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Mountain Darkness (Wild Mountain Men 1) Vanessa Vale 2022/7/22 14:36:52

As we headed to the front entrance, a man’s shouting couldn’t be missed. “Why is my bank calling me? My daughter was murdered and you’re digging through my financials? What the hell is wrong here? You should be looking for the killer!”

Keith Mills’ voice was easily recognizable. So was his anger. We came around the corner and I saw Mr. Mills. The policeman at the front desk stood, hands tucked into his utility belt, unfazed. “Sir, calm down.”

He looked the same as always, perpetually tan, perfectly groomed salt-and-pepper hair, pressed khakis and a blue golf shirt. The only thing that ever changed in his appearance was the shirt’s color.

“My daughter was murdered and you want me to calm down?” Then he saw me and his face shifted from anger to disdain. “Well, well. Kit Lancaster.” He looked me over as if I were still wearing Erin’s borrowed sweatpants from seventh grade. “Why aren’t you behind bars?”

I froze, all the hateful things he’d said to me over the years coming back. But wanting me in jail? It was a new low.

Mr. Mills glanced over my shoulder at Nix. “My life’s being picked apart and the woman who was in the house when Erin was murdered is walking around scot-free?”

Veins stuck out at his temples and spittle flew as he pointed at me.

With a hand at the small of my back, Nix urged me into motion. “I’m walking Miss Lancaster to her car. When I return, I’ll talk with you about the case. But only if you calm down.”

Mr. Mills sputtered as we walked away, Nix’s pace quickened, and I was outside and across the parking lot to my car within a minute. I realized that Nix hadn’t contradicted Mr. Mills or stood up for me.

“Do you think I killed Erin?” I whispered, suddenly weary. The lack of sleep was catching up with me. My emotions were like a rollercoaster.

“What?” His eyes widened. “No.”

“Then why didn’t you say that? Why didn’t you have my back in there?” I thought of the night before, being held in his arms. Holding me after my nightmare. God, I’d practically climbed him like a monkey after, desperate for him.

“With Keith Mills? Because I have to remain impartial.”

“Impartial?” I snapped. “He pretty much said I did it. And you didn’t tell him otherwise.”

He leaned forward so he could look me in the eye. “I want to go back in there and rip the asshole’s head off.” He stuck his arm out and pointed toward the station. “After what you said to Miranski about him, you think I liked letting him say that shit about you? Knowing he’s been doing it for years?” He raked his hand through his hair, his eyes filled with rage. “Punching a murder victim’s father in the face isn’t in my job description, Kit. In order to find Erin’s killer, I have to put up with guys like Mills. I’m just mad you do, too.”

“What about during the questioning? You barely said a word.”

His hand slid over his hair in obvious frustration. I’d held those silky strands between my fingers as he fucked me. “Because we were on record. Because what I said in front of Miranski is true. If we had evidence that proved you killed Erin, you would be in jail.”

I paused, waited for him to say more. “But…”

“But you didn’t fucking do it, therefore you’re free to go.” He took a step closer, all that dark intensity shifting to need. “Free to be in my bed.”

“Nix,” I murmured, checking out the embroidered police logo on his pec. I couldn’t look him in the eye. “I can’t do this hot and cold thing. I was in your bed all night and now you pretend you barely know me.”

“That’s right. Pretend. No one can know we’re together.”

That hurt. A lot. If they meant forever, then they should want to show me off, not hide me like a dark secret. But it wasn’t about what they wanted. It was about their jobs.

“Mr. Mills would lose his shit.”

The corner of his mouth tipped up, barely, but it wasn’t that much of a joke. It was actually true.

“The case could be compromised.” Yeah, that, too. What he didn’t say was their jobs would probably be at stake, too. I didn’t like the feel of that, the weight of that on our relationship. Their careers were at risk because of me.

“I want to kiss you,” he said, but didn’t step close to do so. He had about four feet between us, far enough to keep anyone who might look our way from thinking we were anything more than detective and witness.

“What about your job?” I asked, voicing aloud what I’d been thinking.

“I’ll worry about that. So… later?” He said that last word with so much intent, I knew it meant getting naked and screaming his name.