Authors: Alana Matthews
THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE WAS MARRIED TO THE MOB
When the call came in over the radio, Sheriff’s Deputy Rafe Franco thought he would be responding to a typical domestic dispute. But he didn’t know that the perp wasSt. Louis’s most notorious mobster—or that the victim was his college sweetheart, Lisa Tobin.
Now, as Rafe is drawn into a web of crime and danger, he discovers that his feelings for Lisa are stronger than ever. And her three-year-old daughter, Chloe, is melting his heart in ways he’d never imagined possible. But Lisa’s ex is a powerful sociopath who will stop at nothing to get her back—or destroy her. As Rafe’s instincts as a man battle with his duty as a cop, he’ll do anything to ensure their survival…and their future as a family.
“They had a proposition for me,” Rafe said. “One they tried to make very difficult to refuse.”
She frowned. “What kind of proposition?”
“They wanted me to use our past to try to get on your good side and convince you to cooperate.”
Her eyes hardened. “And did you agree to this?”
“No,” Rafe said forcefully. “Of course not. I would never do anything to put you or Chloe in danger.”
They let that hang in the air for a moment, then she laced her fingers through his and squeezed. “You don’t know how much I’ve missed you, Rafe. How many times I’ve cursed myself for letting you go.”
“You don’t think I feel the same?”
Her eyes looked hopeful. “Do you?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alana Matthews can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a writer. As a child, she was a permanent fixture in her local library, and she soon turned her passion for books into writing short stories, and finally novels. A longtime fan of romantic suspense, Alana felt she had no choice but to try her hand at the genre, and she is thrilled to be writing for Harlequin Intrigue. Alana makes her home in a small town near the coast of Southern California, where she spends her time writing, composing music and watching her favorite movies.
Send a message to Alana at her website,
Books by Alana Matthews
1339—A WANTED MAN
CAST OF CHARACTERS
A divorced single mother trying to adjust to her new life in St. Louis while dealing with an ex-husband who won’t take no for an answer.
A sheriff’s deputy from a family of cops who is anxious for a promotion but struggling to live up to the family name.
Lisa’s obsessive ex-husband. A prominent businessman who secretly runs a crime syndicate.
Rafe’s sister, a no-nonsense sheriff’s homicide detective whom Rafe has always looked up to.
Lisa’s beautiful three-year-old daughter, who is wise beyond her years.
Rafe and Kate’s grandmother, who welcomes Lisa and Chloe into her home with open arms.
Lisa’s housekeeper, who wields a mean shotgun and knows how to use it.
She opened her eyes with a start, not sure what had awakened her.
She was alone in the room, which was quiet except for the sound of an autumn breeze outside her window and the faint metallic squeak of the bed springs.
Had it been Chloe?
Squinting at the clock—which read 4:32 a.m.—she stilled herself and listened carefully, using the supersonic hearing only a mother possesses, tuning it in to Chloe’s frequency.
But she heard nothing.
No whimpering. No cries in the night.
Even as a baby, Chloe had been a sound sleeper. And now that she was just past her third year, she was nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning. The girl liked her rest and, unlike her mother, could snooze through a thunderstorm.
But what Lisa Tobin had heard was not thunder.
The noise, if she hadn’t dreamed it—and she didn’t think she had—was high-pitched and abrasive. Like glass shattering.
Was there an intruder in the house?
Icy dread sluiced through her bloodstream as the thought took hold. She listened awhile longer, hoping it was just her overactive imagination, and the moment she convinced herself it
she heard another sound—a faint, muffled crash—coming from downstairs.
There was someone down there.
Could it be Beatrice? Had she awakened in the middle of the night and decided to get an early start on her housekeeping?
Not likely. Bea was efficient, but she wasn’t overly ambitious and was as sound a sleeper as Chloe. And even if she
tidying up, she had never been the clumsy type. The woman was as stealthy as an alley cat.
So intruder it was. Probably that punk kid from next door trying to prove himself to his punk buddies.
