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By Jamie Sobrato
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWHAT JENNA CALVERT NEEDED was a large, tattooed man with a look of death in his eyes. Perhaps someone with a prison record and an intimate knowledge of firearms. Some guy named Spike or Duff.
But even Bodyguards for Less was out of her price range. Jenna listened a second time to the phone recording that described the business's services. No way could she swing the eighty dollars per hour the burly voice on the recording stated was the base price without additional services - and what additional services could a bodyguard provide, anyway?
She hung up and exhaled a ragged breath.
Without a bodyguard, the only protection she had was Guard-Dog-In-A-Box. For twenty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents, she'd purchased as much peace of mind as she could afford - a sorry amount indeed. Thirty bucks had bought her a motion-sensing device that simulated the sounds of killer dogs barking at any unsuspecting intruders.
Unfortunately, it also barked at neighbors passing in the hallway, at pizza delivery men and at Mrs.
Lupinski's many elderly lovers traipsing in and out of the building at all hours of the day and night.
Jenna hadn't had a good night's sleep in a week, and everyone else in the building was getting tired of her canned guard dogs, too. Even Mrs.Lupinski, who was normally otherwise engaged, had yelled obscenities out her door at Jenna last night when she had heard her in the stairwell.
Guard-Dog-In-A-Box had looked so promising there on the shelf at the store, but now that she'd lived with her faux protection for a week, she saw just how desperate she'd become to even buy it.
She was cooked meat.
She never should have started researching the underbelly of the beauty-pageant industry. Ever since she'd begun the research a month ago, her life had been turned upside down by someone who didn't want her writing the story. Jenna had racked her brain trying to figure out who among the people she'd interviewed or spoken with might wish her harm, but no one jumped out as a likely culprit. She hadn't even uncovered any information that seemed worthy of death threats. But the voice-altered phone calls and the threatening mail had included comments like "back off the story" and "you're risking your life if you write it."
Jenna surveyed her apartment, wishing now that she had a roommate, or at least a parakeet. Someone to comfort her and tell her that it wasn't such a bad thing to get three death threats in the past month. Someone who could also remind her that it was really quite normal to nearly get run down by a car in San Francisco. Two days in a row.
Yes, a roommate would be nice right about now. A roommate, a bodyguard and a really big weapon. But all Jenna had was Guard-Dog-In-A Box. She resisted the urge to hurl the waste of money across the room and eyed the double locks on the apartment door. If anyone really wanted to get in, they wouldn't have much trouble. The wood of the door frame was rotting away in places, and the locks looked as if they'd been installed before Jenna was born.
Sure, the front door of her apartment building was supposed to remain locked to nonresidents, but Mrs. Lupinski liked to prop it open for her lovers and the ever anticipated sweepstakes-prize delivery people. Getting buzzed in on the rare occasions it was locked was as easy as claiming to be a pizza delivery guy.
Jenna leaned against the decrepit door and closed her eyes. She let her mind drift to happier days, when home security was the least of her concerns. Only two months ago she'd been a relatively carefree journalist who'd made a decent career of writing for women's magazines, and she was embarking on the story she was sure would finally turn her career from decent to well paying. No more squeaking by on a paltry freelance income that barely paid the high rent in the city. The beauty-pageant exposé was supposed to be her ticket to success.
When the buzzer on the door sounded, she jumped so hard that Guard-Dog-In-A-Box clattered to the floor and began barking. It sounded about as menacing as tin-can recorded dog barks could sound - that is, not menacing at all.
Her hand shook as she pressed the intercom button and said, "Who is it?"
"Ms. Calvert? My name is Travis Roth. I need to talk to you about your sister, Kathryn. May I come up?"
Kathryn? Jenna stared at the intercom, dumb-founded. She hadn't heard from or spoken to her twin sister in years. Could this be a ploy someone was using to get inside the building?
"What about her? Just tell me now."
"I really need to speak with you face-to-face. It's a sensitive matter."
A sensitive matter? Did bloodthirsty criminals talk like that?
"Haven't you ever heard of the telephone?"
"I've been trying to call you for days with no answer."
Oh. Right. She'd unplugged the answering machine after the strange calls started coming in, and finally she'd just stopped answering the phone.
"Look, if you're here about the pageant story, I don't have any idea what your problem is with it!"
She turned off the intercom and pushed her sofa against the door, then climbed on top of it and pulled her legs to her chest. She was beginning to think journalism had been the wrong career choice. What she needed was a nice, safe job. Maybe in forestry, or library science.
No, that was just fear talking. She loved her work. She'd always dreamed of being a freelance writer, and now she was one. Was she really such a coward she'd let someone bully her out of writing the truth? Scared as she might be, in her gut, Jenna knew she wasn't about to stop working on the article.
Excerpted from Too Wild by Jamie Sobrato Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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