Return to poughkeepsie, p.32
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.32

           Debra Anastasia

  “Who was it? Taylor?” Ryan’s rage was contained, but only because he’d had so much practice.

  Eve shook her head, her hair falling around her shoulders. She looked him in the eye. “I killed Mary Ellen. I butchered my way through her house, murdered her guards, and slit her throat. I’m not girlfriend material, Ryan.”

  He whistled. Getting through to the head honcho was ridiculous, action-movie-type stuff.

  “And Taylor found me and volunteered his services to Rodolfo so I could be free.” She touched her forearm, a bruise there getting more and more colorful. “So here I am.”

  “So you hate him and you love him.” Ryan cut right to the center of the story.

  Eve had a sad smile. “And I’m just as bad, if not worse, than any criminal you’ve ever put behind bars. There’s no redeeming that—no matter how many lives I live.”

  Ryan moved the hair away from Eve’s face, looking into her beautiful, sad eyes. “I want to save you.”

  Her eyes brimmed with tears, which sparkled in the light before she blinked them away. “I’d never let you. Way too dangerous.”

  Ryan touched her cheek before sliding his hand to the nape of her neck. He leaned down and gave her the softest kiss—just tasting her before looking back at her mouth. “You underestimate me.”



  CHERY WOKE UP DEAD. Or at least that’s how she felt. Chaos was there, and he seemed relieved when her eyes opened.

  “Vere?” she asked.

  The small, dark man came to her side. “She’s at the day house. They’re going to keep her overnight.”

  “Everything hurts.” Chery wanted to move, but pain stopped her. “Jared! Jared might try to get Vere to punish me!” Chery forced herself to sit up and look around. A hospital room. Her heart sank.

  Chaos supported her back. “No. Not anymore.”

  The finality in his voice soothed her, and she lay back.

  “Your job is to heal. Want me to call a nurse?” Chaos sat in the chair close by.

  “I can’t. She’ll want to question me. That’s what they do. I stopped coming to the hospital because of that.” Chery looked at her arms. They were covered in the scars of her battle. “I thought I was done. He finally tipped over the edge.”

  “I’m sorry, señorita.” Chaos nodded at her like she was a princess stepping off a boat. “I’m glad you weren’t.”

  “You know how they’re going to look at me? I’m here again. And I knew better. I knew better.” Chery found it hard to swallow. She vaguely remembered Jared choking her. And then being in the blanket…the banging of being sealed in.

  “You are here. But that’s better than other places you could be. No one can judge you, except you. A person makes their destiny.” Chaos folded his arms across his chest.

  “You wouldn’t understand. It makes no sense now.” Chery grabbed the flimsy hospital blanket and squeezed.

  “I’ve been in prison for more days than I’ve been out of it. No worries, though, I’ve never touched a woman in anger in all my days,” he added quickly. “But you see, when I get out? I do things that could put me back in. It’s like I can’t live without the thrill of being caught. It’s hard…the pull. And then you’re so used to the doors being locked, when you’re finally allowed to walk through, you stumble.” Chaos shrugged. “Is it like that? For you, with him?”

  Chery didn’t respond, but looked at the IV snaking fluids into her body. It was sort of like that: a jail term—one willingly and not so willingly sought.

  A nurse walked in and seemed pleased to see Chery awake. She made chipper small talk while she checked Chery’s vitals. “How’s your pain from one to ten?”

  Chery shrugged and the pain made her wince. “About a four.”

  “Okay, I’ll have the doctor approve a painkiller that will be good for you and safe for the baby.” She smiled and nodded.

  Chery looked at the nurse like she was insane. “You sure you have the right patient?”

  “Yes, ma’am. Says right here the blood test for pregnancy was positive. I take it this is unexpected.” She patted Chery’s hand. “Make sure to discuss it with your doctor. There are options.”

  After the nurse left, Chery looked past Chaos to the window. “Well, I guess there’s no getting over him now.”

  Beckett was dropped off in his old parking lot on Tuesday evening. His douchebags were waiting with the Challenger.

