Royal Rescue - By Lisa Childs
Goose bumps of dread rising on her arms, Josie Jessup slipped into a pew in the back of church. She hated funerals, hated saying goodbye to anyone but most especially to someone who had died too soon. And so senselessly and violently—shot down just as his adult life was beginning.
The small church, with its brilliantly colored stained-glass windows, was filled with her former student’s family and friends. Some of them nodded in polite acknowledgment; others glared at her. They probably blamed her for the career he had pursued, the career that had cost him his life. At the local community college where she taught journalism courses, she had recognized the kid’s talent. She had even recommended he cover the story that had killed him, because it had been killing her that she couldn’t cover it herself.
But she couldn’t risk anyone recognizing her. Even though her appearance had changed, her writing style hadn’t. If she had written the story, certain people would have recognized it as hers no matter whom the byline claimed had authored it. And Josie couldn’t risk anyone realizing that she wasn’t really dead.
That was her other reason for hating funerals—because it reminded her of her own, of having to say goodbye to everyone she loved. She actually hadn’t attended her funeral; her ashes hadn’t been in the urn as everyone else had believed. But still she’d had to say goodbye to the only life she’d known in order to begin a new life under a new identity.
But apparently she wasn’t making any better choices in this life than she had in her last, since innocent people were still getting hurt. She hadn’t pulled the trigger and ended this young man’s promising life. But she blamed herself nearly as much as some of these people blamed her. If only she hadn’t mentioned her suspicions regarding the private psychiatric hospital and the things that were rumored to take place there...
The gnawing pangs of guilt were all too familiar to her. The first story she’d covered, back in college, had also cost a young man his life. But then she’d had someone to assure her that it wasn’t her fault. Now she had no one to offer her assurances or comfort.
Chatter from the people in front of her drifted back. “Since Michael was hoping to sell the Serenity House story to one of Jessup Media’s news outlets, I heard Stanley Jessup might attend the funeral.”
Josie’s breath caught with hope and panic. She wanted to see him. But she couldn’t risk his seeing her. For his own protection, her father had to go on believing that his only child was dead.
“Not anymore,” the other person responded. “He’s in the hospital. They don’t even know if he’ll make it.”
Josie leaned forward, ready to demand to know what had happened to her father. But before she could, the other person had already asked.
“He was attacked,” the gossiper replied. “Someone tried to kill him.”
Had all the sacrifices she’d made been for naught? Had her father been attacked because of her? And if so, then she’d done nothing to protect him except deprive him of what mattered most to him. She had already been guilt-ridden. Now that guilt intensified, overwhelming her.
If her father didn’t make it, he would die never knowing the truth. She couldn’t let that happen.
* * *
“JESSUP...HOSPITALIZED in critical condition...”
The breaking news announcement drew Brendan O’Hannigan’s attention to the television mounted over the polished oak-and-brass bar of O’Hannigan’s Tavern. At 9:00 a.m. it was too early for the establishment to be open to the public, but it was already doing business. Another kind of business than serving drinks or sandwiches. A dangerous kind of business that required his entire focus and control.
But Brendan ignored the men with whom he was meeting to listen to the rest of the report: “Nearly four years ago, media mogul Stanley Jessup’s daughter died in a house explosion that authorities ruled arson. Despite her father’s substantial resources, Josie Jessup’s murder has never been solved.”
“Josie Jessup?” one of the men repeated her name and then tapped the table in front of Brendan. “Weren’t you dating her at one time?”
Another of the men snorted. “A reporter? Brendan would never date a reporter.”
He cleared his throat, fighting back all the emotions just the sound of her name evoked. And it had been more than three years....
Wasn’t it supposed to get easier? Weren’t his memories of her supposed to fade? He shouldn’t be able to see her as clearly as if