As his rioting pulse quieted, Hunter made no move to release Jodi. Though he felt numb in body and soul, he’d had the forethought to turn to his back, but he’d taken her with him. She was a small, warm weight resting on his heart, one slender thigh draping his, her fingers idly toying with his chest hair. When she spoke, he forced himself to focus.
“Big men used to unsettle me.” She turned her face up to his. “I know my own ability, and against someone twice my size, I’m outgunned on muscle alone.”
He was twice her size—but he would use that advantage to protect her, to shield her from ugliness, as much as she would allow him to. Letting his hand drift to her ass, he cuddled a bare cheek and waited.
Jodi squirmed against him. “When I met the McKenzies, I realized how overbearing big guys can be. They would never hurt me, but they always wanted to stand in my way.”
“To keep you safe,” Hunter rumbled, amazed that he could find his voice when every bone, muscle and bit of sinew in his body was currently lax.
“Yup,” she said. “Even when it’s not necessary.” Spreading her fingers wide, she stroked over his chest, up to his collarbone and to the firm deltoid muscle around his shoulder. “With you, I’m finding big dudes are crazy-sexy, too. This body of yours…” She leaned down and took a soft love bite of his pec, then dampened it with her tongue. “Swear to God, Hunter, you smell so good and look so fine, I could just eat you up.”
There went his drowsiness. Abruptly, he turned, pinning her under him again, loving the cushion of her warmth, the gentle softness that was such a contrast to her bold, larger-than-life persona.
Her breasts were modest in size but plump and round, her nipples a dark pink. He liked seeing her pale flesh held by his darker, rougher hands. She obviously had no idea, but her body was perfection, every curve in exact, enticing proportion. True, she didn’t carry any spare weight. He could see her ribs, and her hip bones, but she didn’t look too thin. Her flat stomach enticed him. Her smooth thighs and slender calves made her legs look longer. Everything about her was delicate—except her attitude.
He met her gaze and caught her wide, triumphant grin. Clearly, that comment about eating him up had gotten her the exact result she wanted.
“Tease.” Once again, she’d proved that she had great instincts—even when it came to intimacy.
“Got your attention.”
“Honey, you’ve had my attention from the second I noticed you on that big mower, wearing frayed shorts and work boots.” He lightly nibbled on her bottom lip, and whispered, “Anytime you want me, you only need to say so.”
“What if I always want you?”
Hunter lifted to his forearms to see her expression. Vulnerability and challenge vied for top honors. Not uncommon when it came to Jodi. Softly, he said, “You can always have me.” He took her mouth in a kiss of ultimate possession that had her squirming, then asked, “And since that’s a fact, do you want something to eat before I start devouring you?”
She pretended to give it some thought, then said with apology, “I am pretty hungry.”
Though she wouldn’t have said so on her own. She might not even have realized it. He’d have his work cut out for him, getting her on some sort of a routine. She’d had a long day, yet she didn’t appear the least bit tired. Her energy level amazed him. “How do waffles sound?”
She’d been busy staring at his mouth, maybe doing her own introspection about things, but now she widened her eyes. “Waffles for dinner?”
“You want something else?”
Brief amusement flashed in her eyes. “Look at us, planning dinner after sex. That seems so normal, doesn’t it?”
If he had his way, it would become the norm very quickly. “We can be normal.” He kissed her. “Or abnormal.” Another, deeper kiss. “Or like you, extraordinary.” He gave a
soft tug to her bottom lip, then whispered huskily, “As long as we do it together.”
Jodi hugged him tight, her face against his throat for a few seconds as she seemed to struggle with her emotions. When she dropped back to the pillow, she smiled at him, a soft, accepting smile. “Now that you’ve mentioned waffles, I think they sound perfect.”
“Good. I’ll plug in the waffle iron.” He started to leave the bed, but she stopped him.
“I’m, um, sticky?” She scrunched her nose. “If I get up, the sticky is going to get all over your sheets.”
Nothing with Jodi would ever be predictable. Grinning, Hunter said, “Let me do the honors. Stay put.”
She frowned over that, gave it some thought and shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Knock yourself out.”
