Dance With Me
Author:Hayden Braeburn

chapter EIGHT



Kat waited with three of the four Everetts at Aylesford Memorial Hospital, leaving Alec to debrief with various law enforcement and Caleb to scrub in to work on Dylan Black. Two bullets from Priscilla's gun had hit him, and although the man was supposedly strong as an ox, she worried for him. He had been shot saving Mason's life, and she would be forever grateful. She sighed. Caleb promised Mason wasn't too hurt, but he needed to be checked out before he could go home. She stared at the clock. How much longer would she have to wait before she could see him? She glanced at Cassidy. Her lips were in a thin line, her knuckles white. “He won't blame you, ya know,” Kat assured.

Cassidy's eyes narrowed. “But it's my fault. Why wouldn't he blame me?”

“How is it your fault? You didn't abduct him, you didn't shoot at him.”

Cassidy shook her head, sending the chestnut strands flying. “I encouraged her.” She stood, then quickly sat down again. “I'm supposed to be an officer of the court, I'm supposed to know when someone is crazy.”

“You are not psychic, Cassie,” Carolyn admonished. “You knew she wanted to renew her relationship with your brother, and you might have encouraged it, but you did not help her kidnap him and you didn't shoot at him.”

Cassidy's face blanched at that. “Dylan Black,” she croaked. “He could die because of me.” She stood again, took a few steps away from the waiting area. “Does he have any family? Anyone to worry about him?”

“Cassie, honey, we'll all worry about him, pray for him, stay for him. He saved your brother's life,” Charles promised.

“I want to sit with him when he comes out of surgery,” Cassidy said. “He deserves to have someone with him.”

Carolyn smiled at her daughter. “No one is going to stop you, honey.”

Everyone stood a few minutes later when Caleb arrived in the waiting area, and despite everything, Kat had to admit the green scrubs were a good look for Mason's younger brother. “They want to keep Mase overnight since he was drugged multiple times.” He took a breath and that was enough for Cassidy to jump in.

“What about Dylan Black?”

He tilted his head. “Dylan Black is a lucky man. God must watch over heroes, because both bullets barely—microscopically—missed major organs. It'll take a while and rehab before he has full range of motion with his shoulder, but he'll recover.”

“Can I sit with him?”

Caleb's eyes widened at Cassidy's question. “Uh, yeah, I guess you can. He'll be out of it for a while with the anesthesia, but I don't see why not.”

She walked away before her brother finished speaking. “Where?” she asked over her shoulder.

He pointed toward the hallway, and she nearly ran away from them. With a shake of his head, he eyed his family, silently asking for help. It was Kat who finally explained Cassidy's actions, telling him Cassidy felt guilty about everything and was concerned Black didn't have any family to worry about him. He smiled at that. His sister might play the stone cold bitch, but she wasn't. Not really. Cassidy was a superhero. Sometimes she was annoying, or preachy or, well, bitchy, but she was the first one to fight for what she thought was right. He stared after her for a moment until his mother finally asked about seeing Mason.

With a nod, he told his family and Kat they were allowed to see his groggy older brother, and he was afraid he'd be trampled. Damn, maybe he should get kidnapped if it earned this kind of affection.

~*~

Mason couldn't believe less than twelve hours ago he'd arrived at the office and gotten jabbed in the ass with a sedative. Now, he lay in a hospital bed, the man who had saved his life in surgery. He was having a hard time believing most of the last few days. Kat framed for drugs, Priscilla losing her shit and kidnapping him, running for his life while almost naked, and now his family walking in to his hospital room with tears in their eyes.

Kat was the first to reach him, dropping kisses all over his face. “Oh my God, Mason. I knew you shouldn't have gone to work today. I knew it.”

He cupped her chin and kissed her properly. “Next time, I'll listen to you.”

“Next time? There better not be a next time!” she exclaimed with a smack to his arm.

“Sounds like a plan to me, bro. No getting kidnapped again,” Caleb quipped from the doorway.

Mason managed a chuckle. “Not looking for a repeat. I just meant I'd listen to Kat.”

“Start now, boy. You're getting married—you'd do well to listen to her all the time,” Charles advised, rousing laughter from the group.

Carolyn squeezed Mason's hand in hers. “Women are rarely wrong, dear,” she told him in a conspiratorial whisper. “And even when we are, we almost never admit it,” she added, a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips.

