[Please check back for availability]
Danica St. Como's
The Men of Sanctuary Series
Hunting April ~ Book Two
(Cover Design by Fiona Jayde)
Wounded while escaping from fiancé Angelo Martone, a disguised April Hall panics and crashes into surveillance expert Glennon Garrett at a coffee shop. Bleeding and drawing a crowd, April begs Glennon not to call police or ambulance—then collapses in his arms.
Former Marine Force Recon Garrett takes charge and carries her to his penthouse apartment. Her secret? Her whirlwind romance seriously went to hell when she discovered the man she planned to wed was a sadistic, blackmailing psychopath with Mob connections. After vigorously defending herself during his attack, she fears that she may be wanted for manslaughter!
When April regains her senses, life becomes complicated as she admits to her rescuer the reasons for her flight. Does Glennon feel sorry for her, or is the growing sexual attraction between them real?
Humiliated when Glennon rebuffs her, April doesn't wait to hear a reason. She makes a break for freedom in the middle of the night. Before she reaches the street, she's grabbed by former Army Ranger Daniel Wyndsor. The problem? As her ex-fiancé's bodyguard, he kept his desire for her under wraps until he broke his contract to take up the search.
With April in jeopardy and time getting short, the men whisk April away to the fortified lodge at Sanctuary. She finds one sexy alpha male with an overbearing attitude bad enough—two men are too much for April to handle.
At first, all she wanted was to break free of Angelo's thugs and disappear, to go home. Now she doesn't want to leave Daniel's strong arms. But who else is hunting April?
(Warning ~ This Book Contains Sexually Explicit Scenes Described in Graphic Detail.)
Hunting April ~ Book Two
"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man,
and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it,
never really care for anything else thereafter."
Ernest Hemingway, "On The Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter"
April, 1936, Esquire magazine
"Oh, boy, this is just nasty." April Hall checked the bandage after she lifted her shirt. The surgical tape still held the thick gauze pads in place, but the edges of the wound seemed inflamed, the flesh overly warm to her touch. Crap, this could be trouble. The blunt blade of the engraved letter opener had left a long ragged gash along the bottom of her ribcage. At least the bleeding is under control. For the moment. She hoped the dark shirt color would provide temporary camouflage, if necessary. Let's leave the shirt untucked, so it won't wick up any blood. Just in case.
She pushed her hair under a dark blue and white headscarf, knotted the ends artistically below her left ear. She assessed her reflection in the old silver-flecked wall mirror. Brown eyes—courtesy of colored contact lenses—stared back from a pale face she hoped no one would notice. She thrust a few stray hairs under edge of the headscarf, hiding the rest of her hair, shorter now, and dyed Elvira black. I guess this will do for the moment.
April shrugged into a navy blue summer jacket two sizes too large and tried not to pull the bandage loose. She took a long, last look around the cheap no-tell motel room with its pond scum green décor. No evidence she had ever been in the room, nothing left behind to give her away.
Wiping the key card with a sanitizer-soaked paper towel—as she had done with everything else she touched—April left the plastic card on the nightstand. She gathered up the new brown canvas duffle bag, her shoulder bag, laptop bag, and the tightly tied plastic bag of trash. She quietly closed the door behind her, wiped the doorknob, then slipped into the darkness.
Time to go.
Thursday, early morning
The hot coffee smelled fresh and tasted rich, just the ticket. April intended to enjoy every sip while she took advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Hey, I'm a paying customer, not a freeloader.
Tucked into the back corner of the coffee and pastry shop, she scanned all the metro news she could find by way of her laptop. Still nothing. I wonder if no news is a good thing, or a bad thing. She powered down the computer and collected her trash.
Looping both straps around her neck, she adjusted the shoulder bag and laptop bag to hang just so. Laptop on right hip, shoulder bag on left. Then she patted both bags, caught herself. Definitely OCD. I should work on that. She carefully pushed the trash deep into the bin. Preoccupied with worry about her compulsive habits, she turned to leave—and crashed into a solid body whose earthy, exotic scent immediately identified it as male.
