Keep a low profile. That's what Abigale Peterson was supposed to do, especially when the person she was being protected from was one of the world's worst crime lords. After seven years in the Witness Protection Program, she felt no safer now than she did when she was seventeen. Revenge was rarely forgotten when it came to a professional criminal like Zerilli.
Low profiles meant no social life and definitely no love life.
Paranoia and lies became daily habits, going against everything Abigale believed in, but they kept her safe. They kept everyone safe.
Until a house fire puts her out of that safety and into the arms of a stranger. Max Smith is sexy, smart, and has major attitude. He’s the only one who seems to get her. He calms her fears and comforts her from her nightmares. But he also sees right through her lies.
Before Abigale can stop, she’s in too deep; confiding too much and breaking the one rule she promise herself to uphold: Never fall in love.
Witness to my Heart excerpt:
(Note: This is a draft version…. Changes may be made before publication)
It took only five minutes to get to Caroline's house. I pulled in behind a black Tahoe with a thirty day tag and shook my head. She was always buying or trading in her car. When did she find the time to buy a new car between the last time I saw her and their trip to New York? Flakes of leather fell from the side of my purse when I grabbed it from the floorboard. I moseyed up the wide brick steps and jumped when her automatic flood lights on the corner of the house popped on, lighting up the porch. Stopping at the second flower pot on the step, I knelt down to take the key out. Of course I had my own, but I didn’t like the idea of having a spare key under some random flower pot.
It wasn't there.
I checked the other pots, but I still couldn't find it. Had the idiots forgotten where they’d hidden their own secret key? I felt just as stupid for looking for it at three in the morning. If anyone saw me poking around, they'd probably think I was trying to rob the place.... in a short soot streaked shirt and flip flops. I laughed at the image of myself and searched for their key on my key ring.
Unlocking the door, I went inside, closed the door behind me, and immediately keyed the code into the alarm next to the door. I'd come and gone from their house enough times to count. After tripping the alarm one time too many, it was now etched in my brain, impossible to forget. If they ever changed it, I'd have to kill them. My shoes smacked against the hardwood floor as I made my way down the dark hall to the kitchen. I needed something to drink. A nice cup of hot tea, or a shot of something stronger from David's stash in top cabinet?
A good shot or two would be perfect before bed and would probably work a hell of a lot better than my sleeping pills. I wanted to relax and fall asleep, not be dead to the world from the pills. Plopping my purse on the breakfast table, I shimmed up on the counter to reach the bottles in the top cabinet. Sorting through the bottles, the smoky blue one caught my attention and I pulled it out and hopped down. Tequila. Perfect. Pulling a shot glass from beneath the bar, I poured a shot and leaned forward, resting my elbows on the countertop. The liquid was clear, but I could smell its fire from where it sat. I had never been one to wallow in my sorrows or drown my problems in the bottom of a bottle, but damn. When was I going to catch a fucking break? I downed the glass and squeezed my eyes feeling the slow burn slide down my throat and sighed at its unexpected comfort.
Most could say I was lucky to at least survive with my life after a fire like that, and they'd be right. Possessions weren't supposed to matter so much, and they shouldn't. But they did to me. Everything that was left of me was in that house. I gasped when I suddenly thought about the box I'd stored in the downstairs closest. Everything I had left of my father was in that box. It wasn't much, only little bits I was able to salvage after his death and the fire afterwards. More than likely it was gone now. Burned up like a forgotten memory. I felt the tears slip down my cheeks and stared at the splats as they fell to the countertop. I wiped my face with the back of my hand and I poured another shot.
“You having a drink before you rob the place?” a deep voice asked from the kitchen door.
I jumped, knocking the tequila bottle over. A shirtless man leaned against the door frame. Grabbing a knife from the butcher block in front of me, I raised the blade, but it shook in my grasp. My stomach felt sick as my mind quickly conjured the numerous ways he could try to hurt me. “Don't you come any closer?” I stepped back two paces until my back hit the edge of the counter and reached for the cordless phone I knew was there.
He raised his hands, palms out in front of him. “Let's not get carried away here. There's no need to call the cops.”
His voice was deep and throaty, the kind that commanded attention when speaking. “I have every right to call the police since you’re in my house.” I pushed the on button bring the phone to life.
He folded his arms over his smooth muscled chest with a smirk. “Your house? Unless you've suddenly dyed your hair from blond to brown, and it's miraculously grown from your shoulders to nearly your ass, I'd say you're not Caroline.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“I should ask you the same. What did you do, fall down the chimney?”
He was pissing me off. Bulging muscles or not, I could do some damage. I wasn't just some weak girl who couldn't defend herself. Not anymore. He probably could bring me down, but he'd have a hell of a time trying, and in the end I'd bring him down with me. “If you don't answer my fucking question right now—”
“David Johnson is a good friend of mine. He and his wife are letting me stay here for a bit.”
I chewed on that idea for a minute. “Caroline said nothing about this to me when we talked.”
“I'm not surprised. Call David yourself if you don't believe me.”
I dialed Caroline's number. She picked up on the first ring. “Abi, is that you?” she answered.
“Yeah. Let me speak to David.”
“Abi, are you okay, everything alright?”
“Now, Caroline. And, yes, I'm fine.” I heard some mumbling between the two of them but couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Abi? I'm here. What's the problem?”
“There’s a half-naked man standing in the kitchen doorway who claims to know you. Are you expecting company, or should I kill him with the knife I'm holding?”
“Oh shit. Caroline, you didn't tell her about Max? What the hell.” Caroline murmured something I couldn’t make out. “I'm sorry, Abi. It slipped her mind that he was coming in today. He had some business in the area and it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, so he’s staying for a few weeks. Put the knife down, he's a good guy.”
“Fine. Whatever. See you guys tomorrow.” I hung up the phone before David could say another word and put the knife back where I found it.”
“So, I get to live another day, huh?” he said with a smirk.
I gave him a glare as I looked him over. He was barefoot, wearing a pair of holey, faded jeans that hung low on his hips. His chest was more toned than any I'd seen, and I could actually count, one by one, the abs that lined his stomach. Nice. Thick black swirls of ink permeated his left shoulder, down and around his bicep. My gaze lingered on him as he walked a few steps closer.
“See something you like?”
(To read all of chapter 1 in its entirety, please visit Loni’s blog at: http://www.loniflowers.com/blog.html )