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Riker ducked under the tiki hut overhang. “Barkeep. A beer.”
He slumped into a wobbly chair and took a drag on his cig, willing the nicotene to slow his racing heart.
A mug of beer appeared on the table. “Can’t smoke in here. You know that.”
Darby’s voice had the rasp of a two-pack a day habit, but she was right. He did know better. Leaning over, he stubbed it out on the dirt floor, pocketing the butt.
“You ever thought of walking out of this hellhole and never coming back?” he asked.
“Only about every minute of the day. You wanna be my Sugar Daddy?”
He barked out a laugh, sure an ex-con wasn’t anyone’s idea of a keeper. “You’re all right, Darb.”
She leaned in, expectation brightening her worried face. “Did you do it?”
“I did.” A boom rocked the island. Grinning, he reached for the beer.
The ballroom crackled with silence when he entered, a standout in his black shirt and jeans among the tuxedo-clad gents and polished ladies. A cigarette with a precariously long ash dangled from his lip, breaking hotel rules, I was sure. Something wild flickered in his weary eyes as he scanned the room, settling his gaze on the party’s hostess. Her spine straightened, and she sucked in a breath without expelling it.
I watched. So did everyone else as the lithe stranger strode to stand in front of her. Without a word, he removed the cigarette from his mouth, dropped it on the Persian carpet, and ground out the lighted end with his shoe. The audible intake of breaths increased when he swept her into his arms and kissed her with unrestrained passion. She didn’t resist. The host, who stood silently observing until this minute, stepped forward, then retreated.
He didn’t look much like the picture she gave me, but I knew it was him. The thin, sculpted face in the picture must have seemed handsome to her in a classic Greek way. Now, his skin, blanched of color, seemed stretched over sharpened cheekbones. His dark hair was neatly combed and parted then. Now his overgrown hair flopped like tossed salad, and he had the look of a man who slept in alleys. His sunken, dark-rimmed eyes told me he hadn’t found an alley for several days. I almost felt sorry for him until I looked in those eyes. They still had the sharpness of a predator, one who would focus in on a prey and take whatever he wanted, leaving the remains naked and stripped. He stripped her of everything and she wanted him dead. That’s what she paid me to do. That’s why I was there.
Formerly an aquatic toxicologist contracted to the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves writing mysteries. She’s published four romantic suspenses and four mysteries, with Death,
Style and Murder in the Buff her
most recent releases. Her debut release, House
of Lies, won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice
Awards. She’s a board member for Southeastern Mystery Writers of America.
Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com, http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/, and http://facebook.com/MaggieToussaintAuthor#.
ABOUT POLLY IYER
Polly Iyer lives in the upstate of
with her husband, a timid cat, and a
drooling mutt who rules the household. Her books always have a murder or two―or
three―romance, and at least one character who treads ethical lines. The titles
are Hooked, InSight, Mind Games, and Murder Déjà Vu, and they can be found on
Amazon. You can find Polly at http://www.pollyiyer.com South
ABOUT EARL STAGGS