Patty Harmon checked the time on her cell phone as a new client left the law offices of Winston and Associates, followed by an entourage of men in very expensive suits, including her boss and his two junior associates. It was only four in the afternoon, but considering this particular client had his own driver, as she noted from her picture window, she figured whatever the man wanted, he got. She squinted, trying to see if the drivers in the two large SUVs had those wiry things attached to their ears, but she couldn’t see that far.
Winston and Associates was a small law firm dealing mostly with estates, wills, a few local businesses, and the various needs of some of the locals. Lately, however, there seemed to be a wave of new clients. Rich clients. Out-of-town clients.
“Hey, Matt,” she yelled.
“What’s up?” The other paralegal in the office stepped into his doorway, down the hall from hers. She had a view, while he hadn’t a single window, but a view of the parking lot wasn’t much to talk about, and his office was twice in size, with plush office furniture compared to her metal desk. Matt’s office also came with a large bookshelf with all the office resources at his fingertips. When Conrad had hired her, he told her the cushiness of her office was proportional to how much she proved her worth.
“Who’s the new big shot?”
Matt was in his mid to late-forties, nice-looking, with short brown hair graying at the temples, and brown eyes. He’d been with Conrad for about nine years before she came on a year ago, and he got the bigger cases. Hell, half her work came from him, not Conrad.
“Keith Holland of Holland Development. They won the bid for the Casino and are looking into putting it on the old Kendrick Paper Company site.” Matt leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed. He always wore khaki pants and a well-pressed dress shirt. If it weren’t for the fact he was gay, and she was, well…she couldn’t really call herself involved anymore. Reese had made it clear he was never going to settle down. He’d proven that when she broke up with him two weeks ago, and he shrugged and said, “Well, it was fun while it lasted.” He then kissed her cheek and walked away. She thought he’d argue with her, asking her not to call it off, expressing his devotion to her. Begging her. Yeah, that was a nice fantasy.
But the reality was, Reese just walked away. She had noticed a hint of sadness in eyes. She knew that look. She knew he cared. But he was closed off. Unable to commit. She couldn’t change him.
Nor did she try. Her father had made that mistake, and Patty had ended up paying a huge price for it.
She bit back a sob pushing against her throat. Her life had been so planned. It was going to take some to get over Reese. She should have listened to her cousin when he’d warned her last summer. Then again, if she had listened, she wouldn’t be pregnant.
She dreaded telling Reese he was going to be a father. She could picture the conversation, and it wasn’t pretty. He’d likely accuse her of trapping him. Well, this was no trap. He could be part of his child’s life or not, but she was going to have this baby.
“I still can’t believe we’re going have a casino here in a few years,” she said, pulling herself from a train of thought that could only end with misery.
“Well, Holland plans on making this his home away from home. He’s looking for other properties to buy, a place he can bring his family and extended family for the summer. I guess he’s got a bunch of kids and cousins, all wanting to summer somewhere around here. Seems weird if you ask me”
“Which properties?” Patty asked, intrigued.
“Haven’t been told yet,” Matt said. “I had him pegged for a “summer in Saratoga” than in Lake George, but what do I know? Me and rich people, not a good match.”
She was about to ask why Holland hired Conrad when she heard the familiar sound of a rifle being cocked.
Matt whipped around. A stranger stood in the hallway with a rifle in his hands. “What the—”
Patty sat frozen in her chair, her hands pressed so hard on the desk they turned white. Matt reached for the rifle, but the stranger holding it was too quick.
Instinctively, she hit the floor and rolled under her desk. The rifle went off, and Matt screamed. She closed her eyes and covered her ears. She’d learned that agony firsthand when she’d been shot in the shoulder last summer. Footsteps echoed, and she felt the floorboards vibrate. Oh, God, she thought, what happened to Angela? If the receptionist had been shot, Patty would have heard it, so where could she be?
“Come out,” the stranger said.
Her entire body trembled. She pulled her knees tight to her chest to stop it, but failed. The stranger rounded the desk, then kicked her leg. She looked up, and once again, she was staring down the wrong end of a rifle.
“Get up.” His voice was eerily calm. His finger rested over the trigger.
She did as she was told, though not gracefully. Her stomach twisted and tightened so badly she knew she would be sick at any moment. She held her hands high, leaning against the desk for support. She glanced at Matt, who held his knee with both hands, his lips formed a tight thin line, his pupils dilated from the pain, but he managed to give her a reassuring look. Him not being mortally wounded didn’t make her feel better at all.
