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Sanctuary in Chef Voleur (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1508)

Overview

SHE WAS A COMPLICATION P.I. MACK GRIFFIN DIDN'T NEED—BUT A TEMPTATION HE COULDN'T RESIST.

From the moment he opens his door to her, P.I. Mack Griffin knows he's inviting trouble. Not only has Hannah Martin fled to New Orleans after witnessing a brutal murder, but the killer has kidnapped her ailing mother. Nothing but trouble, so…

Why does the sexy P.I. decide to help Hannah and keep her safe? Because watching her fight for justice while trying...

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Sanctuary in Chef Voleur (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1508)

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Overview

SHE WAS A COMPLICATION P.I. MACK GRIFFIN DIDN'T NEED—BUT A TEMPTATION HE COULDN'T RESIST.

From the moment he opens his door to her, P.I. Mack Griffin knows he's inviting trouble. Not only has Hannah Martin fled to New Orleans after witnessing a brutal murder, but the killer has kidnapped her ailing mother. Nothing but trouble, so…

Why does the sexy P.I. decide to help Hannah and keep her safe? Because watching her fight for justice while trying to stay alive demonstrates a bravery he finds nothing short of amazing. With criminals on their trail and everything to lose, Mack will be there for her as any professional investigator would. And yet winning this battle has suddenly turned into something much more personal.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373697755
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/17/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Intrigue Series , #1508
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 263,015
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mallory Kane has 2 great reasons for loving to write. Her mother, a librarian, taught her to love and respect books. Her father could hold listeners spellbound for hours with his stories. His oral histories are chronicled in numerous places including the Library of Congress Veterans' History Project. He was always her biggest fan.

She has published 26 books for Harlequin Intrigue. She lives in Tennessee with her Renaissance husband and two very smart cats.

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Read an Excerpt

Hannah Martin's heart leaped into her throat as she waved at Mr. Jones, their neighbor, whose house was a mile away from theirs. He was watering his window boxes as she drove past.

Billy Joe had told her to be friendly with the neighbors but not to talk to them. "If you say one word to anyone, you'll never see Stephanie alive," he'd told her more than a few times in the past twenty-four hours.

Her mom, Stephanie Clemens, had gone into liver failure from cirrhosis a couple of weeks ago and was receiving hemodialysis while waiting for a donor liver. Then two days ago, Hannah had overheard Billy Joe, her mother's boyfriend, talking on his cell phone. He was arranging some kind of delivery to Tulsa, Oklahoma. And from his side of the conversation, it was obvious to Hannah that the goods were illegal and very valuable. It had to be drugs.

She'd confronted him and kicked him out of her mother's house, saying if he showed back up, she'd go to the sheriff. He'd left.

Then, yesterday, when she'd returned from a short run to the drugstore, her mother was gone and Billy Joe was back. He'd abducted her mom and was holding her somewhere.

Hannah growled in frustration and desperation as she pulled into the driveway of her mother's house. Popping the trunk lid, she grabbed one heavy case of beer, leaving the other case for a second trip.

"Billy Joe?" she called as she hooked her index finger around the handle of the screen door and then toed it open enough to catch it with her elbow. "Billy Joe? I'm back. My car's battery died again. That's why I took the Toyota."

She set the beer on the kitchen counter and listened. Nothing. The house felt empty. Where was he? He was always waiting at the door to make sure she got back from the grocery store not one minute later than he'd told her to be—with his cigarettes and beer.

An ominous thought occurred to her. Had something happened to her mother? She went through the house, but as she'd known, it was empty. Billy Joe wasn't there. Nearly panicked, she ran back outside. The setting sun reflected on the tin roof of the garage, but she thought she could see a light on inside it. Billy Joe never left a room without turning off the light, just like he never left the house without checking the locks three times. And woe to anyone who didn't put a tool or a book or even a ballpoint pen back exactly where they got it, down to the millimeter. So if the lights were on in the garage, then Billy Joe was in there.

From the first moment her mother had let him move in a few months ago, he'd taken over the garage. He'd kept it locked and never let her or Hannah near it. His reasoning was because he was working on his prized vintage Mustang Cobra and the engine had to stay free of dust. He was as obsessive about his cars as everything else.

Hannah walked across the driveway to the garage, her shoulders stiff, her heart thudding so hard it physically hurt. Maybe her mother was in there? It wasn't the first time she'd thought that, but she was genuinely afraid of Billy Joe. After all, he'd pushed and slapped her mother a couple of times.

She wasn't sure what she thought—or hoped—to find when she looked through the glass panes of the side door, but she couldn't continue to sit by and do nothing while her mother was missing. Luckily, she'd just had her dialysis and wouldn't need it again until the end of the week. But Hannah didn't trust Billy Joe to take care of her. So although her stomach was already churning with nausea and a painful headache was making her light-headed, she was determined to see the inside of the garage.

