Home > Secrets in Death (In Death #45)

Secrets in Death (In Death #45)
Author: J.D. Robb

1

It wouldn’t kill her.

Probably wouldn’t kill her.

Eyebrows knit together beneath a snowflake cap, Lieutenant Eve Dallas strode through the flood of people on the crowded sidewalk with thoughts nearly as bitter as the February wind.

She’d rather be back in her vehicle and driving home through the jam of other vehicles. Down to it, she’d rather engage in mortal combat in some downtown alleyway with a Zeused-up chemi-head than head for some fussy fern bar.

But a deal was a deal, and she’d run out of excuses—reasons, she self-corrected. She’d had solid reasons to put this deal off.

Like murder.

A murder cop dealt with murder and all it entailed. Not fancy drinks and small talk.

Resigned, she stuffed her hands—she’d forgotten her damn gloves again—in the pockets of her long leather coat that snapped and billowed around her long legs. Her gaze scanned as she hiked the two blocks, brown and canny cop’s eyes on alert. Maybe she’d spot a street thief; Christ knew plenty of tourists clipped by with their wallets all but hanging out saying: Take me.

Not her fault if she had to make an arrest and put this little meet off, again.

But apparently the snatchers and pickers had taken the evening off.

She reminded herself drinks with Dr. Garnet DeWinter, fashion plate, forensic anthropologist, and mild irritant, couldn’t annoy or bore her to actual death.

And if death by boredom equaled a potential risk, surely they had come up with a cure by 2061.

Thirty minutes, she vowed. Forty max, and she’d be done. Deal complete.

She stopped in front of the bar, a tall, rangy woman in flat, sturdy ankle boots, a long black coat, and the incongruous ski cap with a snowflake shimmering over her choppy brown hair and knitted eyebrows.

DU VIN.

Stupid name for a bar, she thought, her wide mouth twisting in derision. Snooty French name for a bar.

She wondered if Roarke owned it, because her husband owned damn near everything else. She’d rather be having a drink with him. At home.

But she wasn’t.

She reached for the door, remembered the snowflake cap. She yanked it off, stuffed it in her pocket to maintain a little dignity.

She stepped out of the noise and rush of downtown New York, into the fern- and flower-decked noise of the trendy, overpriced drinking hole.

The bar itself, a dull and elegant silver, swept itself into an S curve along the facing wall. Mirrored shelves filled with shiny bottles backed it. On the top shelf exotic red flowers spilled out of black-and-white checked pots.

Stools with black-and-white checked seats lined the front. An ass filled every seat while other patrons crowded in, keeping the trio of bartenders busy.

The generous space, artistically lit by silver pendants twisted into floral shapes, provided room for high tops, low tops, booths, and the waitstaff, dressed in sharply severe black, moving among them.

Just under the drone of sound generated by voices, clinking glassware, and the click of shoes on the polished floor, the music system lilted with some throaty-voiced woman singing in French.

It all struck Eve as entirely too … everything.

Her instinctive scan of the room paused on a blonde—striking features, a lush tumble of hair, a curvy body packed into a bright pink skin suit with high-heeled boots as green as her eyes.

It only took a beat for her to recognize the gossip reporter—or, as Larinda Mars termed herself—the social information reporter. The last thing Eve wanted, other than some weird French drink, was to find herself an on-air item on Channel Seventy-Five.

At the moment, Mars appeared much too focused on her table companion to notice Eve’s entrance. Mid-thirties, mixed race, slickly polished looks, wavy brown hair, and blue eyes that looked as annoyed as she herself felt.

Business suit—not off-the-rack—high-end wrist unit.

His face didn’t ring for her, but as long as he kept Larinda Mars’s attention on him, Eve figured she owed him one.

The hostess, bold red hair swept up into a sleek, headache-inducing twist, approached with a practiced smile.

“Good evening, do you have a reservation?”

“I don’t know. I’m here to meet somebody. Maybe she got hung up.” Please God.

“Might she have made a reservation?”

“I don’t know. DeWinter.”

“Oh, yes, Dr. DeWinter. She’s here. I think she went down to freshen up. Let me show you to your table.”

“Fine.”

At least they headed to the opposite end of the bar from Mars.

“Would you like to check your coat?”

“No, I’ve got it.” Eve slid into the booth, onto the checked seat. A wall—head-high when she sat, and topped with more flowerpots—separated the booth from another section of tables.

The cop in her would have preferred a seat giving her a full visual radius of everything, everybody.

But she only had to handle it for thirty minutes.

A single glass of something pink and frothy stood on the other side of the table.

“Cesca will be taking care of you this evening,” the hostess announced. “She’ll be right with you.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Thirty minutes, Eve promised herself as she unwound her scarf—knitted by her partner’s artistic hands—stuffed it in her coat pocket. Accepting her fate, she shrugged out of her coat as the waitress, her hair a short, blunt swing of purple, stepped to the booth.

“Good evening, I’m Cesca, and I’ll be your server. What can I get for you?”

Eve considered ordering a cheap American beer, just to be contrary. “Wine, red’s fine.”

“A glass, a half bottle, or a bottle?”

“Just a glass.”

Cesca tapped a remote on her belt. The screen on the separating wall of the booth came on, and displayed a list—a long list—of red wines by the glass.

“Would you like some time to decide?”

“No…” Eve knew a little about wines. A woman couldn’t live with Roarke and not absorb some basic knowledge. She tapped a cabernet she knew she’d had at home, and knew came from one of Roarke’s vineyards.

“Oh, that’s a lovely wine. I’ll have it brought right out to you. Would you care for any appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, accompaniments?”

“No. No, thanks.”

The young waitress never lost her smile. “If you change your mind, we have a lovely selection—you can order from the screen. I’ll get your wine.”

Even as she stepped away, Eve saw DeWinter walk through a doorway at the far end of the bar.

DeWinter wore a body-skimming dress, nearly the same tone as the waitress’s hair, and matched the outfit with tall, supple boots in a silver gray—with killer, wire-thin heels.

Her lips, dyed a red that edged toward purple, curved when she spotted Eve, and humor lit her eyes—a cool, crystal blue against the smooth caramel tone of her skin.

With her dark hair sleek, her stride confident, she crossed the polished floor, slid gracefully into the booth.

She said, “Alone at last.”

“Funny.”

“I expected a text telling me you had to cancel.”

“No DBs to deal with tonight.”

“That’s cheery.”

“Won’t last.”

“No, but then what would you and I do if it did? You need a drink.”

“One’s coming.”

DeWinter picked up her own, leaned back as she sipped. “I love the drinks here. This one, the Nuage Rose, is a favorite. What’s yours?”

“First time here. I’m sticking with red wine.”

“I assumed you’d been here before since Roarke owns it.”

Figured, Eve thought. “If I hit every place Roarke owns, just in the city, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”

“You’ve got a point. It’s a favorite of mine.” Obviously relaxed, DeWinter glanced around as she drank. “Close to work, beautiful decor, great people watching, and excellent service.”

As if to prove the last, Cesca set Eve’s wine on the table.

“You didn’t order any, but…” Cesca held out a black plate filled with thin, golden sticks.

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