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you want me to call your lawyer?"
Trent Baines spun his chair away from the window that looked out over the thickly wooded hillside, the trees the fresh green of new life, of spring. His hands shaking slightly, he planted his palms on the shiny mahogany surface of his desk and said, "That's not necessary. I don't need a lawyer to talk to her."
"But she's with the FBI," Dietrich said, the big man's deep voice pitched low as if he worried she would overhear him, although he stood close to Trent's desk and she was on the other side of the doors, at least. Probably down the hall in the living room or foyer. Dietrich was paid well to protect Trent's privacy.
A grin tugged at Trent's mouth. "Do you think I've done something that puts me in need of a lawyer?"
"I didn't mean to imply "
"Do you think the FBI has a valid reason for questioning me?"
Trent lifted a hand to wave off his employee's contrition. "I'm just messing with you, Dietrich."
Anything to get a reaction out of the usually expressionless manand to distract himself from what awaited him outside the pocket doors of his mahogany-paneled den. Fate.
He drew in a deep, bracing breath and directed his assistant. "Show her in."
"She's not alone," the other man reminded him.
Trent shrugged. "I don't care who's with her. I'll only see her."
He had already felt her, drawing nearer as she drove up to the estate. Even if he hadn't had the call to warn him, he would have known she was coming. With a connection this strong, she had to be the one.
He had to be the one. Everything had led her hereto him. Trent Baines had to be the killer.
"He will see you."
Startled, Alaina whirled away from the window and its fog-enshrouded view of the treetops. How had such a big man moved so quietly back into the living room where he'd left her and Agent Vonner? Then the young man, wearing a suit as dark as Vonner's, turned to leave again.
Vonner trailed after him and, her pulse racing, she followed Vonner. Their footsteps on dark slate flooring echoed in the two-story foyer through which they passed. On one side of it were the double doors from which they'd entered. On the other, an elaborate double staircase with a cathedral-size stained-glass window on the landing.
As Vonner had commented, the place was a castle. And only one man lived here, with his servants?
The butler or bodyguardor whatever the young man washeld out a hand as if stopping traffic at the closed pocket doors at the end of the wide hall. "Mr. Baines will only see the woman."
"Agent Paulsen," Alaina supplied her name.
"No," Vonner protested.
"It's fine," she said. Her gun heavy on the holster on her belt, she wasn't afraid for her safety.
The manDietrich he had called himself when he'd let them in earlierbegan to slide open the pocket doors.
"You can't see him alone," Vonner protested and reached out to grasp Alaina's arm.
She glanced from the fingers crushing the sleeve of her dark suit jacket to his face. Then she arched a brow, uncertain of Vonner's motives. Did he not want her to get all the glory if they had, at last, found a genuine lead? Or was his concern only for her safety?
Neither option comforted her. In fact, she had been uneasy ever since Vonner had been assigned to the cold case with her. The male agent acted more interested in her than the case.
Vonner released her, but his dark-eyed gaze had gone beyond her to the man standing inside the dark-paneled den. "He's not old enough."
To be the killer? Was that what Vonner was about to say?
Alaina stepped away from her partner. As she joined Trent Baines in his inner sanctum, the pocket doors slid shut, closing her inside, alone with him. Despite what her partner believed, she knew Trent Baines could still be the killer. The cold cases they investigated now had occurred before this lifetime of his. Alaina was aware of her other life. Was he?
His gaze met hers, his green eyes burning with an intensity that had heat streaking through her body. Even though several feet separated them, she could feel not just the touch of his stare but the touch of his hands, caressing the curve of her waist, the slope of her hip, cupping the weight of her breasts
She could feel his skin sliding over hers as she lay naked beneath him, her hands clutching at the rippling muscles of his back. Images flashed through her mind, images of his face as he lowered his head to hers, his mouth touching her lips. But this man didn't look like Trent Baines, who had dark blond hair and penetrating green eyes. The man in the images had brown hair and eyes, but something about him was eerily similar to Trent, almost as if they were the same man.
Her lips parted, and a shaky breath escaped her aching lungs. Was he the man she had loved or the man who had killed her for loving someone else?
