His comment stung like acid on my skin. Because I was blonde, easy on the eyes, and guys had been snapping my bra strap since seventh grade, I’d been putting up with the Barbie stereotype for years. That pink was my favorite color, that I liked matching accessories and eye-catching heels, didn’t help much. But I’d never been turned on by the Ken doll—even before I looked down his pants and saw what was missing—I wasn’t jonesing for a white picket fence and an SUV in the driveway, and I resented the Barbie implications—Go procreate and die, I’m sure that’s all someone like you can do. I might not be the brightest bulb in the box, but I wasn’t the dimmest, either. “Oh, screw you, Jericho Barrons. Tell me what it is. You said you would.”
“If you insist. Don’t be a fool. Don’t insist.”
“I’m insisting. What is it?”
“Too bad. I don’t want a last chance. Tell me.”
His dark gaze bored into mine. Then he shrugged, his fine suit sliding over his body with suppleness and ease only exorbitant custom-made clothing could achieve. “The Sinsar Dubh is a book.”
“A book? That’s all? Just a book?” It seemed terribly anti-climactic.
“On the contrary, Ms. Lane, never make that mistake. Never think it just a book. It is an exceedingly rare and exceedingly ancient manuscript countless people would kill to possess.”
“Including you? Would you kill to possess it?” I needed to know exactly where we stood, he and I.
“Absolutely.” He watched my face as I took that in. “Reconsidering your stay, Ms. Lane?”
“You’ll be going home in a box, then.”
“Is that another of your threats?”
“It is not I who will put you there.”
“I answered your question, now it’s your turn to answer mine. What do you know of the Sinsar Dubh, Ms. Lane?”
Not nearly enough, obviously. What on earth had my sister gotten into? Some kind of shadowy Dublin underworld filled with stolen artifacts, peopled by murderers and ruthless thieves?
“Tell me,” he pressed. “And don’t lie. I’ll know.”
I glanced at him sharply, almost able to believe he would. Oh, not in some extrasensory way—I don’t believe in that kind of stuff—but in the way of a man who scrutinizes people, gathers their tiniest gestures and expressions, and measures them. “My sister was studying here.” He’d given me the bare minimum. I would give him nothing more. “She was killed a month ago. She left me a voice-mail message right before she died, telling me I had to find the Sinsar Dubh.”
“She didn’t say. She just said everything depended on it.”
He made an impatient sound. “Where is this message? I must hear it myself.”
“I accidentally deleted it,” I lied.
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall. “Liar. You would make no such mistake with a sister you care enough about to die for. Where is it?” When I said nothing, he said softly, “If you are not with me, Ms. Lane, you are against me. I have no mercy for my enemies.”
I shrugged. He wanted the same thing I wanted and he was willing to kill for it. That made us enemies in my book any way I looked at it. I glanced over my shoulder at the hallway beyond the open door and pondered my next move. His threat did not decide me. I wanted to see his face when I played the message for him. If he’d had any involvement with my sister or her death, I hoped he would betray something when he heard her voice and her words. I also wanted him to know that I knew as much as I did, and to believe the police did, as well.
“I already gave a copy of this recording to the Dublin Gardai,” I told him, as I fished my cell phone out of my purse and thumbed up my saved messages. “They’re working to track down the man she was involved with.” See Mac bluff. Better than See Mac run. Way better than See Mac get her stupid self killed. He didn’t challenge my words—so much for his boast that he would know if I lied. I pressed speakerphone, then play, and Alina’s voice filled the small room.
I flinched. No matter how many times I listened to it, it made me cringe—my sister sounding so frightened, hours before her death. Fifty years from now, I would still hear her message, ringing in my heart’s ear, word for word.
Everything has gone so wrong . . . I thought I was in love . . . he’s one of them . . . we’ve got to find the Sinsar Dubh, everything depends on it . . . we can’t let them have it . . . he’s been lying to me all along.