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One hot holiday, p.16

One Hot Holiday, page 16

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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  “Don’t,” Blair bit out. Her body was tense, and her gun was aimed straight at him. “Don’t move. You stay right there.”

  He blinked.

  Did that count as a movement? Haley thought it did.

  His gaze slid to her. Softened a little. “I’ve been following you. I’m sorry.”

  Wait, he was confessing? And apologizing?

  “I followed you when you left your cottage today with this…uh, friend?”

  Blair was slowly approaching him. “I’m going to pat you down.”

  “Feel free. I told you, I’m not armed.” His gaze remained on Haley. “It’s my fault, and I’m sorry.”

  She could barely breathe. He was just there. After everything that had happened, he was there.

  “I hired someone to follow you after you left New York. I have a lot of enemies, Haley. More enemies than you know, and they realize you’re my weakness. I was worried one of them would attack you, so I sent a PI to make sure you were okay.” His breath heaved out. “But the bastard…he called me. There was something about the call. Something about him that felt off. I told him to stand down because I was coming here. I was planning to talk to you.”

  “No weapons.” Blair stepped back. “But you keep those hands up.”

  His hands didn’t lower. “By the time I got here, I learned that you’d been shot at and that Francis Callaway was in jail. I knew one of my enemies had paid him. Those bastards are everywhere. I’m sorry. I hate that you were brought into this mess.”

  Okay, she was in the Twilight Zone.

  “Linc will be the calling the authorities right now.” Blair still hadn’t lowered her gun—something Haley was happy to see. “We’re all just going to stand here and wait for them to arrive. You’re going to keep your hands up, understand?”

  Drew finally focused on her. “Are you a cop? I thought…thought you were some friend of Haley’s.”

  “And I thought you were supposed to be Prince Charming, but we all know how those seemingly perfect guys turn out, don’t we?” Blair fired right back.

  “I’m not…look, it’s not what you think.” His stare cut to Haley again. “It’s not what anyone thinks. I’m not trying to hurt you, Haley. I want to keep you safe. That’s why I’m here—”

  “Uh, huh.” Blair’s doubt was obvious. “While everyone is thinking you’re out in Los Angeles, you snuck down here because you want her safe. Sure. Totally buy that.”

  “I didn’t want my enemies to find her! That’s the truth! I snuck down here so they wouldn’t know how much she matters to me.” His stare seemed to burn as he focused on Haley. “You got to me. I can’t let you get hurt.”

  She finally found her voice. “I was shot at the other day.”

  “Not by me. Not by anyone under my orders. The PI was only supposed to find you. You vanished from New York, and I was worried someone had taken you. I had to make sure you were safe.”

  “Back in New York, your goon came and threatened me outside of the subway! Don’t stand there and lie to me—”

  “He wasn’t working for me. I found out what had happened after you left town. And that guy? Hayden Phelps? He’s vanished. I worried he was after you. They’re all trying to hurt you because hurting you hurts me.” He glanced around, his stare nervous. “Do we really have to stay here? I’m worried about her being out in the open.”

  He was worried…about her. I don’t buy it. “You smuggle drugs. Weapons. You’re a criminal.”

  “Things are not always what they seem. Let’s go somewhere safe so we can talk.” He took a step forward.

  “I told you to freeze!” Blair snarled. “What part of that is hard for you to—”

  “Francis is close, all right?” Drew glanced around, as if he expected Francis to pop out of the trees at any moment.

  The same way Drew had popped out.

  “I know the sonofabitch is here. I was watching Haley, and I’m betting he had to be, too. He’s got someone powerful helping him out, and Haley needs to get the hell out of this place. He’s got—”

  “You’re the only threat I see.” Linc had appeared behind Drew. “But, yeah, let’s take this little talk somewhere else. The sheriff is on his way here, should be pulling up any moment, and let’s see what he has to say about you being in his town.”

  Drew didn’t take his eyes off Haley. “Francis is here.” His voice shook. “I know he has to be. The guy won’t stop until he takes you from me. Don’t you see? This isn’t about you. It’s about hurting me.”

