Her breath hitched in her chest at the shift in the conversation, the seriousness. The possibility behind the warning. “Are you proposing or warning me off?”
“I’m just telling you the facts so you have all the information.”
A nonanswer if she’d ever heard one. She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to push for more, but she couldn’t stop herself from saying, “Your parents stayed together, in spite of everything life has thrown their way.”
He stared up toward the northern lights, his eyes taking on a distant look. “Maybe I should bring my mother to one of the other, more accessible hot springs in Alaska, let her experience the hot springs, the healing waters.” He glanced back down at her with a half-embarrassed grin. “I suffer no delusions that it’ll fix everything for her, but at least I could give her something.”
“That’s a lovely thought.” She cupped his neck, stroking along the shaved hairs at his nape, bristly crisp with freezing water. How ironic that she’d brought him out here for the soothing power of the healing waters without realizing how it might touch a deeper hurt than a couple of stitches in his shoulder.
Just that fast, the levity evaporated faster than the steam dispersed by the cold Alaska air. How could she have forgotten even for a second that just earlier that week, Deputy Smith had shot wildly at them, trying to crush them with an avalanche?
Something tugged at the back of her brain, some detail, some sense that she was missing something. She searched though everything that had been said—tougher and tougher to do with Wade’s hands making tantalizing forays over her breasts, his thigh working gentle, arousing pressure between her legs.
Her body warmed from the inside out, coming back to life as it always did with Wade, and she struggled to follow the elusive whisper of logic tap, tap, tapping. God, following it was as futile as kicking through an ice wall with bare feet. She needed serious firepower to let loose the avalanche.
She slid off Wade’s leg and nearly slipped under the surface. Spluttering water, she resurfaced.
Wade braced her with his hands clamped to her waist. “What’s wrong?”
“All this time we’ve been wondering if Deputy Smith was a serial killer who acted alone.”
“Um, right, but what made you start thinking about that, right now?”
“Your injury reminded me of that day, when Deputy Smith was waiting for us, to shoot us.”
“I remember it too damn well.” His grip tightened around her.
“Serial killers have an MO, right? All the old cop shows stress that.”
“Because it’s true.”
“So if Deputy Smith killed all those other people with a knife because he was a serial killer, doesn’t it make sense that he would follow that same pattern in trying to take us down?”
Wade went still. Very still. The gush of water filled the silence between them as she could all but see the wheels turning in his mind.
Sunny continued. “Maybe he was just desperate, but it’s worth considering alternatives to the serial killer scenario. According to every true-crime show I’ve watched, serial killers have their rules, their patterns—a particular method. They have to stick to the ritual to get the thrill. Rand Smith killed my friends by slashing their throats. If he’s a serial killer, it stands to reason he would have used the knife on us instead of the gun. We have to seriously consider the possibility that he’s an assassin, hired by someone higher up the chain.”
Wade cursed low under his breath, his face hardening back into warrior mode. Her tender lover had faded away.
A noise cut the night, a door opening. He tensed, tucking her to his chest before she could say so much as “I can take care of myself.” Although given that they were both naked, outside in Alaska, that made them both plenty vulnerable.
She looked to the entrance leading back inside. The brown door opened wide, the two figures backlit, faces indistinguishable.
They stepped forward as one, a man and a woman. The female eased forward and Misty’s face came into focus. Sunny sagged with relief. Her sister stood with Flynn Everett, who apparently hadn’t gone home for the night after all. Wade’s uniform and Sunny’s clothes littered the ground around their feet.
Now that the initial freaked-out fear had gone, awkwardness crept over her. She was in the middle of the hot springs, naked with a guy.
“Um, would you mind turning your backs for a second so we can get some towels and our clothes?”
“Of course,” Misty said quickly, spinning around and pushing at Flynn’s shoulders for him to follow. “Could you hurry? It’s really important.”
“Right…” She half swam, half walked across the small pondlike springs until she reached the steps, feeling Wade’s bulk behind her.
She snagged a towel and robe, tossing one to Wade. Yanking the terrycloth over her body and half dancing to keep her toes from freezing on the deck, she allowed herself a quick glance at him. He pitched aside the robe in favor of yanking on his camo pants. So quickly his body had become familiar to her, from his taut butt to the green footprint tattoos walking up his shoulder. With the world unraveling around her, he was fast becoming her one constant.
As she rushed to follow her sister and Flynn inside, she saw Wade shrugging into the rest of his uniform, damp splotches mottling the camo pattern from where the fabric had rested on the icy deck. It was almost as if his body was immune to the cold.
The thick wood door eased closed, sealing the four of them in the dimly lit corridor. She started to suggest they go upstairs to her apartment, but Misty grabbed her by the arm.
“I got an email tonight from a woman named Andrea Livingston. She forwarded documents and correspondence that suggest her husband plans to blow up a power plant. And he’s doing so with the help of someone here.”
