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- See more at: http://www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com/#sthash.9ME9ueK3.dpuf
Evan’s face stared back at him from a large glossy poster hanging in the front window of the local post office. The words “Wanted Alive” were splattered across the top in big red letters. Someone had cast an animation spell over it to make his hooded eyes shift slightly, as if in guilt. Evan had seen all that before, but a new addition to the bottom of the poster stopped him dead in his tracks: “One Million Dollar Reward.”
“Crap,” he muttered under his breath. He looked around, more than half expecting an ambush right there on the street, but he saw nothing sinister. He reached within himself for his magic anyway, channeling it into a shield that would protect him from most magical attacks.
A million dollars. This was going to bring out every crazy in the country! He had been fighting bounty hunters for over a month, ever since the wanted posters first went up, but then the reward had only been $100,000.
The Scots were either getting desperate or stupid to try something like this. Rumors already abounded regarding his bottomless reserves of magic, making him out to be some kind of inexhaustible fountain of power. The million-dollar reward would only confirm these lies in the minds of many; which meant that if someone did manage to catch Evan, the Scots were unlikely to get their hands on him. Why would a bounty hunter settle for money when he could have Evan’s magic for himself?
Evan turned away from the poster and was just about to continue down the street when a black Suburban turned into the post office parking lot, cutting him off. He waited for it to pull into a spot, his shields still up, his senses alert.
Robert Scot, Edward Scot’s cousin, stepped out of the vehicle, threw Evan a dirty look, then went around to the back to pull a four-year-old girl out of a car seat. The presence of the child did not convince Evan to lower his guard, though he truly hoped they hadn’t sunk so low as to fight when an innocent child might get hurt.
One million dollars. People had killed for far less, and had allowed children to become victims. Robert Scot was a strong practitioner, on par with Edward, but he didn’t have access to the secrets of alchemy, and he was not a rich man. He earned a good living as a bank manager or something, but one million dollars had to be a temptation.
The two men did not take their eyes from one another as Robert walked into the post office. Robert clutched the wriggling child, who clearly wanted down, to his chest in an almost painful grip. A minute later he was past, and Evan breathed a little easier. He walked away from the post office, heading down the sidewalk in the direction of his Prius, parked a few stores down. He still had errands to run, but in light of what he had learned about the reward, they didn’t seem important.
Suddenly, an explosion rent the air. Evan dove behind the nearby antique shop, his shields maxed out, his senses hyper-alert. When he peeked around the corner, he saw smoke and debris where there had once been a Suburban.
The chubby face of the little girl filled Evan’s mind, and he felt a moment of terror as he wondered whether or not Robert and his little girl had already returned to the car. Practically flying from his hidden position, Evan sped back to the post office and that mockery of a wanted poster, his eyes searching the interior until they fell, thankfully, onto the shocked faces of Robert Scot and his daughter huddled safely inside the building.
Robert’s face didn’t remain shocked for long; it fell into an enraged scowl. Robert shoved the girl into the arms of a nearby post office patron and marched outside to confront Evan man to man.
“You son of a bitch! My daughter could have been in there. I almost left her there while I ran inside, but then I saw you.”
“I didn’t do that. I ran back to make sure you were all right.” More the girl than Robert, but still….
Robert didn’t respond with words; instead he let loose with a torrent of raw energy that battered Evan’s shields until he could scarcely hold them. Raw magic wasn’t normally a useful attack strategy, but powerful emotion could turn it into one for a short time. Another blast like that and Evan would be in trouble, but he had no intention of letting Robert get off another shot. He parried the attack with his own telekinetic gift, throwing Robert bodily backward, forcefully enough that he smashed through the wanted poster and the glass window, shattering it.
Evan didn’t wait for Robert to get back up; he ran. He hadn’t caused the explosion, and he had no reason to finish a fight against a man he scarcely knew, but one whose family seemed to want to go to war with his.
The worst part was that someone in Evan’s family probably had done it–they had been muttering for weeks that they couldn’t just let the Scots persecute him. Evan had begged them to give him time, but obviously time had run out.
