He stared at his cell for a short beat, then flipped it open. “Yeah?”
Izzy was silent as he spoke. She gathered that he was probably talking to Toby, but his one-word answers didn’t give her much information.
Finally he snapped the phone shut and rubbed a hand over his five o’clock shadow. “Toby wants to know if we can come by in about an hour.”
“Is it work related?”
“I don’t think so. His cousin—Detective Dennis—is waiting for us.” He shook his head as he picked up his fork.
She bit back a sigh and took a bite of the casserole. If the cops wanted to see them again, she doubted it was because they had good news.
Jack Dennis paced back and forth the length of his cousin Toby’s small office. After running a background check on Isabelle Ballantine he couldn’t believe who her family was. He didn’t understand why she was living in Coconut Bay, but she obviously had the money for protection and he wanted to convince her to get it or leave town. She’d caught a killer’s eye and if he could save one woman before this guy struck again, he’d do everything he could.
A shuffling sound made him turn toward the entry. Isabelle and Adam stood in the doorway.
“Ms. Ballantine, thank you for coming down here.”
She shot her boyfriend a hooded look, then returned his gaze. “Just call me Izzy. Where’s Toby?”
“He had some sort of liquor emergency. I think he went to the ABC store to pick up some extra bottles or something.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “So why are we here?”
He pointed at the two folding chairs as he took a seat on Toby’s rolling chair. “You guys want to sit?”
She shrugged and the boyfriend shot him a protective glare. Instead of sitting, the other man leaned against one of the filing cabinets next to her. He’d run Adam Marcellus’s background too.
Jack was thankful Isabelle had someone like Adam looking out for her. Mr. Marcellus had an impressive military record. Eight years with Force Recon in the Marines. Six of those were spent in Africa, Afghanistan and places Jack was sure weren’t on his record.
The reason Adam was in Coconut Bay was unclear since he owned a security company in Georgia. As far as Jack could tell, small-time security details weren’t his specialty and he and Izzy didn’t seem to have a working relationship. It was definitely more intimate. Since he’d been with Izzy during the attempted attack of Ms.
Barclay though, he wasn’t a viable suspect. And anything else between them wasn’t his business.
“Where’s your partner?” Adam asked before he could speak.
“He’s following up on a lead…thanks to you.”
He returned his gaze to Izzy. “I’m sorry I wasn’t more vocal at the station but you took me off guard dropping off that sketch.” After talking to Andrea Barclay, they’d decided to run with the picture. They’d faxed it to all motel and hotel owners in the area and they’d gotten one hit.
Andrew had headed down there with one of the bike cops. Jack on the other hand had drawn the short straw and had to come down here personally on orders from Sheriff King.
“So you still haven’t answered the question.
Why are we here?” She re-crossed her legs and lifted a dark eyebrow at him.
“I wanted to apologize for leaving your place so abruptly this morning. The reason we left is because we found another victim. It was…bad.
The man we’re after is getting more dangerous and it’s possible you’re his next victim. The Coconut Bay Police Department isn’t huge. We’re going to get someone to patrol the restaurant and around your apartment complex, but it’s not going to be enough.” He cleared his throat as he tried to formulate his words. This was a delicate thing to bring up, but he didn’t know a way around it. “As a precaution we ran background checks on both of you. I know you’ve had some safety issues in your past so it wouldn’t hurt to hire extra security.” He didn’t voice it aloud, but she could certainly afford it. And since she could, he couldn’t see a reason for her not to.
At his words, her face turned an ashen gray.
Shit. Maybe he had overstepped his bounds.
“Safety issues?” Adam’s eyebrows rose in concern as he shifted to look at her.
Instead of looking at her boyfriend, she kept her eyes on Jack as she stood. Icy venom dripped from her voice. “Thank you for the warning. If that’s all, I believe we are through here.”
Before he could respond, she disappeared from the room in a couple long strides.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Adam asked.
Jack stood and put his jacket back on.