"Whoa, hold on there, what's the hurry?" The man held her arm to steady her.
April regained her balance, then caught a glimpse of the leather portfolio in his other hand. Tucked under the strap was a glossy, eye-catching, green and gold, Angelo Martone Marketing brochure.
Oh my God, he found me! Angelo found me! April panicked. "So sorry, my fault, so clumsy."
Pulling free, she turned her face away from the man. Maybe it's coincidence, maybe he didn't recognize me. With fear foiling any cooperation from her feet, she stumbled again as she tried to slip by.
"Hey, are you all right?"
"Fine, just late, need to go." She couldn't seem to keep her equilibrium. Maybe I should have eaten something. Nothing worse than suffering from bone-chilling fear on an empty stomach.
"Hang on a moment, are you sure you're okay?"
"Really, I'm fine." April weaved through the people in line and bolted for the exit. Head down, face averted, she bounced off a solidly built customer who plowed through the doorway like a tugboat.
"Hey, watch it!"
Mumbling another apology, April spun, pinballed towards the opening, then shot out between heavy glass doors to the sidewalk. The toe of her running shoe caught a raised crack in the sidewalk, which sent her sailing headlong into a Jeep idling at the curb. Her forehead bounced off the front fender before her arms could break the fall. Palms and knees hit the concrete.
"You really need to watch where you're going." Him again, the great-smelling man. He helped her to her feet.
Martone's goons were lowbrow and tacky. This man oozed handsome and class. Yeah, well, believing in coincidence could get me killed. Frantic, she twisted and broke free of his hold. "I'm fine, I need to go."
Rubberneckers gawked from inside and outside the shop's glass walls. The gathered onlookers prevented April from making a clean getaway. A disembodied voice barked out, "Maybe someone should call 9-1-1."
Oh, hell no! "I'm fine, really, no need to call anyone. I'm okay."
She struggled to stand steady, straightened her jacket, patted her shoulder bag and laptop bag. A warm, wet feeling spread over her skin, under her shirt. Cripes, I'm bleeding again. Gotta go, gotta go, gotta get away.
A strong hand took her by the upper arm. "Your head needs treatment, and you're wobbling like a Weeble. Are you sure you don't want me to call for an ambulance?"
Damn, him again, the attractive man who smelled so good. The man with the brochure. The glossy, colorful brochure she designed, that she finessed to fruition. Oh God, I even sound like an advertisement!
"N-n-no, I'm okay. Please, no police or ambulance. I'm fine, really." April put her hand to her forehead, felt the sticky blood. Shit, that's a good reason for everyone to stare. She rummaged through her oversized shoulder bag for a handkerchief.
"No need to call anyone. I'm okay, I'll be fine."
With her hand still buried in the big leather bag, she folded like a sheet.
* * * * *
Glennon Garrett stared at the woman in his arms in disbelief, then scanned the crowd. Okay, someone needs to come forth to claim her. No such luck. Then he smelled it—the unmistakable, coppery odor of fresh blood. He dropped his gaze, glanced at the dark stain that oozed through her lightweight jacket onto his cream-colored shirt. Shit. Of all the days not to wear black.
"No problem, folks, I'll get her to the ER."
The crowd dispersed as quickly as it formed. He was sure the gawkers were relieved that someone had manned up and taken control of a socially uncomfortable and potentially inconvenient situation.
Garrett rearranged the woman and the collection of gear tethered around her neck so he could carry her more easily, then headed across the street into a parking garage. Once inside, he slid his ID card into the elevator lock, elbowed the button for the penthouse.
"What . . . where . . . ?"
The young woman opened her eyes, wide. One eye was dark brown, the other a bright hazel-green. "Who are you?"
"Your personal EMT."
"But who . . . oh, my head . . . ."
Her eyes closed again, and she grew heavy in his arms.
He sighed. "All because I'm too damn lazy to brew my own damn coffee."
