Enigmatic and sensual Ryan Cutty warns her to get outwhile she can. He taunts her with the portrait of a womancalled Nina, a woman he planned to marry a womanwhose past Holly can’t ignore. Suddenly Holly realizesthat her presence here may be part of a sinisterplan to exact vengeance for Nina’s murder.
As Holly is drawn deeper into Ryan’s world and hisintoxicating embrace, she can only wonder if his passionis a desperate attempt to save her from Nina’s fate orprotect the family he loves from the secrets Holly isdetermined to uncover. She is dangerously close tounlocking the truthbut is it worth her life?
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By Olga Bicos
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Did you kill her?"
The voice from the tape recorder crackled and popped in the overheated room, the words almost lost in static. Two men and a woman sat bellied up to a table long enough to crowd the cracker-box space. The youngest, a lanky nineteen-year-old seated at the corner - black hair, shocking blue eyes - studied the Rorschach test of coffee stains and cigarette burns as he listened, the tips of his fingers reading the tabletop like Braille.
"No, of course not." On the table, the recorded voice sounded a galaxy away. "Jesus. I can't believe this is happening." The taped voice dropped an octave. "I can't believe she's gone."
"But it's your fault, right? That she's dead?"
"Yeah ... maybe."
The woman, a homicide inspector with salt-and-pepper hair and a young face, punched off the tape. Last night at the hospital, struggling with shock, the suspect couldn't stop talking, his words coming just shy of a confession. Now, with counsel at his side, mum was the word.
Just goes to show what a little legal advice could do for a guy. They had zero on the kid, and even the wet-behind-the-ears attorney sitting next to him could pass along that bit of good cheer.
Sergeant Amy Garten shuffled the papers in front of her, wondering how hard to push. "Things happen, Ryan. We can lose control of a situation. It's not what we mean or want to happen." She gave a sympathetic lift of her shoulders. "If we could take it back, just press Rewind ... But a man steps up. Takes responsibility."
"As in confession is good for the soul?" The look the kid gave her wasn't exactly cocky, but he wasn't scared anymore, either.
The attorney placed a hand on his arm. "Do you want to get to the point, Sergeant?"
"I thought that was obvious." God, she hated defense attorneys. "A woman is dead."
"My client has been more than cooperative. There is absolutely no evidence that his -" the attorney stumbled over the words, a verbal hit-and-run "- fiancée's death was anything other than a tragic accident." The guy sounded fresh out of law school, all passion and no finesse. "Do you have any idea how difficult this is for Ryan?"
"And he's being a peach, coming in, answering questions. Really."
The kid said he'd been tailing the girl's Mercedes in his convertible when the victim lost control and plunged to her death. He'd called 911.
He admitted they'd been drinking. With a little prompting, it came out they'd had a fight. They'd ended up in separate cars, him chasing her. But not to hurt her. No way.
The problem was, she'd died at the hospital. Suddenly, he gets vague about the details of their argument. Intelligent minds might think he had something to hide.
On tape, he'd practically admitted he'd wanted the girl dead, he'd been in such a rage.
Amy saw it all the time. Young men of privilege getting away with just about anything. The family turned a blind eye to the bad seed they'd spawned until the situation flared like kudzu. Drugs, date rape - even murder. Only, by the time it all went bad, the clan was used to circling the wagons, making excuses about how Johnny really wasn't such a bad kid. He deserved a fair shake - and the best lawyers money could buy.
Which is where the Cutty case fell off that well-beaten path ... no helpful Mommy and Daddy. Strangely, the opposite. Just when Amy thought there was no way she was getting her hands on San Francisco royalty, the suspect's own father gives a jingle to point the finger at his flesh and blood. There were problems ... I overheard a fight. Earlier that morning, there'd been an anonymous phone call to the police, a husky woman's voice saying, "Ryan ran her off the road. He killed her."
The attorney who showed up this morning didn't seem much older than his client, but more like some friend's older brother doing a favor. And certainly nowhere near what the Cutty money could pull in.
She glanced across the table at Ryan. Good looks and a pedigree. He could easily fit the bill of sinner or saint. The kind of man who just might get away with murder ...
Only, she wasn't so sure.
Which almost made the point. These guys, the Kennedy clones, they could fool you.
"That's your voice on the tape, Ryan, admitting that last night you thought this was all your fault." Dead debutantes, suspicious fathers, anonymous tips. Despite pressure from the brass to wind things up - the autopsy results sure to confirm the victim's intoxicated state - Sergeant Garten thought a case like this was worth a little persistence. "Why don't we talk about that?"
"Forget it, Sergeant. Unless you're ready to arrest Ryan, I'm pulling the plug on this fishing expedition of yours." His attorney stood, ready to jet out before she could see him sweat. "I'm sure that, with proper perspective, you'll come to understand my client did nothing wrong."
But the kid took a moment to lean in close over the table. She could see he had something to say, that finally she'd triggered a reaction.
"Ryan," the attorney warned.
"You think I'm getting away with something," he told her, ignoring his attorney, zooming in with those too-blue eyes. There was a rough quality to his voice. Maybe emotion. "But I'll be paying for this the rest of my life."
"A guilty conscience can do that."
For the first time he smiled. But before he could say anything else, his attorney had him by the arm, giving a tug.
"If you have anything you want to add to your statement -" she slid her card across the desk "- you give me a call."
Oh, yeah, Amy Garten thought, watching Cutty leave the room. There was something there, something that made him almost sympathetic. A hardness that could hide the deepest sort of loss.
Just goes to show, Sergeant Garten told herself, shutting the case file that most likely would remain unsolved. Even a seasoned professional could be fooled.
Excerpted from Shattered by Olga Bicos Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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