One Night With You, the Fatal Series Prequel Novella
See where it all started with the Fatal Series prequel novella, One Night With You.
Since the debut of Fatal Affair in 2010, Fatal Series readers have been wondering about that “memorable” one-night stand between Sam Holland and Nick Cappuano that took place six years before Fatal Affair opens. Well, wonder no more! One Night With Youtells the story of Sam and Nick’s fateful first meeting in which all the chemistry and heat we have come to expect from them is on full display from the first moments they meet. Get all the details of Sam and Nick’s unforgettable night together in this 14,000-word novella! You might want to keep a fan and some ice water handy, because this story is H-O-T!
Print: (In Fatal Affair): 978-0373002573
Other Books in the Fatal Series
The smell hit him first.
“Ugh, what the hell is that?” Nick Cappuano dropped his keys into his coat pocket and stepped into the spacious, well-appointed Watergate apartment that his boss, Senator John O’Connor, had inherited from his father.
“Senator!” Nick tried to identify the foul metallic odor.
Making his way through the living room, he noticed parts and pieces of the suit John wore yesterday strewn over sofas and chairs, laying a path to the bedroom. He had called the night before to check in with Nick after a dinner meeting with Virginia’s Democratic Party leadership, and said he was on his way home. Nick had reminded his thirty-six-year-old boss to set his alarm.
“Senator?” John hated when Nick called him that when they were alone, but Nick insisted the people in John’s life afford him the respect of his title.
The odd stench permeating the apartment caused a tingle of anxiety to register on the back of Nick’s neck. “John?”
He stepped into the bedroom and gasped. Drenched in blood, John sat up in bed, his eyes open but vacant. A knife spiked through his neck held him in place against the headboard. His hands rested in a pool of blood in his lap.
Gagging, the last thing Nick noticed before he bolted to the bathroom to vomit was that something was hanging out of John’s mouth.
Once the violent retching finally stopped, Nick stood up on shaky legs, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and rested against the vanity, waiting to see if there would be more. His cell phone rang. When he didn’t take the call, his pager vibrated. Nick couldn’t find the wherewithal to answer, to say the words that would change everything. The senator is dead. John’s been murdered. He wanted to go back to when he was still in his car, fuming and under the assumption that his biggest problem that day would be what to do about the man-child he worked for who had once again slept through his alarm.
Thoughts of John, dating back to their first meeting in a history class at Harvard freshman year, flashed through Nick’s mind, hundreds of snippets spanning a nearly twenty-year friendship. As if to convince himself that his eyes had not deceived him, he leaned forward to glance into the bedroom, wincing at the sight of his best friend—the brother of his heart—stabbed through the neck and covered with blood.
Nick’s eyes burned with tears, but he refused to give in to them. Not now. Later maybe, but not now. His phone rang again. This time he reached for it and saw it was Christina, his deputy chief of staff, but didn’t take the call. Instead, he dialed 911.
Taking a deep breath to calm his racing heart and making a supreme effort to keep the hysteria out of his voice, he said, “I need to report a murder.” He gave the address and stumbled into the living room to wait for the police, all the while trying to get his head around the image of his dead friend, a visual he already knew would haunt him forever.
Twenty long minutes later, two officers arrived, took a quick look in the bedroom and radioed for backup. Nick was certain neither of them recognized the victim.
He felt as if he was being sucked into a riptide, pulled further and further from the safety of shore, until drawing a breath became a laborious effort. He told the cops exactly what happened—his boss failed to show up for work, he came looking for him and found him dead.
“Your boss’s name?”
“United States Senator John O’Connor.” Nick watched the two young officers go pale in the instant before they made a second more urgent call for backup.
“Another scandal at the Watergate,” Nick heard one of them mutter.
His cell phone rang yet again. This time he reached for it.
“Yeah,” he said softly.
“Nick!” Christina cried. “Where the hell are you guys? Trevor’s having a heart attack!” She referred to their communications director who had back-to-back interviews scheduled for the senator that morning.
“He’s dead, Chris.”
“Who’s dead? What’re you talking about?”
