Rumors the mccaffertys, p.1
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       Rumors: The McCaffertys, p.1

           Lisa Jackson
 
Rumors: The McCaffertys


  The past is never too far behind…

  The McCaffertys: Thorne

  When Thorne McCafferty rushes home to the family ranch, he is thinking only about whether his sister Randi will survive the car wreck that has put her in the hospital. He never expects that Randi’s E.R. doctor will be Nicole Stevenson.

  Nicole has never forgotten the teenage passion she shared with Thorne…or the sting of his unexplained rejection. Now she’s all grown up—but he still affects her in the very same way. Will they both be able to move beyond their pasts for a second chance at a happy ending?

  The McCaffertys: Matt

  Matt has never met a woman who wouldn’t succumb to the McCafferty charm. But beautiful Kelly Dillinger, the cop assigned to his sister’s hit-and-run case, proves indifferent to his attention. Her all-business attitude pricks his ego…and fires up his blood. The more she resists, the more determined he becomes to break down her defenses. Matt might think that law enforcement is no place for a lady, but he might soon find himself making a plea for passion.

  Praise for #1 New York Times bestselling author

  “Bestselling Jackson cranks up the suspense to almost unbearable heights in her latest tautly written thriller.”

  —Booklist on Malice

  “When it comes to providing gritty and sexy stories, Ms. Jackson certainly knows how to deliver.”

  —RT Book Reviews on Unspoken

  “Provocative prose, an irresistible plot and finely crafted characters make up Jackson’s latest contemporary sizzler.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Wishes

  “Lisa Jackson takes my breath away.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller

  Also available from

  Lisa Jackson

  and Harlequin HQN

  Secrets and Lies

  Abandoned

  Strangers

  Sweet Revenge

  Stormy Nights

  Montana Fire

  Risky Business

  Missing

  High Stakes

  Secrets

  And coming soon…

  Confessions

  and

  Disclosure: The McCaffertys

  Contents

  The McCaffertys: Thorne

  The McCaffertys: Matt

  The McCaffertys: Thorne

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Epilogue

  Prologue

  Last summer

  “The truth of the matter, son, is that I’ve got a request for you,” John Randall McCafferty stated from his wheelchair. He’d asked Thorne to push him to the fence line some thirty yards from the front door of the ranch house he’d called home all his life.

  “I hate to ask what it is,” Thorne remarked.

  “It’s simple. I want you to marry. You’re thirty-nine, son, Matt’s thirty-seven and Slade—well, he’s still a boy but he is thirty-six. None of you has married and I don’t have one grandchild—well at least none that I know of.” He frowned. “Even your sister hasn’t settled down.”

  “Randi’s only twenty-six.”

  “High time,” J. Randall said. A shell of the man he’d once been, J. Randall nonetheless gripped the arms of his metal chair, often referred to as “that damned contraption,” so tightly his knuckles bleached white. An old afghan was draped over his legs though the temperature hovered near eighty according to the ancient thermometer tacked to the north side of the barn. Across his lap was his cane, another hated symbol of his failing health.

  “I’m serious, son. I need to know that the McCafferty line won’t die with you boys.”

  “That’s an archaic way of thinking.” Thorne wasn’t going to be pushed around. Not by his old man. Not by anyone.

  “So be it. Damn it, Thorne, if ya haven’t noticed I don’t have a helluva lot of time left on this here earth!” J. Randall swept his cane from his lap and jabbed it into the ground for emphasis.

  Harold, J. Randall’s crippled hunting dog, gave off a disgruntled woof from the front porch and a field mouse scurried into a tangle of brambles.

  “I don’t understand you,” J. Randall grumbled. “This could have been yours, boy. All yours.” He swept his cane in a wide arc and Thorne’s gaze followed his father’s gesture. Spindly legged colts frolicked in one pasture while a herd of mottled cattle in shades of russet, black and brown ambled near the dry creek bed that sliced through what was commonly referred to as “the big meadow.” The paint on the barn had peeled, the windows in the stables needed replacing and the whole damned place looked as if it were suffering from the same debilitating disease as its owner.

  The Flying M Ranch.

  John Randall McCafferty’s pride and joy. Now run by a foreman as he was too ill and his children too busy with their own lives.

  Thorne regarded the rolling acres with a mixture of emotions running the gauntlet from love to hate.

  “I’m not getting married, Dad. Not for a while.”

  “What’s the wait? And don’t tell me you need to make your mark. You’ve done it, boy.” Old, faded blue eyes rolled up to look at him, then blinked when rays from a blinding Montana sun were too much. “What’re ya worth now? Three million? Five?”

  “Somewhere around seven.”

  His father snorted. “I was a rich man once. What did it get me?” His old lips folded back on themselves. “Two wives who bled me dry when we divorced and a bellyful of worry about losin’ it all. No, money isn’t what counts, Thorne. It’s children. And land. Damn it all—” biting his lower lip, J. Randall dug deep into his pocket “—now where in tarnation is that— Oh, here we go.”

  Slowly he withdrew a ring that winked in the sunlight and Thorne’s gut twisted as he recognized the band—his father’s first wedding ring; one he hadn’t worn in over a quarter of a century. “I want you to have this,” the old man said as he held out the gold band with its unique silver inlay. “Your mother gave it to me the day we were married.”

