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Secrets are every where

Excerpt of Vows of Vengeance by Rita Herron


Harlequin Intrigue 892
January 2006
Featuring: Stella Segall; Luke Devlin
ISBN: 0373228929
Add to Wish List

Romance Series, Romance Suspense

Also by Rita Herron:

In Their Footsteps and Justice for a Ranger, December 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Hidden Truths, May 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
Suspicious Circumstances, October 2020
Protective Order, September 2020
Hostage at Hawk's Landing, March 2019
Good Little Girls, August 2018
Paperback / e-Book
Pretty Little Killers, February 2018
Trade Size / e-Book
All The Dead Girls, December 2016
Paperback / e-Book
All the Pretty Faces, April 2016
Paperback / e-Book
All The Beautiful Brides, September 2015
Paperback / e-Book
My Evil Valentine, February 2014
Cover Me, March 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Ultimate Cowboy, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Native Cowboy, January 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Dying To Tell, January 2013
Paperback / e-Book
A Christmas Mission: Saving the Street Boys, November 2012
Before She Dies, November 2012
Cowboy in the Extreme, February 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Brandishing a Crown, January 2011
Unbreakable Bond, July 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Forbidden Passion, April 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Peek-A-Boo Protector (Harlequin Intrigue Series), September 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Dark Hunger, August 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Collecting Evidence, May 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Platinum Cowboy, February 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Silent Night Sanctuary, November 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Insatiable Desire, September 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Beneath The Badge, August 2008
Memories Of Megan, June 2008
Paperback (reprint)
In The Flesh, May 2008
Under His Skin, February 2008
Up In Flames, December 2007
Don't Say A Word, September 2007
Mass Market Paperback
Anything For His Son, August 2007
Mass Market Paperback
Say You Love Me, June 2007
Justice for a Ranger, March 2007
Force of the Falcon, December 2006
Look-Alike, September 2006
Last Kiss Goodbye, August 2006
Return to Falcon Ridge, May 2006
In a Heartbeat, March 2006
Her Eyewitness, February 2006
Vows of Vengeance, January 2006

Excerpt of Vows of Vengeance by Rita Herron

The sheets were soaked in blood.

Stella stared at them in shock, then glanced down at her trembling hands. More blood. On her hands. Her fingers. Her nightgown.

It was still wet.

Then she saw the man.

Moonlight streaked his face, a golden outline of his still form stark against the bloodstained sheets. Nausea rose to her throat, the room swirling.

He was lying beside her. Half naked. Brown hair. Average features.

Except blood oozed from his mouth. And his chest had turned crimson, a red stain spreading across his torso.

The stench of body odors assaulted her, and a scream bubbled in her throat. She scrambled backward off the bed, panic clawing at her. Her foot hit a gun and sent it skittering to the floor. She jerked it up, turning it over in horror as she realized the man had been shot with it.

Her heart pounded as she glanced back at him again. Whoever he was, maybe he was still alive.

But he wasn't breathing. His eyes were wide open, glued to the ceiling in the cold shock of death.

Suddenly the door burst open, and a policeman raced in, his weapon drawn. Stella froze.

The officer took one look at the dead man, then her, and his ruddy face went white. "Don't move, ma'am."

Her hand shook violently, the gun bobbing up and down as she realized how the scenario appeared. "I —"

"Put the gun down," he barked.

"But I…I don't understand."

His tone hardened. "Now. Slowly lower the weapon to the floor."

Shock and fear washed over her as she did as he instructed.

"Raise your hands in the air."

She swallowed hard, then lifted her hands in surrender as he trained his gun on her. It was obvious that he thought she'd killed the man in the bed.

Only she had no idea what had happened.

LUKE DEVLIN'S phone trilled, the sound cutting into the silence of the night as if announcing trouble. He reached for it, one foot already sliding off the side of the bed, his mind playing the guessing game as to the nature of the call. A new case. An old one. Somebody else found dead. Something mysterious happening at Nighthawk Island. More bioengineering related to terrorism and chemical warfare. Their newest undercover plot — or maybe the feds with information on who had killed his partner J.T. Osborne last year and made it look like a suicide.

Or something about his wife's disappearance.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, wishing he'd had at least an hour or two's worth of sleep. But sleep eluded him these days. So he welcomed work to relieve the pain and restlessness. "Special Agent Devlin."

"Devlin, this is Lieutenant Rawlins of the Savannah Police Department."


"I just got a call from one of my officers, Detective Black. They found your wife."

His heart thundered in his chest. Stella had been found. Alive?

Time vaulted to a standstill. For the past year, he'd searched endlessly. Even as a suspect himself, he'd pushed the cops and feds for the truth. They thought he'd crossed the line on this one.

But Luke Devlin never crossed the line. Not for anyone. Just as he didn't believe that J.T. had been corrupt, either.

Eventually clues had turned up that made them believe Stella had left of her own accord. That she was alive and well, moving from one place to another. That she didn't want to be reunited with him or to be found. But her disappearance had stamped a black mark on his career. Too many questions left unanswered. Too much doubt and suspicion for anyone to completely trust him.

Especially after all the trouble with J.T.

Although the police had officially deemed his part-ner's death a suicide, and had called off the search for Stella, Luke hadn't given up.

He had to solve the mystery around J.T.'s death. He'd been undercover at CIRP, getting close to finding out their latest experiments when he'd died. Luke needed to know what had happened to his wife on their honeymoon.


Luke cleared his throat, collecting himself. "Where is she?"

"Sunset Motel."

"What?" His hand tightened around the phone. Was this some kind of joke? "What's going on?"

"You can meet Detective Adam Black when you get there," Lieutenant Rawlins said.

The officer started to hang up, but Luke needed more information. "Wait. Just tell me — is she … alive?"

