Sean took another threatening step toward her, but she refused to back down. If he pushed, she planned to push back. She was a little disappointed it wasn’t necessary. Finn was suddenly standing next to her, putting his arm around her and pulling her into his side. Sean’s gaze immediately went to the gun at Finn’s waist.
Peyton was so happy to see him, she wanted to throw her arms around him. He’d gotten to Bishop’s Cove in less than twenty-four hours, texting her at least ten times throughout the day, making sure she stayed inside and out of harm’s way.
“Are you a cop?” Sean sounded angry over the possibility.
Peyton answered. “No, he’s an FBI agent, and I believe he heard your wife threaten to burn this place down.” Looking up at Finn, she innocently asked, “Isn’t arson against the law?”
He kept his attention on Sean as he slowly nodded.
In a huff, Debi grabbed her purse, paused to glare at Lucy who was leaning against the front desk, then pointed at Peyton and said, “I’m not through with you. I won’t let you ruin our plans. Come on, Sean. Daddy will fix this.”
The couple marched to the double glass doors at the entrance. Each took one of the long brass handles, yanked the doors open, and stormed outside. Peyton hurried to flip the deadbolt so they couldn’t come back in.
“Who are they?” Finn asked.
“Debi’s our cousin,” Lucy answered. “And the oaf with her is her husband.” She crossed the lobby to hug Finn. “I didn’t know you were coming. I’m so pleased to see you, but I’m sorry you had to witness that little scene.”
Christopher had been waiting patiently to find out who Finn was and if he was related. Peyton introduced them.
Finn scanned his surroundings. He knew this was a luxury resort, but it certainly didn’t look like one.
“The hotel will be reopened in two weeks,” Lucy explained. She looked around the lobby and laughed. There were drop cloths everywhere; the reception desk was draped in bubble wrap; the beautiful new marble floor was covered to protect it from paint splatters, and aside from a few folding chairs, the large rectangular space was empty. The new crystal waterfall that ran down the length of one wall hadn’t been turned on yet. The two-story windows were bare, waiting to be draped.
“It will be at least a month before we can reopen,” Christopher corrected.
Lucy frowned. “We’re waiting for the painters to finish up in the lobby—”
“They haven’t started yet,” he said.
Her frown intensified, but she continued to look at Finn while she spoke. “The new furniture will be delivered this week.”
“Probably not for another two weeks,” Christopher interjected.
Lucy turned to him, her irritation obvious. “Do you have to be so negative about everything?”
“I’m being realistic, Lucy. I have realistic expectations, whereas you . . .”
Here we go again, Peyton thought. Lucy and Christopher couldn’t seem to get along or agree on anything. She hurried to interrupt the budding hostility. “Uncle Len had already started the renovation before he decided to let us take over,” she told Finn. “Everything for the hotel had been ordered and paid for, so we went ahead with his plans.”
“All the rooms have been renovated,” Lucy added enthusiastically. “They’re quite beautiful, aren’t they, Peyton? You’ll have your pick, Finn.”
“Where are you staying?” Finn asked Peyton.
“In one of the condos behind the hotel.”
“Then that’s where I’ll stay.”
Lucy glanced from Peyton to Finn and back to her sister again. “With her?”
“Yes, with her.”
“There are two bedrooms in the condo,” Peyton said.
“You didn’t tell Lucy why I was coming here?” Finn asked.
“I thought I mentioned it—”
“Then she doesn’t know—”
Peyton nudged him. “I didn’t think Lucy needed any more worries. You can see she’s on tilt now.”
“Hey,” Lucy muttered. “I’m tense, that’s all.”
What the hell? Finn thought. Someone taking shots at Peyton was just a worry? Was that how she described it?
“I want a word with you.” He took her hand and pulled her along, following the exit sign to the back door. He could hear Lucy and Christopher at it again, arguing over something or other.
“Those two shouldn’t work together. They’re complete opposites,” Peyton said.
“He wants her.” He made the statement as he pushed the door open. “And she wants him.”
“You can’t possibly know that.”
