Kidnapped and held captive for weeks, Shelby O'Hara is grateful to be rescued by handsome secret service agent Daniel Henderson. But the rebellious beauty balks at his 24/7 protection until she learns the shocking secret of why she was abducted: she's the granddaughter of the former U.S. vice president, a woman with lethal opponents in a deadly political game.
To elude those enemies, Daniel and Shelby go on the run, although they are constantly at each other's throats until the fighting stops with a torrid kiss. Suddenly, Shelby doesn't feel so safe. From the bad guys, maybe, but from Daniel? He's a clear and present danger to her heart!
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Daniel Henderson stood with his hand on the butt of the HK40 pistol resting in the shoulder holster beneath his suit jacket, his gaze locked on the man standing in the middle of the room.
"I repeat, your granddaughter has been missing for two weeks," Patrick O'Hara insisted, worry lines etched deep into his weathered face. "I've pursued all other options. I've filed a missing persons report, but the police have no leads. I'm at my wit's end. That's why I came to you."
"What do you mean, I have a granddaughter?" Former vice president Kate Winston stood straight, her shoulders squared, her lips tight. The only indication that the man in front of her had disturbed her normal calm was how pale her face had become. She glanced around the room at her three sons, Trey, Thaddeus and Samuel. "Is there something you three haven't told me?"
The three men shook their heads as one.
O'Hara, who'd made the shocking statement, shook his head. "Not the child of one of your sons, the child of your daughter. Our daughter."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Trey, the oldest son, demanded.
Patrick O'Hara's eyes narrowed. "Maybe you should ask your mother."
Kate closed her eyes and pressed a hand to her chest.
"You're upsetting her." Thad slipped an arm around Kate's shoulders. "Perhaps you should leave, before we have you escorted out."
"No." O'Hara stood firm, his gaze locked on Kate. "I need help finding my granddaughter and you are my last hope. Unless you're going to throw her away like you did our daughter."
Samuel lunged forward. "Get the hell out."
Kate's arm shot out. "No, wait. Let him speak."
Patrick glanced from Trey to Samuel and back to Kate. "Shelby was at the university library Tuesday night two weeks ago, working on some research paper for her graduate program. She said she'd be home by midnight. At two in the morning, I closed the bar and went home. She wasn't there. Her car wasn't parked out front. I got worried and drove all the way into Beth City, to the university. I found her car in the library parking lot, but not Shelby." He scrubbed a hand down his haggard face. "I don't know what else to do."
Daniel's heartstrings were tugged by the desperation in the man's tone and eyes. Two weeks might as well be forever. A woman missing for that long had little chance of being alive.
"How old is she?" Kate pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose.
"Twenty-three. She's never late for anything." Patrick stepped forward.
Daniel walked between Patrick and Kate, holding his gun out. "That's far enough."
Patrick's glance shifted to Daniel. "I just wanted to show her the picture of Shelby." He looked back at Kate. "She looks just like her mother. And Carrie looked just like you. Brown hair, bright blue eyes." He smiled, then the smile quickly faded. "We have to find her. She's all I have."
Daniel took the photo from the man's hands and held it out to Kate.
Trey intercepted it. "The man is crazy. You're not really going to help him, are you? He's preying on your weakness" Trey shot a glance at the picture, his eyes widening. "Damn."
Kate held out her hand. "Give me the photo."
Trey handed it across. "It has to be a forgery. You can do almost anything with computer graphics these days."
Patrick's lips turned up. "She's her mother's daughter."
Kate stared at the picture for a long time, tears welling in her eyes. "This could be me as a young woman." She stared across at him. "I don't understand."
"What's to understand? You gave up your daughter. I raised Carrie, and she had a daughter, Shelby. Whom I also raised." He jabbed a finger at the photo. "Shelby Raye O'Hara. A beautiful, smart young lady with a full life ahead of her. If I can find her before something awful happens to her." He swallowed hard.
"If it hasn't already."
If she had been missing for two weeks, Daniel predicted bad things had, indeed, happened to the girl. And nothing anyone could do would bring her back.
"I didn't give up my daughter. She died," Kate whispered, a single tear slipping down her cheek. She lifted her head, her chin trembling.
"Is that what you told yourself?" Patrick laughed, the sound completely without humor. He stepped closer. "I don't care if lying to yourself helped you throw away your own flesh and blood. I can't believe I ever loved you. You're selfish, heartless and deserved the man you married."
Daniel laid a hand on the man's chest. "Back off."
Patrick stared at Daniel as if it was the first time he'd seen him and his gun. "Kate, I don't give a damn about you or your high-society family. What I do care about is getting my granddaughter back. Alive. If you have any sense of decency, you'll help. She's your family, too."
