Authors: Glenna Sinclair
The Callahans, Book 3
Bonus: My second box set. Enjoy!
Copyright © 2016
All Rights 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. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Walking down the street shouldn’t be stressful. Yet, these last few days, I swear I could hear someone following me. That, coupled with the text messages I’d been getting from Claude, and it was enough to make me very nervous. I wrapped my arms around my chest, hiding the canister of pepper spray Jack gave to me.
Pepper spray. Like that made up for all the years of neglect.
I walked a little faster, smiling to a secretary I recognized from the first floor of my building. I should have taken the security guard up on his offer to walk me, or started parking in the garage as Jack suggested. But I was never one to ask for help, or take advice, especially advice from someone like Jack. So I walked quicker, hoping to make it to my car before whoever was behind me caught up to me.
I was just about there, just two spots down from my compact little Jaguar F-Type S convertible, when someone grabbed my arm. I twisted and pressed the trigger on the pepper spray. I couldn’t see his face because it was covered by a dark hood. He shoved me back even as he leaned his head sideways, avoiding the spray and trapping me between the side of someone’s SUV and his body. I struggled, kicking my legs and twisting, but he was much bigger than I was…and stronger. He pinned my hands above my head, twisting my wrist to force me to drop the pepper spray. I tried to scream, but he saw it coming and shoved his forearm against my mouth. I tried to bite him, but he rearranged his hands and managed to move his arm out of the way just in time.
I did manage to raise my knee just enough to catch him in the nads. He cried out, shoving me harder against the side of the SUV.
“Fucking bitch!” he cried against my ear, so loud that my ear started to ring.
I continued to struggle, pulling against the hand holding my wrists, twisting against the weight of his body.
“Let me go,” I mumbled against his hand.
I knew it was Claude. It had to be Claude. But he was tall, too tall. And strong.
What did he want with me?
I struggled a moment longer, but it was pretty obvious that it was pointless. He just stood there against me and waited. When I finally stopped squirming, he looked down at me, his face only barely visible in the dark under that hood. I could see the curve of his jaw and the shape of his lips, but that was about it.
“Are you done now?” he asked quite clearly, obviously unafraid that I might recognize his voice.
“What do you want?” I asked, my words still muffled by his hand.
But he knew what I was asking just the same.
“A friend of mine would like you to know that he’s not done with you. This is just a taste of what he has in store for you. He’ll be in touch in a few days.”
I mumbled against his hand. He lifted it so that he could fully understand what I was saying, but instead of repeating myself, I spit in his face.
“Cunt!” he cried—just as his hand slammed down against the side of my face. My head rocked back and smacked against the SUV’s window. I saw stars for a second, pain flashing through my skull. The man leaned close to me and wiped the spit away on the fine silk of my blouse.
“If it was up to me…” He didn’t finish his thought.
He ripped my bag off my shoulder as he stepped back, digging through it for my wallet. And then he was gone, leaving the bag and its contents scattered across the ground. I stood there and watched him go, almost shocked to still be on my feet. But I wasn’t for long. I slowly slid down to the ground, the reality of the situation slowly sinking in.
He could have killed me. Worse, he could have raped me.
I was completely vulnerable.
My insides were shaking like Jell-O in a bowl, and my hands had a tremor that made it nearly impossible to gather my things. I thought it was pretty bad to have a boyfriend who scared the crap out of me whenever he lost his temper, shoving me up against walls and leaving bruises on my arms from his rough grip. But this… Shit was getting real, as they say.
It was time for me to grow up and learn how to protect myself.
I was Delaney Doherty. I was CEO of Heavenly Match. I was a strong, independent woman.
A strong, independent woman, who was crawling on her hands and knees, collecting the things her mugger graciously left behind on the asphalt of the parking lot. And then I stumbled to my car, locked myself inside, and drove as quickly as I could to the safety of my secure condo.
And then I drank a bottle of wine, took a hot bath, and promised myself I would never feel that weak again.