He went into the bathroom and wet a soft washcloth with warm water. When he returned to the bed, Jodi was right where he’d left her, ankles crossed, one arm resting on her stomach, the other at her side. She turned her head toward him and waited.
Sitting by her hip, he gave her a long, heated look and said, “Open your legs.”
“I like how you make that sound so sexy.” Without hesitation, she bent one knee out.
God love her, her every reaction was distinctive. Never would he be able to second-guess her. As he pressed the cloth to her, he again looked at her body. “Will you believe me when I tell you how fucking gorgeous you are?”
Her lips quirked. Sticking to her no-cursing rule, she repeated, “Effing gorgeous. Not just plain gorgeous?”
“No. With you, nothing is plain.”
“I think you’re effing gorgeous, too. Every inch of you. Not just your stellar bod—which really is spectacular—but
your face, how you smile at me and how you make me smile, and the things you say and do, sort of serious but also funny.”
He moved the cloth enough to distract her from the effusive compliments.
She went still, then bit her bottom lip.
“Jodi.” Maybe feeding her could wait. He started to lean toward her, but caught himself in time. He’d made her a promise, and he needed to keep it. “Not to discourage you, but there were things we’d planned to discuss.”
Turning serious in a heartbeat, Jodi scooted up in the bed, put her bare shoulders to the headboard and dropped a pillow over her lap. “I’m listening.”
The eager way she’d jumped on that drove home just how unfair he’d been. Standing, Hunter took the cloth to the bathroom, rinsed it out again, then cleaned himself before draping it over the edge of the tub. In his head, his thoughts scrambled for the best way to begin, and how quickly he could end. When he turned back to the bedroom, Jodi was exactly as he’d left her.
In his bed, where he’d wanted her since the day he’d met her—whether he’d acknowledged it or not.
What if his honesty drove her away? No, the truth wouldn’t do that. Out of the many people who’d be unable to deal with his confessions, Jodi wasn’t one of them.
He came to stand at the side of the bed. “Most of the time, working as a park ranger was pretty routine.”
Jodi stayed silent, listening with undivided interest.
He pulled the quilt free from the bottom of the bed and shook it out so that it settled over the mattress. Getting into bed beside her, he mimicked her position, but with the quilt pulled over his lap. “I’d taken on the wildlife-specialist duties, like monitoring wild game harvests, managing hunting units and food plots, wildlife surveys, making schedules, stuff like that.”
Shifting slightly closer, Jodi put her shoulder to his, then drew up the quilt as well.
Once she’d gotten comfortable, he continued. “Occasionally, the job included responding to emergency situations. Some people thought nature was the perfect place to commit suicide. They’d go out alone in the woods and either put a bullet through their skull, or deliberately plummet off a cliff. One guy hung himself.” Hunter stared at the foot of the bed. “Animals had eaten part of him before we found him.”
“Gruesome,” she murmured, and somehow she was closer still. Was she doing that for him, or for herself? In case she needed the nearness, he put his arm around her and drew her flush against his side. “We’d had three different women go missing over a month, all in totally different sections of the park. That wasn’t uncommon, from lost campers to ditched dates to suicides.” His chest expanded, as much with dread as need for oxygen. Forcing out the words, he said, “I had a hunch.”
“Instincts,” she confirmed softly. “Neither of us would ever ignore them.”
“I was off duty one Saturday, but I couldn’t get it out of my head that the disappearances of those women were somehow related. The areas had already been searched. People had given up on the first two, assuming they were dead, consumed by nature.” When her hand settled on his chest, small and warm, her fingertips gently coaxing, he realized that he’d gone rigid and consciously relaxed again. Jodi had been through enough, far too much, she didn’t need his anxiety on top of her own. “I kept thinking through everything we’d been told about the women—they were different from each other, various ages, builds, types—and I scoured my brain for everything I’d ever learned about the mountains. Finally, I decided to check out an idea.”
Jodi pressed her lips to his skin, then hugged him.
Such a compassionate woman, despite all she’d dealt with. That ability to not only understand, but truly care, was rare. She was rare.
And she was his.
