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One hot holiday, p.11

One Hot Holiday, page 11

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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  “Sounds like you care.”

  She dropped his hand. Surprise flashed on her face, but she quickly schooled her expression.

  He winked at her. “Don’t worry. I’m pretty hard to kill.”

  “I don’t want you killed or hurt!” Her words followed him as he jumped from the ambulance.

  He grabbed the door and started to swing it shut. But he paused. “That’s because you care.” Slam. He reached for the second door. His gaze swept from Cody to Dodge. “Watch over her.” Slam.

  A few moments later, the ambulance rushed down the road.

  “Ahem.” Titus had been standing at his side as Spencer watched the ambulance drive away. “What’s our next move, Captain Control?”

  Spencer slanted him a glance. “Best friend or not, I will deck you if you call me that again.”

  Titus laughed.

  Spencer shook his head. “The next move…it’s that we find the bastard who tried to shoot my Haley. We find him, and we stop him.”

  Titus wasn’t laughing any longer. His voice lowered as he asked, “You think it was that fake marshal?”

  “Let’s say he’s suspect number one, and I also want to know where the hell Andrew Bradley is right now.” He needed the exact location of Haley’s infamous ex.

  Titus nodded. He started to turn away, but Spencer caught his arm. “When I saw the blood on her, I thought she’d been shot.”

  Titus winced. “Aw, man, I—”

  “Shot on my watch. You know I’m not going to let that shit happen again. I am not going to lose someone else. I will do everything in my power to keep her safe.”

  Sympathy shone on Titus’s face. “That wasn’t your fault. The way shit went down overseas, that wasn’t on you—”

  “My team. My responsibility.” His mouth had gone dry. “I won’t let her get hurt.”

  “You don’t know her, Spence. I mean, you met her a few days ago. Look, let’s take a step back. Let’s make sure you’re fully ready for—”

  “I know her. She’s mine, Titus. And, next time, I will fucking destroy the fool who comes for her with a gun.” It was a grim promise. He let his friend go and stalked toward the woods that lined the bluff. But as he approached the woods, a black SUV braked to a stop near the edge of the road. His eyes narrowed on the vehicle.

  The passenger side door opened first. A tall, dark-haired male exited, wearing battered jeans and an equally battered-looking coat over his shirt. He moved toward the front of the vehicle, put his hands on his hips, and surveyed the scene.

  The driver exited more slowly. A woman, wearing black dress pants and a crisp, green top. Her hair was dark and thick, and she moved with ease even in her two-inch heels. She met the man near the SUV’s hood, and her gaze—

  Went straight to Spencer. When their eyes met, she gave a little smile.

  The agents from Wilde Securities had arrived on the scene. Spencer took a detour so he could meet them. The woman’s smile stretched as he approached.

  “Spence, nice to see you again.” She stepped forward and gave him a quick hug.

  Over her shoulder, Spencer noticed that her partner narrowed his eyes at the contact.

  “But I wish the meeting had been under different circumstances.” Blair Kincaid pulled back and studied him with her pale blue eyes.

  “The circumstances suck. The last thing I want is some asshole shooting wildly in my town.” His gaze locked on Blair’s partner.

  The guy smiled, flashing perfect, white teeth. “Heard a lot about you.” He offered his hand. His assessing gaze belied the warm smile. “I’m Linc Dalton. At your service.”

  Linc had a strong grip. Spencer could appreciate that, and he sure appreciated the backup.

  “Looks like we came after all the action.” Linc’s hand dropped back to his side as he nodded toward the activity behind Spencer. “What in the hell happened?”

  “A shooter tried to take out Haley Quick this morning.” Spencer’s voice roughened as he remembered the attack. “He didn’t succeed, but the bastard got away. Now we’re trying to track him.”

  “Could be long gone,” Linc replied. “If he missed his target and he knows the authorities are searching for him, guy could be miles away by now.”

  “Or he could hiding out until he finishes the job.” Spencer had to choke down his fury. “Which he is not going to do.” He walked back toward their waiting SUV. “As far as anyone else is concerned,” Spencer said, keeping his voice quiet as the agents moved to shadow him, “you two are just tourists who saw all the activity and stopped by out of curiosity.”

