Turning Point (The Kathleen Turner Series) (44 page)

Weird.

I spent the afternoon studying and doing homework before heading in to work. I tried not to dwell on the things Clarice had said, but it was futile. Blane with other women. Blane becoming close with Charlotte. Blane and Kade not speaking.

I was even more despondent than usual. But I didn’t cry. I hadn’t cried since the night Alisha had come over and I’d told her everything. Since then, I’d carried on. I worked, I signed up for classes, and I started attending once the summer session began. I did my laundry, cleaned my apartment, and did all the things one did that said I was living my life.

And I tried to pretend it wasn’t a lie.

I was nearly at The Drop when I saw the blue sedan again.

He was trailing me like he had earlier, three cars behind. How the hell had he found me?

He must know where I live.

A shiver of fear went through me, but I quickly shrugged it off.

How dare he follow me? Try to scare me? The bastard.

I parked a couple of blocks from The Drop and grabbed my purse. Locking the car door, I started walking, taking the back way in between the buildings. It was light—the sun wouldn’t set for a few hours—but the shadows were thick in the alleyways.

Pausing, I opened my purse and took out a compact. As I pretended to powder my nose, I watched in the mirror. Sure enough, the same guy had gotten out of the car and
was following me on foot. I took quick measure of him. He was about five eleven, maybe a hundred eighty pounds. Not huge, but not small either.

I snapped my compact closed and resumed walking. My hand remained inside my purse.

Turning a corner, I slipped into the shadows, and waited. When he stepped into view, he was only a foot from me and he had a gun pointed at his chest.

“Who are you and why are you following me?” I asked. The gun was steady in my two-handed grip.

“Whoa, take it easy,” he said, putting his hands up.

“Answer the questions,” I demanded.

“Listen, lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about—”

I cocked the hammer back on the gun.

“All right, all right!” he said in alarm. “I’m just doing a job, okay?”

“You’re supposed to scare me? Hurt me? Kill me?” I asked. It wouldn’t be the first time, which probably explained my utter lack of shock.

“No, I swear! None of that!”

“Then what?”

The guy swallowed, his eyes on my gun. “This wasn’t supposed to be a dangerous job,” he muttered.

“Tell me!”

“Fine! I was just supposed to follow you, keep an eye on you, make sure nothing happened to you,” he said. “Though it looks like you can take care of yourself well enough,” he added in an irritated undertone.

“Who hired you?” I asked, trying to process his claim that he supposedly wasn’t following me to hurt me, but to… protect me. Why?

He pressed his lips together, refusing to answer.

I lowered my gun to point it at his knee.

“You like your knees?” I threatened.

Sweat broke out on his forehead and he swallowed heavily. “Fine,” he said. “Blane Kirk hired me, okay? Now can you put the gun down? Please?”

I reeled, the name dropping like a load of bricks on my consciousness. Confusion and shock were followed quickly by rage.

Lowering the gun, I got in the guy’s face.

“You tell your boss,” I spat, “to leave me the fuck alone. If he sends someone else to follow me, he’ll regret it and so will they.”

I left him standing in the alley while I walked quickly to The Drop, my hands shaking uncontrollably as I put the gun back in my purse. When I reached work, I locked myself in a bathroom stall.

My heart was pounding and tears wet my lashes as I tried to hold them back. I breathed, closed my eyes, and tried to get a grip.

Why would Blane have someone follow me? It didn’t make any sense. Was he afraid I was going to go to the press about the relationship we’d had? Leak all the sordid details? There were plenty of women who could do that. Or if the guy had been telling the truth, that he was supposed to make sure nothing happened to me, then why would I be in danger?

I couldn’t concentrate on any of this, my emotions still overruling my logic. Blane still thought of me—albeit in his usual heavy-handed, controlling way. It was pathetic how
much of an impact that made on me.
I
was pathetic. How embarrassing.

God, I needed a drink.

I escaped the bathroom and clocked in. We were already busy and I had little time to do more than throw a quick hello to Scott and Tish. However, I did find time to toss back a shot of bourbon, to steady myself.

