Forbidden pleasure, p.23
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.23

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
 
Page 23

 

  12

  Her home was a damned crime scene. She wasn’t allowed in past the living room door. She was to stay out of the way, but she was to stay close, and she was more terrified than she had ever been in her life.

  Keiley sat on the stairs, the boxed pizza sitting untouched beside her, a half-empty glass of wine clutched in her hands as Jethro and Mac dusted the living room for fingerprints. They hadn’t called the sheriff. They had called Jethro’s boss, then began investigating.

  She had no idea Mac had kept all the equipment he had from his time in the Bureau. But he had. Stored in a large duffel bag in the attic had been stuff she hadn’t even recognized and hadn’t understood as he tried to explain some of it. All she did understand was that it seemed to be connected to an old case of Mac’s.

  Finally, she had taken her wine and moved to the stairs, where Mac had sat the pizza after collecting it from the delivery boy. A boy who hadn’t even gotten out of his truck. Mac had met him in the driveway with the money and sent him on his way before striding into the house, ordering her to eat, then joining Jethro back in the living room.

  She could hear their voices and had managed to catch part of the conversation. Something about her panties under the balcony. Someone had stolen her panties.

  She pushed her fingers through her hair, took another sip of the wine and rose to her feet. She moved cautiously back to the doorway, aware of the wary looks Mac and Jethro were casting her as she watched them.

  “Do you think he’s the reason I’ve had so many things come up missing lately?” she finally asked, realizing she should have mentioned the other articles before now.

  Both men froze, their gazed sharpening, expressions becoming savage.

  “Like what?” Mac asked dangerously.

  “Well, my comb. Remember?”

  He nodded sharply. “All you mentioned was a comb. ”

  “There was a bottle of my favorite perfume. The dress I wore last week to that meeting in Virginia. The engraved pen you bought me for Christmas just little things, Mac. ”

  His jaw hardened dangerously. “What else?”

  Keiley frowned. “That’s all I’ve noticed. ”

  “How long has this been going on?” Mac snapped. “And why the hell didn’t you tell me about it?”

  She hunched her shoulders defensively. “I’ve been busy. I thought I had misplaced them until I went looking for the dress last night. I was going to mention it, but—” She cleared her throat. “Things happened. ”

  “Mac, anyone could have found out you were investigating that case before you left,” Jethro muttered, barely loud enough for her to hear.

  “What case?”

  She caught the sharp look Mac gave him as she questioned the comment.

  “Mac, don’t you think it’s just a little too late to shield me here?” she snapped in frustration. “I’m not a child, nor am I an imbecile. It’s a stalker, isn’t it?”

  It was one of a woman’s worst nightmares.

  “Shit,” Mac growled as he pushed his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Damn it to hell. ”

  “You were working a stalker case before we moved, weren’t you?” Her voice trembled on the question. “The one that led to the attack on the accountant in Alexandria. ”

  He nodded shortly. “We called him the Playboy. Until that attack he had never hurt any of his victims. He played with them. Or more to the point, he played with their lovers and husbands. ”

  She shook her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”

  “He focused on women whose husbands or lovers were in the investigative fields. Cops, bodyguards, private investigators. As though he were testing himself against them. He would steal their personal items, then later begin returning them in places where they knew they wouldn’t have left them. It was a dare. He put their men on alert, then began escalating, getting closer and taunting them with the knowledge that he could strike at any time. ”

  “Then he attacked one of them?”

  “Her husband was a private investigator. He slipped into the house, managed to knock him out, and then attacked her. Then he just disappeared. ”

  “Until now. ” Her breath hitched violently as her stomach contracted.

  “He must have found out who was investigating the case with the FBI,” Mac snapped. “It wouldn’t be that hard to do. I questioned three of the seven victims. ”

  “And he found out you were married,” she whispered. “He’s daring you. ”

  “He’s dared the wrong men. ”

  Keiley flinched at the murderously cold smile that curved at her husband’s lips. And she didn’t miss the plural at the end of that declaration. The wrong men. She turned her gaze to Jethro and caught her breath. If Mac was murderously cold, then Jethro was icy. His eyes were like winter frost, his expression merciless.

  “What are you going to do?”

  “We’re going to catch the bastard,” Mac assured her, his voice silky smooth but with an edge of violence as he turned to Jethro. “Do you still have the tracing program on your laptop?”

  Jethro nodded.

  “Hook it up to the computer in her office in the morning,” Mac ordered him. “I’ll put her to work on that program she installed on my laptop and see what we can pull up. I want you to call the director, let him know what’s going on, and have the files sent here by overnight courier. This time, that bastard is mine. ”

  “We can do all this in the morning, Mac,” Jethro said quietly, nodding toward her. “She’s exhausted, and I’m betting she still hasn’t eaten. ”

  Keiley shook her head quickly. “I’m not hungry. I want to know what’s going on first. ”

  “You’re too tired to make sense of it, Keiley. And we’re too damned tired to go any further tonight,” Mac sighed, moving across the room as Jethro began to pack up the equipment. “We have the prints from here and the balcony door. Tomorrow we’ll courier them out to the Bureau and see if he got sloppy. ”

  “I can’t sleep. ” Keiley shook her head quickly, panicking at the thought of even trying to sleep.

