Caught a novella, p.1
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       Caught: A Novella, p.1

           Red Garnier
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Caught: A Novella


  CAUGHT

  Red Garnier

  St. Martin’s Press New York

  The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at: http://us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

  CONTENTS

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright Notice

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Red Garnier’s Billionaire’s Club series

  About the Author

  Copyright Page

  PROLOGUE

  Phoenix, Arizona—August 2005

  He did the same thing every year.

  On August 22, at 6:00 p.m. sharp, Cody Nordstrom would drop whatever he was doing in order to head straight home.

  He’d have trouble getting to his front door sometimes; phone calls, unsolved cases that suddenly needed his attention, always popped up on this day. But he’d ignore them as best he could.

  He’d ignore the tempting call of a cold beer after work, and the buddies clamoring for him to come over to the Starbucks by the station, and the paperwork on his desk and the meetings with his superiors, and he’d drive straight home.

  He would start a cold shower, put out his clothes—a black Armani suit and a crisp white shirt he had dropped off in the morning at the cleaners and picked up on his way home—and for this day, the only day in the entire year, he would wear them with a solid black tie.

  By 6:15, toweled dry and somberly dressed, he would stop by the corner neighborhood florist and purchase two dozen white roses. Then he would climb back into his car and drive with care, glancing now and then at the petals riding shotgun beside him, starkly innocent against the dark upholstery and caught in mid bloom.

  By 6:30, he would reach the cemetery.

  This was his destination, and he’d stay here for hours. Until the traffic waned, and the hot desert day began to morph into a cool night.

  He’d keep his face downcast, his thoughts to himself, and those white roses would lie on the ground, right on the spot where the bodies of his two parents had been buried.

  There was comfort in this routine, and maybe there was some punishment in it, too; punishment in the gloomy sight of the graves during the evening. Yet today—

  The hair at the nape of his neck pricked, and Nordstrom raised his head in puzzlement.

  He scanned the cemetery for signs of disturbance, noticing how this one time, this strange time, the sun was shining bright, casting an orange glow across the scattered grass, hitting the only tree nearby at an odd angle. He didn’t know that what followed would rock his world—for he hadn’t seen her yet.

  “Oh, is that nice girl with you?” a female passerby asked him, noticing that he was looking in the direction of the tree.

  Uncertain of the curiosity prodding him to find out to whom she was referring, Cody stared at her hard, then he glanced back at the tree. There, leaning against the trunk, was a … female.

  “That girl, is she your sister?” the woman insisted.

  Cody honed in on the girl. No. Not a girl. Too curvy to be a girl.

  “She comes to visit this same grave every Saturday, too,” the stranger offered before hauling her bag closer to her chest and walking away, dragging a small toddler behind her.

  Fixated on the slim figure by the tree, Cody narrowed his eyes as he tried to place her. Blond hair to her shoulders, brilliant eyes even from afar. His pulse stopped.

  Something about her, the way she held so still and quiet as she looked back at him. Her skin, the shade of her hair. Time stopped as they stared at each other across the graves and trees and grass.

  Megan.

  Holy fuck—it was her. It had to be.

  But she was there, and she was … walking over? Holy hell, she was walking over.

  He stood slowly, wondering if she knew it was him—Cody. Of course she knew. Megan had never looked at his twin quite the way she used to look at Cody, quite the way she was looking at him now.

  Ahh, fuck, his groin was heating.

  She was a woman now—a very sexy woman—and he wished he hadn’t seen her, for she’d plague his mind from now on.

  He hadn’t planned to look for her. Not after social services took him away—he sure as hell hadn’t returned for that. He was just plain bad luck, should let the girl continue on with whatever kind of life she was leading, which was for certain better off without him in it.

  She should stay away from a problem like him.

  True, he had become a cop. Homicide detective and all that.

  He was supposed to be a good man, but the same blood as that of a killer ran in his veins, and he knew what he really was. Soiled. Unfit. And responsible for what that sick bastard had done.

  Thoughts of his twin brother made his lips curl in disdain. Theirs had been a complicated relationship, spawned by parents who did not pretend that doing things halfway was okay. They liked to challenge their other son to become more like his responsible brother, but he never seemed to make it to the bar they raised.

  This did little to encourage sibling harmony between the two, and somehow Cody, as the eldest, had felt compelled to allow for Ivan’s rebelliousness. Until that day. What Ivan had done was so sick, so twisted, there would be no going back from it.

  “I killed them,” he said that fateful day when Cody had been taking Megan to the lake, intent on stealing a first kiss from her. Cody would not have believed him had his parents not been lying there, in a crimson pool. Dead.

  Dead at his brother’s feet.

  “I told you I would.” Ivan had looked at him with hard blue eyes, a monster with Cody’s own face.

  And deep down, Cody feared that a monster lived inside him, too.

  One that made him steal that kiss from Megan. One that imagined taking her virginity, the virginity of the only girl he really cared for. The monster that even then, after seeing with his own two eyes what Ivan had done, urged him to hide his brother, to protect him.

