The only person who can identify the most notorious hit man in the country, Kate Bridges is running for her life. Murphy Dolan is in the Army Reserves, returning from his 2nd tour of duty, only to find a stranger hiding in his house. She's scared spitless. He's completely burned out on violence. Neither has any trust left to give.
“Let’s try one more time.” Murph moved toward her. “Pretend I’m the assassin. Murph is dead out in the kitchen. You’re out of bullets and cornered.” He reached for her. “First choice?”
“Kill the bastard.” Kate grabbed for the barstool and whacked him in the head as hard as she could, but he twisted in the last second and the blow glanced off his skull.
He’d ordered her right at the beginning, fairly forcefully, to hold nothing back. And then he’d pushed and pushed, baiting and goading her. At this stage, if she maimed him, she figured he deserved it.
“Second choice?” He pushed forward with a growl.
“Incapacitate him then call 911.” She lunged forward instead of pulling back, and kicked at his most sensitive parts, but wobbled at the last second and missed by a fraction of an inch.
“Third choice?” He grabbed for her.
“Run like hell and live to see another day.” She put her head down, then yanked it up hard, smashing it into his chin so that his head snapped back and his grip on her slipped.
She ran for the stairs that led up.
He was on top of her in a second, bringing her down and pinning her. “Wrong move. What did we say about the stairs?”
“If I have a choice, go down.” The basement had an outside exit, while upstairs she could get trapped.
“Right.” He lifted his body off her and sat next to her, his eyes narrowing as he watched her struggle to catch her breath. His biceps bulged from under his black T-shirt that was barely wrinkled, while her shirt and pants looked like he’d mopped the house with her. Which, technically, he had.
She sat up. He was insanely strong. She hadn’t expected that, considering his injury. And he was fast. He didn’t have to think about what move he was going to make next. He fought on instinct, while her instincts pushed her to run away screaming.
Except when they pushed her to throw herself into his arms. She looked away from him, not wanting him to read her pitiful reaction in her eyes.
“I’m going to reinforce the rainspouts. Then you can go upstairs if you have no other choice, and climb down without breaking your neck.”
“I can break my neck even if the rainspout doesn’t break under me. Severe balance deficiency. Remember?”
He closed his eyes for a second. “All right. If at all possible, go for the basement.” He reached into his pocket and gave her a set of car keys.
“I got a rental today. It’s parked in front of 212 Summer Lane. You run out the basement door, cross the back neighbors’ yard. It’s a black Mustang. There’s some money and a backup gun in the glove compartment. If all else fails, you get in and drive away. Tank is full. It has GPS. Just drive and be safe.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
Tension filled the air between them as they stared at each other.
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“We’re going up against a master hit man. We’re going to get hurt. Our best case scenario is just not to be dead when this is over.”
She drew back, her limbs going cold suddenly. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this. I could just leave. I’m good at running. I’m a hell of a lot better at running than I am at fighting.”
“If all goes well, you won’t have to fight. I’ll fight for you. We discussed this already. This is the only way you’ll ever be free. This is your best chance. You have a partner this time, someone who’s been trained both as a cop and a soldier. And we know Asael is here, that he’s coming. He loses the element of surprise.”
He moved closer and took her hand. “If you want to be free…I’m pretty sure it’s one of those now or never things. We’ll set the trap for the day after tomorrow. I don’t want to wait too long, or he might make his move when we’re not expecting it.”
“We’ll make a show of me going off,” he said. “But I’ll circle back and come in through the back door. When he comes, I’ll engage him. You go call for help. If he gets through me, you run for your life. But it’s not going to happen. I’m going to handle him.”
He stood then reached out to pull her to her feet.
She hesitated a moment before she asked, “How is your shoulder?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Right. That’s why you still favor your right arm.”
“I can use my left arm.” He put his left hand under her chin, tilting her face to him. Then he lowered his head to hers and kissed her.
Everything went still inside her as his warm lips touched hers. She could barely remember the last time she’d been kissed. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed this, a man’s arms around her, his dark gaze boring into hers with scorching heat. And, boy, could Murph Dolan fix a girl with a look that sent tingles down all the way to her toes.
He smelled like man, tasted like coffee and felt like heaven.
Her eyelids fluttered closed, and she gave herself to the sensation of being pressed against his hard chest while his mouth explored her gently, teasing her, tasting her. His great warrior body vibrated with restrained need, but he took the kiss slowly.
He brushed his lips over hears in agonizingly slow motion, covering every nook and cranny, then catching her bottom lip between his teeth for a minute before he swept inside and tasted her fully, making her weak in the knees.
Maybe he remembered her balance issues, because he gathered her against him tightly. Part of her wouldn’t have minded staying like that forever.
“I wanted to do this from the moment I saw you sleeping in my bed,” he murmured against her mouth.
“I just wanted to shoot you,” she said the first thing that popped into her dazed mind, then caught herself and winced. “Sorry.”
He laughed as he stepped back. “That’s a very healthy survival instinct. We’re going to develop more of that in whatever little time we’ll be given.”
And then he attacked her.
Dana Marton writes fast-paced action-adventure romances that take her readers all over the globe. She is a Rita Award finalist and the winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence. She loves writing stories of intrigue, filled with dangerous plots that try her tough-as-nails heroes and the special women they fall in love with. Her books have been published in seven languages in eleven countries around the world.
She would love to hear from her readers.
Okay, the above version is the glamour version for press releases. The truth is that my path to publication was nothing but unglamorous. I wrote for 13 years and completed 4 books (as well as having others in various stages of completion) before I finally received a call from a Harlequin editor. I was beginning to wonder if I was being tenacious or just too dense to know when to quit. But it all worked out at the end! J I love, love, love writing and would spend all day in front of the computer if I could just break my family of the habit of wanting to eat and wear clean clothes. What’s up with that? But I must get up from the desk now and then, if only because my Internet connection goes down or my ancient PC overheats. Then I do enjoy cooking, knitting, hunting for treasures at the flea market, our Beagle, Peanut the Destroyer, and gardening.
I’d love it if you picked up one of my books and emailed me to tell me what you thought of it. I’ve been known to name characters after readers. Just ask Princess Judi.