Chapter Twenty-Two

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Someone needs to give Asprey a shirt.

The scene spread out before them, a perfect tableau taken from a crime scene drama. Todd slumped in an inert heap underneath the docks, the moon barely a glimmer through the clouds. No sound other than the lapping of waves on crusty shores filled the night air, and the unmistakable scent of rotting seaweed surrounded them.

Graff had chosen an isolated spot near a collection of industrial warehouses, so there was no one about—and anyone who might have chanced by would have kept going, head bent, no questions asked.

Farther off, closer to the receding water's edge, crumpled what remained of Poppy's white dress, soaked with blood and with a hole clearly ripped open on the chest. One high heel lay spike up; the other bobbed in the waves. As a final touch, Graff tucked the gun—Todd's own—into the bastard's hand, so that the first thing he would see when he came to was evidence of his crime.

And yet, with all those touches, almost cinematic in their execution, Poppy couldn't stop looking at Asprey and his stupid bare chest. He was eerily beautiful in the moonlight, his torso seeming to extend for miles to where it trailed into the waistband of his slacks, each movement an education in masculine grace.

"What?" Asprey asked, kicking some sand around to cover their footprints. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"It's cold," was all she said. No need to let him know how that young, ripped Abe Lincoln look was working on her. She crossed her arms over her chest. "And late. Graff? Are we ready?"

"You guys take your car and head back to the hangar." Graff jogged up, looking flushed and, dare she say it—happy? The sense of criminal purpose suited him. "I'm going to hide out down by the pier and watch. I want to make sure he understands the full severity of what he's done when he wakes up."

"I think you covered it." Poppy didn't harbor any illusions about Todd Kennick's sense of right and wrong. He wouldn't make a push to see if Natalie was okay, wouldn't try to contact the gangsters to issue a formal apology. He'd run—fast, and as far as his legs would take him.

And there it was, all cleaned up in a tidy bow. Natalie would no longer be showing up to work at In the Buff. The backroom poker game was cleared and gone. The three of them would disappear, all of Todd's money in hand—well beyond the eighty grand she'd set out to recover.

The question was why?

Looking over at Graff, pride and maliciousness warring for supremacy in his face—that face so like Asprey's but without a tenth of his humanity—she was almost afraid to ask. The half million? Simply because he could? Or was it that maybe, just maybe, he wanted to return the money to its rightful owners?

Either way, he was far too secretive about it.

"Don't you think you've done enough for one night?" she asked Graff coldly. "We should all head back to the hangar to debrief. I'm very interested in what the hell that was all about."

"Just take Asprey home, will you? I think he might try to strangle me if he stays here any longer." The look Graff settled on Asprey was almost gentle. "I'm sorry things had to turn out this way."

He tossed her the keys, but Asprey intercepted, catching them easily. "I can drive," he muttered. "But before we go, I want you to give me your gun."

"Excuse me?"

Asprey extended his hand. "You heard me. I'm not leaving you here with Todd and a gun. Is it loaded this time?"

Asprey still sucked at having a staring contest, blinking several times as he met his brother's eyes and refused to back down, but Poppy couldn't help a tick of pride from beating in her chest. Graff needed taking down a notch. Or twelve.

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