Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter THREE



“State your name for the record,” the detective directed as he turned on the recorder.

“Katerina Nikol Nemecek.”

“Russian?”

“I am American, but my mother is Czech.”

“Checked into Fluvanna,” Longwood joked.

Carter shot an exasperated look to the detective. “Is it necessary for him to be here?”

“As the arresting officer, he is entitled,” the detective started, flicking a glance over his shoulder, “however, if he spits out another idiotic comment, he will no longer have that privilege.”

Frowning like a child, Longwood sat in folding metal chair. “Davis here has no sense of humor.”

Detective Davis ignored the other man, turning his attention to Kat. “Want to tell me why there were four kilos of cocaine in your ceiling?”

“I wish I knew. I didn't know they were there, don't know how they got there, nothing.”

“You sure that's your answer?”

“My client has clearly stated—over and over again—that she is not responsible for the drugs hidden in her studio.”

“Who else had access? Does anyone else have a key?”

“I have not given anyone else a key,” she answered truthfully. “Obviously someone else got in, though. Have you checked the locks, the windows?” She shook her head as she thought. “I wouldn't even know where to get drugs if I wanted them, much less bricks of it.”

Detective Davis leaned across the table. “Let's say I believe you, and let's say we dust for fingerprints and check the locks and the windows and whatnot.”

Kat nodded. This was sounding good.

“And let's say we do all that and find nothing but your prints. Then what?”

“Then someone wore gloves,” Carter interjected. “You can question her all day, Detective, but you won't get the answers you're looking for here, Ms. Nemecek doesn't have them. She is a victim in all of this, and you have a drug trafficker out there, or at the very least someone trying to set Katerina up.”

“And why would someone set your client up? Her mother is a resident of Fluvanna prison, and her studio was headed to foreclosure until this morning. Where did that money come from, I wonder? Not from dancing.”

Carter knew where the Detective was going with this, and knew he was fully aware of the source of the money. “Her fiance, Mason Everett, paid the mortgage on the studio. Her mother is immaterial here.”

Davis stood up, leaning over the table even more. “Mila Nemecek is a convicted felon, yet you say she is immaterial.” Turning his attention to Kat, he asked, “Why would you sell drugs if you got yourself a sugar-daddy?” He looked her up and down, sizing her up. “You are a mighty beautiful woman, too. Surely you could work off your debt.”

Carter stood up then, inserting himself between his client—his friend's fiancee—and the detective. “This interview is over, Detective. We will wait for the judge to hear our bail request.”

“Suit yourself.”

~*~

“Bail is set for five hundred thousand.”

“A half million dollars is excessive, Your Honor. Katerina Nemecek has been nothing short of an upstanding citizen, and poses no flight risk.”

“I am told the estimated street value of the drugs recovered from your client's place of business is in excess of five hundred thousand, Mr. Jamieson.”

“True.”

“It is also the understanding of this court that your client is engaged to be married to Mason Everett, a man from a very influential and affluent family. Bail stands.”

Kat sat quietly through Carter's exchange with Judge King. A half million dollars? If Law & Order was to be trusted, that would mean Mason would have to ante up fifty-thousand to bring her home. After buying her a gorgeous diamond, paying off her overdue mortgage, and now posting her bail, she would be twice as expensive as his house! She held back a laugh. She should be paying attention to Carter and the judge, and here she was tallying up Mason's expenditures.

“So, now what?” Kat asked Carter and Mason as they sat in a booth at O'Dell's Bar & Grill. “I mean, I get that we have to prove this wasn't me, but how?”

“I have great investigators on my team, Kat. We'll find what we need.”

“What if there's nothing to find?” Mason asked. At Kat's sharp intake of breath, he elaborated, “What if Priscilla hired a professional and there's nothing to find?”

Carter adjusted his glasses before answering, “We won't know until they look, will we?”

“The police won't help.” Kat shook her head. “Longwood is disgusting, and at first I thought Davis was better, but he's not.”

Mason pinned her with his chocolate gaze. “What happened?”

“We handled it,” Carter answered.

“What happened?” Mason asked again, never taking his eyes off Kat.

“He insinuated you were my sugar-daddy and I didn't need to sell drugs for money when I could sell myself instead.”

“Bastard,” Mason muttered.

“He was trying to shake her up.”

It had worked. Kat was quiet for long minutes before breaking the silence with a revelation. “How the hell does locking me up for drugs make you fall in love with her? What kind of delusional bitch is she?”