“I’d already seen a lot of shit while working. I had a near miss from a poacher’s bow and arrow in the middle of the night, busted up drug deals, kept watch on suspected pedophiles. Once I even fought a fire on my own, set by a small-time arsonist who recorded it from the woods.” He flashed her a look. “I got him, by the way. My point is that you hear things, and learn things that stick with you. Clues, mannerisms. I’d been told more than a few times that I was a natural. Pieces come together for me when they don’t for anyone else.” Once again, he fell silent, but it’d be better to get it all said. “There was an area of the mountains that was nearly impassable. We forever heard rumors of things happening there. Noises in the night, cries that seemed to come from everywhere.” He glanced down at her. “People claimed Bigfoot was around.”
“Ghost stories,” Jodi whispered.
“Or so we thought.” But he’d had that damn feeling that he couldn’t shake. “After fighting it throughout Saturday night, I took off at first light on Sunday morning, loaded down with gear, including a radio and my weapon.”
God, he wished he’d taken more. “I knew where I wanted to go—but I didn’t know what I would find.” The seconds ticked by while he fought the images.
To her credit, Jodi didn’t press him.
“It was damn near nightfall when I heard her screams.” Sometimes, when he tried to sleep, he heard the tortured cries still.
They’d echo in his head, over and over…much like they had on the mountain.
Hunter lowered his voice, straining around the memory. “At first I couldn’t tell if they were animal or human, or from what direction they came. I only knew that someone or something was hurt. My gut urged me to run to the person, but my caution is somehow ingrained.” Furious at himself, he squeezed his eyes shut. “I radioed it in, giving my location, and then I started picking my way forward. It was shadowy enough, the woods rocky and rough, that I knew I could fall and break my damn leg, then I wouldn’t be able to help anyone.”
“You did the smart thing,” Jodi reiterated.
“I should have given in to the urgency.”
With no sign of condemnation, Jodi asked, “What happened?”
It wasn’t easy, sharing something that he’d tried so hard to bury. Talking about it made it all fresh again, constricting his lungs, causing his muscles to tense. Sharing made it real, when he’d prefer to file it away as a nightmare.
Bad as it was, Jodi had a right to know, so he forced out the awful admission. “By the time I found her an hour later, he’d nearly tortured her to death.” Regrets, as raw as ever, bombarded him. “He had her staked out naked on the ground, blood everywhere, and he was…” Bile rose in his throat, but he choked it back. “He’d cut her all over, long, shallow cuts, on her arms, legs and torso, a few on her face. I remember seeing her eyes, wide and wild, and in the firelight, her skin was so pale.”
Surprising him, Jodi pushed back the quilt and crawled into his lap, nestling against his chest, her cheek on his shoulder, and her arm around his neck. “Go on.”
Bemused, Hunter pulled the quilt over her and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Her closeness was exactly what he’d needed, and somehow she’d known that. When suffer
ing her own memories, she’d shied away from being touched, but for him…
The words emerged as a whisper. “He had the knife to her groin, in that tender spot between leg and pelvis, and he was making small cuts while smiling at her.” Miserable sick bastard. Never again could anyone tell him that monsters didn’t exist. He knew better, because he’d seen them.
Jodi breathed a little faster. “You had your gun.”
“Yes, and I shot him, no questions asked. I should have ordered him to back up, should have restrained him.”
“Screw that,” she said with heated passion. “That’s a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later scenario.”
Her attitude gave him a small smile, one of relief that she understood, but also admiration, because she was so fierce. “It was like I wasn’t me anymore. I saw that poor woman, and without making a sound, I put one into his chest. He fell over her, the knife trapped between them. That had her screaming hysterically again, but she sounded weak, as if she had no reserves left.” Hunter squeezed his eyes shut, but only for a moment. “God, I was afraid that I’d caused her death, that I’d been the one to force a fatal cut. I grabbed him off her and tossed him aside. The knife was in the ground between her legs.” Anger at himself forced him to draw a deep breath. “I didn’t secure the area. Instead, I told her she was safe, that help was on the way, while I used the knife to cut her hands free. As soon as she could, she curled in on herself, her body limp like a rag doll, but slippery with blood.”
