Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(13)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(13)
Author: Melinda Leigh

No. Logan would not understand an actor’s ego.

Tessa turned to face a picture of Steve and a gorgeous blonde woman taken on the back of a yacht. Despite how different she looked in dark sunglasses and no makeup, Tessa recognized the actress. “That’s Leslie Lamont. Is she your client?”

“She is,” said Steve.

“I can’t believe how incredible she looks in a snapshot,” Tessa said.

“She’s even more stunning in person.” Steve shook his head. “That photo does not do her justice.”

“Jason Welling and Leslie Lamont are big stars,” Tessa said. “But most people on the island don’t know anything about the work you do in Hollywood.”

“No one here pries into my Hollywood life,” Steve answered. “Which is one of the things we love about living here.”

“Locals consider it impolite to talk about your profession,” Tessa said.

“Really?” Steve shrugged. “We didn’t know, but it suits us perfectly. Widow’s Island is our sanctuary. We have enough stress and publicity back in LA. When we come here, we want to get away from all the Hollywood drama.” Steve took a long breath. “My wife is weary of being in the public eye. She likes to live a quiet life, which is why she often stays here when I go back to LA.”

“The island has its quirks, and people seem to love it or hate it,” Tessa added.

Steve gestured toward a gray leather sofa angled toward his desk. “Please sit down.”

Perching on the edge of a cushion, Tessa circled back to the investigation. “Does the name Dante Moreno sound familiar?”

“Yes.” Steve hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans. “He was painting a picture of my wife. She doesn’t know that I’ve known about it since the beginning. I was going to act surprised when she gave me the painting for my birthday. But this morning, when the news of his death came, she was so upset she had to tell me why.”

“How did you find out?” Tessa asked.

Steve snorted. “Three different people told me. I suspect it is all but impossible to keep a secret on this island.”

Tessa agreed.

“And you were okay with the arrangement?” Logan’s tone suggested he would not be.

“Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my wife taking her clothes off for some young artist, but Pam used to be a model. Nudity isn’t such a big deal to her. She’s going to turn fifty next summer. She’s been rather glum about it. If having her portrait done made her happy, then that was okay with me.” Steve pointed to his own chest. “Any issues I have with it are mine. And I’ll deal with them like an adult.”

“That’s very . . . progressive of you.” Logan leaned on the wall. “I’m not sure I could be so civilized.”

“I love my wife. Her happiness is more important than my male ego.” Steve’s gaze was direct. “That’s my bottom line.”

Tessa tilted her head toward the window. Through the glass, she could see the boats tied up at the dock. “Those are nice boats. Do you fish?”

“As often as I can.” Steve looked out at the inlet. “There is nothing more calming than the sea. My job in LA is very stressful. My blood pressure dropped twenty points the second I set foot on this island.”

“Now that I understand,” Logan said.

Logan had barely talked to her about his experiences in the Middle East, but the grimness in his tone and expression spoke volumes.

Tessa shifted her position on the sofa. “What kind of fishing do you enjoy?”

“I’m not fussy,” Steve said. “I like halibut, salmon, whatever’s running. As long as I’m out on the water, I’m happy.”

“Do you have a harpoon on that boat?” Tessa motioned toward the window.

“You mean like the one that was used to kill the artist?” Steve was smarter than Brad.

“Yes,” Tessa said. “Exactly like the one that was used to kill the artist.”

Steve’s eyebrow lifted. “The larger boat is stocked with harpoons, gaffs, and various other pointy objects. You’ll find the same on half the fishing boats on the island.”

Unfortunately, he was likely right.

“Where were you last night, Steve?” Tessa asked.

“I was here, sleeping.” Neither Steve’s voice nor his gaze faltered. Either he was telling the truth or he was a damned good liar. Tessa didn’t know him well enough to decide.

She could guess the answer to her next question, but she had to ask it. “Can anyone verify that?”

“Just Pam.” Steve pushed off his desk. He walked to the window, then turned to face them again. “If I’d known I was going to need an alibi, I would have been sure to arrange one.”

Tessa ignored the comment. “I’d like to see Pam now.”

“I’ll get her.” Steve walked from the room. He returned in a few moments, his arm linked with his wife’s.

“I need to speak with Pam privately.” Tessa gave Steve a look.

“I understand.” He squeezed his wife’s hand, then released her arm. “I’ll be in the study if you need me.”

Steve left the room, closing the door behind him.

Though Steve had told them Pam was approaching fifty, Tessa would never have guessed she was that old. Tessa remembered someone telling her that Pam had played volleyball in college. She still looked fit enough to rush the net and spike the ball. Her dark hair was long and glossy, and except for a few crow’s-feet around her eyes, her skin was smooth and unlined. Around town, islanders gossiped that Pam had had a few nips, tucks, and augmentations, but if she had, the surgeon had been skilled and subtle.

Like Shannon, she’d been crying. Pam’s eyes were puffy, and her nose was red. But she wasn’t drowning her sorrows in merlot. She held a mug of tea between her hands, gripping it as if she couldn’t get warm. In leggings and a tunic-length sweater, she sat on the couch opposite Tessa and curled her legs around her body.

Tessa turned to face her. “When did you last talk to Dante?”

“I went to the studio on Monday for a sitting. The portrait is almost done.” She frowned. “I suppose it won’t ever be finished now.” She sighed. “What’s going to happen to the painting?”

The women were all obsessed with their paintings.

“We’ll address ownership after we find Dante’s killer. Did you know his real name was Frank Martin?” Tessa watched Pam’s face closely for a response.

Still frowning, Pam set down her tea. “No. But it doesn’t surprise me. He was a talented artist, but he was also very smooth.” Her mouth twisted into a crooked smile. “You know what, though? I don’t care.”

“Did you know he was painting other women?” Logan asked.

“Yes.” She picked up her tea again and sipped. “But I never saw any of the others. He was discreet and kept the other paintings in a back room.”

Tessa leaned closer. “Where were you at eleven p.m.?”

“Here.” Pam sipped. “I’ve been having terrible insomnia the last few weeks. I took a sleeping pill and went to bed early.”

“What about Steve?” Tessa asked.

“He was here too.” She tucked her feet farther under her body. “He was watching TV in bed when I fell asleep.”

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