The penthouse apartment displayed a wide landscape of chrome, glass, and modern art, which he never really noticed anymore. He settled her gently on a soft, deeply cushioned black leather sofa, then tucked a red and silver sofa pillow under her head. At least if it gets smeared with blood, no one will notice.
Glennon grabbed a pile of clean dishtowels and knelt next to the woman. With the jacket unzipped, he could see the dark shirt soaked with fresh blood, making it difficult to eyeball the source. "Oh yeah, this is gonna be ugly. I need a better place to work."
He spread oversized bath sheets to protect his bed, then settled the woman on top of the towels.
The stained jacket, rolled up and tossed, landed on the bathroom's tiled floor. When he folded back the hem of her shirt, the blood stench assaulted his nostrils. Damn, that's just nasty. He carefully lifted the blood-soaked bandage. The mass of soggy nonstick pads came up with the tape, revealing a gash about four inches long. The edges of the wound were ragged and definitely indicated an early stage of infection. Fuck.
"Miss? Ma'am? Hello?" Nothing.
Garrett grabbed a fully stocked medical field kit from the bathroom closet. Wielding razor-sharp scissors, he sliced through the bloody shirt to peel it off—hmm, naked shapely woman here—irrigated the area with saline solution, then took a closer look. This bugger really needs a surgeon to do it right. He considered calling in a favor. But she really acted desperate to avoid police and emergency personnel. And to escape from me.
"Well, then, let's see what we can do with you." After he dried the area, he taped the edges of the wound together with butterfly strips every half inch, which would allow the wound to ooze, if necessary. Then he covered the area loosely with sterile nonstick gauze, and secured the corners.
The head wound was minor, a small surface split from hitting the fender, with a whopper of a lump under the skin. He flushed, dried, and closed it with a single butterfly strip. The fall abraded her palms, so he cleaned them up. Not much else to do there. Her jeans protected her knees; the knees looked all right, but the jeans hadn't fared as well. Nothing to do there, either.
He untied the headscarf, wiped the dried blood from her forehead. A stripe of reddish blonde or auburn showed at the roots. Why would a woman cover up such beautiful hair? The pitch-black dye job didn't suit her; she certainly didn't appear to be Goth.
Glennon washed up, then pulled on a fresh shirt. He took a better look at his patient. Petite, very attractive, maybe early- to mid-twenties. He wondered what, or who, frightened her so badly she would have dashed into the street to escape, if the parked Jeep hadn't intervened. Hmm, a shame to cover such perfect breasts. Oh, well. He grabbed a light comforter from the blanket chest at the foot of his bed and covered her up to her neck.
With breakfast a washout, Glennon finally brewed his own coffee and toasted a stale corn muffin for lunch. Waiting for the coffee, he cancelled his appointments for the day. He'd just finished when his cell phone chimed. Front desk flashed on the caller ID.
"Boss, it's Ivan. The little gal from the coffee shop, y'know, the cute blonde with the bodacious ta-tas, brought over a brown canvas bag. Said it belonged to your woman. Your woman? Have you been holdin' out on us?"
"I wondered how long it would take before you realized I came in through the garage and rode up the elevator."
"No way, boss! You're supposed to be out."
"And you're supposed to be my first line of defense. I guess I'm royally screwed."
"Oh, man, you musta snuck in when I went to the head. Fuck it, boss, I'm sorry."
"We will discuss this further. Send someone up with the bag."
"Yessir, boss. It won't happen again."
"I know it won't. By you, or by your possible replacement." Garrett disconnected.
* * * * *
April opened her eyes. She struggled to sit, then looked down. Wow. Bare-breasted, but newly bandaged. The room came into focus. Soft gray walls provided a quiet backdrop to black lacquered furniture, set off by a luxurious ruby red bedspread with black and gray pinstripes. The bedspread remained pristine under the black bath towels on which she'd been sleeping. A really expensive hotel suite? How the hell did she get here?
A light knock sounded against the half-opened door. She grabbed the edge of the silver and gray comforter, yanked it up to her neck. "Yes?"
Him again. The man from the coffee shop. The man whose scent evoked images of cool spring days, earthy woodlands. The man with the damned brochure.
