If looks could kill, p.25

If Looks Could Kill, page 25

 

If Looks Could Kill
 


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  He left her, and she wondered where he was really going. But where the hell could he be going on a small private island where the traitorous natives spoke French?

  She lifted her left hand—it only shook slightly. She stared incredulously at the ring on it. If someone had asked her when she was young what she wanted more than anything else in the world, she would have said—if she’d allowed herself to be honest—that she wanted to grow up to marry Kyle. And now it had happened. He had tricked her, but she had let him.

  She closed her eyes. To her amazement, she began to drift. And she didn’t dream.

  She woke up to Kyle prodding her gently. “Hey, we have to be down at the pool in thirty minutes. You going to make it?”

  She stared at him and nodded. She felt a lot better. “Yes, I’m going to make it.” She bounded out of bed and into the bathroom, where she dressed quickly in her airport-purchase bathing suit.

  Kyle was waiting for her on the bungalow porch, and as they walked down the lawn toward the shore, he pointed out the inlet where the pool was located. “Gene’s lagoon is natural, but he’s fenced off an area. He thinks that some of the people who get so nuts about releasing dolphins and killer whales are crazy—they can’t make it in the wild any better than a French poodle. He’s raised all his ladies, as he calls them, and they’re affectionate, and accustomed to being fed. There’s Judy, the trainer we’ll be working with.”

  “Where are the rest of the people?”

  “This is a private dive. Just us.”

  She arched a brow at him and realized that part of the reason he had left her that morning was probably to arrange for this private session. For a tough FBI guy not above pulling a few fast moves, he could be amazingly considerate.

  “Mrs. Montgomery!” Judy called to her. The name was startling. She felt that she was playacting when she responded to it, but Judy just went on. “Welcome. I understand this is a long-time dream of yours. Come on over, meet the girls.”

  Judy was about thirty, an attractive, slender woman with a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Miami. She obviously adored the four dolphins in the pool—Heidi, Rachel, Debbi and Hannah. She introduced them one by one to Kyle and Madison, and warned them again that dolphins could be aggressive, even though the “girls” were naturally very affectionate. Madison and Kyle fed the dolphins fish, then led them in a few leaps and twirls under Judy’s supervision before donning snorkels, masks and fins to jump in with them.

  Madison had the time of her life.

  The dolphins were wonderful. She quickly discovered that they were very strong and could shove roughly while playing, but they were also as affectionate as Judy had said. They loved to be rubbed and touched, brushing against her and Kyle. She glanced at Kyle as they surfaced together, laughing delightedly, and she saw in his eyes that he was every bit as fascinated as she was, and having just as good a time. For a moment, as she stared at him, she was able to forget the rest of the world. She had loved him almost all her life, and now they were together, sharing an experience she had dreamed of for what felt like forever. If only…

  Heidi nudged her, trying to get her attention. Madison stroked the animal, marveling at her sleek feel, and ducked again to swim with her. It was incredible.

  Madison was aware that they spent much more than their allotted time in the water, and she was grateful. Her skin was completely pruned when Judy swam over to Kyle and warned him, “I’m afraid you’re going to miss your flight if you don’t get moving. And you said it was important that you get back tonight,” she added apologetically.

  “Yeah, thanks,” Kyle told her. He gestured to Madison, and she nodded. She patted each of the dolphins goodbye, then emerged from the lagoon, stripping off her fins.

  Judy was at her side. “You know, Mrs. Montgomery, you can come back to the island when you have more time.”

  “That would be lovely,” Madison assured her. She glanced at Kyle. “I’ll have to brush up on my French first, though.”

  As she and Kyle walked back toward their bungalow, he asked, “Would that have changed anything?”

  “What?”

  “If you’d understood French? I mean, there was a church, a priest….”

  “I thought maybe it was a game, a charade….”

  “I made the whole thing easy for you, then.”

  “How?”

  “Whatever happens, it’s my fault.”

  “I…I don’t want to think about that. But I do want to thank you for this afternoon,” she told him.

