Authors: Karin Tabke
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Katy nodded. A change of scenery would do her good. “I’ll be by your office tomorrow morning to pick up my phone.”
“If you use it, they’ll know you have it and if they know you have it, they’ll come for it. If you fail to produce it, they’ll haul you in for obstruction,” Simon’s deep voice said from behind her.
Veronica’s dark eyes snapped. “Look who’s obstructing now?”
“I’d buy a burner, cash, and have someone I trust activate it.” Simon continued to obstruct with no hesitation.
“A burner phone?” Katy asked.
“A prepaid throwaway phone that can’t be linked back to you,” he explained.
Shaking her head, eyes wide with wonder, Veronica mused out loud, “Who knew the man with the white hat had a gray one?” Veronica gave Katy a hug and said, “I don’t know what phone either one of you are talking about.”
With those last words, she walked away.
“Kat,” Simon started.
Whirling around she snapped, “Don’t
me,” she spat. She felt like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Simon was trying to help, but she was angry at men. Men pissed her off. Men fucked with her head, and if ever there was a man who made her crazy, it was the one beside her. Pushing past him, she strode to the elevator and angrily punched the down arrow. When the doors opened, she stepped in and hit the ground floor button.
Simon was waiting when she arrived. “You can run, but you can’t hide, Kitty,” he taunted. She scowled. “Are you angry because you know you need me or because you know that no matter how angry you get at me, you can’t stop thinking about how good I feel inside of you?”
His words had an immediate effect on her body. “I hate you,” she said huskily, moving past him.
“No, you don’t. You hate Evan. That prick played you from the beginning, Kat,” Simon said following her.
Whirling around she confronted him. “Are you insinuating that Evan seduced me not for my body but for my research?”
That hurt. She blanched as if she had been sucker-punched. And coming from Simon, it made her feel like an even bigger booby prize. Hell, she was no prize at all, just a stupid, easy means to an end.
“Kat,” he said softly, pulling her into the circle of his arms. And she let him. She needed it; otherwise she might fall. “Next time I see that guy, I’m going to punch his fucking lights out.”
“Get in line,” Katy murmured, feeling as if she needed to crawl into a hole somewhere and just die. Simon’s manly scent flirted with her senses. He was like any other man, using his wiles to get to her. He was being nice and supportive now, so he could be nice and supportive in her bed later. They all wanted something from her, but were never willing to give anything in return.
Pulling away from him, she looked up into his deep green eyes and boldly asked, “What did
use me for, Simon?”
“I didn’t use you for anything.”
“I don’t get it, Simon. You sure went to a lot of work for a free fuck, when most women in this town would spread for you at the snap of your fingers.” Hot tears blinded her. She knew she was being irrational. But then it was Simon and everything she felt and did with Simon up to this point had been crazy and irrational. Why stop now? “Why me? What did you want from me? Did you get it? I’d at least like to know what it was.”
“Katrina,” he said, exasperated. Grasping her elbow, he gently pulled her around and guided her across the vast marble foyer to a quieter area. She didn’t fight him because the ever-polite Katy didn’t want to make a public spectacle of herself.
“Look at me,” he softly commanded when she looked down at her shoes.
When she refused, he notched her chin up with a finger. He flinched, and she noticed the blood seepage on his crisp white shirt his jacket could no longer hide. The urge to poke her finger into his wound and dig into it was overwhelming.
“I need you to listen to me.”
“Say what you have to say, and please, let me go.”
“I care about you, Kat.
From the moment you bumped into me in that hotel in San Diego, you got under my skin. I’d be lying if I said the sex wasn’t part of it. I mean let’s be honest, our relationship started with sex, sex
asked for. Sex you can’t blame me for accepting. But with you—” He sighed and raised her chin a bit more. “I just want to be with you, any way you’ll have me.”
She didn’t know what to say, because she hoped he was telling her the truth. Yet she wasn’t convinced—of so many things.
“Let’s grab some lunch and talk. I’m hungry as hell and could eat a horse,” he said.
“There are ordinances against eating horses in San Francisco.”
“Then a cow.”
Katy appreciated his attempts to calm her down, and she was hungry, but she didn’t trust herself with Simon. She was too susceptible to his sexual persuasion.
“I told you, Simon …”
“Told me what, that you still want me?”
“I want you to go away.”
“If you really meant that, you would not have allowed me back in Ronnie’s office.”
Her head snapped back. “Just how close are you and
He grinned that Cheshire cat grin that got to her every time. “We were very close at one time.”
“Looks to me like she’d like to rekindle that closeness.”
