Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter TEN

Priscilla glared at her attorney. The sniveling, incompetent fool thought she was crazy. She wasn't insane. She'd known exactly what she was doing. She needed Mason to insure her children were born, and now her plans had been ruined.

“Priscilla, are you even listening to me?” Gregory Peters asked.

“I'm crazy. I don't know right from wrong, blah, blah, blah.”

Peters rolled his eyes at her. “The only chance you have is this insanity plea. It doesn't work all that often, but I think you stand a chance. Children that aren't yet conceived? Kidnapping, drugging...” he trailed off when her eyes glazed over. “You really don't care, do you?”

“It doesn't matter! My children will never be! Our son was to be President!”

Peters looked at the floor to keep from laughing hysterically. The woman was certifiable. Deciding to poke the crazy, he asked, “You had planned a daughter, too?”

“Catherine,” she said like a prayer. “She was to be Miss America.” She rattled her handcuffs. “Now it's all been taken from me. I have nothing! Nothing!”

He willed himself to keep his face impassive. Insanity was the only way to go with this case, and he'd win, too, if Priscilla kept on like this. “I'm sorry it was all taken from you, Priscilla.”

Her eyes sharpened then. “Can I talk to Detective Davis alone?”

“Alone?” he repeated, startled by the question. “Not a chance.”

Her eyes hardened. “He's my brother, Greg. He can't investigate my case.”

More crazy talk. “Brandon Davis is not your brother.”

“Maybe not, but my mother was married to his father for more than two years.”

Peters knitted his brows as he thought for a moment. “No, I still have no recollection of that. When were they married?”

“When I was thirteen and Brandon was fifteen.”

He jerked his spine straight. “Twenty years ago? You want him thrown off the case for two years beginning twenty years ago?”

“Yes. He's my brother.”

“He most certainly is not. Hell, I'd have a better chance getting him removed if you'd slept with him, even if it was twenty years ago.”

She shook her head emphatically. “No, never! I've only ever slept with Mason.”

Again, he forced himself not to burst out laughing. No wonder the woman was crazy—she hadn't been laid in sixteen years! “Well, that is interesting.”

She pinned him with a death glare. “True love is not interesting. True love is perfect.”

If it were perfect, he wouldn't be talking to her in a cell right now. He had to circle back to the beginning, and get out of this sad, sad place. “Be that as it may, our only chance of a successful defense is insanity. That is what I'm presenting at arraignment tomorrow whether or not you agree.” When her eyes flashed fire, he ignored her and went on, “I don't care if you believe you're insane, I don't care if you're really not insane and just a cold, calculating bitch, that is our defense.”

“You're fired,” she spat.

“You can't fire me, you're crazy.”

She shook her cuffs again, her anger more than evident. “I am not crazy!”

“Oh, yes you are,” he countered. He leaned across the table. “Your father chose me to represent you because he knew I could win for you, regardless of the despicable things you insist on confessing to every cop you lay eyes on. Hate me all you want, but you will cooperate.”

She glared at him, her lips a thin line, her fists clenched. “Fine. You win.”

“Exactly.”

~*~

“How much longer do I have to stay in this horrible place?” Dylan asked Caleb.

“You were just shot twice, Superman. You're gonna have to give it a little time.”

“I'm fine.”

Caleb shook his head. “You are not fine.” At Dylan's disbelieving face he said, “Look, I'm the doctor here, and I say you need to stay at least another few days. We have to insure you don't develop an infection and you're healing well.”

“I know you're a doctor, but I've done this before. I know I'm well enough to go home.”

“No, you're not.” He studied his patient for a moment, sure there was another reason for the skittishness more than just boredom. “You're scared of my sister.”

“What? No. Why would I be scared of Cassidy?”

“She's taken you into her care, decided she will nurse you back to health. You don't want her to see you less than whole.”

Dylan knitted his brows. “You sure you're not a shrink?”

Caleb laughed. “MD all the way here, but you learn things in trauma.”

“It's not like I don't appreciate what she's doing,” Dylan started.

“But you're interested in more than the Florence Nightingale routine?” Caleb finished, smothering a chuckle when the larger man's golden eyes widened .

“She's your sister.” He swallowed. “I don't know how to answer that, exactly.”

Caleb grinned, a dimple showing in his left cheek. “Between you and me, Cass needs more than a project, she needs a man.”

