Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(12)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(12)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Her voice sounded as thin as her excuse. She didn’t want to believe he’d taken advantage of her.

“He lied to you,” Tessa pointed out.

“That portrait of me he painted . . .” Shannon’s eyes shifted toward the window, but she wasn’t focusing on the landscape. “No one has ever made me feel that beautiful.”

Which didn’t say much for Brad.

“Was Brad here all night?” Logan asked.

Shannon studied the shredded tissue in her lap. “Yes.”

Logan didn’t believe her. “Are you sure? There’s no way he could’ve slipped out while you were sleeping?”

Shannon seemed to be surprised by the question. Something flashed in her eyes. “I don’t think so.”

“Think?” Logan pressured.

“Well, Brad was in a bad mood last night.” Shannon gathered the bits of tissue into a tight fist. “I had two glasses of wine and went to bed early.”

Shannon drank a lot of wine.

“What time did Brad come to bed?” Tessa asked.

“I don’t know,” Shannon admitted. “I didn’t wake up when he came to bed.”

Logan imagined Brad’s alibi sinking slowly, like a boat with a hole just big enough to fill faster than one could bail. “Did he tell you what he was upset about?”

Shannon shook her head. “The winery didn’t have a good year. He’s been tense about money for months.” Her gaze traveled around the big-ass kitchen. Guilt crossed her face. “We redid the kitchen last summer. I overspent. You know how renovations are. Every problem you uncover leads to ten more.”

Logan scanned the professional range, high-end drawer dishwasher, and fancy fridge. Unexpected issues aside, Shannon had expensive taste.

“Brad didn’t know Dante was painting your portrait?” Logan asked.

“No. As I said, I wanted it to be a surprise. Now it’s all ruined. He’s mad that I let Dante paint me naked, and he’s furious about the money I spent on the portrait too.” She stared down at her hands.

Tessa stood. “We might be back with more questions.”

Shannon nodded. Without looking up, she cleared her throat. “I know this sounds wrong and selfish to ask, but where is the portrait?” Her gaze skittered away, and she chewed on her lip. “I mean, I paid for it, and it was finished. Doesn’t that make it my property?”

“For now, the portrait is evidence,” Tessa said. “After we solve Dante’s murder, we’ll sort out ownership. Thank you for speaking with us. We can let ourselves out.”

They left Shannon sniveling and sniffing at her kitchen table and went outside.

Tessa climbed into the SUV and slammed the door harder than necessary. “I can’t believe Shannon wants the painting.”

Logan slid into the passenger seat. “Why not? She paid for it.”

“True.” Tessa turned right and drove toward the northern shore of the island. “But it would forever remind me of murder.”

“We know one thing for sure. Shannon was very happy with Dante’s work.”

Tessa gave her head a wry shake.

“Brad Moore stays on the top of my suspect list. His wife tossed out his alibi like last week’s trash. She could have lied and said he was with her all night, but she didn’t. Do you think their marriage is shaky?”

“I don’t know. Shannon is sweet, but I don’t think she was thinking straight. I’m not sure she understood she was hurling Brad under the investigative bus. Why would Brad have killed Dante if he didn’t know about the portrait?” Tessa asked.

“We only have his word that he didn’t know. What if that’s why he was in a bad mood last night?” Logan had seen the jealousy on Brad’s face. It hadn’t looked fresh. No. Brad had been steaming for a while. “No one can keep a secret on Widow’s Island. Shannon went to the art studio at least a half dozen times. Someone saw her. Someone told Brad. He knew.”

6

Tessa didn’t want to believe Brad could be a killer. She’d always liked the Moores. On appearance, at least, they had the type of marriage everyone wanted. They’d been high school sweethearts and had married right after college. They had two kids attending college on the mainland. Brad still bought his wife flowers for no reason at all. They held hands when they walked down the street. Until recently, the decades had seemed to have brought them closer together instead of pulling them apart.

She was not normally a romantic in any sense, but today seemed different. Was it because her feelings for Logan had become much more than a high school crush? She glanced at him sitting next to her in the SUV.

Interesting.

But even if Logan felt the same way, Tessa had no time for romance. When had her last date been? Before she’d moved back to Widow’s Island. She shoved a piece of hair behind her ear. She had no time for a haircut, let alone dating.

“It’s three thirty. Do you have time to interview Pam and Steve Rhodes?” Tessa asked as she drove north.

“Let’s do it.”

“Can you call Shiny Objects and see if Pam is there?”

Logan lifted his cell phone and made the call. “The answering machine is on.”

Tessa thought about Shannon and all her crying. “Maybe Pam closed the store today.”

Steve and Pam Rhodes lived in a mansion on the north shore of the island. Set inside its own tiny inlet, the house faced west. Two boats, a nimble little runabout and a larger serious fishing vessel, bobbed at the private dock.

Tessa parked in front of the house, and they went to the door. Steve answered the bell. Dressed in worn jeans and boat shoes, he didn’t look like a Hollywood hotshot. His hair was gray and windblown. Tessa introduced herself and Logan.

“Come in.” Steve waved them into a two-story foyer. “I assume this is about the dead artist.”

“Yes.” A gleam of reflected sunlight hit Tessa squarely in the eyes. She looked up. The modern chandelier that hung over their heads was constructed of intertwined silver rods. It was the size of an SUV. Tessa wouldn’t want to be standing under it during an earthquake. “Is Pam home?”

They walked up a flight of steps to the second level. A huge living room spanned the entire width of the house. Like the chandelier, the decor was modern, with pale-gray carpet and darker-gray walls. Two leather couches faced each other in front of a fireplace surrounded by dark-veined marble.

“She’s resting. The news has left her distraught.” Steve led them down a long hall to an office.

“I’m sure she’s upset.” Tessa was content to talk to Steve first, but Pam would have to answer questions too.

Logan scanned a row of framed photos on the wall. “Are these your clients?”

Steve nodded. “Some of them.”

“That’s Jason Welling.” Tessa pointed to a picture of Steve and a tall, thin man standing in front of a race car. “I saw his last movie. It was really funny.”

“Can you believe he didn’t want to take that role?” Steve asked.

“Really?” Tessa was surprised.

“Jason wants to be taken more seriously as an actor.” Steve leaned back against a gleaming black desk. “I pointed out that he could not continue his current lifestyle without income, and the offer was more than generous.”

Logan paced the perimeter of the room. “That would convince me.”

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