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Authors: Shannyn Schroeder

Hold Me Close

BOOK: Hold Me Close
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By Shannyn Schroeder
THE O’LEARYS
 
More Than This
A Good Time
Something to Prove
Catch Your Breath
Just a Taste
Hold Me Close
 
 
HOT & NERDY
 
Her Best Shot
Her Perfect Game
Her Winning Formula
HOLD ME
Close
The O’Learys
SHANNYN SCHROEDER
LYRICAL PRESS
Kensington Publishing Corp.
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
To all the survivors
Acknowledgments
Wow! I can’t believe that this is my last O’Leary book. When I started this journey years ago with the manuscript that would become
More Than This
, I never imagined a series. Back then, I hadn’t given Maggie O’Leary’s history a whole lot of thought. When I decided that the O’Learys should be a series, the reality of that history hit me, which is why Maggie’s was the last book to be written.
I had a lot of help with this book. There were so many pieces that I was afraid of messing up. First, thank you to Beth Kery for reading the scenes with Maggie’s therapist to make sure I didn’t have her say or do anything egregious. Next, thanks to Remi Hunter, former Chicago Police, for helping me with all of the steps of becoming a Chicago cop. Any mistakes you find in the book are on me, not these extremely helpful ladies.
None of my books would be what they are without the help of my beta readers. Hanna Martine and Pamala Knight always push me to make the book better. Their advice is priceless.
And of course, my agent, Fran Black, and my editor, Peter Senftleben, who have always believed in me and my books. To my kids, who only look at me a little weird when I am deadline crazed and talk too much about characters and plot. Thanks for throwing out ideas, even if I don’t use them.
Thank you to all of the readers, bloggers, and reviewers who are fans of the O’Learys. Your love of this fictional family has brightened more than one day for me. While I’ll miss the O’Learys, there are new things on the horizon.
Finally, thank you to every rape survivor who has ever shared her story. I hope I got Maggie right.
CHAPTER 1
S
hane Callahan drove the loop around O’Hare again. He could’ve parked in the cell phone lot, or if he’d been smart he would’ve waited for Maggie to call him when she landed. But excitement overtook him. She was coming home.
Finally. For good.
He stayed in the left lane, moving like a snail, hoping he’d see Maggie emerge from the airport. Instead, another cab cut him off. He bypassed the terminals and curved left for another trip around. His cell phone buzzed. He glanced at the screen and saw the message from Maggie.
 
I’m here! Have my luggage. Be out in a few minutes.
 
