If looks could kill, p.5

If Looks Could Kill, page 5

 

If Looks Could Kill
 



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  “It’s good to come home,” he said, staring up at the “bungalow.” Jordan Adair’s “Key West shack”—as he referred to it on talk shows—had eight bedrooms and baths, and sat on a patch of man-enhanced private beach. “Not that I would presume to call your father’s house my home,” he said, a small smile curling his lips.

  Madison shrugged. “Well, we were definitely the strangest family in the world. My father and your father used to play at being rivals, now they’re each other’s best friends.” She hesitated, determined to keep a grudging tone from her voice. “I’m sure my father considers this place home for you.”

  “That was quite magnanimous of you.”

  She shrugged. “Well, I’m exhausted. And five-year-olds wake up early.”

  “Your daughter is here?”

  “You didn’t know that?”

  He shook his head. “I drove in, dumped my gear in an empty guest room, saw your father briefly—he had one of his Enter at Your Own Risk, Madman Working signs on his door. He said I should go on over and have a few beers, he’d probably show up.”

  “He didn’t mention that the group would be there tonight?”

  “No.”

  “Sounds like Dad—he also didn’t think to mention to me that you were coming in.”

  Madison turned, walking along the gravel drive that led to the tile path to the house. A few steps brought her to the rustic front door—the place was a mansion with every conceivable luxury on the inside, but the weathered wood exterior made it look like something of a crab house. Kyle followed her inside.

  The foyer led straight through to a massive living room that opened out onto the patio and pool. On either side, the house sprawled out, kitchen and four bedrooms to the right, Jordan’s office and another four bedrooms to the left. Beyond the pool was a separate building that housed a Ping-Pong table, a billiard table and a multitude of games and coin operated machines. Next to it was a storage facility for scuba and fishing equipment. The patio was always lit, so even though the house was darkened, there was plenty of light for the two of them to see one another.

  “Well, as I said, welcome back.”

  “And as I said, I’m sorry.”

  She shrugged. “Apology accepted.” She hesitated. “How long are you down for?”

  “I don’t know yet. I have to be in Miami on Monday. From there, it depends on how things go.”

  Miami on Monday.

  Madison felt an instant chill, but she didn’t intend to say anything to Kyle. She didn’t want him asking her what kind of a witch she was again.

  “What’s going on that you’ve been called down?” she asked casually.

  He shrugged. “You don’t know?”

  She shook her head. “No, I don’t know.” That was the truth. “I don’t see everything, and I don’t control what I see, and I wish to hell that you’d stop treating me like some kind of freak!”

  “What?” He seemed startled.

  “I’m not a freak.”

  He frowned. “I never said you were.”

  “Well, you’ve acted like it.”

  He shook his head again. “No…I…No. Madison—it was just a bad time. Hell, I’ve said I’m sorry.”

  “Yeah, well, welcome home. I guess I’ll see you around.”

  “Good-night.”

  He didn’t move, continuing to look at her.

  She hesitated, wishing she knew more. “You still didn’t tell me exactly why you’re down here.”

  “No, I didn’t. It’s a long story. Want to go out on the boat with me tomorrow?”

  “No.”

  He shrugged. “Well, a boat is a good place to tell a long story.”

  “Maybe I’m not that curious. And maybe I could just ask Jimmy—or Jassy—what’s going on in Miami.”

  “Maybe you could. Suit yourself.”

  “I can’t just take off with you in the boat. I have a five-year-old. And we always spend Saturdays together, unless she’s with her dad.”

  Madison thought that a streak of pain flashed through his eyes, but it was gone so quickly that she decided she might have imagined it. But then, he should have had a little girl, too.

  But he was smiling at her then, so guilelessly that she was sure she had imagined the darkness in his eyes and soul.

  “Your five-year-old is Jordan Adair’s granddaughter. I’ll bet she just loves a day out on the boat.”

  She hesitated.

  “Hey, sis, come on. I’m just trying to make peace. Honest to God, once upon a time, we were friends.”

  “Maybe. We’ll see. It depends on when you’re leaving.”

  “Early. By eight.”

