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Storm Warning

Storm Warning

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Storm Warning

valutazioni:
4/5 (5 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
330 pagine
5 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 15, 2013
ISBN:
9781426897306
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

"Anderson writes with a gritty, fast-paced style, and her narrative is tense and evocative." —USA TODAY

Dead bodies are piling up off the coast of Scotland in this rereleased romantic suspense classic from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Toni Anderson

Sorcha Logan is looking for peace.


Recently returned to her hometown on Scotland’s craggy coast, Sorcha wants to tame the spirits that made her flee. But when she finds a corpse in the surf, she can’t suppress the memory of discovering her father’s body. Nor can she escape the ghosts that haunt her—or the town’s conviction that she’s dangerous, and a witch.

Ben Foley is looking for a killer.

An American DEA agent, Ben is in town to investigate the suspicious death of his partner. He’s sure that Sorcha knows more than she’s letting on—but the more time he spends with the sexy suspect, the less he can fight their illicit attraction. And the less certain he is that he can protect her from being set up…or killed.

This book is approximately 82,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!



Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 15, 2013
ISBN:
9781426897306
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Award-winning, NY Times & USA Today international bestselling author Toni Anderson writes dark, gritty Romantic Suspense. Visit her website: www.toniandersonauthor.com for more information. 

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Storm Warning - Toni Anderson

Author

Prologue

Standing beneath the blades of a ceiling fan in a drug lord’s mansion, Ben felt sweat gather between his shoulder blades and sizzle as it rolled down his back. He didn’t know what was going on but instinct told him this op was going south faster than a hooker on a deadline.

Emilio Santayana sat behind his massive desk on an ornately carved chair, spitting out orders. Not for long though. They just needed to track down the one arm of the operation DEA hadn’t yet cracked. They had enough on Santayana to roast his balls in hell and smile as he begged for mercy, but he hadn’t yet given up his contacts across the Atlantic. If Ben didn’t know him for the murdering, double-crossing, soulless sonofabitch he was, he’d think he was actually scared of his associates there.

Except something was up. An air of expectation and suppressed excitement crackled through the room. Santayana could barely keep still, squirming in his seat, a half smirk pinned to his pudgy lips. Unease skittered rat-like along Ben’s spine.

Damned if he was going to be the agent to screw up the biggest drug bust in history. He leaned against the windowsill to take advantage of the cool breeze wafting through the open window. Santayana’s mansion on the outskirts of Magangue, Colombia, was surrounded by lush undergrowth. He eyed the distance to the ground and figured he could make it, get to the safe-house and call backup. He might take a bullet but it beat the hell out of standing here waiting for execution from a man with the scruples of a pit viper.

"Ben, amigo, what would you do if you discovered you had an American DEA agent spying on you?" Santayana’s tone was light and friendly, as if they were discussing what to drink with lunch.

Inside, Ben froze. Outside, he shrugged a lazy shoulder and concentrated on not giving the game away. No flicker of eyelids, no fiddling fingers, no ragged breathing. He dismissed the sweat that drenched his shirt because this close to the equator, this close to drug lords, everyone sweated.

He ran his gaze over the six men standing around the room. All heavily armed. All ready to kill. None of them meeting his gaze.

Shit.

What would you do with a piece of worthless American garbage? An elaborate carriage clock ticked on the mantle.

Kill him. Ben coiled his muscles, ready to spring.

Ha! Santayana barked a laugh, the noise booming joyously off the white plaster walls of the gargantuan office. You are a hard man.

A terrible thought uncurled in the pit of Ben’s stomach. What if they weren’t talking about him?

That’s why I like you. Santayana sighed and leaned back in his leather chair. Imperiously he snapped his fingers. Bring up the prisoner.

Hot sweat turned into a river of ice along Ben’s spine. No, no, no. He didn’t have a weapon. Undercover operatives weren’t authorized to carry firearms on foreign assignments, and only Santayana’s goons were allowed to carry in this household. He glanced over at Santayana’s desk and spotted the sharp dagger the sonofabitch used to open his mail.

His best friend, DEA agent Jacob Marks, was dragged into the room—barely conscious, nose broken, face battered, blood and snot coating his ragged shirt.

The man was almost unrecognizable.

Anger and dismay churned and Ben concentrated on not turning his hands into fists.

How had they discovered Jacob? He was a computer nerd who lived in the safe-house and rarely saw daylight. Who the hell had tipped Santayana off? The local girl Jacob was screwing? Or did DEA have a leak?

