Read Letting Go Online

Authors: Sloane Kennedy

Letting Go (4 page)

Casey forced her eyes to meet the man’s warm gaze as he reached out his hand. “Yes, of course.”

“Casey,” he said as he enfolded her trembling fingers in his warm ones. Another pang of longing shot through her before she remembered Devlin’s presence.

“Senator, Mrs. Caulfield, this is Devlin Prescott. Mr. Prescott, Peter and Rena Caulfield.”

Devlin stood and shook Peter’s hand. “Senator, it’s a pleasure. Mrs. Caulfield.” He nodded politely to Rena. “Senator McHugh speaks very highly of you sir,” he said to Peter.

“McHugh? Florida, right?” Rena asked her husband.

“New York. Florida is McDonald,” he responded. He turned his attention back to Devlin. “You must be Prescott of The Prescott Group.” At Devlin’s nod, the senator continued. “So what brings you to our little town here Mr. Prescott? Business or pleasure?”

Casey swallowed hard as she glanced worriedly at Devlin. He didn’t miss the silent plea. “Business mostly,” he responded simply. Peter didn’t seem put off by the less than elaborate response.

“Well, be careful around Casey here. She’s already talked us into four dogs, two cats, a one eared hamster, three lizards and a parrot that only speaks German.” Rena gave her husband a playful punch.

“Honey, I think we’ve kept them from their drinks long enough. Mr. Prescott, it was a pleasure meeting you. Casey,” she said as she gave Casey a polite nod.

“I’d be interested in hearing more about your business endeavors here in Ashland Mr. Prescott. Feel free to give my office a call.” He handed Devlin a business card and then turned to Casey and gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder. “Casey, it was good seeing you again.” He took his wife’s outstretched hand and they both left the room.

Casey’s audible sigh of relief caused Devlin to smile slightly but it quickly disappeared. He watched her take a long swallow from the fresh glass of water.

“He doesn’t know, does he?” he said. He reached for his own drink before saying, “He has no idea who you are.”

The glass nearly slipped from her hand again. She looked at him in stunned surprise. He couldn’t possibly know the truth.

As if he read her thoughts he said, “You’d be amazed at what kind of information the right private investigator and enough money can come up with.” He saw shock register on her face as she understood the new position he had just put her in. A cool mask of indifference slipped into place as she carefully put the glass down and reached for her coat.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you Mr. Prescott. Have a safe trip home.” With that, she was gone.

As he watched her go, he realized that the businessman part of him was actually looking forward to the battle he would have to wage with her. But it was his human side that tried to wash away his nagging conscience by downing the rest of his drink. The liquor burned his throat and stomach but did nothing to ease the burgeoning guilt that gnawed at his insides.

***

 

Dawn was creeping over the horizon as the old blue pick-up truck came to a stop on the side of the residential street. Large, modern manor houses lined the quiet length of road. Most looked like they belonged on Cape Cod but the one the truck stopped in front of was different. As large as all the others, the house was actually a remodeled farmhouse with a huge wrap around porch, three stories and a white picket fence. Various toys were thrown about in the front yard while a porch swing moved quietly back in forth in the light wind.

Inside the truck, a quiet Casey leaned back in the seat and stared straight ahead. She shouldn’t have stopped. Sleep had eluded her after her meeting with Devlin Prescott and even Jack’s comforting presence couldn’t drive away the anxiety that consumed her so she had taken to driving the quiet Ashland streets. Turning her eyes, she allowed her gaze to travel over the dark house. With the house still hidden in the early morning shadows she couldn’t make out much of it out but she knew exactly which shudder was loose, which gutter still had too many autumn leaves in it and which parts of the siding needed new paint. Carefully opening the door, she climbed out of the rusty truck and walked around it to stand on the sidewalk. It was a risk to be this close. Anyone could see her and call the police. But she just needed a minute…a minute to feel that brief sense of peace that always came over her when she was near this house…near him.

