"I'm Warden Hadley," he said, holding out his hand. "I'll bet this was meant for you."

Julie didn't react, she couldn't move, because Zack was looking at her now, and the expression in his eyes made her want to die. He was silently telling her he loved her. Telling her he was sorry. Telling her good-bye.

Because he still thought she'd led them to him by accident.

"Take it!" Hadley snapped in an awful voice.

Jolted by his tone, Julie automatically reached out her hand.

The object he dropped into it was a slender diamond wedding band.

"Oh, no—" she moaned, squeezing it to her chest as tears raced down her cheeks. "No, no, no—"

Ignoring her, Hadley turned to the Mexican police. "Get him out of here," he ordered, jerking his head toward the doors where dozens of squad cars with whirling lights had silently appeared. But as the Federales shoved Zack forward, Hadley seemed to think something was wrong. "Wait a minute," he snapped, then he turned to Julie as Zack was yanked to a stop beside her, and he said with an oily, malicious smile. "Miss Mathison, I've been very rude. I haven't thanked you yet for your cooperation. If you hadn't helped us set this whole scheme up, Benedict might never have been caught."

Zack's head jerked up, his gaze raking Julie's guilt-stricken face, and she watched in agony as his eyes registered first disbelief. And then hatred. A hatred so deep that all the muscles in his face tightened into a mask of rage. In a burst of fury, he twisted against his captors and lunged toward the door.

"Hold the sonofabitch!" Hadley shouted, and the alarm in his voice made the panicked Federales lash out with billy clubs.

Julie heard the crack of wood on bone and sinew, she saw Zack hit the floor on his knees, and she went wild when they raised their clubs to hit him again. Tearing free of Paul's grip, she launched herself at Hadley. Whimpering with maddened pain for the man on the floor, she clawed the side of Hadley's face and kicked at him in a mindless frenzy while Paul was trying to restrain her. Hadley doubled up his fist to strike her but halted at Paul's enraged warning: "You sadistic bastard, touch her and I'll tear your larynx out!" Lifting his head, he shouted to one of his men, "Get the goddamned doctor over here!" Then he jerked his head toward Hadley and added, "And get him out of here!"

But he needn't have worried about breaking up another uneven fight … Julie was slowly sliding down in his arms in a dead faint.

Chapter 62

Dr. Delorik walked out of Julie's bedroom carrying his black bag and smiled reassuringly at Julie's worried family and Katherine who were gathered in the living room, waiting for his prognosis. "She's a sturdy thing. She'll be fine physically in twenty-four hours," he promised. "You can go in and tell her good night if you like. She's sedated so she won't know it's actually morning, not night, and she may not respond or even remember you were here, but it may help her rest easier anyway. It'll be a couple of days before she feels like going back to work."

"I'll call her principal and explain," Mrs. Mathison said quickly, standing up, her anxious gaze on the open door to Julie's room.

"You won't have to explain much to him or anyone else," Dr. Delorik said flatly. "In case you haven't had a television set on yet, you may as well know that what happened in Mexico last night is all over every news program on the air this morning, complete with videotapes of the whole thing provided by vacationers who had minicams with them in the airport. The good news is that, despite the beating Benedict got from the Mexican police on those videotapes, the press is making Julie sound like a heroine who collaborated in a clever scheme to trap a murderer."

Six faces looked at him without a trace of pleasure in his "good news," so he continued as he shrugged into his coat, "Someone should stay with her for the next twenty-four hours—just to keep an eye on her and to be sure someone is here when she wakes up."

"We'll stay," James Mathison said, putting his arm around his wife.

"You'll both go home and get some sleep if you want some free medical advice," Dr. Delorik said firmly. "You look exhausted. Mary, I don't want to have to admit you to the hospital with your heart kicking up over all this stress."

"He's right," Ted said with absolute finality. "You two go home and get some rest. Carl, you and Sara go to work and come by tonight if you want to. I'm off for the next two days anyway, so I'll stay here."

"No way!" Carl argued. "You haven't slept since the day before yesterday, and besides, you sleep like the dead. If you're sleeping, you won't hear Julie if she needs you."

Ted opened his mouth to try to dispute that, then came up with a better solution. "Katherine," he said, turning to her, "will you stay here with me? Otherwise, Carl and Sara will lose a half day of work arguing with me. Or do you have something else you have to do?"

"I want to stay," Katherine said simply.

"That's settled then," Reverend Mathison said, and the family proceeded down the hall to Julie's bedroom, while Katherine went into the kitchen to make Ted a light breakfast.

"Julie, honey, it's me, Dad. Mother's here with me."

In her drugged dream, Julie felt something touch her forehead, and her father's voice whispering from very, very far away, "We love you. Everything's going to be just fine. Sleep tight." Then her mother's voice was there, tearful and soft. "You're so brave, darling. You've always been so brave. Sleep well." Something bristly brushed her cheek and made her wince and turn her head away, and Carl's gruff laugh touched her ear. "That's no way to treat your favorite brother, just because I haven't shaved yet… Love you, honey." Then there was Ted telling her in his teasing voice, "Carl's full of it! I'm your favorite brother. Katherine and I are right here. If you wake up, just call us, and we'll wait on you hand and foot." Sara's gentle voice whispered, "I love you, too, Julie. Sleep well."

And then the voices receded, sinking into the darkness to mingle with all the other strange sounds and disturbing images of people running and shouting and shoving, guns and swirling lights and icy eyes like golden daggers stabbing her, and airplane engines roaring and roaring and roaring.

* * *

Katherine heard the front door close as she put toast, jam, and a glass of orange juice on a tray. As he'd promised to do yesterday, Ted had called her as soon as he got Julie home, this morning, but when Katherine arrived, the family had already gathered, so all she really knew about what had happened in Mexico City was the brief, undoubtedly diluted, version that Ted had provided to his worried parents.

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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