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Ava thought about it. “I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t believe she meant it, so it wouldn’t have helped at all. I simply want to hear her say the words, because I don’t believe she’s capable of it.” She looked at him; his brown eyes weren’t visible under the brim of his hat in the dim hospital parking lot. “Did she say something to you after I left?”

His mouth twitched into a half smile. “Yeah, she was concerned for my well-being if I continued to hang around with you.”

Ava wished she was surprised. “She tries to destroy any friendships I have.”

Mason nodded. “She told me you have issues. Especially with men.”

“Oh Lord.” She cringed.

“She asked if we were dating.”

Ava felt her cheeks darken and was thankful for the poor light. “In the past, she’d get my boyfriends alone and tell them horrible lies about me. Then she’d hit on them. It’s pretty surprising how many fell for it. I know of three who cheated on me with her.”

“That’s sick.”

“If you’d stayed any longer, I’m sure she would have flirted with you. Even when she’s drunk and high on pain meds, she can come on pretty strong.”

Mason leaned closer, and his eyes became visible. Ava’s pulse pounded in her ears as she met his gaze. He’s not thinking of my twin. His concentration was on her. Every bit of focus and determination she’d seen in the man over the last three days was laser beamed directly at her. She caught her breath.

“What would you do if I kissed you right now, Special Agent McLane?” he drawled.

Playing up his cowboy side did odd things to Ava’s stomach.

“Why would you want—”

His mouth cut her off.

All anguish and emotion about Jayne evaporated. The only thought in her head was that Mason Callahan knew damn well how to kiss a woman. Warm lips pressed hers, urging her mouth open, and she complied. He caged her against the car. One hand slid up her neck into her hair and took a firm hold of the back of her skull, holding her where he wanted her. He didn’t keep anything back, pressing his chest against hers.

His kiss was demanding; he wasn’t asking permission for the intrusion. Ava welcomed the distraction and mentally sank into the pleasure that he offered. Sensations of silk and heavenly friction danced through her mouth. A headiness enveloped her, rushing from the touch of his lips and shooting through every nerve fiber until she was dizzy.

He was cowboy through and through, from his hat to his boots to his manners to his ethics.

She’d never kissed a cowboy before.

And this wouldn’t be her last time.

Mason pulled back a fraction. “I’m not interested in your twin, Special Agent McLane. I’ve been interested in you from the first moment I saw you.”

Ava couldn’t think.

Inches away, he held her gaze and his eyes crinkled. “I take it you don’t have an objection.”

“We work together, detective,” she forced out. She didn’t know where the thought came from, but if he wanted an objection, she’d come up with one.

“That’s the best you can do?”

She sputtered.

“I thought so.” He kissed her again and ran a slow finger down her cheek, lighting her up like a fire. His touch rocketed pathways through her limbs, and she felt like she’d taken a megadose of speed.

How’d he do that?

She wanted to get lost in him, forget that her sister had turned her life upside down, and that a family she cared about was missing their little girl. She’d been going nonstop for three days, worrying about Henley and her family. Ava needed to catch her breath and recharge. Mason Callahan fit the bill.

“Can I take you home, Ava?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

She didn’t ask whose home. They were both on the same page.

The crowd had nearly melted away. He stepped out from his hiding spot across the street. He’d hung back during the vigil, afraid of cameras and police recordings. All the police cars and news cameras were gone. A few people scurried about and picked up the garbage that’d been left behind. It had to be pretty safe by now. He took a hard look at each person in sight.

The FBI agents were so easy to spot. They were constantly looking every which way, scanning every person around them. They didn’t listen to the people on the small stage; they were too busy looking for a criminal.

They should have been looking straight ahead.

He strolled across the street and into the grass, feeling a need to interact with the people who’d come to support Henley. “Do you need a hand?” he asked the three women folding up the banner.

They smiled at him but turned him down. “This is the last of it, and we’ve got it. Thank you for showing your support for the family tonight,” one woman said. Her two helpers nodded in agreement.

False words.

The women acted out of fear. They’d thrown the vigil together in the desperate hope that their own children wouldn’t be touched. Karma said that if they helped others in their darkest times, then evil wouldn’t cross their own doorstep.

He believed firmly in Karma. But he’d been waiting two decades for it to take its course. Now he’d waited long enough, and it was time to give it a hand. Small steps. Careful steps. His plan was coming together. He’d seen the pain on the faces of the family tonight, and it’d felt like cool ice on a burn. It’d eased the hole in his heart. The hole could never be repaired; he’d accepted that fact after years of alcohol and the loss of his family, job, and self-worth.