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By Jenna Mills
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLightning didn't strike twice.
Wesley "Hawk" Monroe knew that, had learned the hard way, lived by the credo. He was a man who dealt in cold, hard reality. Fate and luck had no place in his world. He'd learned to fight, to survive, in some of the worst hellholes imaginable. But all those defenses betrayed him now, let the danger seep closer.
Because of her.
Through the darkness he could sense her, feel her, moving among the shadows, just out of reach. Always, always just out of reach. The moonless night muted vision, but he didn't need sight to see her tall, willowy form moving toward him with a grace that could only be called predatory.
The warning sounded next, loud, persistent, droning like a warped record. She didn't belong here. She had no place on the fringes of his world, no business being close enough to touch and feel. To remind.
He'd worked too hard to dull edges that once had cut to the bone.
Oblivion had come easier then, with thousands of miles and an entire ocean between them. He'd trained himself not to think of her. Not to remember. Not to want. But here among the shaded streets of Richmond, memories shimmied everywhere he turned. Even here. In his own little house south of town. His own bed.
A whisper of movement then, closer. And the scent, soft, subtle, vanilla and something exotic, something that lingered like poison on his sheets. And leather.
Ah, God, the leather ...
On a violent rush of adrenaline, he brought himself awake. Twisting against the sheets tangled around his body, he clicked on a bedside lamp and squinted at the glaring intrusion of light.
The digital clock read 5:43.
Swearing softly, he grabbed the relentlessly ringing phone. "This better be good -"
The deep booming voice hit like a bucket of ice water. He pushed upright, ridiculously reminded of what it was like to be a hormone-crazed teenage boy interrupted by his girlfriend's father at the worst possible moment. "Ambassador Carrington."
"Jorak Zhukov has escaped," his employer informed him. The overseas telephone connection brought a slight delay to his explanation. "He's been missing almost two hours."
And that was all it took. Those last hazy fragments of the dream shattered, leaving only the harsh light of reality.
Heart hammering, Hawk disentangled himself from the covers and stood. He didn't need to be told the danger Zhukov presented to the family Hawk was paid to protect. The criminal who'd sworn vengeance on the Carringtons killed with the casual disregard most men channel surfed.
"How in God's name does a prisoner escape from a federal detention center?"
"Good question," Carrington bit out. "My family is not safe with that animal on the loose. I need you to bring Elizabeth home."
Across the room, his Glock sat waiting on an old pine dresser. Of course the Carringtons weren't safe. He needed to assemble and disperse his team, to ratchet up security, and -
He went very still.
Swearing softly he shoved the hair from his face.
"Home?" he asked, committing the cardinal sin of letting memory intrude. He looked at his no-nonsense bed, the tangled white sheets, and saw her. Elizabeth. Right there in his bed, sable hair fanned out on the pillow he'd long since thrown out.
"She's in Calgary," the ambassador said. "Accepting an award on behalf of the Foundation."
"I'll call Aaron, sir. He -"
"You. You're the best, Monroe. I want you with my daughter ASAP."
Hawk put distance between himself and the bed. Cool morning air whispered across the heated flesh of his body, but did nothing to dispel the lingering rush of the dream.
"Wesley." The ambassador spoke in that firm, nononsense voice of his, and Hawk realized he'd let silence hang between them too long. "Is there a reason you don't want to protect my daughter?"
The word protect stopped the protest ricocheting through him. He didn't want to see Elizabeth Anne Carrington, that was true. But protect ... God. Once, he'd sworn to give his life for the sleek, elegant, oh-so-untouchable Elizabeth Carrington.
Once, he almost had.
Two years had passed since then, two telling years during which they hadn't shared one word, one look, not even when he'd been taken down by a sniper. Nothing. And for the hundredth time, Hawk wished he'd stayed in Europe. Then the ambassador wouldn't be asking him to walk back into his daughter's life.
He'd rather have red-hot splinters shoved under his fingernails.
"No, sir," Hawk said, heading for the bathroom. A quick shower and he'd be on his way. To her. Elizabeth. "No reason."
"The Lear will be ready when you reach the airport. I'll feel better knowing you're with her. She trusts you."
Hawk bit back a noise low in his throat. He and Elizabeth would be alone for hour after hour in a plane no bigger than a sardine can. She'd be close enough to touch. To breathe in the subtle scent of vanilla that had lingered on his sheets. To feel the heat from her body, the body he could still feel twined with his, when he screwed up and let his dreams last too long.
"I'll bring your daughter home," he promised, turning on the cold water. Anticipation ran hot. For a few hours her life would be in his hands. Finally, at last, she'd have no choice but to confront what she'd run from two years before.
And this time she would have nowhere to hide.
Excerpted from Crossfire by Jenna Mills Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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