Lover Undercover
Author:Samanthe Beck

chapter Ten

Kylie’s internal clock woke her at four thirty. Immediately, she realized Stacy’s “get him out of your system” strategy didn’t do the trick right away because her happy body wanted nothing more than to snuggle in next to Trevor’s big, warm frame and revisit every inch of him. Her mind, however, stubbornly insisted she get her butt moving.

The voice of reason, which had been so quiet last night, now pointed out that by sleeping with Trevor she’d taken a foolish and dangerous risk. She wasn’t the person he thought she was, and the more time she spent in close, intimate contact with him, the sooner he’d figure it out. He was way too perceptive. And after everything she’d experienced in his arms last night, this morning she was way too susceptible to him, too vulnerable to pull off a Stacy act. Better all around to make a quick, quiet exit.

Carefully, she eased off the bed. Her heart stalled for a moment when she heard him shift on the mattress, but his breathing remained slow and even, and soon he stilled. Mouthing a silent thank-you to the patron saint of women slinking from strange beds, she searched the dark bedroom for her clothes before remembering they were somewhere by the front door. His shirt, however, lay on the floor by his side of the bed. She crawled over and picked it up.

She was crouched there with one arm in the shirt when the light clicked on and a deep, sleep-rough voice broke the silence. “Going somewhere?”

Wincing at the indignity of being caught mid-slink, she slipped her other arm into the shirt and concentrated on the buttons. Her hands weren’t quite steady. He had that effect on her.

“I have an early appointment. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I’ve been awake for a while. After last night, I wouldn’t want you to leave without saying a proper good-bye. It wouldn’t seem right.”

She stood and blew her hair out of her eyes, then looked at him. Big mistake. Propped up on his pillow, with his disheveled hair, sleepy eyes, and raspy jaw, he was hard to walk away from. Because every hormone she possessed clamored to crawl back in bed with him, she responded more brusquely than she intended. “Okay, fine. Good-bye, Trevor.”


Oh, shit. She stared at her feet. “You knew.”

“Not until last night.”

“What gave me away?”

She heard the rustle of sheets and the creak of bedsprings. Then his hand was under her chin, forcing her to face him. “Stacy Roberts isn’t a virgin. I practically have sworn affidavits attesting to that fact. You were, until a few hours ago.”

She closed her eyes against his probing stare. Stupid of her, thinking he hadn’t noticed. He noticed everything.

“Look at me, Kylie.”

Reluctantly, she opened her eyes and saw the concern in his. Guilt surged through her. She’d lied to him, arguably impeded his investigation. She didn’t deserve his concern. His next words only compounded her guilt.

“Are you okay? Physically, I mean?”

Shame heated her cheeks. “Yes. I’m fine. Please, don’t give it another thought.”

He looked at her for a long second, those dark, assessing eyes roaming her face. Apparently what he saw convinced him she was telling the truth, for once, because finally he nodded. “We’re both going to give it a lot of thought and some discussion, but it will have to wait until later. Right now, we’ve got other matters to deal with.”

Oh, Lord, here it comes. He’s going to arrest you. Her stomach roiled. A bead of sweat trickled down her spine. “How bad—how bad is it?”

“It’s not good,” he clipped out, all tough, authoritative cop again. “This morning I’ve got to move quickly and by the book. We’re going to get dressed, then I’m going to read you your rights and escort you straight into an interview.”

“I need to call—”

“No calls, unless it’s an attorney. Meantime, Ian’s going to pick up Stacy, and she’ll get the same drill. Depending on how things shake out, we’ll see where we go from there.”

An attorney? Oh, God, this was bad. Fear snaked through her, leaving an icy trail of panic.

“My work,” she managed to whisper around the lump in her throat. “I’m a yoga instructor. I have a class starting at six.”

He retrieved his cell phone from the nightstand and handed it to her. “Call a substitute. Use my phone, so I can verify the number later.”

Trembling hands made dialing an ordeal. Her voice shook so badly her substitute sounded as worried as she felt by the end of the call.

