Don't Leave Me | Excerpt

One moment in time could change her future forever

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart

comes a riveting and edgy romance about a young love driven to the breaking point.

The McCabe Brothers

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.

He stopped a robbery. Now he has to do the right thing.

Fresh out of the fighting circuit and to those that didn't know him, Bad Boy Aaron McCabe seemed as if he had it all. Except what everyone doesn't know is the nightmares that haunt him about a tragedy he's never recovered from losing the only woman he ever loved.

Luc McCabe is a man on the edge. Not only has he given up on his ideal happily ever after, which includes a man who’ll love him and children of his own. He’s leaving behind his old life that has been only been about endings.

What Luc doesn’t realize is sometimes love happens unexpectedly.

Even though Claudia is part of the McCabe family, with four older brothers she barely knows, she has a dark side no one in their right mind would mess with, and she still sees herself as alone. That is until one night, when she witnesses an unspeakable crime that blurs the lines of morality. Her first instinct is to run, but when a mysterious handsome man enters her life, promising to keep her safe, she’s caught up in a web of secrets, not knowing who to trust. When her brothers unite, will they expose the truth or destroy any hope Claudia has of finding love?

Don't Leave me is exclusively available at Amazon

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart comes a riveting and edgy romance about a young love driven to the breaking point.

Even though Claudia is part of the McCabe family, with four older brothers she barely knows, she has a dark side no one in their right mind would mess with, and she still sees herself as alone. That is until one night, when she witnesses an unspeakable crime that blurs the lines of morality. Her first instinct is to run, but when a mysterious handsome man enters her life, promising to keep her safe, she’s caught up in a web of secrets, not knowing who to trust. When her brothers unite, will they expose the truth or destroy any hope Claudia has of finding love?

The McCabe Brothers, a spinoff of the big family romance series The Friessens from a Readers’ Favorite award—winning author and “queen of the family saga” (Aherman)

Didn't get a chance to read the other books in the McCabe Brothers?


Claudia McCabe was anything but easy. In fact, those who didn’t know her often labelled her difficult, hard to get along with, stubborn, and somewhat of a snob—but the people who stuck each and every one of those labels to her had completely misread who she was. Claudia didn’t share what she was thinking or feeling, which often led to misunderstandings and judgements about the type of person she really was. It hurt at times to be so misread, and even though she could easily argue to clear her name and cut through the confusion, she wasn’t interested, instead thinking people should know better.

But they didn’t. Humans weren’t made that way because everyone was flawed, never taking that moment to even apologise when they realized how wrong they were about her. Everyone, that is, except her mother, who seemed to know her darkest thoughts, reading her like an open book. She was the only person who understood some of what made Claudia tick.

Claudia now had four older brothers and a father whom she barely knew, a family her mother had walked out on when she was a few months pregnant with her. Claudia’s existence had been kept secret until a few years ago. She had been shocked to learn that her mother had another life, another family. Maybe that was the reason she was the way she was.

She took in her bedroom, with its yellow walls, single bed, and white dresser with a matching mirror. Her father’s house was small, with a white picket fence. She’d lived there only since meeting her father, and she’d recently learned that her brothers Chase, Aaron, and Luc had bought it for him. She wasn’t really sure about Vic, the eldest, considering she still hadn’t figured out where she fit in this family. She was still coming to grips with the fact that her parents had remarried and dragged her into the mix of something that was anything but normal.

She tapped her keyboard and stared at the blank screen as she listened to the voices outside her room, most likely from the kitchen. She sniffed the garlicky aroma of dinner and didn’t bother hitting save, considering her homework from the business finance course she was taking in her first semester of community college amounted to exactly zip. There was a knock on the door as she stood and stretched.

“Claudia, honey, dinner’s ready,” her dad called out, sounding cheery, though he always sounded that way, which made her question why her mother had left.

She pulled open her door and took in his gentle smile, his neat and freshly cut white hair, his tanned arms, and his yellow golf shirt and khaki shorts. His glance was awkward still.

“So how goes the battle?” he said, going up on his toes, his hands now in his pockets as he slipped a glance past her into her room.

“Great.” She shrugged. It sucked, really, considering she hated everything about the business courses she’d selected—correction, the ones Vic had selected when she didn’t come up with a viable plan of what would come next after high school. It was one of only a few conversations she’d had with him. Odd, his controlling streak. He was a difficult man: wealthy, established, and still very much a stranger. Her dad didn’t move, so she cleared her throat, feeling the chill from the blast of air conditioning in the hall, considering all she had on in the hundred-degree heat was a tank top and shorts. Her feet were bare, and her long red hair was pulled high in a ponytail.

