Finalist: 2011 Launching A Star Contest
Rescuing damsels in distress is all in a day’s work for Detective Nate Stone. After saving a beautiful woman from a burning car and an assassin’s bullet, he vows to protect her. But the determined assassin always seems to be one step ahead of the game. Suspecting a leak within his Department, Nate takes Rose and runs. He soon discovers that the hardest part of the mission is resisting his desire for the woman who trusts him with her life.
Rose awakes in a hospital with no memory, only to discover that someone tried to kill her. Her only chance to survive an assassin’s game of cat and mouse is the man who saved her and who has promised to protect her. She may not know her past, but she knows her heart, and it longs for her protective warrior, who ignites a passion in her she can’t deny.
A man in an orderly’s uniform entered the room. Someone Rose hadn’t seen earlier. He met her gaze and gave her a creepy smile that sent shivers of apprehension through her.
Something about him made her skin crawl and she instinctively did not like him.
“Hello,” she said. “Who are you?”
He shut the door behind him.
“I’m here to check on you,” he whispered in a gravelly voice.
The sedative had worn off, and she’d been awake for a few hours, trying to make sense of things. She eyed him cautiously as he silently moved toward her. Something didn’t feel right. He looked odd. His hair was askew, as if it didn’t sit just right on his head. It was a wig; he was wearing a really bad wig. Large black glasses hid his eyes when the bright florescent lights glared on them, his hands covered with black leather gloves.
Her entire body tensed, and her instincts told her to be wary of this man as he crept closer.
Something glinted in his hand when he neared. Was that a knife? She lifted her eyes and met his hard angry glare. She froze. He reached the side of her bed and loomed over her. She gasped when he raised his arm to strike. The sharp serrated edge of the knife gleamed bright under the harsh florescent lights. She opened her mouth to scream. He slammed his other hand over it and silenced her cries.
She grabbed the arm that held the knife and tried to stop its descent. He maintained his cruel grip over her mouth. Chattering voices from the hall covered the sounds of the life and death struggle in the room. Her heart held hope when footsteps neared her door, only to be shattered when they faded away, leaving her in the hands of a killer.
The battered survivor of an abusive marriage, Angela doesn’t mourn her husband’s death in a drug deal gone bad. But she’s not sure she can survive losing her heart to the handsome detective who assumes she’s a criminal, too.
Tasked with Angela’s safety after she’s targeted by an unknown enemy, Jake discovers the beautiful widow is not what she seems. He soon realizes that trusting her goes hand-in-hand with desiring her, and passion and duty collide.
Now it’s up to Jake to keep Angela—and their chance at happiness—alive.
What am I doing? Angela raced to the refrigerator and opened the door to test the firmness of the dough, taking time to clear her mind from the sensual daze induced by Jake’s kisses.
Heat scorched her cheeks. If the timer hadn’t gone off, would she have let him take her right there on the table? She sprinkled flour onto the counter and placed the dough on it, forming it into a square.
“Can I help?” Jake’s husky voice drifted over her sensitive nerves as he came up behind her and heat radiated from him as he positioned himself at her back.
She pushed hair from her face and reached for the rolling pin, not looking at him. She felt like a gazelle being stalked by a lion.
“No, I’ve got it, thanks.” She rolled the dough into a rectangle, before folding the short ends over the middle to make three layers. Turning the dough a quarter turn she rolled it away from her into another large rectangle.
“That looks complicated.” Jake placed an arm at each side of her, then gripped the counter and peered over her shoulder. Effectively caging her in, his warm, minty, breath feathered across her face. “Explain to me what you’re doing. I might like to make it for my son sometime.”
Her hands trembled when she folded the short ends over the middle again to make another three layers. Normally, she’d place the dough back in the refrigerator at this point for another twenty minutes, but if she worked fast enough she could skip that step. And she wanted to get this done as soon as possible and put some space between her and Jake. Afraid she would throw herself back into his arms.
She glanced over her shoulder and met his heated gaze. His eyes smoldered with banked lust. “Seriously?”
He nodded, watching her with a predatory gleam in his eyes.
She took another shaky breath and glanced back down. “Okay. It—it’s a simple recipe really. I’m making dough for Pear-Hazelnut Tarts. I’ll write it down for you.”
“That’d be great.” His body pressed up against her.
Angela gulped. “Well—well, first you prepare the dough, then you need to wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about half an hour.”
“Uh huh.” He leaned in and nuzzled her ear. “Refrigerate the dough. Got it.”
Her mind went into lockdown. Nothing but silence and sexual tension filled the room.
“I’m listening,” Jake brushed his thumb across her cheek. “Flour,” he murmured, nuzzling her neck.
“Oh.” Her body was wound tight and desire pooled in her belly, and her breasts felt heavy and aching with the need to be touched. A tremor ran through her.
She gave the dough another turn and again folded the ends over. “After you remove the dough from the refrigerator, you need to roll it flat, and shape it into a large rectangle, then fold the short ends over the middle so that it makes three layers.” She demonstrated it for him, although she didn’t really think he was paying attention.