Wade stepped forward, his face set. “Time to wake up Flynn’s father and use his satellite phone again.”
“Right,” Flynn said. “He’ll need to know the latest development anyway.”
“Wait, Wade.” Sunny clasped his arm, his muscles tensed under her grip. “Who are you calling? The police? Shouldn’t we hear more about the emails to make sure we don’t go off in the wrong direction?”
“I’ve done this your way since we started up the mountain. I’ve respected your boundaries, your way of doing things, your concerns for your family. Now it’s become bigger than us. Bigger than your family. It’s time to do this my way. It’s time to set off my emergency beacon so my people can locate us. We need to call in the reinforcements.”
The kitchen wall clock showed four in the morning.
Brett paced his way across the tile floor in the sleeping house. He couldn’t risk going into the bedroom since Andrea might wake up and note what time he’d come in. The sitter slept like a log and didn’t know yet that Andrea intended to fire her, so that wasn’t a problem. The sitter only woke up for the alarm connected to an emergency button in Andrea’s room and one on her chair.
He would stretch out on the sofa in the office. He would simply tell his wife he’d been at the plant late and didn’t want to wake her once he got home, pretty much the truth. A dim glow lit the hall. Every room had night-lights rechargeable by the sun, so no matter what time of day, even in a blackout, Andrea would be able to find her way around the house.
Soon, he would be able to offer her so much more without worrying about the IRS questioning where all his extra capital had come from.
Pushing the office door open very slowly to avoid creaking hinges… he stopped short. Andrea sat at the computer. Awake. Her hair draped in a long red ponytail over one shoulder, a splash of color across her green silk pajamas. She was like a living, breathing aurora borealis for him.
But she was also a creature of habit in some things, like always turning in early. So why wait up for him tonight?
Was she still hung up on the suspicion that he was cheating? He didn’t much care for having his itinerary checked, but he couldn’t afford to cause any ripples now. She would understand more—if not all—soon enough. At least he’d erased all the old correspondence and anything to do with Misty. He would have just bought a whole new computer but he was afraid that would arouse more suspicions.
He tossed his coat on the sofa, one she’d re-covered in fabric bought on safari. “I had to work late. You shouldn’t have waited up, although now that I see you, I’m glad you did.”
“Oh, really,” she said simply, keeping her back to him.
Her mood had been tough to gauge all day when he’d called, working at being an attentive husband.
Stopping beside her, he swiped aside her red hair to kiss his favorite spot on her neck. “Hello, beautiful.”
She reached back, her wrist grazing his cheek, as she always did, even if she didn’t answer. So close. They were so close to leaving this godforsaken patch of earth. So close to living a rich, full life together again.
His eyes opened… and he caught a glimpse of the computer screen. Of an email that began “Dear Misty…”
What the hell?
He straightened slowly as Andrea shifted aside, giving him a clear view. Damn it, he’d erased everything to and from Misty. He was certain. But as he scanned farther, he realized the note wasn’t from him.
The post had been written by Andrea.
You need to know that Brett isn’t who he says he is. I hope to God he hasn’t involved you in his dealings because if he has, there’s nothing I can do for you. But you need to know someone in your community is helping him blow up a power plant…
He stopped reading abruptly. Stunned. Appalled.
He couldn’t possibly be seeing what he thought. How had she found out? And he prayed to God she hadn’t sent it yet.
“Andrea, what the hell have you done?”
“I should be asking you that, my love.” Finally, she glanced back over her shoulder, steely fury glinting in her emerald green eyes. “But I’m afraid I already know.”
His gut dropped harder than a ride in a g-force elevator.
“I thought we already cleared up this matter about the emails. Nothing is what you think.” He was scrambling for possible explanations. And he had to think fast or she would sense the lie. “Okay, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I’ve been working with local authorities to uncover a plot at the plant.” His story was gaining speed in his mind. “The woman—Misty—is part of an ecoterrorist group that has been trying to blow up the place.”
That sounded good, plausible. Maybe he could pull this off. He watched every nuance of her face as she searched his, waiting for her verdict, already prepping his next words.
She shoved his shoulder weakly, but oh so effectively. Her rejection of him and his story was clear in her upper lip, curled in disgust. “How could you so underestimate me? The accident took away the use of my legs but it didn’t damage by mind. I know you so very well and I knew you were lying. And you should know I’m not the type of woman to let her man steamroll right over her.”
A deeper fear took root. She really had figured out his plan, or part of it anyway. His perfect plan that could actually be coming apart. But then his mind hitched on something she’d said.
She’d called him her man. That was good.
He could salvage this. “I don’t know what you think you’ve figured out, but there are layers to this you don’t understand yet—”
“I don’t ‘think’ I’ve figured out anything. I know,” she hissed, speaking low enough that her aide wouldn’t overhear. “I hacked your work computers. Once it became apparent every word out of your mouth has been a lie for the last year. Maybe longer. And now I know enough to put you in jail for the rest of your life.”