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By Rachel Carrington
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Rachel Carrington
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe'd found her.
But only after calling in the rest of the outstanding favors owed him by his old friends at the New York Police Department. Funny how they could find someone hundreds of miles away when his repetitive calls to every hospital in Raleigh had yielded him no returns. In the end, it didn't matter. Evan had located the right hospital. Now, as he strode down the polished halls, the antiseptic smell stinging his nostrils, anger burned deep in his chest.
With plenty of time to think on the airplane, he'd come to two solid conclusions.
He wasn't leaving Raleigh without his ex-wife, and the psycho who'd hurt her would live to regret it.
From the second he'd heard the news that morning, Evan's temper had spiraled out of control, but deep down inside, it masked the real problem-paralyzing fear for the woman who'd always held his heart.
When the morning broadcast had played out the horrific details of a hostage situation, Evan had been rooted to the spot, horror clenching his stomach. Morgan had gone through hell and not one damned person had called him. Not her parents, her friends in Raleigh. No one.
In the middle of shaving when the reporter's words penetrated his caffeine-neglected brain, Evan's hand had slipped. He touched the nick on his chin as a reminder. His heart had sunk with those words and suddenly, his day had taken a distinctly different turn. His focus had shifted from his job as the town sheriff, protecting the citizens of Skyler, to protecting Morgan.
Now, he stopped at Room 322 inside Wake Forest Hospital. This was it. He didn't take the time to wonder why his palms were sweating. He tapped once on the door before he pushed it open. He swallowed hard and came forward, his footsteps soft.
Morgan lay against the stark white sheets. Her eyelids closed, her face pale. He'd never seen her looking so helpless. Wires connected to her from every angle and monitors beeped with annoying persistence.
He took in a deep, steadying breath before he spoke. "Morgan?"
Her lids flickered and her eyes, a haunting green, focused on his face. "Evan?" Her voice sounded as raspy as a dull saw rubbing metal. "What are you doing here?" She tugged the sheet higher up her neck.
He approached her, never taking his eyes off her face. "If you thought I'd stay away, you don't know me very well."
"How did you find me? The police said they were keeping my location a secret."
Evan knew her too well. She was fidgeting, her hands twisting the spotless sheet around her knuckles. "You don't really need me to answer that, do you?"
Her gaze dropped from his face. "We're divorced."
He didn't need the reminder. "It doesn't change how I feel." He stood by the side of the bed. Instincts pushed him to reach for her, but he knew she was swathed in bandages. He wasn't sure about the extent of the damage, but he recognized the morphine drip next to the side of the bed.
From what the nurse had told him, the entire left side of Morgan's body had borne the brunt of the bastard's sickness and, he saw a deep-rooted emotional pain on Morgan's face that went far deeper than any physical scars.
He hooked his foot around the chair behind him and dragged it forward to sit. "I would have come sooner."
She wouldn't look at his face, wouldn't meet his eyes. Evan felt her anxiety, her fear. It beat at him like a hunger. And when she spoke, her voice was broken, like a child's discarded toy. "You really shouldn't be here."
He edged closer to the bed. "But I am here. I want to help you." He crammed his hands into his pockets to give them something to do. "Are you in pain?"
"Not much. The medication helps."
He heard the lie in her voice. "Morgan, I want to help. Tell me what I can do." He'd never felt so helpless or useless in his life. He hated the weakness, but more than that, he hated seeing Morgan in pain. And knowing there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it.
Her eyes lifted and the stark terror he saw swirling within their depths squeezed his heart. "He's not finished."
Fury roared its ugly head, creating a need to strike out. Evan surged to his feet. He wanted to shout, to throw the chair through the window, but mostly, he wanted to find the son-of-a-bitch who'd done this. He struggled to rein in his anger and softened his voice, trying to comfort the woman he once called his wife.
"He won't hurt you again, Morgan."
She averted her face again and he thought he heard a sob.
"Could you please leave?"
Her words stunned him. "What? You expect me to leave you now? Morgan, I can't. Ask me to do anything but that."
"I have to ask." Her voice broke.
"I can protect you." He'd spent the last fifteen years of his life in law enforcement. She knew that. So why was she pushing him away?
She shook her head almost violently. "No, you can't. You have to leave. Please." She sounded almost frantic, desperate to convince him.
"Morgan, what are you saying?" He leaned closer to her, one hand resting next to her shoulder. "What is it you're not telling me?" His lips brushed her ear.
He closed his eyes, his heart aching. Couldn't she see how much he needed to help her? He couldn't walk away from her. "I'm not going anywhere. I can't leave you as a target. You need to come home." He tucked a strand of golden hair behind her ear.
"Raleigh is my home." Tears coated the words.
Evan bit back a violent curse and straightened. "You can't stay in Raleigh." He enunciated the words carefully. "The bastard knows where you live." He heard her sharp intake of breath and knew he'd caught her attention. He wondered if she'd relent now.
"I don't want to talk anymore. Evan, I can't think about this right now. I just ... I don't want you here."
"Bullshit. Tell me what's really going on. Why do you want me to leave?"
Tears began to leak down her cheeks. "He'll hurt you, too."
That was it. He was going to hunt the asshole down. He still had connections at his old job with the New York Police Department. They could find a seed in a windstorm. He'd find Dexter Canfield.
And he'd kill the son-of-a-bitch himself.
Excerpted from Burning Reflections by Rachel Carrington Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Carrington. Excerpted by permission.
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