Tell Me Lies
You'd think with a guardian who's a ghost, she'd see everything coming. But nope, that's not how it works.
That's not how any of this works.
Private investigator Lexie Smith has a mostly perfect—okay, satisfying life. A successful, if not super lucrative business with her best friend. A wonderful, loving companion named Bear—sure, he's a little furry and he drools, but nobody's perfect. A house on the beach and a wisecracking supernatural "intern" named Vinnie, who knows everything there is to know about crime and her nonexistent love life. Things are good, even if the cases are somewhat tame, until a dangerous assignment forces her to turn to the last man she can trust: Rafe Barandas, local police detective and the man who broke her heart years before.
After a decade in New York, Rafe has returned to his small hometown, burned out on big-city politics and crime. He's looking forward to the quiet life, until he's thrown together with Lexie (and, unknown to him, her phantom familiar) to solve what starts out as a simple B&E but quickly escalates. Leaving Lexie the first time was a huge mistake. Now that he's got another chance, he's determined not to blow it, so long as the job doesn't get in the way.
As Lexie and Rafe get closer to solving one case, old hurts come back to haunt them and a new threat emerges. Can they put past lies and mistrust behind them long enough to thwart a cunning foe who seems to know every step they take and will stop at nothing, even murder? Or will one of them pay the ultimate price before they take their second shot at love?
"Gail Chianese explodes onto the paranormal romantic mystery scene with a slow-burn, second-chance romance that readers of the genre are sure to love!" — Elicia Hyder, bestselling author of The Soul Summoner series
The characters are fresh, the plot is complex, and the readers will definitely savor the piquantly sweet sex scenes. But it's the side-splittingly hilarious banter between Lexie and her best friend and agency partner, Kat Jones, that is the frothy icing on this multi-layered whodunit.“ —Josie Brown, author, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook series
Release date: September 15, 2020
Publisher: Gail Chianese
Print pages: 346
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Tell Me Lies
It was a perfect spring evening for spying. The moon hid behind the clouds. The majority of the oceanfront homes on this stretch of the beach were still vacant for the season. And their target? Well, he was finally cooperating.
It was a private investigator’s dream. Or it should have been, except Lexie Smith hated everything about this case.
“Have you gotten the picture of the lying-cheating-rat-bastard yet?” Kat Jones asked for the tenth time.
“No. Now hush, before we get caught.” Lexie shifted her butt to sit firmly on the tree branch and glanced toward the neighbor’s house on the left. They had come home early. Just her freaking luck. Hopefully the cool breeze blowing off the water would keep them inside.
Lexie turned back to their assignment. Her firm, LexaKat PI, had been hired to prove that Mr. Salvatore Figerello, the aforementioned lying-cheating-rat-bastard, was engaged in an adulterous affair. Over the course of the last week, Mr. Figerello, the LCRB, had not cooperated in proving his wife correct, until tonight when he’d brought home his administrative assistant.
Talk about a cliché.
Both she and Kat, her best friend and business partner, were armed with telephoto lenses ready to obtain proof for their client.
“She’s pretty,” Lexie said.
“What a cute belt.”
“I think it’s supposed to be a skirt.”
“This blows,” Lexie whispered. This was not how she pictured her career. Where were the cases in which she got to hunt down the bad guys, recover stolen jewels and artwork, or reunite long-lost loved ones? It was moments like these that made her question her choice to open a private investigations company. “I’d rather be working insurance fraud. Does he really think she’s in love with him? He’s twice her age.”
“More like in love with his bank balance.” Kat scooted further out on her branch. “Move your foot so I can get a picture of the tramp while she prances in front of the window. Now, if he'd just shut up and make his move, we could get what we need and get out of here.”
“Let’s not take any more infidelity cases, okay? Watching him flush his marriage down the septic tank over a quick ego boost is depressing. Not to mention, I feel slimy.”
“Okay with me, but last I heard you liked to eat.”
Her stomach grumbled as if agreeing with Kat. “I could stand to lose a few.”
“Right. Speaking of eating, it’s still early and since you blew off your date with Benjamin Franklin Bacon the Fourth, we should go get dinner when we’re done. Maybe catch a movie?”
