Josie Nielsen’s anonymous life as a bartender is a world away from her classified job at a covert agency—and the terrifying night she was almost killed for her country’s secrets. That was the night Josie found out the hard way that no one had her back, especially not the man she thought she loved. But she’s pulled back in when her new boyfriend becomes the target of a government drug sting.
A sexy, laid-back barfly, Johnny Boyer is the kind of guy Josie can count on . . . to disappear before things get too complicated. But after she learns that Johnny is part of a major international trafficking operation, Josie can’t let him out of her sight. And yet even as she plunges into the mortal danger that surrounds Johnny, her attraction to him burns hotter than ever. She just isn’t sure whether she’s falling for a ruthless, cold-blooded criminal or the only man she’s ever met worth trusting with her life.
Praise for In the Dark
“Eggert rocks the romantic suspense genre with this deep, dark, gritty tale that is so well-crafted, so full of the sinister and unexpected, you’ll have a tough time dragging yourself back into your everyday world. . . . In the Dark is intense and sexy, a solid psychological suspense and a bright debut. I look forward to meeting more of Eggert’s atypical heroines, and experiencing again her gripping blend of mystery and romance.”—Kathy Altman, USA Today
“Suspense fans will really enjoy the tension that Eggert creates.”—RT Book Reviews
“Raw emotion pulled me deep into the heart of Sally Eggert’s story and the suspense held me captive.”—New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Rosemoor
“Sally Eggert deftly blends suspense and emotion to pull you in from the first page.”—New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin
“Deception, intrigue, and romance . . . Sally Eggert’s In the Dark has it all!”—Tina Wainscott, bestselling author of Unforgivable and the Justiss Alliance series
“Eggert manages more twists and turns in this book than I’ve seen in a long time. She definitely holds the readers attention and makes you care about characters that others might have written off from initial surface appearances.”—Fab Fantasy Fiction
“For a great suspense novel full of twists and turns that will keep you wondering what comes next, make sure you don’t miss In the Dark by Sally Eggert.”—Harlequin Junkie
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from other Loveswept titles.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Johnny was holding court by the dartboard, the undisputed king of loveable drunks. At least, he was much better suited to membership in that royal family than in the kind that had spawned Prince Charming. A beer bottle in one hand and a red-and-yellow dart waving theatrically in the other left his cigarette to dangle precariously from his amiably curling lips as he entertained his faithful audience. Josie watched him from behind the bar as she served up another pitcher for the table in the corner. Somehow, he always managed to look as if he’d been three days without a shave, three months without a haircut. Something about the way the unruly brown waves fell around his face and swiped at the back of his neck always made her want to pause for a longer look, though she was careful not to let him catch her. He smiled at someone sitting between them, a flash of white appearing in his beard stubble, and Josie could feel the warmth of his deep brown eyes in her own cheeks.
He would be seriously dangerous if he knew just how good he looked when he did that. When she had first begun to recognize him as a regular, Josie had mentally accused him of doing it on purpose, but she knew him too well for that now. Not that she knew him well, mind you. There were still ways in which she couldn’t claim to know him at all. But she felt, as she stood there at her post, tossing the occasional tolerant glance his way, that she had earned the authority to conclude that it would not be in Johnny’s nature to give much thought to what he saw in the mirror, if he even looked at all.
She let him drift to the corner of her field of vision, then slowly out of her mind as she sized up a conspicuously baby-faced pair of coeds who had just taken a step or two into the bar in embarrassingly tight clothes. She watched them give their best shot at sweet-talking the bouncer. Nice try, she thought. With that problem wobbling out the door on too-high heels, Josie turned her attention back to her scattered assortment of customers. The neckties were getting steadily looser on the three guys at the table in the corner as they worked through their second pitcher of beer. She had been getting ready to cut off the customer at the end of the bar, but he hadn’t asked for another yet. He was just sitting there, holding his head in his hands, looking at his lap. She wasn’t sure she wanted to see the look on his face. When he tried to leave, she’d call him a cab.
And Johnny was … She cast an eye over to his corner and his little crowd of followers. Johnny was a good king, even a wise king, so long as his subjects kept their glasses full. A woman who seemed determined to get some use out of her ample breasts sidled up to him and snaked an arm around him under his ancient fleece-lined denim jacket. As she pressed her curves into his side, he lifted an arm to lean on her shoulder, but more or less ignored her otherwise. She seemed content to be treated as furniture and smiled at her success.
Josie fought back a snort. She wasn’t jealous. That wasn’t how things were between her and Johnny. No strings. And that was how she wanted it. Somewhere along the line, she had gotten to where she was actually relieved when men used those words. But she also knew that she had just seen all the attention the busty woman in the corner was going to get out of him. And she knew roughly where he’d be about half an hour after closing tonight. Not because they’d made plans, but because he had his patterns. He was in and out of the bar just about every night they were open, but when he turned up early and took up residence like this, she knew he’d stick around and wait for her. “What would you do if I followed you home?” he would ask with that smile that would have come off cocky on anyone else. “Try it and see” was the established answer. Josie had a few other choice words saved up for when she wanted him to shove off. It hadn’t come up yet, but she was keeping the option open.