Her soft cry broke his heart. “No.” That she was desperately in love with John was no secret to Nick. That she was also a consummate professional who would never act on those feelings was one of the many reasons Nick respected her.
“I’m sorry to just blurt it out like that.”
“How?” she asked in a small voice.
“Stabbed in his bed.”
Her ravaged moan echoed through the phone. “But who… I mean, why?”
“The cops are here, but I don’t know anything yet. I need you to request a postponement on the vote.”
“I can’t,” she said, adding in a whisper, “I can’t think about that right now.”
“You have to, Chris. That bill is his legacy. We can’t let all his hard work be for nothing. Can you do it? For him?”
“You have to pull yourself together for the staff, but don’t tell them yet. Not until his parents are notified.”
“Oh, God, his poor parents. You should go, Nick. It’d be better coming from you than cops they don’t know.”
“I don’t know if I can. How do I tell people I love that their son’s been murdered?”
“He’d want it to come from you.”
“I suppose you’re right. I’ll see if the cops will let me.”
“What’re we going to do without him, Nick?” She posed a question he’d been grappling with himself. “I just can’t imagine this world, this life, without him.”
“I can’t either,” Nick said, knowing it would be a much different life without John O’Connor at the center of it.
“He’s really dead?” she asked as if to convince herself it wasn’t a cruel joke. “Someone killed him?”
Outside the chief’s office suite, Detective Sergeant Sam Holland smoothed her hands over the toffee-colored hair she corralled into a clip for work, pinched some color into cheeks that hadn’t seen the light of day in weeks, and adjusted her gray suit jacket over a red scoop-neck top.
Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves and settle her chronically upset stomach, she pushed open the door and stepped inside. Chief Farnsworth’s receptionist greeted her with a smile. “Go right in, Sergeant Holland. He’s waiting for you.”
Great, Sam thought as she left the receptionist with a weak smile. Before she could give into the urge to turn tail and run, she erased the grimace from her face and went in.
“Sergeant.” The chief, a man she’d once called Uncle Joe, stood up and came around the big desk to greet her with a firm handshake. His gray eyes skirted over her with concern and sympathy, both of which were new since “the incident.” She despised being the reason for either. “You look well.”
“I feel well.”
“Glad to hear it.” He gestured for her to have a seat. “Coffee?”
Pouring himself a cup, he glanced over his shoulder. “I’ve been worried about you, Sam.”
“I’m sorry for causing you worry and for disgracing the department.” This was the first chance she’d had to speak directly to him since she returned from a month of administrative leave, during which she’d practiced the sentence over and over. She thought she’d delivered it with convincing sincerity.
“Sam,” he sighed as he sat across from her, cradling his mug between big hands. “You’ve done nothing to disgrace yourself or the department. Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Not everyone makes mistakes that result in a dead child, Chief.”
He studied her for a long, intense moment as if he was making some sort of decision. “Senator John O’Connor was found murdered in his apartment this morning.”
“Jesus,” she gasped. “How?”
“I don’t have all the details, but from what I’ve been told so far, it appears he was dismembered and stabbed through the neck. Apparently, his chief of staff found him.”
“Nick,” she said softly.
“Nick Cappuano is O’Connor’s chief of staff.”
“You know him?”
“Knew him. Years ago,” she added, surprised and unsettled to discover the memory of him still had power over her, that just the sound of his name rolling off her lips could make her heart race.
“I’m assigning the case to you.”
Surprised at being thrust so forcefully back into the real work she had craved since her return to duty, she couldn’t help but ask, “Why me?”
“Because you need this, and so do I. We both need a win.”
The press had been relentless in its criticism of him, of her, of the department, but to hear him acknowledge it made her ache. Her father had come up through the ranks with Farnsworth, which was probably the number one reason why she still had a job. “Is this a test? Find out who killed the senator and my previous sins are forgiven?”
He put down his coffee cup and leaned forward, elbows resting on knees. “The only person who needs to forgive you, Sam, is you.”
Infuriated by the surge of emotion brought on by his softly spoken words, Sam cleared her throat and stood up. “Where does O’Connor live?”
“The Watergate. Two uniforms are already there. Crime scene is on its way.” He handed her a slip of paper with the address. “I don’t have to tell you that this needs to be handled with the utmost discretion.”
