Take the Key and Lock Her Up (9 page)

“Aha. Then you admit that you want to speak to the coroner.”

“Of course.”

That was too easy. She narrowed her eyes, wondering what his game was. “‘Perpetrator.
ID me at the scene.’ I still say you talk like a cop.”

“I’m not a cop.”

“Right. You’re a ‘tour guide.’” She made air quotes with her fingers.

His eyelids went to half-mast. “Has Hawley worked with a sketch artist yet?”

“Why?”

“Get the drawing and let’s see if I resemble the guy you’re looking for. You know,
in case she was too overwrought at the scene to realize I’m the guy who tortured her
for several days.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m sure you’d love for me to show you the sketch. That way
you can try to figure out the suspect’s identity and go after him yourself. Avenge
your mother, assassinate the man who murdered her. That
is
what you do for EXIT Inc., right? Kill people?”

He let out a bark of laughter. “You just won’t let that silly theory go, will you?”

His easy laughter surprised her. She’d expected the same cold stare that she’d received
in the interview room when she’d first mentioned her assassin theory. She decided
to throw more kerosene into the mix to see what happened.

“I ran your prints through IAFIS. That’s the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint
Identification System, in case you don’t remember
that
little detail from all those cop shows you watch. I wonder what I’ll find out when
the report comes back.”

His jaw tightened. Why? Because he was worried about a fingerprint match? Or just
because he was irritated with her?

“You’re searching the FBI’s database for my prints?”

“Yes. I am. And I’m going to call your boss at EXIT and ask some questions about that
Montana trip. Does that concern you?” She watched him closely, but she couldn’t detect
any kind of reaction.

“Not in the least. I do wonder, though, why you’re so curious about me.”

He reclined against the counter behind him in a lazy pose, quirking his mouth in a
sexy grin, instantly transforming himself from potential assassin to mouth-watering
playboy. Emily found herself blinking at his chameleonlike ability to change right
before her eyes. She couldn’t quite catch her breath at the startling contrast, and
how ridiculously appealing he looked right now.

His eyes practically undressed her as they raked her up and down. “If you want a . . .
date,
Emily
, just ask.”

Her name rolled off his tongue like a long, hot caress, making her body clench with
need.
Good grief, this man was lethal.
She’d always been a sucker for the bad-boy type, probably because she’d always been
a good girl—that whole opposites-attract kind of thing.

She cleared her throat and focused on a point above his eyes so she wouldn’t get distracted
again. “I assure you,
Devlin
, that my interest in you is entirely professional. Nothing more.”

Liar, liar, pants
definitely
on fire.

“If that’s true,” he purred, leaning in close, “why are you blushing?”

His warm breath on her cheek sent a delicious shiver straight to her toes. The clean,
masculine scent of him had her leaning closer. As soon as she realized what she was
doing, she stiffened and took a much-needed step back.

His eyes practically smoldered as they followed her retreat. But there was something
else there too, the shadow of another emotion. Confusion? Surprise? Had the raw attraction
between them been as unexpected to him as it was to her?

She drew a shaky breath and plowed ahead, determined to get the conversation back
on safer ground. “I submitted your prints to IAFIS because I don’t trust you.
Tour guides
don’t snap men’s necks and calmly walk away.”

His smile didn’t falter. If anything, it widened, as if he thought she was amusing.
Or maybe he’d decided on a new tactic, another weapon to use against her besides her
traitorous hormones.

“You make it sound like I drive a trolley and recite tall tales to entertain tourists,”
he said, the laughter in his voice telling her he thought the idea was absurd. “I
don’t waste my . . .
talents
. . . on mundane things like that. I take wealthy, eccentric fools on expeditions
to exotic, dangerous locations. I use my considerable . . .
skills
. . . to ensure that they don’t get killed in the process, and that they have a . . .
pleasurable
. . . time.” His gaze dipped to her chest before he looked in her eyes again. “If
you think I seem like more than just a tour guide, that’s because
I am
.”