Dylan tilted his head. He wasn't sure where Caleb was headed with this. “Okay.”

“You're a man, you're not a project.”

“Agreed.”

“So, be a man. Let her take you home, and then stay there.”

“Are you offering me your sister?”

“If you're worthy, then yes. You've already saved my brother, now, save my sister.”

“You don't ask for much, do ya?”

“Not at all.”

~*~

Brandon paced his office. He should have planned this better. Then he would have Prissy's fingerprints on the coke and call it a day. Now he had to figure out how to pin his crime on her instead of Katerina. He had been playing the system his own way for so many years right under Cavindish's nose, it was a game. What could he get away with next? Who would pay him for information, or to make things go away? He laughed. He could make this work. Prissy was this close to being wrapped in a straightjacket; even if she screamed his name from the rooftops, no one would believe her.

He pulled the blueprint of Dance With Me from a book on his shelf. Prissy's home and office had already been searched and cataloged, so he had to figure out where he would “find” this little gem. The blueprint detailed how to get into the studio from the adjacent fabric store, which closed in 2010 and was all to easy to breach. If he were honest, which admittedly he rarely was, he would say Priscilla planned the set-up, all he had to do was provide the coke and plant it in the ceiling. The coke had been the hardest part—he'd had to call in a favor from Sheridan PD and pretend he had an investigation that required he be granted access to evidence. There was so much cocaine up there it would hardly be noticed, and it had done the job beautifully. He drummed his fingers against his thigh. Now he had to tie everything up in a perfect little bow to present to the Commonwealth's Attorney's office. A slow smile spread on his lips. He had the perfect plan.

~*~

“Is this really a good idea?” Kat asked as she watched Mason slide an onyx cufflink through his ivory shirt cuff. “I'm sure you don't have to go in today. You're still heal—”

“I have to go,” he interrupted. Seeing the hurt look on her face, he reasoned, “If I don't go today, then I just go tomorrow, or the next day. The end result is the same, babe. I have to go eventually, so why not today?”

“Because you left the hospital against doctor's orders two days ago after being abducted?” she snapped. “Just take another day. Or two.”

“If I'm scared of my office, she wins.”

Her eyes widened. “Not at all. I'm not saying you're scared of your office. I'm saying you should take a little more time before you put in a nine hour day.” She smiled. “I know you. You've missed two days of work and you'll try and make up that lost time in one day, cramming in as much as you can. You won't eat lunch, you might remember to do something besides drink copious amounts of coffee, and then you'll come home exhausted.” She gave him an 'am I wrong?' look. “You, my dear, love finance and that's wonderful considering you're a banker and all, but you shouldn't push yourself too hard.”

His lips turned up in a half-smile. “So, instead of going to work today and working myself into a stupor, you think I should stay home and miss another day? I fail to see how that is helpful.”

Well, crap. He had her there. She held up her right hand in defeat. “Fine. Go to work, but please promise me you'll eat.”

He nodded as he tried to contain a chuckle. “I promise.” He crossed to her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I won't even stay late.” He lifted her chin with a finger, fitted his mouth to hers in a long, soul-searing kiss. “I will be home at a decent hour. We have unfinished business.”

Oh how she loved kissing him. She pulled his mouth to hers again, pouring her love and worry into the kiss, exploring his mouth with her tongue. “I'll be waiting.”

~*~

Mason picked up his very dead phone, turning it over and over in his fingers. He knew he had a phone—and Priscilla's arrogance for taking it with her—to thank for saving his life. Oh, he knew Dylan Black had taken bullets for him, and that was a debt he could never repay, but Dylan wouldn't have been there to save him if it hadn't been for a similar rectangular contraption. After he plugged it in to charge, he sorted through the stack of paperwork on his desk. While he'd been fighting for his life, people still bought cars and houses, businesses and engagement rings. What else was happening all around them no one knew about? What other craziness was right outside the door? He shook off the thought. No darkness today. He'd promised Kat a reunion. He cracked a smile. Now, that was a better topic for dwelling.

Incessant blinking drew his eye from the report in his hand. Good lord, he'd missed ninety-seven calls and text messages, and an astounding fifty-six of those were from Camryn. He gave himself a mental smack. How had he forgotten to call his baby sister?

