“Please, please, don’t tow my car!”
The cop looked up, his eyebrows rising as he studied me rushing toward him from further up the street. I stopped in front of him, breathing hard from running.
“Please,” I said again. “I was just about to leave.”
“But this car has been here for more than an hour.”
“I know. It took longer than I expected upstairs. I’m so sorry.”
“You see that sign,” he said, gesturing to the sign right smack in the center of the sidewalk where my car was parked. “It says, ‘No parking.’”
“I was in such a rush, I didn’t see it. I’m so sorry.”
I was hoping if I apologized enough…but it seemed his only interest was in my chest. How typical! But, again, if it saved me the hassle of having to go to the impound lot…
I leaned forward a little, happier than I ever imagined I’d be that I’d chosen to wear a low-cut top today. Normally my clothes tended toward the conservative—like the Catholic schoolgirl skirt I was wearing—but my wool sweater was dirty, and I didn’t have time to search out anything else. His eyes went right where I expected them to go, and he bit his lower lip.
“Where were you?”
I gestured behind me. “Dentist.”
“Well, can’t really fault someone who makes oral health a priority.” He gestured to the tow truck driver to back off. The man seemed to be expecting it because his truck was already in reverse. He backed up, stalling traffic on the busy street behind him.
“Thank you so much,” I said, touching the officer’s arm lightly. Probably shouldn’t have done that. He gave me a warning glance, even as I scooted around him and hopped into my car, taking advantage of the break in traffic because of the tow truck to speed off.
I wondered what he would have said if I’d told him the truth? I was actually picking up some artwork for my website. Let’s say that it wasn’t really the kind of art someone might want to show his or her mother. However, it was popular on my website—even if the artist was as slow as molasses in getting the work out each week. That’s what took so long. He wasn’t quite finished matting the cartoons. I could have had my team at the office do it before they started the animation process, but this artist was temperamental. It was better to wait than anger the dog.
I slowed down, my heart finally calming in its ferocious beating. I had a meeting at five, but I thought I would make it. And this week’s videos were ready for release first thing in the morning. Everything was going the way it should for once. I could finally relax.
Even as the thought crossed my mind, my cell phone buzzed. A new text message.
I hoped it wasn’t a problem. I really didn’t need any more problems.
I slowed and stopped at a red light and picked the phone up.
This will be you by the end of the week.
Underneath was a picture of a faceless, young woman, hanging from a rope.
At the Compound
Ash Grayson shuffled through the paperwork on his desk, thinking that paperwork was all he did anymore. In the Green Berets, he’d resented anything that took him out of the field. But now…he’d gotten soft, and he knew it. Running Gray Wolf Security was something he’d never thought he’d want to do, but it’d been satisfying. He was lucky to be able to work each day with people he deeply respected and cared about—as if they were members of his family. One actually was family. His brother, David, ran the technical parts of the company, watching over the operatives as they protected the clients. But things were changing. All Ash had to do was look across the room and see his brother standing at his workstation to see just how much things were changing.
David was confined to a wheelchair after an accident that took the lives of their parents. It was an accident, a patch of black ice that no one could have predicted would be there, but David allowed the guilt over their parents’ death to lead to his decision not to have the surgery that would fix his paralysis. But then he met a woman he wanted to love, to protect, and that finally convinced him that he was worthy of the life-changing surgery. He was engaged to marry that woman now, a wedding that would take place later this month.
That would be the second wedding Gray Wolf had seen in recent months. Donovan Pritchard, a former member of the same Green Beret unit Ash had belonged to—and his good friend—had married his high school sweetheart in November after they reunited when the bride’s father hired Gray Wolf to protect her in the aftermath of a murder at the bank where she worked. They seemed disgustingly happy. Ash moaned and groaned about it, but he was secretly pleased to see his friend so content in his life. The man had beat himself up for years over the death of his best friend. He deserved to find a little peace in life now.