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By Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Are you about ready?" Morgan Trayhern poked his head into the bedroom and looked inquiringly at his wife.
Laura turned, the string of pearls Morgan had just given her as a seventh-wedding-anniversary present poised in her hands. She smiled softly, holding the luminescent necklace toward him.
"Will you? It's only fitting." As he stepped into the room, Laura's heart swelled with a fierce tide of love. How had seven years fled by? She watched his usually stoic features relax slightly as she laid the strand in his badly scarred hands. How much Morgan had suffered, Laura thought as she turned her back to him. He had come so far since they'd met on that fateful, rainy day at the Washington, D.C., airport.
She closed her eyes as Morgan leaned lightly against her back. He was wearing a suit in honor of the occasion - celebrating over dinner at a posh Alexandria restaurant. As he slipped the pearls around her neck, a tiny shiver of expectation accompanied his fingers' gentle path.
Morgan smiled slightly as he carefully worked the small gold clasp. Laura wore a camellia-scented perfume. Like her, the fragrance was heady, making his senses spin.
"Seven years," he murmured close to her ear as he slid his hands along the expanse of her shoulders. "Can you believe it? I can't." He never would. Laura was his bright, shining dream against the dark, nightmarish world that probably would never completely stop haunting him. Post-traumatic-stress disorder didn't necessarily go away with time - at least his hadn't. Laura had stood by him - and suffered with him - through the gut-wrenching flashbacks. Before Laura, Morgan never could have fathomed a person of such strength and courage that she'd want to remain at his side during those tortured times.
Responding to his gentle pressure, Laura leaned against him, feeling his warm breath on the side of her neck as he pressed a kiss against her temple. Her nostalgic glow gave way to more urgent feelings and she eased away just enough to turn in his arms and face him. Placing her hands on his broad shoulders, she smiled up into his serious gray eyes.
With a sigh, he brushed a few wayward strands of hair back from Laura's cheek. She wore a simple ivory silk suit that showed off the pearls to perfection. Her blond hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders, arousing in him the urge to tunnel his fingers through its thick, silky mass. His mouth curved ruefully.
"I don't know. It hasn't exactly been heaven living with me, has it? More like a living hell at times."
The scar on Morgan's face from that long-ago hill in Vietnam presented a constant reminder to Laura of the deep, invisible scars he still carried in his heart and soul. She touched his other, recently shaved cheek. "No marriage is perfect, and neither are we. But these have been the best seven years of my life, darling. If I died right now, I'd be happy with exactly what I have here - with you." She glanced fondly toward the partially open door to the dimly lit hall. "We have two wonderful children, a boy who worships you and a baby girl who adores you just as I do." Her eyes filled with tears. "No, these years haven't been hell for me, they've been heaven."
Morgan felt the tension that inevitably gathered in his neck and shoulders with rising emotions. He cupped his wife's delicate face and looked deeply into her luminous blue eyes. "I still don't know how you can stand being around me sometimes, Laura. I guess I'll never understand it. But it doesn't matter. I love you with my life," he breathed against her mouth. He kissed her fully then, parting her lips, tasting the love she effortlessly gave to him. The emotional nourishment she provided was part of the miracle he realized his life to be. Laura was a beacon of strong, steady light for him and for their children. He hoped, as he kissed her, that he was imparting just how deep his love for her ran in him.
As he felt her lips meet and match his fervor, Morgan heard a distinct click. The marine part of him went on instant alert, though he was loath to break their molten embrace. A chill moved up his spine: another warning. One he couldn't ignore.
Breaking away from Laura, he gripped her shoulders, already turning toward the door leading to the beigecarpeted hall. "Stay here," he said in a low voice.
Laura gasped. Three men, dressed completely in black to the dark ski masks covering their heads, appeared soundlessly at the bedroom door. She didn't even have time to raise her hands to her mouth to scream as they drew their weapons. Morgan reacted instantly, thrusting himself in front of her. Too late!
The pop of the guns wasn't the sound of bullets. Laura felt a sting in her left shoulder, and everything became slow motion, like single frames of film passing before her. Two of the men fired at Morgan, and Laura saw two small darts strike him in his neck and chest.
She was disoriented by the intruders' eerie silence as a burning sensation spread rapidly through her, radiating from the area where the first dart had struck her. Looking down, she saw very little blood. Her vision blurred, and her knees suddenly turned to jelly. Morgan gave a strangulated cry, turning toward her, his eyes wide with warning and fear. At the sight of that fear she tasted abject terror.
How many times had Morgan worried about attack from any of the countless enemies he'd made running Perseus over the past seven years? Laura's breath was becoming chaotic, and she struggled for air. She staggered and fell to her knees, automatically reaching for the edge of the bed.
Morgan dropped suddenly and heavily, like a bull that had been shot in the head. He lay unmoving nearby, on his back, one arm extended toward her. Laura stared, feeling her mouth go dry. She looked up. All three intruders warily entered the room, their weapons still raised. A hundred questions swirled in her head as she fought the effects of the drug racing through her system.
She sagged to the floor, oddly conscious of the brush of the lavender carpet's nap against her hands, even as her terror mounted. Had they killed Morgan? Was she dying? Oh, God, no, the children! The children! The thought made Laura whimper, and with everything that remained of her rapidly dissolving strength, she tried to rise. But her weakened muscles would not cooperate, and darkness shadowed her blurred vision.
With a moan, she fell back toward the carpet and knew nothing more.
Excerpted from Morgan's Legacy by Lindsay McKenna Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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