“Kyle—right.” Luke gave a nod. “His last name was—”

“West,” Donna snapped out. “And if he knows what’s good for him, he ain’t never comin’ back.”

“Guess you didn’t like him much.” Luke figured that was a big understatement. “Wanna tell us why?”

One shoulder lifted in a hard shrug. “He screwed around on Saundra. She caught the jerk with his pants down.…”

Now he had a feeling she meant that literally.

“That man was her life. She stayed in this shithole for him…”

So Donna wasn’t exactly loving Gatlin, either.

“—and when she found out what he was really like, she planned to split as soon as she could. She was almost there.” A sad shake of her head. “Two more weeks, and she would have been long gone.”

Instead she was just dead.

“She didn’t get out, he did.” Monica tilted her head back and studied Donna with steady blue eyes. “Doesn’t really sound fair, does it?”

“Hell, no, it—”

“Donna!” The bartender’s voice roared across the room. “Table six needs a refill!”

She jerked her head. “On it.” Her tongue swiped over those too pink lips. “You think—you think Kyle had anything to do with Saundra’s death?”

“Is there anyone else who might have wanted to hurt her?” Luke asked softly, not really answering.

“No. Saundra—she was good. Class, you know? Never said a bad thing about anybody. She didn’t deserve what she got.”

“Most people don’t,” Monica murmured.

Donna stared down at her. “Find the bastard who hurt her, would you? Maybe I’ll sleep better then.” She spun away, blond hair fluttering.

“I doubt you will.” Monica pushed away the beer she’d never tasted. “It doesn’t usually help.”

But Donna was already at the bar getting more drinks, flashing a big smile at the bald bartender, and acting like she didn’t have a care in the world.

But Luke had heard the quaver in her voice. Donna did care.

Luke leaned toward Monica. “There wasn’t a mention of this ex-boyfriend in the file.”

“There should have been. The guy would have been at the top of my suspect list.”

His, too. Sometimes, the people you loved the most could be the ones who hurt you. Very, very badly.

He sure as hell knew that lesson.

“I’m going to step outside and call Sam,” Monica said as she rose, brushing back the midnight hair that skimmed her cheeks. “Let’s see what she can find out about this Kyle West.”

If anyone could find the guy’s deep dark secrets online, Luke figured it would be Samantha.

“Try to keep your eyes off Donna’s chest while I’m gone, okay?”

He blinked. Wow. What was that? Jealousy? “Baby, you don’t have to worry.” Donna wasn’t the one he wanted. Only Monica.

Her lips parted, and he saw a flash of surprise in her eyes. She hadn’t meant to say that. Ah, maybe that façade was falling away. His lips rose in a half-smile as she spun away from him and hurried away.

Damn, but he loved to watch her leave. Well, loved to watch that ass anyway. That sway was so nice. He’d take that view over any view of Donna every day of the week.

Monica pulled out her cell phone and tilted her head down. Probably already briefing Hyde. She always seemed to be checking in with him. After a moment, she vanished in the huddle of bodies.

He reached for his beer. Long day. Shit-tasting alcohol, but really, a beggar couldn’t choose.

The lip of the beer bottle touched his mouth, and he heard the shatter of breaking glass. The thud of flesh hitting flesh.


He was on his feet in an instant, charging through the crowd. Another night flashed through his mind. Another bar. Another…

A woman screamed. Not Monica.

He shoved through a swarm of bodies and saw a redhead on the floor, her skirt twisted under her. Blood trickled from her lip.

“Fuckin’ cheatin’ whore!” A guy staggered, slipped, then lunged for her. “I’ll make you so…”

Luke tackled him. He slammed the drunk into the nearest table and felt the wood splinter and crash beneath them.

The man’s elbow clipped Luke hard, right under the eye, and the bastard roared as he twisted and rolled.

He was a big one. Tall, thick with fat and muscle, and the guy was a fighter.

Big and Meaty swung a ham-sized fist at Luke’s face. Definitely a fighter.

Luke dodged, then kicked out of the tangle of wood and limbs. He jumped to his feet and raised his arms. “Look, buddy, you don’t want to do this, I’m a—”

A snarl. A long, low, barely human snarl, then the drunk attacked.

Luke struck out, catching the guy in the jaw. His turn. Hard and fast. The dude staggered a bit, but didn’t go down.

The woman started sobbing, then she lunged for Luke. “Leave him alone!”

Leave him alone?


He tried to shake her off, even as the bull got ready for another attack.

The guy came at him, slamming his fist into Luke’s gut while the woman held on with all her strength. Doesn’t pay to be a boy scout.

He kicked the bastard right in the groin.

“Fuck!” The guy’s high scream. The bigger they are, the harder they—

The woman dug her nails into Luke’s back. “Dammit, I’m with the FBI, you can’t—”

The bull was back on his feet. Breathing hard and balling his hands into fists. Not standing fully, probably couldn’t.

Catcalls came from the crowd. Some cheers.

No help. Of course not.

“Shouldn’t have got between Charlie and Lynn.…”

“Poor bastard.”

Luke figured he was the poor bastard in question. Great. He shook off the redhead and tried one more time to reach for his ID.

But Charlie took a swing at him.

Luke swung right back. His fist connected, Charlie’s didn’t, and the guy staggered.

What does it take to get this guy down?

“Aahhhh!” Great. Now the woman was screaming and charging him and—

“Freeze!” Monica’s shout, full of icy rage. “FBI. Don’t even think of taking another step.”

And for her, both Charlie and Lynn stilled. Their eyes widened. Their shoulders sagged.

Luke brushed off the bits of broken glass that clung to his arms. Not real sure where the glass came from.

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