  “So?” They looked eager.

  “I have agreed to work with a human being who is as close to dead as I’ve ever seen.” Beckett took off his tie and tossed his hat on the ground. He’d also likely be relying on communication channels and contacts close to dead because he hadn’t used them in so damn long. He rubbed his hand over his face. “The key to this whole thing is Sevan Harmon. He likes to move his drugs through Poughkeepsie on their way to greener pastures, and I gotta rekindle our relationship. Actually, first I gotta find him, so this isn’t going to be an overnight job.” Beckett wondered how to do any of this without completely reverting back to his old life. It was a fucking debacle. The whole thing made him long for his dog.

  “You staying here?” one of them asked.

  “Yep, I’m supposed to start working my magic. They took my phone. Can I grab a call? Where’s Eve?”

  The closest tossed a phone to him. “We dropped her off at that undercover cop’s place.”

  Beckett nodded. Eve went to lick her wounds with another man. Fine.

  He dialed Chaos’ number. “Talk.”

  “Chery’s awake now. I just checked on Vere, and she’s okay.” Chaos sounded strained.

  “Anyone looking for the fartbag?” Beckett had left Jared’s body in a wooded area on his way back to New York.

  “No one. And I don’t expect that’ll happen. I’ll keep you posted.” Chaos cleared his throat.

  “You like running a liquor store?” Beckett looked at the overgrown rubble in the parking lot: remnants of the strip mall from one of he and Eve’s previous misunderstandings.

  “I don’t know, boss. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

  Beckett nodded even though Chaos couldn’t see him. “Chery and Vere are going to be the owners, and I’ll pay you to keep everything going for them. We’ll have a much longer conversation, but for now all you need to know is I have to stay in Poughkeepsie. And those two ladies need a guardian. I think you’re that man.” Beckett waited, the sun glinting from behind the fallen structure.

  “Sir, I’d love to. It’d be…nice.” Chaos sounded choked up. “We just got a few things to work out, but you handle your end. I’ve got Maryland on lockdown.”

  Beckett hung up and turned back to his men. “I’m going to need a place—something with a backyard for my dog to crap in. I’m moving back.”

  It took a week. Cash streamlined things considerably, and Beckett was now the proud owner of a huge house. He hadn’t a clue what the hell he was going to do with it. He was also the less-than-proud confidante of Captain John McHugh. McHugh hadn’t seemed wild about it either, but Beckett had decided to tackle things head on and his position working with both Rodolfo Vitullo and Sevan Harmon had proved impossible for the Poughkeepsie police to pass up. He’d set up Milton as the go-between and hoped that would keep Rodolfo off the trail. He also checked in with said bag of bones once a day, keeping him posted on progress with IDing Sevan’s people and setting up a meet with the slippery son-of-a-bitch himself. Beckett didn’t fucking like being under the corpse’s thumb, and the bastard certainly didn’t make things easy, but he had yet to come up with a better way to keep Eve alive.

  Gandhi had taken well to the transition, though he seemed to miss Vere. Beckett kept busy, buying shit, keeping track of his old stomping grounds. Haunting his former places of income became his modus operandi. He held meetings at the pawn shop, gradually getting closer to Harmon by conversing with his assholes of varying importance. Sevan was apparently overseas enjoying a splendid vacation. Free
money, courtesy of Mary Ellen, had given him a wildly free spirit, and he simply couldn’t be troubled to meet with Beckett right now. So, Beckett hired new assholes of his own and considered opening a restaurant. He could open it odd hours and maybe collect misfits like he had in Maryland.

  But mostly he waited for her to call—to say anything. He saw the back of her head from time to time as she walked through town. Her hair was blond again, and she was always with the cop they’d saved from the party. They’d been holding hands one time, and Beckett had actually reached for his gun before he stopped himself. He’d given her a life back, and damn it, she could do whatever the fuck she wanted with it.

