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Authors: Lori Wilde

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Charmed and Dangerous

BOOK: Charmed and Dangerous
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Copyright © 2004 by Laurie Vanzura

Excerpt from Mission: Irresistible copyright © 2004 by Laurie Vanzura

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Cover art and design by Shasti O’Leary Soudant

Warner Books

Hachette Book Group USA

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com

ISBN: 978-0-446-50646-5

First eBook Edition: July 2004

Contents

Also by Lori Wilde

Dedication

Acknowledgment

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seveen

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

Epilogue

About the Author

More Lori Wilde!

The Editor’s Diary

David grabbed both her wrists . . .

pinned her hands above her head and swiftly shoved one knee between her legs, completely hemming her in with no way out.

“This look submissive to you darlin’?” he growled.

They were both breathing hard, their lips almost touching.

“For your information I’m a third-degree black belt in karate,” she said.

“Bring it on. I’m fifth degree.”

“You don’t threaten me.” She gulped, belying her own bravado.

His gaze locked onto hers.

She raised her chin. She was so close her body heat set him on fire.

They stood there a long moment, neither of them blinking, neither wanting to be the first to back down. He forced himself not to think about how nice she smelled or how her chest rose and fell in cadence with his own raspy breathing or how much he wanted to kiss her at that very moment.

“This novel has chuckles aplenty. . . . The sexual tension is hot and funny and at the same time sweet.”

—ContemporaryRomanceWriters.com on License to Thrill

“Passionate . . . amusing . . . fast-moving. . . . An impossible to put down read.”

—ARomanceReview.com on License to Thrill

A
LSO BY
L
ORI
W
ILDE

License to Thrill

To my father, Fred Blalock, who nurtured my love of reading and mentored my budding writing talent. And to my mother, Francis Maxine Reid Blalock, who gave me the iron-will to succeed. Thank you. I love you both more than words can say.

Acknowledgment

Many thanks are in order for my wonderful editor Michele Bidelspach for sending me back to the drawing board after the first draft wasn’t quite as good as it could have been. Thank you, Michele, for challenging me to dig deeper.

Prologue

North Central Texas
Christmas Day, eighteen years ago

I
T WAS TURNING
out to be the worst day of Maddie Cooper’s nine-year-old life.

For one thing she hadn’t gotten the super cool purple-and-white Nikes she’d wanted for Christmas. Instead she wound up with a stupid half-a-heart necklace that matched the one her identical twin sister wore. Why was Mama always trying to turn her into a prissy girly-girl like Cassie?

For another thing, she’d wanted to go running in Granddad’s cow pasture so she could pout by herself, but oh, no, Mama said she had to let Cassie come along.

As if her lazybones twin could even run. How was a girl supposed to become a famous track and field Olympic athlete if she couldn’t practice in peace?

And then came the icing on the cupcake.

“Maddie, make sure you take good care of Cassie,” Mama called from the back porch. She stood shivering in her see-through lace blouse, black leather mini-skirt and spike-heeled boots because she and Daddy were going to a party.

“How come I always gotta look after Cassie and she don’t ever have to look after me?”

“You know why,” her mother chided.

Yeah. She knew why. Because if left on her own, Cassie did dumb stuff like taping peacock feathers to her arms and jumping off the roof to see if she could fly.

Maddie marched through the pasture. Her breath coming out in frosty white puffs. Cassie trailed along behind her, humming some goofy
Sesame Street
song. Gramma had bundled them up like marshmallows in their matching goose down coats and knit scarves. The only difference between them was Cassie wore rubber boots while Maddie had on her well-worn Pumas.

“Look,” Cassie said. “The stock pond’s frozen.”

“Stay away from there.” Maddie stopped beside an oak tree, took off her coat and then placed a palm flat against the trunk to keep her balance while she stretched. “Gramma says there’s nothing more dangerous than an iced-over stock pond in Texas. It never freezes solid enough to hold your weight.”

“Aw, pah.” Cassie waved a hand and toddled out onto the slick surface. “Look at me! I’m skating.”

Maddie rolled her eyes and refused to glance over. She was too busy limbering up her hamstrings and being mad. “Get off the pond, Cassie.”

“You’re not the boss of me.”

“Mama told me to take care of you. That makes me the boss of you.”

“Pfftt.” Cassie gave her the raspberry.

“Get off the ice.”

“Stop telling me what to do. Look, look, I’m in the Ice Capades.”

“I’m not watching.” Maddie folded her arms over her chest and turned to face the opposite direction.

“Good. Fine. Don’t watch.”

“I won’t.”

“You’re boring anyway. I wish you weren’t my sister.”

“Me too!”

Maddie took off running, her sneakers slapping against the ground. Anger poked her hard in the ribs and that stupid necklace bounced off her chest and smacked her in the chin. She fisted her hand around the chain, snapped it from her neck and flung the heart into a clump of prickly yucca.