Her dad stepped back so she could slip out of her room as she heard the clatter from the kitchen. Rounding the corner, she took in her mom putting a steaming bowl of spaghetti noodles on the small round table set for three. Shelley McCabe glanced up and smiled. Her eyes were the same light honey brown as Claudia’s. At times, it was as if she was looking in a mirror, except Shelley was now in her fifties, with lines around her eyes, freckles that had faded, and deep auburn hair that came from a Clairol bottle as of late. Her figure was trim, though, and it wasn’t lost on her that her mom wore the same golfing attire as her dad.

“Golfing with Dad again?” she asked, but it really was a no brainer, considering that was their latest passion. Last month it had been a book club, and next week it could be fly fishing.

“Right after dinner. We have a seven thirty tee time. Should be cooler. You should join us,” her mom said as she carried a salad topped with tomatoes from the pots outside and a steaming bowl of meat sauce to the table.

Golfing? Not a chance. “Ah, no, sorry. Have plans with Tina. Meeting up at the coffee house by campus.”

“Tina?” her dad said as he took her in. “Heard lots about her. Wouldn’t mind meeting her sometime. You should bring her by.”

“Sure” was all she could say, knowing that would never happen. She couldn’t imagine bringing anyone by to meet her parents and explaining the gory details of why the only family photos on the wall were of her brothers and dad. That was a tainted history she wasn’t about to share with anyone.

“Claudia, grab the salad dressing, would you?” Her mom gestured to the oversized white fridge. Claudia pulled it open just as she caught the exchange between her parents, the kiss, the smile. She was glad she had something else to look at. Which dressing? Ranch, feta, thousand island, or…

“You’re letting all the cold air out, Claudia. Make a choice and close it,” her mom called out, so she grabbed all three and closed the door, taking in the knowing look her mom tossed her way. What was to come later, she was sure, would be another talk about letting her dad be a part of her life. The man was now taking garlic bread from the oven, and the smell had her mouth watering. Jerry McCabe… She still couldn’t understand how she was related to him, considering there was nothing they remotely had in common.

Claudia’s mind blanked as she took in his smile for her again—awkward, nice. She said nothing as she walked to the table, taking in the concrete driveway and the small red Escort with the rusted-over dent, her gift to her mom her first time behind the wheel, when she’d taken a corner too sharp and dinged a fire hydrant.

Her dad had a small Chevy pickup that had seen better days, and then there was her car, the new grey Toyota Camry, a gift from Aaron, also a man she barely knew. Why he’d given it to her, she still didn’t have a clue, considering he was about as open and easy to read as she was. But at least it was a nice car, and hers.

“Hey, where’s your head today? You’ve barely said two words,” her mom said.

A chair scraped, and she didn’t have to look up to know her mom was watching her closely. Her dad was already sitting, dishing up. There was that touch again. Her parents were so close they couldn’t keep from touching each other. It was sweet in a gross sort of way as she did her best to ignore them, forking up a mound of spaghetti and shoving it into her mouth.

“Just spent hours doing homework. What can I say?” Did her nose grow, she wondered, considering she’d done nothing but stare at a blank screen, daydreaming of sailing, travelling, anything other than getting a business degree she didn’t have a clue what she’d do with?

“Hmm” was all her mom said, and this time, thankfully, she dug into her food and started chatting with her dad about their upcoming golf game and some friends to meet. That left Claudia to her dinner, her thoughts, and, most importantly, who would be at the coffee house.

* * *

She’d changed three times, settling on her slim-cut jeans and a gray tank with silver hoop earrings. She added shadow, mascara, and liner to really bring out the golden honey in her eyes, and from the image reflected back in the mirror, she knew she looked especially hot, good enough to be seen by the who’s who of the college campus who frequented the coffee house. It was where some of the hottest girls competed for all the jocks’ attention. Add in the geeks, the nerds, and everyone else who didn’t quite fit in, and it was the place to go. That, of course, was before any of the popular guys and girls headed out to one of the many parties or one of the many bars with their fake IDs—but that little bit she’d keep to herself. Not that her parents asked much, but sharing everything wasn’t something she was too willing to do.

Claudia waved to her parents, who were just loading their matching golf club bags into her dad’s small pickup. Maybe golfing was the pastime that would stick before one of them got bored and suggested something else.

She pulled out of the driveway, knowing she was late again. She heard her iPhone beep, her phone tucked in the side of her brown leather purse. She reached for it and saw the message: Where are you???? Second cup of latte I’m on and I’m tired of sitting alone.

