Page 21

Hannah brushed a hand through her hair, but instead of settling into place neatly, it remained stubbornly disheveled as if she’d been sleeping on it. Disheveled looked good on her, he decided. Real rather than perfect and polished. Sexy. Not many women could pull off the just-out-of-bed look.

She held out a hand to Kailee. “You worked with Carson, didn’t you?”

Kailee smiled. “Yes.”

“He talked about how nice you were.” Hannah gestured toward the kitchen. “Please come in.”

Brody set the pizza box on the island and opened the lid. “I told you I’d bring dinner.”

Hannah sniffed. “Mushrooms?”

“Of course,” Brody said.

“You seem to know all my favorite foods.” Suspicion laced Hannah’s voice.

“Must be a coincidence,” Brody lied.

She cast him a quick not-buying-it glance before opening the fridge. “I have Coke, beer, wine, and iced tea. Or I could make coffee.”

Kailee slid a sketch pad and thick pencil out of her bag. “I’d love a Coke.”

“Me, too,” Brody said.

Hannah poured three drinks and pulled plates from the kitchen cabinet. Brody opened the box, took out a slice, and folded it. He didn’t bother with the plate. Hannah ate two slices, then broke off a piece of crust for the dog.

Kailee stopped at one, then wiped her hands on a napkin. She lifted her pencil. “Why don’t we get started?”

Brody got up. “I’ll walk the dog while you work.”

Kailee did her best work if the witness was relaxed and open, two words that did not describe Hannah. The fewer people in the room the better.

He headed for the edge of the woods. They skirted the forest at a leisurely pace. The scent of wood smoke tinged the air, and Brody wondered if Grant’s fireplace was usable. The dog sniffed and snuffled along the ground. Brody was in no rush. Kailee would need some time, and maybe if he gave the dog a long walk, AnnaBelle wouldn’t wake Hannah in the middle of the night.

They looped the property twice and started back. A twig snapped. The dog’s head shot up, and her tail went rigid. She lunged into her collar. Brody two-handed the leash as the retriever went from docile to defensive in a heartbeat.

“Easy.” He pulled her back to his side, but the fur on her back was up, and a growl sounded low in her throat. AnnaBelle didn’t growl often. Something was out there. Something only the dog could sense.

And Hannah hadn’t reset the alarm when Brody went outside.

Keeping the retriever close, Brody hurried back to the house. Through the kitchen window, he could see Kailee and Hannah working together. Kailee was smiling, talking, and sketching. Hannah’s body was tense, and her brows were furrowed in concentration. The young artist had her hands full getting Hannah to relax.

Brody led the dog inside. He unsnapped the leash and locked the door.

Kailee set down her pencil and turned the pad around. “We did two drawings. Hannah has a good eye for detail.” Kailee turned the sketch pad toward him.

The first sketch was of a scroungy-looking man in his late twenties. Goatee. Thin. Mean eyes. The second sketch made Brody suck wind. Beyond the physical characteristics—young, dark hair and eyes—Kailee had captured the terror and hopelessness on the young girl’s face. Brody didn’t have to ask to know Hannah was seeing that face every time she closed her eyes. No wonder she was exhausted.

“Are you satisfied with the pictures?” he asked Hannah.

“Yes.” She nodded. “Both of these look accurate. I’m not as comfortable with my memory of the second man to attempt a sketch.” She turned to the artist. “Thank you so much, Kailee.”

“I’m glad I could help.” Kailee tore the sketches from her pad. “I need to go. I have a date.”

Brody walked her to the door. Then, considering the dog’s behavior in the woods, he escorted her all the way to her car and watched the young woman drive away. When he went back into the kitchen, Hannah was still sitting at the island, staring at the drawings. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea.

“You should reset the alarm.”

“What did you see?” Hannah asked.

“Nothing. But the dog was agitated.”

Hannah went into the pantry, and Brody heard a few digitized beeps.

“Are you all right?” he asked. Reliving the attack had obviously been stressful, but Brody knew better than to let her suppress the images. Denial didn’t work in the long run.

