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The darkest hour, p.41
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       The Darkest Hour, p.41

         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
 
Page 41

 

  Garrett nodded his agreement and looked toward Sam for his input.

  “Until we find out what the hell is going on, this family is in lockdown,” Sam said grimly. “No one is safe. I’m going to call in Rio and his team as well as Steele. ”

  The brothers looked at one another as they realized at the same moment . . .

  “Donovan. Goddamn it,” Sam said. “Son of a bitch. I missed check-in. ”

  “You had a good reason,” Garrett said. “Donovan can handle himself. He has the best. We can’t pull him out now. He’ll be home in a day, and we can pull in P. J. , Baker and Renshaw to help out here. ”

  Ethan swallowed as the reality set in. War had been declared. First on his family, and now they were fighting back.

  “We’ll do what we have to in order to keep this family safe,” Sam said in a low voice. “I know you want in, Ethan, but Rachel needs you, and your first priority has to be her and patching things up between you. We’ll keep you in the loop, I swear it. ”

  Ethan knew Sam was right. He wanted to go after the bastards himself. He wanted their blood for daring to touch Rachel. But Rachel needed him. He needed Rachel.

  “Okay,” he said quietly.

  Sam put his hand on Ethan’s shoulder and squeezed. “I’m going to head over to see what Sean can tell me, if anything yet. Then I need to try and raise Van and let him know what the hell is going on. Garrett is going to take Mom, Dad and Rusty home, and Sean is going to provide deputies for their protection. I don’t want anyone in this family alone and unguarded. You go back down with Rachel. I’ll come check in later. ”

  Ethan nodded, and without waiting for them to go, he turned and hurried back down the hall. He sized up the policeman outside Rachel’s door and then walked back in.

  His mom looked up from Rachel’s bed and then hurried over.

  “Has she woken up yet?” he asked her.

  Marlene shook her head. “The nurse came by to check her vitals. They gave her pain medication before they transferred her to her room so she’ll likely sleep for a while. ”

  Frank walked over and put his arm around Ethan’s shoulders. “You okay, son?”

  Ethan nodded. “Garrett is going to take you home so you can get some rest. I’m going to stay with Rachel. ”

  His mom frowned. “I’ll go home long enough to get you something to eat, but I’m not staying. I need to be here for you and Rachel. If anyone needs rest, it’s you. ”

  Ethan glanced at his father. “Listen, Ma. I need you to go home and stay there. Sean’s going to post a few deputies for your protection. The best thing you can do for me right now is to be safe. Until we eliminate the threat to Rachel—to this family—no one goes anywhere. I’ll be fine, and I’ll call you with updates. I promise. ”

  His mom’s lips pursed, and she was ready to argue, but his dad put an arm around her and squeezed. “He’s right, Marlene. The best thing we can do is go home and stay out of the way so they have less to worry over. ”

  She sighed but nodded. Then she reached up and cupped Ethan’s cheek. “You tell her we love her and that we’ll be back to see her as soon as you’ll let us. ”

  Ethan smiled and dropped a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks, Ma. I love you. ”

  It was with relief that Ethan closed the door behind his departing parents. Finally he was alone. He needed the time with Rachel. He needed to collect his scattered thoughts.

  He pulled a chair as close to Rachel’s bed as he could go and sat down, leaning forward to watch her while she slept. He took her hand and curled his fingers around hers. His thumb brushed over her palm, and he contented himself with the feel of her skin, warm on his.

  How long he’d dreaded facing her when she knew the truth. As overjoyed as he’d been to have her back, each day had been spent on borrowed time. Now he faced the hardest task of his life. Making her believe in them again.

  She stirred restlessly, her brow furrowed. He picked his head up, eagerly looking for any sign she was regaining consciousness.

  Gradually her distress eased and she slipped back under, her sleep seemingly more peaceful now.

  So he waited. And as he waited he replayed all their happiest memories. He focused on those, refusing to dwell on the bad.

