Authors: Barbara Dunlop
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance
“You have the right to remain silent.”
The cold steel of a handcuff closed around her right wrist. Her first instinct was to struggle, but she quickly restrained the impulse.
“You have the right to an attorney.”
“I don’t need an attorney. And I don’t need to remain silent.”
“Ma’am, I need to read you your rights.”
She clamped her jaw shut while he finished his recitation and secured the handcuffs. She told herself not to panic. It would all make sense in a few minutes. They’d tell her what was going on. Then they’d realize they’d made a mistake and let her go, likely before they even left the room.
“What do you think I did?” she asked, struggling to keep the tremor from her voice.
“Attempted electronic theft of personal information, including credit card information.”
“No, no.” They had to be confused. “I protect information. I don’t steal it.”
“If you say so, ma’am.” He guided her through the doorway and into the hall.
“There’s been a mistake.”
“You can explain to the judge.”
“The judge? What judge?”
“Surely you’re aware of how the American judicial system works.”
The situation suddenly felt frighteningly real. “But I didn’t
anything. How can this happen? How can you just take me away?” She strained to look behind her. “Did you lock the door? Did somebody lock the door? My tablet is—”
“We’re bringing your tablet along as evidence.”
They came to the elevator, and she realized a lobby full of people were about to see her marched out of the hotel in handcuffs. Embarrassment shouldn’t be her biggest concern right now, but somehow it was. What could she say? What could she do? How could she demonstrate to her fellow hotel guests that she was completely innocent?
“You hacked into the Twin Peaks Resort computer system.”
Everything inside her froze. Her throat closed over, and her voice dropped to a whisper. “Only to check my e-mail.”
She twisted her head to look up at the sheriff. “Seriously. I only wanted to check my e-mail. The guest wireless was down, and I needed—”
The elevator door slid open in front of them, and Jade swallowed hard. She was going to jail. She was being arrested, and she was going to jail, and she
committed a crime.
They turned inside the elevator car.
“I’m a software developer,” she tried to explain.
“No kidding,” said one of the deputies.
“That’s my job. A legitimate job. I protect people’s security. I don’t compromise it.”
“You just admitted to hacking into the hotel’s computer,” the sheriff pointed out.
“That was only a matter of convenience. I didn’t want to cost anybody—” She clamped her mouth shut.
It was probably time to call a lawyer. She wondered if Mirror Falls had lawyers. Should she call Virgil? He was the one who’d put her in this ridiculous town. Should she call her family? Did any of them have a lawyer? Did they know a lawyer? Maybe Jillian would have an idea.
Jade battled the panic that was threatening to swamp her thought processes. She firmly assured herself it would all get straightened out. It had to…eventually.
But in the meantime, she’d be locked up in jail. She’d be sitting in a jail cell instead of a restaurant. Her fear turned to frustration.
“This isn’t relaxing, Virgil,” she muttered through clenched teeth.
“What did you say?” asked the sheriff.
“I said vacations suck.”
The elevator pinged, opening to a lobby full of curious stares.
On the pool
deck at the Sunny Autumn Seniors Community, Sam glanced up at the sound of his name.
Lizbet had joined Sam and JW in their usual spot on the pool deck. But instead of sitting down, she gripped the back of the lounger, her face pale and eyes wide.
Sam came to his feet, moving toward her. “Lizbet? Are you all right?”
JW stood as well. “Do you need a doctor?”
“I just got off the phone with Jillian,” said Lizbet.
Sam found himself touching her shoulder. “Are you ill?”
A cold feeling settled in Sam’s stomach. Had Logan somehow stepped out of line? Had he upset or hurt her? Sam was going to bloody kill him.
Lizbet gazed up at him. “Jade’s in jail.”
JW reacted first. “Why? Where? Lizbet, sit down.”
Sam nodded his agreement, urging Lizbet to the closest chair. “Tell us what happened. Is Logan in jail with her?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around anything that made sense.
Lizbet shook her head as she perched sideways on a lounger. “They say she stole electronic information, credit card numbers from an Edwards family business. She didn’t, Sam. She’d
do something like that.”
“Of course she didn’t,” Sam agreed.
From what he’d heard about Jade, she was honest and principled. It made absolutely no sense that she’d break the law. Nor would she compromise her values and risk her professional reputation for some quick cash. And if she did, he was confident she would never have gotten caught.
“This is our fault,” Lizbet moaned. “I sent her there. My granddaughter is in jail, because of me.”
“We’ll help her,” said Sam.
Lizbet looked hopeful for the first time.
He didn’t know what she’d need, but he’d figure it out once he got there. “Did she say anything about the evidence?”
Lizbet shook her head. “It’s the Twin Peaks Resort. Jade was staying there. Jillian says Jade piggybacked on their Internet connection, and they accused her of stealing credit card accounts.”
The more Sam heard, the more puzzled he became. Could Jade have been solving a crime rather than committing one? If so, why didn’t she tell them what she’d been doing? Maybe it was confidential. Or maybe she’d tried to explain, and they hadn’t believed her.