“I’m not dating Ben. My mom wanted me to round out the dinner party numbers.” She took a few more pictures and paused. “Isn’t Paul at home waiting for you?”
“Does Ben know that? And no, Paul had a thing. So, dinner?” She smiled over her shoulder at Lexie. “We could get bacon burgers.”
“Seriously, how can you date a guy with the last name of Bacon? I'd be hungry all the time. I’d be like one of those dogs in the commercial—‘Bacon, bacon, baaaacon, I smell baaconnnn.’ He needs a nickname like B4, and then I won’t always be thinking of eating.”
As if that could ever happen. “Again, not dating. Now shush. We're here to do a job, not discuss my social life. Besides, if you ate more than rabbit food you wouldn’t always be hungry.”
Not wanting to continue the conversation, Lexie snapped a succession of pictures of the LCRB and mistress as they moved into a tender embrace. She’d gone out with Benjamin a few times and the sizzle didn’t even fizzle. He was a nice guy that she knew her parents hoped would end up being more than her plus-one at social functions, but she just didn’t see it happening. They needed to stop pushing him on her before he got the wrong idea and wound up hurt.
“Just a couple more minutes and we can wrap up this case.”
“Speaking of social lives.” Kat scooted back to look her in the eye. “You never did say what you thought about a certain former resident’s return and his position as lead detective with the police department?”
Keeping her eye on the assignment, Lexie refused Kat’s invitation to discuss the topic of Rafe Barandas. Yeah, she’d heard about his appointment with the department. Witnessed him making his way around town, saying hello to the business owners, getting to know the new people in town. Lexie had had several near misses with the detective to date and she planned to keep it that way.
Getting reacquainted with her former flame, no matter how hot he’d become, was listed on her agenda under the never doing section.
“Hey, girls, what’re you doing in a tree?”
Lexie reached out to grab Kat as she jumped at the voice below, and missed. It was a close call, but Kat managed to grasp the branch and save herself from a painful fall. Lexie shook her head and returned to her task.
Vinnie, another man she wasn’t in the mood to deal with.
Lexie dropped the camera around her neck and took in Vinnie’s outfit. Her eye twitched. Her lips fought to stay straight. She lost the battle.
“Thank goodness no one else can see you.”
He looked down at his white polyester suit with the wide lapels, black silk shirt, and high-polished dress shoes and ran a hand through slicked-back hair.
Must be disco night.
“What’s wrong with the suit?” He went all New York old-school gangster, tugging at his lapels and looking indignant.
“Vinnie, the seventies are long gone. They were gone before you died.” She didn’t understand it, but for some reason the universe had decided to attach Vinnie to her and Kat the moment they were born, which just happened to be seconds apart from each other and the same moment he died.
“Like it matters what I wear. The only ones who can see me are yous two. Sometimes being dead sucks. I get all decked out and you give me grief.” He snorted out a sigh and leaned back against the trunk of the tree. “What’s the gig tonight?”
“Stakeout. What are you doing here anyway?” She turned back to her subjects, gathering more evidence and trying not to lose her cookies as the LCRB stripped to his tighty-whities. “You look like you’re ready to slide across a dance floor.”
“Thought I’d get some fresh air. Take a stroll down the beach. Saw you two birds perched up in the tree. Figured I’d see what’s up.” He looked across the yard and chuckled. “Figerello’s niece is visiting again.”
The women exchanged a look. Lexie swallowed her response as she focused on the subjects ahead of her.
“You’re a sick puppy, Vinnie. Try the LCRB of the Week and his sleaze of a secretary. We haven’t seen much of you in the office lately. Where’ve you been?” Kat asked.
“You know, here, there, keeping an eye on the local action,” he replied.
Kat gave her one of those whatever eye rolls. Camden Point, Connecticut, population just under ten-K, was a hotbed of activity. Not. Weekend options generally consisted of basket weaving at the senior center, catching a flick at the community center (aka the elementary school lunchroom) or hanging out at the dive bar on the edge of town.
Of course, she could always go to the country club with her parents and their friends. The idea rated right up there with surgery minus anesthesia.
But regardless of the usual snooze factor, Camden Point was home.
