Authors: Elizabeth Lapthorne
Tags: #Romance, #Erotic, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Adult, #Paranormal, #Werewolves
HIDE AND SEEK
An Ellora’s Cave Publication, July 2004
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-4199-0002-1
Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned):
Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC) HTML
HIDE AND SEEK © 2004 ELIZABETH LAPTHORNE
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Cover art by
Hide and Seek
Maybe it’s just me, but I love nothing better than a sexy cop story where the hero is not brainless (nor is the heroine) yet they, like most of the rest of us, are still clueless and confused enough to make the story realistic. No one likes times of trouble or of not really knowing where to go or whom to ask to help us. Yet something about reading such a story where the cop hero can save the heroine, slay the dragon (or just kick the bad guy’s ass), and then our couple can live happily ever after always makes me smile and feel great. So this book was partly selfish, purely for myself. Yet I’d much rather dedicate it to You, Dear Reader, for enjoying such a tale just as much as myself.
Josephine Lomax turned off her small
’s headlights and killed the engine. Clearing her throat, she tried for what felt like the millionth time in the last hour to rehearse her little speech.
“So you see, Jonathon,” she looked solemnly at her own reflection in the rearview mirror, “it appears as if one of the clients we’ve been shipping goods to for nearly two years is merely a front for something.”
Sighing in disgust, she leaned back in her seat, hating how naïve and pedantic she sounded. She had held the junior accountant position at Wells and Mason Mechanics for over a year now. She was hungry for a promotion—
promotion—so that she could begin using her accounting degree in her daily work instead of being a glorified gofer.
Josephine had sweet-talked one of the other accountants into letting her look over the books in preparation for the yearly audit over the long weekend. Tess had been more than willing to let Josephine take the books, as she had a handsome stud and raunchy plans lined up—none of which included staring at a laptop screen for hours on end over the next three days.
Early Friday evening, Josephine had realized something was odd with the accounts, but had been unable to find exactly what triggered her instinct. The accounts all balanced—everything added up to the last penny—but the unerring instinct, which was what originally drew her to accounting, screamed at her that something was wrong.
A few hours of further digging, and a pint of double fudge ice cream, had set her mind spinning. One of the major factories Wells and Mason kept books and records for appeared to be a front—not a working factory at all. The money added up, but the
she was cross-referencing gave her that fishy smell.
Josephine had immediately called Jonathon Mason, the son of one of the partners and her direct boss. He had been shocked and surprised at her news, and had insisted she come over to his apartment with the laptop and printouts and explain her findings straight away.
Josephine tried to quash the niggling sensation that this was a dumb idea.
Don’t be stupid, woman
, she reassured herself.
Jonathan is your boss, the son of the man who jointly owns this company.
Even with this oh-so-logical reasoning, her funny feeling refused to give way. She cringed as that other inner voice, the one insisting something was wrong with the accounts and invoices, piped up again.
Anyway, you have that photocopy and burned CD in your desk if anything really is wrong.
Deciding to ignore
the voices talking in her head, Josephine resolutely picked up her briefcase and laptop case, and climbed out of the car. Locking it and heading over to the apartment complex, she walked directly in the bright light, hoping to chase the shadows in her mind away. When she came to the buzzer for
, Jonathon’s expensive apartment, there was a small sticky-label note attached to it.
Needed more privacy. Go to the swings in park opposite. JM
Josephine turned around and saw a large, dark park over the road. Her gut sank, and all her previous fears about the intelligence of this mission came crashing back. And what could he mean by needing more privacy? How much more private could one get than one’s apartment?
Josephine took a deep breath. Obviously he had a woman in the apartment, or maybe the walls were thin. A thousand rational, obvious solutions came to mind. She needed to cut down her reading of romantic thrillers. There was nothing ominous about Jonathon wanting to meet her in a park, for heaven’s sake.
Despite her steadying talk to herself, years of reading detective novels and spy thrillers couldn’t be deterred. Still determined to do the right thing, but a lot more cautious and wary now, Josephine headed toward the park. Unlike her crossing the parking lot of the apartment building, this time Josephine hid in the dark shadows, hoping to find out what stupid game Jonathon was playing. If he were merely trying to be dramatic or frighten her, she would scream bloody murder at him—boss or no boss.
With the books not tallying correctly just before a major audit, she felt she had a right to be suspicious and on edge, no matter what her position in the corporate hierarchy.
As she tried to walk through the shrubbery and flowers as quietly as possible, Josephine heard a heated, half-whispered conversation occurring. It was coming from a semi-darkened clearing off the proper walking path, but enough light shone through the trees for her to recognize one of the two men.
“Look, Petrelli, I still think this is a bad idea. Lomax is the bottom of the bottom. She’s really a coffee girl. She can’t possibly know what’s going on. Anyway, even if she does blab some nonsense to the other accountants—or anyone else—who’s going to believe her insinuations when I step in and cover our tracks? Dad will never believe I can do anything wrong, and he certainly won’t listen to some fresh-faced recent college graduate over me. I think you’re seriously over-reacting.”