"Mother," Sam said. "Say the word and I'll throw him out."
Daniel braced himself for a fight with Patrick O'Hara. He didn't want to use his gun; it would leave a big mess in the Winstons' house. And as far as he could tell, O'Hara wasn't armed.
"No." Kate shook her head. "If someone thinks Shelby O'Hara is related to me in any way, she's in danger."
"I've never told anyone about her bloodline. Shelby doesn't even know her mother was your daughter."
"Stop." Kate held up her hand. "Until I verify your story, I promise to help. And if Shelby has been kidnapped because of me, we will do our best to help find her." Kate turned to Thad. "Our only link to the Cartel at this time is Robert D'Angelis. Can we check and see if he knows anything about the missing woman?"
Thad, who was on the Raleigh Police crime scene investigation team, nodded. "He's in a holding cell at Wake County Jail. I'm on my way."
"I'm going with you," Kate insisted. She turned to her personal secretary, Debra Winston, Trey's wife. "Debra, cancel all my afternoon appointments."
"Yes, ma'am." Debra, eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, but just as on the ball as ever, waddled out of the room, tapping the touch screen on her cell phone to make the necessary calls.
Kate turned to Daniel. "Mr. Henderson, please notify the director of the Secret Service about this new development. If Shelby's kidnapping has anything to do with me and the Cartel's attempts on my life, I want the Secret Service involved in finding her, as well. The more people looking, the better chance we have of finding her. Now let's get to the county jail." Kate passed Daniel, heading for the door, her heels clicking determinedly on the white marble tiles of the foyer.
"I'm going with you," Patrick said as he fell into step with Kate.
"Of course you are." Kate didn't display any emotion in her announcement. "If you're lying to me, we won't have far to go to have you arrested for trespassing and attempted assault."
As Kate's personal bodyguard, Daniel insinuated himself between her and Patrick, limping along as fast as he could, ignoring the pain in his knee.
If O'Hara had a knife, he'd have to go through Daniel to get to Kate Winston. It wouldn't be the first time he'd taken a hit for the woman. His scars had barely healed over from the bullets he'd absorbed by throwing himself in front of her at a rally. And if he hadn't torn a ligament, he'd be investigating instead of performing bodyguard duties.
Debra must have alerted the chauffeur. One of the two Winston limousines stood out front in the curved drive, the second one coming to a halt behind it.
"Daniel and Thad, I want you two in my vehicle. Mr. O'Hara can ride with the others in the second."
Patrick stepped away from the Winston family. "I'll take my own car."
Trey slipped an arm around his pregnant wife. "Debra, Sam and I will follow in my car. No need to take the other limousine. Besides, it's hard for Debra to get in and out of it."
"Suit yourself." Kate slid into the limo, tucking in her long legs. Thad sat on one side of her and Daniel on the other. He didn't like that Patrick was leaving alone. But Daniel refused to leave Kate's side. As long as he was assigned as her bodyguard, he would provide the best protection he could. Normally, he hated playing bodyguard to politicians. But Kate Winston wasn't a normal politician. She was smart, down-to-earth and personable.
Still, Daniel would rather be investigating the case than babysitting the target. Given his latest injury, he was lucky to be working at all. A torn ligament meant being relegated to the sidelines, gimping along until he could return to investigations.
By the time they'd arrived at the Wake County Jail, Daniel had contacted the director of the Secret Service and relayed the information about Shelby O'Hara's disappearance. Director Kincannon agreed to meet them there.
"What's going on, Mother?" Thad asked on the drive across town. "Why did O'Hara say you had a granddaughter?"
"It's a long story." Kate looked straight ahead. "I'd rather not talk about it just yet. The most important thing to focus on is finding the girl."
Daniel suspected that, like most high-powered politicians, even Kate Winston had a few skeletons in her closet. Skeletons not even her sons knew about.
Once inside the building, Kate insisted Daniel go with Thad to interrogate the prisoner. "If Robert D'Angelis has any information concerning the missing girl, the sooner we get it out of him, the better for Shelby." A sheriff's deputy led her to small room where she could watch the interview through a two-way mirror.
As promised, Director Kincannon met them outside the interrogation room. "Agent Henderson, Detective Winston." He nodded to each of them. "They've moved the suspect into the interrogation room. Do you want me to question him?"
Daniel paused outside the interview room his hand on the doorknob. "I've had more recent experience interrogating suspects."
Director Kincannon nodded. "Then, by all means, question him."
Daniel turned to Thad.
"Go for it." Thad held up his hands. "I'll stand back and listen."
"While you two conduct the interview, I'll watch from the observation room." Director Kincannon moved back toward the room where Kate Winston waited.