Robert wouldn’t care whether Evan had been personally involved or not, nor would the rest of the Scots. And maybe they were right. Evan would find out who had done it and set him or her straight, but the damage was already done.
The first direct shot had been fired.
Propping her bare feet on the edge of the ancient desk, Molly Ryan took a well-deserved pull of her beer. Before dropping her head back to ease the tension in her shoulders she closed her aching eyes and sighed heavily. It was nearly two in the afternoon, which meant she’d been locked in the pub’s office for roughly six hours, getting caught up on the weekly invoicing, payroll and upcoming supply orders.
The office had no window to enjoy the lake view, but she knew it was a glorious, sunny summer day. It was well worth the sacrifice of her Sunday off to know that she’d put a major dent in her work week, though. With Noah and Tennyson off on their honeymoon for the next two weeks, they’d left Molly in charge of more than just her normal duties.
Managing a busy pub like the Drunken Duck was enough work, but taking on Noah’s responsibilities as owner added a little more tension to her shoulders. To be fair, it was a challenge she was more than up for. Noah had left his brother, Chris, as her second in command for the duration, giving plenty of help.
She heard the service door open down the hall. Undoubtedly it was Chris to check in with her. He had a normal work week as an architect and helped out in the evenings and weekends as needed. He was likely stopping after seeing her sporty red coupe in the empty parking lot.
“Hey, Mr. Sexy Pants, I’m in the office. Bring me another beer on your way!” She couldn’t help teasing him. He’d spent the previous night fighting off advances from Lexie, his latest crazy chick, as Tenn would call her. At one point Lexie had cornered Chris next to the bar, put a slim hand down the front of his tuxedo pants, and called him Mr. Sexy Pants loud enough for half the bar to hear. Watching Chris turn ten shades of red while attempting to pull the tenacious girl’s hand from his pants had caused Molly to fall off her bar stool in hysterical laughter. Even after landing squarely on her ass and spilling her scotch down the front of her bridesmaid dress, effectively ruining it, she still couldn’t stop laughing.
As the office door opened behind her, she pushed off from the desk. The movement sent the chair whirling around, making the tiny room spin in a quick half turn.
“Hey… Oh.” Well, that wasn’t Chris standing in her doorway. Where Chris was leanly muscled, this guy looked like a hulking linebacker, with heavily muscled arms and a chest broad enough to block the sun. He had a black duffel bag slung over one shoulder, exposing the underside of a thick biceps and a heavy tribal tattoo ending at the elbow.
Intensity pulsed off of him. Light mocha skin, a smoothly shaved head, and steely gray eyes, he exuded a quiet watchfulness that was at odds with his stern demeanor. He had an obvious perpetual scowl set on his face. A face, upon closer inspection, that had a full mouth and broad features and a light scar running across his left cheek, just under the eye.
He watched her watching him, and no one spoke for a moment. Molly belatedly realized she was sitting in front of a ridiculously hot stranger in her pajamas. Not even her cute pajamas. When she’d rolled out of bed after a night of just a little too much scotch and not enough sleep, she hadn’t even considered running into anyone. Her apartment was three blocks away, the pub was closed every Sunday, and most of the town was also recovering from Noah and Tenn’s wedding reception.
Who was this guy, and where had he come from? And could she keep him?
If the vixen in black pajama bottoms with pink skulls was Noah’s new bride, then Cal was in a lot of trouble. It went against his code to covet a fellow soldier’s woman. But he was hard-pressed to take his eyes off the petite beauty with a shock of unruly auburn hair and a full, pouty mouth. She darted her tongue across a lush bottom lip, causing his libido to stand at attention.
It was well past time to stop cataloging every attribute of the woman before him, especially if she was Noah’s. “I’m looking for Noah Harper. Is he around?”
“Noah?” She shook her head, as if clearing it, before going on. “He’s not in, but I’m the manager of the Drunken Duck. Can I help you?”
It was relief, first and foremost, that washed over him. Cal was grateful he’d had a chance to speak with Noah earlier in the week. Molly wasn’t Noah’s wife, but the woman he was here to look after.
