“I want to know what in the hell is happening on my campus,” he mutters in frustration.
“That’s what we would like to know as well.”
Our heads whip up at the sound of a woman’s voice in my doorway. She’s petite, with her blonde hair in a ponytail, dressed in jeans and a simple gray T-shirt. Her eyes are hard, mouth grim.
And standing right behind her is…Asher.
“Can I help you?”
How are the words even coming out of my mouth? How is Asher at my office? How did he find me here?
“I’m Detective Jordan,” the woman replies as she and Asher step into my office. “And this is—”
“Asher,” he says, interrupting her, earning a look of surprise from his partner.
“My lieutenant,” she adds. “We would like to ask you a few questions, Ms. Bailey.”
I frown, still watching Asher, whose dark eyes haven’t left my face. “I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Can you tell me how Leslie is?”
“No,” Asher answers, his eyes narrowing just a bit. “Mr. Wilson, may we speak with Ms. Bailey alone, please?”
“Are you okay?” Rick asks me softly.
“Of course.” I nod and smile reassuringly while my insides quake. No, I’m not okay! The man I had the most incredible one-night stand with in my life just walked through my door!
“If you’ll be in your office, we will stop in and speak with you when we’re done here,” Asher says.
“No problem.” Rick turns back to me. “Call me if you need me.”
Asher shuts the door behind Rick and takes a seat across from me while Jordan paces behind him.
“Obviously you know that young women are being murdered on campus,” Jordan says.
“Yes.” He’s looking at me like I’m a stranger. Maybe he doesn’t remember me. I mean, it was only one night. One fantastic, incredible night, but still. And we’d been drinking.
And why am I obsessing over this when young women are being killed at the university where I work? What kind of a horrible person am I?
“They’re all students in your US Women’s History class.” Asher leans forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “And in your weekly study group.”
“Yes, they were students who were in the study group. We meet twice a week.”
“Do you lead the study group personally, or do you assign an aid to do it?” Jordan asks.
“I lead it,” I reply.
“Why?” she asks.
“I like working with the students. I like to be able to help them.” I shrug as I think about my group of lively, funny students, and my heart hurts all over again. “Is there any news on Leslie?”
“We can’t tell you that,” Jordan replies softly. “I’m sorry. I know it must be hard.”
“Do you know your students well?” Asher asks.
“Not all of them.” I tap my finger on the desk. “But I do get to know the ones in the study group fairly well because it’s such a small group. They’re good kids.”
“Kids who are failing your class,” Asher adds.
“Not all of them.” I frown. “Some of them just need the extra help. And just because they struggle doesn’t mean they deserve what’s happening to them.”
“Of course not,” Jordan agrees. “What do you know about what’s happening, Lila?”
“I’ve seen the news reports, of course, and heard rumors.”
“Okay, what do you think you know?”
“That the girls have been raped and beaten to death, in the evening, after study group.” I swallow hard and fight to keep tears at bay. “I wish I knew if Leslie was okay.”
“She’s not,” Asher replies abruptly. “I’m sorry. She passed away during the night.”
“Oh.” Now I can’t stop the tears. “Oh, she was just a kid.”
“They’re all kids,” Jordan says and walks around the desk to pat my shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Lila,” Asher says, leaning forward again. “I need you to think back over the past few months and try to remember if you’ve seen or heard anything unusual. A person or people hanging around after your study group that shouldn’t be there. Have the students mentioned anything?”
I’m shaking my head no as I try to think back. “There’s been nothing suspicious,” I reply. “We meet in the library, so there are always different people coming and going, but I haven’t noticed anything off.”
“We’d like for you to cancel the study group for the rest of the semester,” Jordan says.
“No way,” I reply immediately. “These kids need the help. Without it, they could fail, and I don’t want that for them.”
They’re such good kids. Beautiful, smart, with their whole lives ahead of them. They deserve everything wonderful in the world. They should be dating and eating pizza and stressing over finals.
They shouldn’t be lying in the damn morgue.
“People are being killed,” Asher says, looking at me like I’m being stupid. “Canceling the group makes sense.”
“We don’t know for sure that he’s targeting the kids in my group,” I insist. I can hear the ridiculousness in my own ears. “Do we?”
“No,” Jordan replies. “We don’t have evidence of that.”
“Well then, unless you do, I’m not canceling.” I hold Asher’s narrowed gaze with my own. “You can’t make me.”
“Oh, yes. I can.” He sighs and rubs the back of his neck. “But I won’t. For now. But come on, Lila. Be reasonable. Change the time or the place of the group.”
I sigh in relief as he pulls a card out of his pocket and passes it to me. “Okay,” I concede. “I’ll change the days of the week that we meet. And I’ll make sure they come and go in groups.”
Asher nods. “I’ll be in touch. But I want you to call if anything trips a red flag. I’m serious, Lila. Anything.”
“I will,” I promise.
“You look good,” Asher says softly and offers me half a smile. I raise a brow in surprise.
“I didn’t think you recognized me.”
“Of course I did.”
“You know each other?” Jordan asks with a jolt.
“It’s been about a year,” I reply.
“Nine months,” Asher corrects me.
“You’ve only lived here for six,” Jordan says to Asher, who just shrugs.
He moved to New Orleans?
“I’d like a list of everyone in your group,” Asher says, ignoring Jordan.
“It changes a lot, depending on who needs help and when. But I can get you a list of the regulars.”
“Good.” He stands and follows Jordan to the door, then turns back and smiles at me. “It’s good to see you, Lila.”
I nod, but before I can answer, he’s gone.
I immediately reach for my phone and call my best friend, Kate.
“If you’re canceling lunch today, I will punch you in the neck the next time I see you.”
“You know, hanging out with all those Boudreaux boys has made you really violent.” I smile as I lean back in my chair, thinking of my best friend and her new family. Kate hit the mother lode when she found her Eli and his family. “And I’m not canceling, I just needed to tell you something and it won’t wait for lunch.”
“First of all, there’s been another murder, Kate. Another girl from my class.”
“Oh no. Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” At the sound of my friend’s voice, I’m sad all over again. I didn’t know Leslie well, but she was a happy, sweet girl.
“What else is going on?”
“Asher just left my office.”
“Asher, of the hottest sex in the history of the world, Asher?”
You have no fucking idea, sister.
“Yes, that Asher.”
“How did he find you?”
“He’s the lieutenant assigned to the case. He was here to ask me questions.”
“I didn’t think he lived here.” I can hear the frown in her voice, and the sound of her pen slapping against her desk.
“It seems he moved here about six months ago.”
“Please, for the love of God, tell me you got his number.”
I grin. “He gave me his card, yes.”
Kate squeals on the other end of the phone, making me laugh. “Right on!”
Not that I’ll ever get the guts up to call him.
Unless I get drunk again.
Maybe I should drink more often.
“It was weird. At first I didn’t think he recognized me, but then toward the end he said it was good to see me.”
“I like him.”
“You don’t know him,” I reply and roll my eyes.
“He’s hot. Sorry, babe,” she says to Eli, who must be in the room with her, “and he has a good job. You could do worse.”
“Gee, thanks.” I chuckle and glance at the time. “Okay, I’ll see you at lunch.”