Read 0758215630 (R) Online

Authors: EC Sheedy

0758215630 (R)

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye

 

 

 

EC Sheedy

DEDICATION

For Tim . . . always.

My certainty in an uncertain world.

 

Copyright 2015 EC Sheedy

KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE

 

All rights are reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

Thank you for respecting the work and legal rights of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and events are products of the author's imagination. Should there be any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, it is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 1

Joe Worth appreciated seriously fine woman flesh when he saw it, and what walked a few steps ahead of him was up there with the best of it—made him wish he could strap on a tool belt and whistle. The high heels and skirt—short enough to be interesting without shouting about it—were an added bonus. As was the hair. Damn near to the middle of her back. And that darkish blond color that looked real instead of salon metallic. Then there were the legs . . . showgirl quality, endless and shapely.

A devout leg man, Joe experienced something close to awe.

Hell of a way to start a morning.

“Coffee, tea, me—or her,” a booming voice said from his right.

“Definitely her.” Joe jutted his chin in the direction of legs unlimited, then looked down at Riggs. “But I’ll settle for the coffee—preferably with less sludge than yesterday.”

“Picky. Picky.”

Donny Riggs, a small guy to start with, who barely managed to clear the kiosk countertop from his wheelchair, ran the coffee shack a half-block from Joe’s office. On a good day his coffee hit the psyche with the silk and heat of good-morning sex; on bad days, a mug of crude oil with curdled cream would be an improvement.

Joe took the coffee Riggs handed him and studied the donuts. “Today’s? Or last year’s?”

“Suddenly you’re a gour
met?”
He accented the final T and shoved a donut into a paper sleeve. That was the thing with Donny Riggs, you ask about the food, you’ve bought the food. “Here.” He handed Joe the donut. “You don’t like it. Bring it back. Comes with a one month guarantee.” Joe took the donut, capped his coffee cup, and handed him the usual fiver. “Tell me again why I buy this crap from you.”

“One of two reasons. My scintillatin’ personality or my wheelchair gig.”

“The chair’s too obvious. It’s the scintillating thing. Definitely.” He headed down the street, taking the same hallowed path as the long legs that had enamored him seconds before.

“Hey, Joe.”

Restraining a sigh, he turned back. He knew what was coming; Riggs hadn’t missed a morning yet. “Yeah?”

“Your horoscope says you’re in for trouble today. Says something left behind is coming back in your life that will seriously affect your future and you can’t avoid it.”

“Good to know.” He made to turn.

“It also says something that looks like a simple puzzle on the surface is nothin’ but a nest of snakes. You better be careful, it says”—Riggs jabbed the morning paper he had spread out on the counter—“or you’ll be—and I quote—ensnarled.”

“Great. Thanks.” He lifted his coffee cup in salute and turned the corner. Joe wasn’t worried about snakes, and the only thing coming back into his life was last month’s bills. Which, thanks to the check he received yesterday, he was able to pay and then some. Temporarily at least, he was ankle deep in clover.

Snakes and ensnarling aside, he was planning a damn fine day; the morning setting up next week’s job, which would start with his joining Zern, his partner, on a yacht in

Spain
—not hard to take
—and the afternoon at the gym. Okay, so he wasn’t so keen on the gym thing but keeping in shape was part of the job. No one hired bodyguards from the before pictures.

Joe rounded the corner and walked the half block to his office. The building was ten floors, and he was on the fourth; he took the stairs.

The door to his floor opened on the end of the hall farthest from his office, and he’d cracked it barely an inch or two before he spotted Legs—standing outside his office door.

The day was getting better and better. He stopped to admire the view.

Legs reached for the knob on his door then, as if she’d touched a hot element, abruptly stepped back and ran a hand through her long hair, brushing one side of it behind her ear. She looked nervous. No. Beyond nervous. Scared.

And the face that went with that Grade-A body didn’t disappoint. The woman was eye-blasting beautiful.

Beautiful + scared = client.

Interesting
 . . . Joe watched her make another attempt at the door, back away again, then finally—and he could damn near hear her inhale half of Seattle’s supply of air— she opened the door and walked in.

Joe stepped into the hall, uncapped his coffee, and did a taste test as he ambled toward his office.

If Legs was the trouble Riggs predicted—bring it on.

 

April mustered her nerve, opened the door, and stepped in to Joe Worth’s reception area. She looked around.

It was a long, windowless room painted a pale institutional green. Amid the green, there was a reception desk with no one behind it, some battered filing cabinets, bench seating along one wall, and a coffee table piled high with magazines. A blood-red movie poster touting
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
, featuring a mean-mouthed James Cagney in lurid, fist-raised detail, hung crookedly behind the bench. The place looked like something from a thirties crime novel—not a computer in sight. She wondered if it was intentional—and if she’d made the right decision coming here.

But Cornie said their mother, Phylly, was in trouble. Big trouble. Enough trouble that Cornie bussed in from Vegas on her own and landed on April’s Portland, Oregon, doorstep. Enough that she convinced April they needed to go to Seattle ASAP—a city April never expected, or wanted, to see again. And, damn it, it looked as though the girl was right. So, even knowing Phylly would freak at her being here—here she was. About to talk to Joe Worth.

Rumor had it, when the going got tough, family came through. She wouldn’t know about that, but she was anxious enough to give it a try, because Joe Worth was definitely family.

Lifting her eyes to the old ceiling, where a fan spun without enthusiasm in the warm August afternoon, she prayed silently: Forgive me, Phylly . . .

“Can I help you?”

April nearly fell off her stilettos. She’d been so busy second-guessing herself, she was still gripping the doorknob and hadn’t noticed a young man enter from a side door.

