Miami, mistletoe & murde.., p.8
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       Miami, Mistletoe & Murder, p.8

         Part #4 of Red Stone Security series by Katie Reus
 
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Page 8

 

  Noel was silent for a moment. “You’ve been out of the Marines for how long?”

  “Two years. ”

  “And you were with your last girlfriend while you were still in so…exactly how long has it been since you’ve had a girlfriend?”

  “Three years. ”

  “Damn. ” There was a wealth of astonishment in that one word.

  “What?” No one had the ability to make him self-conscious the way she did.

  Now she really looked surprised. “Just hard to believe, that’s all. Have you seen yourself? Travis, you’re…okay, I’m not going to stroke your ego. You know exactly how you look. Tell me you’ve at least dated in the last three years. ”

  He shook his head. “And no one-night stands either. ” Might as well lay it all out there in the beginning. He knew she might not believe him, but he wanted her to know.

  Her mouth actually dropped open, as if she wasn’t sure if she should believe him.

  Feeling his face warm, he wasn’t sure how to respond. “Your turn. ”

  Noel seemed to gather herself at that. “Well, I’ve had more than two boyfriends. Not many more, but I have dated. My last serious boyfriend was Dominic. ”

  “Stupid name,” he murmured when she took a deep breath, as if she was getting ready to tell him something big.

  She laughed once, the rich sound rolling over him. “Agreed. We ended things four years ago after he not only cheated on me with my supposed best friend, but got her pregnant too. Seriously, it’s the kind of stuff that’s perfect for a talk show. The details aren’t really important, but it was a serious wake up call for me that people aren’t always what they seem. ” Noel’s voice was light, but there was an underlying sliver of pain that punched through her words.

  Travis shook his head, wondering what the fuckwad had been thinking. “I can’t imagine anyone dumb enough to cheat on you, but for your best friend to do that…” He trailed off, not sure what to say. That kind of betrayal was hard to relate to. He’d bled and fought alongside the only men he considered true friends—it was a deep bond.

  “That’s actually what hurt the most. Losing her. We’d grown up together so it was a hard blow. ” There was more resignation than pain in her voice this time.

  Travis noticed she didn’t even say her former friend’s name and he didn’t push for more details. “Damn, now I’m sorry I asked. ”

  The smile she gave him as she pulled into a parking spot near the marketplace was genuine. “I’m not. I almost never talk about it so I’m glad you know this about me. ”

  He was glad he did too. Understanding this sensual woman’s history would help him understand her. And he wanted to, more than he wanted to admit. The thought of committing to her wasn’t scary and that was the problem. He hadn’t been able to commit to his last girlfriend because he hadn’t seen a long-term future no matter how good things had been between them. With Noel, it was different. He looked at her and saw the future he’d always wanted.

  * * * * *

  Reggie silently crept down the hallway toward Alisa’s bedroom. Getting in through the sliding glass door at the back of her house had been easy. The latch was flimsy and had taken only a bit of jiggling to work free. And none of her neighbors were particularly nosy. He hadn’t parked on her street though, just to be safe since he was coming in during the daytime. The sun wouldn’t set for another hour so he still had time to search with relative ease. He could have waited until dark and used a flashlight, but this was easier.

  He paused at the kitchen entryway, his anger and pain rising at the sight of the bloodstain on the floor. That was where his brother had died. Nausea bubbled up inside him as he thought of Dwight suffering. Reggie should have stopped him. If only his brother had told him that he was coming over here. There was no point in him being here. Now, his only family was dead. And for what? He still couldn’t get answers. His calls to the police station had gone unreturned and there was no telling how long it would take them to get back to him. If they ever did.

  Forcing himself to turn away from that stain, he took a deep breath and headed toward the bedroom. Her house wasn’t big and he wasn’t even sure that he’d find anything, but he had to try. At this point, he just wanted information. Maybe he’d find a bill with a man’s name on it. There were any number of things that could point him in the direction of who had killed his brother. He just had to be willing to look.

  Reggie was banking on a new boyfriend of Alisa’s being involved. Possibly the tall guy from the hospital. He’d seen the guy leaving with that tall, hot woman, but they hadn’t been holding hands or acting affectionate. Still, there had been something about the way he’d been eyeing the brunette. So maybe he wasn’t Alisa’s new boyfriend. Or maybe he was fucking both women. Reggie didn’t care.

  As he stepped into her bedroom, a jingling sound made him stop cold. The sound of keys, then a door handle turning seemed to fill the quiet house with the intensity of a bomb going off.

