Braden turned up the volume and sighed as the woman started to speak. “Tragedy struck yesterday for the Spinoza family here in Hudson Bay. Mallory Spinoza’s life was cut short, but police are tight-lipped about the cause of death. Thanks to this reporter’s investigative skills, an unnamed source at the coroner’s office claims that her death isn’t the first in a long line of similar murders. Could there be a serial killer in Hudson Bay? If so, Sheriff Donnelly isn’t saying.”


He flipped off the television. “This has been playing all morning.”


Lilly raked a hand through her tangled hair. Panic automatically welled up at the thought of reporters descending on the town. “What does this mean for the case?”


“More calls to field, fake tips to sift through, the usual.”


“Who do you think the unnamed source is?”


He snorted. “Considering only a handful of people work at the morgue, my money’s on Ann Scott. She means well, but she’s got a big mouth. She probably told Rebecca without even realizing it.”


Lilly took a sip of her coffee. Looked like today was going to be just as bad as yesterday.


“Yeah?” Braden answered his buzzing phone.


When he swore softly under his breath, Lilly tensed. As soon as he hung up, she frowned. “Is there another body?”


He shook his head. “No. There’s a domestic disturbance at the Murphys’ house.”


“Greg Murphy?”


At his nod, Lilly set her coffee on the table. “Give me a few minutes to change.”


“Where do you think you’re going?” he growled.


“I’m going with you.” She stared at him as if he’d grown another head.


“You’re staying here.”


“Braden, in any other situation I’d agree with you, but what if this is the guy we’re after? You said he’s the one person you can think of who hates you. Not to mention, he’s connected to both of us. It wouldn’t hurt to see his reaction to me. Besides, you know I’m trained with weapons.”


“A lot of good that training did you at the funeral home.” The second the words were out of his mouth, he wanted to take them back. The hurt in her green eyes clawed at his insides. She’d been assaulted yesterday and he was being an asshole. And the incident at the funeral home had nothing to do with him not wanting her to go. She’d proven herself useful and capable yesterday but he didn’t want her anywhere near Greg Murphy.


She glared at him. Her silence unnerved him more than if she’d yelled at him.


He didn’t have time to sit around and argue and more importantly, he didn’t have the extra manpower to keep her under lockdown 24/7. And she was right. Gauging Murphy’s reaction to her could tip this case in the right direction. He couldn’t let his emotion rule him on this decision. “You ride with me and you’re not getting out of the truck unless I say it’s okay.”


“It’s not like I have my own car anyway.” She turned on her heel and hurried up the stairs.


He’d already showered and dressed that morning, but he grabbed his gun, handcuffs and badge. To give Lilly credit, she was ready in record time. Today she wore a similar outfit as yesterday. A dark blue turtleneck sweater, jeans, and instead of carrying her gun in her purse, he was pretty sure he saw the outline of it under her coat. Something about that bothered him. If she was an analyst, he didn’t understand why she carried a gun like a pro. Back in high school, guns had actually scared her. To see her wield one like an expert was unnerving.


Lilly ignored Braden’s gaze as she brushed past him and refused to look at him even when he held open the passenger door of his truck for her.


He flipped on the blue and red dash lights as he sped out of the driveway. As the silence dragged on, he decided to break the ice. “Lil, I’m sorry about what I said. It was uncalled for.”


“And mean.”


He sighed. “And mean.”


“And also a little true.”


“What?”


“I reacted like an amateur yesterday.” She tucked a dark strand of hair behind her ear and bit her bottom lip.


If he didn’t already feel like a jerk, he definitely did now. “Cut yourself some slack.”


“It was like Africa all over again.” The disgust in her voice was palpable as she turned away from him to stare out the window.


“From what I saw on the news, there’s not much you could have done in Africa.”


When she muttered something incomprehensible, he started to reach out a comforting hand, but thought better of it. From now on, touching her was off limits. Especially after that kiss last night. If it wasn’t so instinctual he wouldn’t have a problem. He hadn’t seen the woman in ten years. Thanks to the way things had ended with her, he’d questioned the motives of over half the women he’d dated over the years. He shouldn’t still want her.


Her mention of Africa was more or less a conversation stopper. Never in a million years had he imagined he’d see her on television being held hostage by Islamic radicals. Her aunt had been a wreck for weeks as they waited on news. Good or bad. A few national reporters had shown up looking for a story but it had been easy to spot them in a town this size.


