"Friendly would've been nice."


"We're not here to become friends. I'm looking for your side of the story. That's it."

He let his eyebrows slide up. "You don't believe your client?"

"I'd hate to think Kalyna Harter would tell lies that could destroy a man's life, but..."

"But?"

"She's not my friend, either. Put it this way--I've learned that it's always better to be open-minded."

If only she meant it. "How can you say that when you've already decided I'm guilty?"

"I haven't decided you're guilty. I'm just letting you know I'm not your typical female admirer."

He leaned close. "Are you really that attracted to me? Because I'm not having the same problem."

He'd only been as frank with her as she'd been with him, but he had everything at stake and she had nothing. He was afraid she'd be angry, maybe even stomp off, but she inclined her head as if she finally felt she owed him some respect. "Point taken."

"Great. Now that we're back on an equal footing, I need to tell you something. Kalyna called me last night."

Ava didn't show a great deal of surprise, but a slight tightening around her mouth told him she hadn't expected this. "Why would she do that?"

"I'm not sure. Especially if she's as terrified of me as she's pretending to be. Why would any little piggy call the big bad wolf?"

"Is that how you see yourself?" she asked.

He clasped his hands loosely between his knees. "That's how I'm being portrayed, isn't it?"

She took a sip of her tea. "What did she have to say?"

He shook his head. "Nothing that made sense."

"Give me an example."

"She said she misses me. As if we were ever dating. As if we even knew each other well enough for her to miss me." He was tempted to add the part about her wanting his hands on her body. That proved she'd been an equal participant on the night of June 6. But he was afraid repeating that remark would sound false.

"Interesting."

"You're skeptical?"

"Open-minded, remember? Do you have a record of the incoming call?"

"Of course." He took his cell phone from his pocket to show her. "See here? Three a.m. That was her."

"It says Restricted," she said pointedly. "Anyone could've made that call."

Again, he lamented being unable to record his conversation with Kalyna. "Of course she's going to block her number. She's not stupid."

"Just crazy."

He set his phone aside. "That's what I think."

"Did she say anything else?"

"She said she wanted us to be together. That she..." He told himself to state it baldly. He didn't like Ava. She was part of the nightmare into which he'd fallen. But he couldn't bring himself to be that crude. Not in the presence of a woman wearing a business suit. "Let's just say she made some sexual innuendos."

Ava crossed one leg over the other. "Captain, thanks to the nature of my career, it's very likely I've heard more graphic descriptions than you have. Just give me the facts. I'd rather you were straightforward than trying to protect my sensibilities."

"Fine." He lowered his voice so no one else in the restaurant could hear. "She told me she wanted to feel me inside her again."

Their eyes locked and Ava's lips parted, but nothing came out of her mouth. Then she blinked and cleared her throat, and he figured he must've imagined that spark between them.

"Let's back up," she said. "Why don't you tell me in your own words what happened on June 6."

He focused on his drink in case that little sizzle returned. He didn't want to feel anything like that right now, least of all for this woman, who was someone he couldn't envision as a friend--even if she wasn't Kalyna's advocate. Talk about uptight. "I ran into Kalyna at a bar, and I went home with her. It was a typical one-night stand."

"Just a sec." She dug a pad of paper and a pen out of her purse.

"You're going to take notes?" he asked.

"Do you have a problem with that?"

Because he was here against his attorney's advice, it made him nervous. Depending on her level of motivation, Ms. Bixby could misinterpret a comment or two or even misrepresent what you said. But he supposed recording what he said wasn't any riskier than meeting with her in the first place. He didn't want to act as if he had anything to hide. "I guess not."

"Thank you." She scribbled on the page to make sure the pen was working. "Do you pick up women at bars very often?" she asked, getting back to business.

"No."

She glanced up.

"Ask anybody."

"I've already asked Paris Larsen," she said.

Luke hadn't heard Paris's name since they'd broken up. "How do you know about Paris?"

"Actually, I didn't speak to her myself. A friend of yours mentioned to my investigator that you used to go out with her, so he met with her to see what she had to say."

Ava Bixby was certainly thorough. "And?"

"She told him you picked her up in a bar."

"That isn't true," he said. "We met at a restaurant."

"A restaurant better known as a bar."

"But I was there for dinner. She was sitting at the table next to mine.

And I took her out a number of times before...anything happened. That's not the same as a one-night stand. We knew each other, trusted each other, before we made love. There was a commitment involved." He shook the ice in his mocha just to hear it rattle. "Why, what did she tell your investigator about our relationship?"

Ava didn't answer. She was writing again.

"She said I was never rough with her, right?" he persisted, ducking his head to catch her eye.

Ava put her pen aside. "Actually, she said you broke her heart."

"That wasn't intentional. I was ready to end the relationship, and she wasn't ready to let go. That's all. I'm sure you've been in similar situations."

"No, I haven't," she said. "I'm careful to avoid it."

He used his index finger to move the change he'd dropped on the table. "You've never broken anyone's heart?"

"Not that I know of."

Was she serious? "Have you ever been in love?"

"Not deeply," she said without a second's hesitation.

He shook his head. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me as much as it should."

She set her jaw at a stubborn angle. "You don't hand your heart to every girl you meet, do you?"

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