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Of course Jolie agreed to Devin's proposition—she'd secretly loved her boss for six long years. Being so close to ...
Of course Jolie agreed to Devin's proposition—she'd secretly loved her boss for six long years. Being so close to Devin only made her desire grow stronger, though the danger was not just to her heart. Because someone was after the Kendall family, and Jolie's pretend engagement had made her the next target.
Weary beyond sanity, Devin climbed into his Lexus SUV and relaxed into the leather bucket seats. As tired as he was, he could fall asleep here. All he had to do was recline the seat and close his eyes.
The temptation was great, considering he hadn't slept much the past few nights. Not with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or at least the weight of his family's safety, which in Devin's mind was his world.
All these years they'd been so certain the killer who'd taken his parents' lives was off the street, no longer a threat.
That belief had been shattered just a few weeks ago. DNA evidence had proved that Rick Campbell, the man who'd spent the better part of twenty years in jail for the crime, wasn't the one who'd committed the murders. The police had arrested and the jury had sentenced the wrong man. His parents' killer still remained at large.
Devin hadn't slept well since, knowing the killer had been free all this time.
He buckled up, cranked the engine and drove out of the parking garage onto the streets of downtown St. Louis. He noticed his uncle's car turned left out of the parking garage onto Market Street. As Devin headed east, a car that had been illegally parked on the normally busy street slipped in behind his uncle's four-door BMW sedan.
This late in the evening, it was not unusual for there to be cars moving up and down Market Street. But something about the way the vehicle had slipped in behind his uncle's car had the hairs on the back of Devin's neck standing on end.
The car's driver hadn't switched his lights on. The streetlamps gave out enough light that a person could forget to turn on their headlights, but the feeling scratching across his subconscious wouldn't let Devin rest.
Instead of turning right toward the warehouse district where he lived, Devin made the decision to follow his uncle for a couple blocks. Just in case.
He stayed far enough behind the two cars as not to generate suspicion, until he noticed the vehicle following his uncle didn't have a license plate. Alarm bells sounded in Devin's head. He increased his speed, closing the distance between his SUV and the two cars ahead until he was only a hundred yards behind. He wasn't fast enough.
When his uncle turned north on Jefferson Avenue, the nondescript car behind him sped up. As they rounded the corner, the trailing car rammed into Craig's sedan, slamming the BMW into the traffic light pole. The unlicensed car sped away, leaving a trail of burned rubber.
Devin skidded his Lexus to a halt behind his uncle's vehicle, hit the hazard light switch and jumped out.
"Uncle Craig!" He reached the driver's door as his uncle pounded against it.
Jammed by the impact, the door wouldn't open until Devin braced his foot against the side of the car and yanked with all his might. The door swung open and his uncle looked out at him, the powder of the deployed air bags dusting his hair and face.
"What happened?" Craig asked, fumbling to unclip his seat belt.
Devin leaned in and released the buckle. "That fool just ran you off the road. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Just a little shaken." His uncle tried to get out of the car, his face pale, his eyes glazed.
Devin placed a hand on his uncle's shoulder, insisting he remain seated. "I'm calling an ambulance."
"Really, I'm fine. I'd rather go on home to bed. It was just a little accident."
"No way. We need to stay right here while I also call the police. I had a feeling something like this would happen."
"What do you mean?"
"That was no accident. Whoever hit you knew exactly what he was doing. That was a deliberate attack."
"What happened to Uncle Craig last night was no accident." Devin Kendall paced the length of his spacious office. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't slept in days."
"What can we do that isn't already being done?" Craig responded from where he sat on the leather couch, pressing his fingers to his forehead gingerly, lucky he only had a bump on his forehead to show for his collision with the light pole. "The car that hit me hasn't been found—it was too dark to identify the make and model. Basically, the police have nothing to go on."
Devin's family had gathered for this meeting at his request. The twentieth anniversary of his parents' murders loomed like a ghostly specter with teeth that could come back to bite any one of the Kendalls—and apparently had in the attack on his uncle the previous night.
Devin stopped pacing and faced his family. "The person who killed our parents is still out there. And things are becoming much more dangerous since Rick Campbell's murder."
Though he had been exonerated of the crime for which he'd served almost twenty years, Campbell had not been able to revel in his release as he himself was killed just days afterward.
Devin's sister, Natalie, leaned forward in the wing-backed chair beside the couch. "Whoever did it hasn't made a move on the rest of us." With her long straight blond hair and green eyes, Natalie was the spitting image of their dead mother. And, she could more than hold her own in a marketing meeting with the executives of the multimillion-dollar corporation, Kendall Communications.