Sometimes he wondered if Lilly knew he’d gone to see her. Her aunt hadn’t wanted to fly to D.C. by herself so like an idiot, he’d volunteered to go with her. Or rather, he’d been corralled into going. Saying no to Debra Carmichael would have been like saying no to Lilly. It had nothing to do with the fact that he’d been worried about Lilly. That he wanted to see her again and make sure she was okay with his own eyes.


At least that’s what he’d tried to tell himself.


Then her jackass boss hadn’t let him see Lilly. From the chatter in the hospital waiting room he’d learned that there had been a leak within the NSA and a group of radicals had surprised and kidnapped Lilly’s team. When he’d found out her leg and a few ribs were broken, he’d wanted to choke her boss for keeping him out of her room.


Braden’s fists clenched around the steering wheel.


“This can’t be good.” Lilly’s voice brought him back to the present as they turned onto the Murphys’ street.


A crowd had gathered outside the one-story blue and white cottage style home. When some of the neighbors saw him and heard Detective Isaacs’s siren, they moved to the edge of the yard.


Braden glanced at Lilly as he pulled up to the curb. Whatever he’d been expecting, it hadn’t been this. Abby, Greg Murphy’s blonde haired, blue eyed ethereal wife was screaming at her husband while brandishing a baseball bat in one hand. And it looked like his entire closet had been strewn across the front yard.


“Stay here,” he ordered Lilly as he jumped from the vehicle.


Detective Isaacs was already waiting for him. She came up next to the driver’s side as he stepped out. “You want me to take care of Mrs. Murphy?”


He nodded. “Try and get the bat from her. I’ll see if I can talk to Greg, figure out what’s going on.”


As they rounded his truck, Abby turned toward them, her hair flying wildly around her face. “It’s about time you got here! This son of a bitch—”


“Please put the bat down, ma’am,” Vanessa ordered.


Out of the corner of his eye, Braden watched as Greg Murphy slowly scooted backward across the lawn. Definitely trying to get out of the line of fire. While the guy might deserve whatever his wife was dishing out, the law was still the law.


“After what he did, he’s lucky I haven’t killed him!” Abby’s voice rose with each word as she shrieked at them.


Braden and Vanessa took a few steps closer. “What did your husband do?” he asked.


“He…” Abby’s eyes widened as she glanced past them.


Braden risked a quick glance over his shoulder. The woman was looking at his truck. Frowning, he turned back to Abby, but she was already running toward his truck.


“That bitch!” she screamed.


Everything happened so quickly and they had only moments to react. He and Vanessa went at the small woman from both sides, trying not to hurt her, and also trying not to get slammed with the bat.


He managed to stop the bat with an open palm when she swung at him. At the same time Vanessa tackled her to the ground. His hand stung, but it was better than getting his head bashed in. Despite the fact that there were witnesses, he was glad Vanessa was the one taking the irate woman down. Abby was still screaming and thrashing around as Braden quickly assessed the area. He inwardly cursed. Greg Murphy was gone.


“You okay?” Braden asked.


“I got her,” his detective grunted as she flipped the woman onto her stomach and secured her wrists with cuffs.


Bat in hand, he sprinted across the lawn and rounded the side of the house. The backyard was empty, but Greg could have easily jumped the chain link fence and escaped into the next neighborhood over. Braden pulled his two-way out of his belt clip and radioed the station. He put out an APB on the man and headed back to the front yard.


Vanessa was slamming the back door of her cruiser shut as he walked across the lawn. She met him halfway.


“What did she say?” he asked.


Vanessa rolled her eyes. “I’ll never understand women like her. She doesn’t mind him beating on her, but the thought of him cheating is somehow worse.”


“He’s cheating on her?”


Vanessa shook her head. “I don’t think so. She said she found pictures of none other than Lilly Carmichael hidden in the trunk of his car. When he denied it, she decided to let him have it, by the looks of it.”


Greg had pictures of Lilly? His heart rate increased at the news. This might be the break they’d been waiting for. If it was Greg, Braden would make sure he never hurt another woman again. “You’re sure that’s why they’re arguing?”


Vanessa’s mouth pulled into a thin line. “Yep.”


Braden glanced over Vanessa’s shoulder. Abby was still screaming, but it was impossible to hear what she was saying through the glass. “I’m going to check out the house. Take her down to the station and process her. Let her cool off before questioning her.”

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