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A theme-park princess. A real-life prince.

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Can two stubborn adults let down their guard long enough to let love in again?

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A modern-day fairy tale of hope and rescue from NYT bestselling author Rachel Hauck

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A journey to the lush vineyards of Tuscany—and into the mysteries of a tragic family secret.

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Can a one-time enemy to protect them?

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When the battle is for love, the one who surrenders wins. But who will lay down arms first? And whose heart will break wide open?

Excerpt of The Sharpest Edge by Stephanie Rowe


Harlequin Intrigue 896
January 2006
Featuring: Kim Collins; Sean Templeton
ISBN: 0373228961
Add to Wish List

Romance Suspense, Romance Series

Also by Stephanie Rowe:

Darkness Awakened: Reimagined, November 2020
Hunt the Darkness, February 2017
Paperback / e-Book
A Real Cowboy Rides a Motorcycle, September 2015
A Real Cowboy Knows How to Kiss, August 2015
Paperback / e-Book
A Real Cowboy Never Says No, July 2015
Paperback / e-Book
Romancing the Paranormal, May 2015
Not Quite Dead, November 2014
The Feel Good Life, January 2012
Ice, January 2012
e-Book (reprint)
Hold Me If You Can, January 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Penelope Moonswoggle, The Girl Who Could Not Ride A Dragon, November 2011
Putting Boys on the Edge, November 2011
e-Book (reprint)
Touch If You Dare, July 2011
Kiss At Your Own Risk, January 2011
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Chill, December 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Ice, July 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Sex & the Immortal Bad Boy, November 2007
Mass Market Paperback
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot, May 2007
Mass Market Paperback
If the Shoe Fits, January 2007
Mass Market Paperback
Must Love Dragons, November 2006
Date Me, Baby, One More Time, May 2006
The Sharpest Edge, January 2006

Excerpt of The Sharpest Edge by Stephanie Rowe

I will come for you.

Kim Collins bolted upright in bed, adrenaline spiking. What was that? A whisper in the wind? Or her imagination? A premonition of a future soon to be hers? The promise of a man whose only goal was to kill her?

I will come for you.

Her heart pounded in her chest, filled her ears, bruised her ribs.

He was here. She knew it.

She frantically searched the dark bedroom, her gaze darting back and forth, trying to cover every inch at once. She dipped into the moon's eerie shadows, double- checking the location of each item. Nothing amiss. Even her suitcase still lay open on the floor, half-unpacked after her arrival from California two days ago. All was quiet.

Except the six-inch scar on her thigh.

It throbbed with pain. Pulsed with fear. Ached with ugly reminders.

But the room was silent. The house was still.

Relax, Kim. It's another nightmare. Nothing in the room had moved since she'd gone to bed. See? She was imagining things.

It was nothing but a dream.

Or, rather, a nightmare.

Kim pushed her hair off her face, her fingers twisting in the wet strands, damp from the humidity and the fear. The sweat of terror. Too real. Too often. And now…she was having those dreams almost every night.

The knife.

The blood.

Her scream.

The overwhelming terror of impending death. And that sickening smile he'd given her when they'd escorted him out of the courtroom for his six-month stay in prison, his thin lips forming his promise: I will come for you.

Yesterday, she'd gotten the call from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Jimmy Ramsey was out on parole. She'd known he would be getting out. She'd been preparing for it by taking a leave of absence so she could get out of town, but nothing had prepared her for the shock of knowing he'd been released. Free to pursue her. And he was coming for her. She knew it.

"Stop it!" She hugged her pillow to her chest. He was probably three thousand miles away, stalking her in L.A., clueless that she was hidden away in the Maine woods, right? Her best friend, Alan Haywood, was watching her apartment and he'd call her as soon as Jimmy was spotted.

Everything was under control.

Besides, Jimmy wouldn't travel across the country just to stalk her.

No, but he'd travel that far to kill her.

If he realized she wasn't in L.A., he might remember hearing about the family resort in Maine and decide to see if she was out here. He'd pull out his credit card, mosey on over to the airport, grab a last-minute ticket and then he'd be here…

Argh! She closed her eyes and pressed her palms to her eyelids, trying to expel the thought from her head. Deep breaths. Inhale for five counts. Exhale for eight counts.

A distinct thump sounded above her head and she lurched off the bed. She landed on her feet, her fists balled and her breath heaving, dread paralyzing her for an instant. Then she shook it off and raced for the open windows. She yanked them shut, locked them and jumped back. Her hands shook, her skull ached where Jimmy had smashed it and her legs threatened to give out.

