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“Deal.”

“It’ll have to be late, though. I have a follow-up with a neurologist tomorrow.” An irritated frown tugged at her mouth.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Feel all right?”

“Yes. I’m still a little achy, and my ear isn’t a hundred percent, but otherwise, I feel fine.” She sighed. “I only made the appointment because my boss won’t let me come back to work without official clearance.”

Good for him. “So if you pass, you can get back sooner?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Then why don’t you want to go?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to go.”

He said, “You looked irritated.”

But not as irritated as she looked now. Unfortunately—and perversely—he found the annoyed purse of her lips sexy.

She folded her arms across her waist. “Commuting to New York for a doctor’s appointment is inconvenient.”

“You couldn’t find a doctor closer?”

“My boss is picky. He insisted I see this particular doctor, which is ridiculous and unnecessary.”

Brody almost called bullshit and was instantly thankful that she had a boss who was concerned enough to look out for her. “Why don’t I take you? Three hours is a long drive if you’re not a hundred percent.”

“Not necessary. I wasn’t planning on driving. I can take the train into the city.”

“I didn’t say it was necessary. I’ll take you to New York. We can have dinner afterward.”

“Don’t you have to work?”

“I’ll take the day off.” He was spinning his wheels on his case anyway, and the chief had been on him to take some of his unused vacation. Tomorrow would likely be another day of waiting, and even if the chief wasn’t happy, Brody didn’t like the idea of Hannah making that long trip alone. Either the victim or the perpetrator of the Vegas kidnapping had e-mailed her—twice. Two thousand miles could be covered in five hours by plane. As a bonus, he’d get to spend the whole day with Hannah. The longer they were together, the more he liked her. And the less he cared about her transient nature or their complicated relationship.

Brody collected his keys from the counter. “What time is your appointment?”

“One o’clock.”

“I’ll pick you up at nine. If we don’t get held up by traffic, we’ll have lunch before your appointment.”

“All right. Though we both know that won’t happen. Traffic in and out of New York is a given.” Hannah walked him to the foyer, flipped on the porch light, and opened the door. “Thank you for helping me.”

“You’re welcome.” Brody turned to face her. Tired, her face looked soft. His gaze dropped to her lips. Would it be inappropriate to kiss her now? Because he really wanted to do it. But this wasn’t the time, just as it hadn’t felt right early this morning. Some things couldn’t be rushed, he decided. When he kissed Hannah for the first time, he wanted her completely on board, not upset or confused. It was inevitable, though. He would kiss her. Soon.

“Good night, Hannah.”

“See you tomorrow, Brody.”

The door closed firmly behind him. He glanced over his shoulder as he stepped off the porch. She was watching him through the sidelight, and he instantly regretted not kissing her when he had the chance.

Chapter Fourteen

Frustration churned in Mick’s blood, making him edgy. He lowered the binoculars. Who was the guy walking the dog? His shape was obscure in the dark. Mick could see just enough of the figure to know it was male.

Mick had been staked out in the woods behind the blond’s house since darkness fell. His plan had been to snatch her while she was out back with the dog. He wasn’t worried about the mutt. Golden retrievers weren’t threatening, and Mick was good with dogs.

But that man had stolen Mick’s opportunity. He eased back into the woods, taking his time. Dead leaves formed a damp and quiet carpet under his boots as he sneaked away from the house. He crossed the street and ran back to his car, concealed behind some trees.

In the vehicle, he cranked up the heat. The temperature had dropped thirty degrees since they’d left Vegas. Maybe he and Sam should head south after they took care of business here. Forget the frigid Northeast. Everything about this trip had sucked.

He drove back to the house. The dogs were barking so he went out back and tossed them some more food. Sam had wanted to shoot them all, but Mick talked him out of it. The dogs hadn’t done anything wrong. Inside, Sam was sitting on the couch, his feet up on the coffee table, remote in his hand, eyes fixed on the TV.

“No one’s come looking for our host?” Mick asked.

“Nope. Phone hasn’t even rung.”

