A dead body in the pool was the one thing Lizzy hadn't planned for.
Mishaps, minor catastrophes, near disasters, sure. She could anticipate and plan her way around those. They were expected when catering big events, especially one as large as the annual Valentine's Day gala and auction for sick children. Late deliveries, wonky equipment, and even staff could screw you over. But a dead body? How did one prepare for that?
If it weren't for bad luck, she'd have no luck at all. She'd thought swallowing her pride and taking that scumbag's job offer to pay off her vile ex-boyfriend's debts had been the lowest she could sink, but having the police insinuate she was sleeping with her new business partner and best client was the rotten cherry on everything that had gone wrong in her life. She and Duncan may not be besties, but they were friends.
Besides, she definitely didn't sleep with men who could impact her business. That was one mistake she'd never
Clearly, she and Duncan had things to discuss and as she pulled out of the police station Lizzy decided it would need to happenâshe glanced at the clock on her dashboardâthis morning. Damn, she'd been at the police station that long? Their questions had been insane. Duncan Moore maybe hated his soon-to-be ex-wife. Justifiably, given what Lizzy knew about the divorce, but never in a million years would he kill the supermodel/terrible actress. For starters, someone would have seen her body in the pool, so she had to have been killed after the last of the guests had left. Duncan had been with Lizzy, helping her tear down for the evening. God knew he'd been underfoot all night, which is why she'd been at the police station so long. She was Duncan's primary alibi. When they found Lizzy's cook, he'd corroborate her story.
being the key word. Jerry was a great chef, but after large events like the one last night, he let loose by unplugging on a Vegas bender. It could be days before anyone tracked him down.
Wanting to put off the inevitable discussion with Duncan, she stopped by her condo first. While nothing would erase the memory of Victoria's floating body, between catering Duncan's mammoth event at the hotel and being stuck the rest of the night at the police station for questioning, she'd earned a shower.
Thirty minutes later and cleansed of the night's ordeal as best as one could be, Lizzy headed back to Duncan's estate, and to a man she knew wasn't capable of murder.
The world didn't know Duncan Moore as Lizzy knew him. Being one of the richest men in the state of Nevada didn't make him pretentious or arrogant. In fact, he was the opposite. At first, she'd considered him a shy, nerdy type. Five years ago, when Maggie, her ex-boss, had suggested he give one of her dancers a shot at catering, he could barely look Lizzy in the eye. Which, considering where most men would have spent their time looking, was refreshing. She'd thought of him as reserved and honestly, a little on the meek side. And continued to do so until last year, when she'd had the “fortunate” opportunity of witnessing Duncan and Victoria's blowout.
The woman had been stupid enough to break their “fidelity or bust” prenup with her very much married, much older movie producer. Not only stupid, but moronic. Cheating on Duncan was cheating on the sweetest guy in the world, if not one of the hottest. What kind of dumbass did that? The kind, as Lizzy witnessed firsthand, who gets her ass tossed out of a thirteen-thousand-square-foot to-die-for estate by one very pissed off husband. Lizzy had never seen him so upset or so, well, for lack of a better word, alpha. Even though her heart broke for the guy and despite that fact that he'd later been dumb enough to give the witch an apartment to live in, she'd never been more proud of him. And as she finally reached the end of the driveway, parked the car and rang the doorbell, she smiled for the first time all morning. Remembering that incident was far better than reliving last night.
She had her own key, but if the police were watching the estate, she didn't want it to look like Duncan had given her a key for anything other than setting up for catering his events. Duncan himself opened the door.
“Hey,” he said, the weak smile an indication of his exhaustion.
“Hey yourself. Where's Alfred?” Duncan's butler wasn't really called Alfred, but considering Duncan was richer than Bruce Wayne, the nickname stuck, much to the butler's chagrin.
“I gave the staff the weekend off.” He shook his head. “I still can't believe someone killed her. How are you holding up?” he asked, as if he wasn't the one suspected of murdering his wife.
“Probably better than you,” she said, shutting the door behind her. “You look like shit. Did you eat? Want me to make you breakfast?” When Duncan got upset, he didn't eat.
“As much as I love your cooking, I'm not hungry. Let's go to library.”
“You have to eat.”
“I will. Haven't you heard? I'm going into business with the best caterer in Vegas.” Inside the library, he took a seat in one of the overstuffed chocolate leather couches and motioned for her to sit beside him.
“That doesn't make me your personal chef.” Although lately, it certainly seemed like it, not that she really minded. She could think of worse things than cooking for him every day. She had other clients; all paid well, all respected her skills. Even the ones who'd found out she'd been a stripper before culinary school treated her fairly, if you ignored their snotty side. But something about Duncan made a girl want to take care of him. And she refused to think about the other things she'd like to do with him. She'd drawn her line and wouldn't cross it, no matter who thought she'd already had.
No one could deny that Duncan was attractive, but it never dawned on her just how sexy he was until the week he'd started to wear glasses. Lizzy had seen Henry Cavill's portrayal of Clark Kent and the actor was a close secondâto Duncan. But he was also one of her best clients. Drooling over him was distracting and a waste of time. Men like Duncan didn't date ex-strippers who hadn't even finished high school. She knew which side of the line she was on and was okay with it. It didn't make her a lesser person. It was just the way real life was. Now they were partners, and she forced herself to stop daydreaming about Duncan in her bed. For the most part, anyway.
He sighed heavily. “Give a guy a break, will you? They're trying to pin Victoria's murder on me. The whole idea is bullshit. Why would I kill her? Our divorce isâwould have beenâfinal in two days.”