A group of four college guys came in at some point during the night, setting up at a table close to the bar. They wore casual clothes that I could tell were expensive brands, which meant they had money. I told Scott I’d take the table and headed over there.

They were cute and funny, and I flirted shamelessly as I delivered their drinks. Working for tips required its own kind of skill. I used to be friendly but keep my distance. Then a stripper I’d met a few months ago had given me some good advice.

You’ve got assets. Use them to your advantage. Men are fools for a nice set of boobs.

I’d taken it to heart, and my tips had improved. While the uniform Romeo made us wear irritated me, it showed off an impressive display of cleavage. And judging by the college boys’ lingering stares as they got more inebriated, showing extra skin worked. If I was lucky, I’d get twenty bucks off that table tonight, maybe more if they got drunk enough.

Scott and I had a good rhythm when we worked together, and he was fun. He teased me mercilessly, making me laugh. I could almost push the whole incident with the man Blane had hired to the back of my mind.

But not completely, which was why I didn’t turn them down when the college guys wanted me to do a round of shots with them. Business was slowing as one o’clock neared, so I didn’t feel guilty leaving Scott behind the bar while I hung out with two remaining guys. The others were out on the dance floor with girls they’d picked up.

“So, Kathleen,” one of them said—Bill or Brian, something with a B. “You busy after work?” He’d slung his arm around my waist as I stood next to their high-top table.

I tipped back the shot in my hand, the whiskey burning a fiery path down my throat, and tried to concentrate on what he’d said.

“Sorry,” I said. “Gotta get home tonight. Maybe some other time.”

I smiled to soften the rejection. Just because I wanted to relieve them of some of their cash didn’t mean I wanted a date, even if he was a good-looking guy.

“We could have a real good time,” he insisted. His hand drifted down to my ass.

“Just the three of us,” the other guy chimed in. I wanted to say his name was Trey.

I looked at him in surprise and he laughed. “Betcha never done that before, right?”

If I’d expected Bill/Brian to object, I was disappointed. He seemed all for the idea. He’d gripped my waist and tugged me back between his thighs so I faced Trey, who’d scooted his stool closer.

“You’re fuckin’ hot, Kathleen,” Bill/Brian said in my ear. “We’ll take good care of you. Don’t you worry.”

I swallowed hard, trying to fight the rising panic in my chest just as Trey leaned over and kissed me. My hands
automatically came up to push him away, but they were caught and held by the guy behind me.

Well, fuck. There goes my tip,
I thought sourly.

I jerked my head back hard, cracking Bill/Brian in the face. He yelped and let me go. I quickly slipped out from between the two men.

“I’m not into that,” I said calmly from a couple feet away.

Bill/Brian was cupping his nose with his hand.

Trey spoke first. “Sorry there, Kathleen. We meant no harm.”

I eyed him suspiciously, but he seemed sincere, for a drunk guy.

“Yeah, sorry,” Bill/Brian said, his voice muffled from behind his hand. “The way you were acting… well, we obviously got the wrong idea there.”

I nodded and headed back to the bar. So I was such an obviously easy lay that a couple of college guys assumed I would be into a threesome one-night stand?

I poured myself a drink.

“Those guys get out of hand?” Scott asked, sidling up next to me.

I shook my head. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

He nodded and Tish handed him an order to fill.

By the time I’d restocked the bar and begun cleanup, the table of guys had gone. They left me fifty bucks, which I supposed was their way of saying sorry. Whatever. It was much better than I thought I’d get after nailing that guy in the face.

Scott and Tish left after I assured them I’d close up.

“You sure?” Tish asked as she grabbed her purse.

“No worries,” I said. “See you Monday.”

When I was alone, I locked the front door and turned off all the lights but the ones that shone directly down on the bar. I was keyed up, despite the drinks I’d had tonight. The incident with the college guys bothered me and I still couldn’t get Blane out of my head.

