About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
KIRA VANCE gripped the steering wheel and navigated the slick streets. The summer downpour had come out of nowhere, catching her off guard. She’d wanted to make a good impression, and now she was going to arrive not just late but soaking wet in a white T-shirt that was nearly transparent.
Water dripped onto her shoulder as she reached a stoplight, and she glared up at her leaky sunroof. There was no denying it—she needed a new car. Her little Celica had six-digit mileage and a bad transmission, but she refused to trade it in. She couldn’t afford an upgrade, and the car had been with her through so many ups and downs she was sentimental about it.
The phone chimed on the seat beside her, but she ignored it because it was Ollie, her shrewd, rude, and sometimes infuriating boss. She didn’t want to talk to him on the phone. She needed a face-to-face.
As Kira skidded away from the intersection, her car’s engine warning light flashed on.
“Son of a bitch,” she muttered.
She’d just had it in for an oil change, and the guy had said he’d checked everything.
But people lied. Often. If they didn’t, she’d be out of a job.
Kira’s work was a search for the truth—the good, the bad, and the ugly. She dug up the facts and let the lawyers deal with them in court. Or not. Sometimes her discoveries meant a witness wouldn’t be called to testify. Or the defense team would develop a new strategy. Sometimes her discoveries poked big fat holes in the case of a zealous prosecutor.
The truth cut both ways, and that’s what she liked about it. Finding that truth gave her a heady rush that made up for the downsides of PI work, such as dealing with cheating spouses and deadbeat dads and insurance scams. Those were the cases that made her pissed off and cynical.
Another thing that pissed her off? Unpaid invoices. Ollie was three weeks behind on a big one, and he was the master of the dodge, which was one reason she’d decided to track him down in person tonight to deliver her news.
Kira reached the street that turned into River Oaks, where stately houses sat far back on manicured lawns. The thunderstorm had brought an early evening, and the thick St. Augustine grass looked almost neon green in the eerie light.
Cars lined both sides of the street. Someone down the block was having a party, apparently, which seemed odd for a Tuesday. A red Jaguar glided up to the curb ahead, and a valet sprang out and sprinted past her.
Kira spotted Ollie’s no-nonsense Ford parked at the base of a steep driveway. She wedged her car between a pair of Mercedes SUVs and cut the engine as she looked around.
This was it. Mount Logan. Named for Brock Logan, managing partner at the law firm that had hired Ollie to investigate its big cases. Kira had thought the name was a reference to Brock Logan’s oversize ego, but she saw now that she’d been wrong, at least partially. The house perched atop a hill on a large corner lot, elevated above the other mansions in Houston’s most exclusive neighborhood.
Kira had never set foot inside a River Oaks home, and her curiosity was mixed with professional ambition. Besides confronting Ollie, she was here to do some business development. It was high time for her to meet Ollie’s big-fish client, who’d been keeping her in Ramen noodles and Netflix these past three years. She’d never met the man because Ollie liked her to stay behind the scenes. But those days were over.
Kira grabbed her files and glanced in the rearview mirror. This extreme humidity was not her friend. Her mascara was smudged, and her long dark hair was a frizzy mess. She smoothed her hair down and swiped on some red lipstick. Nothing she could do about her damp skinny jeans, but she grabbed her tailored black blazer from the back seat, hoping to hide the wet-T-shirt look she had going on. After trading her cheap flip-flops for strappy black sandals, she pushed open the door with a squeak.
The torrent had let up, but it was drizzling as another valet ran past her. Not far behind him was a plodding jogger in a soaked gray hoodie. Kira waited for him to pass and then crossed the street to Logan’s house.
The homes here sat on huge lots, and each seemed to have its own theme. To Logan’s left was a Mississippi Plantation with tall white columns. To his right was a Stuffy New England Brick with a steep roof, no doubt to accommodate Houston’s frequent snowstorms. Logan’s house fell squarely into the Tacky California category, a sprawling mass of yellow adobe with a red-tiled roof. Tall palm trees surrounded it, towering obnoxiously over the neighborhood’s namesake oaks.
The air smelled of rain and fresh-cut grass as Kira trekked up the stone path. She passed through a pair of concrete lions into a courtyard, where she faced an imposing carved wooden door.
This was it. Brock Logan. She had to nail this meeting. She took a rubber band from her pocket, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and hoped for the best as she squared her shoulders and rang the bell.
Brock Logan had made a fortune defending wealthy people accused of serious crimes. The cases were high stakes, high pay, and Logan’s current project was a prime example: a prominent heart surgeon accused of murdering his wife. According to the prosecution’s theory, the mild-mannered doctor was actually an abusive control freak. When his wife threatened to leave him, he killed her.
The story had a catchy ring to it, kind of like a cable docudrama. But Logan planned to counter it with an airtight alibi: his client had been having drinks at his golf club with a fellow doctor at the time of his wife’s murder.
The door jerked back, and Ollie stood there in his typical short-sleeved button-down and dark pants. He had a gray buzz cut and a paunch that hung over his belt.
“Christ, what are you doing here? You coming from the courthouse? Get your ass in here.” He took her elbow and pulled her inside. “You could’ve called me, you know. You didn’t have to drive all the way here in the rain.”
“I needed to talk to you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Ollie smirked. “And I’m guessing you wanted to meet the Big Kahuna, too, right?”
“I’m here for my money, Ollie. I’ve got rent due, and you’ve been dodging me.”
“I was just about to write your check.”
She crossed her arms.
“Hey, you know I’m good for it.” He made a sweeping gesture at the entrance foyer, attempting to distract her. “So what do you think of this place?”
