Home > Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)

Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)
Karen Rose

PROLOGUE

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 11:15 P.M.

Good. She was waking up. Took her long enough.

He took a drag on his cigarette and blew the smoke into her face. A coughing fit ensued, and by the time she’d calmed down, her dark eyes were open and staring up at him.

She was scared. This pleased him. He smiled down at her. They were always scared and this always pleased him.

He sat back in his chair, watching as she struggled against her bonds. They always did that, too. But they never got free. He tied a very strong knot. It was one of his best talents.

He waited until she’d given up, until her gaze fixed on his face and recognition set in. “You,” she whispered. “From the diner.”

“Me,” he replied agreeably. From the tired old diner on the outskirts of Portland. Getting her home had been a pain in the ass. She took up much more space than he’d expected. She was curvier than most of the guests he brought home. It would be a nice change.

She yanked on her bonds again, a token effort only. Her lips trembled. “Where are my clothes?”

“Burned.”

“Why?”

He stood up, pulled lazily at his tie, aware that she was following his every move. “Because you won’t be needing them anymore.”

She shook her head, appropriately agitated. “Why are you doing this?”

He unbuttoned his shirt as her eyes flicked all around the room, looking for help. Looking for escape. There would be none. He grabbed her hand from where he’d tied it to the headboard and ran his thumb over her left ring finger, following the indentation that was all that remained of her wedding vows.

“Does he know you’re gone?” he asked softly.

Her gaze flew to her ring finger and she tried to pull her hand away, but, of course, she couldn’t. Slowly she nodded.

“Did he let you go?”

Another nod, but her eyes flickered away. He squeezed her hand hard enough to make her gasp. “Do not lie to me, Miriam.”

He was surprised when her eyes flared with a sudden fury. “That is not my name,” she ground out. “My name is Eileen.”

“The locket says ‘Miriam.’” He held up the heart-shaped silver charm, letting it dangle between them, watching it gleam as it caught the low light from the bedside lamp. He set it to swing, like a hypnotist’s watch. “Did you steal it?”

She swallowed hard, momentarily mesmerized by the swinging locket. Then her jaw hardened. “No.”

“Then, if it’s yours, you are Miriam.”

She closed her eyes. “No, I am not.”

It was really immaterial at this point, but her little show of temper had intrigued him. “Then who is Miriam?”

A tear ran down her cheek. “Who I used to be.”

“Ah. So your husband is looking for Miriam. Not Eileen.”

She clamped her lips shut, giving him his answer.

Good. He hadn’t been terribly worried that anyone would be tracking her down. The woman had a solitary, hunted air to her, like she always looked over her shoulder. Like she was hiding. That worked for him.

He ran his thumb over the locket, feeling the etched lines of the engraved Miriam on the back, then the symbol on the front. “An olive tree, two kneeling children, all protected by these beautiful outstretched angel wings.” She’d winced at the word “protected.” If it had been a talisman, it was a piss-poor one. It certainly hadn’t protected her. “What does it mean?”

Again her jaw tightened and she looked away. He gripped her chin and yanked her back. “Don’t ignore me,” he warned.

She clenched her eyes shut, so he covered her mouth and pinched her nose closed. “Look at me,” he growled, all fascination with her gone. He was angry again, which was how it was supposed to be. Her eyes flew open, terrified, as she began to struggle to get free. He removed his hand and allowed her to breathe, smiling at her frantic gasps for air.

He gripped her chin again, much harder this time. “Say you’re sorry, Miriam.” He gave her a hard shake. “Say you’re sorry.”

Stubbornly she clamped her lips together.

His lips curved. Excellent. He’d make her say it before he was through and he’d enjoy every moment of the effort. Because they always said it, sooner or later.

Usually as they begged him to let them die.

ONE

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 8:15 P.M.

“Daisy?”

Daisy Dawson flinched when Trish’s finger poked her upper arm. “What?” she asked, knowing she’d been distracted. She returned her attention to her friend, who’d stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, a worried expression on her face. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

Trish frowned. “What’s wrong with you tonight? You’re jumpy. Is it because of Gus? Do I need to call Rosemary?”