Jacob’s lids slitted open. He looked straight at Ben, silently communicating the game was up. The phone rang shrilly, drowning out the hoarse breaths of the tortured man, and Ben used the distraction to move a step closer to Santayana.

Santayana raised his hand for silence and lifted the receiver. Ben wanted to be close enough to hear whoever was talking on the other end of that line, but the damn clock was ticking so loud now he could hear nothing but the slow roar of impending death.

¡Oye ese, mi escocés amigo! Santayana, turned slightly to face him, his expression grim.

Escocés? Scottish?

"You received the last shipment?…¡Bueno! The next one is leaving port as we speak." The man’s black eyes gleamed as he nodded and listened.

Ben hoped to hell the call was being traced because this investigation was over.

Santayana flicked a surreptitious glance at him. ", we uncovered the problem…Sí, you were right, as always. Quien a hierro mata, a hierro muere."

They who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

Ben inched closer to the desk. The moment Pablo reached for his weapon, Ben lunged for the dagger and had the sharp edge pressed flush to Santayana’s jugular before anyone could get off a shot.

All six of Santayana’s henchmen hesitated, semiautomatics pointed at his head. Thankfully none would risk hitting Santayana. Enrique edged left. Take another step and your boss gets a free tracheotomy. Ben jerked Santayana’s head to expose more flesh.

Stay still, you fools! Santayana gasped as the knife slid across his skin. Fear popped out of the little man’s pores.

Enrique froze.

Jacob knelt on the floor, barely conscious.

Get over here, Ben said to him. They had to move quickly. Right now Santayana’s men were in a dilemma, but the deadlock wouldn’t last long.

Jacob, get the fuck over here! Ben worked to keep the fear out of his voice. Fear would get them all killed—if they weren’t already dead.

To Ben’s relief the man started dragging himself across the floor.

Holding the drug lord tight against his chest, Ben removed the phone from his fingers and brought it to his ear. He listened to deep silence and the indrawn breath of someone listening right back. A moment later the dial tone reverberated through his eardrum, and he swore he heard laughter echoing down the line.

Damn.

Benjamin, my friend, what are you doing? Santayana asked, his fat fingers grasping Ben’s forearm.

I guess you’d say I’m living by the sword, Emilio. Ben dropped the receiver and pressed the knife deeper against Santayana’s neck, drawing blood as he rifled beneath the Colombian’s designer jacket. Retrieving a pistol, he flicked off the safety and pressed the barrel against Santayana’s temple. United States Drug Enforcement Administration at your service. His mind raced to figure a way out of this mess. Emilio Santayana, you’re under arrest.

Enrique raised his gun. Ben was outnumbered seven to one and handicapped by Jacob, who lay panting on the floor beside him.

Benjamin, think. Think! Santayana trembled beneath the pressure of the knife. Ben felt the vibrations all the way through his arm. We can come to a deal—your lives in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Yeah, like that was gonna happen.

Ben put the knife down, liberated Santayana’s backup weapon and nudged his friend with his foot. Jacob took the gun with his left hand, cradling his right gingerly against his chest. When Jacob met his gaze, shame and fury shone brightly from his eyes, the residue from some unmentionable trauma swimming in the depths.

He frowned. If he didn’t know better…Jacob. No!

Jacob shot the nearest goon in the gut and the standoff shattered. Everyone started shooting. Jacob took a round in the leg before he darted for cover. Ben grabbed the knife and dragged Santayana down behind the desk. Heart roaring, lungs bellowing, Ben nailed Enrique with a head shot. Using the desk as a shield, he placed bullets in two other men, cursing his best friend with every breath he took. Explosive percussion pounded his eardrums. The noise was unbearable. Santayana started to struggle, but Ben pressed the knife deep enough to gain his full cooperation.

A bullet scraped Ben’s scalp and he felt the burn along his skull. He shifted position and fired back, wounding another man. Gunpowder discharge filled the room, stinking, making Ben’s eyes water. Sirens burst to life in the distance.

The cavalry. If they could just hold on.

Jacob. Get down!

But Jacob staggered, struggling to shoulder an AK-47 with what looked like a broken wrist.

Ben fired, finishing off the man who wouldn’t give up despite the bullet hole in his chest, even as Jacob stood like an avenging angel and fired wildly at the one remaining bodyguard. The guy went down in a hail of bullets, but not before nailing Jacob with a single shot to the heart.

Jacob! Ben cried. Rage swamped him. Jacob fell, his finger pressed to the trigger, firing a barrage of bullets as he twisted around in a macabre pirouette. Ben launched himself and Santayana back as the bullets headed toward them in an unstoppable wave of death.

