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Shadow Hunter

January 2007
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
ISBN # 978-0373275205

Navajo Tribal Special Investigator Hunter Long couldn’t believe the news. Spoiled beauty Bailey Howard, abducted with a baby? The woman who’d caused him no end of heartache wouldn’t be in danger for long. Hunter was the best tracker on the reservation - - he’d save them both. Without letting Bailey get under his skin again.

But rescuing both Bailey and the baby at once became impossible. For the kidnappers belonged to a group of mystical and deadly shape-shifters, and even Hunter couldn’t easily escape them. Together they might stand a chance – if he could resist the force of this new Bailey, no longer spoiled, but all woman.

NIGHT GUARDIANS - the Navajo brotherhood keeps watch in the night at any cost.

More about The Night Guardians

Shadow Hunter

 

Bailey awoke to something warm and smelly pressing against her mouth. The shock startled her so badly her eyes popped open and she tried to scream. But whatever or whoever it was kept her quiet.

“Shush, beauty,” a vaguely familiar voice whispered in her ear. “Let’s try not to wake the two charmers, okay?”

Hunter Long? No that was impossible. But she’d always been sure she would recognize his voice anywhere. She’d heard it in her dreams often enough. Was she dreaming?

Another shaft of panic hit her between the shoulder blades. Who was this person really? Someone coming to her rescue? Or another nightmare she would have to escape.

She wasn’t truly still dreaming was she? Trying to turn around to check for sure, Bailey found herself firmly restrained by two strong arms.

“You ready to blow this picnic?” His casual tone and the slow drawl from behind her back reminded her only too well of easier, happier times. But her heart still threatened to pound right out of her chest.

“Nod your head if you can stand on your own.”

Still stunned, Bailey managed only a shoulder shrug. She wasn’t sure of anything right now except that it suddenly seemed she might make it out of this ordeal alive, after all. It was really Hunter. But how? Why?

“Okay, don’t try,” he murmured against her ear. “I’ll carry you into the cliffs first. Far enough that the idiots can’t follow. Relax and don’t make a sound.”

He released her mouth. Before she knew what was happening, Hunter had whisked her up in his arms and they seemed to be flying through the dark night.

She would’ve loved to be able to throw her arms around his neck and hang on, to enjoy the feel of his muscled chest after so many years. But her hands were still tied and she wasn’t sure she had the energy left, anyway.

It seemed to take a long time, but probably it had only been a few minutes that Hunter climbed among the boulders with her in his arms. Finally he reached a strip of level ground and halted.

“This is far enough. I’m going to set you down now, Bailey. Lean against me until you’re steady. I’ll cut the rope off your wrists in a second, but we still have to be quiet. Sound echoes in these canyons.”

He slowly lowered her body along the length of his. Her blistered and bloody feet rebelled with excruciating pain when they touched the ground, but she found a reserve of strength and ignored it. Leaning her back against him, she silently kicked out the leg cramps until she could stand firmly upright and steady once again.

“Good girl. Now hold still while I cut the rope.”

As the bonds went slack, she moved her numb hands apart. Without warning, sharp pains replaced the numbness in her fingers and nearly brought her to her knees. Whimpering, she pulled the throbbing hands to her chest.

The stabbing pain must’ve been clear on her face even in the darkness, because Hunter began vigorously rubbing her hands and forearms. “I know it hurts,” he said soothingly. “But it’ll go away in a moment.”

He was right. A few minutes later the ache was a memory. She looked up into his face, wishing for tears enough to cry for joy.

Opening her mouth to thank him for saving her, she was surprised when he gripped the back of her head and covered her mouth in a searing kiss. It was all too short-lived and in a second he pulled back. But he continued to hang on to her shoulders as if he was afraid she would fall down if he didn’t. Or maybe that he would collapse if he had to let her go.

“Hunter...” she managed with a dry, raspy squeak.

“Sorry,” he said with a shake of his head. “But I’m so damned glad you’re still alive. Forget it and have some water.” He unscrewed the top from a canteen and handed it to her, then took it back after she’d had just a few gulps. “Not too much at one time, though. If it settles all right, you can try one of the MREs I’m carrying before we head off.”

“Sheesh, your hands stink. Do have any chocolate on you? What are you doing here?” She wasn’t making sense, stunned to suddenly realize her old lover had been the one to come to her rescue. “I demand to know if my father sent you or if this is as much a surprise to you as it is to me.”

Even through the darkness of the moonless sky, she could see his same old charming grin. The one she remembered through eight long years. Hunter had always been famous for flashing that boyish charm at all the girls.

“You haven’t changed a bit, Bailey. Still the spoiled little rich girl, ordering everyone around. As it happens, your father did ask that I be the one to bring you home.”

. . . .

“Does it take long to fix one of those MRE things you mentioned?”

He shook his head and reached behind him to the pack on his back. “That’s the whole point.”

“Good. While I eat it, you can go back for the baby.”

Shaking his head again, he ripped open the package and handed it to her. “I can’t figure out how to manage taking both of you to safety at one time, Bailey. I have to get you out to civilization first and then come back.”

“What? No. What will happen to Tara?”

“I can move fast. Depending on how bad your injuries are, I should be able to return before nightfall tomorrow.

“They want to keep the baby alive for ransom,” he added. “She should be okay. As soon as you’re safe, I’ll come back for her.”

“Please, no.” Bailey surprised herself by how adamant and full of strength her voice suddenly sounded.

“No?”

“We can’t leave her with them. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but please help me find a way of not leaving her behind. I can’t stand the thought of her being with them alone.”

She waved a hand and her chin trembled. “I couldn’t bear it if I live and Tara dies. Please, don’t make me go.”

 

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