The foyer was large and airy, and Kira’s living room would have fit inside it, no problem. An ornate staircase curved over a tall archway that led into the back of the house. To Kira’s left was a formal dining room, and to her right was a spacious living area with oversize sofas.
“Beats working at the office,” Ollie said, leading her through the archway. “We’ve got Hunan coming. Logan’s outside on the phone.”
“In this weather?”
Kira stepped into the kitchen and stopped short, dazzled by the endless white countertops, sleek new appliances, and massive cooking island. In the breakfast room, financial news droned from a wall-mounted TV, and she noted the long wooden table blanketed with files and legal pads. Logan and Ollie were already neck-deep in trial prep.
Kira glanced around the kitchen. “You could cook for an army in here.” Not that she cooked, but hypothetically. “Is he even married?”
“Divorced.” Ollie rolled his eyes. “He made out better than I did, though. Pays to be a lawyer. Want a beer?”
“I’m good. Listen, we’ve got a problem.”
“One sec.” Ollie took his phone from his pocket and frowned down at it as he scrolled through a message. He muttered something and looked up. “What is it?”
Kira set her files on the island. “Robert Peck. The defendant’s doctor friend.”
“The golf-buddy alibi. What about him?” Ollie grabbed a beer bottle off the counter and took a swig.
“I was at the courthouse, and I dug up an old divorce,” she said.
Ollie set his beer down. “I didn’t know Peck had been married before.”
“Yeah, guess he forgot to mention it. The marriage only lasted eight months.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“In the filing, Peck’s ex-wife alleges infidelity, along with mental and physical cruelty. She got a temporary restraining order against him.”
Ollie’s face didn’t change.
“It’s not going to look good if the defendant’s alibi witness is guilty of spousal abuse,” she said, pointing out the obvious. “Undermines his credibility.”
Ollie looked down at his phone again, and Kira gritted her teeth. She’d spent her afternoon combing through filings, and what she’d discovered could potentially sink Logan’s case, or at least damage it.
“Ollie? You listening?”
He rubbed his chin as he continued reading. “We’re dealing with something bigger right now.”
“Bigger than your alibi witness being a wife-beating dirtbag?”
“If this pans out, Peck won’t matter.”
“If what pans out?”
He looked up, and something flashed in his eyes. It was a look she recognized, and her pulse quickened.
Ollie had something.
The doorbell rang, and he glanced toward the foyer. “That’s our food. You staying?”
“I’m not leaving without my money.”
“You act like I’m some deadbeat. Jesus.”
He grabbed his beer and went to answer the door, leaving her alone in the huge kitchen. She hadn’t planned to stay for dinner, but she wasn’t going anywhere until she heard more about this new lead.
And met the Big Kahuna.
As if on cue, the back door opened, and Brock Logan stepped inside. The forty-something trial lawyer was tall and lean and had his sleeves rolled up to reveal tanned forearms. If he was surprised to find a strange woman in his kitchen, he didn’t show it.
“You must be Kira.”
The side of his mouth curved in a sexy half-smile, and she remembered all the rumors she’d heard about him. Logan was a player, and meeting him in person, it was easy to see why.
A crash came from the front door. Kira whirled around.
She rushed into the foyer and found him sprawled on his back, clutching his chest, a puddle of beer and glass beside him. Kira dropped to her knees. Had he had a heart attack? A stroke?
Blood seeped between his fingers, and Kira’s breath caught.
“Ollie! Oh, my God!”
Something moved in her peripheral vision. She swiveled toward it just in time to see a dark figure sprinting through the dining room.
“Hey!” Logan, who had followed behind her, bolted back into the kitchen to intercept the intruder.
A wet gurgle jerked her attention back to Ollie. Blood trickled from his mouth now. His eyes were wide with shock as he pushed his phone into her hand. The device was slick with blood, and it clattered to the floor before she managed to pick it up and call 911.
A crash in the kitchen. Then a sharp yelp, followed by two low sucking sounds that Kira recognized instantly.
Gunshots, but the gun had a silencer.
A vase shattered nearby. Something stung her cheek. She scrambled into the living room, diving behind a sofa and smacking her head on an end table.
The intruder was shooting at her.
Another crash from the kitchen, and Kira’s heart skittered. Was that Logan? The gunman?
She tried to think. The phone glowed in her hand, and she realized the call had connected. She muted the volume with her thumb and ducked low, trying not to make a sound. Where was the shooter? Inching to the end of the sofa, she peered around it. She could see Ollie in the foyer, and he wasn’t moving.
Kira crawled back to him, hoping he’d stay quiet and then hating herself for hoping that. His face was slack and ashen. She stripped off her blazer and pressed it against the crimson stain on his chest.
She heard more commotion at the back of the house as she desperately tried to stanch the bleeding, but the wadded fabric was already soaked through.
Kira’s stomach twisted, and she pictured the gunman walking up behind her and putting a bullet in her skull. Blood, warm and sticky, covered her hands now, and she felt a surge of panic. This couldn’t be happening. She checked the phone again, hoping they were tracing the call. The line was still open, but she had it on mute. If the shooter was nearby, she didn’t want to draw him in here.
Ollie, come on. Open your eyes.
He wasn’t moving, wasn’t blinking, wasn’t making a sound. The rest of the house had gone quiet, too. She prayed the shooter wouldn’t come back. Had he fled out the back door? Was he in another wing of the house? Where the hell was Logan? She pictured him dead in the kitchen, and her blood turned cold.
Everything was quiet. Too quiet. The only sound was the frantic pounding of her own heart.
Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead.
The quiet ended with an earsplitting shriek.