July 7, 2014
Available from Amazon
Published by and Available from Liquid Silver Books
Available from All Romance eBooks
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She runs. She hides. But the stalker is determined to find her…
Lizbeth Cauldwell escaped the boardroom and her city life to forget a fierce attack. When she returns to the tranquility of her old home in Arizona, she discovers harmony she never expected when she takes over a bar and grill. There she discovers another thing as mind-boggling as the evil that stalks her. Her once skinny, shy childhood friend Thomas Giancomo has transformed into one grade-A, powerful, gorgeous man.
He never runs. He never hides. But a stalker is determined to hurt the woman he dares protect…
Memories of strong, sexy Lizbeth kept ex-soldier, now cop Thomas Giancomo alive during a long stay in the harsh desert. Thomas is determined to protect her and to feel her surrender to raw passion in his arms. When danger draws them closer, one intense night proves that long suppressed desires and feelings are too heated to ignore.
Just shoot me now.
Lizbeth Cauldwell watched Isaac Breena swagger to the bar for the sixth time that evening. She was too damn tired to tolerate him any more. She served tequila to a toothy redheaded man barely legal enough to drink, then returned her attention to Isaac and his cock-of-the-walk bluster.
Isaac had appeared at the Foxfire Bar and Grill a week ago and had been here only twice, but both times had proven more than enough for Lizbeth. The man gave her the shudders, and most, but not all, of her revulsion came from the fact he was on the make for any woman under the age of sixty-five.
Regardless of his scattershot approach to getting laid, he’d honed in on Lizbeth as the feather in his cap. In his fantasy world, he believed if he charmed her long and often enough, she’d succumb to his sticky charm.
Tonight his belly jiggled like gelatin and his presumptuous, odious smile made her more nauseous than usual. The wait staff called him Jabba the Hut and now Lizbeth couldn’t even think of him as Isaac Breena anymore.
The scent of burned onions accompanied him, and she wrinkled her nose. He’d stuffed two orders of onion rings down his gullet already this evening, on top of just enough alcohol to make him think he had a shot at finding a lady love.
God, what a pig.
Under the thump of rock music coming from the speakers and the steady hum of conversation buzzing through the building, weariness worked its way into her system. She needed a break, but quitting time hadn’t arrived.
Here in the bar, she felt relatively safe. The operative word being relative. After the attack in Phoenix two months ago, she wondered if she’d ever really feel secure again. Still, she wouldn’t abandon the noisy, rambunctious establishment for anything in the world. Busy and successful, the place rocked with an eager horde ready to party after long days at work. It usually made her feel alive, something she’d desperately needed after Phoenix.
But nights like these...yeah...they made a woman wonder why she’d relinquished the craziness of a corporate boardroom for the insanity of running this small Arizona mountain town business. Houndstooth was as homey and quirky as the name suggested, and with a population that hovered around ten thousand, the place felt comfortable and uncomplicated. Besides the fact this was her hometown and everyone knew her, she had never truly liked living in a city as enormous as Phoenix. She shuddered when she thought of the danger she’d encountered there. She touched the tiny scar that had formed on her neck, so close to her jugular. She shivered again and drew a deep breath into her lungs. Forcing back the beginnings of a flashback, she managed to control her fear. It wasn’t Isaac who gave her the willies, not really. But he was certainly nasty enough for her to use it as an excuse to stay as far away from him as possible.
“Hey baby. Give me another drink.” Jabba’s piggy green eyes seemed swallowed up in the mush of his rounded face and twisted smile.
This had been a crappy day, and all she needed was a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer, no matter how politely or impolitely she framed the refusal.
“No, sorry. I can’t. We’ve cut you off. Besides, the bar closes in fifteen minutes.” She glanced pointedly at the clock on the wall behind the bar that read ten minutes to midnight.
“I saw ya pouring a drink for old Giancomo over there a minute ago.” The inebriated asshole’s voice slurred as he jerked his thumb back in the direction from which he’d come.
She cracked a smile. “He’s drinking iced tea.”
Jabba grunted and placed his thick hands on his stout waistline. Tonight he wore what a friend of hers called a wife beater shirt. A t-shirt with the sleeves torn out and the words Keep Honking, I’m Reloading emblazoned across the front. He was a walking, talking redneck stereotype.
“That prick can’t handle a drink like a real man.” Jabba added a smile to his statement, his gaze glinting with malice. He cupped his crotch. “I’ve got what you need right here.”Her stomach rolled. Crissakes, but Jabba was odious.