  Blair nodded.

  “You’re in town for the holidays,” Spencer continued.

  Linc immediately reached for Blair’s hand. Twined his fingers with hers. “Darling, I love spending the holidays with you.”

  She jerked, then gave him a look hot enough to burn, but she didn’t pull away.

  Spencer thought the hand-holding was a nice touch. Anyone taking a glance in their direction would see a couple, not undercover partners.

  “Wish the vehicle had been a little less obvious,” Spencer muttered as he raked their ride with a quick glance. “A black SUV screams, I’m an undercover agent.”

  Blair winced. “I know, but I swear, it was all they had at the rental agency.”

  Spencer pointed down the road, as if he was giving them directions. “Haley is on her way to the hospital. She had to get stitches, and I sent a deputy with her.” His hand dropped. “But I’d sure feel better knowing that you two had eyes on her.” Protection was their business, and he wanted to make certain that Haley was safe.

  “Thanks for the help,” Linc said loudly as he gave a quick nod. “See you around, Sheriff Lane.” He tugged on Blair’s wrist, and a few moments later, they were driving away in the SUV.

  Spencer spun on his heel and marched for the woods. Haley would be well protected. He knew he could count on the Wilde agents.

  Now to find the bastard who’d shot at his Haley.

  Chapter Ten

  Haley strolled down the sidewalk, and her gaze darted to the businesses and their cheerful storefronts. The windows were all lit up, glowing with decorations. Snowflakes were falling in one window, paper flakes that fluttered in a continuous stream. In another window, little, mechanical elves slowly climbed up a wooden ladder as they carried colored lights on their backs.

  And at the next shop…

  “It’s our Christmas shop,” Cody told her quickly. “It’s called Three-sixty-four. It’s open every day of the year, except Christmas.”

  Heavy, white columns lined the exterior of the building, and green garland surrounded the windows. The front door was manned by two life-sized nutcrackers.

  She started to take a step inside.

  “Miss…” Cody blocked her path and appeared distinctly uncomfortable. “You know the sheriff is waiting to see you.”

  True. Spencer was waiting, and she was avoiding him. The young deputy with his close-cropped, black hair had been her shadow ever since she’d gotten out of the hospital. Now, Cody was walking with her every step of the way as she headed for the sheriff’s station.

  Or as she delayed heading to the sheriff’s station.

  “They didn’t find the shooter.” She knew this because she’d overheard Cody talking on his phone.

  But he still shook his head. “Not yet. The search is still ongoing—”

  She turned away. Her gaze danced down the street. A couple had paused near the sushi restaurant. The tall, handsome male had his head tilted attentively toward the pretty brunette with him.

  “And since the search is still ongoing, you don’t need to be out in the open like this,” Cody continued doggedly. “Sheriff Lane is waiting and you need to—”

  She whirled back to him. “Do you think I’m in danger out here?” Surely, no one would shoot at her in town? And if the person did…Oh, God, innocent bystanders could get hurt. She needed to move, fast, and get out of there.

/>   “I think we need to get to the sheriff’s office.” Cody straightened his thin frame. “Now.”

  “But—”

  “Sheriff Lane,” he began.

  She heaved out a breath and put her hands on her hips. “Yes, I know, Spencer is waiting on me, and he gave strict orders for me to come to his office, but I—”

  “He’s behind you,” Cody whispered.

  What?

  She whipped around. Yep, he was behind her. With one eyebrow raised and his hands loose at his sides.

  “This isn’t the sheriff’s station,” he told her.

  Whoops. Caught in the act. His expression was so hard to read. She tried a fake, bright smile. “I was heading to see you. Just got distracted—”

  He reached for her hand. His touch was so careful as he lifted her wrist and peered at the bandage on her forearm. “How many stitches?”

  “Only seven. It wasn’t a big deal.”

  His gaze lifted. Held hers. “It’s a big deal to me.”

  Oh, boy. When he got that intense look about him, Spencer was so damn sexy.

