Finally, his desire overcame his restraint. He groaned as his mouth crushed hers in an eager, passionate kiss. “I guess there are worse ways to go,” he said, and lifted her in his arms.
LONG AFTER EMMA FELL ASLEEP, Preston lay awake, staring at the ceiling. He’d contacted the police again today, as well as the closest FBI field office. But the effort hadn’t done him any good. They’d heard from him before and weren’t interested in any new information. When he talked about Melanie and Billy, they talked about coincidence. When he mentioned the mysterious shot Melanie Deets had received, they said Vince might have forgotten to write it down. When he told them what Joanie had to say about Vince’s reaction to Billy’s death, they interpreted it as sour grapes. Nothing had changed. Dallas was dead. Preston was seen as the grieving father looking for someone to blame. And Vince was still free to hurt another child.
Emma shifted in her sleep and curled closer to him. Preston gave her a soft peck on the lips before carefully extricating himself. He hated to leave her, but all his hopes had been whittled down to one—a direct confrontation. Joanie had given him Vince’s home address. If he could get Vince to confess, it would all be over and he could live a normal life again.
But he knew the chances of that were next to nil. Which was why he’d be taking his gun.
“Preston?” she murmured as he pulled on his jeans.
“Are you leaving?”
He knelt beside her, his pants still unbuttoned. “I have to.”
“Will you be coming back?”
“I don’t know,” he said. That would depend on whether or not he ended up killing a man.
“HERE HE COMES,” Manuel said, and shoved Hector back behind the building.
“We didn’t really see his face,” Hector whispered. “Are you sure we have the right guy?”
“Positive.” Who else could it be? Manuel had known he’d found Vanessa’s lover the moment he saw that beat-up brown van passing through town. It was just like the one that had torn out of the parking lot at the Gas-N-Go in Ely, and it fit the description Dominick had given him over the phone, as well. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to follow. They’d trailed Preston to this motel, one they hadn’t checked earlier because a sign posted on the front-office window said the grand opening wasn’t for another week.
None of that mattered, though. Manuel had seen Vanessa open the door.
He ground his teeth as he remembered her slipping Preston’s hand inside her robe. She’d welcomed his touch, responded to it eagerly. S**t.
But he’d take care of Preston. The way Vanessa and Preston had held each other, the way they’d kissed, left little doubt as to what they’d been doing once they went inside. Thinking about it had nearly driven Manuel mad. He’d longed to barge into the room and kill Preston right there, in front of Vanessa, as he’d dreamed of doing. But he didn’t want Dominick to see him kill anyone. And he didn’t want his son accidentally hurt.
Fortunately, his patience was paying off. For a while there, he thought he’d have to bide his time until morning. But Preston was leaving already, only two hours after he’d arrived. “Follow him,” he told Hector as Preston climbed into the van.
Hector pulled a semiautomatic out of his belt and checked the magazine. “You want me to take him out?”
“No, that’s my pleasure. Bring him…”
Where? In a few minutes, Manuel would have Emma and Max. And he certainly didn’t want to risk letting Preston get away.
“Dead is dead,” Hector reminded him. “As long as he’s not around, he can’t cause any more problems.”
They were wasting time. “Fine,” Manuel said carelessly. “Do it.” It was Vanessa who’d betrayed him; it was Vanessa who’d pay.
“What do you want me to do with the body?”
“Leave it. We’ll be in Mexico long before the cops figure out what happened. Maybe they never will.”
“But if I take the Town Car, you’ll be on foot.”
“That Monte Carlo in the lot must belong to Vanessa. I’ll use it.”
“Where do you want to meet afterward?”
“Nowhere. I’m going to take my wife and kid, and head to Chicago to catch a plane home.” He dug in his pocket and handed Hector a wad of cash. “Find your own way to San Diego. I’ll wait for you there.”
Hector accepted the money and the keys, then hurried around the building.
A moment later, Manuel heard the van start and watched Preston pull out of the lot. Across the street, Hector’s headlights came on, and Manuel knew he’d never have to worry about Preston again.
SOMEONE WAS at the door. Again. Emma heard the soft knock in her sleep but the sound blended with her dreams, until it grew louder. Knock, knock, knock.
She opened her eyes and blinked at the darkness. Was Preston back? It felt as though he’d barely left. She could still smell him on the sheets, feel the strength of the arms that had held her.
Rolling over, she squinted at the clock. It was three-thirty in the morning. He’d been gone only long enough for her to doze off.
She kicked away the covers, then got up and shuffled through the living room. He must have forgotten something.
“I’m coming,” she murmured so he wouldn’t wake Max. Preston had tested her son’s blood before he left. Max was a safe 142, which meant that Emma could catch up on her rest by sleeping late in the morning.
No answer. Instinctively, she checked the peephole, but that didn’t do any good. She’d forgotten to take off the tape.
Retrieving the bat she’d kept close at hand, she unlocked the dead bolt and started to open the door. “Preston? Is something wr—”
A fist smacked the panel so hard it hit her in the head and knocked her back. She fell as a man’s hand slid up the inside of the door, trying to unlatch the security chain. A diamond ring on the fourth finger, barely visible in the dim light drifting in from the outside pole lights, told her who it was even before she heard his voice.
“Open the door, Vanessa. It’s all over. You’re coming home.”
Emma’s thoughts scattered in a thousand different directions as she scrambled to her feet. How had Manuel found her? What would he do if he got in? And how could she shield Max from what was coming? He was jostled about in the night so often, with all the testing of his blood and the shots, that he slept deeply. But she had no idea if he’d sleep through this.