About an hour later, Katie had resolved her feelings—at least for the moment. She looked at the clock, it was only midnight. She knew she needed to talk to Brandon, to tell him what she decided before she chickened out and went the safe route. As quietly as possible, she left her room and tiptoed towards the living room. It was late, but it was Friday so he should still be awake.
They’d always had late night movie marathons during the weekends when they lived together. She hoped he continued the practice.
The house was dark and quiet. When she made it to the living room the lights were out but the TV was on. The screen displayed the movie menu for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Katie smiled; it was one of the first movies they had seen together. She walked closer and saw that Brandon was passed out on the couch. This was also something common he would do.
As gently as she could, Katie nudged his shoulder. “Brandon, wake up,” she whispered. Brandon did not respond so she nudged harder. “Brandon, wake up.” Still, he did not move.
Katie stepped back for a moment. This was not the first time this had happened. Brandon was a deep sleeper. When they were together she had a tactic to get him up and she thought about doing it now. It would be a shock and she knew it would confuse him. For a moment, she thought about taking the easy way out. She could just cover him with a blanket then go back to bed. They could talk in the morning. She dismissed that thought almost as quickly as it came. If she waited any longer she would more than likely back down and not say what she needed to say. Resolved, Katie climbed on top of Brandon, straddling his hips. She gave him a long kiss. Moments later, his eyes opened.
“Katie,” he mumbled. “What are you doing?”
“You fell asleep on the couch. I wanted to wake you up.” She pulled off her shirt and kissed him again.
“Katie, please don’t tease me,” he whispered.
“Have I ever teased you before?” she asked then continued before he could answer. “Now, are we doing this here or in the bedroom?”
Brandon acted before she could change her mind. He quickly pushed himself into a sitting position then stood from the couch, holding Katie against him. “Does this mean you’re staying?”
“For now,” she whispered then nibbled on his ear. “Let’s talk later. We both need this.”
Without another word, Brandon walked over to the bedroom and shut the door.
Katie rolled to the side and winced. Her muscles ached in places she had forgotten existed. One year of celibacy was definitely too long. Despite the discomfort, she had never felt so happy in her life. Granted, the night before had been painful and draining, but it was just what they needed. They’d had a chance to say what they felt and she’d had the opportunity to actually feel what she needed to feel. She felt at peace; she only hoped he felt the same. The long hours they had spent together after she roused him from the couch had been well worth the explosion. Now, lying in bed, curled up next to his warm body, she felt at home.
Katie eased herself away from his sleeping body and slid out of bed. Her stomach was growling. She knew if she was hungry then he probably would be too. She checked the clock; it’s blue LED lights showed it was four in the morning.
Quietly, she left the room and entered the kitchen. She opened the fridge to grab some ingredients for a snack when she noticed the giant bowl of chocolate mousse. She had completely forgotten about it.
She was pulling out the bowl when she felt a strong set of arms wrap around her bare waist. “What, I wasn’t a satisfying enough dessert for you?” Brandon’s voice was husky with sleep.
“Oh, you were definitely sweet enough for me. But my body needs sustenance right now. Would you care to join me?”
“Absolutely.” He smiled then grabbed two spoons from the drawer.
Katie scooped her spoon into the light, decadent dessert. In her haste to get the chocolaty goodness into her mouth, she dropped a glop of mousse on her chest. “Damn. You would think at thirty-two years old I would have figured out how to get food in my mouth,” she griped. “Here, get me a napkin please.”
“No need for a napkin. I’ll take care of it.” He winked then lowered his mouth.
The contact caused her heart to race. When his tongue expertly moved about her skin, her body became hot and heavy. “If you keep doing that I don’t think I’ll make it back to the bedroom.”
“Hey, there’s no law that says you can only make love in a bedroom,” he whispered against her skin.
“Are you sure?” Katie asked.
“Positive. Remember, I’m a police officer,” he whispered in her ear, then lifted her from the ground and onto the counter.
Katie’s only response was a moan.
