Twice Tempted Page 16

My eyes burned at the thought, but I forced the pain back. Survival first, then heartbreak, I reminded myself bleakly.

’’I need to go back to the carnival,’’ I said to Maximus, ’’and you can't come with me.’’

Chapter 9

’’I look ridiculous.’’

I didn't turn, but continued to stride through the remains of the employee parking lot as though I belonged. We passed a few reporters mixed in with the throng of onlookers. The explosion brought out the gawkers as well as the bereaved.

’’You're the one who insisted on coming.’’ Spoken low so only he would hear me. ’’At least you no longer look like a reincarnation of Eric the Red, which is noticeable, by the way.’’

A scoff. ’’And this isn't?’’

Now I did glance at him, taking in the thick black hair covering every inch of his exposed skin and the pronounced brows I'd applied with glue and some modeling clay. Considering the time crunch, I'd done a good job making him look like he had hypertrichosis, more commonly known as wolfman's disease.

’’Not at a carnival it isn't.’’

My disguise was less dramatic. I wore a short blond wig that matched the color of my new shaggy beard, plus about two pounds of gel inserts to give me the double-D's that nature never intended. My waist and butt were similarly padded, rounding out my figure into unrecognizable proportions. Stage makeup covered my scar where the beard didn't, and dark glasses completed my incognito look. Well, incognito for a carnival. Most of them had at least one bearded lady.

From the glare the barrel-bellied policeman threw Maximus and me, we succeeded at blending in.

’’I told you people to stay back,’’ he barked.

I hefted my fake boobs higher in their corseted confines. ’’My trailer was barely damaged,’’ I said, pointing at an RV that had the least amount of soot. ’’Why can't I go in to get my purse? I need money to pay for a hotel room!’’

’’You noticed the big explosion, right? Once we finish our job, everyone can come get their stuff. Until then, stay with a friend. Doesn't wolfie have a pack he can call?’’

The officer turned to go after his caustic rebuttal, but Maximus's growl stopped him. Guess he was taking his new disguise seriously.

’’You want me to - ’’ the officer began, only to fall silent as Maximus's gaze flared, mesmerizing him at once.

’’Let us through,’’ he said in a low, resonant voice.

The officer bobbed a nod. ’’Absolutely.’’

There were days when I envied vampires. This was one of them. ’’Good thing you came. I'd hate to wait and risk them erasing all traces of the killer's essence,’’ I murmured as Maximus and I ducked under bright crime scene tape.

Even with the fake hair, I caught his grim expression. ’’So would I.’’ Then to the newly compliant officer, he said, ’’Walk with us. If anyone asks, we're witnesses you're interviewing.’’

Considering all the policemen, firemen, gas company employees, and other personnel hurrying about, we had a few minutes before we were stopped. With our new escort, we headed to Marty's trailer.

Even several hours after the explosion, the air was still thick with a mixture of gas, burnt rubber, and other, unspeakable things. I forced myself not to gag, but the urge was strong. So was the urge to burst into tears when I saw the blackened, hollowed shell that had served as my and Marty's home for years. Half of it was gone, either disintegrated from the ferocious heat or blasted into innumerable parts.

Staring at the ruined husk made the full reality of Marty's death hit me. A small, foolish part had secretly hoped he'd survived and hadn't heard me when I was yelling for him last night. That hope extinguished as thoroughly as his life would have when the explosion went off. The destruction was so complete, I doubted they would find enough remains for me to bury. Despite my resolve, a warm, wet trail slid down my cheek.

’’Don't,’’ Maximus said softly. ’’This isn't the time.’’

I swiped at the errant tear and squared my shoulders. He was right. Grieving would come later. Now, I had to find out who snuffed out Marty's life. Yet looking around, I wasn't sure where to start. The large crater in front of what used to be Marty's trailer? Farther up the gas line?

’’What have you found so far?’’ Maximus asked. I turned, but the question wasn't directed at me.

’’Last of the fires were only put out a couple hours ago, so not much,’’ the officer replied in a monotone. His light brown eyes were fixed on Maximus as if glued. ’’Five dead, three more missing. Gas company's got the power off so we're checking the pipes. Found something in the pit near a twisted hunk of pipe - ’’

’’Show me,’’ Maximus interrupted.

The officer began to walk toward a tented area swarming with people wearing ATF jackets. I tugged at Maximus's sleeve.

’’There's too many of them,’’ I whispered.

’’Come back,’’ Maximus told the officer, who obeyed at once. ’’Get the object and meet us outside the east section of the barricade. Don't let anyone know what you're doing.’’

The officer left. I followed Maximus to the section of the barricade where there was the least amount of spectators. After ten minutes, the portly officer was back.

’’Here,’’ he said, pulling a bag out from under his shirt.

I took it, my bulky rubber gloves dispelling any fingerprint concerns. Those had been the next priority after Maximus purchased all the necessities for our disguises. Then I held up the bag, frowning. The clear cellophane revealed a few crumpled bits of wire and what looked to be a shard of plastic.

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