“The Hitman’s History” is the third story in the Hitman Series, featuring Logan, Maggie, and baby Angelica, available April 2014.
She refused to answer any of their questions.
One answer always led to another question, and then another. Until your life crushed down on you like a giant game of dominoes. As little Katie McGuire, she’d learned that early on.
Her mind now foggy with the numbing weight of pain killers, she shut out the ambient noise of the emergency room.
Mandatory report for a gunshot wound.
First things first. Stabilize her, then cops.
Shite, too much blood. Surgery, STAT.
She heard the words through a cloud of confusion, the jolt and rumble of movement, a blur of white walls rushing by. Then the stillness of her body, the drifting off – anesthesia, she assumed with relief …
Lucky girl, just missed the artery.
She awakened with heaviness in her chest and a dull ache in her thigh.
Two cops stood beside her hospital bed. Waiting like predatory birds. Unmistakably bright-eyed with their shiny badges and grave faces, their cop hats tucked under their arms.
Shite! How could she work her way out of this one? How had they gotten to her so fast, she wondered, just as her mind snapped alert to the specious passage of time.
“Good, you’re awake,” Kind-face cop murmured. “How are you feeling, Ms. – ” He let the words trail off, inviting her to fill in the blank. Fuzzy-brained she might be, but not stupid enough to fall for that old trick.
Kate shifted on the bed and groaned, putting more emphasis in the sound than the pain warranted. She’d had a lot worse. Fragile and young would work on Kind-face, she decided. Cop number two looked more seasoned with his weathered face and narrow eyes. Likely held back as a beat cop. The heft of his jaw and the muscles bunched beneath the uniform sleeves spoke of underlying aggression and a no-bullshit attitude.
“Can you tell us what happened?” Kind-face cop asked gently, edging closer to the hospital bed.
She eyed him from beneath lowered lids, knew that looking like death warmed over, hell, like death itself, made her seem fragile and needy. She fluttered her lids and gnawed at her bottom lip. “Th – that’s what I – I don’t know.” Her eyes darted wildly round the room. “What happened? How did I get here?” Forced a minor note of panic into her voice.
Cop narrow-eyes stepped forward, glanced down at her bare left hand. “Tell us your name, Miss. You’ve been shot and we need to complete our report.”
She ignored the dull ache of her thigh, touched her fingers to her neck, felt a bandage there. Remembered Mickey Logan’s knife at her throat. “My head hurts.” She moaned again and slid down into the pillows propped beneath her head just as the nurse hurried into the room.
Kate cradled her injured fingers against her chest, the splint binding the two shortest ones together like a half-assed Vulcan salute. Thought again of how Mickey had crushed them beneath his boot.
Bastard had stomped on her gun hand!
“You can’t be in post-op until we’ve finished with her,” the nurse insisted over her shoulder. “She’s sustained multiple injuries and might have a concussion. Come back when we find a room for her. She’s not going anywhere”
Kate turned on her side, presenting her back to the cops.
“All right,” Cop narrow-eyes said, the words more threat than agreement.
The nurse ignored them, adjusted the IV line, and spoke encouragingly into Kate’s ear. The blond vulnerability always worked on nurturing types.
“The doctor removed the bullet from your leg. You’re lucky. A half centimeter to the left and you’d have been in serious trouble.” She glanced at the unit of blood dripping into Kate’s arm. “That’s the last unit.”
She patted Kate’s hand. “Just rest now. I’ll check back in a few. And, don’t worry, I’ll keep the cops away,” she added with a wink. “Those boys care more about the why than the who.”
Kate relaxed even while her brain whirled with piecing together the memories.
A doctor pulled aside the drape that surrounded her bed a half-hour later, holding her chart. He frowned a few minutes as he read the notations. “Sorry, I just came on shift. Let me catch up a minute.”
Tall and good-looking, the doctor wore glasses and a grave face. “I’m Dr. Forsythe,” he announced, taking her uninjured hand in a light grip. He wheeled a chair close to the bed. “Looks like you had a hard time tonight. Bullet wound, broken fingers, banged in the head. You’ve lost a lot of blood, but you’ll recover.”
As he talked, Forsythe carefully removed the bandage on her leg. “We’ll need to keep you here a few days, watch for infection. I’ll have Nancy start the admissions process. Nancy’s the nurse who’s been taking care of you and administering the meds that make these injuries bearable.”
Kate got a first glimpse of the nasty bruise and the entry wound, closed neatly with black stitches. Son of a bitch, she thought viciously.
She had no idea why Logan had taken her to the hospital, dropped her there like discarded garbage instead of finishing her off, but she could add this insult to the long line of injustices he’d done her.
After the doctor left, she lay quietly, feeling how weak she was, knowing the admissions clerk would want name, identification, insurance. Nothing that she had on her, or would give if she did. She could make up something, figured she had maybe twelve hours, considering the inefficiencies of American hospitals, before her identity became a serious problem.
The cops would likely return by then, too.
She scooted into a sitting position, a wave of nausea and pain nearly making her collapse. A stay in hospital would give her body rest, but she couldn’t take a chance on getting caught on a regular floor, baggaged down with a possible roommate and nurses who made regular rounds.
Dragging herself and her IV trolley toward the bathroom, she passed her clothes and personal items on a plastic chair, stuffed into several plastic bags. Afterward, she rung for the nurse and asked for several blankets and pillows. “I’m so cold,” she muttered.
When the nurse returned with the items, she closed the drape and sat up, heart pounding. She was too damaged, she thought; she’d never make it.
After a moment she took a deep breath and set to work fashioning a make-shift form on the hospital bed, pulling a blanket up toward the pillow. Carefully she removed the IV catheter and tubing. A bright spot of blood bubbled up in the crook of her arm. Dimming the light, she struggled to put on the stiff, blood-soaked clothing. Luckily her thick brown jacket camouflaged most of the stains.
