“Ma’am, can you please repeat that address?”
“There’s a dead body in the pool house behind the Underwood mansion on Kent Avenue. Al en Martin has been shot three times in the chest and he’s not breathing.
“Ma’am, are you tel ing me that Al en Martin is dead in the DA’s pool house?” Eve doubted the operator was supposed to let her disbelief show, but in a smal town she’d have no doubt where the Underwood mansion was and exactly who owned it.
She sighed at the woman’s question. The dispatcher should already be contacting a patrol car. Another strike against the police department of Hudson Creek. They’d screwed up the prosecution of the man who’d kil ed her parents. Why not screw this up too?
“Yes, that’s what I’m tel ing you. Send someone now. The kil er is stil here.” It was hard to keep her voice a whisper when she wanted to shout at the operator.
“We’re sending a patrol over but I need to know who I’m speaking to.”
Not freaking likely.
Instead of answering, Eve hung up. She couldn’t afford to say anything else. She’d trespassed on the property and admitting that to the sheriff would give him an excuse to waste hours interrogating her. As she glanced around she realized no one must have heard the shots because the street was deathly quiet. She desperately wanted to wait around and make sure the cops showed up but knew she couldn’t. If they found her here she’d be in a world of trouble. Hurrying, she continued her escape down the sidewalk. When the phone she’d taken started ringing, she jumped. The cal er ID
screen said restricted.
“Hey, I hear it,” a thick, accented male voice said from behind the fence of the Underwood’s place. Panic jumped in Eve’s chest. She pressed the end button, effectively silencing the cal as she started running down the sidewalk. Her boots thudded loudly but there was nothing she could do about it. She wanted to turn it off completely but didn’t have time to waste.
“Hey! Stop!” the same voice shouted behind her a few moments later. A sharp pop blasted through the air and the trunk of one of the trees lining the street splintered. The pop sounded again and Eve felt a gush of air rush past her face. Someone was shooting at her!
Taking a sharp right, she darted across the Hawkins’ lawn. Even though they had an incredible house their security was shit and she knew they had an opening in their wrought iron fence in the backyard. If she could just make it.
Her leg muscles strained and for the first time in years she was thankful for her daily jogging routine. Pumping her arms and legs, she cleared the edge of the house. A spotlight on the side of the house flipped on—likely motion sensors—but she didn’t pause.
It almost felt as if someone was breathing down her neck, but she knew it was fear and adrenaline surging through her. Then she heard a muttered curse farther behind than before. At least they weren’t stil shooting. Probably because whoever it was didn’t want to draw more attention to themselves. She needed to make it to the opening and hoped no one saw her slip through. Her car was on the next street over. Her heart pounded that erratic tattoo against her chest as she dove over a cluster of bushes lining the back fence.
Blood rushed loudly in her ears as she began to slowly crawl toward the opening.
When the phone started ringing again, her chest tightened. They were trying to track her using the sound. She silenced it again then slid the back casing off. She’d only have a few seconds to do this. Sliding the SIM card out, she put it in her pocket then left the phone lying in the dirt. As she continued crawling, she pul ed her gun out. When she reached the smal gap in the fence she shimmied under it. Ignoring the dirt coating her hands and the underbrush caught in her cap and clothes, she shoved up and ran through the neighboring backyard.
After risking a brief glance behind her, she saw she wasn’t being fol owed. She al owed herself a smal measure of relief but didn’t stop running. Even if they were stil looking for her, they weren’t going to find her.
Unfortunately she couldn’t go home. She hadn’t recognized the voice but she couldn’t be sure whoever had been chasing her hadn’t identified her. That left one couldn’t be sure whoever had been chasing her hadn’t identified her. That left one place to go. Macklin wasn’t going to be happy to see her, but Mr. Tal , dark, and too-sexy-for-his-own-good would have to deal with it. He was one of the few people on the planet she would trust with her life.
