Innocent Prey (A Brown and de Luca Novel)

Innocent Prey (A Brown and de Luca Novel) by MAGGIE SHAYNE

Book: Innocent Prey (A Brown and de Luca Novel) by MAGGIE SHAYNE Read Free Book Online
handshakes were too fleshy, too warm, and some of them were damp. Ick.
    I complimented the chief on his home, asked him to point out his wife so I could wish her a happy anniversary. He did, and I followed his finger and reacted in surprise. His wife looked like she belonged in a commercial for the innocence and natural beauty of Wyoming. “What anniversary did you say this was, Chief?” I asked.
    “Forty.” He was gazing at her across the room as he said it. She met his eyes, and I closed mine fast, because I wanted to feel that thing that passed between them. And I did. It was warm and deep and old and real.
    Then I looked up at Mason and caught him looking back.
    He leaned closer to me while the chief started talking about something else, and whispered, “I didn’t bring an anniversary card.”
    “Yeah, I didn’t figure you would.” I was prepared. I pulled my just-in-case card from my handbag. “It says the gift is on its way,” I whispered in his ear. “I suggest you go online and order something as soon as you get home. I signed it ‘Mason and Rachel.’ Is that okay?”
    “Of course it’s okay. You saved my ass. Thank you.”
    He totally missed the point of my question. He didn’t get that signing the card “Mason and Rachel” meant something. It was significant. It labeled us a couple.
    Dammit, maybe it was too soon.
    “Uh, yeah. You’re welcome.”
    He took the card, and I told my head to get back on the job. We were here for a reason. Okay, we were here because his boss had told us to be here, but we were also here so I could wrap my senses around some of the principals.
    “I’m gonna get busy,” I told him.
    “Okay.” He leaned in for a peck on the mouth.
    “Well, that was weird.”
    “Yeah, it was.”
    “What are we, Ozzie and Harriet now?”
    “I know. Sorry.” He was looking me in the eye, searching for what, I don’t know.
    “Stop looking into my eyes, Brown, my boobs are down there,” I said, pointing them out with my chin.
    He grinned. “Get to work, will you?”
    I wandered away from him toward the chief’s wife, not just because it was her party and I ought to greet her and wish her well. But because she was in deep conversation with Judge Howie’s wife and looked a little bit alarmed.
    I meandered, doing the nod-and-smile thing, while keeping eye contact minimal enough not to get drawn into conversation. It was a new skill and one I was still working on perfecting. Too far one way, you look rude, too far the other, everyone thinks you want to cozy up for a nice long chat.
    Eventually, though, I made my way to the two women without looking like that was what I was attempting to do. And then I bumped into Mrs. Chief. “Sorry! Oh, Mrs. Subrinsky! Hi. What a wonderful party. Happy anniversary.”
    “Thank you.”
    “I’m Rachel,” I said, extending a hand, but then I froze, because Marianne Mattheson had gulped a little, drawing my eye, and it was obvious she’d been crying. “I’m interrupting. I’m so sorry.”
    “That’s all right,” the chief’s wife said, her right hand going momentarily to the other woman’s shoulder. “I’m Liddy, by the way. That ‘Mrs. Subrinsky’ stuff gets old.” She extended her hand and tipped her head to one side. “So you’re Mason’s Rachel?”
    She was so sweet, it was a shame I was going to have to kill her later for that comment. Hair the color of honey, a few crow’s-feet at the corners of her amber eyes, a few freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. She wore a simple black dress, but I got her as a jeans-and-cowboy-boots sort of woman. She liked country music, and she went to church and meant it. I liked her so fast I almost scared myself.
    I said, “I’m not sure it’s reached that point yet.”
    She let go of my hand and returned hers to the older woman’s shoulder. “Marianne,” she said, “this is Rachel de Luca, the author.”
    Marianne blinked twice as she looked at me, then

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