She settled herself and stepped deeper into the room. She might not want to be here, but she wasn’t about to advertise the fact. “I’m here to see Joseph Worth.”

The man—he wasn’t much more than twenty—settled his fashionable metal-rimmed glasses on his nose, smiled at her, and glanced at an open scheduler on the desk. “Sorry, but I don’t see an appointment here.”

“I don’t have one.”

“And she doesn’t need one.”

The voice came from behind her, and she turned to see a big man enter the room—fill it—and approach the desk in long easy strides. When he stepped a little too close to her, she moved back, and looked up into his sharply assessing, openly curious eyes, meeting a gaze that settled over her like cool water.

There was no doubt this was Joseph Worth. Those eyes—a pale silver blue—were instantly recognizable. Set in the family genes, Phylly said. As was the height. The man was at least six foot three. Even with her wearing high heels, he was taller than she was. No mean feat when, barefoot, she stood five-ten.

“You’re Joseph Worth.” She put out her hand and he took it, held it, and nodded, his gaze unwaveringly direct. She had the brief thought they were playing some kind of macho who’ll-blink-first game. If so, Silver Eyes would lose. When it came to men, April stopped
blinking
years ago.

“I’m April Worth,” she said. Ignoring how small her hand was in his, she tightened her grip, and shook firmly. “In a roundabout way, we’re related.”

One eyebrow arched and he frowned. “A kissing cousin, I hope.”

“Afraid not.”
Not even close.

“Damn.” He withdrew his hand, eyed her closely. “You don’t by any chance have anything to do with snakes, do you?”

She couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “Worked with a few in my time,” she said, “but only the human variety.”

“Lots of those around.” He half-smiled and added, “You want a coffee?”

She nodded.

He looked at the young man. “Meet Kit, the purveyor of all caffeine-related products and the resident genius.” He gestured to a door. “He holes up in there with his stuff.” The door said
Genius.

Kit grinned at her. “That ‘stuff’ being computer muscle—his being of the more mundane variety.”

April smiled. “Nice to meet you, Kit. And it doesn’t look like you’re doing too bad in the ‘mundane’ department yourself.” Where Joe Worth had height and breadth, Kit was closer to five-ten, compact and wiry. His arms were lean, tan, and looked stronger than they needed to be to punch computer keys.

“All Joe’s fault.” He grimaced in Joe’s general direction. “He keeps dragging me to the gym. He calls it a job perk.”

“What do you call it?” she asked.

“Death by dumbbells.”

“And he loves every rep,” Joe said, not a trace of sympathy in his tone. He set the plastic cup he was holding on Kit’s desk. “Riggs hit an all-time java low this morning. Any chance you’ve got back up?”

“Just dripped its last drip.”

“Good. Use those new delts of yours and bring some in, will you?” He gave April another curious look, and smiled, one of those fake-friendly salesman-like smiles of a man hoping to do business. But it was enough of a smile to light his eyes and indicate good humor, which pumped up her hope quotient. Maybe he would help. Although in what capacity, she couldn’t be sure, but at the very least a man in his job—a bodyguard—surely had some connections he could call on, or advice he could give.

She trailed him toward a door, the top half of which was opaque glass with the word
Guardian A
printed across it in the same script used on Kit’s door. Next to his office was another door; it read
Guardian B.

He saw her glancing between them. “My partner, Julius Zern. He’s on a job.” He opened the A door and stood aside for her to enter.

“And the letters?” she asked. “Do they mean anything?”

“Nope. A is whoever’s in the office. We figured we needed a pecking order a client would relate to.”

“Ah. . .” Hell, what else was there to say? “So you’re both . . . guardians.” Which she took to be a fancy name for bodyguard.

“Uh-huh.”

She had the sense Joe Worth was much more than that, and it occurred to her that, in a bizarre kind of way, he and Phyllis were in the same business.

Inside his office, outfitted in the same bland yellow oak decor as the reception area, he took off his suit jacket and— surprise—put it on a hanger before hooking it on an ancient coat tree. His waist was narrow; his shirt was pale blue— the color of his eyes—and his shoulders, now shifting under soft cotton, were immense.
Guardian, indeed.

He stood behind his desk, nodded at one of the two wooden chairs in front of it and said, “Sit.”

She sat.

Sitting himself, he leaned back in the chair far enough that she envisioned an undignified tumble, but he obviously knew the chair’s limits and remained upright. Morning sunlight slanted through the one window in the room and illuminated his desk surface. A surface that made the expression “neat as a pin” inadequate. Definitely
not
like Phylly. “You don’t spend much time here, do you?” she asked.

“Mornings when I’m around. Otherwise this place is Kit’s home away from home.” He didn’t add more on the subject, instead saying, “You want me to ask questions, or do you just want to get to it?”

April set her tote bag beside her chair, crossed her legs, and met Joe Worth’s gaze with one she hoped was equally as calm. Again, her stomach did a pitch and roll. God, if Phylly knew she was here, she’d—

April had no idea what she’d do, but it would involve copious bloodletting.

No going back now. Forgive me, Phylly.

She cleared her throat. “I’m here about—”

Kit interrupted, walking into the room with a couple of mugs on a black plastic tray. Another surprise. The mugs matched.

As Kit handed them coffee, Joe Worth’s eyes never left hers.
Quiet eyes,
she thought. Intelligent and . . . patient. The eyes of an unhurried man, or a man who’d learned the payoff that came from shutting his mouth and opening his ears.

When Kit was gone, she started again. “I’m here about your mother. Phyllis Worth?” She didn’t know why she phrased Phylly’s name as a question—as if she were talking about a stranger. Which she was—at least to Joe. Still, it was stupid and made her sound tentative and insecure.
Which I am.

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