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One hot holiday, p.22

One Hot Holiday, page 22

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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  The FBI agent was against the wall, and Spencer had his forearm shoved under the fellow’s throat. A knife was on the floor, just a few feet away.

  “I am sure,” Spencer growled, “that I said we couldn’t bring weapons into the interrogation room. Did I stutter, Agent Morris?”

  “Get the fuck off me!”

  “Sure thing. Right after I cuff your ass.” He flipped the guy around and yanked out cuffs as the agent struggled against him. But Spencer just slammed the agent’s head into the wall and grabbed Morris’s right wrist—

  “Sonofabitch!” Andrew surged from the table and rushed toward the knife.

  Haley lifted her legs and kicked at the small table as hard as she could, and it slammed into Andrew’s side. He stumbled and whirled to glare at her.

  “You’re next, bitch, you’re—”

  Spencer shoved the FBI agent into the wall again. The fellow fell down, not moving.

  Haley leapt to her feet. Andrew grabbed the knife. He held it in his cuffed hands as his gaze darted from Spencer to Haley.

  “Haley, come here,” Spencer said flatly.

  “Haley,” Andrew snapped. “Don’t fucking move. Not an inch, you understand?”

  Her gaze shot to the one-way mirror.

  Andrew started to laugh. “You think you’re going to get help from that end?” More laughter. “Not happening. When the lights went out, that was our signal, you see. The FBI agents—they came in and talked with me while you bozos had me in that cell. We worked everything out.” He was so damn proud. Smirking. “Those two guys who came after you at the sheriff’s house? They were a diversion. I mean, hey, if they’d gotten lucky and taken you out, win.”

  Spencer took a slow step toward Haley.

  “But you’re pretty good, Sheriff Lane.” Andrew pointed the knife at him. “So I figured you’d probably get the drop on them. And the way you get all territorial about her, I knew you’d be shooting to kill. I mean, look what you did to Francis. No hesitation, huh? Bam. Bam.”

  Spencer eased closer to her.

  “Morris was the one who told me you’d pull most of your deputies over there after an attack. So we just had to wait until this station was nearly cleared out. Then it was all about dividing and conquering. Morris came in here with us, while Doggett got to take care of that Titus bastard.”

  Once more, Haley’s gaze darted to the one-way mirror. She swallowed to ease the desert dryness in her throat, and her stare slid back to Andrew. “I guess you’re done claiming to be an innocent man who’s working for the FBI?”

  “The FBI fucking works for me! See those two agents who rushed down to my side? They work for me. They been working for me for a very long time.” He smiled. “This is how it’s all gonna go down. It’s gonna look like the sheriff freaked the hell out. He got crazy because of you, Haley. You do that, you know.” His gaze flickered over her. “You make a man crazy.”

  “You were crazy before you met me.”

  His lips thinned. “The FBI story will be that the agents had to take out the sheriff and his crooked deputy. They had to shoot and kill them. They had to—”

  “Problem with this story,” Spencer cut in. “Big problem. In case you haven’t noticed, one of your agents is unconscious on the floor. He’s not going to be shooting anyone.”

  “The other agent isn’t.” Andrew’s chin jerked up. “He’s right behind that mirror, watching everything. Your deputy Titus? He’s already dead. The signal was the lights shutting off. I told you, that’s what we were waiting for. When the lights went off, it meant that things were under control. It was time for Morris to act.”

  Spencer turned his head to look at the unconscious agent. “He did a bang-up job.” He glanced over at Andrew. “You understand that we record what happens in this room, don’t you? So some fake story about the agents having to stop me would never have worked—”

  “There is no recording. Why do you think the agents were here all night? They got access to your system. Disabled that shit. Just like they helped to remotely disable the alarm at your house. There will be no way to prove what really happened here tonight.” His hand was tight around the knife. “You’ll be dead. I’ll be a free man. And as for you, Haley…”

  She stiffened when he focused on her.

  “I fucking loved you.” Spittle flew from his mouth. “I would’ve given you the world, but you betrayed me. Now, I am going to cut you into pieces.”

  Her hands were clenched at her sides. “I don’t think that you will.”

