The last thing that writer Katherine Vaughn expects when she flees California for her native Arkansas is to fall in love, especially not with a former Navy SEAL and her cousin’s widower. Nor did she expect that the thugs seeking retribution for her late husband’s drug debts would follow her back to Arkansas.
As she and Ben Hatfield fall in love, their happiness faces trials that include an unexpected illness and his grandfather’s death. But Katherine has little time to mourn her own losses as the California drug lord’s minions kidnap her in a final effort to collect on the debt.
Several months had passed since her flight from California and hope that no one might trace her stirred. Optimistic in a tentative fashion, she sought Ben’s input and advice on Monday.
“There are business details I need to handle,” she told him, filling his cup with fresh coffee. “I need to get in touch with my agent and with my financial manager. I’m afraid, though, that if I do, Hu Sing’s minions might track me down. Do you think that’s possible?”
He didn’t answer immediately but pondered the question. “There’s that chance but then again they might not. If you want access to your money, then it’s a chance you’ll have to take, unless you want to go to work at the chicken plant.”
Serious as the subject was, she smiled. His attempt at low-key humor banished her fears but concern remained.
“I don’t want anyone to come here. If they find me, they want their money and I still don’t have it. I don’t want to put you or Aunt Ruby in danger.”
“Don’t worry about it. If they come, they come. You can’t hide out for the rest of your life, can you?”
“Well, no, but—”
“Then don’t. I told you I’ll protect you if it comes to that.”
His rich, deep voice changed as he spoke and although it seemed ludicrous that this quiet man could be violent as well as dangerous, she knew he meant it. There was a side of Ben that most people never noticed and that man would do whatever was necessary.
“Then I’ll make some calls later today.” She made her decision. She could either take care of business or forget about her career as K.A. Benton. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“If you’re still up when I get home from work, I’ll stop by.”
His eyes met hers and a rush of potent desire spread through her body. Judging by his expression, he felt a similar glow and she nodded.
“I’d like that.”
Strengthened by her growing relationship with Ben, she retrieved her cell phone from the charger. With the sounds of Aunt Ruby’s favorite soaps resonating from the living room, she sat at the kitchen table and dialed Tina’s number from memory. Pippi answered in her throaty, pseudo Marilyn Monroe voice.
“Tina’s. Your business is our pleasure.”
“Pippi, this is Katherine Vaughn. I need to speak with Tina.” Martina Maldonado had been her accountant and financial manager since she arrived in California.
“Bitch, where you been at?” Pippi shouted in her ear. “People were looking for you, up, down, and around.”
That was disconcerting to know but Katherine willed herself calm. “I’m out of town.”
“I know that, girlfriend! Where are you hiding out? Let me guess—some tropical getaway.”
She had forgotten the funky California line of bullshit, the endless attempts to impress with hip style but it eroded her patience and grated her nerves. “I need to talk with Martina, Pippi.”
“Oh, all right!”
Muzak blasted her ear until Tina’s voice replaced it.
“Katherine, this is Tina. Babe, I’m glad you called in—your creditors have been crawling over me like cockroaches but I kept them dancing until Gene-O came through with royalties. You’re current now, sweetie, but don’t do this to me again. How’s tricks?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for handling the bills. That’s why I called—I want everything I owe paid and then I need you to liquidate all my assets, the house, cars, everything. I don’t plan to come back to California.”
“So you’re doing the relocation thing! Cool! Are you coming out to help?”
If flights were free, she would not go to California but Tina didn’t need to know that. “No. I have everything I need from the house. Just take care of it and put the money in my accounts. I’ll transfer everything later.”
“Will do but I’m going to need some papers signed, chick, you know that. I’ll FedEx out what I need. Just tell me where.”
Hesitation slowed her thoughts. She didn’t want to reveal her location to anyone but she could not refuse a reasonable request. “Promise not to share with anyone and I’ll give it to you.”
“Your secret’s safe in my hands, honey. Give me the details.”