“Nah, she married my ex best friend, Mat.”
“Ex because you and his wife—?”
“Something like that.”
“And he’s okay knowing you two—?”
“Not really. When you told me the accusations against you and that you were fired, I knew Ronnie was the right attorney for you. But I cleared it with her husband first, knowing I’d have some contact with his wife sometime during her representation of you.”
“How noble of you. Did you call your wife before you fucked me to ask for her permission?” she blurted. She shouldn’t have said that, since he said wasn’t married … but—
“I’m not the enemy, Kat. Stop treating me like one.”
“You’re married, you’re off limits. What don’t you get about that?”
He shook his head, his exasperation obvious. “I’m growing weary of your unfounded accusations.”
“Your wife called your cell phone. I answered it. She told me who she was. Explain to me how that is unfounded?”
“I can’t. I can only tell you the truth. I’m not married.”
“You’ve been nothing but a man of mystery since we met. You won’t even tell me your last name! I ask you about a simple ringtone and you refuse to explain what it means.”
“I’m not a mystery. I just have a sensitive job.” Peering intently at her, he moved in closer. “One that involves some sleight of hand.” Was she supposed to read something into that?
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that sometimes, things are not as they appear and though they may look one way, they are simply a smoke and mirrors act to make things look another way.”
“Your wife is part of a smoke and mirrors act?”
“I have broken my General Orders twice today because of you. I’m not breaking any more.”
“I told you once, trust goes both ways, Simon. Trust me now.”
He backed away shaking his head. “No can do. Your safety is more important to me than your trust.”
That hit home. Hard.
“I can take care of myself.”
“No, you can’t. Look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself in. Hell, you even hide from life, Kat. Who spends all of their time between a lab, the gym, and their apartment?”
“I don’t,” she lied, to him and to herself.
“Yeah, you do. Go live a little before the shit really starts to hit the fan.”
“I did that with you and you broke my heart!” She didn’t mean to say that but she did. And she meant it because it was true.
“I bared my heart and soul to you and you crapped on it.” He remained silent and let her purge herself. “I should have kept walking the first time I saw you. You’ve brought me nothing but heartache and pain, two things my lab, gym, and apartment have never brought me!” She pushed past him, then whirled around and faced him again. “How can you tell me you’re not the enemy, when everything you do hurts me?”
“Everything, Cinderella?” he asked, moving into her space. She backed up and he continued forward until she was up against a wall. “The first time I touched you, you closed your eyes and sighed. Hoping, wishing,
I would touch you again. That doesn’t sound like pain to me.” He dipped his head and inhaled the scent of her. “You came in my mouth, Kat. Did that hurt?”
“No,” she whispered. Thankful they were in a public place, even if they were off to the side.
“When I entered you that night, you were so hot and turned on you couldn’t stop moaning your pleasure. Even when I got a little rough in my excitement, you loved it.” He traced his finger along her shoulder, down her arm, along the outside swell of her breast. “Didn’t you?”
“Yes,” she croaked, losing the battle to control the rise of her body temperature.
“Then don’t tell me that everything I do to you hurts.”
“I meant, inside. Emotionally,” she managed to squeak.
“I make you laugh; did Evan make you laugh?”
She looked up into his deep emerald gaze. “No.”
“I want to take you in my arms right now and remind you how much you love what I do to you.” He stepped back. “But we’re in the Federal Building and there are eyes and ears everywhere.”
With shaky hands, Katy smoothed her palms down her skirt. “We’re … whatever
were is over, Simon. I’m not going to be with a man, even as his booty call, who won’t tell me the significance of an insignificant ringtone.” She shook her head. “Please, I appreciate your help with my situation. I
your help, but I’m afraid I can’t right now. Not when I’m feeling so vulnerable and wary of you.”
She turned and walked away. As much as she wanted to turn around and run into his strong, protective arms, for him to soothe her with his words and soft caresses, she couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Not until he trusted her enough to open up and talk to her.
Before she went home, she stopped at a convenience store and paid cash for an upgraded burner phone. Less than a half hour later, she arrived to a shambles of an apartment. Angrily she stared at the carnage. It’s how she felt inside. Wrecked. And she was too drained to try and put her apartment back together much less the pieces of her heart.
Exhaling loudly, at least she didn’t have to look far for her clothes. She packed quickly, and without so much as a backward glance, she exited her apartment and walked down to Rosie’s.
“What the hell’s going on? Your place was crawling with feds.”
“Evan is an even bigger douche bag than I thought he was.” Tears stung her eyes. “I was arrested today, Rosie.”
