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Chapter 16

I felt like Id swallowed a bag of marbles.

Excuse me? I managed to sputter.

His expression conveyed his compassion. He didnt indicate a next of kin on his paperwork. Im glad you came in.

Next of kin? I barely knew anything about the guy except he could lip-synch to Britney songs while dancing on six-inch heels and look like he was having the time of his life. I also knew he had a pinup girl who looked remarkably like Britney Brassieres on his upper left arm. Ace had done the ink.

I didnt even know where the guy lived.

Charlotte did. As I thought of her, I took a deep breath. This would devastate her.

How? I asked softly.

He was incredibly dehydrated when he came in. He lost a lot of fluids. We couldnt keep anything down him.

He didnt look good when he came to my shop earlier.

Colin Bixby frowned. Yes, I meant to ask. What shop is that?

The Painted Lady.

His eyes traveled over the garden on my arm, the dragon poking up over my tank top. Youre the painted lady, he said softly.

I nodded. Thats right. His gaze was a little disconcerting, but not in a bad way. I had to keep talking or Id get too distracted. He was at my shop when he became ill. Although, come to think of it, I think he was sick when he arrived. You know he was in the hospital overnight?

Yes. Colin Bixby leafed through a file folder that he picked up off the desk. He had a concussion and a small chest wound. According to the report, he was perfectly fine when he was released this morning. All tests showed normal.

Covering his tracks in case I wanted to file a malpractice suit or something.

It doesnt say how he got the concussion, he added.

He got knocked over.

The doctors eyebrows rose.

I nodded. Some guy shot a champagne cork at him. Hit him square in the chest. The shock knocked him off balance, so he cracked his head against the floor. He was wearing six-inch heels, so he didnt have too much traction.

I hate to ask

Trevor McKay is a drag queen, I said matter-of-factly. He was performing at Chez Tango last night.

MissTiques show?

Now I was the one who was surprised. Thats right. Do you know her?

He nodded, and by the way his jaw was set, I knew that was all I was going to get. Interesting. But a little troublesome. Here I was, feeling all warm and fuzzy and other things about this guy, and this admission meant quite possibly that he was gay. I hated to think my radar was that off center. I totally had felt that little spark.

Id like to get some information from you, Colin Bixby was saying.

It took me a second to realize that he didnt want to hear about me; he was talking about information about Trevor. Information I didnt have.

I really dont know him very well, I said.

But you came to see him. He was in your shop. His green eyes were mesmerizing, teasing me a little, like he knew I was a fraud but didnt care.

He couldnt be gay. He couldnt.

I wanted to see how he was, and I wanted to ask him about something. Right. Charlotte said Trevor was the one who could explain everything. Now Charlotte was going to have to come out of hiding. I pulled out my cell phone. A friend of mine knew him better. She can tell you what you need to know.

Colin Bixby put his hand over mine, the one that was holding the phone, and I felt it again. The spark, the warmth-and the firm way he closed my phone.

You cant use that in here, he said softly, leaning toward me.

I usually dont like to share my personal space, but I didnt have a problem with that right now. He smelled nice, like fresh Ivory soap with a splash of Purell thrown in for good luck.

You can use this one. He lifted his hand off mine and waved it over a landline on the desk.

Thanks. I picked up the phone and dialed Charlottes cell.

The voice mail kicked in, and I said she needed to call me right away. I hung up and dialed Aces number. It rang a few times before I got his voice mail. I left the same message. I turned to Colin Bixby and shrugged. I can have her call you.

He was looking at me sideways in a way that made me sure hed aced chemistry class. How many tattoos do you have?

I couldnt help myself. Thats for me to know and you to find out. I sounded like I was in sixth grade. Yikes.

But it didnt seem to turn him off.

That sounds like a challenge.

Okay, so he knew MissTique, but the way he was looking at me now definitely clinched it: He was so not gay.

He slipped a card out of his breast pocket and pressed it into my hand. Call me.

Just try and stop me.

I stuck the card in my bag and stood up. He shook my hand, holding it a second longer than he should have. But I wasnt complaining.

All right, so I knew nothing about Colin Bixby except he was a doctor and he worked in the emergency room at UMC. But to a single woman of thirty-two who hadnt had a date in a while, it was nice to know the man at least had a job. I just hoped he didnt live with his mother.

I took one of my own cards out and handed it to him. In case you dont want to wait, I flirted shamelessly.

He gave me a sort of half smile and blushed again, and I had to leave before I said something even more stupid. I almost sprinted out the door but stopped when I heard him calling me back.

Miss Kavanaugh, you might want to know that Mr. McKay was delirious when he arrived here because of his dehydration. We did not find any ID on him. All we found was this.

Colin Bixby held out a stone-studded pin with the queen of hearts on it.

Chapter 15 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 17