  He smirked. “’Cause you think that the new boyfriend is gonna save you? You think that?”

  Spencer lunged forward and ripped the knife from Andrew’s hand. Did it so fast that Haley didn’t even have time to blink. One minute, Andrew had the knife. And in the next, Andrew had been thrown back against the nearest wall.

  “Dumbass.” Spencer curled his fingers around the knife. “I was a SEAL. You think you can beat me at hand-to-hand? You think I’m scared of a cuffed man, waving a knife at me?”

  Andrew straightened. “Agent Doggett!” Andrew screamed. “Shoot this bastard! Get in here and shoot him now—”

  The door opened.

  Agent Doggett stood there, face grim.

  He took a step inside.

  And Titus came in right behind him. Titus had his gun pointed against Doggett’s back. “Yeah…” Titus drawled. “I don’t think he’ll be shooting anyone today.”

  Andrew’s mouth dropped. “What? How—”

  “Fucking SEAL, you idiot. The day some stiff in a suit takes me is the day that will never happen.” Titus rolled one shoulder. “Didn’t even need the backup that I had ready and waiting.” He shoved Doggett forward. “Move.”

  Andrew flattened his back against the wall. “Wh-what backup?”

  Linc and Blair strolled into the room. Linc gave a friendly wave. “Hi, asshole! Remember me?”

  “Fuck.”

  Spencer used the knife to tap on the one-way mirror. “They were in there, watching. And, by the way…” He flickered a glance at Linc. “I’m assuming you got my equipment to start recording again?”

  A nod. “Child’s play.”

  Andrew was sweating bullets, and it was Haley’s turn to smile. Spencer’s plan had worked. He’d been sure the agents were dirty. Sure that they could trick Andrew into giving a confession as long as they set the scene right, and they had.

  “Got him making his full confession.” Linc whistled. “I mean, seriously, dude, you are a straight-up idiot. You really thought you were holding off Spencer with a knife? He could have ripped that thing from your hand at any moment.”

  A nod from Spencer. “True. I was just waiting for him to talk and brag long enough so that we had enough evidence to send him away for the rest of his life.”

  “No!” Andrew’s frantic gaze swept the room.

  Morris groaned.

  “Oh, look,” Titus murmured. “Someone is waking up to join the party. About time. Hey, Agent Morris, how do you think the other inmates will react when they find out a Fed is going to be in prison with them? Good times are coming your way…” He slapped his left hand on Doggett’s shoulder. “You and your partner are going to have such fun.”

  Doggett drove his elbow back at Titus. The gun Titus held fired.

  Chaos.

  Morris lunged up. Haley realized he’d been awake for longer than she’d thought. He was lunging up at Spencer and—

  “You bitch!”

  Andrew rushed toward her. His cuffed hands were outstretched, and he was staring at her with wild fury in his eyes.

  But he didn’t touch her.

  Spencer grabbed him. Swung Andrew around. Andrew attacked him and the two men slammed together. They hit hard. Andrew’s hands clawed at Spencer and then…

  He just fell.

  Andrew fell to the floor, and Haley saw the knife sticking out of his chest.

  Her gaze whipped around the room. She’d been so focused on Andrew that she
hadn’t seen what happened to the others—

  Titus had a bleeding Agent Doggett pinned on the floor. Literally pinned beneath his boot as he aimed his gun at the agent’s forehead. “Give me a reason,” Titus said, voice guttural. “Give it.”

  And as for the other agent…Blair had him against the wall. She’d drawn her weapon and had it locked on him. Morris had put his hands up in the air and his eyes were wide.

  “Son-of-a-fucking-bitch!” Linc dropped to his knees beside Andrew. Andrew was clawing at the knife as blood soaked his shirt. “I wanted him to suffer. He deserved to suffer!”

  He was dying. Haley could see it. So much blood.

  Spencer ran to her. Caught her chin his hand. “Baby?”

  She nodded. “I’m fine.”

  He yanked her against him. Held her tight. She felt a shudder run through his body.

  As he held her, Haley’s head turned. She stared down at Andrew. At the man who’d wrecked her life. Who’d sent people to kill her.