  “You’re going to eat first. ” His arm went around her, and the warmth of his body immediately began to seep into her. “Then we’re going to lock the doors, rig a few alarms, and pile into Jethro’s bed. Jethro and I will take turns listening for anything and you will sleep. ”

  She shook her head again.

  “Grab the pizza, Jethro. We’ll eat in the kitchen. I need to check on the dog anyway. ”

  “Pappy?” Keiley glanced at him in concern.

  “I just want to make sure he wasn’t hurt. I just remembered that he tried to attack the bastard. ”

  He should have thought about the dog earlier. If anything happened to the mutt, Keiley would be inconsolable for days.

  “Stay here, Kei. ” He pushed her into a kitchen chair and bent to her, staring her directly in the eye. “Right here. You don’t move. Are we clear?”

  She grimaced, her lips pursing in defiance.

  “Keiley. Don’t push me right now. ”

  Her jaw clenched. “Fine. But you better hurry. ”

  “Mac, the dog is right by the door,” Jethro informed him. “I’m going to let him in long enough to check him out. ”

  Mac turned, watching as Jethro opened the door and clicked to the dog to enter.

  Hesitant, watching the room warily, the shepherd mix crouched and slunk into the kitchen. Closing the door, Jethro ran his hands carefully over the dog’s large body, checking for wounds or any sign of pain.

  “He’s fine. ” Jethro opened the door.

  Pappy had no intentions of leaving as easily as he had entered, though. Whining, he crouched again and pushed himself further into the room.

  “Let him stay,” Keiley ordered them both. Her voice wasn’t pleading and she wasn’t asking. It was a demand.

  Mac stared at the
animal. Sure as hell if he let it stay in the house tonight he would never get it back out of the house.

  “Keiley—”

  “Forget it, Mac. I’m not leaving Pappy out there for some crazy idiot to take potshots at. He’s staying in the house. ”

  The dog disappeared under the table, his head showing up on Keiley’s lap as he whined again, his brown eyes adoring.

  “Hell. ”

  “Live with it,” she whispered. “I won’t let him get hurt. ”

  “All right, he stays in the house. ”

  He glanced at Jethro wryly as Keiley opened the pizza box and slipped the dog a slice of pepperoni, mushroom, and double cheese.

  “And stays, and stays, and stays. ” Jethro grinned as he locked the door and dragged a chair from the table before pulling another slice of the pizza free and pushed it to Keiley. “Now you eat. And don’t argue. ” He held his finger up as she started to do just that. “Eat or I’ll personally escort that mutt into the garage and lock him up there. Unlike Mac, it doesn’t break my heart when you don’t get your way. ”

  Her eyes narrowed. “I am not spoiled. ”

  “Of course you are, sugar. ” He grinned, causing Mac to stifle his laughter. “He has you spoiled worse than a Christmas puppy, and that’s how he loves you best. But not me. ” He leaned back in his chair lazily. “I’m a hardass. I can take the heat. Fight with me all you want, I know how to spank you and make you like it. ”

  Mac tensed, but not in anger as he should have. The thought of watching Jethro deliver one of his erotic spankings to Keiley’s rounded little rear was enough to arouse him despite the threat they had just avoided.

  “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” she asked Mac incredulously, turning to stare back at him with narrowed eyes.

  Mac couldn’t help but grin. “He can make you come when he spanks you. What do you think?”

  “I think you’re both perverts,” she snapped back.

  Mac arched his brow in surprise as he pulled a chair from the table and took his own seat. “Are you just figuring that out, sweetheart?”

  She stared back at him intently before her gaze shifted to Jethro. Mac saw the thoughtful look in her eyes, the way she focused, as though she were seeing deeper than any of them knew.

  “No,” she finally answered, turning back to meet his gaze with a mysterious little smile. “I already knew. ”

  And that was a scary thought.

  Hours later, Mac sat in the recliner across from the queen-size bed where Jethro held Keiley. There was something oddly intimate about the way his friend had wrapped his body around Keiley after Mac left the bed. Something Mac hadn’t noticed before with the other women they had spent the night with.

  Jethro held her much as Mac did himself. He surrounded her. She was tucked into the curve of his body, the loose t-shirt and cotton pants she wore doing nothing to dispel the sensual, erotic sight of Jethro wrapped so snugly around her.

  They were all dressed in comfortable clothing. Jethro was in sweats and a gray t-shirt. Mac himself still wore his jeans, a shirt, and sneakers.

  They were prepared, though the odds were that they were prepared for nothing. But Keiley had refused to undress. The stark fear that had filled her eyes when he suggested it had prompted him to let the subject go.

  He watched curiously as Jethro shifted, drawing Keiley closer, her head tucked beneath his chin, his hand pressing against her stomach, drawing her tighter into his thighs.

  He should be jealous, Mac thought. No one had ever held Keiley like that with the exception of himself. And he was observant enough to note the fact that Jethro was holding her as he had never held another woman in Mac’s presence.

  He rubbed his finger thoughtfully over his cheek, wondering at the lack of jealousy, the lack of possessiveness. He was like a dog over a bone when it came to other men being around Keiley. He knew the strength of his possessiveness where she was concerned and he knew he should be worried that it was absent now.
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