The Last Witness

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Excerpt

The Last Witness by K. T. Roberts book coverWith a quick intake of air, she managed to remove the lid and poured three pills into the palm of her hand. She turned on the faucet, guzzled back the pills, and washed them down with the water from her cupped hand. The sound of a key turning in the lock gave her pause. She heard footsteps, and froze.

“Hey, Jessie, are you all right in there?” Zach asked.

She gasped again. What had she done? She peeked around the corner and groaned when she saw him looking so chipper. Then she glanced at her reflection in the mirror; enough reason to slump to the floor, hoping he’d go away.

He walked to the opened bathroom door, a bag containing breakfast in his left hand, and a florist’s box under his arm. He set it down on the counter next to her. The smell from the bag of food rushed up her nose. The nausea returned and she slumped over the bowl one more time, kicking the bathroom door shut with her foot to discourage him from gaping at her.

When she finished, she started the water running in the shower and stepped inside the stall, pulling the shower curtain to the closed position and stood under the steady flow of water.

“Hey, sweetheart, you don’t need to hide from me. I’ve seen worse than this.”

Christ, she thought, now he’s calling me sweetheart. Another groan escaped from her mouth. What the hell have I done?

Her stomach churned and she ran for the toilet again, vowing never to touch another ounce of alcohol, especially since Zach was outside the door listening to her. God, how could she have been so stupid. He’d told her no more alcohol, but did she listen? No, not this broad. She groaned and stepped back into the shower and allowed the water to beat against her face and neck, praying the headache would go away and take Zach with it. A short while later, he reentered the bathroom and pulled the curtain aside.

“Hey, Jessie. Are you ever coming out of that shower?”

“Go away.”

“Now that’s not what you said last night.” She watched him stoop down and wipe the water off the floor with a towel from the rack.

“Forget about last night. Forget about me. I’ll be out of the department by the end of the week.”

He chuckled. “Oh stop it. For God’s sake, we’re not children. We’re consenting adults.”

“Don’t remind me.”

He smiled and headed for the door. “You’re even beautiful when you’re barfing.”

“Oh, shut up.”

When she heard the door shut, she stepped out of the shower and reached for the oversized towel, wrapping it tightly around her body. She stood in front of the mirror and eyed the reflection staring back at her. The long red locks she’d always taken great pains to showcase were now a tangled mess. She raked her fingers through trying to untangle the knots and shuffled into the kitchen.

“You’re beautiful, you know that?”

“Shut up,” she said.

“Uh oh, somebody’s grumpy.” He was clean-shaven, and dressed in dark brown dress slacks, a striped, brown, black and white shirt, and tasseled loafers. She looked away. She didn’t need to see him looking so hot, but the masculine scent of his cologne only reminded her of the foolish mistake she’d made.

He held a container out to her. “Here, drink this Ms. Martini Girl. This will make you feel better.” He smirked. “How’s that head this morning?” She didn’t respond. “That bad, huh?”

She grimaced and slowly removed the lid from the container and took a swig, certain there was nothing left inside her stomach to cause any more trips to the bathroom.

“Yep, that bad.” He pointed to the florist’s box. “These were at your front door when I returned. Have you been keeping something from me?”

“No. It must be a secret admirer.”

She walked to the cupboard, reached inside for a vase, filled it with water, and then went back over to untie the ribbon around the box. Unable to release the knot, she reached for a pair of scissors to cut the ribbon. Disturbed by her current state of mind, she couldn’t believe a minute ago she was dreading the fact that she’d slept with him, yet now, the flowers caused her heart to palpitate. What was wrong with her?

She was convinced he’d bought the flowers for her, but was too embarrassed to admit it. This was a side of him she’d never expected. She racked her brain trying to remember whether she enjoyed the sex. That’s what happens when you drink too much, she told herself. He obviously enjoyed it. The idea of being courted by him really appealed to her senses. She smiled—he was definitely a smooth operator.

With the tie undone, she sighed, and lifted the lid. She gasped—frozen in space as she viewed the contents inside the box. They were roses all right, but not the kind she was expecting to see. She shoved the box on the floor, afraid to touch them.

“What the hell?” Zach said.

Pieces of dead, black roses scattered over the floor. A note lay under one of the stems, and she stooped down to pick it up. He jumped to his feet and grabbed the note out of her hand. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and the dull ache in her head throbbed again.

A sudden sense of suspicion washed over her body, and held her captive. He’d been the one to bring the box inside. Could he be the one doing this to her? A slight flashback of their evening gave her second thoughts about him doing such a thing. But maybe he was trying to trick her into thinking he wanted a relationship just to get closer to her.

“Are you all right?” He wrapped his arms around her. She pushed him away. “Are you okay?” He stood looking at her, a deep crease in his forehead.

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”

She bent down to clean up the mess she’d made.

“Don’t touch anything. You know better than that.” He pulled her hand back, then called headquarters. “Send a crew over to Detective Kensington’s apartment. Yes, the address is . . .”
“No, dammit,” she shot him an angry look. “Now I’ll never find out which asshole in the department is doing this to me.”

She could see by the indignation in his expression, that he was going to do precisely as he wanted. “We’ll wait here for you,” he said into the phone.

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