Most people don’t think of sex when they’re sweating in an airport baggage claim, but most people aren’t half succubus. I tried to keep my eyes on the endless parade of identical black bags, but my gaze kept drifting toward the three virile college boys staring back at me. They’d been on my plane, and I’d been all too aware of their testosterone-fueled fascination for the entire two and a half hour flight.
Pick one, my naughty half urged.
Actually she wanted all three of them, but I’d bartered her down to one. Not that I had any intention of screwing anyone in an airport. I’d eventually have to give in to her, but it would be on my terms. I was picky, where she most definitely was not.
Perspiration rolled down my back, gluing the light blue tank top to my skin. The heat had hit me the moment they’d opened the aircraft doors, and the baggage claim wasn’t any cooler than the outside. It was hot enough up in Maryland, but New Orleans was like being submerged in a hot tub. Of course, I would have braved the fires of hell to get away from Maryland – and away from him.
“So, what brings you to New Orleans?”
One of the college boys had finally worked up the courage to approach me. His friends stood back, watching and obviously holding their breath in anticipation of a smack down. Little did they know my succubus side would never give a prospective partner the cold shoulder, and my elf side couldn’t tolerate rudeness in any way, shape, or form.
Did I mention I was also half-elf?
I smiled. It’s not like I could help it. He was just so darned cute, and his attention so very flattering. “I’m here to visit an old college roommate. She transferred to Tulane a couple of years ago.”
“Cool. We go to Maryland – ‘Fear the Turtle’.” He gave a fist pump to emphasize the college’s sports slogan. “We’re here to party. Airfare is really cheap right now.”
Yeah. It’s a million fricken degrees and hurricane season. If I hadn’t been escaping . . . no, I wasn’t going to think of him. Instead of replying I turned to watch the bags circle by, concerned that I may have missed mine. Even my elf etiquette had its limits.
“We’re going to be down on Bourbon Street tonight. Maybe we can meet up?”
Of course they were going to be down on Bourbon Street. But even a first-timer like me realized the futility of trying to vaguely “meet-up” with someone on a street filled with hundreds of bars and wall-to-wall people.
“Sure,” I replied, continuing to watch the bags circle by. “I’ll look for you all.” My succubus side was irritated that I wasn’t already dragging this guy into the nearest alcove and having my way with him. I stalled her again with vague promises, well aware I wouldn’t be able to hold her back for long. I’d need to get laid in the next few days or she’d take control and I’d find myself with a less-than-desirable partner.
College boy seemed to realize the odds of actually running into me on Bourbon Street were the equivalent of winning the Powerball lottery. “We’ll be at Saints and Sinners.”
Channing Tatum’s place. It was on my short-list of places to check out. I gave him another smile. “Okay. I don’t know what my friend has planned, but I’ll try and be there.”
That seemed to delight college boy beyond all reason. He grinned, and walked backward to join his friends. They hooted, and slapped him on the back, casting quick glances toward me as they walked toward the big glass doors. I waved good-naturedly, then turned to see my bag coming down the line.
“Excuse me. Oh, crap!”
I squeezed between two other travelers and reached for the handle, but my fingers slipped off and it dropped back onto the belt of the luggage carousel, firmly wedged between two black suitcases. I watched it move away from me, irritated that I’d need to wait for it to make a whole circuit before I had the chance to grab it again.
“I’ve got it.”
A tanned arm sporting a gold watch shot out and grabbed my bag, yanking it from the belt with a practiced grip. I followed that arm upward with my eyes. Trim guy. Fifties. Mostly bald with close-cut, light-colored hair. Lemon yellow polo shirt paired with khaki shorts. Business man, perhaps? Here for a convention or on vacation? He had nice, friendly blue eyes.
I reached out a hand to take the bag from him, and his eyes darted downward, lingering on my tank-top, or rather on the breasts it was barely covering. The succubus within me awoke, fixing this man with a hungry stare. Desire stirred, surfacing and arching out in invisible tendrils.
No, no, no. I tried to rein her in. This man probably had kids my age. Either way, I could tell he was a nice guy. He deserved better than this, but my baser self didn’t agree. She was hungry.
