Rich (Benson Security #5) - Janet Elizabeth Henderson


Ten Years Earlier

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call your family?” the nurse said. “Or maybe a friend?”

The woman’s voice was an echo inside Rachel Ford-Talbot’s head, making the dizziness she felt so much worse. Picking a point high on the wall above the window, she concentrated on it until the room stopped spinning. How long it took, she didn’t know. Time was distorted, and a strange sense of disorientation clung to everything she did.

She tried to speak, but her mouth was too dry. The nurse murmured something before she felt a plastic beaker being gently held to her parched lips. Water. Lukewarm and tasting slightly chemical.

A sharp, stabbing pain shot down her throat with each sip before she sagged deeper into the bed. “Don’t call anyone.” Her voice was a croak. “I don’t want anyone.”

“You need someone.” The woman’s voice overflowed with compassion. “If you were my daughter, I’d hate to think you were going through this alone.”

“Please.” Rachel couldn’t bear to look at her and see pity. Not again. Never again. It was all she’d seen since arriving at the hospital. Instead, she focused on that same spot high on the wall. Was it a scuff mark? A cobweb? A shadow that was nothing at all? “Please, don’t call anyone.”

As soon as she’d woken up on the floor of a hotel room she didn’t recognize, with several Polaroid photos beside her, she’d known she couldn’t tell anyone what happened. She’d understood the warning in the photos without even reading the threats scrawled across them.

“The police are here,” the doctor said as she came into the room.

“I don’t want to talk to them.”

All Rachel wanted to do was sleep. Possibly forever. Her limbs were leaden, sinking into the stiff mattress on the hospital bed. Her head throbbed—an aftereffect of the drug that had been slipped into her drink in the nightclub. Her throat ached from the finger marks around her neck. There were bruises and scrapes all over her body. Some in places she couldn’t bear thinking about. Not yet anyway.

Maybe never.

She felt a touch on her hand and jerked it away, hugging her arms tight to her body as she concentrated on the mark on the wall. Was it getting bigger? Was the blackness growing?

“It’s okay, honey,” the nurse said softly. “You’re safe here.”

“Rachel”—the doctor walked around the bed and stood between her and the smudge that kept her grounded—“the police are here to help. They can find the people who did this to you.”

Rachel winced. People. Not person.

“I can’t tell them anything. I have no memory of what happened, and no evidence.” She’d ripped the photos into tiny pieces and flushed them down the hotel toilet, along with the contents of her stomach. Not that there had been anything in the images that would help identify her attackers. The only face that could be seen was hers.

“Let us do a forensic examination,” the doctor said gently. “Let us collect evidence. It may help the police find who did this.”

She shook her head, and nausea assaulted her. The bile surged up into her mouth before she could even attempt to stop it. Hands helped her to sit up. A basin appeared under her nose, and the two women waited while she tried to empty a stomach that had nothing left in it.

They eased her back down onto the bed, and the nurse wiped her face with a cold cloth before letting her sip some more water. This time, it tasted of vomit.

“I don’t want to file a report,” Rachel said when she’d had enough to drink. “Tell the police to go away.”

She stared at the spot. It was definitely getting bigger. Darker. Blacker.

“Okay,” the doctor said slowly. “We’ll let you rest, and we’ll talk about this again in a little while. You might change your mind.”

The nurse and doctor spoke to each other, but Rachel wasn’t listening. There would be no changing her mind. The note on one of the photos had made sure of that, as it told her that the drug used to spike her drink had come from her family’s pharmaceutical company. Her family business had played an unwitting part in her attack.

It was just the kind of scandal the newspapers loved. The company name, her family’s name, would be dragged through the mud. People would question what kind of security was in place at TayFor that allowed drugs to be stolen from the research labs and used in this way. It would never