Betrayed by Lauren N Sharman by Lauren N Sharman - Read Online

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Summary

Sometimes it pays to get up early... For reasons he refuses to admit, bad boy Kane McCassey has a soft spot for women who need help. Those familiar with his reputation say that he doesn't take anything seriously. But his family knows the truth, and isn't surprised when Kane risks everything to save the woman who literally drops into his life. Nothing prepared Lizzie Barnes to handle the whirlwind of trouble that comes calling out of the blue. Desperate to save herself, she resorts to drastic measures...only to find she's traded one dangerous situation for another. They met by coincidence. Lizzie doesn't understand Kane's desire to help her, but she does trust him. With no other choice, she accepts his offer. When Kane discovers Lizzie isn't the only one in danger, he must find and confront the one who betrayed him, or lose everything he loves...including Lizzie.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781603137096
List price: $3.99
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Betrayed - Lauren N Sharman

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Chapter 1

There were very few things Kane McCassey gave a damn about.

His job as an auto body repairman was one.

He enjoyed working with his uncles and cousins at McCassey’s Garage despite the fact that his cousin, Rebel, had fired Kane at least once a day since he began working there at the age of sixteen.

His truck was another.

The piece of crap Chevy he’d towed home from the junkyard with the help of his cousin, Brady, had been fixed up, jacked up, and painted a unique, flat black.

The only other thing Kane cared about was his family.

The McCasseys were a wild bunch who’d been terrorizing Hagerstown and the surrounding area of Washington County, Maryland since before the Civil War. He and the rest of the boys had calmed down a little over the years and were no longer a public nuisance, but people still looked down on them.

Kane’s life hadn’t been easy. He’d spent the last thirty-three years doing the best he could with what he’d been given: a sweet, loving mother who’d stuck by her wild, irresponsible husband no matter how much trouble he got into, and a father who’d had the love and support of a good woman, but still disappeared for months at a time. One day, he just never came back.

Kane had always believed his father’s abandonment had caused his mother to die of a broken heart. That, and the fact that despite all the love and nurturing Daisy McCassey had bestowed upon her sons, Kane’s older brother, Bandit, had turned out to be more evil than Satan himself.

Growing up, Kane had compensated for all of the violence and upheaval in his life with humor. Since he was old enough to realize that having fun made the horrors of life more tolerable, he’d goofed off and done his best to not take things too seriously.

Oh, he was serious when it counted. Each time his family had needed him, he’d been there. He’d been in more bar fights and gun battles than he cared to think about, but wouldn’t change a thing; not even the occasional pain caused by the .22 slug lodged in his left shoulder.

Kane was serious today, too. There was nothing funny about the hangover he was suffering from after drinking too much of his cousin Blackie’s secret-recipe moonshine. His mouth was dry and his head was pounding, but Kane had fun hanging out with his cousins and their wives all night.

Stiff from sleeping on the floor, stinky, and still in yesterday’s clothes, Kane couldn’t wait to get home, take a shower, and fall into bed. Thankfully, McCassey’s Garage was closed on the weekends, so he had his entire Saturday to recover before he had to play softball for Team McCassey Sunday morning. He had a feeling that the rest of his cousins were just as grateful for the day off. At least they would be, when they finally woke up. Half of them were still passed out on Blackie’s living room floor when Kane left.

On his way through the center of town, Main Street became so crowded that Kane was forced to slow his truck as he approached Saint Catherine’s Church. The building had some kind of historical significance, and had been host to weddings on Saturday mornings for more than a century.

Obviously, today was no different.

Although luxury cars and limousines were parked along both sides of the road, what had slowed traffic were the people milling about in formal attire, strolling through the streets like they didn’t have a care in the world.

