"I'm afraid so. I believed her. She was in your apartment at seven o'clock in the morning. I assumed you knew she was there. And I'm not used to having anyone lie to me like that, right to my face, and about stuff that's so...so easy to disprove. Why would she do that? What does she have to gain from it?"


"She's obsessed with me, Mom. She wants to believe that what she's saying is true."

"She said she loves you."

"That doesn't make her a nice person."

Now what? he wondered. Why would Kalyna have asked for his parents' address unless she planned on going down there?

His mother was stil trying to make him understand. "But she knew so much about you. She was very convincing. She asked after Jenny and my work and..."

A chil ran down Luke's spine at the mention of his baby sister--

probably because it brought back what he'd learned about Sarah, that fourteen-year-old hitchhiker who'd fallen into Kalyna's hands. "Listen to me, Mom," he cut in. "You've got to get Jenny and Dad and go somewhere else, okay? I don't know that you're in danger, but you could be, and I don't want to worry about you. Go to a hotel for a week or so until I can figure out what's going on. I'l pay for it. Just pack up and get out of the house, and do it now."

"But I'm at work."

He didn't want to frighten his mother, but he thought it imperative she know what Kalyna was capable of. "This person might've kil ed the woman who raised her. She might've murdered someone else, too--a young hitchhiker, years ago."

She gasped. "How do you know?"

"Ava Bixby found out. She's been working with me."

"But Kalyna said Ava's the problem."

"She's not the problem." Well, she was one of his problems, but she wasn't the kind of problem Kalyna meant.

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure." The highway patrolman finally exited the freeway, and Luke punched the accelerator. He had to catch Kalyna in his apartment.

This might be his only chance to stop her. If he could arrive while she was stil there, he could call the cops and, hopefully, they'd take her in for breaking and entering. And maybe by the time she got off the hook for that, the Mesa police would want her to stand trial and she'd be extradited.

As the needle on his speedometer edged up to ninety miles per hour, another call came through. He told his mother goodbye and hung up so he could switch over. But then he saw that the call was coming from his own number.

It was Kalyna. He wanted to answer--but he didn't want to tip her off that he was on his way, so he set his phone on the console and concentrated on driving.

When her calls eventually stopped, he considered letting Ava know that he'd located Kalyna. He thought she might want to hear the latest.

And, if nothing else, it would give him the chance to talk to her. To ask her how she could make love to him as if her heart and soul were involved, only to shrug him off the next morning.

But then he remembered her telling him to leave, remembered her polite, distant nod when he walked out. She'd washed her hands of this mess when she'd washed her hands of him.

Somehow he'd manage on his own. If Ava didn't want him in her life, he'd stay the hell out.

Chapter 28

The stil ness seemed deafening. Ava tried to convince herself that this was the peace and quiet she'd always loved, the reason she lived on a houseboat in the delta, but today she wasn't enjoying it. The place was too quiet--in a nerve-racking sort of way. She knew her problem centered on the unsettled feeling she'd had ever since Luke and Geoffrey had left. But she couldn't help that. She could only return to the comfort, such as it was, of her usual routine. Before she screwed up any worse.

With that intent, she'd been trying to make herself get ready for work.

If she could immerse herself in her cases, maybe she could forget last night and the terrible scene that'd followed. But she doubted anything could make her forget Luke's touch. And so far, she hadn't been able to get moving. She felt sick. Only she wasn't sure what kind of sick. There were no physical symptoms.

Her cell phone rang, and she glanced at the nightstand, where she'd put it when she'd burrowed beneath the covers a few minutes earlier. It was within reach--but she couldn't summon the energy to grab it. She didn't want to talk to anyone. She wished she could shut out the whole world until she was ready to deal with it again.

The call went to voice mail, providing a brief respite, but more ringing intruded on the silence right afterward.

Someone was trying to get hold of her.

Leaning over far enough to see who it was, she blinked when she saw that the call had originated from Luke Trussell's apartment. That couldn't be. Luke had been gone maybe twenty minutes. The drive took twice that long, especially in rush-hour traffic, which was what he'd face this time on a Monday morning.

What was going on?

Her stomach twisting into apprehensive knots, Ava snatched up the phone and hit the Talk button. "Hello?"

"Ava?"

It was a woman. "Yes?"

"Is Luke with you?"

Kalyna. Ava hadn't immediately recognized her because she'd used such a funny, chirpy voice. But she could tell now. Kalyna was back from Arizona. And, somehow, she was in Luke's apartment.

"What're you doing, Kalyna? Trying to get yourself in more trouble?"

"Just looking for Luke."

"He's not here."

"But he spent the night with you, didn't he? I know he wasn't at home last night."

Images of Luke's larger body covering her own flashed through Ava's mind. "No, he wasn't here."

"Stop lying! I'm carrying his baby, Ava."

Ava couldn't help hoping that wasn't true. Whether she planned to see more of Luke or not, she didn't want to imagine him having a child with this woman. "We have yet to see proof that you're carrying anyone's baby, let alone Luke's."

"We?" Kalyna gave a bitter laugh. "Oh, you got it bad, don't you? You got it bad, just like me. You're no different. Not really. He won't treat you any better. He'l toss you aside and move on to the next woman. You think he didn't tell me all the same stuff he whispered to you, Ava? Did he tell you how sexy you are? How beautiful? His mouth's been on my breast, too.

His--"

Ava interrupted; she couldn't listen to this woman cheapening what had happened last night. Maybe she was giving Luke up, but she wouldn't allow Kalyna to destroy the memory. "What do you want from me, Kalyna?"

"I want you to know you're going to lose. I'l get him back. You'l see."

"But you never had him in the first place." Ava had never had him, either. That was the catch with men like Luke and her father, the catch too few women understood. That kind of man was extremely handsome and almost unfailingly pleasant--but didn't know how to love deeply enough to stay with one woman. It came down to whatever or whoever was most stimulating at the moment.

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