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Excerpt for Saving Cicely by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





Saving Cicely

A Hell Yeah! Novella and MacKay Destiny Crossover


By

Kate Richards


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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



Saving Cicely

Copyright 2017 by Kate Richards

ISBN: 978-1-68361-292-6

Cover art by Laura Garland

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Saving Cicely


Corbin MacKay has entered into an online relationship with a woman who lives in the Texas Hill Country After they make plans to get together in the near future and meet “face to face,” she suddenly goes “dark.” Panicked, the trail-riding fireman and former rodeo cowboy, flies to San Antonio to find out what happened to the mysterious blonde who made him willing to take a chance again. As he tries to find her, he learns the woman is not who he thought she was.


Cicely Shoemaker's always been just on this side of the law. However, not all members of her family have been. And, for that, she's paying the price. A rival of her father's makes outrageous demands to which she balks. No way will she marry that man's odious son.


With only one chance to get hold of the man she’s fallen in love with, she sets in motion a chain of events that will send her and Corbin into the heart of evil.



Prologue


The wedding dress hung on a hanger hooked over the closet door. The skirt belled out so wide, she couldn’t get it out of her line of vision no matter where in the room she looked. Enough white lace to make tablecloths for everyone in San Antonio, it appeared. The veil was at least ten feet long and probably tatted—if that’s what they called making lace—by nuns locked in their convent cells in the Middle Ages. Something she had in common with them.

White ballet slippers lined up below the dress, the style chosen so she wouldn’t tower over the groom. A long pearl necklace, a Francisco family heirloom. And in the corner, on the floor, a diamond the size of a quail egg broke the sunbeams pouring in the window into shards of rainbow light. Stomping had bent the gold band, but the diamond remained unaffected by her attempt to quell it.

In a final fit of frustrated rage, the reluctant bride scooped the pricey bauble up and threw it, but it only bounced off the window to land in another patch of golden light. An attic room, with its sloped ceiling four stories above the ground was excellent not only for keeping jewelry in but also prisoners.

And would-be brides.

Only in the world her family inhabited could a twenty-first century woman find herself in this position. Not that she hadn’t made every attempt to escape their “kingdom,” saving every penny she earned to move to another part of the country, but she’d still been short of her goal when Francisco’s goons scooped her up on her way to work at the local convenience store, covered her head with a dark hood, and stuffed her in the backseat of an SUV. Since she’d been walking down a stretch of highway with little traffic, her route from the dilapidated house she rented, on her way to the main road, she doubted anyone had seen her kidnapping, but she could hope.

Once inside, hurtling away at teeth-rattling speed, she yanked the hood from her head to find windows tinted dark enough to obscure her view, doors that had no inside handles, and a shatterproof glass divider—also tinted enough she couldn’t make out precise details—between her and the front seat. It had to be shatterproof because she’d pounded on it with all her might, hard enough to break anything that wasn’t. But neither the driver nor the goon in a suit sitting next to him turned to acknowledge her. For a while, she’d been afraid they planned to kill her. To her mind, it might also have been preferable to their real plan.

They’d driven for quite a while when they sloped downward and came to a stop. The door clicked open, and the goon from the front seat reached in and dragged her out. Kicking and screaming did nothing but wear her out as he dragged her implacably through the underground garage and into an elevator. In less than two minutes, she’d been shoved into her current prison and left to her own devices.

Despite the antiques furnishing the space, heavy, dark-wood pieces with dark tapestry cushions and accents, she didn’t believe the house itself was old. It had a “Mcmansion” feel to it, the walls one of those odd beige-browns so popular and the molding around the ceiling cream and streamlined. The windows were all high enough to make escaping a little tricky but possible—that is if you didn’t mind plummeting to the ground four stories below. Also, they were solid panes that did not move which meant breaking them, something the suit guys—in Texas, their muscle wore suits! Even her father didn’t do that to his men—roaming the grounds would be sure to hear.

That had been several days before. Since then, she’d been treated as a somewhat reluctant guest without permission to leave. At first, she’d taken advantage of every opportunity to leave the room, which meant meals. Since none of the family were in attendance, it had been a matter of sitting at a big table by herself with a goon at each door and being waited on by another goon then escorted back to her room. Climbing and descending the stairs each time, she passed an enormous portrait of a redheaded woman in her thirties. She looked familiar, but not familiar enough to identify. And, of course, her escorts didn’t answer her questions about the painting either. A narrow ledge below the picture held a candle always burning, in a little red glass, like a shrine. Was the woman dead? Had she been kidnapped by someone who would do the same, have her portrait painted and then kill her and remember her fondly?

