Dangerous Secrets:Callaghan Brothers, Book 1(3)

By: Abbie Zanders

Turning the tube in her fingers, working slowly and carefully so she did not drop it, she managed to squeeze some along the bottom of her palm and work it down into the leather cuff where it served as a lubricant. It took some doing, and way too much time, but she was finally able to free one hand, dislocating it in the process. The other restraints came off more quickly and without any further injury.

Standing up was a mistake, she soon realized. Her legs were weak, her head spun dizzily, and she hit the floor hard. Still, this was the first chance at freedom she’d had in months, and she wasn’t going to give it up for anything - especially not for a few more bumps and bruises. She’d been through far worse. And if he caught her now? He’d beat her to within an inch of her life until she dreamed of death, but he wouldn’t give it to her.

She crawled to the door, praying hard all the way. In his haste, he’d left it unlocked, probably thinking she was too sick, too weak for it to be an issue. To Kiara, the forgotten ointment and the open door were nothing less than the signs from God that she had been waiting for, telling her it was finally time for her to go.

Wasting no time, she pulled herself to the stairs and snaked down, hands first, holding in the cries when her battered ribs and infected wounds scraped against each step. Almost there....

She was out the door! Fresh, clean air filled her lungs, burning as if liquid fire had been poured down her throat. The chill of the night felt blessed upon her fevered skin, the full moon bathing everything in a silvery glow. She pulled herself into a crouch and half-walked, half-crawled into the line of trees that bordered the little house, just as she heard the rumble of the big truck making its way back up the mountainside, announcing his return.

He couldn’t catch her now, he just couldn’t, not when she was this close to escape. She forced herself up, fighting against the dizziness that made everything spin and pushed herself forward, hands out to hopefully avoid going headlong into one of the ancient trees. She had no idea where she was except that she was in some remote mountain location. Judging by the climate and the seasonal changes she’d observed over the past six months, her best guess was somewhere in the northwest. All she knew was that she had to go on, because whatever lie ahead could not be as bad as what she was leaving behind.

Several minutes later, his anguished cries echoed across the mountain, chilling her blood further. She increased her pace, hobbling blindly, trusting that the angels that had somehow presented her with this opportunity would also see to it that she got out of here alive.

That faith was severely tested when Kiara no longer felt the ground beneath her feet. Pedaling frantically and finding nothing but air, she offered one last fervent prayer. “Dear God, please let this be the end of my Hell, one way or the other.”

When she felt herself losing consciousness before the impact she was certain was coming, she gave a deep sigh of relief, knowing her prayers had been answered.

Chapter One

10 Years Later, Pine Ridge, Pennsylvania

Jake Callaghan had people three deep at his bar. Every booth and table in the popular Irish pub was occupied, any and all available floor space crammed to capacity. The music was loud and raunchy, as was the growing crowd. His younger brother Ian was beside him, doing his best to keep up with the high demand. Ian didn’t have the skill and finesse of his more-experienced brother, having tended only for a few months, but his exceptional good looks and devilish, easygoing manner more than made up for it.

While the Pub rarely lacked for business – it was a favorite among the strong local Irish community – this was Homecoming weekend for the large state university located only an exit down the interstate, and it was packed wall to wall with exuberant alumni. Traditionally, this extended holiday weekend was second only to the week-long Finnegan’s Wake celebration over St. Patty’s Day in terms of crowds and mayhem, and this year was no exception.

“Where the hell is Kayla?” Jake muttered as Ian reached for one of the frosted mugs in front of him.

Ian shrugged, pulling down the tap on the draft. “Dunno. She pissed at you again?”

“Yeah, probably.” Kayla was the only female bartender – and the only one not related by blood – that Jake allowed to work in the Pub. She was very attractive, slim and sexy, and popular with the males who frequented the place. She was also Jake’s occasional hook-up, though he knew he was by no means the only name on her dance card – a card which often included his brother, on his own or as a favorite third.