  Maybe that monster would have surfaced if Megan hadn’t been there, her face pale and frightened, her eyes round as moons. The horror and pain he felt that day, that she be witness to what had become of the Nordstroms, made him want to tear off his face, the face of a murderer, and forget he’d ever had the last name Nordstrom.

  But his parents’ sightless eyes, staring from the ground, seemed to yell their disappointment. And he knew that he’d spend the rest of his life trying to make amends.

  “It was my fault,” he told her, when Ivan dropped the weapon and ran. “It’s all my fault, Meg.” And he’d hugged her for as long as he could, until the first officers on scene pried her away.

  Those were the last words he ever said to her before his new family claimed him. He saw her little face in the windowpane watching him being taken away. He didn’t know if she was crying, he could hardly raise his face to see his neighbors, knowing they all thought: One of those boys did it.

  His brother had, yeah, but Cody could have prevented it.

  Your fault, Cody.

  He fisted his hands at his sides and reminded himself he was a cop now, a detective. He put bad guys in jail. He shouldn’t be ashamed anymore.

  “Hey?” Only an arm’s length away from him now, she blinked at him, her gaze wide, and he didn’t know what to do except stare.

  Up close, her eyes were maybe a little greener than he remembered. A little smarter. Her lips a bit fuller. Her breasts a hel
l of a lot more—you’re staring at them, asshole!

  He brought himself up short and shook his head. “Hey.”

  She stared at him, her eyes teary as though she had expected more contact from him through the years, a better hello right now, and still he stood there and willed himself to grow cold against this woman. She wasn’t the girl he’d lusted after as a teenage boy.

  He imagined ice growing in his veins and that ice moving up to his heart. Nothing got to him, ever. He didn’t feel, not after his parents had been brutally murdered. No feeling. Ice man. Ice cold on the inside. But that cracked when she beamed at him, and before he knew what the hell happened, she was hugging him like crazy and just like that it felt like she was squeezing his heart. “Welcome home, Cody.”

  Right then and there, she had him.

  She.

  Had.

  Him.

  But he’d be dead before he ever let her know.

  ONE

  Six years later

  He was home early.

  Megan Banks stole a peek out the window as the motor of his SUV shut off, and her breath seized in her throat when she caught a glimpse of him. There he was: the man of her dreams. Her every dream. Her every want.

  Her eyes greedily took in his form as he stepped out of his car, the tailored cut of his suit molding to his broad shoulders, his muscles bulging under the fabric of his pants as he strolled over to the house. Cody.

  Sensation spread down her thighs as she realized Cody would be here, in his room, any minute. And he’d see that she was here, too. Almost naked. Oh, God.

  “Hellooo? Meg? Meg—you still there?”

  The voice from her cell phone snapped her back to attention, and her heart began to thunder in her ears. “Yes! Yes, I’m still here. He’s just pulled into his driveway. He’ll walk in any minute.”

  “Okay, don’t freak out and stick to the plan,” her friend, Paige Rivers, voice of reason, said. “Just relax, look gorgeous, and whatever happens: Stick to the plan.”

  Oh my God, I’m really going through with this …

  Megan’s stomach twisted painfully. Her plan had been so simple, initially.

  When she’d surveyed it in bed, alone, in the cloak of obscurity: simple.

  When she’d driven on her way to his place: simple.

  But it seemed so complicated and impossible now.

  Her knuckles knotted painfully as she gripped her cell phone. “Remind me why I’m wearing only my bra and panties under my coat please,” she hissed urgently. “Remind me why I’m doing this now, before he walks in through that door.” And I make a complete and total fool of myself.

  “You’re seducing him,” Paige said sternly, “because he won’t.”

  “But if only I gave him a little more time—” Meg began.

  “Time for what, Meg? You’ve been friends since you were kids and although you can’t seem to date each other, neither of you dates anyone else.”

  “Still, that doesn’t mean the plan is sound enough to—”

  “Oh, it’s sound all right. And it’s happening—as soon as he comes in,” Paige decreed.

  A thick ball of nerves and emotion piled up in Megan’s throat, and suddenly she wanted to wail at the injustices of the world.

  There were a thousand reasons behind her seduction, but only one that made her hesitate. She wanted him to do it. Him, the man of her dreams, to break down, and seduce her. “But if he truly wanted me, he’d have done something about it already. I wouldn’t need to break into his home dressed like a—I look like a slut, Paige!”

  “Meg—I’ve seen the way he stares at you, and I’m surprised your hair hasn’t caught fire yet. Can’t you see why Cody’s always protective toward you—he wants you. In some part of his labyrinth of a mind, he thinks you’re his. But if the guy has some hang-ups about not being good enough for you, then you’re going to have to show him you don’t care!”

  A pang of longing struck her as all the years of pent-up wanting washed over her. All those looks he gave her, all those smiles.

  Did any of them mean anything other than friendship?