  “Oh. Then I shouldn’t be jumping on you.”

  “It was thoughtful.”

  “So you forgive me?”

  She shook her head. “You know I can’t drink.”

  “I was counting on it. Anyway, we’ve got to hurry. We do have to get back. There’s only one plane,” he reminded her.

  She walked ahead of him, straight into the shower.

  She thought he might follow her.

  He didn’t, and she chided herself for her sense of disappointment. They did need to catch a plane, after all. Still, he was curt when she emerged, showering and changing very quickly himself, then pensive on the plane.

  This time, she pretended to read a magazine while he stared restlessly out the window, but she couldn’t keep herself from wondering what was going on, what had happened to change his mood.

  It was late when they headed to the airport lot and got the Jeep. Kyle drove.

  “I take it Carrie Anne is spending another night at my sister’s?” Madison asked dryly.

  He nodded. “I told Dan that one of us would get her after kindergarten tomorrow.”

  “Did you tell him we were married?”

  Kyle nodded. “But I asked him not to say anything to Carrie Anne.”

  “What about Darryl?”

  “He knows.”

  “How about my father? And yours?”

  Kyle nodded, then glanced her way. “I made a lot of phone calls while you were sleeping.”

  “Did you happen to talk with anyone in the Storm Fronts? We’re supposed to go into the studio Thursday and Friday.”

  She wondered why she wasn’t surprised when he nodded. “Your dad told me, and he gave me some phone numbers. I got hold of Joey. There’s no reason why you can’t keep your date with them.”

  “Great,” she murmured. “I’ll just leave everything in your capable hands.”

  He didn’t answer, choosing to ignore her sarcasm.

  By the time they pulled into her drive, she was tired. She opened the door and keyed the alarm, choosing to ignore Kyle. It was nearly midnight. She should have been starving, but she wasn’t. She could have fixed something for Kyle, but she wasn’t in the mood. Let him fend for himself.

  She went into her bedroom, showered quickly and donned a nightgown. She could hear him moving around in the kitchen. She went to bed, wondering if she should talk to him; but she didn’t know what to say. She didn’t turn on the television; instead, she pretended to sleep.

  But he didn’t come into her room, and in time, the pretense became real.

  Killer watched her.

  Enraged.

  There she was, smiling at another man. Laughing. She had leaned on him, needed him, made him want her, love her, but she’d only been teasing.

  Like the other one. The one who had claimed to care about him, yet meant to tell the truth about him. So that he would be an outcast. Thrown out. Taken away. The other one. Lainie. With her red hair and brilliant smile, all that beauty hiding a heart of ice. A rose, God, she had the beauty of a rose! But her thorns were vicious. Deadly. She could stab beneath the skin, cut to the heart, draw blood….

  And now…

  This one.

  They could have made it. She could have eased all the pain and fury in his heart. He would have taken good care of her kids. Kids liked him. They always had. She could have loved him, but she was just a redheaded bitch in heat like the other one. She’d chosen not to
love him. Maybe he would give her one more chance. Force her to see him, to be with him, to realize all that he had to give. Maybe…

  He clenched his hands into fists at his sides and turned away.

  He walked to his car and started to drive. Aimlessly.

  He found himself on Seventy-ninth Street. Harlot Hangout, as he liked to call it. He saw one girl in particular. The bitch had dyed her hair a funky pinkish-red. It wasn’t the red hair he liked, but it didn’t matter. Not tonight.

  He picked her up, paid her.

  In a cheap downtown motel room, which he made her pay for so that he wouldn’t be seen, he beat her up.

  And slit her throat.

  It turned out that the funky hair was a wig. He started to laugh. He’d made a mistake.

  No. She’d made a mistake.

  He decided just to leave her. He didn’t allow himself to leave his signature on her body or anywhere near her. Let the cops think that this one had gotten it from a greedy pimp.

  Killer drove away, laughing.

  A wig. A damned wig. Her mistake.

