Excerpt from Danger Close

  
     She whirled and stared at the door in stupefaction. Sam? How could Sam be here? Her gaze darted to the rum still sitting on the counter. She had to be hallucinating.
     "Open up. I want to know if you're okay."
     That had to be Sam. No one else was so infernally bossy. She retraced her steps to unlock the door with uncertain hands. The light from her condominium fell on Sam's rugged beauty—crooked nose and all—his broad shoulders and long legs. Without thinking, she launched herself at him, hugging him with a whimper of relief.
     "Whoa, hey, hello to you, too," he exclaimed, clearly not expecting such a warm welcome. With a glance over his shoulder, he maneuvered them both inside of the building and shut the door with his heel, all without releasing her.
     Maddy held tight, absorbing reassurance from the breadth of his chest and mustering the strength to stop digging her fingers into his camouflage jacket. She couldn't afford to look weak in front of him. Collecting her composure, she released him and stepped back. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
     He didn't answer right away. Jungle green eyes raked her pale face, sliding down her rigid torso to the fingers she was curling into fists. "What's going on?" he countered.
     "What do you mean?" A sudden suspicion had her clapping a hand to her forehead. "My father sent you here again?" she railed, anger driving back her fear.
     "No."
     His immediate assurance only confused her more. "Then he sent you here to spy on me," she concluded, still bristling.
     "Wrong again. I just met your colleague, Ricardo."
     "Ricardo?" What did Ricardo have to do with any of this?
     "He mentioned what happened at the lab today."
     An image of Enrique flashed before her eyes.
     "Are you okay?" Sam continued. "You seem...," he angled his head with suspicion, "you don't seem like yourself."
     She tore her gaze from his all-seeing eyes and fixed it on the bottle sitting on the kitchen counter. "I think I'm drunk," she said seizing the first excuse she could think of.
     He glanced over at the bottle. "The bottle's still full. You sure you're not just scared?"
     Maddy lifted her chin a notch. "Of course not." She ruined that assertion by all but jumping out of her skin as Sam laid a hand squarely over her thumping heart.
     "Tell me what happened today," he exhorted.
     Maybe she was dreaming him. That was all she seemed to do lately. She couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that he was here in the flesh, in a place where she'd never expected him to be, regarding her with concern. Part of her longed to share her terrifying experience, but she couldn't. Sam would have her packing and on a plane headed for home by sunrise tomorrow.
     "Nothing," she said with a shrug.
     "You found the body of the guard at the lab," he stated.
     "Right. But nothing else happened." She winced the instant the words passed through her lips because they so obviously sounded like a lie.
     He cocked his head a second time, suspicion brightening his eyes. "You saw the men who killed him," he immediately guessed.
     Maddy shook her head. "No." She forced the denial past her tongue.
     He stepped closer, using his height and breadth to impose his will on her. "Were they foreign soldiers?" he interrogated, ignoring her denial. "Lebanese, maybe?"
     Surely he could see the pulse galloping at the base of her throat. "I don't know. I never saw them," she insisted.
     "Then why are you so terrified right now?"
     "I'm fine." She cast a longing glance at the bottle of rum. Maybe another shot or two or three would convince her of that.
     "Maddy." Sam's large hands rose without warning to capture her face between his large, warm palms. A frisson of awareness arced clear to her toes. "Those men have been identified as terrorists. If you know anything about them, anything at all, we could use that information."
     "That's why you're here," she realized, putting two and two together. He hadn't chased her to the Southern Hemisphere just to be close to her again. Of course, not. Why would she even think that when he'd left her home in McLean without so much as a fare-thee-well?
     He released her with a grimace of annoyance. "I can't talk about that," he told her flatly. "Our presence here is top secret. No one is supposed to know, not even you. Promise me." He held up a warning finger.
     Maddy glared at it. She hated when he pointed his finger at her. "I know how to keep secrets," she averred, flinching inwardly as she realized she was keeping one from him now.
     Doubt reared its grizzly head. If the Lebanese soldiers were terrorists, then shouldn't she tell Sam everything she knew? But then she would have to admit that her life had been threatened, and Sam would insist that she leave the country.
     Besides, what could she tell him that might possibly be useful?
     He flipped his wrist over to glance at his watch. "I have to be going," he said. Looking back at her, his gaze centered on her mouth.
     Craving a kiss, Maddy touched her tongue to her parched lips. "I can't believe you're here," she marveled. "It's almost like you're following me," she added, laughing self-consciously at her wishful thinking.
     "Pretty amazing coincidence," he agreed. Cynicism curled the edges of his upper lip. "I'm not supposed to have contact with any civilians in the area," he added, putting a damper on her expectations.
     "Oh." Her giddiness evaporated. "I see." He would leave without another backward glance, just like the last time.
     But he didn't. Instead, he stood there taking her in with such brooding intensity that it dawned on her that he didn't really want to leave. The pleasure that bloomed from that realization emboldened her. Seizing the front of his BDU jacket, she jerked him closer and stole the kiss she'd been craving.
     The feel of Sam's supple lips made her groan in remembered pleasure. He responded with initial restraint, his body tense with self-control. But then his control crumbled suddenly, dissolving into an avalanche of desire as he palmed her head, cupped the curve of her bottom and plundered her mouth like a man starved for the taste of her.
     Behind closed eyelids, Maddy's world tipped off its axis. A shimmering heat spread to her extremities. She could feel Sam's heart thudding beneath her palm, his sex swelling against her hip. Would he stop? Did she even want him to?
     Then, with a frustrated growl, he raised his head and gazed at her beneath hooded eyes. Breathing harshly, he brushed her cheek with the pad of his thumb and reluctantly released her.
     "Stay out of trouble," he ordered, turning to the door. He flicked off the light before stepping through it—to keep anyone outside from seeing him, she realized—and shut the door firmly behind him.
     Maddy released a whimper as her expectations drained abruptly away, leaving her feeling deprived. She drifted to the door, locked and bolted it, and then went to peek through her kitchen window, hoping to catch another glimpse of Sam, but he had disappeared. There was nothing to see except the sandy front yard, a scraggly cactus plant, and an empty street. Would he even come back? she wondered, or would he keep away like he said he had to?
     She reached for the bottle of rum and tossed back one more swig. One thing she was grateful for, she wasn't so terrified anymore. By some miracle, Sam Sasseville, her unlikely guardian angel, had followed her to Paraguay. And oddly enough, his assignment was to get those men who'd almost killed her today—the men who had murdered Enrique and terrorized her.
     Once they were dealt with, Maddy wouldn't have to worry that the leader might change his mind and come looking for her. God, she hoped Sam and his SEALs dispatched those men quickly!
 
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