Camryn picked up after one ring. “Oh my God, Mase! Are you okay? What really happened? Mom made it sound like some twisted, reverse Lifetime movie.”

He laughed despite himself. “Nice, Cam. You really have no filter on that brain-mouth connection of yours, do you?”

“Sure don't.” She giggled before asking, “No, really, what happened?”

“Evidently Priscilla,” he choked on her name, “wanted me, so she took me.”

She gasped. “Mom said you were kidnapped and then when you were rescued one of the guys that came for you was almost killed.”

“In a nutshell.” His baby sister sure didn't mince words. “Thankfully, he's going to be all right.” He heard her draw a breath, but she didn't say anything further. “I'm really okay, Cam, I promise.” He'd been worried sick when she had decided to go to New York City, yet he'd been the one abducted from his own office. He took a deep breath. Time for a subject change. “So, did you get that big part?”

“Um...” she stalled. She sighed heavily, causing the phone to almost buzz in his ear. “No, I didn't.” Another sigh. “It's not a big deal. I'm happy where I am.”

She was in a postage-stamp of an apartment, waitressing during the day, and a part of the ensemble in the revival of A Chorus Line. It sounded like hell to him, but what did he know? Instead of playing the overprotective big brother, he said, “As long as you're happy.”

Cam spent a little time assuring him she was happy, and made him promise to call more often before she had to run off.

He hoped she was telling him the truth about being happy, but he doubted it. His usually bouncy baby sister seemed to be trying a little too hard to convince him everything was wonderful. So much younger than the other three Everett kids, she had been doted on and sheltered, and her outlook had always been so sunny, but today seemed forced. He directed his attention back to the papers on his desk. Cam was a big girl, and there wasn't much he could do from three hundred miles away even if he knew for certain something was wrong.

~*~

Kat opened the door to find a beaming Carter Jamieson. “Why are we smiling?”

“Oh, maybe because the charges against you have been dropped,” Carter answered, his grin widening.

She held onto the doorknob to keep from falling out on the hardwood floor. “What?”

He strode into the house, catching Kat by the elbow and guiding her to sit in the overstuffed chair in the living room, choosing the couch himself. “I'm not kidding, Kat. Tyler police found a blueprint of your studio in the gas tank of Priscilla's car. The CA's office is dropping the charges against you because they feel they have a stronger case against Priscilla.”

“So, no trial?” she asked, realizing after the words left her mouth that it was a dumb question. No charges meant no trial.

Carter shook his head. “No trial.” His smile dimmed. “You may still be questioned in conjunction with Priscilla's, though.”

Her mood went from elation to trepidation when she thought of how Priscilla's trial would affect Mason. She could only imagine what kind of hell testifying would be for him. “Mason,” she started.

Carter's mouth firmed, all remnants of his smile gone. “I know,” he agreed. “I know he talked to the detectives, but he hasn't said much aside from assuring me he wasn't raped.” He grimaced. “I never thought...” he trailed off.

“It seems everyone knew Priscilla was obsessive, but no one thought she'd go so far as committing multiple felonies.” It still bothered her that no one saw it, but then again, she hadn't believed it until it was almost too late herself. She straightened. “Isn't she insane? I mean, will she actually stand trial?”

Carter made a face. “She is crazy, but I don't know if she's incompetent. If Gregory Peters were smart though, he'd go with an insanity defense. It would get her remanded to the psych ward, but she wouldn't end up at Fluvanna.”

“So, maybe Mason won't have to testify?”

“If the defense were successful, it would mean Priscilla is insane.” He paused. “It's not the same as a conviction.”

“She would still be locked up though, right?” she asked, toying with the pillow in her chair.

He adjusted his glasses. “In a sense, yes.”

She tilted her head, noting Carter used his glasses when he wasn't comfortable with an answer. She hoped he never played poker. “I think I'm okay with that.”

Carter thought a moment. “She knew what she was doing, Kat. This was premeditated and planned. She might be crazy, but I don't think she's insane.”

“She just needs to be locked up for a long, long time.” Crazy, insane, or otherwise, Priscilla McClaren was a threat to Mason. If something happened and she were freed... She stopped herself. She had nearly lost him once before, she couldn't go through that again.

“You'll get no argument from me,” Carter agreed as he stood. “Well, Miss Cleared-of-All-Charges, I'd better get back to the office.” He squeezed her shoulder as he walked past. “Have Mason call me later.”

