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Dublin, Ireland 2006
The conversation could be heard all through the house. “I don’t care what it takes, I want them brought back here, now!” He slammed the phone back into its cradle, nearly breaking it.
The Irishman stared at a picture on his desk and thought about what he would do to them when they were back.
As he thought about the possibilities, he smiled an evil, malicious smile.
She drove to her favorite spot by the Big Thompson River in Denver, Colorado and hiked up to the highest spot on the cliff-like overhang. She stood there, tears coursing down her cheeks. She talked to herself out loud. “Why do I even try?! No one ever appreciates what I do for them! Michael is the only one who cares! Sometimes I feel like I should just end it all now!” She looked over the edge to the water below. “It looks so calm, but I know it’s not.”
And she did. She knew that just below that calm, cool surface was a raging, roaring river just waiting to claim her.
He watched her from the cover of the trees. She’s beautiful, he thought to himself. She was just standing there, with her long dark hair blowing in the breeze. She was just a small, slip of a thing. He couldn’t see her face. She was talking to herself again, but he couldn’t quite hear her. “God I hope she doesn’t jump”. He spoke with a thick accent, like that of some smaller European country. He had spotted her little dark green Mustang in the parking lot a few miles back and had decided to investigate.
Suddenly, he saw a shadowy figure moving towards her. Before he could shout a warning to the woman, the man pushed her over the edge and ran to a waiting vehicle that drove away even before the man got the door shut all the way.
The stranger that had watched from the shadows hesitated for only a fraction of a second before he dove into the river after the woman. After precious minutes of swimming towards her seemingly lifeless body, he caught her around the middle and steadily pulled them both to the bank of the river.
When he managed to get her out of the water, he checked for a pulse, but it was so faint that he almost missed it. He immediately began mouth-to-mouth. After two long minutes, she finally coughed up a small puddle of water. When he had assured himself that she was going to be fine, he removed his over shirt and used it to stem the blood that was coming from the deep laceration just below her hairline.
“Open your eyes, cara mia,” he commanded softly. She did as he said and was suddenly staring into the most hypnotizing green eyes she had ever seen.
He looked into her cloudy gray eyes and frowned. “Damn. Alright, I’m going to take you back to my cabin so I can patch up that nasty little cut on your head.”
Her eyes opened wider. “Oh, no you’re not!” She tried to back away, but he stopped her by putting his arm over her waist. “You are in no shape to be on your own, let alone drive. You can go home in the morning, if you’re better.” He picked her up and carried her to his truck. After placing her in the passenger’s seat and securing her seatbelt, he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the truck. He got onto the main road and started heading out of Denver before he broke the silence. “What’s your name?”
“That is no business of yours. Now let me out of the car!” she said with a very noticeable Irish accent. He gave her a look that said, louder than words, that he was, under no circumstances, letting her out and that it would be futile to fight him. She rolled her eyes on a scoff and said reluctantly, “McCallister. Kylee McCallister. You?” He obviously had no qualms with telling her his name because he said, “Leonardo Pelicci at your service, senorita.” There was a distinct Italian accent in his deep, rough voice.
“Are you Irish?” He was staring at her from the driver’s seat. She thought about not answering him, but decided it wouldn’t do any good to try and avoid answering him, seeing as she didn’t have all her wits about her at the moment. “Yes, I’m Irish. I came to America to attend college. My family is living farther west.” She then stared out the windshield as if trapped in the past. A silent tear slipped down her cheek, which seemed to snap her back to the present. She hastily brushed the tear away.
“Are you alright?” Leonardo asked with concern. He didn’t like the fact that she was crying. “Yes, Mr. Pelicci, I’m fine.” She whispered distractedly.
“Please, call me Leo,” he said quietly to match her tone, thinking that she had to have a massive headache. She paused before asking, “How far is your home from town?”
“My home is about 14 miles from town.”
“My, you’re quite the social butterfly, aren’t you?” she said sarcastically.
He quirked one dark brow at her and replied with complete candor, “I simply dislike the hustle and bustle of city life.”
“Well if you don’t like the city, then why did you move to Denver?” she said, trying to feign interest.
“I didn’t. I moved outside Denver. I needed to live close enough to a large city to allow for good clients, but not so close that I choked on all the smog. Besides, the space that I have allows me the room to perfect my techniques.” Upon saying this, he quirked one beautiful dark brow at her suggestively.
She gave him a look of skepticism. “Techniques?”
“Yes. I’m a landscaper,” he said with a smile.
“Oh,” she attempted to sound interested but failed miserably. He looked at her for a moment before asking, “So, where do you attend college? Somewhere near Denver I presume.”
She laughed to herself. “Went. I graduated five years ago from Harvard Law School. I now have my own firm in the city.”
He looked skeptical. “How old are you?”
She arched a well-sculpted brow. “How old do you think I am?”
He looked her face over thoroughly. “Hmm… 31?” She laughed. “Lower then? How about… 27.” She arched her eyebrow at him once more. “You’re enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” he said as a small, but intriguing, smile curved his mouth.
She laughed softly then. “Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.”
Just then he pulled up in front of his cabin and he put the truck in park. He removed his seatbelt and turned to her. “Why don’t you just tell me how old you are,” he suggested flirtatiously.
“But we’re having such fun,” she said with a wry smile. He seemed amused by the banter.
He opened his door and exited the vehicle. As soon as he was out of the car and had the door closed, he came around and opened the door for her and helped her to the ground.
He preceded her up the steps to his home. Just as he was inserting the key into the lock, Kylee smiled to herself and stated, “I’m 25. I graduated from Harvard when I was 20.”
“But doesn’t it take eight years to get a law degree?” He gave her a look that said he thought she was lying to him.
“I started at the university when I was only 16. I took double the class load and stayed at school to study over vacations since I had no friends and no family in this country. I graduated four years early because of it.”
Leo nodded, then unlocked and opened the door. He stepped aside to let her in. “Welcome to my home.”
Kylee’s jaw dropped. Leo watched her awed reaction with a smile. “This isn’t a cabin, it’s a teach mór m, mansion!” Kylee exclaimed loudly.
He smiled wryly. “It’s not that big. It’s only 7,500 square feet on the first story.” He shrugged off his coat and put it in the closet while Kylee explored the living room. It was beautifully decorated with large furniture and a ceiling that was at least two stories tall.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered to herself.
“Thank you,” he said seductively. As he walked by her to turn on the lights, he heard Kylee’s stomach growl. “You wouldn’t happen to be hungry, would you?” he asked sarcastically.
“No, thank you. Please just take care of my head and I’ll be on my way,” she replied simply, reverting back to the wary young woman at a complete stranger’s home in the middle of nowhere.