  He was the nightmare who’d haunted her.

  And he was…

  “Get an ambulance,” Spencer ordered flatly.

  Cody had just hurried into the room. He caught Spencer’s order, bobbed his head, and ran right back out.

  An ambulance wasn’t going to help.

  Because her nightmare…it was finally over.

  ***

  Andrew Bradley was pronounced dead at the scene. The two FBI agents were arrested. The backup that Spencer had called in from Mobile swarmed, and the crooked agents were taken away.

  The town of Point Hope slept through most of the excitement. By the time the streets started to fill, the bad guys were all gone.

  And Haley didn’t have to hide any longer. She was free.

  Free to do whatever she wanted.

  Haley stood on the steps of the sheriff’s station and watched the town come alive. Spencer was at her side, as he’d been the whole time. Since she’d first come to town. God, that seemed like a lifetime ago.

  But it had really only been a few days.

  Sometimes, you can live a whole life in a few days.

  “I didn’t intend to kill him.”

  Her head turned.

  Spencer’s gaze was hooded. “You think I did, don’t you?”

  “Spencer…”

  A throat cleared. Titus had approached so silently. As Haley watched, Titus extended his hand to Spencer. “Think you should take this back.”

  What was he giving to Spencer?

  Spencer glanced down at Titus’s palm.

  “Figured you’d be needing it again.”

  It was the sheriff’s star. Why, no, when had Spencer given it to Titus?

  “The town needs you, man.” Titus kept his hand extended. “You know that. They want you here. We all do. You’re the sheriff. Take the damn badge.”

  He’d given up his badge?

  Spencer’s gaze slowly lifted. Locked on hers.

  And she knew that he’d done it for her.

  I didn’t intend to kill him.

  But he had killed. He’d killed for her because he’d been trying to protect her. Just as he’d given up the badge because he’d been willing to do anything necessary to keep her safe.

  To do all that…to do so much…

  A tear rolled down her cheek.

  “There’s a mountain of paperwork to fill out,” Titus mumbled. “And about a million people you need to talk with. The sheriff has a job to do.”

  “Take the badge,” Haley told Spencer. “Take it.”

  “Haley—”

  She swiped at her cheek. This was all wrong. “I never wanted you to give up anything for me.” But now, she could see that he had. She’d been falling in love with him, but not realizing what she was costing him. “I’m sorry.”

  His eyes widened. “Baby, no—”

  “I’m sorry, Spencer. I’m so sorry.” She had to get away. Just for a few minutes. It was too much.

  The man she’d killed that night. Andrew. The crooked Feds. And most of all…

  What did I do to Spencer? What had she made him become?

  He’d killed for her, twice. Twice.

  And he’d given up his badge. The town mattered to him. Hadn’t he told her it was the only thing that had once kept him going?

  She would not let him give it up.

  “Haley—”

  “I have to go.” She backed away. Couldn’t look in his eyes. “I just…I have to go right now.” She would not break down in the street.

  She loved Spencer. Loved him more than anything, and right then, she was running from him.

  ***

  “I fucked that up, didn’t I?” Titus muttered. “Sorry, man.”

  Spencer glanced at the star.

  “Take the freaking thing. Go after the woman. Do your thing.”

  She ran from me. She was crying. “She doesn’t want me to follow.”

  Haley was safe now. The threats were all gone. She didn’t have to hide. Didn’t have to stay in some small town that was a dot on the map. Haley could go back to her real life.

  “She loves you.”

  His head snapped up.

  Titus rolled his eyes. “Seriously, you know she does. You can see it in the woman’s eyes when she looks at you.”

  I love you. Her sweet voice drifted through his mind.

  “And you love her.”

  Spencer swallowed. His eyes were on Haley as she hurried down the street.

  “So, Sheriff Lane, if the woman you love is leaving you with tears in her eyes, what in the hell are you going to do about that situation?”

  Her tears hurt him. No, her pain gutted him.

  Spencer released a slow breath. “I’m going to fucking fix it.”

