Hot, hard-bodied relocation agent Bard Nichols is merely trying to do his job. But once he clashes with the fiery-haired Bird Lady, a mysterious young widow and orphan with a questionable past, he is irrevocably drawn into the deadliest skirmish of his life—a world of intrigue and undeniable steamy passion—a world of Janus-faced enemies. And now that his life in on the line, the Bird Lady seems to have switched sides. Has she joined his rival or is there more to the little red-head than meets the eye?
Charlie’s heart pounded wildly as he ran through the darkness. The sounds of labored breathing and thunder of half a dozen booted feet pursued close behind. The bastards had silencers on their guns. When a bullet tore into his thigh, he bit his lip to keep from crying out. Blood trickled down his leg, draining his strength. The gang of thieving, murderous scum wouldn’t stop until he was dead. Dying, he could handle. But not abandoning Paula to face these killers alone
Less than half a mile to the north, across the stretch of vacant land, twinkled the scattered dim glow of streetlights in the South Tippecanoe housing tract where she slept. Gravel crunched behind him. Breath burned in his lungs. He stumbled over tumbleweeds and large stones. His left foot felt numb. Instinct, self-preservation, and the need to protect Paula urged him on. As an orphan, he learned to think on his feet. If he couldn’t fight his way out of a tight spot, he’d deal his way out. But he wouldn’t deal with these evil bastards.
He ran parallel to the dry riverbed and left behind the housing area and the blue blinking lights of the Norton runway. He swallowed cool night air in agonizing gulps.
A bullet whizzed past his head.
He leapt into the dry wash, about a six-foot drop, and came down hard. The crunch echoed through the night. His bleeding, torn leg gave way and propelled him forward. His temple smashed against a rock. Pain seared through him. He clamped his jaw tight to avoid crying out. He staggered to his feet. Ignoring the blood streaming down the side of his face, he scrambled on.
He couldn’t focus his eyes. The silvery moon blurred and eclipsed. He staggered on squinting, blinking.
Shouted curses and heavy thuds of boots landing on rocks echoed behind him. Damn. They’d followed him into the wash.
He kept going. The dry riverbed, roughened by more scrub brush and boulders the size of a VW bug, snaked along, cut aimlessly by past floods. Something small scurried across in front of him.
Ahead, the wash curved and split.
Blood ran from his temple into his eyes. He lurched forward. Keep going. Keep going. I have to get to Paula…have to warn her. At the divide, he veered left—the “boots” went right.
I have a chance!
His head swam. Blood soaked his jeans. His legs buckled. He dropped to his knees onto the rugged stones. With the last of his diminishing strength, he crawled behind a boulder. The rock bed cut into his back. He’d ditched the men who wanted to kill him. But they’d get the last laugh. He could only lie here under the fuzzy glow of moonlight while his blood seeped away like water from a punctured canteen.
He took in a gulp of air pungent with blood and stinking scrub brush.
Paula...what have I done?
He heard a crunch and looked up. The man standing over him blocked out the blurry moon. He heard the pop of the silencer. An instant later the bullet tore into his chest and exploded in his heart.