“Sir, you can’t be in here.”
“I assure you, I can.”
“Where’s Andre?” Kate stuck her head in the doorway.
“Who’s Andre?” Elliot shoved him from behind.
“Uh….nobody.” Kate dodged.
“Oh, is he here? Oh my God… Where is he? John honey, get my good camera out of the car. Do you think he’d be opposed to some tasteful semi-nudes?” Jose’s head shoved Kate’s out of the way and swung around, searching for the pretty-boy asshole.
“Excuse me?” A woman waddled up to the officer attempting to keep them out of the house. She was bundled up and wrapped in a blanket. A knit cap on her head and thick socks on her feet. Somewhere in there he saw two dark penetrating eyes.
“Mckenna,” He smiled in greeting, “I’m glad to see you are no longer crouching behind garbage cans.”
“Yeah, I don’t recommend camping out in this kind of weather.” She tapped the earnest young officer on the shoulder, “Let them in.”
“I know you’re doing your job, but the interview is over. You are wrapping it up and there are no bodies or evidence in this house. Everything happened in the alley and next door so step aside and let them in.”
“She’s right.” An older man, gray headed and rumpled, joined them at the door, “We’re done here.”
The uniformed officer’s mouth tightened, but he touched his cap with a, “Ma’am.” And left.
The older man faced Mckenna, “I don’t suppose you want to enlighten me as to why someone was shooting at you and attempting to kidnap Miss Kinkaid.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure.”
“Miss Kane, please don’t insult my intelligence.”
“Fair enough, but we’ve got this.”
“I consider Miss Kinkaid a friend. If I can help in any capacity….”
“I know you care about her and if there is anything you can do that will not endanger you and yours, we’ll call you.”
“I’m a police officer…”
“And Allie is fond of you. She would never forgive herself if you or your loved ones came to harm. We have this.”
The detective looked like he wanted to say more, but he read the closed look on Mckenna’s face. He pulled a card from his wallet and left it on a table by the door and headed out.
And Grey was unceremoniously shoved into the room.
“Where is he?”
“Is he here?”
“Is there more wine?”
“Is Miss Maddie okay?”
“Is she still frying tomatoes?”
“Uh….” Mckenna blinked at him and his entourage.
His attempt to choke off his laughter was unsuccessful.
From under her bundle of blankets Mckenna frowned, “What’s so funny?”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope.” I watched Christian Grey attempt to wrap his Master of the Universe mind around my Nightmare in Wonderland. It was kind of funny.
“So the shooter…”
“And the kidnapper…”
“Well,” He scratched his head, “That’s inconvenient.”
The man adjusted quickly. I had to give it to him. We were the only ones left in my house. Everyone else had gone next door via the Florida room that was summarily “Ooohed and Ahhed” over. As Lena took them on the Nightmare in Wonderland tour. “You seem to be taking it in stride.”
“A bottle of Merlot will do that.”
His fingers drummed on my butcher block island. He was working on something. Finally he looked up and asked the question I’d been asking myself, “Why now?”
Yep. Why now? Thresher had been fascinated with Allie for years and all of a sudden he was moving twice in seventy-two hours. It was extreme. He knew who he was up against. This smacked at…
“Desperation.” Grey pulled the word out of my head.
“Why is he desperate?”
“Maybe she knows something.”
Grey sat at my island, his usual effortlessly elegant unruffled self and had no idea of the significance of his words, but in my head they went off like a rocket on the fourth of July, and in the bleachers, watching the fireworks, the crowds of people shouted,” Annwyn Mckenna Alexandra McGovern McIntyre Kane Kinkaid Smyth with a ‘Y’..… is plain stupid.”
“Oh dear Goddess. Oh fucking holy….”
I must have given Grey my crazy bitch look. He raised his hands and spoke in that carefully calm way reserved for talking people a couple weeks off their meds into handing over the knife, “It’s just a possibility.”
“No, you’re right.” I scrubbed my hands over my face, trying to rub away the crazy. Grey put his hands down, but piercing intelligence assessed me from behind flint gray eyes. I needed to explain, “Thresher kidnapped Allie years ago. We got her back within hours, but she must have seen something…heard something…but why after all this time….shit…” I was close. The answer was dangling just out of reach.
“And he’s afraid she’ll remember this thing after what, almost a decade?”
“Allie never forgets. She has a rare brain disorder.”
“McGoverns are special that way. We have weird memory anomalies. Hers is called Superior Autobiographical Memory. She is one of twelve people in the world who have it. She remembers every day of her life.”
