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TitleNight of the Living Deb
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Page 2

“What else do you want, Kendricks?” Allie was quickly on me. “An affidavit? A
videotape? A signed confession?”

I glared at her.

Lu murmured, “Sorry, girls, but I’m as confused as y’all,” before tacking on,
“Stay put, okay? Let me check with the office and see what they know.”

She took off, leaving me with black-hearted Allie, who probably wouldn’t know
what sympathy was if it ran over her in a bulldozer.

She had a sour look on her face that I didn’t like. Her slender nose wrinkled, her
eyes squinted meanly.

“Spit it out, for Pete’s sake, and quit looking at me like that,” I demanded none
too nicely; because I knew exactly what she was thinking, and I didn’t want to
hear it. “Don’t you dare tell me you honestly believe Brian ran off with this . . .
trailer trash person, or I’ll have to kill you with my bare hands.”

“All right, I won’t say it.” But she continued to stare squarely at me, forehead
pleated. “No, dammit, I will. I’ll say exactly what I’m thinking, because it’s
sounding more and more like the truth every minute.”

“Stop—” I tried, but she didn’t listen.

“They hooked up, Kendricks. Malone got a buzz in his britches for a hootchie
mama, and he went home with her, now he’s too embarrassed to show his face.
What other explanation is there?”

“Stop it.” Despite myself, I started trembling. This was wrong. Completely
wrong and upside down. Not really happening. “I won’t assume the worst before
I have the chance to talk to Brian.”

My daddy had always taught me to never judge too swiftly, for fear of getting
things totally ass backward.

I Brian. Maybe not backward and forward, perhaps not all the littlest
details or even some middling ones, but well enough to be sure he wouldn’t pull
a stunt like this. It didn’t sound like him at all, and I was not going to buy it until

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court, besides the turncoat brother; though I figured Allie had more of that scoop
at her fingertips.

I considered the amended witness list that Brian had taken from the file. Had
someone on it wanted Malone out of the way? Had that same person killed
Trayla Trash because of what she knew or had seen?

Was this Oleksiy Petrenko a patron of The Men’s Club?

More importantly, was he a client of Trayla’s? In particular, was he the elusive
boyfriend who’d promised her a ticket to something better?

Still, I couldn’t figure out why Malone would want to talk to her or why doing
so would get into trouble.

I could understand why a rich man who was truly guilty of his alleged crimes
and afraid of jail time would, perhaps, want to eliminate a player from the
opposing team who intended to crucify him on the stand. But why would
Oleksiy Petrenko mess with someone from his own defense team?

It simply wasn’t logical.

I only wished I’d asked Brian more about the case. He might’ve dropped
something about Oleksiy that could shed light on what was going on, if there
indeed was a connection.

There was a lot I didn’t know about Malone’s job.

Did he like his secretary? Was the coffee good? Did the cleaning people go
through his desk drawers? Did his boss treat him like a lackey?

It was rare for him to bring up a current case with me, as he was fairly close-
mouthed about anything ongoing. If he dished at all, it was mainly about
successful verdicts or a hard-fought case lost.

Did that make me a crummy girlfriend?

Was I supposed to be deeply interested in every facet of his life, including the
daily grind at ARGH, even if I found the legal world less than exciting?

Oh, man.

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I could make myself crazy doing that, torturing myself with the “what ifs” and

But I had to stop.

Second-guessing my past actions wasn’t going to fix things now.

About to sign off the Internet, I stopped myself and did one last search; this time
for Brian Patrick Malone.

Like magic, related links appeared, and I scanned each one, seeing mostly
attorney directories, a listing on ARGH’s Web site, and a few mentions of old
cases in the archives of the local papers, as one would expect.

What I didn’t count on finding was a link to the Dallas Zoo, where Brian was a
“zoo parent” to a Bengal tiger. He’d also sponsored several fund-raising efforts
by MADD, and had participated in the last Susan Komen run.

He hadn’t he told me any of that.

It was good stuff, for Pete’s sake. It would’ve made me think all the more of
him. Maybe it was just that he didn’t like to brag.

Or, perhaps, he needed to keep a few secrets.

I thought of what Allie had said after we’d gone to The Men’s Club.

I hadn’t wanted to believe her then, but I realized she was right.

In the past twenty-four hours, since Brian Malone had vanished from the face of
the Earth, I’d discovered more about him than in the four months we’d dated and
talked and kissed and shared the sheets in my bed.

What was wrong with that picture?

There was so much more that I wanted learn about him, about his family, his
cases, and I was scared witless that I might not have that chance.

Frustrated tears welled against my lashes, and I brushed my sleeve across my

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