"Hey, glad you're awake. Feeling any better?"
"A bit shaky, actually. Uh, where am I?"
"GMG Security and Surveillance. It's the art deco building across from the coffee shop, if that helps. This is my apartment."
"Your stuff is in the living room."
"My stuff? Omigod, my stuff!" She patted the bed, as if her belongings might be hiding under the bedcovers. "My duffle bag. I left it at the bakery."
"No worry, I have that, too."
"And my clothes?" She pulled the comforter tighter.
"Ah, yes. The jacket? Questionable, but possibly salvageable. The shirt? Sorry, the shirt is history. Needed to cut it off to reach the wound. The blood glued it to your skin."
"Oh." She wanted to hide her head under the comforter to get away from his scrutiny. He'd seen her half-naked. And had his hands on her, obviously.
He reached into a dresser drawer, then pulled out a black polo shirt with the bold GMG logo embroidered in red, tossed it to her. "Here, put this on."
She grabbed the shirt with one hand and held it tightly, not giving up her grip on the comforter. Even his shirt smells good.
"Are you one of Angelo's men? Is he on his way? Ya gotta tell me. At least give me that much. Or even a head start."
"Lady, I'm nobody's man, and I don't know who Angelo might be. We're in Jersey—lots of Angelos."
He folded muscular arms across his equally muscular chest. "Glennon Garrett. My business, my building, my apartment. Who is Angelo, and why would you think I work for him? In the shape you're in, you're not going anywhere."
She held the balled-up shirt tighter. "I think someone was following me."
"Why the hell would I follow you? Why would anyone follow you?"
"Never mind, it's not important." She closed her eyes and leaned back on the pillow, exhausted from the adrenaline surges, the spikes and plummets. She glanced at him again. "Are you?"
"Am I what?
"Working for Angelo."
He heaved an exasperated sigh and shook his head. "Do you like pizza?"
She blinked. "Sorry?"
"Pizza. P-i-z-z-a. Pizza. I missed breakfast, lunch sucked, so an early dinner works for me. Care to share a pizza? It's the only junk food fit for mankind."
"Oh. Sure. Okay." Would one of the goons offer me pizza? Or is this a trick to keep me occupied until Angelo arrives? "I could manage to eat something."
"And what would you like on your pizza?"
"No fungus. No fishy things."
He laughed. "A girl after my own heart. No mushrooms or anchovies. Will extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and meatball work for you?"
"Great. A fellow carnivore. I'll call in the order, then grab a quick shower in the guest room while you get dressed. Bathroom is to your right. Don't let the bandage get wet. Meet me in the kitchen when you're ready." He pulled the door closed behind him.
April immediately pulled on the polo, identical to the shirt Mr. Garrett wore. On him, the shirt stretched snugly over his broad chest, flat abs, and thick biceps. On her small frame, it hung like a nightdress.
Behind the locked bathroom door, she lifted the fabric and checked the bandage.
"Nice job. Better than I did."
She washed up, cautiously worked around cuts and abrasions. The eyes looking back from the mirror were mismatched.
"There goes my brilliant disguise. Next, time, dummy, buy two pairs of contacts."
She removed the surviving contact lens, then tossed it. She leaned closer to the mirror to check her roots. It had been her first attempt at using hair color. "Gonna need a touch-up sooner than I thought. So much for truth in advertising. This isn't going to last six weeks."
Finger combing her shoulder-length hair into a simple pageboy, she made herself as presentable as possible.
Her running shoes sat neatly next to the bed. Oh, goody. If I need to bolt out the door, at least I'll be wearing shoes.
"Perfect timing. Pizza just arrived." Glennon, his hair still damp, dressed in a sleeveless muscle shirt and snug running shorts, motioned April to one of the two chairs set under a round chrome and glass table. "I ordered two garden salads with the house's balsamic dressing. The restaurant has the best Greek olives stuffed with goat cheese. Diet ginger ale okay?"
She quickly scoped out his powerful thighs, then what she could see of the apartment's open floor plan. They seemed to be alone. She nodded.
