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[Read by Elizabeth Hart]
Lisa Marie Rice presents the sixth book in the romantic and thrilling Midnight series.
Former Navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died -- twice -- on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He's not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump-start a man's hormones, it would be his new neighbor. -- Meeting Isabel -- loving Isabel -- brought Joe back to life.
Isabel Delvaux came from one of America's foremost political dynasties, until the greatest terrorist attack since 9/11 killed her entire family. She barely survived the Washington Massacre, only to become prey for rabid reporters. Fleeing to Portland and changing her name was a way out, a way to start over. The only way.
She knows she's safe with Joe Harris. Not just because he's big and strong, not just because he's part of a security team that obliterates threats on the regular, but because he's been to the abyss and back.
But as they help each other heal -- through talk, through touch, through spectacular sex -- the past comes back to play. When Isabel's memory starts to return, and a mysterious stranger sends Joe emails indicating Isabel is in imminent danger, he'll do anything to help her uncover the truth. Even if that truth is the most terrifying thing of all.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Lisa Marie Rice is eternally thirty years old and will never age. She is tall and willowy and beautiful. Men drop at her feet like ripe pears. A virtual woman, she exists only at the keyboard when writing erotic romance. She disappears when the monitor winks off.
There she goes, Joe Harris thought. Isabel Lawton. The most beautiful woman in the world, and his next-door neighbor.
And she cooked for him.
Isabel Lawton, gorgeous mystery. One huge question mark. And a wounded woman.
Something bad had happened to her, something she never talked about. Of course, she didn't talk about much of anything personal, but she particularly didn't talk about whatever had happened to her.
Joe kept tabs on her. Because she was a wreck—weak and vulnerable. And because...well, because.
Joe's house was surrounded by vidcams. As a former SEAL, he believed there could never be such a thing as too much security. And he lived by the specops maxim: one is none, two is one.
So he had 360-degree coverage that he could access at any time and was always on view on a monitor in the kitchen. He was sipping a cup of coffee leaning against the sink when he saw movement on the monitor.
Isabel. Dressed for a cold-weather walk. Carrying something almost too heavy for her. He had to clench his jaw and mentally nail his shoes to the linoleum floor to keep from opening his door and taking that heavy thing she was carrying from her.
She wouldn't want that. And he didn't want her to know he was keeping an eye on her.
So he watched as she slowly made her way up his walkway onto the porch and bent slowly and painfully to place something in front of his door, then slowly and painfully went down the steps and down his gravel path to the sidewalk.
When she was gone, Joe opened his door and saw a huge pot. It smelled like it had just been dropped from heaven. He picked it up and carried it into his bare-bones kitchen. It was still hot, she'd just cooked it.
He lifted the top and drew in a deep breath. Beef stew. Sort of. Not like the beef stew in a can that tasted like dog food mixed with dog shit that his dad had opened when he remembered to feed his young son. Which wasn't often. Joe had learned early the fine art of can opening. No, this was perfect beef stew with some kind of special spices that nearly brought him to his knees.
She'd also cooked for an army, so his buddies would get to share, as usual. Maybe he'd call an extra poker night. After eating this, they'd let him win by default. Except maybe for his buddy Metal, nicest guy on earth except when playing poker, when a hidden mean streak always flared up.
Joe always won at poker, always. Drove Metal wild.
He wished he could share it with her, but Joe knew by experience that Isabel wouldn't eat it with him. She was friendly but reserved. Not cold, but gun-shy. It wasn't because of anything he'd done, that was for sure.
Joe was big and rough but he took care to control his voice and his movements around her. On his very best behavior. Any other time, he'd have made a play for Isabel, right from the first moment. Any red-blooded male would have, and his blood was redder than most. But he hadn't. Not because he didn't want to, but because he hadn't had any moves in him when they'd first met. He'd been lucky to be alive and upright.
An IED on the last day of his last mission, a month from separation of service, had reduced him to rubble.
Two months in a coma, four operations and four months of unrelenting hell delivered daily by his best friend and sadist Metal, who oversaw his physical rehab. And now, here he was, almost as good as new.