The man’s eyes left my breasts and rose to meet mine. I saw the lust in them, along with confusion and a bit of shame. I was ashamed too, but that emotion was drowned out by the thought of his mouth on mine, his . . .
Married. Married. It was like an alarm bell, bringing my rational self back into control. I didn’t care how hungry the monster living inside me was, I was not going to be responsible for this man breaking his wedding vows. Besides, he deserved better than a mind blowing fuck in an airport bathroom that would yoke him to me for the rest of his life. He deserved better, and so did I.
I snatched the bag from him and nearly fell in my haste to get away. For Pete’s sake, I was in an airport, surrounded by people, and I was on the edge of having sex with a stranger who had been kind enough to grab my luggage off the conveyor belt. My face burned with embarrassment at the encounter, but I would have felt worse had we wound up naked in a public restroom stall.
I was out of control. Irix had been right, but his solution wasn’t something I could live with. I envisioned his mocking voice, his raised eyebrows when he gave me the “I told you so” speech. I’d heard that speech all too often over the past month, but that wasn’t why I’d left. I could handle bossy, what I couldn’t handle was the way I felt every time he was near.
There. By the doors. A young woman waved at me, her black hair pulled back, highlighting perfect cheekbones and warm dark-brown skin. She bounced up and down on strappy sandals, all long legs and slim hips. I waved back and hustled myself toward her, shrieking as I grabbed her in a tight hug. Darci and I had kept in touch even after she’d transferred to Tulane, but I’d really missed her. My freshman roommate, my best friend – if anybody could help me find the Amber I’d used to be, it was Darci.
“Hurry, I’m double parked,” she said, disengaging and looking around for my luggage.
I grabbed the bag I’d dropped to hug her, grateful to be getting out of the airport. The heat and the excitement of my escape had stirred up the monster inside, and the guys at baggage claim weren’t the only ones I was beginning to have lurid fantasies about. I hadn’t had sex in four weeks. This was New Orleans, a town of indulgences. I’d indulge, then hopefully the desperate hunger would taper off, and I could just relax and enjoy myself – like the old Amber.
We crammed my bags in Darci’s Jetta, and took off, blasting the AC. Darci chatted on about college, a guy she was desperate to go out with, and what was on the agenda for today. She hadn’t been able to get the whole week off work, but I had assured her I could manage on my own just fine. My anticipation built thinking about po-boy sandwiches, Cajun music in the French Quarter, and a hot new dance club in the warehouse district. Already I felt the monster grow tame, distracted by the prospect of nice, normal, human-type activities.
“So. . . tell me about this guy you’re running away from.”
Darci’s inquiry jolted me out of my happy space. Irix. Thick sable-brown hair that fell to his shoulders in back and brushed his jaw in the front, dark golden eyes that seemed to see right under my clothing. He moved like a large cat on the prowl, and his smile held a promise of wicked carnal delights.
“He’s bad for me. And if I’d have stayed, I would have wound up in his bed.”
“Oh, those are the best ones, aren’t they? Bad for you how? Because I’ve never known you to walk away from something bad.”
Only when it was something I couldn’t truly have. “He’s one of those guys who is completely addicting. I’d take it far more seriously than he would. I just don’t need that kind of emotional damage, thank you very much.”
Darci shot me a knowing look. “Oh, the tables have been turned! Amber, the queen of love-them-and-leave-them is in danger of losing her heart to a world-class womanizer.”
What? I was not that sort of girl! Well, I hadn’t been that sort of girl up until recently.
“I’m sorry I ever told you about that Zumba instructor from the gym. One guy does not make me a player.”
That’s when the problem began. I’d been so crazy about him, wanted him so bad. One date, one night of torrid passion, and it was all gone. I didn’t care if I ever saw him again. I couldn’t even remember what his name was. What I did have was the thin trickle of energy he’d supply me with for the rest of his life. And guilt. A whole lot of guilt.
I thought Darci was going to wreck the car from laughing. “One guy? One guy? Seriously, Amber, once you get them in the sack, it’s ‘adios my friend’.”