“We can’t stay here long. Someone will come looking for her eventually.” Mick jerked his thumb toward the back wall. “And the owners of those mutts will start showing up.”

“Closest neighbor is a half mile away, but you’re right. We should leave before we wear out our welcome.” Sam looked up. He took one look at his brother’s face, pointed the remote at the TV, and turned it off. “Let’s go out.”

“Where?” Mick went to the table and scooped a spoonful of coke. His supply was getting low. He hated this town. He hated the whole fucking state of New York.

“I don’t know. Must be a bar around here somewhere.” Sam stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. “We need some noise. The quiet is creeping me out.”

Mick drove to the highway and cruised a couple of miles. They passed one restaurant. “Is that it? A fucking Applebee’s? This sucks.”

“Keep going. I’m not in the mood for screaming unless it’s female.”

Mick was feeling itchy, too. He’d been pumped to take care of the blond tonight. A couple of drinks would smooth him out. His stomach growled for a meal that didn’t come in a white paper sack.

“I see something.” Sam pointed.

Mick steered the Charger off the next exit. They spiraled the ramp and emerged at an intersection. Andy G’s Sports Bar occupied the near corner. A hundred yards up the road, a Hampton Inn glowed. A strip mall sat dark on the other. It was only ten, and the grocery store was closed. Small towns fucking sucked. Vegas started to roll at midnight.

“Doesn’t really look like our kind of place, does it?” Sam commented.

Mick didn’t feel like driving for another hour. He backed the Charger into a spot in the rear of the lot. Not that there were many other cars, but he didn’t want some asshole to ding his door. “It’ll do.”

They got out of the car. The wind blew straight down the back of Mick’s neck. He flipped up his hood. Fucking A, he hated the Northeast.

Locking the car, they crossed the asphalt to the entrance. The skinny white bitch who greeted them had a dozen eyebrow rings and ear gauges the size of quarters. A talent show played on a flat-screen mounted on the wall. Across the bar, another TV played a UFC fight.

“I wanna watch the fight,” Mick said.

“ ’Kay.” She deposited them at a table with a direct view.

Mick pulled out a chair and sat, still edgy.

Sam tapped his fingers on the table. “Where the fuck is the waitress?”

Only two tables were occupied. A family of four sat in a booth near the door, and a single businesswoman read an electronic tablet over a plate of pasta. The two white-blond rug rats yammered. The nonstop whining tempted Mick to pull out his knife and slit both their pasty little throats. “Place is dead. Probably isn’t one. Go on up to the bar and get drinks and a menu.”

On his way back, Sam eyed the lone woman as he passed her table. He set two menus and a double shot of vodka in front of Mick. He jerked his head toward her. “I’d be interested in some of that.”

“That’s not on the menu tonight.” Mick unfolded the laminated cardboard.

“It could be.” Sam’s pupils were big as manhole covers. No wonder the coke supply was low.

The woman glanced around as if she could sense his scrutiny. The family gathered up their belongings and headed for the door. The two young boys shoved each other.

“Knock it off.” The father separated them. A pleasant quiet fell over the bar as they left.

Mick sipped his vodka. “Kids are fucking annoying. Why do people want them?”

But Sam didn’t answer. His eyes were fixed on the woman. Mick glanced at her. Wearing a black suit jacket and pants paired with a white shirt, she was in her mid to late twenties. Her brown hair fell in shiny waves just past her shoulders. With little makeup, she was normal-pretty. Wedding ring on her left hand. She was the sort of woman Mick wanted. Sam usually went for T and A. This woman didn’t have much of either. Course, that hadn’t stopped him with Joleen Walken.

Mick studied his brother. “Not your usual type.”

“I know.” Sam’s eyes gleamed with malice. They should have brought some weed to mellow him out. Coke brought out Sam’s mean streak, honed his nasty edge ’til it was switchblade-sharp. “Women like that don’t want anything to do with the likes of us. You got to make her do what you want. Woman like that might put up a good fight, too.”

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