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Her ex-husband wants her dead? Daria Carlisle can hardly believe it. Detective Kevin Gordon insists it's true...and that it's his fault that her ex is still at large. Which means it's his responsibility to make sure Daria stays safe. So when Daria stubbornly refuses to run scared, Kevin takes on the role of yuletide protector. He knows firsthand that Daria's ex means business. And with Christmas coming, the ...
Her ex-husband wants her dead? Daria Carlisle can hardly believe it. Detective Kevin Gordon insists it's true...and that it's his fault that her ex is still at large. Which means it's his responsibility to make sure Daria stays safe. So when Daria stubbornly refuses to run scared, Kevin takes on the role of yuletide protector. He knows firsthand that Daria's ex means business. And with Christmas coming, the determined cop intends to give Daria the holiday celebration she deserves--safe and sound by his side forever.
The six-foot-high chain-link gate was locked tight. Kevin Gordon tested it, curling his fingers around the metal, and gave a quick yank.
It didn't budge. He knew it wouldn't. The owners had long since packed up their lunch boxes and paperwork, washed their hands of grease and filth and headed home.
George Carlisle, the man he'd agreed to meet here, was only using this salvage yard on Water Street for their meeting. It looked empty enough. But it was always better to be safe than to be dead.
Satisfied, Kevin carefully moved down the cracked sidewalk, sidestepping a concave square that rainwater had gouged out. A quick glance down to the intersection told him the streets and the crossroad were barren, with no movement except from scraps of newspaper and discarded wrappers that caught the wind and rolled across the asphalt.
No respectable citizen would be caught dead walking these Providence streets at this late hour of the evening. But George Carlisle wasn't exactly respectable and neither was the meeting he had planned. At the moment, though, it was just Kevin and a menacing junkyard dog testing the fence with every jump as Kevin walked along the sidewalk.
"Easy, boy," he said quietly, which only aggravated the dog further. The Christmas lights that had been strung across the top of the fence blinked colors of red, white and green, making the dog's snarl look even more threatening when the colorful light hit its face. Deciding the location was as secure as it was going to get, Kevin focused on his backup. Pulling the hood of his gray winter jacket over his head to conceal his earpiece, the undercover detective said, "You with me in the van,Jake?"
"Reading you loud and clear, Kev." He recognized his partner, Jake Santos, as the man speaking into his ear. "There's no one moving around out here."
"Ski, anything moving from where you're sitting?" The only things moving where Amery Stanasloski was perched were his fingers, Kevin figured. A hint of a smile played on his lips. The kid, fresh out of police academy, was probably sitting on his hands right now either to keep them warm from the winter chill or to just still them. Amery had the eyes of an eagle, but a nervous habit of tapping his fingers. Sitting on the rooftop of the foundry building on the corner, Ski had a bird's-eye view of the blocks below him. Yeah, Kevin could just picture the kid perched high on a wooden crate like a hawk on a cliff.
"That's a negative here. And you're coming through loud and clear," Ski said, but Kevin could barely hear him as the receiver was filled with so much static that Kevin's hand instinctively went to his ear.
"Do you hear that static in the van, Jake?"
"You're both clean here. Must be on your end."
Irritation coiled inside Kevin. A half hour ago when he had tested it, the earpiece was working fine. Now it was too late to go back to the van and get a backup.
"I'm ditching the piece."
Jake's voice came over the radio, his voice firm and hard. "Keep it, Kev."
"I'm liable to blow this whole meeting if I get feedback and flinch. What if Carlisle can hear it? I'm ditching the piece."
"That's a neg—"
Kevin yanked the earpiece out of his ear and dropped it deep into his jacket pocket.
The connection to the team was critical, but the most important factor was making sure the meeting went off without a hitch. Even without audio communication, Kevin knew that Ski was in position to make sure that if anything turned sour, he'd be at Kevin's back in half a heartbeat to take Carlisle down. He'd be fine, even without the earpiece.
As he moved, Kevin said a silent prayer to the Lord, as he did every time he went on duty. The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Normally he and Jake said it together, but without his earpiece, their connection was gone. Still, Kevin knew his partner's faith in the Lord to guide them on these streets was as strong as his.
The sound of a twig snapping had Kevin turning his attention to the dark figure hanging in the shadows on the sidewalk by the corner of the junkyard. The Doberman snarled on the other side of the fence and would no doubt continue until they'd moved on.
The man stopped moving, to Kevin's dismay. It wasn't a good idea for them to meet in the shadows where the team didn't have a crystal-clear view of what was going on. A quick flick of a switchblade or the draw of a gun could end it all for one of them in a matter of seconds.