  “You’re out of your mind.”

  He smiled again with a casual shrug, tugging on his baseball cap. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

  He turned then, walking toward the left wing of the house. She was glad that her bedroom was to the right.

  Get a grip, Madison, she warned herself, hurrying through the shadowed house. Her fingers were trembling. Great. All those years. She’d married, then divorced. She’d found a life; she was happy. Or at least, she got on just fine. And here he was, back for a matter of hours, and she was shaking.

  Fuck him.

  She winced and tiptoed toward Carrie Anne’s room, cracking the door and looking in on her sleeping daughter. She walked into the room, stood by the bed and smoothed back her daughter’s hair. Carrie Anne was beautiful. She was blond, like her dad. Her features were fine, like Madison’s own. She had wide, generous lips, and the best smile in the world.

  She’d made a lot of mistakes, Madison thought, for a lot of reasons. But even if her marriage had been a pathetically bad mistake and her own fault, it had surely stood a purpose, and she knew that her ex-husband thought so, too. Carrie Anne was worth whatever heartache they had caused one another. And oddly enough, they were doing a fine job of keeping Carrie Anne’s best interests at heart.

  She planted a kiss on Carrie Anne’s forehead, then walked through the expansive bath that connected their two rooms. She entered her own room, allowing the night-light from the bathroom and the patio lights from beyond to serve as illumination. She flung herself back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. She loved her dad’s “shack.” Her room was large, her bed was plush, and she—like her other siblings—had a complete entertainment center, as well as a working fireplace for those few nights each year when the temperature dipped as far down as the low forties. Her father had spared no expense on his children’s part-time rooms. Carrie Anne’s decor was handsomely Disney, with a little Dr. Seuss thrown in. Madison herself had opted for a white-marble floor with ebony throw rugs and a red-black-and-blue motif that was vivid and passionate. Roger Montgomery, a frequent visitor, had applauded her taste, telling her that she was far more artistic than she was willing to admit.

  “Just like my—” he’d begun.

  “Your what?” she’d asked with a smile.

  “Son,” he said quietly, looking away. “Kyle. He can draw like a son of a gun.”

  “I didn’t know that,” she’d murmured, straining to maintain her smile.

  “My point exactly. Kyle doesn’t like to let people know he can draw. That might make him too much like his old man.”

  “I’m sure he loves you very much.”

  “Well, I guess you can love someone and not want to be like them.”

  “Maybe. What about Rafe?”

  Roger had shrugged. “Rafe’s a great kid, but he can’t manage a stick figure. He’s a mathematician, like his mother.”

  “Ah. Well…”

  And then she’d managed to change the subject.

  She sat up now and slid off the bed. She stepped out of her shoes, slipped off her skirt, blouse and bra, and dug under her pillow for her nightgown, a tailored cotton confection from Victoria’s Secret. As she did up the buttons, she caught sight of herself in the mirror over her dresser.

  For a moment she felt a terrible chill and stood dead stil
l.

  Oh, God, she did look like her mother! So much so that it was really frightening.

  She turned away from the mirror and curled into bed. She put her head down and reminded herself that her life was good. She adored her daughter; she had a good job and good times, and everything was great.

  Everything was great, and yet…

  All right, there was a lot that sucked, too. Somehow, she hadn’t noticed that. Not until Kyle came striding back into her life tonight.

  She prayed for sleep. Kyle was here. He would help solve whatever crime he was here to investigate—or the killer he was after would move on and remain a mystery to everyone. One way or the other, Kyle would leave. Maybe he would keep coming home for holidays, now that he’d been here, but he wasn’t really a part of her life again.

  She tossed and turned.

  Kyle was here. After her dream. Reporting to work on Monday. And Jimmy was going to pick her up on Monday. She wished she knew what was going on.

  She wanted to sleep; she didn’t want to sleep. She was afraid she would dream. She shivered. One way or the other, she had to sleep.

  Eventually she did.

  And no dreams invaded her slumber.