Her gaze darted to Thomas Giancomo in the far corner of the room. They’d been friends since grade school, but drifted apart when they each left town in search of bigger and better things. She’d left for college at University of Phoenix and also to escape her straight-laced, over-protective parents.
She allowed her attention to linger too long, her fascination snagged by the way he slouched in his chair, iced tea sweating on a coaster in front of him. She almost snorted a laugh. Um...yeah. Saying Thomas Giancomo wasn’t all man was like stating that there was no centerfold in this month’s Playboy.
Her mind flashed back to when she’d seen him two months ago after years of not seeing him at all. Another friend had reintroduced them at a party. Lizbeth’s mouth had fallen open and she’d gawked. Stared in dumbfounded, tingling, delicious female appreciation until a shy smile had broken over his face, and he’d accepted her handshake. He’d transformed into a sinewy, sexy man. Walking, talking sin with a cherry and whipped cream on top. More than once lately she had daydreamed about licking ice cream off of him.Hell, licking him everywhere, ice cream or not.
Every time he strolled in the door these days, which seemed often, she sucked in a deep breath to calm her racing heart. Even now, sprawled in a chair and talking to a lithe, pretty blonde, he extruded a staggering presence. She knew where that presence came from. He had ex-military written all over him.
She’d heard from friends over the years that his stint in the army had earned him a chest full of metals, and now he resided in Houndstooth and worked as a deputy sheriff. Maybe the low crime rate here appealed to him. She imagined he’d had enough of war to last a lifetime. He wasn’t wearing a uniform, but he had in command written all over him. Tiny flutters danced around in her stomach. The man intrigued her on so many levels she couldn’t count them all.
Face it. It isn’t the way he’s slouching. It’s him. His body. His out-of-this-world magnetism. Every line in his physique screamed competence, masculine grace and authority. Relaxation didn’t take his edge away. Despite his boneless repose, she detected underlying watchfulness within him, as if he could kick ass without breaking a sweat. Something extraordinary seemed to govern him, bringing a light to his brown eyes and forcefulness to his presence that could easily overwhelm a weak mind like Jabba’s. The fact he now wore a badge only added to the allure.
Yes. And that’s why I need to stop daydreaming about my old friend and what it would be like to fuck him blind. He’s too distracting.
No, distracting didn’t capture his essence one little bit. Maybe too good to be true would describe him better. Either way, he took her mind away from her problems when a distraction was the very last thing she needed. Phoenix had taught her all that and so much more.
In the back of her mind, she feared attachment or feeling anything but sexual interest in Tom. Feared it and refused it. She’d had her heart had split wide open too many times to risk it again. And she knew herself too well— mindless sex with Tom or any other man wasn’t on the menu for tonight or any other night. She’d tried it, and she sucked at it. In the end, she just got hurt.
Her gaze slid over Tom again, supremely aware of how gorgeous he looked.
The underweight, short Tom Giancomo she’d known since they were five had shot up to around six foot three, and filled out so magnificently with sculpted muscles, that when she’d seen him after fifteen years she didn’t recognize him. Tom at thirty-three could put any movie star on screen to shame. Tom as a teen had barely made a blip on her radar.
Okay, that wasn’t fair. She’d always liked him and considered him a wonderful friend. Quiet. Comfortable. Sometimes shy as hell. Goofy even. A wave of heat slammed her as her gaze gobbled him up. God, he was too delicious.
Her daydreaming cost her. Jabba reached over the wide bar and grabbed her left wrist in a painful grip, using his bulk to pull her forward until she was pressed against the hard oak.
“Ouch. Damn it—let go.” She yanked backward, but the pain stopped her short. Dammit, she’d forgotten about the pipsqueak across the bar. Ewww. Now he’d touched her, and she could never get that back.
“Not a chance. I need to talk to you now,” Jabba said. “We have unfinished business.”
Unfinished business? Something prickled at the back of her mind. A familiarity about ole Jabba here that made every hair on her body stand on end. Her stomach lurched.
“Damn it! I said, let me go.”
Jabba grunted. “And I said we aren’t finished yet. You should know when you’re beat.”
“If I have to call the police, you’re going to regret it.” She hissed the words, ready to bean him with the nearest bottle of whiskey if he didn’t take his hands off her.
“Release her now.” Tom’s deep, husky voice rose above the chatter.