TOP SECRET TESTING FACILITY
Deceit, deception, spies and murder? Include a dog, and that’s everything we love.
When Seattle native Tish Yearly found herself fired and evicted all in one afternoon, the 26 year old ex-actress headed for the one place she knew she’d be welcome – the house of her cantankerous ex-CIA agent grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands. Now Tish and Tobias are teaming up to solve mysteries… and keep the dog from getting diabetes.
The Deveraux Legacy
The Deveraux Family: wealthy, glamorous, powerful… and in a lot of trouble.
Senator Eleanor Deveraux lost her children in a plane crash, but she has a second chance to get her family right with her four grandchildren – Evan, Jackson, Aiden and Dominique. But second chances are hard to seize when politics, mercenaries, and the dark legacy of the Deveraux family keep getting in the way.
Shark Santoyo Crime Series
The criminals are savage, the stakes are high and even the suburbs hide secrets that can kill.
When Shark Santoyo got out of prison and made a deal with Geier, the boss of his old gang, he knew he’d be walking into trouble, but he never expected to meet Peregrine Hays. The knife-wielding beauty may fuel his dreams, but Peregrine has secrets of her own, and soon Shark is swept up in a whirlpool of murder, revenge, and love.
Carrie Mae Mysteries
These make-up ladies aren’t just selling lipstick – they’re packing heat and saving the world.
Join Nikki Lanier and her team of kick-ass friends as they take on gangs, drug smugglers, arms dealers, and internal politics, all while looking fabulous or at least trying to remember clean underwear.
Welcome to the universe of Galactic Dreams, where fairy tales are reimagined for a new age—the future.
In each Galactic Dreams novella you’ll find an old tale reborn with a mixture of romance, technology, aliens and adventure. But beware, a perilous quest awaits behind every star and getting home again will depend on a good spaceship, true love, and maybe just a hint of magic.
Romance & Romantic Suspense
Kisses, killers, and killer kisses. Everything dangerously romantic all in one place. These romantic adventure novellas will leave you laughing and hungry for more.
Tales from the City of Destiny
Think you’re alone in this city? Think again.
Ariana Grace is not just your average antiques dealer. This half-faery can sell you all the best “assets” – a great sense of humor, a new memory, or just the right amount of luck. If your problem seems impossible, then Ariana Grace might have just the right asset for you. But be warned – magic has a mind of it’s own – everything may not go as you planned.
Reading of The Wolf by Karen Harris Tully
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NAME: Lanier, Nicole “Nikki”
BORN: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
FAMILY: Nell O’Connelly (mother), Phillipe Lanier (father)
EMPLOYMENT: current Carrie Mae Foundation Agent
PERSONAL HISTORY: The daughter of a Quebecois Canadian and an American (divorced), Nikki has always felt different from her friends. Desperate to fit in with the popular crowd, Nikki joined many social clubs and became a cheerleader in high school. But her desperation and herd mentality eventually caused her college boyfriend, Jackson Tyrell, to break-up with her. When her post-college life yielded no jobs in her field, Nikki was forced to move back in with her mother. After winning the starter kit at a Carrie Mae recruiting meeting, Nikki tried Carrie Mae make-up sales. This attempt resulted in her arrest, and her later recruitment into the Carrie Mae Foundation by Mrs. Miranda Merrivel.
NAME: Baxter, Jennifer “Jenny”
BORN: Peachtree, GA
DISTINGUISHING MARKS: crown tattoo on right hip
FAMILY: Jonas Baxter (father), Rachel-Ann Baxter (mother), Jonas Jr. Baxter, Timothy Baxter (brothers)
current…Carrie Mae Foundation Agent
2007-2008…Guard Dog Trainer
2005-2007…Campus Security for Georgia State University – terminated for excessive force
Born to a former Miss Georgia and a small town lawyer with political ambitions, Jenny had early training in how to be blonde and perky. But with three brothers she also acquired a violent streak and a taste for “shooting shit”. She tried pageants, thought about joining the police, and got a BA at Georgia State while she was trying to figure out what to do with her life. When Carrie Mae came calling, she leapt at the opportunity to have a job that let her exercise her fashion sense and shoot people.