He also didn’t have to tell her that this was the only chance she’d get at redemption.
“Won’t the Feds want in on this?”
“They might, but they don’t have jurisdiction, and they know it. They’ll be breathing down my neck, though, so report directly to me. I want to know everything ten minutes after you do. I’ll smooth it with Stahl,” he added, referring to the lieutenant she usually answered to.
Heading for the door, she said, “I won’t let you down.”
“You never have before.”
With her hand resting on the door handle, she turned back to him. “Are you saying that as the chief of police or as my Uncle Joe?”
His face lifted into a small but sincere smile. “Both.”
Sam Holland walked into the dank hole-in-the-wall that was O’Leary’s Bar and gave her eyes a second to adjust to the gloom. After hours outside in the broiling sun, the cool, moldy atmosphere was just what she needed. Well, that and a cold one with her dear old dad.
Skip waved to her from the far end of the bar, and when she walked over to him, he jumped up to hug and kiss her. “Hey, baby girl. You’re late.”
“Awwww,” Captain Malone said, “Daddy’s wittle girl is here.”
Since she’d known Malone for most of her life, she felt entirely comfortable giving her superior officer the middle finger, which made him howl with laughter.
“She’s all yours, Skip.” Malone threw a twenty on the bar. “God help you.”
Skip tightened his arm around Sam’s shoulders. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“See you guys tomorrow,” Malone said on his way out.
Sam took the stool Malone had abandoned and popped a handful of beer nuts into her mouth as she signaled the bartender for one of what her dad was having. “You really gotta do that?”
“Do what?” Skip was the picture of innocence when he knew damn well what she was talking about.
“The whole ‘baby girl’ schmoopy schmoop in front of other cops.”
Skip’s brows stretched to his hairline. “What in the name of fuck’s sake is schmoopy schmoop?”
“The hugging, the kissing.” Sam waved her hand to indicate the full scope of his greeting. She was already regretting this line of conversation, because she knew exactly what he would say.
“You’re my daughter.”
“I’m also one of your junior officers.”
“You’re my daughter first.”
“Dad! Seriously. It’s hard enough for me to deal with my dad being the deputy chief without you acting like my dad every chance you get.”
“Honestly, Sam, I am your dad, and I’ll damn well act like it until the day you bury me.”
Not wanting to think about burying him—ever—she nodded her thanks to the bartender when he delivered her beer and a fresh one for Skip. “You’re not making it easy for me.”
“Isn’t that what you wanted? If I recall correctly, your exact words were, ‘Hands off. Let me do my own thing.’”
“Yes! Hands off. No schmoop!”
“Sorry, that ain’t gonna happen.” He took a deep drink from his mug. “So I see you’re taking another half day.”
As he laughed at his own joke, she rolled her eyes at the almost daily comment. “Another eleven-hour half day.”
“Slacker. You know I expect better from you.”
“Is that any way to talk to a superior officer?”
“It’s the only way to talk to my old man.”
“Who you calling old?” He pushed the beer nuts closer to her. “Want to get some dinner tonight?”
“I’d love to, but Angela talked me into going to a stupid party that I have no desire to go to, and now I’m committed, although I still hope to get out of it.”
“What’s up with the party?” Skip asked.
“A man of interest, apparently.”
“Is that right? Well, thank goodness. I thought she was going to mourn that jackass Johnny for the rest of her life.”
“Don’t go celebrating quite yet.”
“I’ll require a full report tomorrow. Meet for coffee?”
“After three years of meeting for coffee every day before work, you still have to ask?”
“Best part of my day, baby girl. Very best part.”
“Mine, too.” Sam smiled at his unabashed affection for her. She knew she’d made him so proud by joining the department, and continuing to make him proud was her only goal as a police officer—well, that and relieving Lieutenant Stahl of his corner office in the Homicide detectives’ pit. That was her other primary goal. Someday…
“So Angela’s actually showing interest in a guy who isn’t Johnny the douche bag?” Skip asked.
“You’re going to that party.”
“You can’t actually make me go.”
