Witness to Passion (Entangled Ignite) (Guarding Her Body)

BOOK: Witness to Passion (Entangled Ignite) (Guarding Her Body)
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Under his protection and in his bed…

For Fallon Wayland, birthdays are just another reminder of her looming spinsterhood. This year is shaping up to be no different. Unfairly fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and oh yes, witnessing the murder of a high-ranking lieutenant in the local crime family… Yeah, birthdays suck.

Ever since a disastrous, hot-as-hell kiss years ago, soldier-turned-security specialist Shane Roarke has avoided his baby sister’s reckless—and gorgeous—best friend. Yet when her life is threatened after she witnesses a gang hit, he insists on protecting her…even if she objects.

The two are forced to hole up in a safe house. Alone. Passion long denied erupts between them, burning away their inhibitions. But even as layers—and clothes—are peeled away, danger closes in. Shane and Fallon might finally have a chance at love…if they survive long enough to see it.

Table of Contents

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by Naima Simone. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Ignite is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Tracy Montoya

Cover design by LJ Anderson

Cover art by Dollar Photo Club

ISBN 978-1-63375-278-8

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition June 2015

To Gary. 143.

Chapter One

“Happy birthday!”

Fallon Wayland snorted at her best friend, Addisyn Roarke’s, exuberant greeting. “Birthdays suck ass,” she said into her phone.

A sharp gasp came from behind her, and with a wince, Fallon peeked over her shoulder and met the disapproving glare of Betty White’s angry twin sister.
Sorry
, Fallon mouthed with an apologetic smile and a shrug before turning around. And tried to pretend the woman’s furious stare didn’t burn the back of her neck like a sniper’s scope.

God, could this line move any slower?
She glanced down at her watch. 8:30. She had twenty minutes to buy coffee for herself, her boss, Carolyn Task, and Carolyn’s ass-grabby son, Mitchell, and
then
traverse the Charles Street morning traffic to Caro’s event-planning office.

Well, damn. Unfortunately, her red cape and blue tights were at the cleaners.

“You’re in a real chipper mood,” Addy drawled. “This is your
birthday
, Debbie Downer. Cheer up.”

Fallon rolled her eyes, shifting one step forward in the line that moved at the speed of a molasses-covered snail. “What’s the purpose of birthdays anyway? To commemorate the day a person was born, rejoice in another year of life, celebrate wisdom gained and lessons learned. Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah.”

They were all the same, just varying in degrees of suckiness, broken promises, and disappointments. And while today, on her twenty-fifth, she might not have suffered anything more catastrophic than being late for work because of a coffee run and enduring an eat-shit-and-die glare from an octogenarian… Well, the day was still young.

“That is so cynical. Even for you,” Addy complained.

“Cynical, huh. Well, let’s see. On my sixth birthday, I expected a party with all my friends, a magician, clown, and a pony. Instead Mom brought home a new stepdad and a surprise trip to Paris—which, by the way, didn’t include me.” Fallon ticked off one finger. “On my tenth, all I got was a numb butt from sitting for hours on the living room window seat, waiting for Dad to come pick me up. Unfortunately, a business trip trumped my birthday. On my fifteenth, Mom took my puppy—Dad’s gift—to the pound because it crapped on her precious Persian rug.” She ticked off another finger. “And on my eighteenth, I lost my virginity.”

“Riiight.” Addy sighed. “Brandon Hyatt.”

“Two
meh
minutes of my life I’ll never see again.” Fallon snorted. “His basement couch had more of a thrill than I did.”

She’d never told Addy about the other reason she hated her eighteenth birthday with a passion. Shane Roarke and that ill-fated birthday kiss. The kiss—and esteem-shattering rejection—that had sent her running to Brandon and his couch in the first place.

She made a sound between disgust and…disgust. Just the name of Addy’s older brother caused her scalp to itch. And her heart to pound. And her belly to clench. But that was neither here nor there. With his black hair, turquoise eyes, and amazing body, Shane Roarke could tempt a nun into changing camps.

Unfortunately, he was more pious and righteous than any bride of Christ could ever hope to be.

“All right, I have to place this order.” Fallon said, finally stepping up to the counter. “Thanks for the birthday call, but I have to go. I’m running late as it is.”

“Fine, fine.” Addy sighed. “But don’t forget. After work, you, me, The Dive,” she instructed, naming their favorite dive-bar hangout. “Cold beers and hot men. Am I the bestest best friend evah or what?”