  “I know.” Thorne, sensing he was making a serious mistake, accepted the ring. It felt cold and hard in his fingers, a metal circle that held no warmth, no promise, no joy. A symbol of broken dreams. He pocketed the damn ring.

  “Promise me, boy.”

  “What?”

  “That you’ll marry.”

  Thorne didn’t bat an eye. “Someday.”

  “Make it soon, will ya? I’d like to leave this earth knowin’ that you were gonna have a family.”

  “I’ll think about it,” Thorne said and suddenly the small band of gold and silver in his pocket seemed to weigh a thousand pounds.

  Chapter 1

  Grand Hope, Montana

  October

  Dr. Nicole Stevenson felt a rush of adrenaline surge through her blood as it did each time accident victims were rushed into the emergency room of St. James Hospital.

  She met the intensity in Dr. Maureen Oliverio’s eyes as the other woman hung up the phone. “The copter’s here! Let’s go, people!” The hastily grouped team of doctors and nurses responded. “The paramedics are bringing in the patient. You’re on, Dr. Stevenson.”

 
“What have we got?” Nicole asked.

  Dr. Oliverio, a no-nonsense doctor, led the way through double doors. “Single-car accident up in Glacier Park, the patient’s a woman in her late twenties, pregnant, at term. Fractures, internal damage, concussed, a real mess. Membranes have ruptured. We’ll probably need to do a C-section because of her other injuries. While we’re inside, we’ll repair any other damage. Everybody with me? Dr. Stevenson’s in charge until we send the patient to O.R.”

  Nicole caught the glances of the other doctors as they adjusted masks and gloves. It was her job to stabilize the patient before shipping her off to surgery.

  The doors of the room flew open and a gurney, propelled by two paramedics, flew through the doors of the emergency room of St. James Hospital.

  “What have we got here?” Nicole asked the nearest paramedic, a short red-faced man with clipped graying hair and a moustache. “What are her vital signs? What about the baby?”

  “BP normal, one-ten over seventy-five, heart rate sixty-two but dropping slightly…” The paramedic rattled off the information he’d gathered and Nicole, listening, looked down at the patient, an unconscious woman whose face once probably beautiful was now bloody and already beginning to bruise. Her abdomen was distended, fluid from an IV flowed into her arm and her neck and head were braced. “…lacerations, abrasions, fractured skull, mandible and femur, possible internal bleeding…”

  “Let’s get a fetal monitor here!” Nicole ordered as a nurse peeled off.

  “On its way.”

  “Good.” Nicole nodded. “Okay, okay, now, let’s stabilize the mother.”

  “Has the husband been notified? Do we have a consent?” Dr. Oliverio asked.

  “Don’t know,” a grim-faced paramedic replied. “The police are trying to locate her relatives. According to her ID, her name is Randi McCafferty and there’s no indication of any allergies to meds on her driver’s licence, no prescription drugs in her purse.”

  Oh, God! Nicole’s heart nearly stopped. She froze. For a split second her concentration lapsed and she gave herself a quick mental shake. “Are you sure?” she asked the shorter of the two paramedics.

  “Positive.”

  “Randi McCafferty,” Dr. Oliverio repeated, sucking in her breath. “My daughter went to school with her. Her father’s dead—J. Randall, important man around these parts at one time. Owned the Flying M Ranch about twenty miles out of town. Randi, here, has three half brothers.”

  And Thorne’s one of them, Nicole thought, her jaw tensing.

  “What about the husband or boyfriend? The kid’s got a father somewhere,” Dr. Oliverio insisted.

  “Don’t know. Never heard of one.”

  “We’ll figure out all that later,” Nicole said, taking charge once more. “Right now, let’s just concentrate on stabilizing her and the baby.”

  Dr. Oliverio nodded. “Let’s get that fetal monitor on here! STAT.”

  “Got it,” a nurse replied.

  “BP’s falling, Doctor—one hundred over sixty,” a nurse said.

  “Damn.” Nicole’s own heart began to pound. She wasn’t going to lose this patient. Come on, Randi, she silently urged. Where’s that good ol’ McCafferty fight? Come on, come on! “Where’s the anesthesiologist?” Nicole demanded.

  “On his way.”

  “Who is he?”

  “Brummel.” Dr. Oliverio met Nicole’s gaze. “A good man. He’ll be here.”

  “The monitor’s in place,” a nurse said just as Dr. Brummel, a thin man in rimless glasses, pushed his way through the doors. “What have we got here?” he asked as he quickly scanned the patient.

  “Woman. Unconscious. About to deliver. Single-car accident. No known allergies, no medical records, but we’re checking,” Nicole said. “She’s got a skull fracture, multiple other fractures, pneumothorax—so she’s already entubated. Her membranes have ruptured, the kid’s on his way, and there might be more abdominal injuries.”

  “The mother’s BP is stabilizing—one hundred and five over sixty,” a nurse called, but Nicole didn’t relax. Couldn’t. In her estimation Randi McCafferty’s life wasn’t yet certain.

