running from the past Page 17

Her only regret was that she’d never get to tell Caleb she loved him. It was crazy.

She knew that. They had only known each other a short time but every fiber in her being knew it was love. Life sure had a fucked up sense of humor.

Just as they reached the corner of the barn, Ricardo jerked to a halt and moved the gun away from her spine. All the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and for once in her life, she followed her instincts. She covered her head and dived into the dirt.

Two loud pops sounded above her and after what seemed an eternity, she risked rolling over and sat up. Ricardo lay on the ground behind her and half his head was blown off. She never had time to register the horrific carnage because Caleb stood a few yards away. He had a gun in one hand, looking like the warrior she’d originally taken him for and he held out his other one for her.

* * * * *

Hours later, Emma pulled the blanket Caleb had given her tighter around her shoulders, trying to absorb the scene in front of her. She sat on the back of his tailgate in the open garage as men in uniforms, men in suits and some of Caleb’s cowhands milled around, barely acknowledging her presence. His men were cleaning up after the explosion and trying to round up the horses and the men in uniforms were doing whatever it was they were paid to do. It was only a matter of time before the FBI agents started in with their questions.

By now, the sun peeked on the horizon and she was coming down from her adrenaline high. She still couldn’t believe Ricardo was dead. Not that she was sorry. She almost felt guilty for her lack of remorse. Almost. The cold steel of his gun against her spine was something she wasn’t likely to forget for a while to come. That or the hideous venom he’d spewed in her ear as he pushed her toward the barn.

On the gravel driveway about twenty feet in front of her, Caleb, his back turned to her, talked to two men in suits. Every few minutes he’d turn around and give her what he probably thought was a reassuring look. At this point, nothing could reassure her.

Now that daylight loomed she could see the lines etched into the grooves of his face and the bags under his eyes.

After what felt like an eternity, Caleb and one of the men in suits finally came to talk to her.

“Emma, this is Special Agent Mathew Woods. He has a few questions for you.” Caleb leaned against the tailgate and draped a protective arm around her shoulders.

Garnering strength from Caleb’s presence, she shook hands with the tall blond man she guessed to be in his early forties and found herself returning his genuine smile.

Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she’d pumped herself up to believe.

“I know you’ve been through a lot ma’am but the sooner we get this over—”

“I’m ready to answer your questions.”

He nodded and pulled out a notepad and pen. “Okay, I have an idea of some things thanks to Caleb but I want everything on the record. Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you run from Miami?”

“I saw Ricardo and two of his men standing over the bodies of two dead girls inside the pool house. Part of me had always known what he did for a living but I don’t think it ever sank in until that moment.” A shiver ran down her spine at the vivid vision that seemed to play over and over in her head. Caleb must have understood because he gave her shoulders a squeeze.

“Did you know the two girls personally?”

“No, they weren’t any of his regular girls if that’s what you mean. That was the first time I’d ever seen them.”

“Regular girls?”

She half shrugged. “I saw a lot of the same faces at some of his parties and at the house in general.”

“What kind of parties?”

She risked a glance at Caleb. “Would you mind getting me some coffee?”

“Sure.” His jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed a fraction but at least he didn’t argue.

As soon as the connecting door leading from the garage into the kitchen shut behind him, she turned back to Agent Woods. “I don’t know what else to call them except sex and drug parties. He invited what I guess you would call clients over to the house and I can only assume he provided them with women and drugs. The women looked like prostitutes to me but I can’t say for sure. There were never any violent happenings at the house, at least not that I know of and I was only at the house for two of them. And that wasn’t by choice. Both times, I locked myself in my room until I could escape. If I knew he was having a party, I stayed at my mom’s house for a couple days.” He held out two photographs for her to view and by that time Caleb had returned.

“Do you recognize these women? They were found behind a restaurant in the downtown area.”

Two sets of lifeless eyes stared out of hollow, sunken faces. They were the faces from her nightmares. “Yes. Those are the same two women from the house. I assume he moved their bodies. Did you find out their names?” She took the steaming mug from Caleb and inhaled the rich hazelnut aroma. Agent Woods nodded and took the pictures back.

