Savannah is shaking her head. “This doesn’t make sense. He has no reason to steal, Kate. He makes a very good salary. He’s been with us for a very long time.”
“That’s how it usually is,” I reply gently. “The person responsible is typically someone that is trusted. Loyal, even.”
“I guess that people make poor decisions when they have a lot of stress in their lives,” Savannah says slowly.
“Thank you, Kate,” Eli says and stands, showing me the door. He’s suddenly a stranger, and I don’t like it. “We will go over this evidence, and discuss, and let you know if we need anything further.”
“Are you okay?” I ask, frowning at him.
I stop in the middle of the office and stare at him. Finally, he simply leans in and whispers in my ear. “We will talk later. Have a good afternoon.”
And with that, I’m shown through the door.
I return to my office and decide to make additional copies of all of the reports I just gave to Eli.
Why was he so cold just now? Not four hours ago he was holding me tight, being so sweet, so tender. Treating me like I’m special and sexy and someone he enjoys being with.
And, in his office, he was distant, as if he’s never seen me naked or been inside me.
How can men do that? Go from hot to cold in a matter of hours?
Is he mad that I solved the case and the person responsible is someone he likes?
I sit back and stare at the wall as it occurs to me that me solving this case means that I’m leaving. My time here is almost over.
And that just makes me sad.
I’ve loved spending time with Savannah and Declan again. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I had them available to me all the time.
But, most of all, I’ve enjoyed Eli. He’s amazing sexually, and has given me a new confidence physically that I’ll always be indebted to him for. He showed me how a woman is supposed to feel when she’s with a man, in and out of bed. He makes me laugh. He turns my body inside out and makes it sing.
And I suspect that I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was, and I’ve already done the irresponsible thing and fallen in love with him.
I don’t do love.
He has been honest with me from the beginning. He’s attracted to me, enjoys me, but he doesn’t love me.
And I am leaving. I have a life in Denver. A job that sends me all over the country. I need to make sure that Rhys is going to be okay.
I have responsibilities.
“Are you okay?” Hilary asks, as she walks into my office, pulling me out of my daydream.
“Hi,” I reply with a grin. “I’m okay. Just a lot on my mind.”
“Wanna talk about it?”
I shake my head no with a sigh.
“I’m your friend, you know. You can always talk to me about stuff.”
“I appreciate that. How was your weekend with Louis?”
“Even better than the last time,” she says with a wink, and sits in the chair in front of my desk. She sets a to-go container on my desk. “I brought you lunch.”
“You didn’t have to do that. Is it lunch time already?”
“It is,” she confirms. “I tried a new soup recipe and had a ton left over. This is why I rarely cook for myself. Cooking for one is just a waste of food.”
“I hear you. Thanks.” I take the lid off and sniff it. She even warmed it up for me. “Smells great. So, what else did you do this weekend?”
“I took Louis shopping. I needed some new shoes.” She lifts her leg and shows me a gorgeous pair of sling-back Choos. “And I might have needed a new bag too,” she says with a laugh, and shows off a gorgeous black Gucci handbag.
“Those are gorgeous,” I agree.
“Your friends are fun,” she says with a smile, changing the subject.
“I know.” I swallow, but keep my face impassive. This is the job. Lying. I’m excellent at it when I need to be.
“I didn’t realize you were so close to the Boudreaux family.”
“I wouldn’t say we’re super close,” I reply easily. “I did go to college with Savannah, and when I decided to move down here, she offered me a job.”
So, Hilary has a bitchy side.
“I’m going to work through lunch,” I say, ready for Hilary and her crappy attitude to leave. “Thanks again for the soup.”
“Anytime.” She stands and heads for the door. “I’m out for the day.”
“Oh?” I check the clock. “At noon?”
“I have to go to the doctor. Yearly fun stuff.” She wrinkles her nose, then waves and saunters off.
And I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something.
I open the soup and take a bite and think back on the past few weeks with Hilary. She has more experience than me in this position, but I know she doesn’t make enough money to buy close to five thousand dollars worth of shoes and handbags.
Unless she has a ton of credit card debt.
Which, she might. I mean, not everyone manages money well.
One thing’s for sure, she makes a heck of a soup. I continue slurping it up, eating it quickly. I was hungrier than I thought.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Hilary’s statement the day we met for happy hour when I asked how she could afford her new car passes through my mind.
New shoes and bags.
Leaving early from work.
And she was at the club when I was talking to Savannah about my suspicions regarding Mr. Rudolph!
I wonder how much she really heard?
Having eaten all of the soup, I close the lid and come to a complete and utter stop. Written on the top in marker is H. Peterson, with the ‘on’ almost completely worn off.
It can’t be!
I scratch my neck, which has just begun to itch, and log into the employee time clock program to bring up Hilary’s logs, print them out, and compare her comings and goings to the dates of the transfers.
Sure enough, every day there was a transfer, Hilary clocked out right around 2:00. Not long after Mr. Rudolph would have left for the hospital.
I page down Adam’s email, looking for the description of the woman who picks up the checks.
A woman in her mid-thirties. Blonde hair, average height, average build.
I swallow, but realize my tongue suddenly feels thick. My throat itches. Cheeks are tingly.
“Shit!” I stare down at the empty bowl and my heartbeat triples. It’s getting harder to breathe. My lips feel funny.