Home > Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(6)

Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(6)
Karen Rose

The community had been gone.

“I’ve respected your privacy on this since the day we met, but I need to know more about . . . them.” He gestured to the locket that Gideon still held aloft. “I’m sorry.”

Gideon managed a curt nod. Rafe had never demanded more information than Gideon had been willing to share, but that obviously was about to change and Rafe was not to blame. “I’ll tell you. But not here and not on camera.” Because it was going to be hard and Gideon didn’t want any witnesses to whatever emotions seeped out. It was going to be bad enough just telling Rafe, even though he trusted the man with his life.

Rafe nodded. “Fair enough. Why would Daisy’s attacker have had this locket around his neck?”

“That is a very good question. Did you open it?”

Rafe shook his head. “No. I tried, but I couldn’t find the mechanism. I figured I’d ask you before I forced it open.”

“There’s a trick to it.” There’d been a trick to everything there. Everything and everyone had hidden behind a facade. He handed the evidence bag to Rafe. “Let’s take it to the lab and I’ll show you.”

“Forensics will be here in”—Rafe checked his watch—“less than a minute to take it to the lab. We can check it out, but I’ve got to get Daisy’s statement first so that she can go home.” He looked up at the sound of footsteps. A woman in her midforties approached them, her head tilted in question.

“You done with it?” she asked.

“For now,” Rafe told her, giving her the small evidence bag. “Cindy, this is Special Agent Gideon Reynolds. He has some knowledge about the locket and may be consulting with us. Gideon, this is Sergeant Cindy Grimes of the Forensic Investigation Unit.”

Gideon shook the woman’s offered hand, then watched her as she studied the locket.

She looked up, a sparkle in her eyes. “I love these things.”

Gideon’s brows rose. “You’ve seen one before?”

Cindy shook her head. “Not this exact locket, no, but ones with this basic design. There’s a trick to the mechanism.”

“Can you open it?” Gideon asked.

“Eventually, sure. Do you know how?” She looked a little disappointed, like a kid who’d had her toy taken away.

“I won’t spoil it for you. I’ve never seen one that was booby-trapped, so if you get it wrong, it’s not likely to self-destruct.”

She made a face. “The responsible thing to do would be to just open it. Show me,” she said with a put-upon sigh.

Gideon pointed to the two children kneeling in prayer. “Push the boy first, then the girl. Then the angel. It should pop right open.”

Cindy met his gaze, hers sharp and discerning. “Patriarchal religious movement?”

Gideon blinked. “Yes. How did you know?”

“Olive tree and an angel. People praying. Boy first? That’s not a hard puzzle.” She gave Rafe a hard nod. “I’ll let you know if I find anything inside.”

“Thanks, Cindy.” Rafe waited until she was gone, then pointed to the interview room door where Daisy Dawson was waiting. “You want to join me?”

Gideon didn’t really. But then he remembered that the Dawson woman’s attacker had said, They all do. If they had a serial rapist or killer on their hands, he wanted to know. And if he could aid in the investigation in any way, he’d ask his boss to lend him to SacPD first thing in the morning. No matter how uncomfortable it made him. Because deep down he doubted that Miriam the locket owner really was okay. That she’d willingly handed the locket over to . . . anyone. He doubted she’d have had the inner strength.

Mercy hadn’t, after all, and she was the strongest woman he knew. Mercy had escaped with her life but still hung on to that little piece of silver. Not because it brought back good memories, because it most certainly did not.

The locket had power. Not the power they had claimed, of course, but it held power all the same. He hoped he was wrong, that Miriam did have the strength to have tossed the locket into the nearest dumpster, that Daisy Dawson’s attacker had just happened upon it, but his gut didn’t believe it. And Gideon trusted his gut.

He squared his shoulders. “Sure. Lead the way.” He followed Rafe through the doorway of the interview room and . . . just stopped.

Stopped walking. Stopped breathing. Stopped thinking about lockets and Mercy and women named Miriam.