She knew exactly why they believed he might have killed his wife. “Your staff overheard you and her arguing over money yesterday, right before you left for the event. The police think Victoria was accusing you of breaking the prenup first. That would have nullified her affair and the agreement and cost you millions.”
Duncan laughed, but she could tell he didn't think it was funny. “I can't blame the staff, but they got it wrong. And since the police dragged you into this, I might as well tell you. She
me to tear up the prenup, but not because she'd caught me cheating. I thought the whole thing was ludicrous, but considering she turned up dead, Victoria may have been telling the truth for once in her life. She'd claimed someone in my company was disloyal, and if I gave her the divorce settlement she deserved,” he said, using air quotes, “she'd hand over the flash drive with the proof.”
“Disloyal how and what kind of proof?” Lizzy asked, not sure what to think. Duncan was super smart, too smart to allow someone to steal from him.
“I don't know. She wouldn't tell me. When she showed up early for the party I thought maybe she'd brought it with her. But I got distracted with a call from the office and I thought she'd left. By then my guests had started arriving, and later I found out Harris kept heading her off at the pass. He knows how ugly our divorce was, and a public argument wouldn't have looked good at last night's charity event. Especially with the media everywhere, ready to catch us fighting.”
Harris was Duncan's chief finance officer and close friend. “Maybe she was lying and didn't have anything. Not to speak ill of the dead, but she wasn't the brightest light on any of her lingerie billboards.”
He smiled, having heard Lizzy's many unflattering, unfiltered digs leading up to what had been the very publicized divorce of the year. In Vegas getting married was easy, but ending a marriage, especially one so covered by the tabloids, not so much.
“Nope, and shame on me for thinking otherwise. But she knew about an app we working on. We haven't gone public yet. She had details she could only have gotten if she'd had access to our computers, or gotten close to someone who'd let it slip during, let's say, pillow talk.”
Lizzy would be surprised if the woman had known how to turn a computer on, but she was being petty. Selfies required
knowledge of technology. And now she was being nasty. After all, she hadn't wished the woman dead, no matter how awful Victoria was. “Let's say she wasn't sleeping with someone in your company.” Although it fit Victoria's MO way more than corporate espionage. “Could she access your computers?”
“I don't see how. Even if she found a way around the tight security, once a file is encrypted, the system won't allow it to be copied or opened. It requires a special code only a few of us have.”
“Did you tell the police what you argued about?” If they'd believed him, why question Lizzy?
“No. No matter what she'd done, she was still my wife. I was in shock and then the police hauled me to the station. I know they always look at the husband, but, Lizzy, I swear I didn't do it. But at the station, all I could think about was how many times she'd made me angry, how I'd even hated her for what she'd done to our marriage and how public all of our fights had been. All I could think was that telling them would seal the case against me. She was trying to extort money from me. Now in hindsight I'm not sure I made the right call.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “But that's what the staff overheard. I wasn't having affair.”
She was stunned. Duncan was always honest. But, she too, had been subject to innuendo and supposition.
it the right decision not to tell the police? She was too tired to rationalize one way or the other. “Maybe, for now, that's a good thing.” But this brought them to the other thing they needed to discuss. As embarrassing as it was, they had to have this discussion. “I want to thank you for offering your lawyers after the police brought me in for questioning.”
“It's the least I could do. You and I have become friends over the years. You were my caterer and now we're going into business together. For them to imply anything elseâ¦is insulting.” He got up and went to one of the many windows overlooking the front lawns.
been insulted by the police's suggestion of their supposed affair? Sure, at five-two and a redhead she wasn't his knockout of a runway wife, but Lizzy was no slouch either. Before Maggie had offered to send Lizzy to culinary school, she'd been one of the club's most popular dancers.
Not that it mattered.
Real life, remember, Lizzy
“They tried to say that trip we took to San Francisco to look at the new packaging production plant was a romantic getaway,” she said and saw him stiffen. They had
been getting naked together as the police had suggested, but did he have to react like the idea was completely out of the realm of possibility?
“Luckily, I still had the pictures I took on my phone.” Which reminded her, it was his fault they'd harassed her in the first place. “But care to explain why my name was on your pilot's flight plan for today? Who exactly were you planning on flying to Tahoe with? It
She'd meant to sound more angry than anything, but instead she came off as a jealous girlfriend. Too late to backtrack, she waited for his answer. Had he been seeing someone? After what Victoria had put him through he deserved to be happy. Getting jealous was stupid.
He turned from the window, the expression on his face one of embarrassment. “I guess I should explain.”
“Why you put my name on a flight plan? Yes, you should, considering the police thought it was very interesting.” She wanted to make sure he understood she
jealous. Simplyâ¦confused. He could see whomever he wanted.
He opened his mouth to explain when his phone buzzed.
“I should get this in case it's the police. I don't want it to look like I'm not cooperating.”
She nodded. Giving him privacy, she went to browse the many books the library displayed. It would take several lifetimes to read half of the books lining the wall-to-wall bookshelves. She'd catered many of Duncan's functions, some here, some at his office. She'd never been upstairs, but she'd sneak off to this room as often as she could. There was something special about the smell of old paper, leather couches, and antique furniture. The room wasn't homey, but it sure as hell was posh, worldly, and very cool to a girl from a mining town in Canada.
“That was Harris,” Duncan said after hanging up. “He wanted to make sure I was all right. I thought about telling him what Victoria had said. Maybe he'd have an idea as to what she was talking about.”
“You didn't, did you?” Nothing against Harris, but until they knew whether Victoria had been lying, better to keep it to quiet. Being in business with someone didn't mean you could trust them. That too she'd learned the hard way.
“No. I'd hate to think Victoria had meant Harris, but I'm not taking any chances.”