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“I can do both.”


“Did any of our guys know about Zola?”

“No. Not really?” I glanced over my shoulder at Baptiste and Meridian in the kitchen, going through the cabinets. “Baptiste knew there was someone I cared for, but he never knew her name until about a year ago. He also knew I sent her roses for her birthday.”

“Did he know the color?”

“I can’t remember, but it wouldn’t have been hard for him to find out.” I didn’t enjoy this direction of conversation.

“What else did Baptiste know?”

“After a job in London, I had to get a locket fixed. Baptiste paid off the jeweler for me while I cleaned up a body.”

“Did he see the locket?”

“I don’t think so. The locket was delivered to me days later.”

“However, Baptiste had the opportunity to look at it?”

I scowled. “Yes.”

“Don’t look at me that way. We’re considering all options.” Stark blew out a long breath. “Baptiste loves you. You both have been close for so many years. I can’t see him going there. It would need to be a significant reason.”

“I’ve tried not to give Baptiste a reason, but maybe…with Nakita’s death…” My hands shook. “He could believe I was guilty. Sometimes I believe I was guilty myself.”

“Hey, I’m the one looking into this. We don’t need you getting depressed and psychoanalyzing every friendship you’ve ever had.”

I stared at the city lights. “This can’t be Baptiste.”

“I know.”

I turned back to him. “That would hurt.”

“I know, but you brought me here to look at everything. You want the stalker caught.”

“I trust your judgment.”

“Good.” Stark’s expression relaxed as he shook his head. “Besides, I hope it has nothing to do with Baptiste or Meridian too. I can’t kill either one. I’m leaving if it does.”

“Don’t worry. If it’s them, I’ll handle it.” I pulled a small vial out and handed it to him. “Take the top off and smell this.”

Raising his eyebrows, Stark grabbed the vial, took it off, and sniffed. “This smells familiar.”

“I thought so too, but I can’t figure it out. You?”

He sniffed again and closed his eyes. “Damn…this brings back memories…hmmm…I was covered in this stuff once. What is it?”

“I don’t know. The smell is familiar.”

“Where did you get this?”

“It’s the paint that was on Zola.”

Stark sniffed it again.

“Get this checked. Use a private lab.”

“Why me?” Stark asked. “You usually use Baptiste for this.”

“I’m switching it up now that you’ve brought this new theory to the table. What if this is about me?” I patted his shoulder. “I trust you, Stark. You’re loyal.”

“And I’ve been in jail for a year election hacking and just got out weeks ago, so even if I had paid someone to stalk Zola, there would’ve been a trail.”

“That too.”

“If I had time to plan and plot against somebody, it wouldn’t be your model. It would be the damn government.”

“Hey, you know they’re listening. Focus on Zola’s stalker and we’ll discuss your thoughts of overthrowing the government later.”

Stark studied the vial in his hand. “I’ll get a fast track on some lab results. I should have the info to you by the morning. I’ll also have everyone checked. What will you be doing?”

“Crossing t’s and dotting i’s. I’ll be checking on my brother’s staff this week and further closing in on Zola’s team. This guy gets taken down this week.”

Stark placed the vial in his pocket. “What’s your plan for tonight? Are you going to move her?”

“Yes, and I want to clear Zola’s head. She’s had a rough week.”

“You’re taking Zola out?”


He scrunched his face in confusion. “You think that’s a good idea?”

“I’ll let everyone know I’m taking her out to eat. We just won’t come back.”

Stark nodded. “And while you’re gone, I’ll watch Baptiste and Meridian. Do a little snooping into their luggage and try to make sure neither one kills me.”

I looked through the glass and didn’t even want to suspect Baptiste of anything. Meridian would be easy to kill. I barely knew him. But Baptiste, I couldn’t.

“We’ll talk in the morning.” I walked off the balcony. “I’ll call you.”

“And I hope to have some answers.”

I thought of something. “I need you to do another thing for me. A quick assessment.”

“About what?” Stark asked.

“I want this night to be perfect for Zola.”

Stark smirked. “I’ve got you. One perfectly designed date coming up.”

We talked more. I gave him Zola’s stats and then rushed off to shower and change. I’d told Zola I would take her out, and I would be true to my word. She’d been rattled and shaken for the past few days. I had to give her some good memories within the darkness, and most of all, I had to get her somewhere safe.

Then, when we were enclosed and alone, I would not only deal with that lush body I yearned to taste, but I would think more on this stalker and how he appeared to be using Zola to get to me.