LexaKat PI had opened two years ago and their most exciting job to date had been locating a missing seventy-year-old woman who ended up being at Foxwoods Casino hitting the slots. Most of the time, the cases were exactly like tonight, conducting surveillance on misbehaving spouses or insurance claims with the occasional subpoena being served. Yet their reputation was growing and, sooner or later, the bigger cases—the ones she craved like a chocoholic craved chocolate—would come their way.
Scanning the floor-to-ceiling windows that ran the full length of the house overlooking Long Island Sound, she spied the lovers in the master bedroom. Lexie snapped off a series of make-no-mistake-he's-cheating pictures and slowly scooted toward the trunk of the tree.
“Okay, people, that's a wrap. We have proof Mr. Salvatore Figerello is, indeed, a no-good LCRB, ensuring Mrs. Figerello of an uncontested divorce and protecting her prenup and property. Let's get out of here.”
She shooed Kat with her hand to get her to shimmy down the tree so she could follow.
“Hey, what's going on next door?” Vinnie asked.
Both Lexie and Kat looked toward the neighbors on the left, but Vinnie shook his head and pointed in the other direction to a house she knew well. Alan and Holly Irwin were her godparents and currently being wined and dined at the club by Lexie’s parents. The dark house held no sign of life, as expected.
Thank goodness for small favors.
All was as it should be. A few houses down, the anxious, possessive bark of a dog claiming his yard echoed through the night. The constant yapping—my yard, my yard—and the rotten assignment stole the enjoyment out of a perfectly good evening of listening to the gentle whoosh of the ocean as it rushed onto the sandy shore.
“Vin, nothing's going on next door. Now move out of my way, or I'm going through you. While we have permission from the wife—who's the legal property owner—it doesn't mean I want a confrontation with the husband, especially in his current state of undress.” Lexie scooted a few more inches, hoping he’d get the point.
Kat nudged her arm. “Hey, Lex, look again. Someone is in the Irwins’ house and I don't think it's either Holly or Alan.”
Lexie turned her head and followed a thin beam of light bouncing around Alan’s study.
Great. I do not need this double-edged headache.
“Come on, let's go bust some balls,” Vinnie urged.
“Vinnie, are you crazy? What if they’re packing? You know neither of us carries a gun,” Lexie replied.
“Right. You broads stay here and I'll go check it out.”
Vinnie disappeared in a silent poof.
Lexie turned to Kat. “Did he really just call us broads?”
“Yep, he did.”
“Remind me again how we’re supposed to respect our elders, because if he was solid, I’d smack him upside his head.”
The light continued to bounce around in Alan's study. Her heart sped up, muscles tensed. They needed to get out of there and call 911. She wasn’t stupid enough to confront intruders—possibly armed—no matter how much it would help their reputation.
“I've got a bad feeling about this, Kat. Let's get out of here.”
Instead of shimmying down the tree, Kat scooted farther out on her branch, shoving budding leaves around. “Can you zoom in with your camera and get a clear picture? Maybe see who's in there? I've got branches in my way.”
She could argue, but it’d be faster to take the picture. “Fine. I'll try, and you call 911 and report the—” Two figures clad in head-to-toe black ran out the back door, startling both women. Kat sucked in her breath and bolted upright. The branch protested at the sudden shift of her weight with a crack that sounded as if the whole tree was coming down on them. The second thief, taller by a half a foot, stopped, then turned with his gun pointed in their direction.
Every muscle in Lexie’s body froze.
She didn’t even dare blink. From the corner of her eye she could see Kat sitting just as still. The full moon was a good week or more away and only one outside light glowed, barely reaching the edge of the patio. As long as the intruders didn’t shine their flashlights on them, they should be safe. Otherwise, they were screwed because being perched in a tree with no weapons usually didn’t equal a fast getaway. Lucky for them the shorter guy—and with that beer gut, it was definitely a male—turned back, grabbed his partner, and pulled him down the beach in the opposite direction of their hiding spot.
First to come back online was her heart, followed by her lungs, and finally her brain. Lexie clicked off as many pictures as she could until the guys were out of sight.
