After a brief moment of panic it registered that he’d clearly let her sleep in. Something she hadn’t been able to do the last three months. The rich scent of coffee filled the air so she washed her face, brushed her teeth and went in search of Kell and Reece.
She heard the soft murmur of male voices as she neared the kitchen, but couldn’t make out actual words. As she stepped into the bright room she froze when she saw Kell and two other men. Harrison Caldwell was one of them. He was nice and polite, but he had a dark edge to him that was unnerving. The other man she recognized from the Garcia’s party the other night. With dark skin and pale blue eyes that almost seemed to glow in contrast, he had a GQ quality to him. He might look like a pretty boy but he had that same military bearing to him that Kell did. After being married to a military/law enforcement guy she was pretty good at picking them out and this guy definitely had military experience too.
Her gaze immediately strayed to Kell who was leaning against the counter and holding a cooing Reece in his arms. Before she could ask what was going on, Kell nodded at the two men sitting at the island center. “You remember Harrison and this is Vincent. He works for Red Stone and we were in the Teams together.”
A former SEAL too. So she’d been right. She smiled politely at them. “I remember you from the party.”
At that, the newcomer smiled almost cheekily. “You remember me?”
Yeah because she’d caught him staring at her butt on more than one occasion. At Kell’s annoyed growl, she bit back a smile and headed for the full pot of coffee. “You might as well tell me what’s going on. I know you all aren’t here for a social call.” Her voice sounded a lot calmer than she felt but that was probably because she didn’t have any caffeine in her body. She was still a little too tired to get worked up about anything yet.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Kell murmured.
Shooting him an annoyed look as she snagged one of the mugs he’d laid out, she shook her head and dropped a kiss on Reece’s forehead. “I’m okay. What’s going on?” She didn’t need to be coddled—she wanted to know what was going on.
“Reed West is dead,” Harrison said quietly.
Mug in hand, Charlotte leaned against the counter so that she was touching Kell. She let the feel of him ground her. “The cop? How?” He was supposed to have been in jail, but protected from the general population. That was what Kell had told her.
“Poison.” Kell bit the word out. “He was in isolation but someone got to him.”
“What does this mean for me? Do they know who killed him? It’s got to be related to yesterday, right?” Coffee forgotten, questions flew out of her mouth as she gripped the counter for support. For a moment all she could do was focus on Reece, thankful he was okay. She wanted to hold him but was too shaky.
Kell seemed to sense that. “I’ve got him,” he murmured and she wanted to bury her face in his neck and absorb all that strength. With his free hand, he rubbed the small of her back as she turned to face the other two.
Vincent was quiet and she figured he was just there in a backup capacity when Harrison spoke. “At this point, there are only guesses as to why he was killed, but there are only two scenarios that truly work.”
“Okay.” She just prayed that either of them were good for their safety.
“West was a dirty cop who was involved with the murder of a man named Mateo Diaz. Mateo’s brother is an enforcer for the Mexican cartel based in Miami so either someone from the cartel—or his brother personally—got to West. If that’s what happened, it’s good for you.”
He shrugged. “Multiple reasons. If the cartel is cleaning up then they’ll go after the other man involved in the murder. It means Talley won’t be a threat to you anymore and he’s too low in the hierarchy of his gang for anyone to give a crap about.”
That left one other option, and from the way Kell stilled she knew she was going to hate whatever Harrison had to say next.
“If Talley’s gang got to West—which at this point the gang unit seriously doubts—then you might be a target. You’re the only other person who can identify Talley as Diaz’s murderer.”
She took a steadying breath. “Why does the gang unit doubt his gang is involved?”
“First, Talley has only recently made a connection with the 19th Street Gang. Hell, killing Diaz was probably part of his initiation, but he could still be on a probationary period with them. Second, they’re small potatoes. Of the two hundred plus gangs in south Florida they don’t have the kind of pull to poison a prisoner in private holding.”
Charlotte had no idea what to think or feel other than be terrified. “But if the 19th Street Gang is involved and they’re the ones behind the killing, they could come after me next?” And they wouldn’t care who got in the way. The thought of putting Reece or Kell in harm’s way made nausea swell inside her. Why couldn’t she have ignored those cries of distress from that alley? She inwardly groaned. No matter what, she would have checked it out and she couldn’t go back and change the past anyway.
