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Warren Detry killed his previous wife. Police officer Angie Delitano is convinced of it. She arrested the man herself, and testified against him in court. However, Angie's former fianc?, attorney Boone Walker, did too good a job with the defense. And now a murderer is free to marry Angie's sister. When Angie uncovers startling new evidence, she turns to the only person who can help before it's too late: Boone, the handsome, hardened man she once loved. But the deadly secrets ...
Warren Detry killed his previous wife. Police officer Angie Delitano is convinced of it. She arrested the man herself, and testified against him in court. However, Angie's former fianc?, attorney Boone Walker, did too good a job with the defense. And now a murderer is free to marry Angie's sister. When Angie uncovers startling new evidence, she turns to the only person who can help before it's too late: Boone, the handsome, hardened man she once loved. But the deadly secrets they expose could lead Angie to her own early grave.
Seeing the dead body of her friend and mentor two days ago had been bad enough—seeing her ex-fiancé's alive and breathing one in less than a minute was going to be torture. But Angie Delitano had examined the situation she suddenly found herself in from every angle, and out of all the people she couldn't trust right now, Boone Walker was the only one she was certain was not involved. So here she was, going to a man who had betrayed her for help.
How dumb was that?
Resting her hand on the knob that would open the door to the Walker law firm, she took a deep breath. What to say? How to act? Six months ago, after he'd shredded her reputation—and her heart—she'd left Boone's engagement ring on the witness stand in front of a packed courtroom, vowing never to lay eyes on him again. But earlier today, she'd found out she no longer had the luxury of that choice.
Someone had threatened her life.
So now her insides were doing jumping jacks, and her emotions were on the verge of boiling over. Having to go to Boone for help made her want to hit something. He'd been willing to wreck her reputation to defend a suspected wife-murderer, forgetting all about how he supposedly loved her. Worse, Boone's expert defense of the man—who she still believed with all her instincts and heart had murdered his wife—had freed the creep who was now dating her sister.
"Cope," she ordered herself. She willed the tears burning behind her eyes to go away. Luckily she was a cop and had plenty of practice in appearing cool and detached, even when her heart was breaking for a victim. She would need that facade in front of Boone. She couldn't let him think shemight actually still care about him.
Because there was no way she could, right?
Resolutely, Angie turned the knob and opened the door, once again the in-control, never-say-die police officer. Her sister's life—and maybe her own—depended on her getting Boone as a backup this morning. After that, she could really walk away and pretend he didn't exist.
Which suited her just fine.
What on earth ? Boone Walker watched his former fiancée launch herself into his office for the first time in months. Thanks to years in the courtroom, where the unexpected often happened, he was able to sit back calmly and pin his well-cultivated, steady stare on her, concealing the confusion her sudden appearance caused inside him. After she'd left his ring on the witness stand, Angie hadn't answered his phone calls or shown any signs of wanting to talk things over—so why now? It didn't make sense.
Unless something was terribly wrong and she was desperate. Or maybe she was finally ready to talk?
His new secretary, Karen, appeared right behind Angie with an apologetic look. "I'm sorry. I asked her to let me announce her, but she said there was no need, you knew who she was."
"Don't worry about it. Tornadoes are hard to stop," Boone said. His secretary sent him a faint smile, but Angie kept her cool, "can't touch me" look.
Waving Karen out, he waited until she closed the door, then turned his attention to the woman he'd almost married. He thought of a hundred things to say. "Are you okay?" "Am I under arrest?" "Funny seeing you here." But he lost his mind and instead said, "I missed you."
For only a few seconds, her pine-green eyes, shaded by thick black lashes, softened. She splayed her fingertips through her chin-length, pale blond waves, a sure sign she was flustered; Boone watched her in fascination, like he'd always done. He doubted she realized how much she'd captivated him from the moment he'd first seen her well over a year ago. Or how much it bothered him to do what he'd had to in court months later.
The uncertainty in her eyes was either that she didn't believe he'd missed her at all, or that she was second-guessing herself for coming here. It couldn't be the last part—Angie Delitano hadn't had an indecisive moment in all the time he'd known her. Not even in the courtroom that day. She'd left his ring behind and, just like his mom where his dad was concerned, never looked back.
