Colters woman, p.28
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       Colters Woman, p.28

         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
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Page 28


  “Easy, son. My name is David Masterson. I’m the district attorney for San Francisco County. ”

  Adam crossed his arms and stood, legs apart, staring defiantly at the D. A. “That doesn’t explain why you’re here. ”

  “I asked him to come,” Holly said quietly.

  All eyes turned to her. Ryan moved closer to her bed, hovering protectively over her. Which was laughable at best. He still looked like a half-dressed mummy with the bandages wrapped around his chest and shoulder.

  “Perhaps I could have a moment alone with Mrs. Bardwell,” the D. A. spoke up.

  “Like hell you will,” Ryan snarled.

  Holly put up her free hand to rest on Ryan’s arm. “I’ll be fine, Ryan. ”

  Adam stared at her, his gaze never leaving her face. “What have you done, Holly?”

  “Please understand, Adam. I can’t allow any of you to come to harm because of me. ”

  Adam swore long and hard. She winced at the ferocity.

  David Masterson gestured at the two policemen. “If you don’t mind, escort the gentlemen out so Mrs. Bardwell and I can talk privately. ”

  “The hell you say!” Ethan burst out.

  “Ethan, please,” Holly pleaded. “Let me do this my way. I’m asking you to leave. For me. ”

  Looks of hurt mixed with anger were thrown her way, but the three finally turned and stalked out the door.

  The D. A. turned and gave her a speculative look.

  “Mind if I sit down?” he asked.

  She shook her head and watched as he settled into the chair Adam had vacated.

  “My office has been looking for you for some time, Mrs. Bardwell. Any particular reason you disappeared?”

  She stared hard at him. He wouldn’t get the upper hand over her. This meeting would be on her terms and her terms alone.

  “I asked you here, Mr. Masterson. I’ll ask the questions. ”

  He lifted one brow. “Very well. What can I do for you?”

  “You wouldn’t have come all this way if you weren’t keenly interested in Mason Bardwell,” she began.

  He nodded. “That’s true. ”

  “I saw him murder a man on our wedding night,” she said baldly.

  The D. A. sat forward, urgency lighting his eyes. “You saw him? Unmistakably?”

  She shuddered and closed her eyes momentarily. “There was no mistaking what I saw, Mr. Masterson. He shot a man. ”

  “Were there any other witnesses? Think hard about this, Mrs. Bardwell. It’s very important. ”

  “Please. Don’t call me Mrs. Bardwell,” she said quietly. “My name is Holly. And yes, there was one other person present. His business partner Thomas Goins. ”

  David sat back, a gleam of triumph in his eyes. “Are you willing to testify to what you saw?”

  “It’s why I asked you here,” she said. “But I have conditions. ”

  Again he quirked his eyebrow at her. “What sort of conditions are we talking about?”

  “I want protection. He’s why I’m in the hospital. He’s why Ryan Colter nearly died. He won’t hesitate to kill me or them. ”

  “Of course, we’d take all the necessary precautions,” he said quickly.

  “I want Adam, Ethan and Ryan protected as well. They won’t like it. They won’t want it. But I won’t set foot in a courthouse unless you guarantee that someone will be looking out for their best interests until this is all over with. ”

  “Holly, if you help me put away Mason Bardwell, I’ll personally baby-sit them. We’ve been after him for years. He’s up to his neck in organized crime in the San Francisco Bay area. Until now, we’ve never been able to pin anything on him. When Sheriff McMillan called me and said you wanted to see me, I took the first flight out here, hoping you’d tell me what you have. ”

  Holly blanched. “Organized crime?”

  David nodded. He studied her for a moment. “This probably isn’t the best time to tell you, but then I can’t imagine there ever being a good time, but we strongly suspect he had a hand in your parents’ death. ”

  She opened her mouth in shock. “But they died in an accident! It was ruled an accident. ”

  “So it was. A rather suspicious accident. He was involved in several investments with them. Investments that went very bad. A week before their accident, they came to my office with claims they had evidence he was involved in fraud. ”

  Holly dropped her head onto her pillow. Tears stung her eyes and she wiped angrily at them. “And you never did anything about it?”

