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Authors: Jayne Ann Krentz

Tags: #Literary, #Mystery & Detective, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction

Sharp Edges (6 page)

BOOK: Sharp Edges
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"Not so fast. This is beginning to sound interesting. What's he like?"

"Who? Colfax?"

"We're not talking about Santa Claus."

"You can say that again." She did not take her eyes off Cyrus. "The only thing I can tell you at the moment is that he drives a Jeep, and he wears aloha shirts and those tacky mirrored sunglasses."

"Uh-oh. Not your type, huh?"

"Definitely not."

"Oh, well," Sally said. "Try to enjoy your vacation, anyway. You need one."

"I'll try." Eugenia pushed the button to end the connection. She summoned a superficially polite smile. "Hello, Mr. Colfax. Lovely day, isn't it?"

"I think we'd better talk."

"Certainly. But not now. The ferry is boarding." She put on her own sunglasses, a green-tinted, oval pair that had a well-known designer's name embossed on the frame.

She turned the key in the ignition, put the Toyota in gear, and without another glance at Cyrus, drove quickly down the ramp.



he passenger-side door of the Toyota opened shortly after the ferry pulled away from the dock. Cyrus settled down on the seat beside her. He left the door ajar and kept one moccasin-shod foot on the deck.

"Let's try this conversation again," he said a little too pleasantly.

He was right there in the car with her
. Much too close for comfort. Eugenia realized that her breathing had become shallow, as if he had somehow sucked out most of the oxygen in the vicinity. She was torn between a sudden urge to get out of the car and the equally strong impulse to find out what brand of aftershave he used.

This was insane.

Shocked by her reaction, she froze for a few seconds. Like a computer locked up by a jolt of lightning, she thought, disgusted and a little horrified.

But Cyrus was overwhelming at close quarters. In the mirrored sunglasses, he was no longer an avenging gunslinger of the Old West. He was now an avenging lawman from the far more dangerous future.

She wondered if he had brought along a pair of handcuffs.

Damn, damn, damn
. The fact that she was fantasizing about him like this was definitely not a good sign, she thought. She had not had any really interesting fantasies about a man for a very long time. In fact, lately, she had started to think about getting a cat.

Cyrus looked at the door handle on her side. He said nothing, but she sensed his amusement.

She was annoyed to discover that she had a death grip on the handle. Very deliberately she released it and draped her hand casually over the steering wheel.

In her professional capacity as the director of the Leabrook she routinely dealt with wealthy, powerful, influential people. She was not about to let one lone private detective in an aloha shirt fracture her composure.

An ancient bit of wisdom whispered through her head.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer
. She could not avoid Cyrus for the next two weeks. Therefore, the only smart thing to do was keep a close watch on him. It was in her own best interests to learn as much about him as possible.

She stared straight ahead at the offshore fog bank that concealed Frog Cove Island. "I realize you must get asked this question a lot, but I can't resist. Why the aloha shirts?"

"I'm on vacation. Just like you."

"Frog Cove Island isn't exactly Hawaii, and I thought you said you were going there to investigate Daventry's death, not take a vacation."

"Funny you should mention the subject of vacations," Cyrus said. "I've been wondering why a hard-working museum director like you would spend her time off on a project that could be handled just as easily by one of the Leabrook's other curators."

"The Daventry glass is an extremely important acquisition for the Leabrook. I wanted to inventory it myself."

He shrugged. "The executors of the Daventry estate want to be satisfied that Daventry's death was an accident. What's more, they're willing to pay well for answers. It should be a simple, straightforward job. Thought I'd combine my time off with the opportunity to make some easy money."

She knew that he was lying to her. He wasn't even bothering to be earnest or clever about it. It was as if he didn't care if she believed him. And she, of course, was lying to him. She supposed that evened things out in a peculiar way.

