Seattle. Ten months later…
"Don't you ever keep regular hours?"
Bridgette Hayward looked up from her desk, smiling at the man standing in her doorway. Tall, dark, handsome, dressed in Armani with his hair perfectly styled—Jeremy Brenner was the classic image of an assistant US attorney. In the two years she'd been working for the United States Attorney's Office, she'd never once seen the guy sweat or lose the calm demeanor he wore like a shield, regardless of the circumstances. And the man had gone up against some intimidating clients.
Bridgette leaned back, twirling her pen around her fingers. “Says the man standing in my doorway at…oh, nine o'clock on a Friday night.”
“I just came back because I forgot a brief I needed. You, on the other hand, haven't left, yet.”
“Big case means extra time, and I can't afford to screw this one up.”
Jeremy's eyes narrowed, and he glanced around as if looking for others, despite the fact the office had been closed for hours, before stepping through the doorway. “You know I think you're one of the best lawyers we've had come through here, right?”
She frowned. “Why do I sense a 'but' at the end of that statement?”
“Not a 'but'. I'm just…worried about you.”
“Seriously, Bridgette. Alexander Stevens has been heading his family's drug business for longer than you've been alive. It's taken that many years to make a case against him, and it was essentially a fluke. Which means he's got more connections than anyone knows. The kind that's kept him out of jail and gotten other people killed.” He nodded at her. “You still getting threats? Calls? Letters?”
A chill beaded her skin, the ghostly echo of a gravelly voice on her cell sounding inside her head before she shoved it aside. “Nothing I haven't gotten before. And, as usual, I'm being cautious.”
“If you were being cautious, you'd either have a bodyguard or you'd be working remotely until the trial starts, and we can petition for police protection.”
“I'm fine, Jeremy. Promise.”
He shook his head. “I realize this is a huge leap forward in your career, and you deserve every bit of it. Your record here is more than impressive. I'd just hate to see you get hurt over it.”
“I promise I'll be more vigilant. And if things escalate—”
“If things escalate, it'll be too damn late.” He huffed, running his fingers through his hair. “You are stubborn. Anyway, I'm heading out. You ready to go? I'll walk you to your car like a perfect gentleman.” He winked. “Or not, if you'd prefer.”
She smiled—the guy had been trying to get into her pants for months. “Thanks, but I have a few things left. I'll be out of here soon, though.”
“All right. Be careful.”
He shook his head then left, his footsteps fading down the hallway. Bridgette focused on the written testimonies, again, noting any concerns or questions she wanted to discuss, until the words started blurring together. She sat back and glanced at the clock—nine forty-five. She closed her eyes for a moment, rubbing the bridge of her nose in the hopes of lessening the ache building between her eyes. Jeremy was right about one thing. She needed a break. She could look at the files, again, in the morning, but reading the same paragraph over and over wasn't helping.
She stood and stretched, hoping to ease the tight press between her shoulder blades. A few more weeks like this, and her colleagues would start calling her Quasimodo. Maybe she'd take a hot bath. Spend the night curled up on the couch, watching a movie. Anything not related to Alexander Stevens or this case.
The thought made her smile as she packed some folders into her briefcase then placed it on her desk. She filed any remaining papers then grabbed her case and her purse. A quick trip to the ladies' room, and she could head out.
The building was eerily quiet as she walked down the hallway then into the bathroom. Usually, she enjoyed the silence after everyone else had left, but tonight felt different. Whether it was the storm raging outside or Jeremy's words, she wasn't sure. But she'd be happy to get home—lock herself inside.
Her boots clicked across the floor as she made her way back to grab her jacket. If she'd been thinking clearly, she would have taken it with her and locked up, already, saving her the return trip. But the long days were definitely taking a toll, and it seemed as if she forgot simple things more often, lately.
She sighed, stepping inside, before coming to a halt. A large yellow envelope sat kitty-corner on her desk, her name scribbled across the front. She glanced around, staring at the shadows lining the hallway. She'd been gone less than ten minutes.
Her heart rate kicked up as she walked over to her desk, staring down at the offering. No return address. No mail stamp. She thumbed the corner, debating on whether to open it or call the cops. Though, if it turned out to be nothing, she'd never live it down. And she hadn't been there long enough to bring that kind of attention to herself.
Bridgette took a breath then gently lifted the tab. It hadn't even been sealed, which hopefully meant it didn't contain any kind of deadly virus. Her pulse thundered in her head as she slipped her hand inside and removed a collection of photographs. A small note was stuck to the front, familiar handwriting scrawled across it.
