Dangerous Secrets: Callaghan Brothers, Book 1, p.1
Callaghan Brothers, Volume 1
Published by Abbie Zanders, 2014.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. November 18, 2014.
Copyright © 2014 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
Table of Contents
Dangerous Secrets (Callaghan Brothers, #1)
Before You Begin
Thanks for reading Jake and Taryn’s story
About the Author
Also by Abbie Zanders
Callaghan Brothers, Book 1
Before You Begin
WARNING: Due to strong language and graphic scenes of a sexual nature, this book is intended for mature (21+) readers only.
If these things offend you, then this book is not for you.
If, however, you like your alphas a little rough around the edges and some serious heat in your romance, then by all means, read on...
Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover and eye-catching blurb!
Special thanks also go to Carol, Cindy, and Aubrey (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. I could not have done this without your unending patience, support, and encouragement.
Kiara Fitzpatrick came to with a start, her eyes open but seeing nothing in the inky blackness, the pressure on her chest heavy as if someone had laid a wet blanket filled with sand on top of it, making it hard to draw a full breath.
For the briefest of moments, she thought she’d been having a nightmare, and a horrific one at that. It was the same one she’d been having over and over, the one that involved betrayal and treachery and unfathomable pain.
She blew out a breath, letting her body sink into the mattress, feeling the familiar hand-stitched comforter her grandmother had made all those years ago, now lying over her. Everything was quiet, peaceful. A slight breeze blew across her sweat-soaked forehead, eliciting a shiver. As she brought her hand up to her face to rub at her eyes, she felt the weight of the leather bands around her wrists, and her heart filled with dread. A quick tug assured her that the chains were still in place.
It wasn’t a nightmare after all.
She couldn’t completely stop the racking sobs that began in her congested chest and rumbled upward, but she did try to keep them silent, turning her face into the pillow as much as her bonds would allow. If he heard her, he would come to her, and she didn’t want that.
The jag didn’t last long. She was too tired, too beaten. At least one of her ribs was cracked, but probably more, and even the effort of holding back the sobs was painful. Once she let a little cry escape her lips, squeezing her eyes in self-recrimination. Within minutes, she felt the familiar prickling on the back of her neck.
He was coming.
Kiara froze as she heard the key turning in the old-fashioned lock, the heavy swing of the solid oak door, and the soft footfalls of her tormentor. She quickly closed her eyes – even in the dark – and feigned sleep. Maybe, just maybe, he would leave her be, just this once.
The footsteps grew closer, his light breathing loud in the dead silence. To her right, she heard the soft click, followed by the low-level amber glow shining through her eyelids. The tiny lamp, placed well out of her reach, offered just enough light for him to see her, to ensure that she was still there.
Typically he checked on her several times a night. Exactly where else he thought she would be, she didn’t know. With restraints around her wrists and her ankles, secured to the iron-framed bed at four corners by chains, she didn’t have a lot of freedom to go anywhere, even if she wasn’t suffering from pneumonia and her ribs hadn’t been cracked.
“Kiara...” He breathed her name like a prayer. She concentrated on keeping her necessarily shallow breaths even, like she was asleep, but she did offer a slight sigh at the sound of his voice, knowing he liked that. At least tonight he seemed calm, in control, and she wanted to keep it that way. So far he hadn’t stripped the covers from her body or taken that which he deemed to be his right to take.
Instead, she felt the side of the bed dip beneath his weight as he sat down next to her. His finger brushed lightly over the raised welt on her cheekbone, the result of an earlier encounter, when he had been less calm, less in control.
“Why do you make me do this?” he whispered into the near-darkness, and Kiara heard genuine regret in his voice. He was always sorry after he hurt her, but that didn’t ease the pain any.
“We always hurt the ones we love most, don’t we?” Kiara shifted slightly, not enough to pull the chains too taut, but enough to satisfy him. As long as she responded in some way, he might remain calm. Ignoring him was a sure-fire way to get him to fly into a wild rage.
It killed her a little more every time she did these things, feeling like she was selling her soul a tiny piece at a time. She should be fighting, every second of every hour of every day, not sighing and shifting to make it easier on herself. She was a Fitzpatrick, for God’s sake. Made of strong stock with ancient blood running through her veins. Her ancestors, her parents, her siblings – they were all probably turning over in their graves right about now. The shame and guilt weighed heavily on her heart.
But she hadn’t sold out completely. There was never a moment when she wasn’t looking for some way out, for some means of escape. After several months of enduring this, she’d given up hope of anyone coming to find her. No, to get out of this, she’d have to find her own way. And to do that, she had to remain alive. If that meant playing along with his sick game to gain a little of his trust? To lull him into slipping up just once? So be it.