"You waiting for the morning light?" the man said, his voice low and scarcely audible above the rustle of unfurled leaves moving with the late-evening winter wind.
"I didn't think you'd show," Kevin said, intentionally keeping his voice lower in an effort to draw the man closer to him. It didn't work.
His pulse pounded, and the muscles in his stomach squeezed tighter. Kevin moved a few feet forward and into the shadow, ignoring the snarling dog following his movement.
He cut to the chase. "Are you Carlisle?"
"You expecting someone else this time of the night?" the man asked with heavy sarcasm.
Without a name, some definitive proof, this meeting would be a bust. Kevin pushed harder. "Answer the question. I like to know who I'm talking to."
"Yeah, I'm George Carlisle. Satisfied?"
Kevin could hardly see Carlisle's face in the darkness. The shape of his nose, the square of his jaw looked like the pictures Ski had taken less than a week ago. But in this blackness, it was hard to be sure.
"Word is you're in need of a service."
Carlisle nodded. "That's right."
Kevin forced the words out of his mouth. Make him talk. Get it all on tape. "What do you want?"
"I want you to kill my ex-wife."
He'd known it was coming, but Carlisle's words still had Kevin's blood running cold. He played along. "Just tell me how you want it and I'll get it done."
"It needs to be soon."
"I don't like being rushed."
Carlisle's voice turned hard. "It's my dime."
Cold disdain froze Kevin's insides. "I can accommodate you if the price is right."
"And… make it quick. Bottom line. There should be no trace back to me."
"You don't want any last words? Some final message?"
"Just kill her."
Kevin's jaw clenched. "Her" would be Daria Carlisle. At one time, she had probably loved the man who was now arranging her death. How could any man conceive such a horrible plan?
A low-hanging tree limb concealed the glow of the distant streetlight, casting a long shadow like a finger stretching toward him, as if in warning.
"How do you want it done?"
Carlisle laughed and that sent a chill worse than the night air straight up Kevin's spine. "If you have to ask, maybe I've come to the wrong place."
"That's your call. But there isn't anyone better than me to do the job and you know it," Kevin said tightly. "This is business and I like to be clear about what I've been hired to do. There's no room for misunderstandings and I don't like mistakes."
"I've heard that about you."
The rumor that Kevin was a high-priced assassin had reached Carlisle's ears, just as he'd hoped it would. As much as meetings like this disgusted him, his job as an undercover cop filled Kevin with pride. By playing his part, he'd be able to get George Carlisle put away where he couldn't hurt his ex-wife ever again.
For the first time, Kevin realized Carlisle wasn't looking at him at all. He was looking around, checking shadows and the empty streets, paying no mind to the Doberman who was still barking out his objection to their presence.
Carlisle stopped searching the street, but still didn't look Kevin directly in the face. "Her name is Daria Carlisle. She lives alone in some run-down house on a side street by the highway. And I want you to kill her. I don't care how. I just want you to do it quick."
It was all Kevin could do to keep from reaching out and grabbing this monster by the throat. Dragging in a steady breath, he focused on what he had to do.
He didn't want to think about how close Daria Carlisle had come to ending up in a cold grave. If Carlisle had approached anyone else, she probably would have. His chest hurt just thinking about it.
Kevin was here for Daria Carlisle, even if she didn't know of the danger she was in. Tomorrow she'd know the truth and by the time he told her just what her ex-husband had planned to do, she'd already be safe.
Backup was in position and ready to haul this beast away as soon as Kevin gave the signal. He'd be the one to slam the cell door on George where he'd most likely spend the next twenty years to life. He was never going to hurt Daria Carlisle.
"Mr. Carlisle. I think you and I can do business."
And for the first time that night, Kevin smiled.
"George Carlisle hired me to kill you."
Daria stared wide-eyed at Detective Kevin Gordon, the man who'd just uttered the most frightening words she'd ever heard.
"Excuse me?" she muttered.
He spoke the words again as she stood almost glued to her kitchen's aged linoleum floor. She hadn't really needed him to repeat himself. She'd heard the words perfectly fine the first time. But even after the second round, the words hadn't sunk in.
George was trying to kill her?
She'd woken so happy that morning, intent on starting the day by rummaging through the Sunday paper for a used miter saw. She needed one to finish off the woodwork in the one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old house she'd purchased because she'd fallen in love with the backyard.
Her gaze swept from the strong lines of the detective's face to the floor as she dragged in a breath of air. Earlier that day she'd been obsessing over how she was going to afford replacing the linoleum, especially with Christmas shopping just around the corner. In the span of moments, her priorities had shifted drastically.
The coffeemaker stopped burping behind her as the pot reached full capacity, and the sudden silence reminded her to breathe. She'd forgotten she'd been making coffee for both of them.
