“Rats and damnation!” Jacob swore under his breath as he heard a key entered into the lock on the front door of the small apartment. He quickly looked around for a place to hide before Quincy Darles discovered him lurking inside the bedroom. The only window inside the room boasted a small air conditioning unit, and was, therefore, excluded as a possible escape route. Jacob made his way to the closet, buying a few precious seconds, and then quickly remembered the opening in the ceiling of the closet. He didn’t waste time debating the advisability of reaching up and removing the wood covering, and just that quickly he used his powerful upper body strength to hoist himself up into the attic above the apartment. He barely had time to replace the covering before the closet door opened below him.
Darles swore when his cell phone rang, but he answered it with a menacing growl. “Yeah?”
Jacob couldn’t make out what was being said on the other end, but Darles replied, “I’ll be there at midnight, and we’ll deal with that bastard, James. I’m going to catch some Zs in the meantime, so don’t call unless the sky is falling. Got that?” He listened again, and said, “Yeah, yeah, bye.” He threw the cell phone down and within a very short time Jacob heard the man snoring.
“Great!” he whispered under his breath. How in hell was he to get out of here now? He couldn’t risk waking Darles. Jacob’s dark eyes were already adjusted to the dark space, and he easily found the penlight he always carried and looked about for some alternate way to escape. He was shocked to realize he could see beyond Darles’ apartment, and immediately surmised the attic area was completely open above the apartments below and covered the entire building. Ever so slowly, Jacob rose as much as his six-foot seven-inch frame would allow, silently made his way across the attic to the apartment next door, and found the small covering over the opening in the closet of that unit.
He’d picked this time of day for his work since the occupants of the apartments were all at work and there was less chance of discovery, but Jacob preferred doors and picking locks to crawling through dusty attics that showed how cheaply the apartments were built, no matter the amount of the rent paid to live in them. Jacob shook his head when he realized how easy it was to get from one apartment to another and swore that no member of his family would ever live in one of these places. It just wasn’t safe.
He quietly lifted the covering from the hole cut in the ceiling of the closet, and lightly dropped to the carpeted floor. Two seconds later he opened the closet door and stopped in his tracks. The woman who lived in the small apartment was home.
Kari Morgan suddenly sensed she wasn’t alone in the bedroom and was very aware she was standing there completely nude. She grabbed for her nightgown and hastily pulled it on before whirling to see a very tall man standing in front of her closet looking at her with large brown eyes. She opened her mouth to scream but the man was on her before she could make a sound, his large hand covering her mouth as he forced her down on the bed. Kari struggled, trying to get free, terrified that he was going to rape her!
“Sweetheart, I’m not going to hurt you,” Jacob whispered, trying to calm the pretty young woman. She couldn’t be more than twenty years old, and she was scared out of her mind at the moment. “Baby, shh! Stop struggling. I won’t hurt you, I swear,” he said as convincingly as he could. Still, she continued to fight him, despite the fact that she didn’t stand a prayer of escaping whatever he intended to do. “Sweetheart… Do not bite! I’ll spank you if you bite again!” he promised as he felt his temper flare just a bit. “I won’t hurt you,” he repeated himself.
Kari was not going to let him have his way with her. She didn’t want her first time to be like this! She continued to fight with all she had, but she was running out of strength. She’d left work early because she was feeling like hell, and she’d wanted nothing more than to crawl in her bed. And now she feared she was going to be sick all over the place, and the man had his hand over her mouth!
“Sweetheart, it is important that you listen to me.” Jacob held her a bit tighter, limiting her movements even more, well aware that she was trying to bite his hand again. “I am NOT going to harm you. Please settle down now and just listen. And, do NOT bite me again unless you want me to set your bottom on fire!” He saw her green eyes widen, and he suddenly realized her skin was burning. Her eyes were glazed with fever, and he feared she was having trouble breathing. “You’re burning up, sweetheart.”
Jacob suddenly recognized the look in her eyes for what it was, and without giving the matter another thought, he picked her up and carried her to the bathroom just in time for her to be ill. He held her long red hair out of the way. “Poor baby. You are literally burning up. It’ll be all right, I promise.”
Kari was mortified. She hated being sick, but to be sick in front of a man dressed all in black who was hiding in her closet to rape her was beyond words. It was just too bizarre. When she finally finished, she was too weak to get up off the floor, but the intruder gently lifted her and helped her put toothpaste on her toothbrush.
“Brush the taste out of your mouth, sweetheart, and then I’ll get you back in bed.”
“No,” she pleaded. “Don’t!” Her eyes filled with tears and she started to cry.