He leaned over, the smell of finely-aged Scotch and expensive tobacco barely noticeable. That was a good sign. One or two drinks mellowed him. Much more than that, though, and he tended to become abusive.
His lips touched her skin, right above her brow as he pushed the hair out of her face. It was the gentlest of kisses, one that might be given by a true lover. She sighed again, making sure she relaxed her face to give the impression that she liked it.
When he tensed, her heart began to beat faster. His lips pressed a little harder against her forehead, followed shortly afterward by his palm. “Jesus, Kiara, you’re burning up,” he said, his whisper acquiring a concerned tone. He pulled the covers from her body, saw that she was soaked with sweat. Within seconds, the
His hands lifted the hem of her thin nightshirt and sought out the Telfa pad bandages on her side. Pulling one of them off, he cursed again, a sure sign that something was wrong. Knowing that he wouldn’t buy the possum routine for much longer, Kiara opened her eyes and looked straight into his. For a brief moment, she caught genuine fear in them.
It was hard to believe this was the same man that had murdered her entire family in cold blood. The same man who had brutally beaten, stabbed, and sexually abused her over the past few months. The same man who was now touching her as though she was precious to him.
He was unstable; Kiara knew this. Severely bipolar, if she remembered anything from her Catholic high school health class. Who would have dreamed then that the three-minute blurb within a class period dedicated to mental illness would have become so relevant in her own life?
“You should have told me, Kiara,” he chided, pulling off the bandages and slathering ointment on the puffy stab wounds, covering them once again with clean ones. The pneumonia had lowered her resistance, enabling an infection to settle in. She lowered her lashes in what she hoped passed as a sign of submission. She was getting really good at playing this game, and it sickened her.
“Always trying to be strong, aren’t you? Always trying to show me that you’re worthy. That’s one of the reasons I love you, Kiara. But you have me to take care of you now.”
Kiara shuddered again, not so much from the fever as from the complete and utter devotion in his eyes. It was hard to decide what was worse – this, or the wild gleam he got when he believed that she had betrayed him somehow.
Thankfully, he took the shudder as yet another indication of how sick she was. “Don’t worry,” he said, licking his lips as he covered her up again. “I’m going to get you some antibiotics, okay?” Kiara knew better than to answer, so she nodded very slightly to show that she understood.
“Do you want some water first?” She nodded again. Her throat was so swollen and dry she could only swallow with tremendous effort, and it hurt so much it really wasn’t worth it to try.
He left and returned quickly with a small glass of water. Sliding his hand beneath her shoulders, he tried to lift her up and hold the glass to her lips. Her ribs protested, causing a small grunt of pain. She winced, bracing for the expected blow. This time, thankfully, it didn’t come.
Taking the glass away, he tucked the quilt around her and left, promising to return shortly with medicine. Only when the sound of the powerful pick-up on the gravel driveway met her ears did Kiara breathe a sigh of relief. By her best calculations, she had about an hour before he returned.
She undulated her body in an attempt to move the forgotten tube of ointment up to where she could grab it with her hands, gritting her teeth against the pains shooting up through her chest and back. Pain was good. Pain meant that her body and mind were still functioning, and as long as she had breath in her body, she had a chance.
Turning the tube in her fingers, working slowly and carefully so she did not drop it, she managed to squeeze some along the bottom of her palm and work it down into the leather cuff where it served as a lubricant. It took some doing, and way too much time, but she was finally able to free one hand, dislocating it in the process. The other restraints came off more quickly and without any further injury.
Standing up was a mistake, she soon realized. Her legs were weak, her head spun dizzily, and she hit the floor hard. Still, this was the first chance at freedom she’d had in months, and she wasn’t going to give it up for anything - especially not for a few more bumps and bruises. She’d been through far worse. And if he caught her now? He’d beat her to within an inch of her life until she dreamed of death, but he wouldn’t give it to her.
She crawled to the door, praying hard all the way. In his haste, he’d left it unlocked, probably thinking she was too sick, too weak for it to be an issue. To Kiara, the forgotten ointment and the open door were nothing less than the signs from God that she had been waiting for, telling her it was finally time for her to go.
Wasting no time, she pulled herself to the stairs and snaked down, hands first, holding in the cries when her battered ribs and infected wounds scraped against each step. Almost there....