“Yes, I can.”
“Not everything is about sex.”
He flashed a smile. She sounded so incensed. “Yes, it is.”
Finn had already scoped out the resort. He was pleased with the setup for safety concerns. There was only one way in and out for a vehicle. Just as important, the resort wasn’t open for business, which meant there wouldn’t be a horde of strangers milling around. Workers would be coming and going, but they would have to show identification and be vouched for by the others in the crew. There were a lot of places to hide on Dove Island, Finn knew, but protecting Peyton was still going to be easier than if she were in the city.
“Where’s your car?” he asked.
“Across the parking lot,” she answered. She tried to pull her hand away so that she could walk ahead of him, but he wouldn’t let go. “Thank you for coming down here to help me.”
She waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, she asked, “Was it difficult for you to leave your job so suddenly?”
It dawned on her that Finn wasn’t paying any attention to her. He was busy scanning the area, looking for possible threats.
“It’s pretty much deserted here this time of day,” she remarked.
Her Camry was unlocked. He opened the driver’s door and told her to sit. The bullet hole was on the curve of the roof, just above the window frame. There was no exit hole, and he suspected that the bullet might be lodged in the ceiling.
One arm draped over the door, he leaned in and said, “You didn’t hear this one either? Someone shot at you and you didn’t hear—”
“Yes, I did hear something. It sounded like a spitting sound and a ping. I know where it happened, too,” she added. “I was parked in front of Van’s Pharmacy in Port James. I stopped to get aspirin. When I came out, there was a bunch of teenagers on skateboards making quite a lot of noise. I opened my car door, and that’s when I heard it.”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t know what it was so I looked around. I even checked my tires. I thought maybe I had a flat and that spitting sound was air leaking.”
“How could you not know . . .” He stopped when he realized he had raised his voice. “And you walked around your car . . .”
“That’s right.” She nodded. “And then I drove home.”
Finn was in a mood. Great, Peyton thought. She’d had to put up with Debi and Sean, Lucy and Christopher, and now Finn. Enough already. She wanted to snap at him, but then she remembered he had dropped everything to come to her. She guessed he was entitled to be irritated. Swinging her legs out, she stood. Finn didn’t move back, so she put her palms on his chest and pushed against him. It took all her willpower not to slide her hands up his powerful shoulders, wrap her fingers behind his neck, and kiss him. From the moment she saw him, she’d wanted to move into his arms and rest her head on his shoulder.
She stepped around him and said, “I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”
She led the way up a short incline to a pink stucco building. There were only two units ready for occupancy. The other two on the backside of the building were being used for storage and wouldn’t be renovated until next year. Lucy had moved into the larger unit on the first floor because there were three spacious bedrooms, and she thought all the sisters should stay together. She insisted it was going to be fun.
Peyton insisted it was a homicide waiting to happen. They would probably kill one another within the first month if they had to work together and live together. All of them needed a little space and a little privacy, she argued. Ignoring Lucy’s protests—her sister thought they should rent the second floor for more income—Peyton moved into the condominium upstairs. It had only two bedrooms, but they were large with king-size beds. Like the one below, it had been updated recently with new tile floors, new beds, mattresses and bedding, and a dream kitchen with all the latest gadgets that Peyton couldn’t wait to use.
The furniture in the living room was comfortable. A large white sofa with down-filled cushions and colorful throw pillows, two matching chairs, and a coffee table formed the sitting area. Across the room was a bleached pine console with a large flat-screen television on the wall above it.
Finn walked in, spotted the television, and nodded approval. “Nice,” he said.
“Wait until you see the kitchen,” she said enthusiastically. “It’s got a big granite island.”
“I’ll bet the kitchen was the first room you checked out.”
“Of course it was. I think Uncle Len knew he was going to make the offer to my sisters and me months ago, and he had these units redone for our comfort. He’s such a sweet, loving man,” she added. “Unless he’s negotiating a deal. Then he’s pretty tough.”
