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Authors: Nancy Holder

Vendetta

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Contents

Cover

Also by Nancy Holder

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

About the Author

Coming Soon from Titan Books

COMING SOON FROM TITAN BOOKS

Beauty & the Beast: Some Gave All
by Nancy Holder

BEAUTY & THE BEAST: VENDETTA
Print edition ISBN: 9781783292196
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783292240

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark St, London SE1 0UP

First edition: November 2014
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Copyright © & TM 2014 CBS Studios Inc.

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.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

TITAN
BOOKS.COM

From the moment we met, we knew our lives would never be the same. He saved my life, and she saved mine. We are destined, but we know it won’t be easy. Even though we have every reason to stay apart, we’ll risk it all to be together.

CHAPTER ONE


T
ess, I remembered the name of the ‘intimate lingerie’ shop,” Cat said into her cell as she walked down the hall of her building. Her keys were in her hand and triumph wafted around her like sweet perfume. “Easy Pickin’s.”

“Bleah. More like sleazy pickin’s,” Tess said on the other end of the phone. Her voice was barely audible through the background din. Tess was still celebrating at Rosie’s with the rest of the 125th precinct, where she and Cat were detectives, first grade, Special Crimes. Nobody could celebrate like the 125th, especially when a case they had cleared came back from the jury with an ironclad conviction for murder one, just as it had late that afternoon. The notorious Justus Zilpho had received a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. A brutal murderer was off the streets of New York forever.

And we did it
, Cat thought happily.
Tess and I.
They had been the lead detectives on the case.

“We can check it out first thing tomorrow,” Cat said. “I’ll stop by Il Cantuccio for the coffees and you—”

“Down, girl. Pretty sure intimate lingerie shops aren’t open for business by the dawn’s early light. Tonight let’s enjoy the afterglow from putting away Zilpho. It’s like the old days, Cat. Vargas and Chandler are
back.

“We really are.” Cat smiled. “You made this conviction happen by developing that CI.”

“No,
you
made it happen when you traced Zilpho’s getaway car to the wrecking yard. Best partner ever.” Tess sighed happily.

“We are both awesome.” Cat did a quick visual scan of the hallway. No lurkers, no strangers. Good. “Captain Ward wants us to be careful,” she reminded Tess. “Zilpho swore revenge.”

Tess grunted. “Yeah, right. Guys like him talk big until they put on the orange jumpsuit. Then it’s tears and prayers. Best thing Zilpho can do is become a model prisoner. Lay low and rack up privileges. Double servings of Jell-O become a very big deal when you’re rotting your life away in jail. Oh, hey, Captain Ward is buying another round!”

“Go. Enjoy,” Cat urged her.

“On it.” Tess disconnected.

Cat smiled wistfully. It was only seven-thirty at night. For a minute she wondered why she’d left the celebration at Rosie’s Bar so soon, why it had seemed important to rush home. Captain Ward had been so proud of his “girl team” that he might as well have bought them roses and tiaras. It seemed like just yesterday he’d been threatening to fire them both if they didn’t clear more cases.

Oh, wait, it
had
been yesterday.

Well, hopefully, those dicey days were over. She was sure she and Tess would regain their bragging rights for highest clearance rate in the city.

She put her key in the lock of her front door, emotionally preparing herself for the emptiness that awaited her on the other side. Thanks to the scheming of Gabe Lowan, the assistant district attorney and former beast who had briefly been Cat’s boyfriend, her
real
boyfriend, Vincent Keller, was now a fugitive again, hunted by every law enforcement agency there ever was. If she could put away Zilpho, she could figure out a way to clear Vincent’s name and bring him back into the daylight once and for all. They would have a normal life together, a future, with all the wonderful things most dating couples took for granted. Such as, well, actual dates. And he would be able to accompany her to Rosie’s with the precinct to savor the next sweet taste of victory.

Vincent was the one person she really wanted to celebrate with, but all she had with him were stolen moments that were few and far between.

Better one moment in a thousand with Vincent than a lifetime of moments without him
, she reminded herself.

She opened the door and caught her breath in surprise at the beauty and splendor before her. This, clearly, was one of those magical times. In her living room, a dozen ivory candles gleamed from cut-crystal holders, their warm yellow light catching on a silver ice bucket containing a bottle of her favorite champagne. Beside the bucket sat two crystal champagne flutes and a small box of chocolates wrapped in gold foil and gold ribbon and topped with a gold mesh bow. Crossing to her coffee table, she examined the card slipped beneath the ribbon.

Congratulations.
It was Vincent’s handwriting. He knew how important this conviction was to her and must have found out about the verdict.