  “We need to talk, Haley. In my office.” He glanced over at Cody. “Thanks for looking after her. I know you have a shift later, so go get some rest.”

  “Yes, sir.” Cody left in a fast, relieved rush.

  Spencer kept his hold on her as he began to walk down the street. She basically had no choice but to move with him.

  “What’s wrong, Haley?”

  What was wrong? Oh, so many things. “Well, someone tried to kill me this morning. The day didn’t exactly have the best start.”

  She slanted a quick glance at him and noticed the hardening of his jaw.

  “Then I realized that the guy I’d had sex with last night—he knew all about my big, bad, dark secrets.”

  An elderly man with stark white hair and a rather charming Santa beard had just strolled out of the bookstore. At her unfortunately loud announcement, he stopped. Stared.

  His wife—Haley assumed the lady with him was the guy’s wife—immediately elbowed him in the ribs. “Come on, Frank. Let’s go.”

  Blushing, Haley picked up her pace. “It would have been good if you’d told me the truth before we had sex.”

  Spencer stopped.

  She did, too.

  He turned toward her.

  She retreated. Why? She had no clue. But she stepped back as he closed in and put his hands on either side of the bricks behind her.

  “You didn’t tell me the truth, baby.”

  Okay, fine, she hadn’t but… “You’re the sheriff. You’re the good guy. We talked about this—”

  “Sweetheart, even good guys can have a damn dark side.”

  She tried again, “If you had just told me—”

  “Told you—what?” His voice was even lower. His body even closer to hers. “That I knew your ex was a crime boss and you were running scared from him?”

  “Yes. That.”

  “You didn’t tell me.” His voice was so rough and sent a shiver sliding over her. “You were the one who didn’t trust me. I knew your secrets, and I didn’t care. Don’t you get that? I want you. I don’t care about your past. Actually, scratch that, I do care.”

  A fist seemed to squeeze her heart.

  “I care because I’m pissed as hell that someone is targeting you. That someone wants to hurt you.”

  The fist relaxed. Her heart warmed.

  His gaze searched hers. “You’re not in this shit alone, you get me?”

  “You don’t have to take on my problems. I’m not asking you to do that—”

  He kissed her. Leaned in close and locked his mouth on hers. She should probably not kiss him back, Haley knew that, but she did.

  She grabbed his shoulders and held tight as her mouth opened beneath his. Their tongues met, desire exploded inside of her, and she forgot they were on the street.

  She kissed him as desperately as he kissed her. She loved his taste. Loved the way he felt against her. When he kissed her, when their mouths met, she didn’t care about anything else. Only him.

  That was so dangerous.

  His mouth pulled from hers. “Last night changed everything.” His voice was even rougher. Grimmer.

  “Last night…” Keep it together, Haley. “That was just sex. You don’t owe me anything. I don’t owe you anything.”

  His body stiffened. “I’m sheriff here. I protect everyone in my town.” A pause. “You can sure as hell expect I’ll protect you.” He took a step back. His gaze had hardened. “Just sex, huh?”

  Just phenomenal, mind-blowing, best-sex-ever. “Yes. So don’t worry that I’m clinging or—”

  “Fuck that. I want more. I want you.”

  She wanted him, too.

  A friendly voice called out, “Hey, Sheriff Lane! Can’t wait to see you at the park tonight!”

  “Shit,” Spencer groused. He looked over his shoulder.

  She looked around, too. And realized that quite a few people had witnessed the show they’d put on. Her stomach knotted at the knowing glances thrown her way. Haley had a quick worry. Exactly how loud had she been when she announced, “That was just sex” a few moments before?

  Spencer straightened his shoulders. The star on his chest caught the light and gleamed. “My station. My office. Now.”

  He was being all tough and fierce and not smiling again.

  “We’re clearing the air, Haley, and we’re not doing it in front of half the town.”

  ***

  “That explains a few things.” Linc Dalton popped a piece of chocolate in his mouth as he watched the sheriff glare at the folks on the street. “Damn.” He savored the chocolate on his tongue. “This stuff is incredible. Can you believe they make it on site?”

  His partner shot him a glower. “I was with you when the lady at the chocolate store explained the process. So, yes, I can believe it.”