"You feel it, too," Baines remarked, his voice thick with a sexy huskiness.
"Feel what?" Her heart pounded with fear and emotion.
Determined to pull herself together, Alaina lifted her chin and arched a brow. "Not a very original come-on. I expected more creativity from a New York Times bestselling author."
"Are you a fan, Agent ?"
"Do you have a first name?"
His mouth, his lips full and unsettlingly sexy, curved into a grin. "You're not willing to share?"
"I don't think it's necessary for us to be on a first-name basis, Mr. Baines," she said. Not when she could already feel his touch, his kiss "I'm only here to ask you some questions."
"You don't want my autograph?" he asked, a teasing glint brightening his eyes. He reached behind him, onto his desk, and lifted a hardcover book. "I'd be happy to sign a copy for you. To your first name."
"I don't want a signed book." Or for him to know her first name. She already felt too intimately connected to him, more intimately connected than she'd felt to any other man she'd met in this life. "I've read everything you've written."
Baines picked up a pen from the leather blotter on his desk and, as if he hadn't heard her, flipped through the first couple pages of the book. "So you are a fan."
"I'm an investigator."
He scribbled something and held out the book to her. She hesitated to step closer, but she couldn't reach it unless she moved nearer to where he sat now on the edge of his desk. He was tall, like his employee, but his body had the lean, muscular build of a runner. He obviously didn't spend all his time behind his desk. Yet how had he written so many books, and achieved so much success, at an age she guessed to be close to her own thirty years?
Curiosity overcame her reluctance, and she closed the distance between them. When she grasped the book, he pulled it back, tugging her nearer so that her thighs rubbed against his as she stumbled between his knees. Her heart slammed against her ribs as it began to beat furiously. "Mr. Baines"
"Trent," he corrected her, his voice a raspy drawl. "Call me Trent."
She shook her head, hoping to break the hold he had on herthe one that was more emotional than physical. "I didn't come here for your autograph. I'm not a fan, Mr. Baines."
His shoulders rippled beneath his thin black T-shirt as he shrugged. "I have few fans in law enforcement."
"I'm surprised you have any," she remarked.
He released the book she hadn't realized she still held, and advised, "Read the autograph."
Her fingers trembling slightly, she opened the cover and flipped to the title page, to the masculine scrawl of his signature and the words above it. To Alaina, I feel it, too.
She lifted her gaze from the book to his face. With sculpted features and those sexy lips, the man was beyond handsome. He was fascinating. "You know my name."
His grin flashed again. "I'm an investigator, too."
"Your editor called you," she surmised because she had only been able to track him down through his publisher. The man had gone to extremes to protect his privacy.
"Of course. The publisher makes too much money off me not to take care of me," he said with glib arrogance. But his green eyes sparkled with amusement, as if he laughed at himself.
"And Dietrich?" she asked, referring to the man who'd shown her to his den. "Does he take care of you, too? Is he your butler or your bodyguard?"
"He's my assistant."
"So you don't do your own research?" she asked, wondering now if she was talking to the wrong man. But then he moved, and his knee rubbed against the side of her thigh. Her pulse raced in reaction and she knew this was the man. She stepped back, needing some distance between them, needing to not touch him.
"I'm not sure what exactly Dietrich assists me with," he said, his brow furrowing in confusion, "but it's not my writing. No one helps me with that."
Her hand shaking slightly, she closed the hardcover book. "So you've done all your own research for this series?"
He nodded. "Do you want some investigative pointers?"
A smile threatened, but she bit her bottom lip. She should have been irritated instead of amused by his arrogance. "I am here because I want some information."
"What do you want to know, Alaina?"
Her name on his lips lifted goose bumps along her skin and the fine hairs on the nape of her neck. "I want to know how you found out details that were never released to the public."
He arched a dark blond brow. "Details of what?"
"Of the murders you sensationalized in your books."
"Sensationalized?" He tapped a finger against the spine of the book she held. "It's fiction."
Her stomach muscles tightened in dread. "No, it's not. Every one of those murders actually happened."
And one of those murders had been hers.