  The dream seemed to sneak up on Madison. First there was mist, then the mist began to settle, and she heard talking. Arguing.

  She thought at first that she was a little girl again, back in Roger Montgomery’s big house in the Grove, where her mother had died. It sounded like Lainie’s voice, arguing. Then she realized that this voice was very different. Husky. She could also hear a male voice. Deep. Throaty. She knew it.

  She didn’t know it.

  “Love me. Do it, just love me. You promised, you bitch. You smiled, you said that—”

  “No, no, I didn’t—”

  “You will. Now stand still. You stand still, and you whisper that you love me, and you make love to me. Now. You don’t want to upset the children, do you?”

  There was silence. A long silence. Then a moan of anguish. “I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t hurt the children. Please…”

  “I just want you to love me!”

  Madison awoke with a start. Once again, she was shaking. Once again, the dream meant nothing. She was drenched in sweat, and she was tired, so sick and tired of dreaming. She burst into tears.

  “Madison?”

  She opened her eyes. Kyle was coming into the room, in his robe.

  “Yeah?”

  He sat on the edge of her bed. “You’re not crying because I didn’t demand sex, are you?” he teased gently.

  She couldn’t help laughing. “No.”

  “Then…”

  “Oh, Kyle!” she said, and slipped her arms around him. “I’m so tired of the dreams! I don’t know what they mean, I don’t know how to help. I feel like someone close to me is in serious danger, but I don’t know who, and I don’t know what to do, how to help anyone….”

  “It will end, Madison. It will all end. We will get this guy,” Kyle promised her. He held her, rocking with her. Then he eased her back to her pillows. “Want me to stay?” he asked huskily. Her arms were still around him; his eyes were locked with hers. “I will demand sex,” he admitted.

  “Well, you know, sometimes you’ve just got to pay the price,” Madison murmured.

  “Sometimes you do.”

  He took hold of her hand and kissed her palm, then drew it against his chest, where the robe gaped open. He drew her hand downward, closing her fingers over the growing length of his erection. “I think we were just about here the other night,” he murmured, smiling. Then he rose, rising, sloughing off the robe and reaching for her and drawing her upright so he could strip away her cotton nightgown. His eyes on hers, he lifted her, caught her knees, parting them, as he settled her on the bed. Still watching her, he rubbed his engorged member intimately against her. She was amazed by the instant rise of mercurial excitement within her. Heat flooded her body, even before he forcefully pressed hard, all the way into her, deeper, deeper, deeper, his eyes on hers all the while.

  When she thought she was about to die from the agonizing ecstasy of his hard, penetrating thrusts, he withdrew. He kissed her lips. He kissed her everywhere. Except where she burned.

  Then he kissed her there, and she shrieked, called his name, and went wild, but he didn’t come back to her until she was shaking with raw sensation. Then he reentered her, moving with hard, electric force, and when he ejaculated, she found herself crying out with the violent force of her own climax. She lay beside him for a very long time, overwhelmed by the way he could make her feel. Then she realized that he was leaning on one elbow, watching her in the shadows of the night.

  “What went wrong with you and Darryl. What—what did he do wrong?” he asked quietly.

  She bit her lip for a moment. “Nothing. He didn’t do anything wrong. He just wasn’t you,” she told him.

  He cradled her against him, and she fell asleep. And when he was with her, the nightmares stayed at bay.

  When Madison awoke in the morning, he was gone. Peggy, however, was moving about the house, singing, “Danny Boy.”

  Madison stayed in bed, feeling the sheets where he had been sleeping, luxuriating in the subtle musky scent of lovemaking that remained.

  She got up at last, showered and walked out in a terry robe.

  Peggy smiled broadly at her. “God be praised!” she said, looking heavenward. Then she opened her arms and hugged Madison. “So, you’ve married the boy! A fine lad, I say. It’s so wonderful. A real joining of the families, eh, love? All your assorted siblings will be in-laws now, eh?”

  “Umm, I guess,” Madison murmured.

  “But what matters is you. And I’ve been given strict instructions not to leave this house today.”

