FBI agent Jack Holland broke every rule in the book falling for the girlfriend of Angelo Cabrini, son of a New Jersey mob boss. But even if Callie Lansing’s relationship to Angelo was actually a cover and her heart was free, her relationship with Jack put both of their lives at risk. Nothing, though, could make Jack regret the liaison that led to the birth of their son, Jonathan.
After Angelo discovered Callie’s pregnancy, he went after Jack and wound up dead. Now Jack is on the run with a target on his back. The only thing keeping Callie and Jonathan safe is the mob boss's belief that the baby is his grandchild. But if Victor Cabrini discovers the truth before Jack can put him behind bars, it could mean death for his sweet covert family. . . .
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Love On the Line
By Kari Lemor
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Kari Lemor
All rights reserved.
"You slimy son of a bitch!"
Jonathan 'Jack' Holland turned around at the insult. His muscles tensed at the anger pouring off Angelo Cabrini as he marched down the driveway of the wooded New Jersey estate. A million thoughts ran through his head. The worst, Angelo had discovered he was an agent for the FBI. He took a deep breath and tried to calm his pounding heart as he moved away from the limo. Maybe he'd forgotten to clean something out of the vehicle. It was part of his undercover job as the Cabrini's chauffeur, Matt Waters. The look on Angelo's face said more than an untidy car was at play here.
"Mr. Cabrini, what seems to be the problem? Did I forget to do something?"
Angelo stopped a foot away, his eyes roaming the six-car garage and the woods beyond. His stone features resembled that of his father, mob boss, Victor Cabrini.
"Stay away from Callie."
"Miss Lansing?" Damn, how much did Angelo know about him and Callie? Look cool and confused. "You've asked me to bring her to work and back. Do you not want me to drive her anymore?"
Angelo seethed. "You know what I mean. I don't care if she's screwing around on the side but not with the damn chauffeur. I plan to marry her. I need her."
Yeah, Angelo needed Callie, as camouflage. So far Callie had been able to keep her knowledge of his dirty dealings from him. And the fact she'd gone to the police. Now to defuse this situation.
"I simply drive her to work and back, sir. I haven't seen her with anyone else."
"Bullshit. I saw you leaving her place this morning." Angelo's face grew even harder.
Fuck, he'd left before five. He should have been more careful, but Callie had a way of making him lose common sense. What the hell had Angelo been doing there? And how could he explain this situation?
"She seemed lonely, sir. You're always busy with work."
"Callie's looking for a close-knit family and a safe life. She'll get that from me."
A safe life from a mob family. Sure.
"Maybe she needs more."
He was pushing it, yeah, but if Angelo didn't mind her sleeping with other men, he might let this ride.
Angelo's eyes narrowed. "She didn't need to get knocked up by the friggin' help."
"She's pregnant?" Shit. They'd been careful. Well, most of the time. Why hadn't she said anything to him? They'd been together last night and this morning. "Did she tell you this?"
"She doesn't even know yet. But her doctor's a good friend of my father. She recently had a physical and he figured I'd be interested in what the blood work showed. Wanted to congratulate me."
Jack couldn't move or speak. Callie was pregnant with his child. Getting her away from the Cabrinis as soon as possible was imperative now. Victor thought the world of Callie and hoped she'd stick around. But Victor didn't know the truth about Angelo.
"I take it this doctor isn't aware of your preferences. That you wouldn't be the father."
Angelo took a half step closer. Jack held his ground.
"And he won't know. No one does. Not even you."
"No, sir. Not a thing. I imagine Callie suspects since you've never touched her. Are you going to pay her to go off and live far away?" That would be perfect. She could leave the area and once he was finished with this assignment, which might be sooner than he expected, he could follow her.
"Have her go away? You must be crazy if you think I'll get rid of her. My father loves her. And she doesn't seem to care about my ... extra-curricular activities. We haven't been seeing each other long enough to get married yet though. I'll need to get rid of the baby."
Jack's heart beat double time. "If you do anything to the baby, I'll let it slip to your father about all your little affairs. I'll even name the men you get down and dirty with in the back of the limo."
The sneer on Angelo's face stopped Jack's breath. "She won't even be aware she lost it. I have friends with access to drugs that will cause a miscarriage. It's early enough, she may not suspect anything."
No way could he let that happen. Callie was carrying his baby. He pushed his face closer to the monster who wanted to kill his child. "Over my dead body."
Something evil lit up Angelo's face. "Yes, I figured that might be the case."
Pain sliced deep into his side as Angelo laughed. A knife stuck out of his white dress shirt, crimson staining the formerly pristine fabric. His vision blurred and his legs buckled. Angelo pushed at him until he lay heaped on the ground, agony ripping through him. Gripping the knife handle, he pulled on it, but his head spun and he fought to stay conscious.
Angelo's smirking face leaned down to taunt him.
"There's nothing you can do now, Waters. I'll get rid of your damn baby and after we're married, she'll have my baby."
"You'd have to ..." His hands shook on the knife handle.
Angelo scowled, close enough that Jack could smell the coffee on his breath. "I have doctors who will do in vitro. I don't have to touch her. But make no mistake, she will be mine."