His heart raced. He took a slow breath. He felt like a kid on Christmas morning. At least the weather made that believable. The city had been hit with another snowstorm last night. The nasty weather made February feel like the longest month instead of the shortest.
Shane shifted into the center lane until he pulled up at the international terminal. Maggie stood at the curb, stomping her feet. Her short jacket barely met her waist. And she had no gloves. Her cheeks were pink as the wind whipped her hair around.
She was a sight for sore eyes.
He stopped the truck and had nearly forgotten to put it in park before opening his door. His big smile stretched his cheeks in a way they hadn’t been in forever. He rounded the back of the truck, and Maggie ran and jumped at him.
His first thought was that she’d lost weight again. She was nothing in his arms. But as she wrapped her arms around his neck and he breathed in her scent, he couldn’t think of anything but Maggie. She was home.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said, muffled against his shoulder.
Even though he didn’t want to, he released her and set her back on the curb. Looking at the suitcase at her feet, he asked, “Is that all you have?”
“Yeah. I shipped back boxes that’ll arrive in a few days. I hope. I didn’t want to worry about customs. I just wanted to get home.”
He grabbed the suitcase and put it on the narrow backseat of the truck and offered Maggie a hand to step up into the vehicle. “Everything okay with your mom?”
“Yeah, I guess. Not that I would take her word for it. Ryan said the doctor has said she’s doing well, and as long as she continues to eat right and take her meds, she can bounce back from the heart attack.”
He closed her door and got behind the wheel.
“I wanted to be back here weeks ago, but I felt bad for my boss. I didn’t want to leave him with no help, and then there was all the packing. I didn’t realize how much stuff I’d accumulated over the last year and a half.”
She rubbed her hands together in front of the vent, so he turned the heater up full blast.
“Not that I’m complaining about you finally coming home, but are you here just because of your mom?” He flicked a glance in her direction when she didn’t answer.
“Not really,” she finally said. “I mean, that was a big thing. But as much as I loved traveling and meeting new people, it started to feel like I was still running away.”
As Shane pulled out of the airport and onto the Kennedy Expressway, he smiled at the snarl of traffic. Rush hour would give him more time alone with Maggie. Her family would occupy her every minute as soon as they found out she was home.
“Running from what?”
“Everything.” She turned the heater down. “I need to get my life back.”
An uneasy sensation pricked the back of his neck. Whenever Maggie spoke with that kind of conviction, it usually meant she planned to do something other people wouldn’t like. “How do you mean?”
She stared out the passenger window. “Let’s stop for some coffee.”
Shane made his way to the right lane and the nearest exit. He got off at Harlem and drove down the street until he came to the mall. Slush coated the street and mountains of snow were piled on the curbs. Shane pulled into the parking lot and found a spot.
Maggie jumped from the truck and didn’t wait for him as she headed into the mall, her hands tucked tightly into her jacket pockets. Her hair was longer than he remembered. The dark strands flowed behind her. He smelled perfume in her wake as he caught up with her.
The mall wasn’t crowded, and they found a coffee shop, ordered, and sat at a small table. Shane draped his jacket over the back of his chair, but Maggie kept hers on. The girl was always cold.
“Spill it, Magpie.”
Her gaze shot up to meet his at the use of her nickname. Although her siblings had given her the name because she’d been so loud as a kid, he knew she’d become quieter over the last few years.
“When I left Chicago, Ryan was pissed. He accused me of running away.”
“Big brothers can be like that.” He’d lock his sisters up if they even thought about running halfway around the world alone.
“But he thought I was running from him. You know how he is. And in my mind, that might’ve been it too. But after traveling around and settling in with my cousins, I realized I was still missing out on life.” She sipped her coffee. “Ever since Todd . . .” She paused, and Shane knew she did it to gather her strength because she hated talking about him.
Shane reached out and held her hand.
“He took so much from me, Shane. It’s been almost five years since he raped me, and I’ve never stepped back in O’Leary’s. It’s my family’s bar. I grew up there, and he took that from me. And my first apartment. I’m supposed to have great memories about my first apartment, but that’s ruined.”
“I know,” he whispered. Guilt tugged at him.
Her fingers tightened on his. “I’m taking it all back.”
“How?”
“I’m going to talk to Ryan and start working at the bar. And if there’s an apartment available above the bar, I’m going to move in there.”
Shane’s lungs froze. Yeah, it had been nearly five years, but he remembered all the times where something would trigger a bad reaction in Maggie. She couldn’t go some places or see things or smell things without falling apart. She had good reason to have stayed away from O’Leary’s. No one expected her to go back.
He forced oxygen into his body. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Something needs to happen. I’m better, Shane. I really am, but I’m still not myself.”
He stroked his thumb along her knuckles. There was a time that even this small contact had been too much for her. She was better. He saw it all the time. But still. “Have you talked to Dr. Janzen about this?”
Maggie sipped her coffee again and shook her head. “I have an appointment later this week.”
Great. So she dumped this on him before her family, before her therapist. How the fuck was he supposed to know what to say?