Then she heard Billy Joe's voice. She nearly jumped out of her skin. In the first instant, she thought he was yelling at her. But by the time she'd heard three or four unintelligible words, she realized that his tone wasn't angry, it was afraid. Then she heard another voice. It was low and menacing, and she didn't recognize it.

With horrible visions swirling in her head of her mother dying while Billy Joe and some buddy of his drank beer, she approached the door cautiously. She slid sideways along the outside wall until she was close enough to see through the glass panes, her heart beating so loudly in her ears that she was positive the people inside could hear it.

When she peeked through the dusty glass panes, Billy Joe's back was to her, so she couldn't see his face. He was standing in front of his workbench, arms spread plaintively, talking in an oddly meek voice.

Her gaze slid to the man standing in front of him. He was twice the size of Billy Joe. Not quite as tall but much larger. He had on a dark, dull-colored T-shirt that fit his weightlifter's torso and beefy biceps like a glove. On the back of his right wrist was a tattoo. It was red and heart-shaped with what looked like letters in the center. Hannah blinked and squinted. Did it say MOM? She thought so, although the O wasn't exactly an O. It was a dark circle. Before she could focus on it, the man reached behind his back and pulled a gun. The fluorescent light glinted off the steel barrel. Hannah stared at it, her pulse hammering in her throat.

Billy Joe froze in place. His voice took on an edge of shrill panic and he stepped backward and turned his palms out. "Hey, man, watch out with that thing. It could go off." He laughed nervously. "I swear! You know everything I know. I'd never cheat the boss. I ain't that stupid."

Hannah saw a quick smirk flash across the other man's face and knew he was thinking the same thing she was. Billy Joe was pretty stupid.

"So what happened to the drugs and the money?" the man said, not raising his voice. "Because our customer says he was shorted, and the last payment you sent to Mr. Ficone was short, as well. Mr. Ficone depends on his distributors to pay him so he can pay his suppliers. Now his suppliers are expecting to be paid everything they're owed when Mr. Ficone meets with them in three days. So you've got three days to get that money to him."

"I don't know what happened to them, man. I had to use a new courier because my regular guy got picked up for not paying child support. Maybe he took it. I swear it was all there when I sealed the envelope. Or, hey, it coulda been the girl. Hannah Martin. My girlfriend's daughter. Smart-mouthed bitch." Billy Joe was sweating, literally. "She's always snooping around. She probably stole the money out of the envelope. That new guy coulda left it lying around."

The man with the red tattoo looked bored and disgusted. "I don't think Mr. Ficone's going to be satisfied with somebody else must have done it. He doesn't like people that can't control their people. That delivery was short almost twenty grand."

"Twenty? That's im-impossible," Billy Joe stammered.

Beneath the fear, Hannah heard something in his voice she'd heard before. Billy Joe was lying.

He took another step backward, toward the door. "I'm telling you, it had to be Hannah Martin. She's as sneaky as a fox. She musta got into it. I wouldn't be surprised. But I swear, when I sealed that envelope, it was all there. I counted it."

Hannah felt a heavy dread settle onto her chest, making it hard for her to breathe. He was throwing her to the wolves. She'd known he was trouble the minute she'd first laid eyes on him, and she'd tried to tell her mother, but Stephanie had never been smart when it came to men.

The man with the red tattoo shook his head. "Money doesn't disappear from a sealed envelope," he said. "I've got better things to do than stand here and listen to you lie. Mr. Ficone needs his money and he needs the drugs that were missing from your last delivery to our customer in Tulsa."

"But, man, I swear—"

"Shut up with your whining," the man yelled. "Where's the money?"

Hannah jumped at the man's suddenly raised voice.

She shrank back against the wall by the door, terrified. He was holding a very big gun and his voice told her he was sick of Billy Joe's rambling excuses.

What if he shot him? Everything inside her screamed "no!" Billy Joe was the only person in the world who knew where her mother was. She wanted to burst into the garage and beg the man to make Billy Joe tell her where her mother was, but the man looked ruthless and he was already sick of Billy Joe's whining. If she called attention to herself, he was liable to shoot her, too.

"All right, punk. Mr. Ficone has no use for you if you're not going to talk about where the money and the drugs are. That's all he wants."

Hannah shifted until she could see through the door again. She saw the man lift the barrel of the gun slightly, aiming it at Billy Joe.

"What he doesn't want is screwups like you working for him. He hates people who can't control their women. He hates thieves and he sure as hell hates loose ends."

"Listen. I'll get the money back. I've got a plan," Billy Joe said, his hands doubling into fists. "My girlfriend's sick. Real sick. And I kidnapped her. I've got her hidden away."

Hannah gasped. Where? Tell him where, she begged silently.