Daniel gathered his thoughts and entered the interrogation room, Thad close behind him.
Former Secret Service agent Robert D'Angelis sat in a metal chair with his hands cuffed and resting on the table in front of him. His face was pale with a slightly green tint. A half-empty paper cup of water sat on the table within his reach.
The tall man was hunched over, his fit body seeming to sag with the weight of his muscles. A fine sheen of sweat covered his face, and his eyes were yellow and bloodshot.
"Why am I here?" he said. "I'm not talking to anyone without my lawyer."
"Agent D'Angelis, we have a few questions for you," Daniel said.
D'Angelis blinked and squeezed his eyes tight, then opened them, squinting. "Light is so damned bright." He shook his head and blinked again.
"Are you all right? Do you need a glass of water?" Daniel asked.
"Just had one." He lifted his cuffed hands and tugged at the collar of the bright orange jumpsuit supplied by the Wake County Jail. "So damn hot in here. Don't they have an air conditioner?" He rolled his head around on his neck and stopped to stare across the table as Daniel took the seat opposite him. "I got nothing for you." He spit in Daniel's face.
Daniel removed an old-fashioned handkerchief from his back pocket, wiped the spit from his cheek and folded the handkerchief neatly before returning it to his pocket, maintaining his silence until he was finished. Then he leaned close until his face was within inches of D'Angelis's. He didn't blink, staring straight into the suspect's eyes. In a firm, direct voice, he asked,
"Where's the girl?"
D'Angelis sat back in his chair. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Do you know what they do to police officers and Secret Service agents in jail?"
"I have more years of experience than you do, Henderson. I know exactly what they do," D'Angelis ground out, his voice raspy. He coughed into his sleeve. When he pulled his mouth away from the crook of his elbow, blood stained the orange fabric. "I don't feel well. I want a doctor."
"You'll get a doctor as soon as you tell us where the girl is."
"I don't know about a damned girl." D'Angelis coughed again, more blood staining his sleeve and dribbling from the corner of his mouth.
Daniel nodded toward the mirror. "Get a doctor," he said, then turned back to D'Angelis. "I'm getting that doctor for you. Give me something on the girl."
D'Angelis raised his hands and slammed them, cuffs and all, on the wooden table. "What's it matter, anyway? They're gonna use her to get to Kate. Then they'll kill her."
"She's still alive?" Daniel's pulse raced through his veins. "Where is she?"
"It's hot in here." The man slumped across the table.
"I feel awful."
"Damn it, where is she?" Daniel grabbed D'Angelis's shoulders and forced him to look up.
The man's eyes were completely bloodshot and watery.
"Basement of what?" He shook D'Angelis, trying to get him to focus and tell him the rest of the address.
"House on East Cabbarus Street," the man said.
"Which house? What address?" Daniel demanded.
"Sixty-two fifty." D'Angelis's head lolled and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. His body went limp and he slid out of his chair onto the floor.
"Damn." Thad ran for the door. "Get a medic in here!"
Daniel pushed the chair away from the fallen man and squatted beside him on the floor, loosening the zipper on the orange jumpsuit.
D'Angelis's hand grabbed his wrist and he raised his head long enough to say, "Don't trust" He choked on the phlegm in his throat and blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth, then he coughed again and passed out.
The door burst open. Two paramedics raced in and bent over D'Angelis. Daniel and Thad left the room, moving to the side of the hallway to get out of the way of the emergency staff.
They entered the room where Kate, Trey, Sam, Patrick and Jed Kincannon, the director of the Secret Service, stood watching the staff work on Robert D'Angelis's inert form.
"What happened?" Kate's hand rested on her throat. "One minute he was all cocky, the next he seemed to fail in front of us."
"I don't know," Thad said.
"I do." Daniel nodded to Thad. "We're going to Cabarrus Street to find Shelby O'Hara."
Daniel led the way out of the county jail.
Thad followed, dialing for assistance from the Raleigh Police Department dispatch.
When they got outside, Daniel remembered they'd come in Kate Winston's limousine. "We can't go in that, and Mrs. Winston can't go with us."
"Take my vehicle." Trey tossed the keys. "I'll stay with Mother to make sure nothing happens to her."
"Thanks." Daniel caught the keys and ran for Trey's car, Thad on his heels.
"Shouldn't we wait for backup?" Thad asked.
"If Shelby's captors get wind that we're on the way, they might kill her before backup arrives."
"Give me the keys." Thad held up his hand.
Daniel hesitated only a moment. As a member of the Raleigh Police Department, Thad would know the streets better than Daniel, who'd only been in Raleigh a couple months since he'd been assigned to protect Kate Winston. He hopped into the passenger seat as Thad twisted the key in the ignition.