Authors: Marie Ferrarella
“She’s a beautiful little girl.”
Brent felt as if his throat was constricting again. His eyes stung, and he didn’t bother trying to blink back the tears. Would he ever see her again?
“Yes, she is,” he agreed quietly. His fingers tightened around the remote, but he made no move to stop the video. “I shouldn’t be standing here, doing nothing. Thinking about eating. Thinking about—” His voice halted abruptly as guilt washed over his face.
“Thinking about what?” Callie half expected him to say something about killing the man who’d done this horrible thing.
She was caught completely by surprise when he quietly confessed, “You.”
Racing Against Time
Books by Marie Ferrarella in Miniseries
A Hero for All Seasons
A Forever Kind of Hero
Hero in the Nick of Time
Hero for Hire
An Uncommon Hero
A Hero in Her Eyes
Heart of a Hero
Caution: Baby Ahead
Mother on the Wing
Baby Times Two
The Baby of the Month Club
Baby’s First Christmas
Happy New Year—Baby!
The 7lb., 2oz. Valentine
Do You Take This Child?
World’s Most Eligible Bachelors
The Once and Future Father
In the Family Way
An Abundance of Babies
Like Mother, Like Daughter
One Plus One Makes Marriage
Never Too Late for Love
The Bachelors of Blair Memorial
In Graywolf’s Hands
M.D. Most Wanted
Mac’s Bedside Manner
Two Halves of a Whole
The Baby Came C.O.D.
Desperately Seeking Twin
Serena McKee’s Back in Town
Holding Out for a Hero
Heroes Great and Small
Christmas Every Day
Caitlin’s Guardian Angel
The Cutlers of the Shady Lady Ranch
(Yours Truly titles)
Fiona and the Sexy Stranger
Cowboys Are for Loving
Will and the Headstrong Female
The Law and Ginny Marlow
A Match for Morgan
A Triple Threat to Bachelorhood
McClellans & Marinos
The Taming of the Teen
Babies on His Mind
The Baby Beneath the Mistletoe
Wife in the Mail
Found: His Perfect Wife
The M.D. Meets His Match
Lily and the Lawman
The Bride Wore Blue Jeans
Baby in the Middle
Husband: Some Assembly Required
The Mom Squad
A Billionaire and a Baby
A Bachelor and a Baby
The Baby Mission
Beauty and the Baby
Racing Against Time
earned a master’s degree in Shakespearean comedy, and, perhaps as a result, her writing is distinguished by humor and natural dialogue. This RITA
Award-winning author’s goal is to entertain and to make people laugh and feel good. She has written over one hundred books for Silhouette, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide and have been translated into Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Polish, Japanese and Korean.
after all these years
e sat in his car and watched them.
Just as he had yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. Watched them and memorized their movements.
He didn’t want there to be any slipups.
That was what had gotten him in trouble before. Thinking he hadn’t made a mistake when he had. He’d been too confident, too sure that he was smarter than the people around him.
This time he knew better. Knew that he couldn’t allow the fact that he was more intelligent than the people he was dealing with to blur his caution, his inbred sense of survival.
That had gotten away from him before, caused his downfall.
Pride went before a fall.
He still had his pride. And it was that pride he meant to avenge.
His pride and his life.
Because the man who lived in the house he was watching, whose comings and goings he had quickly committed to memory, had taken it all away from him. Taken away his life, his pride.
Payback time was finally here.
Very carefully he turned the key in the ignition. The vehicle he was sitting in purred to life, ready to do his bidding.
He smiled to himself as he moved the transmission shift lever into drive.
He was through waiting.
It was time to act.
renton Montgomery didn’t generally oversleep.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Former decorated Aurora police officer, former respected A.D.A. and presently, highly regarded criminal court justice, he had been blessed with an inner clock that went off anywhere from two to five minutes before the alarm clock on his nightstand. It had been that way ever since he’d had a need for an alarm clock.
But every once in a while, after he put in a particularly long night poring over briefs and struggling with his conscience over which was the right path for him to take for all parties who stood before his scarred judge’s desk in criminal court, Brent discovered that sleep wouldn’t come.
And then, when it finally did arrive, it brought with it an asbestos blanket that smothered him, effectively separating him from the rest of the world. From the rest of his life.
This morning he’d rolled over in the four-poster bed that Jennifer had selected—the bed that was the single inanimate holdover from his brief mistake of a marriage—and had hardly been aware of opening his eyes. He didn’t remember focusing on the clock beside his telephone. But the instant he did, he’d sat bolt upright as the flashing blue digital lights imprinted themselves on his brain.
He was due in court at eight-thirty.
Brent had no memory of his trip down the front stairs.
“I thought you’d decided to sleep in this morning, Judge.”
The statement greeted him exactly twelve minutes later as, damp from his shower, his clothes sticking to him as if he’d woken up in a swamp, Brent hurried into the kitchen and past his housekeeper, Delia Culhane. The sight of his five-year-old daughter, Rachel, sitting on a stool at the breakfast counter registered along the perimeter of his mind. She was wearing something blue. Maybe lavender or light purple.