She had found out the hard way that to a guy, commitment meant demanding a lot more from you than he was planning to give in return. Compromise meant you understanding that his priorities were more important than yours. Talk about “wanting the same things” meant that there would always be things he wanted more than he wanted to be with you, so you’d better keep quiet and stay out of the way of his big plans. If you didn’t, you would either get trampled by those plans or be blamed for why they hadn’t worked out. It still stung to admit that she had ever been the type who believed in the whole happily-ever-after thing. If it existed, it belonged to somebody else. She wasn’t about to forget that, either. Not again, anyway. When it came time to be reminded, there was no way but the hard way. And that hurt way too much. With Johnny, there was no plan, no future, and no way to forget. No messy feelings, just the physical kind. It was better that way.
Besides, for now she liked their arrangement. She liked that she didn’t have to work for his attention but didn’t have to deal with it twenty-four hours a day, either. She liked that he never talked about long-range goals and didn’t seem to be familiar with the concept of a five-year plan. She liked that they didn’t have each other’s phone numbers. No checking of messages, no calls to return. She liked that she knew exactly what she could expect from him, and exactly what she couldn’t. And she liked him. Almost in spite of herself, but she liked him. She had no immediate plans to lose sleep examining exactly why that was.
Someone else walked into the bar. Josie turned, expecting an order, but quickly surmised that this man wasn’t a bar patron. He had to be one of Johnny’s. Wearing a shiny black leather jacket and a driving cap pulled low over his eyes, the conspicuous new arrival waited by the door until Johnny noticed him and extricated himself from his little group. Josie liked Johnny less in these moments. But that was the whole point, she reminded herself. She didn’t have to like everything about him. That was what made things between them so easy. That was what took the pressure off of what it would have been misleading to call a relationship.
She had known from early on that Johnny was doing business in the hall outside the men’s room door. Just what kind of business, she preferred not to know. There were only so many options. But she’d never seen him high or armed or even angry, so it was something she could ignore most of the time. She’d care when she had to.
Johnny’s visitor went on his way, Johnny went back to his adoring fans, and the night went on. Josie refilled the pretzels.
Johnny was, predictably, the last one there at closing time. He sidled up to Josie as she was wiping down the bar and leaned against it, fixing her with an artificially soulful look.
“This is no place for a delicate creature like you, Miss,” he began, reaching out with both hands to grab the one she was using to clean, and getting a handful of soggy rag in the bargain. He ignored it, and went on with his performance. “Let me take you away from it all.”
“I suppose your place is the last bastion of decency in this seething metropolis,” she said with a smirk as she tried to pull her hand away to finish the chore.
“Maybe not,” he said, still gripping her hand, the mischief taking hold of his face again. “But at least at my place, I’m on a first-name basis with all the scum you’ll be exposed to.”
“Having some friends over, then?” she asked, raising her eyebrows innocently. He gave her one short burst of laughter before returning the volley.
“No, I just meant me and the mildew in my shower. I’ve been calling it Clyde. Makes things friendlier that way.” His smile was warm and alert, and Josie knew he was enjoying this game. She smiled back and let him play. “So, what do you say? You, me, Clyde, a little mood music?”
“Sounds like a classy joint, Johnny.”
“I can see you’re not convinced,” he said, trying to look serious again. “Okay, your place it is.” He still hadn’t let go of her hand. She leaned low over the bar toward him until he was leaning in expectantly with the beginnings of a satisfied smile.
“I can’t leave until I finish this,” she said blandly when she had him nose to nose. He grinned and breathed out a good-natured laugh, acknowledging the hit with an exaggerated groan. He let her go, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.
“All right, Cinderella,” he said, sighing. “Finish your chores so I can whisk you away and turn you into a pumpkin.” He grinned. “Or something …”
“That’s what I like about you, Johnny,” Josie said over her shoulder as she finished up and put the rag away. “You’ve got a killer sense of romance.”
“Yeah, I know.” He preened, making a show of straightening his ratty old jacket. “Can you believe so much class fits into such a pretty package?” he added, with a wink.
Josie grabbed her coat off a hook in the back, said good night to the manager, and let Johnny flop an arm around her shoulders as they headed for the door. The door to the stairs that led up to her apartment was on an alley just around the corner from the front entrance to the bar. It was a short walk, but the air was cold, and Johnny tightened his arm around her as a gust of wind hit them at the corner. It was an oddly protective gesture, coming from him—but then, body heat was the one thing she knew she could expect to get from him, so it kind of fit.