  Chapter Twenty

  The parade was scheduled to start in ten minutes. Spencer paced as he checked the line-up one more time. He was supposed to be the Santa, and his red sleigh was all set to ride. The floats would go first. Then the elves on their bikes. Then the snow—all right, fine, the bubbles—would shoot out from the custom machines on his sleigh. He’d wave and be jolly and the whole town would celebrate.

  Where in the hell is Haley?

  He’d been tied up with Feds and cops and crime scene investigators all day long. The whole scene in interrogation had been caught on video, but there had still been questions to answer. More red-tape to clear up.

  Francis was conscious. He’d talked and talked his ass off. He’d been beyond relieved that this ex-wife was alive. Turned out, while they were divorced and he enjoyed complaining about her, he actually still loved the woman. So when Andrew had threatened her, Francis had been forced to act.

  He’d apologized a million times for shooting Haley, and he could damn well apologize a million more. Spencer wasn’t exactly going to ever forget that act.

  Francis had revealed that Andrew had been the one to break him out of the cell. He’d taken him out at gun point and hidden Francis nearby. When the deputies had searched the Italian restaurant, they hadn’t found Francis because he’d been locked inside an empty wine barrel. Hayden Phelps had monitored Francis and sent him out like an attack dog when Haley had gone outside of the station. Hayden had apparently loved doing dirty work for Andrew. He’d been Andrew’s go-to-guy.

  Correction, he had been the go-to-guy.

  Andrew was gone, his empire was imploding, and the two dirty Feds were willing to sell out everyone they could to try and make a deal. Plenty of bad cops and agents were going to fall in New York.

  And as for Linc, the DNA results had come back, thanks to some mighty fast work by Wilde Securities. Linc’s step-sister’s killer had been confirmed.

  Andrew Bradley.

  May the sonofabitch rot in hell.

  “Yo, Santa!” Titus grabbed his arm. “You’re supposed to be on the sleigh, not pushing through the crowd.” He wiggled his brows. “Now go up there and make merry.”

  “Have you seen Haley?”

  “Sin
ce she walked off and your fool self didn’t drop to his knees and shout his undying love to stop her?” Titus tapped his chin. “Nope, haven’t seen her since then.”

  He’d been supposed to say he loved her? Right then? “She left. That’s usually a sign that a woman is pissed.”

  “Yeah, it’s also a sign that a woman is freaking out. You killed a guy in front of her. She’d had one hell of a night and morning already. Then she found out that you’d tried to ditch your sheriff job—guessing she didn’t know about that—”

  “No,” he muttered. “She didn’t.” Because he’d been willing to cross every line—and break any law—for her. He hadn’t wanted her to know that. He’d…

  I was trying to protect her. From the darkest parts of himself.

  He truly hadn’t intended to kill Andrew in that interrogation room. He’d had a plan in place. But…

  When Andrew had gone for her, when he’d tried to grab Haley that final time…

  I stopped him.

  He’d twisted the guy’s wrist when their bodies collided, and Spencer had buried that knife in Andrew’s chest without a second thought.

  “She needed space.” His gaze raked the crowd again. She hasn’t left town yet. She couldn’t have left. “I was just trying to give her what she needed.”

  “Uh, huh. I think we both know what she needs.”

  His attention shot back to Titus. “Seriously, when the fuck did you become some kind of romance god?”

  “Since always?” A shrug. “Ask the local ladies, they’ll tell you. God of romance. That’s me.”

  The elves glanced over at Spencer. Frowned. One tapped his wrist—no, his watch.

  Spencer waved to him. “Right, Frank. I get it. Thanks.” Spencer looked back at Titus. “So what do you think she needs?”

  “It’s Christmas. Try a grand gesture.”

  “Uh, in case you missed it, I killed the bastard after her.” And that was the problem. “And I think I scared the hell out of her. The last thing she wants is to trade one killer for another.” He blew out a breath. “Since being with me, Haley has been nothing but terrified. How does she even know what she feels for me is real? Huh? How does she know? She said she loves me—”

  “She told you? Damn, you didn’t mention—”

  “But what if it’s just circumstances? Fear? Adrenaline? What if—when things are back to normal—she wants her old life? She wants New York? She wants action? She doesn’t want me. I’m boring and—”

 
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