Okay, she really needed to work on her timing. She watched the road as she texted, keeping an eye out for cops, too. On my way. Five minutes, I swear. She added a smiley face and dumped her phone on the passenger seat. She heard another beep, but this time she left her phone where it was. When she drove past the coffee house eight minutes later, every parking space in front was taken, so she kept driving around the block, closer to campus, seeing the barren desert on the other side as the sun slipped lower on the horizon.

After pulling a U-turn, she parked two blocks away between a black truck and a white cargo van in front of the Waverly, a three-story complex of apartments that housed mostly college students. There was music pumping from one of the open balcony doors, and around the side a dumpster flowed over with garbage, rank in the heat. The streets were far from empty as she stepped out of her car. She clinked the lock on the key chain and lifted her purse over her shoulder, wearing sandals with a slight heel that she knew made her long legs even longer.

A crack in the air had all the hair on the back of her neck standing up. The fear that hit was followed by one thought: What the fuck was that sound? Her first reaction was to hit the ground when she heard two more pops, this time knowing it was a gunshot, two more, maybe three. She had no idea as her hand went over her head and she ducked. She heard yelling and running, feeling the direness of the situation. All of it was nothing like on TV.

The fear that pumped through her had her moving away from the openness toward the building, the bushes. That was all she focused on, getting the fuck out of there, someplace to hide until sanity or help or something the could right this craziness arrived. It was out of her peripheral that she saw people running everywhere and nowhere. It was chaos, a blur, as she stumbled and moved over a rock, seeing the side of the building as her salvation before her foot caught on something solid.

She went face first, landing on her stomach, her hands scraping the pavement. She was wet as she rolled to the side and pulled her feet up, seeing blood on her arm, her hand, and pooled on the ground around her. She felt nothing in the confusion, the silence around her, not knowing whether she’d been hit until she stared at what had tripped her: the lifeless brown eyes of a young man staring back at her.

Chapter 2

There were cops everywhere. It wasn’t so much as if they’d just arrived but that she’d walked into something that had been brewing and was now at full scale. She heard shouting, saw a cop crouching as he ran from the building, gun held high, cocked. A few people were running ahead of him, and she stared in horror, expecting a bullet to take one of them. Her senses were on overload as she listened to sirens, many coming closer and in the distance. She didn’t know where to look, what to do, or where to go as she leaned against the building, staring at the unmoving body and the pool of blood.

She was shaking, and she crept closer to the man and lifted her hand to his neck, feeling for a pulse, but there was nothing, so she moved around the side of the building, her hands against the wall as she tried to get away from this craziness and whoever it was who’d lost their mind. The pop pop pop of more shots sounded and had her suddenly fearing she was in the middle of a war zone as she ducked, adrenaline pumping. She crawled, keeping her head down, when she spotted people ahead, crouched on the ground. There was a wire fence, a tarp behind it, a shopping cart packed full, and a garbage can. She crawled closer, seeing a woman in a black T-shirt, her brown hair tied back. There were two children crying. They were young, maybe eight, ten, dark messy hair, summer clothes, hiding beside a shopping cart filled with bags and a suitcase. Her stuff, theirs, maybe? There was a man, an older one, skinny, with gray hair.

“Come this way,” he said. “Cops gone crazy.” His bottom two teeth were missing, she could see, as he talked, reaching a bony hand to the kids, but no one moved to him.

She saw cops down the alley ahead. She thought to raise her hand to get their attention, their help, but then she thought better of it. Best to be quiet so the crazy shooter wouldn’t pick up on her and where she was. Claudia didn’t know what the hell to do. She was frozen, looking right and then left and behind her, all the while keeping her head down.

The woman was shaking her head. “Who the fuck is shooting?” she said, her voice raspy, her hands around the kids, a boy and a girl. Maybe they were hers. Claudia didn’t know for sure as she took in the man, who then scooted away around the corner of the fence, his pants dirty, shirt out. Then there was running again, and voices. She saw a cop chasing after someone, two men, dark hair, fast. She couldn’t see much else.

“You over there, hands up!”

She had to crane her neck behind her as she saw another man moving toward her, his gun raised, pointed. He wore plain clothes, jeans and a T-shirt, a badge at his waist, dark glasses. Her hands went up, her heart pounding long and loud in her ears, jammed in her throat. For a second she couldn’t breathe. The kids were crying, and she couldn’t see the gray-haired man anymore. He was long gone, she figured. The woman—Latina or mixed, she wasn’t sure—had hard eyes as she lifted one hand, the other around the kid she kneeled in front of.

