Boaz watched Adelaide scramble into the sporty car he recognized from the last crime scene with a tight smile for the driver. The glimpse he caught of the blonde behind the wheel made him more curious about his bride-to-be than ever.
Addie knew his vampire suspect, the bounty hunter.
And she knew enough about him to keep them apart.
That was damn interesting.
Soft footsteps drew his attention from the window to the staircase before he could decide to follow her.
“Oh.” Mr. Whitaker tried focusing his bloodshot eyes on Boaz. “I didn’t realize you were still here.”
The red-rimmed eyes and loose gait at this hour worried Boaz enough he mashed pause on the concerns whirring in his head about Addie and awarded his future father-in-law his full attention. “Addie invited me to stay on while I wrap up a local case.”
“Ah.” Mr. Whitaker ambled into the kitchen. “I see.”
“I hope that’s all right.” Boaz followed him, wary of how the older man swayed on his feet. “I can get a hotel if you like.”
“Addie knows what she’s doing.” He selected a mug out of a cabinet and set it on the counter. “If she invited you to stay, she has good reason.” He rubbed his forehead and searched the room with a sweeping frown. “Where is the coffee pot?”
“It’s right here.” Boaz kissed his chances of catching Addie goodbye. “I was about to make myself a cup.” The lie came to him easily, and so he made it a truth. “Tell me how you like yours, and I’ll make it a double.”
“All right.” He shuffled to the pantry, opened it, and scanned the empty shelves. “There’s no bread for toast.”
The man’s honest confusion tugged Boaz in opposite directions and left him torn.
Mr. Whitaker ought to be aware that, with no savings left, if he didn’t work, the family couldn’t eat. That left Addie working sixty-hour weeks to pay their bills and stock their cupboards.
But he had lost so much, yet he kept on going. Plus, he was always first to praise Addie for her contributions to the family. That was something. Not enough, but a start.
“I’ll pick some up on my way home.” Boaz checked the fridge, found eggs and cheese but not much else. “Would you like an omelet?”
“I suppose it will have to do.” Mr. Whitaker sat at the table and stared at the placemat. “Are there onions?”
A quick check of the pantry provided one that had seen better days but would do the job. “Here we go.”
Mr. Whitaker nodded, as if that made everything right with his world, and slipped into a quiet trance.
Over the years of living alone, Boaz had picked up few cooking skills, but he could manage eggs okay. He made one omelet to keep from using up the carton of eggs, and he leaned on his rusty seasoning skills to cover for the light sprinkling of cheese and small amount of edible onion.
“You must think poorly of me,” Mr. Whitaker said after a while. “I’m not what I once was.”
“You raised a thoughtful and kind daughter. That speaks to your character enough for me.”
Another pause lingered between them. “Do you think you can love her?”
“I intend to try.” Boaz was grateful his back was to the man. “She’s a good woman. It’s what she deserves.”
“She deserves better than to sacrifice everything for the sake of the ghosts who haunt this house, me included.”
“She would disagree with you.” He glanced over his shoulder. “She loves you very much.”
“She’s all I have left.” He slumped forward. “It’s too much for her to shoulder alone.”
“She’s not alone.” Boaz could say this much and make it true. “She’s got me.”
Mr. Whitaker fell silent, and Boaz imagined the man’s stare drilling through his spine, weighing his intentions. But when he turned, Mr. Whitaker had fallen asleep on the table with his head braced on his forearms.
Heart heavy for the burden Adelaide had carried for so long, Boaz plated up the meal and set it on the table. He covered it with a paper towel and left instructions on how to reheat it. He worried if he left it in the microwave, Mr. Whitaker might not be able to find it given his present condition.
After the coffee finished, Boaz set a cup of plain black next to the plate, grabbed his keys, and exited the house. Willy sat where he’d left her, and he patted the motorcycle fondly. She was a beast compared to Jolene, his first bike, but then he wasn’t a high school kid anymore either.
Waiting until the Bluetooth in his helmet synced with his phone, he gave the voice command to dial Parker. “You run that plate for me yet?”
“Yeah.” Parker rustled papers. “Got the ID in a few hours ago.”
Jaw set in a hard line, Boaz reigned in his temper. The ID wouldn’t have mattered as much to him a few hours ago. It hadn’t been until Adelaide got in the car with the mystery vamp that his gut started cramping.
“Cassandra Desmond.” He hummed thoughtfully. “Lives up by the lake.”
Rubbing a hand over his stubbly jaw, he prodded Parker. “Got her address?”
The detective rattled off the information, and Boaz memorized it. He wasn’t overly familiar with the area, but that’s what GPS was for, and he plugged in the information after he hung up the phone.
The ride over was short, only partly due to speeding, but the sporty car wasn’t in the driveway. Wherever Addie and Cassandra had gone, they hadn’t come here. He doubted they had gone Zumbaing either.
While he was there, he might as well take a look around the property.
Vampires tended to shun technology, older ones anyway, so odds were against Cassandra having a security system in place. But she was a bounty hunter, and that job tended to blow back on you eventually. She might be savvy enough to anticipate the day the hunter became the hunted.
Just in case, he removed a charm from the saddlebag on his bike, tossed it on the ground, and crushed it under his heel. The charm would distort any surveillance and cover his butt. It wouldn’t help with his scent, but since they hadn’t met, maybe she would write it off as a utility worker or deliveryman. Packages galore littered her front porch, so he might get lucky on that front.
The house itself was small but elegant, tucked back on several acres of wooded lot that abutted a lake. It was the kind of house a single person with plenty of money and no plans to marry or have kids bought to indulge themselves in weekend getaways to the country. Except, according to Parker, this was the vampire’s full-time residence, or had been for the last several years.
The glimpse he’d gotten of Cassandra made him think of nightclubs and city lights, not lightening bugs and pine trees, but vampires reinvented themselves every so often. She might be adjusting to a new persona or preparing to embrace a new one.
The simple thing would be to ask Addie, but she had gone out of her way to exclude him from whatever activities she had planned for the night and denied him an introduction that would have segued nicely into the questions he had for Cassandra.
He had no proof Cassandra was involved in the murders, but he had a hunch, and he never ignored those. Too bad his gut was telling him his bride-to-be was in this up to her lovely neck, which meant it was a good thing Addie had invited him to stay with her for the duration. It would make keeping tabs on her, and her friend, that much easier.
The voice in his head chanting this might be his out, that he might crawl back to Grier yet, he silenced. Hope had never gotten him anywhere, and he would never wish anything bad on Addie. That his thoughts had spun in Grier’s direction so fast shamed him. But that didn’t change the fact Addie was up to something with a bounty-hunting vampire, and it was his job to find out what before another victim lost their undead life.
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