Peyton headed to the kitchen while Finn unpacked. He didn’t have to ask her which bedroom was his. The first bedroom was hers. Her black silk nightgown laid out on the cream coverlet was a beacon, and he couldn’t stop staring at it while his mind conjured up all sorts of ways he would take it off her. He remembered how good it had been, her body pressed against his as he made love to her.
He was jarred back to reality when she called out to him, asking him if he wanted something to eat or drink. No, he wanted her. That was the answer that came to mind. He settled on a cola instead.
Placing his cell phone next to hers on the island, he pulled out a stool and sat. The refrigerator door was open, and Peyton had all but disappeared inside. Only her backside was visible, and it was one great backside.
Peyton was trying to decide what to cook for their dinner. She didn’t want to go out. It had been a long, fruitless day full of arguments and constant changes in plans, and she was weary from the struggle. On the outside, she put up an optimistic front, but on the inside she was worried that she and her sisters wouldn’t be able to do it. Turning the resort into a successful business was, after all, a mammoth undertaking.
“Chicken or scallops?” she asked as she closed the refrigerator.
“Then chicken it is.” She pulled out a stool facing him and sat. “I don’t have any scallops.”
“Then why did you offer them?”
“I wanted to give you a choice. We should probably talk about finding out who keeps shooting at me, don’t you suppose?”
“Yes,” he agreed. He told her about his conversation with Mark and what he’d learned about Parsons and Albertson. He pulled up a photo on his cell phone and handed it to her. “That’s Parsons.”
“I didn’t see him while I worked at the magazine. Of course, I wasn’t there long,” she reminded. “Where did you get this?” She immediately realized what a foolish question that was, and smiling, she said, “Never mind. You’re FBI. You can get whatever you want.”
“Do you think it was Parsons who shot at me again? We already know he’s capable of it, but would he come all the way to Florida?” she wondered.
“We’ll find out where he is,” Finn assured her.
“I can help,” she said eagerly. “I have an inside source.” Reaching for her phone, she quickly texted Mimi. “Now we wait until she can get to a phone that isn’t monitored.”
Finn watched as her thumbs tapped out the message on her phone. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Everything about her appealed to him: her smile, her sexy voice, her incredible body, her feminine scent. God, he loved the way she smelled. His senses went crazy when he was around her. Yet, at the same time, he was able to breathe, to relax, when she was near. It was an odd contradiction he couldn’t explain.
“You think all the phones at the magazine are monitored?” he asked.
“Mimi and I have become a little paranoid. We aren’t taking any chances.”
“Read the text to me.”
“Just bought a gorgeous blue silk blouse at half price.” The dimple in her cheek appeared when she smiled at him. Her sudden enthusiasm made him feel like laughing.
“It’s code,” she explained.
“Uh-huh,” he drawled.
“I told you about Mimi,” she said. “But did I mention that about eight months ago she was demoted and her salary was cut by more than half.”
While giving a lengthy explanation as to why Mimi had been demoted, she went back to the refrigerator to get the relish dish she’d prepared earlier. She put it on the island between them. There were celery and carrot sticks, red and yellow pepper slices, and in the center compartment was a spicy salsa she’d made the night before.
“Did I tell you this already?” she asked. She didn’t give him time to answer but continued on. “Anyway, Mimi had been sending her résumé out, and Drew would have loved it if she’d quit, but then something strange happened.”
She opened a cabinet and pulled out a bag of pita chips as she talked. Tossing the bag to Finn, she reached for a blue bowl and put it next to the tray. Finn poured the chips in the bowl, and she stopped talking for a second, watching him, suddenly struck by the reality that he was actually here with her.
“You were saying something strange happened?” he prodded.
“Oh yes,” she said and continued. “When Drew and Eileen came back from Europe, he called Mimi into his office and gave her a huge raise, and I mean huge. It was twice what she made as an accountant.”
“To keep her from talking about the recording. He’s buying her silence.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But Drew also knows that Mimi and I are friends and that we stay in contact. The raise would keep her at the magazine, and he would have access to her e-mails as long as she stayed.”