She closed her eyes and leaned back against the truck. Devlin Prescott would take this all away from her. She had sensed it when she first met him and now she knew it for fact. He would use everything in his power to force her to play his game. And last night, he had found her weakness…Peter Caulfield. Somehow he had figured it all out and he held no qualms about destroying the Senator’s life. Peter Caulfield didn’t deserve that and neither did his wife and children.

A light came on in one of the upper floor windows. A figure moved past the shade drawn window. Casey glanced at her watch and then returned to the truck. She allowed her eyes to wander over the house once more before she started the engine and put the truck in gear. The few moments of calm that had entered her body upon arriving at the house were gone by the time she pulled the truck away from the curb.

Chapter 4

 

 

Despite his sleepless night, Jonas was feeling quite proud of himself for managing to get out of bed at the prescribed six am starting time but wasn’t surprised to see Casey across the yard already working on repairing one of the outside dog runs. He’d heard her come in the previous evening after her meeting but she’d gone straight to her room. Within a matter of hours, her door had opened and closed, then the front door followed suit. Another hour had passed before the pickup truck had roared to life. He knew exactly where she had gone – it was the same place she had been going time after time in the three years that they had lived in Ashland. Knowing where she was hadn’t made it easier to fall asleep though and two more hours had passed before he had finally been able to close his eyes. The bitter morning cold hit him hard when he opened the screen door of the house and made his way towards her.

Casey used her shoulder to hold the kennel door in place as she struggled to wrap a bungee cord around the top of the door and the frame where the hinge had snapped. She nearly had it when her cold fingers lost their grip on the cord causing it to snap back. As the metal end hit her hand, she flinched in pain and released her hold on the door. A second later the heavy door crashed into her body. “Damn it!” she screamed in combined frustration and pain. Sampson, who had been lying quietly nearby, got up and went to her. His long tongue left a slimy trail on her cheek. “Thanks,” she said softly to the dog as she ran a hand over him.

Jonas appeared with a handful of tools. “Need help?” he asked as he reached to help her straighten the door.

“Yeah, thanks,” she said as she tried not to notice the bandage still covering his cheek.

“How’d you sleep?” he asked as he wrapped the cord around the top of the door.

“Okay,” she said. At his doubtful look, she smiled and said, “Not so great – you?”

“Not so great.” He finished with the door and then reached for her hand to examine the fresh welt. “You should have waited for me.”

“It’s nothing,” she said as she put her heavy gloves on. She moved to the next kennel door and started working on the latch.

“How’d it go last night?” he asked as he started working on another part of the same kennel.

“He knows about the Senator.”

Jonas paused in his work. “Damn – how?”

“The PI he hired to find me must have figured it out somehow.” She used a hammer to bang on the latch. Jonas waited until she was finished before continuing.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing. I left. I think he’s pretty desperate though – he offered me a half a million dollars to go back with him.”

Jonas gaped at her. “Jesus, are you kidding me?” She shook her head. “When do we get the money?”

“We don’t. I said no.”

“No? Why?”

It was her turn to stop and stare at him. “Are you kidding?”

“No! We need that money. Allow me to refresh your memory – IRS, property taxes, foreclosure…any of this sounding familiar?”

“We’ll get the money some other way,” she replied with false confidence.

“How Casey? And don’t tell me donations because no one gives a rat’s ass about these animals. If they did, this shelter wouldn’t even need to be here.”

“We’ll find a way.”

Jonas couldn’t keep the frustration out of his voice. “We have less than two months!”

“I know that Jonas!”

Jonas took a deep breath and steadied his voice. “So what happens next?”

Casey paused for a long moment and glanced around the property. Her eyes met briefly with his. “I think he’s going to try to blackmail me.”

“You really think he would bring down the Senator?” At her nod, they both fell silent for a long moment though neither returned to their work.

“Does he know about Mateo?” Jonas asked.

“I don’t think so. If he knew about that part of my life, he’d never put me in front of a judge to try and help him gain custody of a four year old. Anything his PI dug up could just as easily be discovered by another PI.  Mateo never knew my real last name so I don’t think there’s any way he could find us.”