There had been a rash of break-ins up and down the street in the past few weeks and everyone pretty much suspected the kid. He was the product of a broken home—something Lisa was all too familiar with—and had been acting out ever since he’d reached puberty. In the year and a half she had lived in this house, the boy had been arrested three times. Twice for drugs, and once for burglary. And he was undoubtedly working his way toward arrest number four.
So what should she do?
Sit here and let him clean the place out?
Lisa’s first instinct was to call the police, but as she reached to the nightstand for her cell phone, she remembered that she had left it in her purse, which was sitting on the table in the foyer downstairs. She had never had a landline installed, and now cursed herself for it.
So she had two choices. Stay put and hope the punk didn’t work his way up the stairs...
Or confront him.
Neither choice thrilled Lisa, but she was not the shrinking-violet type and she wasn’t about to sit here, waiting to be victimized.
So option number two it was.
Throwing her blankets aside, she sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, then got to her feet and pulled her robe on. She would need protection, of course. You don’t go into a situation like this without it.
But what kind of protection?
Lisa didn’t like guns. Hated them, in fact. Had only held one in her hands twice in her lifetime and had felt extremely uncomfortable each time. But before he moved out, her ex-husband, Oliver, had insisted on putting a pistol in a lockbox on the hall closet shelf, telling her not to hesitate to use it if necessary.
It was a typical Oliver move. He was no stranger to violence—something she had learned only in the last days of their marriage, and part of the reason she had filed for a divorce. His stubborn refusal to consider her feelings—the pistol, for example—was the other part. She had thought she was marrying a prince charming but quickly discovered that there was something deadly beneath that charm. Something dangerous and controlling.
A Dr. Jekyll who had quickly morphed into Mr. Hyde.
But Lisa had never been turned on by bad boys. She had too much self-respect for that. And where she had once felt warmth, she now felt trepidation whenever she encountered him. An uneasiness that wormed its way into her gut every time she saw him.
As much as she hated to admit it, however, Oliver had been right about the gun. And despite the punk’s young age, confronting him without a weapon would be foolhardy.
She didn’t have to use it, of course. Merely wave it at him to scare him away. Get to her cell phone and call the cops.
So that was the plan.
One she desperately hoped wouldn’t go awry.
Sucking in a deep breath, she moved to her bedroom door and opened it a crack, peering out into the dark stillness of the second-floor hallway.
Steeling herself, she stepped into that stillness and quickly made her way to Chloe’s bedroom. She wasn’t about to confront
without first checking to see that her little girl was safe.
She carefully turned the knob and pushed the door open. To her relief, Chloe was wrapped in her blankets, her tiny figure illuminated by the moonlight from the window, her shallow chest rising and falling.
Despite her trepidation, Lisa felt a sudden warmth spread inside her. The sight of Chloe sleeping always had that effect on her. It had been a lousy couple of years, yet Chloe had been the one constant, the one shining star, in Lisa’s universe.
Reassured that her daughter was safe, she clicked the lock button, then pulled the door shut. She didn’t like the idea of locking Chloe in, but didn’t want to take any chances, either.
Turning now, she headed back down the hallway toward the stairs, stopping at the narrow closet on the left side of the landing.
Checking the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, she quietly opened the closet door, reached to the overhead shelf and found the wooden box where Oliver had left it, almost a year ago. It was secured by a small lock with a combination that was easy enough to remember: Chloe’s birth date.
Dialing it in, Lisa unfastened the lock, opened the box, then carefully removed the loaded pistol. She didn’t feel comfortable hefting it, but what choice did she have?
“Just point it and shoot,” Oliver had told her during one of his more generous moments. “That’s all you have to remember.”
Easier said than done,
Returning the box to the shelf, she closed the closet door and turned again toward the mouth of the stairs, listening for more sounds from below.
It was eerily silent now.
No rummaging noises, no whispering voices—assuming there was more than one intruder—no footsteps...