Authors: Hannah Ford
Tags: #Romance, #Anthologies, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Collections & Anthologies
© 2016 by Hannah Ford
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
’d never felt
such rage as I did when I heard his voice.
He’d tried to hurt her, tried to
her. Just the thought of it made me want to wrap my hands around his throat and squeeze until he couldn’t breathe, until his lips turned blue and his body went limp.
I had never understood how someone could be capable of killing another human being.
But the thought of his hands on her body, the thought of him even l
at her made me murderous.
“Well, well, well,” Colin Worthington said, chuckling through the phone. “If it isn’t Noah Cutler, lawyer extraordinaire.”
“You piece of shit,” I growled. “Where are you?”
I was up and out of my chair, closing the blinds in the conference room one by one. I wouldn’t have put it past this fucked up prick to be outside somewhere, watching her.
“Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to,” Worthington said. “Tsk, tsk, Noah. That’s the first rule of being a good lawyer. I expected you to know better than that.”
“Charlotte, call the police,” I said to her calmly.
“It won’t do any good,” Worthington said, sighing. “The police are idiots. You should understand that better than anyone, Noah, after how they thought you were the one who’d killed those women.” He sighed. “I should have killed Charlotte when I had the chance, but she’s… God, she’s special. I cannot wait to see her again.” His voice sounded gleeful, and I felt the blistering rage blow through my veins like the heat from a furnace.
“You son of a bitch,” I said. “If you come near her, I will kill you. I will pull you limb from limb and I will make it hurt. I will
“How’s your eye?” I asked. “Healing up nicely, is it?”
“Yeah, well, you know what they say about eyes.”
“You can’t get far with only one?”
“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” He began to laugh then, a crazy, high pitched giggle, and then the line went dead.
The sick reality of the situation hit me, making the anger inside of me intensify, which I hadn’t thought was possible.
A madman was on the loose.
And he was after the only woman I’d ever truly loved.
up the phone and looked at me, his dark eyes smoldering with rage. But I could see something else there, too. He was rattled. Just a little, but he was rattled.
Even when he’d been accused of murder, even when it seemed as if he might go to jail for it, nothing had been able to penetrate his stoicism. Until now.
“What did he say?” I asked. “How did he...”
But he was already back on the phone, dialing the police, asking for Detective Rake. He’d told me to call them, but I’d frozen.
While he waited for an answer, he reached into the drawer of the conference table and pulled out a remote, pointed it at the flat screen TV that was mounted on the wall and tuned it to New York One.
I was dimly aware that Noah had begun talking to Detective Rake as a picture of Professor Worthington’s face filled the screen, along with pictures of two women, both of them wearing prison guard uniforms, with the caption “TWO FEMALE GUARDS PRESUMED DEAD IN PRISON BREAK.”
I swallowed the panic that was rising in my throat.
Professor Worthington had killed two guards.
“What we know at this hour is that two female prison guards are dead, and an accused killer is on the loose. One of the guards, twenty-seven-year-old Rayanne Mancuso, is accused of aiding the prisoner, Colin Worthington, in his escape. The two apparently struck up an inappropriate relationship while Worthington awaited trial for the murder of three young women. Authorities are urging anyone with information on the whereabouts of this escaped killer to call the number at the bottom of your screen. Schools in the area are on lockdown, and local residents are urged to stay in their homes…”
“The police are on it, obviously,” Noah said, hanging up the phone. He rolled his eyes. “They’ll attempt to trace the call.”
“Ha,” Clementine said sarcastically from the other side of the table.
Her voice startled me. I’d almost forgotten she was there, that we’d been in the middle of a meeting about the Lilah Parks case.
“You don’t think they’ll be able to?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “The professor’s too smart for that.” She didn’t elaborate, evidently deciding that whatever knowledge she had about what the professor might have done to keep himself from getting the call traced was above my level of intelligence. Instead, she turned back to Noah. “What can I do?”
