Read an Excerpt
Sting was pleading with Roxanne as Delaney peered more closely at the screen. Since her hips were firmly planted in the chair, she had to be content with moving her shoulders in rhythm to the music as she selected and docked photos. Pursing her lips, she was considering whether to trash one with a poorer light quality when she found herself in the dark. Literally. Force of habit had her pressing the save command on the computer, heaving a sigh of relief when it did so successfully. Obviously the electricity wasn't off. Maybe the overhead bulb needed to be replaced. She pushed her chair back and rose, half turning toward the door. Then jumped back, her heart slamming in her throat.
Looming in the doorway of her makeshift office was the shadow of man. Big. Broad. Powerful. Her mind made the observations in short staccato succession. But it was the gun nestled beneath one muscled bicep that held her attention.
Oh, God. She ripped the headphones off, stumbling a little as she backed away, stopped short by the desk. Her hands searched the surface behind her, as she tried to recall if she'd unpacked anything that could be used as a weapon. With a sinking feeling she realized just as quickly that she'd focused on getting her computer and equipment up and running. Her cameras unloaded. Although a knife or pickax would come in handy right now, the most lethal thing on her desk was a bundle of unsharpened pencils.
"You're in the wrong house," she said clearly, as she inched her way along the desk. Her camera tripods were leaning in the corner. Short of heaving the computer monitor at him, they were the heaviest objects in the room. Maybe she could hit him with one. Maybe he'd duck out of the way when she swung and she could bolt through the doorway.
Maybe he'd shoot her before she lifted a finger.
"Are you drunk? Lost?" She prayed her desperation didn't sound in her voice. Icy rivers of fear snaked down her spine to pool nastily at the base. He didn't move. Didn't speak. Shrouded in shadows, he appeared only half human. "You'll have to leave. You don't belong here."
"Now that's real funny." His humorless words could have been chipped from ice. "That's exactly what I was going to say to you."
He snapped on the switch behind him and the room was flooded with light. Her concentration abruptly splintered. The music pouring through her headphones had masked his entrance, so he'd gotten her attention the only way he could. On the heels of that realization came another: the light did little more to allay her fear than the shadows had.
He was dressed in jeans, a snug navy T-shirt, boots and an attitude. His eyes were very nearly as black as his hair. Penetrating. Merciless. His expression was as unyielding as the sandstone bluffs that dotted the desert.
She'd been to more of the world's trouble spots than she liked to recall. Had photographed wild-eyed fanatics, zealots willing to die for a cause, power-hungry warlords. None of those men had scared her as much as the one standing in front of her. She'd known what motivated them, and the lengths they'd go to get it.
It was impossible to tell what this man was capable of.
Recognition of that fact had her moving again. Gracelessly she stumbled toward the corner, grasped the sturdiest of the tripods and hefted it threateningly. "Get out." The panic crawling up her spine morphed abruptly to anger. She'd spent too much time already in the last two years being afraid. And damn him, she wasn't going to give him that kind of control over her. "Unless you want to be nursing a smashed skull, get the hell out of here. Now."
His unfathomable gaze lingered on the puny weapon she was wielding, flicked to the corner, then to the heap of camera cases piled next to the desk. Mouth flattening, he took two long strides to the computer, stared hard at the images on the screen.
His voice was as sharp as a rifle shot and just as lethal. "Dammit all to hell. You're Delaney Carson."
The words were couched as an accusation. She shifted her stance, readiness in every muscle. "More to the point, who are you? And what are you doing in my house?"
His lips twisted. "You mean my grandfather's house, don't you? It belongs to Charlie Youngblood. But you already know that."
He didn't look much like the tribal elder who had picked her up at the Tuba City airport that afternoon. But then, that man had at least five decades on the one standing in front of her. That man had been reserved, but charming. That man hadn't worn a gun.
"Let's see some I.D."
His hand went to his hip pocket. Extracting a slim leather case, he flipped it open and held it out to her. She had to inch closer to read the name above the unsmiling photo that was an accurate depiction of the stoic man before her. But it was the gold star in the clear folder below the photo that captured her attention.
"Criminal Investigation?" Giving this man, Joseph Youngblood, a shield and a gun had to be redundant. He'd exude threat without either.
back to main books page