Embraced by Danger
After failing to bring a murderer to justice, Georgia Johnson left her home and fiancé to start a new life. When her young son falls ill, she returns to the scene of the crime, and the only man who can help her—ex-cop and ex-fiancé, Malcolm Washington.
But the murderer knows she’s returned, and with her, the deadly secrets that could ruin him. To save her son, Georgia must face a ruthless killer, but the dangerous desires and old hurts between her and Malcolm threaten to rob Georgia of the one person she can trust to protect her.
Malcolm Washington jumped out of his black Mercedes-Benz with the alertness of a practiced law enforcement officer. He nodded to Paul Fenton, a man from his security firm who had pulled up in a dark blue Honda and parked behind Malcolm’s vehicle. They quietly approached the house. Crouching slightly with his Glock lowered to his thighs, Malcolm motioned to Fenton to take the left side. Malcolm quickly covered the area on the right flank and, upon reaching the house, flattened his back against its facade and scanned the yard spread out before him. Everything appeared quiet. Holding the pistol out in front of him, heart racing, he whipped around the side and scanned the house, trees, and yard. Nothing.
Fenton reappeared. “All clear.”
Malcolm tucked his gun into the holster attached to his waist and pulled a flashlight from his pocket. Together, he and Fenton examined the grounds for traces of the intruder. It was after eight at night. A bright full moon glowed above them, tried to cheer up a glum, starless sky. A slight chill hung in the air, sneaking through Malcolm’s light cotton shirt. The external lights attached to the house were switched on, providing further illumination for their search. The bedroom on the ground level was of particular interest. Except for some residual dirt on the sill, the area under the bedroom’s window was virtually undisturbed. There were no footprints. He didn’t find this too surprising. Weeks of drought had left the earth parched and thirsty and made the formation of a shoe or other impression difficult.
The arrival of a police cruiser had Malcolm retracing his steps to the front yard. His friend of more than a decade, Dwayne Parker, alighted with his gun drawn. Dwayne’s partner, Jerome Fisher, came out from the passenger side.
“Everything’s fine here,” Malcolm said. “We got nothing.”
Dwayne grinned as he holstered his weapon. Sporting short black hair, he was a good-looking man in his midthirties with an athletic build. He was tall, about the same height as Malcolm.
“I see you think you’re still a cop, son. Couldn’t wait for us to show up, uh?”
Malcolm snorted. “I may no longer be a cop, but I’m still much better at it than you’ll ever be.”
“Sure.” Dwayne sneered and scrutinized the surroundings. “This is where—”
“Yes. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go let her know all is well. Talk to you later.”
After instructing Fenton to remain in his vehicle and to keep a watchful eye, Malcolm headed toward the house. He’d been close by, on his way home after a long day at the office, when the frantic telephone call from Chantelle Bryant had come in. She’d spotted an intruder at the bedroom window.
Chantelle was a client of his. Having a secure home was a top priority for her. After the brutal home invasion that left the father, mother and brother of her best friend dead when Chantelle was sixteen years old, Malcolm could well understand why. He hadn’t been to Chantelle’s house in a while, certainly not since her best friend Georgia Johnson had disappeared. Georgia—the woman who had vanished without a trace from his life four years ago—had left him practically at the altar.
Yeah, he was lucky like that.
Malcolm shook his head as he readied to announce his presence. That was his past, and it would remain there.
Chantelle opened the door, her dark eyes cloudy with apprehension as she stared at him.
“I guess you didn’t see anyone out there,” she said, opening the door wider and standing aside for him to enter.
“No. Are you okay?” he asked as he looked her over. They hadn’t seen each other in a few years. She hadn’t changed much. She was in her early thirties and wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt over her short, curvy form. Her black hair was pulled back from her oval face in a short ponytail. Her lips were tightly pressed together as she fidgeted with her hands. She appeared shaken, and a bit tense, which was understandable.
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“You want to tell me in more detail what happened?” Malcolm asked as he moved through the doorway to inspect the house.
Chantelle’s home was the standard three bedroom, outfitted with the best security devices from his firm. There would have been little, if any, chance of an intruder gaining entry without being detected. Still, he wanted to know what the sonofabitch had been up to.
“You saw a man at a bedroom window, trying to break in?” He walked toward the bedroom directly ahead of him and came to a halt just outside the white, half-open door. “This bedroom, right?”
Chantelle held out her arm briefly as if to stop him, then looked down at her flip-flops and studied her crimson-polished toenails. “Well, ahm...”
Malcolm frowned. That was odd. His cop antenna went up. Something was going on.
Did the intruder manage to get inside after all? Had threatened her? Malcolm reached for the gun at his waist and, placing his free forefinger across his lips, signaled to Chantelle to be quiet. He shouldered the bedroom door open, the Glock raised and ready. He entered the room. And froze.
Georgia sat at the foot of the queen size bed. “Hello, Malcolm.”
It had been so long since she’d last seen him. Her heart contracted violently.
He was still devastatingly, achingly attractive.
He’d be thirty-five years old now. Standing at just over six-three and all muscle, he radiated power. His black hair was shorter, and his dark face more angular, the lower half shadowed with a neatly trimmed goatee. A crisp light blue shirt covered shoulders broader than she remembered and black trousers encased his long legs. Malcolm appeared stunned, as if a ghost had materialized before him.
