And set himself up for guaranteed heartache when Lilly returned to her life? “No thank you. I’ve gotta get going,” he said.

“You can avoid me, but you can’t avoid Lilly,” Hunter said helpfully. “Speaking of which, don’t forget to give her my message and let me know if she wants me to hook her up with a trust and estates lawyer.”

“Will do. One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

“You might want to check in with your friend Molly.” Ty had been so preoccupied with his own frustrations he’d forgotten to fill Hunter in on the incident at the mall, and did so now. “The cops have no leads except Molly and Lilly’s quick glimpse of a dark car with out-of-state plates.”

“Were they hurt?”

“They’re both fine, but—”

A click sounded in Ty’s ear and he found himself holding a dead phone in his hand. He laughed, knowing Hunter was already dialing Molly Gifford, a woman who, for whatever reason, wouldn’t give him the time of day.

When it came to women, Hunter and Ty had a lot in common these days and as the old expression said, misery loved company.

But Hunter had given Ty no time to explain details, including the fact that Ty had an uneasy feeling about the so-called accident. He’d called Derek on his way home from his mother’s.

Derek, who’d been watching Dumont , said he’d been at home the entire time Lilly and Molly had been at the mall. The only thing Derek’s info rmation provided was an alibi. It didn’t mean Dumont hadn’t hired someone to do his dirty work.

FOR THE SECOND TIME in one week, Hunter found himself banging on Molly’s front door, only this time he had a damn good reason to be here. He wanted to see for himself that she was okay.

What kind of idiot nearly ran down two women in a parking lot, he wondered. When she didn’t answer, he banged again, harder this time.

“You could be a little more considerate of the neighbors,” Anna Marie said, poking her head out her front door. “What’s with the racket?”

Hunter groaned. “I hope I didn’t disturb your dinner.”

“You woke me from my prebedtime nap. I like to sleep so I can stay up and watch The Tonight Show.  I love that Johnny Carson.”

“It’s Jay Leno now,” he reminded her.

“Well, I preferred Johnny.”

“Is Molly home?” he asked.

The older woman shook her head. “Not anymore. She came home earlier and was all shook up from nearly being run down at the mall. I’m sure that’s why you’re here.”

“It is.” And he wasn’t surprised the town’s main source of gossip had heard, as well.

“About twenty minutes later, she left the house again and hasn’t been back since. You’re out of luck unless you’d like to bide some time with me until Molly comes home?”

“Thanks anyway.” He turned and started back down the porch.

“Don’t you want to know where she went?” Anna Marie called to him, speaking without waiting for him to answer. “I heard Molly on the phone and she mentioned going to have dinner with her mother.”

He paused on the front lawn. He had to refrain from asking the older woman whether she’d obtained the info rmation by holding a glass to the wall. “I’ll just call Molly later.”

“You could always stop by The Palace in Saratoga . That’s where Molly went. With her mother and Marc Dumont,” Anna Marie added. “I heard Molly say it’s their new favorite it restaurant.”

Anna Marie had heard right. The Palace was owned by a chef who’d relocated from Manhattan , opening an upscale establishment in the heart of downtown Saratoga .

It was a place a kid of Hunter’s background didn’t frequent easily. Just like Molly’s family gathering was one Hunter had no business intruding upon. “I think I’ll catch up with Molly tomorrow,” Hunter said, ending Anna Marie’s hope for more gossip to pass around today.

“Suit yourself.” She stepped back.

“Anna Marie, wait,” Hunter called to her before she could go inside.

“Yes?”

“The Barber case,” he asked of the pro bono case moved up by the court. The one that would conveniently keep him from helping Lilly.

“What about it? I already told you Judge Mercer requested the change himself.”

“Is it possible someone pushed the judge to move it up on the docket?”

Anna Marie shrugged. “I wouldn’t think so since the original date is the start of his vacation.”

“A sudden vacation.”

“Have you ever met Mrs. Mercer? If she told me to jump, even I’d ask how high.” She gave an exaggerated shiver. “The woman’s one of the bossiest people I’ve ever met. She wanted a vacation and the judge agreed to the week she asked for. No questions asked.”

Well, Hunter had plenty of questions. Unfortunately he also had a case to prepare for, which meant Ty would have to do the digging on this one.

“You should go inside. It’s cold out here.”

“I’m warm-blooded.” The older woman grinned.

Laughing, Hunter headed back to his car. He’d call Ty from his cell phone in a few minutes, but right now, his thoughts were on Molly. If she had felt well enough to go to The Palace, she couldn’t be anything more than shaken up from today’s incident, he thought, relieved.

He called Ty and filled him in and then started the car. As he drove home, he found himself wondering if Molly enjoyed that kind of swanky new restaurant or if she’d merely gone along with her mother’s choice. As for Dumont , Hunter wasn’t surprised the older man accommodated his new wife-to-be. The Palace was the kind of place slime like Dumont would want to see and be seen. Whether he could afford it or not.

LACEY HEARD Ty pacing the floor throughout the early part of the night. She heard him on the phone with Derek who was apparently still conducting surveillance on her uncle, although to what end, Lacey didn’t know. She didn’t buy his nice guy act, either, but the near miss at the mall had been an accident. Her uncle was vicious but to run her down? She shook her head, unwilling to buy into that particular theory.

Although she wasn’t tired enough to sleep, she’d decided to stay in her room until the heated feelings between her and Ty cooled off. She couldn’t stop her body’s reaction to him but she truly needed to turn off her mind. The problem was, she just couldn’t.

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