He quickly realized he could waste a lot of time on pointless speculation. He needed facts, and he needed evidence. No matter what was going on here, the town of Mirror Falls would need technical help to get to the truth.
He straightened, making up his mind. “I’m going to Mirror Falls. I can check out their computer system, and nobody will suspect I’m there on Jade’s side.”
Lizbet gripped his hands. “Would you? Would you, really?”
“Absolutely. I’ll get there just as soon as I can.”
Since Sheriff Clive
Edwards was Logan’s second cousin, Logan was given immediate access to the Mirror Falls holding cells. Inside, he paced his way down the narrow hallway, his anger and disgust building as he grew closer to Jade’s cell.
He and Elroy had returned early from their trip to the cottage because Elroy had received a last-minute booking. Thank goodness they had. He rounded the corner now and smacked his hand against the bars, rattling the door to her cell.
Jade recoiled where she sat on the plank of a bed. Then, recognizing it was him, she quickly came to her feet.
“I’m trying to figure out,” he barked, not holding back any of his anger and disgust, “if there was something I said, some small piece of information I gave you yesterday that allowed you to victimize my family.”
Her complexion blanched. “Logan, you don’t understand.”
perfectly. What was all that about? The sweet talk, the jokes, the
? No wonder you were so interested in my family history, who was who and what they did.” He gripped the bars with both hands, sickened at the thought that he’d been so easily duped. “Is that how you con people? You breeze into town, case the place, find a likely mark?”
“They’ve got it all wrong. I didn’t do anything of the kind.” By contrast, her tone was soft. She blinked her clear green eyes, her innocent expression slamming him in the solar plexus.
He fought against a reflexive burst of sympathy, reminding himself she was a criminal. “Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t. I don’t care what they’re saying. I don’t care who misunderstood—”
? Are you kidding me? You hacked their computer system.”
“I admitted to that.”
“You broke into their customer database.”
“That I didn’t do.”
“They have the evidence. They saw where you went, what you did. You stole their clients’ credit card numbers. I can’t even imagine what it’ll do to their reputation, their business.”
She moved closer, her expression hardening. Thank goodness for that. He could deal with her temper a lot more easily than her false wounded virtuousness.
“Think about it, Logan.” Her tone remained steady. “Why would I do that? I could get maybe ten or twenty thousand for that kind of information. Why would I take the risk? And, by the way, if I’d tried, I would have succeeded. It’s a professional insult for you to believe I’d get caught.”
It took him a minute to frame a response. “
your defense? That you’re too good to get caught?”
She was clearly angry now. “I
too good to get caught. But my defense is that I didn’t do it.”
“You just happen to know how much the information is worth on the black market? You’ve obviously done this before.”
Her shoulders suddenly slumped. “I haven’t done this before. I didn’t do it now. But I’m sorry, Logan. I’m sorry this is happening. I really liked you.”
“Yeah, well, you made me like you, too. I can only assume you’ve had practice.”
She shook her head.
“Tell me, Jade. Was it my fault? Did I say or do something that put my family at risk?”
“It was nobody’s fault. I did not steal any credit card numbers.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’m sorry you don’t. But that doesn’t change the facts.”
He took a step back. “That’s it, then? You’re sticking with denial. You’re not going to help at all.”
“I can’t help. Because I have no idea what happened.”
“Damn, you’re good.”
She wrapped her hands around the bars, looking forlorn and beautiful in the dank surroundings. “Logan, please.”
He steeled his emotions. “Are you going to try to play me some more?”
“I’m not playing you. I want to find out the truth. I want to find out what happened just as much as you do.”
“I doubt that.”
“Yesterday.” She compressed her lips, a cloud coming into her eyes. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I had fun yesterday.”
“That’s sad, Jade.”
Her brow furrowed in obvious confusion.
“It’s sad that you had fun leading me on.” He found himself moving closer, his own voice dropping. “I should have tried to get you in bed. At least then I’d have something to show for my folly.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I do. I wanted you bad last night. I was being a gentleman about it, so I didn’t press. But had I known—”
He forced a cold smile. “Why?”
“You’re not like that. I know you’re not like that.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“And you don’t know anything about me.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
“I’m not what they’re saying, Logan. I’m the woman you met yesterday. That was me. It still
“Their proof is ironclad.”
“It’s not. It can’t be. It’s not possible. Somebody, somewhere made a mistake.”
“People did make mistakes,” he answered softly, pushing back from the bars. “First, it was me. And then it was you.”
She didn’t respond, just gazed up at him with those luminous gold-green eyes.
Logan knew he had to get away from her. She was too good a liar. She was too compellingly beautiful. And his memories from yesterday were far too fresh.
He was sick about the repercussions for his family, and he was disgusted that he was still attracted to her. He hated that there was some small part of him still wishing desperately for a logical explanation. He forced himself to turn away.