“Where’s Conrad?” the stranger asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “He left a few minutes ago, and I don’t know where he was going.”
“What about you?” The stranger turned his attention to Matt, who had one hand on his bloody knee, while the other reached for his phone, which must have fallen out of his pocket during the short struggle. “I wouldn’t do that if I we’re you, or I’ll put a bullet between this pretty woman’s eyes.”
Matt wrapped both hands around his knee, as he fell against the wall, his lips still pursed, his eyelids drooping with defeat.
“Can I tie a belt or something around my friend’s leg? He’s bleeding something awful.” Patty felt the water welling in her eyes, drip down her checks as she sucked in her breath. “Please,” she begged.
The stranger pointed the gun directly at Matt. “Are you wearing a belt?”
“All right then,” the stranger said. “You can help him with the belt as soon as you get me Conrad on the line.”
The stranger kicked Matt’s phone toward Patty. “Well, little lady,” he said, “you hurry up and make that call if you want to help your friend here with that belt.”
Patty’s body trembled as if she were the center of an earthquake.
“Are you deaf? Either pick up the phone on your desk or the cell off the floor and call your boss. Tell him Terry is waiting for him, and he better haul ass back to his office and deal with me and no funny stuff or I will kill you.”
Patty looked at the phone on her desk for a long moment, then reached for it with a trembling hand. Her other hand pressed protectively over her stomach. The baby was so tiny that it was probably to early to pick up a heartbeat, but she knew it grew inside her. Boy or girl, didn’t matter. All she wanted was a chance to have a healthy baby.
And the opportunity to tell Reese, no matter his reaction.
“Hurry up, or I’ll shoot this guy in the chest.” The stranger now pointed the gun at Matt, who grappled with his belt, trying desperately to make his own tourniquet.
“I’m calling him… please don’t shot anyone.” Patty gripped the phone with one hand while she braced herself against the desk, shaking so badly she dropped the receiver three times before she was able to bring it to her ear and then dial star one on the phone.
She called Conrad, but it went straight to voicemail, so she left the gunman’s message, then ended the call. She thought about screaming, He’s got a gun, he’s shot Matt!, but she figured the stranger would shoot her.
She did not want to get shot today.
With a shaky voice, she pleaded, “At least let me tend to Matt. He’s bleeding too much.”
“Go ahead,” the gunman said.
Quickly, she knelt beside Matt, taking the belt from his weak hands and tightening it has hard as she could. She locked gazes with Matt, who conveyed an understanding of the situation. There was nothing they could do but sit and wait. And pray.
“Go sit down over there.” The gunman pointed to her office chair.
“Please, can I—”
“Whatever it is, no. Now go sit.”
Patty did as instructed.
Poor Angela. The gunman must have done something dreadful to her. A flash of the gunman twisting Angela’s neck until it snapped raced through her mind’s eye. She swallowed, feeling bile rise in her throat.
For the second time in a year, Patty could see the most important parts of her life as if she were thumbing through an old photo album. She had no regrets. Not even Reese, the untamable man, as she had started calling him, but only to herself. It saddened her that he was so emotionally closed off, because deep down he was caring and generous, but he avoided emotions, a master at redirection.
Her only regret was for the baby. It hurt to think this was how both their lives would end.
The tears came on fast. She blinked past them, but could have sworn she saw Reese running across the hallway. Couldn’t be. Could it? Could he have somehow sensed she needed him? That she…that his… no. She was delusional with fear.
The gunman turned toward the hallway. “Anyone else in the office?”
She immediately thought of Angela, but if she’d been here, he would have seen her in the reception area. She shivered at the thought of what fate may have been bestowed on the receptionist. She heard… or maybe felt the old floorboards creak. Her pulse did a double time as a showdown emerged in the hallway.
“Put down your weapon,” a familiar voice shouted.
She held her breath. Reese was here. He was actually here. Her heart lifted a little, but she knew this wasn’t over as she still stared at the wrong end of a rifle.
“The building is surrounded,” came another voice. “Put down your weapon.”
“You’re going to have to shoot me before I do that, but if you do, my trigger finger will go off, and that nice little lady over there—”
The gunman lunged forward as a second shot rang out, shattering the picture window. Patty dropped to the floor, covering her face and screamed as either a bullet or a piece of glass tore into her calf. She curled up in a ball and rolled back under her desk, seeking any kind of safety from the line of fire.
Under the ringing in her ears, she heard muffled voices, a couple she recognized, and a few new ones. Sirens screeched in the background. Her calf felt as though someone had stuck a knife into it and twisted it. She reached down to feel her leg just as she saw two boots in the opening of the desk. “Who’s there?” she whispered, retreating further, pinning herself tightly in the corner.