“Yeah, but if your parents hire a PI, he’ll find out about Caulfield.”

Casey shook her head and returned to her work. “My parents won’t let that information get out - it do more to hurt their image than discredit me.”

“So take the money. Do what he wants and then you’ll be free of him – of them.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“What then? What other choice is there?” he asked. When he saw the look in her eyes, he shook his head. “No Casey, no more running. I can’t live like that.”

“We don’t have a choice Jonas. If the truth about Senator Caulfield gets out, Mateo will see it in the papers. It’ll be like having a bull’s-eye painted on us.”

Jonas fell silent because he knew what she was saying was true. He lingered for a moment before putting down his tools and going to her. “Listen to me, okay? I know you don’t want to go back there but they can’t hurt you anymore. Mateo, the money, even the Senator – none of that matters right now. Your niece matters. She needs you. If this guy Prescott really had enough power to keep her from your parents, I’m sure he would have done it by now rather than spending all his time and money looking for you.” As she started to shake her head in protest, he went to touch her check but stopped himself.

“Casey, I love you – you are my best friend. And right now you have the power to prevent that little girl from having to go through what you did and I am begging you now to use it because I know what you’ll do to yourself if you don’t. I can’t bear to see you suffer any more than you already do.”

***

 

When the limo pulled into the driveway followed by an SUV and heavy-duty pickup truck, Casey was in the midst of attacking Jack’s dirty stall with a heavy, five pronged pitchfork. Jack stood just outside the stall in the paddock. His head hung over the half door that kept him from entering the stall. Sweat covered Casey’s brow as she pitched the last load of soiled straw in the wheelbarrow and pushed it out of the barn. She didn’t spare the cars a glance as she went to the manure pile behind the barn.

As she made her way back to the barn she slowed her steps and watched as Sampson, who had been playing in the manure pile moments earlier, made a dash for Devlin and his limo driver. The cowardly limo driver made a dive for the front seat and barely managed to close the door when Sampson barreled past him and straight into Devlin who was not nearly as quick. The big dog put his paws on Devlin’s chest and pushed him back against the car. Casey heard him shouting at the dog as she returned to the barn. Several moments passed before she heard footsteps making their way to the barn. Ignoring them, she placed a comforting pat on Jack’s nose as he stomped nervously and then went back to work relining the stall with clean straw.

“Good morning Miss Wilkes,” came the familiar voice. She paid him no attention.

“Miss Wilkes, I’ve brought some people I’d like you to meet.” A brief thrill of victory shot through her when she heard the thread of irritation in his voice. She turned to face him and stifled a laugh when she saw the condition of his expensive suit and coat. Sampson was busily sniffing Devlin’s shoes.

“Miss Wilkes, this is Dr. Harriet Jackson and this is Carl Leeds.” He indicated the older woman and burly man and standing just behind him. Casey didn’t respond as they politely nodded to her

“Dr. Jackson is a retired veterinarian. She’s agreed to take care of the shelter in your absence. Carl is the best contractor in the state. He and his team will make some improvements while you’re gone.” When she said nothing, Devlin dismissed the two people with a motion of his hand. She returned to her work.

“I don’t suppose you’ve changed your mind about my offer?”

She didn’t stop working as she spoke. “Mr. Prescott, you could offer me all the money in the world and a staff of twenty and I still wouldn’t accept it.”

Devlin nodded slowly and stepped into the stall. The horse on the other side slammed his hoof against the half door bringing Devlin to a halt. He studied the animal who watched him warily but didn’t move away. Devlin took another step and was rewarded with another strike against the wood. Casey stopped her work and moved to the horse. She whispered something to the animal that he couldn’t make out but whatever it was, it calmed the horse enough so that when Devlin took another step, the horse didn’t move. Casey remained near the horse as her eyes fixed on him. She didn’t say anything, she just watched him with a blank expression on her face.  Her indifference frustrated him.