“I’m not. . . no way,” I sputtered. How could she think that? I’d had plenty of relationships. Yeah, none had lasted very long, but that wasn’t my fault.
“Oh, let’s see. . . Darius, Nick, Brent, Jason.”
“Jason dumped me,” I protested.
“Zac, Scott, Theo.”
“Hey, I dated Theo for a month. That’s not a one-night-stand!”
Darci made a “pffft” sound and waved her hand at me. “It took you that long to sleep with him. Remember, finals? Then he had the flu? Then you went on that ski trip? Once you guys did the nasty, Theo was yesterday’s news.”
My head whirled, and I stared at Darci, open-mouthed. She was right. This problem of mine had been going on longer than I’d thought, I just hadn’t realized it. She glanced over at me, smiling fondly.
“It’s okay, Amber. Doesn’t make you a bad person. Actually, I always thought it was kind of funny. Guys are usually the ones that do this; it was refreshing to see the tables turned.”
No, it wasn’t funny. It was just as shitty as when guys did it to girls. These were nice boy’s that I’d screwed over, that I’d hurt. I hadn’t realized it back then, but now the thought of it devastated me. I’d hidden some things from Darci – things that she would never believe anyway, but I needed to let her know how terrible this made me feel, how I didn’t want to be that sort of person.
“It’s not okay. There’s something wrong with me, Darci. I want to have a long-term relationship. I want to meet someone nice, fall in love, and commit to them. I’ll never have that, and it hurts. It hurts almost as much as how I treated all those guys.”
“You will fall in love. You’ll find the right guy and it will all click into place.” She gave me a quick, mischievous look. “Now tell me all about this sexy scoundrel you ditched up in Maryland. I live vicariously through your tales of sexual conquest, you know. What’s his name?”
“Irix.” I didn’t want to think of him, let alone talk about him, but I knew Darci would never give up until she’d heard all the details.
“Ooo, exotic! Is that his first or last name?”
It was probably one of many names. I’d been told demons have quite a few and are very cagy about letting anyone know all of them.
“I’m not sure. It’s the only name he goes by.”
“Like Madonna, or Sting? How did you meet him?”
Now this was the tricky part. I couldn’t really say my demon parent had sent an Incubus to teach me how to deal with my succubus side.
“My family contracted him as a sort of life coach for me. That’s why I can’t just avoid him. He’s there every day, following me around, pestering me to do this or do that. I told him to go home and leave me alone, but he won’t until he feels like I’ve learned what I need. It’s his job.” And I got the feeling he was getting quite a kick out of it too.
Darci scrunched up her face. “Ugh. Totally hot does not outweigh bossing you around. That sucks. What happens if you just tell him to kiss off and do whatever the heck you want?”
Heat roared through me, I could feel my face redden.
“Oh!” Darci chuckled. “You bad girl, you! Well, no need to worry. You’re safe here from Mr. Sexy Life-Coach, and I’ve got all kinds of fun activities planned for us.”
Music Playlist (Book Soundtrack)
So in Burdened you get two paranormal romances. The Nathan and Tracey romance where you are offered the choice to be with a burdened Sephlem. And the Glen and Scott romance where we experience the inconveniences of what happens when you are not offered the choice.
Here is the playlist for both. These are song I heard during and after writing the book that reminded me of the characters and their situations. As well as Burdened’s theme.
Demons – Imagine Dragons
Almost Is Never Enough – Ariana Grande & Nathan Sykes
The Last Song – Rihanna
Kill and Run – Sia
Reload – Sebastian Ingrosso
I Choose You – Sara Bareilles
Red Light – Tiesto
Latch – Disclosure Feat Sam Smith
Permanent – David Cook
Magic – Cold Play
Come A Little Closer – Cage the Elephant
Ten Feet Tall – Afrojack & Wrabel
Heaven – Beyonce
Find You – Zedd
Kiss Me – Ed Sherran
Safe and Sound – Capital City
Glen and Scott Bonus Tracks.