“Do you want to get shot?” the cop yelled, and for a minute Claudia thought he was yelling at her, but it was the woman. He gestured with his gun between them.

“She’s got a kid! There’re kids here, you asshole,” Claudia said. It just came out, and she knew it was a mistake by the expression on his face. He was jabbing his finger at her, and there was another cop behind him in the standard tan uniform, gun raised and looking nervous, which shot a chill through her.

For the first time in Claudia’s life of only eighteen years, she felt fear so deep and icy and paralyzing that she figured her chance of being shot outweighed the likelihood of her walking out of this alley in once piece. All her focus went to his finger on the trigger, how tense he was as he yelled at her and the woman, the kids. She figured it could go either way. He could pull that trigger at any moment. It was pure instinct to drop to the ground and kiss the pavement.

“Down, get down now, hands linked behind your head!” It was the other guy yelling to her, and maybe the woman too.

“Come on, get down,” she said to the kid who was crying and had to be shitting his pants. The other was quiet as the woman went down on her stomach, yelling something to the cops. She felt the full weight of the cop’s knee in her back as he grabbed her arm, wrenching it, a sharp pain in her elbow and shoulder. She cried out on instinct, her head turned as her chin scraped the pavement. Metal cuffs pinched and bit into her wrists.

Her face hurt as she took in the kids crying, the woman yelling. The uniformed cop still had the gun and grabbed a kid. She couldn’t see the other cop, as the one with the bad attitude and plain clothes had her facedown on the ground. She had to crane her neck to catch just a glimpse from her peripheral of another cop with a badge, dark pants, and a black shirt who walked over to the cart behind her, where the woman was on the ground, being cuffed. The guy was focused on that cart. She saw the gun in his hand as he reached into it, and when he pulled his hand out of the cart filled with bags and suitcases, she realized he was holding nothing. Had he holstered the gun? She hadn’t seen him do that.

She blinked, unable to move her wrists, which were bound behind her back. The weight of the cop no longer pressed her into the pavement. Her sweat dripped in the heat, but she shivered from the chill in her veins as she realized what the cop had just done. She stared over to him, and she realized in horror that he was staring at her too with eyes that would haunt her forever—icy blue. He had dark hair and a square jaw. He was standing over her, a man with all the power, the control, knowing she’d seen what he’d done.

“Search it!” he yelled to someone, taking another step toward her. It was the silent warning, something in his expression that had her freezing, fighting to breathe. Never before had Claudia experienced someone having this kind of power over her, feeling absolutely helpless and not knowing what would happen next.

She heard another voice, another man. “Gun here!” he called out.

Then she was grabbed roughly and dragged to her feet, her shoulders wrenched. Her wrists had to be bleeding, and she couldn’t see anything of the woman, the kids—just yelling, screaming and crying, then denials about the gun.

“It’s not mine! What the fuck, asshole? It’s not mine, it’s planted…”

That was all she heard, and then nothing that made sense, because she was held by strong hands and turned away, dragged away. She couldn’t see the woman, but she smelled the blood, the sweat, and she swore that the scent she was breathing in, around her and in her, was fear.

Chapter 3

The room was concrete, maybe eight by ten, and there was a window by the door that she couldn’t see out of. The table she was chained to was metal, and her wrists were red from how tight she’d been cuffed. She couldn’t see her face, but she was sure she’d scraped it from the stinging and burning as she stared straight ahead to the metal door with no window, willing it to open as she tried to make sense of what had happened. Her toe was throbbing, and she didn’t know if the blood that covered it was from her or the dead man she’d tripped over.

The door opened, and two cops walked in. One wore a tacky suit, his brown hair in bad need of a cut, and the other wore a black shirt and had icy blue eyes. It was the man she’d never forget. He was taller, and his eyes were an odd shape, smaller than she’d expected from a man his size. They seemed so cold. His red lips stood out from his face, which was tanned from the sun. His badge was tucked into the belt of his jeans as the other guy pulled out a metal chair across from her and sat down. The icy cop leaned against the wall as if to drive the message home that she was completely at his mercy. She turned her gaze to the other cop in the bad suit and noticed that his pale skin seemed almost sickly and his bottom teeth were unusually crooked.

“Claudia, I’m Detective Hargraves. This is Detective Llewellyn,” the pale cop said and gestured to a file on the steel table in front of him. It was a motion to let her know he had all the information and she had nothing.

Llewellyn didn’t move from where he leaned against the concrete wall behind Hargraves, arms crossed, watching. She pulled at the cuffs, hearing the clang of metal again, wondering why she was being treated like a criminal. “I want to use the phone, please,” she said again just like she’d asked the other three times—or was it four now? She’d lost count.

