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Authors: Mari Carr

Because You Love Me

BOOK: Because You Love Me
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Dedication

This book is dedicated to Jonathan—for all the ebook-related
did you know this?
information. And to Helen—for reading my stories and making me cool author stuff. Marriage made us family, but life made us friends.

Special thanks also go out to Karmella, Zina and Kim for their “ranch life” expertise. I couldn’t have written this book without your insights and cool, real-life experiences!

Prologue

Bridget Wilder ducked behind the boxes and wondered how the hell she got here. Slowly, she peered around the shipping crate that was currently hiding her. She was armed with nothing more than a minirecorder, her car keys, cell phone and a tube of cherry ChapStick. If things went down badly, she was screwed.

One of these days she was going to take lessons at the shooting range and get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Sometimes she thought she was the only journalist in New York City who wasn’t packing heat. Not that her job as the
What to Do in the City This Weekend
girl was all that hazardous to her health. Worst on-job injury she’d ever received was food poisoning from a hot dog at a street fair.

Now, that was all about to change. Her mind whirled over the information she hoped to receive tonight. The Honorable Judge Lucian Thompson was on the take. He was as crooked as they came and she was about to get rock-solid proof. She imagined the implications her front-page story would have for the city’s court system. How many guilty criminals had Thompson sent back out on the streets simply to fill his own pocket?

The editor in chief of her newspaper was going to freak out when she presented him with this article. She grinned in excited anticipation. This was the kind of story—the kind of break—every struggling reporter hoped to receive in her life. She pictured herself as a young Woodward or Bernstein—except, of course, she had a rocking manicure and hot pink Converse tennis shoes. Her picture would be splashed on every TV station and in every newspaper as the reporter who set New York City on its ear with her groundbreaking investigative report.

She checked the time on her cell phone. Her informant, a friend from college, was late. Lyle had lived in the same apartment complex during their senior year. He’d asked her out a few times early on. She’d genuinely liked Lyle, but they had absolutely nothing in common—he was into mysteries and sudoku, while she was a romantic comedies and shopping kind of girl. One night after drinking too much red wine, Lyle had tried to kiss her. More than a little bit tipsy, she let him. It had lasted less than fifteen painful seconds. Then they’d pulled apart and started laughing hysterically. It had been obvious to both of them there was no sexual attraction. With the pressure of a relationship gone, the friendship had blossomed and grown.

After graduation, she’d landed a job at
The New York Reporter,
a small newspaper in the city, while Lyle had been hired as a network specialist for the city court system. She’d teased him after he landed the job that she was glad he’d learned to use his computer skills for good rather than evil. She had no doubt Lyle could hack his way into any computer system if he put his mind to it. Bridget considered that now and worried about the means he’d used to discover the information he was about to share with her.

A door opened at the far end of the abandoned warehouse. She’d laughed when Lyle had given her directions to the place for “the drop”, as he called it. Her friend was far too fond of Tom Clancy novels, and she knew he had every episode of
Criminal Minds
saved on his DVR. She started to rise, but recalled Lyle’s warning.
Count to one hundred before you expose yourself. I want to make sure no one’s followed me.

She’d rolled her eyes when he issued that directive, but given the creepy surroundings and the nervous butterflies in her stomach, it suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Crouching lower, she slowly began to count in her head. She hadn’t made it to thirty when the doors of the warehouse opened again. Peering from behind the crate, she watched as two men came into the large room. Lyle, who’d been standing in the middle of the room, whirled to face them.

Bridget’s heart raced faster as pure, sheer terror coursed through her veins. Lyle had said he would come alone and he’d insisted she do the same. Given her friend’s nervous stance, she knew these men hadn’t been invited to the party.

“Well, well, well. What a surprise. You’re out late, Lyle.”

Fuck. Her breathing picked up when she recognized Judge Thompson’s voice. This was bad. Very, very bad. She sank lower, her back pressed against the rough crate. She forced herself to think. There had to be something she could do to protect her friend.

“Judge Thompson.” Lyle’s voice was steady. Bridget’s respect for her geeky friend went up several notches. “Didn’t expect to run into you here.”

“Didn’t you?” The judge’s question was laced with malice. “Surely you didn’t think your computer tampering would go unnoticed.”

“Tampering?”

Bridget’s breathing accelerated and her hands shook as she reached into her pocket. Pulling out her cell phone and her minirecorder, she struggled to hit the red dot. Perhaps she could capture the judge saying something incriminating she could use to barter for their freedom. Unfortunately, she wasn’t holding her breath the device would pick up much. She was too far away.

Quietly placing the recorder on the ground, she turned her attention to her phone, dialing 911. The operator’s voice sounded unbearably loud in the warehouse and Bridget froze. There was no way she could talk to the person on the other end without being discovered.

Lyle and the judge continued to speak, but Bridget found it difficult to make out their words as blood coursed through her body, pounding in her ears like a bass drum. The operator spoke again. Bridget was paralyzed with fear. She had to do something, say something, but she was too terrified to speak, even in a whisper.

As she peered around the crate, Bridget’s stomach plummeted to her feet. The judge had pulled out a gun. The men were still speaking and by their comfortable stance, she knew her presence was unknown. The judge and his accomplice were completely focused on Lyle.

“Who are you meeting here?” the judge asked.

Lyle put his hands out nonchalantly. “I’m not meeting anyone. Just taking a little nightly stroll.”

