Sometimes what you're looking for is closer than you think.
Jessie's life is a mess. In the eight hellish months since her husband died in a freak accident, she's been mugged, her house has been trashed, and now she's receiving frightening pranks calls. She resists a friend's offer of a weekend getaway--her grief is still too fresh to consider meeting anyone new.
Then again, since it's a party for gay men, there won't be any pressure, right?
ER doctor Caleb James feels perfectly at ease among his gay brother's friends, but one look at Jessie sparks a sexual tension that's impossible to ignore. A few drinks and a few hours of conversation later, things move a lot faster than either of them expect. Jessie is left confused and Caleb aches with regret--and love for a woman who is still guarding her heart.
Pressure is the last thing she needs. But as it becomes apparent that her string of misfortunes trace back to her husband's death, help is what she's going to get. Caleb's help...ready or not.
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August 17, 2009
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Excerpt from Because of You by Mari Carr
"I don't understand why you can't tell me who he was meeting with," Jessie Warner said, her hands shaking with frustration. She'd tried for two weeks to get her late husband's partner to agree to see her, but to say the man had been evasive was an understatement.
"Client confidentiality, Jessie," Rex replied so smoothly she wanted to reach across the desk and ram her fist through his smug face.
"You're an accountant, Rex. Not a freaking priest or psychologist. It's not like I'm going to grill them about their back taxes. All I want to know is which clients Tommy met with the day he died."
Jessie sighed, perfectly aware that this discussion was going to end like every other conversation she'd had regarding the night of her husband's death.
"I just want to talk to them. See if they noticed anything strange in his demeanor that day."
"Why?" Rex repeated, and for a moment Jessie was struck by the fact that the man was no longer looking at her with annoyance, but rather with pity in his eyes.
She hated pity. She'd seen it on the faces of too many people lately and it only made her angrier, more frustrated. She was tired of being treated like she was weak, and she was sure as hell tired of being treated like she was crazy.
"Forget it," she said, rising quickly. "You aren't going to tell me a damn thing. You know it and I know it. Thanks for nothing, Rex."
"Dammit, Jessie, don't leave like this. I know you think Tommy's death wasn't an accident, but believe me when I say it was. It's been seven months since he died. You've got to let this go."
An accident. She'd read the police and coroner's reports and she knew what they all believed. They'd said it was an accident, but she couldn't shake the idea that it wasn't--despite the fact she had no proof to the contrary. Tommy had fallen on the ice and hit his head. It seemed to be an easy answer for everyone--everyone but her.
Shortly after his death, she'd begun probing into the details a bit more--asking the police and hospital workers questions, but so far everyone she had encountered had been less than helpful. They thought she was some silly, grieving widow who had watched one too many episodes of CSI and had decided to create a crime out of thin air.
Apparently Rex was no different. He'd ignored her phone messages until finally she'd decided to take the direct approach. Her spur-of-the-moment, "oh I was just in the area" visit had been a surprise to him. She knew he was too wrapped up in appearances to throw the widow of his former partner out on her ass in front of an office full of employees. She'd seen in his face that he wasn't pleased about being shanghaied into this visit. No doubt he'd heard the rumors that she was chasing shadows and had hoped to avoid this conversation.
"I can't let it go, Rex," she said quietly as she reached for the door. At one point, she'd considered the man a friend, but nowadays she found it harder and harder to reconnect with the people she'd known before Tommy's death. Aside from her best friend Todd, she'd drifted away from everyone else in her life. "Please help me."
The man shrugged sadly. "I'm sorry, Jessie, but I can't."
"There's a world of difference between can't and won't. I think you have them confused," she said, storming out. She closed the door loudly behind her and sighed heavily. She'd known when she left the house this morning it would be a wasted trip. She'd been a fool to think that Rex would offer her any sort of help. Hell, the man had avoided her calls like she was a telemarketer.
"Jessie? Is that you?"
"Jordan." She smiled at the older man in the foyer as he leaned down to hug her. Jordan Scott had been a good friend to Tommy in addition to being one of his biggest clients. He'd always been kind to her as well. He'd never forgotten to send a birthday card or his traditional bottle of champagne Christmas gift. They'd dined at his penthouse apartment on more than a few occasions. Neither she nor Tommy had been close to their families and in some ways Jordan had taken on the role of a beloved uncle. One they didn't see often, but with whom they were always happy to reconnect.
