She stood. James knew he should cut off whatever else she was going to say and keep control of the conversation, but he wanted to hear what she was going to throw at him. A string of curse words? Would she slap him?
“The statute of limitations on anything Margaret Touchette did or did not do has expired. You can’t charge me. You can’t hold me. The next time you want to talk me, don’t send your dog after me.” She turned to Yellow Bird. “I want to go home now.” And with that, she opened the door and made a quiet, dignified exit.
She’d called his bluff. She’d known it was a bluff from the beginning.
James let out a low whistle of appreciation, causing Yellow Bird to glance at him before he walked out. Seconds later, the outer door of the office shut.
Well, hell. That hadn’t gone according to plan, but he was impressed with her. Most women in her position would have crumbled. Hell, he’d seen professional lawyers buckle when cornered, but not her. She had an entire closet full of skeletons, but she didn’t let anyone judge her because of it, and she didn’t let it compromise her position. James had to admire her. She had come up firing and left him wanting more.
He weighed his options. He couldn’t let her off the hook—he needed her testimony in his back pocket, just in case. If he sent Yellow Bird back after her, she’d probably clam up and refuse to talk, much less to testify. That only left one option.
Agnes stepped into his office, appointment book in hand. “Shall I put the young lady back on the interview schedule?”
His feral smile didn’t work on Agnes any better than it had on Maggie Eagle Heart, but he tried it out anyway. “Get me her address.” As long as he had a legitimate reason to see her, he wasn’t acting unethically. Convincing her to testify wasn’t throwing his hard work away, it was building his case. As long as he remembered that, he’d be fine. He needed her as a witness, and that meant he’d have to see her again.
It was just that simple.
The black sedan peeled out of the parking lot and took a left so sharply that Maggie thought they might have gone up on two wheels. Agent Yellow Bird kept driving like a bat out of hell, weaving around traffic and running stale yellow lights at speeds more fitting to a police chase than a ride home, all of which made one thing clear.
Tommy was mad at her.
A tendril of forgotten fear curled around her stomach. She hated the feeling of having done something wrong. She’d learned early that bad things happened when people got mad. When she’d been small, she had hidden under her bed, until that became the first place her uncle looked. When she got older, she crashed on whatever empty couch she could, trying to avoid home altogether. And when that failed, well, drugs had taken her away like nothing else had. Except that they’d taken away everything else, too.
For a long time, it had been a trade-off she’d been willing to make. Not anymore. Not for the last nine years.
Was she nervous? Oh, yes. Tommy had grown into a formidable man since she’d seen him last, and that wasn’t counting the gun he wore under his jacket. Was she going to hide and whimper and beg for mercy?
But she wasn’t about to confront him while he took corners as if they were an insult to his manhood. She’d wait until they were on the highway, headed home through the long, flat parts of South Dakota.
Her thoughts turned to the conversation with James Carlson, special prosecutor. She’d known when Tommy showed up on her doorstep that someone had realized who she was. She’d been expecting another fat, sweaty, greedy man like the Dishonorable Royce T. Maynard to preside over the interview. Not the handsome man with the kind eyes and sharp smile.
Special Prosecutor Carlson had sat there with her mug shots in front of him and looked at her with something that wasn’t disapproval and wasn’t quite lust—not entirely, anyway. If she hadn’t known any better, she might have guessed that he’d looked at her with respect.
But she did know better. She didn’t trust lawyers.
Still, that Carlson had seemed different from the other men she’d endured in the past. For one, he’d walked a fine line between good-looking and gorgeous. Having paid several thousand dollars to get her own teeth fixed, she appreciated a good set of pearly whites. He had the kind of smile that made it clear that he—or his parents—had spent a lot of money on getting them perfect.
For another thing, his suit fit as if it had been made for him. Maybe it had been, but she’d never had a lawyer who could afford a custom suit. The slime bag who’d given Carlson her name had always worn hideous brown suits that looked as though he’d stolen them off the clothesline of some taller, wider man. But not Carlson. His charcoal-gray suit sat on his shoulders like a second skin. She could tell that, underneath all that expensive wool, he was a well-built man. Broad shoulders, strong arms—from the waist up, he was gorgeous. She couldn’t help wondering what he looked like from the waist down.
Maggie slammed the door on that kind of thinking. There was nothing wrong with a man being attractive. Nothing wrong with noticing an attractive man. But that’s as far as it could go. She couldn’t afford to forget what he was—a lawyer. Lawyers—and judges—used people. She knew that better than anyone, and she was done being used. As long as she remembered who he was—and who she wasn’t—she’d be fine. If she ever saw him again.
Maybe she would. So she hadn’t been with a man in years. She’d still recognized something in his face after she’d pulled the strap of her tank top down, and she’d recognized the same something when he’d asked her if she was seeing anyone. Not quite lust, but desire. Interest, mixed with pleasant surprise—curiosity, maybe—when she’d thrown down her challenge. When she’d called Tommy a dog.
