Would love get in the way of his mission . . .?
On a One-Woman Manhunt
CIA recruit Tasha North was assigned to draw out an unknown assassin and neutralize him to take whatever risks were required to accomplish her assignment. The ruthless killing machine had no conscience, no fear and a black hole for a heart, and he had targeted the dynamic head of the Colby private investigation agency for termination. But Tasha was determined to stop him at all costs.
She soon found out carnal seduction was the only way to reach the suspected killer. Years of rage and fantasies of revenge had destroyed any semblance of human emotion in him. Yet when he took Tasha in his arms, the two connected in the most basic man-woman way. Penetrating his personal fortress was the only hope she had . . . And she'd have to use her own heart as bait.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Debra Webb
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNo matter the legacy a man left behind, ultimately it was his death that defined him.
Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery was something of a tourist attraction with its medieval castle-like entrance of Joliet limestone and dozens of brooding mausoleums ranging in architectural styles from Egyptian to Gothic. The inhabitants, Civil War generals and soldiers as well as vice presidents, all laid in perpetual slumber in a place so blatantly filled with pomp and circumstance that even the soft tread of footsteps seemed an intrusion.
However well landscaped and adorned with lush shrubbery and graceful trees, this city of the dead with its foreboding Celtic cross and shimmering lake was still just a cemetery. Row after row of markers, whether mere headstones or more elaborate structures, represented lives that existed no longer.
His seeking gaze settled on one plot in particular where a woman stood quietly, probably reminiscing about the life long since laid to rest there.
The date of death engraved on the cold granite headstone indicated little about the man interred ... but the name inscribed on that same glossy black surface said all that one needed to know.
Beloved husband and father.
Another epitaph should have been added: Ruthless butcher and marauder.
The great James Colby had been shot down and killed like the worthless bastard he was and not a minute too soon. But, even in death, his presence still lingered among the living. His essence kept alive ... his work continued by a woman who was no better than he had been. Though she'd been warned, she persisted in her self-ordained, lofty endeavors. Just like her husband, nothing would stop her.
And now her time was close at hand.
From his vantage point fifty meters away, well within striking distance, he read her every expression, watched her every movement through the crosshairs of his high-powered tactical scope. It was a face he had come to know intimately with the use of advanced technology and unending patience.
Looking weary and resigned the woman peered down at the elegant headstone as she no doubt struggled with the overwhelming silence around her ... felt dizzy with the stifled senses of the dead and buried. The smell of damp earth would fill her nostrils with each breath she drew into her lungs, a sickening reminder that the rich, sodden soil perpetually cloaked her long-dead husband in its cold, relentless embrace.
Nothing could change the past.
Victoria Colby, he knew, had slowly come to realize that only she had the power to change the future. He'd waited a very long time for her to come to that understanding.
And yet she was powerless to deter him from his course.
She would die.
The decision had been made long ago. His mission sanctioned even before he became a man.
He zeroed in to where her black heart beat beneath the tailored navy suit she wore. His finger curled around the trigger as his respiration ceased entirely. The bipod held the rifle steady, its precision aim a work of master craftsmanship.
He could kill her now ... this instant ... and nothing or no one could stop him.
Certainly not the crippled excuse for a man who stood a few meters to her left, watching, his senses so keen, his internal alarm so sensitive that he recognized some unknown threat even now. Smelled the danger in the very air. His rigid posture broadcasted a status of elevated alert.
But Lucas Camp had nothing to fear today.
The venerable Victoria Colby remained safe for the moment.
Oh, she would die.
But only one knew the day and the hour that death would come.
And it damn sure wasn't God.
* * *
Victoria Colby knelt before her late husband's headstone, uncaring that the waning October sun had yet to dry the morning's heavy dew from the grass. She traced the deeply gouged lines in the sleek surface that formed the letters of his name ... the date of his passing. A heavy breath caught in her throat before it raggedly slipped past her trembling lips. How she missed him still.
Fifteen years had passed since she'd watched his body lowered into this grave. Since then the life she had once known had ground to a sudden and vicious halt. Without the help of her dedicated friends and colleagues at the Colby Agency, the private investigations firm her husband had nurtured like a child during his final days on this earth, she would surely not have survived his murder.
Her friends had gathered around her, united in strength and loyalty by the heinous tragedy, and held her up when she would otherwise have fallen. With their help she had risen from the ashes of devastation and forged ahead with her husband's dream, making the Colby Agency the very best in the business of private investigations. She had reached that goal, surpassed it, even. James would be very proud. The Colby Agency employed only the finest in the fields of investigation and security. The reputation she had garnered with the help of her outstanding staff was unparalleled.
As proud of that accomplishment as she was, fifteen years was a very long time to devote oneself to nothing but work. In a few months she would turn fifty. That milestone would be reached with nothing to show for her half century on this earth other than her esteemed agency. For some that might be enough, but not for her. She needed ... wanted ...
She glanced at the man who respectfully waited a short distance away. His presence made her all the more aware of how much more she wanted. He had been there for her through it all. Had waited patiently for his time to come.