  He must have fallen asleep, because he woke to someone shaking his shoulder. He looked up through bleary eyes to see Sam standing beside him.

  Ethan glanced back at Rachel, to see her still resting peacefully, and then he looked back at his brother.

  “How long has it been?” he asked groggily.

  “Few hours. We just came back from seeing Sean. ” He broke off and glanced over at Rachel. “Why don’t we go down to the nurses’ station and grab a cup of coffee. You look like you could use a jolt of caffeine. ”

  Ethan hesitated for a moment then rose, disentangling his fingers from Rachel’s. “Yeah, sure, just for a minute. I want to be here when she wakes up. ”

  He followed Sam from the room and nodded at the guard, who was still sitting right next to the door.

  “I’m going to leave the door cracked. If you hear her, holler at me, okay? I’ll be just down the hall. ”

  The guard gave him a short salute, and Ethan turned to follow Sam toward the coffee room.

  THE soft sound of an opening door roused Rachel to consciousness. Through narrow slits, she saw the male nurse come in and draw a syringe from the breast pocket of his scrubs.

  Her breath caught, and she kept her eyes barely open, not wanting him to know she was awake. Unease skittered up her spine, but she didn’t understand why.

  As he moved closer to the bed, he glanced almost nervously behind him, and the hard line of his profile triggered a memory of another time and place.

  Castle. Senator Castle. Expected presidential nominee for his party in the next election. Then, it had been two years away. Now it would be one?

  Panic made her mind race, and she scrambled to put the pieces together. Castle, this man, two others. She remembered fear of discovery. Of trying to back away. Of this man who was in her hospital room right now turning and seeing her.

  His gaze had been rock hard, and she’d seen her death in those eyes. She’d heard Castle order her death.

  But she’d been kept alive.

  Why?

  Her breath was swelling in her chest, threatening to explode from her throat. It took everything she had to lie there quietly while she gathered her courage.

  Her fingers twitched ever so slightly. The man uncapped the syringe and picked up her IV line, thumbing the port. Whatever was in the syringe meant her death.

  The needle slid into the port.

  She erupted from the bed. She slammed her cast down onto the IV line and quickly wrapped the tubing around the stiff mold. Then she yanked as hard as she could.

  The catheter jerked painfully from her hand, tape coming free as she screamed at the top of her lungs. She rolled away from the man, climbing frantically over the railing.

  She landed hard on the floor and glanced up to see the shock and fury in the man’s eyes. Then he turned and fled out of the door.

  ETHAN quickly poured a cup of coffee and offered it to Sam and then poured another for himself. He was impatient to hear what if anything Sam had learned from Sean, but he was also in a hurry to get back down to Rachel.

  “Let’s head back down the hall. You can fill me in on the way,” Ethan said.

  Sam nodded. “Then you need to get some sleep, Ethan. You’re not going to be worth a damn to Rachel in your current condition. Garrett and I can take turns staying with Rachel while you catch a few winks. ”

  Ethan made a rude noise of disagreement and sucked down a mouthful of the hot coffee.

  They stepped out of the small family room where refreshments were stored and headed down the long hallway toward Rachel’s room.

  They’d only taken a few steps when a shrill scream split the air. Ethan dropped his cof
fee and broke into a run.

  The guard posted outside Rachel’s door leapt to his feet just as a man dressed in hospital scrubs bolted from Rachel’s room and ran straight into the policeman.

  They both went down and rolled. The assailant landed a punch and scrambled up just as Ethan hit him hard, sending them both to the floor.

  “I got this,” Sam said harshly as he pried Ethan away. “You see to Rachel. ”

  Only the fear of what had happened to her kept Ethan from killing the man right there in the hallway. He backed away and ran into the room.

  Her bed was empty, and he glanced wildly from side to side until he located her on the floor, huddled in a corner holding her casted arm to her chest.