Mason laughed at his mother's tongue-in-cheek joke, happy to see his family in good spirits. Earlier that day he'd been afraid he'd never see them again. He shook his head. It didn't matter now. He was home, he was safe, and Priscilla was in custody. It was only a matter of time before Kat would be cleared of the drug charges and they could plan a wedding. He couldn't believe he was looking forward to wedding planning. He winced. He might have to turn in his man card if that last thought was ever mentioned aloud, but it was true nonetheless. In theory, at least.

~*~

Priscilla stared at Brandon in disbelief. He was questioning her like a common criminal, as if he hadn't had a part in all this. “You sent me to Dylan Black!” she shouted. “You caused everything to come crashing down around me.”

“Are you insinuating that I, a Detective with the Tyler Police Department, had something to do with the abduction, false imprisonment and attempted murder of Mason Everett and attempted murder of Dylan Black, Miss McClaren?”

“It's your fault. Your fault!” she screamed before she began to sob, her lawyer Gregory Peters, shushing her the whole time.

Davis shot a look at the attorney. “Clearly, she holds the police responsible for her arrest.”

“She's suffered a psychotic break,” Peters replied, his client a mess beside him in a nighty and stilettos. He had to admit she had dolled herself up to look more than fuckable even if she had lost her mind and was crying uncontrollably. Too bad she was undeniably crazy and had shot a man today.

Davis looked Priscilla up and down. “You're going with insanity?” He frowned. “In this case, I think it might work.”

“I'm not insane!” Priscilla protested. “Mason is mine. He doesn't want me, so he has to die,” she stated plainly. “The other man was in the way. I didn't mean to shoot him.” She wiped at her tears with her manacled hands. “Just Mason.”

Brandon barely held back a smile. This was too easy. “That's a confession.”

Peters stood. “A confession from a woman who no longer understands right from wrong. In her mind, what she did was necessary.”

“That's for you to prove. She goes to lock-up until arraignment.” He stood then, assuming uniforms would be in shortly to deal with lock-up. He'd been afraid he'd have to force her to keep her mouth shut one way or another, but she was unstable enough he could get out of any accusations she tossed his way. He needed to find something to tie her to the drugs he'd hidden in Katerina Nemecek's studio so he could close that case as well. The drugs themselves weren't enough to convict Miss Nemecek, but he didn't want to deal with the trial, especially now. If he could neatly tie both cases together, the case against Katerina would be dropped, and Priscilla would be convicted for all crimes. He started to chuckle, quickly covering it with a cough. Sometimes gaming the system was too easy.

~*~

Cassidy sat in the hard plastic chair beside Dylan's bed, the beeping of the monitors almost soothing. If they were in perfect rhythm, then Dylan was too. She watched the rise and fall of his massive chest, the muscles defined even beneath the gown. Just a few hours ago she had poked him in that chest, mad as hell at her brother. She shook her head. If she had known Priscilla had grabbed Mason, if she'd known her friend was literally out of her mind with wanting her brother... She broke the thought there. Dwelling wouldn't help, but she couldn't shake the guilt. A few hours ago, she'd been nearly knocked over by the incredibly tall Dylan Black, his rock hard body barely registering her softer one. She studied his long, pale form. Even though he'd been shot twice by her friend, he looked peaceful, his dark hair tousled like a little boy. His lips were dry but full and his short beard looked almost black against the pallor of his face. He'd almost died saving her brother. Fighting the tears that threatened to roll down her cheeks, she grabbed Dylan's hand.

Caleb stopped at Dylan's room and was amazed by what he saw. Cassidy was holding Dylan's hand, promising to all but burn her former friend at the stake. He let out a soft chuckle. He knew there was no way Cassidy would be allowed to argue the case against Priscilla, but he also knew that wouldn't stop his determined older sister. She was a pit bull once she found a cause, and he was certain the big man she was clinging to and crying over was the newest addition to her ever-growing list.

~*~

Mason heaved a sigh of relief when he and Kat walked through the garage door into the kitchen. Home. He'd never been more happy to be anywhere in his life. He'd had to bribe the doctor to release him, but he couldn't be confined to a bed for one more minute. He was fine. Well, maybe he was a little slow from the drugs and a bit chafed from the tape, and maybe he was a bit cut, bruised and sore from escaping the grips of a crazy woman and being tackled by a two-hundred fifty pound man, but it was nothing he couldn't handle.

Kat turned to him. “We need to get you into the bed.”

