Katrina gasped. "What…what do you want?" Her shaking voice was a mere whisper.
"Why, some of your money, what else? You don't think I came back for your filthy, untrained body, do you? Not when I can have some good lovin' elsewhere from someone who has enough sense to know how to make a man feel good!" His hateful laugh filled her ear, hiding the small choking sound Katrina made.
Charleston went on. "I won't even punish you for running away like you did. All you have to do is hand over the money, Baby. Give it to me. Give it all to me and I'll go away. Then you won't have to see me again. Where is it? In the bank?"
Shuddering from her fear, Katrina stood silently, biting her bottom lip.
"Ah, I can see you're surprised by my call. You shouldn't have been. When Uncle Andrew kicked off, he should have left the bundle to me and Jason, not to you, you filthy slut!" His voice got louder with his anger. "Kin! He should have left it to kin! We figured…."
Charleston stopped and took a loud, gulping breath. His voice once more a hateful, sneering sound, he continued.
"I'll bet that fancy-pants lawyer is sweet-talking you so he'll get the money instead of us," he accused her. "Well, it won't work, Brat! You're still married to me. I won't give you a divorce. You left me, remember? No court in the country will grant you a divorce because you left first!" He laughed his evil, demonic laugh once more. "You're mine, Baby! Mine! And what you think belongs to you is mine, too!" He laughed again, curdling the blood in her veins.
Katrina closed her eyes in an effort to shut out his voice. It didn't work.
"Baby, I'll be there in ten minutes. You'd better either give me the money, or have the bank book signed over to me. Otherwise, I'll just have to stay with you until Monday, when the banks open and you can get the money out and hand it to me. I just know you'll love getting reacquainted with me and Jason, too, until Monday, won't you, Baby Brat?" The wicked laughter floated into Katrina's ear, making her go cold all over. The line went dead, the dial tone coming on to drone in her ear.
The phone fell from her nerveless fingers and bounced on the floor. Stark terror constricted her breathing. She looked up and saw Gavin standing before her, a look of concern on his face. She reached for him, holding onto his arm, silently begging for protection. Her mouth was working soundlessly, trying to form the words. Nothing came, not even a whisper.
"Was it Charleston?"
"What did he say?"
Her mouth worked for several seconds while she tried to get her vocal chords to respond. Finally, a hoarsely whispered, "He's…he's coming here! He'll be here in ten min…minutes," shuddered from her throat. Katrina was shaking so badly she was finding it difficult to stand, even with Gavin's help.
Gavin swore as he steadied her. He began issuing orders.
"Let's move it! Where's your suitcase?" Katrina pointed to the basket. Gavin's eyebrow raised a fraction.
She swallowed. His giving her orders and his funny look at her about her 'suitcase' helped her more than anything else, even though fear still chilled her.
She gave Gavin a small, wry smile. "Sorry, no suitcase yet. I didn't plan on moving again for a long time."
"Don't worry about it. Take your basket and get in my car. Here’s the keys." He thrust a key ring at her.
"We've got to be long gone before he gets here!"
Katrina took his keys, then automatically stooped and picked up the phone, hanging it up. She ran to the closet and retrieved her jacket, folding it quickly and setting it on top of the basket. Her purse was hanging on the closet door handle; she picked it up and began frantically rummaging through it, peering into its depths, fear making her breath come in short gasps.
Gavin came back into the room. “Where are your house keys?” he asked.
Katrina’s questing fingers closed on them and she pulled them from her purse.
“Here,” she said, handing them to Gavin.
She picked up the laundry basket, balancing it between one hand and her hip as she hurried toward the door.
Katrina scurried ahead to unlock the car and stuff her basket on the rear seat while Gavin secured the door of her home. They climbed into his car and he started the engine. Quickly, he backed the car from the driveway and drove down the street.
Gavin pulled out his cell phone and hit two buttons, then waited.
“Beals, Charleston called Katrina’s home about two minutes ago. He said he’d be here in ten minutes.”
There was a pause. “No, we’re out of the house…yes…yes…I’ll talk to you shortly, then…. Goodbye.” Gavin pressed one more button and slid the phone into his pocket.
Katrina reflected for a few moments on the miracle of the technology, and how easy it actually was to connect two people who were moving in opposite directions. In another time, someone with a cell phone would probably have been burned as a witch.
Katrina hastily suppressed the giggle which threatened to escape at that mental picture. Fortunately, one thought of Charleston was sufficient to stifle all of her merriment.
Gavin turned down another street and wound through back alleyways and small side streets to make sure they were not being followed.
Finally satisfied, he turned onto larger, more well-traveled streets. At a stop light, Katrina looked at him as he took a paper from his shirt pocket. He looked at it, his eyes moving back and forth as he read what was written there, then looked up at her.
"Kitten? Are you okay?"
Still staring at him, she said a faint 'yes'.
