“Yes, I shot the bastard.” Her eyes flashed fire. “He was cheating on me with another man. What would you have done?”
“I couldn’t say, ma’am.” The officer cuffed her and led her away.
Rap. Rap. Kendall tapped the manuscript against the coffee table and set it down. The edges of the thick stack of paper sharp and perfectly aligned. “Looks like you’ve written another bestseller, Mr. Hunter.” She cleared her throat and straightened her spine, her back barely touching the plush leather sofa in Logan Hunter’s study.
“I’m glad you like it, Ms. Theron.”
“Mrs.” Kendall corrected automatically.
“And how is Mr. Theron?” Logan settled back in his swivel chair, legs spread, his wrists hanging over the armrests. Anyone watching him would think he was too relaxed to be paying attention, until they looked at his eyes. Sharp and observant they missed nothing.
“He’s fine.” Her muscles tightened in uneasy knots. The only Mr. Theron in her house was her father. But that was information her boss didn’t need to know. With her index finger, she pushed her black-rimmed reading glasses up the ridge of her nose and glanced at him from under her lashes.
His eyes were his best feature. Bedroom eyes, the kind that held dark intimacy and pleasurable promise. He stretched, popped his back, then ran thin fingers through hair so black it had a blue sheen to it. Edgy, she shifted on the couch trying not to dwell on her boss’s raw allure. There were plenty of other women who did that.
She glanced at her watch, stood up and pushed an invisible wrinkle from her black pants. “If you no longer need me, I’d better be getting home.”
“Got plans for the weekend?” He rose as well.
“Probably pizza and a movie. What about you?”
“Oh, I have plans.” His lips curved and his lethal eyes danced.
“Blonde or brunette?”
“Redhead.” Laughter rumbled in his throat.
She nodded and headed for the door.
“Have a good weekend, Mrs. Theron.”
“You too.” She glanced back and caught his gaze level with her derriere. She gave him a long unsmiling look. The last thing she needed was the interest of a man who solved mysteries for a living. Especially one with a razor-sharp mind whose thought processes had more twists and turns than a country road.
Shoulders stiff, she didn’t relax until she’d let herself out of his salmon-colored house on Rainbow Row. Once outside, her muscles loosened. She lifted her face as a salty breeze teased her skin, the air heavy and warm. Even in October, the humidity was high.
With nimble fingers, she removed the pins that stabbed at her scalp and let her hair tumble around her shoulders, reveling at the freedom. Logan Hunter set her nerves on edge. Not only did he exude more outright sensuality than the characters in his books, she had to keep her guard up against that ever questing mind.
She stuck her glasses in her handbag, determined to forget about her provoking boss.
“Taxi.” Fingers to her lips, she whistled as one came streaking by. The taxi slowed. As she got in, she glanced up and saw Logan leaning over his balcony, studying her. On his face was the look of concentration he wore when he was on the scent of a new story.
“Dammit,” she whispered under her breath.
“Where to?” The driver looked at her in the rearview mirror.
She gave him an address on Park Lawn Drive and settled back in her seat.
Ten minutes later the taxi pulled up in front of a yellow, townhouse-styled apartment complex. She paid him and got out.
Her lips turned up and her heart lifted as she saw a little face pressed against the window waiting for her. The child had the instincts of a dog when it came to knowing when she’d be home.
Kendall raised her hand. A small hand waved back. The sizzling affair she’d had five years ago in college had been a mistake. The child had not. Pregnant, she’d walked away from Caroline’s father and never looked back.
The door flew open. “Mommy, Mommy.”
“Hi, love bug.” She swung her daughter up in her arms and whirled her around. Caroline’s golden curls flew around her face. Except perhaps for her smile, her daughter looked nothing like her. Where Caroline was blonde and fair, Kendall was auburn and tanned. Like Logan, Caroline had bright blue eyes. Kendall’s were green.
Still there was something there that said blood, maybe more than just the smile. Caroline showed every appearance of growing up to have her mother’s tall, athletic body. Or maybe it was the way they both carried themselves. Even at four, Caroline had a loose, animal grace.
“Hi, hon.” Her father ambled in interrupting her musings.
“Hi, Dad.” Caroline’s legs wrapped around her waist, Kendall carried her daughter into the living room. She gave her one quick hug, nuzzled her neck, which made her daughter giggle, and set her down.
“It’s pizza and movie night,” Caroline announced.
“So it is. What show shall we watch, Dad, a comedy or murder and mayhem?” Kendall winked at him.
“Nemo,” Caroline announced firmly.
“Nemo? Well, yeah we haven’t seen that in, let’s see, about a week.”
Caroline had select favorites, head of the list being Nemo. She ruled over movie night with an iron hand.
“We haven’t seen Nemo in a month!” Her daughter stood with her fists on her hips, her tiny brow puckered like a thundercloud.