Kat dropped to the ground and Lexie followed, making as little noise as possible. Crouched low, they scampered across the backyard in the opposite direction.
They headed toward the opening between the Figerellos’ and the house on the left. A sliding door grated across its tracks. Both women froze midstride.
In the open doorway stood Mr. McDaniel holding two wine glasses, his head turned to one side as he listened to Mrs. McDaniel inside.
“Go,” Lexie whispered.
They dove behind a big bush, holding their breath as they heard Mrs. McDaniel join her husband on the patio. The bush blocked their view, which meant the McDaniels couldn't see them either, but the noises coming from behind them were clear.
Kat leaned closer to Lexie, “Now what?” she whispered. “We can’t go between the Irwins’ and the Figerellos’, it’s blocked. Do we head down the beach after the perps?”
Lexie dropped her head forward, shaking it back and forth. “Just shoot me. Seriously, I'll never be able to look Lindsey in the face again and keep my mouth shut if I have to listen to her parents have sex.”
“Maybe they'll save us and go back inside before, you know, doing the deed.”
The noises and murmuring grew in volume and intensity from the other side of the bush.
“Just have a seat here, young lady, on the exam table.”
“Doctor, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m having . . .”
Lexie pressed her hands over her ears to block out the rest, but it was kind of hard with just a bush and a few feet between her and the amorous couple.
“Oh, my gawd.” Kat scrunched her face up to contain the laughter. “This is why I go to a female doc.”
“That's it, I can't stay here, it's just wrong on so many levels. I’m going to need brain bleach as it is to forget this night.”
“Does it come in five-gallon containers?”
“Okay, I have a plan. We army crawl out, nice and quietlike. Keep your head down, eyes averted, and we should be able to make a clean getaway without the need for additional therapy.” Lexie swung the camera around to rest on her back, dropped to her stomach, and crept forward, saying a prayer to the powers that be.
Miraculously, they reached the street without being seen by any of the residents. Kat hit 911 and Lexie jogged down the street and stowed away their cameras in their trunk before the police showed. There was no sense in having their client’s proof confiscated if the pictures she’d taken didn’t yield any viable pictures of the crooks. If they did, she’d turn them over first thing tomorrow.
Together they waited on the far side of the street opposite the Irwins’ driveway under the streetlight for the police to arrive.
“We forgot about Vinnie,” Kat stated, looking toward the opening between the houses they had just exited.
Vinnie took that moment to pop up next to them, making Kat jump.
“Why doesn’t that ever startle you?” Kat asked Lexie.
“Seriously? He’s been popping in and out our whole lives. Why does it scare you?” She turned away before Kat could respond. “Hey Vin, what'd you see in there?”
“Just the two who ran out the back, couldn’t see anything what with them all dressed in black. They had on ski masks. Total amateurs. Doubt if the pigs—”
Lexie flashed him a warning look.
“—cops will find anything. Sloppy work, but they had enough brains to wear gloves. Think they were looking for something specific.” He laughed then. “Couple of chickenshi—chickens. I bumped a table and the two of them bugged out of there.”
“Did they get into the safe?” Lexie scanned the road for the police and oncoming traffic, especially any cars driven by men in black. As if they would still be running around dressed by Burglars “R” Us or take the risk of coming back.
There was no way to tell where the thieves had parked or which way they’d escaped, and since she was pretty sure they didn’t actually see her and Kat in the backyard, she planned to keep their identity safe. She also kept a close watch on the three houses across the street. It would be best if Mr. Figerello and the McDaniels remained unaware of their presence.
“Nah, they hit the dame’s jewel case and not much of anything else. The office looked normal, laptop on the desk, and Alan’s Rolex was sitting on top of it. What a waste.”
“Vinnie!” both Kat and Lexie admonished.
“Sorry. Old habits.”
“Why didn’t you follow them?” Lexie asked.
Vinnie took that moment to inspect his nails, before shrugging his shoulders. “I’m just the intern.”
“You were too busy checking out the Rolex to even notice they’d left. Admit it.” Kat crossed her arms, toes tapping. “We were in danger and you were casing the place.”
“You’re killing me, kid. You know that?” he said.
“I wish.” Lexie said.
“We need a new intern,” Kat replied.