  His smile flashed. “You’re jealous because the lady gave me a free sample.”

  “You could’ve shared the sample. I am your partner.”

  His gaze slid over her shoulder and noted the sheriff—and the hold that the sheriff had on Haley Quick. “They’re sleeping together.”

  “Yes, I heard the announcement.”

  He laughed. They had been close enough to hear Haley’s angry words. “I’m guessing their relationship is why we’re here. The sheriff panicked because his girlfriend was threatened, and he wanted Wilde agents at the ready.”

  “Please.” Blair rolled her blue eyes. “Spence doesn’t panic over anything.”

  He thought of the too-familiar hug that she’d exchanged with the sheriff. Linc choked down the bite of chocolate. “You know him well.”

  “Eric wanted him to work at Wilde, but Spence wanted to come home.” She motioned around the town. “Home has always been important to him. He left and joined the Navy, then became a SEAL, but his ties bound him to this place and the people here.”

  Oh, great. The dude was a freaking SEAL. He already knew that Blair had a tendency to fall for those guys in Special Forces.

  She gave a light and totally fake laugh as she glanced down the street, as if he’d said something funny, but Linc knew she was just using a cover as she directed her attention at the sheriff and Haley Quick. “He’s definitely involved with her,” she murmured. “And personal involvements mean lines get blurred. Maybe Spence didn’t think he could be objective enough on this one, so he wanted extra eyes. Sounds like a good plan to me.” She looked back at him. “It’s a very—umm.”

  He’d just put a new piece of chocolate to her lips. “For you, darling.”

  Her eyes narrowed. She bit into the chocolate.

  Two teenage girls hurried past them. “That is so sweet,” the blonde girl said.

  Blair chewed. Swallowed. “Sweet,” she ground out.

  He winked at her. “Shall we go and get our room settled for the night? The sheriff has the target at his side, so I think we can rest easy for a bit.”

/>   Her eyes turned to slits. “Did you just say room? As in singular?”

  “We’re a couple. Of course, we’d only have one room. Anything else would be suspicious.”

  “Suspicious,” she repeated.

  “Exactly what I said.” She had a little bit of chocolate on her lower lip. His hand rose automatically, and his thumb brushed away the chocolate.

  Her tongue happened to slide out at the exact same moment as she licked away the chocolate. She wound up lightly licking his thumb.

  Fuck.

  His gaze held hers. Had she felt that surge of heat? She must have—

  She smiled ever so sweetly. “One room,” Blair agreed. “And you’ll be bunking on the floor.” She turned away. Strode happily down the street.

  Linc stared after her. “There is such a thing as one room with two beds. Full beds. Queen beds. It’s a thing.”

  Why the hell did he have to sleep on the floor?

  ***

  Spencer shut the door to his office. Flipped the lock.

  Haley paced a few feet away. Nerves and tension rolled off her.

  He sucked in a breath and caught her sweet scent. Raspberries and cream. He’d barely been able to keep his hands off her on the street. Okay, correction, he hadn’t kept his hands off her. He’d kissed her, and he wanted to kiss her again. He wanted to get her out of the office and back to his place, but that shit wasn’t going to happen.

  Because he was pretty sure he had a freaking hitman lurking in his town.

  “We aren’t after a sniper. From what I can gather, the shots were fired from a standard 9 mm. It’s your basic weapon of choice for a lot of folks. That’s good for us. A trained sniper would’ve had a rifle up on that bluff, would have been equipped with a scope, and there is no way his shots would have missed.”

  She flinched. Paled. “What?”

  He wasn’t being tactful. At all. Mostly because this wasn’t a time for tact. “You were attacked in New York.”

  “Uh…” She took a few steps toward his desk. Her hand dropped, and her fingers stroked idly over the wooden edge. “I was mugged.”

  “Bullshit.”

  Her head whipped up. “Excuse me?”

  “You aren’t going to lie to me.” He stalked toward her. “Not if you want to stay alive. Not if you want me to catch the asshole who was shooting at you this morning.” The same asshole he suspected of breaking into her cottage.

 
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