Take the Key and Lock Her Up (5 page)

Devlin tightened his hand on the steering wheel. Apparently he’d given her the impression
that he was a nice guy and that he wanted to keep helping her. Well, he’d left
nice
in the dust years ago. The best way to help O’Malley was for him to get as far away
from her as possible, as quickly as possible. Which meant it was time to reveal just
how
un-nice
he could be.

He rudely raked his gaze down her body and let out a puff of laughter. “Rapport? Is
that what they call it these days when a woman wiggles her sweet ass under a man and
gives him a hard-on?”

Inwardly wincing at his crudity, he was glad his very proper father wasn’t here to
see his son’s reprehensible behavior. Alex Buchanan would never tolerate any of his
sons being rude, especially to a woman. Devlin waited, expecting O’Malley to hop out
of the truck any second and return to her safe,
nice
world.

Instead, her mouth tightened and her eyebrows drew down in an angry slash. “If you
think you’re going to scare me away by being a jerk, think again. I have two brothers,
and I promise you there’s nothing you could say that could burn my ears any worse
than what I’ve already heard. But more importantly, we’re wasting valuable time sitting
here. This isn’t about you or me. It’s about a young, terrified woman who’s out there
somewhere because of my screw-up. Her life is on the line. If anything you can tell
me gives me even one clue about where she is and who’s holding her, then there is
no way I’m getting out of this truck. Not without the answers I need.”

Devlin could have easily plucked the sexy little hellion from the seat with one hand
and deposited her outside. But he was so surprised, and impressed, by the courage
and tenacity coming out of such a small, vulnerable-looking woman that he couldn’t
hold on to his anger. There were very few women, or even men, who stood up to him.
His respect for her just shot up several notches.

Besides, like she’d said, this was bigger than her. It was bigger than both of them.
If she believed asking him a few questions might give her clues to find the missing
woman, so be it. She could come along for the ride. He could think of far worse things
than having her sweet, curvy body bouncing around in his truck for half an hour while
he made the drive to Alex’s house.

He threw the truck in gear and floored the accelerator.

 

Chapter Four

D
EVLIN’S TRUCK SKIDDED
around a curve. Emily clutched the passenger armrest to keep from sliding across
the seat. When they were on the straightaway again, she jerked her seat belt tighter.

“Do you always drive this fast?” she grumbled.

He didn’t answer. But a few minutes later, he asked, “Why is that cop following us?”

Damn. He’d noticed Tuck tailing them.
She swiveled in her seat, pretending surprise as she looked over her shoulder. A
speck on the horizon kept pace with them, or at least tried to. She was amazed Devlin
had spotted their tail. Tuck was one of the best in the department at tailing people.

“That’s not a patrol car,” she said. “Or at least I don’t think it is. What makes
you say it’s a cop?”

“He’s been behind us since we left. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out he’s one
of Savannah’s finest.”

His sarcastic emphasis on
Savannah’s finest
had her studying him more closely. “You have a problem with law enforcement?”

“My father is an attorney. One of my brothers and one of my sisters-in-law are both
FBI agents. Another brother is a private investigator who works with the police and
the FBI on cold cases. Do I sound like someone who would have issues with the police?”

No. But he obviously
did
have a problem with them. Was that predisposition against
all
police or just against her and her team because of what had happened today?

He slowed the truck, abruptly turned right, and careened down a narrow dirt road that
led into the woods.

Emily glanced nervously in her side mirror. She sure hoped Tuck had seen them turn,
or that he was paying attention to the dust or tire skid marks Devlin was leaving
all over the place since he was driving so fast. “Where are we going?”

“My father’s house.”

“He lives down this road?”

“No. Shortcut. Why? Worried we’ll lose Tuck back there?”

She swallowed. “How did you know it was Tuck?”

“A hunch, which you just confirmed. Is he supposed to be protecting you from me?”

She tried to affect a nonchalant expression. She didn’t think she had any reason to
fear Devlin. But his size was certainly intimidating. Having Tuck follow her seemed
like the sensible thing to do. Just in case.