She nodded. “I can’t get her out of my head. Why didn’t the Vegas detective have me do a composite image?”

He looked over her shoulder. “I talked to him this afternoon. Because of budget cuts, they’re using a computer program instead of artists. The new software is giving them problems. Composites are a crapshoot, but Kailee is unusually good.” Brody paused. “You have to take these drawings with the knowledge that your mind could be conjuring up details all on its own. It wouldn’t be your fault. It just happens. If Kailee worked with a dozen witnesses, she’d get twelve slightly different images of the same suspect. Everyone sees things from their own perspective.”

“So you’re saying these drawings might not be accurate?”

“It’s hard to say. It’s been a few days since the attack. Memory fades fast.”

“Then why did you bring Kailee here?”

“Because it’s worth a try, and sooner is better than later.” Brody also thought taking action might help Hannah. “The Vegas PD hasn’t had any luck matching the fingerprints they lifted from the rental car, but if they do, it can’t hurt to get these drawings before your memory fades further. Having both fingerprints and an eyewitness will strengthen any case.” Brody tapped on the picture of the girl. “I’ll run off a copy of this. I’m trying to identify a dead woman who also had long dark hair.” In fact, Hannah’s victim and the woman in the morgue had a few things in common. “I’ll be checking missing persons cases. You never know. I could get lucky.” His gaze shifted to the sketch of Hannah’s assailant. The girl’s eyes were full of terror, but this man was freezer cold.

Hannah’s gaze was full of the same terrible knowledge. “He’s going to hurt her. If he didn’t kill her already.”

“You don’t know that.”

“It was in his eyes,” she whispered. “And there was nothing I could do about it.”

Brody nodded. “I get it. Even if I identify this woman and find her killer, I can’t really help her or her family. I can’t bring her back to life, and that’s all they really want.”

“You can’t change the past, but you can give them closure.” Her eyes softened. She knew what it was like to have a family member murdered. “It helps to know that the person responsible for Lee’s death was caught. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it’s far better than having his killer on the loose.”

“I’m glad,” he said. What if the dead woman was Teresa? Brody would have to take that news to Chet. And even if the dead woman was someone else, he couldn’t bring Chet’s daughter back—she’d been lost to Chet for years—and Brody would have to tell some other family their loved one had been murdered.

“That girl in Vegas was very much alive. I have to live with the fact that she might be dead now because of me.”

“You did everything you could. You can’t blame yourself because a man chose to commit an act of violence. You were injured trying to help. Most people would have run the other way.” Brody understood. Most people sense danger and run the other way. Cops and soldiers run toward trouble. Hannah had the same spirit. It was the very quality that drew him to her.

She was silent. She wasn’t going to give herself a break. He glanced around the quiet house. Moping around these empty rooms all day couldn’t be good for her. Hannah needed action.

“What have you been doing all day?”

Her brow crinkled. “Replaced my wallet and license. I took the dog for a walk.”

“That’s it?”

She shrugged. “We napped afterward. The dog was tired.”

Not good enough, and he doubted it was the dog that was tired. She was surely still sore from the assault and accident. “Tomorrow, I’d like to take you out to dinner.”

“You mean like a date?” Surprise lifted her voice.

“Yeah. Exactly like a date.”

Indecision crossed her face.

“It’s just dinner, Hannah. No big deal.”

“Feels like a big deal,” she said.

“We’ll keep it casual.” But it did, indeed, feel like a real BFD. When was the last time he was this nervous about asking a woman out? Dating seemed like a lot of effort, and he rarely connected with anyone. Until Hannah.

“I don’t know, Brody. I’m only in town for another week. Then I’m off to London for who knows how long. I’m not looking for anything permanent.”

“I’m aware of that.” Too aware. “Just dinner. Say yes. Take a risk. Unless you’re afraid,” he dared.

Her chin lifted, a spark of challenge brightening her eyes. “You’re on. But no funny stuff. Just dinner.”

Source: www_Novel12_Com