Now. Now he could go after the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, a woman who intrigued him like no other. But the fact was, she was still in bad shape.
Isabel wasn't as good as new. She was still as shaken and unsteady as the day she'd moved in next door to him three months ago.
She was looking particularly shaky as she made her slow way along the sidewalk. She'd turned left at the gate. Outside the gate there was left and there was right. Left was to a small park about five blocks down, right led eventually to the Green, a big meadow about a mile away where people played Frisbee and flirted in the summer and jocks ran in the winter, with a shopping mall on the other side. When Isabel was feeling better, she went right. If she went left it meant she didn't trust herself to stay out for long.
It wasn't his business, really, but the thought of her falling down on her walk was like acid on Joe's brain. So after texting his buds Jacko and Metal—Neighbor lady brought food come for poker if you get back early, otherwise our regularly scheduled transfer of money to me tomorrow—he went looking for his ancient black watch cap and black running gear and suited up.
Once outside, he couldn't run, he'd pass her in a minute and he wanted to stay behind her. So though he felt like a jerk, instead, when he was worried about her, he walked fast then stopped to do stretches. Luckily there wasn't anyone around to look at him, because they'd think he was insane to stretch longer than he walked. He looked like a fool.
Which was cool, because that's how he felt. Awkward and clumsy. Joe was usually pretty smooth with the ladies. He'd never had a big problem attracting them and he'd never wanted one he couldn't have. It had all worked out really well until Isabel.
She tied him up in knots.
A month ago, Isabel had come home limping and he'd rushed out the door. It wasn't a sprain, thank God, but she'd banged her knee badly. He'd patched her up the best he could and had Metal come over to be sure. Metal had been their team medic and what he didn't know about injuries wasn't worth knowing.
No one else had come to her, for her.
Isabel seemed to be alone in the world, which baffled him. She was so beautiful his jaw had dropped the first time he saw her, talking to the moving guys. Good thing she wasn't looking his way otherwise he'd have scared her off. He couldn't take his eyes off her.
She'd been sick, that was easy to see. She'd clearly lost a lot of weight recently. Joe knew all about that. He'd dropped from his fighting weight of 210 to 150 by the time he was released from the hospital. When he'd walked with two crutches outside the rehab unit's doors, the skin seemed to drop off him. If they'd put him in old smelly clothes with a hat and a guitar on a sidewalk people would have been lining up to drop coins in the hat out of sheer mercy.
He'd worked hard and was back to 180, and it was all muscle. He'd get all the way back to 210, most of it thanks to Isabel's cooking.
That first day had started it. The moving guys had been total shitheads. They clearly'd had another delivery before the day's end and had simply dumped her stuff as fast as they could and left. Some things they'd even left on her front lawn.
He'd never forget that sight of her, lost and lonely in the middle of boxes and a few pieces of good furniture shoved up against the wall. He'd knocked on her open front door and she'd turned to look at him and pow! He was lost.
"Hey," he'd said gently, "I'm your next-door neighbor. Joe Harris. Need a hand?"
Bones, his orthopedic surgeon, had given him strict instructions to use the cane until the end of the month. Bones had also said that with anyone else, he'd order the use of two crutches for the next two months. But Bones knew Joe was a former SEAL and he knew it was pointless trying to stop Joe from pushing forward with his rehab.
However, Bones had been really strict on using at least the cane for the next four weeks and had given Joe a long, boring lecture on load-bearing coefficients and fusion time and yada yada. It had all made sense at the time and Joe had been following doctor's orders like a good little patient.
But seeing that beautiful woman trying to tug a couch toward the wall...well, he couldn't do it. Just couldn't sit by and watch. He tossed the cane and spent the afternoon helping her unpack. His bones had ached that night, but what the hell. Though he was just back on his feet, he was still stronger than she was. So he'd carried in boxes from the lawn, set up some furniture, unpacked her books and when he saw that she couldn't take it anymore, he'd gone back to his place and stared at the wall for an hour, seeing that face.
The next morning he found freshly baked cinnamon buns and a pan of banana bread outside his front door.
That first week became a pattern. He helped her set up her stuff and he'd find amazing things to eat outside his door.
