running from the past Page 14

In bare feet and boxers, Caleb stood in front of her, hands balled into fists, looking like a warrior. An angry warrior. The moon, about a billion stars and light from the main house illuminated him enough so that she could see his expression. She swallowed hard and took an involuntary step back, which only seemed to anger him more.


He advanced on her before she even had a chance to speak. Somehow, he crossed the nearly twenty foot distance between them in seconds. But, he didn’t touch her. He just stared at her with his piercing green eyes, gluing her to the spot.


Chapter Nine


“What. The. Fuck. Are. You. Doing?” Each word came out clipped, as if talking was a struggle for him.


“Leaving?” The word came out as a scratchy whisper and sounded more like a question than an answer. Like she needed his permission or something.


His jaw twitched uncontrollably and some indefinable emotion crossed his hardened face. “Get in the house.”


“What?”


“Now. Walk or I’ll carry you.” He turned away from her and retreated to the truck.


She watched as he leaned in and ripped out the keys, then grabbed both her bags from the backseat. He slammed the door with such jarring force she jumped. He didn’t wait for her though but stalked toward the house.


A shiver ran down her spine as she watched him walk away. Every sinewy muscle in his body was pulled taught. Unsure what he was going to do, she decided to follow.


She had nothing to lose at this point. She couldn’t outrun him and if he wanted to turn her in to the cops, so be it. That’s what she’d been planning to do anyway. Eventually.


She just hadn’t imagined he would betray her.


When she made it to the entrance of the garage, she flinched. Caleb stood by the open door leading to the kitchen, waiting. In the harsh overhead light, his features were positively feral. His jaw was clenched so tightly she was surprised enamel wasn’t flying out his nose. Despite her desire to stand strong against him, she looked down at her feet and walked into the kitchen. The sounds of the garage door shutting behind her echoed loudly in the quiet house.


“Stay here,” he ordered, then disappeared with her bags in hand.


Five minutes later he returned wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants. She opened her mouth to speak but her jaw snapped shut when he shook his head. He turned toward the entry and nodded, as if she should follow him. She followed him down the hallway and into the living room. He took a seat on the long coffee-colored couch and she sat on the edge of the matching love seat.


When he still didn’t say anything, she turned and stared out the open window that spanned most of the room. A small creek glistened under the moon but the only thing that really registered for her was the sound of their breathing.


Somehow she found her voice but still couldn’t look at him. “I heard you on the phone. You know who I am. So, are the police on the way?”


“No! Did you happen to stick around for the whole conversation?” he ground out.


The barely controlled anger in his words forced her to look at him.


Was this some kind of trick question? She knew exactly what she’d heard. “I heard you say my name. My real name. Pardon me if I didn’t wait around. I trusted you.” Her voice cracked a little but some of her earlier anger returned in the process, giving her needed courage.


She glared at him and crossed her arms over her chest. Trust wasn’t something she gave out freely. When she’d heard him on the phone, she hadn’t thought anything through. No, she’d reacted and done what came naturally. She ran.


He raked a hand through his damp, rumpled hair and sighed. “Yes, I know who you are. I saw a picture of you on the news. You look a lot different with that hair but I knew it was you. And I wasn’t planning to turn you over to the police. I was trying to help you. I don’t know why you ran but after Googling you, I know enough about that scumbag ex-boyfriend of yours to know that you had a good reason. What you heard, or what you think you heard is wrong. I was trying to see if I could help you.” His words pierced a hidden part of her heart. The part she kept locked away from the world. He knew who she was and wanted to help her? She sucked in a deep breath but couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down her face. She never cried. Not even when her mother died. She swiped at the wetness and in the few seconds it took her to blink away her tears, Caleb was beside her.


A lump settled in her throat and she knew if she attempted to talk, the dam would break. He must have sensed her need to gain composure because he continued. “I called a buddy of mine when I recognized your face on the news. I asked him to get as much information on you as possible but not to make any waves.” She swallowed the baseball sized lump. If she couldn’t trust Caleb, then she might as well turn herself over to Ricardo. “When I was eighteen my father died. And if you know who I am, then you must know who he was.” She was grateful he nodded in affirmation. Explaining her father would take more energy than she had.