  Three weeks into his relocation, he’d video chatted with Chery, who he finally had to force to stop apologizing for going back to Jared. He hadn’t told her Jared was dead in so many words, but he suspected Chaos had hinted at it. He liked the looks he saw Chaos and Chery share, but the news they gave him was unsettling. Apparently, Chery was knocked up with Jared’s kid. And she wanted nothing to do with it. She was three months along and willing to finish the pregnancy, but raising a child who would always remind her of the past wasn’t an option. He’d agreed to think on it with them, and since then he’d been turning it over in his head.

  In fact, a week later, that’s what he was doing at this very moment in his new house. Cole knocked on the back door, casserole in hand, and Gandhi greeted him with gusto.

  “Dude, Fairy Princess cooks?” Beckett took the ceramic dish and set it down before meeting his brother again for their handshake.

  “Seriously? It was me. Yeah, I’m not afraid to say I like cooking.” Cole opened every cabinet until he found the plates.

  “She sucks at it?” Beckett called as he went to feed Gandhi in the basement and grabbed two ice-cold beers from the downstairs fridge.

  “So much. But you didn’t hear that from me.” Cole located the forks and a knife and soon they were sitting at the table.

  There were still stacks of boxes everywhere. Beckett just couldn’t get motivated to put stuff away. He couldn’t lose the feeling that this whole “I’m home” act would be over in a heartbeat—one way or another.

  “Where is that redhead tonight?” Beckett took a bite of the dinner, and it was delicious. He told his brother so.

  “Thanks. She’s working. Blake would’ve come, but they have the flu running through the family.” Cole took a swig of his beer.

  “Disgusting.” Beckett raised his beer. “Here’s to not crapping and puking at the same time.”

  “Toast.” Cole smiled. “The dog okay downstairs?”

  Beckett nodded. “Little dude eats and then sleeps like a bear in winter.”

  “So are you here for good?” Cole asked. “What the hell happened? Your messages and texts have been cryptic.”

  “I’m working on some serious shit, and I’m kind of doing it for someone else.” Beckett rolled up his sleeve to show his brother his brand.

  “That doesn’t seem like you at all. I thought you were out of the business.” Cole pushed his chair away from the table.

  “I thought I was out of the business too. I’ve tried to be—and I’m still trying to do things differently—but maybe there’s never really a getting out, you know?” Beckett rubbed his hands over his face. “I’m wired a certain way, good at certain things…Anyway, I hope to find a way out of this situation at some point, but I can’t say too much about it now. And listen, that’s not why we’re here. I’ve got something I’m thinking about, and I don’t know if it’s crazy or offensive and—”

  Cole interrupted. “Is it illegal?”

  “Nnnooooo…Not if we do it the right way. I don’t think?” Beckett took another bite and started with the tale of Maryland: what he’d been doing and all about Chery and Vere. And finally, Beckett got around to the baby who might need a home.

  Cole nodded, saying nothing. He was a terrific, non-judgmental listener. Beckett leaned over and slapped his brother on the back. “So glad you’re here. Damn it.”

  Cole smiled back. “Feel the same way. This is a lot to take in. Are you suggesting we adopt this baby?”

  “That was my thought. You guys want a kid, and I know a lady who has to deal with a lot of emotional stuff right now. But I’ll tell you this: she and her sister are exceptional people. Good stock.” He didn’t expect an answer right away and told his brother so.

  “And the father?” Cole looked afraid to ask.

  “I killed him.” Beckett had tried to think of a way he could avoid telling Cole this, but he needed the man to know every angle. “I didn’t kill him at first. I tried it another way. But then I did go ahead and do it. He was a beater, and he finally tried to kill Chery. Like Rick from back in the good ol’ days. She just couldn’t get out of his grasp. When I found him he’d hidden her, like a body. He thought she was dead.”

  “Was she pregnant through this?” Cole was astonished.

  “She was. Still is.” Beckett peeled the label off his beer.

  “This is a really stressful time for her to make this kind of decision.” His brother worked on his beer label as well.