As the fifth vehicle in a long line of traffic sitting at a complete standstill, Kane put the truck in park and slouched in his seat as he watched the people filing into the church. It had been a long time since he’d been awake and out of the house early enough on a Saturday to see people arriving for a ceremony, but he couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone dressed so fancy. Judging by the tuxedos, full-length gowns, and diamond jewelry sparkling in the early morning sunshine, it appeared as though the couple tying the knot was royalty.

When the last few stragglers had finally entered the building and traffic was once again moving, Kane shook his head and inched his truck forward. He couldn’t fathom having the kind of life where he had to stand on ceremony, drink wines from countries he couldn’t pronounce, and dress to the nines for everything from eating in a restaurant to attending an event. Given the choice, he’d stick to moonshine or beer, blue jeans, and his own cooking.

Tired of putting along in traffic, Kane decided to take a shortcut home. Just after the main entrance to the church, he made a left turn off of Main Street. He drove slowly down the alley, splashing through puddles as he made his way toward the dirt road that would dump him out less than a mile from his driveway.

He hadn’t driven fifty yards when he was forced to slam on his breaks as a small duffle bag fell from the sky and landed a few feet in front of him. What the hell?

His truck still in gear, Kane’s feet were firmly planted on the clutch and brake as he leaned forward and glanced through the windshield. He looked up toward the beginning of the fire escape at the top of the building.

That bag hadn’t fallen all by itself, and he wanted to make sure its owner wasn’t on the way down behind it. He was too tired—and too hung over—to spend half the day in the sheriff’s office explaining how he wound up running over a man who’d fallen from the sky. Hell, the sheriff would probably throw him in jail just for being caught up in such a weird mess, whether Kane had anything to do with it or not.

At first glance, Kane saw nothing. The fire escape was empty, making it appear as if the bag had, indeed, fallen out of thin air.

Not wanting to get involved in whatever not-so-good deed he was sure was about to go down, Kane leaned back in his seat with the intention of maneuvering around the duffle bag and continuing his journey home.

Except, just as he put his foot on the accelerator and began inching forward, the large window to the right of the fire escape opened. Now a little more intrigued, Kane watched with interest as a young woman in a wedding dress poked her head—and half her body—out and surveyed the ground below. Kane winced when she nearly lost her balance. Careful! he warned, as if she could hear him.

When the girl glanced over her shoulder and down at the ground several times, Kane got a sick feeling in his stomach. Don’t even think about it, honey. You’re twenty feet off the ground.

But she didn’t listen to his silent advice.

From the front seat of his truck, Kane watched in horror as the girl held firmly onto the windowpane, turned her body sideways, and stuck her right leg into one of the openings on the trellis outside the window. Dammit, I told you not to do that!

When the girl appeared to be satisfied that the trellis was secure, she turned the rest of her body around and, in a very unladylike manner, brought the other leg out the window, dragging yards of lacy, frilly material behind her.

Because he wasn’t sure if what he was seeing was actually happening or if it was just some bad after effect of Blackie’s potent moonshine, Kane sat there like a bump on a log, watching the girl in the wedding dress shimmy down the trellis. When she nearly lost her footing, he nearly had a heart attack. I told you to be careful for Christ’s sake!

The part of Kane that couldn’t stand to see a woman in trouble wanted to get out of the truck and talk her down; make sure her feet hit the ground before any other part of her body. But the part of him that knew ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ told him to stay right where he was. In his truck...behind the wheel...not getting involved.

As soon as the girl’s feet hit the ground, Kane breathed a sigh of relief. At the same time, she grabbed up a giant handful of material in her left hand and ran into the middle of the road to retrieve her duffle bag. Amazed, Kane watched intently, accidentally making eye contact with her when she stood up straight and slung the duffle bag over her shoulder.

Shit! He chastised himself for the mistake and averted his gaze quickly, but not quickly enough.

Apparently having taken their meeting-of-the-eyes as an invitation, she once again gathered a mass of material in her hand and awkwardly ran around to the back of his truck. He heard the small thump of her bag landing in the open bed, and glanced in the rearview mirror just in time to see a blob of white material tumble over the tailgate and land next to the bag with a very loud bang.