Somehow, it didn’t sound right, but, with no more information to go on, what else could she think?

She needed to get away on her own and explore the house. If she could only see where the exits were, get a look at the locks. The elevator had been operated with a key, as well. If she could find that item and get down to the underground garage, she might be able to steal one of the cars and get away. Of course, she’d also need car keys and a way to operate the exit doors from that space. A thoroughly complicated escape plan.

Unlikely as it seemed she’d be able to manage all those steps, especially the narrow flight to the attic accessed from behind the movie screen in the rec room, she couldn’t just sit and wait for her captors to do whatever they had in mind. Her attempts to pretend to be cooperative hadn’t given her any more freedom. Unfortunately, her attic had a very nice en suite at one end, so she didn’t need to leave her cell to use the facilities, and every request to go outside had been met with firm denial. Although she’d pointed out that they were at least a mile off any public road, so far as she could see, she had no success in changing anyone’s mind. And nobody would tell her the reason for her capture and captivity.

On the third day, things came into focus. Juan Francisco, crime boss and her father’s rival in several of his businesses, rose from his seat at the head of the table when she entered the dining room. Fifteen minutes and a salad of baby greens later, the serving goon set their beef bourguignon on the table. By then, she was no longer willing to play at being cooperative.

The conversation was brief enough she could remember it word for word.

“Why did you kidnap me? And why are you holding me against my will?” In rote fashion, she put a bite of meat in her mouth and chewed. Although she had no doubt it had been expertly prepared, in her state of mind it tasted like tender cardboard.

He smiled and cut a piece of beef, trailed it through the sauce. “My dear, you’re not kidnapped. You’re just here to become one of the family.”

Choking, she lifted her water glass and took a gulp. Once she could breathe again, she stared at him through teary eyes. “I don’t even want to be part of my own family. I haven’t even been home for Christmas in years. Why would I want to be adopted by you?”

The stocky olive-skinned man threw his head back and roared with laughter. “I can’t blame you for not wanting anything to do with your father. He hasn’t an ounce of style and probably serves Big Macs on New Year’s Eve. But, you misunderstand me. I don’t want to adopt you. You’re a grown woman, Cicely.”

“Of course.” A slight sensation of relief filled her, followed by righteous suspicion. If he wasn’t adopting her, how could she become part of his family…even if she wanted to? “So if you just wanted to get to know each other, I think we’ve accomplished that. Can I get a ride home?”

His laughter trailed away, and Mr. Francisco, crime boss the government had been trying to pin murders, drug manufacturing, and, worst, in her mind, human trafficking, fixed his beady brown gaze on her. Ice formed in her chest before he said another word.

“I think you know I’m not sending you home, Cicely.” He flicked at imaginary lint on his black suit jacket and picked up the glass of blood-red wine by his plate. Interesting, she’d never been offered wine with meals. Just water or milk, iced tea or coffee. As if she wasn’t old enough to drink. Or something.

“Then,” she said through a mouth so dry her tongue stuck to the roof, “how can I be your family?”

He arched a brow, its gray-threaded bushiness out of place with his coal-black, slicked back hair and immaculate garments. “You can’t be that dense. Not even with the father you had. Your mother surely bequeathed you some of her intelligence. You have her beauty.”

She wouldn’t get into the comment about her mother and his obsession with her since his own wife had died. The wife whose portrait hung in the hall, and that she’d been unable to make the connection to? Not that she’d seen her often, but she should have recognized her. And her mind refused to go in the direction he suggested. “Tell me, please.”

His glower faded, the humor returning and every one of his artificially whitened teeth gleaming in the muted light of the paneled dining room. “By this time next week, you will be my daughter-in-law.” He watched her as if curious about her reaction, but how could he be?

“Kevin is married already.” Kevin, who, like her had stepped back from the family crime business, had been the object of her nine-year-old crush when their families had briefly buried the hatchet.

“But David is not.”

Horror spilled over, and she slapped a hand over her mouth and ran for the stairs. By the time she reached the picture of the redhead, she was so out of breath that she’d transferred her distress from nausea to pounding heart and a stitch in her side. How had she not recognized Francisco’s wife? Maybe she should have run for a door instead. Not that she knew where they were, but running back up to her garret—all right, luxurious garret—could not have been smart.


The wedding paraphernalia had arrived piece by piece. While she didn’t plan to wear the dress, her love of history would not let her destroy it, or the veil. Only a half-dozen credits away from a history degree earned online, she’d seen pictures of gowns like this. Museum pieces that had no business in the home of a Texas crime boss. Probably stolen. She had no intention of wearing it anyway.


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