Leo looked at her for a moment before shrugging and replying, “Alright then, come into the kitchen and I will take care of the gash.” He headed for the kitchen.
She followed him warily, and at the same time reached for her cell phone, thanking God all the while that she got the waterproof carrying case for it.
As she entered the mammoth kitchen, she saw Leo pulling out a rather large first aid kit. In truth it reminded her of her own. It was even in a duffle like hers.
“Come sit down at the table so I can get a good look at it,” Leo said quietly as he searched through the duffle for what he needed.
She did as he said and took a seat. He approached her with a bowl of warm water and what looked like a tube of Neosporin. “This may sting a bit,” he said as he set the bowl down and removed the small dish cloth from the water and rung it out.
She gave him a look that said a little sting was nothing compared to the pain she had had to endure in her lifetime. She almost said as much, but stopped herself in time. She searched for something to change the subject.
“Are you married?”
He smiled to himself. “What makes you ask?”
She shrugged. “I was just curious, and you haven’t answered my question.”
Leo laughed softly. “Well put my dear, and no, I’m not married.”
She nodded, and then looked a bit confused. “Why not? I don’t mean to pry, but you’re what, 30? So why aren’t you married?”
He quirked his eyebrow in that way that was beginning to get on her nerves. “Because I haven’t found that one special person to share the rest of my life with. What about you Kylee? Are you married?”
“What would make you ask a question like that? I’m not wearing a ring am I?”
All he noticed was that she hadn’t answered his question. “No, but before you were pushed into the water, I heard you talking about a man named Michael, so naturally I assumed he was your husband.”
She smirked to herself. “Me, married to Mike? No way. Mike is my roommate. We live in the same house.”
“So he’s your… lover?” Leo asked this with a suspicious note in his voice.
Kylee muttered under her breath “Oh for heaven’s sake.” And then more loudly, “Mike is my gay roommate, and my best friend. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Well, how nice for him. Would you like to call him then and inform him that you are well and will be home in the morning? The phone is right over there.” He pointed to a phone on the wall.
She gave him an incredulous look. “What do you mean ‘will be home in the morning’? I will be home as soon as I can get back into town and get a cab! So don’t even think of arguing with me!” She pulled out her cell phone and speed-dialed the house.
“Hi Mike, it’s Kylee. I was just calling to tell you that I’ll be home a little later than expected. I had a little … mishap and now I’m stuck at a … friend’s house.” She heard Leo chuckle over the strangled sound of her voice when she said friend.
“Where are you Kylee?! Are you OK?! What happened?!”
“Mike I’m fine. It’s just a little bump on the head. It’s nothing to be worried about. And I am perfectly safe where I am.” Kylee hoped she was telling the truth. “I’ll see you when I get home. Bye dear.” She hung up before he could ask any more questions. For all she knew, this gorgeous Italian could work for O’Malley, or worse, her father.
“Your friend Mike sounded worried,” he said smiling.
“He’s just a worry-wart. He’ll calm down by the time I get home, and it’s not very nice to eavesdrop.” She smiled to herself thinking about the third degree she would get after Mike found out she was at a man’s house.
As Michael hung up the phone, he remembered something – Kylee’s sisters in California had called. He quickly hit redial and called Kylee’s cell phone. It rang three times, then a male voice answered. “Hello?”
“This is Michael. Could I please speak with Kylee?” he waited while he heard muffled voices. Then, the male voice came on again. “Here she is.”
“What is it, Mike?”
Michael smiled over the impatience in her voice. “I just wanted to tell you that your sisters called. Kara told me to tell you… let me find it… ah here it is… ‘Li hanno trovati.’ Whatever that means.”
Kylee’s expression suddenly became guarded and she started whispering into the phone so Leo wouldn’t hear.
After a few minutes, he heard her say, “OK thanks, Michael. I’ll see you in a few days.” She quickly hung up the phone and mumbled something about calling a cab, then ran out of the house without her cell phone.
Leo watched the door for a few seconds, then picked up the cell phone and dialed Michael’s number. It only rang once before it was answered. “Kylee?! Tell me where you’re going!”
Leo took a calming breath, then said, “First tell me what you told her.”
“Who is this?”
“My name is Leonardo Pelicci. I am a friend of Kylee’s. Now, what did you say to her?”
“I just relayed a message from her sister. I have no idea what it means.”
“What was the message?” Leo was already scanning his rudimentary knowledge of the Irish language.
“Kara just told me to tell Kylee, ‘li hanno trovati’.”
“Li hanno trovati…” Leo thought for a moment, then it suddenly registered that the message wasn’t in Irish, it was in Italian. “Where does Kara live?”
Kylee was already running down the road before she realized that she left her cell phone inside. She quickly turned back around and ran back towards the house.
She quickly made a list of all the people she would need to call; her associates at the firm, her pilot, and her mother. Li hanno trovati. Her mind had reeled when Mike had said that. It meant ‘they found us’. Naturally, she was going to go to her baby sisters. She had just reached the front door when it was opened.
“Who has found your sisters?” Leo was standing in the doorway. “And before you ask, I called your Mike back and he told me the message.”
“Mike doesn’t speak Italian.” She said impatiently, not understanding for a moment how he knew what it meant. Then she remembered that he was Italian.
“But I do. Now answer my question.” He braced his legs apart, saying without words that she wasn’t going anywhere until he had his answers.
Kylee looked nervous for a moment, then her calm, cool mask was in place. “You know as much as I do.”
“Ah, cara, I think you know more than you’re telling me. Now talk.” There was a steely-sureness in his voice.
Kylee rolled her eyes. “I don’t have to tell you anything. Now get out of my way. I need to get my cell phone, and then I’m leaving.” She tried to move past him, but he wouldn’t move.
“How exactly do you plan on getting into town?”
She easily slipped under his arm and retrieved her cell phone from the kitchen. When she went back to the front door, Leo held the same position, only facing the other way, and he wasn’t moving. He had also shut the door. “You know that holding someone against their will is known in all fifty states as kidnapping, right?”
Leo just rolled his eyes and repeated the question.
She gave an exasperated sigh and finally gave him his answer. “I called a cab.” Just then there was a knock on the door. “See?” She brushed past him and answered the door.
“I’m so glad you were willing to come all this …” she stopped mid-sentence as she recognized the man at the door.
“Sharom,” she breathed his name in her thick Irish brogue.
He responded in their native tongue. “Ah so you do remember me, little one. I have been looking for you for years. Why would you come to this place?” he said in reference to Colorado.
“It reminded me of home, I suppose. What are you doing here Sharom? You know I want nothing to do with my father. And how did you find me here. This isn’t even...”
At that moment, Leo stepped up and draped his arm protectively around Kylee’s shoulders, and proceeded to massage her neck in silent warning to remain silent. “Is there a problem?”