Say Something – A Great Big World
Just A Fool – Christina Aguilera Feat Black Shelton
Breath Me – Sia
Down – Jason Walker
A Drop in the Ocean – Ron Pope
When a Heart Breaks – Ben Rector
Never Say Never – Fray
I’ve Told You Now – Sam Smith
Saucy and tauntingly surprising, Black Moon captures the struggle between burning alive with desire and castrating the heart. This is a love story that will drain you dry.
I close my eyes and slowly squeeze the trigger. The shot sounds so loud I jump backwards. But the bullet hits its mark, tearing a hole through Mark’s shoulder. With a curse, he falls to the ground. I know I haven’t killed him because he’s making so much noise and trying to scramble to his feet. So I snag the keys from the hook by the back door and run.
He’ll come after me which means I don’t have much time to get a head start. The mud tries to suck my shoes off, but I clench my toes while Mark’s promise bounces around inside my head.
You’ll always be mine.
At the time, I thought it was romantic, but I was only eighteen. What the hell did I know? It didn’t take me long to learn it meant Mark doesn’t take no for an answer. In high school, his determination was a compliment. Nowadays, it would get him arrested…if we didn’t live in a town that worshipped him.
Shaking so hard, I have a hard time jabbing the key in the ignition. Relief floods through me when I can finally start the 2000 Volvo my grandmother got me when I graduated from high school seven years ago.
As I gun the engine, I see Mark’s reflection in my rearview mirror. He’s made it to his feet, and though blood is dripping down the front of his shirt, he’s running after me.
The Volvo kicks up plenty of dust and gravel when I stomp on the accelerator, showering Mark with enough pebbles to bring him to a halt. His loud curses follow me down the old, dirt road where our clapboard home sits. It’s the one his daddy built us once he knew Mark wouldn’t be leaving town anytime soon.
Staying in rural Broomtown, Kentucky definitely hadn’t been my choice. That had been all Mark. After my parents died, I wanted to get as far away as possible to start our lives fresh, but Mark, well, he figured since he was going to be trapped in a dead end job once his dreams of playing football were over, he might as well do it around family.
I keep looking in my mirror to make sure he isn’t following me, and I don’t dare relax until I make it to the highway. Even then, the trembling continues.
Ten miles down the road, I realize I left my purse on the kitchen counter, and I have no money and less than a half a tank of gas. In a car that chugs gas like this one, that isn’t going to get me very far. But anywhere is better than Broomtown with Mark.
A tear trickles down my cheek, and I swipe it away. No more tears. I have cried enough for him. When I was still young and foolish, I thought Mark and I would be together forever. I know now that forever can be a hell of a long time when the love of your life morphs into a raving lunatic.
My heart aches when I think about what we had once. We were the love story everyone dreams about. Me, the head cheerleader, and Mark, the captain of the football team. I still remember the night the Broomtown Broncs won the state championship. No one thought a team from the sticks could win such an important title. Mark had carried me on his shoulder through the cheers and the drums. Then he had to go and do something stupid for a senior prank that changed everything.
I switch on the radio to drown out the memories, but they’ve always been louder. The thump of the wheels hitting pavement releases some of the pressure in my chest, and my shoulders begin to relax. I might not be free of Mark forever, but tonight I wouldn’t have to listen to his drunken complaints.
The Volvo’s lone headlight illuminates the long, winding road ahead then bounces off the side of a white car heading in the opposite direction. I wish I could stop the person, warn them where there going. That road dead-ends in Broomtown. Hopefully, the driver doesn’t have plans to stay long. It’s the kind of place that sucks you in and while you’re there, it drains your soul a little piece at a time until you’re moving in slow motion. Just putting one foot in front of the other.
My hand smells like gun powder, and though I wipe them one at a time on my jeans, the smell won’t go away. I still see the blood, too, even though none of it got on me. There’d been a lot of it, though. If I hadn’t seen Mark get up and walk with my own two eyes, I would be worried I’d killed him.
As much as I want to get away from Mark, I couldn’t kill him. It’s certainly not that I love him anymore, but taking a human life just isn’t in me. Hell, taking any life. Mark and his best friend always made fun of me when I wanted to set the mice free from the traps rather than kill them. Mark had better be glad that’s the type of person I am.