Kane squeezed his eyes shut and reopened them, hoping this was some kind of hallucination. But the girl was still there. Only now, she was frantically waving at him, yelling at him to drive. Go! she shouted frantically. Go! Please!

Because he didn’t want to end up staring down the barrels of a shotgun while being forced to explain to the girl’s fiancé why the two of them were together, Kane pressed the accelerator to the floor and took off toward home.

He was relieved—to say the least—when he took one last look in the rearview mirror as he turned the corner. The alley was empty and there wasn’t a soul in sight. No one was looking for the escapee in the frilly wedding dress.

Not yet, anyway.

* * * *

Oh, why did I do this to myself?

Lizzie Barnes had gone from the frying pan into the fire.

Escape from the prison of holy matrimony to a man she didn’t even know had been the only thing on her mind when she’d jumped into the bed of this man’s pickup truck.

Hitching a ride in the vehicle had seemed like a good idea at the time; she’d needed a savior, and out of nowhere, her knight had appeared in an extended cab, flat black pickup truck. But now, as the truck sped down a dirt road deep into the woods, Lizzie realized the mistake she’d made.

It had been naïve of her to assume that the strange man would be anxious enough to get rid of her, that he’d stop along the side of the road and demand she vacate his vehicle.

Why had it been too late by the time it finally occurred to her that he might take advantage of her? Now, she was practically trapped. As far off the main road as they were, Lizzie knew there’d be little she could do to defend herself if the truck’s owner decided to have his way with her.

Especially in her current get-up.

A ten thousand dollar wedding dress wasn’t an ideal outfit for being on the run; she couldn’t move very fast with all the yards of lacy material weighing her down.

Still, there had to be a way out of this mess. Lizzie hadn’t risked her life running away from one dangerous man, only to find herself in the clutches of another.

I need to get out of the truck before we wind up so far from civilization, I’ll never find my way back.

For someone who hadn’t made five snap decisions in her entire life, Lizzie had made two in the past few minutes. Wasting as little time as possible, she dragged her duffle bag to her. Because she knew she’d never be able to hold onto that and all the excess material trailing from her dress, the bag would have to go first.

If she timed it right, she wouldn’t land more than five or ten feet from the bag. All she’d have to do then is pick it up and run as fast as twenty pounds of snow white, imported French lace would allow. If she could make it far enough into the trees before the man came after her, she could hide until he gave up searching. When she was sure he’d gone, she’d change her clothes behind the cover of the brush, leave the woods, and head to the bus station for a ticket to somewhere in another time zone.

Once again lying flat in the truck bed, Lizzie lifted her head and glanced through the back window. The man was facing forward and seemed to be paying no attention to her. Perfect. It’s now or never.

After a quick tug to make sure the zipper on her duffle bag was securely fastened, Lizzie gave it a mighty shove across the bed and watched it disappear off the tailgate. When it landed on the dirt road, she slithered across the bed on her stomach so the man wouldn’t see what she was doing.

When she reached the spot where her duffle bag had sailed to freedom, Lizzie began to have second thoughts. Although she doubted the vehicle was moving more than twenty miles an hour, staring at the road as it passed by made it feel like they were going much faster.

She was suddenly terrified of what was going to happen when her body collided with the ground. Truthfully, it didn’t matter. Whether or not she survived the fall was much less of a concern than what would happen if the man inside the truck had any funny ideas.

Afraid time was running out, Lizzie readied herself. One, two, three deep breaths later, she moved into a sitting position, took one last glance through the back window, and leapt off the tailgate.

Pain exploded in Lizzie’s legs as they flew out from under her the instant her feet touched the road. Her body flipped and twisted, her mouth filled with dirt, and the breath rushed from her lungs when, as she was toppling ass over teakettle, she hit the ground flat on her back. Panic set in as she struggled to breathe, wondering vaguely if this was what it felt like to die.