“Why haven’t you told him?” he asked. She didn’t even bat an eye.

“Don’t you think Caulfield has a right to know?”

“My relationship with Peter Caulfield is none of your concern,” she said without emotion.  It was like she had turned something off inside.  He missed the fire she had shown the previous night.

“Relationship? Sitting in your truck outside of his house in the middle of the night and struggling not to pass out whenever he speaks to you isn’t a relationship.” He knew his barb hit home when he saw pain flicker briefly in her eyes. Cursing himself for the cruelty he was inflicting and for what he was about to do, Devlin reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

“Either you tell him or I will.” No response. He pulled the business card the Senator had given him the previous evening from his pocket and started dialing. Before he punched the last number, she reached for the phone and tore it from his hands. In a fury, she threw it against the wall. Devlin used the distraction to grab her arm and push her back against the stall. He ignored her struggles as well as the horse’s pounding against the stall door as he tried to get inside.

“You have this one minute to decide if you want to bring down a man’s career and family. The press will destroy Caulfield when they find out his affair with a married woman twenty-two years ago produced an illegitimate child.” She had quieted under his hard grip and her eyes burned with hate but he wasn’t about to let up on his threat. He wouldn’t risk Isabel’s future by playing nice.

“Make a decision Miss Wilkes. Your father or yourself.” He heard the wood to his right splinter as the horse’s hoof again made contact. She used the moment to pull away from him but instead of leaving the stall to escape him she moved back towards the horse. Under her touch, the horse settled down again. Her frosty gaze pinned his.

“My luggage is sitting on the front porch in the same place it’s been all morning.” At his surprised look, she continued.

“You see Mr. Prescott, I made my decision several hours ago and it wasn’t based on your money or your threats against my father. I’m doing this for Amanda and Isabel. My only concern now is if she will actually be better off with you rather than with my mother and stepfather. At least they would have had the courage to threaten me directly first before going through an innocent man and his family.”

She was going. Relief hit him hard and it wasn’t until he recovered his cell phone and left the barn that he realized how badly he had needed her to say yes and how much he wished he could have let her say no.

***

 

“Swear to me that you’ll leave the second things look bad. Watch the papers…if there’s any mention of me in the hearing just go and don’t look back, okay?” Seeing the concerned look in Casey’s eyes, Jonas decided to forgo teasing her about her mothering and settled for a serious nod instead. “You have Father Kinley’s address, right?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

She nodded and looked like she wanted to say more but couldn’t. She bit back tears as he hugged her. “Be careful,” she said softly.

“I will.” He pulled back and studied her. “We’re gonna make it okay? Both of us.” Trying very hard to ignore the stiffness of her body, he gave her another long hug and then kissed her forehead.

“Call me when you get there?”

She nodded, grabbed her shoulder bag, and hurried down the porch stairs. Stopping at the paddock, she gave Jack a quick hug and then made her way to the limo where Devlin stood with his cell phone to his ear. Sampson trailed behind her.

“You all set?” Devlin asked her as he hung up the phone. She ignored him and walked past him to where the limo driver held the door open. As soon as she climbed in Sampson leaped in behind her. Devlin went to the door and looked in the car to find Sampson already comfortably sprawled out across her lap. Casey was staring out the window, her hand idly resting across the dog’s body. She seemed to be in her own little world.

“Miss Wilkes, the dog stays here.” When she didn’t even look at him, Devlin knew he wasn’t going to win this battle and he quietly climbed into the seat across from her and the dog. The limo driver suppressed a smile as he closed the door and went to the front of the car.

***

 

For once she wished she was in one of her nightmares and that she would wake up any second. She couldn’t move or cry out like she wanted to because then he would know that she was weak. She was a prisoner once again but she had chosen it this time. It would be so much easier to blame the man sitting across from her but the reality was that he hadn’t truly forced her into this. It had been the way Jonas had looked at her and the things he didn’t say that had swayed her. He didn’t want another child to end up like her, living a half-life.

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