Trevor took the phone from her freezing fingers, and then wrapped his hand over them. She shivered a little at the sudden warmth.

“Kylie, there’s something else I need you to do for me.”

Scared and miserable, she choked out, “I’ll try.”

“Trust me. I have a job to do, but everything I said before still stands. I want to help you. Trust me to do both.”

She nodded, but they both knew she really didn’t have a choice.

In the end, he had to help her dress. She was just too shaken up to manage on her own. Once he’d gotten her strapped into the passenger seat and started steering his Yukon down the canyon, her shakes abated some, though her pallor remained a troubling gray. Halfway to the station, Ian called to advise him that Stacy was in custody. Even before he hung up, she peppered him with questions.

“Is Stacy okay?”

“She’s fine.”

“Does Ian realize he needs to be careful? She has a broken leg.”

“He’s a trained detective. He noticed the cast.” Immediately, he regretted the sarcasm. The morning was tough enough already. Glancing at her, he noted her stiff posture and felt like an ass. He reached over and covered the tense, white-knuckled fist closest to him.

Her hand relaxed under his, and she rested her head against the seatback. “I wish”—she turned her head until she faced him—“I wish everything was different.”

The words sounded so wrenchingly wistful, he knew with sudden certainty he wasn’t the only one who’d sensed the connection between them, the strange soul-to-soul recognition he’d felt that very first night.

“Ian will make sure Stacy is comfortable. He’s got a knack for putting people at ease.”

She nodded and expelled a slow breath. “Will Ian conduct her interview, then?”

“No.” He pulled into his spot in the station parking lot and stopped the car. “For many reasons, not the least of which is what we did last night, Ian will interview you. I’ll interview her.”

She grabbed his arm. “You need to understand something about Stacy.”

“Kylie, stop.” He pried her hand off his arm and held it for a second. “You can’t do this for her. Everything I need to understand about Stacy, I need to get directly from her.”

“You might not,” she said urgently, “because she’s scared. This is her worst nightmare. She’s terrified you’re going to arrest her for the murders. I’ve told her she’s irrational, but she can’t help it. She’s got an almost inborn distrust of authority. It stems from how she grew up, how people treated her where we grew up.”

Suddenly bone-weary, he stared through the windshield and sighed. “I have some experience dealing with nervous, hostile interviewees. You’re going to have to trust me to ask the right questions and draw the right conclusions. All I want is the truth. I don’t have any interest in hanging these murders on anyone except the actual murderer.”

“I know you don’t.” Her fingers tightened on his arm again. “I’m just trying to explain that she’s scared and defensive.”

Impatient with the whole situation, he asked, “What’s a scared, defensive woman from the backwoods of Tennessee doing working as a Hollywood stripper? And why the hell would you enable her by filling in?”

Kylie let go of him as if he’d stung her. “Besides the fact that if I didn’t fill in, we’d be homeless?”

“You’ve got a home in Tennessee.”

“Stacy’s a dancer. She’s trying to achieve her dreams and become a star. That won’t happen for her in Two Trout.”

“She’s off to a hell of a start.”

Kylie scowled at him. “Sure, plenty of people would say working at Deuces doesn’t qualify as legitimate dancing, and consider it proof she doesn’t have what it takes to succeed, but it’s not true. She’s an amazing entertainer. She’s had lots of auditions and callbacks. Even at Deuces, her artistry stands out. Those routines require more skill and technique than your average bump and grind. For her, dancing encompasses more than mere movement… She embodies a character, tells a story.”

“You’re a fan,” he observed quietly, unable to hold on to his anger.

“I believe in her talent, and in her. She’ll get there.”

“I hope she does. But first, she needs to get through this. The sooner we get started, the sooner we get done.” With that, he exited the car, came around, and opened the passenger door. She hesitated and gave him an uncomfortable look.

“Trevor, I want you to know, you were the only person I danced for like…the way I danced for you.”