NAME: Marston, Ellen
BORN: Wichita, Kansas
HAIR: gray, dark brown
FAMILY: Kate Sanders, Megan Ellis (daughters)
EMPLOYMENT: 2010 – current…Carrie Mae Foundation, Field Agent
PERSONAL HISTORY: The wife of a University level English professor Ellen was never considered unusual except for her interest in the sport of target shooting – an interest that she took care to keep discreetly away from her husbands more liberal, anti-gun colleagues. When her husband died unexpectedly after the marriage of their second daughter, Ellen found herself alone for the first time in thirty years and she returned to the target range as a way to fill her time. At the target range she met some very friendly women who worked for the Carrie Mae Foundation and she soon found herself recruited to their espionage branch.
NAME: Rozmarek, Jane
BORN: Barstow, California
HAIR: black / dark brown / orange / purple
FAMILY: Michelle Rozmarek (mother), Karl Rozmarek (father)
2005 – current…Carrie Mae Foundation, Information Specialist
1999-2001…Dairy Queen, drive through operator
PERSONAL HISTORY: As the daughter of a Project Manager and an Army Computer specialist stationed at Fort Irwin, CA, Jane learned computer skills and object prioritization early in life. She worked her way through college at USC as a Dairy Queen drive-through operator and was heavily recruited by several companies. Carrie Mae beat the competition by promising her involvement in research & development and the chance to save the world occasionally. Her parents were very disappointed by her choice and believe that working for a make-up charity foundation is a waste of her talents.
NAME: Robinson, Valerie “Val”
formerly Valerie Matheson
BORN: Davisville, Rhode Island
DISTINGUISHING MARKS: 666 tattoo on her right buttock
FAMILY: Robinson, Marc (divorced), Laura Matheson (aunt)
1986 – current…Carrie Mae Foundation
1983 – 1986…Carrie Mae (sales)
PERSONAL HISTORY: Val was born into a broken family and learned the life philosophy of
looking out for number one early on. After she was arrested on racketeering charges (for
running her make-up sales group like the mob), she was recruited to the Carrie Mae
Foundation by Dr. Lillian Hastings. Valerie took to espionage quickly, but never really
believed the “up with women” slogans of the Carrie Mae Foundation. After her marriage to
art dealer Marc Robinson fizzled, Val became increasingly tempestuous and unable to co-
exist with new working partners.
Series First Chapters
THE SECOND SHOT
I have better uses for my mouth.
The words were etched in his brain.
Maxwell Ames looked across the room at Dominique Deveraux and felt himself physically flinch at a memory-driven whip of embarrassment.
An eighteen-year-old Dominique had arrived at college with an ice queen reputation and a pair of legs that had fueled half the hot dreams on campus. But it hadn’t been the legs that had gotten to Max—it had been her lips. Max had taken one look at Dominique and decided he wanted, no, needed to know what those lips felt like on his body. And he’d declared, drunkenly, to an entire frat party that he would melt the ice queen. He hadn’t doubted for a minute that he could do it. He was a senior. He was a nationally ranked college wrestler—his body showed his effort—and he rarely had to do more than lift a finger to get panties to hit his floor. Perhaps it had been the liquor that had made him stupid, but whatever the reason, he’d simply walked over and told her what he wanted her to do to him. He recognized his mistake the second he heard the words come out of his mouth. Her horrified expression only confirmed how badly he’d misjudged. Then she’d gone from shocked to furious, but instead of slapping him, she’d pulled herself up to her full height, looked him in the eye, and declared loud enough for the rest of the room to hear: I have better uses for my mouth. And then he’d stood there and let her pour the entire contents of her red solo cup down his front.
And now, six years later, his father had dragged Max into the Galbraith Tennis and Social Club and directly into revisiting one of his top ten stupidest moments.
“Dad,” said Max, turning to look at his father.
“She donates two-k a year,” said his father, staring across the party hall at a woman in beige everything. “She’s worth like eighty million. Would it kill her to scrounge a little more change out of the couch cushions for needy kids?”
“Dad,” said Max again.
“Yeah, what?” asked Grant Ames, finally making eye contact.
“You didn’t say this was a Deveraux party.”
“Uh, yeah?” said Grant, looking away again—probably scanning the crowd for more targets. “Oh, that’s right. You went to school with them, didn’t you? Dominique and Aiden? They’re probably around somewhere if you want to dig them up. Eleanor usually commands appearances from the family at these little shindigs.”
