Hold Me

HoldMe

PROLOGUE

January…

Up and down.

Up and down.

Katie McCabe stood silently at the office door. Watching.

Up and down.

That really was her fiancé, she thought with a dull sort of horror. That was really Tom having sex with Brandy…his supervisor…

Up and down.

…on his desk. On the leather blotter Katie had given him for Christmas. On the hard copies of the financial reports she’d volunteered to come…

Up and down.

…and pick up in person because it meant she’d have an excuse to see him during the day, which was pretty rare now that the company had moved to a bigger building and their departments were on a different floors. She’d wanted to try and talk things out, but she hadn’t expected…

Up and down.

…this. She hadn’t expected to walk in and see his white buttocks now rosy pink with exertion. She hadn’t expected his designer trousers to be down around his ankles, or the moans or the obvious excitement, or the deafness…

Up and down.

…of passion when she’d intruded, unnoticed. Or the small bald spot on the back of his head glistening with sweat. Or, when he turned to the side, the boyishly handsome features contorted, eyes tightly closed.

Up and down.

Why hadn’t he locked the door?

Up and down.

She knew that she should say something, anything, but she couldn’t.

Up and down.

She forced herself to move, to turn.

Up and down.

And that was when she noticed the broom. Propped up against a wall.

Up and down.

Probably left there by the cleaning staff.

Up and down.

Forgotten.

Up and down.

And something inside her snapped.

Pause.

“Bastard!”

Things got kind of…ugly after that.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

July…

 

As he slipped into Joey Silvano’s empty office, FBI Special Agent Lucas Vasco just had a feeling that the whole thing was a mistake. Everything felt…off. Wrong.

He wished to hell he could have waited a few more weeks before attempting the break-in. It was still too early in the op for something like this. On the other hand, the timing seemed perfect—he’d been assigned to security detail outside the office on the very night Joey routinely took himself down to Philadelphia to visit his mistress. The man should be gone for hours, so Luc and David Allen, his friend and supervisor, had decided Luc should go for it. They were under increasing pressure to show some kind of results.

Stifling his misgivings, he closed the office door gently behind him and strode over to a massive oak desk occupying most of the room. He rifled through some papers but didn’t find anything interesting. He’d just started to work on the computer when he heard movement in the hallway outside the room. Voices. Running footsteps.

Holy fuck.

Hadn’t he learned the hard way never to ignore his instincts?

Joey and his goons were back early.

Way, way, way too early.

Cursing, Luc dove for the window.

* * *

“You know how much I value your opinion, Katie. I always did like you better than your brothers and sisters.”

Katie McCabe had just gotten into her car after a very long day at work when her mother’s daily call had come through on her cell phone. Today she hadn’t even made it out of the parking lot. She stifled a sigh.

“Katie?”

“Empty flattery does not become a woman of your advanced years,” she said, falling into the expected role. It was just easier that way.

“Advanced years?”

“Besides, I know you like Darren best.”

“Well…that’s true. But don’t you think it’s a good idea? A really good idea. Come on, tell me you think it’s a good idea.”

Katie was silent for a minute, watching the traffic race back and forth on the highway beyond the parking lot. Was her mother serious, or just trying to distract her? “Okay, I can handle the karate, but the police? Are you sure?”

“Can’t you see that this is all a part of my fiendishly clever master plan? Besides, I’m going to be a volunteer counselor attached to the police department, not Dirty Harriet. Your father thinks it’s a good idea, don’t you, Sean?” The cell phone crackled. “He said he does.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

“He humphed. But it was a positive humph.”

Katie took off her glasses with her free hand and, holding the sidepiece, rubbed her eyes before jamming them back on. Boy, she was tired. Beyond tired. “Mom, I know you hang on my every word, but can we possibly talk about this tomorrow? I really want to get home.”

“Get home? It’s after seven. Why are you just going home now?”

“I had to work late. I didn’t mind.”

