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Synopsis: Ten years ago, Black Ops commando Deke Bronson's bullet left up-and-coming journalist Lexie Murrough paralyzedIt's taken years of painful physical therapy to bring Lexie back from the brink. And Deke is just grateful that she has no memory of his part in the incident that left her injured and him emotionally scarred. He's tried to put the past behind him, leaving the military and joining the Dundee Agency, but he's never been able to forgive himself....When Lexie, now head of an international charity organization, begins receiving terrifying threats from the son of the dictator killed during that long-ago operation, it's Deke who's assigned to keep her safe from harm.Maybe it's fate's way of giving him another chance, but falling for Lexie isn't supposed to be part of the deal. And what if she finally discovers the truth?
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.: Ten years later...
Lexie Murrough gazed out of her office window overlooking the Market Street Bridge, which was now a pedestrian-only crossing. When arranging the furniture in her office, she had made certain the beautiful view was available to her throughout the workday. For the past two years, she had called Chattanooga home, ever since she'd joined forces with billionaire heiress Cara Bedell to found a charitable organization to help the underprivileged worldwide. Although Lexie was listed as the group's president and was the person who oversaw the day-to-day running of the charity, Cara not only provided the bulk of the funds for Helping Hands, she often took an active role in the decision-making. Since joining forces for such a worthwhile cause, Lexie and Cara had become good friends.
There had been a time when Lexie had taken friendship for granted, when she'd taken many things for granted. But that had been another Lexie, the young and very foolish rookie reporter who had thought the world revolved around her. In the span of five minutes, her entire life had changed forever. The cute, feisty college cheerleader who'd been voted Most Likely to Succeed and had reigned as homecoming queen her senior year at the University of Georgia had died in a godforsaken African country on a sweltering June day ten years ago. But unlike her cameraman, Marty Bearn, Lexie had been reborn, given a second chance at life.
"Daydreaming again?" a female voice inquired, breaking into Lexie's thoughts.
Lexie sighed, then turned and smiled at her assistant, Toni Wells. "I was just enjoying the view." Lexie didn't discuss her past with her friends and associates. Her therapist had helped her understand that in order to move forward, she had to let go of the past. Not only of the lost hopes and dreams, but of the guilt and the anger.
"I come bearing gifts." Toni placed a lidded foam cup on Lexie's desk. "Fat-free mocha, no whipped cream."
"Thanks. You're a sweetie." Lexie picked up the cup, snapped back the plastic lip of the lid and took a sip of the hot coffee. "This is just what I needed."
Toni sat in a chair across from Lexie's antique desk—a gift from Cara—crossed her long, jeans-clad legs and relaxed as she sipped her own drink, no doubt something sinfully rich and loaded with calories. Toni was one of those fortunate women who never gained an ounce and ate like a lumberjack.
Years ago, when she'd been in her early twenties, Lexie had never worried about her weight. But inactivity and overeating had added a good thirty pounds to her five-five, medium-boned frame. It had taken her years to shed twenty of those pounds, and she now had to watch every bite she ate in order to maintain her weight.
Lexie studied her young assistant. Antoinette Wells was twenty-five, tall, slender and exotically lovely, with curly black hair, a café-au-lait complexion and striking hazel eyes. Her mother, an African-American poet, and her father, a white third-generation Georgia politician and now a state representative, had divorced when Toni was twelve.
"Don't look at me that way," Toni said. "I didn't bring any doughnuts or Danish today. And I can't help it if I inherited skinny genes from both parents, can I?"
Lexie laughed. "Heredity can be a bitch sometimes, but in your case, it was a blessing."
"Only in the looks department," Toni said. "At least you don't have the complications I do, dealing with a mixed heritage."
"You're right. Life isn't perfect for any of us, is it?"
"Ooh, you're in one of those moods, huh?" Lexie scooted back her chair and turned it so that she faced the window instead of the room. With her back to Toni, she said, "I went for my six-month checkup yesterday, and the news was pretty much what I expected."
"No change?" Toni's voice held just a hint of pity. Lexie shook her head. "No change. And after all this time, there isn't likely to be any further improvement." Emotion welled up inside her, tightening her throat. But she didn't cry. Wouldn't cry. At this point in her life, tears would be a waste.
Toni came across the room and stood behind Lexie. "Do you want the pep talk now, or should I save it for later?"
"Now would be good." Lexie heaved a deep sigh.
"You're young, beautiful, have a job you love and friends who adore you, and even if you can't run, you can walk." Toni let her hands drift down from where she'd been gripping the back of the chair to touch Lexie's shoulders. She gave her a reassuring squeeze, then grabbed the chair again and whirled Lexie around to face her. "And the only reason you don't have a man in your bed is because you won't make the effort. How many times has Lieutenant Desmond asked you out on a date this past year?"
"You could have stopped before bringing up Bain Desmond. From now on, he's off limits during any pep talk."
"Why?" Easing her hips against the side of Lexie's desk, Toni sat on the edge.
"Why? You know why."
"Explain it to me again."