No one was listening. She’d been stuck in here waiting alone after telling them her name, and she’d been fingerprinted and her mouth swabbed for DNA. She was pretty sure they couldn’t do that. She thought so, anyway. This was kind of a gray area, she assumed. Chase was a lawyer. He’d know.

“My name is Claudia McCabe. I’d like to make a phone call. I’ve asked already,” she said, lifting her hand and yanking, the pain jolting her wrist. The metal scraped the bar she was cuffed to and made an awful racket.

They said nothing to that, and Hargraves folded his arms on the table, leaning closer. “Suppose you tell us what happened at the Waverly.”

What the fuck? She glanced up to the other cop, whose eyes for the first time reminded her of death. It wasn’t that she knew it, but she sensed that whatever she said here to him could and would decide whether she walked out of here or not. Maybe she was crazy, but she also imagined they could make her disappear without anyone knowing where she was.

“I wasn’t at the Waverly. I was going to the coffee house around the block when I heard the shots,” she said, wanting this nightmare to end.

“But you were found behind the Waverly and were seen running, and the blood you’re covered in is from one of the dead.”

Okay, this was crazy. “I tripped when I was running from the gunfire. I fell over the body. Everyone was running. Are you insane? I was trying to get away from the gunshots. What are you insinuating?”

“Yet you were found where the gun was,” Hargraves added, and something in his expression sucked all the air out of her chest. She wondered if her eyes widened, as her body shot forward in shock, surprise, horror. The gun the cop had stuck in the cart, were they seriously going to pin this on her? She wheezed and then coughed.

“Or maybe the woman you were with was the shooter. We’ll know soon enough,” Hargraves said, appearing bored as if they’d figured everything out and come to their own conclusions about what had really gone down.

“You can’t be serious. I didn’t shoot anybody. I don’t even own a gun. I’ve never fired a gun! Now you think the shooter is a woman who was hiding with kids? There was another guy too, but then he was gone.”

The cop against the wall was interested. Llewellyn, that was his name. He uncrossed his arms, and her eyes went to his fists at his sides. She wanted to take it back.

“What guy? Who?”

She thought about the older guy with the missing teeth. She knew her eyes were wide as she stared from Hargraves to Llewellyn, whom she’d seen stick the gun in the cart. She shrugged.

“How long have you known Zoe Doucette?”

“Who?” She looked between them.

“The woman you were found with,” Hargraves said.

“I don’t know her or the kids or the guy. I was running, trying to get away from whoever was shooting, to find some place to hide.”

“You carry a pistol, right?” Llewellyn stepped closer, raising his eyebrows as if to drive the point home. Was this how interrogations went? She really was scared shitless.

“No, I don’t have a gun. I don’t own a gun. I’m in college, I’m a student. I already said how many times that I’ve never fired a gun, never held a gun.” She could feel the panic and fear as the focus of what had happened was being pointed at her. It couldn’t be that easy. Didn’t there have to be evidence to prove beyond any doubt, or was that too just a myth? She really needed someone in here on her side who knew what her rights were. She wanted to call Chase, her brother, even though they weren’t close. He’d know what to do, she was sure of it. She still didn’t have a clue what had happened out there at the Waverly when she’d parked her car, gotten out, and walking into something that still made absolutely no sense.

Hargraves had opened the file in front of him and lifted a paper as if reading. “You have a father who’s linked to some pretty bad people. Your father has a gun.”

She wondered if they had a script they were working from. What was it about this gun she feared they were working to pin on her? “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said. Her dad had a past. That was all she knew. He was a reformed gambler, and until a few years ago she hadn’t even known he was alive. She’d never seen a gun in the house, but that wasn’t to say he didn’t have one. She firmed her lips, as sharing anything was only getting her deeper into something she didn’t have a clue about.

“Your father is Jerry McCabe, is he not?”

Maybe there was more she didn’t know. “Yes, that’s my father. Do I not have a right to a lawyer, a phone call? I want a lawyer. I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” she said, wondering now what Jerry had done.

The cops both looked to each other. Would they ignore her again? How much longer would she have to sit in the concrete room? She had to pee, and she was afraid she was going to wet herself. She willed this to end.

Hargraves leaned back in the chair, the metal squeaking. “Why? You’re not under arrest. We’re just having a conversation.”

She wasn’t sure she’d heard correctly as she looked down to where she was cuffed. “Then why the fuck am I chained to the table?” She stared at the cuffs when a big hand appeared with a key to unlock them. The cuffs dropped, and she stared into Llewellyn’s icy, unfeeling eyes, light blue but so dark.