"I told Hannah she'll never see her mom again if she doesn't do what I tell her. She'll give me back the money."

The larger man frowned and brandished the huge gun. "You kidnapped your sick girlfriend? You're a real piece of work."

"Okay, listen, man." Sweat was running down Billy Joe's face and soaking the neck of his T-shirt. "Here's the deal. The drugs are hidden in the Toyota. But that bitch Hannah took it to town. She's got strict orders not to touch my damn car, but she took it anyway. Bet you can't guess where I put 'em. The drugs." Despite the gun pointed at him, Billy Joe's voice took on the bragging tone he used when he was sure he'd done something brilliant. "They're hidden in the trunk lining."

The man rolled his eyes and raised his gun.

"No, wait," Billy Joe begged. "I was trying something new. A better way to hide them for transport. I swear man, that's all. As soon as I made sure it worked, I was going to ask to show it to Mr. Ficone." Billy Joe took a nervous breath. "Or you. Maybe you'd want to see it first. You could take the credit for thinking it up if you want."

The man with the tattoo flexed his fingers around the handle of the handgun.

"Okay, listen. Hannah will be back any minute. She'd better be." He turned his hands palms out and continued babbling. "Wait till you see the car. It's brilliant, the way I hid the drugs. It's all fixed up, ready to go."

Fear and desperation twisted Hannah's heart. Billy Joe was off on his favorite subject. Cars. The moment when he might have revealed where her mother was had passed.

"It's a blue Toyota. Oh, I said that already. Anyhow, I painted it and boosted the engine. Th-the passenger-side mirror is broken and there's a crack in the windshield. It looks like any old family car on the outside, but under the hood is a screaming turbo-charged V-8. It's perfect for transport." Billy Joe had turned his body slightly to the right and was gesturing with his left hand to emphasize what he was saying, but Hannah saw him slowly reaching behind him to the waistband of his jeans.

"What about the money? I don't buy that your new guy or the girl—Hannah?—stole it."

"No, no. Listen. I swear. I'm giving you the real deal." Billy Joe's words tumbled over each other. "It's Hannah. That bitch is the key." He giggled. "The key. You'd better believe me. She's the one you want." He got his fingers wrapped around the handle of the gun that was stuck in his waistband and covered with his untucked shirt.

The man with the red tattoo stiffened and gripped his weapon tightly. "Don't move, slimeball!" the big man shouted.

"Look, I swear on my mama's life. Okay, so I kept those few drugs that are hid in the Toyota. But Hannah's the one who took the money. Not me. Make her talk. She's holding the key to everything," Billy Joe stammered.

Then, as Hannah watched in horror, he pulled out the gun. No! Don't! She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from screaming.

Billy Joe fired. The gun bucked in his hand and the bullet struck the garage wall at least three feet above the other man's head.

Without changing his position or his expression, the big man's finger squeezed the trigger. Billy Joe bucked once, then the back of his shirt blossomed with red, like ink in water. He made a strangled sound, then collapsed to the floor, right where he stood. The small gun he was holding dropped to the concrete with a metallic clatter.

Hannah tried to scream, but her voice was trapped behind her closed throat. The last thing she saw before she turned and ran toward Billy Joe's car was the big man's dark eyes on her and the gaping barrel of the gun pointed directly at her.

A long time later, Hannah wrapped her hands around the thick white mug, savoring its warmth. It was almost midnight—four hours since she'd watched a man shoot Billy Joe in the heart. In one sense it seemed as though it had happened to someone else. But then she would close her eyes and she was there, watching the blood spread across the back of his shirt like a rose blooming in fast-forward on a nature show.

He was dead. Billy Joe was dead, and the secret of where he'd taken her mother had died with him. A spasm of panic shot through her and her hand jerked, spilling the coffee. She grabbed a napkin from a chrome dispenser and laid it on top of the spilled liquid.

Ever since her mother had disappeared, Hannah had been imagining things. She knew her mother was not literally dead yet—not from her disease. But nightmarish images of where she was being held swirled continuously in Hannah's mind.

She could be lying in a bed or on a pallet on a cold floor, her breathing labored, her paper-thin skin turning more and more sallow as the time since her last dialysis treatment grew longer. Without the life-giving procedure, the toxins that her diseased liver couldn't metabolize would kill her within days, if Billy Joe hadn't killed her already.

Her once-beautiful mother, still young at forty-two, was an alcoholic. She'd been as good a mother as she could be, given her addiction, while the liquor had systematically destroyed her liver. By the time Hannah was sixteen, she had become her mom's caregiver.

Right now, sitting in the bright diner with the mug of hot coffee in her hands, she couldn't even remember how she'd gotten into Billy Joe's car, peeled out of the driveway or gotten on the interstate. Her only thought had been to run as if the hounds of hell were behind her. All she remembered was that desperate need to stay alive so she could find her mother.

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