“I can protect myself, if it comes to that.” She patted the gun holstered to her belt.
“I told the lieutenant to have Tuck follow us so he could give me a ride back into
town after I interview your father.”

The skin around his jaw whitened. “No one is going to
interview
Alex. Not today. You said you had questions for
me
. Ask them. Because when we reach Alex’s house, you aren’t saying a damn thing. You’re
not even going inside.”

If he thought she was going to sit on his father’s front porch while he broke the
news about Carolyn, he was living in Disney World. But she didn’t see the point in
telling him that right now.

“First question: Why do you call your father ‘Alex’?”

“What does that have to do with Carolyn’s murder?”

“Second question: Why do you call your mother ‘Carolyn’?”

He laughed but didn’t sound amused. “Touché.”

He steered the truck around a rut in the road, making Emily grab the armrest again.
“Those were serious questions. I need background on the victim . . . I mean, on your
mother.” When he didn’t seem inclined to answer, she leaned forward, catching his
attention. “Mr. Buchanan, why do you call your mother and father by their first names?
Are you adopted?”

He seemed to weigh her question, as if deciding the pros and cons of answering, just
like he’d done back in the cell. “I call them by their first names because my older
brothers always have and I grew up hearing that. As for whether I’m adopted, the answer
is complicated.”

“You’re either adopted or you aren’t. How is that complicated?” She pulled her cell
phone out of her pocket. She would rather have had a notebook and pen, but those were
in her purse, which was in her car at the murder scene. She opened up a note-taking
app and waited for his response.

“Technically, my two older brothers and I were adopted. But it’s more accurate to
say we were . . . inherited. Alex and Carolyn had twins together—my younger brothers,
Matt, then Austin who has the distinction of being the baby of the family by less
than one minute. The rest of us were passed along to Alex through Carolyn’s previous
marriages.”

She blinked. “Inherited? Passed along?”

He blew out an exasperated breath. “How exactly is this supposed to help you find
that missing woman?”

“Even the smallest detail might prove useful in helping us figure out how your mother
caught the suspect’s attention. I need to retrace her last steps.”


Carolyn
left Alex twenty-one years ago, divorced him when I was thirteen. Unless she was
in that basement for a couple of decades, I don’t see how anything I tell you is going
to be useful.”

His statement had Emily shifting uncomfortably on the bench seat and pretending sudden
fascination with the notes on her phone.

The silence in the cab stretched out. She risked a quick peek at him.

He was staring at her, his eyes narrowed, searching. Eyes that she’d thought were
a dark brown earlier but that she now realized were actually dark gray. Not that it
mattered. It was her job to notice details like that. In case she had to describe
him later.

His gaze flicked to the road, then back to her several more times. His jaw tightened,
as if he’d just come to some kind of decision. He slammed on the brakes, bringing
the truck to a skidding halt, sending another cloud of dust flying up from the road.

Emily gasped as the seat belt locked against her chest. It took several seconds for
her to forcibly uncurl her fingers from the armrest. The leather would probably bear
permanent marks from her nails, but she didn’t feel a bit guilty over that.
She
wasn’t the one who drove like a freaking maniac.

The maniac in question flung off his seat belt and swiveled to face her. “You
know
something,” he snapped. “What did the coroner tell you?”

She unclicked her belt too, so she could face him, and subtly look over her shoulder.

“We’re miles ahead of him.” His words were clipped, impatient. “Tuck isn’t going to
save you from answering
my
questions. Spill. Now.”

He crowded her against the passenger door.

Suddenly his hand clamped around her right wrist and he leaned down, his face inches
from hers, his eyes as dark as a thundercloud. “Were you seriously going to try to
shoot me again?”

“What?” Her breath left her in a surprised rush when she saw the gun in her hand.
She didn’t even remember reaching for it.