No way. “No. The couch, the deck, the goddamned floor, but I'm not getting into a bed for a while.”

Her eyes widened, her hands flying up. “Oh my God. What did she do to you?” Her mind was playing scenarios, each worse than the next. “She didn't... She didn't...” she couldn't finish the question.

“Force me? Rape me? No, she didn't get a chance. I escaped first.” He turned, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I promised myself I would get home to you no matter what.” He pulled her close. “She had spun this whole story where we had two children who would grow up to be Miss America and the President.”

She bit her lip and looked up into Mason's dark eyes. “Miss America and the President?”

“She was going to rape me to get them, Kat.” He felt her shudder and tightened his arms around her. “The only children I'm having are with you,” he promised before dropping a kiss on her mouth.

She reached up to cup his jaw, his stubble rough in her palms. “Let's wait a while on the kids,” she said, her tone teasing. She dropped her head to his chest. “God, I'm so happy you're safe.”

He kissed her softly. “That makes two of us.”

~*~

“Do you need us anymore, Lieutenants?” Sean asked. He and Alec had been over and over the events of the day with Tyler PD's Chatham Cavindish and Ayleford's Ian Carpenter, and he was tired. They could hash out jurisdiction and whatever nonsense they wanted, but to his mind it didn't particularly matter—Tyler and Aylesford were both in Ayles county, with the same prosecutors. Then there was the little matter of a national park. He gave a mental shrug. These men could stand around and have a pissing contest as long as they wanted. The end result would be the same. Priscilla McClaren was headed downstate.

Cavindish nodded to Sean, Alec and his Detective Andrews. “We're finished here, thank you.”

“I've got all I need,” Carpenter agreed before turning to his own trio of detectives, Caufield, Delmonico and Monroe. “You need anything else?”

“We were there, boss. We're good,” Delmonico responded with a shake of his head. “They've got her in for questioning without us. Why weren't we invited to the party?”

Carpenter's mouth set into a grim expression for a moment. “The Park Rangers haven't even arrived yet, that fire on the other side of the park pulled all their resources. Since the bulk of the crimes happened in Tyler and the park, we've gotta wait our turn.” He paused while his detectives made various derogatory comments. “Tyler still may cede the case to us, but the feds trump us all.”

“After we do all the work,” Jason grumbled.

“Until we're told otherwise, we're treating this case as ours,” Carpenter said, his tone definitive. “Don't let the Tyler boys show you up, either. You were the ones on-scene while they were sitting around with their thumbs up their asses.”

That drew a grin from Monroe. “Not a problem, sir.”

“It better not be. You two,” he gestured to Chris and Jason, “get in there and talk to the suspect. Caufield, you're with me.”

“What do you need from me?” Reid asked.

Carpenter underlined something in his notes. “We're going to Tyler to run down the real story. Something doesn't smell right.”

Reid agreed with the Lieutenant. With a sweep of a hand toward the door, he said, “Lead on.”

~*~

Kat snuggled a little closer to Mason, the feel of his strong arms around her perfect. It was almost midnight and he still refused to go anywhere near a bed. Instead of leaving him alone, she'd wrapped them both in a soft blanket and curled up beside him. She didn't care if they never slept in a bed again, she was just happy he was home and safe, and she couldn't bear to be away from him.

Mason tightened his hold on Kat. She thought he was asleep, but he was just wallowing in the feel of her in his arms. His body was sore, but it was also stirring. After the day he'd endured, he hadn't expected that, but he could roll with it. He slid a hand up the silky skin of her thigh. Emboldened by her soft sigh and the press of her against him, he slid a finger beneath the lace of her panties, stroking her very gently.

What a way to wake up. Mason was stroking her, building her to a fever pitch. She stiffened. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

He kissed her neck, the scent there intoxicating. He was absolutely sure. If there was one thing he needed it was Kat. He tucked two fingers into her, loving the clasp of her muscles around him, the taste of her skin on his lips, the whimpers of pleasure falling from her mouth. He reveled in her quick climax before pulling his fingers from her and rolling her over. He needed to kiss her. Now. He kissed her with desperation, needing her warmth, her acceptance, her love. Real love. Love that would die for a mate, not capture and kill for want of it.

She felt him disconnect and pulled away. “We don't have to do this. I love you, I want you, but I won't take what's not given freely.”

He kissed her again, softly this time. “I need you, Kat.”

“You need me,” she replied. “And you'll always have me, but you don't need this.”