She wrenched her gaze from the rapidly approaching fog bank and made herself look at Cyrus with a degree of professional detachment. It occurred to her that she might be able to learn something about the process of investigating a possible murder from him. She would have to be subtle about it, she reminded herself.

"If you're a genuine investigator, you must have read the reports and talked to the police who investigated Daventry's death," she said. "What do you think happened to him?"

"Frog Cove Island doesn't have what you'd call a professional police department. From what I could find out, it's got someone called Deputy Peaceful Jones."

Eugenia considered that. Not the name on the report that had been filed on Nellie. Her death had been investigated by the team from the mainland that had conducted the search-and-rescue effort.

"Interesting name," she murmured.

"Yeah." Cyrus's mouth curved fleetingly. "At any rate, he's the one who wrote up the report on Daventry. There was a party at Glass House the night Daventry died. Lots of alcohol, and reading between the lines of Deputy Peaceful's report, I'd guess some other drugs as well."

On her last visit to the condo the day after Daventry's death, Nellie had mentioned his taste for designer drugs, Eugenia reflected.
When he was on them he felt like a god. Tried to act like one, too

"I see." Until she discovered what Cyrus's real agenda was, she did not dare let on that she knew anything about Daventry or that she was looking for a woman who had been at the party the night of the accident.

"No one actually saw Daventry take a header down the stairs," Cyrus continued. "But there's no reason to think that it wasn't an accident."

She blew out a breath and tightened her hand on the steering wheel. "In other words, you aren't really going to Frog Cove Island to look for evidence of a murder."

"Let's get something straight here, Ms. Swift. I promised my clients peace of mind. That's what I intend to give them."

She drummed the fingers of her right hand on the back of the car seat. "I wonder who put the notion of possible foul play into the minds of the Daventry estate executors."

"Are you implying that I talked them into hiring me?"

"Did you?"

"Now, why would I do that?" he asked softly.

"Gee, I don't know." She saw her own reflection in the mirrored sunglasses. "Maybe the security business is a little slow this time of year. Maybe this looked like an easy way to bill the estate for a lot of excessive fees. Maybe you're the private detective equivalent of an ambulance-chasing lawyer."

"Come, come, Ms. Swift. No need to be polite. Why don't you just come right out and say what you think?"

His failure to take offense at the insult emboldened her. "I don't even want to imagine the bill the estate is going to receive after you waste a couple of weeks puttering around Frog Cove Island supposedly looking into Daventry's death."

"Don't worry, the estate has plenty of money to pay for my services."

She pounced. "So you admit that this is some kind of expensive scam you're running. You're wasting the estate's money on a sham of an investigation."

"For the record," Cyrus said very deliberately, "I always endeavor to give satisfaction to my clients. The Daventry estate executors want reassurance. They'll get it."

She did not have to be psychic to figure out that she had crossed some invisible line. It had taken a lot of pushing, but she had finally managed to annoy him with the accusation that he intended to fleece his clients.

She had crawled far enough out on this limb, she thought. Time to ease her way back to a safer position.

"What happens if you don't learn anything more than what this Deputy Peaceful person already came up with in his report?" she asked, genuinely curious.

"Then I tell the executors that Daventry's fall really was an accident."

She wished she could see his eyes. Then again, maybe it was better that they were concealed behind the tacky shades. "What's your best guess?"

His mouth twitched at the corner. "My best professional guess is that it was an accident."

"Why am I not surprised?"

"I'm getting the impression that you don't trust me, Ms. Swift."

She wondered if she should worry about the prickling sensation at the nape of her neck. "I can't imagine where you got that idea."

He uncoiled from the seat with a deceptively lazy movement that did not quite camouflage the economic grace of the action. He closed the door, braced one hand on the roof of the car, and leaned down to talk to her through the open window.

"The interesting part," he said, "is that I feel pretty much the same way about you."

Outrage swept through her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He smiled. "I don't trust you, either, Ms. Swift. But I will give you some free advice. Don't make the mistake of underestimating me."

