"When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, St. Claire is the author you want."
Now You Die (Bullet Catchers Series #6)by Roxanne St. Claire
Former Bullet Catcher and lone wolf investigator Jack Culver is on a mission. Thirty years ago, an innocent woman was convicted of murder. Jack believes he's found the real killer -- but to take down one of the highest legal authorities in the land, he needs access. Serious access. Unfortunately, the one person he knows with that kind of power is his ex-boss and… See more details below
Former Bullet Catcher and lone wolf investigator Jack Culver is on a mission. Thirty years ago, an innocent woman was convicted of murder. Jack believes he's found the real killer -- but to take down one of the highest legal authorities in the land, he needs access. Serious access. Unfortunately, the one person he knows with that kind of power is his ex-boss and ex-lover, the woman who still haunts his dreams.
Bullet Catchers owner Lucy Sharpe realizes she's being used for her connections, and she intends to use Jack Culver right back. She's determined to see justice served, even if that means partnering with the man who once found his way past her iron shields. This time, she'll be strong enough to avoid Jack's persuasive touch.
But when passion flares, and they become the killer's target, Lucy and Jack don't just break some rules -- they shatter them. And that means risking everything: their jobs, their hearts...and their lives.
"Hot, fun, fast and fearless! I want one of those bodyguards!" Cherry Adair, New York Times bestselling author
"When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, St. Claire is the author you want." Romantic Times
Read an Excerpt
Astor Cove, New York The Hudson River Valley Late Summer, 2008
Lucy Sharpe woke to the sound of gunfire. Steady. Distant. Infuriating.
She rolled out of bed and strode to the window, totally naked, completely awake, and royally pissed. Who the hell was taking target practice at three in the morning?
She peered at the training compound a half mile away, a few security lights casting yellow circles around the perimeter, but otherwise dark. Only one man had the nerve to do something like this.
Jack Culver. A master at worming his way into places he didn't belong.
She resisted looking at the empty bed behind her. Instead, she scooped up her satin drawstring pajama pants and stepped into them, then yanked the matching camisole over her head.
As she flipped her hair out from underneath the thin fabric, she snagged her G-23, checked the magazine, then headed out of her room. Barefoot, armed, and riled enough to scare the crap out of that son of a bitch, she padded down the long, dark hallway that separated her private living quarters from the rest of the ten-thousand-square-foot mansion.
At the top of the stairs, she paused at the library doors, considering a change in plans. Most nights when she couldn't sleep, she fought the demons by working, coordinating the resources of her successful security and investigation firm and focusing on problems she could solve. Present-day problems, not ancient ones that were out of her control.
But tonight wasn't most nights. And the demons weren't in her head, they were in her compound. One demon, anyway.
And this one was staying at the Bullet Catchers' guesthouse, invading the Bullet Catchers' war room, and infiltrating her carefully constructed, perfectly organized, highly efficient world. And using her firing range as his personal playground in the middle of the night.
How the hell had he managed it? She'd fired him. And yet...he'd managed to wrangle an invitation back. A temporary one, anyway.
Another gunshot echoed.
He wasn't even allowed to fire a gun. Downstairs she stabbed at the alarm pad in the kitchen and stepped outside into the night air, the temperature in the Hudson Valley suspended between the final dog days of August and the first nip of autumn.
The stone path was cool under her feet as she moved soundlessly, passing the guesthouse. This smaller version of her own Tudor mansion was dark for the night, the bodyguards and security specialists who were at headquarters for training or for assignment briefings all asleep now.
Another round popped. Not all of them. The shots were slower now, as if he'd switched to a .45 and the recoil and that wounded trigger finger had changed his rhythm. And the echo told her he was out on the straight range, behind the two-story live fire house they used for training.
Breaking every rule and pissing her off: that would definitely be Jack.
She stayed in the shadows, following a half-mile hilly path to the training compound. When she reached the classroom and simulation facility, she stealthily moved around the building.
She saw the target silhouettes, five of them static, others moving on a cable between them. She heard him rack the semiautomatic he had no right carrying, let alone firing, and then the shuffle of his foot as he took his stance.
She inched out and lifted her Glock, her eyes on the central moving target. When she smacked that silhouette right in the heart, he'd get the message to stop. She slipped her finger over the trigger just as the moon came out from behind a cloud, spilling silver light all over the range...and over Jack.
She couldn't look away. She could barely breathe.
His dark hair tumbled down to broad, bare shoulders, the carved angles of his back shadowed and smooth. He aimed his gun with steady, tensed arms, his legs in a wide stance. He wore only jeans that were slung low on his narrow hips and fitted over his hard, curved backside.
She closed her eyes, leaning her warm face against the cool cement wall, the image vivid in her mind.
But wait a second. Something was wrong with that picture...
Jack was shooting left-handed.
She popped around the corner again to make sure. Of all the arrogant, stubborn, stupid things. Did he think she'd change her mind and let him carry if he fired with his other
The shot cracked and the moving target stopped dead on its cable, shot to the heart.
All right, everyone gets lucky sometimes. Especially Jack. She waited, her weapon down as she watched.