His last two words were said in a deep, husky voice that had her curling her nails
into her palms. Determined to stay on task and not to respond to the sexual innuendo
layered in his reply, she raised a disbelieving brow. “You said earlier that your
last tour assignment was in Montana.
Montana
is an exotic, dangerous location?”

“Any place can be exotic. It just depends on who you’re with. And what you do.”

She drew an unsteady breath and cleared her throat. “That was quite a lengthy speech
about your talents and skills. Kind of makes me wonder if my questions about your
occupation are hitting a sore spot. Am I getting close to whatever secret you’re trying
to hide?”

“Nah. I just didn’t figure you’d want to . . . date . . . a simple tour guide. I had
to make sure we were clear about my . . . considerable . . . assets.”

Erotic images flashed through her mind, along with a nearly overwhelming desire to
look down to judge his
considerable assets
for herself.

A muted cough off to her left had her eyes widening with dismay. She’d been so busy
fending off Devlin’s verbal foreplay that she’d forgotten where the two of them were
standing—
in the squad room
. Half a dozen detectives were sitting at their desks, watching and listening to her
and Devlin’s conversation with obvious interest.

Her face flamed. She could well imagine the teasing she’d get later when they repeated
Devlin’s thinly veiled double entendres.

“Let’s cut through the crap,” she said through clenched teeth. “I’ll admit that I
don’t believe you’re
directly
involved in the abductions or murders. But indirectly you
are
involved. There are too many coincidences to ignore. And I know you’re hiding something.
I just don’t know if what you’re hiding is related to this case. Yet.”

His brows rose, but his smile didn’t falter.

Emily had never punched anyone before, but right now, half of her wanted to swing
her fist and knock that arrogant grin off Devlin’s mouth. Unfortunately, the other
half of her wanted to do considerably more wicked things with his mouth, and every
other part of his anatomy. It was that other half that terrified her.

One of the elevators behind her dinged and the doors swished open. Her knees nearly
buckled in relief as she whirled around and escaped inside.

“Wait here,” she ordered, without risking another glance at his handsome and completely
infuriating face. “I’ll be right back with the DNA kit.”

T
HE MOMENT THE
elevator doors shut behind O’Malley, Devlin leaned back against the countertop for
support. He wasn’t a smoker, but he suddenly had a craving for a deep drag on a cigarette.
Or a really long cold shower. Or both.

Trading sexual barbs with her had him hard and aching and cursing himself for a fool.
What had he been thinking? That was the problem. All higher forms of brain activity
had ceased to exist the moment he’d felt her generous breasts pressed against him
earlier that day, her soft body covered by his.

He cursed again.
Focus, Buchanan. Focus
. He had a small window of opportunity to get what he needed—the coroner’s notes.
He figured that was probably his best place to start if he was going to find the man
who’d killed Carolyn. O’Malley had been right. He wanted vengeance, but not for his
mother—for his father. Alex needed closure. He needed a way to move past today’s horrible
events. Finding the man who was responsible for Carolyn’s death was the best way Devlin
knew to help his father do exactly that.

But, of course, that wasn’t the only reason he wanted those notes.

He watched the display above the elevator. It went to the basement, without any stops
in between. He leaned against the property counter, his legs stretched out in front
of him, pretending boredom until the detectives lost interest and turned their attention
to their work. As soon as no one was looking, he hurried to the door beside the elevators
marked
STAIRS
.

He jogged down three flights to the basement. A long, well-lit hall ran the length
of the floor. After checking the few doors near the stairs and elevator, confirming
they were storage rooms, he followed the antiseptic smell toward the other end of
the hallway. He walked boldly, smiling at and greeting the few people he passed as
if he had every right to be there. They ignored him. He’d learned long ago that hiding
in plain sight worked far better, in most situations, than ducking into doorways and
thereby drawing suspicion.

Once he reached the morgue, he waited a few seconds to make sure no one was in the
outer office, then slipped inside. There was a small catacomb of rooms but only one
that interested him—the autopsy room, which appeared to be deserted.