“The rich kind.” The thought made him shudder. What else might Priscilla do? “God, I'm so sorry about this. I never thought...” He trailed off, unable to find the right words. If he'd had any idea Priscilla would stoop to this, he would have confronted her years ago. He knew she was possessive, he knew she put something in Melanie's drink a couple years back. He couldn't prove it, and he hadn't pursued it. He and Melanie had parted on amicable terms—truth told, they had been better friends than lovers, and Priscilla had just brought that to light. Breaking things off with Melanie had been easy, but he couldn't live without Kat.

She took his hands in hers. “It's not your fault.”

Carter had been quiet through the whole exchange, but chose then to assert himself. “Mason, you can't take responsibility for other people's mental illnesses. You dated the woman sixteen years ago. It's not your fault she's fixated on you.”

“I still don't get it,” Kat started. “I mean, we love each other, and we're getting married. So, she has the drugs planted and now I'm going on trial for trafficking. Let's say I end up convicted—”

“You won't be convicted,” Carter interjected.

“For the sake of the hypothetical situation, let's say I am and sent to Fluvanna with my mother. Does she expect Mason to fall heartbroken into her arms?”

“I'm no profiler, but I'd say she feels you are a distraction to Mason. If she removes the distraction, then the attention will turn to her.”

“My God, she is a crazy bitch.”

With a gasp, Kat asked, “You don't think she'd kill me, do you?”

“Don't even think that!” Mason exclaimed.

“She's already had drugs planted. It's not like, 'You killed my woman, now I love you,' makes any more sense than, 'You put my woman away, now I love you.'”

His stomach dropped. “Carter, I need her protected.”

“Of course,” Carter agreed.

~*~

“What happened? Why is that little bitch cooling her heels at Mason's house right now?” Priscilla shrieked.

“Judge King allowed bail, and it was posted. She was released pending her trial,” Brandon explained.

“I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!” she protested with a stomp of her feet.

He stood back and watched the deceivingly pretty blonde throw a tantrum like a four year old. “Planting evidence is one thing, Prissy, but I have no control over Judge King. She allowed bail, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.”

“Don't you dare call me Prissy again, Brandy,” she answered, a glint in her blue eyes. At his perturbed expression, she asked, “How do you like it?”

“Fine. Priscilla.” He walked away from her, choosing to brace himself against the far wall instead of sitting on any of her precious antique furniture. “Have I told you lately how happy I am our parents were only married for two years?” he murmured, loving the disgust lighting her face. “I did my part. I helped. I even called you Miss McClaren and acted like you could tell me what to do.” He pushed off the wall then, his long legs eating the distance between them in seconds. Toe to toe with this tiny ball of fury he called sister for a few years of his life, he warned her, “Against my better judgment, I did you a favor. Don't make me regret it.”

“I will own you, Brandon Davis,” she hissed.

“Not a chance in hell.” He chuckled softly when she flinched. “You asked me to plant evidence, asked me to risk my career so you could have some man. What do you think I could do to you, Prissy?” He paused, letting the threat sink in along with the diminutive name. “I could hang you out to dry right along with Katerina.” He grabbed her arms then. “Or, I could clear the beautiful Miss Nemecek and toss your bony ass in jail.” He released her, propelling her away from himself. “The decision is yours.”

Stumbling on her heels, Priscilla pointed to the door. “Get out.”

He gave her a mock salute. “My pleasure, Prissy.”

~*~

Kat snuggled into the cushions of the window seat. She'd been warned about staying away from windows for fear someone would take a shot at her, but this was her favorite spot in the house and she really didn't believe Priscilla would have her killed. She didn't want to hide and she didn't want to hunker down like a prisoner. She gave herself a mental kick. Just a few hours ago she had been a prisoner. She'd just opened her book when Mason appeared in the doorway.

Alarmed, Mason snapped, “What are you doing in the window?”

“Reading,” she answered as calmly as possible. “No one is going to shoot me.”

He crossed into the room then, stopping inches from picking her up bodily. “You were in jail this morning, Kat. You're the one who posed the damn question to Carter in the first place. You are supposed to be here to be protected, not to offer yourself for target practice in the middle of a bay window.”

Hating to see him so upset, even if it meant abandoning her favorite place in the house—maybe anywhere—she stood. “I know I asked the question, but do you really think she'd try to kill me?”

“I wouldn't have thought she'd give a damn about me after sixteen years, wouldn't have thought she'd have coke planted in your ceiling, so just because I don't think she'd try to kill you doesn't mean I have any idea what she might do.” He pulled her close, dropping a kiss in her hair. “I won't let you take any chances.”

“I'll go read in the bathtub then,” she offered.

The arms around her relaxed a fraction. “Please be careful. I can't lose you now that I've caught you.”

She giggled at his statement. “Caught me? Now I'm a fish?”

“That's exactly what I meant, of course,” he remarked, a smile on his lips.

She pushed on her toes to kiss him. “Of course.”