Eleanor Deveraux was running for congress. Again. Or still. Whichever. These little shindigs were fundraising events masquerading as cocktail parties. Max didn’t know why she bothered. Her nearest competitor was a bitter Republican that sounded crazy even to his constituents. But his father, always on the hustle, spared no thought about why the party existed—he simply enjoyed that it did. And of course, it hadn’t occurred to Grant to mention to Max who was hosting.
After the frat party incident, Max hadn’t even had the courage to apologize to Dominique. His only consolation was that during all their other encounters she had treated everyone in the room with an equal amount of cool disdain—he hadn’t been singled out. Generally, she hadn’t even acknowledged him, let alone what had happened.
“You said we wouldn’t be here long,” said Max, looking back at Dominique. Her golden blonde hair was longer than the last time he’d seen her, laying in soft waves against her pale skin. Those lips that had made him lose his judgement were painted a wine red that emphasized their size. Her conservative pencil skirt and long-sleeve, high-necked blouse should have taken her allure down a notch, but as far as he could see, she was even more gorgeous than she had been in college.
Max had been with plenty of beautiful women—hell, his last girlfriend had been a model-slash-actress. Dominique shouldn’t have been able to make the impact she did. But here it was, six years later, and Dominique still hit him like a Mack truck to the libido even when the only skin he could see was her knees.
“We won’t be long, I promise,” said Grant, scoping the room, oblivious to the direction of Max’s gaze. “I need to make the rounds. Say hi to a few people and then we’ll be off for burgers.”
It was a lie. Max didn’t know why he’d thought his first visit to his father’s in over a year might warrant special treatment—particularly, since his entire childhood held evidence to the contrary. He wondered if there was a point in adulthood when a parent’s failings stopped mattering so much.
Dominique nodded along as the guy next to her talked. He was a lean, good looking twenty-something with black hair and a designer suit. Max watched in surprise as Dominique burst out laughing at whatever he’d said—Dominique had never been very demonstrative in public. Her laugh made the guy grin, but, still talking, he leaned over and snagged something off her plate. Dominique smacked at his hand, but the man leaned further away, dragging the morsel with him, and popped it into his mouth. She flicked at his ear, miming patently faked annoyance. In equally mock penance, her companion lowered his head and held out his plate and Dominique made a show of selecting something in recompense. The only person he could remember bringing out that sparkle of playfulness in her had been her brother, Aiden. It seemed that the ice queen had been melted after all.
Still chewing his stolen goods, Dominique’s companion looked up and scanned the room, homing in on the location of the other Deveraux family members. Max followed the man’s gaze to the matriarch, Dominque’s stately and poised grandmother, Eleanor, holding court by the bar at the far end of the long, narrow room. Then he shifted to Dominique’s red-headed investment manager cousin, Evan, amongst a bevy of Wall Street bros in the middle of the room. And last, Dominique’s brother, the equally blonde Aiden, hovering by the buffet table in front of a wide expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows.
All of the Deveraux children had lived with their grandmother after a plane crash had left them orphans sometime during their early teens. Max remembered thinking how nice that had sounded when his father had missed every single one of his college meets and was late for graduation. He supposed it hadn’t really been pleasant for the Deveraux cousins, but at least they’d had each other and Eleanor.
Max realized, too late, that the scan was continuing on to the new arrivals in the room, which, in this case, were Max and his father. Max found himself awkwardly making eye contact with the guy and knew that he’d been busted staring at Dominique. He broke eye contact and turned to follow his father.
Max pretended to be absorbed in his father’s conversation with a white-collared, black-shirted Jesuit priest. After a few minutes of discussing the endowments and scholarship funds, Max’s eyes glazed over and he looked around the room, desperate for anything to take his mind off his desire to blurt out a question about pedophiles. How did anyone take priests seriously anymore? He found himself fidgeting with one of the tiny decorative pumpkins placed on the bar-height tables and biting his tongue.
With Halloween and the election around the corner, the party was decorated in a patriotic harvest theme. The red leaves and orange gourds seemed attractive, but Max thought the hay bales by the buffet table seemed a bit too folksy for the Deveraux, not to mention the tennis club locale. He suspected that the entire reason for their existence was to support the stars-and-stripes-bandana-wearing scarecrow. After all, a politician couldn’t fundraise without at least a nod to the flag.