The soft purr of an approaching engine had both women stepping off to the side of the road. An unmarked SUV rolled to a halt at Lexie’s Chevrolet Cruze, the interior suddenly lit by a blinding spotlight.
Kat raised her brows in a questioning look. “Cameras?”
They waited as the driver of the SUV pulled off to the side of the road in front of them. Lexie took a deep breath and steeled her nerves. Out stepped Detective Rafael Barandas. She didn't need the glow of the streetlight to know he was six-two and extremely fit, or how his dark brown eyes looked black when his blood was pumping, or how thanks to his Portuguese heritage he had a yearlong tan. All those details were burned into her brain a lifetime ago.
“That man is like fine wine.”
“Shut up, Kat.”
“Well, well, well, if it isn't the stable boy,” Vinnie piped in.
“Shut up, Vinnie,” Lexie and Kat replied.
The detective cautiously stepped out from behind the open car door, as if they were a threat instead of just two women.
“Well, if it isn’t Smith and Jones, forever together.”
Vinnie snorted in her ear. “Good one.”
If she could, she’d have elbowed him in the gut.
Rafe looked up and down the quiet street. “One of you call in a burglary?”
“Yes, sir,” Kat said.
Feet planted shoulder width apart, arms crossed in front of him, she could imagine the intimidating stance worked on many a suspect. Ignoring Kat’s answer, he pointed in the direction of her car. “You’re parked illegally. Engine trouble?”
“No, sir,” Kat said.
He made his way over, stopping directly in front of Lexie, stealing the air from her lungs. The saliva in her mouth went Sahara Desert dry, her tongue stuck to the roof, refusing to work. Her heart pounded a strong, fast rhythm in her ears.
“Just out for a late evening stroll and happened to see the crime going down?”
She swallowed a few times, focusing on his Adam’s apple as he spoke, refusing to look into his eyes. Oh no, she knew better, having fallen into that trap before. But she wasn’t the same person now. That was a lifetime ago, so why was she having the same old reaction to him? Stupid pheromones. And where was her voice?
“Uh, not exactly. Lex, you want to explain to Detective Barandas how we happened to be in the area?” Kat jumped in, but not exactly to save her.
Lexie shot her best friend—former best friend—a look that said a whole lot more than no. The less said the better, for more reasons than she cared to think about, but at the top of the list was the possibility of losing her client’s proof if her camera was confiscated as evidence.
“Not really.” Pulling it together, she looked him in the eyes. “Suffice it to say we were in the area on business and caught sight of someone in the Irwins’ house.”
Rafe looked at the nearby houses. She followed his gaze from the cars in the driveway to the lights on inside the homes. The look on his face, as he scratched his jaw, made her want to laugh.
“Probably best I don't ask. Your call said the burglars exited through the back door?”
He directed his question to her, but Kat responded. “Yes, sir, that is correct.”
“Okay, can you two wait here while I check the residence? I'll take your statements after I've cleared the home.” After getting their affirmative head nods, he stalked across the street as quietly as a giant cat on the prowl for its next meal.
“I’ve got to say it, wow. He just keeps getting better looking every time I see him. Don't you think so?” Kat nudged her arm with an elbow.
Lexie pushed Kat away and took a step back, giving herself some space to breathe.
“Let's not go there. Rafe was a long time ago. Besides, I thought you were Team Benjamin. You said he’s a nice guy.” Not that she wanted to date him either, but she had hoped mentioning him would shut Kat and Vinnie up. Apparently not, as snorts of laughter rang through the night.
She didn’t blame them.
Rafe and Benjamin. It was like comparing a delicious, fresh, sweet apple to dehydrated apple chips. Same genetic makeup in the beginning, but life had shaped them into totally different beings in the end.
For her, Rafe would always be sweet temptation. But just like Snow White was a goner with one bite, she knew she would be too if she tasted Rafe Barandas again.
Sweet memories of the past flooded her brain. Memories of the two of them laughing while they shared a joke in the hall. Stolen moments as they slipped out of sight and shared heated kisses between classes. Sneaking in late because they’d lost time watching the waves crash as they made plans for the future together. She felt a tug on her heart, followed by the bitter pain of betrayal, and shoved the old memories back into the box they came from.
