Tall, Dark And Wanted
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
He’d been gentle. So gentle…
Should it have surprised her? The second Mitch had touched her tonight, the soft heat of his palm had whispered memories to her.
Molly took another deep breath, trying to quiet the flutter that had started inside her the second he’d lifted her top to dress her wound. The bathroom had been far too cramped for the two of them. Definitely too cramped for the physical attraction she’d felt crackle across the narrow gap that had separated them.
“No.” The sound of her voice forced back the images. And if that wasn’t enough, Molly patted at the edges of the tape that held the bandage in place. It still stung, giving her a sharp bite of reality.
And the reality was, she was here to bring Mitch back to Chicago. Nothing more.
Dear Harlequin Intrigue Reader,
The holidays are upon us again. This year, remember to give yourself a gift—the gift of great romantic suspense from Harlequin Intrigue!
In the exciting conclusion to TEXAS CONFIDENTIAL, The Outsider’s Redemption (#593) by Joanna Wayne, Cody Gannon must make a life-and-death decision. Should he trust his fellow agents even though there may be a traitor among their ranks? Or should he trust Sarah Rand, a pregnant single mother-to-be, who may be as deadly as she is beautiful?
Another of THE SUTTON BABIES is on the way, in Lullaby and Goodnight (#594) by Susan Kearney. When Rafe Sutton learns Rhianna McCloud is about to have his baby, his honor demands that he protect her from a determined and mysterious stalker. But Rafe must also discover the stalker’s connection to the Sutton family—before it’s too late!
An unlikely partnership is forged in To Die For (#595) by Sharon Green. Tanda Grail is determined to find her brother’s killer. Detective Mike Gerard doesn’t want a woman distracting him while on a case. But when push comes to shove, is it Mike’s desire to catch a killer that propels him, or his desire for Tanda?
First-time Harlequin Intrigue author Morgan Hayes makes her debut with Tall, Dark and Wanted (#596). Policewoman Molly Sparling refuses to believe Mitch Drake is dead. Her former flame and love of her life is missing from Witness Protection, but her superior tracking skills find him hiding out. While the cop in her wants to bring him in, the woman in her wants him to trust her. But Mitch just plain wants her back….
Wishing you the happiest of holidays from all of us at Harlequin Intrigue!
Associate Senior Editor
Tall, Dark and Wanted
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“Men and women finding love against great emotional odds and in the face of personal danger—that’s what I attempt to deliver to my readers with each book,” says Morgan Hayes.“For me, the combination of mystery and romance is the most fulfilling. With suspense and intrigue, I’m able to develop the compelling dynamics that, I hope, will keep my readers turning the pages not only to find out ‘whodunit’ but to discover how these characters are going to survive emotionally.”
The inspiration for Hayes’s suspense stories comes from her continued research in Baltimore, Maryland—primarily with the city’s homicide unit. And quite often the inspiration for her characters comes from the admirable men and women behind the badge. With Mitch and Molly’s story, there was the added inspiration of time spent in southwest Michigan at Shady Shores, a family-owned resort that hugs the shore of Dewey Lake just northwest of Dowagiac.
Hayes herself lives along the remote and rocky shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, but admits that she needs the occasional dose of big-city life, and frequently travels to Baltimore and beyond. Ms. Hayes’s book Seduced by a Stranger won the 1998 Romance Writers of America Mystery/Suspense Chapter’s Kiss of Death Award, and in 1996 her second Harlequin Superromance novel, Premonitions, garnered a Romantic Times Magazine Reviewers’ Choice Award.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Mitch Drake—He’d lost everything he held precious in life and now he was on the run. But with former love Molly Sparling by his side, his heart began to heal—and to hope.
Molly Sparling—She swore the only reason she’d sought out Mitch was as a cop doing double duty to catch a ruthless killer. Still, she couldn’t help but feel like a woman in Mitch’s strong arms.
Sergio Sabatini—Known in Chicago as “Slippery” Sabatini, this mob boss would do anything to keep himself out of the can—starting with the murder of the key witness in his case, Mitch Drake, and that meddling cop, Sparling….
Leo Sparling—His only daughter, Molly, meant everything to this retired lawman, but even he couldn’t keep her safe from the dangers on her trail.
Sergeant Karl Burr—He knew Molly was a maverick and so he let her have her head. But was Molly’s “uncle” Karl getting in over his head?
Detective Adam Barclay—Molly’s partner on the force and her sole confidant—but could he truly be trusted?