He snuck another glance at Dominique and realized that her boyfriend was scanning again. Same pattern—Deverauxs first, then new arrivals, then the rest of the room. There was something professional in the appraising stare, and Max felt the weight of it resting thoughtfully on him. Max checked his watch and angled so he could watch Dominique and her guy. She chatted in an easy, unaffected way, but at a minute fifteen, her boyfriend made another scan. Then again a minute later. It was definitely a more than a casual glance. Max tried to get a better look at the guy. What was he? Boyfriend, bodyguard, security? The suit was expensive, but he was drinking water as he watched the crowd.
Dominique reached out and put her hand on his arm, tugging impatiently, demanding attention. The guy laughed and complied, turning toward her with an affectionate smile. He was definitely not the hired help. For some reason, that burned. In the intervening six years, Max had put Dominique out of his head. Mostly. Sort of. Max would never have admitted it out loud, ever, under any circumstances, including a court of law, but Dominique had always been one of his go-to fantasies. He was perfectly sure that she hadn’t thought about him once in that time. So why did he feel jealous of this guy?
Max turned back to his father and tried to focus on the conversation. Dominique was none of his business. What did he care if she dated someone with an over-active sense of security? None. Of. His. Business.
Grant moved on and Max followed him dutifully, the same way he had when he was twelve. He was a prop to his father’s socializing. He met a dozen people and forgot their names instantly. Finally, he turned away from a blocky woman in a Chanel jacket and found his father about to introduce him to Dominique and her date.
“Max, I don’t know if you’ve met Jackson, but you went to school with Dominique. Max is staying with me for a few weeks while—Hey, Frank! Frank! Be right back. I’ve been trying to get five minutes with that guy all month.” Grant buzzed off and left Max staring uncomfortably at Dominique and her date.
“So, Max,” said Jackson, his expression derisive, “do you need Dominique to get you another drink? We could send the catering staff out for some beer and solo cups.”
Max glanced at Dominique, who was visibly restraining a laugh.
“No,” said Max, trying not to feel like an ass—any hope that she’d forgotten him or the incident slipping away. “I think once was enough.” Did she really have to tell everyone?
Dominique actually did giggle this time and her boyfriend looked amused by her laughter, but his attention was pulled away.
“Nika, what is Aiden doing?” asked Jackson, looking past Max.
“Um,” she squinted toward the door, “exactly what you told him not to do?”
Jackson sighed. “OK, I’ll be right back.” He ducked around Dominique, his jacket swinging open. For a second, Max clearly saw the strap on a shoulder holster and outline of a gun. Max looked back at Dominque, but she seemed not to notice. She was watching her brother attempting to sneak out of the room and biting into her bottom lip with a frown. She transferred her gaze back to Max and smiled, but it was the same old cold smile.
“I’m glad you can laugh about that uh… incident,” he said, deciding to man up and do what he should have done six years ago. He glanced down at the floor and realized that she was only conservative from the ankle up. Her heels were stacked, strapped, and had a black satin bow at each ankle that begged to be untied. “I really apologize for that,” he said, tearing his eyes off her feet.
She looked startled and suspicious.
“I was a total asshole,” he added.
“Um.” She frowned, then smiled—a real smile this time. “Well, apology accepted.”
It was his turn to feel surprised. He hadn’t expected her to simply believe that he was sorry. “And I wouldn’t say total. I’d go ninety-eight percent.”
“Well, I’ll give you a one percent discount for being young, dumb and in college.”
“Yes,” he agreed fervently.
“And another one percent for standing there for the entire cup of beer.”
“I knew I’d earned it,” he said. She glanced over his shoulder, still following the action across the room.
“Your boyfriend’s a little intense,” he said.
“My boyfriend? You mean Jacks?”
He wanted to comment on the intimate shortening of their names. Jacks seemed weird, but he liked Nika. On the other hand, it really was none of his damn business.
“Does he always carry a gun?” he asked instead.
“Oh, you know…” she said, trailing off and not answering the question. Max decided that meant the answer was yes. “Grandma has gotten some… Well, they’re death threats, really, in the last few weeks. She’s chairing that Senate Committee Hearing on Absolex. And nothing brings out the crazies like Big Pharma.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I thought that was about government fraud?”
“Absolex falsified research and then sold their drug Zanilex to the VA as a solution to treat complex PTSD. Suicide rates sky-rocketed. Turns out that, in fact, it makes the symptoms of PTSD worse, particularly the paranoia and depression. Or at least that’s what Grandma intends to prove. She’s going to haul the CEO out on the carpet next week. But ever since the hearings started, she’s been getting hate mail.”
Max looked around the party. “Where is the Secret Service?”