“A month?” Kendall feigned surprise. “Dad, has it been that long?”
“Gosh, I guess it has. Who’d have thought it’s been a month since we’ve seen, Nemo.”
“Grandpa,” Caroline’s tone was exasperated as only a four-year old’s could be.
“I’d love to see, Nemo, punkin. Why don’t you go put your toys away, wash up and put your jammies on?”
“It’s not dark yet,” Caroline objected.
“That’s very true but by the time we watch the movie it will be. Off with you now. I’m going to chat with your mom for a bit and call in the pizza.”
It was a long standing routine and the participants knew the outcome. Still Caroline had to voice her objections.
The prerequisite complaint over, Caroline gave in with good grace. “Okay.” She skipped out of the room.
“I wonder where she gets that stubborn streak.” Warmth spread through Kendall’s chest and a smile pressed against her cheeks as she looked down the hall where her daughter had disappeared.
“I wonder,” her dad said dryly. “Come in the kitchen and I’ll pour you a glass of sweet tea unless you’d rather have that fancy wine of yours.”
She laughed. “Since you offered I’ll take the wine. Thanks, Dad.” She followed him into the kitchen.
He opened the refrigerator, took out the wine and poured her a glass of white. “Are you going to be home this weekend or doing research for that boss of yours?” Carefully, he handed her the crystal glass.
Bill Theron was more comfortable with a tea or a beer in his hand than a glass of wine.
She took a sip of the Chenin Blanc and felt her body relax as the pear-flavored liquid rolled down the back of her throat and took any lingering tension with it. “Unfortunately research, but at least I’m not going too far, just into North Carolina.”
“What’s he working on now?” Her parent popped a long neck and took a pull, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he drank.
“Now, Dad, you know I can’t tell you that.”
“He doesn’t pay you nearly enough for all the gallivanting around you have to do. Let him do his own research. Besides, I’ve never heard of a publicist who does research.” He grumbled, setting the beer on the counter.
“You can’t expect a man like Mr. Hunter to do his own research.” She had no qualms about throwing her handsome boss under the bus. “Besides, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not only his publicist, I’m his researcher and his admin assistant. Publicist is just less of a mouthful.”
“It’s not right.” His bushy eyebrows drew together in a scowl as he combed his gnarled fingers through still thick, white hair.
“Don’t worry, Dad. It’s not for much longer, just until I get a little money put back. Then I’ll quit. I promise.”
“How can you get any money put back with your mom’s expenses? And this apartment isn’t cheap.”
“I told you, I’ve got a grant that helps pay for Mom’s care.” There was no grant, but her dad didn’t need to know that. Her shoulders tightened and unease rippled through her at the idea of him ever finding out. “And you help with the rent.”
“My social security don’t amount to jack.” He shook his head. “I just hate to see you work so hard, honey. You should be home with your little girl.”
For a moment, her chest constricted. If only she could be. Immediately, she chastised herself for self-pity. She was so lucky to have her dad. If anything ever happened to her, he would take care of Caroline. “That’s why you’re here. And I’m eternally grateful.”
“Humph. More like I’m being kept. How hard is it on a man to play all day long with his favorite grandchild?”
“Only grandchild, Dad.”
“That makes her my favorite doesn’t it?” He grinned. “Now why don’t you go upstairs and get out of those depressing clothes you’re wearing and I’ll call in the pizza.”
“I think I will.” Kendall looked down at her plain black pants and pumps, and limp white shirt. On this she was in complete agreement with her father. It was a look she’d adopted shortly after she started working for Logan Hunter. She needed to keep a low profile around her boss and the shapeless outfit she wore seemed the best way of doing it.
She reached over and gave her dad a kiss on the cheek. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You’d manage just fine, always have, always will. And I’m proud of you for it,” he finished gruffly. “Now go get your clothes changed.”
He wouldn’t be so proud if he knew what she really did for a living. Goose bumps roughened her skin and sent a chill skittering along her spine. But he’s never going to find out. She took a deep breath then strolled down the hall to change.
An hour later, Nemo was flitting around the ocean and the Theron family was gorging themselves on pizza that oozed dripping cheese.
Caroline nearly made it to the end of the movie before she fell asleep. While her dad carried his granddaughter to bed, Kendall tidied up then went to her own room to get down to work. It was time to research. She let her dad believe that she did her boss’s research, but Logan did that himself. She set up his signings, did his publicity and occasionally proofed his work, an easy gig, her day job so to speak. Unbeknownst to her employer, thanks to him, she was every bit as famous as he was. She had been desperate for money. His runaway bestseller about a female jewel thief, had planted the seed.
It took moxie and a brass vagina, but Kendra had that in spades. She’d pulled eight heists in three years. The chill that prickled her earlier now lifted the hairs on the back of her neck. What if this time she got caught?
She heaved a breath from deep in her belly. That wasn’t going to happen.