  Haley shook her head. She wasn’t buying his act. He’d fooled her once. Never again. “You don’t give a shit about me. You lied to me from day one. Hurting me won’t do anything—”

  “I love you. I was going to marry you.” He surged toward her.

  Linc grabbed him and swung him around. “I believe the lovely lady told you to freeze, multiple times.” He drove his fist into Drew’s jaw. Drew slammed into the ground. “Next time, maybe you should listen.” His gaze swept over Haley and Blair. “You both good?”

  But Blair had turned away. “I don’t like this…” She moved her body closer to Haley’s. “Stay close.”

  A siren screamed in the distance.

  “That’s the sheriff coming to save the day.” Linc had his gun pointed at Drew. “And coming to throw your ass in jail.”

  Drew spat out blood. “I haven’t broken any laws. Haven’t done anything but cooperate while you assaulted me.”

  Linc grunted. “Try your lies somewhere else, asshole. I know you for what you are. I’ve seen the bodies you left behind.”

  Wait…what?

  Haley’s gaze snapped to Linc’s face. Suddenly, he didn’t look so easy going.

  “Does the name Shanna Sinclair ring a bell for you? Because it should. She’s the dancer who went missing from Shade a year ago. A dancer who came from Atlanta because she thought she was getting her big break in New York. Only she wound up dead. After you screwed her.”

  “Linc.” Blair’s voice shook.

  “She was my fucking sister, asshole. And you will pay.” It looked like he was about to pull the trigger.

  “Linc, stand the hell down!” Blair yelled.

  Spencer and Titus ran from the trees. Spencer’s face was locked into tight lines of fury. And Titus appeared ice cold.

  Haley wasn’t sure what was happening. But…Linc’s sister? He thought Drew had killed his sister?

  “This asshole just assaulted me.” Drew was still on the ground. “I want him arrested!”

  A muscle pulsed in Linc’s jaw. “And I want you in a jail cell. Wonder which of us will get our wish first?”

  “Stand. Down.” Spencer’s voice thundered out.

  Linc took a grudging step back. He lowered his weapon.

  Haley sucked in a breath—and ran straight to Spencer.

  He caught her with one arm and pulled her against him. “What the fuck is going on?” he rasped into her ear. “God, baby, I couldn’t get here fast enough.”

  He smelled good. Clean. Crisp. He felt strong and warm against her.

  “They were supposed to keep you safe.” Tension thickened his words. “Not bring you to him.”

  She looked up at Spencer. His face was hard and brutal, his eyes blazing. But she knew it wasn’t rage spilling from him. It was fear. He’d been worried about her. “I’m okay,” she told him softly.

  Haley eased back. Her head turned. And she caught Drew’s gaze on her.

  Her heart stopped.

  For just a moment, she did see rage—the rage that hadn’t been in Spencer’s eyes. She’d caught a flash of hateful fury in Drew’s gaze right before he’d blinked, and his mask slid back in place.

  But that was what he didn’t get…she’d bought the mask once. Never again. It didn’t matter what lies he spouted because now she saw him for exactly what he was.

  “I’m here to help Haley,” Drew said, voice all slow and careful as he rose to his feet. “She’s in danger.”
<
br />   “Yeah, from you.” Spencer kept his hold on Haley. “Cuff him, would you, Titus?”

  “My pleasure.” Titus advanced.

  “But I haven’t done anything!” Drew’s eyes were huge, and his lip was still bleeding from Linc’s punch. “I was assaulted by that bastard.” He cocked his head toward Linc. “You can’t arrest me! There’s no crime here!”

  “We’re bringing you in for questioning because you’re a person of interest in our investigation.” Spencer’s voice was flat. “You can come willingly, and in that case, Titus will put you in the back of his patrol car and bring you to the station. Or you can come unwillingly, and Titus will still put your ass in the back of his patrol car and bring you to the station.”

  Titus nodded. “That I will.”

  “I’ll come willingly,” Drew seethed. His nostrils flared. “But you’ve got me all wrong! I just want to save Haley, that’s all. That PI has gone off the rails, and we have to stop him!”

  Titus put his hand on Drew’s shoulder. “Walk.”

