Had Star set the bomb?
Star was a fifty-three-year-old self-made billionaire. He’d grown up dirt poor in a part of town known as Whore’s Corner. Speculation was rampant about what he’d had to do to survive. The front contender: black-market organ sells. If that was true, he’d had to slice open his victims while they were still alive. Talk about hard-core.
Over the years, the male earned the ear of some of the world’s greatest leaders. He developed an eye for the pretties, and a weakness for gambling. He changed mistresses as easily as Blue changed underwear. He dabbled in recreational drugs—the snorting and the selling—and he would not leave his house without armed guards.
What reason would he have to harm Michael? How could he have known about Michael’s real job?
He couldn’t have. Right? So . . . what if the bombing had nothing to do with the case? What if the culprit—Star, or someone like him—simply hoped to get rid of a business rival?
Made sense. But that wasn’t enough for Blue. Because, as much sense as it made, it failed to explain the coincidences. And Blue didn’t believe in coincidences.
As Evie showed the flustered agent to the door—guess the male had never come across anyone like the Black Plague before—Blue returned to her office and logged on to her computer. Priority one: finding his friends. They had to be alive or he would . . . he would . . . He banged a fist against the keyboard, cracking the casing, and cringed.
Deep breath in. Out.
They were alive.
Evie came up behind him. He didn’t have to see her to know she was there. He sensed her. The heat of her. The scent of her. Every muscle in his body tensed.
“Good job, pudding pop,” he said, trying to keep things light. “He got nothing out of you, but you got a few things out of him.”
“I know. And don’t call me ‘pudding pop’ or I’ll empty out your scrotum and make you enjoy it.”
He covered a laugh with a cough. The little firecracker had these moments of utter hilarity. Although she wasn’t as animated as she’d been four years ago. She no longer used her hands to punctuate every word. He wondered what had changed. Because honestly? He’d liked the hand gestures and kind of missed them. “If I’m going to enjoy it, I might as well keep calling you names. Like ‘pinkie pie.’ ”
She waved her fist at him. Okay, so that was a hand gesture she hadn’t lost. A habit?
He hoped so. One day he might grab that fist, jerk her into his lap, and—
He’d do nothing.
“What are you doing in here, anyway?” she asked.
“Looking for clues.”
“Oh, well, I’m one step ahead of you. As always.” She jimmied open a secret drawer he’d missed and handed him a digital reader. “Check out the most recently downloaded articles.”
He did. Apparently, a body was found at the explosion site, one burned beyond recognition. Testing was done, and though the identity was unknown, it was clear the bones belonged to a Caucasian male with a broken spine—who was not Michael Black. Has to be my Fry Guy.
Michael Black was missing. Assumed abducted.
Two days ago, his former assistant had been found dead in her home. Drug overdose.
Blue knew the woman. Three months ago, at the age of forty-one, she quit working for Michael to become a stay-at-home mom. If she’d had a drug problem, he would never have sex again.
Blue inhaled a waft of honey-almond and nearly snapped the e-reader in half. Guaranteed, he was having sex again.
Just not with Evie Black.
Michael’s former assistant must have been killed, the death made to appear accidental. But why kill her?
Perhaps she came to see Michael, spotted the killer, and was eliminated as a precaution. Or perhaps she aided the killer for money? After all, stay-at-home mothers made less than slave labor. And if she’d aided the killer, she would have been eliminated as a possible witness.
Her aid would explain how the killer had gotten the bomb inside Michael’s.
He turned to the computer, and typed in “Corbin Blue.” He needed more data.
“Oh, you’re going to like this,” Evie said, her arm stretching over his shoulder. She pressed a fingertip against the holoscreen, selecting a gossip website. “This is a particular favorite of mine. Fascinating stuff. Really delves deep into the past and current antics of the world’s most famous Romeo. But who knew the press could actually print the truth?”
Can’t choke the life out of her. No longer so amused by her, Blue scanned the website’s report. The writer listed every female Blue was thought to have bagged over the years, and claimed he had panicked about his upcoming nuptials and was hiding out in Bangkok, sleazing his way through the female population.
Pagan had to be foaming-at-the-mouth worried. Not because of the women but because of his absence. On all of his football trips and all of his out-of-country missions, he’d always kept in touch with her.
“Just . . . shut it, Evie.” He swiped his hand over the text until the screen went blank. “Not another word out of you.”
He rolled his eyes. “Real mature.”
He threw a file at her.
“Are you on your period or something?” she said, her tone snippy. “First you looked ready to laugh, and now you look ready to commit murder. Your mood swings are a wee bit out of control, yeah.”
He was not the one with a freaking emotional disorder! “There’s nothing wrong with sleeping around,” he gritted. He’d just never wanted to do it, had always craved monogamy. He knew how precious it was.
“There is something horribly wrong when you’ve got a partner.”
“I know that. Cheating isn’t what I meant.”
“Besides,” she continued, “no one likes a himbo.”
“Actually, everyone does.”
“Yeah, for the whole five minutes they have of his attention.”
“I promise you, I grant my women more than five minutes of my time.”
She opened her mouth to comment and he decided he’d had enough.
“Instead of obsessing about my sex life, princess,” he said, “why don’t you get one of your own?”
She backed a step away from him. “First, I am not obsessing about your sex life. Second, who says I don’t have one?”
“Do you?” He tensed all over again as he waited for her response.