Page 13 of Secret Admirer

She ignored him, for the moment.

Alice bounded after Tiffany. Alice grabbed the other woman’s shoulder and whipped her around. “Who sent the flowers?”

Tiffany gaped at her. “You don’t like them?”

“Who sent them?”

The deputy was closing in. “Ms. May, calm down.”

The hell she’d get calm.

“It was an-an online order,” Tiffany stammered. “You fill out the request on the computer—we just get the flowers ready and print out the note. That’s it. The note said ‘Secret Admirer’ and that’s all I know!”

If the flowers had been ordered online, there had to be a way to trace the buyer. “Get the credit card number,” Alice barked.

The deputy put his hand on Alice’s shoulder. “You should let her go.” His voice had hardened.

“She should get the credit card number!” Alice snapped back, but she let Tiffany go. Alice was trying her hardest not to freak out, but her control was holding by a thread.

The nearby elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. Zander marched out, but he came to a quick stop when he caught sight of Alice standing in the hallway, clad in her hospital gown.

“What’s going on?” Zander demanded as he hurried closer to Alice.

Tiffany pointed at Alice. “She’s acting crazy!” Her cheeks had turned blotchy. “I just—just delivered her some roses and she’s—”

“They’re from my Secret Admirer.” Alice shoved the crumpled card at Zander. She’d fisted it in her left hand.

He took the card, unfolded it, and then swore. Dark, inventive words that she would have appreciated under different circumstances. Not then, though. Right then, she couldn’t appreciate anything. She was too terrified.

Zander turned a lethal look onto the gift shop employee. “Who sent the flowers?”

Tiffany’s eyes were the size of saucers. “I told her.” She directed a pointed glance at Alice. “The order came in online. It was paid by credit card. I didn’t see anyone!” She huffed out a hard breath. “Sorry you don’t like the roses, lady, but it’s just my job to deliver them.”

No, she didn’t like the roses. Alice wanted to rip them apart.

Zander pulled out his FBI badge. “I want that credit card number and anything else you’ve got on the guy who made this order. And I want that information now.”

Tiffany wilted a bit. “What’s happening?”

Oh, not too much…except that Alice was afraid a killer was stalking her. It very much looked as if the Secret Admirer had focused on a new victim…

And that victim is me.

***

The hospital room door opened again. Alice tensed and so did the deputy who’d been sent to keep watch over her.

Zander stalked into the room. His hard gaze swept over the deputy. “Give us a minute.”

The deputy rushed out.

Alice crossed her arms over her chest. She’d changed back into her jeans and t-shirt. Shoved on her shoes. No way was she planning to stay longer in that hospital. She wanted out, right then.

Zander closed in on her, and the closer he got, the more she tensed.

“The sedan that almost hit you was stolen from a lady named Hannah Ivory. Turns out that Hannah’s wallet was in the sedan when it was stolen. And the perp used her credit card to make the order for the flowers.”

She tried to head around him and get out of the room.

Zander just side-stepped and blocked her path. “Alice, I need you to talk to me.”

“And I need to get out of here.”

Zander nodded. “I’m going to get you out. But…you aren’t leaving on your own.”

What?

His jaw locked. “The perp is targeting you. That’s fucking obvious.”

“Is it? Because I thought it was obvious that I was the killer. Isn’t that what you think? What you and your buddy Randall think? That I’m a killer? That I was helping Hugh all along with his crimes?” She couldn’t stop the torrent of words. “That I recently killed that poor woman, Julianna Stiles?”

“The perp left Julianna’s necklace in the abandoned sedan.”

Her lips parted, but Alice couldn’t speak.

“He put it in the glove box, like he was leaving us some kind of present. He wanted us to know that he’d killed her. And he sent you the flowers because he wanted you to know that he was hunting you.”

Her breath was heaving in and out. She rubbed her sweaty palms on her jean-clad legs. “My bedroom—”

His gaze was dark and grim. “If you hadn’t come to my cabin last night, he would have found you in your room. And I think he would have killed you.”

Her knees wanted to buckle. Shit, they did buckle, but Zander caught her. His strong hands closed around her shoulders.

“Baby?”

“No.” She jerked away from him and the back of her legs hit the hospital bed. “Don’t you dare ‘baby’ me right now. Don’t act like we’re close. Don’t act like I matter to you.”

I think he would have killed you.

“You do matter,” Zander growled.

Such a lie. “I’m a case. I was a suspect, until, what—five minutes ago? An hour ago? Or for all I know, I’m still a suspect to you. Maybe you think I’m working some kind of major con job on you with a secret partner that I have hidden away some place.” She couldn’t let Zander keep standing that close to her. Her nerves were shot.

He exhaled slowly. “You were a suspect.”

Well, he wasn’t pulling punches, finally. And at least he’d said were, though she didn’t completely buy the past tense idea. Alice wasn’t going to put her trust in Zander any time soon.

“But right now, I think you’re a victim.” His gaze bored into her. “You’re his next target, Alice. And I know you see that. Fuck, he told you that.”

I won’t miss you again.

“But I’m not letting that happen,” Zander swore.

“Get out of my way, Zander.” She was getting out of that room.

Zander shook his head. “You aren’t leaving me.”

“Zander—”

“Until we catch the bastard, you’ll stay in federal custody. My custody.”

“No.” Alice shook her head. “Absolutely not. I will not—”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have an option here. Your life is on the line, and whether you like it or not, whether you like me or not, I’m not leaving you on your own. Not when this guy is fixated on you.”

The flowers were gone. The roses had already been taken in as evidence. But her gaze still slid to the little table where they had rested before.

“You know how the Secret Admirer worked, Alice.”

Her hands clenched at her sides. “This isn’t Hugh. He’s dead and buried, remember?”

“The authorities always considered the possibility that Hugh had an accomplice—”

“Me! The FBI thought it was me!”

He didn’t deny her charge. “One year has passed. The bastard killed Julianna Stiles. And now, he’s coming after you.” Determination blazed in his eyes. “He’s not getting to you, Alice. I’m not letting that happen. So if I have to handcuff you to my side, I will. But you aren’t walking out of this hospital alone. Consider yourself in protective custody from this moment on. You’ll be moved to a safe house, and you will remain safe. I’ll be damned if I let you become his next victim.”

***

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