"I don't place a lot of value on stuff I get for free. You know what they say, you get what you pay for."

He nodded once, apparently accepting her decision. "Okay. If you want to pay full price, be my guest. But I don't intend to make the same mistake with you."

"Is that right?"

"You bet. I have great respect for your professional expertise. You did a hell of a job with that exhibition of ancient glass at the Leabrook last spring."

That stopped her cold. "You saw 'Through a Glass, Darkly'?"

"Flew up from Portland three times to take it in. You had both quality and depth in the collection. What's more, you managed to create the kind of publicity excitement that pulls in the crowds." He paused. "I especially liked the fourth-century Roman pieces."

"Yes. Well, thanks." She was chagrined by the warming effect his blatant flattery had on her. She was also baffled. "You toured the exhibition

"Yeah. Brought my nephew, Rick, with me once. He liked it, too. Good for a kid that age to think about the past a bit."

She squelched the treacherous little bubbly sensation that threatened to override common sense. If Cyrus had switched tactics from unsubtle warnings to outright compliments, there was a reason. She had to be on her guard.

"I didn't realize you had a personal interest in old glass," she said coolly.

"I've only been into it seriously for about three years. There's something intriguing about objects made out of such fragile material that have survived for so long, isn't there?"

The three years rang a very loud bell. According to Sally Warren, Cyrus had been wounded in the course of a robbery three years ago. His wife had been killed in a carjacking. His partner had disappeared and was presumed dead. And the stolen object, whatever it was, had vanished.

And it had all happened three years ago.

It didn't require her several academic degrees and her assortment of professional credentials to deduce that something was very, very wrong here.

"Glass is an amazing substance," she said, carefully. "And not necessarily fragile. It can be made tough enough to withstand the impact of a bullet."

"Like Grandpappy Beau used to say, it just goes to show that strength comes in a lot of different forms." Cyrus straightened as if he intended to walk back to his Jeep. But he paused when a sudden thought seemed to occur to him.

"You said you don't put a lot of stock in free advice, but there's something else you should know about me."

"Really?" She smiled blandly. "What's that?"

"When I take a strong personal interest in a project, I tend to be a little obsessive. Smart people do not get between me and what I want."

Cold, ghostly fingers touched the back of her neck. "We're back to threats, I see. Somehow they suit you better than the chitchat about ancient glass."

"Any chance of an honest truce, here? Life will be simpler and far more pleasant if we don't spend all of our time going for each other's jugulars."

"You surprise me. I would have thought you thrived on other people's jugulars."

"Only as an occasional snack, not as a regular diet. Guess this means no truce, huh?"

"Guess so." There could be no truce with a man who was not telling her the truth.

"Your boss wanted you to think of me as a precaution."

"Yes, I know," Eugenia said politely. "Rather like a flu shot."

He nodded. "Yeah. Or a condom."

She glowered at him. "Whatever Tabitha thinks, I do not need a bodyguard, and furthermore, I do not like the way you went about convincing her that I might need one."

"Okay. Have it your way." He turned and walked back down the aisle between the two lines of parked cars.

Eugenia sat back and folded her arms.
Arrogant bastard
. He had deliberately tried to intimidate her. The bad news was that he had almost succeeded.

The question was, why had he gone to the effort?

She studied him in the rearview mirror as he returned to his car. He moved with the unhurried, gliding stride of a man who did not know what it was like to be off-balance either mentally or physically. She wondered what it would take to make him move fast.

It would have to be something really, really important, she decided.

As if he knew that she was watching him, he glanced back at her when he opened the door of the Jeep. Light glared fiercely on the surfaces of his mirrored sunglasses. She quickly averted her eyes, but she knew that he had seen her. She had not missed his faint, satisfied smile.

The small ferry plowed into the wall of fog. A featureless, gray mist closed around the craft and its passengers, sealing them off from the sunlight and the rest of the world.

BOOK: Sharp Edges
4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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