And he is here.

Her delighted smile widened when she saw him leaning against the doorjamb to her bedroom. He was wearing a white terrycloth bathrobe, revealing his muscular legs, forearms, and bare feet. The candlelight cast angles and hollows in his chiseled, lean face, his features honed by his life as a soldier and a passionate fighter for justice.

Now, though, his face was softened by his sexy, happy smile in answer to hers. Steamy water droplets clung to his short, dark hair and his eyes blazed, not with the feral aggression of his beast side, but the passionate, human love he bore for Cat. His pleasure at seeing her thrilled her heart. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

“Catherine,” he said in his deep, gravelly voice, and she unslung her purse, dropped it on the sofa, and went to him. Their arms came around each other and she felt the reflexive restraint in his muscles, always careful of her. Even though she could take down gangbangers and FBI assassins, she was still fully human, and far more fragile than a beast. Vincent’s beast side was stronger than the most powerful human on the face of the planet, and yet Cat never felt safer than in his embrace.

Their lips met. Rosy joy transported her to their secret place, where it was just Catherine and Vincent, and nothing could come between them. It was a world of stars and rooftops, gently falling snow, and dreams of a future where they were free to be together without fear of capture, or worse. In that world, all that mattered to her was Vincent Keller, and she knew that all that mattered to him was her, Catherine Chandler, whose life he had saved on that icy, nightmarish night a decade before.

His strong, rapid heartbeat pulsed beneath the flat of her hand as he drew her close. He could crush her.

He never would.

She shut her eyes and inhaled the clean scent of him, heard his low moan as their kiss deepened. She wondered what their lovemaking was like for Vincent, with his heightened beast senses. She was never more alive than when they were as one. Tastes were more intense. Colors were brighter. All she heard was the whisper of her name on his lips, the pull of the moon in an ocean of love, and her body singing his name in response, rushing toward him, toward their ecstasy.

Anticipating it all, her body yearned for his. She let him know how very much she wanted him. He did the same.

“You’re home earlier than I expected,” he said, when they finally managed to pull far enough apart to speak, and to gaze into each other’s eyes. “I wasn’t quite ready.”

“I’m glad you didn’t have time to dress,” she replied, with a teasing tug on the belt of his robe. “And as for being ready…”

“Oh, I am. I had no intention of putting on clothes. I just wanted to add this to the table.”

He slipped into the bedroom, then from behind his back he held out a deep, velvety-red rose. When she took the stem his thumb brushed the back of her hand as if he couldn’t stop touching her. She ran her forefinger over his warm skin. Then she kissed him again in thanks and they walked hand-in-hand to her couch.

She inhaled the heavenly fragrance. “This is so thoughtful,” she said. “Thank you.”

“I wanted tonight to be perfect. I know how much this conviction means to you,” he said. “You and Tess worked so hard to put this guy away.”

“Vincent, any time we’re together, it’s perfect.”

His eyes flared with happiness and desire. “I’m glad you think so.”

“I
know
so.”

He eased her down and her weary muscles melted as she curled up, head in hand, watching as he grabbed the champagne bottle and popped the cork. He was completely unaware of his masculine beauty and the grace with which he moved. But there was much more to Vincent than physicality. He was smart, and funny, and brave. Best of all, he was a good man. His beast side had nearly dragged him down to the depths of hopelessness and brutality, but Vincent had prevailed in the battle to reclaim his humanity. His soul.

Their love.

Smiling, she opened the candy box, lifted the layer of paper, and admired the delectable possibilities. Tonight, there were many delectable possibilities.

His eyes sparkled like champagne bubbles as he poured the first flute. His robe hung open, revealing his broad chest. She ached to plant soft kisses there.

He bent forward to hand her the glass, poured a second, and they clinked the rims together. He gazed into her eyes and she saw his fierce pride in her. Vincent admired her for being good at her job, and that made her want to do even better at it.

We are better together than we are apart
, she thought. How many times had they said that to each other?

“To you,” he toasted.

“To justice,” she rejoined, and they sipped. This evening she and Tess had thrown back whiskey and beer, cop booze, and the sublime champagne reminded her that her life with Vincent was so different, and that so much of it was unbelievably wonderful.

He sat beside her and pulled her feet onto his lap as she popped a chocolate into his mouth. She bit into a cordial with a hazelnut center. Her shoes thunked to the floor as he began to massage her feet and she wrinkled her nose, a tad embarrassed. She had walked the mean streets of New York City today, and she felt grimy beside this immaculate man and all the luxuries he had arranged for her.

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