“Rain check?” he asked, hoping his tone was teasing. Kat knew him too well, knew he would throw up walls and pretend things were fine even when he was ready to break. He rolled them both to their sides, arranging their bodies spoon-fashion on the overstuffed couch.

She settled against him. Her body might be unsatisfied, but she was happy with her choice. She knew he would have made love with her, but he didn't need that. Not yet. “Of course. I plan on collecting that rain check, too, don't you forget it.”

He smiled against her hair. “I love you.”

“I know. I love you, too.”

~*~

“My client has nothing more to say,” Gregory Peters said as soon as Chris and Jason walked into the interrogation room.

“You can't throw us out when we've only just gotten here, counselor,” Chris joked. “Besides, we haven't heard all the lady has already said.”

Peters' eyes went cold. “Get the transcripts, gentleman. Ms. McClaren is not speaking to you.”

At that moment, Priscilla looked up, her gaze catching on Jason. “You!” She pointed at him. “You stuck me in a car and let me scream myself horse. You mistreated me.”

Jason tried and failed to hold in a snort of laughter. “I mistreated you? You had just shot a man twice.” He raised an eyebrow. “No one made you scream when you were in the car.”

Ignoring her attorney, she kept right on yelling at the detective. “Yes, you did.”

Playing along, Jason asked, “How?”

“You arrested me.” She heaved a resigned sigh. “I was mad.”

Stark raving mad. “Of course you were. You had plans and no one was abiding by them.”

“Exactly! Mason wasn't listening, and then that tall man nearly broke my back, and then you shoved me in a car.”

“I did. You nearly killed a man today.”

“I didn't mean to shoot him. I wanted to shoot Mason.”

Her lawyer was yelling at her nonstop through the entire exchange, and now he nearly clamped his hand over her mouth. “Priscilla, you can't confess to every detective who walks through this door,” he whispered in her ear.

“It doesn't matter anyway. My life is over.”

Peters gave her a strange look. “You didn't kill anyone.”

“It doesn't matter,” she said again before dissolving into tears.

“We're done here,” Peters said unnecessarily. Chris and Jason had already turned to leave.

~*~

Dylan cracked his eyes open, the beep of the machines telling him he'd made it to a hospital. He hadn't hurt this much since Iraq. He squeezed his eyes shut against the memory, a groan escaping his lips.

“Do you want some water?” a soft voice asked from his right.

He turned his head, expecting to find a nurse and was floored by who was sitting there with a plastic cup. Had he been hit in the head when he'd been shot? Whatever, he was thirsty. “Please.”

Cassidy brought the straw to his lips, choosing to fill the silence with an answer to the question he hadn't yet asked. “I know you're wondering why I'm here. You saved my brother's life, and I didn't know if you had anyone to worry about you.”

He spat the straw from his mouth. “So you decided you'd worry for me?” His voice sounded like sandpaper and made the question harsher than he'd intended.

“You took two bullets meant for my brother. Caleb said if either one of those bullets had been over even a millimeter you'd be dead.” She took his hand in hers. “And it's all my fault.”

He blinked at her. “How ya figure it's your fault?” he asked. Priscilla had never mentioned Cassidy Everett. She sighed then, causing her green silk shirt to mold beautifully to her breasts, and he felt his body respond. At least he knew everything was in working order. “I don't recall you bein' up there in the woods shootin' at your brother.”

She shook her head. “I knew she wanted Mason, and I encouraged her.”

He narrowed his golden eyes. “So, naturally it's your fault, then.”

She dropped his hand, crossing the room to the stare out the window, the darkness reflecting her thoughts. “I should've known. I should've seen she was on the edge of lunacy.”

His chuckle sounded like a blender full of gravel. “You think mighty highly of yourself, don't ya?”

She turned to face the formidable man in the bed. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“It means it's not your fault you saw the best in your friend. It means you don't need to be here waitin' on me at god knows when o'clock.”

She'd been by his bedside for six hours. He was not dismissing her. “No.”

He knitted his eyebrows. “No?”

“I'm not leaving. Caleb said you would need help, so I'm going to help you.”

“Why?”

“I promised,” she answered simply. “And I owe you.” She crossed back to his bedside. “Unless you have someone you need me to call.”

He barely shook his head. “There's no one,” he answered very quietly.

She swept her dark eyes up and down this heroic man. Why was there no one waiting on him? Worried about him? “Yes, there is,” she promised.