Images of Callie's beautiful face, innocent and sweet, flashed through his mind. He couldn't let this dirtbag do anything to her. Tugging at the knife again, he found the strength to pull it free. He thrust it up and into Angelo; the deserving bastard. The man's eyes opened in surprise as he staggered back and fell.
Shouts from near the house shook him from the stupor he was falling into and snapped him back to reality. Tony Pascucci, Victor's right-hand man, ran toward them. Fuck, he was dead now. Pascucci always carried a gun.
Jack struggled to his feet and leaned against the limo for a second. As Pascucci got closer, thoughts of Callie propelled him into action. He managed to push away and put one foot in front of the other. When he got to the tree line, he chanced looking back. Pascucci knelt near Angelo. Good, he was taking care of that injury and not following.
Jack stumbled away, pain coursing through him with each step. Callie. Get to Callie. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out his phone so he could call Scott. His cousin would help him. Calling his partner, Steve, was necessary too. He had to let the Bureau know of this mess.
Leaning against a tree, he rested for a second and looked down at his side. Blood dripped from beneath the fingers he held there. Making it through this was imperative. Callie, his beautiful sweet Calico, carried his child. He had to be there to protect them both.CHAPTER 2
Eight months later
An infant's cry broke the stillness of the maternity ward as Jack crept through the hallway. He looked toward the nursery. Should he go there first or to where Callie was? The room was less risky and he needed to see her. Assure himself she was okay.
The door was ajar so he slipped through, closing it enough to allow a sliver of light to filter in. He made out the petite shape of the sleeping woman then saw the bassinet next to her. His breath left his body. The baby was here with her.
Stepping closer, he looked down on the clear container, the blue tag proclaiming this child to be a boy. Squinting in the dim light, he read the words. Mother's name: Callina Lansing. Baby: Jonathan.
Jonathan. She'd named the baby after him. A lump clogged his throat. A son. Damn. He had a son and wouldn't be able to get to know him, see him grow, share in his life. This fucking world was too cruel at times.
He shouldn't take the chance but he needed to hold him. It was vital that he touch the life he and Callie had created. He wanted — no needed — to let his child know how much he loved him. The powerful emotion emanated from his heart even as he gazed down at the tiny figure. How could love grow this fast? His first glimpse was only a second ago. Now the feeling consumed him.
Reaching down, he stroked the side of his son's face. The baby turned his head, his bow-shaped lips opening slightly. Jack's heart beat faster. The protective instincts that had always come into play when he was around Callie, throbbed to life and expanded as he gazed at the sweet face of his son. Heat like an electric storm surged through his blood. How could he protect this child in his current situation? He'd bring more danger upon him if he hung around. Eight months of running, trying to escape the long arm of Victor Cabrini, had shown him what hell was. Now he glimpsed a small piece of heaven.
He slid his hands under the infant, lifting him from the bed to hold him close. Jonathan barely weighed anything. His heart constricted yet again. The innocent baby scent wafted into his nostrils and he blinked back the moisture filling his eyes. The reaction was primitive and territorial. This was his son.
Their child's eyes opened but no cry erupted so Jack relaxed. It shook him to the core knowing Callie had named the baby after him. After deserting her, she had every right to hate him. As much as he hated himself. Leaving her hadn't been in his plans but the choice had been ripped away from him. It had taken a while to recover from the stabbing. Then the fuck-up by the Bureau had happened.
He stared again at the unfocused eyes of his son, his forehead touching that of the infant's. Kissing his face, he absorbed every little facet he could. Who knew if he'd ever see him again?
Gazing at the sleeping woman, her innocent face relaxed in slumber, caused more pain to rip through his heart. Her dark hair, streaked with natural reds and golds, was a riot of curls that framed her peaceful face. Long lashes fanned over high cheekbones, highlighting the lovely structure of her eyes. His beautiful Calico Cat.
Had the pregnancy and labor been hard? She must have looked amazing, all round and filled with his child. Regret tore through him, anger warring with that emotion. Anger that his life had been stolen from him. He'd been fighting to get it back, but didn't seem any closer now than he'd been eight months ago.
Jonathan let out a small mewing sound and Jack snuggled him close. "I'm right here, pal. I might not be around much but I wanted to let you know ... I love you very much." His voice cracked with emotion. "I'm your dad."
He had a son. Was now a father. But he couldn't be a father — not in the way that it mattered. He'd swore he'd be better than his dad. But this — he'd be worse. As it began to sink in, his hands shook with the enormity of the situation.
A noise from Callie drew his eyes to the bed. She shouldn't see him. It was too dangerous. Still he wasn't ready to give up holding his son quite yet. You might as well rip his heart from his chest and throw it on the floor.
Not wanting to startle her, he sat gently on the edge of the bed.
"Callie," he whispered.
* * *
Callie woke, every muscle in her southern region screaming in protest. She forced her eyes open, though the fatigue fought to keep them closed. At the sight of someone sitting on the bed holding the baby, fear clutched her insides. Her breath caught when recognition dawned.
"Jack?" She kept her voice low. "What are you doing here?"