Christ, what a mess!
Weak and breathless, feeling the loss of blood, she slipped cautiously into the corridor and walked toward the exit sign, breathing heavily with each step, blending into the bustling arena of the emergency room. Occupied with an elderly man and a crash cart, the nursing staff never glanced her way.
Kate leaned against the walls, catching her breath, as she reached the discharge area, waiting until the receptionist had turned her back before she lumbered through the crowd of patients in the reception room and out into the bracing New Jersey night.
It was that easy.
The distraction of the full emergency room, the nurses and doctors thoroughly occupied, made her getaway slick and swift.
Furiously thinking of the next steps for survival, fueled by rage for Mickey Logan and what he’d done to her, Kate McGuire battled the cold and her own weakened body.
I am pleased to post the first-ever excerpt from my upcoming release BABY STEPS. BABY STEPS is Book 2 in my Cross Springs series. The heroine of this book is Connie Burns, the best friend of my heroine Linda from KICK START. Connie has decided, after 15 years of marriage, that she wants to start a family. The problem is, her husband Tim does not. They agreed long ago that neither one of them wanted to have kids, but Connie has changed her mind (as women are wont to do!). In KICK START, Connie was diagnosed with lupus. Tim, who is a doctor (a dermatologist), told Connie she should talk to her GP about having a baby. He figured her doctor would tell her it was a terrible idea. Let’s see how their discussion of her visit to her GP goes, shall we?
“So what did Dr. Stearn say?” Tim asked over our late dinner.
I narrowed my eyes at him over the salads I had thrown together. “How did you know I saw her today?”
“I have my sources.”
I glared at him.
“Mindy had a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning and saw your car on that side of the medical park. She wanted to know if you were sick.”
Mindy was Tim’s receptionist. I pointed my fork at him. “You’d better not tell her anything, Tim. You know she runs her mouth to everyone.”
“Yeah, I know.” He raised his eyebrows at me and stabbed a cherry tomato. “To people like you, who want to know what procedures everyone else is having done.”
I twirled iced tea in my glass, unsure how I felt about him outing my nosiness. “At least I don’t gossip about it. I just keep it in my head.” Okay, maybe that was a bit defensive. And not strictly true.
Tim raised his eyebrows. “That’s what concerns me. All that stuff whirling around your evil mind. I never know what your brain might conjure up.”
“I think, Timothy dear, you’re suffering from an excess of imagination.”
“And I think I know you too well.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Whatever. Let me tell you about my horror today.”
“No. Stop trying to change the subject. What did your doctor say? Or was that the horror?”
I heaved a sigh. “No. She laid it on thick about the problems I could have and how I couldn’t take my meds and all that.”
“Told you,” he muttered, eyes on his food.
“Yeah, well, she seemed as concerned about my age as about the lupus.” That one still burned. “Like thirty-eight is so old. These days, women who are fifty-eight are having babies.”
“You ever seen one of those old egg babies? They come out looking like gnomes, all shriveled and kind of gray. It’s weird, Con.”
“I’m not talking about having one in twenty years. I’m talking about now.” My fingers twisted the paper napkin in my lap with a vengeance.
He shrugged. “I’m thirty-nine. I raised all the kids I wanted to—and some I didn’t—before I got out of undergraduate school. We discussed this ad nauseum before we got married, Con. Things are good. Why take a chance?”
The napkin shredded under my twitchy fingers. “Because now is when I want to start a family. I wasn’t ready before this. I’ve grown up, I think.”
He raised his eyebrows again and grinned at me. “This from the woman who’s seeing Alpha Moe and Forty-two Cent tomorrow?”
I threw the napkin shreds at him. “I’m going for Nate, not for me!”
“Whatever you say. I seem to recall you dragging me to more than a few questionable venues to see a bunch of bands the past decade and a half. I was just happy when Nate got old enough to go with you. Takes the pressure off me and my beat-up eardrums.”
I picked up my dishes and headed toward the sink. “Nate has more musical taste at fifteen than you’ll cultivate in a lifetime, pal.”
As I rinsed the dishes, I felt him loom behind me. I was tall, but Tim was taller. And big. I loved the bulk of him, which went so well with that down-home Southern thing he had going on. He kissed the bare back of my neck and the fringe of my hair tickled. I shivered.
“That’s not going to make me forget what you said,” I lied.
He nuzzled some more and slid his dishes into the sink in front of me. “Okay, then I’ll stop. Thanks for washing my dishes.”
I grabbed a dish towel and snapped it as his rapidly retreating rear end. But I grinned while I did it. Tim got to me every time—all the time. He was my Achilles heel. And he still didn’t want a baby. Love and frustration tangled me in knots.
Poor Connie. I’ve given that girl a hard time in this book. Nate, by the way, is her beloved nephew (also briefly mentioned in KICK START). Connie has her hands full of troubles with her husband, but with Katie Warren, too. You’ll recall Katie was a bit of a nemesis to Linda in KICK START. She is giving Connie fits at the beginning of BABY STEPS, interfering with a house sale Connie is working on. Connie does a lot of growing in this book, though, and she and Katie find more common ground than either expects.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Connie’s world and that you’ll want to read more about her (mis)adventures. For a high-stress, career-oriented workaholic like Connie, motherhood may not be anything like she expects!
BABY STEPS should be out in April. Also, I will have Cross Springs novella out in April called CROSS SPRINGS IN BLOOM. The heroine of that story is Tim’s busybody receptionist, Mindy! Things are definitely hopping this spring in Cross Springs, NC. I hope you’ll check it out!