Miles McGregor had dedicated his life to justice, and with his latest arrest behind bars, the detective finally had more time to spend with his son, Timmy. Then the unthinkable happened?Timmy's mother was murdered before his eyes. Miles's only choice was to bring his little boy to the Bucking Bronc Lodge, a ranch where young boys heal?.
Jordan Keys is an expert at rehabilitating children. But when it comes to Miles, she is lost. The sexy detective is harder to reach?and a whole lot less willing to try. Before long, though, a killer comes calling and Jordan witnesses the true power of Miles McGregor. And just how far he'll go to rescue them from this living nightmare.
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Joanna began her professional writing career in 1994. Now, almost forty published books later, Joanna has made a name for herself as being on the cutting edge of romantic suspense. She currently resides in a small community forty miles north of Houston, Texas. Joanna loves hearing from readers and you can email her at email@example.com or write her at PO Box 852, Montgomery, TX 77356.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Dugan is out."
Miles's fingers tightened around his cell phone as he wheeled his SUV around and headed toward the station. "What?"
His superior, Lieutenant Hammond, didn't sound happy. "Based on the Kelly woman's murder and some technicality with the chain of evidence when they'd searched the man's place, Dugan's lawyer got his conviction overturned."
The past few weeks of tracking down clues and false leads day and night taunted him. He released a string of expletives.
Hammond cleared his throat. "If we'd found evidence connecting Dugan to a partner, maybe things would have gone differently, but..."
Hammond let the sentence trail off, but Miles silently finished for him. If he and Mason had found such evidence, Dugan would still be in a cell. And the world would be a safer place.
But they'd failed.
The day Dugan's verdict was read flashed back. Dugan's threat resounded in his head—you'll pay. "Now that he's back on the streets—"
"I know. He's going to kill again," Miles said. And he's probably coming after me.
His cell phone chirped, and he glanced at the caller ID. Marie's number.
Damn, she was probably on his case for working again last night and missing dinner with Timmy. He'd thought he might have found a lead on the copycat, but instead he'd only chased his own tail.
The phone chirped again.
You 'll pay.
Panic suddenly seized him, cutting off his breath. Dammit...what if payback meant coming after his family?
"I have to go, Hammond." Sweat beaded on his neck as he connected the call. "Hello?"
Husky breathing filled the line, then a scream pierced the receiver.
He clenched the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip. He had to clear his throat to speak. "Marie?" God, tell me you're there....
But the sudden silence sent a chill up his spine.
More breathing, this time followed by a husky laugh that sounded sinister, threatening...evil. Dear God, no... Dugan was at Marie's house.
He pressed the accelerator, his heart hammering as he sped around traffic and called for backup. The dispatch officer agreed to send a patrol car right away.
A convertible nearly cut him off, and Miles slammed on his horn, nearly skimming a truck as he roared around it. Brush and shrubs sailed past, the wheels grinding on gravel as he hugged the side of the country road.
Images of the dead women from Dugan's crime scenes flashed in his head, and his stomach churned. No, please, no...Dugan could not be at Marie's house. He couldn't kill Marie...not like the other women.
And Timmy...his son was home today with her.
The bright Texas sun nearly blinded him as he swerved into the small neighborhood where Marie had bought a house. Christmas decorations glittered, lights twinkled from the neighboring houses, the entryways screaming with festive holiday spirit.
Somehow they seemed macabre in the early-morning light.
He shifted gears, brakes squealing as he rounded a curve and sped down the street. He scanned the neighboring yards, the road, the trees beyond the house, searching for Dugan.
But everything seemed still. Quiet. A homey little neighborhood to raise a family in.
Except he had heard that scream.
His chest squeezed for air, and he slammed on the brakes and skidded up the drive. He threw the Jeep into Park, and held his weapon at the ready as he raced up to the front door.
Cop instincts kicked in, and he scanned the outside of the house and yard again, but nothing looked amiss. He glanced through the front window, but the den looked normal...toys on the floor, magazines on the table, TV running with cartoons.
Only the Christmas tree had been tipped over, ornaments scattered across the floor.
He reached for the doorknob, and the door swung open. His breath lodged in his throat, panic knotting his insides. No sounds of holiday music or Timmy chattering.
Gripping his weapon tighter, he inched inside, senses honed for signs of an intruder.
Slowly, he made his way through the den to the kitchen. The Advent calendar glared at him, mocking him with a reminder that Christmas was only a few days away.
There was a half-empty coffee cup on the counter and an overturned cereal bowl on the table. Milk dripped onto the floor.
Terror seized him.
A creaking sound suddenly splintered the air, and he swung around, braced to shoot but he saw nothing. Then another sound came from above, water running...the shower? No, the tub...overflowing.