“Yes, I can.” The look he gave her reminded her of the many times she’d tried to challenge his authority while growing up. Skip Holland got a lot done with that eyebrow.
“I really don’t want to go.” Newly promoted to detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, Sam had sore feet and a sunburn after working a full day plus a three-hour construction detail following her regular shift. She wanted a cool bath, another cold beer and a soft bed—in that order.
Her sister had called her at work earlier to make her case.
“Please, Sam,” Angela had said. “When was the last time I asked you for anything?”
“Um, yesterday when I dropped off and picked up your car from the garage—and paid for the repairs.”
“I’ll pay you back, and you know I appreciated your help.”
“So, we’re square. I don’t have to go to this party tonight.”
“You do have to. Spencer is going to be there, and he wants me to meet him. I can’t go alone. That would be so awkward. All I need you to do is come with me so I don’t have to walk in alone and stay long enough to make sure I find him.”
“That’s not all I’d have to do. There would be showering, hair drying, makeup application and torturous shoes that most likely won’t go on over my swollen feet.”
“I’m begging you. I’ve called everyone I know, and they’re all busy. I need you.”
Sam had been on the verge of begging herself when Lieutenant Stahl walked by her cubicle, glaring at her when he saw her sitting with her feet on the desk as she talked on the phone. Even though she was officially off duty, she dropped her feet to the floor, sat up straighter and raised her middle finger to his departing back.
“I really, really, really like him, Sam. Really. Remember when I dated him for a short time when Johnny and I were taking a break? I never forgot him, and I always regretted going back to Johnny after I met Spencer.”
Since Angela hadn’t sounded excited about any guy since the painful breakup with her high school boyfriend a year ago, Sam began to waver. “How long would I have to stay?”
“No more than an hour. I promise.”
“All right,” Sam said with a protracted groan.
“I owe you big.”
“You already owe me big.”
“I owe you bigger.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just wait until I start cashing in all these chips.”
“Anything you want,” Angela said, her voice bright with euphoria Sam hadn’t heard in a very long time. It was well worth the sacrifice of her tortured feet stuffed into heels if it would bring back Angela’s smile. She hadn’t been herself since Johnny decided he wasn’t done playing the field and couldn’t think about getting married until he’d sown his wild oats. Unfortunately, he’d chosen to use those exact words when he ended his long relationship with Angela.
At times over the last year, Sam and the rest of their family had wondered if Angela would ever get over the heartbreak Johnny had left behind when he moved on without her. So if an hour in heels made Angela feel better, Sam was more than willing to forgo her night in the tub.
“Pick me up?”
“I’ll be there at eight.” The line went dead. Angela knew better than to give Sam time to change her mind. “Goddamn it,” Sam muttered under her breath as she stood to gather her belongings. After eleven hours at work, there wasn’t much gas left in her tank. But since there was nothing she wouldn’t do for either of her sisters, Sam trudged out of HQ into humidity that made for another stifling summer day in the nation’s capital.
And then she’d remembered her plans to meet her dad for a drink on the way home. This day kept getting better and better.
“Where’d you go?” Skip asked as he took a sip from his beer.
“Just thinking about Ang and this lame-ass party I agreed to go to with her. It’ll be a bunch of players trying to score.”
“Want to borrow my Taser?”
“Yes, in fact, I would.”
Skip’s deep laugh rumbled through his chest, drawing a smile from her, too. His laugh was infectious, and she loved making it happen. She downed the last of her beer. “I gotta go beautify. Can I get this round?”
“Absolutely not.” He never let her pay. “Don’t let any of those players get their hands on my baby girl.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll kick their asses if they so much as try.”
“That’s my girl. Take care of Ang. She’s not made of the same tough stuff you are. She’s soft on the inside.”
“I know,” Sam said with a sigh. “I’ll keep an eye on her. Don’t worry.”
“That’s like telling me not to breathe.” He pointed to his cheek.
Sam looked around to make sure none of the other cops sitting at the bar was looking before she planted a quick kiss on his cheek.
“Love you, baby girl.”
“Love you, too, Skippy. See you in the morning.”
“I’ll be there.”