“I promise I won’t hurt you, baby.” Jacob felt guilt wash over him for frightening her so badly. “Brush now.” He kept an arm around her waist to steady her.
Kari brushed slowly, stalling the inevitable. When he filled a paper cup with water, she swished and spit, but felt so weak she wanted to die. Her head ached unbearably, and she was shivering uncontrollably. She felt so helpless.
Jacob carried her back into the bedroom. He managed to pull down the blankets and then said calmly, “Get into bed now, sweetheart.” She resisted, crying, and Jacob simply picked her up again and placed her on the mattress. He pulled the sheet and blanket over her. “Don’t cry. Is there someone I can call to come and help you? Your parents or a sibling? A boyfriend?”
“No. I just moved here and I don’t know anyone at all,” she admitted, and then wanted to kick herself. She’d just told a rapist that she was all alone and no one would be checking on her.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jacob said. “I’ll take care of you.” He walked to the bathroom to look for a thermometer, found one immediately, and came back to the bedroom as she was trying to push down the blankets to get to her handbag and her cell phone to call for help. “Don’t get up, baby. You’re too weak for that.” Before she could protest, he had the thermometer in her mouth, taking her temperature.
Kari saw the frown on his face when he read her temperature. “Is it high?”
“Very. You’re sick, baby. Do you have a doctor I can call?”
“Okay.” Jacob took out his cell phone, much to her shock, and hit a number on speed dial. The call was answered right away. “Hey, bro, I need you. I have a friend who is very ill, new in town, and she needs help right now. Her temp is nearly one hundred and four!”
Kari’s eyes widened at that news. No wonder she was so weak and felt like she was going to die. She listened in dismay as he gave her address to the other person, and then listened to some instructions. “I’ll do that. Thanks, bro.”
“Jason said to give you some Tylenol to take down your temperature. He’ll be here as quickly as he can get across town.”
“I don’t have any Tylenol. I use regular aspirin.”
“That will have to do then.” Jacob smiled at her, and then headed for the bathroom once more. He returned shortly with two pills and a paper cup of water from the tap. He held them out to her and she looked at him suspiciously. “I’m not drugging you, sweetheart. These are aspirin from your own bottle. Now take them and stop being so suspicious.”
“Wouldn’t you be suspicious if you found a stranger hiding in your closet?” she retorted angrily.
“I’d probably shoot first; ask questions later,” he admitted with a grin as he watched her examine the aspirin and then taste one with her tongue before she swallowed them with some water. “Now you rest until Jason gets here. He’ll know what to do to help you get better.”
“Where will you be?” she asked worriedly.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll let Jason in when he gets here. You rest, sweetheart,” he insisted, pushing her back down on her pillow and covering her once more. He gave her forehead a gentle kiss and said, “I promise you that you are safe. No one is going to harm you in any way while I’m here, most especially me.”
He walked out of her bedroom, but left the door open so he could hear her if she called out for help, or in case she tried to get out of bed. She was too weak to try something like that, and he didn’t want her to fall and hurt herself.
Kari tried to get out of bed, but she was simply too weak. Her head and the rest of her body ached unbearably, and she felt so helpless. Her father had told her that she needed to get a landline in her apartment and make sure she had a telephone beside her bed. But she’d told him that she couldn’t afford the extra expense, and refused his help when he offered to pay the bill for her. She’d wanted to make it on her own, but her dad was right. She needed that telephone right now. She was all alone in her apartment with a man who was either a thief or a rapist. And, he’d called another man to come right on over. What would they do to her? Or with her? What if they were human traffickers? Kari started crying again, and just couldn’t stop. She was so ill, and terrified out of her mind.
The first thing Jacob did when he left the redhead’s room was to find her purse on the table beside the front door, and without the least bit of hesitation, he dumped out the contents and went through everything in there. It didn’t take him long to learn her name and where she was from before she came here. She had less than thirty dollars cash on her, and her checking account had approximately five hundred dollars. She certainly wasn’t rich, but according to her checkbook, her bills were all paid. She only had one credit card, and he nodded in approval when he decided that she paid her bill in full each month. The pretty little redhead had a head on her shoulders. He replaced everything in her purse, and then went to peek in the bedroom. Kari was crying and trying to be quiet so he wouldn’t hear her.
“Is there anything I can get you, sweetheart?” he asked, handing her a box of tissues from her dresser.
“No. I wish you would simply go away,” she begged.
“I can’t leave you here alone while you’re so ill,” Jacob said gently. “Your temperature is too high, and you might need to go to the hospital.”
“I’ll call my dad,” she said weakly.
“Kari, your dad lives too far away to get here today. You’re stuck with me.”