“After his funeral I was looking for some privacy and stumbled upon Ricardo and someone…a man…well, you get the idea. Anyway, he shoved me up against the wall and threatened me with the thousands of ways he would kill me if I ever told anyone.


As if I cared that he was gay.”


Caleb took both of her hands in his and held them tightly. Knowing that he knew all about her and wasn’t judging gave her an inner strength. “The next day he showed up on my doorstep with flowers and asked my mother if he could court me. Court me!


He actually used that freaking term.” She rolled her eyes as she remembered that day.


“My mother is very traditional so he knew what would work on her. When he got me alone, he told me that he would kill her if I didn’t play his stupid charade. In college, he occasionally checked in but he pretty much let me do my own thing. I was always too terrified to get involved with anyone though. What if I fell in love? Then what? Ricardo would never let me go.” She moved closer into Caleb’s embrace and leaned her head on his shoulder.


“So why did you finally leave?” he murmured against her hair.


“I saw something I shouldn’t have.” She clenched her teeth and her grip on his hands tightened. Visions assaulted her in waves and she had to fight the nausea that came on every time she thought about it.


He pried his hands from hers and wrapped both arms around her, pulling her practically into his lap. “Tell me what you saw, Emma.”


“I was looking for a favorite pair of earrings I wanted to wear. When I couldn’t find them in my room, I went to the pool house. We have a heated indoor pool that I sometimes used for laps. Anyway, I heard yelling and noises the closer I got. Instead of turning around, I was stupid and decided to see what was going on.” She lifted her head back because she needed to see his face when she told him.


“Ricardo and two of his bodyguards were standing over two women. Blood was everywhere. Matted in their hair, on the floor. I think they’d been dead a little while but I can’t know for sure. All three men were yelling in unison but I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of my own heartbeat. I got out of there before…” Several minutes passed but finally he spoke. “You don’t have to go on honey. I think I get the picture.”


She was tempted to stop talking but the words came out in a rush. He had to understand. “I ran. I did the only thing I could think of. My mom died a few months ago and I don’t have any close friends. I didn’t know what else to do. I needed distance and time to think. I wanted to go to the police, believe me, but I couldn’t go to the Miami police. Ricardo has too much influence. I didn’t even think of the FBI until after my first night here. I was planning on leaving Monday, then I heard you on the phone and I freaked out.”


His entire body stiffened against hers and he held her away from him. “You were going to leave Monday?”


She nodded. No use lying to him now. Not when he knew everything else about her. “Possibly Tuesday.”


“Why?”


“I have to go to the FBI and tell someone what I saw. The guilt is killing me.”


“But, why not leave sooner? Why bother staying at all?” His voice was hoarse and raw.


“I’m selfish. I wanted you for just a couple more days before I left.” The room was dark and she was grateful for the dim lighting. Heat crept up her neck and cheeks at the admission.


The corded muscles in his neck tightened and his jaw twitched. His next words shocked her more than anything she could have imagined. “I love you Emma. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about tonight.”


Her throat constricted, making it impossible to swallow. Had she heard him right?


Her father had been an infamous arms dealer, she was on the run from her psycho ex-boyfriend and he loved her?


His words had barely registered when he rambled on. “When I heard the sound of the garage door and realized you’d left, the bottom of my entire world fell out. A sickness like I’ve never experienced…”


His voice slightly cracked and he pulled her onto his lap. The bulge beneath his pants was evident against her hip but he didn’t seem bothered by it in the least. “I’m not letting you go honey. We’ll figure this thing out together. If you want to go to the FBI, then I’m going with you. The friend I contacted tonight can help us. If not, we’ll set you up with a new identity. Hell, I’ll move if that’s what it takes. I’ve got land all over the country. We can move to North Carolina if that’s what you want.” He’d do that for her? “Caleb, I need to go to the FBI. If you can set it up I’d appreciate it but if not, I don’t expect—”


He placed a gentle finger over her mouth. “We’ll talk about it in the morning. Right now you need sleep.”


She wanted to argue. It was still relatively early but the entire night’s events crashed in on her. All that mattered was Caleb trusted her. Loved her even. For now, she was safe.


He stood and pulled her to her feet. When they came to his bedroom door, she planted a light kiss on his cheek. “I’ll be right back. I just need to change.” Caleb just pulled her back against him when she started for the stairs. “Your clothes are in my room.”