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"You know some people don't like coming down to the newspaper's archive room. Claim its cold and sorta spooky. But damned if I don't always find the best surprises when I drop in."
At the first word A.J.'s spine began to stiffen, one vertebra at a time. It still took more effort than it should have to force herself to turn and meet Dare's smile.
"McKay. Somehow it's not surprising to find you where it's dark and damp."
His smile settled in his eyes. "You came clear across town to read my work?" Of course he would notice the page she had the newspaper turned to. "I can die happy now."
"That can be arranged." She turned back to fold up the paper and return it to its spot on the shelves.
He smiled, took a step back and propped himself against the wall. Folding his arms across his chest, he took a few moments to watch Addie tidy up the workspace she'd been using. It was no hardship. She moved with a quick lithe grace that elicited a healthy jolt of lust. He tucked it away with the ease of long familiarity.
"You know, the Register's archives can be accessed on the internet."
"Accessed, but not read," she corrected him. "At least not past the headline and first paragraph. Anything more than that has to be paid for. Billing the office to skim a few paltry articles seems excessive."
He let the adjective pass without objection. "Nice to know at least one public servant who's frugal with the taxpayers' money." She tossed a legal pad she'd been writing on into her briefcase and closed the lid, securing it. "Doing a little catch up reading on the Delgado case? Did you find anything of interest in those 'paltry' articles?"
She faced him, both hands clutching the handle of the briefcase, holding it in front of her. "As a matter of fact, one thing did interest me. It appears you were on the spot almost immediately when the arrest was made. How do you explain that?"
He gave a shrug and struggled for an expression of modesty. "Just lucky, I guess."
She pinned him with what he thought of as her prosecutor's stare, sharp and shrewd.
"You mentioned something about passing some details on to Connally before Delgado's arrest."
His voice was mild. "You wouldn't find those details in the news articles." As his editor had reminded him, he didn't have all the facts he needed to lay it out for the public. Yet. "If you had questions about those details, Addie, wouldn't it have been a lot easier to just call and ask me?"
Her next words seemed as though they physically pained her. "I'm asking now."
He considered her for a moment. "I'm done for the day. Why don't we discuss this over dinner?"
"Forget it." She started forward, brushing by him. "I can talk to Connally next week, and save myself the aggravation."
"Okay, okay." His agreement was hasty. The woman had a fast trigger, at least with him. "Connally was chasing down a suspect in a money laundering scheme. Delgado was seen with that suspect."
She shifted her weight impatiently. "I know that."
He went on as if she hadn't spoken. "The sink for the laundering operation was big video chain. The chain is one of numerous holdings in a huge conglomerate called Golden Enterprises." He had her interest now. At least she was listening. "I think Golden Enterprises is a blind, a dummy corporation. I was able to discover that local sleazeball businessman Victor Mannen sold a full half dozen companies a few years ago to none other than Golden Enterprises." He waited but her expression didn't change. "I shared that information with Connally and his partner. They started asking Mannen some questions shortly before Meghan was snatched."
"You realize there's nothing tying Mannen to this case?" She eased back, set her briefcase on the floor.
"Absolutely nothing," he acknowledged cheerfully.
"Do you have anything concrete linking him to Golden Enterprises?"
She stared at him a moment longer then shook her head. "You have a gift for muddying the clearest of waters, McKay. I've got a kidnapper, a live victim, and three other witnesses. I don't need conspiracy theories to win this case. Juries deal better with straightforward facts."
"You'll get your facts."
It took her a moment to grasp his meaning. When she did her reaction was predictable. "Oh, no. You have nothing to do with this case. And don't even think about printing any of that speculation. All I need is for Paquin to start screaming about bias in the press."
Resentment rose, was ruthlessly banked. "I know how to do my job, Counselor."
"So do I." She reached down for her case again and straightened. "Let's agree to that, shall we? You let Connally do his job, let me do mine, and you continue what you've always found most important--trampling people in pursuit of a story. Just make sure that this time the story doesn't concern a case of mine."
He was at her side in two quick steps, his temper on the rise. "For someone always spouting off about facts, you never listened worth a damn to them two years ago."
"Of course I did." Her chin angled with challenge, and her words were brittle. "Let's see, it was just coincidence that you released some critical information about the murder case I was trying just days after being in my apartment. Sheer coincidence that the information could be found there in my briefcase."
His voice was pitched low, old fury barely reined in. "Sleeping with you had nothing to do with that damn story." At her mocking smile the leash on his control slipped a little. "Do you honestly believe I could have put that story together in the few days following our weekend together?"
"The whole story? No. But the details you found by going through my briefcase sure rounded your article out nicely, didn't they?" With that she moved past him and started up the stairs.
Before he could curb the impulse, he reached out, took her elbow and pulled her around. His face shoved close to hers, he gritted out, "For the record, Addie, I don't need to sleep with women to get information. And you've obviously got a gift for revisionist history. You gave me my walking papers before that article ever ran." His own smile was brutal. "After only two intoxicating nights, as I recall. So go ahead and believe what you want about my ethics. But don't try to pretend to yourself or to me that you kicked me out of your life over a story."
"In hindsight, it appears that my instinct was fortuitous." She yanked her elbow free, the abrupt movement making her teeter on the stairs. Stumbling backwards a step, she caught herself, but not before the awkward motion had snapped the heel cleanly off her left pump. Her eyes closed and she ground her teeth. "You'd better not be smiling."
He'd always had a well developed sense of the ridiculous. The absurdity of the situation defused some of his anger. "I wouldn't think of it. C'mon. I'll give you a lift back to your office."
Those beautiful brown eyes opened, shot daggers. "I'll take my chances outrunning muggers."
He felt obliged to point out the obvious. "There's no way you're going to be able to walk like that, unless you fancy hobbling back to your car with one leg shorter than another."
With quick, furious movements, she slipped off the other shoe and flung both, hitting him squarely in the chest. Her accompanying suggestion was neither ladylike nor anatomically possible. Then she wheeled around and stalked up the stairs. Because it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity, he watched her retreating figure until it was out of sight, before returning his gaze to the shoes she'd hurled at him. His lips twitched. The analogy was obvious, but he'd be willing to bet that Prince Charming had never had to go through this.
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