Sweet Temptation

Page 17

“She’s not ... goddamn it,” Micah muttered.

Gray and Connor just looked at him with a mixture of amusement and sympathy.

“Look I really need to get back over—”

Micah was interrupted when his front door flew open. All three men lunged to their feet. To Micah’s utter shock, Angelina flew into the living room, her eyes wild, stark terror outlined on her face. She was still wearing his T-shirt—the one he’d helped her into right before tucking her into bed—and she was barefoot. But what really drew him up short was the fact she held a wicked-looking kitchen knife in her right hand. Her fingers were curled so tight around the handle that her knuckles were white.

“What the fuck?” Connor murmured.

“Angelina, honey, put the knife down,” Gray said in a firm voice.

Hell, she didn’t even register them talking to her. Micah took a step forward and then another.

“Angel, girl,” he said in a soothing voice. “What’s the matter, baby? Did you have a bad dream?”

She blinked, and then with a cry she dropped the knife and flew into his arms. He caught her against him as she all but climbed up his body in her haste to get close to him. Her heart beat frantically against his chest, and she trembled and fluttered like an injured bird.

Gray quickly retrieved the knife and moved it way away from Angelina.

“Angel, tell me what’s wrong,” Micah said as he ran a hand through her long hair.

“He was here,” she said in a muffled voice. “At my apartment.”

He pulled her face away from his neck so he could better hear her.

“Who was here?” he demanded.

He, Connor and Gray all looked up again when the front door slammed loudly. Nathan stood in the entryway to the living room, his face drawn into a mask of fury.

“We have a problem,” Nathan bit out.


Not now, Nathan,” Micah said. “Whatever it is, it can wait.”

He backed toward the couch, Angelina still wrapped around him like plastic wrap.

“No, it can’t wait,” Nathan argued. He thrust a piece of paper out in front of him, his brows drawn together in an angry line. “Next time you won’t save her,” he read aloud.

Angelina gripped Micah tighter, and she shuddered violently.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Micah demanded. “Where did you get that?”

“It was on the windshield of my truck.”

Micah’s confusion mounted, and then Angelina’s words came back to him.

He was here at my apartment.

Holy fuck. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t wrap his brain around the implications.

Gently he pulled Angelina away from his neck so he could look into her eyes. “What scared you, baby? What made you run over here with that knife? Did someone try to hurt you?”

His voice dropped to a dangerous level. He tried to keep it even and light so as not to frighten her, but he was vibrating with fury.

With shaking hands, she reached underneath her shirt and pulled out a plastic Ziploc bag. There was a piece of paper inside.

“I touched it. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” she said in a small voice. “I’m hoping I didn’t ruin any evidence.”

Nathan glanced down at the note in his hand and swore. “I didn’t even think about that. I thought it was just an advertising flier.”

Gray held up his hand. “Okay let’s slow down here so the rest of us can catch up. What does your note say, Angelina?”

Micah gently took the bag from her and laid it on the couch next to them.

“It said next time you won’t escape,” she whispered.

Four distinct curses rang out over the room.

“Holy fuck,” Nathan breathed. “The son of a bitch targeted her.”

“How?” Connor demanded. “She hasn’t been here long enough for someone to have laid that kind of groundwork.”

Angelina’s fingers formed tight fists, the skin stretching thin over her knuckles.

“Angel?” Micah asked gently. “What are you thinking?”

She trembled again, and it was all he could do not to pull her back into his arms. But he needed answers if he was going to keep her safe.

She looked up at him, fear and trepidation in her eyes.

“I thought I’d escaped. I was so careful. I laid a false trail. I ditched my car and bought another one under a false name. I told no one where I was going. I was careful not to leave a paper trail of any kind. I didn’t use credit cards, and I always worked for cash so I wouldn’t have to give my social security number.

“I don’t know how he found me,” she said helplessly.

They all stared at her in astonishment. Micah opened and quickly closed his mouth, because what he had to say wasn’t pretty. Gray shook his head, and Connor’s brow was wrinkled up in confusion. Only Nathan found his tongue.

“Are you trying to say that the bastard who drugged you has been stalking you before you came here?”

“I’m lost,” Connor muttered.

“You aren’t the only one,” Micah said. His eyes narrowed as he stared at Angelina’s pale features. “Back up and start from the very beginning. Don’t leave anything out.”

She swallowed and tried to move off his lap, but he caught her waist and pulled her firmly against him. Cupping her chin, he tilted her face up until she met his gaze.

“I’m not leaving you again, Angel girl. Now tell me everything.”

So much was reflected in her eyes. Fear mixed with relief. Hope and disbelief. He realized the thing he was most looking for was trust. She’d looked at him before with such faith. He wanted that again, wanted to go back to the time when she trusted him and David to make everything right in her world.

“He started sending me notes—things—a year ago,” she said in a quivery voice.

Stunned exclamations met her statement on all sides. All the breath left Micah in a painful wheeze. He forced himself to remain silent as he waited for her to continue.

“At first it was harmless stuff. Kind of cute actually. I thought he was just a secret admirer. Someone too shy to confront me. He sent a few notes. Flowers. Chocolate and roses on Valentine’s Day.”

“Jesus!” Micah exclaimed. “Tell me you didn’t eat chocolate from some stranger.”

She looked affronted. “Of course not. I’m not stupid. It all seemed so harmless. Annoying after a while, but harmless.”

