Authors: Carrigan Fox
Her timing was perfect, as usual, and she quietly stepped into his room as he was tying the laces on his tennis shoes.
“Good news,” he greeted. “I’ve officially been released. Or I will be as soon as the doctor signs off on my release papers.
Then again, that could take another hour or more.” His cheer was slightly muted and a bit more solemn, indicating that the deaths of the Huntley women were still weighing on his mind. He frowned at her, noticing that she seemed unusually serious. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she lied, trying to assure him. “Let’s get you out of here.”
“You’re driving me home?”
“I’ve appointed myself your personal chauffeur.” She flashed a grin that seemed to lack some of its typical luster. “Taryn is securing you a team for 24-7 detail. She wants no fewer than three body guards, one outside of your home and one outside of your office and one with you at all times. While she is making those arrangements, I have volunteered as a stand-in.”
Noticing the dark circles under her eyes, he asked, “Did you go home and get a bit of sleep?”
She shook her head before admitting to herself that she should have gotten some sleep prior to her trip to the Huntley’s. Her exhaustion wasn’t likely to have a positive effect on her reaction to the information she received regarding Will’s love life. And in spite of the twelve reminders she gave herself that she had no claim to him, she still felt a bit betrayed. She had thought he was adorable and dorky, not a playboy who could string along two women at a time…or maybe more.
She had thought that she might have a future with him, but not if he was having a baby with some other woman. She aimed a dirty look in the direction of the head he had bowed over his other shoe.
“There.” He stood up quickly and reached for the bed, unprepared for the flashing shadows of dizziness that danced in front of his face. “Whoa.”
Unable to help herself, she laughed at the ridiculous idea of his eyes rolling wildly while birds circled his head. She reached for his arm to steady him or to be near enough to keep him from slamming his head on the floor again if he passed out.
Within minutes, she was following a nurse who was wheeling him out to her car in a wheelchair. He
squinted his eyes as he emerged through the entrance out into the bright morning sunlight, and she had to admit that the marks on his face and head seemed even more pronounced out from under the fluorescent lights. Torn between wanting to confront him and wanting to avoid causing him more grief, she left him with the nurse and retrieved her car. “Be honest, Jac, you don’t want the truth. The last thing you want to hear is that he’s not actually available,” she coached herself as she pulled up beside him.
ed until he was securely buckled into the front seat before she shifted into gear and eased out of the parking lot. They drove in an uncomfortable silence for a period of time before she awkwardly asked, “How are you feeling today?”
he answered with the corners of his mouth twitching. “Are you okay?”
“Sure. I’m fine.” They drove for another block before she decided to be honest with him. If the woman in her didn’t want to know the sordid details, the security team member needed to know what she was up against. “I visited the Huntley home this morning to try to get a read on what happened.”
His head turned in her direction instantly. “And?”
She refused to look at him and stared determinedly out the windshield. “It was mostly just a soundtrack. And the emotions
were loud and clear. The feelings are always hell. But the guy was asking Dianne questions that were really difficult to follow. He actually accused her of sleeping with you.”
“What? That’s absurd.”
“So you’re not?”
“I mean that it’s an absurd question to ask. If these guys are as dangerous as you say, what interest could they possibly have in my sex life?”
That wasn’t the answer she had hoped for. She wanted him to vehemently deny a relationship with Dianne.
“Are you sure that’s what he asked?”
“Of course I’m sure. He went on to ask her whom you were seeing. He insisted that you were seeing a woman who might already be pregnant with your child.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “
“Yes,” she answered simply, waiting for him to laugh off the question. Instead, he diverted his attention to the ceiling of her car, as though tallying up the possibilities. She wanted to smack him. “Do you have something you want to tell me?” she urged.
Surprised, he looked back at her. “I’ve been on one date in the past four months. So you tell me. Do I need to start attending church services again to reacquaint myself with the concept of Immaculate Conception or do I have some superhuman power to impregnate women while admiring their eyes over the rim of my coffee cup?”
She grinned at him in relief. “I like you, Dr. Archer.”
“I like you, too, Ms. MaCall.”
“It would have been a downer to have had to kill you
for two-timing me.”
He chuckled briefly before bringing the question back to the objective of the killers. “Why would they be interested in some woman I didn’t actually get pregnant?”
The question seemed too asinine to even consider. The possible answers that came to mind were equally ridiculous.
“Perhaps your father secretly had an affair when you w
ere an infant,” she suggested cheekily. “You have a long lost brother who is in desperate need of a kidney. He sent in some hired goons to retrieve nail clippings from your office trashcan so that he could check the DNA for compatibility. When he learned that you were not a match, he decided to search for a possibility of a future relation.”
Will shook his head. “No way. I never clip my nails in the office.”
. Perhaps it’s the garden gnome. My mother told me that when I was young, she made a deal with a magical garden gnome who came to life every summer solstice. He promised to grant her with a beautiful garden every year in exchange for her firstborn child. Since I was already a toddler struggling with terrible twos tantrums, the gnome agreed to leave me with her but promised he would take her first grandchild instead. More than likely, he hired the goons.”
“A garden gnome stealing unborn children. A gnome-napper!” she added with a snort. It felt good to be able to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
Technically speaking, a kidnapper nabs kids. So a gnome-napper would nab gnomes, not unborn children,” he rationalized. “Nevertheless, it makes about as much sense as the reality,” Will muttered.
“I need to get Taryn involved so that we can figure out the next move. Most immediately, they seem to be after you so that they can then eliminate this mysterious woman who is carrying your immaculately conceived child. The biggest challenge will be protecting this imaginary pregnant woman.”