“Katie.” Darn. She never could fool her mother. “You’re turning into a hermit and, honey, you didn’t have all that far to go in the first place. It’s Friday night. You should be out with friends.”

“Right now the only friend I’m interested in is the half-gallon of Rocky Road ice cream I have at home in the freezer.”

“So call some of your brothers or sisters and ask them to come over. God knows you’ve got enough of them.”

“Mom.” Katie sighed and rubbed her eyes again. “I don’t need anyone to come over.”

“But—”

“Mother, Darren and Brandon both have dates, the rest of them are busy living their own lives, and Melanie’s away for a couple of days.”

Again. Somewhere. Years ago, she and her foster sister had been inseparable, more like twins than two girls who happened to be the same age. Now, they were still friendly, but it was…different. Life had made it different.

Katie’s throat ached with her sudden sense of loss. Of guilt.

“I’m worried about her.” Her mom sounded sad.

“So am I.”

There was a short silence during which Katie hoped that maybe her mother’s focus had switched to Mel. But when she spoke again, her voice was determined.

“On the other hand, I’m worried about you, too, and you’re the one I’m talking to. I’ll deal with the problem of Melanie later.”

Katie tried not to groan. Wonderful.

“You’ve been at this new job for over a month,” she continued, blissfully unaware of her daughter’s thoughts. “You need to, you know…meet somebody. Move on.”

“Mom.”

“Katie,” her mother said in exactly the same tone. “You have to put the whole Tom incident behind you, sweetie. You can’t keep—”

“Mother,” Katie interrupted with more sharpness than she’d intended. “I love your lectures, but I am really too tired to talk about this now.”

“Oh. Well. Okay.”

Katie grimaced and rubbed her hand across the steering wheel. “I’ll call you in the morning,” she promised by way of an apology.

“Actually, you can’t.”

“I can’t?”

“Don’t sound so excited. I’m going shopping with Barbara tomorrow.”

“All day?”

“All day. All frigging day.”

“Now who sounds excited?” Having met Barbara many times over the years, Katie was surprised that her mother had agreed to spend even an hour with her. Especially since the woman was, quite simply, an arrogant bitch.

“Yeah. I’d rather stay at home and work in the garden. Or dig ditches. Or wash the car.”

“Well, you could have told her no. N. O.”

“You try telling Barbara no sometime and see how far it gets you. And she’s got a lot of money and important connections. You know she put in a good word for your father and helped him get a big contract with that developer.” Her mother hesitated. “Besides, Sean leaves with the boys in the morning. This is the week they all go away. I thought I might as well do some P.R. work.”

“Ah.” Well, that explained it. For as long as Katie could remember, McCabe men of all ages had gathered once a year at a rustic cabin in the Poconos to spend a few days away from the McCabe women. It was a strange and incomprehensible male bonding ritual, and her mom hated it, hated to be without Katie’s father. It had only gotten worse after the children had all moved out.

Katie couldn’t understand being tied so tightly to a man that you practically died from loneliness when he was gone—especially when that man was Sean McCabe. But there was no accounting for taste. She’d learned to keep her opinions to herself on that subject.

“I hope you have a good time anyway,” she said, referring to the impending shopping trip.

“Thanks.”

Katie laughed in spite of herself. “I’ll call you to see how it went.”

“Just pray that I can hang on to my temper, or you’ll be visiting me in the slammer.”

“Not a good career move for a budding volunteer police counselor.”

“Tell me about it.” Her mother hesitated. “I really am worried about you, Katie.”

“I know.”

“I want you to start acting normal again.”

“I know. I appreciate the fact that you’re concerned. I really do.”

“So we’ll talk in a day or two?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.” Katie smiled out through the windshield. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, baby.”

* * *

The road curved, forcing Luc to squint into the late afternoon sun. By some miracle, he’d made it all the way from Joey Silvano’s office to his Corvette parked in front of the mansion without getting shot, but he’d twisted his ankle pretty good when he’d taken that swan dive off the balcony. It throbbed like a son of a bitch. Fortunately it was his left ankle, but the pain still exploded into spikes of agony every time he used the clutch to shift. Probably ripped some ligaments or tendons or something else he hadn’t noticed in the initial adrenaline rush.