“Uh-huh, the bestest. Now I gotta go for real. See you tonight.”

A few moments later, she picked up her order and exited the bustling shop at a fast clip. Ten minutes to get to work now. She ground her teeth together.
Damn
. Carolyn, aka the Event Planning Nazi, didn’t accept tardiness for any reason—even if that reason included her own order to pick up coffee before shadowing her office’s doorstep.

Moments later, she unlocked the passenger door of her beloved FiFi, the diamond-blue BMW convertible that had been a college graduation present from her father three years earlier. She adored the little car. Though a few years old, FiFi was the only thing she’d kept besides the clothes on her back when she walked away from the pampered and stifling life that had defined her for twenty-three years. The luxurious brownstone, the healthy bank account, and unlimited credit cards—gone. But the BMW? Shoot…her mama didn’t raise no fool.

Well, actually Chelsea Grace Wayland Jury Chancellor hadn’t raised her at all. But still…

She bent over and slid the cardboard holder with the coffee cups on the front seat of the car, all the while trying not to imagine what her ass looked like hanging outside the open door. Once satisfied the drinks wouldn’t spill, she straightened and closed the door. If God decided to actually bless her on her birthday, she mused, traffic would miraculously be clear, and she could make it to work with a couple of minutes to spare…

“Oh damn.” She winced, her cell phone pinging, signaling a text. It was probably Carolyn demanding,
Where the hell are you?
She removed the phone from the outside pocket of her purse and glanced down at the screen.

Huh. Not a text, but a Twitter notification from her boyfriend Jared.

Smiling, she swept her thumb across the screen. She’d been seeing Jared Combs, a fun-loving, if flighty, bartender for six months. Their relationship was…nice. Light, easy, nothing deep. True, sometimes she felt like they had a weird ménage between her, him, and his drinking buddies going on. But, when she had to work late or on weekends, he didn’t complain. Didn’t demand she give up her career to entertain him. Did they have a grand passion? No. But she’d done the run-through-men-like-water thing years ago and had long since thrown that Been There Done That T-shirt out. Jared was predictable, uncomplicated, safe.

Yes, sure, he wasn’t future husband material, as Addy often complained. But for Fallon, that was one of his selling points. A wedding, husband—those were Addy’s dreams, not hers. After witnessing the natural disaster that had been her parents’ marriage, she had absolutely no desire to walk down that aisle—literally.
Oh hell no
.

She stared down at Jared’s tweet waiting in horrifying—mortifying—disbelief.

Sorry
 @Fallonwayland1.
We’re just not working out. I need a change & can’t do that with u. Gotta do me. Need the keys to my apt back. Thanx.

What the
fuck
? Did he…? She squeezed her eyes shut, counted to ten. Reopened them. Nope, still there. This asshat had just broken up with her. By a Tweet.
A goddamn Tweet
. In 140 characters exactly. Really? He didn’t even have the decency to private message her, but posted it for all of Twitterverse to see. Who did that?
Who the hell did that?

Before the thought was complete, her fingers were flying over the keyboard. And hitting Tweet.

Aw
 @jaredcombs
I’m sorry. I told u size didn’t matter & these things happen 2 a lot of men. But I understand.

And below? A photo of his itty-bitty willy.

That’ll teach you to sext a picture of your dick, you son of a bitch
.

Immature? Yes. Vindictive? Yup. Felt good? Most definitely.

But in moments the golden glow of revenge started to fade, leaving behind the bright, pulsing red of hurt and humiliation.

Damn, it hurt.

She tossed the cell back in her purse and ground the heels of her palms to her eyes, surely smearing her carefully applied eye makeup.

They hadn’t been in love, but she’d cared for him. Thought he’d at least held some affection for her. Why did this crap always happen to her? Growing up with her parents, she should have a built-in radar for bullshit, lies, and betrayal.

Should. If she only had a pair of boots for every “should” in her life.

Pressure pushed against her sternum like a fist, tears burning her eyes. But lowering her hands, she blinked like an Oklahoma dust storm had suddenly rolled across the sidewalk. The hell if she’d let one drop fall for that jerk.

“Oh damn,” she muttered, glaring at her keys, which seemed to mock her from the sidewalk where they’d tumbled from her nerveless fingers. Groaning, she bent down and curled her fingers around the metal key ring, nails scraping the pavement.

Pop
.
Pop
.

Gunshots.

OhGodohGodohGod
.