“Leo, this is Sharom, my father’s ‘right hand man’ as he so fondly nicknamed him. Sharom, this is Leonardo, he’s a …”
“I am her fiancé.” He squeezed her shoulder to stop any protest. “What do you mean, ‘right hand man’? That makes it sound like your father is the godfather or something,” he said with a small laugh of disbelief.
He felt Kylee’s muscles tense under his hand. He lowered his head to whisper in her ear, “What is it?”
She shivered at the brush of his breath in her ear then said, “It’s nothing really, just the fact that my father sort of....”
Sharom coughed pointedly then said, “Kylee, remember what happened the last time…”
“Oh please. I’m not scared of him anymore.” She turned to Leo. “My father…. is the godfather. Of Ireland that is.”
His expression hardened as he turned towards Kylee’s current tormentor. He may not be able to do anything about her father, but he could certainly handle this problem.
He knew what it was like to live under the same roof as a very powerful man. “Well whatever your father is, he can’t control you any longer. And as for you,” he turned to Sharom, “leave my land and never come back.”
“I am here for the sole purpose of protecting Kylee. Shawn is on his way to San Francisco to be with Kara and Mary.”
“Well, I don’t want or need your protection, and neither do my sisters. So do as Leo says and leave before I am forced to make you leave. And you know I can. Don’t make me do it, Sharom. You were my best friend growing up, and it would hurt me immensely to do that to you.”
“I know,” he said sadly, “and I won’t make you do that. When you and your man get married, send me an invitation. I wouldn’t miss you getting hitched for anything.” He said before turning away.
She turned to glare at Leo for making Sharom believe that they were together. She turned back around to tell him the truth, but he had already climbed into his car and was driving down the lane. Just then the cab pulled up. “Are you the lady that called?” It was an older man.
“Yes I am. Thank you for coming so fast.” Kylee started for the cab.
“Wait, cara. You aren’t going anywhere alone. In case you forgot, someone tried to kill you tonight.”
“No I didn’t forget. But I won’t involve you.” She was sounding angry again. Leo wondered why that was.
“Too late. I’m going with you.” Leo was already heading to the cab after locking the door of the house.
“Fine. I don’t have time to argue. Come if you want.” She stormed past him and got in the cab.
After they were settled next to each other in the backseat, the cab driver asked, “Where to ma’am?”
“What terminal?” he asked.
“The private bays,” she replied in a clipped tone.
“Aye.” The driver started the car and headed for their destination. “So… where are you folks headed?” the driver said, trying to break the silence.
“California,” Kylee said in a distracted voice.
“Ah. I have family in California.” Kylee noticed that he had a thick Irish brogue.
“Are you Irish?” Kylee asked. It was nice to find another Irishman in the city.
“Aye, I am. As are you, I noticed.” He and Kylee continued to make idle conversation as they drove to the airport, talking mostly in Irish so Leo didn’t bother to pay attention. “Well, here we are. Your total is… $25.50.” he replied cheerfully.
Kylee tossed him a fifty. “Keep the change.” She climbed out of the cab, followed shortly by Leo.
They walked silently to a private jet on the air strip.
“Ms. McCallister! It’s great to see you again!” A young man said from the plane. “The captain was wonderin’ what was takin’ you so long!” He laughed softly. “And we already have your emergency duffle on board!”
Kylee gave him a quick smile. “Thanks Mark. Are we ready to leave?”
“You bet Ms. McC! Hey, who’s he?” The boy looked disgruntled. It was obvious to Leo that he had a crush of sorts on Kylee.
“I told you Mark, call me Kylee. And this is Leo. He’s a... friend.”
The boy looked at Leo suspiciously. “My name is Leonardo Pelicci, but you can call me Leo, son.” Leo held out his hand to the boy, who reluctantly shook it. “How old are you Mark?”
“I’m 16. I’ll be 17 in two weeks.”
The pilot stuck his head out of the plane. “We’re ready to go ma’am.”
They landed in the San Francisco Bay Airport three hours later. During the flight, Leo had watched Kylee pace back and forth for an hour, and then had grabbed her hand and forced her to sit down and relax.
Now, they were headed for the rental that was waiting for them. “Where in San Francisco are we going?” Leo asked, just to try and calm her down by talking about mundane and boring things.
“1543 Prescott Street. That’s where my sisters live,” she said absent-mindedly. She quickly climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Leo just had enough time to shut the door before she was maneuvering their way out of the parking lot.
“Now, are you going to tell me why you are so anxious to get to your sisters, or what?” Leo asked impatiently.
Kylee stared at the traffic ahead while she answered. “When I was eight, my father killed Faron O’Malley’s son. In cold blood… well not in cold blood I suppose, he, Faron’s son… I think his name was Ryan, had hit my littlest sister Mary, who was only three at the time, for no reason. My father found out and killed him and threw his body, with a few cinderblocks attached, into the river. Eventually O’Malley found out and swore revenge on whoever had killed his son. By the time he figured out that it was my father, I was in America. Now, in the Irish mob, revenge meant an eye for an eye, or in this case, a child for a child. Since Ryan was Faron’s only child, he decided that my father deserved to lose all of his children. I’m guessing that they had just found me in Denver that night at the river. That was most certainly one of Faron’s men.” Kylee looked pointedly at Leo. “Now do you see why I didn’t want you involved? I couldn’t stand it if someone else died because of my father.”
Leo sat there, stunned. There were still a few things that didn’t make sense though, like her fear of her father. Still, he asked suspiciously, “O’Malley. As in the man that was just arrested and put away for life for laundering money?” Kylee just nodded. To break the silence that had permeated the car, Leo asked quietly, “How much farther to your sisters’ house?”
“We’re here.” Kylee pulled the car up to the curb in front of a large three story Victorian home, and then shut off the engine. She got out of the car and started up the stairs that led to the walk. Leo hesitated at the bottom of the stairs.
Kylee sighed impatiently and grabbed his hand. She pulled him up the stairs to the oak and stained glass front door. She let go of his hand as she knocked.
A young girl who bore a striking resemblance to Kylee, except for the blonde hair, answered the door.
The girl’s eyes lit up as she spotted Kylee.
“Kylee!” Mary was about to throw her arms around her sister, but realized that she wasn’t alone. “Who is he?” she said in Irish.
Kylee spoke to Mary in a soft voice. “This is Leo. He’s a tag-a-long I seem to have acquired.” This she said in rapid Irish so Leo didn’t catch it. “Leo, this is my baby sister Mary.”
Leo held out his hand to Mary. “It’s nice to meet you.” He smiled at her. Mary reluctantly shook his hand, then turned towards the inside of the house and yelled for Kara. Not even a minute later, a young woman, who looked to be about Kylee’s age, came to the door.
