Read When a Secret Kills Online

Authors: Lynette Eason

When a Secret Kills (7 page)

BOOK: When a Secret Kills
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9

Jillian couldn’t help it. She was scared. Scared and feeling very vulnerable right now. Only the fact that she still had her gun nestled comfortably in the small of her back kept her from giving in to the panic flooding her. Well, the gun and Colton’s strong arms around her once again.

She snuggled into the crook of his neck and felt his pulse jump against her cheek. Some of the fear subsided. Comfort like she hadn’t allowed herself to feel in so long tumbled through her.

Colton’s arms . . .

She jerked away, stunned that she’d allowed herself to start falling for him again so easily. Again? Who was she kidding? She’d never gotten over him. His hand brushed her lower back. This time it was his turn to be surprised. “What’s that?”

Her hand reached around to grasp the butt of the gun. With a smooth move, she pulled it from her waistband and held it pointing toward the floor. “Insurance.”

“A gun?”

His shout ricocheted off the bedroom walls and she winced. “Yes, a gun.”

“Where did you get that? Do you have a license for it? Those
things are dangerous!” His protective blustering had her instantly on guard.

She widened her eyes and held the gun up. “Dangerous? For real?”

He snapped his mouth shut and glared at her. “Give it to me before you hurt someone.”

Jillian narrowed her eyes and dropped the sarcasm. “Colton, I’m perfectly capable of handling this gun. I’ve done so for the last six years. And yes, I have a permit for a concealed carry. So stop worrying.”

If she’d reached up and slapped him, she didn’t think he’d be more stunned.

The outrage and surprise faded from his face. But his eyes grew sad. “Jillian . . . I don’t know what to say. A gun? And you know how to use it.” A statement this time, not a question.

“This has been my life since I left ten years ago, Colton,” she whispered. But she couldn’t stop the lone tear that slid down her cheek as she stuck the gun back into the comfortable spot between her lower back and the waistband of her jeans.

His left hand reached up to thumb the wetness away. “Aw, Jillian, what am I going to do with you?”

She drew in a shuddering breath as his hands grasped her upper arms and pulled her back against him.

Against his chest, she muttered, “You’re going to help me put a killer behind bars.”

He set her back from him and wiped her eyes one more time. “I’ve got to go. I’m going to find Uncle Frank and talk to him about all this and then I’m going to come back here and explain the mess-up.”

Jillian jerked from the light grasp he had on her upper arms. “No. I’m serious about this, Colton. I don’t want you talking to him yet. You do, and you could put yourself in danger too.” She thought about that. “No, not ‘too.’ Again.”

Anger flashed. “I’m going to prove you wrong.” He headed for the bedroom door and she followed on his heels right down the steps, through the den area, into the kitchen, and out the front door of the house.

“Colton, no! Don’t do this.” She stormed after him, and when he opened the driver’s door of his truck, she rounded him to slam it shut. “If you ever cared anything about me, don’t do this.”

He looked back at her and whatever he saw in her face must have gotten through to him. He sighed and leaned against the truck. “Think about it. You would do the exact same thing if our positions were reversed. Can’t you see this from my point of view too?”

She stopped, snapped her mouth shut, and stared at him—and thought about it. Finally, her shoulders drooped and she sighed. “Yeah. I can. In a way. But it doesn’t mean you should still do this. Give me the benefit of the doubt for a minute. What if I’m right and you’re wrong?”

Colton’s lips twisted into a frown as he studied her. He looked away and then back as he rubbed a hand over his hair. “Look, I need to talk to him. I’ll just be subtle about how I phrase the questions. Will that work for you?”

“Subtle how?”

He thought for a moment as the dogs came to sit at his feet. Absently, he scratched their ears. “I’ll figure something out when I get there. I texted him and he said for me to come out to his house. He’s waiting on me.”

“Colton . . .” She didn’t bother to continue. He was determined.

She just prayed his determination didn’t result in her death—or his.

The killer pressed the phone to his ear and watched Colton Brady pull out from the gravel drive. He was alone. A smile slid across his face as he thought about how vulnerable his prey would be now.

He’d seen the other man drive in, but he’d be easy enough to dispose of since the element of surprise was on his side. An ambush should be a piece of cake.

As Colton’s taillights disappeared, the killer pulled a pair of black gloves from the glove compartment. He slid the suppressor on the end of the Mk22 pistol. Even though the area was isolated, no sense in taking a chance on anyone being in the wrong place at the wrong time hearing two gunshots.

He eyed the dogs bounding around the front yard.

Make that four.

The phone rang one more time, then Frank answered with an abrupt, “What?”