He needed to remember that.
"Talk to me, Angie."
"Things have happened this week," she said. "Bad things."
"I heard about Cliff Haggis's suicide." Boone never would have guessed the seasoned detective, Angie's mentor at the station, capable of suicide. But neither was he surprised. Being a cop was hard anywhere, and Copper City, even though it was a lot smaller than nearby Cincinnati and had a lower-than-average crime rate, was no exception.
"I'm sorry," he added, tapping the pile of papers at the side of his desk to distract himself. Relating to people on an emotional level was not easy for him, but even he knew how to be polite. "I know he was a good friend of yours."
"Yeah, he was," she said. She took a long breath, and he watched her slim fingers alternately grip and let loose of the oversize, chocolate leather handbag she had in her arms.
"Sit?" he invited with a gesture of his hand toward his client chair, since she seemed about to run away. She folded her slim, graceful build onto the seat, her face once again wearing what he thought of as her "cop stare." She'd used it for the first time when he was ripping apart her testimony. He had a feeling before this day was through, he'd see the stare over and over again.
The detached look probably meant she wasn't there to talk about their ruined relationship, or to set it right. That was fine by him. She'd hurt him badly when she'd been unwilling to understand his absolute need to do what he'd done and then broken their engagement—but he'd forced himself to recover. He refused to be his father, pining after a woman who couldn't understand why he was the way he was.
"Indirectly," Angie said, glancing at his once again tapping fingers, "my being here has to do with Cliff's death. He told me something before he died, and I was on my way to investigate what he said this morning, but then something happened, and I don't know if I can trust anyone at the precinct now." She took a breath and gazed into his eyes. "All I am certain of is that I can trust you with my life."
The air went out of Boone as her words about believing in him dug into his heart. He stilled his fingers.
"So I decided to put our past aside temporarily," she added. "While I can't say I'm happy about what you did to my reputation in court, I have to admit you tried to warn me ahead of time about your loyalty to your clients. They come first."
Angie was correct, and that brought Boone no joy whatsoever. He had indirectly hurt her so he could get an innocent man freed. And he was sorry he'd had to. But he couldn't be any different than he was, and that meant she was better off without him. And he was better off without a woman who was going to get in the way of his mission.
"But your loyalty to them also showed me," Angie continued, "that if you give me your word you will help me, just like you help your clients, you'll be there for me."
Boone continued to stare at her. His first inclination—and heartfelt desire—was to say "of course, whatever you need, just ask," but he couldn't voice the words. He had rebuilt the emotional wall around himself that she'd broken through when they met and fell in love, and was refocused on his passion for helping people who had been falsely accused of crimes, like his father had been. He was, if not happy, at least content. Being around her again, even for a little while, could change all that. Divert him from his true purpose. He didn't think it was worth chancing.
On the other side of the argument, Boone knew how alone Angie was. He couldn't stand it when people had no one to turn to. Especially women. Besides, he owed her something.
"Never mind," she said, rising and swiping her indigo jeans with her hand as though she were brushing him off. "This was a mistake, coming here. I don't know what I was thinking." Pivoting, she headed across the thick emerald carpeting to the door, making no sound.
Her every step farther away from him squeezed Boone's heart painfully. Man, he was no good at stuff like this. He needed to let her go.
Let her go.
"You haven't even said what kind of help you need, Angie."
She turned and stared at him again, working her shiny pink bottom lip back and forth slowly. "There was a time," she said slowly, "you wouldn't have needed to ask. You would have just agreed to help me."
Boone tore his gaze from her lips to her eyes. He could see the deep pain she felt from having to come to him for help, and for a few seconds, he longed to wipe away that pain. To fix everything between them. But that was impossible. They were just too different.
"I'm treating you like a client, remember? Your rules."
"I'm going to regret this," she said with a doomsday sense of drama. "I know I'm going to regret this."
Him, too. "Give me a try anyway."
She remained on the other side of his office. Boone welcomed the distance from the woman so he could pay more attention to what she would say instead of how lovely her eyes were. At least it ought to have worked that way. From this perspective, though, he was only reminded of how willowy her frame was, and how gracefully she moved. And how much he missed her presence in his life.