Her gaze flashed to the door then back to his unbelievably handsome face. How could he be sitting here in her hospital room after all this time? Eight long months of trying to find him, to tell him they'd created a child and it was growing inside her. He'd disappeared from her life like she hadn't mattered but now he was back.
Her eyes burned as she glared at him. He lowered his face, kissing Jonathan on the head then looked up, his eyes shining, his expression one of agony. Oh, God. Her anger melted like chocolate in the sun. His love for the baby was already apparent. How could she be upset with him? She placed her hand on Jonathan's head, not daring to touch Jack.
"You shouldn't be here. Victor was around earlier. He hasn't stopped his search for you. He's vowed to find Angelo's killer, his chauffeur, Matt Waters. You."
Jack's arms tightened around her son. Their son. She wanted to take the baby in her arms for comfort, her comfort. Jack hadn't been around, hadn't been there to help her through this pregnancy or the delivery. She knew why, but it didn't make her anger lessen. Because of him she was in a precarious place with Victor Cabrini.
But Jack was here now, staring at their child as if he'd never seen anything more precious. The tears playing in the corners of his eyes testified to his grief. She couldn't deny him a few minutes with their son, but it was delusional to think everything would be great and they could start playing house together.
"Victor's not here right now," Jack pointed out, his voice gruff. "It's three in the morning, Calico."
Warmth flooded her body as he said her pet name. He'd only ever used it when they were alone together.
"I made it a point not to be seen coming in here. Had to see you ... and the baby. Apologize."
"What are you apologizing for? That you left me playing your little spy games? That you didn't get me out of this mess even though you and your FBI pals said you would? Or for enticing me and getting me pregnant to begin with?"
"Enticing you? I tried to be professional, Calico. You're too damned beautiful and sweet."
He had been professional. She'd been the one to insist she sit up front and chat as he drove her to work. The one to invite him over to watch movies with her. To snuggle up to him as they sat on the couch and watched. He'd made her feel safe. It had simply been a matter of time before the chemistry between them exploded.
She'd known Angelo was using her to hide his sexual preferences from his dad. She hadn't cared at first because his father seemed incredibly nice and warm when she'd met him. They'd both made her feel like part of a family. Her own parents had never been that way. She hadn't expected to find the men worked for the mob.
Looking back, she should have skipped town and not gone to the police. Or dropped them a note as she hightailed it out of Dodge. She gazed at Jack holding the baby. The one she wouldn't have if she'd done that. This child had stolen her heart as soon as she saw him.
Jack glanced at the tag on the small crib. "You named him Jonathan."
Callie rested her hand along the baby's head, slyly touching Jack's arm. The heat was instantaneous. "After his father."
His mouth tightened and his eyes shuttered. He was hiding his emotions but Callie had always been able to read him, much to his chagrin.
"I'm honored. You have so many reasons to hate me."
She wasn't sure she could ever hate Jack though she'd cursed him often. He was the reason she'd agreed to stay friends with Angelo. She'd felt safe with him around.
"What happened between you and Angelo? I never got the whole story. Victor's a bit biased in his opinion. He doesn't know you're FBI though."
"Was FBI," he muttered and his voice grew harsh. "I haven't had much to do with them lately. They've got a leak and I can't trust anyone there."
"Haven't they had you in protective custody? What happened?" All this time she'd pictured him holed up in some fancy FBI hideaway.
Jack's face hardened but his arms remained gentle with their son. "Protective custody was a joke. My first few locations were compromised so I had to protect myself. It's why I couldn't contact you. I wanted to."
He held out his free hand but stopped inches from her face. Did she want him to touch her? Yes. No. Her mind was too muddled to know what she wanted.
Jack looked around the room as if trying to make a decision. To tell her the truth?
"Why did you kill Angelo?"
"He knew you were pregnant. Some doctor friend."
The same one who had blabbed to Victor before she could disappear. It showed her how huge his reach was.
"He saw me coming from your house that last morning. He was furious."
"He knew about us? Was jealous? We were friends, that's it, regardless of what his father thought."
"He had plans for you and an unplanned pregnancy didn't fit in with them. He tried to kill me. I got him in self-defense."
Callie's stomach plummeted and her breath stopped. "He ... oh, my God. Were you hurt?"
"Not as bad as Angelo." He shrugged. Typical Jack, downplaying his injury.
"What were these plans he had for me?" Angelo had always been sweet to her, but if he worked for the mob, he obviously had a darker side.
"It doesn't matter. He's dead." Jack's face was like granite. He was done talking about the subject.
"Where have you been all this time?"
"Running. Hiding. Victor put a hit out on me." He averted his gaze as if embarrassed. He'd want to face this head on, but Victor was too powerful, even for someone like Jack.
She let out the breath she didn't realize she was still holding. "No one's been helping you all this time."
"My cousin, Scott, and a few guys from my Army unit. They're the only ones I trust right now. They've helped move me around the country, keep me safe, but unfortunately haven't been able to get me any closer to putting Victor away."
Excerpted from Running Target by Kari Lemor. Copyright © 2017 Kari Lemor. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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