Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(9)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(9)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Morgan thought of the team’s last hockey game. They’d come from behind to win in the last period. The kids on Lance’s team were not accustomed to winning anything. They didn’t fall apart when the going got tough because for them, life was always tough. They were the underdogs every single day.

Evan was determined, focused, and resourceful. He wouldn’t be easy to find if he wanted to stay hidden.

That was, if he was still alive.

Chapter Six

It was late afternoon before Lance parked in front of Sharp Investigations. The PI firm’s office occupied the bottom half of a duplex in the business district of Scarlet Falls.

He locked his Jeep and headed for the door. His clothes were still damp from the night’s soaking, and he was bone-weary from the weather, the disappointment, and worry. The kid was out in the woods, alone, bleeding, and terrified.

Removing his mud-crusted boots, he carried them inside. The air-conditioning washed over him, the dry chill a relief after a wet and muggy night.

“Lance?” Sharp called from his office.

Lance poked his head in the doorway.

Sharp frowned. “You look like hell. Go get cleaned up.”

As much as Lance wanted to discuss the case, he also wanted dry clothes. “Give me five minutes.”

“Have you eaten?” Sharp asked.

“I had a protein bar.”

Sharp huffed, stood, and left his office. A few seconds later, he was banging around in the kitchen at the back of the building. When Sharp had converted the bottom apartment of his duplex into office space for his private investigation firm, he’d left the full kitchen and bath intact. The facilities were useful when they worked long hours.

Lance walked past his office to Morgan’s doorway. With her own criminal defense practice, she often required the services of an investigator, so her renting the extra office from Sharp was convenient for all of them. Plus, Lance got to spend more time with her, even when they weren’t working a case together.

He stuck his head through the doorway. “I’m back.”

Her desk was clear except for her laptop and notepad. She sat behind it, equally tidy in a silky white blouse, her dark hair twisted into a smooth knot at the back of her head. She must have stopped at home to shower and change.

Lance went into his office and rooted in the closet for fresh clothes. Morgan followed him in.

She moved toward him, reaching to embrace him.

He held up a hand, then gestured to his dirt-streaked pants. “I’m filthy.”

“I don’t care.” She wrapped her arms around his waist.

Lance lifted his boots so they wouldn’t touch her.

“I should shower.” But instead, he rested his face against her temple. In flat shoes, she was a few inches shorter than he was. Unlike him, she smelled amazing.

“Just give me a second, all right?” She pressed her face into his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re OK.”

“I’m sorry. I should have checked in more frequently.”

“It’s all right. You needed to focus.” But her eyes were relieved.

“Don’t be so forgiving. I might need a little prompting here and there. I tend to get tunnel vision on a case.” He kissed her temple. As usual, the contact with her centered him, and he realized for the billionth time just how much he needed her.

“Any more news on Evan?” she asked.


As if she knew he needed to clear his head, she didn’t press him for details. She splayed her hand on his chest. “You look beaten up.”

“I just need a shower.” He kissed her on the mouth, then went into the bathroom.

Morgan followed him, closing the door behind her. Lance turned on the spray and stripped off his clothes. They’d been together for just nine months, but he could no longer imagine his life without her.

“Have you thought about a date for our wedding?” Lance tested the water temperature with his hand.

“Not really. We’ve been so busy planning the renovations.” She traced her finger on his back. “You have a big scrape here.”

“We’re always busy with something.” Lance stepped into the shower and closed the curtain. “You should call your sisters and brother and see when everyone would be available.”

“I should.” She went quiet, just like all the other times over the past few months that he’d tried to pin her down about setting a date.

He tried a different approach. “If you want to get married in a church, we’ll have to find one and see about availability.”

“I know.”

He looked around the curtain. She was folding his dirty clothes, her movements slow and deliberate, almost melancholy.