  Hide.

  Survival instinct kicked in. He cast a frantic glance around. Since the closet door was closed and he wasn’t sure if it would squeak and alert anyone to his presence, he checked under the bed first. There was just enough room under the queen-sized bed. Slipping under it, he was thankful that she had some sort of curtain thing around the bottom, blocking him from view.

  “Ladies, we need to be quick. Get what you need for your mother and enough clothes for a few days at your aunt’s house,” a brisk, female voice said. “The crime scene will be cleaned up by the time you’re home. ”

  It took a moment to register, but Reggie guessed that Juanita was being escorted to the house by a police officer or someone else official. It made sense since her mother was in the hospital.

  “No, you don’t need to go in there,” another female voice, this one huskier and also unfamiliar. Maybe the older woman he’d seen at the hospital with Juanita and the hot chick. He’d spotted a couple pictures with her in them after he’d broken into Alisa’s house and if he had to guess, she was a sister or aunt to Alisa.

  “I just wanted to see,” Juanita said petulantly as she stepped into Alisa’s bedroom.

  Reggie went completely still, holding his breath. He could hear feet shuffling around and drawers opening. He didn’t dare move. His muscles locked tight into place.

  “That’s not fitting for a little girl. ” The same unfamiliar voice.

  The closet door opened. “I’m not a little girl. And I don’t see why I can’t go in there. It’s not like his body’s still there. ”

  Reggie gritted his teeth as understanding set in. She wanted to see the bloodstain.

  “Grab your mother’s suitcase. We are not discussing this. The police officer was kind enough to escort us home and we don’t want to take up any more of her time. ” The woman sounded exhausted.

  “Fine,” Juanita grumbled. “I’m just glad Travis won’t be in trouble for shooting that jerk. ”

  The mention of that name made something still inside him as he filed the information away.

  The woman sighed. “Juanita, I do not wish to discuss this. We need to get your things if you want to see your mother again before visiting hours are up. ”

  He could hear the closet door shut then Juanita continued as if the woman hadn’t spoken. “I can’t believe how cute he is. I could tell that he had tattoos. I wonder what they look like. Do you think that Noel is dating him? She didn’t say, and…” Her voice trailed off as they disappeared out of the room and farther into the house.

  He thought about slipping out right then and leaving through the bedroom window, but he was very aware that there was another female with them. That one might be a police officer and if she was, she’d be armed.

  Reggie hadn’t brought a weapon with him. He knew enough never to do that. If he was caught breaking in somewhere with a gun, the charges would be a hell of a lot worse. Co
nsidering he was out on parole and on his third strike, he couldn’t afford to be caught with a weapon anyway. It seemed like forever, but eventually the front door opened then slammed, taking the chattering females with them.

  Even though he wanted to split the second he heard them leave, he waited and forced himself to count to sixty. He needed to make sure they didn’t come back. Once he was certain he was alone, he pushed out from under the bed. That was when he realized he was shaking from anger. His brother was dead and no one cared. Even little Juanita only cared that some asshole named Travis wasn’t going to be in trouble for it.

  At least now Reggie had a name. Well, two names. Travis and Noel. Not much to go on, but it was more than he had before. Add that to the license plate number he’d gotten earlier from the hot woman at the hospital and it wasn’t half bad. Soon enough, he’d get another piece to the puzzle.

  For now, he just needed to get the hell out of Alisa’s house. Backtracking the way he’d entered, he slipped out into the falling darkness.

  Chapter 7

  Noel snuggled back against Travis’s chest, savoring his strong embrace. They were sitting on a bench right in front of the bay watching fully decorated boats cruise by. He’d scooted back on his seat so that she could sit in between his very muscular legs and she was completely soaking up every moment of this bliss. He’d somehow snagged a blanket for them and since her coffee shop had a cart at the event they hadn’t had to wait to get hot chocolate or snacks.

  It had been a long time since she felt so content. She knew there were no guarantees that anything permanent would ever develop between her and Travis but after spending a day with him, she still wanted more. A lot more.

  And he seemed to feel the same. He was very affectionate, something she found she craved. At least there was no guesswork anymore about whether he was attracted to her. She could feel the proof of it against her back. She loved that he didn’t try to hide it from her—not that he actually could. From what he’d told her about his limited dating track, and what she’d seen with his tattoos and piercings, she was pretty sure he didn’t let many people in. Body art could be a form of armor, so the fact that he let himself relax with her touched her deeply.
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