“None of the threats have been active. It’s all kind of vague. And she’s not a party leader or anything. So, no Secret Service.”
Max frowned. If he had been Eleanor, he would have been putting his foot down and demanding an investigation. He also wouldn’t be hosting a party and looking as relaxed as she did.
“Besides,” continued Dominique, “we have Jackson. Although, even he couldn’t get her to cancel this stupid party. She claimed that we all just didn’t want to go.”
He raised an eyebrow and she looked guilty.
“That may be partially true. Anyway, Jacks said if she was going to insist on having the party, we should at least be smart about it. He gave us all rules and hired additional security. Of course, Aiden is not following the rules. I would accuse him of being willful, but it’s more likely that he’s just not taking the threats seriously.”
Max nodded. His memory of Dominique’s older brother was a sunny personality to whom nothing serious was allowed to adhere and who never seemed to get mad about anything.
“I expect Jacks will tell him about a secret stash of bourbon under the bar and rope him back in.”
“Sounds like Jackson knows what he’s doing then,” said Max, turning to look at the two men who were now making their way back toward them. Aiden stopped to adjust the bandana on the scarecrow with a disapproving shake of his head.
“He does,” agreed Dominique, looking up at him with a flash of a smile, “but Jackson isn’t—”
Whatever she had been about to say was drowned out by the sound of a car engine and then a thunderous crash as a car exploded through the windows, slammed through the buffet table, plowed across the room, and buried its nose in the far wall.
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THE CINDERELLA SECRET
SIX YEARS AGO – ELLA ZHAO
“Pick one,” hissed Sabine, her breath already heavy with alcohol.
Ella could feel her mother’s fingernails digging into the soft underside of her arm. The Mexican night was unseasonably hot for the end of the rainy season, and Ella felt herself sweating. Sabine dragged her along the line of fighters, each one in a Mexican wrestling mask and not much else. Ella stumbled on her high-heels. She had known the shoes were a mistake. But for one moment, staring into the mirror, the enormous silver-blue poofs of her skirt going out in every direction, her hair piled high above her Day of the Dead skull mask, she had dared to think that she might enjoy this party. Dared to dream of being a pretty, seventeen-year-old Cinderella. Dared to think that she didn’t need to be on guard. Ella had put on the shoes, costume, and mask, and gone out to her mother with a smile.
“Look at you!” her mother had exclaimed, circling her shark-like, kept at bay only by the enormous skirt of the Cinderella costume. “Don’t you look sweet?” Somehow Sabine had made sweet sound like an insult.
Ella had thought that would be the worst of it. Her mother’s Day of the Dead parties were legendary, and this year Sabine had married her favorite passions—costumes, sex, and illegal fighting. Ella had thought Sabine would be too distracted to focus on her. And Ella had been even more relieved to see that Sabine had dressed in a barely-there Egyptian goddess costume that somehow meshed well with the Day of the Dead skull masks she had commanded everyone to wear. As long as everyone was looking at Sabine, then they weren’t looking at Ella. For a few brief hours, Ella thought she would be free to simply enjoy herself. She had been wrong.
“Pick one,” said Sabine. Ella looked away from the fighters, but her mother grabbed her by the chin and forced Ella’s head back around. “Pick one,” she growled directly into Ella’s ear.
Some of the men were openly leering at her, but most of them were looking anywhere but at her. Only Number Nine was glaring at her mother with an intense hatred, which rivaled Ella’s own.
“You’re losing it tonight,” said her mother. “One way or another. Pick one or I will.”
Ella tried to pull away, but her mother dragged her back.
“Fredrico wants you because you’re pure and innocent.” Sabine hissed the words into her ear, sneering at the very concepts. “You think I don’t know what he likes? So we’re going to fix that. You pick one or I will.”
Ella looked down the line again. She knew which one her mother would pick—Dulce, the giant brute with the scar running down his chest and the tattoo of a Mexican god over his heart. She’d seen her mother going down on him at the previous fight night. Her mother had no investment in monogamy or faithfulness; what she had were simply investments. She owned people. She owned Ella. And she owned her current lover, Fredrico. Sabine could sleep with whoever she wanted, but the idea that Fredrico would want someone else—and Ella of all people—was unacceptable. Tonight, for the first time, her mother had caught Fredrico looking at Ella. It wasn’t the first time he’d looked, or the first time he’d tried to grope her—it was only the first time Sabine had caught him. And instead of being mad at Fredrico, Sabine had blamed Ella.