  “Keep your eye on it. Now, what about the baby?” Nicole asked.

  “We’ve got trouble here. The baby’s in distress,” Dr. Oliverio said, eyeing the readout of the fetal monitor.

  “Then let’s get it out of there.”

  “I’ll be ready in a minute,” Dr. Brummel said from behind his mask as he adjusted the breathing tube. Satisfied, he glanced up at Nicole. “Let’s go.”

  “We’ve got a neonatalogist standing by.”

  “Good.” Nicole checked Randi’s vital signs one last time. “Patient’s stable.” She glanced at the team, then met Dr. Oliverio’s eyes with her own. Randi McCafferty was in an uphill battle for her life. As was the baby. “All right, Doctors, the patients are all yours.”

  * * *

  Thorne drove like a madman. He’d gotten the call from Slade less than three hours earlier that Randi was in a car accident in Glacier Park, here in Montana.

  Thorne had been in Denver at the time, in a private business meeting at the offices of McCafferty International and he’d left abruptly. He told his secretary to handle everything and rearrange his schedule, then he grabbed a duffel bag he kept packed in a closet and had driven to the airfield. Within the hour he was airborne, flying the company jet directly to a private airstrip at the ranch. He hadn’t bothered checking with his brothers again, instead he’d just taken the keys to a pickup that was waiting for him, tossed his duffel bag into the truck then taken off for Grand Hope and St. James Hospital where Randi was battling for her life.

  He stepped on the accelerator, took a corner too fast and heard the tires squeal in protest. He didn’t know what was going on; the phone call from his brother Slade had been broken up by static and eventually disconnected as cell service wasn’t the greatest here. But he did understand that Randi’s life was in question and that the name of the admitting doctor was Stevenson. Other than that, he knew nothing.

  Night-darkened fields flew by. The wipers slapped sleet from the windshield and Thorne’s jaw grew hard. What the devil had happened? Why was Randi in Montana when her job was in Seattle? What had she been doing in Glacier Park, how serious were her injuries—was she really in danger of losing her life? A piece of information that finally pierced his brain from his conversation with Slade burrowed deep in his brain. Hadn’t his brother said something about Randi being pregnant? No way. He’d seen her less than six months ago. She was single, didn’t even have a steady boyfriend. Or did she? What did he really know about his half sister?

  Not a helluva lot.

  Guilt ripped through him. You should have kept in contact. You’re the oldest. It was your responsibility. It wasn’t her fault that her mother seduced your father over a quarter of a century before and broke up John Randall’s first marriage. It wasn’t her fault that you were just too damned busy with your own life.

  Dozens of questions burned through his conscience as he saw the lights of the town glowing in the distance.

  He’d have his answers soon enough.

  If Randi survived. His fingers clenched around the wheel and he found himself praying to a God he’d thought had long ago turned a deaf ear.

  * * *

  Thorne McCafferty.

  The last person on earth Nicole wanted to deal with. But, no doubt, he’d be here. And soon. As she tore off her surgical gloves, she told herself to buck up. He was just another worried relative of a patient. Nothing more.

  Nonetheless Nicole didn’t like the idea of facing him again. There were too many old wounds, too much pain she’d never really resolved, too many emotions that she’d locked away years ago. She’d realized when she moved here after her divorce that she wouldn’t be
able to avoid Thorne forever. Grand Hope, despite its recent growth, was still a small town and John Randall McCafferty had been one of its leading citizens. His sons and daughter had grown up here.

  So she’d have to face Thorne again. Big deal. It was only a matter of time. Unfortunately the situation—with his sister struggling for her life—wasn’t the best of circumstances.

  Nicole stuffed her stethoscope into her pocket and braced herself. Not only would she have to face Thorne again, but Randi McCafferty’s other distraught brothers as well—men she’d known in a lifetime long, long ago when she’d dated their older brother. Her time with Thorne had been short, though. Intense and unforgettable, but thankfully short. His younger brothers, who had been caught up in their own lives at the time, might not remember her.

  Don’t believe it for a minute. When it comes to women, the McCafferty men were almost legendary in their conquests. They’d known all the girls in town.

  Another painful old scar ripped open because Nicole had come to face the fact that she had been nothing more than another one of Thorne McCafferty’s conquests, just another notch in his belt. A poor, shy, studious girl who had, for a short period one summer, caught his eye.

  An archaic way of thinking, but oh, so torturously true.

  Through a high window she saw the movement of stormy gray clouds that reflected her own gloomy thoughts. Though it was only October the weather service had been predicting snow.

  She’d been in the ER all day, had nearly finished her shift when Randi McCafferty had been brought in.

  Nicole’s feet ached, her head pounded and the thought of a shower was pure heaven—a shower, a glass of chilled Chardonnay, a crackling fire and the twins cuddled with her under the quilt in her favorite rocker as she read them a bedtime story. She couldn’t help but smile. “Later,” she reminded herself. First she had serious business to attend to.

  Randi, still in recovery, wasn’t out of the woods yet, nor would she be for a while. Comatose and fighting for her life, Randi would spend the better part of the next week in ICU being monitored, her vital signs watched twenty-four hours.

 
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