Impossibly, he felt a smile pull at the corners of his mouth, seeing her sitting there, so prim and awkward. “I know,” he said softly, and helped her down. She flashed him a nervous look, and then, because he hadn’t cuffed her, preceded him into the station. He directed her to an interview room. With the recorders on, he recited the Miranda rights and secured her agreement that she understood the rights as they had been explained to her. Doubtful, considering she didn’t immediately request an attorney, but he knew Kylie wanted to cooperate so he didn’t press.

Ian opened the door, stepped in, and said, “Suite B. Recorders are on and ready to go. Miss Roberts declined a lawyer, so she’s all yours.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Standing, he gave Kylie one last look. Huge blue eyes stared back at him from a sheet-white face. Not exactly a confident, trusting expression. With a tight smile, he said, “See you later.” On his way down the hall he hoped her anxious eyes and pale face wouldn’t haunt him through her sister’s interview.

Hours later, he stepped back out into the hall, closed the door, and exhaled a long breath. Equal parts exhausted and relieved, he walked to Kylie’s room to check in with Ian. At his knock, Ian came out, pulled the door shut behind him, and asked, “What did she have to say?”

“Stacy said she had nothing to do with the murders and she doesn’t have the first clue who beat Long and Montenegro to death.”

“And you believe her.” Ian said it more as a conclusion than a question, but Trevor answered anyway.

“Yeah, I do. If she knew who’d murdered those guys, she’d kill him herself for depriving her of two of her best clients.”

“Sentimental girl.”

“In her own way, she misses them. Maybe it’s more accurate to say she misses their patronage, but that’s damn near the same thing in her mind. Whichever, it’s pretty clear she didn’t feel driven to punish them for their misbehavior at Deuces. She’s too focused on the bottom line to let, as she termed it, ‘some stupid, drunk behavior’ get to her. Certainly not enough to put someone up to killing them. If she were inclined to kill someone for those incidents, Ramon would be dead.”

“Not that she has the physical capacity to do the kind of damage done to those men, but does she happen to have alibis?”

“Montenegro’s murder was too long ago. She doesn’t remember where she was. She’s alibied for the night of Long’s murder. Aside from the broken leg—date and time verified by the ER—she spent last Friday evening at a bar, made a friend, and went back to his place after last call.” He shrugged. “I’ll check it out, but it’s going to hold.”

“What did she say about the whole Stacy/Kylie switch?”

“It’s an old fallback for them. Since they were kids, if she was in a jam, she’d ask Kylie to take her place. She swears nobody at Deuces knows Kylie’s been dancing her shifts for the last two weeks.”

Ian nodded. “That’s exactly what Kylie said. And you know what? I’ll bet they’re right. Even for identical twins, the resemblance is amazing.”

“There are subtle differences. Kylie’s eyes are a deeper blue, her lips less pouty.” More shapely…more expressive.

Ian grinned. “Yeah, classy versus sassy. But nobody at Deuces is looking at eye shade or lip definition.”

“Probably not. The personality differences are less subtle.”

“Still waters and roaring rapids—but nobody’s looking at their personalities either. Given that their switch remains undetected, we gonna let the charade continue?”

A part of him wanted to say no. The knee-jerk, protective part preferred to bundle Kylie onto a plane with a one-way ticket back to Two Trout, or somewhere else far away, where she’d be safe. But he didn’t control her and, considering she’d been willing to pose as a stripper to stay in LA, he knew damn well she wouldn’t easily abandon the life she’d built here just because he asked her to. And if she stayed, then pulling the plug on their switch simply shot their investigation in the foot. They were close to forcing the killer to make a move. He felt it. They just needed to push this guy a little more.

“We keep going. If Kylie were underage or something along those lines, I’d have a different opinion, but as it stands, her dancing there doesn’t violate any vice laws. We’re not responsible for talent management at Deuces. If they don’t realize they’ve got a substitute stripper, that’s their problem. Kylie’s a crucial part of the undercover op. Our act may be the only way we’re going to catch this killer.”

