Lines gathered on his forehead again. “Did you tell your friends where you’re staying?”
The question kicked up her pulse. “No. I only said I’d gotten an apartment and Hailey said cool, that meant I was staying for a while.”
His face relaxed. “Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
“Someone could follow me.”
“They could. Keep an eye out. Whenever you’re on your way back here, take a few extra turns and make sure no other vehicle is making them with you.”
Nell almost laughed, remembering her frantic efforts to shake any pursuit that night after he’d confronted her in the library parking lot and said, I know you.
“I can do that.”
She could tell she had made him curious, but he chose not to ask, only nodded and repeated, “Good. I’ll walk you over to the apartment.”
He was probably desperate to get rid of her. There was no reason whatsoever to feel hurt at the thought.
“Here I’ve consumed another one of your evenings,” she said in chagrin. “I’m sorry.”
He lifted her chin, and Nell realized she’d been hiding behind the fall of hair. I’m not like that, she thought, and wondered if she were reverting to the more introverted teenager she must have been. Shy was okay, a coward wasn’t.
A spark that might have been anger lit his eyes. “I’d have been upset if you hadn’t come straight here.”
She swallowed with difficulty. “Message received.”
His eyes narrowed, but he let her go. Only, it felt as if he were caressing her as pulled his hand back. It was all she could do not to turn her head to maintain the contact. Even...nuzzle a tiny bit.
They stared at each other for a moment. Nell had no idea what he was thinking. Her heart was pounding hard, but not in fear. Something more unnerving yet was happening to her.
“You ready?” he asked roughly.
Ready? For an instant she didn’t understand what he meant. Or maybe she wanted to think he meant... Oh, God. Her cheeks warmed. What was wrong with her?
“Yes.” She shot to her feet. “Do you have a plastic grocery bag I can put all my soggy clothes in?”
For a beat, he didn’t move. She could swear there was heat in his eyes—probably the reason for the glow she could feel on her cheeks.
Then he moved his shoulders as if to ease tension, and at the same time managed to erase from his face whatever he’d been feeling. “I’ll get one.”
He kept his distance on the walk to the apartment door, staying several feet away as she unlocked. “You didn’t say what your plans are for tomorrow.”
“I’ve gotten a couple more names of people who should remember me pretty well. I’ll try to talk to them. I also thought...” She hesitated. “I want to go to the park. I need to see where it happened.”
He closed the distance and gripped her arm. “Not alone, Nell.”
“I actually was hoping you could take a few minutes,” she admitted.
“Of course I can. Call me when you’re ready.”
Nell nodded, feeling shaky again. “Yes. All right.”
He looked down at her, his eyes shadowed in the artificial light. Then he nodded and let her go. “Good night, Nell.”
“Good night.” She whisked inside, locked the door behind her, and started up the stairs to the small apartment that didn’t feel nearly as safe as it had before somebody had tried to kill her.
COLIN REACHED INTO the box and realized it was empty. He’d removed and scrutinized every last scrap of paper. Damn. How could this be?
A good deal of information on the investigation into Maddie’s disappearance was computerized, so he’d started there. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he retrieved from the basement the box that held, in theory, all police and lab reports as well as any notes taken by investigators as they conducted interviews. All standard. If this were being opened as a cold case, a detective ought to be able to go through this box and come out of it knowing everything investigators at the time had known.
Missing was any reference to Maddie having a boyfriend at all, never mind his name.
In fact, there was no indication anyone had talked to Emily Henson at all after that first, preliminary interview the day after Maddie vanished. Colin had found Duane’s notes from a later talk with Hailey Allen. Was it Duane who’d screwed up? Or had he assigned someone else to hit up Emily again? Or, hell, had some member of the clerical staff spilled her coffee on what appeared to be an unimportant piece of paper and chose to toss it?