After leaving the bar, she drove home to the less than fashionable townhouse she shared with three roommates in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where she’d grown up. Sam liked the convenience of living close to her dad and sisters but had chosen to live on her own rather than move in with Angela after graduate school. It’d been time for her to grow up and stand on her own two feet, and Angela would’ve wanted to take care of and keep tabs on her “baby” sister.
Sam had been ready to bust loose after slogging through years of school while battling dyslexia. The last thing she’d wanted was anyone keeping tabs on her. So she’d answered an ad for roommates and ended up living with two guys, Peter Gibson and Dave Maxwell as well as Dave’s brother John, who slept there more often than Dave did. Of course, her dad, the deputy police chief, had run background checks on all of them before he let her sign the lease.
She’d learned it was futile to remind him that she was an adult now and didn’t need or require his approval.
Peter was watching SportsCenter when she came in, dropping her backpack inside the door and kicking off her shoes as she made for the fridge.
“Hard day at the office, dear?” he asked.
“Long day at the office, made longer by an endless detail in the broiling sun.” Sam cracked open a bottle of water and chugged it down before reaching for another one. If she was going to be expected to drink any more alcohol tonight, she needed to rehydrate.
“Want to get a pizza?”
“I’d love to, but Angela talked me into going out, so I have to go get ready.”
“Where’re you going?”
“Some party she was invited to. Apparently, there’s a guy involved.”
“Ahh, I see. Where’s the party?”
Sam shrugged. “No idea. I’m just along for the ride. Better hit the shower and get my act together. She’ll be here soon.” As Sam trudged upstairs, she thought about how interested Peter always was in what she was up to. She wasn’t sure if he was interested in her or just naturally curious. He was cute in a boyish sort of way, with sandy hair and blue eyes that lit up when he laughed.
Since their other roommate, Dave, an associate gunning for partner at a local law firm, was hardly ever home, she’d shared many a pizza and night in front of the TV with Peter and had begun to think of him as a friend.
Sam spent more time than she should have standing under the cool water in the shower and had to rush through the hair drying and makeup portion of the program. She hated being rushed and didn’t look as good as she could have, but so what? This was Angela’s big show. Who cared how she looked?
Because she didn’t care, she turned off the flat iron and decided her hair could be wild and curly tonight. Normally, she hated the wild curls, but she couldn’t be bothered with the effort it would take to tame them. The summer sunshine had added blonde streaks to her toffee-colored hair, which was currently longer than it had been in years. Who had time for haircuts between work and the extra details she regularly signed on for to pay off her student loans?
It was all she could do to get five hours of decent sleep every night. Sam’s philosophy was you’re only young once, and paying off the staggering debt from college and graduate school was a top priority. Of course, it didn’t hurt that all her volunteering for overtime made her look good to the brass. She’d made detective a year earlier than she’d expected and now had her eye on the rank of detective sergeant in a few years.
Naturally, she’d heard a few rumbles about favoritism after she earned the gold shield, but Sam tried to ignore that crap. So what if her dad was the deputy chief? She knew—and he knew—that she’d worked her ass off to earn that promotion. No one had given her anything she hadn’t deserved. Even though she respected him more than anyone in the world, it wasn’t always easy to be Skip Holland’s daughter in that department. People held him in very high regard and had equally high expectations for his daughter. It was a lot to live up to, but Sam was equal to the challenge.
Wearing a short summer skirt, a lightweight top and sky-high heels that made her feet scream for mercy, Sam eyed her bed and wished with every fiber of her being that she were a less faithful sister. She wanted nothing more than to slide naked into that bed and blast the air-conditioning for the next eight hours. But it was not to be.
A horn blaring in the street let Sam know Angela had arrived. “Here goes nothing.” She grabbed her purse and headed downstairs, her feet protesting every step of the way. “See you later,” she called to Peter on the way out.
“Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Very funny. I’ll be back before that can happen.”
“I’ll keep your spot on the sofa warm.”
“Excellent.” Sam rushed out the front door into the oppressive humidity and felt her hair get bigger in just the few seconds it took to get into Angela’s car.
This was going to be a long night.
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Print: (In Fatal Affair): 978-0373002573