We’ll see about that.
She yanked open her bottom desk drawer. There they were. Now she remembered quickly dropping the files in the drawer yesterday and slamming it shut, as a student had stopped by to question her about his grade. She blew out a breath. She couldn’t concentrate. What she really needed was some space from all that testosterone. Between Jack and the detectives, she’d had her quota for the month.
She grabbed her lab coat off the back of her chair and headed for the women’s locker room. The dental lab at the school was silent as Lacey passed through. She was surprised no students were using the evening hours to finish lab projects. God knows she and Amelia had spent enough stressful late nights in the dreary place. They’d get loopy after a while, guzzling caffeine and popping chocolate, trying not to break down and cry over a crown they’d spent hours creating and totally screwed up.
Sometimes someone had sneaked in a six-pack. That’s when most of Lacey’s dental mistakes were made. She’d quickly learned not to cast crowns and drink beer at the same time. But tonight the lab was empty. Apparently, the current students were caught up on their projects or deep in procrastination.
She tossed her lab coat into the locker room laundry hamper with the rest of the dental gowns and scrubs. She glanced at her watch. She had five minutes to get to the garage and meet Jack.
Lacey sped down the silent hall then slammed to a stop. “Oh, crap.” She reversed direction back to the locker room. She’d forgotten to check her lab coat pockets. One time she’d accidentally left lab keys in a pocket. The laundry company claimed they never found them. Grabbing her coat out of the hamper, she squeezed each pocket. She felt a small, hard lump in the breast pocket, slid her hand in, pulled out a ring and stared.
She’d always kept the ring at home, tucked away in an old jewelry box in a deep dresser drawer. Lacey turned the ring over in her hand, deep lines crossing her forehead, an odd spinning starting in the center of her stomach. The single red stone was set in gold with inscriptions on the thick band. It was one of her NCAA championship rings. She’d never worn either of them. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d looked at them.
How did it get in her pocket?
She held the ring up to one of the lights, turning it to see the year of the championship and the school’s logo, and suddenly brought it closer to squint at the initials engraved on the inside of the band.
This wasn’t her ring. It was Suzanne’s.
Her stomach seized. Her lungs froze.
She dashed out of the locker room and down the hall to the elevator, anxiety ripping up her spine. She waited for three long seconds in front of the closed metal doors before whirling about for the stairs and tearing up the stairwell. While she was running down the fourth-floor hallway, her mind chanted over and over in time with her footsteps. Not my ring. Not my ring.
Her brain wouldn’t think beyond that.
The dental school felt dangerous, too deserted. Ice gripped her stomach as she ran by each classroom and office door. Glassed-in displays of extracted teeth caught her reflection, causing startling movements out of the corner of her eye, making her sprint faster. Someone had been at her desk. In her things.
What if he was still in the building?
Who’d do this?
Twenty feet away the double fire doors of the long, enclosed skybridge crossed from the dental school to the parking garage. Her panic dropped a degree and her steps slowed. She’d make it to the garage. Jack would be there and everything would be OK. At this second, Jack Harper was synonymous with safety in her mind.
She hit one of the heavy double doors with both hands, flinging it open. The long stretch of windowed hall was empty; the garage elevator was at the other end. With a sigh of relief, she took three steps down the hall and caught a flash of movement from the corner of her eye. Spinning around on clumsy feet, she faced a man leaning against the fire door she hadn’t pushed open.
“Frank!” Her shocked breath shot out at the sight of her ex-husband and her spine loosened a notch. He was a creep, but he was a creep she was relieved to see. But…
“How’d you get in here?” Her heart slammed rhythmically.
He gave a glimpse of a key card in his hand. “I still have your card.”
Jesus Christ. She’d given him a card when she was a student. He’d kept it all this time? And it still worked? She needed to have a serious talk with building security.
“You shouldn’t have kept that. You shouldn’t be in here.” Her dismay morphed into anger, and she grabbed at the card he whipped out of reach. Her eyes narrowed at him.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
“Why? What for?”
He gave that slow smile she’d learned to be wary of. Her palms started to sweat at the sight and her pounding heart skipped two beats. Years ago, that smile meant he had a plan, and it usually wasn’t one she liked.
“I’ve missed you, Lace.” His eyes grew soft, seductive.
“Give me a break, Frank!” Her heart raced as she sniffed at him. “Are you drunk?”
His face grew tight and he stepped closer, sending her scooting backward. He wasn’t tall but he was definitely bigger than her. “No! Is that the first thing you think of?”
“Yeah, because it was usually the reason you used to do stupid things. Like this!” She gestured to include the skybridge and backed up another step, her nerves vibrating. He moved closer. Moisture beaded on her forehead. He was herding her into an alcove.