“Whaaat? On what charges?”
“Conspiracy this, conspiracy that. You name a conspiracy, I conspired it.” She swiped her tears away. “I bought a burner phone,” she said, glancing at Rosie to see if she understood.
“Great idea. The cops won’t be able to track your calls.”
Of course Law & Order addicted Rosie would know this. “But I can’t activate it on my credit card. I’m sure they’ll be monitoring my charges too. Would you mind? I’ll pay you back.”
Fifteen minutes later, her regular driver Charlie pulled up in the town car that had taken her to and from work for years. Now? When he asked where she wanted to go, she said, “Ninety-nine miles north, east, or south of here.”
“How about Napa?”
“Napa is good.”
taring out the window at the churning Pacific Ocean, Katy felt the same churning in her heart. Nothing in her life at that moment felt like it was in her control. Her career was in Veronica’s hands, her reputation in Evan’s, and her heart? She choked back a sob. Charlie eyed her in his rearview mirror.
“You okay, Dr. Winslow?”
“Peachy, Charlie. Just peachy.”
“I can stop if you need anything.”
“Thank you, but I’m fine for now.”
Peering back at the whitecaps rolling in from the ocean to the bay, she thought how much like that ocean Simon was. He was powerful, fluid, unrelenting. A mysterious force of nature. If one wasn’t careful, one could be swallowed whole by his sheer life force alone.
She’d made some very bad decisions when it came to the men in her life. She was too trusting. Or maybe just too desperate to be wanted. To be placed at the front of the line by a man she cared about instead of at the back. It occurred to her at that moment that she had settled for all of the men in her life with the exception of one because when she had been dumped for their various reasons, her heart didn’t break for the man, but for herself. With Simon, it ached for him. He was
one for her, just as she was sure he had been
one for so many others.
Her career could go to hell, her reputation could go up in smoke, and none of it would matter if she could have her heart’s desire: Simon. But on her terms. Which was impossible. He was a rolling stone. A drifter, a loner, an enigma who lived a dangerous life. It was a life she wasn’t cut out for even if he could,
commit to her.
Exhaling a long pensive sigh, Katy realized that she believed him when he said he was not married. She’d used her doubt as a shield to keep him at arm’s length. Her real issue with Simon was that he was not forthcoming on the simplest of things, like what was it the “Mandy” ringtone reminded him of? How difficult was it to simply explain it?
Leaning back into the headrest, Katy closed her eyes and tried to think of soft fluffy kittens, unicorns, and rainbows, instead of the green-eyed man who had stolen her heart with no intention of giving it back.
An hour later the car rolled to a stop.
“Dr. Winslow,” Charlie softly called. “We’re here in Napa. Where would you like me to take you?”
Rubbing the grit from her eyes, Katy blinked, trying to remember the name of the B and B Rosie raved about in St. Helena. For the life of her she couldn’t remember it. “Head toward St. Helena, Charlie, I’ll get the addy for you.”
Rosie picked up on the first ring. “How are you, sweet pea?”
“Tired. Ready to sleep for a week.”
“I called your attorney with your new number like you asked, and she said she’d be calling you sometime today or tomorrow.”
“Where are you?”
“Napa, heading to St. Helena. What’s the name of that B and B you and Elliot like so much?”
“The Inn at St. Helena. Ask for the attic room if it’s available, huge bed and a fireplace. No one to bother you, either. Tell Mona I sent you, she’ll take good care of you.”
“It sounds perfect, thank you.”
“I’m worried about you, Katy.”
“Don’t be, Rosie, I can’t sink any lower than I have, it’s nothing but up from here.”
“Just make sure you get up.”
“I will. Love you.” She hung up and called 411 for the address and number of the Inn. Luckily the attic room was available. Armed with the address, Charlie continued North on 29. She could not wait to crawl between the sheets of the big bed and hide from the world until she was ready to face it again.
The Inn was everything Rosie said it was. Mona, a small spitfire of woman, was warm and welcoming, clucking over her like a mother hen when she arrived. Rosie, no doubt, had tipped her off. For once she was grateful for her friend’s meddling.
A robust fire burned in welcome as she entered the well-appointed room. The sumptuously adorned bed was huge. The bathroom was large, with a claw-foot tub and separate shower.
“Just tug the bell cord by your bed if you need anything,” Mona instructed before quietly letting herself out.
Kicking off her shoes, fully clothed, Katy flopped on the bed, rolled herself up in the downy comforter, and slept.
