“What is it?” Robert’s voice raised a couple octaves.
She shrugged and tried to play off her uncertainties. “We haven’t spoken in two years. Our connection hasn’t been as strong. There is a teeny tiny chance I’m wrong.”
Robert didn’t respond. Instead he raised an eyebrow. Soon he would be giving his typical professorial lecture about her jumping into things headfirst without thinking about the consequences. She hated it when he did that. Especially since he was usually right. “What, you think I’m crazy for going to see Connor?”
“No, I think it’s about time you start talking to your brother again. This nonsense has gone on long enough. He’s your brother, and the only family you have.”
“That’s not true, you’re my family.” She smirked.
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t try and sweet talk me just because you want to avoid this conversation. You sing about forgiveness and redemption in half of your songs. Don’t you think your brother deserves a little compassion?”
Her friend was right. She knew that. But knowing he was right, and actually facing her brother again was different. “I know. It’s just hard. Rachel was my best friend. When she died I couldn’t stand to even think about the role he played in it.”
“It was a long time ago—”
“I’m going to the restroom, I’ll be back.”
Alone in the small room, she leaned against the sink and raked a hand through her barely tamed hair. The memory of that horrible night in Germany assaulted her in waves. Involuntarily she shuddered at the scene playing in her head.
Rachel fell back against the elevator. Crimson liquid poured down her body. Calista tried to stop the bleeding. She pressed on Rachel’s chest. There was so much blood. Too much blood. Her hands were covered. Her jeans were covered. Bullets whizzed by her head, but the only thing she could do was hold her dead friends head in her lap.
It had taken months to get that image to take a back seat in her brain. Two years later and she still wasn’t sure what had happened. The only thing she knew for certain was that her brother lied to her for the first time in their lives. His visit hadn’t been personal. He’d only wanted to use her hotel room for his base of operations. If he had told her the truth, she would have stayed away. But he hadn’t and her friend died because his team with the CIA screwed up.
More than anyone she blamed his team leader, Dane Leven. Dane actually tried to take all the blame. She hadn’t listened though. Conner had lied to her face. That made him just as responsible.
Right now none of that mattered. Robert was right. The time to grieve was over. She couldn’t throw away her relationship with the only family she had left. If her mother could see her now she’d be heartbroken.
Thankful to be indoors, Dane stared out the frosted window at the thick blanket of untouched snow. A muffled movement from behind broke him out of his trance. He turned, surprised that his friend was awake. “How are you feeling, man?”
“Like shit.” Connor tried to sit up, but fell back into a heap against the fluffy white pillows. He half lifted his hand and motioned to the room. “Where am I?”
Again, Connor struggled to sit up. Dane saw the look of agony in his friend’s eyes and quickly moved to his side.
“You’re at John Hopkin’s Hospital in Maryland, but take it easy, man. Your body has been through hell. You’re lucky to be alive.” Satisfied Connor wasn’t going to try sitting up again, Dane sat in one of the uncomfortable metal chairs next to the bed.
“Is every one else okay? What about Marcus and Nikolai?” Connor asked through clenched teeth.
“They’re fine. Marcus is actually here for the time being. Nikolai is off on assignment in Israel tying up some loose ends.”
“What about the deal?” Connor’s voice shook.
Dane knew the drugs would kick in again and his friend would soon be out cold. An IV drip attached to him constantly pumped his body with morphine. “We’ll worry about that later. All that matters now is your recovery.”
Connor closed his eyes. “Call Calista,” he managed to mumble as he drifted back to sleep.
They’d just arrived this morning. Dane still hadn’t gotten a hotel room, and for days he’d been trying to contact Connor’s sister. Pinning her down was proving to be more difficult than locating some of the terrorists he hunted. He’d managed to find out that she’d flown out of Australia the same night her brother had been shot. The trail went cold after she landed in Los Angeles. Too many private planes flew out of LA and she’d probably used a pseudonym. That is if she’d even left at all.
His last image of Calista was something he would rather forget. No matter how often he tried to banish that night, his mind burned at the memory. She’d been sobbing hysterically, and her delicate hands had been covered in her friend’s blood. Before she’d gone into shock, she’d screamed descriptive and memorable obscenities at him. That night was the only blemish on his fourteen-year record with the CIA. He shook his head at the memory. Something had gone wrong. The information he’d received was bogus and someone had died. That particular informant paid with his life. Dane had personally taken care of it. Unfortunately, that didn’t change anything.
