Killing Her Softly
Afraid for her life after spending ten years in an abusive marriage, Kate Finelli has to find the courage to get herself out. When she calls the sheriff’s office, she hears a familiar voice--Jack, the first man to show her love. Can Kate trust him to help her get away from the long-suffering abuse?
Jack left Harper’s Glen for a career in the FBI. He’s returned to fill in for the sheriff, the man who mentored him his whole life. With strained family ties, Jack doesn’t plan on staying in this small town for long, until a panicked call comes in from Kate. He left when she chose his brother, but must stay to help her now.
With the backdrop of a murder investigation and threatening notes, Kate and Jack find each other again. Will the tension within their family keep them apart? Or will their struggle for safety bring them together after all these years?
“Why would you and Sheriff McAllen assume she’s here? Couldn’t she be visiting friends or family somewhere and forgot to tell your brother? Or maybe she was in an accident? Why would you come here?”
Jack sighed. “From the sounds of it, she doesn’t have many friends. I checked on her aunt, but she passed away recently and there’s nobody out at her old house. Kate doesn’t have anyone else to visit, as far as I can tell.”
He tried to swallow the lump forming in his throat, coughed, then met Mary Anne’s gaze. “Deke also says he’s noticed some changes in Kate over the years. Something made him consider abuse after going over your literature. He thinks Kate might have been the woman I talked to, the one I referred to you. I don’t know if it was her. I hate thinking of Tony beating her or hurting her, but I’ve gotta’ know. If Honey is really Kate, I need to know. I have to keep her safe, protect her from Tony. I can’t let him hurt her anymore.”
Jack found himself nearly in tears at the thought of Kate, the special, sweet girl he knew years ago, living in such hell. He knew the shelter demanded confidentiality and the chances of Mary Anne even telling him whether Kate was there or not were very slim. But he had to try. If she was there, he needed Kate to know he would do everything possible to keep her safe.
Mary Anne stood. “Now Jack, you know I can’t tell you the names of the women in this shelter. I would be risking their safety, their very lives, if that information got out.”
Jack’s shoulders slumped, he’d known she wouldn’t tell him. “I’m not going to put them at risk, Mary Anne. I’m trying to protect these women. I’m trying to help.”
“I appreciate your concern and know when you’ve thought about this, you will understand it’s the only thing we can do to keep these women safe. I think you’d better go.”
The door clicked open behind him. He turned, expecting a security goon to escort him to the door.
Instead, framed in the sunlight spilling through the open door, stood Kate.
Mary Anne rushed to her side. “Are you sure…”
Kate stopped her with a hand, her gaze never leaving Jack’s.
“It’s okay, Mary Anne. Jack deserves the truth from me. I’m okay, really.”
Jack wasn’t sure if they said anything else. He sat in stunned silence, staring at Kate. She was thinner, paler, and more fragile than ever, but still beautiful.
If she was really standing here, it could only mean Tony—his own brother—had hurt her. Jack took a few deep breaths, trying to fight the bile rising in his throat.
“Oh my God, Kate.”
His words, his pain seemed to go straight through her. She straightened her spine and broke eye contact at last.
“Mary Anne, is there somewhere Jack and I can talk privately?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want. You can use the counseling room next door. Slide the sign to ‘Occupied.’ You won’t be disturbed.”
When she turned back to face him, the smile on her face filled with melancholy. The sadness in her eyes made him ache.
He followed her to the hall and into the next room. She sat in one armchair and while he slid the sign on the door and closed it behind him. When he took a seat opposite her, all he wanted to do was reach out his hand to her, hold her in his arms, and promise to make it all better.
He started to take her hand, but the protective shield around her was nearly palpable. She hadn’t said hands off in words, but her body shouted it, and he stopped. He ached for her, and wanted her to say it was all a mistake.
But he knew she couldn’t do that.