Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(5)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(5)
Author: Marie Force

“That had to suck so bad.”

“It did, and that’s why I believe that he’s in a better place now, a place where paralysis doesn’t exist, and people are made whole again.” She kissed his forehead and continued to run her fingers through his hair, which she didn’t get to do often enough these days for her liking. “I hope it makes it easier to bear to think of him as free.”

“It does.”

“He was so proud of you and loved you so much. You amused him endlessly and made his last few years so much richer. He would say, ‘That kid is just too much. I love him to pieces.’”

“I loved him too.”

“He knew that. He would tell me your visits were the highlight of his days. You were very faithful to him, and we all appreciated that.”

“I loved talking to him. That’s why I was always over there. I liked having a grandpa again.”

“I know, and I’m so sorry you have to lose someone else you love. You’ve already had way too much loss in your life.”

“Yeah, but I was lucky too, because I got to have them for a short time, and they loved me.”

“Yes, they did, and that’s a good way to look at it. Are you okay?”

“I will be.”

“Do you promise you’ll talk to me about anything you’re feeling?”

“If you do the same. This is way harder for you than it is for me.”

“I promise, and it’s hard for all of us.”

“How’s Celia?”

“She’s hurting, as you can imagine.”

“I’ll go see her.”

“I’m sure she’d love that.”

“Does Dad know?”

She nodded. “The Secret Service got word to him on Air Force Two, and he called me.”

“He must be freaking out that he’s not here when we need him.”

“He is, but he’ll be home soon.”

“I’m really glad he’s coming home.”

“So am I.” That, Sam thought, is the understatement of my lifetime.


THUS FAR, ITALY had been about three things for the new Mr. and Mrs. Cruz—great food, great wine and great sex.

Late afternoon in Rome, and the newlyweds hadn’t made it out of bed yet. Thank goodness for room service, Freddie thought, the best invention since coffee.

He ran his hand over Elin’s soft, silky skin, feeling more relaxed than he could ever recall being. No work, no murders to solve, no demands on his time or hers, no nothing but him and her and endless hours to fully wallow in the magic of marriage.

“We should’ve done this a long time ago,” he said, breaking a long, contented silence after yet another round of lovemaking. He couldn’t get enough of her and was beginning to realize that a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to spend with her.

“Done what?”

“Gotten married and stayed in bed for days at a time.”

“What we should’ve done is stayed in a hotel in DC since we’ve barely seen a thing since we’ve been here.”

“We’ve got another week to sightsee.”

“You think we’ll do it?”

“Oh, we’ll do it.” His dirty tone made his wife laugh. His wife. He’d never been more thrilled by anything than he was to have the extraordinary Elin Cruz as his wife. “We’ll do it and do it and do it.”

“We’ve already done that. I want to see the Colosseum and the Vatican.”

“Tomorrow. We’ll get up early and put in a full day. I promise.”

“Tomorrow.” Her hand slid down to encircle his cock. “Or the next day. Whenever.”

Her touch made him instantly hard, something that still amused him almost two years after meeting her. Hell, all she had to do was look at him with heat in those dazzling blue eyes of hers, and he was a goner. Having two full weeks to focus exclusively on her and them made this the best time in his entire life.

“I love being married.”

Elin laughed. “You love having nonstop sex. You’re still making up for your first twenty-nine sex-free years.”

“It’s going to take decades to work off all that pent-up desire.”

“Dear God. What’ve I gotten myself into?”

“Too late to turn back now, Mrs. Cruz. You’re stuck with me and my out-of-control libido.”

“Somehow I’ll make do.”

He kissed her, lingering on the sweet taste of her lips, which were swollen from hours of kissing and other delightful things. This might go down as the best day of his life, even better than their wedding day, which had been magnificent. “PS the nonstop sex is awesome, but I love being married because I get to have nonstop sex—and everything else—with you.”

“I love being married too. Best thing I ever did.”

“You really think so?” Sometimes it still amazed him that a goddess like her had chosen a regular guy like him.

