Despite the threats against her life, Danielle Barclay thinks having a bodyguard is unnecessary. Or at least that's what she tells herself before meeting Jake Rabb. A former Delta Force soldier, Jake is used to rope-lining from helicopters into enemy territory—not following around a senator's daughter. The lovely deputy district attorney is as strong-willed as she is brave, especially when the escalating danger assures Jake that her stalker means business. As the attacks become personal, Danielle finally puts her trust—and her feelings—on the line with her defender. But how will Jake protect her if the stalker is closer than they think?
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Jane M. Choate dreamed of writing from the time she was a small child when she used to entertain her friends with made-up stories. Her true writing career began when she penned a story for a children’s magazine, sent it in on a whim, and found, to her delight, that it was accepted. Someone was paying her to write! Writing for Love Inspired Suspense is a dream come true. Jane is the proud mother of five children and grandmother to four grandchildren.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Danielle Barclay moved quickly, always in a rush to keep up with her own ambitions. Today, though, she hurried for a different reason: someone was following her. She couldn't shake the feeling, not even now when she was the only passenger in the elevator on her way to the fourteenth floor of the county building. Fear whispered up her spine. Hurry. Hurry.
The gold script on her office door, Danielle Barclay, Deputy District Attorney, never failed to elicit a spurt of pride in her, but today she was feeling too unsettled to appreciate it. That this was the four-year anniversary of her mother's disappearance didn't help matters any. Her mind flinched at the memories.
When she passed her secretary's desk, Clariss said, "Ms. Barclay, there's a package on your desk."
Danielle nodded in response, her mind elsewhere. Another anonymous note had arrived in yesterday's mail. Though the threats had been vague, she didn't discount the potential seriousness of the situation.
Her gaze landed on the package. It bore the distinctive wrapping paper of her favorite store. A peace offering, she thought, from her father. Guilt pressed the back of her neck as she remembered the last time they had talked. Things had been tense between them for the past two weeks, ever since the first threatening letter had arrived. A shiver skittered down her spine as she recalled the words: "You will pay for your sins."
Foolishly, she'd told her father about it.
In retrospect, she wished she had kept it to herself. Senator Stewart Barclay had acted predictably, insisting that she move back home under his watchful eye and that of his security staff.
Her relationship with her father had frequently been difficult, an emotional tug-of-war she always lost precisely because she loved him. Not this time, she thought. Not this time. She would handle the stalking on her own.
She thrust those disturbing thoughts from her mind, promising herself she'd deal with the package later. Right now, she had seven cases pending. She didn't need another distraction, not when her mind was already weighed down with worry.
Only when she settled behind the desk in her office did her brain unlock. Only then did she break free of the obsessive loop of fears that persisted in playing in her head. Of course she wasn't being followed. Her imagination had taken root and gone wild. Slowly, she let the clogged air out of her lungs.
It was here, in her office, that she could occasionally not think about her mother for hours at a time and thus force the uncertainty of what had happened to her to retreat into her subconscious. She knew that wouldn't be the case today.
Still, work was the best antidote for worry, she knew, so she started drafting a brief. Four hours later, when her stomach rumbled, a reminder that she hadn't taken the time to eat any breakfast, her gaze once again landed on the package.
With a sigh, she opened it. A sour smell assaulted her nostrils, and she gasped.
A gutted fish lay nestled among the layers of tissue paper. Decomposing entrails made it a particularly gruesome sight. With trembling fingers, she picked up the note that accompanied the hideous gift.
Unable to help herself, she read the words aloud. "'Roses are red. Violets are blue. This fish is dead, and so are you.'"
She dropped the note, realizing it could bear fingerprints. Although, thus far none of the letters she'd received had prints.
Eyes closed, Dani, a nickname her mother had given her, felt the sting of tears behind them. She clenched her arms around her ribs in an effort to keep herself from shaking. For seven years, she'd fought for her place in the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. She was making her mark in Atlanta her own way, in her own time. If some lowlife thought he could scare her away, he was mistaken.
A soft prayer passed through her lips. "Lord, I can't handle this on my own. I need You. Please share Your strength with me." Turning to the Lord when she needed help was as instinctive as breathing. At once, she felt stronger, more in control.
"Enough," she said, whether to her stalker or herself, she wasn't sure. She picked up the phone, punched in a single number and said, "Clariss, would you come in here, please?"
Within seconds, her secretary appeared. "Oh, I see you opened..." Her gaze landed on the contents of the package. "Is that some kind ofjoke?"