"This is awfully considerate. You don't even know me." Or, do you? With that body, you're one I'd certainly remember!
"I'm getting to that." He held out his hand. "Glennon Garrett, GMG Security and Surveillance."
Oh, crap. Security and surveillance. "Oh. Uh . . . Ap—Alice Green. Copywriter." Her throat tightened at revealing even that much. "I'm . . . self-employed." Really clever, motor mouth. Why don't you just blurt out everything?
"Welcome, dear Alice, to my Wonderland." He served up the pizza and handed her a plate. "Nasty-looking gash. How'd you manage it?"
His question caught her by surprise, and her heart skipped a couple of beats. She hadn't thought of a cover story for the wound. After all, who would be seeing it? "I . . . uh . . . well . . . I went out jogging and tripped and fell on a . . . hmm . . . broken glass bottle. I'm really clumsy."
"Uh huh. I'm guessing you didn't have anyone look at the wound. It's infected."
Another frisson of panic. "Didn't . . . uh, no insurance yet."
"Alice Green, if you're not allergic to anything, I keep a supply of antibiotics. For emergencies. Are you okay with cephalexin?"
"I think so."
"Let's give it a whirl." He returned from the bathroom with a pharmacy bottle, handed it over so she could read the warnings on the label. "Take two to jump-start the meds, then take two more before bed."
April shifted in her seat, uneasy. "You're more than kind. I've already put you out—" Is he being incredibly helpful, a true Good Samaritan, or is he trying to slow me down to buy more time?
The expression on his face hardened into serious."All right, Ms. Green, let's get our signals straight. Either you take the antibiotic, or I dial 9-1-1 and you become the EMT's problem. The gash is nasty and it's infected. I cleaned it up, but you really need proper medical attention. It's either me, or the nearest hospital ER, then you can worry about how they fill out the incident report. Choose your poison."
She coughed behind her hand, her throat suddenly desert dry. Neither choice appealed. But he really doesn't seem like the goon type. He sounds on the up and up. And why would he threaten to call 9-1-1 if he was waiting for Angelo? She looked around. Considered. I'm in a classy penthouse apartment, my wounds tended to, enjoying a hot meal with a very attractive man. If he isn't on Angelo's payroll, this is definitely an improvement over anything I could conjure. If he does belong to Angelo, it's probably too late to run.
"Alice, I never thought to ask. Do you live nearby? Is there anyone I should call for you? Family? Friends? Do you have your own physician?"
Again, her gut lurched in a panic. "Uh, not really. I'm, hmm, new in town and, well, sorta between places. I'll find a motel." Not that I'd want anyone I know to become involved in this nonsense.
"A room in some flea-bag dive is not an option. So, take the meds, chow down some pizza to keep up your strength. I can offer a guest room, or a very comfortable sofa. Again, your choice."
He leaned back in the chair, crossed his long legs, then fielded a perfect, gooey-cheesy slice of pizza, properly folded long-ways.
"Damn, hot!" He wiped his mouth with a napkin and grinned. "Good pizza with real mozzarella is best when it's hot enough to scorch the roof of your mouth. So, you'd better get to it."
April relaxed, and worked on her pizza between bites of salad. "Okay, you're right. The pizza is really good, it's hot, and I'm hungrier than I realized. Mr. Garrett, I don't know how to thank you."
"Glennon. Not to worry."
Suddenly feeling more shy than worried, she responded with a hesitant smile.
He squinted. "Two eyes the same color are a definite improvement."
Heat rose to her cheeks. With a mouthful of pizza, she shrugged and didn't attempt a response.
Her host didn't push.
After devouring her salad with the stuffed olives, plus two slices of pizza, Alice Green's eyes began to droop. She shook herself awake, then rose to stack the dishes.
Glennon stopped her with a hand to her shoulder. She flinched, moved away from him. He didn't comment on her reaction, didn't try to move any closer. "I'll clean up. I know where everything belongs. Why don't you toddle back to my room and have a snooze? I need to finish some work. I'll be one floor below, in the com center. No one will bother you up here."