This time, Mary made the introductions. “Kara, this is Kylee’s tag-a-long, Leo,” she said in Irish.
Kara looked from Leo to Kylee and back again. Mary whispered something inaudible to Kara, and looked pointedly at the possessive hand that Leo had placed in the small of Kylee’s back.
Kara decided to stick to English since it was obvious that Leo didn’t speak Irish.
“It is nice to meet you, Leo. Why don’t the two of you come inside?”
Kylee and Leo walked inside and followed Kara into the sitting room to the right of the foyer.
“Thank you so much for coming, Kylee. I know we shouldn’t have called you, but we thought that with you here, we might be a little safer.” Kara laughed nervously as she sat down in a cream-colored arm chair.
Leo and Kylee took a seat on the couch before Kylee responded, “I am glad that you called. And I’m sure that things will be fine,” she said with a smile just to make them believe the lie.
Leo looked as if he were going to tell them that they weren’t any safer with Kylee than without her when something struck him as odd. Why would they believe that they were safer with Kylee?
“If I may ask, why would having Kylee here make you feel safer?”
Kara looked at Leo as if he were insane. She then turned her gaze on Kylee. “You didn’t tell him?” She looked back to Leo at Kylee’s quiet reply. “Kylee is a master in all forms of martial arts, and she’s an expert marksman with both a bow and arrow and all types of guns. Papa made sure that she was well trained,” Kara nodded matter-of-factly.
Leo looked at Kylee incredulously. “Is this true?” She looked at him and smiled sheepishly. “Heh… uh yea it is.” She got up and started pacing. “Ok, so back to the issue at hand. I think we all know, or at least have two people in mind, who is after us, or at least who could be behind it.” Kylee continued to pace. Her sisters nodded. “So now we need to figure out what we are going to do.”
The would-be killers sat outside the McCallister home and watched the sister and the “mystery” man talk. “I can’t believe I didn’t get her!” Kylee’s attacker complained. “It was supposed to be a sure thing! She was alone, depressed, and about to jump! But then that guy comes along and saves her! We need her out of the way if we want to get anywhere near the others!”
“Just calm down, Michaels, you’ll get another chance. That guy can’t and won’t stick around forever. Especially after he figures out about their past,” the second would-be killer stated.
Michaels looked excitedly at the front door. “She’s coming outside on her own!” They had been sitting outside the window for hours watching the sisters. “Now’s my chance!” He headed for the front door.
“Just snatch her and you can kill her later.”
“Yea you’re right, Donaldson. I’ll snatch her, then we can use her to get her sisters!”
Donaldson smiled evilly. “Exactly.”
Kylee walked outside and took a deep breath of fresh air. Sheesh, she thought to herself, Leo sure has some wild ideas. Although some of them do have merit. Keeping my sisters safe is going to be harder than I thought. Kylee walked out a little farther on the front porch, but kept her hand on the door knob. I shouldn’t have come out here alone.
Just then, Leo walked outside. “You looked like you were about to suffocate, so I thought I would come check on you.” Leo smiled sincerely.
“Heh yea… I just felt a little choked in there. There has always been something about being in a room with my sisters for more than an hour that just makes me feel… restless.” Kylee looked quickly to the left. “Did you hear that? It sounded like a twig snapping.”
“Yes, I heard it. Go back inside. I will handle this.” Leo started to head for the bushes.
“No. This is my sisters’ house, so I will take care of it.” Kylee reached into her purse and pulled out a 9mm hand gun. She pointed it at the bushes and headed in quietly. Kylee heard the sound of a quick retreat and smiled to herself. “Chicken,” she said quietly to the would-be attackers.
“I take it he left?” Leo said sardonically when she walked back a few seconds later.
“They, and yes, but I’d still like to check the perimeter. Would you mind helping me?” She gave him a look that said without words that she would shoot him if he smiled.
Leo hid his laugh by coughing, then nodded his agreement. “Just don’t point that gun at me. Your sisters may be sure of your shooting prowess, but I’m not.” He then walked towards the south side of the house.
Under her breath, Kylee muttered, “Men,” and headed for the north side of the house.
After meeting Leo on the west side of the house in the back yard, Kylee checked all the first story windows. Satisfied for the moment, Kylee walked back inside with Leo.
“Are you feeling better after your walk, Kylee?” Kara smiled sweetly and Leo wondered if Kylee smiled, really smiled, like that.
“Yes, I did. Thank you for asking,” Kylee smiled back.
“Kara,” Leo asked, “how old are you?”
Kara looked at him blankly for a moment, but if she found the question odd, she didn’t comment. “I’m 25.”
Leo muttered an expletive in Italian. Kylee, having become quite fluent in Italian two years ago, looked at him incredulously. In Italian, she asked quietly, “What’s wrong?”
He looked at her moodily, and replied in kind. “Why didn’t you tell me that Kara was your twin?”
Kylee was so relieved that it wasn’t something serious that she laughed right in his face.
“What’s so funny?” Leo glared at her.
Kylee wiped the tears from her eyes that the laughter had caused. “Kara isn’t my twin!”
“But,” Leo looked so confused, “she looks so much like you.”
“Not really, we just have the same smile and the same bone structure. I look like my mother and she looks like hers. We both have our father’s smile. Kara is my half sister. My father had an affair a little while after I was conceived. My father got custody of Kara because her mother died during child birth. Kara is about six months younger than me.” She nodded to emphasize the little speech.
Leo muttered to himself, “Next thing you’ll be telling me is that you have a daughter.” When she didn’t comment, he looked at her.
She smiled brightly, and for the first time, it was a real smile that reached her eyes. It so took Leo by surprise, that he forgot what they were talking about.
“No, I don’t,” she said lightly.
“No you don’t what?” Leo obviously wasn’t paying attention, and he was staring at her with a funny look on his face.
Kylee looked at him warily. “I don’t have a daughter. You’re the one that asked me if I did, even if it was sarcastically.”
Leo shook his head to regain his concentration. “Oh… right… well then that’s good… uh because… uh… then she … uh… would be in danger…”
Kylee just stared at him. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Because you’re stuttering, and you sound like you’re about to have an asthma attack.”
Leo realized that he was in fact having trouble breathing, so he took several breaths to calm down. Then he stopped breathing all together. No woman has ever shaken me like that before…he shook his head to clear it of that thought.
Kylee’s brow furrowed. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“It’s nothing. It’s just that I’ve… well… oh never mind.” His cheeks tinged a barely noticeable shade of pink in frustration.
