Hired by a concerned family member, Reese Braedon has come to the steamy Caracoles Key on the Gulf of Mexico to rescue a tempestuous loner from an oncoming hurricane. Never one to fear getting wet, Reese will do anything to make sure that he gets his target out safely—even if it means carrying her on his shoulders. But when the storm leaves him trapped in the home of a wild, sensuous beauty, Reese finds that he just might be in over his head.
Resenting the fact that her would-be hero was sent by her estranged mother, Jillian Bonner takes an instant dislike to Reese. She’s resolved to ride out the storm—alone. But Jillian is unprepared for the sparks that flash between them as the hurricane rages outside. And when the ordeal takes a turn for the worse, Jillian decides to take a risk and trust—for once—the desire that burns inside of her.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: The Escape Diaries, The Devil’s Thief, and The Magic.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The wind screamed in his ears as a burning pain sliced across his thigh. But then, alligators weren’t known for their light touch.
“Bloody son of a bitch!”
The moment he’d caught sight of the dark shape hurtling at him in his peripheral vision, Reese Braedon had leapt instinctively into a diving roll. The fierce wind slowed him just enough for the alligator to snag his jeans … and his flesh. He came swiftly to his feet, ignoring the heat shooting up his thigh, not taking even a second to examine the extent of his wound. Eyes trained on his attacker, he dropped into a crouch and raised the handgun he’d palmed from his ankle strap while rolling. Needing both hands to steady the weapon in the high wind, his aim nonetheless remained dead center. Right down the throat of the alligator. A very big, very agitated, hissing alligator.
It looked about nine feet long, but Reese was having a hard time getting past its mouth. It was wide open and lined with rows of vicious-looking teeth.
“What’s your problem, old bugger?” he asked under his breath. He moved a slow step back. The alligator remained where it was. He took another small step. No movement. But that open mouth and the speed with which the reptile had overtaken him earlier made him more than a little wary.
“Just a simple job,” he muttered. “Grab the tart and get her off the island.” He took another step. “No one told me she kept an overgrown suitcase with fangs as a watchdog.”
When he was a good twenty feet away, he carefully began to straighten. His aim did not waver. “There’s a good battler,” he cajoled, knowing the alligator couldn’t possibly hear him, though he’d let the damn thing eat him alive before admitting the soothing tone was for his own benefit.
When he’d driven over the rickety bridge from Sanibel Island to Caracoles Key, his only concern had been whether Jillian Bonner was going to fall down in gratitude and thank him for saving her from certain death, or whether he was going to have to cart her bodily off the tiny spit of land as her mother seemed to believe would probably be the case.
He didn’t much care how he carried out his job. Either way he’d get paid and Mrs. Ravensworth would sleep easy knowing her only child hadn’t been swept into the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Ivan.
Predictions were flying fast and furious, but no one seemed to question that the storm touted as Ivan the Terrible would live up to its advance billing.
No one except Jillian Bonner. And her damn pet.
The alligator changed things. Now Reese was mad. And when he lost his temper, someone always paid.
He straightened a bit further. “You don’t want me, you old codger,” he called out, keeping his tone even and grinding his teeth together in what he hoped passed for a smile. “Even the meanest crocs in Australia didn’t eat me when they had the chance.”
He straightened his legs an inch and took another step back. The alligator maintained its aggressive stance.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a heavy weight blindsided him, driving into the side of his knees. He hit the ground hard on his chest, but quickly regained his senses. His first thought was that another gator had nailed him from behind, but those were definitely human hands gripping his thighs. A quick glance over his right shoulder showed that the alligator had backed away, as if unsure what to make of this new intruder.
Dismissing that threat for the one literally on his back, Reese expertly flipped up and over, pinning his assailant to the ground between his thighs and leveling his gun on him in one swift move.
Only his attacker wasn’t a him.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” Even though his captive was less than a foot away, he yelled his question at the top of his lungs. Partly to be heard over the howling wind, and partly in complete frustration.
He’d been taken down by a woman! And judging from the fact that he’d barely had to spread his legs to straddle her, not much of one either. He assessed what he could see of her with a swift glance. Short dark hair, smallish dirt-smeared features, bony shoulders, no boobs. Hell, she was more boy than woman.
She grimaced, then surprised him by tugging her hands out from where he’d pinned them to her sides with his knees. She immediately grabbed his thighs and began shoving. He didn’t budge.
