USA Today Bestselling Book
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Note: Previously published as Banged Up (has been reedited)
Two scarred souls: one physically, one mentally.
Mace Walker can’t wait to get home.
Being buried deep undercover for the past two years, on the most complex case of his career, has torn him down physically and mentally. Now the FBI agent has come home to recover after having his leg badly injured from a gunshot wound. Arriving home late one night, his relief is short-lived as he’s faced with a stranger pointing a gun to his head, acting like he is the one who doesn’t belong there!
Colby Parks, a biochemist at the local university, had come to town a year earlier to escape an abusive relationship. She vows never to put herself in that situation again.
Then the perfect opportunity comes along: house-sitting for Mace’s sister while making the house she purchased habitable. But she couldn’t anticipate this big snag: the one wearing the tight Levi’s and worn leather jacket, looking like he had just escaped prison.
Being forced to share a house creates sparks between them in more ways than one. However, things take a turn when their pasts catch up to them, threatening to pull them apart forever.
As Mace Walker slid the key into the lock, an immediate sense of relief washed over him. He hadn’t been home in…Hell, forever. Even though he owned the house and considered it his home, he felt like a stranger when he opened the front door. He chucked his keys on the table by the door with a sigh. He’d been home for a whole thirty seconds and restlessness already ate at him.
The house was quiet, and he wondered where his sister was. Probably sleeping, dummy, since it was—he glanced at his watch—freaking one in the morning. Most normal folk slept at this hour. But then, he wasn’t normal. He couldn’t be to do his job.
But, he couldn’t do his job right now, anyway. He’d been forced home to heal. Against his wishes.
The foyer was dark, but he didn’t need to hit the light. He still knew the house well enough. He made his way to the stairs where he dumped his duffle bags on the floor and ran a hand through his too-long hair.
Those two small duffels held little evidence of his life for the past couple years—just some toiletries and a few basic items of clothing.
He turned toward the kitchen, and the foyer lit up, blinding him for a second. He blinked against the harsh light, and a young voice rang out from the top of the steps. “Hold it right there! Put your arms up and back away from the stairs.”
What the fuck?
Mace had expected to see his sister bounding down the stairway of his two-story colonial, excited after not seeing him for the past two years. Actually, more like one year, eleven months, and fifteen days. Not that he’d counted.
But instead, he stared up into the deadly eye of a Glock. And from his viewpoint, it looked like a model 27, a .40 caliber—a compact, but still a decent sized gun in a very small, very uneasy hand. Instantly, the hairs on the back of his neck rose.
He’d dealt with crime bosses and their flunkies—from drug to porno rings—and had managed to survive. Now he was going to be killed by some measly punk he surprised while burglarizing his house when he happened to come home? The cruel irony made him want to laugh. Instead, he did as instructed. With caution, he raised his hands above his head before stepping back toward the middle of the foyer. He avoided standing directly under the light, trying to get a better view of the top of the steps. But he didn’t have much success; the upstairs hallway and the upper section of the stairway were hidden in shadows.
If he played his cards right, this little situation would be under his control in no time at all. He just had to keep the kid calm and make the skinny punk believe he was the one in command. The Glock didn’t have a conventional safety. All the kid had to do was pull the trigger and pull it again and again until all the rounds in the clip emptied into Mace’s body. And from what he could see in the limited light, the kid’s fingers twitched from nervousness.
Not a good sign.
Where had a young punk gotten an expensive handgun like that? It certainly hadn’t been in the house. And if it had been, it would have been locked up in the gun safe.
If only he could see the boy’s face. He needed to see the eyes. Without seeing those, Mace couldn’t even begin to predict what the kid would do.
“Don’t you dare move, or I’ll blow your face off!” The kid’s voice raised an octave, making him sound more and more like…a female.
Mace tensed when the person started down the steps. At first, he could see bare toes, a slim calf, then another. His gaze flicked to the gun before returning to the shapely naked thighs which couldn’t belong to a kid. No fucking way. Especially not a boy. Those smooth legs definitely belonged to a woman, and he couldn’t wait to see the rest of her.
So far, the view almost made it worth being held at gunpoint. Almost.
He felt strangely disappointed when an oversized T-shirt—shit, was that Sponge Bob on it?—blocked his view of creamy flesh. His arms were tired, his leg throbbed painfully, and his patience was wearing thin. But he still wouldn’t move since he had no idea who this woman descending the stairs was. His curiosity piqued when she stepped down into the light, which highlighted her long, curly red hair and made her wide, glaring green eyes sparkle and snap.
Lightning shot through him and landed in his groin. Neither fear nor pain made him suck in his breath. No, her unencumbered breasts bobbing under the cotton shirt with each step she took did. Her nipples stood out like two beacons under the worn cotton.
He had to clear his throat twice before he could ask her, “You’re robbing this house dressed like that?”
Really, if it wasn’t for the gun being pointed at him center mass, he wouldn’t be taking this seriously at all.
When she hesitated halfway down the staircase, a look of uncertainty crossed her features, before disappearing as quickly as it came. Her eyes narrowed, and she scowled at him. “Am I robbing this house? The question is: What are you doing here?”
His leg began to throb again, the way it had earlier on his long drive into town. Although, he preferred the ache to no feeling at all. He was glad to even still have his leg. Hell, he was lucky just to be alive.
Well, alive at the moment. It wouldn’t take much to change that.
“I live here.”
She frowned, her eyebrows knitting together. No surprise that she didn’t believe him.
“Can I put my arms down now?” His fists clenched high above his head, and he fought not only the pain, but also the urge to drop them to rub his thigh.
“No! Don’t move! I’m going to call the cops. Back up.” She jabbed the gun in his direction.
He didn’t move. Instead, he released a long, very loud, impatient sigh.
“Back up, I said! Or I’ll shoot you.”
“It’s happened before,” he said dryly.
The redhead looked at him in surprise, her feet faltering on the last step. “What?”
“I’ve been shot before. So go ahead. Apparently, I have nine lives.” He tried not to smirk. Irritating a woman with a gun wasn’t smart. Experience, and he had plenty of it, had taught him that much.
Adjusting her grip on the gun, her knuckles turned even whiter. “Well, your luck has run out, asshole.”
Asshole? Damn. Harsh. He hadn’t done anything yet to be insulted like that. “What’s in your clip?” She glanced at the gun with just a quick flick of her eyes, but he caught it. “Ever shoot someone? Ever seen someone shot? Besides on TV or in a movie, of course. It’s pretty fucking messy.”
The arm holding the black, lightweight gun trembled.
“Did you ever hear of the saying, ‘Don’t pull it, unless you’re going to use it?’ If you decide to use it, make sure you use both hands. Be sure you kill me, not maim me.” He patted his palm on his chest. “Two shots. Right here. Center mass. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”