“I’m on board, you’re on board. But is Kylie on board?”

The thought of Kylie dancing until two after only a couple hours of sleep and all the trauma of the morning made his conscience bleed, but he nodded. “She will be. I don’t want to lose whatever attention I attracted by leaving with her last night. I want to keep pressing this guy’s buttons until he crawls out of his hole and tries to bash my skull in.”

Just then Kylie opened the door. The words “bash my skull in” echoed down the narrow hall while she looked up at him, fear and worry etched across her face.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, I’ve got his back,” Ian said. “Nothing’s going to happen to him.”

Not helpful, if her expression served as any indication. Nor was his safety what he wanted her thinking about. “Come on.” Trevor took her arm and steered her down the hall. “We’re done here. I’ll take you back to my place to get your car.”

She dug her heels. “Wait. Where’s Stacy?”

“She’s being released too,” he explained, continuing to tug her across the parking lot to the Yukon. “Ian will drive her home.”

Glancing uncertainly toward the station, she hesitated. “I should wait for her and—”

“I’d like to talk to you,” he said quietly. “Away from here. Don’t worry, Stacy’s in good hands.”

She swallowed, shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked at him. Finally, she said, “Okay.”

While they buckled up and got under way, he considered where to start, but Kylie jumped in with questions of her own.

“You don’t suspect Stacy of having anything to do with the murders?”

“No. These were a couple of her most lucrative clients. She doesn’t have a motive to kill them.”

He heard her small sigh of relief, and while he didn’t want to burst her bubble, he felt the need to point out some less optimistic findings. “I guess you could consider that the good news. The bad news is everything Stacy told us about her coworkers, VIPs, and the rest of the suspect pool jibes one hundred percent with what you said. Which means the interview brought us no closer to finding the killer.”

“I’m sorry.” She was. He could hear it in her voice; see it in those sad, tired eyes. “Am I in trouble for pretending to be Stacy? Obstructing an investigation?”

Now it was his turn to sigh. “I suppose if I wanted to, I could make something of it.” He glanced over and caught her eyes. “But I don’t.”

He watched as something—more relief, yes, but something else—flickered across her face.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. “I know I deserve to be brought up on whatever charges are available. I’m sure you’re angry with me.”

Ah, hell. Gratitude and guilt. Not exactly what he’d been going for. Reaching over, he took her hand, threaded his fingers through hers. “No, Kylie, I’m not. Am I disappointed it had to happen this way? Yes. However, I do recognize you were as honest with me as you felt you could be without betraying Stacy, whom you were trying to protect. From here on out though, you need to be completely honest with me, okay?”

“Yes. Of course.” Sounding abashed, she added, “I promise.”

“Good. To give you honesty in return, you passing for Stacy impacted our investigation very little. We might have identified Carlton as a client the night he died rather than the next day, but otherwise…” He shrugged.

She squeezed his hand. “Well, still, I’m very grateful. I wish there was something I could do to make amends.”

Perfect entry to his next topic. Linking his fingers a bit more tightly with hers, he replied, “Your wish is granted.”

She shot him a wary look. “You want me to continue dancing for you, so you can keep putting yourself out as bait.”

“Yes, but there’s more. We need to up the stakes or this charade isn’t going to work. Both Alex and Carlton manhandled Stacy—for want of a better term—and created a scene. That’s the next step. I think if we stage an altercation at Deuces, it will trip this guy’s trigger. He’ll come after me.”

The fingers between his went stiff and still. He pulled his attention from the road briefly to see her reaction. Eyes full of fear and dread stared back at him.

Her concern warmed something inside him, deep in his chest, even as her reluctance made him want to tear out his hair. After steering the Yukon through a turn and onto his street, he pointed out as matter-of-factly as possible, “I’ll be ready for him, Kylie. I’ll be armed. Ian will have my back.”

She turned away. Facing the passenger-side window, she said flatly, “What did you have in mind?”

previous 1.. 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ..19 next