“Take Lilah back to the hotel,” he said.
He was rushing over to me, sitting down in the chair next to mine, turning me to him.
My hands were shaking, and he picked them up and brought them to his lips, kissed them softly.
“Okay,” Clementine said. “And then what?”
“Then nothing,” Noah said. “Just make sure you keep an eye on her while I deal with this.” He was talking to Clementine, but he was distracted, his eyes on me, the concern on his face evident.
“But there’s – ” she started.
“Thank you,” Noah said sharply, his tone conveying her dismissal.
She sighed and then I heard her gathering her things and the click of the door as she shut it behind her.
“Noah,” I said once she was gone, and my voice sounded tinny and far away. It was like I was having some kind of delayed reaction, almost like I’d been numb before and now my feelings were waking up, they were coming alive, and I could feel the dread multiplying inside of me, threatening to take over.
“It’s okay,” he said, “It’s okay.” He was pulling me to him, holding me, pressing me against his strong chest.
My heart was beating fast, my stomach turning. I gripped his body, my hands curling around his back.
“Shh, baby,” he murmured as he stroked my hair. “It’s okay, baby, I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
Images flash banged through my mind as I remembered that night at Force, the feel of the professor’s hands on my body, the grittiness of the air, the dullness in Mikayla’s eyes, the way Noah had looked when he’d been on the ground, stabbed, so much blood on the ground around him.
I took in a shaking breath and held onto him as he rocked me.
“Baby,” he murmured into my hair. “Baby, it’s okay, I’m going to keep you safe.”
After a few moments, he pulled back and looked at me. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you home.”
hen we got back
to our apartment, my mother was sitting at the dining room table. There was a magazine spread out in front of her, and she’d helped herself to a glass of white wine and some of the cheese she and Noah had shared the night before.
“Noah!” she said brightly when she saw him. “It’s wonderful to see you!” She got up and came over to greet him. She was all dressed up in a black sweater dress that clung to her body and chunky black boots with a kitten heel. A long silver chain necklace was looped around her neck, and her makeup was perfectly applied.
Noah smiled as she kissed him on both cheeks, but I could tell he was distracted.
“Why are you all dressed up?” I asked as Docket came running over to me, his tail wagging. I gave him a scratch under the chin.
“I’m meeting a friend for lunch in Midtown,” my mom said. “Some place downtown.” She smoothed her dress down over her hips.
“What friend?” I frowned. She’d never mentioned anything about having a friend in the city.
“An old friend from school,” she said, and I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination, but I thought I saw her cheeks color slightly. I remembered the way she’d been on the phone late last night, talking in hushed tones, and I wondered again who she’d been talking to.
What are you up to?
I thought, watching her carefully. But the blush on her cheeks was gone now, the expression on her face betraying nothing.
“I figured it would be good for me to spend some time out of the apartment,” she said pointedly. She gave Noah a look, as if the two of them were in on some kind of secret. “Charlotte seemed very upset last night. I’m so glad you two were able to patch things up.”
“I am, too.” Noah’s jaw twitched. He walked over to the bar in the corner and pulled out two glass tumblers and a bottle of scotch. He opened the bottle and filled one of the tumblers a quarter full, the other halfway.
“She really wasn’t herself,” my mom continued, obviously digging around to see if I’d told Noah about our fight and if so, what he thought about my bad behavior.
“It was an upsetting night for everyone,” Noah said, capping the bottle of scotch. “Thankfully, it’s all in the past.”
“Yes, well,” my mother said. Her hand went to her cheek and she ran her fingers over it. “Luckily I had my heavy duty foundation with me so that I could cover up the marks.”
“What marks?” I asked, resisting the urge to roll my eyes.
“The marks your hand left on my cheek,” she said. “When you slapped me last night.” She shook her head at Noah and gave a hollow little laugh. “Of course, you know our Charlotte. She gets carried away sometimes. She’s always been that way.”