He gave her directions to his home, which was on the outskirts of town in a ranch set back from the road. A large covered front porch ran the length of the house and contained a large porch swing and two Adirondack chairs.
“I like your place,” Jac complimented, scanning the landscaped grassy lawn with borders of shrubs and flowers. A pair of tall oak trees
stood twenty yards from the house, a perfect position for a luxuriously shaded hammock. “Plenty of room for a swing set for your unborn baby,” she teased.
He chuckled and turned hopefully to ask, “Are you coming in for a bit?”
“I’m sure as hell not going to leave you alone. Odds are good that they will either come looking for you here or that some woman is going to show up and force you to make mad, passionate love to her. Personally, I prefer to keep you alive and unavailable to fertile and horny women.”
He stared past her shoulder thoughtfully, a small smile teasing the corners of his mouth.
“What’s on your mind, Dr. Archer?”
His attention returned to the question in the lavender eyes and his smile deepened. “I was just wondering what the odds are of you being the horny, fertile woman who is going to force me to make mad, passionate love to her.”
Surprised that the possibility hadn’t occurred to her, Jac’s eyes widened a bit. “I hadn’t even thought of that.”
“Geez. I’ll try not to be offended,” he replied dryly.
Not sure how to respond, she hopped out of the vehicle and circled the front end quickly to help Will climb out safely. She encouraged him to lean on her, despite his loud protests and claims to ox-like strength. Determined, she managed to push her shoulder under his armpit and pulled his arm around her shoulders.
“I didn’t sprain an ankle or break a leg, Jac.”
“Well then lean over here and let me support your battered face while I help you into the house,” she answered sarcastically.
He shifted his weight to lean heavily on her and did a quick maneuver, shoving her back up against her car.
He leaned over her, lifting both hands gently to either side of her face.
“Smooth, Dr. Archer.”
“I told you. Strong like ox.” He lowered his face to hers and she closed her eyes in anticipation.
His kiss started as feather-light as it had on the street corner in the rain, with his tongue lightly tracing her lips, inviting her to let him taste her. He moved his kisses over her jawbone and down her neck
, enjoying the purring sound in the back of her throat. He pulled back momentarily, and emotion shone strongly in his emerald eyes. Jac gently caressed the side of his face that was colored brightly in shades of purple and blue bruising. She was caught off guard again when he moved in more abruptly and more forcefully pulled her against his body and continued the kiss. There was more urgency this time as his lips ground down against hers and as he made love to her mouth with his tongue and his teeth. She ran her hands down the front of his shirt, reveling in how hard the good doctor’s chest and stomach felt. She placed a kiss at the base of his throat where his shirt was open.
And then she saw him entering
somebody’s home and stepping into a living room. Behind him, the dark bearded man moved in and lifted a syringe to Will’s neck, hardly pausing before jamming it into the side of his neck and pressing the plunger. He released Will and moved past him into the living room while the good doctor glanced wildly around the room, his eyes already glazing over. In the next instant, he was falling to the ground, unconscious even before his head hit the plush carpeting.
She gasped and pulled away from him, keeping her palms on his chest.
“What’s wrong?” he sensed the shift in her passion even before he saw the look of fear in her eyes as it changed to fierce protectiveness.
She knew that her visions showed a future that could not be changed. And she slowly drew back from Will Archer, torn between wanting desperately to keep him safe and not wanting to get to close to a man who would eventually die at the hands of a bearded
villain. How in the world was she ever going to manage to keep him safe from his own destiny?
“What is it, Jaclyn?”
She looked at the quiet house behind him, surrounded by birds singing in trees as a light breeze ruffled the leaves. It was a good place, this country home of Dr. Archer.
“Would you like to go inside?” he asked. “Let’s go in and sit down. I’ll get you something to drink. I’m guessing you’ve just had a vision of some sort.” Even with the compassion and concern, she could hear his skepticism.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she forced a hesitant smile.
“Was it something I did?” he joked.
She smiled in apology. “I’m only sorry that kiss was interrupted.” She patted his chest and stood on tiptoe to place a kiss on his jaw. “You are a very appealing man. And an exceptional kisser,” she added.
“Do you want to talk about the vision?”
“Inside, Dr. Archer. I’d love to have that drink that you mentioned.”
He took her hand in a
purely romantic gesture and led her up onto the front porch of his home. While he used his key to open the door, she reached into her purse. “I’ll meet you inside in just a moment. I want to call Taryn and have her meet us here, if that’s okay with you.”
“Of course.” He pulled the key out of the lock and stepped into the refreshingly cool front entrance of the home he
had purchased just over a year before. He glanced around briefly to assure himself that everything was cleaned up. He was typically described as a well-organized man, and his house was rarely disorderly. Dr. Will Archer had been raised to clean up after himself, and it was a trait he was thankful that his parents ingrained in him.
Leaving the door open behind him, he moved into the house and heard Jac enter the room behind him. He hadn’t heard her call her sister, and he was about to turn to ask her if she was okay when a thick arm locked around his shoulders, pinning his arms to his side. He opened his mouth to shout a warning to Jac when he felt a sharp pain in his neck. And as suddenly as he’d been attacked, he was released.
Confused and desperate to see his attacker, Will turned to confront his opponent and saw only a blur of movement as the man moved past him. Turning again, he was overcome with dizziness that caused his eyes to blur. He shook his head in an effort to clear his vision and saw the syringe on the carpeted floor between himself and a dark haired man with a beard who was watching him with a cocky smirk on his face. His initial thought was bafflement that Jac’s vision of a bearded man in his office had been exactly right.