“Just had to be sure you weren’t one of them,” Hargraves said.

She still didn’t have a clue what the fuck was going on. It was instinct to rub her wrists, which throbbed mercilessly from how tight the cuffs had been. “One of who? What are you talking about?” Her throat was raw and dry, and she kept rubbing her wrists.

“From what we can figure, the homeless have a drug war, turf stuff. Some of the dealers live at the Waverly, where it happened. The men shot were linked to some bad people. So you didn’t know anyone at the Waverly?”

She just stared at Hargraves, wondering what he was trying to pin her to. “No,” she said. Some of her acquaintances lived there, college kids she didn’t really know, but she sure as shit wasn’t about to share that right now, considering she could taste freedom. She could see the door.

“Guess we’re done for now. Just don’t leave town, Ms. McCabe,” Hargraves said as he stood up and buttoned the front of his cheap brown suit jacket as if she were just another task he’d dealt with.

She was furious, wanting to tell this jackass to fuck himself. She wanted to hurt him like he’d done to her, but she had to remind herself that would only make it worse, because both these assholes had a badge that protected them. She just wanted to get out of there, put this night behind her. “And the woman arrested with me, and what about the kids?” she said, her hands flat on the table, seeing the door and possible freedom but feeling it could be yanked away in a moment.

The insinuation about her father and the possibility of someone pinning something on her had her head jumping everywhere. Now they had the woman, maybe, or were these two cops just spinning their wheels? And that gun—she wanted to say something to Llewellyn about what she’d seen him do, but instead she said nothing as she waited for them to tell her about Zoe.

Neither cop said a word as Llewellyn stepped forward and leaned down on the table, so close to her that she could smell his breath, the coffee, the sweat, the heat. “She ain’t your concern. You don’t talk about this. You go on home now, and you just keep everything about what you think you saw tonight to yourself.”

His voice was low, but his meaning was clear. She took in the iciness in his stare, the unfeelingness. She didn’t have to look over to Hargraves to know he was on the same page.

She wanted to yell to everyone about how she’d seen Llewellyn stick the gun in the belongings in the cart. She wanted to scream it out to the world and anyone who would listen, but the door was right there, her only freedom. So she pulled her arms across her chest and said nothing as Hargraves opened the door and she saw the light in the hall and stood on shaky legs, shivering, but not from cold.

She made her way to the door, seeing the cops, the people in suits, and she didn’t stop until she was out the front door of the station, in the dark, without her purse, her phone, or her keys.

Chapter 4

Tony Martin was outside the Waverly. Four were confirmed dead: two black men, one Hispanic male, and a woman of unknown origin. There were no other injuries, which was an odd thing with a drug war gone wrong. Usually with bullets flying there would be a bunch of casualties, but every one of the confirmed dead had a kill shot, two in the chest, one in the back of the head, and the woman with a knife wound, throat slashed. The knife had been found by the hand of one of the dead black men. He was puzzled by the woman. She appeared white, with brown eyes, but she was wearing a dark hijab around her hair. She would have been dead in minutes.

The bullets had come from the same 9 mm, the very same pistol that had been found stuffed in a bag in a shopping cart next to the belongings of Zoe Doucette, out back against a fence. Two women had been hiding beside the cart and had been taken into custody. The kids who were also there, seven and nine, were now in the care of the state.

He had his flashlight out and was walking the scene when he spotted a brown purse in the bushes. He reached for it and unzipped it to pull out a wallet and license, flashing over the name Claudia McCabe. For a driver’s license photo, the woman was pretty, with red hair, freckles, and brown eyes. He’d take it to the station to see if it had been reported lost. Something should have been reported, considering what had gone down here. He started to his Chevy sedan and spotted the headlights of an unmarked approach. It was Hargraves, one of the detectives. The passenger door opened, and a young women stepped out. She had long red hair, a scrape on her face, and blood covering her light tank top. He was pretty sure this was the same woman from the ID he was holding.

Hargraves rolled his window down. “Just dropping off Ms. McCabe. Says she dropped her purse around here. You didn’t find anything…”

Tony held up the purse. “Right here. Found it in the bushes over there,” he said, taking in the frown on the young woman’s face, the mascara smudged, the way she rubbed her wrists, which appeared raw in the headlights as she walked around the front of the cruiser. “You must be Claudia McCabe,” he said as he held out her purse and license.

She said nothing as she reached for both and started rummaging, maybe to see if anything had been taken. Unhappy, pissed, and angry were the only emotions she was sending his way.