  Her hair was tangled, her eyes wild with a heavy glaze of fear. He wasn’t sure she had any idea where she was.

  “Rachel,” he said softly.

  He knelt on the floor beside her and carefully gathered her in his arms. She let out a shudder and started trembling violently.

  “Baby, are you okay? Did he hurt you? I need you to tell me what happened. ”

  He never got an answer. The door flew open and a flood of medical personnel rushed into the room.

  She went rigid in his arms, and as soon as the nurses got close, she all but crawled behind him.

  He held up a hand to ward them all off and shot them his most menacing glare.

  “No one touches her until you’ve been cleared,” he snarled.

  Sam strode into the door, his gaze going to the floor where Ethan sat with Rachel.

  “He’s in custody. Sean’s on his way. Is Rachel okay?”

  “Clear the room,” Ethan ordered. “No one comes near her until we know what the hell is going on here. ”

  “Sir, we need to examine her. We need to reattach her IV,” one of the nurses protested.

  Ethan opened his mouth, but Sam stepped between him and the nurse and put a hand up.

  “One of your nurses just tried to kill Rachel. No one is going to touch her until they’ve cleared security. Our security. ”

  The nurse blanched and backed away.

  “The IV,” Rachel said in a faint voice.

  Ethan looked down and touched her cheek. “What about it, baby?”

  “The syringe. It’s still sticking in the port. He tried to inject something into the line. ”

  Sam stalked over to the line dangling from the pole and picked up the tubing. A syringe dangled from the port, the needle inserted, the plunger still all the way back.

  He and Ethan exchanged horrified glances. Whatever was in that needle had come awfully damn close to being in Rachel’s vein.

  “You got a glove?” Sam demanded.

  The nurse who’d confronted Ethan gestured toward a box on the wall. Sam yanked one down and then gestured for the nurses to leave. As they headed toward the door, the police officer who’d been on guard duty came in.

  “Hospital security is crawling all over the hallway. I told them to stay out, but they aren’t happy. Sean’s got an ETA of five minutes. ”

  Sam nodded. “Keep them out until he gets here. He can deal with them. ”

  Sam slipped on the glove and carefully withdrew the needle from the port.

  “Somehow I don’t think I want to stick myself with this,” he murmured.

  Rachel shuddered against Ethan’s chest, and her fingers curled tightly into his shirt.

  “I don’t want to stay here. ”

  “I know, baby. I’ll take you home. ”

  He waited for her to refuse, to tell him she wanted someone else to take her away, but she remained quiet and still against him.

  He looked up at Sam, who still stood staring at the syringe.

  “I’m going to take her to Mom and Dad’s. I’ll have Mom call Doc Campbell to see if he can come over to see about Rachel. I don’t want her here until we know who the hell we can trust. ”

  “I’ll stay here until Sean shows. He’ll want to come out later to get the story from Rachel. I’ll turn this over to him so they can have the lab run it. The assholes are piling up around here. ”

  “Castle,” Rachel murmured. “It’s Castle. ”

  Ethan looked down in confusion. “What’s that, baby?”

  “Senator Castle,” she said in a clearer voice. She pushed away from Ethan and stared at him with wide, scared eyes. “He’ll never let me live knowing what I know. ”

  CHAPTER 40

  SHE couldn’t get the scene out of her head. It played over and over, the conversation as clear as it had been the day she heard it.

  She was confused. She was scared out of her mind. But she was sure of one thing. The conversation she’d overheard a year ago was the reason for all the hell she’d endured since.

  Her head ached. Her arm hurt so bad she wanted to die. Sean and several other police officers had descended on the hospital while Ethan and Sam had immediately taken her to their mother’s house.

  As a result, Marlene’s living room had been turned into an outpost of medical and police personnel.

  Another pulse of nauseating pain rolled through her body, but she was deathly afraid to take anything after what happened in the hospital. Her fear was probably irrational, but too bad. She wasn’t exactly in the most rational state of mind.

 
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