Mac paused as he ran a towel over his damp hair. Then he heard the sound again. Someone was banging on his front door. Insistently. He glanced at the watch he’d left on his bathroom counter. It was almost ten. Normal y he’d be in bed by now and so would most of his men, but they’d had trouble with some of the cattle getting out after a section of one of his fences had been intentional y knocked down. By drug smugglers no doubt. They were getting worse in this area and he was fed up with it. Without bothering to put on clothes, he headed toward the front door. That’s when he heard the one voice that had the ability to make him go rock hard in seconds.
“Macklin Quinn, I know you’re in there! You better open this door right now!” Eve’s shouts were fol owed by three more bangs.
For such a petite woman she had a loud knock. Shaking his head, he jerked the door open.
“Damn it, Mac…” She trailed off as she stared at him. Unabashedly her eyes tracked down his bare chest to the damp towel hanging on his hips.
Her peaches and cream complexion often gave away her emotions and now was no different. Those dark eyes of hers flared with momentary interest as they reached the top of his towel. When her gaze landed on his growing erection, her cheeks tinged an adorable pink and she quickly looked up. “Uh…do you have company?”
“No.” The only company he wanted was her. In his bed. But that wasn’t going to happen. So why was she here?
She sighed and visibly relaxed. “I need a place to stay tonight.”
Mac wouldn’t mind accommodating her but he knew her wel enough that she wasn’t looking to jump into his bed. If only. He frowned as he took in her appearance. “What the hel happened to you, Eve?” The question came out harsher than he intended. Her hair was hidden by a dark cap and she wore al black, like some sort of cat burglar. Dirt smudges covered her face and…were those leaves sticking out of her col ar?
She bit her bottom lip and eyed him nervously. “Aren’t you going to let me in?”
Sighing because he couldn’t say no to her, he stepped back. When he shut the door behind her she wrung her hands in front of her stomach. “I did something stupid tonight but I’m not going to tel you what it is if you’re going to give me a lecture.”
Oh, shit. If the stubborn woman was actual y admitting she’d done something stupid, he’d no doubt need a shot of whiskey. Stepping further into the foyer, he motioned with his hand. “Come on. Let’s go to my office.”
Once they reached his office she tugged the cap off her head and al those gorgeous strawberry blonde waves fel around her face and shoulders. He resisted the very real urge to reach over and run his hands through her hair. To cup her head tight, pul her close, and—
“Can’t you put on a shirt or something,” she muttered as she sat on the cushy chair across from his desk.
He stiffened at her words. Instinctively he rubbed a hand over his left side and al the hideous scarred skin. It didn’t hurt anymore and most days he forgot about it but now…he wished he had put on a shirt. He didn’t like her seeing this deformed side of him.
Before he could respond she continued. “Don’t get that hurt look on your face. You know I didn’t mean it because of your scars.”
“Then why’d you say it?”
Her cheeks flushed again as she found a spot on the wal behind him to stare at.
“Because I can’t think with you half naked.” The way she spoke through gritted teeth told him she meant it even if she didn’t want to admit it.
It shouldn’t please him, but it did. Probably too much. He bit back a grin because it would only annoy her. Eve was one of the few women he knew who didn’t focus on superficial stuff. And she’d been one of the few people who hadn’t acted like she felt sorry for him when he’d moved home injured, scarred and pissed off at the world. No, she’d told him to get over himself and be thankful he was alive.
“Stay put and don’t get into trouble for sixty seconds, okay?” Without waiting for a response he hurried to his room and tossed on a pair of faded jeans and a sweater.
He found her sitting in the same spot with that worried expression on her face. “What’s going on?”
“I just saw a murder,” she blurted. As she launched into a crazy story he was torn between strangling her and hugging her. When she final y finished she tucked a wayward curl behind her ear and stared at him with wide eyes.