He clenched his jaw, then inched toward the staircase, slowly climbing it and listening for an intruder, for Marie, for his son.
Any sign of life.
A quick glance into Timmy's room and it appeared empty. Bed unmade. Toy airplane on the floor. Legos scattered. Stuffed dinosaur on his pillow.
Where was his son?
His hand trembled as he bypassed the room and edged toward the bedroom where Marie slept. One look inside, and his heart stopped.
The lamp was broken on the floor. Pillows tossed on the carpet. The corner chair overturned. Glass shards from the mirror were scattered on the vanity.
A sea of red flashed in front of him. Blood...it soaked the sheets and led a trail into the bathroom.
His stomach revolted, but he forced himself to scan the corners of the room before slowly entering the bathroom. Blood streaked the floor and led toward the claw-foot tub.
A groan settled deep in his gut.
Marie. Her eyes stood wide-open in death. Blood dripped down her neck and bare chest. Her arms dangled lifelessly over the tub edge, one leg askew.
For a moment, he choked. Couldn't make himself move. He'd seen dozens of dead bodies before but none so personal...none that he cared about.
Emotions crowded his throat and chest, and he gripped the wall to steady himself. He had to. Had to get control. Slide that wall back into place so he could do his job.
Every second counted.
Fighting nausea, he slowly walked toward her and felt for a pulse. Although he knew before he touched her that it was too late.
Dugan had done this. Had gotten his payback by killing his son's mother.
That creaking sound suddenly echoed again. He froze, hand clenching his gun, then spun around.
Nothing. Except the evidence of Dugan's brutal crime.
Where was Timmy?
For a fraction of a second he closed his eyes on a prayer. The sound echoed again. The attic.
Heart hammering double-time, he headed toward Timmy's room. The door to the space had been built inside his closet. Timmy had called it his secret room.
Had Dugan found it?
Hope warred with terror as he inched inside the closet and pushed at the door. It was closed, but he had insisted the lock be removed for fear Timmy might lock himself inside and be trapped.
Now he wished he'd left that damn lock on so his son could have locked Dugan out.
Darkness shrouded the cavernous space as he climbed the steps. He tried to move soundlessly, but the wood floor squeaked. As he reached the top step, a sliver of sunlight wormed its way through the small attic window, allowing him to sweep the interior.
It appeared empty, but he had heard something.
"Timmy," he whispered. "Son, are you here?"
Praying he was safe, Miles examined the room. Timmy's toy airplanes and horses, his train set.
Another squeak, and he jerked his head around. An antique wardrobe sat in the corner, one Marie had used to store old quilts. He held his breath as he approached it, then eased open the door.
Relief mingled with pain when he saw his little boy hunched inside, his knees drawn to his chest, his arms wrapped around them. He had buried his head against his legs, silent sobs racking his body.
"Timmy, it's okay, it's Dad." Anguish clogged his throat as he gently lifted his son's face. Blood dotted Timmy's T-shirt and hands, and tears streaked his splotched skin, a streak of blood on his left cheek.
But it was the blank look in his eyes that sent a wave of cold terror through Miles.
Timmy might be alive, but he was in shock.
He stooped down to Timmy's level and dragged him into his arms, but his son felt limp, as if the life had drained from him just as it had his mother.
Three weeks later
Jordan Keys watched the busload of new campers arrive at the Bucking Bronc Lodge, her heart in her throat. The troubled kids ranged from ages five to sixteen.
Her brother had fit in that category. But he was gone now.
Because she hadn't been able to help him.
She fisted her hands, silently vowing to do better here. She'd read about the BBL and how hard the cowboys and staff worked to turn these kids' lives around, and she wanted to be a part of it.
If she saved just one kid, it might assuage some of her guilt over her brother's death.
A chilly January wind swirled dried scrub brush across the dirt and echoed through the trees. She waved to Kim Woodstock, another one of the counselors and Brandon Woodstock's wife, as she greeted the bus, then Jordan bypassed them and headed straight into the main lodge to meet with Miles McGregor and his five-year-old son, Timmy.
Apparently Miles also volunteered at the BBL, but this time he'd come because he needed solace and time to heal from a recent loss.
So did his little boy, who they believed had witnessed his mother's murder.
A thread of anxiety knotted her shoulders as she let herself in the lodge. The empty spot where the Christmas tree had stood made the entryway seem dismal, but truth be told, she was glad it was gone. The holidays always resurrected memories of Christmases past, both good and bad memories that tormented her with what-ifs.
Shoving the thoughts to the back of her mind, she grabbed a cup of coffee and made her way back to the wing Brody Bloodworth had recently added to serve as a counseling and teen center.
The moment she stepped into the room, she sensed pain emanating through it. Like a...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373696574
Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373696574 Ships promptly. Bookseller Inventory # Z0373696574ZN
Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373696574