  “She’s just a couple months along. So there’s time, but she’s anxious. I know she wants to find a resolution, and I think this is one she’ll like.” Beckett didn’t want to press the situation, but the solution seemed obvious to him. “She’s clean, caring, and devoted. She’d love for this kid to have a great upbringing. I know she’d do a great job herself, but I guess she’s afraid the baby will remind her too much of the father. I don’t think she’ll change her mind.”

  Cole nodded seriously. “I don’t know…I like to do stuff on the up and up.”

  “We’ll do all the paperwork. I’ll make it so it’s legal.” Beckett had already reached out to a few contacts.

  “I need to pray on this, talk to Kyle. But you tell Chery she’s in my prayers.”

  Beckett smiled. “Just tell me when you can. I think it’d give her peace of mind to just know, either way.”

  Cole stood and found some foil to cover the casserole. “You can have the leftovers. Just bring back the dish or Kyle will freak.”

  “You really mean you though, right?” Beckett teased.

  “Yeah, I do.” Cole laughed.

  Beckett was showing his brother out the back door when Cole turned. “You know what? You tell her we’ll take the baby. I won’t tell Kyle until Chery’s sure, and then she’ll have less time to wait. Less chance anything could change.”

  “Seriously?” Beckett gave his brother a huge grin and held up his arm for the handshake.

  “Yeah. Yes. I want that baby for her.” Cole smiled right back.

  “Wow. That’s awesome. Shit. I’d have given anything for a father like you.” Beckett pulled Cole into a hug.

  When he finally closed the door, Beckett felt like he’d done the right fucking thing. And that felt good. He was about to call Chery when the doorbell rang.

  He crossed to the front of the house and peeked out the window. He saw blond hair. He yanked open the door.

  Eve stood on his doorstep, her beautiful blue eyes filled with a million emotions: hate, lust, pain.

  But she was here.


  Hate Mates

  THE DOOR OPENED, and he was there: magnetic, his dimples just a slight indent on his surprised face. Beckett exhaled her name, like it came from deep within him. Eve put her fist to her lips. She wanted to ask if she could come in. She wanted to yell that he shouldn’t have rescued her from Rodolfo’s. She was breaths away from telling him she’d never needed him in all the years he’d been away, and she certainly didn’t need him now.

  Instead she pushed herself against his chest and growled his name back at him. He gathered her hard against him, slamming his front door behind her. The smell of him, the feel of his strength—knowing he could easily take what she’d dish out flooded her with lust.

  Face to face, they looked deeply into each other’s eyes, and Eve
knew the first to give in to the kiss would be weak, the loser. And it was every inch a war. She ripped Beckett’s button-down shirt open, buttons flying like popcorn. He grabbed her wrists, and she winced, but Beckett held tight. She tilted her chin up at him, daring him to try something, anything.

  He twirled her so her back was against the wall. For a second she thought he was going to bite her neck, yet he stopped just before his lips could touch her skin. He passed his mouth over her, his heated breath ragged. She felt his moist want on her chest, across the tops of her breasts, all while he held her still-healing wrists too tightly.

  This man knew exactly how to grind her into an animal. With him their passion was an argument, a sexual fight. It was almost mating, wild and deadly. She was already wet for him, nipples hard. He came back up from her neck to look her in the face.

  Eyes wide and basically panting, Beckett was obviously as undone by her presence as she was by his. She smiled at him, breathing erratically. She pulled her hands toward his face, working against his tight grip. Finally, she rested her palms on his cheeks. He fought against her, making her work for this intimate touch. Then he pressed himself over her, steel against her curves. She looked from his eyes to his lips, over and over, trying to make a choice. He was made of venom and primed for an attack. She came close, their lips almost touching, her nipples pressed to his hard chest. She licked her lips, and the tip of her tongue made contact with his bottom lip because they were so close.

  Her tongue was his fuse. And like a bomb had been lit, he punched the wall on either side of her head. She didn’t flinch. He slammed the wall again, unable to channel his emotions properly. Every strike came so near, his violence timed with her rapid heartbeat. They had such fucked-up foreplay. All she could hear was the blood rushing through her body. Finally, he stopped, and with almost superhuman effort he pushed away from her, grabbing his hair.

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