“You know my name!” she wailed.
“I looked in your handbag,” he admitted, feeling a bit sheepish. “I know where you moved from, that your bills are all paid up, and you like spearmint gum and orange Tic Tacs.”
She paled considerably and the bright spots of fever on her cheeks were even more prominent. “Are you a thief?” she asked.
“No!” Jacob denied, insulted. The doorbell rang, and he went to answer the summons.
Kari tried again to get out of the bed, but was unable to do so. A few seconds later, the tall man was back with another who was almost as tall. The contrast between them would have been laughable if she felt better and wasn’t so darn frightened. One was dressed all in black, and the other all in white.
“Hello, sweetheart. Jacob tells me you’re sick. We’ll take care of you,” the new man promised, his words soft and soothing and she was surprised that she actually trusted him. “I’m Jason, by the way, and a doctor. Jacob is my big brother. What’s your name?”
“Kari,” she answered.
“Okay, Kari. Let’s get your temp again, and your BP and pulse.” The next few minutes were spent doing all the normal things doctors do, or rather, have nurses do for them.
Kari decided that if Jason wasn’t really a doctor, then he was a very good actor. When he took out a swab for a culture, she didn’t mind so much, but when he took out the tools necessary for a blood test, she tried to scramble out of his reach.
“I’m not going to hurt you, sweetheart,” Jason said soothingly. “I need to run a few tests to make sure I give you the right meds. I promise I’m very good at this, and I won’t poke you a bunch of times.”
He was so fast that Kari didn’t even realize he was ready to stick her until he said, “You’ll feel a little pinch now.” A few seconds later it was all done. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” He smiled reassuringly. “I’m going to give you an injection, sweetheart,” he announced as he took out a syringe and a bottle of medication. It didn’t take him long to prepare the shot. “This is an antibiotic, and while I would normally just start you on pills, I want this to get into your blood stream immediately. Flip over,” he ordered matter-of-factly, and then added, “Bro, give the girl some privacy, will you!”
“No! You are not going to give me any drugs,” Kari argued. “I won’t let you do that. Go away!”
“It’s an antibiotic, Kari, sweetheart,” Jason said calmly. “I’ll be gentle.”
“No, I won’t let you!” She shook her head and then moaned when the movement made the room spin.
Jacob heard Kari’s refusal, and hurried back into the room to deal with the recalcitrant patient. “Young lady, you are acting like a brat.” Without another word, he picked her up and sat down on the bed and bent her over his knee. A second later he pulled up her nightgown to bare her bottom for his brother. When Kari continued to struggle, he put an end to it the only way that seemed to make sense, giving her wiggling bottom two sound spanks. “Settle down unless you want me to spank you thoroughly, young lady,” he warned in a firm tone of voice.
Kari stilled immediately, and just that quickly, Jason gave her the injection.
Jacob stood and then tucked a sobbing Kari into bed again. “You’ll feel better soon, honey. No one is trying to harm you in any way.”
“Bro, what is going on here?” Jason demanded of his older brother. “Why is this little girl so frightened, and don’t you dare tell me it’s her fever. She is terrified.”
“I didn’t know she was here. I came out of the closet and scared her. I’ve told her she is safe,” Jacob said defensively.
“What were you doing in her closet?” Jason demanded, and then his dark eyes filled with comprehension. “Damn it, you are on a job, aren’t you?”
“Keep your voice down,” Jacob warned quietly.
“You are supposed to be on vacation!”
“You’re on a case, and you don’t have any backup, do you?”
“I don’t need backup, and if I do, I can call in and get some help.”
“I don’t like this.” Jason got to his feet to glare at his brother. “Did you at least tell this poor girl who you are and that you’re not a rapist?” When Jacob frowned, Jason exploded. “Damn it, Jake! Sweetheart, this idiot won’t hurt you. He’s a cop, and his name is Jacob Tobias. Unless you’ve committed a crime, you have nothing to fear from him, and if he gives you any trouble at all, you call this number and Ma will come and read him his rights before she smacks him down to her size.” He grinned, scribbling a number on the back of his own card. “My number is on the front, and if you feel any worse, let me know, no matter what time it is. I want you to stay in bed and rest. Drink lots of water and juice, and if you get up to go to the bathroom, you ask Jacob for help. He’s on vacation, and he is officially your duly appointed nurse for the next few days. I’d send for Ma, but you don’t want her nursing you, does she, Jake?”
“No, you really don’t,” Jacob agreed, shaking his head vigorously.
“Jake, if our patient gets hungry, chicken broth or Jell-O. Nothing else until we talk. Take her temperature, and if it goes up, call me right away. Did you give her the Tylenol?”