The scrabbling on the roof continued. Little thuds and scratches, faster now.

Dammit. She wasn't ready to die. She hadn't been before and she wasn't now.

She grabbed the phone, but her fingers were shaking too much to hold on to it. It clattered to the floor. She dove for the handset and dialed 911. The operator answered, her calm, detached voice so wrong for the intensity of the situation.

"1370 Birch Road. There's an intruder! Please send someone. Hurry!"

Kim jumped away as the wall nearest her began to shake. He was climbing down the side of her house! She heard a thud on the ground and fresh panic surged over her. Was he planning to break a window and come in the ground floor?

"There's an officer in the area. He should be there in about three minutes."

"Thanks." Kim hung up just as the operator was telling her to stay on the line. As if that would help if Jimmy came through her window wielding a knife. Stay away from me or this operator will kill you. Uh-huh. Yeah, that'd work.

The phone rang and she jumped.

The operator calling back?

Or was it Jimmy phoning from her front step? Laughing at her fear? Mocking her? Counting down the seconds she had left to live? No, thanks.

She let it ring.

The police would be there in three minutes.

That was all the time she needed to buy herself.

She kicked her bedroom door shut.

No lock.

A scrambling noise from outdoors spurred her into motion. She ran to the end of her dresser, wedged her back against it and pushed with all the strength her trembling limbs could provide. With a protesting shriek that made her own hackles rise, the bureau screeched its way across the wood floor, a mournful sound that made cold fingers of fear close around her spine.

The creepy wail didn't end until she had the dresser jammed safely in front of the door. The taut silence was barely a respite as she stepped back to inspect her work.

Not enough. He could still get through.

She ducked into the attached bathroom, grabbed the lid off the back of the toilet and hoisted it over her shoulder, taking up a post by the side of the door. If he stuck his head in there, she'd brain him with the porcelain. It wasn't a gun, but it was heavy and hard. She wasn't going down without a fight.

Kim strained, listening for the sound of breaking glass or splintering wood. Or the ominous thud of footsteps on the stairs.

Silence. Not even a noise from the side of the house anymore. She took a deep breath. Maybe it hadn't been Jimmy. Maybe it was a really fat raccoon. Or even a bear.

Or maybe she was deluding herself right now. Maybe she'd been yards away from the man who wanted her dead.

But the silence stretched. Even if it had been him, maybe he was gone.

But what did it matter if Jimmy had left tonight? If it had been Jimmy on her roof, if he had found her…he'd be back again.

And again.

Until he was through with her.

So what was she supposed to do?

Be like Cheryl, her beloved sister, who had changed her name and disappeared? If Kim ran, she would endanger Cheryl as well as herself because her sister was safe only so long as Jimmy pursued Kim. Though after tonight, she really wasn't enjoying this plan too much, either.

Her goal had been to set him up to violate his parole, either by getting caught stalking her apartment or by following her out of state. Of course, the original plan had been to take a short leave of absence and set herself up in a very secure hotel, one that he'd never be able to penetrate, but her dad's accident had changed all that. Now she was still acting as bait, but in a remote and unprotected location.

Not good.

Bright lights glared and her room began flashing in blue, like a disco invading rural Maine.

The police.

Kim snuck over to the window, peering cautiously through the corner of the glass. A cruiser was sitting in her driveway and there was a uniformed officer walking up the front steps toward her door.

For now, she was safe.

But she was certain the danger was only beginning.

SHE FLUNG THE front door open, where a cop stood in the shadows. She'd made it. Oh, God. She'd made it. She wasn't going to die tonight. Her knees suddenly gave way and she went down.

"Whoa!" The man jumped out of the shadows and grabbed her, pulling her back to her feet. "You okay?"

Something caught in Kim's chest at that voice. That husky timbre… She looked up, then felt her world spin into a black abyss. "Sean?"

His grip tightened on her arms, and he pulled her into the light. "Kim?"

It was him. His eyes were tired, his face more bony and lined, his hair shorter than it had been ten years ago, but it was him. "Sean!" She threw her arms around him. "I thought you were dead!" He smelled the same as always. That musky scent that had made a sixteen-year-old girl fall in love, and it seized her gut and tugged.

For an instant, his arms tightened and he crushed her against him and it was as if the past ten years had never happened. They were both eighteen again and the world hadn't betrayed them.

