New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin raises chills as danger stalks a woman determined to make it in a man’s world . . .
Five weeks ago Carly Drake stood at her grandfather’s grave. Now she’s burying Drake Trucking’s top driver, and the cops have no leads on the hijacking or murder. Faced with bankruptcy, phone threats and the fear of failure, Carly has to team up with the last man she wants to owe—Lincoln Cain.
Cain is magnetic, powerful, controlling—and hiding more than one secret. He promised Carly’s granddad he’d protect her. The old man took a chance on him when he was nothing but a kid with a record, and now he’s the multi-millionaire owner of a rival firm.
But Linc’s money can’t protect Carly from the men who’ll do anything to shut her down, or the secrets behind Drake Trucking. If she won’t sell out, the only way to keep her safe is to keep her close . . . and fight like hell.
“Stop fighting, chica, before you get hurt.”
She breathed through her nose and told herself not to move as the blade settled against the side of her neck, but her heart was hammering, trying to tear through her ribs.
“Did you get the message we delivered this morning?” the man with the mustache asked.
Had to be the scrap of paper she’d found in her living room. She managed to nod.
“We’re here to make sure you understand. Do you see how easy it would be for us to kill you?”
When she didn’t nod, the man holding her from behind tightened his hold, one of his hands sliding up to cup her breast. He squeezed lewdly and fresh fear rolled through her.
“Do you see?” the man with the knife repeated, the blade moving slightly as she swallowed.
She gave him a nod.
“El Jefe wishes to see you. Someone will call, let you know when and where. You will say nothing about tonight. No police, you understand?”
She nodded that she understood.
“Go home, querida.” The mustached man ran a gloved hand over her cheek in an intimate caress, and nausea rolled in her stomach. “We will meet again soon.”
“Hey, you! Get away from her!”
Carly’s heart jerked. She knew that deep voice, knew it belonged to Lincoln Cain, and for once she was glad to see him.
The men started running toward the road, Cain hard on their heels. He grabbed the closest man by the collar at the back of his neck and jerked. The guy whirled and swung a punch Cain ducked. Cain’s powerful arm shot out and buried itself in the middle of the guy’s stomach, doubling him over. Another punch sent him careening backward. The man hit the ground, rolled, came up on his feet and kept running, Cain close behind him.
A car burst out of nowhere, a big black SUV. Shots rang out from the driver’s open window. Carly screamed when Cain went down. The car slowed long enough for her attackers to pile inside and Carly ran toward Cain.
He grabbed her wrist, jerked her down on top of him, and rolled her beneath him, shielding her with his body as the car sped off down the road, a couple of shots firing into the air, tires screeching on the asphalt as the vehicle disappeared.
Carly struggled to breathe, her heart beating frantically beneath the big body pinning her down. Cain lifted himself away and got to his feet, reached down, caught her hand and hauled her up beside him.
“I thought...thought they’d shot you.” She could still feel the imprint of his big, hard body, hear the slide of black leather as he had moved to protect her. “Are you okay?” Her voice was shaking, but so was everything else.
Cain swore foully. “I’m fine, smart enough to take cover, not run toward a guy who’s shooting at me. You should have stayed back. You could have been killed.”
She looked up at him. “So could you, but you came to help me anyway. I figured I owed you the same.”
He just stared at her as if she’d lost her mind; then a faint smile touched his lips. “What the hell happened? Are you all right? Dammit, you’re shaking.” He pulled her into his arms, and though she told herself to push him away, she relaxed into that big broad chest and for the first time felt safe.
“Did they hurt you?” he asked, smoothing back her hair.
“No, but I thought...thought they were going to.”
“You’re safe now. Just take it easy.”
His warmth seeped into her and her trembling began to ease. “I’d just reached the pickup. They seemed...seemed to come out of nowhere. I tried to fight, but one of them had a switchblade. He held the knife against my throat.”
The F word whispered out beneath his breath. “Your legs are still shaking. Can you walk?”
She looked up at him. “I don’t want to go back inside. I don’t want any more trouble.”
He glanced back toward the roadhouse. With all the noise, no one had heard the shots. “Give me your keys. We’ll go someplace quiet where we can talk. There’s a little café down the road. A friend of mine owns it. No one will bother us there.”
She was too shaken up to argue, just dug her keys out of her purse and handed them over, let him help her into the passenger seat, buckle her in, and close the door. The adrenaline was wearing off. She felt completely drained.
Carly closed her eyes as Cain pulled the pickup out of the parking lot and drove off down the road.
It was eleven p.m. The sign for Loretta’s Café glowed like a dull moon in the darkness. Linc parked Carly’s pickup, walked around and helped her down, slid an arm around her waist as he led her inside.
“Two coffees, Loretta, and some privacy. Thanks, hun.”
“No problem, Ace.”
He gave her a slight smile, the best he could manage under the circumstances. He was supposed to be watching out for Carly. He had promised Joe. Tonight men had attacked her with a knife. When he’d seen her struggling, his protective instincts had kicked in and he’d wanted to tear them apart limb by limb.
In the old days he might have tried. He was a different man now. Smarter. More in control. He fought more with his head these days than his hands, though he still hit the heavy bag, even sparred with a partner once in a while.
They sat down at a table covered by a pink vinyl cloth. Loretta, a fifty-something blonde, set two china mugs of coffee in front of them and quietly walked away.
Cain turned to Carly, whose face was the same bone white as the mug. She hadn’t told him everything. He’d made a fortune reading people. She hadn’t lied but she was holding something back.
About the Author
Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of sixty-five books across multiple genres. Sixteen million copies are in print and she has been published in twenty-one foreign countries, including Japan, France, Argentina, Greece, China, and Spain. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA award and won both the Lifetime Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews.
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.