She watched Mason's lawyer and friend let himself out, lost in thought. Carter was a wonderful attorney and a great friend, but he was a bit of an absent-minded professor. She smiled. She was free to go and do as she pleased! On the heels of that joy, she was racked with sorrow at the thought of moving back into her apartment. She didn't want to leave Mason's side. Not ever again.

~*~

Jason Monroe gestured with his habitual roast beef on rye. “The CA's office is going Ayles County vs. McClaren.”

“Of course they are.” Chris Delmonico crunched a chip as he thought about the case. A county prosecution was all that made sense considering the circumstances. He just wished Aylesford had been given the lead in the investigation instead of the so-called support role they now filled. He knew their team was better, and Aylesford PD wasn't corrupt. He wasn't so sure about Tyler. “I don't like that arrogant prick, Davis.”

“Who could? The man acts like he runs Tyler.”

“Cavindish isn't bad, though.”

“Don't talk to me about Cavindish,” Jason growled.

Chris's eyebrows went up. “What the hell is wrong with you? First you curse a blue streak when we're officially given orders to take a background role, now you're barking at me when I mention Cavindish.” He made a kissy-face. “You miss Caufield that much?”

“Fuck you,” came Jason's eloquent reply. “Cavindish is married to my sister.”

Shocked, Chris asked the first question that came to mind. “You have a sister?”

Jason attacked his lunch, ignoring Chris's question until his sandwich, chips and pickle were gone. “Genevieve is twelve years older, and I never see her.” He tossed the wrapping in the trashcan behind Chris's head. “Ya know what? We're not talking about this.”

Chris had never seen Jason this agitated in eight years of working together. “Whatever, man. All I said was Cavindish wasn't a bad cop. Davis, though, now that bastard is a piece of work.”

“That's an understatement,” he agreed before switching topics. He didn't need to dwell on Gen and her husband, or his shitty past. “So, if we're not doing much on this case, we'd better get back to Caufield's ex-wife's murder.”

“I knew all that grouchiness was just because you missed Caufield!” Chris exclaimed as they left the cafe.

Jason didn't bother answering. It wasn't like Delmonico was listening in the first place.

~*~

Mason wandered down the hallway of Aylesford Memorial Hospital. He wasn't exactly sure why he had come, but once he'd arrived he knew it was to see Caleb before going home to Kat. His brother was a doctor, surely he had some magic pill to make his anxiety go away or something. He needed Kat like he needed air, and right now he felt like he was drowning. He shook off that disturbing thought. He would not let Priscilla win.

Caleb had just come out of the ER when he saw his brother standing in front of his office with a bewildered expression on his face . “Looking for me?”

Startled from his thoughts by his brother's voice behind him, Mason turned. “I guess I am,” he answered as he walked through the door into the tiny office. “They can't afford to give you actual space?”

Caleb laughed. “At least I have a space. I'm a junior attending physician, Mase. They didn't have to give me an office at all.”

Mason shook his head. “You chose to go to school for twelve years, endure years of grueling residency, and now you have an office with barely room enough for a desk. Honestly, I don't understand you how do it.”

“I needed to.” He leaned against the wall of his office, allowing Mason to sit in the one chair he had. “You came to me, bro. How can I help?”

Mason sat back in the desk chair Caleb had allowed him to claim. “I need Kat.”

Caleb had an idea where his older brother was headed with this, but had to make him say it himself. He'd dealt with victims of violence during his residency, more often in the last few years as an attending in the ER, and each coped differently. “She loves you.”

Mason stood up. “I almost died, Cale. I almost died because a woman took me from my office. I almost died because I didn't do anything to stop her.”

Caleb stayed quiet a long moment. “You almost died because a crazy woman was fixated on you and shot you full of enough sedatives to make a bull compliant. You didn't have a choice, Mason. Not unless you wanted to let her kill you in your own office.”

He sat back down, the small room constricting and without room to pace. “I knew she was obsessed. I knew she was scaring off my dates. I knew it and I didn't do anything about it.”

“Last time I checked, putting visine or ipacac in someone's soda is exactly the same as kidnapping,” Caleb said drily.

“No, it's not, but I never thought she would do anything like this.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I kept Kat from all of you for more than a year because I knew Priscilla would try and scare her off.”