"Not a very good one," Dani said. "Did you know how this...thing got here?"
Clariss shook her head. "It was here when I arrived this morning."
Dani nodded, not expecting anything different. But how had whoever had left the hideous thing gotten inside her office? During nonworking hours, it was never left unlocked. The city building where the D.A.'s offices were located was constantly patrolled and checked by night watchmen.
"Please call Detective Monroe and ask him to send someone to pick this up." Jeff Monroe, assigned to the D.A.'s office, had been following up on the letters and calls she'd received.
She recognized the enormity of his task. With seven cases pending and the dozens of others she'd prosecuted over the years, the list of those with a reason to wish her harm was a very long one. Too long.
"Right away, Ms. Barclay."
"It's Dani. And thanks."
Clariss was just out of college and persisted in addressing her as "Ms. Barclay." Now Clariss smiled, softening her usually hardened face.
Dani gazed at the offending package, the awful note, and barely repressed a shudder. She couldn't work here, not with that thing staring at her, and she wasn't about to waste a day, so she decided to interview a witness for an upcoming case. She picked up her purse and headed for the door.
"You can reach me on my cell if you need me," she told Clariss. "I'm going to be in the field."
An hour later, Dani was ready to admit defeat.
The witness had proved not only uncooperative but was now recanting her account of what had transpired. Dani did her best to remind the woman of her earlier statement, only to have her become belligerent. All in all, it had been a disappointing, unproductive hour.
Somehow, Dani would convince the witness to testify. She believed in the law. More, she believed in justice, even when that justice was overburdened and at times appeared to be as blind as she was often portrayed.
Tension edged along her skin. There was nothing in the upper-class neighborhood, composed of lofts and boutiques and bistros, to produce such a reaction, but the sense of unease that she had been carrying around all day deepened.
On the way back to her car, she stopped. She was being followed. Two blocks earlier, she had sensed it. Now she was certain. Casually she turned, feigned an interest in a storefront window.
A man, tall with dark hair and dark eyes, had made no attempt to conceal his presence. In fact, he kept walking in her direction. There was no ducking into a doorway or pretending to read a magazine and, for a moment, she doubted herself.
But her instincts told her that he was not an ordinary man strolling down the street. He had an alertness to him, a manner of moving like one of the large cats she'd seen at the zoo. Could he be the stalker? Didn't stalkers try to conceal their activities?
She was done being a victim. Before she could talk herself out of it, she spun around and got in his face. "Why are you following me?" Her voice sounded tremulous to her own ears, infuriating her. With a wordless prayer, she held her ground.
With his legs braced wide, arms crossed over his chest and hands tucked into his armpits, the man rolled impressive shoulders. A black T-shirt stretched across a wide chest. Black denim encased long legs.
Her immediate impression was one of power, determination and control. The gaze that met hers was so implacable, so filled with determined purpose that she couldn't look away. There was no hint of mercy in the chilling dark eyes that raked over her, no softening of the mouth that formed a hard line in an equally hard face.
Her throat felt dry. This kind of thirst, though, would not be quenched by mere water; the thirst, the racing pulse, the sweating hands—they were all part of the body's response to imminent threat.
All of her senses felt on fire as adrenaline poured through her bloodstream. Conversely, a chill clambered up her spine. Then, without warning, the fear pouring through her morphed into a different emotion: anger, white-hot and razor sharp.
Her heartbeat thundered, sending blood to her limbs, her muscles; the aching pressure in her chest expanded. Her throat snapped shut. She hadn't had an asthma attack in months, but the shortness of breath was unmistakable.
"I wondered how long it would take for you to catch on." There was no apology in his voice, no attempt to placate her or convince her that she was mistaken. She felt his arm slip around her waist, his firm grasp clearly communicating that this was not the time for her to resist.
That wasn't what she'd expected. In fact, nothing about the man with the hard eyes and unsmiling mouth was what she'd expected, but then, what did she know about stalkers?
"You didn't answer my question," she said and wished her voice didn't sound as if it was about to crack.
"It's my job."
Again, not what she'd expected. "It's your job to follow me?"
"Yes." With more gentleness than she'd credited him with, he steered her to an outdoor café. He seated her at a wrought-iron table, then took the chair opposite her, turned it around and straddled it. He stuck out his hand. "Rabb."
Just that one name, spoken with crisp efficiency. A man who got right down to business. Was that some kind of stalker etiquette?