“You two can quit any time now.” It was like hanging out in junior high again. “You're not funny at all. There’s nothing wrong with dating a nice guy. Besides, Rafe made it clear he didn't want me.”
Circling her arms around Lexie, Kat wrapped her in a tight hug. “Oh, honey, don't you know nice is boring? And I don't know why he did what he did back then, but that guy has been in love with you since the fifth grade.”
She hugged Kat back.
“I could go trip him or something for you,” Vinnie offered.
With a laugh, she gave her friends a smile of thanks and shook her head. The last thing she needed was Vinnie to go all spiteful spirit on her behalf.
“Let's concentrate on the case at hand, give the detective our statements, and get out of here.” She pulled her iPhone out of a pocket and started texting. “How about we stop off at Buon Appetito on our way home? I could get a hot, cheesy pizza, and you could get a salad,” Lexie suggested.
“Hey, don’t knock my eating habits. Not all of us are as lucky as you to have the metabolism of a teenage boy. So not fair.” Kat laughed and playfully punched her in the arm. “Did you text Mrs. Figerello?”
“Yep, I let her know I’ll hand over the evidence to her lawyer in the morning. Also, the locksmith and movers will be here then to move Sal out and have the residence ready for her return in the afternoon.”
Twin pinpricks of light pierced the darkness, growing rapidly closer while the sound of an engine roared down the road. For safety, they stepped around to the far side of the SUV, out of sight. The car slowed as it came even with the two vehicles parked on the side of the road before turning into the Irwins’ driveway.
“Ah, perché io? I should have stayed home tonight,” Vinnie muttered.
Ha, why him? At least Holly couldn’t see Vinnie and he could just fade away, unlike her.
“Damn, this night just keeps getting better and better,” Lexie mumbled, shaking her head and looking skyward for an appeal.
Rafe appeared in the driveway before the car came to a full stop. He gave her and Kat a hand signal to wait, as he approached and spoke with her godparents. He couldn’t have said more than a few words before Alan stormed off toward the front door, but Rafe stepped in front, stopping him. Holly, on the other hand, turned toward them. Her hands fluttered in front of her face, possibly fighting off tears. No one did drama quite like Holly Irwin.
All hopes for a silent getaway were squashed when Rafe called them over.
“Girls, what are you doing here?” Alan barely glanced their way, his answer more form than actual concern.
“They’re witnesses, Mr. Irwin. I need to take their statements first, and then I’ll have you and your wife do a visual walk-through with me to see what was stolen, take pictures of the entry point, and dust for prints. That sort of thing. Please don’t enter the house without me. It could corrupt any evidence that might have been left behind.” His tone was all business and sexy as hell, which was wrong, she wasn’t supposed to think of him like that.
Rafe and Kat walked to the end of the illuminated drive. Lexie wasn’t worried about her partner staying professional, it was her best friend she was worried about keeping her big mouth shut.
In the meantime, Holly engulfed Lexie in a mama bear hug.
“Oh sweetheart, are you okay?” Holly ran her hands up and down Lexie’s arms, turning her around, inspecting her as if she were five again. “I'm so glad you and Katarina saw those scoundrels and chased them off, but your mother is going to have a fit. You could have been hurt. What if they were armed?” She pulled back and looked at Lexie with eyes that belonged to a Chihuahua—big, sad, and quivering with fear.
“It’s okay, Holly. We weren't in any danger, and we didn't chase them away. We, umm, just happened to be passing by and saw a strange light in your house.” Lexie looked down. She didn't like lying, but client confidentiality prevented her from sharing the truth with her godmother.
“It's okay, sweetie, I know what you and Katarina were doing. I gave Misty Figerello your names.” Holly glanced over to the Figerello residence and scowled at the yellow VW Bug in the driveway. “Did you catch the rat in the act?”
“Let’s just say it’s been an interesting night.”
It’d been more than a decade since she and Rafe had last spoken, and she wouldn’t say they’d departed on amicable terms. But that was a long time ago, and people change and grow. Right? She’d tried to forget, but damn, look at the man! Sexy as sin. Too confident for his own good, and yet she knew there was a soft side to him as well. The combination did things to her. Things she didn’t want to think about.