He ignored the pain. The ‘vette’s gears whined when he sent it speeding around yet another corner and out onto the highway.

The road behind him was clear, and he almost let himself believe that he’d gotten away. That he’d lost them in the chaos of his escape.

Then a black sedan flowed into sight in his rearview mirror and he heard the first gunshots.

Shit.

Luc focused on driving. And on trying to stay alive.

* * *

Katie tucked the cell phone back into her overloaded purse, then dropped the purse on the floor of the passenger seat. She sat, hands limp on the steering wheel, staring at the traffic beyond the parking lot. The cars were full of people intent on getting somewhere else.

What were their lives like, all of those faceless drivers? Were they rushing to get home to their families? Or were they trying to get away from them? Were they taking the kids out to the movies or meeting a loved one for dinner? Were they alone?

She was.

God, she’d been stupid to stay with Tom for two and a half years. To be engaged to him for two of those years. She hated remembering how he’d played her.

She swallowed against the sudden lump in her throat and gazed blindly out at the highway. Oh, yeah, she’d been vulnerable, miserable after Melanie’s brother had stood her up at that party. A prime target.

Still, she had no excuse. She’d been dazzled by Tom, by how handsome he’d looked in the low lights when he’d asked her what was wrong. That kind of thing just didn’t happen to girls like her. Then, when she’d found out that he’d been hired in the controller’s department of the same company she worked for, it had seemed like fate. Destiny. Kismet.

“Romantic bullshit,” she muttered.

She could not believe she was the only one who hadn’t known what he was like. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t had warnings. Even in the beginning when he’d paid attention to her, when he’d seemed to be every woman’s dream, there’d been signs. He’d watched other women all the time and made crude sexual remarks about them. When Katie didn’t act the way he thought she should, his anger had been a frigid slap of disapproval.

But she’d ignored the problems, rationalized them away. Trusted. She’d always thought their issues were her fault. That if she changed a little more, was a little more, she could make everything all right. Even on those occasions when he’d turned on her, she’d made excuses for him. Accepted the apologies.

And all the time he’d been doing the horizontal mambo with everything that had a pulse. Maybe even some things that didn’t.

She was such a moron.

Stop! Katie shook her head so hard that her red-brown curls bounced wildly and her glasses slipped sideways.

Enough, enough and more than enough. Her mother was right about one thing. It was definitely time to move on.

Now, how did one do that?

Katie shoved her glasses up her nose and started her car. She waited until the ancient Chevy Nova had gotten over a few initial hiccups before pulling out into the never-ending stream of traffic.

She had to get away. Move somewhere else. Maybe she should have thought of that before she’d found her new job, but it didn’t change the facts. She had to get out of this part of Pennsylvania. Make a clean break, maybe move down closer to Philadelphia. Around here she saw people all the time who knew her, or Tom, or both. She could never tell who she’d bump into. These small-town people tended to remember Tom’s glory days as a second string quarterback for a third-rate football team and overlook his many less charming qualities.

Witness the consequences of The Tom Incident. She’d been fired; he’d been promoted. After all, he’d been the wronged party in the whole thing. Never mind that it turned out Brandy had been taking his…reports for months. Never mind that his escapades had been common knowledge to everyone in the company.

Everyone but Katie.

She shook her head. Bitterness wasn’t going to help.

What would help was a new beginning, she thought. A new life. A new attitude.

Yeah.

She brought the Nova to a shuddering halt at a red light. It was a lovely evening. The warm July sun was still bright and the birds were singing their songs from nearby trees and telephone wires. Katie massaged her temples.

She’d be fine, she told herself. Everything would be fine. It was just the end of another hard day at the end of another long week, but now it was over. She’d be home soon. Surely nothing else could go wrong before she got there…

As if it read her mind, the Nova gasped and stalled.

 

 

Share