"Because Bain Desmond isn't the type of man I want as a boyfriend," Lexie said. "He's a police detective. He carries a gun. He shoots people." She had an aversion to guns and to the men who carried them, especially in a professional capacity. "Besides that, actually dating Bain would ruin our friendship."
"What's wrong with Farris Richardson? He wouldn't know one end of a gun from the other."
Lexie wrinkled her nose. "If you like our accountant so much, why don't you date him?"
"I have Jafari now. Why would I ever want anyone else? But you, on the other hand, have no one warming your bed at night."
"When did finding a man for me become your goal in life?"
Toni sighed dreamily. "Since I've fallen in love. I suppose I think all my best friends should be as happy as I am." She looked Lexie right in the eyes. "Of course, you might not find a guy as wonderful as Jafari. He's definitely one of a kind."
"I'll make you a deal. If you can put Jafari out of your mind for a few hours, I'll do my best to forget my visit with Dr. Burns yesterday. Then we can actually get some work done before lunch. I'm meeting with Cara at one. Would you order lunch in for the three of us? I want you to sit in on this meeting and tell her some of your ideas about the charity auction she's hosting to raise funds."
"I have a lunch date with Jafari, but since we're having dinner together this evening, he won't mind if I cancel." Toni eased off Lexie's desk and headed for the door. "Want me to order something now and then pick it up around noon?"
"That would be great. Thanks." Just as Toni opened the office door, Lexie called, "Let Robert, Vega and Malik know that I'm going to bring Ms. Bedell by today to say hello to everyone."
"Will do. I'll forewarn the workers that the Queen Bee will be buzzing through on her way in and out this afternoon."
"Look, Toni, despite your personal feelings about the human rights policies of some of Bedell, Inc.'s worldwide business partners, you need to remember that Cara Bedell signs your paycheck and mine. And she only took over her father's business two years ago. She can't change everything overnight. Give her credit where credit is due. Okay?"
Toni shrugged. "Okay."
Alone again in her office, Lexie reached over to where her cane leaned against the edge of her desk. Using the cane to brace herself, she lifted her body slowly and stood. Discomfort, but no pain. Pain was in the past, as was the struggle to relearn how to walk.
After several operations and five years of physical therapy, she had gone from being an invalid to a partial invalid to completely mobile. Except for a decided limp and the use of a cane, Lexie was for all intents and purposes normal. As Toni had pointed out, she couldn't run, but she could walk. Considering how close the bullet had come to severing her spine, she was damn lucky she wasn't paralyzed from the waist down.
Just as she took a couple of steps, her cell phone rang. During working hours, she kept it on her desk, just in case she received any personal calls. Leaning on the cane with one hand, she reached out with the other, picked up the phone and checked the caller ID.
Smiling, she flipped open the phone and said, "Hello, Lieutenant Desmond."
"Thank you, sir. You certainly know how to make a girl's day."
"I should hope so." He chuckled. "Look, the reason I'm calling is...well, I need to do some of my Christmas shopping, and I thought you might help me get started tonight. What do you say?"
"Only if you buy me supper first."
"It's a small price to pay for your assistance."
"This is not a date," she warned him. "It's just two friends getting together."
"That's right.You and me. Just buddies." Bain chuckled again. "You really don't have to go over the same territory every time we go out. No matter how charming and persuasive I am, you're not going to have sex with me."
Ignoring his last comment completely, she said, "And you won't wear your gun."
"I'll be off duty tonight, so that won't be a problem."
"Good. Then pick me up here around six and we'll grab burgers at Steak and Shake before we hit Hamilton Place Mall."
"You got it."
After they ended their conversation, Lexie made her way across the room slowly, carefully, until she reached the row of file cabinets on the opposite wall. As much as she liked Bain, they really were just friends and nothing more. She didn't know why she felt compelled to keep reminding him of that fact. Although they'd never talked about it, they each knew the other was in love with someone else. He with a woman he wouldn't admit he loved and she with a man she didn't know—a man with smoky-gray eyes.
She had met Bain through a chance encounter. About eighteen months ago, she and Cara had run into the CPD lieutenant and his date one evening at a local restaurant. Bain Desmond had been the lead detective during the investigation into Cara's half sister's death, which had turned out to be the responsibility, albeit accidental, of her own father. And, unable to cope with what had happened to his daughter Audrey, Edward Bedell had committed suicide. As his only remaining child, ...
Title: A Time To Die
Book Condition: VeryGood
Book Description MIRA, 2009. Paperback. Condition: Used; Good. Dispatched, from the UK, within 48 hours of ordering. This book is in good condition but will show signs of previous ownership. Please expect some creasing to the spine and/or minor damage to the cover. Seller Inventory # CHL2512514
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Book Description Mira Books, 2008. Paperback. Condition: Very Good. All orders are dispatched the following working day from our UK warehouse. Established in 2004, we have over 500,000 books in stock. No quibble refund if not completely satisfied. Seller Inventory # mon0002208935
Book Description MIRA 01/01/2009, 2009. Condition: Good. Will be shipped promptly from UK warehouse. Book is in good condition with no missing pages, no damage or soiling and tight spine. There may be some dog-eared pages showing previous use but overall a great book. Seller Inventory # 9053-9780778302605