“You real y think Richard Underwood kil ed Martin?” Al en Martin was one of the sleaziest men Mac knew. He owned five car dealerships around the immediate area and lived up to that greasy car salesman cliché. But that didn’t mean he deserved to be shot.
“I…I don’t know who kil ed him, but Richard’s car was outside the house. Whoever chased after me wasn’t him. That much I’m pretty sure of. The guy had an accent.”
“How do you know?”
“When he cal ed the phone—”
“That you took.” It was smart she’d taken it to cal the police, but stupid that she’d been there by herself in the first place.
She gritted her teeth. “Don’t interrupt. When he cal ed Martin’s phone he said ‘I hear it’ or something like that.”
“Then he was probably talking to someone.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Her eyes glazed over for a moment and he could practical y see the wheels turning in her head.
“What is it?”
Instantly she jerked out of her trance and cleared her throat. “Nothing. Can I stay here tonight? I don’t think whoever it was recognized me but just in case I’d feel safer here.”
“You need to cal Sheriff Marcel,” he said mildly, knowing it wouldn’t do a bit of difference in convincing her.
She shook her head. “No way. Those jerks don’t know what they’re doing. They’l probably think it was me or something.”
Mac bit back a sigh because he understood her anger. Her parents had been kil ed by a drunk driver and the current sheriff’s predecessor had botched the entire process. It had gone to trial but when they’d lost the blood test results with the other driver’s blood alcohol content, it had been over before it began. And it didn’t help that the attending officer had been a new recruit and had gotten so flustered on the stand, the defendant’s attorney had ripped him apart.
“You can’t lump Marcel and his guys in with…his predecessor.” Mac didn’t even like to say Frank Reed’s name. It only made pain flash in Eve’s eyes and seeing that was like someone stabbing him.
“I can do whatever I want,” she said, though she’d lost most of her steam.
“Besides, Marcel’s mad at me because he thinks I got in the way of his last investigation. I don’t want to give him more ammunition against me.”
“He’s pissed at you because you keep turning him down for dates.” How did she not know that?
Eve blinked twice then frowned at him. “He’s not serious.”
Mac snorted. Oh yes, the sheriff was. He’d been after Eve since she’d moved back to town a couple years ago. And he wasn’t the only one. It shouldn’t bother Mac. He had no claim on her. But damn if he didn’t want her for himself. Things between them would be too complicated though and he couldn’t travel down that road with her. “Fine, I’l place a cal to him tomorrow and—”
She jumped out of her seat. “No! I already have a plan and I don’t need your help.
Tomorrow I’m going to head to the station and act like I’m fol owing up on a lead about Al en Martin. I can’t accuse the DA of anything until I’m positive he’s involved in this.”
“You don’t think just showing up at the station is suspicious?”
Her lips pul ed into a thin line as she shook her head. “I’m a journalist. I’m always bugging the sheriff about stuff.”
Mac scrubbed a hand over his face. It took al his self-control not to cal the sheriff but in his gut he knew it wouldn’t do much good. She’d already cal ed the cops and if he told the sheriff what he knew, Eve could get in a lot of trouble. Not to mention it would break her trust. Not something he could do and live with himself. Standing, he pushed his chair back. “I’m beat so—”
“Sorry, I know I barged in on you. If you have a t-shirt or something I could borrow to sleep in I promise I’l stay out of your hair.”
His lower abdomen burned with need at the thought of her wearing something of his. Instead of responding—because he didn’t trust his voice—he grunted something incomprehensible and motioned for her to fol ow him.
Hating how tight his skin felt and the uncomfortable sensation coursing through him, he stalked down the hal to his room. The five bedroom house was big for just him and now he felt as if it were taking forever to make it across the house.
As he final y entered his room he cringed. A pile of dirty clothes lay in one corner and he’d tossed his dirty work clothes at the end of his unmade bed. Nice.
Behind him, Eve chuckled under her breath and muttered something about him being ‘such a guy’READ MORE >>