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Authors: Leslie Parrish

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BOOK: Cold Touch
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long after he’d helped Olivia escape from their captor. While she’d been fil ed

with hope that she’d be able to repay the greatest debt of her life, he’d been

rotting away inside the wal of a bar just a few miles from where she lived.

Olivia couldn’t think for a moment, oblivious as the picture faded and the

anchor moved on to the next bit of dishy city news. She just stood there,

frozen, letting it sink in, letting herself accept that he was gone, murdered al

those years ago.

And when it did sink it, when she swal owed that reality like a bitter, rancid

hunk of meat, the only thing she could do was lean over the sink and vomit up

her breakfast.

By Friday afternoon, Gabe was beginning to regret releasing the sketch of

their young Jimmy Doe to the public, but not because it hadn’t generated any

tips. In fact, it had brought hundreds, al of which had been duly recorded and

then delivered to him to sort through.

The problem was, there were too many, and none of them looked very

promising. It seemed like every family with a missing son had cal ed in from al

over the state. Hel , al over the East Coast. Many were desperate parents,

hopeful and pleading, thinking they might final y get a response to a long-

unanswered question. Those he could understand.

It didn’t end there, however. There had also been the lonely souls who cal ed

in on
tip line just to have someone to talk to. The vengeful exes looking

to put somebody they’d once loved into a brief jam with the authorities. The

suspicious neighbors who were just sure the guy next door would do

something like that to a kid. There were the sick pranksters, the inevitable

false confession from some poor crazy son of a bitch who’d gone off his

meds, and on it went.

Ninety percent of these were a waste of his time, and the other ten long

shots. Stil , no matter how implausible, every cal had to be evaluated, which

would take up a lot of man-hours.
man-hours. There was no task force

working this old, cold murder, just him and Ty, plus whoever else was wil ing to

help them out while also dealing with their own workloads, which were al just

as heavy as steamy Savannah boiled over into tense, angry Savannah.

It only takes one
. He kept reminding himself of that every time he lifted the

phone to return a cal to somebody who might know something important.

“Hey, Cooper! Somebody’s here to see ya,” a voice cal ed.

Lowering the phone back into its cradle, he looked up at Kinney, a longtime

patrolman whose shitty attitude had kept him from ever climbing the SCMPD

ladder. The barrel-chested man was old school—racist, sexist, always smiling

but as quick to stab you in the back as to offer you a hand in friendship.

“Who is it?”

Kinney wagged his bushy eyebrows. “A woman. She says she won’t talk to

nobody but you. Hot, juicy little piece.”

“Classy as ever, Kinney,” he muttered in disgust.

Hard to insult, the man simply shrugged. “She says it’s about some fire

you’re workin’. I put her in interview two,” Kinney added.

Gabe nodded once, figuring the woman might be another reporter. If so, he

couldn’t help wondering why she’d just shown up rather than cal ing first. He

didn’t have a lot of time to deal with impromptu interviews, but he couldn’t

deny being curious about the woman who’d insisted she talk to him and only

him. Sounded like a little more than a media request.

Ty had gone out to grab a late lunch, so Gabe headed alone down the long

hal way to interview room two. He rapped once on the door, then pushed it

open, his gaze immediately moving to the woman sitting at a smal , bare

metal conference table.

Surprise shot through him at the sight of her. His feet hesitated for the

briefest moment, causing a tiny misstep between one stride and the next.

Because it was
, the redhead who’d stepped into oncoming traffic Monday

and had almost paid for it with her life. The woman he hadn’t been able to stop

thinking about since, the one whose face he hadn’t been able to get out of his


huge, yes. Beautiful, heavily lashed, expressive. But now they were reddened

and luminous with recently shed tears. This woman looked like she’d been

crying al morning and no amount of eyedrops could have disguised that.

“We meet again,” he said.

She nodded, then reached into her purse and pul ed out a smal box. “These

are for you.”

When he saw the label, he had to laugh. “You real y didn’t have to replace

them. I was serious; they were dol ar-store throwaways.”

“It was the least I could do. Thank you again for what you did.”

Even as she said it, he knew that replacing his broken sunglasses wasn’t

the reason she’d come here. The woman’s slim throat quivered as she

swal owed. Then she licked her lips nervously, and Gabe’s heart skipped a

beat. Not only was he damned glad she’d waltzed back into his life—since

he’d been kicking himself al week for not getting her name—but he also

thought she might be ready to tel him what she’d real y been doing outside

Fast Eddie’s Monday morning.

His excitement grew, as it always did when he sensed he was on the verge

of some kind of break in a case. If this attractive woman had been crying like

her heart was fit to break and had then come here, insisting on seeing him in

person to talk about the bones found after the fire, she might have recognized

the sketch from the news. Might have known that boy enough to be wel and

truly grieved at his passing.

Might be here to give him just the lead he’d been hoping for.

The woman managed a smal smile as she graceful y rose to her feet and

extended her hand. “I saw you on the news. Your name is Detective Cooper?”

“Guilty as charged, ma’am,” he replied, his voice low, unthreatening. He

wanted to keep her calm and relaxed while she told him whatever she’d come

here to say, not only because he hoped he could use the information but also

because, like most men he knew, Gabe was completely useless around a

crying woman.

Not that she looked on the verge of crying again. That stiff spine and lifted

chin showed grit. Like somebody who had a job to do and aimed to do it, no

matter how much he or she might hate it. He didn’t know this woman from

Adam, but already he respected her, at least a little.