Santayana screamed as lead hit, his body jolting violently. Ben braced himself for the same searing insult to flesh but nothing happened.

Suddenly the room went quiet. Not even the clock ticked. Ben pushed himself off Santayana’s still form, automatically feeling for a pulse. Dead. Slowly, he checked each bodyguard, kicking their weapons out of reach. Finally he walked over to where Jacob Marks lay twisted on his back, the AK-47 welded to his hand in a death grip.

Ben’s hands shook as he crouched down and closed the lids over Jacob’s staring blue eyes. What the hell had happened to make a good agent forget all those years of training? Ben ground his teeth and fought back a surge of emotion.

The first police officers tore into the building. Tears streamed down Ben’s face as he held his hands in the air. He didn’t resist when they laid him out on the floor and roughly patted him down. A cavernous hole of grief welled up inside him. He’d messed up. He hadn’t protected his partner.

A pair of familiar black shoes came into view. Let him up. He’s one of mine.

Ben stood numbly, bones stiff with the weight of failure.

You hurt? asked Special Agent Granville Beaufort.

Ben ran a palm over his skull, which was still bleeding. No. His ears rang with the sound of gunfire, his mind reliving the moment of Jacob’s death over and over again.

What the hell went wrong? Beaufort spoke around an unlit cigar, sharp blue eyes missing nothing—not the knife wound on Santayana’s neck, not the battered remains of Jacob’s face, not even the shattered clock on the mantle.

I don’t know how they got on to Jacob. If it was a DEA leak they’d have known about Ben without needing to torture the information out of Jacob—then they’d have just done it for fun. He held his boss’s hard stare with one of his own. We almost fought our way out, but… He swallowed and looked down at the body of a man he’d thought of as a brother. He could never betray him—not even in death. He cleared his throat. There was work to do. Did you start rounding up the associates?

As we speak.

Ben narrowed his eyes at the phone, mentally sorting through the earlier conversation.

Whoever was on the end of that line betrayed Jacob.

Beaufort nodded. We’re tracing the call. Time for you to call it a day, Foley. Go home, you deserve some rest.

No. He didn’t deserve a damn thing after this fiasco. Not until this is finished.

You need debriefed. We’ll talk about this back in Washington.

We can talk about it all day and all night, sir— Ben held his superior’s gaze, —but I’m not done. After we bury Agent Marks, I’m gonna hunt these bastards down.

Chapter One

The rocks and stones that flanked the Scottish coastline could twist an unwary ankle or break a foolish neck. Sorcha ran anyway. Waves crashed and pounded the rocky shore. Bitter wind flayed her face and slapped spray against her cheeks. Her foot slipped on the dangerous rocks but she was gaining on the man who tormented her and she pumped her legs faster.

A crack of thunder jerked her head right, and in that split-second her foot connected with a patch of green algae and she crashed to the granite. The figure disappeared around the next corner.

Bloody hell! She sat up, flexed sore wrists and rubbed her battered knees. Apart from the graze on her shin she was uninjured. Just crazy, she muttered as she climbed to her feet.

Unwelcome sensations spun through the air. Her heart raced triple-time and the sweat on her body crystallized to hoarfrost. The pressure of probing eyes snagged her attention to the houses that lined the coast. A jumble of seventeenth and eighteenth-century cottages that crowded the shore, as if the fishermen who’d built them had staked their claim on the sea and dared it to come any closer. Shivering, she held her breath, blood pounding through her ears with the cadence of thunder. Danger pulsed through the air. Or was it just her oversensitive imagination?

She started jogging, tiredly stretching out aching muscles, wanting to get home and away from the nightmare her life had become.

She rounded the corner and lurched to a stop, shock welding her feet to the ancient Scottish bedrock.

A body rolled in the surf.

Oh God, not again. Was he real?

Indecision held her in place. Should she pretend she didn’t see him? Was she really this insane? She squeezed her eyes shut and curled her hands into fists because she didn’t want to be the crazy lady. She was sick of being the weirdo. When she opened her eyes again, the pewter sky had darkened, reflecting ominous hues in the green-tinged North Sea, and the body was still there. Her hands shook. Breath jammed in her lungs. She expelled it and took one tentative step forward. Then she began to run.

Horror ripped away decades and she couldn’t move fast enough. She climbed rocky steeples, staggered across granite ledges and plunged into water so cold her skin blistered. She skidded, hissed out a cry and grabbed at his sweater.

But Christ, he was real! She hadn’t expected him to be.