“Whatever… I don’t particularly care at the moment. Now, let’s get out of here. There’s a Super 8 not far that we can stay at.” Kylee turned to her sisters and switched from Italian to Irish. “We’ll be back tomorrow morning. Kara, you have my cell phone number. Just call me if you need me.” They all headed for the door. “Set the alarm after we leave and bolt the door. Don’t open for anyone but me. Understand?”
Kara and Mary both nodded. “We will see you both tomorrow.” The sisters hugged, then Leo and Kylee headed for the rental car.
As they were walking, Leo asked, “What are we going to do the rest of the night? It’s only ten o’clock.”
“Hmm… we should just check into the hotel and get some sleep. I’ve already called in and reserved neighboring rooms. We’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.” She got into the car and started the engine. Leo climbed into the passenger’s seat and shut the door. They drove to the hotel in silence.
Kylee parked the car and shut off the engine. She got out of the car and popped the trunk, grabbing a duffle bag full of clothes that Leo had seen the young man put in the car. Leo got out of the car and headed for the front desk.
The desk clerk smiled at them as they approached. “Welcome to the Super 8 hotel. What can I do for you two today?”
Kylee gave the man a false smile and replied, “Yes I called earlier and reserved two neighboring rooms. My name is Kylee McCallister.”
The clerk continued to smile. “Why yes, I remember talking with you! Let me just see what we have available.” He typed quickly on the computer. “Hmm… I see the only thing we have is two adjoining rooms. Is that alright?”
Kylee ground her teeth together in agitation, but she held her smile and her patience. “Yes, that would be fine.”
The clerk smiled with overly-exaggerated cheerfulness and got their room keys.
Kylee took the keys quickly and went to the bank of elevators. Leo followed shortly for fear of being left behind with the annoying desk clerk. They entered the first elevator that they came to. They traveled silently to the third floor and exited the elevator.
“Ok, I think our rooms are right over there.” Kylee pointed down the hallway to the right.
“Hm, alright then.” Leo grabbed his bag and followed Kylee to the rooms.
“Here’s your key. This one is yours and mine is next door. Let’s get settled in. I am in desperate need of a shower so we will meet in your room in twenty minutes.” Kylee went into her room without waiting for a reply.
Leo watched her walk away and shook his head. Something has her nerves on edge, he thought to himself. He went into his room and set his bag on the bed. The room was uniform in size for most hotels, and had a queen bed situated against the west wall. There was a door across from the bed that Leo assumed led to Kylee’s room. A small dresser sat against the wall adjacent to the door. There was a sink on the same wall as the door to Kylee’s room. On the opposite wall from the door leading into the room from the hallway was a window. It had a pleasant enough view for San Francisco. Next to the bed was another door. Leo went to see where this door led and found that it led to the bathroom.
He went back into the main room and looked around for something to occupy his time until Kylee was done with her shower. Finding nothing, he decided to take a short nap. It had been a long day.
He stretched out on the bed and was asleep the second his head hit the pillow.
Kylee shut the door to her room and walked over to the bed. She quickly found the bathroom and took a nice hot shower. Ten minutes passed before she finally forced herself to get out of the soothing water.
She walked into the main room with a towel on her head and one on her body. She sat on the bed and toweled off her hair. She then proceeded to comb it out and braid it.
She slipped into a pair of pajama pants and a sweater and headed for the door that lead to Leo’s room.
She opened the door and walked inside, expecting to find him pacing the room or something else annoying like that, but instead she discovered him sound asleep on the bed.
She smiled to herself and watched him for a few minutes. He really was handsome when he wasn’t speaking. His shoulder length black hair was in an adorable mess around his face. She noticed that he had unusually long eyelashes for a man. She shook her head quickly for thinking about something as unimportant as that.
She quickly walked over to the bed and shook him awake. “Leo, wake up. We need to come up with a plan,” she said impatiently. She knew that he must be incredibly tired after the day they had, but she really had no sympathy for the man. I am accustomed to such things happening to me. People have been trying to kill me for years, she thought to herself. After poking him several times in the ribs, she finally just shoved him out of the bed and laughed when he let out a startled yell.
Leo looked around dazedly for a moment, then remembered where he was and why he was there. “How long was I asleep?” he asked groggily.
Kylee couldn’t help but laugh again. “Well in my estimation, you were out for thirty minutes.”
Leo was so startled by the carefree sound of her laughter that he didn’t take offense to the fact that she was laughing at him. He discovered that he liked seeing her like this, carefree and happy. But unfortunately, he knew it wouldn’t last. They had a major problem to solve. “So what is the plan?”
God, she loved his rough Italian accent. Every time he spoke to her, it felt like he was caressing her. She had to shake her head over that. “First of all, we need to figure out what we are going to do about these would-be killers. They obviously aren’t professionals, or I would be dead already.
“What I think we should do for now is simply wait. Wait for them to make a move on me again, and we know they will. They will want to get me out of the way first, before they go after my sisters. Until that time, I’ll have to sharpen my skills in both martial arts and aim. I know of a shooting range just outside of town, and there is a gym that we could go to. That is, of course, if you are willing to help me get back into shape.”
Back into shape? What is out of shape for her? Leo thought to himself. To him she looked perfect, from her pale grey eyes and long red hair, to her long muscular legs.
She was looking at him as if she expected an answer. “Oh… uh yes, of course I will help you. Personally, I need to brush up on my techniques a little, as well. I am a little rusty.” He gave her a sheepish grin that she found utterly enchanting. Good lord, she needed to distance herself from him immediately, or he would end up just like Justin. She cringed inwardly at the thought.
Leo noticed that she had gone very pale. “What is wrong?”
She shook her head to clear it of old memories. “It’s nothing, really. You look like hell. You should just go back to sleep. We can talk more in the morning.” At that she strode out of the room.
My, she sure knows how to make a man feel good about himself doesn’t she, he thought to himself. He was getting tired of being treated to the bipolar moods of Kylee. Something was definitely up, and he intended to find out what it was. But not until morning. He really was tired. He decided to put her as far from his mind as possible. It wouldn’t do to become attached, considering the fact that the second she found out who and what he really was, she would run as far and as fast as she could in the other direction. So he did just that. He was asleep seconds later.
He dreamed of her.
The second she got back to her room she berated herself for her inattention. “You stupid woman!” she quietly scolded herself in Irish. “You almost blew it! If he finds out the full truth, then you have no one to help you protect your sisters!” Lord she was tired. “Not that I need any help. And even if I did, I could get help from... oh never mind, just shut up and go to bed.”
She couldn’t stop thinking about that smile of his, and how it had lit up his emerald-green eyes. She must have been tired if she was noticing his eyes. She would just have to distance herself. Because if he found out the full truth, he would run as fast and as far as he could in the other direction.
She changed into her pajama top and climbed into bed with the resolve not to think about him any longer.