“And you are?”

“I’m Olivia Wainwright,” she told him.

Their hands came together. His, he knew, big and rough. Hers, much

stronger than he’d have imagined. Soft, yes, and smal , but her grip was firm,

as confident as any man’s. The pretty mouth—ful lips—didn’t tremble, nor had

her voice quivered. Those tear-moistened eyes seemed to be the only chink

in her armor, and he’d bet she would graciously accuse him of seeing things if

he dared to ask her why she’d been crying.

“Thanks for coming in,” he replied when their hands slid apart.

“Thank you for seeing me.”

Niceties—check. If they were anywhere else, and there weren’t a child’s

murder to investigate, he’d happily keep right on chatting like they were just

two strangers meeting for the first time. But they didn’t have that luxury. “How

can I help you today, assuming there are no speeding cars heading in your


She smiled slightly, a strained one, but he did note that her tense shoulders

might have relaxed the tiniest bit. “I came to see you because I think I might be

able to help with the case you talked about on the news this morning. About

the murdered boy?”

Stil speaking slowly, conveying a casual, laid-back mood he definitely

didn’t feel, he said, “Is that right? Wel , that is good news. Hey, listen. I was just

fixin’ to have some coffee. You want some before we get down to business?”

“No, thank you.”

“Okay, then, let’s have a seat.”

“Your coffee?”

He waved an unconcerned hand. “It’l keep.”

“Very wel ,” she said, drifting back to her chair. She cast him a slightly

suspicious glance, and he wondered if he’d overdone it with the folksy

Southern manner. It worked on most people when he wanted it to, and right

now he wanted her comfortable and relaxed. But she had heard him in his

blunt, no-nonsense glory on TV this morning. Plus she looked a little smarter

than the average bear.

Smarter, cooler, al put together.

Again he noted the smoothness of her movements, the way the air seemed

to part around her rather than her pushing through it. It suddenly occurred to

him that she moved like water, flowing from position to position, and he

wondered if she was some kind of dancer.

Though, to be honest, she hadn’t shown much grace when strol ing into the

path of that car. He didn’t even like to think about what she might look like now

if he hadn’t grabbed her out of the way. He just thanked God he’d been nearby

and had seen what was about to happen.

One thing was sure, this Olivia woman was not, as the piggish Kinney had

said, some “juicy little piece.” There was an elusive quiet quality about her,

nothing at al inyour-face. But she was definitely attractive, with beautiful red-

gold hair that hung in a silky curtain down her back.

Redhead with big green eyes—a deadly combination for any man.

The rest of her was just as distracting. Her soft, heart-shaped face was a

little too sweet to be cal ed beautiful, her body more slender than curvaceous.

Her tasteful jewelry, smal handbag, ivory-colored dress and high-heeled

shoes didn’t scream that they’d come with a very high price tag, but oh, did

they ever whisper it. Which meant old money. Old Savannah money, he’d be

wil ing to bet, having heard that unmistakable lilt in her voice.

Gabe was good with accents. And though hers was buried beneath

probably at least six years of higher education, he definitely caught the melody

line at the bottom of the orchestration.

“Now, what is it you wanted to tel me?” he asked.

She got right down to it. “I think I knew the boy in the drawing.”

His heart lurched, though he didn’t show it. “Is that so?” Reaching into his

pocket, he pul ed out a smal notepad and pen, and flipped the pad open,

wanting to make sure she knew this was slow and easy, unthreatening, nothing

to get upset about. Because, damn, he did not want any tear fests in interview


“His name was Jack. At least, that’s the name he was going by when I knew

him. I suspect it wasn’t his real one.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I think he’d been kidnapped.”

That startled him, and he stopped writing.

“I believe he was being held captive by the same man who kidnapped me.”

Not only wasn’t he writing, now he actual y dropped his pen. “Beg pardon?”

She sighed, as if realizing she was not going to be able to simply dump him

in the middle of her story but would have to go back a little, or a lot. So that’s

what she did.

“A little over twelve years ago, when I was fifteen, I was kidnapped right out

of my bedroom in the middle of the night.” Staring hard at him, she added, “It

happened here in Savannah and wouldn’t be hard for you to verify that I’m

tel ing you the truth. You might even remember hearing about it on the news.”

“I moved here eleven years ago.”

“It was a pretty big story,” she said, not sounding proud of that but in fact

rather bleak.

Considering twelve years ago he’d stil been scrabbling to survive, counting

down the days until high school graduation so he could get out from under his

grandfather’s thumb, he’d have to say he hadn’t been a big fol ower of the

news, national or state. Big news to him in those days was when he actual y

managed to go a week without the old man trying to smash a board upside

his head.

“I was taken for ransom money. I was . . . my family is wel known.”

While she spoke, he final y remembered where he had heard the name

Wainwright. Not much giving a damn about politics, it had taken him a few

minutes to put it together. It could be her father who was currently serving as

senator from the great state of Georgia, but for some reason he didn’t think

so. Maybe it was her grandfather, uncle or cousin? Someone like that.

“I get the picture.”

Looking relieved she didn’t have to cop to being a rich, spoiled brat, she

continued, talking about enduring a horrific ordeal like she was relating the

key plot points of a movie she’d just seen. Impersonal. Detached.

He supposed she had to be. Letting something like that remain a

prominent, active part of your psyche would probably drive a person nuts.

“And you never got a look at your kidnapper’s face?”

“No. He covered my face when he took me. The boy was the only one I saw

BOOK: Cold Touch
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