, Book Three
As the music shifted from nice days to life on the docks and Hailey lifted her fists again to jab at the bag, Shane pulled the gym’s main door open and stepped inside. Sweet female sweat and just a hint of the lilac scent he always associated with her drifted toward his nose.
She didn’t stop punching. Left hook, left, right again. And his blood warmed the closer he got. It wasn’t until he reached the stereo and flicked the power button that she stopped abruptly and whipped his way.
Surprise registered in her sapphire eyes first. Then distrust. And finally, disgust.
Okay, after their run-in earlier, he had that coming. But she’d purposely left him hanging, and he wanted answers.
She didn’t say anything, but her chest rose and fell as she drew deep breaths. A bead of sweat rolled down her bruised temple, over her jaw, down the long, slender column of neck, heading straight for her breasts. Like an idiot, he watched the droplet, his body temperature growing hotter by the minute as it slid downward.
And that’s when he saw the yellowing bruises. Faint traces of what she’d been through before. On her ribs, on her thighs, on the soft skin of her arms. Near a bandage by her shoulder.
“How’d you get in here?” she asked in a breathless tone before he got two steps closer to her on the blue mats that matched her eyes.
He forced his gaze away from her fading injuries, told himself she was fine, healthy, that whatever she’d endured, she’d survived. But the urge to cold-cock whoever had done this to her was hard to overcome. And Kauffman was seriously dead meat.
“Did you come to arrest me or are you just having trouble sleeping, Maxwell?”
Her voice pulled his brain away from extracting revenge, and he focused on her face. He wasn’t about to tell her didn’t sleep, not much anyway. And the look in her eye warned him her little work-out session hadn’t done much to cool-out her temper. “Should I arrest you?”
She glanced past him to the windows, then looked at his face again. “Who’s playing good cop tonight?”
“No one. I’m here alone.”
One elegant brow lifted. “Inspector Clouseau know you’re going renegade?”
The muscles around his eyes tightened with humor. “No, he doesn’t. He’d tear into me if he did.”
“Then why are you here?”
“’Cause I’m not done with you yet.”
Her eyes never left his as she lifted her hand to mop up the sweat on her forehead. “I already told you I’m not answering any more questions without my lawyer.”
“I’m not here officially, Hailey.” When she opened her mouth to protest, he added, “I saw the surveillance tapes. Trust me when I say, you need a friend right now. And I may be all you’ve got.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What do you want?”
“Answers. Unofficially,” he added before she could spout off anything else about her lawyer. “But mostly to help you.”
Those blue eyes of hers searched his face, and he could practically see the wheels turning in her mind. Along with a great big dose of I-don’t-think-so.
“You want answers?” she said. “Unofficial?”
He nodded slowly, thinking she was capitulating way too quickly, but thankful he wasn’t going to have to pry it out of her.
“Fine. I’ll answer whatever question you’ve got. But you’ve got to take me down first. I take you down, I get to ask the questions.”
She wanted to spar? With him? Here? Now? He glanced around the mats, back at her, slicked with sweat, bruises not yet healed from her last run-in and juiced up on endorphins. Yeah, he wanted answers, but he wouldn’t hurt her to get them. “I don’t think that’s such a good—”
The look of utter confidence across her face stopped him. “No, I just—”
She took a step back and held out her hands. “How bad do you want your answers, Maxwell? Gimme your best shot.”
He wasn’t going to actually do this, was he?