“Yes we did. Originally, we thought they were prostitutes but they were just a couple of pretty young girls who were part of the Miami night life. They ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.” His jaw twitched as he shook his head and slipped the pictures into his coat pocket.

“Ricardo told me they were taking pictures of him and someone named Carrington.

The name sounds familiar but I still can’t place it. Anyway, I guess things got out of hand and he killed them. He didn’t elaborate if he had any help but obviously no one stopped him. Basically it sounded like the girls annoyed him, so he killed them.” The other man nodded but didn’t comment further. He just jotted down more notes.

She gripped Caleb’s hand with her free one and squeezed. “Is Caleb going to be in any trouble for what happened?”

Agent Woods’ mouth curled up slightly at the corners, as if the very idea was hilarious. “No, this is a clear case of self-defense.” He cleared his throat and shot Caleb a look she could only describe as uneasy.

What was going on? She’d answered his questions. She glanced back and forth between the two men. “Am I missing something here? Ricardo’s dead. Am I in trouble for leaving?”

Caleb cleared his throat. “They want to search his house. Since you live there too, and—”

“Go ahead. You can do whatever you want as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know the combination to either of his safes but I do know where he keeps the key to a safety deposit box. I don’t know which bank it goes to but I’m sure you guys can figure it out.

I also know…” She snapped her mouth shut, unsure if she should go on. Ricardo had left a wake of violence in his life and death. How many more lives did she want involved?

“What is it, hon?” Caleb’s deep voice poured through her veins, soothing her.

She swallowed and cleared her throat, ignoring the small twinge of her conscience.

“Well, I know where his boyfriend lives but I don’t want to get him in any trouble because he’s really sweet. Ricardo treated him the same way he treated everyone else, like garbage. I don’t know why he stayed—”

“Boyfriend?” Agent Woods choked over the word and almost dropped his notebook.

“Uh, yeah, didn’t Caleb tell you?”

Caleb shook his head. “I figured that was up to you to decide. I didn’t know if you wanted that made public.”

“I couldn’t care less. I’d rather people know the real reason I stayed, instead of having them think I dated a monster of my own free will. If you can leave his boyfriend’s name out of this though, I would appreciate it.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem. On another note, do you know any of his associates who would have something against you?” She resisted the urge to laugh at the term associates. “Not that I know of. To be honest, I wouldn’t recognize any of his so-called associates if I ran into them on the street. We rarely spent time together. I only went with him to big-name parties when he wanted to schmooze with legitimate people. It’s not as if we took vacations together and he was rarely at the house. If he was, I usually wasn’t.” Agent Woods flipped his notebook shut and tucked it into his jacket pocket. “I think we’re about done here. If what you say is true, you were only a threat to him directly so you should be safe.”

“Should be?”

“As safe as anyone can be. Trust me Ms. Garcia, we wouldn’t be leaving you without protection if we thought you were in danger.”

“You’re leaving?”

“As soon as they finish up with the rest of the bodies, we’ll be out of here. I assume you won’t be leaving the country any time soon?”

She snorted. “No, I’ll be heading back to Miami as soon as possible. You know how to contact me if you need me.”

He shook her hand and then Caleb’s before disappearing into the house.

“You’re leaving?”

She looked up in surprise at the defensive tone in Caleb’s voice. “Well, yeah.

There’s a lot of stuff I need to take care of.”

“I see.” He removed his arm from her shoulder and took a step back.

“What does that mean? You see?”

Caleb was silent for a long moment as he stared at her. “Are you coming back?” Was he crazy? “Did you think I was going to just leave and never see you again?” He shrugged but she didn’t miss the furious twitching of his jaw.

“If you think you can get rid of me that easily you’re out of your mind.” Too tired to move from her seat on the tailgate, she pulled him so that he stood in between her legs. How could he even be worried about that?

His green eyes flared to life when she placed her hands on his chest. “Well, we never really talked about the future and…”

“I’ll admit that it might take some getting used to living in such a small town but I’ve wanted to leave Miami for as long as I can remember. I don’t have any real friends because I couldn’t risk caring about anyone. The reason I’m going home is to pack up my stuff, put the house on the market, say goodbye to everyone I worked with at the homeless shelter and get all my mother’s stuff out of storage.”