DON'T STOP ME | EXCERPT

The only woman he’s ever loved has sworn to hate him forever.

Get the book one reader called, “A story that could be ripped from the headlines, the McCabe Brothers starts out with a winner.”

Fifteen years ago, Vic McCabe was headed down a one-way road to destruction with the love of his life. But then the unthinkable happened, a mistake that changed their lives forever.

I loved this book! It is so relevant to our times with racial profiling, jumping to conclusions and intolerance leading to heartache and misery.
LSG
Reviewer

Chapter 1

There were times memories would come out of nowhere and hold him still for a moment as if he were a hostage. If he were ever to tell anyone about his fears, about the events he still couldn’t believe he’d survived unscathed…well, he knew no one would believe him. He would never share his past, his secrets. They were his—his pain, his hurt, his mistakes. Vic McCabe didn’t share with anyone.

He took a moment, brushing back the thin gauze of the curtain and staring into the darkness, seeing only the glow of the street lights in the distance and hearing the rain, which had picked up in intensity. It was late, and every sane person was tucked in for the night, sleeping soundly, maybe dreaming of something that wouldn’t give him nightmares and have him sitting up in the dead of night, sweating. No, those people most likely had wives, kids down the hall, and maybe a cat and a dog, a minivan and a small compact. Their biggest worry was whether they could afford to take the kids to Disneyland or skiing in Tahoe for spring break.

It would be an easy life, simple, something Vic could never imagine living.

There was nothing about Vic that fit the mold of comfortable, simple, or easy. He wasn’t made that way. He’d been carved out of the gutter. He wasn’t a nice man, and he knew well he should have come with a warning label.

He heard a rustle behind him: the sheets, crisp white cotton, clean and fresh. They would need laundered again now.

“How long have you been awake?” she asked.

He didn’t turn around. He didn’t have to to picture her running her hands through her long dark hair, sweeping it back from her face. He could hear it, sense it.

“Are you coming back to bed?” There it was in her voice. It was always the same, and again he didn’t have to turn to know she’d most likely sat up, pulled up her legs, feeling the awkwardness of the moment.

“I’ll call a car for you,” he said, but the fact was that he had already sent a text and could see the headlights in the distance down his driveway. The black town car was from the executive service he used when he traveled.

“So that’s it?” she said.

He could feel the muscles tighten in his back as he rested his arm on the window frame with the bite of the cool night air on his naked skin. It was welcome in his discomfort.

He heard the rustle again and this time turned only when the bedside lamp flickered on. She was lovely, slim and curvy as she pulled on her underwear and awkwardly stepped around the bed to find her dress on the floor. It was purple and white, sleeveless, but it did nothing for him now as he watched her hurry, slipping her feet into black pumps. Her hair was dark and full, the way he liked it, a tangled mess, and her cheeks were round and her lips lush. Her face had already blended into all the nameless faces of the women he’d bedded and tossed away. Her eyes were the wrong shade of brown.

She was staring at him now, watching him with dark smudges under her eyes from the mascara she’d caked on, the shadow on her lids that had fooled him for a moment, an image of someone else. It was always the same, the appreciation for his body, the marks on his back and the tattoo he shared with no one, always the same. He knew women loved his body, every solid hard part of him, but then, he worked at it with running, weights, and hitting the bag in his gym at dawn before he started each day.

It was the same thing each time, the same way. He was now walking across the hardwood floor, reaching for the black robe he had tossed over one of two blue easy chairs. He slid it on and belted it just as the woman’s expression became set and distant. Yes, he’d hidden himself from her, and he reached for her jacket, also tossed on the floor, and held it up. She stared up at him for a second and then accepted his help, shoving her arms into the sleeves as he settled it over her shoulders. He stepped back, careful not to touch her again.

“Just give the driver your address and he’ll take you home,” he said as she stood there again in front of him, close, with the same familiar expectation. She was waiting for a kiss, some gentlemanly gesture after he’d fucked her, but the problem was that he wasn’t a gentleman. He was everything bad, everything a mother should warn her daughter to stay away from.

“Can I give you my number?” she asked with dimming hope in her eyes, which he couldn’t allow to remain. He had to crush it and slam the door firmly closed so there would be no question in her mind.

“Don’t bother,” he said.

She took a step to the door and paused for a second. “So you really did mean no names.”

Yeah, he really did, and he’d also been clear that he’d never see her again.

Chapter 2

“Your bid has been accepted in Tacoma, and after all permits are in place, construction could start as early as May,” Natalie, Vic’s assistant, said. “In Phoenix, we still haven’t heard back from city licensing. The Salem building is completed, and your team has started pouring the foundation for the next two buildings. Your foreman from the first project left you two messages this morning about a conflict with the building inspector, and Naveen called again to tell you he really needs to speak with you regarding some uninsured expenses. From what I understand from the way he went on and on, there are some areas of dire concern.”

Vic didn’t look up. This was the same message he got every morning from Naveen, his accountant, who was all about the numbers. He knew exactly what the uninsured expenses were: hundreds of thousands in medical for one of his employees, Steven Bennett. Vic looked after his people, though, no matter the cost. No one would ever be able to convince him otherwise.