As her momentum slowed, Lizzie looked up and caught sight of the glow of the truck’s red break lights through a heavy cloud of brown dust. Because the sight of the vehicle sliding sideways as it came to an abrupt stop distracted her, Lizzie didn’t notice that she was careening toward a large rock at the edge of the road. Her last thought was that she couldn’t let the man get near her.

And then her world went black.

Chapter 2

Kane stared down at the auburn-haired woman in the tattered wedding dress.

His heart had nearly stopped when he saw her jump out of the bed of his truck, and again when he’d run the twenty yards to where her body lay deathly still on the side of the road. When he’d caught sight of the large lump on her forehead oozing blood, he’d been convinced that her collision with the rock had killed her.

Kane heard a pained moan escape her lips when he knelt in the dirt and touched her neck in an attempt to find a pulse. He scooped her up, set her in the cab of the truck, and sped toward his house.

Now that she was settled in his bed, Kane and his cousin, Brady, stood side-by-side staring down at her.

You sure she’s alive? Brady asked.

Kane turned to the cousin who’d been his best friend since before the two of them were out of diapers. Separated in age by just a few days, looking at Brady was like looking in a mirror; his own face was very much like his cousin’s. They couldn’t have looked more alike if they’d been twins.

He gave Brady a slight shove and motioned toward the rise and fall of the girl’s chest. Of course she’s alive, stupid; she’s breathing, isn’t she?

To make sure he was right, Kane followed Brady’s gaze when he focused it on the girl. Thankfully, she was, indeed, alive. At least for now.

Brady shrugged. Okay, so she’s breathing. What the hell are we supposed to do with her?

That was a good question. When he’d peeled her off the road, Kane hadn’t thought much past getting her to safety and making sure she was okay. Since she was unconscious, he’d taken his chances and run his hands along her body to make sure she didn’t have any broken bones. He found none. With the exception of the large lump on her forehead and a few cuts and scrapes, she seemed unhurt. He hoped.

I guess we should get her cleaned up. That gash on her face is bleeding pretty bad.

But she’s in a wedding dress, Kane. She belongs to someone else!

Kane looked at his cousin. Did all the moonshine you drank last night pickle your brain? Christ, Brady, I’m not going to fondle her! I just want to chisel some of the dirt off her face and stop that head wound from bleeding.

She’s someone’s wife, Kane.

Unsure why the thought of this girl being married to another man bothered him, Kane felt a sudden need to defend himself. Yeah. And that someone could be a killer. Or maybe he beats her. Ever think of that? There’s a reason she risked her life climbing down the trellis in a damn fifty pound wedding gown.

Brady cocked an eyebrow, but Kane ignored his cousin’s skepticism. What should I have done, left her lying in the road? What if the situation was reversed and that was Georgia who’d escaped someone who’d been hurting her? If she was injured and unconscious, wouldn’t you want someone to help her?

At the mention of their young cousin, Brady’s features softened. Georgia was only twenty years old, thirteen years younger than the two of them. She’d suffered unspeakable horrors during the four years her father had held her prisoner and forced her into prostitution and heroin addiction. Because of that, all of them—no one more than her three older, half brothers, Blackie, Judd, and Rebel—were very protective over her.

Kane knew he’d gotten his point across when Brady mumbled, I’ll get the peroxide, and turned to leave the room.

When he was gone, Kane stepped closer to the bed and took a better look at the girl. He didn’t recognize her and had no idea who she was, but figured that question would be easy enough to answer by taking a quick look through her duffle bag. Even though blood and dirt covered her face, he could tell she was young. Not as young as Georgia, but probably still in her early twenties.

He wondered briefly what she looked like under all that grime, and how long it was going to be before someone came looking for her.

