Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3) (8 page)

BOOK: Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3)
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Pete was relieved. He’d been worried that he’d overstepped his bounds earlier, just walking into her bedroom uninvited. It was out of character for him to invade someone’s privacy like that, but he’d had an overwhelming urge to walk through that door at that very moment.

It had taken all his self-control to walk back out of it. She’d looked so sexy in that bed, clutching the sheets, her cheeks turning that delicious shade of pink. He’d so badly wanted to know if the rest of her flushed like that too.

Now she seemed to be in control, but unlike other times, she didn’t seem to be working quite so hard to keep her guard up.  Without her chilly façade, she was even more attractive.

She caught him looking at her, and he knew, from the way she appeared to stop breathing, that she’d seen his desire for her.

Thankfully, Roscoe said something that drew her attention and Pete used her distraction to get up and leave the kitchen.

He needed to get away from the woman in order to think straight. Being in her presence made him think with a part of his anatomy that wasn’t his brain.

Finding the library empty, he pulled out his phone and stared at it, unsure of what to do. Finally he called Tom.

He answered on the third ring. “Hey, little brother.”

“Hey. I’m not interrupting you or anything, am I?”

“No. I’m just taking Calamity to the park.”

Pete swallowed a chuckle. He wasn’t sure who Tom was more enamored with, Jane, the woman he’d married, or Calamity, the mutt they’d adopted. He spoiled both the woman and the dog.

“What’s up?” Tom asked.

“Brady needs a favor.” Pete deliberately kept his voice calm and even. “He wants me to find Geoffrey for him.”

Tom didn’t say anything for a long moment.

Pete understood why. Like him, Tom hadn’t seen or spoken to their youngest brother in three years. Not since he’d been accused of attacking their other brother Danny’s then girlfriend.

Violence against women wasn’t tolerated in their family. Not after what their father had done to their mother.

Thinking their father’s tendencies had trickled down to Geoff, they’d refused to have anything to do with him after that, despite his protestations. They’d made it a point to tell all of their mutual friends why. Having been ostracized by his family and most of his friends, except for Brady, who’d spouted the whole “innocent until proven guilty” spiel, Geoffrey became an outcast. Not long afterward, he’d left the country, taking an overseas security job with a less-than-reputable agency.

When Tom finally spoke, it wasn’t about his brother. It was about his friend. “Did Brady say why?”

“I didn’t talk to him. Jackson did. According to him, Brady thinks Geoff can help him get out of some trouble.”

A long beat passed.

“Can you find him?” Tom asked quietly.

“I already did.”

“So why are you calling me?”

“I don’t know whether to give Brady the information,” Pete admitted. He’d lost sleep over the dilemma the night before.

“If Brady’s in that much trouble—”

“But to count on Geoffrey?” Pete interrupted, hating the way his voice cracked and rose.

Tom sighed. “Brady always believed him. If he believes that he’ll come through for him now, you can’t stand in the way.”

“I could,” Pete countered childishly.

“But you won’t.”

“I won’t,” Pete agreed grudgingly.

“Mauricio says you’re helping Alyssa find a cat.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.”

“He also said he’d never seen you chase after a woman like you did her.”

Pete didn’t say anything. What could he say? That he’d never felt this about any other woman? He’d never hear the end of it from his brothers and friends.

Tom took his silence as confirmation of what Mauricio had told him. “Okay then. Well, if you need help with anything, you know who to call.”

“Danny,” Pete joked quickly.

“Yeah, bother him. Later.”

“Later.” Pete disconnected the call. He leaned tiredly against the wall, his concern for Brady’s safety and his doubts about Geoff helping weighed heavily on him.

“You okay?” the woman they’d just been talking about asked.

Pete whirled around to find Alyssa standing in the doorway watching him. “Everything’s fine.”

“You sound upset.”

He shook his head.

Her concerned gaze hardened as though she felt rejected by him.

“It had nothing to do with this.” He waved his hands to encompass the house. “Brady needs me to do something unrelated and I don’t want to.”

She nodded like she understood, but he knew she didn’t.

Turning away from her, he faced a bookshelf and pretended to study the titles. “Brady wants me to find my brother Geoffrey for him.”