“So a kidnapping that happened seven years ago.”
“Is like yesterday. Better, even. Thresher knows about our crazy brains. He must be on a time table. “
“And your sister knows what.”
“Or who or when or how. She knows something. But why now? And why would he think kidnapping her would be the answer? How does he know she hasn’t told us whatever…shit…just shit.” On the surface, the theory had holes, but there was something there. Intuitive intelligence is a funny thing, a product of the sub-conscious mind knowing what the frontal-lobe hasn’t yet grasped. And my sub was a ding-ding-dinging the bell and shouting We have a winner. I jumped up from the counter and headed to the Florida room.
Grey was right behind me, “So what is our next course of action?”
“Suring up our defenses.” I slammed one of the windows up, “I’ve got something.”
“Who are you talking to?” Grey peered out into the gloom.
A shadow dropped to the ground from above our heads, “Me.” Andre said simply. Darkness taken human form. Pant and boots in a light absorbing black, turtleneck and a leather jacket, gloves. He’d have a ski mask on him somewhere. I knew the fabric was water repellent and warm. Mercenary grade. Maybe he and Lena got their clothes from the same supplier.
I slid the screen aside and he launched himself through the window landing on his feet like a cat.
“Allie knows something.”
“Ah, of course. Her memory. I should have seen it.”
“Yeah, me too.” I threw a thumb in Grey’s direction, “The Gazillionaire figured it out.”
“Well done.” Andre did that nod thing he does, hand on heart. If anyone else of my acquaintance tried that, I’d laugh. Andre made it pure old world elegance, “I am in your debt.”
“I need to find out what Allie knows.”
I started in the direction of the door leading to her house when it was flung open, “Mckenna my lovely, Miss Maddie’s iron skillet is over there. Can you put a whammie on the cops and get them to hand it over?”
“Whammie?” Did I whammie? I didn’t think so. Allie whammied. I just creeped people…
“You know, do the scary…”
The scary. That made more sense.
“Or Sugar Buns can….”
Whatever Sugar Buns could do we may never know because Jose finally came into the room and saw Andre standing by the doorway, his back to the wall. Andre liked to kill them as soon as they walked through the door, then conveniently, he was right by the exit. It worked. Jose was fully in the room before he spotted him. Andre could have killed him ten times over in those few seconds.
Jose was dumb speechless. Andre had that effect on people. Next to me Christian Grey grunted.
“Get over it.”
“He’s not that…”
“Yes, he is.”
Andre came off the wall, “Did I hear you mention Miss Maddie?”
As far as I knew, he’d never met our elderly neighbor. I didn’t know as much as I thought.
Jose blinked a few times, cleared his throat, opened his mouth and squeaked.
“Miss Maddie is supposed to make fried green tomatoes in the morning.” I said.
“Wonderful. I’ll stay for breakfast.”
Jose opened his mouth again. This time his squeaks came out “iron skillet”, “great grandma” and “crime scene”.
“Not a problem.” Andre moved. Gripping the frame above the open window. He braced and jumped, propelling himself out the window in an ebony streak, landing easily on the balls of his feet. Straightening, he pulled something small out of his pocket, “I believe Miss Maddie keeps the skillet in the oven. Is there anything else she requires?”
“Uh….” Jose’s squeaks degraded to unrecognizable again.
“I’m sorry?” Andre paused, “I didn’t get that.”
“Bacon Grease.” Jose’s significant other joined us, his eyes round and wide, “It’s on the stove in an old fashioned metal dripping pot.”
“I’ll be back shortly.” Andre’s smile flashed in the dark. He pulled on the stocking cap and melted into the mist. Our very own cat burglar. Handy.
Jean Claude beat Jose to the window, his entire upper body leaning out as far as he could without falling, “Holeeeeeee Shit!” His eyes searching, “Did you see that? Did you see the way he went through that window?”
Jose fell into one of the overstuffed sofas, “Dear God, I need a drink.”
“There’s Merlot in the kitchen.”
“If you want something stronger,” Lena poked her head out the door, “There’s whisky on the coffee table.”
“Mac, I swear, I don’t know what I could know.” Allie wrung her hands. I’d sent Lena after her when she poked her head in about the bourbon. Jose and Jean Claude were still drinking. Grey, like myself, had turned thoughtful. I couldn’t see very well in the gloom of nothing but string lights, but I could feel his mind working.