“She’s got a bodyguard, but I’m getting ready to take care of the problem.”

Silence echoed back at him. Then, “Where’s Colton?”

“He just left.”

“Where’s Jillian?”

“He stashed her at Hunter’s grandfather’s lake house.”

“Okay, so what are you going to do?”

“I’ve got a plan. I’ll call you when I’m finished.”

He hung up and picked up the black ski mask from the seat beside him and grimaced. Almost a hundred degrees outside and he was going to have to dress like it was thirty. Sweat popped out on his brow just thinking about it. Well, it didn’t matter. It had to be done.

He’d just make sure Jillian suffered a little more for making him sweat.

10

Colton figured Jillian was right about one thing. He was definitely going to do his best to catch the person after her and put that person behind bars.

But it wasn’t going to be his uncle.

Was it?

He couldn’t stop the doubt from niggling at him as he drove back toward town. She was so sure, so insistent about what happened that night . . . and so obviously in danger.

He was about forty minutes away from his uncle’s home. Driving on Richard Franklin Road, he headed toward I-26 while his brain processed everything he’d learned over the last twenty-four hours.

A question tickled the back of his mind and forced its way forward.

What was he going to do if Uncle Frank was involved? He’d have to do what he was trained to do. He would recuse himself and watch one of his friends arrest his uncle. The thought pierced deep. Or he could request permission to stay on the case . . .

And what about his other cases? Cases that needed his attention?
Deserved
his attention. He’d have to delegate, see if some of the other detectives would be willing to take over some of them.

Colton snatched his phone and made a few calls. When he was satisfied his most important cases were taken care of, he hung up and dialed Hunter. His friend and fellow detective answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

“Hey, you got anything from the fire?”

“No, but Serena’s out for blood. It’s a good thing her animals weren’t there at the time.”

Colton winced. He could only imagine Serena’s grief if something had happened to her beloved pets. “What about the evidence from the tree?”

“Rick’s in the lab right now working on it. He’s been at it all night.”

“Aw, poor thing.” He knew his voice held only mock sympathy. They all put in long hours when a case was hot. But he was grateful for Rick’s hard work.

Hunter laughed. “Yeah, he’s milking this one for all he can get.” A pause, then more seriously, “You know he’s threatened to have the captain make us attend a mandatory seminar Rick’s teaching on new technology in crime solving, don’t you?”

“So that was the weird look on his face.”

“What?”

“He had this little secret smile when he was at the airport working the crime scene. The more I think about it, he had that handy little fingerprint gadget and didn’t even try to tell us how it worked.”

“I know how it works.”

“No, you know the result you get with it. You don’t know every stinking detail about how to get that result.”

“True.”

“We have to think of some reason we can’t be there.” Colton was all for new technology and appreciated that it made his job easier, but there was no way he wanted to sit in a classroom and listen to Rick lecture. As much as he liked the man, Rick’s sense of humor fled when he taught.

Hunter said, “After Rick finished with the tree and the playhouse,
he worked with the arson investigator to get samples from Serena’s house. He isolated three different substances off the piece of fabric that also matched residue in the house.”

“Like what?”

“Sulfuric acid, sugar, and potassium chlorate.”

“So what does that mean?”

“It makes for an interesting mixture. Put it all together and you get a bomb that ignites on impact. No fuse needed.”

Colton let out a low whistle. “Like a homemade hand grenade? But how did he launch it from the neighbor’s house into Serena’s? There’s no way he could have thrown it that far.”

“There are a number of possibilities. We’ll keep looking and see if we can figure out which one is the right one.”

Colton pursed his lips as he thought. “All right. What about the guy who was killed at the airport?”

“Nothing on him yet. Rick’s still processing everything. Guy didn’t have any ID on him. Rick will run his prints through AFIS and see if anything turns up.”

Rick would do a thorough job. Colton just wished he’d hurry it up. “I’m headed to see my uncle. I left Jillian stashed in a safe place for now.”

“Where?”

“I’d rather not say over the phone.”

“I understand. Just let me know if you need anything else.”

“Will do.”

Colton hung up the phone and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. Ten more minutes and maybe he’d be able to get to the bottom of everything. At least he didn’t have to worry about Jillian getting into trouble while he questioned his uncle.

Meg looked at the clock and groaned. She’d just gotten to school and already she wanted to be home and in the barn.

Or with her mother. She missed her and she didn’t even have a phone number to call.

“Meg?”

Meg’s head snapped up at the teacher’s voice. “Ma’am?”

“Can you answer the question?”

“No, ma’am.”