But Devin wasn't so sure she could stand up against a cold-blooded murderer. "What if the killer decides the police are getting too close? What if one of us reminds him too much of our parents and he decides to kill again?"
"You're borrowing trouble, Dev." His brother Ash shook his head. "The St. Louis Metropolitan police have reopened the case. We're working it."
Devin snorted. "No offense, Ash, but they arrested the wrong man twenty years ago. What makes you think they can figure it out now?"
Ash's lips thinned into a straight line and his eyes narrowed at Devin. "This time, we don't have a celebrity-seeking cop investigating. And we're not kids ready to accept any answer."
His chest tightened as Devin recalled the morning he'd learned his parents had been murdered. Guilt wadded like a fist in his throat and he had to swallow several times to clear it in order to speak.
He'd been out all night and sneaked back into the house only to find their bodies. Natalie had been standing in mute shock. If only he'd been there, he might have been able to stop the murderer and spared his little sister the horror.
Devin wished his brother Thad was there. As usual, Thad was off on a journalism assignment with no expected return date and limited ability to contact.
Jolie Carson, Devin's executive assistant, appeared at his side with a cup of coffee. Just her presence helped to ease his discomfort. She'd been his best hire to date. Six years and counting, she'd stood by him, organized his schedule and his life to the point he couldn't imagine functioning without her. He took the coffee mug from her.
Devin took a sip of the coffee. Black, with a hint of cinnamon, just the way he liked it. "We aren't kids anymore." He set the mug on the desk and crossed his arms over his chest. "But that might make us more of a target."
"What do you suggest we do?" Natalie's eyebrows rose up her forehead. "Hide in our homes until the real killer is brought to justice?" She stood, her shoulders back, twin flags of color in her cheeks. "I'm not going to run scared just because some lunatic is out there. Twenty years is a long time. If he was going to make a move on any of the rest of us, he'd have done it by now. I have a job, as do the rest of you."
Jolie stopped on her way out of the office. "She's right. You can't run scared or the killer wins."
Devin scowled at Jolie. She propped a hand on her hip, her lips firm, her chin held high, daring him to contradict her in front of his family.
He'd have a talk with Jolie when everyone cleared out of his office. Her advice was usually sound and he valued her opinion, but she didn't understand how dangerous the situation could get.
"Natalie and Jolie are right." Craig stood, as well. "Much as I hate that we haven't found the killer, we can't live in fear. We have lives. We have a business to run."
If Devin could, he'd lock his family up on the Kendall estate until the killer was found. He leaned toward telling them just that, but knew they'd fight him tooth and nail. The Kendall stubborn streak was strong in every one of them. It's what made them successful. They didn't give up and they didn't run scared. Unfortunately, that didn't make him worry any less.
The tension in his shoulders loosened and he sighed. "Just do me a favor, will you?"
His siblings and uncle waited before committing to the favor.
"Be careful. Watch your backs and don't take anything for granted. If you see anything or anyone suspicious, let me or Ash know immediately. You can't be too cautious." His message was for all of them, but his gaze landed on Natalie.
She frowned. "I'm always careful. Just try to attack me and let's see who ends up on his butt." She waved him forward, her stance hampered by her slim-fitting skirt.
Jolie chuckled. "I'm scared."
"Me, too." Ash clapped his sister on her back. "Natalie is a black belt."
"Training and defending are completely different." Devin's gaze darkened. Natalie was his little sister. He still felt responsible for her safety even though she was a fully grown twenty-six-year-old.
"I think he's chicken," Natalie confided to Ash, her gaze on Devin, a smile lurking at the corners of her mouth. "But I'll let it slide this time. I'd hate to damage my favorite skirt." She cocked her head at him. "Anything else, dear brother?"
"Yeah, I need that marketing plan by end of day. I suggest you get to work before the CEO fires you."
She laughed. "Anyone ever tell the CEO he's a pain in the butt?"
"That could be construed as insubordination." Devin shot a wad of paper at her. "Get out of here."
Natalie spun on her sensible heel and headed for the door, stopping long enough to ask Jolie, "We still on for dinner tonight?"
"You bet. I've been dying to try that new Hunan restaurant around the corner."
"Me, too." Natalie turned back toward her brothers. "And, don't worry, I'll have eyes in the back of my head."
Craig buttoned his suit jacket. "I'm sorry this has all come up again. Your aunt Angela is beside herself with worry."