Hence the pissed silence at the speed of sound.
She wasn’t about to let Tommy out of her sight without getting him to tell her what he knew. “You’re mad at me.”
“I’m not his dog.”
“I see.” She’d known that comment would hit home. But she’d been angry. Tommy had been quiet the entire trip to Pierre, telling her nothing about where they were going or who wanted to see her. He’d earned a few hits. “What are you, then?”
“We’re partners. A team.” His fingers kept drumming. “I arrest people, he puts them away. That’s how it works.”
“Since you’re on his team, tell me—will I be seeing Special Prosecutor James Carlson again?” Even saying his title out loud gave her a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She couldn’t imagine anything good coming from that, but the news excited her anyway. She’d get to see that smile again. “Why does he need me? Surely Maynard left bigger and better loose ends.” That was the question that had nagged at her since Carlson had made his preposterous claim that his whole case rested on her.
“He doesn’t need you. He’s the kind of man who has a plan for every contingency. You’re what he calls an insurance policy. He likes to have a few, just in case.”
That struck her wrong. She was a person—a woman, damn it. For too long, she’d been a victim, a statistic—never just Maggie. She wouldn’t stand for having her hard-fought success downgraded to “backup plan.”
“I’d give him a week, eight days tops, before he shows up. What you do with him then is up to you.”
Maggie’s head popped up and she stared at Tommy. “What?” Because that had almost sounded like … hell, she didn’t know. A joke? Permission to shoot? Permission to … do something else? No telling. Tommy didn’t answer, so Maggie tried again. “Tell me about him.” Not because she wanted to know, but because she needed to be prepared if he was going to trek out to the house. Yes, that was a good reason—one that had nothing to do with anything above—or below—his waist. She couldn’t be interested in him because there was no way in hell she could trust him.
“Nice guy, unless you’re on the wrong side of the law. Blue-blooded, East Coast, rich. His mother has the fortune, but his father has the power—maybe you’ve heard of him? Alexander Carlson? Used to be the secretary of defense?”
Maggie swallowed. She was way out of her league here. Secretary of defense? Alex Carlson? Even Maggie knew who that was. That wasn’t just blue blood or rich. That was pure power. His father had launched wars, for crying out loud. Even if James had not been a lawyer she couldn’t trust, she wouldn’t dream of fantasizing about him now. He wasn’t just a lawyer. He was a somebody—and she wasn’t. “Yeah, I’ve heard of him.”
“Carlson is just biding his time,” Tommy went on. “We’ve been building this case for about four years, and he won’t let anything sink it. He needs this victory. Going to run for office after he wins. Sooner or later—sooner, if I know him—he’ll make a run at the White House.”
The air in Maggie’s lungs stopped moving. So she’d had a conversation with a possible future president of the United States today. And she’d told him off. That sickening feeling of having done something wrong got a lot stronger. “He’s going to win?” The case, the elections—one and the same, as far as she was concerned.
Tommy snorted. “He’s got a perfect track record. He’ll win it one way or another.”
That sounded ominous. How ridiculous was she to think that a man like him was looking at her with desire? A man like him had perfect women at his beck and call. Maggie was so far from perfect that she wasn’t even in the same zip code. “Do you trust him?”
Tommy gave her a sideways glance. “With my life.” It could have sounded flip, but he was dead serious. “You got that card he gave you?”
She dug around in her bag until she found it. “Yes.” Rosebud Armstrong, Attorney at Law. There was a phone number, but that was it. No address, no law-firm name. Fate had a sense of humor. She’d escaped from the Rosebud reservation. Now her life might rest in the hands of a woman with the same name.
“You can trust her. She’s Red Creek Lakota—my tribe. And she went to law school with Carlson. She knows how he thinks. If you want a lawyer, you tell her I sent you.”
Of course, Tommy also knew how Carlson thought, being as they were on the same team and all—and what had that gotten her? Nothing. “I don’t want to call her. I don’t want any of this. I have a normal life now, and you and your ‘team’ are threatening to ruin it—and for what? Because that stuck-up spoiled brat of a lawyer wants an insurance policy? No. I’m nobody’s bargaining chip. I refuse.”
Although she was in danger of pouting, she crossed her arms and stared straight ahead. Which made the laughter that suddenly burst out of Tommy that much more startling.
His reaction only made her madder. “You can go to hell, Thomas Yellow Bird, because you are a dog. You didn’t have to find me. What happens when word gets out, huh? And don’t give me any bull about confidentiality. What happens when Leonard Low Dog or my uncle find out I’m not dead?”
“You know that for sure—how? You going to put a bullet in their brains for me?”