“Dangerous things, assumptions.”
“You can say that again. I generally try to avoid them in my work, but once in a while I slip up.” Sean zipped his jacket and went down the steps. “I’ll be in touch.”
A long time later Gabe awoke to the sound of rain on the roof. He knew at once that Lillian was not asleep.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“I was afraid of this.” He levered himself up on one elbow and reached for her. “Are you upset because Sean Valentine guessed that we’re sleeping together? Honey, this is a small town and we haven’t exactly tried to hide.”
“It’s not that.” She locked her hands behind her head and stared up into the shadows. “I mean, I’m not real thrilled with the fact that Sean and everyone else in town thinks you’re trying to sucker me into marriage so that you can get your hands on a third of Harte Investments—”
“Valentine didn’t say that. He just sort of observed that you and I are having an affair.”
“It’s what he was thinking. But, to tell you the truth, I’m getting used to people thinking that.”
He wondered if that was a good thing. Did he want her thinking that their affair was fine just as it stood?
“So, the gossip isn’t what’s keeping you awake?”
“All right, why can’t you sleep? The break-in?”
He flattened his hand on her soft, warm belly. “There’s nothing to worry about. I wired the mudroom door shut, remember? Besides, if the guy didn’t find anything worth stealing the first time, he’s not likely to come back.”
He did not like the disquiet that threaded her words. “What is it?”
“Something like this happened to me in Portland.”
He stilled. “A break-in?”
“I discovered it when we went into town for the Montoya dinner. I got the feeling that someone had been inside my apartment.”
He sat up very fast. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me? Did you call the cops?”
“No. There was no evidence. My door hadn’t been forced open the way it was here. Nothing was missing.”
“Yes. I figured it was the cleaning people. I called them and I was right. A schedule mix-up. But there was a smear on the bedroom closet mirror and well—”
“I guess that after what happened tonight, I can’t help wondering, that’s all.”
“Remember what I said about the simple answer usually being the right one. Sounds like whoever cleaned your apartment left a smear. It happens. As long as there was no sign of forced entry or theft, I think we can assume that the break-in here had nothing to do with the cleaning day mix-up in Portland.”
“I’m sure you’re right. Guess I’m just a little nervous after what happened, that’s all. You know, what with one thing and another, I’m not getting a lot of painting done lately.”
He lay back against the pillows and gathered her against him. She snuggled close. He stroked her slowly, his hand gliding down her spine to the curve of her hip, letting himself enjoy the warmth and the sensual curves of her body.
“What you need is some artistic inspiration,” he whispered.
“You may be right.” She put an arm around him. “Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find.”
He moved his hand on her again, savoring the shiver that went through her. Then he eased her onto her back and came down on top of her. “Luckily for you, I am prepared to give my all to art.”
Shortly before noon the next day, Lillian stood in the opening that separated the mudroom from the back hall and watched Gabe and the Willis brothers. The three men huddled around the broken lock with a solemn air. Their expressions were grave, their voices hushed and serious. A guy thing, she thought. You saw it whenever the male of the species was in the presence of a nonfunctioning piece of hardware or machinery.
“Looks like the work of an amateur.” Torrance Willis bent low to make a closer examination of the gouges in the door frame. “A real pro would have slipped right through this old lock without leaving a scratch. What d’ya say, Walt?”
Walter stooped to get a better look. “Yep. An amateur, all right.”
Lillian hid a grin. The Willis brothers were identical twins but in style and appearance they were opposites. With his completely shaved head, precisely pressed work clothes, and neat, mechanical movements, Walter always made her think of an efficient little robot. In contrast, Torrance was a genial slob. His long, straggly hair was cinched in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His clothes were stained with what looked like several years’ worth of oil, paint, grease, and some orange-red stuff that might have been pizza sauce.
“For what it’s worth, Sean Valentine agrees with you.” Gabe studied the gouges. “Not that it tells us much.”
“If whoever broke in here is the same rat who hit Arizona on the head, I reckon he’s long gone,” Walter said. “Be a damn fool to hang around Eclipse Bay now that the heat is on.”
“I hope you’re right,” Gabe said. “But the important thing is to get something solid on this door. I don’t want Lillian spending another night here with a busted lock.”
“No problem.” Torrance absently scratched the snake tattoo that slithered out from beneath the sleeve of his grimy work shirt. “After you called us this morning, we stopped off at the hardware store. Picked up just what we need. We’ll have this fixed in no time.”
Walter selected some tools from a polished metal box. “Won’t take long. We can fill in those gouge marks and paint ’em out for you, too.”
“That would be great,” Lillian said. “I really appreciate this. I know how busy you are with Dreamscape.”
“Rafe and Hannah would be the first to tell us to take care of this for you,” Walter said. “But I got to admit, they’re keeping us real busy over there at the inn.”
“You got that right,” Torrance agreed. There was a groan of metal and wood as he leaned into the task of removing the broken lock. “Walt and me didn’t even bother to bid on any of the work on the new wing of the institute. Knew we wouldn’t have time.”