Excerpt from The Cat's Paw

   
       "So you're a friend of Brit's," Lorne Cossi said. He looked her over, from the top of her head to her feet, his gaze lingering too long on her breasts and then—disconcertingly—on her groin. When his gaze drifted back to her face there was something unnerving in the depths of his dark blue eyes. "Frankly, you don't seem her type."
     Christy flushed. She'd met guys like Cossi before. Arrogant, self-absorbed jerks who assumed every female in sight was a sexual plaything, there for a man's enjoyment. "And what was her 'type'?"
     Cossi smiled slowly. It wasn't a nice smile. "Silly women who'll do anything for a lay. Especially if they can get high at the same time." He cocked his head. "You now, you look disturbingly sober."
     Christy figured he'd meant that as an insult. She thought it was actually a compliment, given who it came from. "If you'd bothered to listen, you'd find that people act out of 'type' all the time."
     Cossi raised his brows. There was a contemptuous curl to his upper lip that said he didn't like backtalk from uppity women.
     Christy allowed herself a small smile. "Take Brittany, for example. Here she was, grad student, privileged daughter of a wealthy Calgary family, and a party girl, with the likes of Aaron DeBolt, a man whose reputation doesn't bear scrutiny. Now tell me, Mr. Cossi, what exactly was Brittany's 'type'?"
     His eyes lit with temper before he said mildly, "Brittany Day was a nasty little tease who came on to every man she met."
     "Including you?"
     "Including me."
     "Did you take her up on her offer?" Christy could hardly believe she'd asked that, but she had.
     His mouth quirked up into a very real smile and he laughed. "What do you think?"
     "I think you did."
     "And you'd be right." He took a threatening step forward.
     Christy didn't move. But she wanted to. Oh, how much she wanted to.
     "If a sexy piece like Brittany Day offers me her body, who am I to refuse?"
     Another step. At this rate he'd cross the small space in another couple of moments and he'd be right in front of her. In her space. Intimidating her. Maybe even taking it further. The desire to flee was strong.
     She glared at him, sending him a message. "That's pretty cold."
     He shrugged, but he stopped. "There was something dark in Brit and she pulled it out in other people too. She liked Ecstasy and Meth. She tried to get me hooked on the stuff."
     "Did she?"
     This time he shook his head. "No. No way am I polluting my brain with that kind of junk."
     The answer sounded honest to Christy. Lorne Cossi probably had aspirations of entering the academic world as a professor. Frying his brain wouldn't help him achieve his goal.
     "Have you shared this office space with Brittany since she started?"
     The question didn't fit with the previous ones. Cossi eyed her thoughtfully and paused to think before he answered. Why? It wasn't a hard question. It was a yes or no answer.
     "Yes," he said, finally. "Rochelle and I set up the office the year we both began. Brad came next, then Brittany."
     "It's a small space. An easy place for everyday habits to become irritating. Tempers tend to flare when people have to share limited resources."
     His expression hardened and anger glinted in his eyes. "Are you accusing me of Brit's murder?"
     Was she? Until he reacted with such heat she hadn't actually thought of it. She shrugged, but didn't confirm or deny.
     Lorne Cossi chose to take her shrug as acknowledgement. His temper flared hotter. "Brittany Day was a lazy bitch who used her body and her family connections to smooth her path. She was entitled and manipulative. Worse, from my point of view, she wasn't even all that good as a mathematician."
     "Then why was she here?" Christy wasn't sure she believed Cossi, though he sounded genuinely annoyed.
     He flung himself away, turning toward the window. "Don't you get it?" he said. "She was sleeping with our fearless leader, the good Dr. Peiling. Why else?"
 
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