She drew in a breath. “And then it changed. It was like I did something to make him angry. The tone of the notes changed. At first they weren’t outright threats, but they gave me the creeps. It escalated from there. I found my tires slashed. He’d leave messages for me no matter where I went. And then he made outright threats.”

“Why the hell didn’t you go to the police?” Micah demanded. “For God’s sake, you’re David’s sister.”

She looked at him with hurt in her eyes. “I did go.”


Her lips tightened. “As I told you, they weren’t exactly lining up to do anything for the sister of a man they thought had betrayed you. You didn’t stick around for me, so why should they? The only one who took me seriously was Chad Devereaux.”

A mixture of anger and sorrow hit Micah in the chest. Anger at himself and his department. Sorrow that she’d suffered because of his desertion.

“Chad did what he could, but we didn’t have much to work with. He checked in on me for a while. Did regular patrols by my house. The notes and the ‘gifts’ stopped. I hoped he’d gotten tired of playing his game, but in reality he was waiting and growing angrier and more desperate. He broke into my house and destroyed everything.”

She shivered, and Micah tightened his hold on her.

“It was awful. There was such rage behind his actions. I knew that if I’d been there when he broke in, he would have killed me. I couldn’t stay there any longer. I packed light, liquidated my assets and left town, laying a false trail north.

“I went all the way to Chicago because I wanted it to look like I’d relocated there. I started a bank account, established a residence, and then I bought a car under an assumed name and drove here. Until the time I went to the ER, I didn’t use my real name except with you all. But he’d already found me. Somehow he tracked me here,” she whispered. “The first day I went to work in the café, when I got off that afternoon, I was missing some photos from my car. I honestly thought I had moved them or packed them somewhere, but now I’m not so sure. It could have been him.”

Micah could remain silent no longer. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me all this sooner?”

A shuttered look fell over her face. “Would you have been any happier to see me? I thought I’d dealt with the problem. I thought I’d left it behind. I didn’t come here because I wanted you to solve my problems, and I think if you stop running long enough you’ll know why I came.”

Gray softly cleared his throat, and color worked into Angelina’s cheeks as she turned in his direction. It was as if she’d forgotten all about the others. And hell, so had he.

“Angelina, you just said you’d always planned to come here. Did you tell anyone that?” Gray asked. “Think hard about this.”

She pursed her lips in concentration and slowly shook her head. “There was no one to tell.”

Micah dragged a hand through his hair and met the stares of his friends. Anger was alive in their eyes, and the message was clear. They considered Angelina theirs just as they did Faith, Serena and Julie. No way they were going to allow some psycho asshole to hurt her.

“I feel the need to point out that it’s entirely possible that this isn’t the same whack job,” Connor said.

Angelina shook her head. “It’s him. I’d recognize the handwriting anywhere, and he always uses that same paper. It’s stationery. Plain, but the texture is different than regular paper.”

“Did you save all the other stuff or did you turn it over to the police?” Micah asked.

“I wasn’t going to turn over my only evidence to them when they weren’t ever going to take me seriously.”

“Did you bring it with you?”

“It’s under my bed,” she said. “Do you want me to get it?”

“I’ll get it,” Connor said. “You just stay put where it’s safe.”

Micah nodded his agreement. If it was up to him—and he was going to make damn sure it was—she wasn’t leaving his side until they nailed the fucker responsible for terrorizing her.

When Connor left the apartment, Micah pulled Angelina down to his chest again and stroked her hair in a soothing pattern.

“I should get back to the house,” Gray said uneasily. “Faith is alone.”

Nathan balled up his fists, a mixture of rage and fear tightening his features. “Julie’s alone at her place too. If this joker knew enough to pin a note on my truck, he’ll know about Julie too.”

Angelina sat up, her eyes so sad that it took Micah’s breath away. “I’m sorry,” she said, turning to Gray and Nathan. “I never thought in a million years he’d come here or I wouldn’t have brought this to you, I swear it.”

Gray stopped by the couch on his way to the door. He reached out and briefly touched her cheek. “Don’t be taking blame that’s not yours to take. Our girls are tough. We just want to make sure they know what’s going on so they can be careful.”

She nodded miserably, and Nathan and Gray hurried out the door, leaving her alone with Micah.

Restlessly she stirred in Micah’s arms. She shoved and scooted as she tried to get up, but Micah held firm.

“Angel,” he said in a soft voice. “Stop pushing me away. I already feel you putting up the walls and distancing yourself.”

“Just let me up. I need to breathe,” she begged.

Reluctantly he let her go, and as he’d anticipated, she put the entire room between them as she paced a tight line in front of the television.

Connor walked back in, holding a box. He set it down on the coffee table in front of Micah then took a seat in the chair next to the couch.

Angelina wouldn’t even look at Micah when he opened the box. She turned away, tense and worried, her arms wrapped protectively around her slim figure.

He tried to tune her out, tried to think and act like a cop even if it had been several years. He tried to look at the stack of letters objectively, but as he read, rage took hold.

As she’d said, they started innocently enough, but he still found them creepy from the onset. And then it was as if a switch had been flipped. They went from seemingly harmless to an explosion of rage and violence.

A chill slithered down his spine as he read the countless promises, the threats. No longer was the man trying to be subtle. He outlined in stark clarity just what it was he’d do to her once he had her in his hands.

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