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Chapter 54

I swung around to look out the back window. The gold Pontiac was nowhere to be seen.

He turned off, Bixby said as he steered the Audi around the building to the parking garage. I did not want to go into that garage, because I wasnt sure exactly what was going on with Dr. Colin Bixby at the moment. It seemed way too much of a coincidence that he lived in the same building as Wesley Lambert.

Kyle introduced us, he was saying, talking about Lambert. Nice guy.

He was making ricin in his condo, I said. Not sure if that could be called nice. And he was poking around Chez Tango threatening Trevor, and then Trevor dies, mysteriously, from flu symptoms that could really have been ricin poisoning.

Bixby snorted. It was the first thing about him that I did not find attractive. Are you a doctor now, Brett?

I shrugged.

Why dont you stick with your tattoos and Ill stick with medicine, okay? The condescending tone was also bothersome.

He got out of the Audi, but I continued to sit there, until he came over to my door and opened it for me. He bowed low and swung his arm to indicate I was to get out. It was chivalrous; I had to give him that.

Or maybe he was just luring me into his condo so he could kill me. He knew Id been heading over to Chez Tango, and he conveniently got stuck in traffic during the explosion.

My thoughts were all over the place. I had no proof of anything. I was being paranoid. After all I had been through, I felt it was justified.

Bixby shut the door behind me and put his hand on my lower back. My whole body stiffened.

He noticed.

Are you okay? he asked softly, leaning toward me and brushing my cheek with his lips.

If we werent at the Windsor Palms, if he hadnt bought his place because of Wesley Lambert, I might actually encourage a little more romance, maybe even that massage, but instead I pulled back and said, Stressed out. Explosions do that to me. I gave a sort of high-pitched laugh and crossed my arms, immediately regretting it because my arm was sore from being sliced up by glass shards.

He noticed.

When we get upstairs, Ill take care of that, he said, his voice all husky and sexy, and for a second I dipped my toe in the water, but then got out of the pool.

I nodded, though, to keep up appearances.

He pushed the button for the elevator, and the doors slid open like they were waiting for us. Bixby put his arm around me and let me go in first. I shimmied around as he punched in seven, which I assumed was his floor, and then, just as the doors began to close, scooted out and watched him disappear. I think he was so surprised that he didnt realize he couldve just opened the door again. I saw the little numbers above the elevator door climb.

With my messenger bag slapping against my hip, I high-tailed it between cars and down the pavement, skipping down the open stairwell that led to the ground floor and outside. In the distance I heard the ding of the elevator. He was coming back down for me.

I came out onto the circular drive, the fountain spouting all that water, but I didnt have time to lament it. I ran along the roadway and out to the Strip. I thought I heard someone shout my name, but I couldnt stop to turn around. It would slow me down.

When I hit the sidewalk, I almost crashed into two Hispanic guys who tried to hand me those little cards advertising the ladies who would do anything for a price. Like Id be interested. I waved them off as I picked up speed and dashed between the tourists who were gazing at the Venetian, which was just across the street.

I wanted to go to the shop in the worst way. I wanted to sit in my room and close my eyes and smell the ink and feel the machine in my hand.

But I couldnt. DeBurra would track me down and cart me off to police headquarters again. Or worse, Bixby would show up. I had no idea what his agenda was, and I didnt want to find out.

The light had turned, and the walk signal indicated I could cross the street. Glancing left and right as I did so, wondering where Jeff Coleman had gone-I could have used a ride-my legs feeling more leaden with each step, I dug into my bag and pulled out my phone, hitting speed dial.

Three rings, then, Brett, where are you?

I sighed with relief. Joel, I need a car.

Wheres yours?

No time for that now, I said, knowing if I told him what had happened at Chez Tango it would take way too long to answer his questions. Can I borrow the Prius? Not exactly a getaway car, but it would have to do in a pinch.

Sure, but-

Im going to the parking garage now. Ill meet you at the elevator, okay?

Sure, but-

I hung up and went through the hotel doors into the Venetian lobby, this time not even paying attention to the d'ecor. I was on a mission. I had no idea where I would go once I had Joels car, but Id figure it out. I still needed to track Charlotte down.

I rode up in the elevator. I eyed the passageway that led to the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes, waiting for Joel. I paced a little, making a woman loaded down with shopping bags a bit nervous; I could tell from the way she kept hitting the elevator button.

Finally, Joel came through the glass doors. Instantly he enveloped me in a hug. Now, as Ive said before, Im not a hugger, but it did feel good.

I pulled away, and Joel was smiling at me.

Can you give it to me in a nutshell? he asked, holding the keys out.

I took them. Okay, Charlotte wasnt at Chez Tango, but half the building exploded while I was there, Frank DeBurra showed up and wanted to take me in for another marathon interrogation, and then Bixby picked me up and took me to his place. Which so happens to be at the Windsor Palms, where Wesley Lambert had his little ricin-making lab. So I took off. I need to find out how Tim is, because he and DeBurra beat the crap out of each other over Shawna. And I need to find Charlotte. I clutched the keys, hoping hed be okay with me taking the car now. It all sounded a little crazy, and Im not sure I would have offered my car for the cause.

But Joel just nodded. You dont have to go far for that.

For what?

To find Charlotte.

What do you mean?

Shes inside. At the shop.

Chapter 53 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 55