Her purse hit the ground. Her ass quickly followed suit. Asphalt bit into her skin through her skirt, but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.

Growing up in the quiet town of Weston, she’d never heard that heart-stopping percussion of a bullet leaving a barrel. But she’d spent many hours in Addy’s Dorchester apartment and had heard her fair share of gunshots over the years. And after nine seasons of
Criminal Minds
, she could identify the cracks of bullets…and the thump of metal meeting flesh.

Especially when it blasted not two feet away from her.

Everything slowed until the world moved through a thick wall of molasses.

The jerk of a tall, black man’s body before he slumped boneless to the ground.

The grimace of agony and shock twisting the face turned toward her as if in a silent plea for help.

The dull, flat gleam of sunlight bouncing off a gun before it was tucked inside a coat.

Her heart raced to her throat. Lodged there and throbbed.
Oh Jesus
. She scooted closer to the tire, her palms scraping the ground.

Close your eyes
, a voice screamed inside her head.
Close your eyes
. If she did, maybe she could disappear like in her dreams. Could convince herself none of this was happening. Could pretend her alarm would go off any minute, and this would be a terrible product of eating a family-size bag of M&Ms right before going to bed.

But no amount of denial could erase the image branded into her brain. Probably for the first time in Boston’s history, the sidewalk was clear of morning pedestrian traffic.

Clear except for the body on the ground.

And the man standing in the mouth of the alley—with a gun in his hand.

Caucasian. Average height. Surprisingly young. Mid-to-late twenties. Closely cut light hair. Square jaw with a large, vicious, sickle-shaped scar carved into the skin.

Flat brown eyes. That stared directly at her. And then he turned and dashed away.

Stunned, horrified cries split the air as people poured out of the coffee shop and other businesses, swarming and running over like cockroaches with the light suddenly thrown on. Frozen, she gaped at them, unable to process what she’d just witnessed. Unwilling to process it.

“Let me help you, sweetheart.”

The gentle, but firm grip on her arm registered before the words did. One moment she’d been cowering on the ground, and the next, some Good Samaritan guided her to her feet. Shock robbed her knees of strength, and she leaned against her rescuer, grateful.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his other hand bracing her back.

“Y-yes,” she stammered, though the answer was far from the truth. Tilting her head back, she glanced up at her Samaritan. “Thank y—”

A shard of ice the size of a glacier pierced her chest, numbing her limbs, encasing her lungs in a deep freeze so she couldn’t breathe.

Hard jaw. Brutal scar. Dead eyes.

He’d circled back around. Discarded his sweatshirt and slapped on a black baseball cap. But she recognized him, even though no one else in the accumulating crowd of people did.

She tried to scream. But, as if caught in a nightmare, the cry was snarled in her throat, trapped.

Cruel fingers dug into the flesh of her arm.

“Shh,” he soothed, a warm smile that failed to reach his eyes, curled his mouth, flashing a perfect, white smile except for a slightly crooked front tooth. On anyone else it would’ve been charming. Him, too, if she hadn’t just seen him blow a man away. “Don’t even think about screaming,” he murmured, bowing his head over hers, his lips grazing her ear.

To an onlooker he would appear to be comforting her, not terrorizing her.

“You didn’t see anything. You don’t know anything. You missed everything because that tight little ass of yours was turned away, you understand me? Nod if you understand.” His voice lowered, hardened, and the hold on her arm tightening to the point of pain. She whimpered. And nodded. “Good girl,” he praised, then leaned closer and noisily sniffed her hair. He chuckled. “I almost wish you would open your mouth. I would enjoy coming for you. Would love catching you before I slit that pretty throat.”

Why didn’t anyone notice what was happening? She was surrounded by people, and had never been so alone, so isolated. So damn afraid.

“Remember what I said,” he warned once more before his grasp eased, and then he disappeared.

With a strangled sob, she sank to the ground, her knees finally giving out. She didn’t move from her crouch next to the tire. Not when the cold from the sidewalk seeped through her clothes and into her skin. Not when sirens wailed in the air. Not even when one of Boston’s finest stooped down beside her and asked if she’d been hit or needed to go to the hospital.

Hospital? What could they do for her? Could they turn back the clock? Erase her memories?

No, they couldn’t.

A man had been killed just feet away from her.

And she’d just been threatened by his murderer.

God
damn
, birthdays sucked.

BOOK: Witness to Passion (Entangled Ignite) (Guarding Her Body)
6.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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