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Authors: Pamela Clare

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Unlawful Contact

BOOK: Unlawful Contact
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Praise for
EXTREME EXPOSURE

“Investigative reporter turned author Clare brings a gritty realism to this intense and intricate romantic thriller.
Extreme Exposure
is the launch book for a sizzling new suspense series that promises to generate lots of intrigue, action, and romance. An author to keep an eye on!”


Romantic Times

“A gem,
Extreme Exposure
has all the elements of great romance and is an entertaining summer read.”


Romantic Reviews Today
(Perfect 10)

“I really loved this book because it was so realistic. The characters were people I would love to know. Obviously, Ms. Clare knows this world and the nuances of investigative reporting. She communicates this in a terrific love story that grabs you and will not let you go. Believe me, I lost some sleep reading this book. I predict that Ms. Clare is an author to watch for the future and readers of romantic suspense are sure to love this excellent, well-written novel, one of the best I’ve read this year.”


The Romance Readers Connection

…and the previous novels of Pamela Clare

“[Written with] verve…The prose is lush, and the author clearly has a talented way with plot and pacing.”


The Romance Reader

“Great…A page-turner.”


USA Today
bestselling author Patricia Potter

“Sizzling…Steeped in sensual fantasy, strong characters, and intense emotions.”


Romantic Times

Berkley Sensation Books by Pamela Clare

EXTREME EXPOSURE

HARD EVIDENCE

UNLAWFUL CONTACT

UNLAWFUL CONTACT
PAMELA CLARE

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

UNLAWFUL CONTACT

A Berkley Sensation Book/published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Clare.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 1-4362-0414-3

BERKLEY
®
SENSATION
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Leah
Rhiann Clifton, who died in her mother’s womb in a
prison cell.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Special thanks to Christie Donner, Pamela Clifton, and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition for their tireless work on behalf of prison inmates.

Special thanks to Sergeant Gary Arai for answering my many questions about police operations—and teaching me how to break out of handcuffs; to Sergeant David Murphy for his insights on SWAT operations and gear; and to my mother, Mary White, a registered nurse, for sharing her medical knowledge.

With deep gratitude to Cindy Hwang, my editor, and Natasha Kern, my agent and friend, for their patience and for believing in my stories.

Personal thanks to Michelle White, Timalyn O’Neill, Norah Wilson, Bonnie Vanak, Kally Jo Surbeck, Aimee Culbertson, Libby Murphy, Kristi Ross, Sue Zimmerman, Debbie Hoke, Dede Laugesen, and Amy Vandersall for their patience, support, and friendship.

And as always, thanks and much love to my family and to my sons, Alec and Benjamin, who do so much so that I can write. I love you deeply and forever.

PROLOGUE

Grand Junction, Colorado
June 9, 1996

S
OPHIE
A
LTON WALKED
through the party, wishing she’d stayed home. Heavy metal pumped from car speakers, blaring so loudly that she could barely hear herself think. Kids stood and sat among the cottonwoods, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, making out.

She didn’t belong here. She wasn’t sure why she’d let Candy talk her into coming to this stupid graduation party. Did she really think Hunt was going to notice her?

She saw him through the trees, leaning against his car, talking with Dawn Harper and Kendra Willis. He wore a black T-shirt that hugged his broad shoulders and a pair of low-slung jeans. His thick brown hair looked like he’d just gotten out of bed, his square jaw covered with dark stubble. He was taller and bigger than the other boys, and though she couldn’t see them from here, she knew his eyes were a deep green. He was by far the cutest guy in the graduating class. Just seeing him made her feel like she was melting.

But Sophie wasn’t an idiot. A guy like Hunt wasn’t about to waste time on a flat-chested sophomore when he could have pretty senior girls like Dawn and Kendra. Besides, he probably liked girls who partied, not nerdy girls who studied all the time.

He glanced in her direction, saw her watching him.

She gasped, looked away, and walked faster.

Her grandma had warned her that Hunt was trouble. She’d said his mother had gone to prison and that he would probably follow in her footsteps. It seemed unfair to blame him for things his mother had done, though he
did
seem to get into trouble a lot. He was the kid teachers blamed for everything, even things he hadn’t done. Once during a school assembly, someone had pulled the fire alarm, and they’d blamed Hunt, even though he’d been sitting in the bleachers at the time. Sophie had known where he was sitting when the alarm went off because she’d been watching him. She’d told the principal this, but he hadn’t listened.

Hunt had just shrugged his shoulders and grinned when they’d led him away, as if to say, “It happens all the time.”

Sophie had felt sorry for him.

She glanced around, looking for Candy. Maybe she could talk Candy into letting her borrow her pickup truck so she could drive home. Or maybe one of the other kids would be heading back into town soon.

But how will you know if they’ve been drinking?

She wouldn’t know. She’d have to trust them not to drive drunk, and she wasn’t sure she trusted even Candy to tell the truth about that. And where was Candy anyway?