About to decline the offer, but exhausted and sated with food, she gave in.
* * * * *
Using clean salad tongs, Glennon picked up Alice's water glass and fork, then placed them in a plastic container. He carried the samples to his com center-cum-lab on the third floor.
He knew she lied. She wasn't good at it, but he hadn't wanted to spook her by pushing for answers over dinner. She already appeared to be dancing on the fine edge of panic. The greasy pizza made pulling prints off the water glass a snap; then he swabbed the fork for DNA.
He'd checked out her shoulder bag after he finished the bandaging, pre-pizza. A large designer bag of good quality leather, once red, dyed black, with stylized gold initials. AH, not AG for Alice Green. No ID, no cell phone, no personal papers, no receipts. What woman traveled without at least a cell phone, if not an iPod, Blackberry, or some such device? He found a hairbrush, a traveling kit with toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant. About eight hundred dollars in used twenty-dollar bills tucked neatly into a red leather wallet that probably came with the shoulder bag.
Glennon hadn't made it back to his chair before one of the computers chimed.
"Well, look who we have here, Ms. April Alicia Hall of East Twenty-fifth Street in Manhattan." A file photo showed a vibrant-looking young woman, twenty-five years old, with distinctive blonde-and-reddish-streaked medium auburn hair hanging below her collarbone. Green eyes with stripes of hazel.
Those are definitely her Angelina Jolie cheekbones, no matter her name. His fingers flew over touch screens. Well, now, how's this for a coincidence? She really is a copywriter—for Angelo Martone Marketing, on Madison Avenue.
He scrolled through screen after screen."And why are you keeping company with such a major snake in the grass, Ms. Hall?"
He ran a simple Google search on her name; a news article immediately popped up. "Our reporter . . . blah-blah-blah . . . lavish party at his Saddle River estate . . . blah-blah-blah . . . to announce the engagement of Madison Avenue marketing entrepreneur Angelo Augusto Martone to April Alicia Hall, formerly of Chino, California . . . the engaged couple plans to . . . ."
Ignoring more society column drivel, Glennon settled back in his chair. Well, now, isn't this a right sticky wicket? I'm on my way to spec out a job for Martone, and his fiancée falls into my arms. Literally. His frightened and somewhat damaged fiancée. Maybe she is being followed. Damn.
During the vetting process he did on all prospective clients, Glennon had unearthed unsavory details about Martone the man, not Martone the public-relations image, more than he'd known about through the course of his work. Unless Ms. April-Alice Hall-Green was a closet psychopath, the match seemed unlikely. Martone's uncle, Antonio "Tony M" Martone, popped up frequently as a person of interest to East Coast law enforcement. The old man was already on Glennon's radar. Methinks there's some nasty business going on.
A phrase popped into Glennon's head and he rubbed his chin. Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice.
* * * * *
Glennon tapped on the bedroom door; his patient was awake. He settled on the edge of the bed. "Here you go, another course of antibiotics. Two caps, twice a day, for ten days. Trust me on this. It works." He handed her a glass of water and the meds.
She felt flustered again. "If you tell me how much I owe you . . . ."
"No need, April Hall. I stockpile the stuff."
"No, really . . . let me . . . oh." She looked down at her hands, folded in her lap. "How did you find out?"
"Which part of security and surveillance didn't you understand? It's my job. I couldn't keep clients if I didn't do my job."
He smiled at her. It was a great smile, and she hoped he didn't turn out to be a total dickhead. It would be a crying shame if he did.
She sighed, feeling even more fragile."So, you know Angelo?"
"Ms. Hall, not to put too fine a point on it, aren't you engaged to the man?"
About to speak, she shook her head instead.
"I can't help you if I don't know what's going on."
She straightened a bit, returned his gaze. "And you're sure I need help? Believe me, you do not want to be involved. Anyway, why would you want to help me? You don't even know me. No one in his right mind crosses Angelo."
"Let's just say I'm a champion of the underdog. Why is Martone after you?"