  Drew started walking. Then stopped. “I want charges pressed against the man who assaulted me.” His glittering gaze locked on Linc. “Throw him in a cell, or I will have a mountain of lawyers falling on your little town.”

  Linc sighed and didn’t look even a little concerned. “Whatever. I’m not afraid of you, jerkoff. Never have been. Never will be.” He nodded to Spencer. “Lock me up.”

  Haley could only shake her head. More deputies had arrived at the scene. It seemed like freaking chaos as they made their way to the vehicles.

  Their trap had worked, kind of. But the prey they’d wanted was singing his innocence, and the Wilde agent was about to be locked up.

  Titus paused near the back of his patrol car. He yanked open the door. “Get in.”

  Drew’s head turned. He stared straight at Haley. “You’ll see that I didn’t try to hurt you. That wasn’t me.”

  Titus pushed him inside. Slammed the door shut.

  Drew’s gaze stayed on Haley—

  Until Spencer stepped in front of her. “Don’t look at the bastard.”

  She blinked.

  “It’s what he wants. He is playing a game, yanking us all around, and I don’t fucking like it.”

  She wet her lips. “I can’t say I’m overly wild about anything that happened here.”

  He caught her hand in his. Held tight. “Why did you come to this place? What the hell were you doing?”

  She stiffened. “Trying to catch the bad guy.”

  “Baby…” His other hand lifted and curled under her jaw. “That’s my job.”

  “And it’s my life. I wasn’t going to stand by while other people were put at risk. We caught him, Spencer. He’s going to your station.”

  His mouth was tight. “We don’t have anything to hold him on. Nothing substantial to tie him to the shooting. Plus, we’ve got to lock up that Linc asshat until I can figure things out.” He put his forehead against hers. “I just need you to be safe.”

  “I am.”

  His head lifted. “I want you to stay with me. I thought I could trust the Wilde agents—I can’t. Not with Linc working his own agenda. Shit. Please, baby, stay with me.”

  Stay with him? “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” Strange…how very true that statement was. Her gaze darted to the left. To Titus’s patrol car. To Drew.

  He was still staring straight at her.

  Even with Spencer so close to her, a shiver slid over Haley’s body.

  ***

  “What in the actual hell?” Blair put her hands on her hips and glared at Linc. “You held back on me. I’m your partner, and you held back.” He’d also royally screwed the case.

  Linc lifted his chin. His eyes normally gleamed with humor as he constantly seemed to tease her. In that moment, though, there was no humor in his eyes. “This was my chance to nail the bastard.”

  “You did it the wrong way. We haven’t nailed him! He’s got you for assault.” Didn’t Linc get it? “You’re nailed!”

  “His DNA is on me. Couldn’t get a warrant for his DNA before. Couldn’t get access. Tried and tried…I’ve got it now.”

  OhmyGod.

  She realized her partner was being very, very careful with his hand.

  “The killer’s DNA was beneath Shanna’s nails. She clawed him. I can finally get the evidence I need to send his cocky ass to jail. Merry Christmas to me.”

  Merry Christmas…if the DNA was a match. It would take time to test it. And Linc would still be locked up. “Did Eric know about this?” Was she the only one who’d been kept in the dark?

  The flicker of his long lashes was her answer.

  And it hurt. Hurt. Because Linc was her partner. Your partner was supposed to trust you. Partners weren’t supposed to be keeping secrets. But Blair had the feeling that maybe Linc had been keeping secrets from her for a very long time.

  Maybe…maybe she didn’t know him nearly as well as she’d thought.

  Chapter Fifteen

  “You put her at risk because you were working your own agenda.” Spencer glared through the bars at Linc as the other man sat in the jail cell. “You knew I wanted her safe, but you took her out to that tree farm and paraded her around.” His hands grabbed for the bars. “You sonofabitch.”

  Linc winced. “Okay, I get it. You’re pissed.”

  Pissed? Pissed didn’t even come close to describing the fury pouring through him. “I’m calling Eric. I don’t buy that he was in on your little plan. Sure, he might have known about your sister, but I’m guessing Eric thought you were professional enough not to jeopardize the woman you’d been hired to protect.”