When Kevin had approached her at the holiday gift market, showing her his badge and asking her to come to the police station so they could talk about something serious, the last thing she'd wanted was to spend her Sunday stuck inside what was probably a smelly old building. So she'd spontaneously invited the nice detective home with her for coffee. She'd foolishly thought he wanted to question her about the vandalism that had been happening in the neighborhood, and what better way than to show him the graffiti spray painted on the side of her house.
She'd had no idea the serious talk was about her ex-husband.
Daria cleared her throat and gazed uncertainly at the tall man who was now occupying a seat at her kitchen table.
"Did you hear what I said?" he asked.
She nodded, trying to steady her trembling hand. "Yes, I did."
He sighed. "I know you're probably a little shocked right now. We can still go to the police station to discuss this if it'll make it easier."
He stayed seated, clearly doing his best not to crowd her as he filled the space between the table and the wall.
Daria tried not to think about how before he'd introduced himself as a detective and flashed his badge, she'd actually found herself so utterly attracted to this man with the dark blond hair. She still was.
"I don't know how you can make hearing your ex-husband has hired a hit man to kill you any easier."
"True. Maybe you should sit down, Mrs. Carlisle. You're not looking well."
As Kevin stood, he dragged the ladder-back chair out from beneath him until it hit the patched wall. The caustic sound of wood being dragged over cracked linoleum made Daria jump, but she remained rooted in place.
Her eyes focused for a fleeting moment on the tattered wall where the chair connected with ugly, old wallpaper she hadn't yet gotten around to stripping. She'd been patching and repairing this barely inhabitable old house since shortly after filing for divorce. Unlike this house, her marriage had not been fixable.
"I know you're scared. And I'm sorry. I wish there was an easier way to tell you. Would you like me to call a friend to come over? You really shouldn't be alone."
"I'm not alone. You're here."
And unfortunately, there was no one to call. No one she'd want to confide in about something like this, anyway. She'd only been living in the house for six months, and hadn't gotten to know her neighbors. And most of the time when she wasn't working at her job at the bank, she was working on home repairs and hadn't really had a chance to make friends.
"After the night I had battling with the captain and district attorney, I could sure use that cup of coffee. Why don't you take a load off while we discuss what's happening with your ex."
She didn't really want to talk about George anymore. It had been a difficult decision to file for divorce from George, but it had been her decision alone. And from that moment on George was no longer her husband, no longer her present or future. He was only her past. And she was determined to leave the past behind her.
"My divorce from George became final just about eight months ago. I never see him anymore."
Kevin nodded and sighed.
"And you really are with the police?" she asked.
Blue eyes glanced at her with amusement. "You've never seen a police badge before, have you?"
"It's not a habit I have, no. For all I know, the badge you showed me in the market is something out of a gumball machine."
He gave her a tired grin. "Don't worry. A lot of people get fooled, but I assure you I'm a police officer. You can call the station and check if you want. In fact, it's probably a good idea to get in the habit of doing that. You never know who you're dealing with."
A hot rush of blood flamed her cheeks as the events of the morning began to play in her mind. "So this wasn't really a chance meeting we had this morning at the market?"
He shook his head. "After I finished up at the station this morning, I stopped by here and found your truck in the driveway, but you weren't home. I'd seen you at the market a few weeks ago picking up the Sunday paper, so I figured maybe it was something you did every Sunday morning after church. I was right."
Posted December 8, 2011
Yuletide Protector by Lisa Mondello
This book is definitely full of suspense but it also deals with the real life problem of stalking. Detective Kevin Gordon has lived with the fact that fifteen years ago his sisters best friend was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. No one saw the signs of abuse while they were dating, and then it was too late. Now he is facing a crisis of an ex-husband who wants his wife dead. Kevin goes into protective mode with the stubborn woman. Is he reliving not being able to help Lucy or has this woman become more important for other reasons?
Daria Carlisle finally owns a home. It's big and will take a lot of money and work but it is hers. She never lived in one place for long as a child and she needs the anchor that this house provides. Suddenly her world is shattered when she is told George, her ex-husband, wants her dead but they don't have the proof to lock him up yet. At first she don't believe it, until her safe place is violated, her home. And it's obvious that George is behind it. She refuses to leave her home so the handsome Kevin Gordon starts watching her there. She sees his faith and how that is his anchor. Daria is not a believer but Kevin's example and actions speak his faith.
This story shows where greed and lack of control can lead. It shows the faith Kevin has that he knows he cannot let himself fall for Daria because she is not a believer, yet. And how we can either anchor on to materialistic things or our anchor can be with God, one changes and One does not.
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Posted July 9, 2012
Posted November 19, 2011
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