With a primitive need to be one, Katie scooted her hips to the edge and wrapped her legs around him, silently urging him to enter her. Instead of giving her what she craved, he pushed her back farther until her back was resting against the cabinets. He leaned in and nuzzled her neck then kissed his way down. Her body shivered when he kissed and nipped at her collarbone. He continued his lazy exploration of her upper body. She moaned when his lips surrounded her breast and began a relentless pattern of tug and release.
Frantic to relieve the tension building in her body, she reached her arms around to pull him closer. He caught her wrists with one of his hands before she reached her goal, and pinned her hands above her. “Not yet,” he instructed.
“You’re killing me,” she whispered.
“Well at least you’ll die happy,” he drawled then reached his free hand between her legs.
Katie’s body gave an involuntary shudder as he reached inside her. His fingers moved around expertly, touching her in just the right places, giving her a small taste of things to come. Please, she thought to herself. She may have spoken it out loud, but she wasn’t sure. She was lost to the sensations he was creating in her. Finally, he pulled her hips forward and plunged inside. Their movements were wild and uninhibited. With each thrust, Katie felt her body wind tighter and tighter until it reached its peak. Then a crashing wave of pleasure bore down on her. She clung tightly to his back, burying her head in his sweat slicked neck. Their bodies shuddered together until finally, nothing was left but peace and exhaustion.
“You’re amazing,” Brandon whispered into her ear. “But I swear, loving you is going to kill me.”
“Ditto,” she sighed. Her body ached but still it clamored for more.
He pulled her tightly against him and kissed his way down her neck. “You’ve exhausted me, but I still want you.”
“Brandon,” she whispered. “I just can’t right now.” “Okay.” He replied then gave her a long, lazy kiss. “Let’s take a shower then.”
“Okay,” she replied.
Brandon carefully lifted her from the counter and carried her to the bathroom. Once the lights were on, he turned on the water and gently set her in the shower.
They took their time in the shower. The hot water felt wonderful on her overtaxed muscles. Brandon was gentle when he washed her hair and rinsed her body with soap. Katie returned the favor. When they were done they climbed back into bed.
“We need to talk,” she said, placing her head on his smooth chest.
“Okay,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry for leaving you alone last night, but I really needed the time to think,” she whispered.
“It’s okay, Katie. I know I dumped a lot on you. Besides, I needed some time too.”
“What conclusion did you come to?” Katie asked.
“I’d like to hear yours first, if you don’t mind.” He pulled her closer.
“Okay.” She nodded. “I talked to Rebecca after our fight and she said some things to me that made a lot of sense. I’m not really good at letting myself feel things. I usually use my brain, not my heart when it comes to making life decisions. You know this I’m sure.” Katie felt him nod. “Well, essentially Rebecca told me I needed to let myself feel and, as she said, get my genius mind out of the way.” Katie stopped when she felt Brandon’s chest jiggle a bit. “Don’t laugh, I’m being serious here.” She said and poked him.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” he said. “It’s just...well, that is a very accurate description of you.” He chuckled.
Katie smiled just a bit then went on. “So, back to what I was saying. I gave myself time to feel and I came to a decision. It wasn’t an easy one, but I feel that it’s the right one.”
“Now, before I tell you anything else, I want you to know that I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this for me because it’s what I want.”
“Okay.” His arms tightened around her, pulling her closer to him.
“I love my job in New York, but…well, in the end it’s only a job. I have other ambitions that I want to pursue, ambitions that I’ve been looking into for a while now,” she whispered.
“Like grad school?” He whispered.
She nodded. “I can go anywhere I want to go Brandon,” she started. “But...” she took a deep breath. It was true, she could go anywhere she wanted. Between her grades from her Master’s as well as her resume she would have no problem getting into a PhD program. But she’d been offered a scholarship here, and she loved Columbia.
“Remember, I’m not doing this for you.” She repeated. “I know.”
“The Dean offered me a scholarship,” she whispered.
Brandon held her tighter. “So, are you saying you’re going to stay?”