Except for the three skeletons lying on steel tables waiting to be autopsied.

It didn’t take much of a leap in logic to conclude that all of the skeletons were
from the basement where he’d been earlier. Which meant the killer had abducted seven
victims so far that they knew of—Hawley, these skeletons, and the three women Hawley
said were being held with her. But Devlin was interested in only one particular victim—his
stepmother.

The muted sound of voices carried in from one of the other rooms. O’Malley and Dr.
Kennerly. She was talking to him about the DNA kit. Devlin pulled his cell phone out
and hurried to the desk over by the wall. There were several sheets of paper lying
on top. He thumbed through them until he found a page with
Buchanan
across the top, then started snapping pictures.

He took pictures of as many of the pages as he could before the sound of footsteps
and O’Malley’s voice had him rushing out of the room. He took the stairs again, up
only one flight this time. After cracking the door and making sure no one was watching,
he stepped into the main lobby of the police station.

B
Y THE TIME
Emily located Devlin—in the lobby—she was half-tempted to shoot the man. No one in
the squad room remembered him leaving, so she’d gone floor by floor to see if he was
snooping around where he shouldn’t be. By the time it occurred to her to check the
lobby, she was out of breath and out of patience. Now, as she stepped out of the elevator
and saw him smiling and laughing, sitting beside a young man in a wheelchair, her
temper was ready to explode.

Devlin glanced up as she reached them, his smile widening as if he were pleased to
see her.

“Detective O’Malley, I hope you weren’t worried about me. I got a call that my brother
was here, so I hurried down. I was going to ask the desk clerk to tell you where I
was, but I forgot. I haven’t been home in a while and we’re catching up. I hope I
didn’t worry you.”

The angelic look on his face had her anger fading and guilt taking its place. He did
seem genuinely happy to see his brother. And his story sounded plausible. Maybe he
was telling the truth.

“No problem.” She held her hand out to the man in the wheelchair, who was nearly as
handsome as Devlin, with equally dark hair. But instead of dark gray eyes, his were
blue, like his father’s. And he was several years younger than Devlin—perhaps in his
mid-twenties. “I’m Detective Emily O’Malley,” she said, shaking his hand.

“Austin Buchanan. You weren’t lying, Devil. She’s
very
pretty.”

“Just how does one go about getting the nickname Devil?”

Devlin shrugged. “I never have understood why my brothers call me that. I was a perfect
child growing up.”

Austin rolled his eyes. “We call him that because he never met a sin he didn’t like,
or a pretty woman he didn’t try to—”

Devlin cuffed his brother on the shoulder. “I’m sure Detective O’Malley has more important
things to do than hear about my sordid past.”

“Whatever.” Austin pointed at the small box Emily was holding. “If that’s the DNA
kit to prove the skeleton belongs to the
egg donor
, let’s get this over with. I’ve got a T-bone waiting for me back home. What do I
have to do? Pee in a cup or something?”

Her mouth dropped open at Austin’s reply.

Devlin gave her a pained smile. “Austin’s a bit abrupt, and crass. Takes some getting
used to. My brothers think it’s a side effect of his neurological disorder, because
of the stress of not knowing until he wakes up every morning whether he’ll be in a
wheelchair that day or able to walk just fine. But me, I think it’s more of a personality
disorder. He’s just naturally a jerk.”

Austin shot his brother an aggravated look.

Emily couldn’t help but notice the concern that lent an edge to Devlin’s voice as
he made excuses for his brother’s behavior. It was obvious he cared about Austin and
didn’t want her to think badly of him.

“No problem. Um, no, Austin, no need to . . . fill a cup. I just swab the inside of
your mouth. I’m curious, though. You don’t seem upset that your . . . mother . . .
was killed.”

“Why would I be? She ditched my dad when I was four. I don’t even remember her.” He
narrowed his eyes. “Devil didn’t tell you anything about her and how we’re all related?”

“Detective O’Malley isn’t interested in—”

Emily cuffed Devlin on the arm, just like he’d done to Austin.

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