I was working the bag, a fine sweat beading on my forehead as I worked to control my breathing and keep my hands steady. It’d been a while since I’d been to the gym, but it felt good. I boxed all through high school and college, so this was kind of like going home again. Just the smell of the place was familiar, almost comforting. And the workout was actually kind of nice. I’d been sore all week, but it was a good sort of sore.
The gym was quiet, just a few stragglers here this late in the day. Most people worked out early in the day, going home by the time I arrived a little after six every evening. Not many people left to spar with, but working the bag was good enough.
I was about to call it a night when I saw her walk in. She was a beauty, what with her blond hair and bright blue eyes. She was wearing a pair of shapeless sweat pants and a tight, nearly transparent t-shirt. She seemed a little nervous, the way she looked around the gym, not really taking in much more than the movement around her. She approached one of the bags, studying it as if it was a puzzle to be conquered. And then she hit it with her bare hand, completely wrong. I was surprised she didn’t break a bone.
I walked over, wiping away the sweat on my forehead as I went.
“Don’t curl your fingers around your thumb. That’s a good way to break it.”
She looked up, a little fear in those pale eyes. “Yeah?”
“And you should probably have your hands wrapped before you work the bag.”
“To keep from hurting yourself.”
Her eyes moved over me slowly, wearily. “You a coach or something?”
“Nope. Just a guy trying to get into shape.”
She cocked an eyebrow, a wry smile slowly twisting her lips. “You look like you’re in fine shape already.”
I looked down at myself, touching the slight pooch of my belly. “I’ve got a desk job that takes up a lot of my time. Haven’t had the time to work out that I’d like.”
She focused on the bag again, checking it out with the partial confidence of someone who thinks she could conquer anything.
“I appreciate the suggestions, but I think I can handle it.”
I walked over to the bench where I’d left my bag and began to unwind the dressings from my hands. After a minute, I heard a little yelp from behind me. I turned, and she was holding her hand, rubbing it with the other. I grabbed a roll of bandage from my bag and walked back over, taking hold of her hand. As I began to wind the bandage around her palm, I noticed bruises in the shape of fingertips on her wrist. She blushed when I looked into her eyes.
I nodded, noticing now the bruise on her cheek that she’d tried valiantly to cover with makeup. My hand shook a little with anger as I finished wrapping her right hand. She held it up and wiggled her fingers as I began on the left.
I quickly wrapped the left, then stepped back and gestured for her to hit the bag. She did, but her form was all wrong. I moved behind her, held her arms and silently showed her a quick jab, molding my hand around hers to show her how she should hold it. Then I stepped back and she repeated what I’d shown her almost perfectly.
“That should get you started,” I said, wandering back to my bag.
“Will you be here tomorrow?”
“I’m here most nights about six.”
She watched as I picked up my bag and headed for the door.
“If I’m here, do you think you could show me more?”
I glanced back at her. “If you’re here.”
And it was as easy as that.
I drove home to the luxury condo I’d bought a little over two years ago when I came home. The place was empty, quite literally. Although I’d been here for two years, I hadn’t really gotten around to buying furniture. I had a couple of folding chairs, a mattress on the floor in my bedroom, and that was about it. I thought buying the condo would be my way of putting down roots, but I couldn’t seem to make myself commit to it. I felt restless, as if I needed to be ready to leave at a second’s notice. Owning furniture was too much like permanence.
I took a shower, trying not to look myself in the eye when I stood in front of the mirror. I had trouble with that these days. There was too much in my wake, too much guilt. I’d done things I wasn’t proud of. I told myself that it was all in the past and it was time to move on, but I couldn’t seem to do it.
I dragged my fingers through my fine, red hair and headed downstairs, digging a frozen dinner out of the fridge. My father was expecting me to meet him in less than an hour. There was a job tonight, a security gig. I didn’t use to participate in these things, but now that my brother was married and expecting his first child, Pops preferred not to ask him to put himself between Jack’s people and a bullet. So it was my turn to stand up and join the family business.