  She loved weekends. Adored them. Not that her schedule was such a brutal one—she knew many women who worked much harder!—but she did have a child in kindergarten, and she did wake up at six-thirty most mornings to get Carrie Anne to school on time. That made Saturdays and Sundays great days, when the alarm didn’t buzz rudely in her ear and she could sleep as late as she wanted.

  Not that morning.

  It was as if her eyelids had been fixed with robotic alarms themselves. They just suddenly sprang open, and she was wide-wake, staring around her room, where light was just beginning to filter in.

  She closed her eyes and wiggled down into the covers. She told herself how deliciously comfortable her bed was. How she could sleep for hours if she wished.

  No good.

  After a minute, she sat up. She glanced at her watch and swore softly at herself in disgust. It wasn’t even six yet. She wondered bitterly if there wasn’t some silly system inside of her that wanted to go out on the boat with Kyle.

  Too bad. She wasn’t going. Carrie Anne was still sleeping, after all.

  Thank God for Carrie Anne. Her daughter would keep her from foolishly seeking out the company of Kyle Montgomery.

  She had barely started the water running before she heard a little voice.

  “Mommy, can I come in with you?”

  She froze, then pulled the curtain back as the water beat down around her. “Hi, sweetie. What are you doing awake? Did I wake you up? I’m sorry.”

  Carrie Anne, large blue eyes wide, solemnly shook her head. She lifted her hands and grimaced. “I woke up. Just like that.” She frowned. “There isn’t school, is there? We wouldn’t have come down to Grandpa’s place if there was school, right?”

  “No, there isn’t school. Put your shower cap on and come on in.”

  Carrie Anne squiggled out of her Barbie nightgown and undies and piled her blond hair into a cap. Madison helped tuck her daughter’s curls beneath the elastic rim before bringing Carrie Anne in with her. They both sudsed up and rinsed off, Madison making sure Carrie Anne did her toes and ears, before Carrie Anne asked her, “What are we doing today, Mommy?”

  Madison hesitated. She turned off the shower, reached for towels and swung Carrie Anne from the shower to the plush rug at its side.

  She took all that time, but then it seemed that she talked before she really thought. “Want to go out on the boat?”

  “With Grandpa?” Carrie Anne asked.

  Madison shook her head, wrapping a towel around her daughter’s. “I don’t think Grandpa’s coming. He’s really into one of his books right now. But an old friend is down…He used to be my stepbrother.”

  “How can somebody used to be your brother?” Carrie Anne asked, truly mystified.

  Madison opened her mouth to answer, then shrugged. “Well, once his dad and my mom were married. So we were what people call stepbrother and stepsister. But you know that my mommy died—”

  “And went to heaven,” Carrie Anne supplied.

  “And went to heaven,” Madison agreed softly. “And then my stepbrother and I didn’t really see too much of one another anymore. Anyway, his name is Kyle. And you know Kyle’s daddy, Roger. You know his brother, Rafe.”

  “He’s Uncle Rafe’s brother?” Carrie Anne asked, pleased. Rafe was always great with the kids. Madison often wondered why Kyle’s older brother had never married and had his own kids. Of course, he, like the rest of them, had watched such a multitude of marriages go wrong. Rafe had spent a few years in New York, on Wall Street, and in that little bit of time, he’d made a fortune. Now he was based in Miami, where he played at the stock market and being an entrepreneur.

  “Actually, he’s Uncle Rafe’s half brother,” she said. “But we usually just say brother or sister, because except for Auntie Kaila and me, we were all half sisters and brothers or stepsisters and brothers.” She was confusing her daughter, and she smiled. “Honey, Kyle is related to Uncle Rafe. But he’s not really like Uncle Rafe.”

  “He’s not nice?” Carrie Anne said with a frown.

  “No, no, he’s just different. You know, the way Aunt Kaila and I are different.”

  Carrie Anne shook her head. “You and Auntie Kaila look just alike, Mommy.”

  “Right—but we’re different.”

  “You act different.”

  “Yeah.”

  “You act happy. Most the time. Auntie Kaila doesn’t.”

  Madison frowned, looking at her daughter. She acted happy? Life was a thrill a minute. But it was true that Kaila hadn’t seemed particularly happy lately. Madison wondered what was so wrong, that a five-year-old could intuitively sense a problem.