He snatched the gun, popped out the clip, and handed the gun back, all so quickly,
so smoothly, she’d barely had time to blink, let alone try to stop him. He tossed
the clip on the floorboard and wrapped his hands around her upper arms, giving her
a gentle shake. “Do you honestly think I’m going to hurt you?”

She glanced longingly at the magazine of bullets.

Devlin cursed and let her go. He studied her for a moment, then grabbed the clip off
the floor and tossed it in her lap. He’d surprised her again, but this time she didn’t
hesitate. She shoved the clip into her gun and pointed it at him.

Obviously not considering her a threat, or just not caring, he didn’t bother to look
at her. Instead, he stared out the windshield. “You may not believe this,” he said,
“but I wouldn’t hurt you. Not on purpose, anyway.” His mouth quirked in a wry grin.
“Ever since I left that basement I’ve been wanting to get you horizontal again. And
I promise, if I did, the only pain you would feel would be from an overload of pleasure.”

The sexual promise in that statement sent a shiver of longing straight to her core.
Her entire body flooded with heat. She should tell him not to talk to her that way,
but that would just make her a hypocrite. Since the moment he’d touched her, pressing
his hard-muscled body against hers, she couldn’t seem to stop fantasizing about what
it might be like to roll around on a mattress together for a couple of hours, an entire
day, a weekend. She’d love to slide her fingers into his short, wavy hair. Or get
a better look at the tattoos that peeked out from the edges of his T-shirt sleeves.
But being so obsessed about a virtual stranger was insane. And besides him being a
stranger, he was the only lead she had right now to find Mrs. Hawley. She didn’t have
time to be distracted, no matter how sexy that distraction happened to be.

Devlin
was certainly distracted right now. But not, apparently, by thoughts of her. He was
quietly staring through the windshield, his mind seemingly millions of miles away.
The angry stranger was gone. The sexy bad boy was gone. In their place was a man who
looked . . . resigned, tired, even a little . . . vulnerable.

She looked down at the gun still in her hands. Once again, she’d handled the situation
all wrong. She holstered her gun.

“Mr. Buchanan . . . Devlin?”

He raised a brow in question and looked at her.

“You stopped the truck because you thought I knew something that I wasn’t telling
you. You’re right.”

His gaze sharpened, but he waited, without interrupting.

She cleared her throat. “The coroner has to perform tests to try to determine not
only a cause of death for Carolyn Buchanan and the others in that basement, but a
date of death as well.”

He blinked. “
Date
of death? What are we talking here, days, weeks?”

“Months. Maybe . . . longer.”

He cursed, surprising her with his creative way of stringing together a phrase.

“What did the bastard do? Hold those women as his prisoner that whole time? Torture
them?”

“I . . . I honestly don’t know.”

“What about the coroner? He must have expressed some opinions specific to Carolyn,
even without the autopsy.”

He had. There was evidence of several old fractures in her bones, a lot more than
was considered normal. The coroner believed Carolyn had been tortured for some time,
probably
years
. She bit her lip, reluctant to share such devastating information.

The truth must have been revealed by her expression. He swore bitterly and threw the
truck into drive. But he didn’t take his foot off the brake.

“Buckle your seat belt,” he spat out.

Surprised and grateful that he would consider her safety after that revelation, she
hurriedly clicked the belt into place. As soon as she did, he stomped the accelerator
and took off down the road.

Moments later, he braked and turned the wheel hard right. She braced her arms against
the dashboard. The truck slid sideways. The tires grabbed, held, then shot the truck
down a side road. She was about to demand that he slow down when she realized why
he’d turned down this road. He must have seen the same flash of white up ahead that
she now saw.

“That’s the suspect’s truck!” she said. “How is that even possible?”

“Doesn’t make sense to me either. He should have been long gone by now. I sure as
hell would have been.”

That last part had been uttered beneath his breath. Emily stared at him, suddenly
wondering if she’d misjudged him after all. Was it possible he was in on the kidnapping?
Had she made a horrible mistake insisting he take her with him?

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