Kylee walked into the campus dining hall and spotted him right away. He looked so good to her. His blonde hair was hanging over his eyes in that adorably boyish way that she loved. His big blue eyes were sparkling with love as he spotted her.
She twisted the ring on her finger that he had given her last night. She walked over to the table and sat down next to him. “Hello my love, oh how I missed you this morning.” He smiled at her with such love it made her heart ache with joy. She knew she would never love another man like she loved Justin.
She was in front of her dorm room. She slowly pushed the door open, a sense of pure dread washing over her. She hadn’t seen or talked to Justin in hours, which was so unlike him. She entered her room slowly and turned on a light. She screamed...
Leo shook her awake and tried to get her to stop screaming. He had been woken up in the middle of the night by her blood curdling screams. He took her into his arms and tried to get her to wake up. He had never heard such anguish in his life, not since he had seen a widow mourn the loss of her one true love.
She finally woke up and she stared at Leo for a moment then burst into tears. He held her close and let her cry. He gently stroked her back to try and sooth her as his mother had done for him as a small child.
After several minutes of heart wrenching sobs, she finally quieted and drifted off back to sleep.
Leo knew that he wouldn’t get any more sleep, so he just pulled up a chair and sat by her side for the rest of the night.
Kylee shook herself awake an hour before dawn and stretched her aching muscles. Oh wonderful. I had that nightmare again. She knew because the muscles in her throat were sore from screaming. She just hoped that Leo hadn’t heard her.
She looked around the room and gave a small squeak of surprise to see Leo asleep in a chair right next to the bed.
She stood up and shook him awake. “What are you doing in here?” She demanded angrily when he finally stirred.
“I heard you screaming last night, so I came in here to see what was wrong. You were having a nightmare. So I decided to stay here in case you were disturbed again by this obviously horrible terror.”
Kylee just stared at Leo for a long minute, and then turned and walked to the bathroom without saying another word.
Leo stood up and stretched his cramped muscles. After walking around the room a couple of times, he looked tentatively at the bathroom door where Kylee had gone and wondered if she was alright.
After a few minutes, he called room service and ordered them some breakfast. It arrived just as Kylee was walking out in a bathrobe.
She looked at the tray of food suspiciously. “You got breakfast?”
Leo simply nodded and started to eat some chocolate chip pancakes. Kylee sat down across from him and ate a spoonful of scrambled eggs. Leo watched her as she sprinkled a bit of salt on them, followed by a little syrup.
She looked up to see Leo staring at her. “What?”
Leo smiled. “I was just watching you put syrup on your eggs. I don’t believe I have ever seen anyone else eat eggs like that, besides me I mean.” He shrugged and went back to eating his pancakes.
She rolled her eyes and then went back to eating. They sat in silence for many minutes and then Leo just couldn’t resist asking, “What were you dreaming about that was so horrible last night?”
Kylee visibly tensed. “I don’t believe that’s any of your business. Now if you will excuse me, I need to get dressed.” She looked pointedly at the door to Leo’s room.
He didn’t seem to take the hint. “Well don’t let me stop you.” His smile said he was joking with her.
She stared at him moodily and shoved him towards his room. “Get out!”
He laughed all the way to his room. He realized that he needed a shower as well. He headed for the bathroom and was back out ten minutes later, fully dressed in a pair of jeans and a tight-fitting white t-shirt.
Kylee knocked on his door. “Is it safe to come in?”
“Perfectly. Unless, of course, a naked man qualifies as unsafe.” Apparently it didn’t, because she walked right in and tossed him the day’s paper.
“Look at the front cover. Apparently I can’t go anywhere without people knowing where I’m going.”
Leo looked at the front cover, and sure enough, there was a picture of Kylee right there for the world to see. The head line read ‘WORLD-RENOWNED LAWYER KYLEE MCCALLISTER ARRIVES IN SAN FRANCISCO IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.’ Leo started flipping through the paper and found something that startled him. “Kylee,” Leo said quietly, “is your father’s name Warren, by any chance?”
“Yes it is... why?” She walked over and took the paper from him. Right there in the world section was a picture of her father, getting on a plane. The head line read ‘IRISH MOB BOSS FLIES TO CALIFORNIA.’ “Oh God.” She dropped the paper and ran to her room. She came back shortly there after and was talking in rapid Irish to whom Leo could only guess was Kara. She seemed to be in a panic, but was obviously trying to hide that from her sister.
He only caught snatches of the conversation, but he got the gist of it. They were not at all happy that their father was coming to San Francisco.
After several more minutes of talking, Kylee finally said her good-byes and hung up the phone.
“What was that all about?” Leo asked.
“It was me warning my sisters that our father is coming. I’m taking them home with me until he leaves. Luckily, he doesn’t know where I live. And Sharom won’t tell him.”
“Why do you have to warn your sisters? Will your father hurt them? Or do you all just dislike your father that much?” Leo couldn’t understand the look of pure fear that she had on her face whenever she talked about her father.
“Because they need to get out of town. Mary is technically still under his guardianship. At least until I get all the papers filled out and she moves to Denver permanently. And the only reason he is coming here is to take her back. But I won’t ever let him do that. Now pack up your things. We leave within the hour.”
Leo did as she said and was waiting in the lobby for her ten minutes later. He had already checked them out and had taken care of the rooms.
She came down five minutes later with her cell phone to her ear talking in a language that Leo didn’t understand.
She finished talking to the pilot and hung up the phone. She turned to Leo and said, “The plane is all gassed up and ready to go, we just need to pick up my sisters and we can leave. I’ve already called for a cab that will take you home.” Kylee headed out of the building towards the rental.
“What do you mean to take me home? Where exactly are you going? And how are you getting there? Oh and what was the language you were just speaking?”
“I am going to my home and Michael is picking us up. He has been most anxious to meet my sisters. And I was speaking Russian.” Kylee climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car. Leo quickly got in and they headed to her sisters’ house.
They drove in silence. When Kylee pulled up in front of the house, Kara and Mary were outside waiting for them. They quickly got into the car and Kylee headed for the airport. In Irish she explained what was going to happen. “Kara, you and Mary are going to stay with me until he leaves the U.S. and then when he leaves, Mary is moving in with Michael and me permanently. Any questions?”
The sisters shook their heads. The trip to the airport was eerily quiet.
When they arrived at the airport fifteen minutes later, Leo turned in the keys for the rental and they all boarded the private jet.
“I am not letting you out of my sight, Kylee,” Leo whispered in that sexy Italian voice that drove Kylee crazy.
“Why does it matter to you?”
God, how he loved her brogue. It added such sensuality to everything she said.
“Well? Why does it matter to you? It’s not like you have anything at stake here,” Kylee said in a disgruntled tone when he didn’t reply immediately.
