Home > Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(8)

Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(8)
Karen Rose

It had been three years since Donna’s death and eighteen months since they’d learned the truth, but they were finally regaining their lives. Regaining themselves.

She shrugged. “My father felt like shit because he’d believed Donna—she was Taylor’s mother. He’d hidden Taylor away from a very good man for all those years because of my stepmother’s lies. But then there was no reason to hide anymore. Dad moved to Maryland to live near Taylor and her bio-dad and took our youngest sister with him. Taylor’s engaged now, to a really nice guy. My sister Julie is getting the support she needs. She has cerebral palsy,” she added, then smiled, remembering the happiness on her sister’s face when they’d Skyped a few days ago. “Jules has a boyfriend now. And my father is even dating. I’m happy for them.”

“But?” Gideon prompted.

“But I wanted to see the world. So I did. I backpacked across Europe. I was supposed to be gone for six months, but around about month four I realized I was being followed. It was Jacob, the ranch hand who’d grown up with us. My father had paid him to keep an eye on me. And report back. Was I behaving myself? Was I drinking at all?” She sighed heavily. “I know Dad wanted me to be safe, but it pissed me the hell off. So I went home and . . .” She hesitated, because this part of the story was not hers to tell. It was painful and personal and it broke her heart every time she thought about it.

Her eyes burned with tears that she refused to shed because she’d already cried too much for one evening. She scooped Brutus from her bag and, ignoring Gideon’s look of perplexed surprise, cuddled her dog under her chin. “My father has his reasons for being obsessive about my safety. But even though I now understand, it’s not okay. So I made him promise never to do that again. I didn’t really think he’d keep that promise, so when I heard the man behind us tonight, I didn’t think twice.”

“What did you do?” Gideon asked softly.

She shot him a sharp glare because he was looking at her with pity. I am not fragile, she wanted to shout, but bit the words back, answering him in as even a tone as she could muster. “I sent Trish ahead to the diner and I hid, waited for him, then confronted him. Pulled his cap off. He was about six feet tall, by the way. I didn’t have to jump up as high to rip the baseball cap off his head as I would for Jacob, who’s six-two.”

“We found the cap at the scene,” Erin said. “It’s in the lab for processing. What did he look like?”

“He had dark eyes and no hair.” Daisy clenched her jaw, powering through the memory before it could pull her under. “I can’t say what his features were because he had a nylon stocking pulled over his head. He was a smoker. I smelled it on his jacket and on his breath. He kept his voice all low and raspy. Like he was trying to whisper loudly. But that wasn’t his normal voice. He wore gloves.” She frowned. “And black wingtips. With stonewashed jeans.” She made a face, sloughing off the mental image of his lower body, all she’d been able to see as he’d dragged her away. “Very bad form.”

“No hair just on his head?” Rafe asked. “Did he have eyebrows?”

She thought a moment, forcing herself to picture his features, smashed against the nylon. “No. I don’t think he did.”

“How much did he weigh?” Gideon asked, and that he’d asked her in all seriousness was a balm to her raw emotions. He had confidence in her observations. Again, it shouldn’t have been so settling, but it was, and Daisy was grateful for it.

“About two hundred pounds. He was solid. I don’t know if he’d been trained to fight, but he was very comfortable with his movements.” Like when he’d tried to choke her with his forearm.

That was the memory that lingered.

Gideon tapped the table to get her attention, but it was actually the scent of his aftershave that reached through her haze. Because I zoned out again. She blinked to clear her vision and found him entirely too close. His gaze roamed her face looking for something, which he must have found because he leaned back in his chair.

“And then?” he asked.

“He put his forearm over my throat.” She lowered Brutus to her lap, then tugged at the collar of her turtleneck sweater and tilted her head back to expose her throat to the camera. She knew her throat was red and bruised. The bruises would be purple tomorrow. “I’m glad I have a lot of turtlenecks. I’ll be wearing them to work for a while.”