“Yes. I still need to resign from my position so I may have to go back to New York for just a bit. The Times has been good to me and I want to thank them for that. But I will be coming back here. I’ll send in my letter of resignation next week. Just be prepared for the possibility of me being gone for a couple of months.”
“I can handle that,” he replied. “If need be I can take some time off and come with you. I mean, if you want me to. I would love to see New York.”
“I’d like that,” she smiled.
“What will you do before school starts?”
“I don’t know. I’m not going to decide anything right now. I want to have a chance to settle in and just spend time with the people I care about. I hope you don’t mind that.”
“I don’t mind at all. I’m just happy you’ll be back, as long as it’s what you want. Don’t do this for me. I’ve asked too much of you in the past. I want you to do this for yourself.”
“I am doing this for myself. And be prepared to make frequent visits to New York. I have friends there that I want to see. But my life is here. Rebecca’s here, Cullum’s here, and you’re here. I need you in my life.” Her eyes were beginning to droop. “I’m tired.”
“Go to sleep,” Brandon whispered as he rubbed soothing circles on her back.
“Okay,” she whispered back.
“I love you,” he whispered into her ear then kissed her cheek.
“I love you too,” she mumbled back then snuggled in his arms and fell into a deep sleep.
Katie sat crossed legged in a kitchen chair, typing furiously on her laptop. She was dressed in loose fitting sweatpants and a yellow and black Hufflepuff t-shirt. Her hair was piled on top of her head in some sort of messy bun. She’d been working on her computer for the past hour. Brandon sat across from her, sipping on his coffee and watching her work.
“Is there something in particular you need?” she asked after a while.
“Not at all. Why?”
“Well you’ve been staring at me for quite some time now.
Quite frankly it’s a little creepy.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just wondering what you’re working on.”
“A few things. Nothing too interesting,” she said then returned her gaze to the computer.
“Oh, okay. Need any help?”
She did not immediately respond to his question. Instead she took a gulp out of her coffee cup then thrust said cup into the air. Brandon chuckled. She’d done this many times before. He stood up, grabbed the coffee cup, then gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Anything for you, princess.” He went and refilled her cup.
“Thanks,” Katy replied then went back to work. She had spent the last hour instant messaging a psychiatrist friend of hers. Jade Murray was a prominent psychiatrist in New York City. Katie had met her a few months after she started at The Times. She had been working on an article about funding for mental health services for returning veterans. Jade was a well-known name in the field of traumatic brain trauma. Katie was hoping she could help in the quest for their killer.
Jade: So, let me make sure I have the facts straight. There’s been an active killer for ten years straight, killing only once a year on the same date: March 27th. Up until this past killing, all of the victims have been prostitutes. All were tall with brown hair and blue eyes.
Katie: Yes, and at least two victims had a small note with the words Katie Quinn: Confess written on it. I suspect the others had the same note, but it was either not found due to a shoddy investigation or the police never released the details to the press.
Jade: Have you been able to get in touch with the other departments?
Katie: Not yet. I just found out about the paper yesterday. I didn’t have time to check into it. I had to answer some questions for the police.
Jade: About the photo you received?
Katie: Yes. Among other things.
Jade: What other things?
Katie was about to answer when Brandon returned with her coffee. “Here you go, sweetheart.” He smiled.
“Thanks.” She smiled back. “Are you almost done?”
Katie glanced at the screen. Truthfully, no. She had her heart wrapped up in a story, which usually meant she disregarded others until her research and story were complete. Still, Brandon didn’t know about this particular avenue she was pursuing, so she had to play things differently. “I should be free soon. I’m just chatting with a friend from New York. It shouldn’t take much longer.”
“Awesome. In that case, what would you like to—” Brandon’s question was cut off by his phone ringing. He looked down at the caller ID. “Ugh. Hold that thought. It’s my mom,” he groaned then got up from the table.
“No biggie. I’ll be here when you’re done,” Katie replied then went back to work.
Katie: Sorry, I was talking to Brandon.
Jade: Does he know what you’re doing yet?