“Claudia, don’t go anywhere in case we have more questions,” Hargraves tossed out to her, and Tony took in how Claudia tensed and sent a scorching glance to Hargraves that should have left him with burn marks. She said nothing still, didn’t acknowledge him or answer or even nod as she stepped around Tony, and he took in the way Hargraves watched Claudia much the way any of them did a suspect who was hiding something.

“You let her go. What gives?” Tony asked, and Hargraves gestured toward her.

“College kid. Best we can figure, wrong place at the wrong time is all. Don’t know for sure, though, considering she was with the spic we grabbed, where the gun was stuffed in the shopping cart. She says she doesn’t know her.” Hargraves shrugged, his hand resting on the wheel, the engine idling.

“So you have ballistics back. Do we know who it was?” Tony asked, and Hargraves just shrugged again.

“Llewellyn was there. Either this one or the homeless wetback. My money’s on the wetback, since the gun was found stuffed in her belongings. College kid, don’t think so. She said she was running from the shooting, trying to get away. You found her purse where?” Hargraves asked.

“Over by the bushes. She must have dropped it,” Tony said. “What about the gunpowder residue? You tested her, both of them?” He glanced over his shoulder to the McCabe girl walking toward a light Toyota Camry, looking in her purse, and then pulling on the door. She seemed frustrated. Locked. She rummaged in the purse again, and Tony turned back to Hargraves.

“Nothing on the McCabe girl or the other one. Llewellyn found a glove with traces stuffed in the cart.”

He took in the scene, the loss of life. He’d arrived on shift only an hour ago and was playing catch up as to what had gone down. “So what do you figure happened here?” It was senseless, all of it.

“Would say, if I’m a betting man, turf war, drugs. My money is on the homeless lady, probably some junkie trying to rip off a drug dealer and his crew. Two black men, one Hispanic, have to be linked to drugs. Worthless.”

He stared at Hargraves, wondering why it sounded too easy as he took in the scene again, wondering how the dead woman fit in with her throat slit. As the detective rolled up his window and pulled away, Tony noticed Claudia walking the other way. She had on just a tank top and jeans, sandals on her feet, and she was a mess. He jogged up behind her. “Ms. McCabe, just hold up a second,” he called and noticed the moment she tensed again.

She didn’t turn around as she stopped. Then, so slowly, her head turned and she stared up at him. He took in the freckles, the smudged makeup, the scrape on her chin, her cheek, and the stubborn set of her honey brown eyes. She was a looker under all of that, and pissed. She said nothing as he stepped in front of her.

“Is that your car?” he asked. For a minute, he didn’t think she would answer.

“Yes,” she said and nothing else as he took in her hand around her wrist again, rubbing. It looked sore. It had to hurt quite a bit. This time he could see under the streetlights how red and welted the lines around her wrists were from the cuffs biting into her. Someone had been a lot rougher than necessary.

He waited, but she said nothing else other than lifting her chin, maybe daring him to say something.

“You locked out?” he said, and this time her eyes flashed with something—hate, anger, fury, or all of it. He’d seen the look before, experienced it from women before.

“And if I am, are you going to toss me down on the ground and cuff me, maybe throw in attempted theft? Oh wait, I can’t really steal a car that I own, can I? But then, that wouldn’t stop you from detaining me and creating more problems for me, now, would it?”

Beyond angry, she was downright pissed. Maybe she had a right to be, to a point, but better for her if she let it go. “I get that you’re angry, but being found near the weapon who killed three people, it only stands to reason you were taken in. I would have done the same,” he said, wondering what it was he saw in her face as she paled and seemed shaken.

“Three?” Her voice squeaked, and the fury that had been directed his way seconds ago was suddenly gone.

“Yeah, sorry. Three killed with the gun.” The fourth had her throat slit, but for some reason he kept that to himself.

“You sure it was that gun?” Her eyes narrowed, and she had the expression of someone thinking, considering something.

“Yeah, ballistics were a match.”

Then her lips firmed, and she slid her purse strap over her shoulder, tightening her grip and stepping around him.

“Hey, wait. Where are you going?” he asked. This time, as she glanced his way, he saw something else there that he hadn’t before. She seemed uneasy.

“I’m going home,” she said.

Chapter 5

He wasn’t a pretty boy. The cop standing in front of her had one of those serious bad-boy bodies with a wide chest, broad shoulders, and arms that let her know he spent time in the gym. He was tall, with short dark hair and a square jaw, and he reminded her a lot of Vic in some ways and Aaron in others. She figured from the way his thin T-shirt settled over him that he most likely had an impressive set of abs under there. His badge was tucked in the waistband of his jeans just like all the cops she’d seen tonight who weren’t in uniform. Just another scumbag cop, she figured, who could do what he wanted. Then he made a face and glanced away as if she’d said something funny. It took everything in her to rein in her urge to kick him.