Realizing she was stuck at the party until Candy surfaced again, she walked toward the edge of the crowd, stepping over empty plastic beer cups, potato chip bags, and clusters of prickly pear cactus, looking for someplace she could sit down and be by herself.

A group of girls broke into giggles as she passed.

“She’s such a nerd! I bet she studies all night.”

“Do you think she’s ever kissed a guy?”

“Are you kidding? She’s a total virgin.”

Sophie felt her face burn.

“I heard her parents are dead.”

The breath left her lungs in a rush, and her step faltered, tears stinging her eyes. She wanted to run, but then they would know she’d heard them and she’d feel even more humiliated. She forced herself to keep her gaze straight ahead and to walk slowly.

Her parents
were
dead. They’d been dead for almost a year, run over by a drunk driver while crossing the street in Denver. She and her little brother, David, had gotten the terrible news late one night and had found themselves on the way to their grandma’s house in Grand Junction the next morning. Everyone told Sophie how she needed to think of the future, how she needed to become the young woman her parents knew she could be. But no matter how hard she fought not to be a big baby about it, she couldn’t stop missing her mom and dad.

She saw an outcropping of rock and went to stand on the other side of it where no one could see her cry. But someone was already there.

“Fuck off, stupid bitch!”

A group of boys huddled together, putting something that looked like whitish rocks into a strange, little pipe.
Drugs.
They were doing drugs.

“Get lost!”

Momentarily speechless, Sophie took a step backward. “S-sorry!”

One of the boys grabbed her roughly around the wrist and dragged her forward, his sunburned face a wide grin. “Maybe we should keep her around. You know how horny this stuff makes me.”

Shock became fear. She shook her head, tried to pull her arm free. “No!”

“Bad idea. How do we know she won’t narc?” one of them asked. “Besides, you know you can’t get it up on this shit.”

A deep voice came from behind her. “Get your hands off her, Patrick, or I’ll stuff your balls down your throat!”

The boy let go of her so fast that she stumbled backward and almost fell in the grass. “Sorry, Hunt. I didn’t know she was here with you.”

Astonished, Sophie turned and saw Hunt standing behind her, glaring at the group of boys, his jaw tight, his mouth a grim line.

His gaze met hers and grew softer. “Come on, Sophie. You don’t want to hang around with these losers.”

Sophie didn’t need to be asked twice. She followed him to his car.

 

H
UNT LOOKED AT
the girl who sat in his passenger seat, feeling a strange tenderness in his chest. She’d put on her seat belt the moment she’d gotten into the car and now sat with her hands folded in her lap, her pretty face downcast and half-hidden by a fall of strawberry-blond hair. He’d always thought she was one of the prettiest girls in school, her eyes a deep blue, her skin pale and creamy, her mouth full and pink. She wasn’t short, but she wasn’t tall either, her slender build, her little nose, and the slant of her eyes making him think of a fairy sprite more than a human girl. But she was a smart fairy sprite, making honor roll despite what had happened to her. He had to respect that.

He’d heard what those stupid girls had said about her, and he’d watched her hurry away from the party, looking like she might cry. He’d realized she was headed straight for Patrick and his meth-head buddies, but he hadn’t gotten to her fast enough to keep her away from them. He’d wanted to beat the shit out of Patrick for grabbing her and scaring her like that.

“You okay?” He tucked her hair behind her ear, unveiling her face.

Her cheeks wet with tears, she nodded. “Thanks.”

He stuck his key in the ignition of his ’55 Chevy Bel Air, turned it, and gunned the engine once just to feel its power. It had belonged to his grandfather, and Hunt had mowed a lot of lawns to earn the money to fix it up. “This isn’t exactly your scene, is it?”

She sniffed, shook her head. “No.”

“Where do you want me to take you?” He kicked the car into drive and steered through the trees and partiers toward the dirt road that headed through the adobes back to town.

“I guess I should go home, but…”

“But what?”

“If my grandma sees I’ve been crying, she’ll ask me what happened, and then I’ll have to tell her I was here. I’ll probably get grounded. She’s pretty strict.”

Hunt was struck by her honesty. If he’d have been in her situation, he’d have solved the problem by telling a bald-faced lie.

That’s why you’re a loser and she’s not, dumbshit
.

“Then I won’t take you home—not yet. Ever been up to the Monument?”

She looked up at him, and he could see the wariness in her eyes.

He pushed on the brake, reached under his seat, and pulled out his tire iron. “I’m not going to hurt you, Sophie. See this? If I do anything you don’t like, just hit me with it.”

Her fairy-sprite lips curved into a smile. “I don’t think I could really hit you.”

“You’re not supposed to tell me that. It makes it hard for me to be afraid of you.”

She laughed. “You’re not afraid of me.”

But a part of him was.

 

S
OPHIE STARED UP
at the stars, Hunt’s arm around her shoulder, his voice a deep purr in her ear as he explained the constellations, his car radio playing some romantic old Elvis song.