“Freddie... How can you ask me that? You know how much I love you.”

“That makes me the luckiest guy ever.”

“We’re both lucky.”

He kissed her more intently as she stroked him until he was hard and aching for her all over again.



“I think your phone is ringing.”

“Ignore it.”

“Babe...” She pulled back from him. “The only way anyone would call us while we’re here is if something was wrong.”

Not wanting to think about anything being wrong when everything felt so right, he said, “Whatever it is will keep.” He went back to kissing her, focused exclusively on her, groaning against her lips when the phone rang again. Dropping his head to her chest, he took a deep breath and got up to retrieve his phone and see who the hell had the nerve to intrude on his honeymoon. Cameron Green. What the hell?

“Hey.” He tried not to sound annoyed or freaked out but felt both those things. “What’s up?”

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but I thought you’d want to know that Skip Holland passed away this morning.”

At first, Freddie wasn’t sure he’d heard his colleague correctly. And then, as the words registered, Freddie dropped into a chair, his legs going weak beneath him.

“I’m really sorry to do this to you, bro, but the LT said you’d want to know. She also said, quite emphatically, to tell you not to come home. She said to tell you she’s fine, and she wants you to enjoy the rest of your trip. She was very clear on that.”

One thing Freddie knew for certain—there was no way on God’s green earth that his best friend and partner was “fine” after losing her beloved father.

“What happened?”

“He died in his sleep.”

Imagining the shock and dismay of Sam, her sisters and stepmother, all of them like family to him, made Freddie hurt for them.

Tuned in to disaster unfolding across the room, Elin sat up in bed. “What is it?”

He put a hand over the phone. “Skip Holland passed away.”

“Oh no. Oh, Freddie.”

“I’m really sorry to drop this on you,” Cameron continued, “but Sam said you’d want to know.”

“Yeah, of course. Thanks for calling, Cam. Do me a favor and keep me posted?”

“Absolutely. Will do. I’ll be in touch.”

“Thanks again.”

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

“It’s okay. Sam was right. I definitely want to know. Take care.”

“You too.”

Freddie ended the call and sat perfectly still for a long time, trying to decide what to do next.

“Call her, Freddie.”

“She’s probably overwhelmed with calls and people.”

“She’d want to hear from you.”

“I’ll try her.” Someone had told them about a free app to make calls while they were overseas, but he hadn’t expected to need it. He opened the app, dialed Sam’s number and waited for it to go through. It rang and rang before her voice mail picked up. Closing his eyes, he tried to find the right words. “Hey, it’s me. I just heard the news. Call me if you get a second. I’m so sorry, and I’m thinking of you all, and I’m thinking of Skip... I, um, I don’t even know what to say, Sam. Elin and I love you guys.”

Sighing, he ended the call and put his phone on a table. It occurred to him that Nick would be on his way home from the Europe trip today and wouldn’t have been there when disaster struck. That only made Freddie feel worse for Sam—and Nick, who’d be beside himself.

Elin got up, put on one of the silk robes she’d received as a shower gift and came to him. “What can I do?”

Freddie brought her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. “This helps.” Outside their hotel, the sound of cars going by, horns and sirens blaring, could be heard in the heart of Rome. But his mind was thousands of miles away, in DC with the ball-busting older sister he’d never had. She had to be absolutely reeling.

Elin kissed his neck. “We should go home.”

“Sam told Cameron to tell me not to come. She doesn’t want that.”

“She doesn’t want to interrupt our trip, but what do you want?”

They’d waited such a long time for this trip, had scrimped and saved to be able to afford it and were thoroughly enjoying it. He absolutely hated the idea of cutting short their time in Italy, but more than that, he hated the idea of Sam going through hell without him there to prop her up in any way that he could. And he’d truly loved and admired Skip Holland, who would be given a funeral to befit a hero. In the end, there was no decision to make.

“I need to be there.”

“I agree. I’ll call the airline and get us on the first possible flight home.”

“I’m so sorry about this, babe.”

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