  His voice dropped to a softer tone. “We didn’t have enough evidence to pursue an indictment. Believe me if we did, I would have done everything in my power to convict him. ”

  “What do I have to do?” she asked. “I want the bastard in jail for what he did. ”

  “Well, I’ll take your statement. Then I’ll put together an arrest warrant and have the police pick Mr. Bardwell up. We’ll move you to an undisclosed location where you’ll remain until the trial. I’ll arrange for police protection for the Colters as well. ”

  “How long will this take?” she asked softly.

  “That I don’t know. I won’t lie to you. It could drag on for some time, but I’ll do the best I can to make sure we get a rapid trial date. ”

  She swallowed the knot in her throat. How long would she be separated from Adam, Ethan and Ryan, and would they even want her back by the time it was all over with? As much as she hated the idea of being separated from them, she knew what she had to do. For her parents, for the men she loved, and most importantly, for herself.

  “Let’s do it,” she whispered. “Make the arrangements. ”

  He leaned forward and folded her hand in his. “Thank you, Holly. You’re doing a very brave thing. ”

  Brave? Or stupid? She wasn’t sure which. She knew she’d have three very angry men. Men she loved more than anything else in her life. And here she was doing the one thing she wanted to do the least. Leaving.

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Adam sat in brooding silence, his feet perched on the windowsill of the hospital room. After the district attorney had come out of Holly’s room, she’d fallen asleep, clearly exhausted by the encounter.

  The floor had gone into a flurry of activity, directed by the two Colorado state troopers. Even now, a police guard had been posted at the door, and no one but hospital staff and the Colter brothers were allowed in.

  Adam could feel the clock ticking, and he didn’t like it a damn bit. He glanced over at Holly’s pale face. She was too damn weak, not nearly recovered enough to take on her bastard husband. She needed rest, to recuperate.

  “What do you think’s going on?” Ethan muttered as he sat down beside Adam.

  “Don’t be talking in low voices, thinking I won’t hear,” Ryan said sourly. “If there’s something to be said, I want to hear it. ”

  “We’re trying not to wake Holly up,” Adam said pointedly. He turned back to Ethan. “I wish the fuck I knew what was going on in her head. She blames herself for what happened to Ryan, and she’s acted on that. ”

  Ryan swore a streak that would have their mother washing his mouth out with soap.

  “So what do we do?” Ethan asked.

  Adam shook his head. He felt so damn helpless. “I don’t know. It has to be her decision. We can’t make it for her. ”

  “I don’t want to lose her,” Ryan said in a tight voice.

  “Do you think we do?” Ethan asked. Anger and frustration simmered in his eyes.

  Adam rubbed his face tiredly. They were all on pins and needles. Tired. Frustrated beyond belief. And scared to death of losing the one woman who meant everything to them.

  “How can we just let her walk away?” Ryan demanded. “Who’s going to make sure that bastard husband of hers isn’t going to hurt her again?”

  Adam turned his head to the bed when he heard Holly shift and sigh softly. Her eyes fluttered ope
n, and he leaned forward in his seat.

  “How’re you feeling, baby?”

  “Tired,” she whispered.

  He felt guilty for what he was about to do, but he wasn’t going to let go without a fight. She didn’t need to be pushed, but that was exactly what he was going to do.

  “What’s going on, baby? Why did you call the D. A. ? I don’t like what that implies. ”

  She stared at him with her beautiful eyes. Eyes that were awash in sadness. And fear. Almost as if she was afraid of how he’d react when she answered his questions.

  His gut tightened uncomfortably.

  “It had to be done,” she said.

  “No, it didn’t,” Ryan refuted.