His heart started pumping too hard, painfully slamming against his ribs. “The smells were awful. I don’t know how long he had her staked out like that, but it was far too long. One fucking minute with that lunatic would have been too long, but he’d had her for more than two days. I could smell
the infection on her, and urine, and all that blood.” And now came the worst part.
“Did she live?” Jodi asked simply.
Such a difficult question. Hunter bypassed it for now. “Unfortunately, my shot hadn’t killed the bastard, and I was still cutting her right foot free when he clubbed me in the back of the head. Stupid. So fucking stupid for me not to have secured him. I…” He shook his head, still furious at himself. “I saw her and my only thought was getting her free.”
“Pretty sure anyone would have felt that way.”
“It was a rookie mistake because I let emotion cloud my judgment. I knew better. Remember, I was the guy who put things together, the one who saw what others didn’t.” What a joke. “When I left that morning, it was with a hunch that something awful was happening. And still it took me by surprise.”
“You expected a kidnapper, Hunter, not a lunatic.”
It was a sad truth that they both knew too much about the evil in the world. “The hit on the head dazed me, everything was swimming and combined with the smells… I almost passed out, but I saw him drawing back to hit her, the log aimed at her face and…”
“You couldn’t let him do that.”
No, he couldn’t. “He wasn’t alone, Jodi. Another man shouted from the woods. He yelled Nevil, like they were friends and he was worried.”
She’d just broken her own rule about cursing. “I had the knife in my hand, and I knew with my head pounding that I couldn’t take on two men, so I went on autopilot.”
“Good.” She hugged him again.
“I started stabbing him, over and over again, even after he fell back, I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I stabbed him more than he’d stabbed her. In more places. Deeper cuts.” Re
membering the carnage he’d left behind, Hunter clenched. “I should have just cut his throat, but what I did was so much worse—”
“Survival isn’t pretty.”
No, it hadn’t been. For either of them. “I’d just gotten my gun drawn again when the second man entered the clearing. He saw Nevil, or what was left of him, and he roared.”
“You shot him, too?”
“I emptied my gun into him.” Talk about overkill. “I didn’t know if there’d be a third man, or a fourth, but the woman’s cries were different. Less hysterical and weaker. I asked her if there was anyone else, but she just kept sobbing.”
“What a hero you are, Hunter Osborn. No lie, your instincts are amazing. All day climbing in the mountains, then coming on to a scene like that. I mean, I wish you’d shot their balls off, too, but you did great. Even shocked at seeing that awful sight, and getting clubbed on the noggin, you did what a hero does. You protected the innocent.” She kissed his chest, softly, a light brush of her lips, then his jaw, his chin, the bridge of his nose. “Autopilot is good. It means you function, no matter what. I think that’s awesome.”
“Jodi?” He didn’t understand her.
“You were appealing from day one, but now? How could I ever let you go?”
That got his brain processing again. “You can’t,” he said firmly, crushing her close. “Not ever.”
Her arms tightened, too, and she said softly, “Good.”
They sat like that for a while. Luckily, Turbo slept on undisturbed, and Hunter gradually regained his control. Jodi remained Jodi, quirky and surprising and, as far as he was concerned, absolutely perfect. For him. “I knew it’d be a while before help arrived, probably not until the morning. Honest to God, Jodi, I didn’t know if she’d make it that long.”
“Did you have a concussion?”
Funny that, under the circumstances, she’d ask about him instead of the woman. “I did, yeah. There were times I saw double, and my head felt like he’d split it open. I worked by rote, just doing what had to be done, however I could do it.”
“I got her covered and put up a shelter, first.”
She lifted her head to see him. “From the supplies you had?”
“I had a survival backpack, so I had most of what we needed, including a two-person tent. Not fancy, but it’d be shelter if it rained. Small amount of rations, water, first aid kit, antibacterial wipes, heat packs, fire starter…” Seriously, Jodi didn’t need to know the entire contents of his backpack. “A stream wasn’t far away, and we could have used the water.” Blood was everywhere, and all over him. “But she didn’t want me to move. She was panicked by the idea that I wouldn’t come back. Even when I threw up twice, she wanted to be able to see me.” He let out a breath that was part laugh, part pain. “It was humiliating, showing so much weakness when I should have been stronger for her.”