“I don’t think I met him at the wedding.”

“That’s because he wasn’t invited.”

“Oh.” Her single syllable was laden with confusion and sympathy.

He sensed her moving closer. “We had a falling out a couple of years ago.”

“I’m sorry.” She placed a supportive hand on his shoulder.

“He did something pretty terrible.” He shook his head at the memory, of the police showing up at the door, looking for Geoff.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Alyssa said gently. “I can see that it upsets you.”

But now, having started the story, Pete felt compelled to finish it, to make her understand.

“He… hurt Danny’s girlfriend.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmured.

“Brady always believed his story that he’d been set up, that he didn’t remember what had happened, even when the rest of us didn’t.”

Her fingers dropped away from his shoulder and he sensed her stiffen.

“And now he wants Geoff’s help.” He shook his head, disappointed in his friend’s lack of judgment. “But he needs me to tell him how to get in touch with Geoff.”

“Are you going to?”

He swiveled his head to get a good look at the woman beside him, wondering why she seemed uptight again. “Yes.”

She turned away, her back to him, before asking, “Why didn’t you believe him? Was he always a bad seed or something?”

“Naah, he wasn’t a bad kid, but he was headstrong. Always thought his way was the right way and was willing to fight to prove it.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’d cut him out of your life.” The bitter accusation hung in the air between them.

He wished he could see her face, wished he understood why she was advocating for someone she’d never met. Why would a woman take the side of a man who’d attacked another woman?

Anger welled up inside him. He didn’t need to justify his actions. “You weren’t there.”

Whirling to face him, her blue eyes glittered like sharp glass. “Were you?”

“I was there for the aftermath. I saw how upset she was.”

“Or,” she suggested in a scarily controlled tone, “you saw what she wanted you to see. Was he convicted of the crime?”

“He never went to trial. The police said that they couldn’t build a strong enough case against him. As soon as he was free to go, he left town. Left the country. Could there be a clearer admission of guilt?”

“Maybe he just couldn’t stand how everyone looked at him.” Voice cracking, her eyes suddenly shimmered with tears. “So much for your
friends and family
thing.” Shaking her head, she ran from the room.

He was too stunned to follow her.

Not just because of her reaction, but because the more he thought about it, the more he realized—she might be right.

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Needing to get away from Pete, Alyssa stumbled down the hallway toward the foyer. Even though she’d never met his banished brother, she felt a kinship to him. She knew too well what it was like to not be believed by friends and family. The memory of her own abandonment pressed down on her.

She needed some air.

Before she could get outside, she spotted Mrs. M. studying the photographs, a frame clutched to her chest.

Pushing aside her own emotions, she asked carefully, “Are you okay?”

The older woman slowly turned to face her, tears streaming down her face. “He’s my last.”

“Ma’am?”

Turning around the framed picture she held, she showed her an old photograph of a young version of herself holding a cat. “This is Sweetheart.”

“She was beautiful,” Alyssa murmured soothingly.

“She was a gift from Roger, my first husband.  All of my cats have been her descendants. It was a way of keeping Roger alive. His plane crashed into the Atlantic, you know. His body was never recovered. All I had left of him was Sweetheart. Mr. Burberry is the last of the line.”

Alyssa scanned the line of photographs unsure of what to say.

“You’ll get him back, won’t you?” Mildred sniffled.

“I’ll try my best,” Alyssa pledged.

Mildred put a wrinkled hand on Alyssa’s arm. “I know you will, dear.”

Hoping that she could live up to Mildred’s faith in her, tears prickled the back of Alyssa’s eyes.

Pete, clutching his laptop to his chest, hurried toward them. “I was going to head out for a couple of hours.” He looked distracted. “Unless of course you need me.”

“You’re not obligated to be here,” Alyssa snapped.

Mrs. M. looked at her sharply, but Pete seemed oblivious to her tone.

“I’ve got some more research to do,” he said, “and something of my own to work on. Just call if you need anything.”

“Thank you, Pete,” Mildred replied graciously.

He hurried out the front door, leaving Alyssa to reset the house alarm behind him.

When she turned back, Mildred was watching her curiously. “Pete seems like a nice young man.”

“Does he?” Alyssa relied coolly, not relishing the idea of the older woman playing matchmaker.