“Over there is Leo.” He pointed toward a configuration of stars just above the western horizon. “See that star, the brightest one? That’s Regulus.”

She looked where he pointed, tried to see a lion, and thought maybe she did. “Which is your favorite constellation?”

“I suppose my favorite is Orion, but he’s not up yet. He’s really easy to spot, though. He’s got three bright stars for his belt.”

“Why do you like him best?”

He smiled, looked straight at her. “He’s the hunter.”

She couldn’t believe this was happening, one of the worst nights of her life becoming one of the best. He’d taken her to get sodas, then he’d driven her to Colorado National Monument, where they’d gotten out of the car and looked over the guardrail at the vast expanse of desert and canyon beyond, the cliffs and rock outcroppings dark shadows against the night. Then he’d driven her along a road made for tourists until he’d found a place to park.

“Got that tire iron?” he’d joked as he’d killed the engine.

They had talked until their sodas were gone and then talked some more. She’d found she could tell him anything—about her school in Denver, about the loneliness she’d felt since coming to Grand Junction, about missing her parents.

“You want them back again, and there’s nothing you can do to get them back,” he’d said, pulling her against his chest when her eyes had filled with tears. “I know.”

Then he’d told her how his mom had gone to prison twice and how he’d been placed in one foster home after another, fighting with the social workers who wanted to put him up for adoption, refusing to cooperate.

“Is that why you get into trouble so much?” she’d asked.

He’d looked at her, something like surprise on his handsome face.

“I guess so,” he’d said, after a moment’s silence. “If I’d have been a good kid like you, they’d have found a new home for me and taken me from my mom. No matter what she’s done, she’s still my mom. She didn’t deserve that.”

They’d talked about school, about their favorite teachers, about what they wanted to be one day. Sophie’d told him how she’d always wanted to be a reporter so that she could travel and meet people. He’d told her he liked science, especially astronomy and geology.

“I always wanted to be an astronaut,” he’d said, shrugging as if he’d just said something ridiculous.

“You could still try. Really, you could. Why not shoot for the stars?”

He’d laughed, shaken his head—and dropped a bomb. “I don’t think any college would take me, at least not yet. I enlisted in the army. I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”

“You’re
leaving
?” The revelation had stunned her—and left an ache in her chest.

She hated saying good-bye, hated being left behind.

He’d looked down at her and grinned. “Gonna miss me, sprite?”

And as he showed her the stars, opening up the sky to her, Sophie realized she
was
going to miss him. She’d spent only a few short hours with him, but she already felt like she’d known him forever.

“Up from Leo is Virgo. Can you see it there? And that really bright star is Spica. If you follow it to the south—”

“Hunt?” Sophie was afraid to ask him, was afraid to say it, but he was leaving in the morning. If she didn’t say it now, she’d probably never get another chance.

“Hmmm?”

Heart slamming, she forced herself to speak. “I…I want you to kiss me.”

For a moment he said nothing, but looked into her eyes as if trying to see inside her. Then he cupped her face with his left hand, ran his thumb over her lips, and ducked down.

Sophie had been kissed before, but she’d never been kissed like this.

He brushed his lips over hers again and again, soft butterfly caresses that made her whimper. Then he kissed the corners of her mouth, tasting her lips one at a time. And when she was sure she couldn’t take it another second, he took her mouth in a scorching, full-on kiss.

The heat of it stunned her, stole her breath, made her brain go blank. She heard herself moan, her body turning to hot jelly. She clung to him, instinctively following his lead, opening her mouth to the velvet strokes of his tongue, so new and strange to her. By the time he pulled back, she was shaking.

“Hunt?”

“Yeah, sprite?” He sounded breathless.

“Do that again.”

He groaned, fisted a hand in her hair, and crushed her against him, his mouth plundering hers, lips and tongue and teeth, until she was gasping for breath.

But all too soon he let her go and faced forward, his fist so tight around the steering wheel that his knuckles turned white. “I think it’s time to get you home.”

She scooted closer, still shaking. “No, Hunt, please!”

He looked down at her, his forehead furrowed, his lips wet. “If I don’t take you home now, you’re not going to get home till morning.”

She took his face between her hands, felt the rough stubble of his whiskers against her palms. “But that’s what I want! I want—”

“What?”

“You.”

She heard the breath rush from his lungs, felt some kind of battle raging inside him, knew he didn’t believe her.

“I heard what those girls said about you. You shouldn’t feel bad about being a virgin. That’s a beautiful thing. You should save it for a man who makes you feel special. You should save it for—”

“For you.” She’d never been more sure of anything in her life.

He turned in his seat to face her once again, ran his knuckles down her cheek. “But I’m the kid who always gets in trouble, remember?”

“Not with me you’re not.”

Hunt couldn’t believe what she was offering him. How could a smart girl like Sophie Alton see anything in him? “I’m leaving tomorrow.”

She nodded, her eyes looking impossibly big in the dark. “That’s why it has to be now.”

BOOK: Unlawful Contact
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