“Eh, you’re mortal, dude, and a concussion is serious stuff. I think the fact that you stayed with her instead of seeking privacy, putting her needs over your own, is a show of strength.”
Figured Jodi would see it that way. “I dragged the bodies a few yards away, tied them to a tree, and covered them with branches so she wouldn’t have to see them.”
Curious, Jodi asked, “Why’d you tie them? Did you think either of them might still be alive?”
“There was no doubt they were dead, believe me.” Never would he forget the mangled, damaged bodies. “The smell of all the blood could have drawn in wild animals. I kept my gun and extra ammo close, just in case, but with a concussion, I didn’t want to chance passing out, only to come to and find them gone. I thought…” His mouth tightened.
“I sensed that they had something to do with the other missing women, too, and possibly even women we hadn’t heard about. I knew investigators would need fingerprints, dental records… Hell, everything, probably.”
“See, you were still sharp as a tack. I love it.”
Love… He wanted that, and more, from her. “They had their own supplies. A bigger tent, backpacks with equipment. Other than the knife that I’d already touched, I used a stick to drag their guns closer in case I needed them. I didn’t want to touch anything else and maybe dick up evidence. I concentrated on cleaning her up a little. Some of her wounds—he’d made them deliberately shallow so she wouldn’t bleed to death, but there was definite infection and I knew she had to be in awful pain. Mostly she was in shock, though, as if she could barely feel herself anymore. I did what first aid I could, then got her covered and as comfortable as possible. She passed out shortly after that, gripping my hand.”
Jodi turned to get his hand, carrying it to her face and kissing his palm. “You were her lifeline.”
Yes, he had been. And he’d been so damned afraid that he’d let her down, that she’d be dead by the time help arrived. “If only I’d trusted my gut and done something on Saturday.”
“You’re not a mind reader.”
“She was hurt so badly. Literally everywhere. Anytime she woke, I tried to get her to eat, but she couldn’t stay alert long enough to get more than a few bites. I was afraid if I went to sleep, I might not come around when she needed me.”
“Because of the concussion?”
“Yes. So I waited. Even when I spoke through the radio, she didn’t stir. There were a few times I thought I’d lost her, but then she’d wail, remembering something, or she’d suddenly groan.” He opened his hand against Jodi’s cheek, cradling her precious face, thankful that she, too, had survived. “I had that man’s blood all over me, but I didn’t want to waste
the rest of our water on me, and I didn’t dare leave her alone to go to the stream.”
“That had to be the worst night of your entire life.”
When Jodi hugged him, he spoke against her hair. “When help arrived at dawn, they found the other women, both nearby, their bodies in different stages of decay.”
Her slender arms tightened more.
“I was grilled endlessly.” With a sardonic twist to his mouth, he said, “The men were brothers from an influential family. Their mother tried to claim I was the madman and that I’d just blamed them. After all, I’d mangled them pretty badly.”
“For three days, the woman didn’t talk. They kept her sedated while they treated her. She’d lost a lot of blood, but the infection is what almost did her in. For those three days, my name was dragged through the mud with endless accusations.” His jaw worked. “Memphis, Mom and Dad had to put up with reporters calling and showing up on their lawns.”
“I bet Memphis had a few choice words for them.”
“Actually, it was Mom who lost her cool and told them they were imbeciles who had no business reporting the news when they couldn’t get simple facts straight.”
Jodi grinned. “Oh, I like her.”
“On the fourth morning, the woman came around enough to clear up the confusion. I hated that she was put through that, and she was shaky on some of the details. But she made it clear, I saved her.” He smoothed Jodi’s hair. “Even though the brothers were eventually tied to other murders, some still whisper about it. They say I was involved or I brainwashed the woman. You know how that goes.”
“They have no clue.” Softly, slowly, she traced a fingertip around his mouth. “That’s why you moved here?”