“Right. Three layers,” he repeated. One hand slid to her stomach, tugging her closer.
Angela’s pulse raced. “Umm. Repeat this four times,” she managed to say. “The dough needs to remain firm, if not . . . if not, put it back in the refrigerator for another fifteen minutes before continuing.”
“Mmm, sounds like a lot of work.”
She gave her shoulders a little shrug to loosen his arms from around her. “Some space here, please,” she said, breathlessly.
SHIELDING HER HEART
The woman Rick Smyth desires has shut him out of her life after being brutally beaten in her own home.
But as a new threat arises, Sheila now turns to him for protection.
This time, not only does he vow to keep her safe, but he’s determined to win her heart as well.
Rick paused, leaning heavily against her. Fear curled in her stomach at the sight of his blood stained shirt. His hand covered the wound and the sticky substance oozed between his fingers.
The sound of voices could be heard in the distance and coming their way. “Find her!” a growling voice snapped.
Rick glanced at her bare feet and his mouth set into a grim line. “I’m sorry, honey, we can’t stop. It’s not safe yet.” He stumbled forward, tugging her along behind him.
Sheila couldn’t tell how badly he was hurt, but knew they needed to tend his wound soon or he’d bleed to death right in front of her. Pure terror clutched her heart in a vise-like grip at the thought of Rick dying. Her feelings for him went deep, deeper than she’d wanted to admit to herself. But there was no denying those feelings now. A bone-deep anguish cut a path through her at the thought of a world without Rick in it.
They ran further into the woods as day slipped into night, and she could no longer hear anyone behind them. “Please, Rick. I can’t go any further,” she lied, growing desperate for him to rest.
Rick paused again and peered down at her. He reached out to steady himself on a tree, taking his weight off her. “Okay.”
A relieved sigh whooshed from her.
He scanned the area with narrowed eyes, then straightened, staring over her shoulder. “There.”
Sheila glanced over to see what he was looking at but saw nothing. “What?”
Is he delirious?
That thought sent another spike of fear through her. What would she do if he passed out . . . or worse? Before panic had a chance to take over again, Ricked tugged her toward an overgrown area of shrubs. As they got closer a shack of some kind began to take shape, until she finally realized it was a camouflaged building. A little larger than an outhouse, it was set deep inside the brush.
Rick pushed open the door and gently shoved her inside the small space, then stepped in behind her. The door swung closed, shutting out the view of the woods. The structure had slim, horizontal windows on each wall allowing streams of moonlight to filter in. A small sense of relief fluttered through her. Even if the people chasing them followed them here, there was a chance they wouldn’t see this well-hidden structure.
“It’s a hunting blind,” Rick said, telling her something she’d already figured out. He sat down hard and leaned against a wall. Scowling, he struggled to check the chamber of his gun,
before placing it next to him. His long legs almost touched the opposite wall.
Blood continued to soak his shirt, dripping onto the wood floor. With her heart in her throat, she wedged herself next to him. “I need to stop the bleeding, Rick.”
He nodded. Leaning back against the wall, he took a deep breath and reached up to unbutton his shirt. His hand shook slightly with the effort.
“Let me,” Sheila said softly, moving to her knees and pushing his hand aside. He opened his eyes and watched her as she quickly unbuttoned his shirt. “Can you lean forward?”
His lips twitched. “I think I can manage.” The growing weakness in his voice indicated otherwise.
He managed to sit up straight and with her help slid the shirt off his muscular torso. There was a wound at the upper edge of his shoulder that looked raw and angry. Bile rose up her throat, but she tried not to show her distress.
“The bullet went straight through.” Rick gave her a lopsided grin. “Don’t look so grim, darlin’. It’s not the first time I’ve been shot. Compared to my leg, this is a piece of cake.” The pain in his voice belied his words.
Sheila’s mouth went slack and she stared at him in disbelief. Then she narrowed her eyes. He was so full of it. Although he tried to sound casual, she could see he was weakening fast.
She removed the ribbon from her hair and glared at him. Not sure if she was mad because he’d joked about being shot or the fact that he had been shot . . . twice. But she did feel a little less panicky that he seemed strong enough to tease her. “We need to wrap it, Rambo. So bite down on a bullet or whatever you heroes do at a time like this.”
His mouth curved into a sexy smile. “A kiss might help.”
She snorted and barely refrained from rolling her eyes, although her pulse raced a little. Even with his injury, she wasn’t unaware of how sexy he looked without his shirt . . . broad, hairless chest, and abs rippling with more than a six-pack.
At the sound of crunching footsteps, she froze. Her gaze shot to Rick’s and the ribbon slipped from her fingers and floated to the floor. He reached over and covered her mouth with his hand and shook his head in warning. Sheila nodded and settled back on her heels, taking a deep breath through her nose. She concentrated on keeping her breathing under control.
Rick removed his hand from her mouth and shrugged his shirt from his other shoulder. He returned her nod. His steady gaze offered her comfort, even as he slowly reached for his gun and turned his body toward the door.