Tom Sutton—This good cop’s murder spurred Molly on—but could she have saved him from the evil that stalked him?
Rachel McCloud—Tom’s former partner in Vice was a top dog detective, but just how much did she know about Tom’s murder?
In memory of Alice Nevins…
avid reader, shining light and boundless soul. May her enduring spirit live on in the memories of all those who call Shady Shores their “other home.”
And for Susan Bergey and Robyn Landers,
whose endless generosity and card table made this book possible.
Mitch eased his hand around the cool brass of the door-knob. He turned it noiselessly, feeling the bolt slide free of the catch.
He didn’t start when he heard one of the officers clear his throat behind him. He’d expected it.
“Uh, Mr. Drake, you weren’t actually thinking of leaving, were you?”
Mitch turned in time to see a third officer round the corner to join the other two in the room. Expectation replaced the previous boredom that had marked all three of the officers’ faces from the moment they’d arrived for duty at the safe house one week ago.
“As though I could go anywhere in this?” Mitch responded, nodding to the back window. Except for the narrow path that had been trampled down during the officers’ frequent smoke breaks, the small, fenced-in yard was buried under a good three feet of snow. Chicago had been socked by one of the worst New Year’s storms it had ever seen. Five straight days of freezing temperatures, nonstop flurries and winds that drove the snow into waist-high drifts, closing highways and more than half of the city.
“Why don’t you guys go back to the game?” He could hear the Bulls game still blaring from the TV in the other room. “I’ll be ten minutes.”
“Look, Mr. Drake. It’s the D.A. who makes the rules, not us, okay? And rule number one is we’re not supposed to let you out of our sight.”
“I won’t be out of your sight. I’ll be right outside. Now, if one of you wants to join me, you’re more than welcome. I’m going for a smoke.”
“But you don’t—”
“I do now.” He snatched up the pack of Camels left on the Formica-topped kitchen table, and tapped one cigarette out into his palm as though he’d done it a thousand times before. And when one officer tossed him a plastic lighter, Mitch caught it in the air, nodding the man an insincere “thanks”.
He half expected one of them to scramble into his coat and come out after him. But no one did. The door slammed shut in its frame as Mitch stood against the full force of the gale that blasted around the side of the split-level bungalow.
No matter how bitter cold, he was grateful for the privacy. There’d been precious little of it these past few months, with a new safe house every couple of weeks, and a constantly changing team of officers breathing down his neck at every move as though he was the one waiting to go on trial.
Turning up the collar of his leather bomber jacket, he stepped off the snow-packed deck and ventured down the steps to the first low drifts. He buried his hands in his pockets, crushing the cigarette in the process, and followed the six-foot-high fence. Snow packed into the sides of his leather shoes. Icy wind bit at his exposed skin and whipped at his hair. He didn’t care. At least it made him feel alive.
And—after eight months of safe houses, not to mention the two months prior to that recuperating in hospital—it was hard to remember what “alive” was anymore. Hard to remember there had ever been a life before this nightmare. Harder still to remember life with Emily.
He stopped at the far end of the yard, sheltered somewhat by the fence, and let the wind wrap its chill around him.
One thing he would always remember, however, was that night—the night his life had ended in one wrong turn, a detour directly to hell. Closing his eyes against the driving snow, he could, in an instant, conjure up every last detail of that night. The events unfolded before his mind’s eye like some stuttering, overplayed movie reel—the grand opening of the Carlisle Office Complex he’d spent three years designing and building, the project that sealed his reputation and success in the world of architecture, a night of high society and glamor, of celebration and champagne. But the most vivid image, beyond all the glitter and opulence of the evening’s events, was Emily—her glowing beauty, that shimmering smile of joy, her laughter and her words.
“Look at this, Mitch. All this—” she’d whispered, waving one slender hand at the grandeur around them. “It’s unbelievable, and all of it is yours. You did this. I am so proud of you.”
She’d kissed him then, oblivious of any onlookers. It was a passionate kiss that Mitch knew he’d remember to his grave, because it had been their last.
Within three hours of that kiss, everything he had known and loved was gone. They’d left the opening early. Emily, in spite of all her good cheer and exuberance, hadn’t been feeling well. Mitch could still remember the unseasonable warmth of the spring night air wafting through the car’s partly open window as they left the city center behind them.
If not for the road construction, they would have been safe in their bed, his body molding to Emily’s curves as he held her through the night. Instead, there was the detour sign, followed by a wrong turn. And then that dark street—made even darker now by the memories.
