Authors: Jennifer Ryan
Falling for Owen
An Excerpt from
The Return of Brody McBride
by Jennifer Ryan
An Excerpt from
The Cupcake Diaries: Sprinkled with Kisses
by Darlene Panzera
ALE HID BETWEEN
two buildings, watching his wife and her cocky lawyer walk down the steps from his office. One of the upstairs rooms in the converted two-story home probably had a freshly rumpled bed. No way the guy got away with stealing his wife, convincing her to divorce him, and sleeping with her right under his nose.
Not his fault she pushed him too far. She knew better than to cross the line, especially when he was drunk and not in control. They’d done this kind of thing often enough.
He’d left her pissed off and knocked a few back at what used to be Roxy’s bar. The McBrides owned it now. He’d driven home half in the bag and discovered a bunch of pigs in his yard, red and blue lights flashing. Maybe he’d had a few too many and said things he shouldn’t have when the cops approached him. Definitely shouldn’t have hit the cop and gone for his gun in some mad dash to get to his wife and make her take back all the lies spilling from her cunning lips.
Still, he’d gone to jail and the no-good lawyer across the street took advantage of his wife, convincing Shannon to press assault charges and file for divorce. While he sat rotting in a cell for more than a year, that man took what belonged to him. Well, Shannon would come back. She always did.
And he’d make the lawyer pay.
LAIRE WOKE OUT
of a sound sleep with a gasp and held her breath, trying to figure out what startled her. She listened to the quiet night. Nothing but crickets and the breeze rustling the trees outside. A twig snapped on the ground below her window. Her heart hammered faster and she sucked in a breath, trying not to panic. Living in the country lent itself to overactive imaginings about things that go bump in the dark night. The noise could be anything from a stray dog or cat to a raccoon on a midnight raid of her garbage cans—even an opossum looking for a little action.
Settled back into her pillow and the thick blankets, she closed her eyes, but opened them wide when something big brushed against the side of the house. Freaked out, she slipped out of bed and went to the window. She pulled the curtain back with one finger and peeked through the crack, scanning the moonlit yard below for wayward critters. Not so easy to see with the quarter moon, but she watched the shadows for anything suspicious. Nothing moved.
Not satisfied, and certainly not able to sleep without a more thorough investigation, she padded down the scarred wood stairs to the living room. She skirted packing boxes and the sofa and went to the window overlooking the front yard. Nothing moved. Still not satisfied, she walked to the dining room, opened the blinds, and stared out into the cold night. Something banged one flower pot into another on the back patio, drawing her away from the dining room, through the kitchen, and to the counter. She grabbed the phone off the charger, went around the island, and skimmed along the breakfast bar to the sliding glass door. She peeked out, hiding most of her body by the wall and ducking her head out to see if someone was trying to break into her house. Like she thought, the small pot filled with marigolds had been knocked over and broken against the pot of geraniums beside it. Upset her pretty pots and flowers were ruined, she stepped out from the wall and stood in the center of the glass door to get a better look.
With her gaze cast down on the pots, she didn’t see the man step out from the other side of the patio until his shadow fell over her. His eyes went as wide as hers.
“You’re not him,” he said, stumbling back, knocking over a larger potted pink miniature rose bush and falling on his ass, breaking the pot and the bush with his legs. She hoped he got stuck a dozen times, but the tiny thorns probably wouldn’t go through his dirt-smudged jeans.
In a rage, she opened the door, but held tight to the handle so she could close it again if he came too close. She yelled, “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’ll get him for this and for sleeping with my wife,” the guy slurred. Drunk and ranting, he gained his feet but stumbled again. “Where is he?” The man turned every which way, looking past her and into her dark house.
“Your lying, cheating, no-good husband.”
“How the hell should I know. I haven’t seen or heard from him in six months.”
“Liar. I saw him drive this way tonight after he fucked my wife at his office and filled her head with more bullshit lies.”
