Razor's EdgeBy: Sylvia Day
My gratitude goes to Cynthia D’Alba, whose early input in this story really helped me pull it together. I send hugs to Shayla Black, whose friendship has brought me much joy and support on my writer’s journey, and to Lori Foster, whose Brava Novella contest led to the sale of my first book. What a thrill it is to share a book with you, Lori! (As well as Erin, Kathy, and Kate with whom I’ve also shared drinks, hotel rooms, and too many laughs to count.)
When Jack Killigrew’s phone rang, it usually meant someone’s life was on the line. Since he was on leave from the U.S. Marshals Service office in Albuquerque, the only calls he would be receiving were in his capacity as a Special Operations Group deputy. As such, he was a last resort and on call twenty-four hours a day. His twelve-man response team was activated only after the shit had already hit the fan.
There were a lot of emotions that filtered through Jack when he was called in, but relief wasn’t usually one them. Right now, however, he’d give just about anything for an excuse to head in the opposite direction.
His fellow deputies would laugh if they knew how edgy he was getting with every mile that passed. As a SOG deputy marshal—a Shadow Stalker—he squared off with hardened criminals and suicidal terrorists as a matter of course. He hunted and apprehended the country’s most-wanted fugitives. He did his job with mechanical precision, never breaking a sweat. The guys called him “Iron Jack,” the man who’d do anything. He faced death as if he had nothing to lose or nothing to live for.
Yet the thought of facing Rachel Tse was shredding him.
“Killigrew,” he answered via the hands-free Bluetooth control in his steering wheel. He’d already noted the lack of a shoulder on the two-lane road. With agricultural fields on each side of him, turning his long Chevy Silverado around wouldn’t be easy.
Christ. The voice on the other end of the line reverberated through him like a gunshot report.
“Rachel,” he replied gruffly, slowly recovering from the husky sound of her voice. “Everything all right?”
“Yes.” She said the word breathlessly, which made him hard. “I was wondering if you’d be here in time for lunch.”
“Lunch?” God, he was screwed. His best friend’s widow was winded from pulling together a birthday party for his eight-year-old godson and he was getting a boner.
It had been two years since he’d last seen her, but apparently time didn’t matter. He’d put off this reunion as long as he could, but the time had come to deal with it. Steve’s last request had eaten into him far enough to become hazardous. Jack couldn’t allow his own personal crap to jeopardize his team any more than it already had.
“Jack? Did I lose you?”
“I’m here. I was just calculating the possibility of my arriving in time for lunch. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
There was a pause, as if she sensed the lie.
He hated bullshitting her, but he couldn’t see her today. He needed time to get his head on straight. He hadn’t taken a leave of absence in years and without work to occupy him, he found himself thinking too damn much about her. Visions of her blond hair fisted in his hands . . . her taut, sweet nipples tightening against his tongue . . . her long, lithe legs spreading in invitation . . .
Getting that obsession under control was a necessity if he had any hope of convincing her she was off the hook as far as he was concerned. He was still reeling from Steve’s request that he look after her if she was ever left alone. Jack realized his friend must have known how he felt. As careful as he’d been to hide his longing, something must have betrayed him.
And that killed him. No man should have to deal with knowing his best friend is in love with his wife.
“Where are you?” she pressed.
“I haven’t reached King City yet.” Jack had passed King City long ago and was about twenty minutes away from Monterey. He would pick up the keys to his cottage in Carmel from the property managers who rented it out for him, then grab a six-pack of beer and hunker down for the night. He’d get his bearings and be better capable of facing her in the morning.
“Let’s make it dinner, then. Riley’s spending the night at a friend’s house so I can wrap his gifts without him peeking. It’ll be just you and me. We can catch up.”
Just her and him. At night. With Riley gone until morning? Yeah, right. Jack could imagine the mess running through Rachel’s head now. She’d been crazy about Steve. Madly in love. If she thought Steve wanted them together, she’d make it work, even though he scared the shit out of her. Part of his job was reading people, and as focused on her as his instincts were, there wasn’t a damn thing about her he didn’t register. When he walked into the room, she became skittish—nostrils flaring, eyes widening, body moving restlessly. Her primal reaction aroused every predatory sense in his body, making him edgy and sharpening his hunger for her.
“How about I take you two out to breakfast in the morning?” His voice was rough with desire. “Then I’ll help you finish setting up for his party.”