Montana Madness [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Marilee Crow
eBook Category: Romance/Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: When Whitney Cooper inherits a house and five acres in Montana, she jumps at the opportunity to begin a new life. A life without fear. But her house is attached to a ranch belonging to the Martin family. And the reception she gets from Jared Martin is far from welcoming. When accidents begin to threaten her life she wonders if she's done the right thing. Could this be worse than what she was running from? Jared Martin has a habit of jumping to conclusions where Whitney Cooper is concerned. She is not turning out to be what he thought her to be. The last thing Jared needs or wants is the pull of desire he feels whenever she is around. He is certain she is hiding something about her past and he is determined to find out what it is. Can Jared keep Whitney safe? And is his heart in danger of breaking once again?
eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, Published: 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2008
16 Reader Ratings:
A dark forest surrounded her. The noises ricocheting through the woods roared in her ears. With every rustle, a tiny shudder rippled through her. Her heart began to race.
"I see you," came the singsong voice of the man she was hiding from.
She took off running in a zigzag pattern between the twisted trees, their branches grabbing at her clothes, impeding her progress. Her chest shook with each heartbeat, and a hard, choking lump formed in her throat.
The distinct sound of gunfire rang out, and a chill prickled the hair on the back of her neck. The next shot stung her upper arm like an angry bee. She was sick with despair, sure the next shot would drop her dead in her tracks. Instead, fate reached out with ensnaring fingers and pulled her down to the forest floor as the next shot buzzed over her head.
But fate wasn't kind, after all. In the next moment the man's hand closed over her arm and pulled her up. The blow to her face was swift, and her head reeled from it. A nauseating lurch of panic, along with the wave of physical pain, accompanied the taste of blood in her mouth. The man shoved her hard. She grabbed at his shirt, grasping at anything to keep from falling. The star-shaped, metallic badge ripped off in her hand, its sharp edges digging into her palm. She sobbed at the irony. He was supposed to protect. Instead, he flung her to the ground. She fell awkwardly, the brunt of the fall taken on her right hip and shoulder. A cloud of dirt flew in her face, and she wrinkled up her nose to keep from choking.
Before she could recover, the man yanked her up to her knees by her hair. Blood poured from her hand as she tightened her hold on the badge. Cold steel clicked, then the butt of the gun barrel pressed against her temple. Darkness engulfed her, crept in and ravished her with fear.
"If I can't have you, no one will," he whispered against her ear. "Say goodbye."
Whitney woke with a gasp and bolted to a sitting position. Panic-stricken, she glanced around the room. Seconds passed without a breath before she realized she wasn't in any danger.
It was only a dream, another nightmare. She took a deep breath, her shoulders slumping in relief. She closed her eyes, placed a hand over her heart, and concentrated on slowing its painful, rapid beating.
"Damn you, Lloyd Benson," she whispered hoarsely as she slowly curled back up on her side, pulling the blanket more tightly around her.
She lay shaking, her eyes wide open, watching the shadows dance on the closet door. Even awake, every noise appeared to be magnified. The thump of her heartbeat echoed loudly in her ears and off the walls. She tried to ignore the steady tick of the alarm clock, but a minute later she threw back the covers and sat up.
She slipped into her warm, knitted slippers, wrapped an afghan around her shoulders, and padded over to the window where she twisted the mini-blind cord just enough to see out.
She wasn't the only one up. Some of the houses that lined the other side of the street showed signs of life, a window here and there illuminated with light.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the beam of a headlight as it crested the hill and started its slow descent into the neighborhood. Instant suspicion knotted her stomach. As the car passed by the house, she ducked away from the window, terror invading her, piercing her chest like a cold blade.
She hated herself for her fear, for allowing Lloyd Benson to strip her of her confidence.
But the danger was real. It had been there from the first time they'd met nine months ago. The apprehension had been thick as syrup when he'd introduced himself and insisted on helping her move into her apartment. She'd become increasingly uncomfortable when he began following her, seeming to run into her everywhere. She'd moved twice and it didn't help. It only fueled his determination. And when he began sending her notes and presents, she'd taken quick and immediate legal action.
But that had been nine months ago. Nine months in and out of the courts and all she got was a piece of paper to separate her and Lloyd Benson. Not much of a shield against a man who thought his job as a department store security guard was equal to that of a police officer. Who in the world had given Lloyd Benson the right to carry a gun?
Pushing herself away from the wall, she paced back and forth. It was nearly midnight. Work, rather than sleep, seemed the only option. She'd get the rest she needed tomorrow, in the middle of the day, when nightmares didn't plague her.
Dressed in sweat pants and a T-shirt, she went into the kitchen and heated some water for tea. She carried the soothing brew into the room where she'd set up her computer, then jumped as the shrill ring of the phone shattered the quiet of the house.
Hot liquid sloshed over her hand. Thankfully, it was not hot enough to scald. A familiar fear knotted her stomach and uneasiness crept up her spine. She set down the cup and stood, tension mounting in her shoulders as she waited for the inevitable.
One ring, two rings, three rings, four rings.
The recorder switched on.
She shuddered at the sound of his voice.
"Hello, sweetheart. My birthday is Friday. Quit acting like a child. Come help me celebrate. I won't take no for an answer. It's really hard to keep this relationship going when you refuse to see me. I love you and I know you'll love me, too, if you just give me a chance. Isn't it about time you gave in a little? I know you're upset that the restraining order wasn't extended today, so let me make it up to you. I'll pick you up about seven o'clock. Friday, okay? Just one date. That's all I'm asking for. One date. I won't accept defeat until you've gone out with me and you've had a chance to see my good side. Friday, seven. Sweet dreams."
A chill spread up her arms and through her chest. She collapsed into her chair, pulled her knees up to her chest for warmth, and pressed her face against her legs.
Her heart pounded. Her mind raced. All her plans for slipping away in two weeks had to now be done in four days. Her stomach clenched. Despite the threats of what he'd do if she ever tried to leave, of what he'd do if she moved one more time and he found her, there was no alternative. She wouldn't be here Friday.
Or any other Friday.