After checking Connor’s vitals, Dane went in search of coffee. As he rounded the corner of the long hallway on the first floor, he nearly lost his footing. An irate Calista and a very tall Abercrombie and Fitch-looking man stood at the help desk, obviously frustrated with one of the nurses.
Calista raked a hand through her auburn hair and turned around. It took a moment for her to notice him, but when their eyes locked, her startling green eyes widened. Involuntarily, he sucked in a quick breath at the sight of her. Unwanted hunger stirred deep inside him. It took a moment to realize he was blatantly staring at her luscious pink lips. She might have said something. He couldn’t be sure.
“What are you doing here?” His words came out harsher than he’d originally intended. After all, he had been trying to locate her for the past few days.
“What do you think? I’m here to see my brother.” The exasperation in her voice was apparent.
He noted that she made no attempt to hide her contempt. Okay, she still hated him.
“I realize that. How did you know he was hurt?” He intentionally spoke as if addressing a small child.
She rolled her eyes. “Where is he, damn it? I’ve come a long way to see him. The stupid people at your agency were of no help. And this hospital is even worse.”
Well no one had called him about it. Stupid bureaucrats. “What are you talking about?”
She put a perfectly manicured hand on her slim, but curvaceous hip and took a menacing step in his direction.
“For the past three days I’ve been trying to get in touch with someone who could tell me anything about my brother. Now, where is he?”
Dane resisted the urge to take a step back. She couldn’t be taller than five feet two inches, but she looked like a crazed Amazon warrior. The only thing missing was a spear. Flames spit from her wild-looking, emerald eyes and her auburn hair tumbled around her heart shaped face in waves. She looked ready to cut his heart out.
Before he could answer, the man next to her draped a protective arm around her shoulders and finally spoke up. “Where’s her brother? We’ve come a long way and she’s not waiting to see him.”
Dane gritted his teeth. “First you tell me how you know about Connor. I’ve been trying to reach you for days.”
Calista’s eyes narrowed briefly. Then she did something he never expected. Her entire body slumped in defeat and her eyes welled up with tears. Her voice shook when she spoke again. “Please tell me where he is. I just need to know he’s all right.”
Dane’s throat constricted when a single tear carved a path down her cheek. He was an asshole. No, he was the king of assholes. She’d suffered enough because of him.
“He’s on the seventh floor. I’ll show you to his room.” Even to his own ears his voice sounded rough and scratchy. Crying women didn’t bother him. Seeing her cry however, did.
Calista shook her head. “Don’t bother. Just give me the room number. Please.”
The please nearly undid him. “Seven twenty-three.”
Without responding, she turned and flew down the hallway. He let his eyes linger until she disappeared around the corner. He swallowed hard. She wouldn’t look twice at him if he was the last man on earth. Correction, the galaxy.
Dane turned back to the tall, tan, blonde man standing in front of him. In an effort to be civil he held out a hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Dane Leven.”
“I know who you are. I’m Robert Carson, Calista’s manager.” He took Dane’s hand in a firm, but not overpowering, grip.
Good. He didn’t have time for a pissing match.
“Would you mind explaining how you knew Connor was here? More importantly, I want to know how the hell she knew he was hurt. What we were doing was extremely classified. I know Connor hasn’t been in contact with her. That leaves a few unanswered questions.”
Robert shrugged, and for the first time, Dane noticed the dark circles under his eyes.
“I still don’t understand myself what’s going on. We were doing a show in Australia and Calista collapsed on stage. The doctor said she had an anxiety attack. Unfortunately that doesn’t account for the hideous bruise on her chest.”
Dane didn’t bother to hide his confusion. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Look, man, I’m not even sure myself. Calista tried to explain something about a twin bond. She refused to get more tests and informed me she had to see her brother. She called everyone she could think of until she brow beat someone into giving up Connor’s location. End of story. Sometimes she goes off half-cocked without a plan. Whatever. All I know is I haven’t slept in a real bed in three days and I need coffee.”