A pajama clad Jessie blinked at him with total confusion. “Cam? What are you doing here?”
“Jessie. There’s been an accident.”
Her gaze widened at his deputy’s uniform, realizing he was there on official business. The blood drained from her face. “Luke?”
“Is he all right?”
“No.” Cam forced his body and his voice to stay steady. “Luke didn’t survive. I’m so sorry.”
“What? Luke is…” She swayed but righted herself before Cam could get to her. “When?”
“About two hours ago.”
“Where did this happen?”
“A semi jackknifed in Shep’s Canyon. Because of the fog…there was really nothing he could’ve done. It happened fast.”
“Was anyone else with him?”
Cam shook his head. “There were fatalities in other vehicles that also hit the semi, but Luke was alone.”
“Did you tell Luke’s folks? Or his brothers?”
“Not yet. I wanted to let you know first. I’m sorry.”
When Jessie started to cry, Cam knew the sound of the squeaking door wouldn’t stick in his mind, but the hiccupping sobs Jessie didn’t try to hold in.
Without another word, Cam wrapped her in his arms. She clung to him and for the first time all night, he let himself grieve.
Time was a black void of sorrow, but eventually Jessie eased back and looked at him through red-rimmed, horror-filled eyes. “Will you come with me to tell Brandt? He’ll—we’ll—need to tell Casper and Joan right after, but it’d be…better coming from him than from me.”
“Let’s get this over with.” She stumbled down the deck steps.
Cam said, “Jess, sweetheart, you’re gonna need shoes.”
She froze and stared at her bare feet. Then back at him with an expression Cam recognized as shock.
“Oh. Shoes. Right.” She reversed course and slipped her feet into a pair of muddy ropers that were propped on the welcome mat. Wrapping her arms tightly around her middle, she trudged to the passenger side of the patrol car.
Neither spoke on the short, miserable drive to Brandt’s place. She stared out the windshield as tears dripped down her face.
By the time Cam hit the end of Brandt’s driveway, Brandt waited on the porch steps. Not a lot of social calls this time of night. Cam parked, but neither he nor Jessie attempted to get out of the car.
Jessie’s voice was barely a whisper. “I don’t want to tell him, Cam. This will ruin him. Brandt and Luke are so close.” Her voice caught on a sob. “Were so close. Oh God. I can’t do this.”
“It’s okay. Stay here. I’ll take care of it.” Cam forced himself to open the door. Forced himself to walk the twenty feet to where his cousin stood. Forced himself to look his cousin in the eye.
They stared at each other. Then Brandt said just one word. “Who?”
A pain-filled sound cut the night air.
It sliced Cam to the bone. He whispered. “Jesus, Brandt. I’m so sorry.”
Brandt’s gaze zoomed to the passenger side of the car. “Where’s Jessie?”
She was out of the car and sobbing in Brandt’s arms before Cam could answer.
He had to look away. He had to get away. Yet, he couldn’t leave if they needed him. So he waited in hellish silence as Brandt and Jessie tried to hold one another up.
“Cam?” Brandt said hoarsely.
“Can you do something for me?”
“Anything. Name it.”
“Give me a couple hours to talk to my folks and my brothers before you tell the rest of the family?”
“Anything you need, either of you, just ask, okay? We’re all gonna be here for you. Every one of us in the McKay family. Count on it.”
“I appreciate it.” Brandt draped his arm around Jessie and they disappeared into the house.
He’d been given a momentary reprieve on the family side of being the bearer of bad news. But he still had to get through the conversation with Domini.
With a heavy heart, Cam climbed in his car. But a mile from Brandt’s place he had to pull over on the shoulder. He rested his forehead on the steering wheel and wept.
Domini recognized the leaden tread coming up the stairs. Cam. Not Nadia.
She frowned at the clock. Eleven-thirty. Nadia was never this late picking Anton up. She’d tried to call Nadia’s cell to tell her just to leave Anton over night, but Nadia didn’t pick up. Which was odd.
She released the deadbolt and opened the door for Cam. Without looking at him, she headed for the living room. The climb up the stairs took a lot out of him and he hated her looks of sympathy. “Anton is still here, so I—”
The way he said her name, so seriously, so full of regret and sadness had her spinning toward him.
Her awareness jumped to full alert at the grief etched on Cam’s face.
“There was an accident tonight. A bad accident.”
“And you were called to the scene?”
“I wasn’t first on scene, but everyone was called, including help from other counties.”
She touched his arm, wanting to appease him, not knowing if he’d welcome it. “Oh, Cam. I’m so sorry. That had to be rough.”
“Makes it rough when the victims are someone you know.”
Her stomach lurched. “Someone you knew? Who?”
“My cousin Luke, for one.”
“Oh my God. What can I do?”
Cam shuffled his feet. “Can we sit down? I’ve been on my feet half the damn night.”
“Sure.” Domini led him to the sofa. She wanted to snuggle up, smooth the frown lines from his brow and erase the haggard look from his eyes. But something about his posture made her keep her distance.
“I just left Luke’s wife, Jessie, with his brother, Brandt.” He shuddered. “It about tore me up to tell them. It was just so goddamn surreal. Like this is all happening to someone else.”
“You had to tell them?” Jessie’s sweet face flickered in Domini’s mind. The poor woman. What an awful thing to deal with.
“It’s part of my job.” He took her hands in his. “There’s no easy way to do this. So I’m just gonna say it flat out. Luke wasn’t the only victim tonight.”