Static replaces the low, monotonous voice of the town’s only radio broadcaster. I switch off the sound, and a flash of blue catches my eye in the rearview. I lift my gaze, and my stomach sinks. A cop is behind me, and the blue lights insist I pull over.
Damnit. With one hand, I direct the car over to the side of the road while I reach for my purse that isn’t on the passenger seat where I always drop it. Then I remember I left the house without anything but my clothes and keys. Double damn.
I hear the squawk of the cop’s radio as he approaches the side of my car. His long, black flashlight taps against the driver’s window, and I sigh, knowing the only way out of this is to tell the truth…well, some of it anyway.
Blinking rapidly against the glare of the light, I press the button to lower my window. My gaze tilts upwards and connects with hazel eyes. A sinfully handsome face causes my breath to stall in my chest. The man standing outside the window of my Volvo is a cop, and I should give him the proper respect, but finding my voice proves impossible.
The darkness doesn’t allow me much of a view, but it’s enough to make my nerves dance. I glance at his full lips and realize they’re moving. He’s talking to me, and I blink several times in an attempt to regroup. My hand fumbles on the seat next to me.
“I-I’m sorry, Officer. I left my purse at home. I do have a driver’s license and insurance, but I was in a hurry. I didn’t even think about it, honestly.” I babble on for a few more seconds until the cop interrupts in deep, throaty bass.
“Have you been drinking?” He shines the flashlight into the interior, and the beam slides over my denim-clad legs before sliding up my thin t-shirt. I hadn’t had the time to grab a coat, and as cold as it is outside, it’s no wonder my outfit looks suspicious. His gaze pierces mine again while he waits for my answer.
I attempt to swallow, but the lump in my throat is the victor. “No, I haven’t.” But I don’t blame him for asking.
“Would you step out of the car, please?” He opens the door and takes a step back to give me room.
Trembling, I follow his command, closing the door behind me so I can lean against the coldness of the steel. A gust of frigid wind lifts the hair off the nape of my neck, and the trembles segue to shivers.
The officer drags his gaze back to the interior of my car before fixing it on me again. He’s staring at me, and I don’t like it. I’ve had just about enough of me treating me like I’m a piece of meat. Of course, now isn’t the time to get defensive. Instead, I return his stare, but I have to look up, way up, to face him. “Do you mind telling me why you stopped me?” I silently congratulate myself on the composed question.
He juts his chin toward the front of the Volvo. “You have a headlight out.”
If only he could see how relieved I am…Something as simple as a headlight, I can deal with. “Oh, that. Yes, I know. I’ve been meaning to fix it, but it just keeps slipping my mind. I’m sorry.” I lift my shoulders in an apologetic manner, but the stern look on the cop’s face remains.
“What’s your name?” The look on his face dares me to lie.
“Emily. Emily Murdoch.” I accept the challenge by using my mother’s maiden name which is also my middle name.
“Where do you live, Miss Murdoch?”
Shit. The last thing I want is for him to know my real name. Living in Broomtown has taught me that cops cannot be trusted. As gorgeous as this one is, I still won’t let my guard down. I paste an easygoing smile on my face and lie again. “Juniper Springs.”
His eyebrows lift, and my heart pounds. Did I say something wrong? Can he tell I’m lying now? “Really?”
I stick to my story, replying with only a stiff nod.
“You mind if I take a look inside your car?”
“Not at all.” I move away from the door and wave my hand as though granting entrance to my minions. What else am I supposed to do? If I said no, he’d have come up with a reason to arrest me. That’s what all cops do.
His concludes his search quickly and straightens to face me. “It’s too dangerous to be driving these dark roads with only one headlight, Miss Murdoch. I suggest you get it fixed first thing tomorrow morning.” He switches off the flashlight. “Drive safely.”
I watch him walk away while my legs threaten to collapse. Once back inside my car, I take in great gulps of air and lean my head back against the rest. But something tells me I shouldn’t be relieved. The cop bought my story too easily. Which probably means he didn’t just find me by accident.
A sick feeling settles in the pit of my stomach. Mark is already on the hunt.