Apparently the boyfriend didn’t know who she was. Or if he did, he obviously didn’t know what she’d been through as a kid. “That’s not up to me to tell you. If I were you, I wouldn’t let that woman out of my sight.” His phone rang, saving him from answering anymore questions. He flipped it open and walked out of the office. It was his partner.
“Tell me you’ve got good news.”
“Oh yeah. The manager let me into the room, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s been here for a few hours. There’s still some stuff here so chances are, this guy’s coming back. I’m going to stake out the place for a while,” Andrew said.
Jack strode through the restaurant kitchen as he talked. “All right. I’ll pick up coffee and meet you there in about half an hour.”
He pushed open the swinging door to the main bar area as he was disconnecting. Izzy sat on one of the bar stools talking to one of the servers. She spared him a quick glance before averting her gaze. Sighing, he exited the restaurant.
Something told him she and her boyfriend would be having an interesting conversation tonight. He might have overstepped his bounds but at this point he didn’t care. If something happened to her and he hadn’t done everything he could to stop it, he couldn’t live with himself.
If it wasn’t likely to land her in jail, Izzy would wring that cop’s neck for bringing up her past in front of Adam. Okay, maybe she wouldn’t, but she’d like to. She sat on the barstool waiting for Adam to meet her, but dreading it at the same time. He was probably going to have questions and she didn’t blame him. She’d left the office abruptly but that cop had taken her by surprise.
“You ready?” Adam asked as he walked up.
Unable to answer thanks to the cotton filling her mouth, she nodded.
He was silent as they exited the restaurant and walked to his truck. She thought he might make idle chitchat as he held the vehicle door open. No such luck. Halfway back to her place, he still hadn’t said anything. She allowed herself a small breath of relief. Maybe he wasn’t going to question her after all.
“Are you going to explain what the detective was talking about before you ran from the room?”
Adam’s deep voice sliced through the air.
“Uh…” She stared out the windshield at the red light. Normally it took minutes to get back to her place. Apparently the universe was not on her side tonight.
“Well?” he pushed.
“Well nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“No, you don’t get off that easy.” The truck jerked to life when the light changed.
“If something happened in your past that affects what’s going on, I should be aware of it too.” He glanced over his shoulder and switched lanes, but wouldn’t meet her gaze.
“It doesn’t affect anything that’s happening now. Trust me.”
“Fine, you tell me about those scars on your shoulders and wrists and I’ll tell you about my ‘safety issues,’ as that cop put it.” Along with his tattoos, she’d noticed them the first time they’d gotten naked together. She hadn’t asked what they were from out of respect for him. It was probably a chickenshit thing to do, throwing this in his face right now, but she had a pretty good feeling he wouldn’t answer. Truthfully, she didn’t want him to answer because she didn’t want to talk about her past. Even if it was wrong, this was her only defense against answering him.
His jaw clenched in response. She leaned back in her seat as he steered into the parking lot of her complex. When he put the car in park, her hand was already on the door handle, but he stopped her with a light touch on her knee.
She turned to look at him. With limited lighting in the enclosed space, his green eyes looked almost black.
“Those scars are cigarette burns.”
Bile rose in her throat as she thought about someone hurting him that way, but she didn’t respond. Her jaw wouldn’t work. How did one respond to something like that anyway? The truck’s cabin seemed to be closing in on her.
“I told you I was raised by my grandmother,”
At her nod, he continued.
“I—we, my brother and sister, have different fathers. Well, my brother and I have the same father, but…” He cleared his throat and guilt poured through her veins.
She’d forced him into this corner because she was trying to hide part of herself from him.
“Listen, Adam, we don’t have to talk about this right here.”
“No, I do. You deserve this much.” The way he said those words niggled at something in her brain, but when he continued she brushed it away.
“Our father split days after Ben was born. And my mother left not long after. When I was about nine and my brother was seven, our mother showed back up in town with a two-year-old daughter and a new husband. They stuck around for about a month before she discarded Callie the same way she’d done with us.” He rubbed a hand over his face and shook his head, as if clearing out cobwebs, before continuing.
“That’s the boyfriend I got those scars from.”
He motioned to his shoulder.
The way he said those left a hollow feeling in her stomach. “They didn’t stay together?”