She was out the door! Fresh, clean air filled her lungs, burning as if liquid fire had been poured down her throat. The chill of the night felt blessed upon her fevered skin, the full moon bathing everything in a silvery glow. She pulled herself into a crouch and half-walked, half-crawled into the line of trees that bordered the little house, just as she heard the rumble of the big truck making its way back up the mountainside, announcing his return.
He couldn’t catch her now, he just couldn’t, not when she was this close to escape. She forced herself up, fighting against the dizziness that made everything spin and pushed herself forward, hands out to hopefully avoid going headlong into one of the ancient trees. She had no idea where she was except that she was in some remote mountain location. Judging by the climate and the seasonal changes she’d observed over the past six months, her best guess was somewhere in the northwest. All she knew was that she had to go on, because whatever lie ahead could not be as bad as what she was leaving behind.
Several minutes later, his anguished cries echoed across the mountain, chilling her blood further. She increased her pace, hobbling blindly, trusting that the angels that had somehow presented her with this opportunity would also see to it that she got out of here alive.
That faith was severely tested when Kiara no longer felt the ground beneath her feet. Pedaling frantically and finding nothing but air, she offered one last fervent prayer. “Dear God, please let this be the end of my Hell, one way or the other.”
When she felt herself losing consciousness before the impact she was certain was coming, she gave a deep sigh of relief, knowing her prayers had been answered.
10 Years Later, Pine Ridge, Pennsylvania
Jake Callaghan had people three deep at his bar. Every booth and table in the popular Irish pub was occupied, any and all available floor space crammed to capacity. The music was loud and raunchy, as was the growing crowd. His younger brother Ian was beside him, doing his best to keep up with the high demand. Ian didn’t have the skill and finesse of his more-experienced brother, having tended only for a few months, but his exceptional good looks and devilish, easygoing manner more than made up for it.
While the Pub rarely lacked for business – it was a favorite among the strong local Irish community – this was Homecoming weekend for the large state university located only an exit down the interstate, and it was packed wall to wall with exuberant alumni. Traditionally, this extended holiday weekend was second only to the week-long Finnegan’s Wake celebration over St. Patty’s Day in terms of crowds and mayhem, and this year was no exception.
“Where the hell is Kayla?” Jake muttered as Ian reached for one of the frosted mugs in front of him.
Ian shrugged, pulling down the tap on the draft. “Dunno. She pissed at you again?”
“Yeah, probably.” Kayla was the only female bartender – and the only one not related by blood – that Jake allowed to work in the Pub. She was very attractive, slim and sexy, and popular with the males who frequented the place. She was also Jake’s occasional hook-up, though he knew he was by no means the only name on her dance card – a card which often included his brother, on his own or as a favorite third.
What they shared was more of an arrangement of convenience than a bona fide ‘relationship’. It seemed the older Jake got – his last birthday pushed him past the 30-year mark - the less he was into playing all the games. There was no shortage of women who would have liked to be in Kayla’s shoes, but sex with Kayla was easy and uncomplicated.
At least until recently, anyway.
Lately it seemed that Kayla was no longer satisfied with their open arrangement, pushing Jake for more than he was willing to give. Even Ian had picked
Ian had been kidding, of course, but the warning came through clear enough. Ian needn’t have worried; there was no chance of that happening any time soon. The most attractive thing about Kayla was that she was (nearly) always willing and readily available, no strings attached. If that changed, well, then maybe it was time for them both to move on.
Jake completely understood Kayla’s blossoming need for more, but he did not share it. He liked her and cared for her, just not in the romantic sense. He encouraged her to do what she had to do to be happy. The fact that he didn’t seem at all bothered by the thought of her moving on seemed to piss her off more than anything. It was becoming increasingly apparent – to both of them – that Kayla’s feelings for him had grown beyond the casual, physically-based affinity he had for her.
Jake silently cursed himself for the hundredth time for being short-sighted enough to ask Kayla what was bothering her the night before. It brought things to an ugly head, the end result of which had Kayla stomping angrily out of the Pub. It was also most likely the reason she didn’t show up to work tonight.
She was pissed at him. He got that. But this was one of the busiest times of the year for them. The fact that she was willing to screw him by not showing up only further cemented his belief that Kayla was most definitely not the kind of woman he could see himself growing old with, assuming, of course, that he did grow old at all. That was not a certainty by any means, given that he and his brothers worked covert ops off the radar from time to time when government agencies were tangled in red tape.
Still, if he was a smart man, he would have waited until after Homecoming to re-assert that little slice of reality. Especially since the rest of his brothers weren’t expected to return from their latest mission until sometime tomorrow.