He fired. Hit the head. Fired again. Hit the heart. Fired again. Hit the kidney. Fired again. Right between the eyes.
He lowered the gun, and his black hair caught the moonlight as he gave a hoot of victory. The sound reached into Lucy's gut and twisted something she did not want to have twisted.
Not by a man she loathed, blamed for almost killing one of her best men, and had fired because of it. Still, as much as she hated him, as much as she vowed he'd never be a Bullet Catcher again, as much as she regretted the one night she'd let him enter the ultimate place he had no right to be her body she couldn't fight the tendril of respect that curled around her heart.
He'd taught himself to shoot left-handed and damn straight, too.
Did he really think that would change her mind? Earn his old job back?
Get real, Jack.
The only reason he was allowed here was because he had information that could help her on a case, and the briefing was early tomorrow morning. Very early.
Once more, she drank in the vision of his half-dressed body in the moonlight, then started home, moving as silently as she had on her way there.
Forget sleep. That was a lost cause.
She followed alongside the building, thinking about tomorrow's meeting and how Jack would undoubtedly
A hand clamped over her face and she bucked backward, instantly raising her weapon only to have it knocked right out of her hands. She whipped her elbow around, aiming for the throat, but her attacker ducked at exactly the right instant.
She coiled to throw a kick, but he twirled her effortlessly and pressed her flat against the wall, pushing a shocked breath from her lungs.
Firm, confident hands pinned her against the wall. "Leaving so soon, Ms. Sharpe?"
"I love you, too."
He was six-two and a hundred eighty pounds of solid attitude, but she could have fought him. "I have ten different moves that could fold you in half."
He laughed softly. "Sweetheart, you fold me in half by standing still."
Of course he'd turn it into a sexual tease. "If you don't get your goddamn hands off me, Jack, I'm going kick you so hard you'll still be limping tomorrow."
His expression was pure sin, white teeth gleaming, midnight eyes mocking. He took that same wide stance he'd had at the range, offering her direct access to his crotch. The move brushed his hips against her, the contact branding.
"Go ahead. Gimme your best knee."
Her body betrayed her with a white hot crackle of response.
"You are seriously pushing your luck, Culver."
His eyes narrowed and he pinned her, his chest against hers, his hips dangerously close. "What I'm pushing is you against the wall. Like it?"
"Unless you want me to hurt something you value, let me go."
"It's so damn hard..." He leaned in an inch, as if he might show her exactly how hard it was. "...to get your attention around here."
"That's because I'm working. I have a company to run, and you're interrupting the sleep I need to do that." She pressed harder against the building, determined not to give in to the impulse to do the opposite.
Just once. Here in the dark, alone. Just one more time to feel the hot steel of him.
"We'll talk in the morning, Jack. You'll have my attention at the meeting."
"But I have it now."
She shook some hair off her face so she could look right into his eyes. "You've got five seconds to back off."
"Then I'm gonna use them "
He stared at her, his eyes smoky and heavy lidded. "To ask a favor."
"You know I'll go right down to the wire."
"You know I'll break your balls, just like that drug addict broke your trigger finger."
His look grew dangerously dark. "My old trigger finger."
"Yeah, I saw your new trick. Not impressed. As far as I'm concerned, your only trigger finger is injured for life. Regardless of the fact that you managed to get that expunged from your NYPD record, and lied about it to me."
His fingertip grazed the skin under her earlobe, sending a shiver from her neck to her toes.
"My trigger finger works just fine." He dropped his gaze, looking right at the one place where she couldn't hide her response. Her nipples jutted against the thin satin, twin peaks of reaction. "It's firing you up."
She gave him a solid push. "Stop it."
He backed up with a smile, keeping one hand on her shoulder. "Since you're here, let's talk."
"I'm going back to bed."
"I'll go with you." At her look, he grinned. "Up the path, I mean."
That's how Jack always operated. He inched his way into places, eased himself where he shouldn't be, and the next thing she knew, wham he was taking matters into his own hands. "No."
"Then how about a little friendly competition?" He turned to pick up her gun. Handing it to her, he let their fingers brush. "My left hand against your right?"
He never took no for an answer. "I can't take advantage of you like that, Jack."
"Sure you can. Come on." He nodded his head toward the range. "It'll be fun."
Actually, it probably would be. Wrong on every level, but fun. "No."
"You're worried I'll beat you."
She snorted softly.
He leaned closer. "You'll like the prize."
Something unholy and unwanted rolled through her at the rumble in his voice. "Which is?"
"Oh, let's see. Let's make it interesting, but...safe."
Nothing was safe with him.
"How about..." He was already leading her toward the firing range. "The winner gets to do anything they want to the loser...above the neck."
She laughed. "Above the neck."
"Yeah." He guided her to the shooting berm. "You win, you can do anything you want to me above the neck. You can box my ears. You can pull my hair. You can "
"I get the idea."
"Kiss me with tongue."
"We can't "
" can't set up a Tyro course, because I only have one round."
He turned toward a prep area where he'd laid out several different weapons and magazines. "Got a Glock mag right here."