“If I had intended on sleeping in, Delia, I would have told you.”
Without meaning to, Brent bit the words off gruffly as he swung open the refrigerator and grabbed one of the individual orange juice containers that Delia kept stocked for Rachel. There was no time for breakfast. This was going to have to do.
It took effort to rein in his temper. He had no patience with tardiness, least of all his own. “I should have been in the car two minutes ago.”
Briefcase in one hand, juice container in the other, Brent hurried out the back door to the garage where his BMW was housed, a hastily tossed goodbye hanging in the air behind him.
After he’d driven down the first long block, it occurred to him that for the first time in five years, he hadn’t kissed his daughter goodbye.
He debated turning around, but there was no time. He was already going to be late.
Brent kept on driving.
“About time you got here. Everyone else is already seated at the table, eating.”
Barking out the greeting to his firstborn daughter as the back door opened then closed behind her, Andrew Cavanaugh barely dragged his glance away from the professional stove that took up half of the back wall. The French toast he was preparing commanded his entire attention, although his family knew that he could have very easily prepared any one of a number of meals blindfolded and made them to mouthwatering perfection. Approaching his sixth decade, he was a better chef than he had been a police chief, and he had been a very, very good police chief.
Callie Cavanaugh slid in at the wide kitchen table beside her older brother, Shaw. She nodded at her three other siblings and removed the napkin from the center of her plate. She wasn’t really hungry, but breakfast in the house where she and her brothers and sisters had grown up was a ritual. It had been ever since her father had retired from the force.
Andrew claimed it was his way of keeping track of his brood and anyone else who wanted to show up at the table for a meal. There was never a shortage of food. Or love, for that matter, though that was not always as blatantly on display as the plates were. But it was understood. You had a problem, no matter what your age, you showed up at the table. There’d be someone along to help sort things out, by and by.
All five of the Cavanaugh children had followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Aurora Police Department. Even Lorrayne, the youngest and the official family hellion had finally come around, after giving her father twelve years of grief and turning the rest of his black hair gray. The fact that all of them chose to go into law enforcement was a testament to the regard with which they held their father.
Callie took a sip from the glass of orange juice that was next to her plate. There were times when it seemed to her that everyone named Cavanaugh found their way into law enforcement eventually. Her grandfather had served, as had both of her father’s brothers. The younger of the two, Brian, was currently the chief of detectives. Another brother, Mike, two years his junior, had died in the line of duty fifteen years ago. His son, Patrick, had joined the force, as well.
Only Uncle Mike’s daughter, Patience, had broken away from the family mould and become a veterinarian. But even she had ties to the department. In her capacity as vet, she treated all the dogs that had been recruited into the K-9 division.
Uncle Brian’s only daughter, Janelle, worked in the D.A.’s office while his sons Troy, Jarrod and Dax had all taken the long, blue path into law enforcement, as well.
“So, what kept you?” Andrew wanted to know as he placed a piece of French toast dusted with powdered sugar on Callie’s plate.
She looked down at the serving. It was quite possibly the largest piece of French toast to ever have come out of a pan, but then, Andrew believed bigger was better when it came to breakfast. He knew that quite often there would be no time for lunch or possibly even dinner until the wee hours. So breakfast, he maintained, was a definite necessity for survival, and the more, the better.
“I caught every red light from the apartment to here.” It was a lie, but Callie felt it could be excused. If she told her father the truth, he’d look at her with those sympathetic blue-gray eyes of his, and she wasn’t up to that right now. Better sarcasm than kindness. Kindness had a way of creeping under the layers of the barriers she’d laid around herself and undermining all her hard work. She smiled prettily at him. “Wouldn’t want me speeding now, would you?”
He saw right through her, the way he did all his children. It was the sixth sense that some parents were blessed with. Or cursed with, depending on the point of view.
Still, he played along, knowing what saving face was all about. More than once he’d drifted in the same rudderless boat his daughter had occupied. And on occasion, it came by to give him a return trip to the land of hopelessness. The only difference was that for him, there’d never been any real closure, no tangible evidence to extinguish the last flicker of hope that Rose was still alive.
“No,” he agreed. “Would like to see you getting up earlier, though, so you could make it while the meal was still hot.”
She looked down at the serving he’d just placed before her. There was steam curling from it. “Any hotter, Dad, and my plate’ll go up in smoke.” She waited until he finished filling her coffee cup, then reached for it. “You know, I can pour my own cup of coffee.”
Andrew stopped to top off Shaw’s cup before placing the pot back on its stand. “I know. So can I.” He raised one semidark eyebrow as he fixed her with a penetrating look. “Or would you want to deny an old man one of the few pleasures he has left in life?”
Shaw snorted as he polished off the last of his own breakfast. “Old man,” he echoed. “That’ll be the day.”
Adding a drop of cream to her pitch-black coffee, Callie smiled at the wordplay. She picked up the cup with both hands and took a long, deep sip. Her father’s coffee was guaranteed to get a stopped heart beating again, and this morning she knew she needed all the help she could get.