"Why were you carrying his brochure?"
"Is that what spooked you this morning?"
"You didn't answer me. Why the brochure?"
"Okay, I answer one, then you answer one. Seem fair?"
He waited . . . and waited . . . until she finally nodded.
"Martone approached me about taking him on as a client. Apparently, he feels he has security issues. Knowing the firm that did the original set-up, I wasn't surprised that there were glitches in the system. I hadn't decided if I was interested."
"That's not the deal. One question for one question."
She twisted her fingers in the edges of the comforter.
"Look, there are only the two of us here. I promise I won't hurt you."
She dropped her chin to her chest. "Yeah, right. Angelo promised not to hurt me."
She took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. Oh boy, here we go."He drugged me, blackmailed me, burned my books—then he tried to stab me through the heart with my own fucking letter opener."
* * * * *
"He did what?"
"Angelo had just hired a big badass bodyguard as my escort, which totally pissed off his goony squad of rejects. Odd accent, sounded Scottish, if you can believe it. Daniel drove me to the bookstore, then home. Yeah, right, home. Some home. More like a fancy prison decorated in Early Sicilian Vengeance. Going to the bookstore had become the only activity I was permitted. And only with an escort. When I got back to the estate, Angelo had flipped out, destroyed my book collection. I . . . I . . . guess I kinda freaked."
She covered her face with her hands.
Glennon schooled his expression into steady and nonreactive. Daniel? Scottish? Can only be Wyndsor. Working for Martone? I'm not buyin' it. Can't be the same guy. "Okay, easy now. Take your time." Dealing with emotional women wasn't his forte. Please don't let her cry. "You're protected here, really."
April sniffled, then nodded. "He flew into an unholy rage. Kept screaming that my books took too much of my time when I should be paying attention to him. Only to him. He'd torn the pages, threw them in the blaze he'd started in the fireplace. Even my first edition Beatrix Potters."
The hand wringing escalated as her agitation increased. "He went berserk. I couldn't stop him. He choked me. His eyes were like, totally glazed over. I thumbed him in the side of the throat, got away. That's when he went totally bat-shit. Grabbed the letter opener from my desk, tried to stab me through the heart. Ranted and raved, swore he would do it. Right through your fuckin' cold heart, you stupid bitch! I managed to duck him. Didn't know he caught me with the blade until later."
She took a really deep breath, slowly exhaled, before she could continue. "Never mess with us farm kids. I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could. When he went down, I bashed him over the head with a bronze Peter Rabbit my grandmother had given me." She finally turned her gaze directly at him. "I've been checking the news to see if I killed Angelo. I could be a fugitive. His family has big bucks, lots of influence. Y'know, family as in family. You could be in big trouble, hiding me here."
Glennon stood, legs spread, arms folded over his chest. "Trust me, he's not dead. He's mighty pissed off—now I know why—but the situation is still in-house. Number one, you humiliated him. Number two, you got away. And, yes, everyone in metro law enforcement knows about la famiglia. Let me worry about the legalities of harboring a potential fugitive. So far, I can't see that you're guilty of anything except having common sense and a strong degree of self-preservation."
"And you know all this, how?"
"Darlin', my business depends on staying current with such issues. I follow the chatter. Big news like Angelo Martone being taken out would be making the rounds like wildfire, with locals jockeying for position. Just be thankful you didn't run afoul of his uncle. In his younger days, Tony M made Angelo look like a Boy Scout. I hear that the old man's mellowed somewhat over the years, but I wouldn't make book on it."
Her cheeks were still flushed, but her beautiful eyes were bright and clear. Striking. Glennon felt a stiffening behind the zipper of his jeans. Okay, not appropriate behavior.
"I see. Therefore, the disguise. And the fear. Actually, you've done fairly well for a rookie out on the streets for the first time. At least your eyes match again. I don't know what we're going to do about your hair. Hmm. I do know a fabulous stylist. Roberto may be able to do damage control. He'll consider you a challenge. He adores a challenge."