The ping of her cell phone woke her from a deep sleep. Squinting, she looked at the little antique clock on her nightstand. It said 8:45 A.M. She’d slept for nearly twelve straight hours. Her cell pinged again. Her head popped up from the comforter like a prairie dog looking out from one of its ground burrows. Ignoring the erratic thud of her heart, Katy slid her glasses on, reached for her phone, and read the text. From Veronica. Monumental disappointment swept through her. It wasn’t Simon. How could it be, when he didn’t have her number?
I need your written permission to pull all text messages between you and Dr. Scott. No later than next week.
Katy’s stomach rolled. They were so personal, but more than that, she felt like a fool for having fallen for Evan’s lies. She sank back into the bed and stared at the ceiling. She had been a bigger fool for Simon. Because despite everything, she missed him so thoroughly she actually felt as if a piece of her heart had been chipped off.
She texted Veronica that when she got back into town, she would come by the office, then she slid from the bed, peed, and jumped in the shower. She was determined not to allow her broken heart to destroy her.
As she toweled her hair dry, her cell pinged again. It was either Rosie or Veronica. Uninterested, she went back to drying her hair. Dressed, she rang Mona for some coffee and it was only then that she picked up her phone and looked at the text.
Her heart leapt against her ribcage.
It was from Simon. How had he gotten her new number?
The picture and the ringtone remind me that I killed my brother.
Stunned Katy stared at the words.
. How horrible. How did one respond to that?
I’m sorry, Simon.
She didn’t know if she should ask him if he wanted to talk about it or, at the very least, what had happened.
Where are you?
I took your advice and got out of my cave.
Answer the question.
Taken aback by the abruptness of his words, she texted,
You have no right questioning me.
R u alone?
Now she was angry.
Did he think she was that hard up for a man?
Alone as in am I fucking anyone?
Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware I needed your permission. For ANYTHING!
R u with anyone as in is anyone accompanying you?
Several minutes passed.
Would you like some company?
Why do you have to make the simplest request complicated?
b/c im afraid
of hurting again
She shouldn’t even be having this conversation.
we all hurt baby. Let me hurt you in a good way
Am I just some sex toy to you?
No, you’re much more than a toy.
I don’t know if I want company
Liar! May the morality police shoot her where she stood, because she wanted him more than anything.
Think about it?
She stared at the phone for a moment, thinking about what he’d revealed.
Why did you tell me about your brother?
Because I want you.
Just for sex
I want you to trust me. And I wanted you to know why.
Hot tears stung her eyes. She knew how hard it was for him to open up to her about something so personal and so traumatic. Compassion for this proud man filled her. And guilt. She felt terrible pushing him like she had. Had she known how painful his truth was, she would have left him alone.
I miss you
I miss you too.
It was on the tip of her fingers to tell him to come up. To spend the next few days in the big bed with her. But she hesitated. She wasn’t ready for the tsunami that was Simon.
She needed time to process what he’d told her. To process how his admission changed things for her, or did it? Yes, he was coming clean about the ringtone, but was she ready to jump into a mad passionate affair with Simon? Knowing where it would ultimately end?
No longer could she use his reticence against him. Even before his text, she had begun to cave. When he said her safety was more important to him than the truth, she should have taken him at his word then. Because Simon was an honorable man. She knew it intuitively. He wasn’t a liar. He was, in fact, very black and white. He wasn’t the kind of man with gray areas. Right was right and wrong was wrong.
His confession stunned her. Had he meant he had literally killed his brother? Her heartbeat pounded high in her throat at the thought. If he had, his brother’s widow would not have been so snuggly with him in San Diego. So how
he killed his brother?
Katy gasped as she backtracked to conversations between her and Simon. He had admitted to having had sex with his sister-in-law, the blonde! Had he—had he had sex with her when she was married to his brother? Had that figuratively killed him? Was she blind to Simon after all?
Katy began to pace. Who was Simon?
was he? And what on earth did he want with a lab rat like her? Katy understood she was not unattractive. She was pretty, smart, and until a week ago, she had a great career. But she wasn’t all that to Simon’s sex on a stick.
Obviously his sister-in-law found him irresistible and the über gorgeous, incredibly sharp Veronica Fuentes, a woman any man would want for his own, had succumbed to Simon, and she would bet dollars to doughnuts it was Simon who broke it off. Lord only knew how many women clouded his past. How many still ached for him, their hearts broken?
Because once you had Simon, everything else paled. And when he moved on, the world lost its wonder. There should be a law against loving Simon. Because there was always a casualty. Even if he wasn’t married, how could she be his fuck buddy, knowing she was ultimately to join his list of exes?