Strange how getting hurt didn't dissolve attraction.
"As I said, before Cliff died he gave me some information. A message on my answering machine. That missing murder weapon in the Detry case?"
The weapon he'd let the jury think Angie had either not really seen or had lost track of? The missing evidence that had brought about the end of their engagement and his dreams for the wonderful family he'd always wanted? Yeah, he knew that weapon. Tensing, not wanting to fight with her over a trial that could not be changed, he nodded.
"Cliff said that he took the evidence and buried it, and then let me take the heat for it."
"That doesn't make sense." Cliff Haggis and his wife had taken Angie under their wing when Angie's former husband, a no-good drug dealer, had been killed in a shootout with the police. They'd also led her to a relationship with Christ, one that Boone didn't understand and felt no hope of ever achieving. "Cliff was one of the good guys."
"Yeah. Rude awakening, huh? Most of the rest of his message was basically an apology for helping to wreck my life."
Boone had read in the paper how Angie was investigated by her department for negligence—because of his innuendoes in the Detry trial—and that the investigation had been dropped for lack of conclusive evidence one way or another.
"Most of the rest?" Boone asked. "What else did he say?"
"That he was trying to make things right. He told me to dig up the gun, clear my reputation, but then to let the dead rest in peace. That doing anything else was too dangerous. I was worried about him and wanted more of an explanation than he was giving, so I went over there. The front door was open, and he was on the couch."
She took a shaky breath. "Suicide is what they're saying. But I have no idea why he would do that." She paused and gazed at him. "It was brutal."
Boone saw the shock at the discovery still in her eyes, heard her voice falter, but once again, he wasn't sure what to say beyond platitudes. Words never failed him while arguing a case, but the second emotions came into play, his vocabulary dried up. He'd discovered that after he and Angie got engaged and the first problem between them arose. He'd never figured out how to help her feel better—he wished he had. Maybe things would have been
Don't go there, he warned himself.
For over a minute, they just looked at each other. Angie shook off the pain over Cliff and drank in the sight of Boone's broad shoulders, squared-off jaw and penetrating, royal-blue eyes as if he were lifesaving water. That was okay—as long as she remembered that too much of that water could drown her.
Exhaling a quick breath from her mouth, she returned to the front of his desk, where she again plopped down in the client chair, almost as opulent as his own, and let her bag fall onto the carpet in a chocolate heap. Boone remained in his seat behind the mahogany monstrosity he called a desk.
She'd blinked first because it was hard to look at the man and not want him to take her in his arms—especially from the instant Boone had said he missed her and traded his distant look for a concerned one. Concerned was good. Good as long as she kept her head over it, got his help and then left him behind.
Because in reality, his concern meant nothing. He'd shown the same emotion for Warren Detry, the wife-murderer she'd arrested who Boone had sworn was innocent. Concern wasn't love. Not even Boone's interest in her from the moment they'd met, she'd come to realize, was love. She wasn't going to fool herself again—she just wasn't someone anyone could love. Hadn't her own mother shown her that?
But she was getting lost in the past, and Boone was waiting for her to continue.
She swallowed down a lump in her throat. Cope. "Trouble is, Cliff wasn't exactly clear about where the evidence was, and I wasn't able to ask him." She arced her hands in the air in frustration. "I could only figure he meant some of the message as a puzzle, trying to make sure he didn't leave behind any information that might get into the wrong hands. He loved word puzzles. It took me a while, but I came up with one idea about the references to digging up evidence long buried and letting the dead rest in peace. It might mean he buried the gun at Detry's wife's gravesite."
"I don't know. There's too much about this whole thing I don't understand. Why he had to kill himself " She shook her head slowly. "I especially don't get that. But there's more."
"I kind of figured, or you would've brought the weapon here gift wrapped with an 'I told you so.'"
Her smile was spontaneous. She could have shot herself for not holding it back, for as soon as Boone saw her grin, his solemn blue eyes took on that twinkle she remembered all too well. Peachy.
Posted January 21, 2010
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