She swallowed her relief because now there was a genuine emergency. He weighed more than lead, heavy clothes dragging him into the swirling depths. A wave crashed over the top of the ledge, cascading into the pool and over Sorcha’s head as she tore at the man, trying to lift his face for air. Panic gave her strength.

He may not be dead. He may not be dead yet.

Desperate, she grabbed the material, felt the stretch and give of waterlogged wool, and heaved. Turning him over, she took an instant to absorb the fact that it wasn’t him.

Thank God, it wasn’t him.

This man was young with dirty blond hair plastered to his skull. He looked more like a student or a tourist than a fisherman, and he wasn’t breathing. Currents tried to steal him as waves pounded the rock pool, but she refused to let go.

Using every muscle in her body, she worked at pulling his dead weight clear of the water. If she could get him there, if she could get him breathing, there was a five-minute window where she could run for help before the storm-driven tide stole him again.

Imagine how crazy she’d sound if she claimed to have found another body on the beach, only this one disappeared? She’d been gone for many years, but in this part of Scotland people didn’t forget—and they didn’t forgive.

Her feet slipped. No! She lost her balance on the treacherous rock and his weight pushed her under. She banged her head on granite and choked as seawater entered her airway.

Spluttering, she rose to her feet, hooked her hands beneath his arms and dragged him backward out of the weed-infested pool before she collapsed.

Waves lashed around both sides of the rocks. There wasn’t much time to resuscitate him before the tide caught up with them, but she had to try. Rough stone bit into her knees as she checked for a pulse. She searched his thick wrist, then the wall of his neck for the telltale beat of life. Nothing moved. No flutter of blood, no rise or fall of his chest. His lips were blue. Skin, pale and waxy. Glassy eyes stared up at her, reminding her of another face…

He’s dead. The voice came out of nowhere, loud and startling, despite the howling gale.

Sorcha screamed. She didn’t mean to, couldn’t help the screech that escaped her lips.

Take it easy. A stranger stood nearby, holding up his hands, fingers spread wide in a nonthreatening gesture. Black eyes stared at her from a harsh face, spray or perspiration beading his forehead. His lips were compressed into a thin red line and a muscle ticked in his jaw.

There was no compassion in his gaze, no relief to be found in his presence. A shudder ran through her as the wind cut through her wet clothes to penetrate her skin, only it wasn’t the temperature that made her shake. The guy was about as friendly as razor wire.

Do you know him? The man, an American by his accent, shouted above the roar of wind and water.

Sorcha looked down at the man at her feet—the undoubtedly dead man at her feet.

Lord, I should recognize a corpse.

She shook her head. She’d never seen the young man before.

Think you can make it up the shore? he asked.

Of course. What about him? Despite the lungful of water she’d inhaled, her voice held. She wasn’t the one who needed to be rescued. In case he hadn’t noticed, she was the one doing the rescuing.

Foam frothed. The tempest was about to hit full force. The furious gray clouds started to spit. He tore his gaze from the surging water back to her. I’ll carry him.

He’s heavy. Sorcha hesitated to touch the man now that she knew he was dead, but she felt bound to him. Just like so many years ago. I can help. She moved forward to pick up the dead man’s arm, preparing to haul him up.

Ignoring her, the newcomer maneuvered himself around the rocks to stand on the other side of the body and hefted the dead man across his shoulders.

Sorcha opened her mouth to argue, but the Yank was already striding away and she had no choice except to follow. Why did men take over like that?

Bloody hell.

The American couldn’t hear, but she wasn’t so sure about the dead.

The stranger negotiated the jutting slabs of bedrock with ease, the corpse strung across his shoulders as though he carried dead bodies every day. Wrapping her arms tight across her chest, she trailed him. A boulder wobbled beneath her trainers and she slipped, letting out a yelp of surprise. The American turned, the dead guy streaming water down his crimson jacket like fresh-flowing blood.

Unsettled, she forced the image away.

Need some help? he asked.

Away from the violent surf he’d relaxed a little, his expression unlocked by the barest degree. Although the derision in his eyes suggested he found her discomfort amusing.

Just what I need. A sadist.

And suddenly there was her father again, strolling up the beach ahead of them, disappearing through the garden gate. A voice whispered close by, the words whisked away by the fury of the storm. She held herself rigid, fighting the urge to close her eyes and weep.

Her father was dead.

The American didn’t notice anything was wrong. He just turned around and carried on walking. Her fingers shook as she dragged her hand through her sticky hair. She lurched onward, barely able to feel her toes. She wasn’t sure what affected her more—the icy water, the cruel storm or the ghosts from her past.

Her eyes latched onto the stranger’s red jacket, a lifeline, and her feet carried her on autopilot. He headed to the old Johnstone cottage, the one closest to the beach.

