“Stop it!” she pleaded. “You’re the one I want. The only one.”
But the last thing she wanted him to do was stop. He was aroused for the first time in months. She reached for him, clawing at his bare back, squirming out of her bikini bottoms, desperate to pull him inside her. Please let him make love to me now. It’s been so long. But after a lingering kiss, he did what he always did. Wrapped his arms around her like a cocoon and waited until she fell into a fitful, frustrated sleep.
It was a long wait. Finally the regular rise and fall of her chest let him know it was safe to move. He slipped out of bed and down the hotel corridor. Outside it was pitch-dark, but he knew where he was going. Behind the main building, past the tennis courts to the low-built employees’ residence.
Two knocks. The door opened.
“I’d almost given up on you.”
“Sorry. I couldn’t get away.”
He kissed the almond-eyed barman passionately on the mouth. “Let’s go to bed.”
THE BARINGS’ VILLA, MIRAGE, ON THE north side of the island, was idyllic and as secluded as anyone could have wished. The perfect marriage of luxury and simplicity, with its Infinity pool, whitewashed walls and colonial dark wood floors, Villa Mirage was surrounded by thick jungle on one side and shimmering ocean on the other. Even so, Lisa had taken extra precautions, installing round-the-clock details of security men to circle the perimeter and two armed bodyguards inside the property, in addition to the housekeeper, handyman and butler who lived at the villa year-round. Not for a moment did she believe Inspector Liu’s warnings about her attacker returning to kidnap or harm her. That was preposterous. But the media attention was another matter. In the absence of any information, or a viable suspect on whom to focus their anger, the Chinese press had chosen to vilify Miles Baring’s much-younger American wife. Overnight, it seemed, Lisa had gone from innocent victim to calculating gold digger in the minds of most ordinary Hong Kong citizens. She knew from bitter experience that the paparazzi would stop at nothing to steal a picture of her, which the newspapers would no doubt twist to make it look as if she were living it up in Bali. As if she weren’t grieving Miles. Lisa wasn’t about to let that happen.
It was late when she arrived at the villa and she was tired.
“I think I’ll go straight to bed if you don’t mind, Mrs. Harcourt.”
“Of course, ma’am. I’ll have Ling bring you up some warm milk.”
Karen Harcourt, Villa Mirage’s housekeeper, was short and round and motherly. She wore her gray hair in tight curls and had always reminded Lisa of the sweet old grandmother from the Tweety Pie cartoons.
If only I’d had a mother like that, my life might have been so different. If only I’d had a mother at all.
Upstairs, Lisa’s bedroom had been prepared for her arrival. The mahogany four-poster bed had been turned down and draped with fine-mesh mosquito nets. Diptyque candles cast a warm glow over the room and filled it with the soothing scent of gardenia. The doors to the balcony were open, allowing Lisa to hear the soft lapping of the waves against the shore below. The only jarring note was the silver-framed pictures of her and Miles that were still propped up on her teak dressing table. Mrs. Harcourt probably thought I’d want to see them. To hold on to the memories. Lisa slipped them into a drawer and sighed.
Turning around, she froze. There was a man by the door, lurking in the shadows. Lisa couldn’t see his face, but she didn’t need to. He was a man. A stranger. In her bedroom. She screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Help! Guards! Help me!”
The man stepped into the light. “Please, stop screaming. I’m not here to hurt you.”
Lisa’s voice got louder. “INTRUDER! HEEEEELLP!”
He walked toward her. “Really, I didn’t mean to scare you. I only want to talk. I—”
He slumped, lifeless, to the floor. Behind him, Lisa’s housekeeper, Mrs. Harcourt, stood shaking like a leaf. Lisa stared at the heavy, blood-smeared frying pan in her hand and promptly fainted.
THE MAN ON THE FLOOR WAS quite still. Blood poured from a wound in the back of his head where the housekeeper had hit him. Belatedly the two security guards burst into the room, just as Lisa began to come around.
One said, “I’ll call the police.”
“No.” Lisa was surprised by how firm her own voice sounded. “No police. Is he dead?”
One of the guards knelt low over the body. “No, ma’am. He’s breathing.”
The man on her bedroom floor was pale and blond. He was not the man who’d killed Miles. His voice alone could have told her that. But who was he, and what was he doing here?
“How badly is he injured? Does he need a doctor?”
The guard felt the man’s wrist. “He’s got a strong pulse. But he ought to see someone, just in case. Concussions can be tricky things.”
Lisa nodded. “I’ll call Frank.”
Dr. Francis McGee was on old friend of Miles’s with a villa just across the bay. Frank was retired, but his mind was still sharp. More importantly, he could be relied on to maintain absolute discretion.
Mrs. Harcourt bustled forward. “We need to stop the bleeding right away. I can bandage him, but I’ll need help getting him upright.”
When Frank McGee arrived forty minutes later, the man was propped up on pillows in one of Mirage’s guest suites. The wound on his head had been cleaned and tightly bandaged. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, two guards stood at the door, intently watching his every move.
“He wasn’t armed,” Lisa told the doctor. “But I didn’t know that at the time. He just appeared in my bedroom and I screamed. Mrs. Harcourt only meant to disable him.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, my dear. Housebreakers deserve everything they get in my book. Mrs. Harcourt did the right thing.” Dr. McGee unwound the bandages and looked at the wound. Then he pulled open the man’s eyelids and shone various lights in his eyes. The doctor’s hands were liver-spotted and crisscrossed with thick, gnarled veins, but Lisa noticed how still and sure they were when he worked. “He’ll live. I’ll put in some stitches eventually, but for now he needs rest. Someone must keep an eye on him throughout the night, though. If he starts vomiting or bleeding out of the nose, call me immediately. You’re quite sure you don’t want to call the police?”
“Quite sure. He owes me some answers before I hand him over to anyone else.”
Only after Frank McGee left did Lisa realize how truly exhausted she was. Was it really only that morning that she’d left the hospital in Hong Kong, walking out on the enraged Inspector Liu? It felt like weeks ago. She longed to go to bed, but she was determined to be at her would-be attacker’s bedside when he woke up. Curling up on an armchair in the corner of the room, under the watchful eye of the security guards, she pulled a cashmere blanket over herself and fell instantly to sleep.
“JESUS. MY HEAD.”
The blond man was awake. Groggily, Lisa checked her watch. It was five A.M. Morning.
“What did you hit me with? An anvil?”
He was American. For some reason Lisa hadn’t registered that last night.
“A frying pan. And I didn’t hit you. It was my housekeeper.”
The man reached up and touched his bandages. “Your housekeeper’s got quite a swing on her. I feel like I’ve done ten rounds with Andre Ward.”
“I’ve no idea who that is,” said Lisa briskly. “But what you actually did was one round with a seventy-two-year-old grandmother.”
The man smiled sheepishly. “That’s kind of embarrassing.”
“I’d say embarrassment is the least of your worries.” A cold edge had crept into Lisa’s voice. “Who are you? And what the hell were you doing breaking into my home?”
The man extended a hand. “Matt Daley. Pleased to meet you.”
“I’m not going to shake your hand! You were trying to rob me”—Lisa shivered—“or worse. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have you arrested and thrown into jail this instant.”
Matt couldn’t help but admire the way her full breasts rose indignantly out of her low-cut Chloé blouse and her cheeks flushed when she was agitated. She’s beautiful. Just like the others.
“Because you’re in grave danger,” he said solemnly. “And not from me. Mrs. Baring, I know you have no reason to trust me. But the man who killed your husband, the man who hurt you, has killed before. And the wives of his victims have a disconcerting tendency to go missing—”