“Reese.” His voice rang soft and sweet in her ears. She dropped her head to her knees and began to sob.
“Hey, now, it’s okay.”
She felt Reese’s fingers glide on her leg, then gently placing something around her calf. Even though she knew the situation was under control, the fear didn’t leave her body. She flung her arms around Reese, banging her head on the desk, but she didn’t care. To be in his arms was the only way she was going to feel safe.
“I can’t have you moving, okay?” Reese cupped her face, tilting her head. His blue eyes so warm and caring. She could get lost in those eyes. “You’ve got a pretty nasty cut, so until the EMT’s arrive, you stay put, okay?”
He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, making her feel safe, making her feel tingles she’d tried to forget just two short weeks ago. This was not going to be an easy man to get over. Her body shook even more.
“You’re going to be okay,” he said. “Trust me.”
She wanted so wanted so badly to tell him about the baby. While the fear for her life was past, the fear that something might have happened…Before she could finish her thought, she emptied the contents of her stomach all over Reese’s New York State Trooper uniform.
“Not the kind of greeting I anticipated.” He took towel a young female trooper tossed his way and wiped Patty’s lips, face, and clothing, ignoring his own need to clean off. “Want some water?”
She shook her head as she stared up at his blue eyes, offset by his naturally darker Italian complexion. His hair was jet-black, and he wore the same jarhead haircut as that of half her male family members.
But it looked so much better on Reese.
Everything looked better on Reese.
“I’m so sorry,” she mumbled, but she couldn’t let go of him. She hugged him tighter, trying to make the trembling in her body stop.
“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re going to be just fine.” His voice was so deep, so incredibly calming. His right hand stroked her hair, and his left danced across her arm. “Ambulances should be here any moment.” His eyes fluttered, like butterfly kisses as he pressed his lips to her temple. “I’ve got you,” he whispered. “You’re okay.”
“Matt!” Patty cried. “Where’s Matt?” She tried to stand, but a sharp pain tore through her calf. Reese gripped her shoulders.
“I don’t think you’re hurt too bad, but I can’t have you moving at all, okay?” He glanced under the towel over her leg. “You’ve got a piece of glass in your leg. I can’t tell how deep it is, so until the EMTs get here, you don’t move it. Got it?”
She nodded. “How is Matt?”
“My partner is tending to him, and we’re going to make sure he gets the care he needs.”
“Frank’s here?” Her cousin Frank had introduced her to Reese…and warned her about him.
“He’s here, but he’s outside. My new partner is Stacey,” Reese said. “She’s a good cop, but so young. Barely even legal to drink. Makes me feel like an old man.”
Patty hand always enjoyed Reese’s dry sense of humor, but often wondered if it was a defense mechanism. She wrapped the blanket Reese offered around her body while he looked at her leg again. She couldn’t bring herself to look down, and he did his best to block her view. “How did you know to come here?”
“Angela,” Reese said. “She was in the bathroom when the perp came in. She called 9-1-1.”
“I’m so glad she’s okay.” And Matt was okay. And Reese was okay. Oh, how she missed his touch. His calloused hands against her smooth skin. His full lips pressed against hers, their tongues entwined in a ritualistic dance. He made her feel she was the only person in the room. It might not be real, but being in his arms again made everything else fade away, except one thing.
She couldn’t tell him about the baby until she knew for sure things with the baby were okay. Considering the day’s events, she worried that something might have happened. She also worried how Reese was going to react to the news, so best she wait. At least that was what she told herself.
She watched in a daze as the medics arrived. One group tended to Matt, while another buzzed around her like bees on honey. She chose to focus on the tight grip she had on Reese’s hand. She couldn’t let go. Didn’t want to let go. Thankfully, he stood by her side the entire time.
The other group of EMT’s rolled Matt out into the parking lot. He was pale, but managed a thumbs-up in her direction.
She gripped Reese’s hand tighter when she felt him try to pull away. He looked down at her, locking gazes. “Let them put you on the gurney.”
“I think we should let the ER doctors pull that out,” she heard on of the EMTs say. “Doesn’t look too bad, though.”
“I’m going to need her statement,” Reese said as he helped load her into the ambulance. “I’ll be right behind you,” he said, cupping her face and pressing his lips against hers. “Hang tight.” He stepped out of the ambulance.
“Reese,” she called.
He turned. “I’ll be right behind you.”
She placed her hands over her stomach, closed her eyes. The baby…