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By Maggie Price
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneComing up empty-handed after spending hours searching for her brother who'd commandeered her car didn't make Victoria Dewitt McCall feel like an ace private investigator.
Instead, she felt like a volcano waiting to blow.
Now, minutes after a fellow P.I. had dropped her off, Tory stalked upstairs to her bedroom. She tossed her purse on the upholstered chair near the floor-to-ceiling window, stripped off her black leather jacket, then shoved back one side of the heavy drapes. Mouth set, she stared out the frosted pane, her thoughts as dark as the January night.
The eighteen-year-old brother she'd raised had clearly been in the popcorn line when common sense got handed out. Danny was out on bail, his license suspended over unpaid parking tickets.
If he got stopped by a cop while driving, he'd be back in a cell for failure to pay those tickets.
And her car would wind up in the police impound lot - a complication she didn't need.
Tory huffed out a breath, leaving a small foggy circle against the window. In truth, it wasn't just Danny's latest stunt that had her grinding her teeth.
Life sucked. Her life, specifically.
She hadn't turned on the bedroom light, so when she glanced across her shoulder, the bed, bureau and chest of drawerscrouched like shadowy forms in the weak light spilling from the hallway. The heavy, dark wood furniture wasn't to her liking, but then, little in the house was. It wasn't her house, after all.
It belonged to her husband.
Estranged husband, Tory corrected. Her own common sense had taken leave one evening nearly a year ago. That's when Lieutenant Bran McCall gave Danny a break and hauled him to her doorstep instead of booking him into juvie hall for illegal gambling. With a hand clenched on Danny's upper arm, Bran had sent her a slow, reckless grin which she'd instantly decided was the sexiest thing she'd ever seen. Two nights later she and the cop were in bed.
Even now, those first heady weeks she'd spent with the rugged widower were a blur of searing lust and hot sex. As was the weekend she and Bran both lost their minds and eloped.
Huge mistake. Huge. No way could a union based primarily on physical attraction and set-your-hair-on-fire sex survive long. Not when the parties involved were both independent, take-charge and used to running the show. Bran's walking out three months ago proved that he, too, believed they'd made one hell of a mistake.
A sudden shift in the shadows at the far side of the front lawn snapped Tory's senses to alert mode. Narrowing her eyes, she leaned closer to the window. With the quarter moon ghosting through fat gray clouds, it was possible the movement had been nothing more than wind rustling the thick copse of evergreens.
Seconds later the shadow oozed fully out of the trees. An alarm shrilled in her head.
In full P.I. mode now, she assessed the figure clad entirely in black, including a baseball cap pulled down low. A man, she determined, watching him move. Tall, judging by the way he dwarfed the spiky hydrangea bush he crept past.
Adrenaline jolting her system, Tory jerked on her leather jacket while watching the man skulk toward the east side of the house. Her pride might have taken a hit with Danny eluding her, but she could still deliver any number of well-placed kicks that would take down some sneaky prowler.
And if her varied self-defense skills didn't do the trick, she had backup. She stabbed a hand in her purse, pulled out her trusty Sig-Sauer P226.
Leaving the lights off, she pounded downstairs. It took only seconds to cut through the dark living room and cross the expansive kitchen. At the back door her finger flipped off the Sig's safety, then floated to the trigger. Twisting open the deadbolt, she eased outside. A slap of freezing air hit her face.
Her mind had already settled on a plan. She wanted the advantage of surprise, so she would approach the man from behind.
The Sig hidden against her thigh, she veered west, moving soundlessly in the dark across the winter-dry grass.
Bolting around the house into the backyard, Bran McCall had no presentiment, no intuition, no flash of cop instinct warning him of another presence. He never even sensed the black-clad figure until he plowed over it, toppling it backward as he lost his footing and stumbled forward.
Bran landed with a jarring smack on top of the figure. In the glow of a neighbor's backyard light he caught a glint as something metallic flew through the air. Gun.
There was no way he could draw his own weapon, not with whoever was beneath him flailing and twisting violently while trying to knee him in the groin. Fists punched the sides of his head; the curses spewing against his parka were so muffled he wasn't sure if they came from a male, a female or a plague of angry wasps.
Even as he clamped a hand around one thrashing wrist, then another, a scent as subtle and alluring as moonlight hit him - Tory's scent - and he knew his wife was the kicking, spitting demon trapped beneath him.
"Tory, it's me."
When he felt her hesitate, he braced his forearms on either side of her shoulders. He eased his chest off hers. The next instant she pried one booted foot out from beneath his leg and delivered a stunning kick to the side of his shin that had stars springing into his head.
"Get off me, you jerk!"
Expelling an explicit curse, he locked his leg back over hers. "Dammit, woman, it's me."
"I heard you the first time," she hissed.
As if accepting she was outweighed and out-muscled, she stopped squirming. Rays from the far-off streetlight slanted across her face, picking up the flashing anger in her green eyes as she glared up at him.
"I looked out the bedroom window and saw some prowler skulking in the dark. I thought you were on the other side of the house."
"I doubled back. Decided to look through the garage window for your car."
"You ought to know better than to prowl around at night. I came out prepared to take you down." She jerked her chin in the direction the Sig had flown when she crashed to the ground. "Shoot you, if I had to."
Bran set his jaw. Her reaction was typical Tory - grab a situation by the throat and deal with it. In contrast, his first wife would have stayed safely indoors, phoned the police and reported the prowler. But Patience was long dead, and at this instant the woman squirming beneath him was the primary concern of both his mind and his body.
His hands tightened around her wrists. "When you spotted me, you should have called the cops. Let them take care of things."
Excerpted from Shattered Vows by Maggie Price Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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