  Tears welled in her eyes. “You almost died, Ryan. Because of me. Do you have any idea what that did to me? How badly it hurt? I can’t stand the thought of any of you gone. I love you too much. ”

  Adam glanced over at Ryan. His brother looked to be near losing all control. Rage and grief festered like a gangrenous sore.

  “I’m the one who let you down,” Ryan said in a near shout. “Don’t you get it? I let that bastard into our home. I let him take you away from us. I let him nearly kill you. I let you down just like I let those prisoners down in Iraq. ”

  Tears streamed down Holly’s face. “Ryan…”

  “I won’t let you do this, Holly. I won’t let you sacrifice yourself for us,” Ryan said fiercely.

  She struggled to sit up, and Adam leaned further into her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders to help.

  “I made a bargain with the district attorney,” she said. “A bargain I won’t back out of. It’s something I have to do. For all of us. ”

  Nausea welled in Adam’s stomach, and he and Ethan exchanged panicked looks.

  “What kind of bargain?” Ethan asked dully.

  “I’m going to testify against Mason. ”

  Adam shook his head. “No. No, no, no! It’s too dangerous. He’ll go after you with everything he has. ”

  “I’m going away,” Holly added softly. “Until the trial. I’ll be in protective custody. ”

  Adam surged to his feet. He clenched his fingers into tight balls. God, he wanted to hit something. Put his fist through the wall.

  “Why? Why are you doing this?” he demanded. He no longer cared that he sounded so angry. He couldn’t bring himself to treat her so gently when she was tearing him apart on the inside.

  “I’m doing it for you. ”

  The statement was firm. Accentuated by a sharp lift to her chin. Fire blazed in eyes that had been so fatigued just moments ago.

  Adam closed his eyes, drawing a tight rein on his anger. He wanted to fucking howl. Instead, he turned and walked out. He couldn’t trust himself to speak when all he wanted to do was shout.

  Holly watched as he left and felt her world splinter and break into tiny pieces. He was angrier than she’d ever seen him. At her.

  Looks of betrayal loomed in Ethan and Ryan’s eyes. Did they all hate her?

  “Go after him,” she said softly. “He needs you. ”

  “He needs you,” Ethan pointed out.

  “Don’t let him do anything stupid,” she continued.

  “I need some air,” Ryan said in a defeated voice she cringed at.

  Ethan shook his head and followed Ryan out the door.

  Holly clapped her hand to her face as the sobs she’d tried so hard to contain came bubbling out. She tried to suck in steadying breaths, but loud, raspy, harsh sounds kept spilling from her throat.

  The nurse came in the door, a concerned expression marring her face. David Masterson followed closely behind.

  “Do you need something for pain?” the nurse asked.

  For pain? If only a simple drug would take away the agony that clawed at her heart.

  Holly shook her head. She wanted her wits about her. She was going to need all she could get in the coming days.

  “Mrs. Bardwell…Holly, I’ve spoken with your doctor, made extensive arrangements to have you transferred to a private facility in another state. If you’re agreeable, we’ll have you transported within the hour. ”

  Holly’s mouth gaped open. “So soon?”

  “It’s imperative we move you to a safe place as soon as possible. Your husband has already proven he is capable of anything. He hasn’t had any trouble finding you. It’s only a matter of time before he finds you here. ”

  The brothers. Mason would also find Adam, Ethan and Ryan. Where she was, so were they. If he could find her so easily, what did that do for the Colters?

  “I’m ready,” she said in a steady voice.

  * * *

  Adam knew something was wrong the minute he stepped off the elevator. The nurse who’d cared for Holly this shift wouldn’t meet his gaze. In fact, she scurried off in the opposite direction as fast her legs would take her.

  He growled low under his breath. It had taken him the better part of two hours to cool off enough to think rationally. Ethan and Ryan hadn’t helped. They’d been as pissed as he was.

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