Releasing Tuesday, 8/12/08, in ebook from Samhain Publishing.
He’s given one chance at redemption—hers and his.
Hired killer, Vixen Markham doesn’t have any illusions about life or love. Unable to trust even the one man she lets into her heart, she makes a decision that she’ll regret for the rest of her life—which won’t be much longer by the looks of things. Loaded with vengeance and a small arsenal of weapons, she’s ready to face up to her past and say goodbye to her future, until she’s confronted by a pair of eyes she could never forget.
Graeme Mackenzie Lawson lived a hard life. Hard on himself and harder on those who got in his way. Betrayed and murdered, he’s given one chance at redemption—but not for himself—for the woman he loved, the woman who killed him.
Can he keep Vixen safe, when she seems determined to lose her life—and her soul?
Warning: the following contains violence, hot sex and one vicious vixen.
Excerpt below the cut…
It was cold out, the air heavy with the promise of rain as she came to a halt at the intersection of Adam and Franklin. The Sears Tower jutted up in the sky, blocking out the sun. The wind started to kick up. It blew her hair into her face and she shoved it back.
Somebody bumped into her, blocked her path. She moved to go around without even looking at the man, but then a hand came up, closed over her elbow.
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
It wasn’t a familiar voice. Vixen was the type who never forgot a face, a voice, a name. The man standing before her was a man she’d never met before.
So the eerie sense of déjà vu washing over her was strange. But even stranger than that was the sudden impulse to take a step closer, although even half a step would put her far too close to him. Close enough to touch. Close enough to kiss.
Stranger still was the sudden urge to cry and laugh at the same time.
She followed none of the urges, just looked at him, his eyes hidden by a pair of sunglasses, with a long-practiced icy stare. Then she lowered her gaze to the hand grasping her arm, lingering for just a moment, before she looked back at him. The hint was far from subtle, yet he didn’t let go.
Vixen lifted a brow and said, “You already said that. You’re excused. Now, if you don’t mind…?” She tugged against his hold.
A slow smile curled his lips. For some reason, the sight of it warmed something inside her. A place that had been far too cold, for far too long. It made her heart skip a beat and then start banging against her ribs hard and fast. Unbidden, she felt herself softening, her body trying to betray her.
Vixen steeled herself against it, just as she steeled herself as his fingers passed down her arm in a slow, lingering caress before he let go and stepped back.
Not very far.
He was still close enough that she could feel the heat of his body, and smell him. Vixen hadn’t ever been too conscious of a man’s scent, with the exception of Graeme. Graeme had been the exception to everything, a unique, singular exception.
But Vixen realized she wanted to lean against this total stranger and bury her face against his chest or in the crook of his neck. Stiffening her shoulders, she jerked away and started back down the sidewalk.
She could feel his eyes burning into her neck with every step she took.
He watched until she turned the corner and then he closed his eyes and dropped his head. He wasn’t cold anymore. That much was certain. Facing Vixen hadn’t hit him the way he’d expected. He loved her, but he would have expected to feel anger when he faced her. Expected to bite back a hundred questions that he knew he couldn’t ask.
All he’d felt when he looked at her was grief.
Vixen never showed her emotions, but he knew how to read her. Her eyes got dark when she was sad, and she held herself stiff and rigid when she was afraid or angry. They were minute tells, but nobody knew Vixen the way he did.
She was both angry and afraid right now, and there was an air of grief lingering around her.
And hunger. When she’d met his gaze, something moved through her eyes, just the quickest flash and then it was gone, but he knew that look. Just as he knew what it meant when her breath hitched in her chest, what it meant when she licked her lips, what it meant when she curled her hands into fists as though to keep from reaching out to touch. She’d wanted him in his first life, and she wanted him now. Now, just as then, she wasn’t happy about it.
Wanting, needing, they were weaknesses as far as Vixen was concerned.
She didn’t care for weaknesses.
Once she’d wanted him enough, cared for him enough, to allow herself that weakness.
He wondered what she’d do now.
Then he sighed, pushed a hand through his hair, scowling at the unfamiliar feel and weight of it. His hair was still thick, but it had a finer, softer quality to it. Didn’t feel like his hair at all.
Briefly, a thought moved through his mind, but as he muttered aloud, “Now what?” he realized he knew the answer.