“Rushing into something like this isn’t a good idea. You need to think about it and talk to Dr. Janzen. She’s always steered you right.”
“I’m not rushing. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I miss being part of the family business. Everyone tiptoes around me when it comes to the bar. They’re all still afraid to even talk about the business in front of me. It’s ridiculous.”
“But living above the bar?”
“I don’t want to live with my mom forever.”
He could definitely sympathize with that idea. “I’m looking for a new place too. Why don’t we go rent something together?”
“What happened with Joe?”
“His brother needs an apartment, so Joe asked me to move out.”
“That sucks.”
“So what do you say?”
She bit down on her bottom lip. “I need to live above O’Leary’s. To know that I can.”
Thoughts raced through his mind. “At least wait to talk to Ryan until after you see Dr. Janzen.”
“She won’t change my mind.”
He already knew that. But it would buy him some time. “She’ll talk to you about how to approach it, though.”
Maggie nodded and smiled.
The knot of tension in his neck and the flurry of thoughts in his head disappeared. He’d seen her smile every time they FaceTimed or Skyped, but nothing could compare to the real thing.
“That’s why I wanted to see you before I told my family I was coming home. I knew I could count on you to listen and not tell me I’m dumb.”
“You’re never dumb.”
“Yeah, well, sometimes I do dumb things. And my family likes to point it out to me all the time.” She finished her coffee, and he realized he hadn’t even touched his.
He wanted to talk her out of this. It was a bad idea and had a ton of potential to set her back. He couldn’t bear to see her go back. He couldn’t imagine not seeing her gorgeous smile again.
“Thanks for the coffee. I think I’m ready to see my family now.” She stood, breaking contact with him.
When he stood, she wrapped her arms around his waist and settled her head on his chest.
“I’m glad you came to pick me up. I needed this.”
“Me too.” He’d missed her something fierce over the months.
Maggie stared out the window as Shane took streets through the city to get her to her mom’s house. Asking him to pick her up had been a good choice. She could’ve asked Moira, but her sister would try to talk her out of her plan. Shane was the best listener she’d ever known. He’d proven it again today. The guy even remembered the name of her therapist. Who did that?
Shane. Always Shane. He’d been there for her through the good and the really, really bad. Even when it was hard, and she’d tried to push him away because she didn’t think she could be around any guy after being raped, he stayed. Not in an obnoxious
I know what’s best for you
way, but an
I care about you
way. Without him, she probably never would have had the guts to travel.
After he pulled up in front of her mom’s house, he put the truck in park but didn’t turn off the ignition.
“Coming in?”
He let out a small chuckle. “You decided to come home without telling your family. Then you had me pick you up from the airport. They’re going to have plenty to say, and I don’t want to be caught in the crossfire. I think I’ll head home.”
“Chicken.”
“Smart.”
“Whatever.” She yanked on the handle and jumped from the cab.
Shane met her and grabbed her suitcase. After setting it on the curb at her feet, he held her hand. “I’m glad you’re finally home.”
“You’re gonna get sick of me.”
“Never.” He slammed the door. “Give me a call if you want to get together later.”
“My family will probably fill my night. And then some. I’ll call when I need to escape.” She hefted the bag and stared at the front door. Although she knew Shane had gotten back behind the wheel, the truck didn’t move.
Of course he’d wait for her to go inside. She waved at Shane and walked up the steps. The last time she’d made this trip, she entered a living room filled with her siblings all crying. Their mother had had a heart attack and was in the hospital. The whole episode made Maggie realize how much she was missing. Not just for herself, but with her family.
As the youngest, she’d always been able to count on having her family there. It had never occurred to her that at some point they might not be. She turned the knob on the door and found resistance. She fished out her keys and let herself in.
With the door closed at her back she paused and took a slow inhale. No dinner smells. And quiet. She couldn’t remember a time when home was quiet.
“Mom?” she called, hoping her mom was there.
“What? Who is it?”
A relieved sigh joined the smile on her face. “It’s me, Maggie.”
She turned the corner and walked through the living room and dining room. Her mother stood at the door to the kitchen. The teacup in her hand shook. Maybe a surprise homecoming wasn’t the best idea.
“What’s wrong?” Eileen asked.
“Nothing. I’m home. For good.”
Her mom set her tea on the table. “When did this come about? And without so much as a phone call.”
Maggie hugged her mom and breathed in the scents of Jean Naté cologne and Estée Lauder makeup. Mom gave her a quick pat on the back.
“How do you feel?” she asked Eileen.
“Fine. Same as I have been every time you’ve asked. I’ve had enough of the coddling.” She took up her cup again and sipped before sitting at the dining room table.
Yeah, Mom was back to herself. Even with regular reports from her siblings about Mom being fine, nothing could replace experiencing it. She sat adjacent to Eileen. “Is it okay if I move back in for a while? It’ll only be for a little bit until I figure out what I’m doing next.”
“Of course. I have this big house all to myself.”
“Thanks.”
Her mom stared at her with narrowed eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.”
“Then why are you home?”
“It was time.”

Psh
. You came back because of my trip to the doctor.”
BOOK: Hold Me Close
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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