“In part. Plus, I needed to get out of my own head. When
I was still there, I kept picturing her as I’d last seen her in the hospital. Haunted, as if a part of her had been stripped away. I guess it had. She’ll always be afraid now.” He hesitated. She’d be afraid in the same way Jodi was aware. Once you knew about the evil that existed, you could never discount it. “She thanked me, but said she should have just died, that it would have been easier.”
“She was wrong, Hunter. I bet it’s gotten a little easier for her every day.”
For Jodi, that might be true, because Jodi was stronger than most. Hell, she was stronger than any other person he knew. “I haven’t seen her since she got out of the hospital.”
Sitting up and straddling his lap, Jodi held his face between her hands and said, “Then she may be better already. She might be in love, married or have a kid. She might not. No one knows how long it takes for someone to recover, or at least recover enough to function. You and I both know stuff crawls into your brain and won’t get out, no matter how you try to shove it away. But, Hunter, even if she’s not yet happy to be alive, she’s no longer being tortured. Her parents have her home, so they can sleep at night without wondering where she is, what she’s going through or if they’ll ever see her again.” She put a firm, loud smooch to his mouth. “She’s not dead, alone on a mountain with her last memory of pain and terror.”
There was consolation in what she said. Was that what Jodi had feared? That she’d die alone? Had anyone missed her? It didn’t seem likely, based on what she’d told him.
“You, Hunter Osborn, listened to your gut and saved her. You found the other missing women, so their families could have closure. Best of all, you removed two of the monsters. It’s a terrible fact that more exist, but now there are a few less and I’m cheering.”
“I lost my head.”
“Bull! Against the odds, with a freaking concussion, you handled it. I’m cheering you. You need to cheer yourself and forget about idiotic reporters who only want a sensational story.”
He’d like to forget, but… “I butchered the first man.”
“Good.” She smiled at him. “Remember, I did the same—only with a chunk of wood, not a clean blade.”
“That was different.” Hunter clasped her shoulders. “You didn’t have a choice.”
“Of course I did. I could have stabbed him once and then gotten out of there and locked him in. But we’re both survivors, and we didn’t take chances.” She kissed him again, longer this time, with more feeling. She put her forehead to his. “Now that I’m with you, I’m glad I’m still here. I want you to be glad to be here, too.”
“I am.” He tumbled her to her back, as always, amazed by her. The brutality of what he’d done hadn’t stunned her. Instead, she’d related to it, and taken solace in the fact that she wasn’t alone. “Jodi, I—”
Whatever declarations he’d been about to make were forgotten when an alert sounded on her phone.
With a small jerk, Jodi went from warm and intimate to starkly aware. She twisted away from him and grabbed up the phone. “It’s from Madison.”
Hunter could see a message on the screen. You two have company. He’d forgotten all about calling Madison, but clearly she already knew they were together.
Shit. Rolling from the bed, he jerked on his flannel pants. A second later, Turbo started howling. Aware of Jodi yanking on her shirt and nothing else, he opened the nightstand and withdrew a Glock with a night sight on it.
She grabbed her own gun and her phone.
She intended to handle whatever problem they faced without pants.
Without even panties.
Wishing he could tell her to stay back and let him handle it, Hunter cursed low and followed close behind as she unlocked the bedroom door and darted into the living area. Catching her arm, Hunter spoke over the racket Turbo made. “Wait.”
Volatile, Jodi rounded on him—until she saw him checking the camera access on his own phone, then she crowded in next to him so she could see as well.
As the tall, broad-shouldered shape of a dark-haired man stepped out of a black Jeep in his driveway, Hunter relaxed. “Son of a bitch, I’m going to pound on him.”
“Him who?” Jodi demanded.
“My brother.” He looked her over. “Now, will you put on pants? He’ll like you either way, but I’d just as soon Memphis not like quite so much of you right off.”
Jodi glanced up over her bite of syrup-covered waffle. On one side of her plate, she had a cup of coffee, and on the other, her gun rested next to her phone. It was so quiet, she could hear everyone chewing. Were they always like this? Or had she caused all the tension?
She studied Memphis, specifically the way he put all his concentration on his food.