She didn't talk much and he didn't press her. Something crappy had happened to her—he recognized the thousand-yard stare of someone who'd seen bad shit. The bad shit had gone down fairly recently, too. Once, the sleeve of her sweater rode up and he saw a big scar where something had sliced her. He knew scars. That couldn't have been more than six months old.
Also—it looked a lot like a knife scar and he'd stopped what he was doing as a fit of rage overtook him.
Someone had knifed her?
Some fuckhead had taken a knife and sliced her? He knew knives, was good with knives. Knew what knives could do to the human body. In many ways, a knife could be more devastating than a bullet.
Isabel had caught his look, quietly pulled her sweater down over her forearm and turned away. It couldn't have been more plain if she had shouted the words. I don't want to talk about it.
She was clearly traumatized. She couldn't talk about it? Fine. He knew all he really needed to know anyway. Amazingly beautiful, really sad, incredible cook.
Messed with his head and his gonads.
The rest would come later, whenever she felt like talking.
And if someone had done this to her and he found out who that fuckhead was? The fucker was a dead man walking.
So Joe had resigned himself to waiting it out until she felt comfortable enough with him to talk about it.
God knew he had time on his hands. He wasn't going anywhere. The doctors wouldn't let him go to work for another month, though he was itching to.
His rehab was hard but he was on the mend and it was a steadily upward trajectory. Metal wouldn't let it be anything else. Sometimes Jacko showed up, too, at the gym, to spot him. Metal knew everything there was to know about physiology and Jacko was a world-class gym rat so between the two of them he was putting himself back together again in record time.
He had friends, he had the full support of his company, ASI.
Who did she have?
Nobody. Except him.
She wasn't looking well at all today. The ground had frozen overnight and there were unexpected pockets of ice.
Joe had good balance but Isabel didn't. Isabel might need him. Joe headed out.
"I think it might be time to pass on to phase two," the voice on the phone said.
"All right," Hector Blake answered and there was a faint click and then silence.
The voice, as always, had been put through an ano-nymizer and was a metallic tenor. It could be anyone—man, woman or child—there was no way to tell. The software program was created to disguise any identifying characteristics. Though Blake would bet good money it was a man.
Blake could bet good money because the voice at the other end of the line had made him several billion dollars overnight, and so he could be an alien from Al-deberan for all Blake cared.
Still, he had a mental image of the man, sitting at a desk somewhere.
The office would be ordered and plush, full of comforts. There was something prissy about the voice. The anonymizer changed the timbre and tone of the voice but couldn't change the syntax, the small pauses, the vocabulary.
So, Blake had built up this image of an elegantly dressed, fussy man sitting in an elegant office, dispensing orders like God. Just about as powerful as God, actually, because the man was planning on bringing down the most powerful country on earth in several stages.
Phase one had been a resounding success. So he supposed it didn't really matter who the voice belonged to.
He remembered clearly the day the voice had called. First of all, he'd called on Blake's personal cell, which was interesting in and of itself. Very few people had his personal number and Blake took care to keep that number low. He had a very busy, highly successful law practice. His office had ten lines and he had two—one for internal calls and one for outside calls. His staff answered his phone at home and very few were forwarded on to him. He had two cells for business and one for personal calls, which he rarely used. The person who'd called that day had called him on his personal cell.
It had been clear immediately that the voice was altered. Right away, Blake had been both intrigued and irritated. He was a busy man and silly games bored him.
Until the caller told him what the call was about and Blake sat up straight, electrified.
This was—this was illegal and treasonous and immoral.
And yet highly profitable. Almost unimaginably so.
When Blake had asked who was talking, the voice answered, "Call me M."
Blake had hummed the Bond tune but nobody laughed on the other end.
Blake would never have believed that someone would approach him with a plan this terrifying, this audacious. But M had, and over the course of an hour's conversation a day for several weeks, his reaction shifted from never to maybe to yes.
And then they'd started talking details.
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Book Description Harlequin Audio and Blackstone Audio, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1504651286
Book Description Harlequin Audio and Blackstone Audio, 2015. Audio CD. Condition: New. Unabridged. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 1504651286n