Sabine shook her hard. “Pick one.”
Ella was silent.
“Fine,” said Sabine, raising her hand.
“Number Nine,” Ella gasped.
Sabine shoved her at the wrestler and Ella teetered on her shoes and crashed into him. She was face first against his naked chest, her mouth dragging against the skin of his neck, her breasts rubbing against him. The only thing keeping her from feeling the size of his cup was her massive skirt. His arms folded around, held her upright, kept her from crashing down, holding her safe.
“There’s the room,” said Sabine, pointing to the guest bungalow. “Don’t come out until you’ve fucked her.”
The party noise picked up again and Ella could hear everyone dispersing, but what she was mostly aware of was the beat of her heart in counterpoint to his.
“It’s OK,” he whispered. “We’re just… going to go over here. It’s going to be OK.”
His accent was American. They’d been in Mexico too long—she hadn’t realized how much she missed American English. If she was honest, what she really missed was her father’s British accented English and his Chinese bedtime stories, but she tried to bury memories of her father. He was dead, and without him, she wasn’t going to be able to escape her mother or Mexico anytime soon. Number Nine half-carried her into the bungalow and sat her down on the bed. Then he squatted down in front of her, looking her in the eyes. His skin was pale and he smelled of soap and sandalwood. She wondered how old he was. His eyes behind the mask looked young.
“Hi, Cinderella,” he said, smiling at her in a way that made her think everything actually might be OK. His black mask only covered the top half of his face and had a purple number nine on the side. It made him look a little like Zorro. “Who can I call?” he asked.
“To get you out of here. Who do I call? Parents? Mom? Dad?”
“Dad’s dead. And that was my mom,” said Ella.
He paused and his head kind of jerked like he was displeased with that information, but was biting his tongue around his opinion. “OK. Well, in that case, you will have to come with me. Do you need anything? We’ll go grab it from the house and then we’ll get the hell out. You can’t stay here.”
“Do you live in Mexico?” she asked.
“No, I live in the US. It’ll be OK. I have family there. And lawyers. You won’t have to come back to her.”
“I can’t go with you,” said Ella. “I’m not eighteen yet. Mom will call the police. If you get stopped at the border with an underage girl…”
“Fuck.” He rubbed his chin. “Um.”
“Also, she keeps my passport locked in the safe in her room.”
“There has to be someone you can go to,” he said.
“My uncle,” said Ella, nodding. She’d thought all of these thoughts before. “My father’s brother,” she clarified, in case Number Nine thought her entire family was like Sabine. “But he’s in Europe, and last time I checked, the ticket price was at least fifteen hundred dollars. That’s why she won’t let me have any money or my passport.”
He sat back on his heels as if thinking, then a smile quirked up the sides of his mouth.
“But the passport is in the bedroom,” he said.
“Yes,” agreed Ella. She felt stupid and slow and embarrassed. Embarrassed to have her problems laid bare before this total stranger. And even more embarrassed that he wanted to help. How bad did her life have to be when a complete stranger thought it was total shit?
“The bedroom that no one is in because everyone is out by the pool?”
Ella straightened her spine. “I have the combination,” she said. Then her shoulders dipped again. “I still don’t have any money.”
He grinned. “I’ve got an idea about that,” he said. “Give me a couple of minutes. I’ll be right back.”
Ella watched as he slipped out of the bungalow. She thought about getting up and leaving. She didn’t know Number Nine. How could she trust him? What would she do if he came back? What would she do if he didn’t?
She could leave.
But she didn’t.
She sat on the bed and waited for him to come back. She’d never waited for a boy before.
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THE HARDEST HIT
OLIVIA ROSE WEST
“Are you sure?” asked the doctor, perusing her test results.
Olivia West looked up at him from her spot on the crinkly paper. She had been staring at the door, trying to decide what to do if the cops didn’t get the warrant. It had seemed safe to leave her purse, phone and jacket in Glen’s apartment while they went to his neighbor’s Halloween party. If they left her purse in the possession of Glen, what would she do? Glen had tried to rape her. And the cops thought that she should just, what? Leave the keys to her entire life with him?
“Am I sure about what?” she asked the doctor. She knew her Georgia accent made people here think she was stupid, but the doctor’s aura of condescension seemed beyond even what she was used to.