The light turned to green and Gavin drove on. Katrina looked back at the road in front of them, although she didn’t really see it. Her thoughts were on what Charleston had said, his words tumbling over and over in her mind. She shot an uneasy look at Gavin, then decided to ask some of the questions somersaulting in her brain.
“Charleston said Uncle Andrew was dead. Is that true?”
He shot her a quick look and shrugged one shoulder.
“What else did he tell you?”
She looked at him quizzically. “I want to know if Uncle Andrew is dead. Charleston said he was. Is he?”
“Yes.” Gavin’s tone was flat, his eyes on the road ahead.
She dropped her eyes to her hands, and saw them twisting in her lap. She clasped them tightly to stop their motion. Katrina felt a great, hard lump rise in her chest, nearly choking her. The sting of tears blurred her vision and she blinked hard to keep them from falling.
Catching her lower lip between her teeth, she saw him in her mind’s eye as she and Charleston had left his home. He’d been sitting in his big easy chair, the little lap quilt tucked around his knees. She’d kissed him on the cheek, and murmured her thanks for having them visit. Charleston had never let her return.
“Katrina?” Gavin’s voice intruded and with a start, she looked over at him.
“There’s a packet of tissues in the glove compartment.”
She reached up and touched her cheek, finding it wet with tears. Getting a tissue out of the packet, she took time to dry her face.
“Are you Uncle Andrew’s lawyer?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered after a short pause.
“Are you Charleston’s lawyer, too?”
“No.” The word was clipped, cold; not like the warmth of his last one-worded answer.
“Charleston said Uncle Andrew left some money to me. Is that true?”
“Charleston said that?”
“Yes. He also threatened that he and Jason would...spend the weekend getting…um, reacquainted…with me, and if I didn’t turn Uncle Andrew’s money over to them on Monday when the banks open….” Katrina’s voice trailed off into frightened silence.
Gavin made several more turns and drove on in silence, keeping his gaze straight ahead.
“Did he make specific threats?” He finally asked.
“No, he never makes specific threats,” Katrina said, “but what he does to you if you don’t give him what he wants….” She shivered as the old memories resurfaced.
“Did Uncle Andrew leave me money?” she finally asked once more when the silence had stretched too long.
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Can’t tell me, or won’t tell me?”
“Can’t. Not just now, anyway.”
“There are some conditions in the will that have to be satisfied before I am at liberty to discuss it.”
“If this will concerns me, don’t you think I have the right to know? Charleston obviously does. He knows, and I get to sit here ignorant while he makes plans to kill me for some money I don’t even have, is that it?”
“Look, Katrina, I know you have a million questions floating inside your pretty head right now, but I can not…I repeat, I can not tell you the answers just yet. Please trust me. I will tell you the answers to everything as soon as I can. Right now, the most important thing is to get you to a safe place and keep you away from Charleston. I don’t think he’s really happy at the moment, so it’s best to keep you out of his way. Okay?”
Katrina mulled over his answer, and bit her bottom lip before deciding to trust him, at least for the moment. He may have questions for her, but now she was gathering a list. She wanted answers, too. Maybe they could be a bargaining chip for her…he could answer one each time she did. At any rate, she’d back off—for now.
“Where is this safe place?”
“It’s a motel not far from where we are now, I think.”
“A motel? A motel is a safe place? What if it happens to be the same motel Charleston is staying at? What do we do then? Waltz down to his room and have a cozy little chat with him? Yeah, right!” She was frightened and angry, and all they could offer her was a dinky little motel room? Katrina would go crazy in a tiny place without being able to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on her face.
Gavin didn’t answer her, which goaded her anger further.
“I can see it now; you and me, walking up to his room and knocking on the door. ‘Hello, Charleston, how are you doing? Do you have a minute? I’d like to ask you if you were at the zoo taking pot shots at me yesterday? Oh, and by the way, who was your delightful little friend on the truck who almost ran me down? How much did you have to pay him for that little trick? Too bad he missed! Is that when you decided to shoot me yourself? And how much did you pay your little actor friends to perform our ‘marriage’? I hope you got your money’s worth from both jobs, Charleston! By the way, now that we’ve gotten back together, can I have a pretend divorce to go along with the pretend marriage—because I really don’t want to be married to you—pretend or not—any more than you want to be married to me!” She stopped talking, her chest heaving with her emotions.
It was a moment or two before she realized the car had stopped.
She blinked and looked at the motel’s office door in front of her, then looked over at Gavin. His face was serious, his arms crossed over his chest.
“If it’s any consolation, Katrina,” he said quietly, “none of this is working out the way I’d planned. It won’t be much longer before I can answer all your questions, but I’m asking you to please trust me. As for the safe-ness of this motel, I can tell you this…there is a female officer who will act as your bodyguard waiting in your room for us, who has checked out the room, the hotel, and the guests before I brought you here. Your safety is my primary concern. If you’re through yelling at me, can we go in now? Sally’s waiting for us.”