Page 31

“I’ll have to get my car,” Chet slurred. “Todd has the keys.”

Hannah dangled keys from her fingers. “Already got them. I’ll drive it to your house.”

“Sorry for dragging you out, Brody.” Chet burped.

“Not a problem.” Brody drove away. Hannah followed him. They stopped at an urgent care center. Everyone in the hospital ER knew Chet and Brody and all the other SFPD cops. By morning, everyone in town would know about Chet’s cannonball off the AA wagon. His mandatory retirement likely just fast-tracked. But he still deserved some privacy. His life was in shambles, and Brody would not parade him in public in his current condition.

Chet was cooperative as the doctor closed the wound with a half dozen stitches. Hannah helped Brody get Chet in and out of the car. Ten minutes later, Brody parked in the narrow drive at Chet’s house. The front yard was dark. Chet must have gone to the bar long before the sun set. Most likely he’d skipped dinner, maybe even lunch.

“Would you mind getting the door?” Brody handed Hannah the keys. He helped Chet into the house. After settling him at the table, Brody flipped on the porch light and went back out to turn off the car. “Hungry?”

Chet shook his head. “I just wanna sleep.”

“You should eat.” Brody pointed to a cardboard pizza box on the counter. “How old is that pizza?”

“Dunno.” Chet shrugged. “Going to bed.”

He stood, swayed, then staggered down the hall. A door closed. Springs creaked. And that was that.

“I just want to check a few things, if you don’t mind.” Brody went to Chet’s fridge. He removed three moldy containers of Chinese takeout and sniffed the milk. Old. Fetching a trash bag from under the sink, he cleaned out the refrigerator.

Hannah peered around his body. “Is he trying to commit suicide by food poisoning?”

“He just might be.” He made a mental note to bring Chet groceries the next day. Then he opened the cabinets and found a bottle of Johnnie Walker under the sink. He poured the liquor down the drain and rinsed out the bottle.

“Is he going to be all right?”

“I don’t know,” Brody said. “Chet’s a detective on the SFPD. His daughter has been missing for a few years, and she looks a little like that body that turned up on Sunday.”

“Oh, no.” Hannah pressed a hand over her heart. “That poor man.”

“I’m doing everything possible to identify her, but the waiting is killing him.”

“I’ll bet. When will you know?”

“Thursday.” He led the way out the front door and locked up the house.

“It’s only Tuesday.” Hannah paused. “That’s a long time. Why can’t he identify his own daughter?”

Brody didn’t want to add to Hannah’s nightmares. “The victim’s identity can’t be determined visually.”

“Oh.” Her chin dropped as she continued to the car.

Brody opened the passenger door for her before getting behind the wheel. He started the engine.

Hannah stared up at the house. “Will he be all right tonight alone?”

“He’ll probably be out cold until morning. But I’ll come back here and sleep on the sofa after I take you home. Sorry about dinner.” He pulled out of the driveway. Her brother’s house was fifteen minutes from Chet’s place. “It’s almost ten o’clock, and you haven’t eaten all day.”

“Your friend needs you.” She might have a few faults, but she didn’t suffer from any lack of loyalty. Hannah stuck by those she loved. She reached across the console and grasped his hand. “You can cook for me another night.”

Considering the disaster of the past few hours, her invitation sent a surprising jolt of joy through him.

He intertwined their fingers. “How did you get into the pool room?”

“Back door.”

He felt her focus on his profile. At a stop sign, he turned to meet her gaze. Light from the streetlamp spilled through the windshield and highlighted the delicate bone structure of her face. “I asked you to stay outside. You could have been hurt. What if you’d been struck in the head?”

“First of all, if you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have a mark on me,” she said. “Secondly, you had no backup. While I hoped you could defuse the situation verbally, those bikers were goading your friend. They were looking for a fight.”

“You’re right.”

“Chet was easy for those men to engage. Does he usually carry his weapon off duty?”