She ran until she got a stitch in her side. By then she was on the opposite side of the pasture. She heard a scary cracking noise. Loud as Granddad’s rifle when he shot doves.

“Maddie!” Cassie screamed. And then she heard a splash.

“Cassie?” Maddie whirled around, scanning the distant pond. Her heart went boom-boom-boom in her ears.

No sign of her sister.

“Cassie!” Her frantic shout echoed back to her.

She didn’t remember much about what happened next. She hurtled toward the pond, spying the gaping hole in the middle of the ice, but no Cassie. Not knowing what else to do, she sprinted to the house for Granddad and Gramma.

Granddad fished Cassie from the water. Her lips were blue and her skin was the color of snow and she wasn’t breathing. Granddad blew air in Cassie’s mouth until the ambulance came.

The next time Maddie saw her twin she was lying oh-so-still in a hospital bed. A machine was helping her breathe and other awful looking tubes poked out of her.

Mama sat in a chair by Cassie’s bed, holding her hand and crying. Daddy smelled like beer and his eyes were red. He kept walking back and forth and running his hands through his hair. Neither of her parents spoke to her. Maddie knew this was all her fault.

Why wouldn’t Cassie wake up?

A doctor came into the room. He said Cassie might never wake up. Mama and Daddy stayed at the hospital. Granddad and Gramma took Maddie back to their house.

They put her to bed with hugs and kisses. They told her she wasn’t to blame, but she didn’t believe them. It was all her fault. Mama told her to take good care of her sister and she hadn’t. She should have made Cassie get off the ice. She shouldn’t have yelled at her. She shouldn’t have run away.

What if Cassie never woke up? What if her sister died?

She sobbed low in her throat and reached up to touch the half-a-heart necklace to remind her she was one part of a twin set and realized the necklace was gone. She’d thrown it away.

Terror grabbed her stomach and Maddie thought she was going to throw up. Desperate to find the necklace, she crawled out of bed. She put on her coat, took her granddad’s flashlight from its place by the back door and sneaked out into the pitch-black, ice-cold night.

She searched the pasture for what seemed like hours, digging through every clump of yucca she could find, getting poked through her gloves by the sharp leaves. Her teeth chattered from the cold. Her toes were numb. But she didn’t care. When at last she found the necklace, Maddie let out a gasp of relief and burst into tears.

Dropping to her knees on the frozen earth, she tilted her face upward, beseeching the midnight sky.

“Dear God,” she prayed and clutched the necklace to her heart. “I didn’t mean those ugly things I said to Cassie. I love her. If you please just let her wake up, I swear I won’t never ever let her get hurt again!”

Chapter

ONE

F
BI SPECIAL AGENT
David Marshall loved a good fight and he played to win.

Always.

His personal credo:
He who hesitates is lost.
And David hated losing more than anything.

Whenever a situation called for action, he immediately seized control and bluffed his way through the consequences. Usually victoriously. He’d learned at an early age you had to battle hard against life or die. He had also discovered, that for the good of the cause, you occasionally had to bend a few rules.

But once in a while, one of his less prudent rule bending episodes came back to bite him viciously in the ass.

Like now.

Where in the hell was Cassie Cooper?

For the tenth time in as many minutes, David checked his wristwatch.

With an impatient snort, he sank his fists on his hips and scanned the rendezvous spot. Forest Park on the Trinity River, fourth picnic bench at the seven-mile marker of the jogging trail, eight
A.M.
sharp.

It was now eight-thirteen.

Had Cassie gotten mixed up about their meeting place? It was highly possible. The woman personified dumb blonde jokes.

Which was why the art theft task force had rejected using her as an informant. Even though Cassie was a public relations specialist at the Kimbell Art Museum and they knew Peyton Shriver had marked her as his next sweetheart victim.

Realizing that Cassie was the best lead he’d had on Shriver in years, David had taken matters into his own hands. He’d gone behind his boss’s back and recruited her. No one except he and Cassie knew about her involvement in the case. Not even the men he had shadowing her. His men believed they were simply tailing her because she was Peyton’s new girlfriend. Because of this, all their previous contact except for the initial meeting had been via phone or e-mail. He would deal with the fallout of his unorthodox police methods once he had Shriver securely in handcuffs. It was always easier to get Jim Barnes’s forgiveness than his permission.

For ten years he’d been doggedly pursuing Shriver. The time had come to end this battle of wills. With Cassie’s help, he’d known he was going to win it.

Come hell or high water he was determined to see justice served.

But last night his surveillance team had delivered bad news. They’d observed Shriver meeting with a world-class scumbag by the name of Jocko Blanco. The creep was a tattooed, pock-faced skinhead with a rap sheet as thick as a telephone book and a history of violent behavior.

Shriver might be a heartbreaking cad and an unrepentant thief, but he’d never physically harmed any of his victims. In fact, his courtly behavior was legendary. Blanco on the other hand was as dangerous as dynamite near an open flame.

BOOK: Charmed and Dangerous
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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