“Listen, I’m sorry if my
is messing with your wife. I left him almost two years ago for cheating on me. Believe me, I know how you feel, but he doesn’t live here.”
“You’re lying. He drove his truck this way and stopped just outside.”
“He doesn’t drive a truck.”
“Stop lying, bitch.”
“I’m not. You have the wrong person.”
“You tell that no-good McBride he better stop seeing my wife. If he thinks a bunch of papers will ever set her free of me, he don’t know what I’m capable of, what we have. He’ll be one sorry son of a bitch. She’s mine. I keep what’s mine.”
“You don’t understand.”
“No. You don’t understand,” he said almost like a whining child. “You tell him, or I’ll make him pay with what’s his.” He pointed an ominous finger at her. “You tell him if he doesn’t leave my wife alone and let her come back to me like she wants, I’m going to hurt you before I go after him.”
Pissed off he’d just threatened her life for no good reason, she fumed. “Listen mister, I don’t know the man you’re talking about. He doesn’t live here.”
“Bullshit. Don’t lie to me, bitch.” He grabbed one of her patio chairs and threw it at the sliding glass door. She dashed sideways along the patio and the house wall, narrowly avoiding getting hit. The glass door shattered into a million tiny bits of glass beside her.
“That’s it. I’m calling the cops.” She dialed 911.
He ran to her and knocked the phone out of her hand into a pile of dirt and torn marigold roots.
“Help me!” She hoped the call went through and someone heard her.
The man pushed past her, knocking her down. She cut her bare foot on a broken shard of pottery. The man disappeared around the corner of the house. A car engine started out front. She ran the other way, down the shorter side to cut him off and, hopefully, get his license plate number to give to the cops. She ran for the driveway, but he pulled out of the trees to her left. The engine revved, and he clipped her on the side, sending her crashing to the pavement, scraping her knee and elbow before she twisted and cracked the back of her head on the driveway. Stars burst on the inside of her eyelids. She lifted her head and opened her eyes, only to see his red haloed taillights fade and disappear around the corner and onto the main road.
Bleary eyed and dizzy, she tried to plant her hands on the ground and raise herself up. She fell flat again. The world spun and shadows swam, making her close her eyes, only to open them and see nothing but blurry shapes.
Her eyes closed, her face hit the cement, and everything went black.
LAIRE WOKE TO
chaos. Two men hovered over her. She threw up her hands to push them away, but they grabbed hold and pushed her arms to her sides.
“You’re okay, Miss Walsh. We’re the paramedics. The police are here.”
“How did you guys get here?”
“The 911 dispatcher got your address from your phone number. She heard you call out for help,” someone out of her line of sight explained.
She stopped struggling and tried to concentrate on what they said. She didn’t know how she got on her back. She didn’t care. She squeezed her eyes closed and prayed for the pounding in her head to end.
Right guy pressed a gauze pad to the back of her head. Left guy took her blood pressure. A cop came into her line of sight at her feet.
“Miss Walsh, do you know who did this to you?”
“No. I heard something outside and came down to investigate.” That’s when she remembered the skimpy T-shirt that only hit mid-thigh, but was rucked up to her hips. She tried to pull it down, but left guy held her arm, checking the blooming bruise on her shoulder where she hit the cement. He’d cut her shirt to investigate.
“What did you see, Miss Walsh?”
“Please call me Claire. Uh, nothing at first. I heard something knock over the pots on the patio. I thought maybe an opossum or raccoon strolled over for a midnight snack. I checked out the glass door and someone came out of the shadows and scared me half to death. My hip and feet hurt.”
“You’ve got a nasty bruise on your hip and several nicks and cuts on your feet. Two, maybe three need stitches,” right man said, dabbing antiseptic on the cut on her jaw, making her hiss in pain.
“Miss Walsh, Claire, did you see the man who did this to you?” the officer asked.
“It was dark, but he was about four inches taller than me with dark hair. He wore jeans and a dark flannel shirt. Drunk, maybe on something. He kept talking about his wife sleeping with some guy named McBride.”