Dangerous Secrets:Callaghan Brothers, Book 1(4)

By: Abbie Zanders

What they shared was more of an arrangement of convenience than a bona fide ‘relationship’. It seemed the older Jake got – his last birthday pushed him past the 30-year mark - the less he was into playing all the games. There was no shortage of women who would have liked to be in Kayla’s shoes, but sex with Kayla was easy and uncomplicated.

At least until recently, anyway.

Lately it seemed that Kayla was no longer satisfied with their open arrangement, pushing Jake for more than he was willing to give. Even Ian had picked up on the shift, suggesting on more than one occasion that Jake consider making some adjustments soon, lest he find himself collared and leashed.

Ian had been kidding, of course, but the warning came through clear enough. Ian needn’t have worried; there was no chance of that happening any time soon. The most attractive thing about Kayla was that she was (nearly) always willing and readily available, no strings attached. If that changed, well, then maybe it was time for them both to move on.

Jake completely understood Kayla’s blossoming need for more, but he did not share it. He liked her and cared for her, just not in the romantic sense. He encouraged her to do what she had to do to be happy. The fact that he didn’t seem at all bothered by the thought of her moving on seemed to piss her off more than anything. It was becoming increasingly apparent – to both of them – that Kayla’s feelings for him had grown beyond the casual, physically-based affinity he had for her.

Jake silently cursed himself for the hundredth time for being short-sighted enough to ask Kayla what was bothering her the night before. It brought things to an ugly head, the end result of which had Kayla stomping angrily out of the Pub. It was also most likely the reason she didn’t show up to work tonight.

She was pissed at him. He got that. But this was one of the busiest times of the year for them. The fact that she was willing to screw him by not showing up only further cemented his belief that Kayla was most definitely not the kind of woman he could see himself growing old with, assuming, of course, that he did grow old at all. That was not a certainty by any means, given that he and his brothers worked covert ops off the radar from time to time when government agencies were tangled in red tape.

Still, if he was a smart man, he would have waited until after Homecoming to re-assert that little slice of reality. Especially since the rest of his brothers weren’t expected to return from their latest mission until sometime tomorrow.

On the larger scale, Jake was beginning to doubt he would ever find the right woman. His views were too old-fashioned, his requirements too stringent. To truly capture his heart, a woman would have to be fun and intelligent, angelic on the outside but naughty on the inside. Someone who was not afraid to live life, but mature enough to know what was really important. She’d have to be easy to look at, too, but she didn’t need to be beautiful. He’d had plenty of gorgeous, sexy women. He’d learned through experience that he wanted something more than just physical beauty. He wanted someone he could spend hours just talking to. Someone whose eyes would light up at the mere sight of him. Someone soft yet fierce of heart. Feminine but not needy.

Someone who would be by his side at the fucking bar when he needed her even if she wasn’t speaking to him.

The crowd roared their approval as Ian deftly flipped a fifth of Patron behind his back and up over his opposite shoulder. Even Jake had to smile as Ian took a deep bow. At least one of them was in the right frame of mind.

* * *

Taryn Malone pulled the jacket around her a little tighter. The early October night had a bit of a chill to it. It wasn’t raining, exactly, but she felt the lightly falling mist right down into her bones.

She tried not to think of where she would spend the night. It was Friday night, her car was in the garage, out of commission until possibly Monday - more likely Tuesday with the Columbus Day holiday, and she had less than ten dollars in her pocket. It wouldn’t have been a problem for most people. All they would have to do is whip out their credit card of choice and settle in for a few days of rest and relaxation in what looked to be a nice little town. But Taryn wasn’t like most people. She didn’t have any credit cards, or ID of any kind.