The other man spoke much more quietly. Josephine crept closer, trying to hear his words instead of just the low murmur of his voice. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see Jonathon clearly, his expensive Italian slacks pressed and still crisp after a long day’s work, his shirt and tie immaculate. The other man wore dark clothing, and stood partially hidden to her sight behind Jonathon.
Suddenly, Jonathon moved two paces back giving Josephine a clear view of the other man.
“Whoa!” Jonathon cried out. “You never said anything about making anyone disappear. We might be involved a little in drugs, but murder is way too serious, man!”
Josephine froze, her stomach clenching in fear. She silently ducked even lower into the covering shrubs and bushes. Feeling her back and face start to sweat, she tried not to panic. She had always loved the game of hide and seek as a child. She particularly loved hiding right under the finder’s nose, as they so rarely looked close to themselves first. Suddenly, hide and seek took on a whole new meaning. Not only did she feel totally vulnerable in the darkness, but she also worried that the light shrubbery would not hide her to their eyes if they looked carefully.
Her eyes now properly adjusted to the light, Josephine felt her body sweat even more as she finally took in the full ramifications of the second man with Jonathon. He wore a regulation black police uniform and badge. He held his hat in one hand, the other rested on his hip, as if he used the aggressive stance to lend weight to his words.
Josephine was close enough to hear his words now, but they chilled her to the core. She squatted, her laptop clutched so tightly to her chest she feared she would permanently crush her breasts. She froze in the bushes, too scared to move or breathe.
“Listen, you little preppy shit, it might be good enough for you to run off to Daddy for help and asking for forgiveness, but some of us have a lot more at stake here. I’ve been using that factory for far more than just your petty nose habit. I’ve had meetings there, hidden people there. I’m not going to give it up just when I’m making a name for myself in certain circles, simply because you’re having a case of the scaredy-cats. I don’t care what you do to this girl or how you shut her up, but I’m serious. Make this problem go away, and make it go away for good. If you can’t scare the shit out of her, I will, and my methods will be far more permanent ones. Understood?”
Jonathon nodded mutely, and Josephine stared at the dirty cop. She memorized his every feature, from his short, regulation-cut black hair, to his flat, scary, dark brown eyes. She looked at his ears and the set of his jaw, and squinted, wishing she could see his badge number. Before she could even hope to discern the numbers, the cop strode away with long, powerful strides, anger etched in his face, and determination in the harsh set of his body.
Josephine, still hugging the heavy laptop and briefcase closely to her, waited for the man to resume his beat patrol. Once he was clearly out of sight, and Jonathon started swearing and pacing, glancing at his watch every few seconds, she silently crept back to where she had left her car. Grabbing a tissue from the car-pack she always kept in the glove box, she hastily, but thoroughly wiped the folders and computer down. Way too many detective and forensic shows had taught her that fingerprints could be dangerous. She wasn’t exactly sure how they could prove dangerous to her here, but the simple process of wiping the items down soothed her a little.
Leaving the files and laptop on the doorstep into the apartments, totally uncaring if Jonathon or someone else now picked them up, Josephine rushed back into her car.
Being careful not to speed, since the last thing she wanted was to draw the attention of the police, she drove back to her apartment and packed. Making a few quick phone calls to friends who could monitor the situation both at work and in the local media, she packed a suitcase shoving the CDs full of information and photocopies of the accounts into the side pocket. Her first stop would be to an all-night copy center, where she could pay to burn duplicate copies of the CDs and the accounts. Remembering to pay the following few months rent on her apartment at the last moment, mentally cringing at the depletion of her already-shaky bank balance, Josephine was out her door in next to no time.
Getting into her car once again for the evening, Josephine desperately tried to think of a safe place to head. With nowhere else coming to mind, she pointed the car in the direction of
, her childhood home state. She had many fond memories of growing up there, and even now all these years later, she instinctively felt the safety that lay there for her.
Quashing the latter memories of burying both her parents in that very same state, she remembered the warm, safe feeling of being home and loved. Not knowing or even caring exactly where she would end up, she began to drive.
* * * * *
Three months later, somewhere in Montana
Josephine sat in the dingy bar and stared sadly down into her light beer. She grimaced as she took a sip and wondered, not for the first time over the last three months, what the hell she was doing.
Avoiding that creepy, dingy boarding house you’re staying in,
came the mental reply.
Josephine sighed again and took another sip of the truly awful beer. Her realization was sad, but unfortunately true. She, Josephine Lomax, was most definitely avoiding the rat hole she currently called home. On her way back from her twelve-hour shift in a borderline seedy café where she had found a job as a waitress, she had decided to stop off at a slightly less seedy-looking bar to relax, unwind from her hard day, and kill some time before she collapsed in bed from exhaustion.