A long hesitation stretched over the line, riddled with tension. Heat from the open window brushed his neck, and he broke out in a cold sweat.

"Yes, but, Devlin, there's something else you need to know." Rawlins paused, the scent of death and fear filled Luke again.


"She's going to be charged with murder."

The breath whooshed from Luke's chest. Moving on instincts so natural, he didn't contemplate his actions, he closed the phone, yanked on his jeans, grabbed a shirt and jogged to his car. His mind raced while he cut through the streets of Savannah. Though it was midnight, tourists crowded the streets, Saturday night partiers in full swing. Booze and music floated through the humid summer air from River Street, a cruise ship had docked in town creating more chaos in the summer atmosphere. The roar of a siren in the distance reminded him that crimes had been at an all-time-high for the area, the closing of the bizarre suicide cases a while back having added more hype to the mysterious happenings at Nighthawk Island.

Questions rattled through his head, the same ones that had haunted him the past year. Where had Stella been all this time? Why had she left him on their wedding night? Had their marriage been some kind of scam? Had she been ill and decided not to burden him? Had she decided that she couldn't stay married to him, that he was some kind of cold, FBI agent who didn't know how to treat a wife? Or had she been in some kind of trouble, something she was afraid to confess to him?

But if she'd left of her own free will, why had there been blood on her wedding dress? That one element had bothered him, kept him searching for her, kept him awake each night with disturbing dreams and images.

And if she had been in trouble, why hadn't she attempted to contact him sometime during the last year?

He maneuvered around traffic and a handful of pedestrians leaving a blues bar, then sped onto the road leading to the motel, leaving the historic side of Savannah with its town squares, haunted cemeteries and classy bed-and- breakfasts behind. He continued on, threading his way to the outskirts, to a rinky-dink motel that catered to low- rent patrons and truckers, ones who didn't mind bug- infested rooms and two-bit hookers.

What was Stella doing at a place of this caliber? And why had Rawlins said they were going to arrest her for murder? Had she been held captive? Had she become involved with another man and gotten in over her head?

He approached the motel room with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Finally he'd glean some answers. Learn the truth. Get closure.

Look into her eyes and know why she'd put him through hell the last year. Why she hadn't loved him enough to stay around.

The blue lights of the Savannah police car swirled through the darkness, the neon lights of the Sunset Motel blinking as he parked. One letter was missing in the word Sunset so it read the Sunet, and the building was so dilapidated it should have been condemned. A smattering of rattletrap cars filled the lot, a group of spectators already hovered in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and mumbling, obviously aware their peaceful night had been interrupted by crime.

He barreled his sedan into a parking spot, killed the engine, then grabbed his badge and flashed it at the locals working to secure the scene.

"Special Agent Devlin."

The squatty officer at the bottom of the steps spoke first. "Detective Black said you'd be here."

Luke nodded, grimacing. The man obviously knew about his past. As Luke climbed the steps to the second floor, he dodged a reporter and cameraman. The motel rooms were lined up, each with its own outdoor access to the balcony. The doors were painted an avocado-green that had faded to a pea-green color from the blistering sun and relentless summer heat.

Seconds later, he stopped at the doorway, his gaze skimming past the security guard talking to one of the local cops. Through the open doorway, he cataloged details of the scene.

Blood was splattered everywhere, soaking the sheets and dotting the stained gray carpet. The foul odors of death hit him. The mumblings of policemen at work. A crime scene crew that had just arrived.

He saw Detective Black inside, then his gaze landed on Stella, and his heart literally seemed to stop beating.

She sat stone-stiff in one of the motel chairs, her hands knotted, her normally olive complexion a pasty-white, while Black questioned her. Luke hadn't imagined the gut- wrenching reality of seeing her alive, in the flesh.

The hair that had been buttery-blond was now jet-black, not short and layered as when he'd known her, but a long tangle of ebony waves that sent a bolt of surprise through him. Surprise and sexual desire. He had wanted Stella the first moment he'd met her. The moment he'd looked into her pale green eyes.

She'd been leaning against a bar wearing a red dress that hugged her curves and a pair of rhinestone earrings that had dangled down to her shoulders. Although surrounded by gaping men, she'd appeared disinterested. Instead she'd looked lost and lonely.

After the death of his partner and the questions surrounding J.T.'s final days, Luke had been vulnerable himself. He'd always admired the way Osborne had juggled his career and a wife, and for the first time in his life, Luke had wanted the same.

In an uncharacteristic move, he'd bought Stella a drink. Three vodka martinis later, and they'd crawled into bed for some of the steamiest sex in his life. Stella had completely poleaxed him with her odd mixture of shy vulnerability and her bold lack of inhibitions about her body.

A month later, they'd eloped and that blissful month of premarriage heaven had turned into the year from hell.

He cleared this throat, struggled for calm and entered the room. An eerie quiet descended as if the black cloud that had been following him had swallowed the light. Two officers parted, their stares burning his back as he walked toward her. They knew who he was. Knew this was his wife.

When he stopped, only a breath away from her, he expected recognition. He waited, bracing himself, tamping down his anger.

She looked up, and he stared into her light green eyes, was caught anew by the sensuality and sweetness he'd once seen there. A bruise darkened her cheek, though, and a cold look of horror filled those crystalline eyes, as well as a dead emptiness that shook him to the core.

Yes, it was Stella.

But not the Stella he remembered.

She didn't speak, jump up and greet him, or offer an explanation. Didn't acknowledge that she was his wife. Didn't move to touch him, to hold him or beg him for forgiveness.

He had to clear his throat twice to make it work. "Stella?"

He waited, his lungs tight. "Yes." An odd, almost distant look glazed her expression, then her voice came out in a low whisper. "Who are you?"

Excerpt from Vows of Vengeance by Rita Herron
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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