“Well, I mean, it is easy to be mistaken about these kind of things. Maybe you saw something, you didn’t really see?”
“I’m just saying the results from your blood test are so minimal that it could be a false positive.”
“Yes,” said the nurse looking as though she was barely holding her temper, “because she made herself puke on the instruction of the 911 operator. The test of the glass showed it was enough to knock out someone three times her weight. See?” The nurse flipped the page in the doctor’s chart and pointed forcefully.
“Oh. Right. Well. Like I said, the results are minimal, so you’re going to be fine and there shouldn’t be any after effects.”
“The cops said I need to submit the test results,” said Olivia. “Can I have two copies please?”
“Sure,” said the doctor. “The nurses at the desk can take care of that.”
He turned and left without saying goodbye.
Olivia stared at the nurse. “I’ll make sure they’re waiting for you at the desk,” said the nurse. “You go ahead and get dressed. I love your costume, by the way.”
“Thanks,” said Olivia, already beginning to pull off the medical gown.
Being a comic book character for Halloween had seemed like such a good idea. She knew she looked amazing in her Dark Phoenix costume, but she hadn’t counted on having to get her arm out of the lycra body suit for blood tests to prove that her date and tried to put a roofie in her drink.
She pulled the top half of her suit back on and zipped herself up, trying to figure out how to handle the cops. Her only ally was the nice guy who’d come sprinting across the party to yank the drink out of her hand. Evan, last name not specified, had dialed 911. He’d gotten her into the bathroom and when Glen had tried to put up a fuss, Evan had called him a fucking rapist and punched him in the face. Something she would have appreciated more if she hadn’t been trying to force herself to puke up half a cocktail. Then, Evan had gotten the glass and cocktail put into a plastic bag for testing. He’d even driven her to the hospital when she didn’t want to ride in the ambulance. But while Evan might be the bright spot in her evening, what could he do about the cops?
Taking a deep breath, she went out to the lobby. There was now only one cop and Evan was staring at him, arms folded across his chest. Evan was wearing a suit. If it was a costume, then he was dressed as an investment banker. A good-looking, six-foot-two investment banker in an expensive suit. She didn’t really think it was a costume.
“Hi,” said Olivia, approaching the pair.
“Hi,” said Evan, his face stretching into a smile that even she could tell was fake. “Good news. Officer James has gone to collect the warrant. Officer Sanchez is going to go wait for it outside Glen’s apartment.”
“Oh thank God,” said Olivia, relief sweeping over her. “Thank you so much,” she said, reaching out and touching Officer Sanchez on the arm. Officer Sanchez’s face flashed with expression Olivia didn’t quite catch, but then he seemed to straighten up.
“Of course. Just doing my job. You can wait at the police station while we collect your things.”
“At the police station?” repeated Olivia, doubtfully. This was going down as the worst night of her life, or at minimum the worst night she’d had since arriving in this city.
“No,” said Evan, his voice hard. “She is not a criminal. She will wait at my place. I’m in the same building, number 803.”
“OK,” agreed the cop, barely looking up at Evan. “I’ll go now.”
“Great,” said Evan.
Olivia considered herself socially slow. Not stupid. Just slow. She could never recognize things in the moment they happened, so it wasn’t until Officer Sanchez was walking away that she realized his look had been the same expression as the hound dog who stole her grandmother’s pie off a windowsill. Hang dog didn’t begin to express the amount of guilt on Officer Sanchez’s face. But why? What had he done?
“I’ll go get the car,” said Evan. “You wait here.”
Olivia found herself nodding out of habit, but paused to question the decision as Evan left the lobby. Did she want to wait here? She decided that she did want to wait. She wanted someone to bring her a car and take care of her. She was feeling particularly genteel and not at all interested in doing things for herself at the moment.
So Olivia pretended that she was a princess and stood right where she was and waited for Evan to come back and do all the appropriate pampering things that befit a princess. The TV screen in the waiting room was playing CNN. The woman senator her grandfather hated was making a speech.
“The scourge of white nationalism must be pushed back. We cannot allow those who push for hatred to rule us. But neither can we turn to hate ourselves. I believe that the best way to fight nationalism, misogyny, and violence is to raise the standard of living for all to make sure that the opportunities available to the rich are also available to the poor. Science and education are not a dirty words. It’s what brought us success after World War II. They are what make America great. If we want to bring back the good old days, then let’s start with the things we know that worked—education, taxation of the one percent, and refutation of all that those Nazi scum stand for.”