Wasn’t surprising he’d believe that, Georgia thought as she took in his startled expression.
Malcolm’s muscles froze, rendered inert from shock. Could it be true? Was it possible? Was the person sitting only a few feet away from him Georgia Johnson—the woman who, even now, haunted his dreams?
He closed his eyes and, after a brief second, opened them again. Yes, it was. He hadn’t been imagining things. She was still sitting there, staring at him with those eyes the color of a midsummer night, eyes he’d tried so damn hard to forget…
His pulse pounded. His heart slammed against the wall of his chest.
His lips curved into a spontaneous smile.
It was great to see her again! Overcome with a sudden urge to rush over and crush her in a hug, he had to call upon all the control he could muster to override his ardent emotion. She was back, but now he wasn’t so sure if he should even give her the time of day.
Long strides brought him to her as he holstered his weapon. “Georgia.” He breathed slowly, evenly.
Her name wrapped up in the deep baritone made her skin tingle. “Yes, it’s me,” she managed with surprising steadiness. She summoned a slight smile as she stood up and examined his face more closely, noting the intelligent forehead, the dark brows, the firm, strong jaw. He was a little older, of course, but nothing significant about him had changed.
His gaze moved slowly over her face. “I don’t believe it.” He raised his brows. “After all these years...” He continued his unhurried assessment, taking in her shoulder-length black hair tinged with brown, hanging loosely around her caramel face. His gaze flitted over her yellow cotton top and the pair of faded blue jeans hugging her hips.
“You look well,” he said as he met her gaze.
“So do you.” She gripped her hands together tightly as she struggled for an air of detached coolness.
Malcolm’s dark eyes suddenly narrowed. “So you’re back?” he asked, his voice picking up an edge.
Georgia suspected that with the shock of her unexpected appearance wearing off, any hurt feelings he had harbored for the way she’d ended things between them had now found their way to the surface.
“Yes.” She’d driven in only hours ago and had planned to visit his office tomorrow, Thursday. A call to his office revealed that he’d be in, but she’d made no appointment. She had a feeling he’d have refused to see her and hoped the element of surprise would work to her advantage.
Now, with her plan unraveled, she faced a dilemma. Although the matter that brought her here was urgent, she didn’t feel like discussing it now. She needed to have her head straight when she was talking to Malcolm, and this occurrence tonight had thrown her off balance.
The murderers knew she was here.
The man at the window tonight had been proof. She’d fallen asleep, then awoke sometime later to the sight of the frightening shadow. She screamed and Chantelle had come running.
Malcolm’s voice broke into her thoughts. “Why are you back? Why now?”
Her reply was direct. “To see you.”
Malcolm raised a dark brow as he placed his hands on his hips. “To see me,” he repeated.
The circumstances that had led Georgia to pack up and leave the man she’d loved, the man she thought she knew, had been painful, horrible. But they were nothing compared to the circumstance that had brought her back to his door. The trip was one she wished she would never need to take, but she’d had no other choice. She’d simply run out of options.
Malcolm had been easy enough to find. Chantelle had kept her informed. Georgia knew that he was still in New York and had started his own business, a security firm, about three years ago. When they’d met, he was an ex-cop managing a similar company. A few days ago, she made the decision to re-establish contact. A telephone call would have probably been easier, safer, but she felt she owed him the face-to-face.
Malcolm’s mind wandered. Had there actually been an intruder, or had she used this as a ploy to get him here? He dismissed the thought almost instantly. Such an elaborate ruse wouldn’t have been necessary when all she had to do was show up at his office. Still, what could she possibly have to say to him? If she was about to ask for his forgiveness, that train had long left the station. She was late. Four years too late. But damned if he wasn’t curious.
He lowered his hands. “What about?” He poured gruffness into his voice, pretending not to care, even as his heart pounded harder, threatening to punch a hole in his chest.
Georgia hesitated. She sat back down on the bed, bit into her bottom lip, then straightened her shoulders. “Why don’t I come by your office tomorrow?”
Malcolm opened his mouth to disagree with the suggestion, then thought better of it. He’d waited years; he could wait a few more hours.
“Okay,” he said. He had some meetings tomorrow, meetings he couldn’t get out of. Two were in the morning. “How about three o’clock?” He didn’t give her directions. He was sure she knew how to get to him.
“Sure, but…do you think you could have someone come and get me?”
Malcolm examined her face in silence for a few seconds. She was trying hard to hide it, but he saw fear in her expression. It hit him in the gut. Given her history, he understood. He had to dig deep to prevent himself from wrapping his arms around her.
“Not a problem,” he said. “The intruder tonight, what can you tell me about him?”
Georgia shook her head. “Not much. All I saw, really, was a man dressed in black standing outside the window. I think he was wearing a hoodie. I didn’t get a good look at his face. He disappeared the second I saw him.”
Chantelle appeared in the doorway, holding on to the doorknob. “Is...um...everything all right?”
“Yes.” Malcolm walked past her and through the door. The women followed him out. “I’ll leave a man outside to keep an eye on things,” he said to Chantelle at the front door. “You’ll be okay.”
She nodded soberly. “Thank you.”
He stuck a hand in his pocket and pulled out a business card. “My cell number’s on the back. Call me if you change your mind,” he said as he handed it to Georgia. Then he headed out.