She righted her collar, then missed a breath at the sight of Gideon’s face. His eyes had gone steely hard and a muscle was ticking in his cheek. But he merely nodded.

“He put a gun to my head and that’s when he said I’d be sorry for what I did, that I’d beg for his forgiveness.” She wasn’t able to fight her shudder. “That they all did.”

“What do you think he meant, Daisy?” Erin asked quietly. “What do you think he wanted you to be sorry for?”

Daisy shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. Grabbing his hat? Exposing his face?”

“All right,” Erin said, then smiled encouragingly. “You’re doing great. And then?”

“I . . . I went into autopilot mode, I guess. I bent the pinkie of his gun hand—” She paused. “He was a leftie. Held his gun in his left hand, anyway.”

Again Erin smiled. “Good, Daisy. And what happened when you bent his pinkie?”

“I bent it back and used a joint lock. Here.” Daisy pointed to the fleshy area between her thumb and forefinger. “If I hadn’t had such long nails, I could have gotten a better hold. I could have had him on his knees.”

Gideon looked unconvinced. Even though he said nothing, Daisy was pissed off.

“Again,” she offered sweetly, “I’m happy to demonstrate.”

She’d made her point and he had the courtesy to look embarrassed. “Again,” he returned, “that’s not necessary.”

But it would feel awfully satisfying, she thought, still irritated. “I ran, but he caught me.” She drew another breath, deeper than she actually needed, just to remind herself that she could. “He shoved me against a wall and used his forearm against my throat again. That’s when I grabbed the chain around his neck. I hadn’t even seen it. I was grappling for his coat, something to yank him closer. So that I could knee him in the testicles. Which I then did. Hard.”

Neither Rafe nor Gideon winced, to their credit. But they did look awfully uncomfortable. It made her feel a little better.

“I ran again and this time Trish was waiting for me. She hadn’t wanted to leave me alone with the man I thought was Jacob. She got a half a block away, then turned around and came back to find me. She said she heard Brutus barking and saw me run out of the alley.” Daisy closed her eyes, her heart racing too hard. “If she hadn’t been there, he might have caught me again. I’m not sure I’d have had the energy to fight him anymore.”

No one said anything, but when she opened her eyes, she found all three of them watching her with both concern and respect. That made her feel much better. “Trish started screaming for help, I guess. Before I knew it, a few people had gathered around. I guess the man took off running. Trish called 911 and . . .” She looked at Rafe. “Then you. That’s all.” She let her gaze drop to Brutus in her lap, remembering his barking.

She looked up sharply. “He liked dogs, I think.”

Rafe had been about to press the power button on the video remote, but set it back down on the table. “How do you know?”

“When he was holding me against the brick wall, with his arm . . . you know.”

“Choking you,” Gideon supplied tensely.

Daisy swallowed, even though it still hurt to do so. “Yes. He said I was too much trouble and he was going to shoot. But Brutus kept barking. He . . .” She searched her mind. “He asked where that ‘fucking dog’ was, and when he realized Brutus was in my purse, he rolled his eyes. Then he pointed the gun at Brutus. But he didn’t shoot right away. For a second he kind of froze. I went for his collar and jostled him enough that his aim was off and he shot the bricks instead of Brutus.” She frowned. “He had a silencer.”

“Good to know,” Rafe said. “And then?”

“Then I kneed him. And grabbed the locket.” Ah. Right. The locket. She narrowed her eyes at Gideon, who studied her, visibly tense. “Why is the locket so important?”

Gideon opened his mouth to answer, but before any words came out, Brutus looked around and barked.

THREE

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 11:05 P.M.

He jogged up the two steps to his front porch, his body warm and his muscles finally loose. He’d run extra fast, trying to tire himself out. Mutt had not been a fan. He’d had to pull him along the last two blocks. Opening the door, he unhooked the leash and the dog walked over to his bed in the corner, huffing as he threw himself down on it.

“Lazy,” he said to the dog.

Mutt didn’t respond.

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