Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.
When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.
Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.
A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.
A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.
Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.
Something was wrong. Was the dark playing tricks on her? Riley Beckett froze, arm outstretched, hand poised to toss her keys on the table just inside her front door. But she didn’t let go. Instead of dropping them in their usual spot, she feathered pieces of the makeshift weapon between her knuckles. Heart pounding, she pressed the keys in a silent, white-knuckle grip and prayed her concerns were her imagination, that the paranoia of coming home alone to a dark house was getting the better of her.
One, two steps in. Wood planks echoed underfoot. She fought to breathe air that grew thinner with every tense second.
Then it hit her. The scent. His scent. And with it a flush of memories. The burn of hot grass on her bare skin. Rough hands, a tender touch. Love so sweet she ached for it, her dreams raging, and her body drenched with need.
“Gage?” Her voice broke on the single syllable. Riley’s grip on the keys tightened, her blood raging hot and cold all at once.
A creak sounded from the corner chair. Her eyes refused to adjust in the darkness, but not even the faint light kept the blond streaks in his russet hair from giving him away. Like rays of sunshine, she used to tease, and her words never failed to draw a scowl across his rugged face.
God help her, her name on his lips sounded as it always had. Coarse. Dangerous. Forbidden. Even before… The memory surged, hot and vivid, leaving a metallic taste in her mouth. White heat assaulted her from every corner of the room.
The keys fell to the floor with a dull clink.
“An eye for an eye, is it?” His voice sounded unpracticed, as if he hadn’t spoken in a long while.
She couldn’t see his face, but she knew his expression. Flat and humorless. Broken. She remembered the day he stopped smiling. Every part of her wanted to flee, but she stood frozen to the spot.
“What do you mean?” Riley wondered if the words, whispered and weak, had the strength to make it across the room. Hadn’t she always known she’d shatter the next time she saw him? Hadn’t she dreamed of seeing him anyway?
“You have to ask?” Gage laughed, cold and hollow. “Billy’s dead. Hell of a thing to come home to. My brother blown to bits on my back porch.”
“Oh God.” She swayed. The room filled with a distant buzzing. She took one unsteady step to the side and stumbled.
When she found his gaze, it was over the business end of a revolver.
He leveled the gun in her direction. Everything else in her world trembled, but his aim held rock steady. Unyielding.
His eyes burned blue and bright. “What I want to know, sweetheart, is why you did it.”
He worked his finger over the trigger, and a veil of blackness threatened her last discerning thought.
He hadn’t even pulled the trigger, yet Riley hit the hardwood in a crumpled heap. That was a first.
Without taking his attention from her, Gage Lawton climbed out of the chair, cursing when he realized his foot was asleep. He tucked the .38 in the waistband of his pants and limped through the pins-and-needles sensation wreaking havoc in his left boot.
Hell of a time to feel ticklish, he thought, staring at Riley’s wild mane of dark waves sprawled over the floorboards. Not the stark contrast he’d seen over a crisp white pillowcase. His mind played flashbacks. Memories of dragging his lips over her heaving, sweat-slicked skin threatened his plans…and his resolve.
The flood of emotions shouldn’t have surprised him. He was as stoic as a block of granite when it came to everything—and everyone—except Riley Beckett. He never could put the feeling into words, but just being around her made him feel free, like standing in the middle of the prairie with the sun, and the breeze, and the vastness…and the promise of something he didn’t dare believe.
And he didn’t. Gage knew good things didn’t happen to him. But she’d captured a piece of his soul with her laughing eyes and damning innocence.
The purest woman he’d ever known and he’d destroyed her.
He eyed the glass of whiskey he’d poured to keep himself company while he waited. He hadn’t touched it yet. The amber liquid represented a line Gage couldn’t cross, but he’d given himself too much credit where Riley was concerned. The moment her sky blue eyes found his, she’d broken him all over again.
With a weary sigh, he knelt at her side, irony forcing him to suppress the urge to laugh. How many times had she brought him to his knees? He thought of his kid brother sprawled on his porch and promised himself this would be the last time. Rage and guilt made for strange bedfellows, but he knew one thing: if Riley Beckett had pulled that damned trigger, she had cleared his heart of the latter.
An eye for an eye.
About Sarah Ballance
Sarah Ballance is a multi-published author of contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense. She’s been married to her own romantic hero for what he calls a “long, long time” (and no, he’ll never hear the end of saying that). Together they have six children … and clearly too much time on their hands. She currently writes for Entangled and has upcoming releases from both Entangled and Samhain Publishing.