Tell No Lies (Quinn & Costa Thriller #2) - Allison Brennan
Two months ago
BILLY NIXON HAD BEEN waiting his whole life to have sex with Emma Perez. Okay, not all his life. Two and a half years. It just felt that way since he’d fallen in love with her the day they met in Microeconomics, on his first day of classes at the University of Arizona. Love at first sight is a cliché, and until that moment in time Billy didn’t believe in any of that bullshit. His parents were divorced, his older sister had been in and out of bad relationships since she was fifteen, and his friends slept around as if the apocalypse was upon them.
But in the back of his mind, he remembered the story about how his grandparents met the day before his grandfather shipped off to the Korean War, how they wrote letters every week, and how three years later his grandfather came home and they married. They were married for fifty-six years before his grandfather died; his grandmother died three months later.
That’s what Billy wanted. Without having to go to war.
It took Emma two years before the same feeling clicked inside her. They’d been friends. They both dated other people (well, Billy pretended to date because he couldn’t in good conscience lead another girl on when he knew that he didn’t care about her like he cared about Emma). But it was three months ago, when Emma lost her ride home to Denver for the Christmas holidays and he found her crying in her dorm room, that he said, “I’ll drive you there,” even though he was a Tucson native and lived with his dad to save money.
From then on, she looked at him differently. Like her eyes had been opened and she saw in him what he saw in her. From that point on, they were inseparable.
The morning after they first made love, Billy knew there was no other girl, no other woman, with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Call him a romantic, but Emma was it. He had started saving money for a ring. They were finishing up their third year of college, so had a year left, but that was okay. He did well in school and had a part-time job. He already had a job lined up for the summer in Phoenix that paid well, and he could live there cheaply with his sister—though the thought of spending two months with his emotional, self-absorbed sibling was a big negative. And the idea of leaving Emma for two months made him miserable. But if he did this, he’d have enough money, not only for a ring, but to get an apartment when they graduated. And—maybe—his job this summer would be a permanent thing when he was done with college next spring, which meant he’d have stability. Something he desperately wanted to provide for Emma.
Emma rolled over in bed and sighed. He loved when his dad was out of town and he had the house to himself, since they had no privacy in Emma’s dorm. Billy kissed the top of her head. He thought she was still sleeping, or in that dreamy state right before you wake up. It wasn’t even dawn, but how could he go back to sleep with Emma Perez naked in his bed?
“Billy?” she said.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
“I need to go to Mount Wrightson today. The Patagonia side of the mountain.”
An odd request, but Emma spent a lot of time these days in the Santa Rita Mountains and surrounding areas. She was a business and environmental sciences double major who worked part-time at the Arizona Resources and Environmental Agency—AREA, as they called it—the state environmental protection agency.
“For work, school or fun?” he said.
“Last week my Geology class went out to Mount Wrightson and we hiked partway down the Arizona Trail. I noticed several dead birds off the trail. My professor didn’t think it was anything, but it bothered me. So I talked to my boss, Frank, at work, and he said if my professor didn’t think it was unusual, then it wasn’t. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so went back a couple days ago on my own. One of the closed trails has been used recently. And I found more dead birds, more than a dozen.”
“Which means what?”
“I don’t know yet, but birds are especially vulnerable to contaminated water because of their small size and metabolism. Remember when I told you my boss got an anonymous letter two years ago?