The judge’s henchman threw a punch at Lyle’s face. Bridget heard the cracking of bones and suspected he’d broken Lyle’s nose. Lyle made no move to defend himself or to fight back. He simply raised his hands to his nose, trying to stem the flow of blood.

“Don’t be a smart-ass.” Judge Thompson sneered at Lyle.

Bridget was distracted when the 911 operator spoke once more. She needed to act, needed to do something before Lyle was hurt even worse. Keeping her eyes on the men in the center of the room, she lightly whispered the address to the warehouse. The operator attempted to ask more questions, but Bridget had already spoken more than she dared. None of the men had heard her whispers, and it gave her foolish hope. Perhaps the police would arrive in time. Perhaps the cops would burst in with guns drawn to capture the villains and save them.

“Give me the flash drive.” The judge held an outstretched palm toward Lyle, the other hand still holding the all-too-threatening gun.

“Flash drive?”

“Don’t be any more stupid than you already have been. I know what you have in your possession. You can give it to me now and try to beg for your pathetic, meaningless life, or I can take it off your dead body. Either way works for me.”

“Either way sounds like a death sentence for me.”

If Bridget hadn’t felt like beating the shit out of Lyle for his cavalier attitude, she would have cheered on his bravery. He wasn’t cowering or pleading. He was incredible.

As the seconds passed, Bridget prayed the night’s silence would be broken by approaching sirens. None came.

“Give it to me,” the judge demanded.

Lyle shook his head. “You didn’t think I’d actually bring it here, did you?”

Bridget prayed that was true. If Lyle didn’t have what Judge Thompson wanted, surely that bought him more time.

The judge looked at his accomplice, jerking his head toward Lyle. “Check his pockets.”

Lyle didn’t put up a fight as the bruiser began searching his pockets. Bridget closed her eyes and released a silent curse when the man pulled a flash drive out of Lyle’s right pocket.

“You don’t think that’s the only copy I’ve made, do you?” Lyle’s voice rang out across the vast space, his words clear and welcome.

Yes, Bridget mouthed. Keep them guessing…and talking. Where the fuck were the police?

The judge shrugged as if unconcerned. A malicious smile covered his face and Bridget knew things were about to go as bad as they possibly could. The scene began to unfold in slow motion as the judge lifted his hand and fired one shot directly into the center of Lyle’s chest. There was no warning, no time for Lyle to run or dodge. One minute he was standing there, the next he was lying on the floor.

Bridget sat stunned, motionless. It was as if time simply stood still. She didn’t breathe. Her heart didn’t beat. Ice-cold numbness consumed her.

The judge’s voice broke the spell. “Search the rest of the warehouse. Make sure no one else is here.”

She was dead. Glancing around, she realized she’d placed herself in the worst possible position for escape. She was hiding along a far wall, and the only way to the lone door at the front of the building was by crossing the vast space where the judge stood, where Lyle lay inert on the floor.

Distant sirens pierced the night and all three living occupants jerked. The judge’s henchman gave up his search and the two of them hastily escaped. The sound of a car’s doors slamming, an engine starting, and peeling tires on the pavement told her they’d be long gone before the cavalry arrived.

Bridget picked up her minirecorder and phone, then rose from her hiding spot. She forced her legs to support her. As if treading through waist-deep mud, she fought her way to the center of the floor. She knew what she’d find there, knew what she’d see. Lyle had been dead the second the judge pulled the trigger, his life extinguished in the blink of an eye.

When she reached her friend, she dropped to her knees by his side. His lifeless eyes were still open, a slight look of surprise covering his frozen features. She studied his face, memorizing it, imprinting it in her mind and on her heart. She’d let him down. He’d trusted her with the information he’d uncovered. Only her. And she’d failed him.

Picking up his hand, she held it gently in hers.

“I’m sorry, Lyle,” she whispered. “So sorry.”

The sirens grew louder, cars pulling up outside the warehouse. She didn’t rise to meet the police. Instead, she remained with Lyle and let them come to her. They entered with their weapons drawn and approached cautiously. Once they determined she wasn’t a threat, they took stock of the scene and called for a coroner.

Calmly, she answered all of their four thousand, two hundred and twenty-two questions. She saw the look of surprise on all the cops’ faces when she named Judge Thompson as the murderer. Finally, a million years later, they let her leave—with a police escort.

Climbing the stairs to her apartment with the rookie cop shadowing her ascent, Bridget made a silent vow to her friend. The judge would pay for tonight’s crime as well as all the others. She wouldn’t rest until justice had been served…for Lyle.

Chapter One

Six months later…

Bridget stared at the piece of paper in her hands, her eyes no longer focusing on the words she’d committed to memory months ago. Sighing heavily, she glanced out the window at the picturesque, snow-capped mountains in the distance. Sometimes she still found it hard to believe how much her life had changed in such a short span of time. This time a year ago, she was typing up local interest pieces in a four-by-four cubicle at the
Reporter
’s offices. Her only view back then was of a computer screen. To add some life to the dull cubicle, she had a calendar thumbtacked to the wall with scenes similar to the real-life one she was staring at now. In New York, she pretended like the calendar was her window with a view.

With one pull of a trigger, her life had altered overnight.

“The words in that letter aren’t going to change no matter how many times you read them.”

She grinned, glancing over her shoulder at Rodney. “You say that every time I pull it out.”

BOOK: Because You Love Me
4.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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