  “Oh?”

  “You’re not to be left alone in it.”

  “Really? In my own house?”

  “It never hurts for others to know there’s an eagle eye about,” Peggy said solemnly. “Your new husband says that he’ll be back before dinnertime, so you and I can go pick up Carrie Anne together, and then you should do what you think is right about her—you go ahead and tell her that you’re married if you want, or you can wait, and the two of you can tell her together. To tell you the truth, she likes him very much. I think she’ll be very happy—like me. I’m delighted! Everything will be fine now!”

  “Will it?” Madison murmured dryly.

  “And your father is on his way, love.”

  “What? Dad is coming here?”

  “He called just a few minutes ago. He’s heading home to Key West, but he wanted to see you before he left. I said as how you were still sleeping, but he’s on his way. I can keep breakfast warm for you both, if you want to get dressed.”

  “I’ll do that. Tell Dad I’ll be right out when he comes, will you?”

  “That I will.”

  Madison nodded and returned to her room to dress, wondering just what her father was going to say about her sudden marriage.

  Kyle sat in an unmarked police car on the side of a road in Key Largo, going over the list of restaurants he’d just been given. Jake Ramone, the young rookie officer at his side, cleared his throat. “Sorry there are so many.”

  “Yeah, well…who would have thought this many restaurants would have had a shrimp étouffée special on the same weekend, hmm?” Kyle murmured.

  “Must have had a good catch of shrimp that day.”

  “Yeah, and a bumper crop of brown sauce. It looks like this Rusty Rumhouse is next. Let’s try her.”

  “Yes, sir. I’m right with you, sir.”

  The rookie revved the car into gear, and they moved forward.

  God, it was a tedious morning! Despite the fact that a young desk sergeant had “let her fingers do the walking” to find out which restaurants in the Keys offered the menu Holly Tyler had last eaten, they’d come up with a longer list than anyone had imagined. He’d already been in ten restaurants, asking questions, showing Holly Tyler’s picture.

  He didn’t have to do this. He could have sent out a half-dozen rookies to do the job. But h
e’d done everything else he could think of, and he was itching for action.

  He’d even gone over to Kaila’s tennis club and interviewed the waiter who had brought her the package with the edible undies. The man said he’d found the package on his tray and assumed his manager or the hostess had put it there. Questioning revealed that neither the manager nor the hostess had ever seen the box. Kyle left with a list of employees and club members.

  His whole family—and Madison’s—belonged to the club. He’d faxed the lists up to Ricky at the main office to see what the big computer could turn up.

  Now he needed to move. Hands on. He needed to find this killer, and that meant getting out to look for him himself.

  Even when he wanted to be…home.

  Home had meant an apartment in Virginia for a long time now. It was odd to realize how quickly this place had become home again. How quickly Madison’s place had become home, the place where he wanted to be. He didn’t dare think about it too much right now. Not after last night. Not after she had looked at him and told him that Darryl had done nothing wrong, except that he wasn’t him.

  His blood quickened. Hell, he had just gotten married. He should be on a honeymoon. He’d been expected back to work, though; they’d sent him down here to help crack a case. And no matter how much he wanted to spend time with Madison, to guard her with his sheer presence, he knew that this case had to be solved if they were ever going to have a life.

  And despite the fact that he was seriously considering resigning, he’d said he was reporting back to work. Well, hell, here he was—working.

  Kyle thought about Jimmy Gates, back at his office that morning, awaiting forensic results. In spite of the condition of Holly’s dismembered body, the coroner’s office had been able to establish that she had engaged in sexual relations prior to her murder. Whether they had been forced or not was impossible for the medical examiners to say, but they had been able to come up with a sperm sample for DNA comparison.

  There had been other developments, too. Harry Nore had killed himself in his cell. An insane, pathetic ending to an insane, pathetic life. Kyle had known it on the island, because he’d read about it in the papers. But Harry’s death didn’t get him any closer to solving the recent rash of murders.

 
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