, Virginia, and Forensic Instincts deeply entrenched in Manhattan—not to mention both hers and Hutch’s insane schedules—they only got to see each other once a month, if they were lucky. And that was just too damned long to be apart.

The tension over this tough obstacle in their relationship was intensifying. They were both feeling the strain.

Neither of them was a child. They’d been together a long time, close to two years. Casey was thirty-two, and Hutch was coming up on thirty-five. This wasn’t the story of two teenagers going to two separate colleges. They were two adults, very much in love, very committed to each other, and struggling with a virtually insurmountable situation.

It wasn’t as if they didn’t discuss it. They did—a lot.

This visit’s conversations were even more difficult, and more raw, than most.

Maybe it was Marc’s upcoming wedding that was making them feel more sentimental. Maybe it was their growing feelings for each other. And maybe it was whatever was on Hutch’s mind these days—some new, unspoken preoccupation. It was personal, yes, but it was primarily work related, which confused Casey about how their relationship factored into it. But she knew the drill. She couldn’t and wouldn’t pry. If it was BU business, it was classified and unable to be shared.

But it was taking things to a whole new level of emotional strain.

“A penny for your thoughts.” Hutch leaned over and kissed Casey gently on the lips.

“Nothing exciting. I’m just tired.”

“Uh-huh.” Disbelief laced Hutch’s tone. “Let’s get up, take a shower, and have a meaningful talk. No bullshit and no interruptions.”

Casey tensed. It wasn’t that it was unusual for Hutch to read her mind. It was just that his words told her that this wasn’t going to be an average I-miss-you conversation. This was going to be some indiscernible moment of truth.

God, was she ready for whatever was about to come?

Only one way to find out.

“Okay, I’ll get up,” Casey agreed. Her heart was slamming nervously against her ribs. At the same time, her legs were still wobbly from their lovemaking. Quite the contrast.

She struggled for levity. “But forget any ideas you have about us showering together. If we do, it’ll be noon before we have our talk.”

“I wasn’t going to suggest it—not this time.” Hutch didn’t sound teasing. He sounded very serious.

Casey swallowed hard.

Gingerly, she slid to the edge of the bed and swung her legs over the side.

A handsome red bloodhound rose from his dog bed and plodded over, nuzzling Casey’s hand with his jowls.

“Morning, Hero.” Casey smiled, stroking his head and silently thanking him for giving her a moment to compose herself. “Hutch will take you out while I shower.”

Hero was a full-fledged member of the Forensic Instincts team. A retired FBI human scent evidence dog, Hero could sniff out anything for miles and miles and help the team track down anyone. He’d only left the BU because he wasn’t a good traveler, which made it impossible for him to continue on in the Canine Unit. But he was smart, he was expertly trained, and he was loving—and, since the day Hutch had brought him to Casey as a gift, he’d become not only her teammate but her beloved pet.

“C’mon, boy.” Hutch was already out of bed, pulling on his sweats. “Let’s do our business, and then I’ll get you some breakfast while I put up coffee.” Hutch met Casey’s gaze. “Go ahead. I’ve got this.”

Hutch took Hero on a productive jaunt around the block. He didn’t belabor the walk—not this time. They were back at the brownstone and up on the fourth floor, where Casey’s apartment was, in fifteen minutes. The coffee was brewing, and all the ingredients for vegetable omelets were laid out beside the carton of eggs when Casey emerged. She’d thrown on sweats and was towel-drying her hair.

“I was going to make breakfast while you showered,” she said.

Hutch’s brows rose. “Burnt Eggo waffles again?”

She made a face. “You don’t have much faith in my culinary skills. Then again, you’re right. I can’t even crack an egg without getting pieces of shell in it. So I’ll just blow-dry my hair and wait for you to shower. Then you can whip up one of your amazing omelets for us.”

“Grab a cup of coffee. I won’t be long.”

Hutch let the hot water beat down on his body as he quickly and methodically showered. Despite how straightforward and sure he was coming across to Casey, he was uncharacteristically unsettled about how this conversation would go. The pride and excitement she’d feel about his accomplishment and its subsequent reward were a given. But that’s where the certainty ended. The reality would sink in. And how would it be received? As an opportunity for them? The opening of a door? Or the shutting of one, based on her perception of this as an invasion of space?

Hutch just didn’t know. And that was an anomaly for him. Reading people was his forte and his job. And Casey? He knew her better than anyone else did, partly from what she offered him and partly from what he deduced.

She was a very complex person. Raised in a reserved family of sky-high achievers, she was used to sharing her mind and her convictions but never her emotions. Her innermost self was a mystery—except to him—and her deepest feelings were well hidden, even to the FI team. It often amazed Hutch how little of herself Casey shared with co-workers who were truly family. Yes, she was always there for them and demonstrated loyalty, caring, and compassion. But asking for that caring and compassion in return? No way.

She never allowed her soul to surface, not really. She was determined to always be a strong leader for her team. She never forgot for a minute that she was the boss. So she made sure to always be a take-charge woman who was at the top of her game. Displaying indecision or uncertainty meant signs of weakness.