Hunter’s brother was a looker. He had the same coloring as Hunter, and anyone could see they were brothers, but the angles of his face were harder edged. A meaner jaw, sharper cheekbones. His hair was slightly longer.
Were they pissed at each other?
Earlier, when Memphis had just arrived, she’d listened from the bedroom where she’d quickly pulled on panties and shorts. She’d heard Hunter demanding to know if their parents were okay.
Nice that he loved them so much, they were his first concern. Nice, too, that Memphis had immediately stated, “Everyone is fine. No, don’t snarl at me. I had to see you.” With what could easily be discerned as happiness, Memphis had added, “Damn, Hunter, I’ve missed you.”
She imagined the silence after that meant some bear hugs or something. It had been a different kind of silence, more peaceful, than what they had now.
Jodi had lingered just a bit—not long, because her curiosity was too keen for that—but she’d heard Memphis complimenting the house, heard Hunter’s low voice replying.
She’d texted Madison that it was just Hunter’s brother—to which Madison had replied:
I know. :)
Sneaky. Guess that was Madison’s way of keeping her on her toes. Jodi had decided to give her hell for that later. Right then, she’d wanted only to join the men. There’d been quick introductions, where Memphis had worked hard to keep his gaze just on her face. She hadn’t bothered doing the same.
He’d shown up unexpectedly, and he was a stranger to her, so she refused to take chances. She’d checked him out, top to bottom. He didn’t appear to be armed, not with the fitted T-shirt stretching from shoulder to shoulder. No bulges in his worn jeans, other than the usual near his crotch, and the outline of a wallet in one back pocket, a cell phone in the other.
Reassured, she’d followed Hunter into the kitchen while Memphis chose to play with Turbo, greeting the dog like a long-lost pal.
Hunter made the waffles and she tried to deal with her disappointment.
Her first night getting it on with Hunter, over before it had really begun.
He’d shared his past with her, and instead of being able to say all the things she wanted to say, they were sitting here
now, eating waffles. Granted, delicious waffles. And she had been hungry, but still…
Excerpted from THE DANGEROUS ONE by Lori Foster. Copyright © 2023 by Lori Foster. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Osborn Brothers #1
Being alone is what he wanted…
All he needed was her.
Hunter Osborn left his family, his friends and his job as a park ranger after uncovering a disturbing crime scene. Haunted by nightmares and harrowing memories, Hunter relocated to an isolated property near Triple Creek, Colorado, where he lives alone and keeps his interactions with people to a minimum.
Still, Hunter can spot trouble from a mile away, and when he encounters Jodi Bentley, he knows she’s trouble of the most tempting kind—even more tempting when she moves into the run-down cabin next door. Jodi is tough as nails, sexy as hell—and clearly struggles with her own traumatic past. Hunter tries to keep his distance, but when Jodi’s life is threatened, he can’t help being drawn out of his own darkness and into hers.
Romance Suspense | Small Town [HQN, On Sale: February 21, 2023, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781335506375 / eISBN: 9780369717832]
Danger at every corner in this new series from Lori Foster
They find each other just in time!
Lori Foster is a New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. She has received the Romantic Times “Career Achievement Award” for Series Romantic Fantasy and for Contemporary Romance; Amazon’s top-selling romance title for TOO MUCH TEMPTATION; Amazon’s Top Ten editors’ picks in romance for CAUSING HAVOC; Waldenbooks’ second “Bestselling Original Contemporary” romance for SAY NO TO JOE; the BGI group’s “Bestselling Original Contemporary” romance for the THE SECRET LIFE OF BRYAN, “Bestselling Romantic Comedy” for JUDE'S LAW, “Bestselling Romantic Suspense” for BACK IN BLACK; and Amazon’s #1 Editors’ Pick in Romance for SERVANT: THE ACCEPTANCE.
Lori has been featured as a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle, and the USA Today “Quick Cross” puzzle.
To give back to the community, Lori does an annual “benefit” book where all advance and royalties go to a charity, and she hosts the annual “Reader & Author Get Together,” facilitating major interaction between readers, authors, and industry professionals while also donating all proceeds from raffles to local charities.
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