Kylee watched as Leo’s usually open face suddenly turned hard and unreadable. She wondered what had caused this change.
Leo said quietly, as if to himself, “I know what its like to be forced to run from someone who could crush you, who could destroy everything you hold dear.” He suddenly wasn’t the same man that had rescued her from the river. Something was very different about him.
“Leo,” she reached out and touched his arm lightly, “are you alright?”
Leo flinched when her hand brushed his arm, then he realized who it was and he shook his head. “Si, I mean yes, I am fine. I am sorry if I seem a bit out of sorts.”
“No, no it’s ok. I understand completely. Really I do.” She looked at him with a sad smile. “Not only will he destroy everything you hold dear, but everyone you hold dear.”
Leo looked at her curiously, wondering if this had anything to do with that nightmare she had. “What do you mean?”
She shook her head violently in denial. “No. I... I can’t talk about it. Ever.” With that she went up to the cockpit to talk to the pilot.
Kara came over and sat down by Leo. “Well, I would love to tell you that she isn’t always this secretive, but I would be lying. She is always like this. Do you care about my sister?”
The change in topics threw Leo for a moment. “I suppose I do. I haven’t really known her long enough to know if I actually care about her.”
Kara decided to put it more bluntly, “Are you attracted to my sister? And please don’t deny it, I see the way you look at her. We all know that she’s gorgeous, even if she doesn’t.”
Leo stared at her incredulously for a moment before recovering. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Were her sisters really this... perceptive? He’d thought that he had well hidden the fact that he was attracted to Kylee physically, but apparently not. He needed to rethink his strategy. “Uhh.... well if there is no use denying it, then why affirm it, since you already seem to have your answer?”
Kara just looked at him for a moment, then promptly burst into laughter. “No wonder she let you know so much! You are almost as mule headed and sarcastic as she is!”
Leo simply quirked an eyebrow at that, and thought to himself, this is going to be a long flight if Kylee doesn’t come out of that cockpit.
Three hours later, they landed in the Denver International Airport. Kara, Mary, and Leo exited the plane and stood there patiently for Kylee to come out. They waited for fifteen minutes before she showed up, and she was not in good spirits. In fact, she looked down-right furious, and they all gathered who at when she kept glaring at Leo.
“Kylee!” Mike started walking towards her from his car about fifty yards from the runway.
Kylee found her first smile in hours, and ran to meet Mike half way. She didn’t say a word, just threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. He picked her up and spun her around a few times before letting her go, then turned to her sisters and gave them the same treatment, although not as enthusiastically as he had Kylee, to Leo’s chagrin.
He now had his doubts that Mike was really gay. Mike finally turned towards Leo and gave him only a passing glance before returning his gaze to Kylee and asking if they were ready to go. That brief glance Mike had given Leo told him all he needed to know.
“Are you ready to get out of here?” Mike asked Kylee.
“Oh definitely. I am so ready to sleep in my own bed again.” Kylee smiled and headed for the car. “Did you take care of my baby while I was gone?”
“Baby?” Leo looked at her suspiciously. “I thought you said you didn’t have any children.”
“My motorcycle, you dumb Italian.”
“Yes I took care of your baby. Now as much fun as it is to watch you flirt with the man of steel over there, we really need to get home and get you three behind locked doors.” Mike said crisply to get them all moving.
“I was not flirting.” Kylee’s blush said differently however. She walked up to the car and quickly got in the front seat.
They pulled up in front of a large two-story house twenty minutes later. The house was utilitarian in form, bigger than the sisters’ house in San Francisco, but not as colorful. It was white, with pale green shutters.
There was a large flower bed on either side of the front door. It was full of many different and exotic flowers that Leo had trouble naming. Obviously the landscaper has very good taste, he thought to himself.
“These flowers are beautiful. Who designed your gardens?” Leo asked Michael conversationally in his most charming tone.
Michael smiled broadly. “Kylee did it. She just loves working out here when she’s got the time.”
Leo looked at Kylee incredulously. She was leaning over the far bed, examining a rare Arabian rose. “Odd, but she never struck me as a botany buff.” Leo looked back to Michael.
“Oh yea. It’s always been a passion of hers. Ever since she was a little girl. She was always working with her mother in the gardens in Ireland. She even took a few landscaping classes when she was in college.”
Leo raised one black brow speculatively. “Hm,” was all he said before Kylee walked back over to join them. “Cara, I never realized that we had so much in common.” He smiled his most devilishly handsome smile, thinking that as long as she saw him as a threat, she wouldn’t get too close, and then she wouldn’t find out why he had been at the river or why he was constantly following her.
She smiled right back at him, and suppressed the shiver that his smile produced. He was more dangerous than she had first thought. He was affecting her on a far from platonic level. If she wasn’t careful, she might fall for him like she had Justin. He reminded her so much of him that it was scary, and she didn’t think she could handle another heartbreak like that.
She mentally shook herself to get her head out of the past. “Let’s get inside, guys, ok?” She headed for the front door and opened it.
The group walked into a magnificent foyer with a vaulted ceiling.
“It’s bigger than I remember,” breathed Kara. Kylee just smiled at them all. The reaction that she found most interesting, however, was Leo’s.
He stood staring at the ceiling with a look of total and complete awe on his face. “This painting on the ceiling, what is it of?” he asked quietly.
Kylee smiled to herself and replied softly, “It is a painting of a woman and her family. If you will look at the far left part of the circle, you will see her as a child with her mother. Then if you rotate to the next picture, she is a young woman off to school. Another rotation brings us to her wedding day.
“And finally, we come to her with a husband and children of her own. It’s my finest work.” She smiled proudly up at the last picture.
Leo looked at her incredulously. “You painted this? The detail is exquisite!” He turned to her and watched as she stared unseeing at the picture of the wedding. “Is the woman anyone in particular? She looks rather familiar.”
She shook herself out of her thoughts. “No, it isn’t of anyone in particular. Her face and that of the others in the painting sort of came to me in a dream one night.”
Leo glanced towards Michael to see him staring at the wedding picture and then turning to look at Leo and Kylee in turn, then turning back to the wedding picture. He did this several times before he simply shook his head and offered to give Leo a tour of the house.
“Mike, that’s a great idea. While you do that, I’ll go whip us all up something to eat.” Kylee smiled and started to head for the kitchen.
As she exited the room with her sisters floating along in her wake, Leo remarked to Michael, “Well, she is a brilliant lawyer, she is an expert marksman in both guns and bow and arrow, she does landscape work, she paints, and she is a cook as well? Is there anything she doesn’t do?”