She’d barely slept, having finally drifted off, if it could be called that, somewhere around three. Memories of Kyle insisted on haunting her. Last Saturday had marked one year since his death.
Funny, she’d thought she was finally making progress, finally moving on with her life. Wrong.
Just went to show you that you could never count on anything. Other than family, she amended. The sun would stop rising in the east before she would ever stop counting on her family to come through for her.
But this wasn’t the kind of thing her family could really help with. The best they could do was just silently be there for her. Support her with their presence, but not their words. Words were useless.
Callie counted on her work to take up the slack, to blanket the pain until she could handle it. So far, the pain was refusing to let itself be pushed into the background for more than a few days at a time.
It wasn’t that she wanted to forget Kyle. Kyle embodied so many of the best moments of her life. She just wanted to be able to think of him without shards of glass cutting into her chest and gut, making it an effort to breathe.
That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?
As if reading her mind, she felt her father’s hand on her shoulder. Just a little extra pressure, nothing more. But it was enough. She smiled her thanks, grateful for his understanding. Equally grateful that he didn’t verbalize anything.
And then he was on his way, back to the stove and his first love. They all knew, because he’d told them countless times, how he’d put himself through school as a short-order cook and had managed to develop into one hell of a chef over the years, whenever his career didn’t put demands on him.
The stack of French toast piled on the platter beside the stove was beginning to rival the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Andrew drew over a second platter and decreased the pile, then glanced over his shoulder toward the table.
It was a misleading question. Most of them had already had seconds. By the looks of it, Clay was on thirds. Their father’s cooking was far too good to resist. Callie was thoroughly convinced that even Gandhi would have been tempted to at least temporarily turn his back on his well-publicized fast to sample a little of her father’s creations.
But just as Andrew asked, the sound of a beeper going off framed his words. Five sets of eyes went to the appendages they kept clipped to their belts.
A blue light highlighting a phone number was looking back at her. “Mine,” Callie declared.
“And we have a winner,” Andrew sighed, shaking his head.
Andrew knew she would be leaving momentarily. On the other side of the fence now, he felt the frustration that he knew his wife had had to endure every time he’d been called away from the table, or missed a meal because of the demands of his job.
He glanced accusingly at the barely touched fare on his oldest daughter’s plate. The powder hadn’t even faded yet. “You haven’t had time to eat enough food to keep a hummingbird alive.”
“They eat twice their body weight, Dad,” Teri informed him as she broke off a piece of what was to become her third serving of French toast. “You wouldn’t want Callie to roll out of here, would you?”
“No chance of that happening even if she ate three times her body weight,” Clay, Teri’s younger brother by two and a half minutes, commented. Though they were twins, they hardly looked alike. Fair, with long blond hair, Teri looked like their mother, while Clay, though not as dark as Shaw, had their father’s black Irish look.
Callie held her hand up for silence as she dug out her cell phone. She might as well not have wasted the effort. There was an annoying message on her LCD screen. She frowned. “No signal.”
“Must be Clay’s magnetic personality, interfering,” Teri cracked. “Hey,” she protested as Clay helped himself to the remainder of her toast. She pulled back her plate, but it was too late. The right flank of her French toast had been victimized.
Andrew pretended to shake his head. “Ah, the sound of squabbling children, how could I have forgotten what that was like?”
All but two of his children had moved out, but the apartment Clay had been subletting from an aspiring actor had suddenly been reclaimed by its owner when the latter returned from the east coast. That left Clay without a place to stay. Temporarily.
Temporarily had already woven its way into two months without any visible signs of terminating. And Andrew, secretly, couldn’t have been happier even though he said nothing out loud to confirm it.
“Hey, if you didn’t want them coming around, Dad, you’d stop leaving food out for them to find,” Lorrayne pointed out.
“Respect your elders, Squirt,” Shaw told her just before he drank deeply of his third cup of leaded coffee.
Rayne lifted her chin defensively, her blue-gray eyes narrowing beneath her bangs. “Just who are you calling Squirt?”
Knowing that the only way to quiet this crowd was to arm herself with a handful of tranquilizer darts and use them effectively, Callie crossed into the living room to get away from the din before placing her call to the number registered on her beeper. A glance at the screen told her the transmission signal had returned.
Holding one hand over her ear as she turned away from the breakfast noise, she quickly hit the keypad numbers with her thumb.
“This is Cavanaugh,” she said the second she heard someone pick up on the other end. “You paged me?”
“Better get down here, Callie.”
She recognized the voice. It belonged to the man she’d been partnered with until recently. Seth Adams. The man had made detective five years before she had and had resented being “saddled” with her. He’d thought nepotism had placed her where she was. He’d soon learned that it was aptitude that had gotten her her badge, nothing more, nothing less. Still, they blended together like oil and water. The captain agreed that a separation was in order.
“What’s up?” she wanted to know.
“We’ve got a dead woman on the sidewalk. Looks like she was struck and thrown by a car.”
She waited for something more to follow. When it didn’t, she asked, “Hit-and-run?”
It didn’t make sense to her. “Vehicular manslaughter. How’s that my territory?”