Katie: He knows about the ViCAP search and the reporter I interviewed. I haven’t told him about this chat yet. I want to have more to give him before I bring it up. I promise, I’m not keeping secrets.
Jade: Lol, never said you were. So back to my question: what other things did you talk about?
Katie bit her lip. She had hoped Jade forgot about that question.
Katie could just see her sitting at her desk, tapping her pen while she waited for a response.
Katie: Well, we talked about my personal life before I met Brandon.
Jade: Is there anything you can think of that would make someone want to target you?
Katie thought for a moment. The only dramatic event she had experienced during that time was the rape. But honestly, how could anyone blame her for that? Her life was the only one affected. Unless someone felt envious of her success in the
Journalism department, she honestly could not think of anything to warrant such hate.
Katie: Honestly Jade, I don’t know what I could have done.
I didn’t cheat in school. I worked hard and worked my way up in the newspaper world. Granted, I moved up pretty fast, but that’s because of my work ethic. I didn’t step on anyone. Am I dealing with someone extremely delusional? Am I being blamed for some sort of personal slight someone has felt?
Jade: It’s a distinct possibility. Although, I do not believe the person doing this just randomly fixated on you. You did have some part to play in this perceived slight.
Katie: Jade, I haven’t done anything wrong.
Jade: I’m not saying you did, but in this person’s warped mind you are responsible for their pain. Believe me, it doesn’t matter if you actively got in their way or not; they’re blaming you. Hell, it could be that you just happened to play a minor part in the worst day of their life.
Jade: Well, you could’ve neglected to hold a door open for them and they ran into it. Or you spilled their coffee. Minor, trivial mistakes that people make every day.
Katie: So, are you saying to figure out who this person is I need to make a list of every time I didn’t hold a door open?
Jade: Funny, Katie. But no, that won’t work. It’s doubtful that you remember every minor mistake you’ve made. Besides, there’s no way you know all those names.
Katie: So what am I supposed to do? How do I find this person?
It took several moments for Jade to respond. Katie felt the tension climb in her. She knew this message would not be pleasant.
Jade: Honestly Katie, this person will more than likely find you. They’ve set their sights on you. Now that you’ve returned to Columbia, you’re on their home turf. You’re playing their game.
Katie: Should I come back to New York? Will I be safer there?
Katie hated asking the question. She told Brandon she would stay. Still, she knew he would understand her returning for her safety. It wasn’t like it would be permanent.
Jade: Katie, I’m afraid it’s too late for that. Right now you just need to stay the course. Don’t go anywhere alone. Eventually, in their haste to get you, this person will make a mistake. It may be small, but it’ll be enough to get them caught. Just keep your eyes open.
Katie: Okay. Thanks, Jade.
Jade: No problem.
Katie: I just have one more question.
She didn’t want to ask this question, but she needed to be prepared for the worst.
Katie: What should I do if he does somehow get me alone?
What can I do to increase my chances of survival?
Once again it took Jade several moments to respond. When she finally did, the words she typed shook her to the core.
Jade: Don’t give in. Don’t scream, don’t fight. Be resilient.
And pray that someone gets to you in time.
Brandon plopped down on the couch and answered the phone. “Hey, Mom. What’s up?” he said slightly more harshly than he should have. He was still mad at her from the other day.
“Well good morning to you too.” She snorted. “I just wanted to call and see how you were doing. You never called back after we were disconnected the other night.”
Brandon rolled his eyes. His mother was as dense as they came. “Yeah, sorry about that. I was busy with work and personal matters,” he said, glancing at Katie.
“I’m assuming you’re talking about Katie. Tell me, have you convinced her to stay yet?”
Brandon was silent for a minute. Of course his mom would eventually find out that Katie was moving back. He just had no desire for her to think she had a role in their reunion.
“Well hurry up, Brandon. I’m waiting,” she said in an exasperated tone.
“Yeah, Mom. Katie’s staying,” he sighed. Better to just spit it out and get it over with.
“Oh my gosh! That is fantastic! I knew she’d realize that you were the best thing for her, not that stupid newspaper.”