Lucas Camp had served the United States government in one capacity or another for his entire adult life. Most of that dedicated duty had been spent working covert operations that only the president and God knew about. Not once had he hesitated, not even when his own life was at grave risk, when assigned a mission. It was that same man's selflessness that had saved James Colby's life in Vietnam and had shored up her resolve on too many occasions to name when she had felt ready to give up ... to crumble beneath the weight of seemingly perpetual agonies. He had showered her with an unending source of friendship and kindness, of encouragement and belief in her ability to go on.
For some time now she had known that Lucas was in love with her. Admittedly, what she felt for him could be called nothing else. She knew without reservation that James would want her to be happy, would want no less for her than the kind of man Lucas Camp epitomized.
And still she had hesitated to allow their close relationship to evolve naturally.
The past had haunted her for far too long.
Excerpted from Striking Distance by Debra Webb Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been a long time fan of Debra Webb's Colby series and couldn't wait to get my greedy little hands on this one. The book was definitely worth the wait. Webb seamlessly marries suspense and romance, and the combination in this book made for an action-packed, gut-wrenchingly emotional read. This hero is TO DIE FOR. He's dark, he's tortured, he's dangerous, and God, is he sexy. Like all of Webb's books, this one is a keeper.
Though not part of the Harlequin Intrigue category, this book continues a story that is on-going within that line. However, this part of the Colby Agency saga was just too good to try to whittle down to 75,000 words. So it emerges as a single-title novel which will hopefully be found by Webb¿s Colby devotees who may be left wondering, Hey, when did that happen? After all, this is the all-important and much anticipated story of Victoria and Lucas, and also solves the mystery of what really happened to Victoria¿s son, James Colby, Jr.. But since this book is so stand-alone excellent, let me try to talk about it on its own.There are really two sets of protagonists in this story, Victoria Colby and Lucas Camp, and the mysterious assassin named Seth and green CIA agent Tasha North. Usually this kind of multi-plot in a romance takes away from the overall appeal and suggests that neither couple is strong enough to have carried the book. However, that is certainly not the case here, and the way the Colby series developed makes this approach all the more satisfying. Victoria Colby is a hunted woman. Readers have never really known until this book why she has been stalked all these years by Errol Leberman. All we have known is that Leberman was responsible for the kidnap, torture, and murder of Victoria¿s husband, James Colby, and that Victoria believes him to also be responsible for the kidnapping of their child, James Colby Jr., a child she believes has been dead for eighteen years. Leberman¿s grudge extends to Lucas Camp, James Colby¿s close friend, and a friend and confidant to Victoria all these years that she has dedicated herself to making her late husband¿s private investigations firm, the Colby Agency, the best in the business. Lucas¿s background is varied, heroic, and more secret than the mere CIA. He¿s currently involved in Mission Recovery, Webb¿s spin-off series from Colby, in which he recruits only the best of the best for his covert operations. All these years that he has stood by her, Lucas has been waiting for Victoria to be ready to put away her grief and move on. And it seems, at the beginning of Striking Distance that she is finally ready to put the past behind her and act on her long-suppressed feelings for Lucas.This, of course, makes it the perfect time for Leberman to launch his ultimate plot against Victoria. He has an assassin waiting in the wings, ready to finally take her life now that she is finally ready to live it again. An assassin who calls himself Seth, and who is cold, ruthless, and just as dedicated to Victoria¿s destruction as Leberman himself. An assassin Leberman has been training these past eighteen years¿Lucas knows that Leberman has an assassin following Victoria. He knows that in Leberman¿s twisted mind, this would be the perfect time to strike. And yet he doesn¿t know why the assassin hasn¿t yet made a move against her. He needs someone to get close to the killer. Someone who would qualify as the best of the best, and yet, someone who is not so versed in field operations that Seth won¿t spot her as an agent right away.Enter Tasha North. Not your typical Harlequin heroine. She¿s not shy and retiring, she hasn¿t been so focused on other things that she doesn¿t have any experience with men. This is a woman who knows that she¿ll need every weapon at her disposal to eliminate the threat against Victoria Colby and earn herself a spot on the Mission Recovery Team. She knows her assets and she¿s not afraid to use them. The relationship between Tasha and Seth seems impossible given Seth¿s nearly inhuman qualities. But the sort of challenge that presents to the heroine and the author makes it all the more appealing. Webb handles their relationship in a way that is believable under the circumstances, rather than falling into the trap of creating some sudden, implausible about-face in one of her characters as so many authors are wont to do. I found Striking Distance to be an e
I have all the of the Colby series. This one is as good as the first one . Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did .
## The suspense was superb, the romance definitely lacking. I loved the idea of the story. The rookie CIA agent goes undercover to stop an assassin. She needs to get close to him by any means necessary. I understand that he is damaged, ruthless and dangerous, however he treats her so badly up to the very last paragraph that I can't truly believe that she would fall for him. I wish the author would've let him show some kind of humanity. And it really bothered me that the heroine had to watch a hooker go down on him. Great thriller, bad romance.
This book is good if you like the bad guy who only has a heart for the girl