“He reminds me of Sarge.”

“Who’s that?”

Mildred chuckled. “He’s my husband, my dear. Brady’s boss… Well his ex-boss now that Brady quit.”

“Sorry,” Alyssa muttered, mentally kicking herself for asking the question. “I should have known that.”

Mildred shook her head, “You might be a great detective, Ms. Montgomery, but there’s no reason you should know my husband’s nickname.”

Alyssa didn’t believe she was a “great detective.” After all, Mrs. Burberry had been snatched from under her nose.

“He seems to be sweet on you,” Mildred continued and then waited expectantly.

“He does,” Alyssa agreed slowly, taking care not to say anything about her own feelings.

Mildred watched her carefully for a long moment. “And he’s been kind to help out.”

“He has.” Alyssa could almost see the gears turning in the older woman’s head. Not wanting her to try playing Cupid, Alyssa changed the subject. “You’ve gotten the money together for the ransom?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’ll deliver it at the appointed time, make the exchange, and bring Mr. Burberry home safe and sound.”

“Maybe I should deliver the money,” Mildred suggested.

“Absolutely not.”

Mrs. M. blinked at Alyssa’s forceful tone. “But—”

“No buts,” Alyssa steamrolled. “Brady wanted me here because he was afraid you were in danger. If something happened to you, he’d kill me.”

“And if something happens to Mr. Burberry,” Mildred said quietly, “that will kill me.”

Alyssa patted the old woman’s shoulder. “I understand.”

“I hope you do, Ms. Montgomery. I have no children. Mr. Burberry is the closest thing I have.”

“What about him?” Alyssa pointed to the picture that featured her husband and stepson.

“Ralph?”  Mildred sniffed dismissively. “I’ve had goldfish more worthy of my fondness.”

Alyssa winced, unaccustomed to hearing the usually sweet woman’s venom.

“You will bring him home, won’t you?” Mrs. M. asked plaintively.

“I’ll do my best,” Alyssa pledged, fervently hoping her best would be good enough. As crazy as Mildred made her with her prying questions, she’d hate to let the good-hearted woman down.

Roscoe appeared behind them. “You’ve insulted me, Mrs. M.”

“How is that, dear?” Mildred put the picture she held down.

“You barely touched your breakfast,” the big man pouted. “Didn’t you like it?”

“Of course I did. It was delicious.”

“Then come, eat something. You should keep your strength up.”

Alyssa flashed him a quick, grateful smile over Mildred’s shoulder.

She was grateful for the reprieve, but she didn’t fool herself into thinking it would last long.

Feeling guilty for upsetting Pete about his brother, she asked Roscoe to watch over Mrs. M. and she went to apologize to Pete.

She rang the bell at the address she’d been told he lived at. It was an unassuming house, in an unassuming neighborhood, not the kind of place she imagined someone with such a high tech job would live. It seemed… nice.

She wasn’t prepared for how quickly he opened the door.

“Hey”.” He sounded pleasantly surprised to find her on his doorstep. “Everything okay?”

She nodded. “I just needed…” She trailed off, unsure of how to proceed.

He ushered her inside. “What?”

She glanced around, taking in the details of his personal space. The warm wood floors, plenty of plants, and lots of photographs hanging on the walls, decimated her expectations of a sleek, modern living area.

“Surprised?” he asked.

“A little. I figured you would share a swanky office with your brothers.”

He laughed. “I’m not in business with my brothers. I love ‘‘em and would do anything for them, but my brother Danny and I would kill each other if we worked together.” He shrugged. “And here you were, thinking I’m perfect.”

She grinned at his joke. “Hardly.”

“Do you want the grand tour?” He dropped his voice lower. “I could show you where the magic happens.”

She blinked and felt heat flooding her cheeks.

He grinned. “I meant my office. Get your mind out of the gutter, Ms. Montgomery.” He gave her a cheeky wink.

She couldn’t help but shake her head and smile. “I can’t stay. I don’t think Roscoe can take too much of Mrs. Michelman today.”

“I understand.” Pete crossed his arms over his chest and grew serious. His gaze filled with concern. “What do you need?”

BOOK: Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3)
10.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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