“Mom, if you say that one more time I’m hanging up.
Katie’s coming back because she wants to. The choice belongs to her. And The New York Times isn’t some stupid newspaper. It’s one of the best papers in the nation, if not the world. You should be proud that they offered her a position there. I certainly am,” he scolded.
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry. I’m very proud that she was able to have that experience. I’m sure she’ll treasure it for the rest of her life,” she replied.
His mom’s apology sounded less than genuine. “So, was there something specific you wanted? Otherwise I’d like to get back to my day. I have important things to do,” he said, once again glancing at Katie. When he noticed she was staring at him he winked.
“Well, when I called I had intended to invite you and Katie to a quiet dinner, but now that she’s coming back I think we should have a little welcome back party. Could you be over here by say, six? I’ll call the caterers right now.”
Brandon sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was spend the evening with his mother.
“Please, Brandon. It’s been over a year since I saw you and Katie together. Give this old, fragile woman some pleasure and come over,” she pleaded.
Brandon groaned. His mom may be in her sixties, but she was anything but fragile. Still, better to get this out of the way. “Let me talk to Katie real fast. I’ll call you back.” Brandon hung up the phone before she could reply.
“So, your mom knows I’m back huh?” Katie did not look surprised.
“Yeah. In my defense, I didn’t tell her. She already knew when she called the other night. I wanted to give us time to figure things out before I told her anything.”
“Hey, no need to defend yourself. I know you didn’t tell her. That woman seems to know everything that goes on around here,” Katie complained.
“Well, she knows that you’re here and that you’re staying.
She wants to throw a welcome back party for you tonight. I’ll understand if you don’t want to go. I know you really don’t like her and I can’t blame you. There are days when even I can’t stand her.
But there’s no escaping now so we might as well get it over with. Believe me, I’m not too thrilled about it either.”
Brandon was right about Katie not liking his mom. If any woman could be considered misogynistic, then Sarah Hughes was it. There had been plenty of times she had chastised Katie about pursuing a career instead of ‘taking care’ of Brandon, as she put it. Truthfully, Sarah’s version of taking care of a man meant waiting hand and foot on him. Personally, she always wondered how Sarah and Sean had ended up together.
There was one night about a year before she moved to New York that she had called Sarah out on her snide remarks. She always wondered, if she thought Katie was so misguided, why she didn’t try to convince Brandon to leave her. Katie recalled the conversation in her head:
“You know Sarah, you’ve been riding my ass ever since I moved in with Brandon. Tell me, if you dislike me so much, why don’t you try and convince Brandon to leave me,” Katie seethed.
“Oh believe me, I’ve tried. Brandon doesn’t need an ‘independent woman.’ He needs a woman that will cherish and take care of him,” Sarah retorted.
“I do cherish and take care of him, just like he cherishes and takes care of me. We’re equals in this relationship.”
“Pshaw. You don’t know your place you silly girl. My only consolation is that at least you two will have beautiful babies,” Sarah said then turned and stormed off.
That last phrase still rung in Katie’s ear. Beautiful babies. Katie never told Brandon about that conversation. She didn’t want to ruin his relationship with his mom.
“Katie? Everything okay?”
“Yeah, sorry. Spaced out for a bit.” “So, do you want to go?”
“Not really, but we should go anyway,” she replied. At least it would take her mind of what Jade had just said, if only for a little while.
“Okay, I’ll tell her.”
“While you’re doing that I’m going to get dressed. We need to go to the mall. I have nothing to wear.” Katie turned and went to the guest room. She hadn’t managed to bring her clothes into their room. She’d do that later—they’d have to rearrange some things. By the time she emerged Brandon was off the phone and dressed in a low-rise pair of jeans and t-shirt that showed his lean, muscular physique.
“You’re not playing fair.” “What?”
“How is it you’re so sexy without even trying?” “Hey, the same applies to you.” He winked.
“Well thank you.” She smiled back. “Let’s get this done. I want to hurry home and take that shirt off.”
“Only the shirt?” He joked then grabbed his keys and walked out the door.