Holly prattled on about the drama next door, the burglary, and Lexie’s parents’ dinner party. Lexie made noncommittal responses, her attention on Rafe and Kat as they walked her way. An angry swarm of bees ran rampant in her stomach, and what little she’d eaten that day—a muffin, maybe—threatened to come back up.
Here I go. My one chance to prove the past is dead and gone.
“Ms. Smith, if I could have a few moments of your time for your statement.” Rafe's tone held a hint of amusement, yet his face was stone-cold straight.
Lexie left Kat to deal with the Irwins and Vinnie, and walked to the end of the four-car drive, to join Rafe. After their last encounter, she’d never expected to be this up close and, well, not personal, but definitely within each other's personal bubble. Standing under the street lamp, all the minute details came to life. Fine lines etched at the corners of his deep brown eyes. Streaks of gray teased at his temples in otherwise thick, black hair. He still wore it the same way, short on the sides and long enough in the back to invite your fingers to play in its rich, silky texture.
As it was early April in New England, she was layered up: Under Armour, heavy cotton shirt, topped with her fleece jacket. How was he not freezing? Probably all that hot Mediterranean blood keeping him warm. It had kept both of them warm on plenty of nights.
His jeans and long-sleeve tee fit him like a second skin and Lexie’s hands itched to feel the smooth expanse. She shoved her hands in her back pockets to avoid giving in to temptation. Hanging down in the middle of his chest hung his shiny, gold badge drawing her eyes to his chest again, testing her willpower, daring her to try to keep her gaze at eye level.
This close up, she could see that the too-serious expression didn't reach his eyes, mischief dancing in their depths. “What would you like to know, Detective?” She kept his gaze, accepting the challenge issued within.
“Since Ms. Jones has already given me her statement, if you could confirm a few facts for me? She stated, you witnessed a light bouncing around in the region of Mr. Irwin’s home office. Then the suspects exited the premises from the rear patio door and ran toward the city park. Is that correct?”
“What were you doing here?”
“I've already answered that question. Next.”
“Were you breaking any laws that I should be aware of?” He skimmed his eyes slowly down her stance and back to her face. “Do I get to break out the cuffs?”
Steeling her nerves, she shoved the wariness deep down. She’d be damned before she let him know how much he really affected her. Call him her kryptonite—he reduced her willpower to nothing. Lexie returned the appraisal, playing the game. “Only if I get to break out the whips, Detective.”
Well, damn. There went that whole proving-the-past-was-dead-and-gone goal.
Rafe’s brows arched, the corners of his mouth lifted, and passion flared in his eyes before he looked away. Something told her life was about to get interesting, even if it was just the two of them trying to dance around the past.
Rafe cleared his throat. “Do you think Mr. Figerello and his friend or the McDaniels might have seen the intruders?”
“I can't really answer for someone else, but my guess would be . . . no.”
She tried to keep the smirk from morphing into a full smile and lost. Damn him. All it took was a few minutes in his company and everything inside of her started to melt, but she wasn’t that young, naïve girl anymore. She was a professional private investigator there to do a job.
His conspiratorial smile made it hard, but she held her ground. “I got that impression as well. Some people really should learn to close the curtains.”
He looked toward the others. Alan paced and Holly alternately fluttered her hands and hugged Kat.
“I don't suppose you captured our visitors on camera, did you?” Rafe's eyes were all business now as they bore down on her.
“I'm sorry, I don't have anything else which can be of help to you, but if I think of anything, you'll be the first to know. Mind if we go now?”
“No problem. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Prying Kat out of Holly and Alan’s embraces, she promised to check in with them soon and hightailed it out of there. As they crossed the street, Vinnie decided it was his turn to lecture her.
“Hey, Lex, you should give him your phone number. Even though he's a cop, he's still better than Bacon Boy.”
Lexie shot him a shut-up look, walking at the speed of light.
“Come on Lexie, the guy's hot for you, give him a break.”
Some guys just didn’t understand the word subtle. Or quiet, for that matter. Thank goodness no one but her and Kat could hear him.
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