It belatedly occurred to him that being considerably bigger than she was, he was crushing her. He still didn’t move, but his temper curbed. Slightly.
Until her frantic grasping caught him directly on his fresh wound. The hot slash of pain shot up his leg and went straight to his brain. He tossed the gun to the ground, grabbed her hands and pinned them above her head, bringing his own face within an inch of hers. He gave her his fiercest scowl.
She stopped her ineffective attempts at escape and blinked up at him. He was distracted for a split second by her eyes. If asked, he couldn’t have said why. They were a nondescript gray. The moment passed as she treated him to a scowl of her own. It was a damn good one too.
For a sheila.
“Yes, I am. Now could you get off me?”
The mouse that roared, Reese thought, fighting the sudden odd urge to smile.
“Please?” The request came through gritted teeth.
Reese continued to stare down at her. Stubborn and tenacious were two of her more obvious traits. Yet it was something else that held his complete attention. There, in the depths of her eyes, was a trace of something … Not entirely hard and cold, nor soft and vulnerable. Just the enduring essence of battles fought. Some won. Too many lost. It wasn’t blatant or world-weary. But it was there. He knew so, because it was the same thing he saw when he made the mistake of staring too deeply into a mirror.
Like his, hers were the eyes of a survivor.
Maybe they weren’t so nondescript after all.
Enough, he decided abruptly. He changed his grip so he could hold her slender wrists in one hand, using the other to scoop up his gun. Tucking it in the waistband of his jeans, Reese lifted his body off her and stood, pulling her to her feet as he went. He paused to run a quick visual check for the alligator, the descending gloom of the storm making it difficult.
“Did you hurt Cleo?” she yelled over the wind.
He jerked his gaze around to her. “What?”
“My alligator. Is she hurt?”
“Who the hell—? Your alligator?”
She didn’t wait around for him to ask questions. In the next instant, with a hard yank, Jillian sprang free and took off racing across the yard.
“The damn thing almost had my leg for lunch and you’re worried about how it’s doing?” he roared after her. His words were swallowed by the wind. She didn’t slow a step in her dash to the rear area of the compound.
Swearing under his breath, he took off after her, ignoring the daggers in his thigh as he closed the distance between them. She slowed as she neared a pond. Across the small expanse of water, Reese could make out the hulking shape of the alligator as it hovered near a huge pile of what looked to be earth, leaves, and twigs.
Reese stopped about two feet away. And palmed his gun.
She spun around, her expression changing from concern to anger when she spied him. Or rather when she spied his gun.
“Put that thing away! You’ll scare her.”
“I’ll—What? Scare her?” Reese knew he was sputtering. He never sputtered. “She’s a nine-foot alligator with a bad attitude,” he yelled back. “This barely makes things even. No way.”
“Did you hurt her?” she demanded again.
“No!” His patience unraveled to its last thread. He could barely believe what he was hearing. She hadn’t once asked if he’d been hurt. Not that he intended to tell her. It was obvious she cared more for the damn mutant reptile than she did about a human being. Namely him.
“Let’s get the hell out of here before she comes back.”
“You sure you didn’t shoot her?” She turned her back to him without waiting for his reply. Using her hands to keep her bangs from whipping into her eyes, she squinted as she looked across the pond.
“We haven’t got time to waste,” Reese shouted.
“Don’t let me stop you.”
The last thread snapped, and Reese closed the short space between them and grabbed her arm. “Let’s go.” Without another word, he turned and started toward the house, not bothering to alter his long-legged gait, which, even wounded, kept her trotting beside him to keep up.
Now that he was no longer under attack—from woman or beast—he turned his thoughts back to his original plan. Getting Jillian Bonner off this island and to safety before the hurricane hit. He didn’t spare a thought as to whether she’d go along with that plan. He’d promised Regina Ravensworth he’d get her daughter away from danger. And he kept his promises. All he had to do was get a few of her things packed and they were out of there.
He’d gone about five yards when she abruptly dug in her heels and yanked hard at the hand gripping her wrists. He stumbled, sending a fresh rush of pain up his leg, but didn’t let his hold on her wrists slacken enough for her to break free. Biting back several oaths, he spun around to face her but she cut him off before he’d uttered his first word.
“Excuse me,” she yelled, “but just who in the hell do you think you are?”
“The only idiot stupid enough to risk his life to save your scrawny butt,” he yelled back, wondering just how he’d lost control of this supposedly simple operation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ran to twelth.