I'm coming for you.
The words glared up at her, the simple statement making her stomach roil. She bit her bottom lip then flipped through the images. Whoever had taken them had followed her from her apartment to her office. There were even a few of her at the boxing club—her hands in gloves as she moved around the ring. They'd obviously been taken over a few days, which meant someone was stalking her. Had been stalking her for some time, and she hadn't even noticed.
Memories surfaced in the background. Distant, like a clock ticking in another room. But there, just the same. She pursed her lips then stuffed the photos back into the envelope. If Alex Stevens thought some creepy phone calls and a few pictures would be enough to intimidate her, the man had a hard lesson ahead of him.
First, she'd go home. Lock up. Double check her alarm system. Then, she'd make copies of everything. She knew firsthand that evidence had a way of “disappearing” with the right amount of motivation. And Stevens had more than enough motivation at his disposal.
In the morning, she'd head to the police station. She'd give them the envelope and half of the photos. Have them add the images to her growing file of harassment since she'd first been handed the case months ago. But she'd send the note and the other pictures to her friend, Special Agent Jack Taylor. See if the Bureau could match the handwriting or get some kind of DNA off the paper. It wasn't that she didn't trust the local precinct, she just trusted Jack more.
Her briefcase felt heavy as she slipped the envelope inside then headed for the bank of elevators at the opposite end of the hallway. Different scenarios bounced around in her head, trying to take shape, when a distant noise stopped her. She paused, trying to pinpoint it when the dull echo sounded, again.
Footsteps. Behind her.
Bridgette swallowed against the punch of fear cooling her skin and began walking. Faster, this time. The footsteps followed her—two for every one of hers. She reached the elevator and hit the button. The arrow lit up, accompanied by the hum of machinery as the unit began moving.
She glanced down the hallway. Had she only imagined the footsteps? Wouldn't the person have rounded the corner by now? Was it another coworker returning to their office?
No. There hadn't been any other lights on. All the doors had been closed. She looked at the number pad clicking off the floors then made for the stairwell. At least she'd have some control by taking the stairs. No surprises when the silver doors opened, and she could easily detour to another floor if she heard someone approaching from below.
The heavy metal fire door clicked shut behind her as she bustled through, descending as fast as she could without making too much noise. She'd gotten two floors down when another click resonated through the air above her, followed by hurried steps.
Bridgette raced down the stairs, sticking to the outer wall, in case anyone tried to see her over the railing. She didn't stop, winding her way down to the bottom level. Why had she decided to park in the damn garage today? It was like asking to become a victim. But the rain had been falling in steady sheets, and she'd been too rushed to try and find a spot on the road or in a neighboring lot. So, she'd opted for the staff parking. A key-activated sensor and garage door were supposed to make the area secure. But no such thing existed. There were always ways in, and if someone wanted her bad enough, they would have found one.
The exit door squeaked as she shoved on it, darting to her right once she'd cleared the small glass enclosure. Only a scattering of cars dotted the large space, a patchwork of shadows masking the glare of the overhead lights. She headed for the wall, keeping herself between it and the front of a few vehicles in case she needed to disappear. She'd made it halfway to her Jeep when the inner door bounced open.
A single moment can change everything.
That’s all it took for Sam “Midnight” Montgomery to find himself discharged, stateside, and struggling to fit into civilian life. So, when Hank Peterson threw him a Hail Mary in the form of a job working for Brotherhood Protectors, Sam stepped up. Shifted his focus from protecting his country to protecting souls in dangerous situations. A role he’d excelled in until his latest mission became Bridgette Hayward—a feisty assistant US Attorney and the reason Sam joined the Army Rangers all those years ago.
She doesn’t want his protection. He gets it. Bridgette is smart, confident and determined to take care of her stalker on her own, while making his job—and his life—as difficult as possible. Not a problem. Sam’s accustomed to adversity. He’s faced worse and survived, so if Bridgette needs to go a few rounds before being able to move forward, he can take whatever she dishes out. Especially, if it means moving forward together.
He thought he’d successfully buried his feelings for her in the Afghanistan desert, but he’d only been fooling himself. Though, he’s discovering it was easier to infiltrate enemy fortresses than charm her back into his bed. Thankfully, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit—not with his heart and her life on the line.
He has until the trial begins to make his move without compromising her safety, or risk losing his last shot at a second chance.
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