Maybe I should’ve gone home with Trey and Bill. Or Brian. Or whatever his name had been.

With a sigh, I eased myself onto a barstool and took a swig of the beer in my hand. I rested my head in one hand, my elbow braced on the bar. My other hand toyed with the beer bottle. I wasn’t in a hurry to get home.

Jeff, the cook at The Drop, had made me a hamburger earlier, and glowered at me until I’d taken a few bites. Jeff was a bald Army guy with tattoos up and down his arms. Romeo was terrified of him, though he’d always been nice to me. He was a man of few words, content to cook and smoke his cigarettes, usually at the same time. He’d taken a particular interest in making me eat lately, which was sweet of him.

I was lucky, I told myself. I had great friends who cared about me. And I was being cruel to them by making them worry. I just needed to get over it already. People broke up, got divorced, and died all the time. I was not the first to experience heartbreak.

A prickling on the back of my neck had me looking over my shoulder at the expanse of windows lining the walls. I couldn’t see out, could only see my reflection in the opaque glass as it reflected the dim light from the bar.

Dismissing the sensation, I finished off the beer and tossed it. Time to go home.

The streets were quiet and empty at this hour. I walked slowly to my car. I loved summer nights when the heat of the day had passed and the warm darkness covered everything like a welcoming blanket. It had rained earlier, leaving the air smelling fresh and clean. I paused to look at the moon peeking from behind clouds. Bright and full, it was a good reminder that life goes on, that each day would get just a tiny bit easier until one day I’d wake up and not think about Blane at all.

My keys slipped out of my lax fingers, hitting the ground with the clink of metal against concrete. I grumbled a curse at my clumsiness and bent down.

A gunshot shattered the silence, and I cried out in alarm. The glass of the car window exploded above me and I instinctively crouched down, covering my head with my arm as the shards rained on me.

I scrabbled inside my purse, searching for my gun. Adrenaline coursed through my body. I heard the sound of gunfire again, but this time from another direction. Someone was shooting back, and it wasn’t me.

Tires squealed and more gunshots rang out. I stayed down, not wanting to get in the cross fire of whatever I’d managed to land in the middle of. Gangs maybe—who knew? Just my luck, though.

When it was quiet again, save for the pounding of the blood in my ears, I gradually uncovered my head. A tickle on my face had me swiping my cheek, my hand coming away bloody. A piece of glass must have cut me. Great.

My knees were scraped from the concrete and I winced as I got to my feet. I glanced around to be sure the shooters
were gone, wondering if I should call the cops. Then the breath left my lungs in a rush.

A man had stepped out of the shadows mere feet from me, a still-smoking gun in the hand at his side.

His familiar features made me swallow hard before I said, “So, I guess you were just in the neighborhood.”

Here ends the first chapter of
Out of Turn.

Check Tiffany’s website—
www.TiffanyASnow.com
—for more information on
The Kathleen Turner Series.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to Leslie, for your daily book reports. You’re such an encouragement to me!

Thank you, Tracy, for taking the time and the fine-tooth comb to this. As always, your input was invaluable.

To my family, thank you for your patience and encouragement throughout the process of writing. Your support and enthusiasm have meant the world to me. I love you.

Thank you to Eleni and everyone at Montlake for your hard work on the release of
Turning Point.
I’m very grateful to you.

Lastly, I’m constantly amazed at the strength and perseverance of many of my friends, women who make the hard choices and sometimes must take the difficult path on the road to their own happiness and self-fulfillment. Their stories, how they have met and overcome the trials in their lives, have humbled me.

Whether it be cheating husbands, loveless marriages, motherhood and single motherhood, a burning desire to achieve the career of their dreams, or just the day-to-day living of their lives, my friends have amazed me with their strength in the face of life’s challenges, humor in spite of life’s disappointments,
and love for each other no matter what, in good times and bad.

So to Nicole, Ronda, Stephanie, Paige, and Lisa, thank you for sharing your life, love, stories, and friendship with me. You inspire me, and in turn, Kathleen.

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