“Yes. But he wouldn’t take it to a bar.” Or would he? Todd had said Chet was at the bar on duty. But as Brody answered, he realized the truth behind her words. Chet was unstable. He shouldn’t be on duty, and he sure as hell shouldn’t be walking around with a gun. He needed to be put on leave. Brody’s heart sank as if it had been filled with concrete and dumped in the Hudson. Tomorrow morning was going to be the worst day he’d faced in the past eight years. “Thanks for looking out for me, but next time, please let me know you’re there.”

“I didn’t want to advertise my presence. I was just watching your back.” She lifted a shoulder as if it were no big deal.

He squeezed her hand. “Thanks for that.”

To Brody, that was the biggest deal of all.

Hannah took her keys from her purse as Brody pulled into the driveway. He followed her to the front porch. On the other side of the door, the dog barked.

“So along with survival skills, the Colonel taught you to fight?”

“Yes. We did all sorts of drills.” She opened the front door. AnnaBelle was all wags and snuffles. Hannah rubbed her silky ears. “I have to visit him this week. I promised Grant.”

“Will that be hard for you?”

“It will.” Straightening, she hung her jacket on the newel post. “He doesn’t remember us, and he gets agitated, but mostly, it’s hard to see such a strong man so helpless and weak.”

“I could go with you.”

“You have enough on your plate.” And Hannah could get too accustomed to leaning on him. “You don’t need any more of my family drama.”

“I don’t mind. I don’t have a family.”

“You have Chet, and it seems he’s a handful.”

Brody sighed. “Thank you for saving my ass tonight.”

She sure as hell wasn’t going to sit outside in the car while Brody faced three bikers alone.

The dog whined.

“Poor thing. I’m sure she’s hungry, and she needs to go out. We’ve been gone a long time.” Hannah started toward the back of the house.

Brody was right behind her. “After the porcupine incident last night, she probably slept all day.”

Halfway down the hallway, her foot went out from under her body. Brody grabbed her elbow.

“Guess she couldn’t hold it that long.” Hannah laughed. Stepping around the puddle, she took off her boots. “I’ll just go wipe these down and grab the floor cleaner.”

“Let me walk her before I go.” Brody went back to the kitchen and snapped AnnaBelle’s leash onto her collar. “I don’t like you wandering around the woods in the dark.”

Hannah paused in the laundry room doorway. “Thank you, but I can do it if you want to get back to Chet.”

“It’ll just take a minute.” Warmth lit his eyes. Something was different about his expression. “I’ll feel better if you’re all secure here before I leave.”

“I usually carry my gun if I’m outside alone at night,” she said.

While he took the dog into the yard, she cleaned her boots, wiped up the hall floor, and filled the dog’s dish. Hannah couldn’t shake the feeling that a key element had changed in her relationship with Brody. The connection between them buzzed stronger.

She’d been glad to have his support this afternoon, and she was even more glad she was there when that biker pulled a knife on him. Her bones chilled. What if he’d been alone? He’d put himself between those three bikers and Chet. He’d displayed a courage she understood too well. In her life, she’d said good-bye to dozens of soldiers, friends of her father, men who served with Grant. She’d known the risk her father and brother had taken on every deployment. Brody could just as easily die in the line of duty.

The door opened. Cold air blasted into the room as Brody and the dog entered the kitchen. He unsnapped the leash and hung it on its peg. Shivering, Hannah filled the teakettle and lit the burner.

Brody crossed the room. “I’d better get back to Chet.”

“Thanks for taking me today.” She rubbed her arms.

“What’s wrong?”

Needing contact with his warm, breathing body, she reached out and touched his face. “You could have been killed tonight.”

“Thanks to you, I wasn’t.” He smiled down at her, but his eyes were serious.

Brody cupped her cheek in one broad hand, his thumb caressing the line of her jaw. His head dipped, and his mouth settled on her lips. The taste of him filled her with warmth. Heat settled into the parts of her that had gone cold.

Her hands splayed on his chest. He tilted his head and deepened the kiss. His tongue slid between her lips. Opening her mouth, she met his tongue with hers head-on. The awfulness of the day faded. Her disappointment with the doctor and the incident in the bar became less vivid. All she could feel was Brody’s mouth on hers, the soft glide of his tongue over her lips. The taste of him wiped her slate clean and recharged her.

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