Mrs. Burcell’s brows drew together in a frown. “Is everything all right, Meg?”

Meg glanced around at her snickering classmates and stiffened her spine. “Yes, ma’am. Everything is just fine.”

“Class, that’s enough,” Mrs. Burcell said sharply. The class quieted somewhat. She said to Meg, “All right. Well, maybe you can try the next problem?”

She looked at the book, hating the fact she could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. “What number?”

“Seven.”

Meg studied the problem. Easy peasy. “The answer is twelve.”

Mrs. Burcell lifted a brow. “That’s correct. You want to tell us the steps you took to get to that answer?”

So Meg explained the math problem while her mind went to wondering what her mother and Blake were up to.

And if she should be worried about the man she saw hanging around the parking lot at school.

After giving herself a tour of the house, Jillian decided to check out the clothes. The outfit she had on was the one she’d worn yesterday and desperately needed washing. She picked two outfits from Claire’s closet and tried them on. They fit well enough. She kept on the last outfit and walked back into the kitchen where the computer on the desk snagged her attention. Longing hit her. She needed to see Meg’s sweet face, hear her laughter. She needed to tell her daughter she loved her.

But did she dare?

She shivered and crossed her arms over her stomach.

No, she couldn’t take any chances.

Meg would be wondering why she hadn’t called. So would Blake. Blake Wyatt, who was only six years older than she, but he seemed older. Wiser. He’d always been that way. When she’d finally broken down and told him most of the truth about her past and that she was on the run, he’d insisted on teaching her how to defend herself.

As a former Army Ranger, he’d been more than qualified. He’d also wanted to investigate and find out who was after her, but Jillian refused to give him that information. He’d grudgingly accepted she wasn’t going to talk and agreed to help her by training her and teaching her.

And Jillian needed to get word to him that she was fine. Well, as fine as could be expected at the moment.

An email would work.

She drew in a deep breath. She’d been so careful. She couldn’t mess up now. But she couldn’t afford for Blake to start looking for her either.

An idea formed. She walked into the kitchen and found the phone. She heard barking as she dialed Colton’s number. The sound made the hair on the back of her neck stand up and she walked to the window to investigate. One of the animals sat at the base of a tree staring up, his tail thumping the ground. Jonah, making his rounds, saw her and gave her a wave. Jillian waved back and her nerves settled at Colton’s, “What’s up?”

“How safe is this computer?”

“I’m fine, thanks, how are you?”

“Colton, you just left.”

He chuckled. “It’s safe, why?”

“I want to send an email.”

“To who?”

“A friend.” Why was he being so nosy?

“Why are you being so secretive?”

She flinched. She didn’t want to have secrets from him, but for now, she had no choice.

“Jillian?”

“I’m just being careful, Colton. How do you know the computer is safe?”

He drew in a deep breath. “Because I’ve used it for work. It has all kinds of security.”

“Okay. Good.” She paced to stand in front of the machine.

“Hey, Jilly?”

She gulped at the nickname. And wondered why it didn’t flame her anger like it had earlier. “Yes?”

“Be careful. Stay inside and keep the alarm on. I’ll be back soon.”

“Right.” She paused. “Colton, you’re the one who needs to be careful. I know you’re family, but his career’s on the line and if you—”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll call you soon. Jonah just texted and he said all was clear, but just . . . keep the dogs close, okay?”

“Sure. Bye.”

She hung up and whispered, “Please, God, let this be the right thing. Don’t let him get hurt.”

Jillian walked into the den and seated herself in the leather chair to face the flat screen monitor. Before she could change her mind, she pulled up the website Blake had shown her and started typing.

Blake, just a quick note to let you know I’m fine. Working on righting a wrong and facing my past. Give my love to the girl. Hugs, Jillian.

She pressed Send and sat back with a sigh. How she missed Meg’s sweet snaggle-toothed face, her sweaty little-girl smell after she spent time in the barn with the horses. Jillian’s empty arms ached to hold and hug her.

But all that would have to wait. She drew in another steadying breath. Her growling stomach distracted her and she decided to fix a bite to eat. The ham and cheese sandwich supplies Colton had sent along in the cooler filled her up but didn’t provide her any relief from her spiraling thoughts.

Time slowed so much Jillian felt sure all the clocks in the house had to be broken. Colton had to be at his uncle’s house by now. Had he confronted the man yet?

Restlessness smacked her and she stood to pace the room from the kitchen to the den and back. She needed to be doing something, researching, helping Colton face down his uncle. Something.

Anything except this crazy waiting.

She grunted. She sure didn’t think much of Colton’s Plan B.

BOOK: When a Secret Kills
13.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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