Tempest (excerpt)

(No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from KTB Books, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

Copyright © 2008, 2016 by KTB Books
Cover Art © 2016 by Lacey Savage

When C.J. Lanahan went out for his late night run, his thoughts were spinning. It’d been a bastard of a day and he just needed to work some of his frustrations out in some hard cardio. The Register wasn’t really worth all this agony.

He stopped beside his car, feeling as if he had forgotten something. That’s when he noticed it was listing a bit.

“Damn, not again,” he said, inspecting the wheel around the left front tire for any damage. This was the second time this week someone had slashed his tires. He thought about calling Sheriff Duffy Eggleston again and bit back a curse. “He’ll just tell me I should get the alarm put on. Well, damn it, I can’t help it if they can’t do it until tomorrow.”

Shrugging his shoulders, he walked to the trunk and unlocked it. Thankfully his pride and joy came with a full-sized spare. He’d have his regular tire patched the same time they were installing the alarm. But this vandalism was getting a little old. He was just doing his job, damn it. Just doing his job. Instead of going for a run, he was going to get his workout jacking up his Camaro.

When it was done, he decided that he’d had enough of passive resistance. He was going to start taking the bull by the balls. Beginning tonight. He was going to mend an old bridge and hopefully turn his life around. It was past time. Way past time. He opened his cell and punched in a number he’d memorized weeks ago.

* * *

There’s no doubt about it, Ally told herself as she watched him work his way around the small gravel track. She had to be the biggest idiot on the face of the earth.

She should be at home working on her novel. Or perhaps figuring out which contractor she could afford to pay first—the roofer or the heating and plumbing guy. Instead, she was meeting a man from her past, a man who promised to be nothing but trouble in the future.

How did I get to this point?

This time last year, the world was her oyster. She was happily married to a man she considered a friend and had a career she could be proud of, in an exciting city that had a little bit of everything—bustling waterfront, historic elegance, nasty traffic and the Red Sox.

Now, just twelve months later, she was standing in this dark parking lot in a small town so far away from Boston it could be in a different galaxy, a widow with a legacy from her husband that had more holes in it than a large piece of Swiss cheese, and a stack of bills that seemed to triple every day.

So when the call came as a blast from her past, she’d taken the bait like a hungry fish seeing a dangled worm. What she ought to do was get in her car, drive as quickly as possible back to her house and watch the moon slip past the hole in the roof in her bedroom. She was Allison Mae Calhoun, Army veteran, and former private investigator. She was thirty years old, but lately feeling like she was closing in on a hundred.

She was living in the small town of Piney Bluffs because of a debt that would probably never be paid. It was a decision she’d made on a cold fall day when she stood by her husband’s grave. It was one she was determined to stand by despite the protests of her friends and rants of her family.

Do not pass go. Do not think about getting involved.

Instead, she moved closer to the track where the lone man was effortlessly running.

She watched as the man moved fluidly around the track. Thinking about him was much more productive than thinking about her past. Except he was part of her past, a part she’d been mostly successful at forgetting…until his call tonight.

Clarence Jacob Lanahan, black-sheep son of the Boston Lanahans, was everything she abhorred.

Cocky, arrogant.

Self-centered, rich.

Spoiled, sexy.

Whoa. Not that. Don’t even go there.

He was on the far side of the track now she could see, moving easily, without any signs of exertion.

So C.J., on the outside, didn’t appear that much different from the boy/man she’d first met nearly a decade ago. He passed under one of the high old-style telephone pole lights that serviced this track then moved into the darkness again.

Wonder what he wants with me now?

* * *

C.J. had known the moment Allison had pulled her car up to the track that she had come. He couldn’t decide what to do. So he kept running rather than acknowledge her presence. He hoped she wouldn’t be able to tell how nervous he was at seeing her.

When he’d called and left a message, he’d been hoping she’d just call him back. A phone conversation was impersonal. It was easy.

He had dozens of things he wanted to say to her. He wanted to apologize…well, not apologize exactly, but just tell her he was sorry he hadn’t been able to get to Boston for Mike’s funeral. He wanted to offer comfort. He wanted to ask for her help.

All those things he would have been able to do over the phone. Now she was here in person and he felt his heart trip a little in his throat.

What should he say? How should he say it?

As he slowed down to a jog then a walk to cool down, he wiped his suddenly sweaty palm against his shorts. How could he say anything when the punch of desire he felt just with her being close nearly rendered him speechless? He stopped when he came even with her as she stood at the edge of the track.

“C.J.” She spoke first, breaking the silence of the night.

“Allison,” he replied. “How did you find me?”

“I was coming into your apartment complex when I saw you heading this way. I got your message.”

“I’m glad,” he said. “But you didn’t have to make a trip into town. You could’ve just called me. Later at home or tomorrow at the paper.”

“Well, I figured it must’ve been important. I haven’t heard a peep out of you in nearly ten years.”

“Surely it hasn’t been that long,” he said with a small laugh. When she didn’t chuckle in response, he offered, “I called when I heard about Mike.”

“Did you? I must not have gotten the message.” Her tone held disbelief.

At least now he knew where he was going to have to begin. He felt some relief at knowing how to start.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve made more of an effort to get back in touch instead of just leaving the message. I know you were devastated over Mike’s death. Can you tell me what happened?”

For a moment he wondered if she was going to answer.

“I’d rather not talk about it now, if you don’t mind,” she finally answered.

“Okay. But I just want you to know that I’m sorry. I should’ve tried harder to get back for his funeral, or called again and left a number. I wasn’t exactly real easy to get a hold of myself back then. Then, well, let’s just say things don’t always work out like we want.”

There was silence again. He felt it hanging over them like a tomb. He was about to break it again when she spoke.

“So, is that why you called? You wanted to apologize nearly a year later for not coming to the funeral?”

“No. Well, yes, that was one of the reasons,” he said. “Look, I’m sweaty and it’s late. Would you like to go with me for a cup of coffee? There’s a place not too far. It’s mostly a bar, but we can relax and talk about why I called.”

She hesitated. C.J. held his breath.

“I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you come to my house? Tomorrow afternoon.”

“That’s a deal,” C.J. said barely able to keep the relief from his voice.

For a few minutes there he’d been holding his breath, wondering if she was going to just walk away from him. He couldn’t allow that, but even though they were postponing things, it was only going to be a few hours. He could be patient for that long now.

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