Because Irina Sokolov was wrong. The woman sitting at the table next to Detective Rhee was . . . not cute. Nor was she little. She was . . . Wow.

A soft pink cashmere turtleneck sweater molded to wicked curves, cupping breasts that were the perfect size for a lover’s hands. Blond hair hung past her shoulders in loose waves, framing a face that was too wholesome, too pretty, despite a slightly red nose and swollen eyes. Eyes that caught his attention. Blue. Like the sky on a beautiful day.

Those eyes widened in a moment of surprised recognition, spurring his feet to move. She abruptly schooled her features as he approached her side of the table, one blond brow arching. “So you are the esteemed Special Agent Gideon Reynolds,” she said dryly, and he had to fight a shiver because her voice was husky. Sexy. And strangely familiar.

“Irina has shown me more photos of you than all of her children put together,” she went on before he could place where he’d heard her voice. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Smiling politely, she rose with a grace that belied any residual pain from her attack. She was so composed, so poised, that he might have believed nothing had happened at all.

Except that her face still bore evidence of recent tears. And her hand trembled ever so slightly as she extended it for him to shake. Miss Dawson wasn’t as cool and collected as she wanted to appear. But she was faking it well and Gideon respected the hell out of that.

“Yes, I’m Gideon,” he said, relieved his voice didn’t crack like a teenager’s, even though he oddly felt that nervous. He took her offered hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. Her skin was too cold, he thought, resisting the urge to sandwich her hand between his own, letting her go instead. “‘Esteemed’ is a bit of a stretch, though,” he added, trying to return her smile but suspecting he’d come up short. He had never been good at faking a smile. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I wish it were under better circumstances.”

Her polite smile faltered and she flicked her gaze to Rafe. “True enough. I’m going to assume you aren’t doing your mother’s bidding and arranging a setup because that would be completely unprofessional, which you are not. So why is he here?”

“He’s here to help me with the case,” Rafe said, which was actually true.

Daisy frowned. “He’s federal.” Then her eyes widened again, this time in dismay. “Oh my God. He said they all begged forgiveness.” She looked up at Gideon, true despair written all over her face. “Are there others? Are you here because there are other victims?”

Gideon found himself needing to soothe her, the words escaping his mouth before he’d thought twice about any repercussions. “I don’t know. I’m here because of the locket.”

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 10:50 P.M.

Daisy stilled, blinking up at him. His startlingly green gaze was fixed on her face, his expression kind. Sympathetic. His voice soft and comforting.

And then his words made it through the haze in her head. Wait. What? She’d assumed a federal agent was there because her attacker really was a serial rapist. Or killer. Because Daisy had certainly felt her life flashing before her eyes in the moments before muscle memory had taken over her movements. “The locket? The one he was wearing?”

She clamped her jaw tight, holding back the next words because she didn’t want to hear them out loud. Words that nevertheless screamed through her mind. The one I ripped off his throat when he was trying to choke me to death?

Gideon nodded cautiously, having no doubt noted her tension because he was watching her through eyes that narrowed. “Yes.”

Forcing herself to relax, she tilted her head to one side, watching him back. Studying his face. His very handsome face. He was far younger than he’d appeared when he’d first come through the doorway. It was the threads of silver in his crisp black hair that had her forgetting for just a moment that he’d gone to school with Rafe, so they were of a similar age. Thirty, plus or minus a year.

There was something here, she thought. Something in the set of his mouth, framed by a neatly trimmed goatee, which was also threaded with silver. Something . . . personal.

“Why?” she asked. “What’s so special about the locket?”

Other than that it was a delicate thing worn by a brute. Other than the fact it said Miriam. Other than that he’d rasped They all do in her ear as he’d dragged her into the alley.

Curiosity prickled across her skin. Or perhaps that was awareness because Gideon Reynolds was still staring at her with an intensity that left her trembling inside.

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