So he'd been planning this all along.
"I'll set up the Tyro," he said. "Three stages, three targets, twenty-four shots, ten yards."
"Fine." She slipped the extra ammo into the elastic waistband of her sleep pants and got into position. "I'm going to kick your injured ass and then slap your arrogant face. And then I'm going to bed." Alone.
At the opposite end of the range, the circular markers thunked into place. Without taking a breath, she stood, aimed, and fired eight times. She missed the third shot by a millimeter but made the rest.
He fired eight times. And missed nothing.
Neither said a word.
She shook her hand, shot until she had emptied the clip, reloaded, racked, and finished the next eight. She missed nothing.
He did the same, missing one.
"Tie game," he said. "Together, this time."
Her eyes locked on the target; she aimed the Glock. Next to her, he did the same.
"Shoot," he ordered.
They fired simultaneously, each shot echoing over the hills and disappearing into the night.
She missed one. He drilled a three-inch hole in the bull's-eye.
She lowered her weapon. "Nice work."
He shoved his weapon into the waistband of his jeans, then took her Glock, setting it with the others.
"Time to pay the piper," he said softly, turning back to her.
Anticipation rolled over her skin, leaving chills, and making her take a half step backward as he lifted his hands to her face.
She couldn't really say no if she wanted to.
"Above the neck, one can find..." Strong, warm fingers cupped her face, lifting it toward his. The twinkle in his eyes was the only evidence of humor; otherwise his expression was purely serious. Purely hot. "Many attractive things."
Against her will, she parted her lips. She could do this. She could kiss Jack Culver, take his tongue, feel his body, and walk away. She had control over everything including her libido.
No one was that irresistible.
Her eyes drifted closed as he lowered his face, his breath on her mouth, his fingers just skimming her hairline. He didn't kiss her. Instead, he threaded his hands in her hair and slowly, gently combed through, sliding his fingers all the way to the ends with a sigh of raw appreciation.
"Are you done now?"
"Mmmm. No." He turned her face, his lips brushing her cheek. A stroke of her hair and a kiss on the cheek? Surely Jack wouldn't settle for that.
Disappointment, cold and sudden, dropped through her.
She stiffened and started to pull back as he placed his lips over her ear.
"All I want above your neck, Lucinda Sharpe, is your brain. That incredible, wicked, keen mind that puts others to shame."
She stayed very still, the sensations of his words in her ears whirling down to her toes.
"Do you know what I love most about your mind?"
The word love delivered a little jolt through her, but she didn't move. "I can't imagine."
"That it's open." He punctuated that with the tiniest flick of his tongue against her lobe, firing a few more sparks and deadening any common sense.
"Open to every possibility, no matter how outrageous or unbelievable or impossible it might seem when you first hear about it."
She inched around to face him, close enough to count every lash and every unshaved whisker, but far enough away to lessen his magnetic pull.
"What are you talking about?"
"I need you to have an open mind tomorrow when I present the evidence in the Stafford case." He paused, then leaned a little closer to whisper the rest. "No matter what I say."
"I always have an open mind."
"I'm going to be testing it."
She pulled away completely. "How?"
All her synapses were firing now, her mind firmly back in focus.
"That's why you did this? You made all this noise that you knew would get me down here just to ask me to have an open mind?" She didn't believe it, not for a minute.
"Yep. Unless you want to go into the woods and make out."
"What do I have to have an open mind about? You have a theory about the murder?"
He stepped away to get her gun. "Here you go, Luce." He handed it to her, letting their fingers touch again. "You better get some sleep now. Be careful on your way back to the house. There are wolves all over this place." He winked and walked away, disappearing into the darkness.
Three hours later, Lucy was still at her desk poring over files and thirty-year-old transcripts from Eileen Stafford's trial, when her breath was stolen for the second time in one night.
She blinked at the picture, turned it upside down, and slid her gaze over to the list of names she'd been jotting down on a yellow pad.
"No damn wonder he wanted me to have an open mind." A wry smile pulled at her lips.
Jack was a lot of things: a tease, a flirt, an unrelenting, shameless, fearless smart-ass, who had his finger on all her hot buttons and loved to press them. He was also a brilliant investigator, and he could solve crime puzzles like no one she'd ever met.
But more than anything, Jack had a vigilante streak that had gotten him in a lot of trouble.
If he was right about this...what would he do about it?
She shuddered to think of the ramifications.
She wanted the truth, and then justice. Jack wanted retribution period. That was the fundamental difference between them.
She flipped the picture again, looking at the names she'd written, especially at one she'd originally discarded.
Jack wanted much more than an open mind. He wanted access. And she was one of the few people in the world with the connections to investigate something of this magnitude.
Jack knew that, of course. He was using her.
Which made them even. Because that night a little over a year ago, when he'd made her forget every pain and every regret she carried, she'd been using him.
So she owed him one. And if he was right, this would make history. No, this would change history.
Jack knew all too well what she found irresistible. Copyright © 2008 by Roxanne St. Claire
Meet the Author
Roxanne St. Claire left her PR career to write full time. She lives in Florida with her husband and children.
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