“Allie, you need to be honest with me about this.”
“I am. I was unconscious most of the time and blindfolded. The blindfold only came off for a few hours.” I was in a room alone. They brought me food I didn’t eat. That was it.”
“Why didn’t you eat the food?” Grey asked the question.
“I thought it might be drugged.” Allie explained.
“We’re paranoid about that.” I explained further.
“Understandable.” Grey acknowledged.
“Allie, take your time, think back and write it all down. There has to be a reason he’s after you now.”
“But I don’t see how….”
She didn’t have to see, “That’s my job.”
“Okay, but I have to go across the street first.”
“Miss Maddie needs her heart medication. Nigel’s coming to pick it up. I talked to Lt. Wallace he’s escorting me into the house.”
“Uh…okay.” Yeah, now that I stopped to think about it. That was probably a better plan. Oh well, hind sight and twenty/twenty and all that. Hopefully, she wouldn’t run into our cat-burglar.
“And we need the iron skillet for the tomatoes.”
“Okay…” Not that it would be there.
“But…” Before Grey could stick his foot in it. I stepped on it.
He grunted and shot an eyebrow at me, “Sorry two left feet. Okay, well write it out when you get back.”
Allie left us and three pairs of eyes peered at me.
“Allie doesn’t know Andre’s been uh…. close.”
“You’re not serious.” Grey’s eyebrows stayed up.
“Even after tonight?” Jose recovered the power of speech enough to ask.
“Andre’s always appearing and disappearing. That’s nothing new, but she thinks when he disappears… he leaves….”
“And he doesn’t.” Grey said that like he already knew.
Huh. The men in my life were coordinating their efforts. That was more than a little scary. “Not for a while now, no. He’s pretty much on top of Allie 24/7.”
“That man…on top…twenty four…Oh, Sweet Baby Jesus!” Jose fanned himself and gulped more merlot.
Jean Claude stared after Allie, “Those two are going to make some beautiful babies.”
He dropped into the house from a second story window, hidden from the street by a large sycamore. He’d learned to climb trees in the rainforests along the Pantanal. And trees were so conveniently located in this area. Always near windows. No one ever thought of trees being a convenient way to enter a house, He was working his way down the hall when he heard her coming up the steps. Soft husky laughter, the kind that slid down a man’s spine and made him think bad thoughts, floated down the hallway. He ducked into the hall bath and just listened.
“It was funny, but don’t you dare tell Mac I laughed. She could have been hurt, but those slippers,” More laughter, “They are awful. I finally got permission to throw them away. Here we are. I’m just going to get her medication and a few of her delicates together.”
“I’ll leave you to it, Miss Kinkaid.” Andre recognized the other voice as detective who’d been at the hotel, Lt. Wallace. “There’s an officer stationed at the end of the hall. He’ll escort you out when you’re done.”
“Thank-you, Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble. I need her iron skillet out of the oven and her can of bacon drippings.”
“Miss Maddie is making her fried green tomatoes?”
“Yes, in the morning.”
“The diner’s not the same since she sold it, you know. They try….”
“But they don’t have her great grandma’s skillet.”
“No they do not. And dammit, I’ll be in court. Maybe next time.” Lt. Wallace left her with a forlorn shake of his head.
Andre remembered hearing about the diner Miss Maddie had run for much of her life. It had been famous for the fried green tomatoe dish. He’d never had one. Perhaps tomorrow.
He entered the room on silent feet and was greeted by the sight of the Angel’s very fine bottom in snug denim. She was bent over the nightstand rummaging through the drawers, “Angel what are you doing?”
“Holy Baloney!” The Angel jumped around, grabbing her lovely chest, fear turned to shock that quickly became the fiery ire that was unique to the female species. He always loved that ire.
“Are you crazy?” She hissed, running around him and shutting the door to Miss Maddie’s bedroom, “What are you doing here?”
“I came for the iron skillet.”
“Oh, for the love of….” She huffed and then he was surrounded. She was right in front of him, her hair in his face, her mouth at his throat, her body snug against him, her breasts pressed into his chest, her arms reaching up, as she struggled to pull the stocking cap off his head, “Take… this… silly… thing… off.” She snagged it and whipped it up over his head and off, “You look ridiculous.”
Fine by him he had better things to do with his hands. He wrapped his arms around her and held her against him when she would have broken away, “Ridiculous? Surely not.”
“Ridiculous. Now, let me go and get out. I can’t believe you broke into Miss Maddie’s house.”