  “She wasn’t jeopardized.” Linc’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Look, your girl was protected the whole time, all right? I was there. Blair was there.” He motioned to Blair. “Tell him. We weren’t risking anything. We had the situation under control.”

  Spencer swung his gaze to a silent Blair. “Did you have the situation under control?”

  Her shoulders squared. “No.” Her voice was soft. She met his gaze without flinching. “We didn’t because I was not fully aware of all the elements involved. For example, I had no clue about my partner’s personal agenda. I didn’t know what he wanted, and since I didn’t know, I was walking in the dark. The dark is dangerous for anyone.”

  Spencer sucked in a deep breath. Then another. The breaths didn’t do a single thing to calm his ass down. He still wanted to slam his fist into Linc.

  “Blair…” Linc rose from the cot. “You’re… mad? Look, I keep my private life separate, you know that, and you know—”

  Her furious gaze swung to him. “I know partners don’t lie.”

  “I didn’t lie. I just didn’t tell you—”

  “Do not feed me a load of bull. Not telling me is the same thing as lying. And I’m not here for that. You disrespected me. You put our client at risk. I don’t even know who the hell you are anymore.” She exhaled. “I’m sorry, Spencer. I thought we were helping.”

  “We are helping,” Linc snapped. “I got DNA from him! I got—”

  “There are other ways,” Spencer snarled through gritted teeth. “Ways that don’t involve Haley being jeopardized.” He backed away from the bars. “I have to try and fix the mess you made.”

  Blair headed for the door with him.

  “Blair?” Linc’s voice wasn’t as confident. It was stilted. “I…I’m sorry.”

  She didn’t look back. “You should be.” She yanked open the door.

  As soon as they were clear of the holding area, she faced off with Spencer. “This isn’t how we work.” Faint shadows smudged her eyes. “You know that. Wilde is better than this. We don’t work personal agendas. I had no idea…Spence, I didn’t even know my partner had a sister! I thought he was an only child.” Her lashes flickered. “I don’t know him.”

  Yes, the situation was a clusterfuck, but they had to deal with one fire at a time. “Andrew Bradley is in my interr
ogation room, and he’s going to walk if I can’t find a way to hold him.” The whole thing was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The guy had just strolled right up to Haley? In the middle of the day? Acting like he was keeping her safe? That he was worried about her? “Your partner can cool his heels in holding. I have to handle Andrew first.”

  Titus marched toward them. “Still no word on Francis. It’s like the PI vanished into thin air.”

  “Doesn’t happen.” Where the hell are you, Francis? “We know he had help.”

  “Sure, but that help could have gotten him all the way to New Orleans by now. Man is in the wind, and he might not show up on anyone’s radar again.”

  Francis had been their tie to Andrew. Without Francis…

  We are so screwed.

  “How long will the DNA comparison take?” Blair asked quietly.

  “Oh, you mean the DNA that a good lawyer will probably get tossed out with his first breath?” Spencer shook his head. “It’s the holidays. Half the offices down here are running on a skeleton staff. No telling when we’ll have results.” He raked a hand through his hair.

  “I’ll call Eric.” She nodded. “He has his own team for things like this.” She hurried away. Stopped. Blair glanced back at him. “I didn’t know, Spence. I wouldn’t put someone at risk that way. That’s not who I am.”

  “No, but it’s who your partner is.” He still wanted to rip the man apart. Linc had used Haley to get what he wanted, and it infuriated Spencer.

  Blair marched for the front of the station.

  “Look, man, I get it, but take a breath,” Titus urged him. “We need to go in there with that snake Bradley, and you have to be in control.”

  Spencer met his friend’s worried gaze. “I’m in control.”

  Titus lifted his eyebrows. “You sure? Because it looks like you want to tear someone apart.”

  Titus wasn’t wrong. Okay, fine, he needed to calm his ass down, and the number one thing that would calm him?

  Haley.

  “Give me ten minutes, all right?” Spencer muttered.

  “Dude, take as long as you need. We both know perps start to sweat the longer they wait.”

 
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