Emily had asked if he was lost. There was no time to answer. The sports car’s headlamps panned to the left as he took the turn, the light glaring across wet asphalt, illuminating the graffiti-covered wall of the overpass and finally capturing the small group of men.
They stood under the concrete arch, next to two dark-colored sedans, as the world spun into slow motion. Mitch couldn’t be sure which came first—the piercing crack of the gunshot or the flare from the weapon’s muzzle. Then there was the figure, crumpling to the shimmering pavement. And finally, the man…the man holding the gun. He’d turned, his deeply lined, sallow face forever etched in Mitch’s mind.
Emily was speechless, but Mitch remembered how she’d clutched at the sleeve of his tuxedo, tearing at it as though prompting him into action. The gearbox ground when he forced the sports car into reverse, the engine whining as he accelerated back to the intersection.
He didn’t need to glance in the rearview mirror to know they were being followed. And he hadn’t needed to hear Emily’s panicked observations as he steered for the on-ramp to the expressway.
They were already on him. Headlights blazing in the rearview, then disappearing below the mirror’s field of view as the tailing car took its first crack at Mitch’s bumper.
The small car was no match. The vehicle lurched, then swerved just as the battering sedan delivered another ram, and then another, to the ruined bumper. Mitch had already known they weren’t going to make it to the expressway. One dark sedan was alongside them. A single sideswipe from the heavy vehicle tore the wheel from Mitch’s hands. There was the agonizing squeal of metal on metal as the passenger side ground along the guardrail, and a spray of sparks lit up the night like a million stars. Then there was Emily’s scream. And finally the gut-wrenching crack as the rail gave way, hurtling the tiny car into a headlong somersault down the earthen slope.
Mitch remembered little after that. Not until the blipping of hospital monitors and support machines. It could have been hours or days that passed before the detectives came. Time meant nothing once he’d been told of Emily. Eventually he’d been presented with a photo lineup, and now, after months of safe houses, Mitch wished to hell he’d never pointed out the man he’d witnessed firing the gun.
He had never actually seen a photograph of Sergio Sabatini until he’d picked him out of the photo array. But he’d certainly recognized the name the instant one of the detectives uttered it: Slippery Sabatini. What resident of Chicago hadn’t heard of the notorious mob kingpin who’d spent the past fifteen years slipping through one judiciary crack after the next, evading every last criminal charge the Chicago Police Department tried to pin on him?
As though life without Emily hadn’t been bleak enough, from that moment on, Mitch’s life had literally disintegrated. First there had been the weeks of recovery in hospital under heavy police guard. And then, when Sabatini’s slick, high-priced lawyer managed to convince a judge that his client was established in the community with a family that depended on him, and was, therefore, in no way a flight risk, Sabatini easily met the million-dollar bail. On that same day, Mitch was moved to the first safe house. And the next. And the next. He’d lost count after the twelfth or thirteenth, in the same way he’d lost count of the number of trial delays and the D.A.’s excuses for each one.
Now, ten months later, it was easy to lose sight of the real reason he’d subjected himself to it all—Emily.
With numbing fingers, Mitch drew his wallet from his back pocket. He ignored the razor-sharp wind that cut at his frozen hands as he flipped the leather wallet open. The one-inch photo behind the crinkled plastic was several years old, but Emily’s beauty had never changed—from the day he’d met her in college her eyes had never ceased to shine, and her smile had only brightened over the years.
Mitch caressed the plastic over the photo with the pad of his thumb before closing the wallet and returning it to his pocket.
He was doing the right thing. In the end, in spite of everything he’d been through, it was the right thing. Only he could avenge Emily’s death; only his testimony could put her murderer behind bars. There was no one else. Just him now. Up until three months ago, the D.A. had had two others lined up to testify against Sabatini, two witnesses who had seen the cars force Mitch’s off the ramp that night. But now they were dead, or at least presumed so after their mysterious disappearances, which were currently under investigation by the CPD.
No, a conviction in the Sabatini trial lay solely in Mitch’s hands. And yet how many times had he caught himself wishing he’d died along with Emily that night? So what if Sabatini went to prison for consecutive life sentences? It couldn’t change the past. Emily was dead.
Mitch wiped the melting snow from his face and turned to look back at the safe house.
After all the safe houses, and after the trial, even after a conviction…what kind of life did he really have to go back to, anyway? Without Emily, it was hardly worth it.