"What a nice surprise," she said as he released her. Always dressed to a tee, he was an extremely attractive gentleman in his mid-fifties, with salt and pepper hair and expressive deep blue eyes. She had often questioned him about why he'd never married. She couldn't imagine a whole generation of women letting Jordan slip through their fingers. He was handsome, rich and charming.
"I haven't seen you since--" He paused and Jessie nodded at the silence that followed.
"Since Tommy's funeral," she finished for him.
"How have you been, my dear? I meant to call, but I'm afraid a problem at work pulled me out of the country for a few months. I've only just returned from Italy this past week."
"I'm fine," she answered, the lie a familiar one. She hadn't been fine for seven months. Not since the night she'd found her husband's dead body.
"What brings you to the firm?" Jordan asked. "I thought Rex said you'd sold Tommy's half of the business to him."
"Oh, I did," she said. She looked into Jordan's compassionate face and found her suspicions, her fears falling from her lips. "I've had this feeling since Tommy passed away that something was wrong and I wanted to know which clients Tommy met with the day he died. I was hoping to speak to them, hoping one of them could help me understand his frame of mind that day."
Jordan's puzzled look gave her a moment's pause. "Frame of mind?" he asked.
"I don't think his death was an accident."
"You don't?" he asked in such a way that for the first time, she felt a glimmer of hope that someone actually understood.
She shook her head.
"I met with Tommy the day he died, Jessie."
Jordan's confession stopped her short. She'd anticipated another pitying look, another pat on the head, another condescending comment about being foolish. She hadn't expected an answer. "You did?"
"We met earlier that morning about the audit he was performing for my company. Rather run-of-the-mill stuff. I can assure you his behavior was perfectly normal. I wish I'd known then that I'd never see him again. So many things I would have liked to have said to the dear boy." The older man looked away and Jessie could see the glimmer of tears at the corner of his eyes. When he turned back toward her, the look of sadness was replaced with one of concern. "What's going on, Jessie? Why don't you believe it was an accident?"
The tightness in her chest that never left eased as Jordan spoke. For the first time in months, someone was listening to her, answering her questions, taking her seriously. "Tommy called me earlier in the afternoon, the day he died. He said something that made me think--" She paused, uncertain how to word her concerns.
"Made you think?" he prodded.
She paused and shrugged, her thoughts were traveling a different direction. Jordan had seen Tommy, spoken to him that day. She couldn't focus on anything other than that fact. "Was Tommy acting strangely that day? Did he seem preoccupied, overwrought, worried?"
"Not at all. What did he say on the phone, Jessie?"
"Nothing specific." Tommy hadn't said anything at all really. Perhaps it was his tone more than his words that had sparked her suspicions.
"I suppose you've spoken to the police about this," he said.
She nodded and sighed. "Yes, for all the good it's done me."
"I take it they don't share your belief that there was foul play involved?"
She shook her head. "No. I sort of get the impression they think I'm insane."
Jordan laughed lightly at her lame attempt at a jest. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I wish there was something I could say that would help you, but honestly, there was nothing in Tommy's demeanor that day that leads me to suspect foul play. Tell you what. Why don't you let me do a bit of digging around? I'll see if I can't scare some information out of old Rex, the shyster."
Jessie grinned. Jordan had never made any bones about the fact that Tommy was his preferred accountant in the firm.
"Would you? Really?"
"I'm not sure what help I can be, but if it will put a smile back on that pretty face of yours, I'm willing to try."
"Oh, thank you, Jordan, you've already been more help than you know. If you remember anything else about that day, will you call me?"
"Of course, my dear. You will be the first person I call."
She said her goodbyes and walked to her car feeling lighter than she had since Tommy's death. She still hadn't discovered any answers, but Jordan genuinely seemed to believe her and wanted to help. For the first time in a long time, she didn't feel as if she was wandering around in a dark room with no doors. Jordan had just offered her a flashlight and, God willing, a way out--back into the sunshine that had eluded her for months.
Maybe she wasn't so crazy after all.