He didn’t doubt that she loved him, but was she changing her mind about getting remarried? Maybe she didn’t want the girls to think she was replacing their father. He knew he had to force her into a serious conversation, but he was also afraid of what she might say. He was more terrified of losing her than he’d been about the possibility of facing an armed shooter in the woods. So he dropped the curtain and the subject. He turned to let the hot water rush down his back. The scrape she’d pointed out burned.

“Where is Tina?” he asked.

“The sheriff took her to a hotel. He says it’ll be a day or so before the crime scene is released, although I can’t imagine her ever living there again. I volunteered to stay with her or call a friend or family member, but she said she wanted to be alone.”

“Tina is quiet. Evan was on my team for months before she ever spoke to me.” Lance ducked his head under the spray. “But I don’t like that she’s on her own. Whoever killed Paul is still out there. Does the sheriff know how the shooter got into the house?”

“They found no sign of a break-in.”

Lance looked around the curtain again. “Then how do they think he gained entry?”

“Finish your shower. We may as well review everything with Sharp.” She picked up his boots and carried them out of the bathroom.

Something in her tone made him hurry. Five minutes later, he was dressed and walking into the kitchen. He felt almost human in clean clothes and dry socks.

“Sit.” Sharp pointed a wooden spoon at a kitchen chair. He stirred something on the stove.

Lance dropped into a seat.

Morgan walked into the kitchen carrying a cup of coffee. “I cleaned your boots and put them on the back porch to dry.”

“You didn’t need to do that,” Lance said.

“I know.” She smiled.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She dropped into the chair opposite him. “Tell us what happened on the search.”

Sharp set a gross-looking green protein shake in front of him. Lance drank it without asking what was in it. He had no doubt it contained all kinds of antioxidants. Sharp’s lifestyle was the reason he looked as fit as he did twelve weeks after major surgery. Sharp frowned at Morgan’s coffee, but after working together for nearly nine months, he’d mostly given up badgering her about her caffeine and sugar consumption.

“We followed Evan’s tracks on a game trail that led to Deer Lake Campground,” Lance began.

“Didn’t they close that place a few years ago?” Sharp turned off the burner on the stove. He scooped the contents of his cast-iron frying pan onto a plate.

“Yes. It’s in pretty rough shape.” Lance’s mouth watered. Protein bars could sustain him, but his body wanted real food. “After I called you, the K-9 unit was able to track Evan to the boathouse and the public bathroom. The deputies found blood in both buildings.”

“How much blood?” Sharp set the plate in front of Lance. Scrambled eggs and home fries with onions were piled high. Everything would be organic, of course, and the eggs free-range as well.

Lance dug in. “Enough to indicate a serious injury.”

Morgan’s brow furrowed. She gripped her coffee cup in both hands.

Lance sniffed. “That coffee smells amazing.”

“I’ll make green tea.” Sharp shot her mug a disapproving look. He lit the burner under the teakettle, then turned to face them, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back on the counter. “Did you see any sign that someone was following him besides you?”

Chewing, Lance shook his head.

“So where is the person who killed Paul?” Morgan sipped her coffee.

“I don’t know.” Lance plowed through the eggs and moved on to the potatoes. “But Evan was running all out, as if he thought he was being pursued.”

“He must have been terrified.” Morgan’s eyes misted.

Lance reached across the table and squeezed her hand. For a woman who’d once been a successful prosecutor, she was a softie. She’d rescued two stray dogs and cared for her elderly grandfather. The young woman who worked as her nanny suffered from kidney disease. Gianna might help out with childcare, but it was clear that Morgan was the one looking out for her. Lance had no doubt that Morgan would work on Evan’s case without any discussion of compensation.

Nodding with approval, Sharp collected his empty dishes. “Since you’re back, I assume the dog lost the trail.”

“Yes.” Lance sat back. “He picked up the scent in the buildings, but outside was a no go. We suspect Evan took a boat from the campground. The handler walked the dog along the shoreline, but he didn’t hit on anything.”

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