Dani had the sensation of having fallen down a rabbit's hole and automatically put her hand in his. "Danielle Barclay."
"Why are you following me?" She'd get an answer or she was calling the police. "Your father hired me."
Jake Rabb hadn't wanted this job. Playing bodyguard to one of society's darlings wasn't his style. He'd spent enough time while in the military assigned to consulates where his duties included tending ambassadors' daughters and wives. They had treated him like some kind of lackey who was there to fetch and carry out orders for them. But a job was a job.
When Shelley, his sister and business partner, had accepted the job from Senator Barclay to protect his only daughter, Jake had balked at being the one to babysit the deputy district attorney.
"You took the job. You play bodyguard," he'd told her.
"I'm already booked."
Jake couldn't argue with that. Shelley had taken the assignment of providing security for the CEO of a plastics firm who had been receiving threats from a far-left environmental group.
S & J Security was barely six months old. The business couldn't afford to turn away any job, especially a high-profile one like this from a United States senator. Given that it was a congressman who had leaked the information about his last mission, a mission that had cost the lives of seven brave men, Jake had no liking for politicians.
"I'm not a babysitter," he'd said. "Get someone else."
"We can't afford to hire anyone else. Besides, the senator asked for you. Seems he was impressed by what he read about you when you left Delta."
The memory caused Jake's lips to twist. Leaving Delta had brought him here, to acting as a bodyguard for a spoiled princess playing at being a deputy district attorney. He'd take fighting an enemy anytime to babysitting.
"How do I know you are who you say you are?" The tart question drew him back to the present.
He looked at his newest client, green eyes glinting, dark red hair aflame, outrage written across her features, and felt a reluctant admiration. He had to outweigh her by eighty or more pounds. It had taken guts to confront him as she had. "Call your father. Ask him."
She pulled her phone from her purse, punched in a number, waited. "Give me a description." She listened, studied Jake, nodded. "Okay. That matches." Her voice grew stronger with every word. "You hired some...thug...to follow me." There was a huskiness in her voice that suggested she was now more angry than frightened.
Atta girl. Anger, he could deal with. Despite the seriousness of the conversation, Jake's lips tipped upward. He'd been called many things over the years, but thug was a new one.
"I. Do. Not. Need. A. Bodyguard."
Now they were getting to it. He'd been told the lady was independent to a fault and would likely raise a ruckus at having a bodyguard.
A loud voice from the other end of the line snagged his attention. "Rabb stays."
The two concise words must have ended the conversation, for she stuffed her phone back into her purse. "The senator has spoken."
"Sorry I scared you."
"That was your job, wasn't it? To frighten me into going along with having a bodyguard?" She had him there.
"Sorry, lady, but you didn't hire me. The senator did." He reined in his impatience. "You really think you're dealing with some run-of-the-mill stalker? I heard about the fish. That takes it up a notch."
"How did you know—" She cut her words off. "I should have known. Nobody holds out against the senator."
Jake nodded. "Your father pulled some strings in the police department. Apparently he has someone feeding him information when it comes to anything about you. He knew about this morning's package within an hour of you reporting it."
Her sigh was part frustration, part resignation. "He loves me. But he can't accept that I don't need his protection. He wants me to move home."
"It's not a bad idea. He's bound to have better security than that apartment building you live in."
"I'm not running home to Daddy just because I have a problem."
"Then you'll stay with my sister and me. You need round-the-clock protection. Our security is so tight that a mouse couldn't get in without us knowing about it."
Dani lifted her chin and looked him directly in the eye. She didn't flinch at the hard-eyed stare he gave in return but held his gaze with boldness and shining courage. "Let's get one thing straight—I'll put up with you following me around, but only for my father's sake. He isn't well, and I won't cause him another moment of distress." Her voice hitched a little. "He had a heart attack last year. He doesn't need any more stress."
Jake understood family obligation, but he heard genuine love for her father in her voice and felt an unexpected moment of accord with her. Although she was angry with her parent, she'd accepted Jake as a bodyguard to soothe her father.
That feeling of accord evaporated with her next words.
"Do you know what it was like while I was growing up? I didn't go to school like the other kids. I was driven by a chauffeur. I had two bodyguards hulking in the shadows." In a gesture similar to his own, she pushed a hand through her hair. "I was never invited to birthday parties. Or anywhere else. I never had a second date, because the boys who asked me out couldn't face bei...
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Book Description Love Inspired, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373446292
Book Description Love Inspired, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Brand New!. Bookseller Inventory # VIB0373446292