The young man, dressed in a white, starched collared shirt, smiled at them. “Welcome, Mr. Hunter.” He began to type into his computer. “That’ll be one deluxe, no-smoking suite, correct?”
“Um…” Molly interrupted without saying anything intelligible.
“Excuse us for a quick second.” Hunter grasped her elbow and led her a few steps away from the other man. “Problem?”
“Well, I have no problem sharing a room as I’m sure you know…”
He grinned, a sexy, seductive, I-can’t-wait-to-get-you-in-bed grin. “But?”
“I can’t afford a suite. I’m not exactly working full-time these days. I’m not sure I can even afford half the price of a suite here. And I know you can’t write this off as a business expense because my father’s never going to be able to foot the bill for this place, either.” She bit the inside of her cheek, embarrassed to be discussing her finances or lack of them.
He stared at her for so long she squirmed and shifted from foot to foot. “Did I ask you to pay for it? Give me a break, Molly. I have some class. I brought you here, it’s my treat.”
Her eyes opened wide. She hadn’t thought they were coming down here for anything more than business, and they’d stay in a cheap hotel or motel, not one of the nicest places in Atlantic City. “I can’t ask you to do that!”
“You didn’t ask. I offered. I wanted to surprise you with a night away from the problems at home. So far the surprise isn’t going very well,” he said, obviously upset with her arguing. “Can we just start over, check in and have you not second-guess me every step of the way?”
“Okay,” she said, truly touched by his offer.
He reached out and caressed her cheek, his gentle touch in stark contrast to the frustration in his voice. “Let me do this for you.”
She nodded. “If you’d warned me ahead of time, I wouldn’t—”
He shushed her by placing his finger over her moving lips. “No more arguing, remember?”
She merely nodded.
“Good.” He clasped her hand firmly in his and stepped back to the desk. “We’re set now. The deluxe suite will be fine.”
Ten minutes later, they had finished the check-in process, but the suite wouldn’t be ready for another hour or so. “How about we head over to the motel and do some digging about Paul?”
“That would be great.”
“Just one thing,” he said. “Once we finish, we put it behind us until we get home tomorrow. We take the rest of today and tonight as ours.” He studied her intensely, waiting for an answer.
Molly realized he’d put thought and effort into their trip, much more than she realized. Sometime during the last twenty-four hours, he’d forgiven her for lying to him.
“Nobody will ever accuse you of being a stupid man. You have this all figured out, don’t you?”
“I gave it my best shot.”
Pleasure at his foresight washed over her and she smiled. “I like how you think.”
He nodded. “Good. Then let’s go see what we can dig up at the Seaside Inn so we can have more time for us.”
Us. Molly did like the sound of that coming from his handsome lips.
THE SEASIDE INN WAS a far cry from the hotel casino Hunter had chosen for them. Molly followed him into the seedy motel. The air smelled like must and mold and the place hadn’t been updated or painted in years.
She felt a keen sense of disappointment in Paul Markham, something that seemed to grow with each new thing they learned about the man. Victim or not, he hadn’t been the person her father and Sonya had thought they’d known.
“I’m looking for Ted Frye,” Hunter said to the female behind the desk.
“I’m Mary Frye, Ted’s sister. He’s off today. Can I help you?” the bleached blonde asked as she turned around to face them.
The young woman, who had to be in her midtwenties, took one look at Hunter and her eyes opened wide in distinct approval. Her hand flew to her long hair, which hung down her back in true beach style.
“As a matter of fact, you can. My sister and I are looking for information on this man.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo of Paul that Sonya had given them.
Molly bristled at Hunter calling her his sister and would have said something, but he grasped her wrist and yanked her closer to his side. A clear warning to shut up and let him do the talking if she’d ever known one.
Fine, she thought, but only because she wanted the information as badly as he did, and he obviously had another plan. He’d probably laid eyes on the pretty blonde and decided she’d be more cooperative if she thought Hunter was available.
She smiled sweetly at her brother and dug her fingernails into his hand at the same time, letting him know exactly how she felt about his presumption. Just because he was drop-dead sexy to Molly didn’t mean every woman would find him God’s gift.
The female behind the desk obviously did though, because she leaned toward him, resting her ample br**sts on the counter and giving him an upclose view of her cle**age. Which Molly hated to admit was pretty damn impressive, especially compared to hers.
“Let me see.” Mary rested her elbows on the counter and stared at the photograph. “Oh! That’s Mr. Markham. I heard he was murdered,” she said in a stage whisper people often reserved for taboo subjects. “What a shame. His fiancée’s been here for the last week. My parents felt so bad for her, they’re letting her stay as long as she needs to regroup.”
“Fiancée?” Molly asked.
“Lydia’s here?” Hunter cut in smoothly.
The blonde nodded. “The poor woman is distraught, not that I blame her. If the man I was going to marry had been killed, I’m sure I’d fall apart, too.” Her arm deliberately nudged Hunter’s.
“It’s a tragedy,” he agreed. “We’re actually friends of Lydia’s and we’ve been worried about her.”
“Oh, I can call her and let her know you’re here.” Mary reached for the house phone.
“No! I mean, we’d much rather surprise her. In her grief she may not want to see us, but she’s been alone here for far too long,” Molly said, determined to be a part of this investigation.
“My sister’s right. Would you mind just giving us her room number?”
“I’m really not supposed to divulge guest-room information.”