Then he pulled back and set her to the side and a rift of cold air settled in her chest. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Wrong? She blinked. Wrong was the cold shadow in his eyes, the rigid set to his jaw that said he wanted nothing to do with her anymore. But what could she expect? It was what she'd wished for.

"Kim? You called the cops?"

Sweat broke out on her forehead again and she hugged herself. "He's going to kill me." Her voice was no more than a whisper, but Sean must have heard her because the lines on his face deepened and his expression became harsher.

"What are you talking about?" His hand went to his gun. His eyes became vigilant. He looked all cop, and something else. Something more. Someone who knew how to handle a weapon and who thrived on the threat of death.

Where was the gangly kid she'd almost married? The boy whose only goal in life had been to run the Loon's Nest alongside her parents? Gone, apparently, replaced by a hard man she didn't even know.

A man who was here to protect her from Jimmy. "Who's going to kill you?" He shifted her slightly, putting himself between her and the doorway, his gaze boring deep into the interior of the house. Searching for the threat.

"Jimmy Ramsey." Just saying his name made her legs start to shake again. "Who's he? Is he inside?"

She was freezing, even though it was a hot, muggy night. Guess fear of death would do that to a person. "I heard him outside."

"Outside?" Sean grabbed her, shoved her inside the house and slammed the door shut behind them. "Who? Your husband?"

Was it her imagination or did he stumble over that word? She shook her head and clutched her arms to her chest, the old T-shirt hanging loosely off her. "My sister's ex- husband."

"Cheryl's husband?" He frowned. "What's going on?" She pressed her back against the door, afraid of the house and its cavernous interior with so many hiding places. "He was in prison and he got out and I heard something on the roof and then he climbed down the side of the building and then you came and I don't know if he's still here or…"

Something flickered in his eyes, but he offered no comforting words. Not as he would have ten years ago. "Lock yourself in the bathroom while I check things out." He opened the powder room door, old instincts apparently directing him to the right place without a second thought. "I'll be back in a minute."

She grabbed his arm before he could get away. "Be careful. He's a cop."

Sean stopped, surprise flickering on his face. "A cop?" She nodded. "He'll kill you."

"No chance." He disengaged her grip and guided her into the room, then pulled the door shut. "Lock it."

His footsteps didn't take him away until she'd engaged the lock with an audible click.

And then, all she could do was wait.

KIM LEANED AGAINST the door, trying to catch her breath. Her chest was so tight, her hands cold, her forehead hot.

Sean. He was here. At her house. Alive.

And Jimmy was here.At her house.And he wanted her dead.

She groaned and slid down the door to the floor. Her hands were shaking so badly she dropped them to the tiles and let her head flop back against the wood.

What was Sean doing in town? She never would have agreed to come back if she'd known he was around. Even for her sister, she couldn't have done it. Cheryl had begged her to return to Maine when they'd found out about their dad's accident because Cheryl was still trapped in hiding and couldn't come home. For her sister, Kim could endure anything.

Except Sean.

And Jimmy again.

She had no strength left to cope with either of them, not even for Cheryl. She was exhausted, so unbearably tired.

A knock on the door sent her leaping to her feet. Kim smashed herself up against the opposite wall. Was it Sean, or had Jimmy killed Sean? What if Jimmy had come back to finish her off at a leisurely pace?

"It's me. Open up."

She nearly collapsed with relief at Sean's voice. "Is it safe?"


Kim inched toward the door and flicked the lock, but the doorknob turned before she could open it. Sean stuck his head into the room, his dark eyebrows knitting when he saw her. She had no doubt that he'd be able to see through her facade and know that she was terrified. For an instant, his face softened and she thought he was going to give her the reassurance she craved, but then his expression hardened.

"Come on out. We need to talk."

An agonizing need to have his arms around her again jolted her into moving toward him, but he turned away before she could reach him.

Nothing. No comfort. No special look. No touch of support, even though he had to know how much she needed it. Regret made her energy sag. Had she done that to him?

Changed him from a sweet, doting guy into someone who wouldn't even touch her arm in comfort? She couldn't ask. Couldn't apologize. Where would she start after a decade of silence? Should she try?

He held the door for her and stepped back when she reached him, his eyes cold and distant. Pushing her away. He didn't want to hear about their past. She could read it in the tight set to his mouth, the way he held his arm so she couldn't brush against it.

They were strangers now.

Strangers who had to discuss the man who'd almost killed her once and wouldn't let her escape next time.

Excerpt from The Sharpest Edge by Stephanie Rowe
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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