When Brady returned with a bowl of warm, soapy water, a bottle of peroxide, and a handful of clean rags, Kane set everything up on the small nightstand next to his bed and got to work. The girl didn’t so much as flinch as he washed her off, carefully avoiding the area where she’d hit her head.

She hasn’t even moved, Brady commented. What if she’s in a coma or something?

Kane couldn’t believe the occasional stupidity that came out of Brady’s mouth. He felt embarrassed when he realized what was worse: that the two of them were exactly alike. Knowing that some of the things he said must sound just as stupid, actually bothered him. A lot. And it showed when he responded in a low voice, laced heavily with sarcasm. I’m no doctor. But since she mumbled, ‘don’t touch me,’ when I put my hands on her face and attempted to clean her cut, I’m pretty sure she’s not in a coma.

His observation won him no praise from his cousin. Instead, he was rewarded with one of Brady’s trademark smirks. It meant nothing other than that he knew he was wrong. "Fine, so she’s not in a coma. But she is hurt. Exactly what is it that we’re supposed to do with her?"

Kane wasn’t surprised to hear Brady say ‘we’. McCassey’s were always there for each other. The two of them had been through a lot together, and this situation—no matter how ridiculous it seemed—was no different. If she died on them and needed to be buried, Brady would be right beside Kane, digging with his own shovel. All the McCassey’s would. That’s just how their tight-knit family was.

If she lives through my doctoring but still hasn’t regained consciousness, we’ll wait until night falls and drop her off in the emergency room at Hagerstown Community Hospital.

Are you sure you want to do that? We don’t know anything about this girl, Kane. We could wind up in a shit load of trouble if we’re not careful. I’m not so sure we should be seen with her until we know more.

It was a risk; no doubt about it. But one they had to take. Yeah, well, we’ll be in a hell of a lot of trouble if she needs medical attention and we don’t get it for her. If she dies on us, Brady—

"Okay, okay, I get your point. So, what if she does wake up?"

Kane pushed the bowl of now muddy water to the side and reached for the bottle of peroxide. Then she can answer my laundry list of questions...beginning with why the hell she’s on the run when she’s clearly supposed to be getting—or just got—married.

What if she won’t talk to us?

Kane saturated the end of a clean rag with peroxide and reached forward to begin cleansing the girl’s wound. She’ll talk, he said as he gently dabbed the girl’s forehead. If she refuses, she’s getting tossed in the truck and delivered right back to where she came from.

Since Brady was always one for adding fuel to a fire, Kane was surprised—and relieved—that he didn’t respond. Kane knew he couldn’t bring himself to abandon a woman when she so obviously wanted, and needed, help. But that was a hell of a thing for a man to have to admit.

Ten minutes later, the girl looked completely different. Kane was pleased to discover that washing away the dirt had revealed soft skin and—although strangely pasty white—a clear complexion dotted with hundreds of light, caramel colored freckles. Her full, pink lips pouted slightly in her relaxed state. Long, auburn lashes extended from her lids.

Other than the pallor of her skin, what worried him about her appearance were the deep, dark circles under her eyes. He supposed they could’ve been caused by too much excitement and not enough sleep before her big day, but his gut told him otherwise.

Kane was more than a little curious about the identity of his mystery woman. He glanced at her duffle bag lying in the corner, tempted to dig through her stuff. He’d hastily tossed it there when he’d brought her inside, and hadn’t thought about it again until now. Although there was a good chance it held the answers to his questions, he couldn’t bring himself to invade her privacy.

With a sigh, he looked at the girl again. He’d checked her over good, and there was no reason she shouldn’t have regained consciousness by now. Truthfully, he was a little worried.

As if he’d read Kane’s mind, Brady made the same observation from the doorway. She should be up by now.

Without taking his eyes off the girl, Kane slowly rose from his seat on the edge of the bed. He stared at her for a long minute. "Yeah. I’m starting to think maybe we ought to call Uncle Frank. Any man who’s spent as much