After four murders of young men along the east coast, the FBI realizes they’re dealing with a serial killer. Agent Nicolas Hayes is assigned to lead the investigation. Besides solving the crimes, he tries to spend time with his new flame, Jacky, who’s got ideas of her own about how their love life should develop. Things turn ugly once a fifth kidnap victim is reported. Time is running out to find him alive.
“You look beautiful, ma chérie.” Nicolas Hayes reached out to take Jacklyn’s hands, pulled her close, and gently kissed her powdered cheek. He knew his smile was silly and yet he couldn’t stop. “Are you ready? I told the helpful attendant to keep the orchestra from playing until we arrive, but he might not be successful.”
“I’m ready,” Jacklyn replied and closed the door to her apartment, rearranging the stole on her shoulders. “Don’t say I couldn’t be in time. I’m at least trying.” She turned to him and stopped at the steps. “Do I have my earrings?”
Nicolas was about to push her into her apartment and call it a day. However, this was only their fourth date, and he didn’t know how she’d react to such a bold move, even though the last question and her second of hesitation implied a challenge. If she could feel his heartbeat, she might change her mind.
“You’re perfect,” he assured her, trying not to sound like a giddy teenager.
Nodding once, she locked the door and followed him downstairs, frowning as she stowed the keys. He loved the fine lines on her brow as much as her slim nose, dark green eyes, and the swing of her lips. He loved the way she had pulled her brown hair into an artful bun to complement the décolleté of her shimmering black dress.
Jacklyn was tall and slender, a contrast to Nicolas’ former girlfriends. He could still hear his best friend’s mockery about how he could’ve changed his taste in women so fundamentally. His explanation—that he’d been overrun by Jacklyn’s beauty and elegance the first time he had seen her—hadn’t been sufficient for Jason. His simple words about her self-confidence and the amusement in her voice in spite of the difficult circumstance hadn’t satisfied Jason at all. His stocky colleague had tried to get more information, but Nicolas was superstitious when it came to new girlfriends. He didn’t want to ruin the first few weeks by introducing a woman to all his friends to find out a month later she wasn’t the one for life.
Of course, that didn’t keep Jason from prying, more so once Nicolas bought a new suit and shaved more regularly. The use of an expensive aftershave drove Jason to a record-breaking performance of mocking Nicolas endlessly.
Nicolas held the door of his Chevrolet for Jacklyn. She thanked him with a smile, and he watched her sit down and smooth the dress, which almost covered her knees. He drove the car away from the curb more slowly than usual and chatted about the concert, the musicians, and what he proposed for later.
“You sound so…careful,” Jacklyn said, checking her appearance in the pocket mirror. “Did you have reason to doubt I would go out with you?”
Nicolas could’ve listened to her seductive French accent all night long. Being the daughter of a French costume designer and an American diplomat, Jacklyn was not only bilingual, but had the melodic voice of a chanson singer.
“No.” He glanced at her. Seeing her raise her brows, he sighed. “I’m just…not sure what you like. I’m trying to find out and feel like I’m guessing all the way.”
“You told me you’re an investigator. Can’t you investigate what I want?”
Nicolas pressed his lips tight. Asked what he did for a living, he’d confessed that he worked for the FBI as a special agent, but hadn’t gone into detail. He wanted to keep his job out of their dates and had been glad he had a few days off. His colleagues were dealing with three—possibly connected—murder cases. He did everything to stay away from news reports during his vacation.
“There’s a profound difference between uncovering evidence and…trying to get to know you.” He hesitated, pondering his words. “You tell me what you want to tell me. Nothing else. No prying. No conclusions from my side.”
Jacklyn put a hand on his upper arm. “If you go on being so circumspect, I might come to like you.” She walked her slender fingers down to his hand. “So let me tell you what I know about you.” When his hands involuntarily clenched around the steering wheel, she smiled. “It’s nothing bad. Relax. Would I sit here with you and be happy if I didn’t want to? No. So, listen. The moment you stopped on the shoulder to help me with my car on the highway, I knew you were a gentleman. A tall, good-looking gentleman. Did I mention that I like blondes?”
He glanced at her and twitched his brows, and she giggled.
“You had the aura of a man who knows his business. And I don’t mean you came across like a mechanic. You were polite, helpful, even had a joke handy, and it was one that didn’t make me look like a numbskull unable to find the car keys. I admit, I handed you my card hoping you might want to call me. I wanted to reach out to you without…” Jacklyn let the sentence trail off until he glanced at her.
“I didn’t intend to force you. I hadn’t seen a ring on your finger, but that didn’t mean you were single. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I intervened in an intact relationship.” Jacklyn smiled. “And I didn’t know whether you were interested in women at all. Well, you wore a rose-colored dress shirt and a shiny gray suit that night.”
He heard amusement and felt more at ease. “A men’s man?” He chuckled when she moved her head to one side and then the other, affirming the possibility. “Maybe, yes. I like men. They make good bowling partners. And most of them cherish a good scotch. More than women, anyway.”
“Scotch, yuk.” Jacklyn made a face.
“Thank you for confirming my evaluation.” Nicolas nodded.
“Thank you for knowing so much about women. Anyway, I was happy when you called.”