He tilted his head and leaned against the fence, gazing up at the whirl of snowflakes. But it was images of Emily that swam before his mind’s eye.
And it was at that moment, the instant he’d started to straighten from the fence, intending to head back to the house, that the frigid silence of the late afternoon was shattered. One second there was quiet, and the next the world was ruptured by a violent explosion. It tore through the flimsy structure of the safe house, ripping it into a million fiery pieces that spewed out in as many directions.
Instantly the air was thick, churning with the heat of the blast, alive with the hiss of the inferno that consumed the small house. Flames licked at the heavy sky, their heat blistering along Mitch’s skin as his lungs took in the first wave of acrid smoke.
It was the second blast that knocked Mitch off his feet. It hurled him back against the fence under another shower of burning debris, and pitched him into utter blackness.
MOLLY SHOULD HAVE expected the mass of reporters and media vans camped outside Police Headquarters. Coverage of the explosion that had destroyed the safe house in Huntington was all over the news.
She’d been numb from the second she’d stepped out of the shower this morning, padded into her bedroom and seen the photo of Mitch flash across the TV screen. She’d been numb as she drove through the city and parked her car in the police garage around the corner; numb when she’d shoved change into the slot of the newspaper box and taken out a Tribune. She was still numb as she elbowed her way past the media and up the steps to the doors of Headquarters.
Even sitting down at her desk in the far corner of the Homicide unit, Molly was still in a haze of disbelief. Ignoring the chaos of phones and other detectives around her, she shrugged off her suit jacket and unfolded the paper. The front page of the early edition offered even less information. At least the TV report had suggested only three bodies were recovered from the late afternoon blast that had ripped through the Huntington bungalow. And unless Witness Protection was working under a new rule with less officers posted, that could mean…could mean there was still one survivor. Which one, though?
Her gaze scanned the rest of the page, scrutinizing the photo of the wreckage and finally stopping at the black-and-white image of Mitch. It wasn’t a good photo. Grainy and blurred. He looked directly into the camera, his lips curved in the same sexy smile that touched the corners of his eyes. And in spite of the poor quality of the photo, there was no mistaking that something in his eyes—a light, a spark. She’d never been able to describe that look, but it was the same one that had always managed to trip her pulse and bring that rushing swell to her heart. It was the same look she had felt so certain would forever be reserved for her, and her alone.
Molly gave herself a mental shake. How was it possible that twelve years couldn’t erase that sensation? Especially when the romance had lasted barely a quarter of that time? Then again, who was to say that at age seven she hadn’t already been in love with “that Drake boy” down the street?
Mitch Drake, the much-celebrated architect behind the new Carlisle Office Complex and now a protected witness for the prosecution in the upcoming murder trial against Sergio Sabatini, is among those presumed dead in the Huntington explosion. Police are withholding comment until investigators have assessed the scene, and the medical examiner’s office has identified the remains….
Molly swallowed the bitterness of bile threatening to rise to her throat. He couldn’t be dead. Not Mitch.
She needed answers. Glancing across the squad room to her sergeant’s office, she wasn’t surprised to see his door was shut. With officers dead, the brass would be all over this case, and no doubt Sergeant Burr was either on the phone or in conference.
She stared again at the newspaper photo of Mitch. How was it possible for him to look even better than her memory made him out to be?
It was the same photo the Tribune had already used countless times in reference to the upcoming Sabatini trial. In it Mitch’s hair was longer, and he sported a mustache and a trimmed beard. Molly had seen the combination on him only once, when he was nineteen, back from Boston after his first year of college. She hadn’t had to say anything about the new look. Mitch had known almost immediately by her expression that she didn’t like it, and he’d shaved for her that summer. Their last summer…
When she’d kissed him goodbye in September, how was she to know it would be her last?
“So you heard the news?”
Molly looked up. Adam Barclay, her partner, lowered himself behind his desk. His blond hair was damp and windblown. No doubt he’d slept in again and been forced to make yet another mad rush across the city so as not to miss roll call.
She nodded, then eyed the coffee cup he lifted to his lips as the steam circled his handsome face. “I don’t suppose you brought me one of those?”
“Sorry. So what’s the word then?” He nodded to her paper and she tossed it onto his desk.
“It’s the early edition. They know even less than the vultures out on the front steps.”
“Walden told me in the elevator that they got only three bodies, and the M.E.’s been working on ’em all night. Sarge talk to the squad yet?”
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî