Home > Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(5)

Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard #2)(5)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I rolled my eyes. “You’re right. No human being could stack books that way.”

He didn’t smile. “This is serious, Scarlett,” he snapped. “Ordinary murders don’t look like this. And the only reason to take the body but leave the blood is to hide what was done to the body, which just screams Old World. So who cleaned the room?”

Now I was starting to get mad. “Are you kidding me? You of all people should understand that even if this is an Old World thing—which I have absolutely no idea about, by the way, because I just got here—there’s no way the police can get involved.”

“Look where you are right now,” he hissed, not backing down an inch. “This room belongs to a twenty-year-old kid whose roommate is devastated. Her parents are catching the first flight out of Michigan, and I have to tell them something when they get here. Maybe you don’t know—yet. But you’re involved, or you’re going to be. So who’s been covering for you?”

Dammit. Jesse hadn’t just grabbed me at the airport to get to the crime scene faster: he had picked me up instead of calling or coming to my house because he hadn’t wanted to give me a chance to get my story straight with someone. That was so…cop-like. I rubbed my eyes, which were stinging with tiredness, and thought about it for a second. If Jesse knew that Eli worked for me, it would put Eli in legal danger and be yet another way for Jesse to mess around in Old World affairs. Dangerous for everyone. “I can’t, Jesse. But if I hear anything that I think would be useful to you, I’ll pass it on.”

“That’s not good enough,” he said heatedly, switching tactics. “What if I just go over your head? I could stop at that bar and ask the werewolves. Hell, I know where Dashiell lives. How about I go knock on his door and see what he says?”

Jesse started to push past me, toward the door, and I skittered sideways, trying to block his path and still avoid the blood. “Stop! Are you trying to get dead? You know better than to screw around with these people, Jesse. You don’t want to so much as remind Dashiell that you’re alive, much less start poking around in Old World business again. Last time you almost got—” I stopped, but we both knew what I had been about to say: got yourself killed. Dashiell had threatened Jesse’s life, and only his good behavior and silence had kept him alive. And it hadn’t hurt that I’d just saved Dashiell’s wife, Beatrice, from being killed for good.

“So help me.” He folded his arms and stared at me defiantly.

My mouth dropped open. “This is your plan? You’re going to bet your life that I care enough about you to keep you from getting killed? You’re an idiot.”

He took the last step toward me, the one that put him all the way in my personal space and forced me to turn my head up to see him. His dark eyes searched my own, and I felt heat flutter in my stomach. “I’m still right, though, aren’t I?” he said quietly.

I glared at him. “I hate you.” I took a step back, putting more space between us. “You could have just asked for my help, you know.”

His smile turned sad. “I was hoping that when you saw her room…you’d offer.”

Ah. I’d failed another of his little morality tests. I felt the old gulf between us settle back into place. Jesse still believed in always doing the right thing. I believed in survival on whatever terms necessary. I wouldn’t say that there were no lines I wouldn’t cross, but in Jesse’s eyes I was willing to do a lot of things that were neither legal nor ethical. Like not get involved with this case. Jesse, on the other hand, still practically radiated integrity and goodness. Maybe it was proof that I was just a soft touch, but I would get involved for him. And he knew it, the bastard.

“I’ll make a couple of calls,” I allowed.

He smiled at me, for the first time that night. Then the smile faded, and he cleared his throat. “Listen, um…there’s something else I should tell you. I’m sort of seeing someone.”

I blinked. “Oh,” I said stupidly. I don’t know why I was surprised. Jesse was a kind, cheerful, gorgeous man living in Los Angeles. Women had to be throwing themselves at him every day. I tried to keep the sting off my face.

“Yeah, well, it’s only been a couple of dates, but she’s…very sweet. Gentle.”

Ouch. I knew that probably hadn’t been a direct shot at me, but sweet and gentle were definitely two things that I wasn’t. I pushed the thought away. Jesse had paused, looking at me nervously.

“What?” I said finally.

“Are you still going to help me?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Captain Ego. You’re still my friend. Or whatever.” He had the decency to look embarrassed.

I checked my watch. It was almost 5:00 a.m. in New York, and a half-assed catnap on the plane wasn’t enough to clear my head for thinking. “Okay, look, you have to give me some time to make some inquiries. Can we get together for lunch?”

His eyebrows furrowed with irritation. “Breakfast.”

“Jesse…” I said. Okay, maybe it was more of a whine.

“I’ll pick you up for brunch at ten. Final offer.”

“Ugh. Fine.”

“And I want the body,” he pressed.

I shook my head. “I can’t do that.”

He was fuming. “Knock it off, Scarlett. This isn’t the time to be cute.”

“No, I mean, I literally can’t do it. If—again, if—this is really my kind of thing, the body is gone. Like, gone gone.” If Eli had cleaned the scene, he would have gone straight to my incinerator guy in Van Nuys. Jesse’s sudden glare was full of ferocity and something like betrayal. “Jesse, it was gone before I got off the plane. Giving me the stink-eye isn’t going to change anything.”

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