  Every single night, Megan replayed the ways that cornflower blue gaze of his took her in. She wondered: Was that a little heat in his eyes today? Was his smile a little higher on one end? When he grazed my elbow with his, did he mean to? But if he did, why did he pull back?

  And even when she was 99.9 percent certain she’d seen a spark of something wonderfully heated in his eyes, she would end up shaking her head in denial.

  If he’d wanted her, a man like Cody would not hesitate. Not for an instant.

  He was a leader, a charger by nature, a doer. One of the city’s top homicide detectives and one that lived for the chase.

  No. Cody Nordstrom was not one to stand by idly and let what he wanted get away. If he’d wanted her … he’d have caught you long ago, Megan Banks.

  A weight of sadness settled over her shoulders at the realization. “He doesn’t want me, Paige. He thinks I’m still just a young girl. He’ll always see me like that fourteen-year-old girl that walked in on…” No. Why, oh why, had she thought about that awful day right now?

  “He won’t see you as a little girl when he sees you naked, so stop with the pity party. Just take off your coat, seduce him, and let him come to terms with it later. Zach loves it when he comes home to find me partially dressed.”

  “But Zach’s your husband,” Meg countered.

  “He didn’t used to be,” her friend shot back, and she hung up.

  Right. Okay. She could do this. She was here already. Had successfully mastered some of the most difficult parts like “breaking in”—although, technically, the door had only needed a little nudge. Still, she was in his bedroom this evening and she was going to do it.

  Megan Banks was going to seduce Cody Nordstrom. Oh, God.

  Searching the trembling depths of herself for courage, she tossed both her coat and phone on the chair by the window and nervously ran her hands down her curly blond hair to make sure it wasn’t sticking out or doing anything weird. Six years—six years of being ignored—and oh, yes, Megan had been counting ever since that day she’d seen him at the cemetery. She’d been counting every second since he’d returned.

  Well—the counting ends tonight.

  Listening for the front door and trying to stop her tummy from quaking, Megan waited, all the while trying not to imagine the enormity of what she was about to do, of what it would mean if she failed to seduce the tall, blond hunk who made her heart race, her mouth water, and her insides twist with unfulfilled desire.

  She tried not to think that she’d rather the earth swallow her up if Cody didn’t respond like she was hoping, praying, that he would.

  Megan loved him.

  She loved him so much that it ached most of the time.

  She loved his hard-boned face. His cool personality. And the way his wide white smiles hid the somberness of his thoughts.

  She loved his arresting features and his tanned hands, how big and thick those hands were, and how effortlessly he handled a gun with them.

  She loved the way he dressed, and how his suits were always so dark and sharp and contrasted beautifully with the blond of his hair. And she loved those snowy white shirts that were at all times matched with a tie that would kick any other cops’ ties’ asses.

  Most of all, she loved his stubbornness and his determination, and the way he protected her like she was the only thing the world had of value.

  She thought of him day and night, and every evening prayed that one day, one day soon, those cool blue eyes that twinkled with humor when he teased her would become hot and dark with desire for her.

  He’d looked at her like that before, like he wanted her, when they first met as teens.

  His family had just moved in, and Megan had bumped into him as he helped unload their truck.

  He had seemed stunned at his first sight of her, and he’d stared for what felt like minutes, all while
keeping a big box balanced on his shoulders. Then he’d smiled crookedly and said, “I’m Cody,” while an identical-looking fifteen-year-old with eyes not quite as intense stood looking on. He’d jerked his head toward that boy, too. “He’s Ivan.”

  They were identical.

  Except, maybe, the way they looked at her. One, with hot, friendly blue eyes. The other … with dull, shuttered ones.

  “How can people tell you apart?” She’d surveyed them back then, trying to determine their differences.

  But Cody had flashed her such an amazing smile, she felt like he—the one with the box and the gaze that made her toes curl—had just become the center of her universe. “That’s the fun part: They can’t.”

  He’d made her laugh that day. But when she introduced herself as their next door neighbor and offered him help unloading boxes, he’d shaken his tousled blond head and said, “Nah, we’ve got it. Thanks though.”

  But Megan had wanted to talk to him, could not make herself go home to her boring little room and her boring homework, so she’d grabbed a duffel anyway and helped lug it inside.

  That had been the mark of their friendship.

  Cody would always deny anything Megan offered, like he was too much of a gentleman to take something from her, but she always seemed to know what he really meant and gave it anyway. Then on that day long ago, they had walked into his house only to find Ivan …

  The memory of the grisly scene made her heart stop. It had been surreal, like something out of a Freddy Krueger movie. Megan had been so shocked and appalled she’d just stood there as Cody brought himself to ask, to demand of his sixteen-year-old brother, “What have you done!”

  She didn’t cry that day. Not when she saw the motionless bodies, saw Ivan toss the weapon aside and break into a run. She didn’t cry at the funeral of Cody’s parents either.

  But Megan Banks cried the day they took Cody away from her.

  She kept each and every letter she received from him during the years, and sent back letters of her own that told him how scared she was at night—she was certain that his brother Ivan would do something horrible to her family, too.

 
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