“She wouldn't have run,” Caleb assured. “She loves you, and she wouldn't have believed Priscilla even if she'd spun a tale. You're not God, no matter how hard you try in that pretty bank office of yours, and you can't predict what other people will do.”

“Really? The doctor who brings people back from the dead is gonna tell me I'm not God?”

Caleb snorted. “Nice redirect, there, Mase, but this isn't about me, is it?”

Mason hung his head. “No, it's not. It's about me. I...”

He stayed where he was against the wall, waiting for Mason to finish his thought. He couldn't imagine the torture his brother had been through, even though he'd seen the damage. The shallow cut that ran the length of his sternum, the wide swathes of missing hair from his tape bondage, the multiple injection sites from various sedatives and tranquilizers. It may have only been less than a day, but it had to have been hell.

“She was going to rape me, Caleb,” Mason admitted quietly. “I found out today the final syringe was full of an injectable prostaglandin.” He glanced up to catch Caleb's wince. “If she had gotten me with that needle, if I hadn't broken through my bonds...” he trailed off.

Shit. Priscilla wasn't playing around when she'd grabbed Mason. Prostaglandins caused erections very quickly, whether or not a man was “in the mood” and sometimes resulted in priapism. “You did break your bonds,” Caleb reasoned. “You got away.”

“But if I hadn't...”

“You did,” Caleb stressed. “You found your way out.”

“What did she do to me while I was unconscious? What did I do when I was drugged and I don't remember?”

Caleb shook his head. “Does it matter?” When Mason opened his mouth to reply, he cut him off. “No, it doesn't matter. You were drugged, Mason. Drugged, with enough in your system that I could have removed your spleen, your gallbladder, a kidney, and a lung and you wouldn't have noticed until the next day,” he exaggerated to get his point across. “I saw your tox screens, I know you wouldn't have been able to do anything. Hell, I have no idea how you were able to fight your way free with that much shit in your system.”

Mason swallowed. “She left me alone for an hour—or at least she said it was an hour—before she came back with the last syringe.”

Silently, Caleb cursed the internet. Priscilla had done her research. She'd kept him sedated for hours, but before she shot him full of what was better than a little blue pill she gave him time to recover. Coupled with the adrenaline, he understood how Mason broke free of the duct tape he himself had removed from his brother's wrists. He shuddered. “She wanted you lucid,” he said.

“She wanted me hard.” He stood again, knocking the chair on the floor. “She wanted me to make her pregnant, and she was going to rape me to do it.”

Caleb gaped at his brother. He had known some of this, had surmised the rest, but he hadn't known about Priscilla's want of children through force. “What?”

“She had a whole life made up in her head. Our son would be named Christian and would be President. Our daughter would be named Catherine and would be Miss America. She was determined I loved her, and we would have these children and everything would be wonderful.” He stopped, his fists and jaw clenched tightly. “I refused. I told her I didn't love her, that I'd never loved her and she shot at me. She shot at me and I ran away.” He raked a hand through his already thoroughly disheveled locks. “I ran away, Cale.”

Good lord. He crossed the tiny room to right the chair and help Mason sit down once again. “If you hadn't run, you'd be dead right now.”

Mason braced his elbows on his thighs and dropped his head into his hands. “Why didn't I fight her? Why didn't I stop her?”

“You didn't know.” He lifted his brother's chin to look into eyes identical to his own. “It's not your fault. She is crazy, and she's going to pay for what she's done while you have one of the most beautiful women in Virginia waiting for you at home.”

Mason cracked a smile at the mention of Kat. “I do, don't I?”

“That you do. She loves you with everything she has, too. I know, I saw it when we were all worrying together.” He grinned, showing the dimple in his left cheek. “Hell, even Cassidy saw it.”

“Cass apologized yesterday.”

That stopped Caleb cold. Cassidy and apology didn't belong in the same sentence. “Say what now?”

“She told Kat she believed she wasn't a drug dealer.”

“Took her long enough.” He stood from his crouch, choosing to lean against his desk this time. “I know you feel like you should have done a lot of things differently, but it doesn't matter now. What matters is you're here, you're whole and you have a woman who loves you, who would walk through fire for you. What are you going to do about it?”

Mason stood. Now he knew why he'd come to see his brother. “I'm going home.”





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