All things truly wicked start from innocence. ~Ernest Hemingway
A Love to Die For
Woman In The Mist
Placed 2nd in the 2008 Lone Star Writing Competition and requested by Harlequin editor Patience Smith!
A Love to Die For
Hello. My name is Samantha Martin. I’m a mother, an FBI Agent, and until recently, the object of hatred for my very own stalker.
My nightmare began the night the Three Fates decided to amuse themselves by preempting my spur-of-the-moment rendezvous with my übersexy partner Mark O’Connell. Needless to say, I bypassed pissed and rocketed straight to postal. Of course, the Fates had to get creative with their interruption. They tossed together a home invasion, a little gunfire, and voila! Police Officer Ryan Stephens lay unconscious in my front yard.
Ryan had been my lover eight years ago. He was also the father of my son—the son I’d never had the chance to tell Ryan about. My life quickly spiraling out of control, I discovered a link between my break-in and a line of dead bodies reaching back fifteen years. With Mark and Ryan vying for my attention, I sat out on a mission for justice but what I found was a psychotic killer whose tortured past was eerily similar to mine.
My partner would be here any minute. And what was I doing? Standing naked in the middle of my bedroom.
What had I gotten myself into?
I’d barely made it out of the office before I’d started second guessing O’Connell’s invite. What the hell had I been thinking? Last time I checked, I hadn’t exceeded my daily allotment of stupid.
Hearing a familiar song wafting through the speakers of my radio, I latched onto the melody with desperate need, and the knot in my stomach loosened a degree. Berlioz. The fifth movement of Symphonie Fantastique. “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Who couldn’t adore a movement with that title? I loved the cackling clarinets, the haunting chimes, and the massive explosions of brass and percussion.
I hummed along with the rise and fall of the frolicking phrases and headed for my closet. Classical music calmed me, centered me. Always had. My love affair with instrumental music developed around the time I discovered that, if I hid in my attic, music blaring through a pair of hand-me-down headphones, it was easier to pretend my father wasn’t drunk again and beating the shit out of my mom or brother again.
I mentally shook the memories away. This wasn’t the time for jogs down Nightmare Lane. My übersexy partner was on his way…
I’d taken the world’s fastest shower, semi-blown my hair dry, threw on a touch of my mineral makeup, but what the heck was I supposed to wear? I wasn’t up-to-date on the latest fashion trends for the lonely FBI agent who invites her partner over for conversation—or something. A red teddy was probably a bit too obvious, but a pair of sweatpants wasn’t the answer either.
“Jeans.” Yes, they were informal enough, and if I picked a pair tight enough, I could be sexy and casual at the same time. I dug through my closet until I found the pair of super-tight, J Brand straight-leg jeans I’d bought as part of my New Year’s resolution to start dating again. Last year. I hadn’t even removed the tag.
Damn, my love life sucked. Actually, for my love life to suck, I’d have to have one first.
My last serious relationship had been while I’d been stationed in Houston doing my probationary work. For a while, things had been good. Making it in a man’s worldwas tough—more so in law enforcement. Not only did I have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as my male counterparts, I was expected to be a woman without being feminine. I had to be one of the guys—but with breasts.
I thought my ex-husband, of all people, would understand my plight. After all, he was an FBI agent, too. Ah, Chris. The not-so-great love of my life. He was sexy. He was smart. He was suave. My libido couldn’t resist that trio.
He’d been in the bureau about five years when we’d met, and he’d taken me under his wing, shown me the ins and outs of the bureau. We’d shared almost two decent years before it all went to hell.
And he found a new female agent to “mentor.” Thus starting my no-office-romance policy and my never-be-the-other-woman policy. Two policies I’d broken in spades tonight. Okay, technically the rules weren’t broken yet, but I wasn’t a moron. I knew exactly why I’d invited O’Connell over, and judging by the hint of awareness I’d seen gleaming in his eyes when he walked me to my car, he knew it, too.
To accompany the jeans, I picked out a fitted, baby-doll tee. Now, all I needed to do was stop my heart from—
I froze. From somewhere down the hall, a squeak echoed.
The creak of a door opening.
The shuffling of feet on old floorboards.
The hairs on my arms stood on end, my instincts as aroused as my body. In a move as natural as breathing, I moved to my nightstand and grabbed my holstered Glock. I hadn’t bothered to lock up my sidearm because Brandon wasn’t home. I unsnapped the little leather strap, slid my weapon out, then tossed the holster onto the bed. With feather-soft footsteps, I moved to the door.
A quick glance told me the hallway was clear. Okay, time to move out...