“All she has is aspirin.”
“No, too hard on her stomach,” Jason said firmly. “I’ll make a run to the store and get some stuff for you and be right back. You call if Kari needs me.”
“I will. Thanks,” Jacob said gratefully.
Jason started to say something else but changed his mind when he saw the stubborn set of Jacob’s jaw. Instead, he looked at Kari and said, “Rest now, sweetheart. Bro will take good care of you, and you have Ma’s number if he doesn’t.” He left the room, Jacob behind him. “She’s sick, Jake. Keep her in bed. Take her temperature every hour, and push liquids. I’ll be back in a few minutes with food and Tylenol. Do you need anything special?”
“No, just something to eat. I don’t know what Kari has in her kitchen.”
Jason left and Jacob went back to the bedroom, only to find his patient half out of bed. “Sweetheart, do you want a spanking?” he asked, reaching her side in less than two seconds flat.
“No!” she denied. “I want to go to the bathroom, and I do not want help,” she pouted.
“You heard Jase. You are too weak to attempt this on your own.”
“No, I’m not,” she argued.
He shook his head, but let her stand up on her own.
She took one step; the room started spinning and she would have fallen if he hadn’t been prepared to catch her.
He carried her to the bathroom, sat her down, and said, “I’ll give you your privacy, but if you even try to stand up before calling me to help you, I am going to give you a spanking.”
“I’m not a child,” she informed him.
“Good. I’ll expect you to act like an adult and obey me then.” He stepped out of the room and waited for her to call him, but he didn’t have any confidence that she would.
Kari’s head was spinning and ached abominably. Her legs felt like rubber, and she was so tired she wanted to cry. She didn’t know whether or not to believe that Jacob was a policeman, or that Jason was a doctor. They could both be lying and just trying to get her well so they could kidnap her. She really did need to call for help, but she couldn’t even get up off the toilet without help. The tears started again, and that make her mad. She said a few choice words, and then called out, “I can’t get up by myself.”
Jacob was back in a heartbeat, mindful of her modesty as he lifted her and carried her back to bed. “I’ll get you a washcloth for your hands, baby,” he promised, and then did just that. “I’m going to get you some water to sip on, and then you’d better go to sleep. Your body needs some rest. I’ll wake you later for some broth and orange juice.”
Kari didn’t argue. She was too tired for that. It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep.
Jacob checked on her a few minutes later and nodded. At least she wasn’t afraid of him any longer. Jason returned, and Jacob had to admit he outdid himself. He had all the necessary items for Kari, but he also brought the things he thought his brother would need. Best of all was a book he’d been wanting to read, and a book of cryptograms to solve. He’d been addicted to those since they were kids. He liked to play against the clock these days. There was also a fried chicken dinner for him to eat later, vanilla ice cream, and a package of Fig Newtons, and his favorite drink – a gallon of milk. Jason brought him some personal items too, so he could brush his teeth and shave and shower.
“You did great, Jason. Thanks.”
“What is this case you’re on? Is Kari involved or in danger?” he asked directly.
“She just made the mistake of moving in here, next to a killer,” Jacob told his brother. “And we need to tell Jenna not to even think of moving into an apartment until we check it out first. This place is not safe, and I’m going to insist Kari move elsewhere the very minute she is well enough to do it.”
“Jenna is too independent to ask her older brothers to look at an apartment first,” Jason predicted. “What’s wrong with these apartments? They’re brand new and look great.”
“The attic is open from one end of the building to the other. Anyone could get into any apartment in this building from up there. That’s what I did when my suspect came home while I was searching his apartment. I went up through the opening in his closet, and made my way next door, and let myself down. I came out of the closet never dreaming Kari was home. She works all day,” he explained. “I had to keep her from screaming, and when I touched her I realized she was burning up. I couldn’t just say, ‘Sorry, honey, wrong apartment,’ and walk out the door.”
“No, you did the right thing to call me. What can we do about this guy next door?” he asked.
“Nothing, Bro. I’ll keep Kari safe, and move her out when she’s well enough to leave.”
They said goodbye and Jacob put away the groceries before going to check on his patient. When he reached the bedroom he shook his head and said, “Sweetheart, you need your bottom spanked.”
“I do not!” Kari defended herself. “I am an adult and I can do as I please,” she argued.
“I am an adult, too, and I can do as I please, and what I please right now is to take a naughty little brat over my knee and spank her for not listening to what the doctor told her to do and obeying him.”
Kari’s green eyes widened when he slowly crossed the room towards the bed she was half in and half out of. She moved as quickly as possible to get back in bed and pulled the blankets up to her chin for protection.