“First of all, I have a key. Miss Maddie gave me one years ago.” He didn’t use it tonight , but still.
“What?” She blinked at him, a fluttering of lashes.
“And you’ve hurt my feelings calling me ridiculous. “ He buried his head in her neck tasting the delicate flesh, “Come now, kiss me and make it better.”
“Oh, is that what that shattering sound was, your ego? Poor baby.” She tugged at the hands clasped behind her back. It had no effect other than to push her breasts further into his chest. That got her nothing but a low growl, very male and very much approval. It tickled her ear and rumbled in his chest and touched her in intimate places. She had to get out of his arms before he could work his dark magic on her. She glared and gave up tugging for pushing. The devil did nothing but grin back at her.
Stupid man. Stupid Stupid Sexy Man. Why did he always have to show up out of nowhere smelling so good and why did he have to so deliciously hard and warm and oh so drop dead sexy.
“Angel, you wound me. Come now, one kiss.”
One kiss, my fanny.
“Yes.” He breathed the word against her throat. Her blood turned to lava.
“No.” It came out more of a whimper. She was sinking.
“Miss Kinkaid?” Lt. Wallace’s baritone called down the hallway. Followed by heavy treads on the stairs.
Allie shoved, but those bands of steel held her, “Let me go.”
“Not until you kiss me.” Lips trailed over her cheek, one hand slid up her back. Her knees threatened to buckle.
“There’s no time. He’s coming.” So would she, if she didn’t get away from him.
“Hmm, so you’ll kiss me later?” His mouth slid over her ear, he nibbled and bit, and she practically panted.
Oh, he was evil.
“Yes, yes I promise…oh …” She shoved at him in earnest. All he did was slide a hand under her sweater raising goosebumps up and down her spine. The heavy treads came closer, “Just go.”
“You swear it?” That wicked mouth nibbled her jaw.
“By the Goddess. Yes. Yes, you horny jerk. I swear on the ashes of my ancestors you’ll get a kiss. Now GO!”
Andre released her, slipped into the en-suite bath and just stood there, smiling. The idiot.
The bath couldn’t be seen from the bedroom door, but Goddess only knew what would happen if the detective walked in the room. Allie tried pulling the door closed, but there were clothes draped over it. If the detective looked that way the chances of spotting Andre. Oh and she was flustered. Lt. Wallace would pick up on that right away. Desperate, she crossed the room to the tall old fashioned dresser, pulling the top drawer out and out until it fell out, crashing to the floor and spilling Miss Maddie’s unmentionables all over.
The heavy treads were joined by other pounding feet. The door was thrown open. “Miss Kinkaid, are you alright in …?” The Lieutenant stood in the doorway a mixed bag of police personel behind him.
“Oh yes,” Allie pushed her hair off her face, “I’m sorry. I had some trouble with one of the bureau drawers. I pulled too hard and well, I made a bit of a mess.”
“I see.” Lt. Wallace cleared his throat, his face tinting red. No one wanted to be exposed to an elderly lady’s bra and panties. It was like seeing your mother in the altogether.
“What is that stuff?” The same patrolman who’d wanted to take Lena’s bourbon away asked. Allie had thought at the time he might not be the sharpest tool in the shed.
“They’re Miss Maddie’s under-things.” She said, gathering them up and laying them back in the drawer.
“But what’s that big thing?” He pointed to a large one-piece garment, further confirming her earlier assessment, “It looks like a swimsuit.”
Bless his darling heart. “No, that’s Spanx.”
“Huh.” He tilted his head as if puzzling it out.
The woman behind him smacked him on the head, “It’s underwear, you doofus.”
“That thing? It’s huge. You’re shitting me.”
The lieutenant rolled his eyes, “Go. All of you go back to work. There’s nothing to see here.” The crowd around him dispersed. The young officer still muttering his doubts about the giant garment being underwear.
“We’ll leave you to it.” I have the skillet, but the dripping jar on the stove was empty.”
“Sometimes she stores it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. I can look for it on my way out.”
“That might be best. I’m not sure I’d recognize it. Take your time. Miss Kinkaid..” Lt. Wallace followed his men out, closing the door behind him.
“Very smart, Angel.” She didn’t hear Andre approach, but she saw his feet in front of her, “ Then his hands as the spanx one-piece was lifted. She looked up to see him holding it in front of him, turning it this way and that, “It does not look very comfortable. Don’t tell me you have such a thing…”
She snatched it back, “Oh, shut up and get out.”