“Please get out of my way,” she said through clenched teeth, feeling the pinch of her jaw as she clamped down, trying to keep it together.

“But you said that’s your car over there.” He gestured with his thumb to her Camry.

Claudia wanted nothing more than to put a lot of distance between herself and this nightmare of a night. She’d lost her phone and her keys, obviously dropped in all the chaos. “It is, but it’s locked. You found my purse but evidently not my keys. Now excuse me, please. I have a long walk home.”

She went to step around him when his hand slapped around her upper arm. Her eyes had a mind of their own, going right to the large warm hand that had settled there as if he had every right to touch her. He slowly dropped his hand, stepping back, lifting his palms as if he knew.

“You don’t need to walk. I’ll drive you,” he said, and she just stared at him, wondering what his game was.

“Thanks, but no thanks. Had enough of cop overreach tonight. I think I’d rather take my chances on the street with the thugs and lowlifes. Pretty sure it would be much safer.” She went to step around him, but he was in front of her again.

“You know, Claudia, I’m getting the distinct feeling there’s something more you’re not telling me.” He was beside her now as she started walking, wishing she had her cell phone at least. She could call her dad—no, her mom. Whatever her dad had done that had his name coming up in that concrete interrogation room, she figured he was the last person who should be coming down to get her. Better yet, maybe she could call a cab. She opened her purse and pulled out her wallet to see eleven dollars and change. Maybe just enough, barely, or she could get her parents to pay the cabbie when she pulled up. Looking the way she did, considering the throbbing hadn’t eased on her chin and her cheek, a lot of explaining would be needed, and then what? Her dad would freak, cause trouble. And her mom…although she was together now and on medication for the depression she’d suffered for like forever, this could put her over the top. Maybe she should keep this to herself.

“Are you telling me I have to talk to you? Or maybe you want to toss me on the ground, slap cuffs on me so tight that you provide me with more welts and bruising, and once again lock me in a concrete room, chained to a table, ignoring my numerous requests to make a call, call a lawyer—”

“Whoa, wait!” he snapped and held his hands up in front of her.

She stopped and took in the change in this cop, totally intense now, and there was nothing about him that told her he found this even remotely amusing or was toying with her. But then this could be just another ruse to, what, mess with her? She didn’t know what to make of it.

“Are you telling me you were held in an interrogation room and cuffed to a table? For how long? Were you read your rights?” He stepped closer, and she could see the tiny lines around his eyes, the dark stubble that said he needed to shave.

“Well, you do the math. How long ago did the shooting start? I was held until I was dropped off by that other detective just now. That was the amount of time I was cuffed, stuffed in the back of a cop car with the other woman, dragged into your cop shop, fingerprinted… Oh, yeah, and I had my mouth swabbed for DNA, you know. Not once did I hear anyone tell me my rights, which had me wondering whether I could ask for a lawyer. I’ve never been questioned, arrested, or set foot in a police station, period. Then I was interrogated. I’m pretty sure that was what happened, and after the third or maybe forth time, I think, that I asked if I could have a lawyer or make a phone call, I was finally told I wasn’t under arrest. Now get the fuck out of my way, or is saying that going to get me arrested, I don’t know, for mouthing off to a cop, dropping the f-bomb, you fucking prick, or maybe something else you can fabricate because you don’t like my attitude?”

She was furious and shaking inside, the same way she’d felt when Hargraves had called out to her outside the front of the station and made her get into his car to drive her back to the scene of the crime for alone time so he could drive the threat home. If she knew what was good for her and her family, she’d forget everything about this night. Yeah, she got it, and she knew every cop out there was watching her.

This time, as she stepped around this detective who she didn’t know anything about, he didn’t try to stop her.

I just read the first five chapters of Don't Leave Me in The McCabe Brothers by Lorhainne Eckhart.  Start reading now! One moment in time could change her future forever.

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What reviewers are saying about The McCabe Brothers...

“Watch out Friessens!" The McCabe Brothers are every bit as "Swoonworthy!"

Such a great emotional read.


Amazon Reviewer

“Another promising series by Lorhainne Eckhart.”

As always she presents to us imperfect characters, some with secrets and lots of hurt and regrets.

Yvonne Cruz

Copyright 2017,  Author Lorhainne Eckhart

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