And caring too deeply was taboo.

Hutch had shot that last part to hell. It had taken more than a year of tirelessly breaking down those walls, getting her to lower her guard, to trust him, and to finally admit that she loved him.

It had been worth every ball-breaking moment.

And for months it had been enough.

Now it wasn’t.

Hutch turned off the shower water and grabbed a towel, vigorously drying himself so he could get out there and address this eight-hundred-pound gorilla soon to be in the room.

Funny how life played out. The biggest personal crossroads of his life was dovetailing with the biggest professional crossroads of his life. He’d been a key player for the Bureau’s Counterterrorism Department as they foiled a major plot against the US. That victory had led to an extraordinary offer. And the implications of that offer would affect the course of his future.

He knew what he wanted.

It was time to find out if Casey wanted the same thing.

Chicago, Illinois

Shannon couldn’t take it anymore. Her fear was too great, her patience too limited.

Sequestered in her bedroom, she curled up on her bed, pulling her favorite blanket over her. It was times like this that she felt as if she were a helpless little girl again.

Sometimes she wished she were a regular kid who’d gone the regular teenage route. But the path she’d chosen—not to mention the horrors of what was going on these past few weeks—extinguished any childhood she had. Innocence and naivety were things of the past.

Now, tears slid down her cheeks. She’d promised Julie she wouldn’t go to the police. And she recognized that Julie was right. They had nothing to offer in terms of proof.

Julie was hunting for it. But Shannon couldn’t wait. She had to find it.

So, yes, she’d promised Julie that she wouldn’t go to the cops. And, yes, when she’d first found out the truth about Jim, she’d promised Julie she wouldn’t confront him, either. But that was then. This was now. Circumstances had changed—and a life had been lost.

Jim might be the weakest link. Maybe he’d blurt out something. Maybe just the fact that Shannon would surprise him by getting in his face would be enough to trip him into giving up a name or a piece of pertinent information. Maybe. But maybe was enough. Shannon couldn’t survive on Julie’s Facebook messages alone. She was unraveling. She had to stop the pain.

The decision was made. She was going to see Jim. Now.

Forensic Instincts

Fourth Floor

Seated at her cozy kitchen nook, Casey curled her hands around her coffee cup and studied Hutch. He’d adjusted his stool so he was angled across from her, rather than beside her. Clearly, he wanted to take in her physical cues as well as her verbal ones. And clearly, he intended to facilitate what they were about to discuss. Casey would have her say. But right now, this was Hutch’s show.

Those omelets were going to have to wait.

Hutch’s expression was sober as he stared into his coffee mug, lifting it to his lips for a brief swallow before putting it down.

“You’re making me very nervous,” Casey said. “I feel like I’m one of your profiling targets.”

Hutch didn’t smile. But he did meet her gaze. “This isn’t a profiling session. But it is a significant conversation. And it’s time we had it.”

His tone and choice of words made Casey’s thoughts take a frightened detour. She’d assumed this talk was going to be about them and their relationship. But Hutch sounded like it went far deeper than that. “You’re okay, right? You’re not sick.”

“I’m fine, sweetheart.” Hutch reached over and squeezed her hand. “In perfect health. It’s nothing like that.”

Casey felt a surge of relief. “Thank God. In that case, would you stop scaring me and get to it?”

A hard nod. “You’re right. Okay, here it is in a nutshell. I’ve been working a bunch of high-profile cases lately, with both the counterterrorism and the cybercrime squads. Our team was the one who cracked the cases wide open. Most recently, I worked a counterterrorism case for which I was in the forefront. I tracked down the subjects and ended the threat. That’s all I’m at liberty to say.”

“In other words, you were a hero,” Casey said. “I know you. You’re one of a kind and an asset to the Bureau.”

Hutch’s lips curved slightly. “An unbiased opinion. But thanks.” He cleared his throat. “My contributions caught the eye of several ASACs. One of them controls all the Violent Crimes Programs in his field office. We have a history. He mentored me when I was a newbie.”

ASAC. Assistant Special Agent in Charge. Casey knew the acronym. She also knew its importance and where this might be heading, even before the next words came out of Hutch’s mouth.

“Thanks to his recommendation, I’m being offered a huge opportunity in a different location,” Hutch continued. “A lateral move but a job that’s in high demand, and a field office to work out of. Obviously, that means I’d be moving away from Quantico. My new role would be squad supervisor of the field office’s NCAVC. I’d be the BAU coordinator and head of all the Violent Crimes squads.”

Casey was trying to absorb all this. “The NCAVC?” she asked, searching her mind for the meaning of that acronym.

“Sorry. The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. It’s comprised of all five BAU units, including the one I’m transferring from.”

“Wow.” Casey’s eyes widened.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Hutch continued. “The competition for this job is fierce. It’s in major high demand, sought after by a long list of qualified agents. I caught a lucky break.”

BOOK: The Murder That Never Was: A Forensic Instincts Novel
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