"Like Natalie said, we can take care of ourselves." Ash draped an arm over his uncle's shoulder. "You and Aunt Angela have done so much for this family. I'm more worried about you than the rest of us."
Craig and Angela had taken on the responsibility of raising the Kendall children upon the death of their parents.
"I beefed up the security at the estate," Craig said. "I'm considering hiring a bodyguard, but Angela is dead set against it."
Natalie paused in the doorway. "Can't blame her." She shuddered. "I'd hate having someone following me around, anticipating my every move. It would drive me nuts." She glanced at Jolie. "Six o'clock, then. Bye."
Jolie smiled and closed the door behind Natalie. She had her wavy red hair pulled back in a neat bun, exposing the long length and porcelain skin of her neck.
For a moment, Devin studied the way an errant curl bounced against her earlobe and wondered what she looked like with her hair down. She was somewhat plain in her soft gray suit with a proper slim-line skirt cut to the knee. Everything about Jolie was proper except her wicked sense of humor and her ability to tell him like it was. She didn't pull her punches.
He liked that about her. Jolie Carson didn't take any guff from him or anyone else.
"I'm out of here. Duty calls." Ash, always assuming his role as the cop, headed for the door. "I'm still digging through the case file hoping I find something they missed. I'll start interviewing witnesses again soon."
"Can you keep us up-to-date on how it goes?" Devin asked.
"You bet." Ash crossed the room and just as he reached for the door handle, Natalie crashed back in.
"You aren't going to believe this." She walked to the large television screen mounted on the wall, flicked it on and fumbled with the remote until she had a picture of the local district attorney at what appeared to be a press conference in front of the St. Louis courthouse.
A reporter pushed a mike in his face. "We understand the Christmas Eve Murders case has been reopened. What are you and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department doing to solve this case?"
The D.A. stood straight and looked directly into the camera. "As you all have heard, with the latest forensic evidence, the state crime lab was able to rule out Rick Campbell as the murderer. The St. Louis Metropolitan
Police Department has reopened and is actively investigating the case again. We'll get our murderer."
"Any guesses as to who might have done it?" another reporter asked.
"It's too early to say at this time. Let the detectives do their work." The D.A.'s eyebrows lowered, his eyes darkening. "But we'll look at everyone involved with the Kendall family. As in the majority of murder cases, many times it's someone close to the family, usually a family member who commits the crime."
Natalie and Jolie gasped.
Devin, Ash and Craig all swore.
"That SOB. How dare he cast suspicion on the Kendalls." Natalie's cheeks flamed and her hands fisted. "I'd like to have a word with that man."
Jolie shook her head. "Perhaps he's after the publicity. Bashing the Kendalls is a sure way to get the cameras turned your way."
"But why?" Natalie stared at the man on the screen. "He's not up for reelection this year."
"No, and he wouldn't get my vote even if he was." Devin flicked the television off. "Don't let it worry you. They don't have anything on any one of us."
"Yeah, but the media will be following us, just in case they find some dirt somewhere," Uncle Craig said. "If they don't find dirt, they might just make something up to sensationalize a slow-news night."
"Be extra vigilant with your safety and keep your nose clean." Devin shot a stern look at his siblings. "Don't get caught in a situation where you're cornered by the paparazzi."
Ash snorted. "Easier said than done. Later, brother." He grabbed Devin's hand and shook it, then pulled him close. "Get some rest. You look like hell."
"Thanks, you don't look so good yourself. Keep an eye on that fiancée of yours. She could be in as much danger as the rest of us. Especially since she found the DNA evidence that freed Rick Campbell."
"Rachel can hold her own. But I'll gladly keep a very close eye on her." Ash waggled his eyebrows.
Devin shook his head. "How she puts up with you, I'll never know."
Ash smiled at Jolie. "My big brother hasn't learned that a good woman makes a man want to be a better person. That woman could be right under his nose and he hasn't pulled his head out of the sand long enough to notice." He winked at Devin. "Am I right?"
"Shut up and get out." Devin shook his head, a hint of a smile pulling at his lips. Ash was a ladies' man who'd met his match in Rachel. That didn't mean Devin was headed down the matrimonial path. He had too much on his plate to even think of a relationship.
His gaze landed on Jolie. She was the ideal woman, the one he found himself measuring all others by. If he decided to settle down and think about a wife and two-point-one children, he'd like to find someone as strong and stable as Jolie. But that was a big if, one he didn't intend to explore anytime in the near future.
And she was his executive assistant. Completely off-limits in the corporate world. He shuddered inwardly at the media nightmare such a relationship would generate.
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