Daisy rolled her shoulders, trying to relieve the tension in her muscles. It didn’t relax her any more than it eliminated the tickle at the back of her neck. Because someone was watching her. Following her.

Again. Thanks a lot for keeping your word, Dad, she thought bitterly. She’d thought they’d had an agreement. She’d thought he trusted her. She’d been wrong. Again. She wanted to scream, to rage. To call him right now and tell him to stay the fuck out of her life.

A rough, wet tongue licking her fingers had her tamping down her temper. Absently she reached into the pet bag that she wore cross-body like a sling and scratched behind Brutus’s enormous wing-shaped ears. “Shh, girl,” she murmured, and the dog immediately settled. “It’s okay.” I’m okay. Which wasn’t exactly true, not that Brutus would believe her anyway. The little dog knew when she was spiraling, knew when she was on edge, and did what she’d been trained to do—distracting Daisy before her spiral became a meltdown. Drawing a breath, she smiled tightly for Trish’s benefit. “No, let Rosemary go home to her family. She’s earned it.”

Because tonight had been a hard night for all of them, especially Rosemary.

Trish’s eyes welled with new tears that she didn’t try to hide. It was just the two of them and Trish knew she didn’t have to pretend around Daisy. “Poor Gus.”

“Yeah.” Keeping one hand on Brutus, Daisy lifted her other hand to Trish’s face to wipe away the tears. “I guess he just couldn’t handle the grief of losing his wife.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to,” Trish whispered.

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re right.” All Daisy knew was that the man’s death from alcohol poisoning had hit Rosemary hard. Seeing their sponsor cry like that as she’d told them of Gus’s death had left Daisy shaken and feeling helpless. Daisy hated feeling helpless.

Trish bit at her lip. “He’d been sober for fifteen years, DD. Fifteen years. He was a sponsor, even. He was Rosemary’s sponsor. How can we expect to—”

Daisy cut her off by pressing a finger to Trish’s lips. “Stop. You cannot compare yourself to Gus or anyone else. He was grieving. His wife died. They’d been married for fifty years. You said it yourself—maybe he wanted to die. Maybe this was just his way.”

Trish nodded shakily. “I know.” She straightened her shoulders and took a swipe at each eye with her sleeve. “You’re right.”

Daisy gave her a one-armed hug. “I’m usually right.”

Trish snorted. “You wish.”

Daisy laughed. “If I said we needed hot fudge sundaes with extra nuts, would I be right about that?”

“Yes, but that’s a given. We always have sundaes after a meeting.”

Daisy linked arms with Trish and they began walking toward the diner where their sundaes awaited. “What were you saying before?”

“Oh. I wanted to know if you were volunteering this weekend at the pet store.”

“I am.” Daisy smiled up at Trish, who was at least five inches taller. “Are you wanting to volunteer or adopt?”

“Adopt?” Trish said it more as a question. “I was thinking about a cat. Something to come home to, but not something I’d have to walk. Not with my crazy schedule.”

“I think that’s a great idea. So does Brutus, don’t you, girl?” Brutus popped her head out of the sling that doubled as Daisy’s handbag, her tongue out in the cutest way possible. “See? She says yes.”

Trish laughed. “Of course she does. She’s biased, though, coming from the shelter herself. You really lucked out, finding a Chion puppy at a shelter. She is a Chion, right? I looked up Papillon-Chihuahua mixes. That’s what the article called them.”

“Some people call them Papihuahuas,” Daisy said. Whatever breed she was called, Brutus was perfect and necessary. “My dad found her, actually, while I was in rehab. One of the therapists had a service dog that helped him control his anxiety, which helped him maintain his sobriety. Dad went looking for a dog that could be trained to do the same for me when I got out. She was the runt of the litter, which was why I named her Brutus. She was so tiny that I figured she needed all the help she could get.”

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