Excerpt:Risking Trust

Private Protectors

“Mr. Taylor, do you want to make a statement?”

Michael remained still, his hands resting on his thighs, his shoulders back. He’d been in this Chicago P.D. interrogation room for the better part of an hour and hadn’t said a word.

“Mr. Taylor,” Detective Hollandsworth repeated, “your wife was murdered last night and you have nothing to say?”

Oh, he had a lot to say, the first being he didn’t kill his wife, but if he’d learned anything running one of the nation’s most elite private security companies, it was to keep his trap shut. “Not until my lawyer gets here.”

An alien sensation settled on him. Shock? Disbelief? Maybe even sadness because a woman he had loved, a woman who had once been vibrant and fun and sexy, a woman who had grown into a greedy, unhappy wife was dead. Jesus. He may have wanted to end the nightmare of a marriage, but murder? No way.

In his worst bout of rage he wouldn’t have done that to her. Sure they were finalizing a brutal—and costly—divorce, but money he had and if giving up some of it meant getting her out of his life, he’d do it. Simple arithmetic.

Right now, the only thing Michael knew was that these two detectives banged on his door at 8:00 a.m. to haul his ass in for questioning.

He flicked a glance to the two-way mirror behind Hollandsworth’s head. The room’s barren white walls and faded, sickening stench of fear-laced sweat made Michael’s fingers twitch. He’d keep his hands hidden from view. No sense letting his nerves show.

The side door flew open and smacked against the wall with a thwap. Hollandsworth and his younger partner, Dowds, shifted to see Michael’s lawyer storm in wearing a slick gray suit complete with pocket hanky.

Arnie Stark set his briefcase on the metal table. “Is he under arrest?”

“Not yet,” Hollandsworth said.

“Do you have anything to hold him?” Arnie held up a hand and his diamond pinky ring flashed against the overhead light. “Wait. Let me rephrase. Do you have anything to hold him on that I won’t shred in the next two hours?”

The room stayed quiet.

Arnie turned to Michael. “Have you said anything?”

“No.”

The lawyer jerked his head without dislodging even one strand of his gelled gray hair. “Good. Let’s go.”

Thank you. Before Michael could move from his chair, Hollandsworth stood. “We’re not done.”

Arnie stopped in the doorway, spun around and said, “Charge him then.”

Again the room went silent and Michael broke a sweat. The idea of being locked up scared the hell out of him. Hollandsworth’s face took on the tight look of a balloon about to burst and Michael let out a breath.

Arnie pointed to the door. “We’re leaving.”

Once outside the police station, the late March wind coming off Lake Michigan slammed into Michael and he sucked in air as if he’d been without it for months. “I didn’t do it.”

“I don’t care,” Arnie said. “I’m your lawyer, not your priest. You want someone to hold your hand, I’m not your guy. You want someone to keep you out of prison, that’s me.”

Not that Michael needed a babysitter, but hell, he’d appreciate his lawyer believing in his innocence. Then again, this particular lawyer was the best in the city. Anyone living in Chicago knew that because he seemed to be on the news every other week touting another win.

“Keep me out of prison. What now?”

“We go back to my office and you tell me every disgusting detail of your relationship with your wife.”

“Ex-wife,” Michael corrected.

“Not yet she wasn’t.”

 

“It’s on the four o’clock news,” Mrs. Mackey said, pressing the button on the television remote.

Roxann tore her gaze from the declining numbers on the revenue reports and watched as the Chicago Banner Herald’s longtime executive secretary, her hair teased and sprayed into submission, switched the channel from CNN to the local news station.

As much as Michael Taylor had wronged her, Roxann couldn’t imagine him a murderer. Or maybe she didn’t want to imagine him a murderer. “Has he been charged?”

“He’s only been questioned. I heard from the newsroom that his lawyer got him out before he said anything.”

“What about an alibi?”

“He says he was home alone. His doorman saw him go up.”

Buildings have back doors.

“I can’t believe it. I’d heard they were fighting over money and couldn’t agree on a divorce settlement, but still, to kill her?”

Mrs. Mackey shrugged. “I always knew he was no good.”

“Eh-hem.”

The secretary whirled to the office door and her head snapped back. Michael Taylor, the man who at one time had filled Roxann with unrivaled happiness, stood in the doorway. Her body went rigid. Literally frozen.

Twelve years ago he ripped her in two, carved out a chunk of her soul and left her emotionally obliterated to the point where she’d made her life so orderly there’d be no room for devastation. Ever.

She had yet to mend that wound.

How much did he hear? She shot out of her chair, sending the blasted thing careening against the wall. He stepped into the office and a tingle surged up her neck.

Michael.

Here.

Now.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he said. The sound of his voice, resonant and edgy, had stayed with her over the years. A warm blanket on the coldest January day.

Then she remembered she hated him, despised him with a fury that would level a city block. Her back stiffened, pulling her into immediate battle mode. What could he be doing here?

An explosion of something Roxann hadn’t felt in a long time consumed her. She’d spent years preparing a speech that would reduce Michael to a sniveling lump of flesh. Now she had her chance. Twelve years of compartmentalizing. Twelve years of missing him. Twelve years of righteous anger. Breathe. One, two, three. Stay calm. Roxann imagined starting at her toes and rebuilding herself bit by tiny bit.

Michael continued to stare, his angular face resembling sculpted rock. She had loved that face. Not quite handsome, but rugged and intriguing. He wore his dark hair combed back and the style accentuated the few wrinkles around his eyes.

Mrs. Mackey glared at him. “How did you get up here? Did you even stop at the security desk for a visitor’s pass?”

This man left Roxann with enough emotional ruin to fill Soldier Field and her secretary was worried about a visitor’s pass? Squeeze every muscle. More control. Tighter. Rebuild.

She held up a hand. “He’s here now. Let’s not worry about the pass.”

“I would have gotten a pass if the guard hadn’t ignored me for ten minutes. What should really fry you is I made it up eight floors unimpeded.”

“Should I have him escorted out?” Mrs. Mackey asked.

A little late for that. Roxann turned toward her desk. “No, but thank you. I’ll handle this.”

“But—”

Roxann eyed her. “I’ve got it. Thank you.”

Mrs. Mackey offered Michael one last sneer before leaving. Any other time, Roxann would have laughed, but right now? Not so much. She ran a hand over the coil of hair tucked behind her head. Something told her this wouldn’t be good.

“So,” she said. “This is unexpected.”

“That, it is.”

The understatement of the century. If someone had told her Michael would be in her office today she’d have stayed in bed. Sure she wanted the opportunity to skewer him for the destruction he’d inflicted upon her, but seeing him now, a successful businessman whose simple presence commanded the room, took her breath away. Yes, Michael had become better looking with age and according to the media, more dangerous.

She had wanted a life with him and over the years, as she watched from afar, the what-ifs tortured her. He had given himself to someone else, when all she’d ever wanted was for him to give himself to her.

For all the time spent obsessing over it, Roxann still couldn’t determine why he had chosen Alicia over her.

In place of marriage, Roxann lived alone, worked like a demon and occasionally squeezed in dating men who never managed to capture her interest.

And Michael, the one man who had captured said interest was now suspected of killing his wife.

About the author

Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.