Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(11)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(11)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“Fine, though I suspect it will not be quite as fine when the local wears off.”

They went inside the building and entered a wood-floored lobby. On the right, a sign pointed toward the tasting room. Logan poked his head through the doorway. The winery was a small business. Brad was behind the gleaming wood bar, polishing wine glasses. He looked up as they entered.

“Are you here to try some wine, or is this official business?” Brad set a glass on a shelf above the bar and picked up another. He was in his late forties. His hair was more salt than pepper, and a small paunch strained the front of his blue button-down shirt.

“Official business, I’m afraid,” Tessa said. “We’re investigating the murder of local artist Dante Moreno.”

Brad’s mouth flattened. His gaze shifted to the open doorway behind Logan and Tessa.

Logan’s instincts went on alert. Brad knew something.

“What do you know about him?” Tessa asked.

Brad’s empty hand gripped the edge of the bar, the veins on the back corded, as he fought—and lost—his battle for control. “Shit!” He threw the glass in his hand at the wall. It shattered, shards flying through the air and raining to the floor.

Logan eased his shoulder in front of Tessa’s. She shot him a look. He shrugged. She could be in charge of the investigation, but Logan would handle Brad if the man got physical.

Tessa moved closer to the bar. Logan took two steps to the left, ready to cut off Brad’s escape if he decided to run.

She leaned in. “When did you last see him, Brad?”

“I don’t know.” Brad’s voice rose.

“Are you sure? Where were you last night?” Tessa asked.

Brad looked confused. “I was home.” His eyes widened. “You don’t think I had anything to do with his death?”

“Did you?” Tessa’s tone was serious.

“No.” Brad shoved both hands through his hair. “Look, the guy barely registered for me until today. But Shannon has been crying all day. I asked her why.” Brad rubbed both hands down his face. “Apparently”—he enunciated each syllable—“he was painting her.”

“You didn’t know?” Tessa asked.

“No,” Brad snapped. “I wouldn’t have allowed it.”

“Allowed?” Logan asked. “Does your wife have to ask permission to do things?”

“No.” A vein in Brad’s neck throbbed. He glared at Logan. “This was different.”

Tessa jumped in. “What happens if Shannon doesn’t ask you?”

Brad took a step backward. He spun, pacing the tiny space behind the bar. Two steps, angry pivot, two steps. “It’s not like that.”

“Why don’t you explain it to us,” Logan suggested.

Brad flashed him another glare. “You don’t understand.” His voice dropped until it was nearly a whisper. “She was naked,” he said through gritted teeth.

“But it was just art,” Tessa said. “Did you think there was more to it than that?”

Brad took two steps and whirled around. “No.”

“Then why are you so upset? Don’t you trust your wife?” Logan rested both forearms on the bar, holding Brad with his gaze.

Sweat broke out on Brad’s forehead. “I didn’t do anything. You can’t pin this on me. I was home all night last night. You can ask Shannon.”

“We will,” Logan said.

“Where is she?” Tessa asked.

Brad crossed his arms over his chest and sulked. “At the house.”

Logan pointed at Brad. “Stay here.”

Tessa glanced over her shoulder. “One more thing. You’re a fisherman, right?”

“Yeah.” Brad’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Do you own a harpoon?” Tessa asked.

“Sure.” Brad nodded. “A harpoon is better than a gaff for bringing in a really big fish. Safer. Does less damage to the fish.”

Logan and Tessa went outside and got back into the SUV.

Tessa started the engine. “We can’t make him stay anywhere unless we arrest him.”

“I know.” Logan cracked his window. “But it felt good to say it. And maybe he doesn’t know.”

The Moores’ house was just down the road from the winery. Tessa parked in front of the large two-story white house with a circular driveway. They went up to the front door and knocked. No one answered. Tessa stabbed the doorbell, leaning into it impatiently. Logan could hear the chimes echoing in the house.

A few moments later, the door opened. Shannon stood in the entryway. Yoga pants showcased a fit body. Her long dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore no makeup. She’d clearly been crying. Her eyes were red and swollen. She clutched a tissue in one hand.

“Are you here about Dante?” Shannon’s voice quivered.

“Yes,” Tessa said. “We need to ask you a few questions. Could we come inside?”

Nodding, Shannon stepped back and opened the door wider. With her hand fisted around the tissue, she gestured for them to come in. She led them to a huge white kitchen with a marble island and a stunning view of the vineyard. Through the picture window, Logan could see rows of grapevines stretching across the acres.

Shannon slid into a kitchen chair and leaned her elbows on the table. A half-empty bottle of merlot and a glass sat in front of her. She tossed back a swallow of red as if it had been tequila.

Tessa slid into the chair across from Shannon. Logan leaned a hip on the counter and watched.

“When was the last time you saw Dante?” Tessa kept her voice soft.

Shannon waved a hand helplessly in the air. “My final sitting at his studio was last week. On Friday.” She closed her eyes and sniffed. “The portrait was finished and drying. I was waiting for Dante to call me to tell me when I could pick it up. It was going to be Brad’s Christmas present.”

“Brad didn’t know about it?” Tessa asked.

“No. I worked really hard to keep it a secret.” Shannon’s voice stretched out the last word into two sobbing syllables. More tears spilled from her eyes.

Tessa snagged a tissue from a box on the table and handed it over. “How many times did you meet with him?”

Shannon took the tissue and blotted her eyes. “I don’t know exactly. Maybe six or eight?”

“You’ve been planning Brad’s Christmas present for a long time.” Tessa plucked another tissue from the box. “What was Dante like?”

“He was very sweet and charming. At first, I was self-conscious. But he made me feel comfortable.” Shannon pressed the fresh tissue to her mouth. “He made me feel good about myself.”

“Did you know anyone who was angry with him?” Tessa asked gently.

“No.” Shannon, crying, shook her head. “I can’t believe he’s dead.”

Tessa’s voice sharpened just a hair. “Did you know that his name wasn’t really Dante?”

Shannon stopped crying. “What?”

“His name was Frank Martin,” Tessa said. “He was from New Jersey.”

Shannon’s mouth opened for a few seconds. Then she recovered. Her gaze dropped to the table. She began to shred the tissue in her hand. “It doesn’t matter. He probably wanted to use a different name for his art, the same way writers use a pen name.”

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