Mike smiled and started walking down a hallway to the right of the foyer. “Hm, well besides all that you’ve mentioned, she also volunteers at the local stables. She owns several of the horses there so she likes to spend time with them. She also donates any spare time she has to the childrens’ shelter in town. She never really gets any free time. Lately though, she has been really throwing herself into her work at the law firm. Ever since she got a letter from her mother.”
“I take it she doesn’t want to speak to her mother?” Leo was busy examining another of Kylee’s works of art when he asked that question.
“It’s not her mother she doesn’t want to speak to, it’s her father. Enclosed in the letter from her mother was a letter from her father, demanding that she return home.”
Leo looked at Mike. “I suppose she doesn’t want to go home?”
“God no! She would never go back there. Not even if her life depended on it! And the same goes for her sisters as well.”
Mike pointed to a door to their left. “That’s the downstairs bathroom. It’s just a half bath. You can look at it if you want to. Kylee designed it. She and I bought this house a few years back and it was in shambles. We rebuilt it from the inside out.”
Leo opened the door and looked inside to discover that it was a very stylish bathroom. It was done in ancient Grecian form. It was a classic look, not gaudy.
He shut the door and turned back to Mike. “So, she is also an interior decorator? My my, but she is a talented woman, is she not?” This said a bit sarcastically.
“Yea, she’s really talented. But let me give you a little advice. Don’t get close to her, OK? You are the last thing she needs right now. So I think it would be best if you just kept your distance. Not physically, but emotionally.” Mike stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned to face Leo and await his answer. But before Leo could give it, Mike decided to elaborate a bit more. “I know who you are. And if you don’t want Kylee to find out, you’ll take my advice and my help. I was hired by her mother when Kylee ran away to America. I’ve been protecting her from her father for nine years now, but now that her father is in the country, my job just got a whole lot harder.
“I need your help to protect her. I know that’s why you were at the river that night, and I know that is why you won’t leave her alone. And since neither of us can let her find out about our jobs, we really need to stay on the same page, got it?”
Leonardo stared at him blankly for a moment, then slowly nodded. “You are very right. We can help each other. But I have one question before we start working together.” He paused for Mike’s quick nod. “Are you really gay? Or did you just make that up as part of your cover with Kylee?”
Mike smiled wryly. “No, I’m not gay. Never was. It’s just easier to stay close at all times if she thinks that.” He stopped when he heard Kylee yelling for them to come into the kitchen and help by setting the table. Before turning back towards the kitchen, Mike asked, “So do we have a deal?” He held out his hand in a gesture of truce.
Leo looked at the proffered hand for a moment then took it and replied, “Deal.”
Kylee and her sisters were all standing around the kitchen doing different things to contribute to dinner, and they were laughing and talking in rapid Irish. It seemed to Michael that the younger sisters were teasing Kylee about something. And from the look of relief she gave him when he walked in, she needed assistance. “Now what are you ladies doing to my dear Kylee to cause her to look like that?” he said with a great deal of affection in his voice.
The younger sisters attempted to feign innocence for a moment before ruining their efforts by bursting into laughter. Kylee glared at them for a moment then turned back to the stove. “Mike, would you and Leo set the table, please? Dinner should be ready in about fifteen or twenty minutes.”
Mike smiled at her and headed for the cupboard with the plates in it, replying as he went, “Of course we will, won’t we Leo?” He motioned for Leo to follow him out of the room after grabbing the silverware.
“Why have you gotten so close to them? Isn’t that dangerous?” Leo looked at Mike, waiting for an answer and setting the table at the same time.
“It kind of snuck up on me one day at Harvard. After that Justin guy was killed and the body was left in her room....” He was trapped in memories of days gone by for a moment, then shrugged and went back to setting the table.
“What?” Leo looked at Michael, his brows slowly coming together. “What are you talking about?”
Mike looked at Leo for a moment before stating simply, “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s not my place to say and it’s none of your business.” He finished setting the table then went into the kitchen to offer his assistance.
Leo looked after him for several seconds before retreating into his own thoughts.
Was that what she had the nightmare about in San Francisco? Who is Justin? Mrs. McCallister had never mentioned Kylee having a boyfriend, or at the very least, not a dead one.
“Dinner is served!” Kylee said triumphantly as she walked into the dining area twenty minutes later carrying a pan full of lasagna. “I think this is the best lasagna I have ever made, and that is saying something!” She smiled broadly and set the pan in the middle of the table. Her sisters carried in a bowl of salad and a basket of garlic bread.
“Dig in, everyone!” Michael pulled out the chair at the head of the table for Kylee as she sat down. “Thank you, Mike.”
Everyone helped themselves to the salad and began to eat.
“I think this is the best dinner I have ever had,” Leo replied a few minutes later, after tasting the lasagna. “My compliments to the chef. And possibly a kidney or two,” he joked.
Kylee smiled happily. “Thank you Leo, but a kidney is definitely not necessary.”
“No, just tons and tons of compliments.” Everyone turned and stared at Mary. That was the first thing she had said in front of Leo all day. Suddenly everyone burst into laughter.
After several minutes of laughter and eating, the meal was finished. Kylee got up to clear the table, but Leo stopped her.
“No cara, the chef never does dishes. You ladies go and relax. Michael and I will take care of the dishes.” He bowed in an old-world fashion to Kylee and proceeded to clear the table with Mike’s help.
As Kylee and her sisters adjourned to the living room, Mike and Leo began clearing the table.
“Tell me more about the McCallister sisters,” Leo stated in his quiet Italian accent.
Mike looked at him speculatively. “What do you want to know?”
“I want to know why they need to be protected from their father,” he said matter-of-factly. “Why are they running from him?”
“It’s not my place to tell you. That information is highly classified and could easily be used against the sisters. The girls are the only ones that could possibly tell you... if they are so inclined that is,” Michael said just as matter-of-factly. He turned off the water he had been running in the sink for the dishes.
Leo stared at him for a moment, then began washing dishes. “They don’t have a dishwasher.” He made it a statement.
“No,” Michael replied absently, “Kylee prefers to do most things the traditional way. She is very traditional in many ways, but still very modern in others.” Mike shrugged as if it was just common knowledge.
“Hmm, she is not a normal woman,” Leo made this comment to himself, then more loudly, “What does she do to relax?”
Mike shrugged. “She doesn’t like to admit it, but she is absolutely obsessed with books. Novels really. When she has a bad day in court, which almost never happens, or she’s just having an off day, which happens more often than she’d care to admit, she comes home and curls up by the fire with a big book.”
Leo reflected on this new and possibly helpful information for a moment before asking, “Does she have a preference, or is it just a ‘first book she comes to’ kind of thing?”
“She prefers D. C. Thompson,” Mike responded automatically, then asked a question of his own. “Why are you so curious about Kylee?” He