Page 26 of Bayou Hero

Jimmy ran a hand through his hair. “You think the murders are connected?”

“You think they’re coincidence?”

“Stranger things have happened.”

“Yeah, like me marrying you.”

He grinned. “Like you divorcing me.”

“Like me not killing you.”

“Anyone ever tell you that holding a grudge is bad for your health?”

Not nearly as bad as sleeping around should have been for his. The first time, when she’d heard the news through the law enforcement grapevine, she’d been furious as hell. By the last time, when she’d actually walked in on him with his girlfriend of the week, she hadn’t felt anything. Their marriage had ended in the sixty seconds it had taken her brain to process the scene, and her heart had been safe ever since.

There was a part of her that wouldn’t mind walking on the wild side. Just a little.

But, damn, why did the first image that popped into her mind at that longing have to be Landry Jackson?

Leaning back in his chair, Jimmy fixed his gaze on the ceiling. “What do you think of the son?”

She blinked, caught off guard that Jimmy had spoken of Landry just seconds after she’d envisioned being wild and reckless and him. Clearing her throat, she said, “Landry?”

What she thought of him was probably what every other woman did: damn, he was gorgeous. Those eyes, that hair, the body, the brooding bad-boy aura... His smile was none too shabby, either.

But every other woman could appreciate him up close and personal. Alia couldn’t.

With a twinge of regret, she pushed the personal stuff to the back of her mind and focused on the conversation.

“Yeah, Landry,” Jimmy said, oblivious. “He was estranged from his parents. He stands to inherit a boatload of money.”

Money was always such a good motive for murder, hence the standard question: who profited from the victim’s death? In this case, though, she didn’t believe Jackson’s murder involved money at all. “As far as he knows, he’s out of the will, and he doesn’t seem to care.”

“You believe him?”

She bit a cookie in half and considered it while chewing. “You’ve seen his financials. He lives within his means. He’s never been arrested, nothing to suggest a problem with drinking, drugs, gambling or women.” And he’d sounded believable. Sure, she’d met people who could lie with utter sincerity—Jimmy was a prime example—but she would bet a dozen beignets that Landry wasn’t one of them.

“Yeah. I believed him. Besides, his alibi checked out. He was playing poker until nearly six.” She popped another cookie into her mouth.

“Okay, so he’s off the suspect list.”

Alia leaned forward and twisted his laptop around so she could see what he’d typed. She snorted. “When did we take Mary Ellen Davison off the suspect list?”

“Come on, look at her.”

“Look at what? Her big brown eyes brimming with tears? Her Cupid’s bow mouth? Her sweet, sad smile? The neon lights around her flashing damsel in distress?”

“She’s the original steel magnolia. She’s not gonna stab someone thirty-some times.”

Slumping back in her chair, Alia pretended to thump her forehead with her palm. “The steel part of steel magnolia refers to strength, doofus.”

He wasn’t the least bit fazed by his mistake or her insult. “No matter what it means, Mary Ellen Davison didn’t kill her daddy or the old lady. She’d be more likely to love someone to death.”

He was right about that, Alia conceded. Mary Ellen was delicate, the kind of feminine flower who used to make her feel too tall, too thin, too flat chested, too unfeminine. Ah, she remembered well the teenage days when she was first getting into boys, when so many of them were into girlie girls like Mary Ellen.

What kind of woman was Landry into?

The kind that didn’t wear a badge or credentials and carry a gun, she thought as she took her turn to study the ceiling. Probably someone as impressive as he was, with a great face, great body, though probably not as fragile as his sister. Like Jimmy, Landry probably didn’t favor a particular type—redhead, brunette, blonde; white, black, Latina, Asian; working girl or career woman. Pretty, hot-blooded, cooking skills a plus but not required.

She washed down the last cookie with half a can of pop, then asked, “Aren’t you ready for lunch yet?”

“Holy hell, sweet pea, it’s barely 12:15. Where do you put all those calories? If I ate like you do, I’d be too big to fit through the door.”

“That’s because you’re lazy. I heard there’s a really good restaurant near here called Mama’s Table. You been there?”