“Even if the 19th Street Gang isn’t involved, Talley is still out there and you’re still a witness,” Kell said, still frowning.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
Before he could respond, Harrison cleared his throat. “We’re assuming you don’t want to go to your parents’ because it’s the first place anyone with half a brain would look for you.”
She nodded, not because of his reason but because she would never put her family in danger.
“We can either put you in a temporary safe house with guards or you can stay with my brother Porter and his wife. They live in one of the safest high rises in the city. It’s impossible to penetrate and they’re expecting a baby so you wouldn’t need to move any of Reece’s stuff. He can sleep in their nursery.”
Her jaw tightened. “You want me to possibly put a pregnant woman in harm’s way?”
Kell let out a long breath, drawing her attention to him. Reece had dozed again but she knew he’d be hungry soon. “You have no association with either of them and we’ll make damn sure you’re not followed there. It’s secure and you won’t be dealing with a bunch of armed guards living with you, though there will be guards outside their place. Lizzy is six months along now and doing a lot of her work from home.”
Charlotte blinked in confusion as she glanced at Harrison. “Lizzy…Caldwell is your brother’s wife. I didn’t even put the names together until now. Her parents are acquaintances with mine. I met her at the Garcia party. You’re absolutely sure they’re okay with this?”
Harrison nodded so she glanced at Kell. “What do you think?”
“Until we locate Talley I don’t want you or Reece to be an easy target. I can’t think of one possible way anyone would find you at Porter’s place. We’ll be giving you a company cell phone so even if someone attempts to track your cell, they won’t be able to.” His expression was blank so she couldn’t tell what he was thinking or how he felt about being separated from her.
When Reece’s eyes opened and he started fussing she immediately took him, cuddling him close to her chest. He calmed immediately, but she glanced at the two other men then Kell. “Can we talk privately?” she whispered.
He nodded then excused them.
In the privacy of his bedroom she started feeding Reece, and tried to ignore the way Kell’s gaze strayed to her breasts. “How long is this supposed to go on? Me and Reece hiding?”
He sat on the edge of the bed. “I don’t know. Red Stone has resources the police don’t and Harrison is very protective of his employees. If he’s still in the city, we’re going to find Cecil Talley and turn him over to the police.”
“I’m not a Red Stone employee.” Or even family to one of them.
“You’re mine,” Kell practically growled.
Okay, then. She swallowed hard before asking her next question. “What about you? Will I be able to see you while I’m staying there?” The thought of uprooting again especially after starting to get settled and comfortable with Kell was unnerving. It stunned her how much the thought of leaving him hurt.
He shook his head, his expression dark. “We can talk on the phone, but I don’t want to inadvertently lead someone to you guys. Keeping you and Reece safe is more important.”
“So how long do you think we’ll be there?” Because they were going. She might not want to uproot again, but she would do it. Her baby’s safety was all that mattered.
“A couple weeks at the most.”
“I’m going to miss you.” The words were out before she could stop herself, but they were true.
Kell looked surprised, but that quickly gave way to a purely male, satisfied smile. “I’m going to miss you too. But it won’t be long, I promise.”
As Reece finished feeding, she closed her top and didn’t try to stop him when Kell gently picked him up and placed him in the bassinet. The kid slept more than he was awake. Charlotte was just thankful that if something insane like all this had to happen, it was happening when he was too young to understand what was going on or to remember.
“I guess I should start packing.”
Kell nodded, but knelt in front of her. With his height, they were practically eye level. Instinctively she spread her legs so he could move in closer. Wordlessly, he leaned forward, his mouth capturing hers as his hand slid behind her head in that dominating grip she loved. Before she’d even gotten fully into the kiss she found herself flat on her back and Kell stretched out on top of her. He definitely didn’t hesitate in going for what he wanted.
Since he’d shut the door behind them she wasn’t worried about anyone walking in without knocking.
As Kell’s tongue stroked hers, his lips teasing and gentle, she lightly moaned and arched into him. The thought of not being able to see him after just walking back into his life shook her to her core. He gave her a sense of security in a way that was almost terrifying because he also threatened the quiet life she’d started rebuilding for herself. She’d never imagined he’d want her to move in or even physically still want her so much. When he suddenly paused, his hand barely grazing her breast, her eyes flew open.