  “Don’t be silly,” she told Carrie Anne. “Auntie Kaila has a beautiful home, a supernice husband and three great, cute little kids just like you. She’s happy.”

  “I don’t think so,” Carrie Anne said, then let it drop. “Let’s go on the boat!” she enthused suddenly.

  “Okay…then go get your bathing suit on, the new one with the matching cover-up—”

  “I will, I will, I know, the sun can be murder,” Carrie Anne said, smiling.

  Madison nodded. “I’ll get dressed myself and see you in a few minutes.”

  “You should wear your new bathing suit, too, Mommy,” Carrie Anne advised. “The one with the matching cover-up.” At five, Carrie Anne already loved clothes. She took good care of her own and liked to advise Madison on hers.

  “Okay,” Madison agreed. “Let’s get to it, then.”

  Fifteen minutes later, she was dressed in her new turquoise-and-gold two-piece from Bianca, along with a sleeveless thigh-length cover-up, and ready with a bag filled with snorkels and masks, suntan lotion, and clothing to change into for both her and Carrie Anne when the sun and salt became too brutal to bear anymore. The boat was complete with a shower in the head, so she wouldn’t have to suffer the salt. She packed several books, her own CD player and headphones and Carrie Anne’s tape recorder and tapes.

  Just in case they all ran out of conversation.

  Then, hand in hand, she and Carrie Anne walked down the hallway to the outside patio.

  She saw her father first. He was definitely a unique man, with something of a Hemingwayesque quality. His thick silver hair fell to his shoulders. He wore a straggly beard and his customary clothing—cutoffs, no shoes, no shirt. He loved the image of being an island bum. She knew that women still found him attractive, that his dark eyes were described in interviews and reviews as “brooding” and “charismatic.” Kyle—in cutoffs, as well—was in the chair next to her father. He was wearing dark glasses, but no baseball cap today. He wore his dark hair cut to a medium length, not too long, but long enough to curl slightly at his nape and leave enough to brush back over his forehead now and then.


  He was in very good shape. It was easy to see that now, with his chest bare. Lots of dark hair grew across that broad expanse. His shoulders, too, were broad and bronzed.

  Jassy was with them. Madison hadn’t known that her older sister was coming. Tiny and blond, but with her father’s dark eyes, Jassy was a dynamo. Despite her fragile appearance, she had gone into pathology and now worked for the Dade County medical examiner’s office. Jimmy had told Madison about the cops who initially didn’t want to take Jassy seriously; one look from her dark eyes and one sure swipe of her scalpel assured them that she was all business.

  Madison wouldn’t have minded observing the threesome for another few minutes, but it wasn’t to be. Carrie Anne slipped her little hand from Madison’s and went rushing out to Jordan Adair. “Morning, Grampa!” She sat right on his lap, took his whiskered face between her hands, wrinkled her nose and kissed him on the forehead.

  “Hey there, munchkin!” Jordan said, giving her a fierce bear hug in return. “What are you doing up and about so early?”

  “I’m going out on the boat,” she said happily, smiling and squinting at her aunt Jassy. “With Rafe’s brother, who mommy says is very different, but nice, too. Are you coming, Aunt Jassy?”

  “Where’s your mother?” Jordan asked Carrie Anne.

  “Here, Dad,” Madison said, stepping out onto the patio. A coffeepot and cups sat on the counter by the breeze-through to the kitchen. Madison helped herself to coffee and took the fourth chair at the patio table. Carrie Anne was still on her grandfather’s lap, but the three adults were staring expectantly at Madison.

  She sipped her coffee. Black. “Good morning.”

  “You’re coming on the boat?” Kyle said politely. If he was surprised, he didn’t show it. If he was pleased, he didn’t show that, either.

  “You asked us.”

  “Yeah, I did.” She couldn’t see even a hint of his eyes behind the glasses.

  “You can’t come, Dad?” she asked her father.

  He shook his head. “I’m in the middle of some research.”

  “I told you I’d help you later, Dad,” Jassy said sweetly, winking at Madison.

 
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