April's reactions were immediate and transparent. The jump in her level of panic was obvious. "That's not a good idea. My real hair color is too easy to spot. Mom always said I couldn't decide whether to be a redhead or a blonde, so my hair is a bit of both. In streaks. My eyes are weird, too. Green with hazel stripes. I really need new contact lenses."
"April, if I may call you April, there's no reason for you to hit the streets again until we sort this out. You're secure here, for as long as you want to stay. Feel free to camp out in the guest room."
"Mr. Garrett, you've done so much already. Trust me, you don't want to be mixed up in this mess. As soon as I find a way back to Chino—a way that Angelo can't track—I'll be gone."
"Chino? Is that where you're from?"
She cocked her head. "Let's not play games, all right? I'm not an idiot. I'm sure you know everything about me by now. Angelo prides himself in only hiring the best, so you must be top shelf, extremely good at your profession."
He shrugged. "Trying to make you feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation."
"I'll make it easy for you." She ticked off items on her fingers."Parents, Meredith and Alan Hall. Merrygirl Organic Nursery and Farm Market, Chino, California. Raised as a happy, barefoot, farm kid with a great mom and a great dad in a small, stable, family-oriented community. Tons of kids with whom to pal around. No skeletons in any closets. No trauma or calamities. I just dreamed of seeing the rest of the world. Went to college out there, attended a job fair on campus, got a dream gig in New York City right out of school. Totally lucked out, found a great little apartment that I could afford. New friends. A social life that didn't involve discussions about milk goats and organic fertilizers."
He took a leap. "Why didn't you just fly home? Why put up with Martone? Your family must be going crazy, worrying about you. If you're short of cash, I'd be glad to front you the ticket money."
She did it again, flashed her deer-in-the-headlights look.
"April, no need for alarm. I'm just saying . . . ."
"My parents don't know I'm missing. At least, not yet."
She glanced around the room at first, obviously trying to decide how much to tell him. Then, hands folded on her lap, she looked like a kindergarten kid waiting for justice to be meted out by the principal.
"Antonio took my laptop when he took my cell phone, my ID, my cards. He locked everything in his desk. When I had a chance to connect to the Internet, y'know, after I ran away, I found e-mails in my Sent box. E-mails that I never sent. He'd been e-mailing my parents, pretending to be me. The last message said that we were taking off for a few weeks to the French Riviera, will call when I arrive back home."
"Damn. How often were you in touch?"
"We spoke every weekend, and e-mailed during the week. Jokes, Maxine cartoons, ridiculous news reports, stuff like that. Nothing of earth-shattering importance."
"So, they have no clue what's going on."
She shook her head."I don't think so. Mom didn't warm up to him, but Dad thought he was a good guy. Well, at least he thought he was a generous guy."
"Sounds like your mom has good instincts. Do you want to call them? I can give you a secure line."
He was startled at how quickly she grew more wide-eyed and panicky.
"N-n-no. No, not yet." She wouldn't meet his gaze.
Okay, what's going on, I wonder? What else has that bastard done?
She sniffled again. "There, now you know the story of my life. All of it."
Hmm. Obviously not the whole tale. "And then . . . Martone?"
A look of pain crossed her face. "Please, can we not discuss this? I have a pounding headache. I'd like the license tag of the bus that ran over me. I'm wiped out. This was the first real sleep I've had in . . . well, quite some time. If you're serious about your guest room, I'll take you up on the offer. At least for tonight."
Hmm. No explanation of the drugging and blackmail thing, but she seems too fragile to push right now.
"April, I don't make offers unless I'm serious. I took the liberty of moving your bags while you were snoozing. You have your own bathroom, too." Glennon headed for the door. "Make yourself comfortable. I have work downstairs that needs finishing. Don't be alarmed if you hear noises. I wander around at all hours."
He nodded, then pulled the door closed behind him. Let's see what else you may have buried, April Alicia Hall.
(Warning ~ This Book Contains Sexually Explicit Scenes Described in Graphic Detail.)
All contents copyright of the Authors, and cannot be used without their express permission.