He kept his back to Natalie as he stared at the recent structural report from his engineers. It wasn’t as though he second guessed the people he hired or the work he contracted out. He just needed to know who was doing what, and he always double checked the work. If he didn’t understand some detail, he researched and figured it out. He had to have a hands-on approach because giving anyone his blind trust was something he couldn’t do. Not ever again.

As he continued to read, he saw no noticeable red flags in the PDF report. Vic closed the file on his laptop and then slid around in his chair, taking in the blank expression on Natalie’s round face. She was plump, five feet tall, wearing the same style of clothes she wore every day: a floral skirt that draped past her knees and a blue blouse today, plain and neat, nothing flashy. But then, he hadn’t hired her to look at her. He wanted someone who was good, efficient, who offered no distraction. Distraction was something he saved for the nights he needed something or someone. His work, his business, was where he never allowed his darker side to appear, the side of him that used and took from women to satisfy his needs. That was an invisible barrier he’d established long ago.

Natalie was still watching him, her expression neutral. Her brown eyes were tempered, waiting him out.

“Is that all?” he asked. Yes, he could be a prick, and he often instilled fear and uncertainty in those who worked for him, but that was the only way he knew to be, considering he’d never allowed anyone to get close enough to him to read him, let alone understand him. That was a kind of power he’d never entrust to anyone. It had happened once, and it was a mistake of his own doing that had made him into who he was.

“No, there’s also a woman here to see you,” Natalie said.

He wondered whether he’d flinched, if his face showed anything of the question racing through his mind. “And who is this woman?” he asked.

Natalie gave nothing away, and maybe that was why he liked her so much. She was his wall to the outside world, keeping everyone and anyone away. “Tish Campbell. She’s the same lady who showed up here yesterday and the day before.”

Why was he drawing a blank?

Natalie was gripping a tablet and tapped the screen as if referring to something. “Same woman who keeps stopping by. She asks for you. I say you’re not available and ask if she has an appointment. She says no. I ask her who she’s with, and she says it’s private,” she said with a hint of attitude on the last bit. Natalie was not a woman to show curiosity and pry, but he could tell that whoever this Tish Campbell was, she was beginning to irritate even the pit bull he’d hired to keep people away from him. “What would you like me to tell her? Or should I call security and have her escorted out?” Natalie put her fist on one of her wide hips. Her lips firmed as she waited for his decision. He also knew she’d carry it out without second guessing him, another one of her positive traits.

“How many times has she come by?” He vaguely remembered now, but then, there was always someone trying to get to him.

“Fourteen,” she said dryly as Vic glanced up, leaning back in his chair, for a second feeling something that resembled alarm. He didn’t like it. “Would you like me to call security now?” She was toying with him, giving him a glimpse of her odd sense of humor.

“Send her in,” he said, not giving anything away to even the one woman he knew would have his back.

She didn’t frown, didn’t even show surprise in his decision, considering he never allowed anyone to walk through the doors of his office unexpected. Natalie only stared at him as if he’d just exposed another layer of his personality, and she quietly took it in, inclined her head, and started to the door. Then she paused a second, her hand on the knob.

“Oh, and what about Naveen when he calls again?” She waited, and Vic knew he was going to have to make time today for his accountant or the man would keep calling.

“I’ll handle it,” he said before Natalie pulled open the door and walked out to the large reception area. He could hear her say something, and he waited until a tall, slender woman with dark hair and a face that wouldn’t get lost in a crowd stepped into the room. He wondered whether he breathed out his relief when he didn’t recognize her.

Natalie pulled the door closed, and Tish seemed startled for a second by the click as she stood in dark pants, heels, and a dark blazer pulled over a black shirt. He said nothing, not trying to hide how his gaze tracked every intimate curve she had. It was inappropriate, and maybe that was why he did it. She had a great body, attractive, a woman easy on the eyes, and he knew he deserved to be slapped for the way he stared so blatantly. But then, she was the uninvited guest.

What surprised him was that she didn’t seem unnerved or self-conscious. Instead, she stood there, staring right back at him with the same expression he knew was on his face. Wow!

“So, Tish Campbell, what can I do for you?” he finally said to break the standoff.

Instead of smiling, instead of stepping closer to him or even taking one of the two chairs in front of his desk, which he hadn’t offered, she remained where she was. In fact, she lifted her chin. As a slow smile touched her full lips, two dimples broke out, and her eyes were big, bold, deep brown, hinting at some mixed heritage. They sparked with something that said this lady had spunk.

“Vic McCabe?” she asked, and her boldness had him realizing his error in meeting with her. He was also considering firing his trusted assistant. He said nothing, as this time she took a step toward him.

“Thought this would be easy. I’ve heard you’re intimidating, but standing here now in front of you, I know that’s an understatement.” She didn’t smile, and as she seemed to gather herself, he was positive she was putting effort into standing a little straighter. “I wanted to get your comment on an incident in Phoenix, a woman named Badra, and an article that was printed about you having terrorist connections.”

All Vic could do as he stared at Tish, who was staring at him as if she held his balls in a vise and was deciding whether to cause him considerable pain or just toy with him, was tell himself to breathe.

All Vic could do as he stared at Tish, who was staring at him as if she held his balls in a vise and was deciding whether to cause him considerable pain or just toy with him, was tell himself to breathe.

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