Olivia didn’t follow politics—mostly on purpose. All she really knew about the woman speaking was that her grandfather hated her. It was the first time she’d actually heard “Evil Eleanor” speak. Now that she had, it was crystal clear where the hate was coming from. Inclusion, science, taxation, and using the word misogyny in all seriousness were all forbidden in her grandfather’s house. Hell, words with more than one syllable were apt to get someone a talking to. At any other time, Olivia probably would have whipped out her phone, figured out Evil Eleanor’s campaign website and made a five dollar donation. Since leaving Georgia, she’d made dozens of five dollar donations to anyone and everything that promised to fight everything that she had left behind. But at the moment, she really just wanted Evan to come back with the car and drive her home, even if it wasn’t her home.
The nurse from the desk came around and handed her a clipboard and a pile of papers.
“This is your discharge form,” she said pointing out where to sign. “And these are your reports. We already gave one to the cops.” She glanced out the sliding glass doors at Evan. “How well do you know your friend there?”
Olivia looked after Evan, his red-gold hair glinting in the street lights as he crossed into the parking garage.
“I just met him tonight. Why?”
“Well, while you were in getting your blood drawn, he tore those two cops a new one and then he called up their boss and did it again. I haven’t heard anything that feminist since I listened to the Gloria Steinem biography audio book. The only reason they’re going to get that warrant and get your stuff is because he made them. If I were you, I’d keep that guy around.”
Olivia didn’t know how to respond to that. At the moment, Evan was indeed the only person she wanted to keep around. This evening had been a nightmare.
The nurse put all the papers into an envelope for her and then Evan returned for her and held open her door and put her in the car and Olivia felt pleased to be pampered, but found herself trying to sort through the events of the evening in a coherent manner.
Evan drove in silence and Olivia wasn’t sure what to make of that. She should probably thank him. But he so clearly hadn’t wanted her to know about what he’d said to the cops.
“I know I did the right thing,” she said at last. “Right? It’s what everyone said we should do.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, glancing over at her.
“Then I’m not sure why I feel so… embarrassed. Those cops, that doctor… It was like they thought I’d made it all up. Even with what you said, and the damn evidence right in front of them, they were still skeptical. They were supposed to be the ones helping me.”
“That’s why I hate hospitals,” he said. “The doctor’s take one look at you, make a decision, and then write it down for the next doctor to say the same damn thing. Getting them to write down anything different is like trying to turn a train. And even when they’re nice, they steal every little bit of control you ever had and reduce you down to an idiot.”
“Yes! Yes. It’s humiliating.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Sorry you had to go through that.”
She pondered that for another moment. Or at least she tried to ponder it.
“I suppose tomorrow I’ll wake up and I will be pissed as hell.”
“You’ll have a right to be.”
“But right now all I can think is how damn hungry I am and how much I want a drink.”
“Well, that I can actually help you with,” said Evan glancing away from the road, a smile flitting across his face.
“Oh, well there’s a shocker, said no one,” she blurted out.
“What does that mean?” He looked half-way annoyed. She wanted to palm her own forehead. She really had just meant it to be funny.
“Evan, you held my hair while I puked. If that didn’t polish up your official Knight in Shining Armor plaque then punching my would-be rapist in the face certainly did. The fact that you can also offer me sustenance and an alcoholic beverage is really, at this point, simply showing off.” She added a smile to show she was joking.
He laughed and relaxed, but shook his head. “No. I’m not that guy. I’m not the knight guy.”
“Really?” She looked at him surprise. How could he not think he’d ridden to the rescue? “You’re going to try and argue with me on this?”
“It’s not arguing,” he said. “I’m just trying to point out the truth. I’m not that guy. Those guys don’t argue about it, for one thing.”
He parked the car in the garage under the building. The condo building was ridiculously expensive. It was her guess that the parking space alone cost about as much the annual rent on her apartment. Olivia looked at him across the emergency break. He really was breath-takingly good-looking. She usually wasn’t attracted to those of her own kind. It was her general belief that gingers should not get together with other gingers, but his hair was on the gold side of red, and those pale gray eyes over a square jaw and lips that looked made for kissing, made her re-think the theory.
“And how many of those guys have you met?” she demanded.
“None. Maybe one,” he amended.
“Then how would you know? Maybe all you knights are extremely argumentative.”
“No,” he said firmly and got out of the car.
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