Pops was the CEO of MCorp, this massive corporation here in Boston that was a conglomerate of different types of businesses. MCorp owned everything from car washes to real estate, the latest acquisition being a chain of pizza joints. I was in the legal department at MCorp, pushing papers to make sure everything was on the up and up. But the true family business was protecting the Irish mafia.
Jack McGuire was the head of the mafia and Pops’ business partner. Pops used to run numbers with Jack when they were both young, but he’d made a promise to Mom that he’d get out. Instead of fully removing himself from the illegal crap, he’d become something like muscle for Jack. My older brother, Killian, runs things with him—as well as running the PR department at MCorp—but, like I said, he recently married our foster sister, Stacy, and they were expecting their first child. Ian and Kyle, my other brothers, were also part of Pops’ team, but he needed me to run point with him.
I ate at the counter, watching the news on the television mounted under the cabinets. I thought about the pretty girl at the gym, my thoughts running to things they probably shouldn’t. I wondered if she knew what wearing a shirt like that one could do to guys in a testosterone-driven environment. It was pink with words in French scattered all across the front, but the material was so thin that I could see the white and black pattern of her sports bra. She might as well have been out there without the shirt on—something most women at the gym did—because there was something about a shirt like that which just made a man run more to the erotic than seeing a woman in just her sports bra.
And then I thought about the bruises on her wrist, the bruise on her face, wondering what—or who—had put them there. I’d like to meet that guy in a dark alley sometime. There were ways to get what you wanted from a woman without leaving marks.
I finished my meal and headed out, grabbing my keys on the way out the door. Pops was waiting at the curb, a stern look on his face when I climbed in beside him.
“The Italians are causing us a little trouble.”
“A few of them have been spotted outside the new warehouse. Jack thinks someone’s told them what we’re up to.”
“Then I guess we’d better be extra careful tonight.”
We drove in silence to the meeting spot, climbing out of the car to check things out before the others arrived. Things looked quiet tonight, but you could never be too careful. Ian was up on the roof of a nearby business with a rifle, and Kyle was lurking in the shadows where even we couldn’t see him. Pops and I were leaning back against the trunk of his sedan, not really talking, when another car pulled up.
It wasn’t our guys.
“Hey, Brian,” a voice called.
Shit, shit, shit!
It was Detective Anthony Scarsorsi.
“Anthony,” Pops said, approaching the driver’s side of the sedan.
“What are you doing out here this late?”
Pops glanced back at me. He made a motion with his hand to stand down.
“Meeting a friend.”
“Out here? In the middle of nowhere?”
Pops shrugged. “Is that a crime, officer?”
“Nope. It’s a free country.” There was a long pause. “But…we got a report that there was going to be a meeting between the Irish and a few members of the Harbor Point Bloods here tonight.”
Scarsorsi was quiet for a long minute. I could almost feel the wheels spinning in his head. There was nothing he could do to my Pops or I until he had proof, and there was no way our people would show up while the cops were within a ten-mile radius. And, by now, Ian would have warned everyone in route to this location. The meeting was already called off just by Scarsorsi showing up, a fact that would piss Jack off since this meeting had been called off twice before for similar reasons.
Someone was tipping the cops off to our business, and it was beginning to impede things. First men went missing, some ending up dead. Then the Italian mob started getting inside information on our business. And now this. Someone was leaking information from inside the organization…and that was going to have to be stopped.
“I know about you, Brian,” Scarsorsi said. “Very soon I’m going to have a strong case against you, and your position at MCorp will no longer be able to protect you. Your day is coming.”
“You’ve been saying that for years, Anthony. Yet, nothing ever comes of it.”
“It will. You just wait.”
Scarsorsi drove off in a cloud of dust, disappearing almost as quickly as he arrived. Pops walked back over to where I was waiting, his face a twist of anger and frustration.
“We need to find the mole.”
He pulled out his phone and called Ian and Kyle off. Then he was behind the wheel, his knuckles white as he gripped it far too tight.
I waited until we were parked in front of my condo.
“She showed up at the gym today.”
Pops glanced at me. “Well, at least something’s going right.”