Noah looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I raised my eyebrows back at him and gave an almost imperceptible shake of my head, as if to say, “
She was awful and she deserved it and I’ll explain later.”
He must have gotten the message.
“Charlotte has been through a lot this morning,” he said. “She’s going to need to keep her stress to a minimum.” His voice was commanding, his intent to my mother clear.
“Why?” my mom asked. “What happened this morning?” She sounded vaguely bored, as if there was no way it could be all that interesting.
“Colin Worthington escaped from jail.” Noah crossed the kitchen and handed me the tumbler with the least amount of Scotch in it.
I wrinkled my nose. “No, thank you.”
“Drink it, Charlotte.”
I sighed and took a sip, wincing as the dark liquid burned my throat.
“What?” my mom asked. Her hand flew to her heart and she glanced around, like she was expecting to see Professor Worthington in the apartment, pointing a gun at her. “The man who tried to kill you?”
“Yes, the one I’m apparently dating,” I said, not able to keep the sarcastic tone out of my voice.
“Charlotte, there’s no need to be smart.” She narrowed her eyes at me, and I could tell she was still upset about what happened last night. I was still upset, too. But you’d think that the fact that a man who had tried to kill her daughter was on the loose would have made her a bit more willing to bury the hatchet.
Instead, she got a little glint in her eye, a glint I noticed and recognized. It was the look she got when she was about to go in for the kill and really stick it to someone, usually one her society friends who was trying to one up her.
She picked up an envelope from the table and held it out to me.
“This came for you this morning,” she said. “Certified mail, so I signed for it.”
I took the envelope from her hand. The Middleton University seal was pressed into the top right corner, along with the address for the Office of Academic Excellence, which was just a fancy way of saying the department that was in charge of disciplining people.
The envelope was unsealed.
“You opened it?” I asked her incredulously.
“Of course not,” she lied. “It came like that.” She glanced at her watch. “Well! I better get going. I don’t want to be late.” She turned to Noah. “Noah, I’m so glad you and Charlotte have patched things up. I explained to her how men in your position are used to a certain level of freedom and therefore expect certain things. I hope Charlotte will be enough for you.”
Noah’s eyes darkened. “I could only hope to be half the man Charlotte deserves. She is more than enough for me, more than I ever could have imagined I would be lucky enough to find.”
“Yes, well,” my mother said, sounding thrown. She wasn’t used to people pushing back on her, and she definitely hadn’t expected that from Noah, who had been her ally last night. “I’ll see you two later, perhaps we can have dinner.” There was hopeful lilt at the end of her voice, and I could tell she was recovering already, imagining herself being whisked off to some expensive restaurant where she’d be wined and dined.
She kissed me on both cheeks, then kissed Noah on both cheeks, and then she was gone.
I turned the letter over in my hand.
“What is it?” Noah asked. “What does it say?”
“I don’t know.” I pulled the single cream-colored sheet out of the envelope.
ear Ms. Holloway
Your presence is requested at a meeting to discuss a current disciplinary infraction that has been brought to our attention, regarding your involvement with Mr. Noah Cutler, a defendant whose case you worked on while representing Middleton University. This session will be informal in its scope.
Please be advised that there will be people there to speak on their knowledge of your involvement with Mr. Cutler. Those people are:
Dr. Jason Cartwright
Joshua J. James
Please call us to schedule this meeting at your earliest convenience.
Dr. Linda Blinson, Office Of Student Excellence and Conduct.
y hand was shaking
A meeting. They wanted to have a meeting about me and Noah.
Noah took the letter from me and read it, his eyes scanning the page. His hand tightened around the paper. “This is bullshit,” he said. “We’ll sue them.”
“Sue them? For what?”
“For harassment. Sexism. Title Nine violations.”
“We can’t sue them, Noah.” I swallowed. “Is this... is it because of whatever…”
What was it that Noah had said about him? That he and his group might be behind this complaint as a way to keep me from snooping around about the missing girls from Force?