Figured.

She didn’t want to remember the last time she’d been in that house. Fifteen years was a long time, but not long enough to eradicate those memories.

Despite the rain that made distinct splashes on the rocks, her pace slowed. Part of her wanted to go home, to continue walking up the beach a few houses and forget she’d ever found another body in the rock pool. Instead she followed the American past where the rocks turned into coarse sand and salt-tolerant wildflowers encroached on the sea’s territory. They went up three stone steps and through a newly painted blue door set in the old stone wall. And each step brought with it a sharp sense of déjà vu.

The stranger laid the dead man on the thin strip of grass that constituted a lawn, and the corpse seemed to glow in the twilight. Who was he? How had he ended up on this beach?

She resisted the urge to cross herself.

The American disappeared along the covered passageway toward the cottage’s door, but the vulnerability of the body pulled at her. An old stone potting shed stood in the garden. She rattled the doorknob in search of a tarp or a towel to cover the dead man, but it was locked. Old Mrs. Johnstone used to hide the key beneath the dusty flowerpot which still sat at the corner of the shed. Numbly Sorcha scrabbled her fingers beneath it, found only dried dirt and cobwebs. Some things did change if you stayed away long enough. She rested against the wall, and the rain beat down on her head.

The American approached, carrying a coarse pink blanket and a cell phone. The sharp angles of his face contrasted with the weathered stone of the cottage behind him.

Who are you? she asked softly.

Name’s Ben Foley.

Nothing else. No pleasantries. No Isn’t it terrible we found a dead man on the beach? Droplets of moisture glistened in his hair. Knowledge and intelligence sparked in the pitch of his eyes.

She shrank away, alarmed by what he might see. I need to go home and change—

No. I called the cops.

She edged back, but he followed. He held up his cell phone and tilted his head. Said they’d be right over.

Bloody hell. She needed to get away. Look, I’m freezing. I need to change out of these wet things.

Sorry. He didn’t sound sorry at all. The police wanna talk to you. His tone was firm, brooking no argument. He flashed a smile, a crease bisecting one clean-shaven cheek. He was deeply, gloriously tanned, making her feel washed-out and insipid by comparison. The fire’s lit. He slipped the phone back into his pocket. And I can lend you some dry stuff.

Tension gripped her as he stepped closer and held the blanket wide as if to wrap her in it.

She twisted away. Put it over him. She pointed a finger at the body.

Believe me, he doesn’t need it. He stood in front of her, a solid wall of determination.

Yes, he does. She tried to control the tremor in her voice and glanced at the neighbors’ windows, which shone with light. At least one curious onlooker was silhouetted against pale curtains. How could she express her distress at the thought of people seeing the dead man at his most vulnerable? He needs to be covered up.

They glared at each other until he finally backed away. Fine, lady. Whatever.

God, he was cranky.

The wind sliced through her. She rubbed her arms and stamped her feet to try to get warm, silently cursing as her soggy trainers squished. She did not have time for hypothermia.

Are you sure you don’t recognize him? he asked.

I’ve never seen him before. And hoped to hell she never saw him again. One ghost was enough.

Ben Foley covered the body with the blanket. He knelt to one side and swept the sleeve of the sweater up above the elbow of the dead man’s arm and quickly pulled it back down, adjusting the cuff. Sorcha’s teeth chattered as he tucked the blanket securely beneath the head and torso to foil the wind.

His movements were respectful. It helped, though she didn’t know why.

The storm ripped at his jacket as he turned back toward her, this tall startling foreigner. She stood her ground even though what she really wanted to do was run.

Let’s get you inside. Gripping her arm, he escorted her toward the cottage and

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  • (4/5)
    Sorcha moves back to Scotland to find things have not changed. Everyone still thinks she is a witch after her father died long ago when she was 10. Someone started a rumor and it caught on. When she finds a dead body in the water, things start going down hill from there. A secret DEA agent by the name of Ben thinks she is a drug trafficker or is she? He certainly thinks so, all the signs point that she is. He is also trying to avenge his partners death. Some one ratted him out. Could that also be Sorcha's fault? Sorcha is wondering about Ben, when ever something bad happens to her, Ben is always around. Could he be the cause? There are a lot of twists in this book to keep you guessing. There are some paranormal aspects to the story as well, but don't want to give away anything. There is some romance involved. There is something for everyone to enjoy about this book. Now about half way though I already guessed who did it and was right. Sorcha is independent, but at the same time needy. This was a fun read for me, and keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting to know what else is going to happen.