Or at least part of him did.
He started to walk, following the path Vixen had taken.
He wasn’t looking for her, though.
He was looking for something or someone else. He wasn’t entirely sure which one, though.
Privacy was a precious commodity in her world. Even though she rarely let herself worry about Hawthorne’s prying eyes or those of his men, Vixen needed a place to crash where she could have some privacy when she needed it.
Finding such a place wasn’t hard. At least not for a woman of her talents. Talents, that was something she had plenty of, but they weren’t the sort of things most people would want to boast about.
Breaking into a place without leaving a sign, robbing a man blind as she stood next to him on the subway, killing a person without leaving a mark.
She was a regular Girl Scout.
Finding a place where Hawthorne didn’t have bugs planted or a bird’s-eye view of her bedroom wasn’t hard, but it was tedious. Not trusting him to leave her to her privacy, she moved her safe place every few months.
She’d been in the small, mid-scale apartment for just over a week. On one side lived a detective. On the other side lived a nurse. She hadn’t seen much of them and preferred to keep it that way. She kept a low profile, low enough that there hadn’t ever been mention of her in any of the investigations surrounding Hawthorne.
Which was a damn good thing with a detective living on one side of her. A lot of people in her position wouldn’t want to sleep with a cop just on the other side of the wall. But Vixen didn’t have any reason to worry being this close to a cop. She actually preferred having one close by her safe place—just another safeguard against Hawthorne prying into her life. He was far less likely to have his men go in and set up bugs when there was a chance a cop would notice.
So she didn’t mind the cop. Vixen was glad she rarely saw her neighbors. She wasn’t the friendly type, and liked it that way.
The apartment across from her had been vacant for a few weeks, but judging by the sounds coming from behind the door, that had changed. She pushed her key into the deadbolt and turned it, but just before she could slip inside and shut herself off, the door behind her opened.
She didn’t even have to see him.
Her body knew.
Her heartbeat sped up, her hands went damp and her knees got weak.
Shit, she thought silently.
His voice was just as perfect now as it had been when he crashed into her less than an hour earlier. Slowly, she turned her head and met his gaze over her shoulder. “You.”
He smiled. “Do you believe in coincidences?”
“No.” She unlocked the second lock and opened the door. As she slipped inside, she glanced back at him.
“Are you always this friendly?” he asked, still giving her that inviting, open grin.
“Yes. Are you?”
He laughed. The sound of it was like velvet rubbing over her skin and she suppressed a shiver. “Actually, no.”
Go inside, her head said firmly. Shut the door. Get your head on straight. But instead, she lingered in the doorway and studied his face. It was a nice face, she decided. The whole package was nice—broad shoulders, narrow waist, lean hips. Oh yes, very nice. With a body like that, he could be outright ugly from the shoulders up and he’d still have women checking him out.
But the face was every bit as nice as the body. Narrow, with elegant, clean lines, a wide mouth that she imagined knew how to kiss very well. Earlier, he’d worn a pair of mirrored shades that had kept her from seeing his eyes and he hadn’t gotten around to taking them off yet.
“Why am I getting the special treatment?”
One of those wide shoulders moved in a negligent shrug. He reached up to push his sunglasses onto his head as he replied, but whatever he said fell on completely deaf ears. Vixen’s heartbeat faltered. Her hands were all slippery with sweat and blood roared in her ears.
Everything else faded away as she stared into eyes the color of blue neon. Eyes that color couldn’t possibly be real, although she’d once known a man who had eyes that same impossible shade. She stumbled backward, fumbled the door open and all but fell inside. Shoving it closed behind her, she fumbled with the locks, a sob catching in her throat. Finally, she managed to secure them but her fingers shook too much to put the chain on. Blinded by tears, she pressed her forehead against the door and tried to breathe.
Tried to breathe, but couldn’t.
Damn it, looking into his eyes, for just a second, it had been like she was looking into Graeme’s eyes once more. Guilt churned in her gut, but the guilt wasn’t what had her shaking like a leaf. It was grief.
She half-fell, half-leaned against the wall, slowly sliding down until she was crouched in the corner. Drawing her knees up to her chest, she hid her face against her legs and tried to block off the torrent of memories storming through her…