Buried Secrets [Secure]
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by Margaret Daley
Description: Hidden treasure.... Fresh from her grandfather's funeral, Maggie Somers was shocked to find his home--all she had left of him--ransacked. What wasn't so shocking was that a Collier stood among the wreckage. Maggie had grown up hearing all about the Collier clan--liars and thieves who couldn't be trusted. Yet Zach Collier asked Maggie to have faith in him, to put their feud and their families' to rest. His grandfather had also recently passed away. Zach was sure the man--like Maggie's grandfather--had been murdered for something hidden among his possessions. Something Zach and Maggie had to uncover before they became targets.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Steeple Hill, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: October 2007
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [455 KB]
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"Move and you're dead." Maggie Somers lifted the .22 higher, trying desperately to keep her hands from shaking. "I have a gun pointed at you."
The large man straightened, his back to her, rigid. "I had nothing to do with this." A piece of paper in his hand fluttered to the floor.
As her gaze swept the living room of her grandfather's ranch house, alarm snaked down her spine. Everything's destroyed. Tears stung her eyes, but she quickly blinked them back. There was no way this man was going to see any kind of weakness.
The intruder started to turn toward her.
"Don't move an inch." Her anger pushed aside her fear as she gripped the rifle tighter and placed her finger on the trigger.
"May I turn around and explain why I'm here?"
A steel thread weaved through his words, striking against her raw nerves. "Save your breath for the sheriff."
"Look, lady, this is ridiculous." Exasperation now edged his deep, husky voice.
Maggie stepped over the broken pieces of the Indian pottery that had sat on a table near the door, and moved farther into the room. The crunch beneath her shoes told her that more than the one priceless vessel from her grandfather's collection was shattered. Like alcohol in a festering wound, the sound toughened her resolve.
If only her cell worked out here on the ranch, she would have already called the sheriff and he'd be halfway here by now. She glanced at the phone across the room, then at the burglar—dressed in a black turtleneck and black jeans—and knew she had to do something with him before making the 9-1-1 call. If she let down her guard for a second, the man could easily overpower her.
"Pick up the extension cord near your feet. Slowly." She roughened her voice as much as possible, but to her own ears she sounded shaky.
The intruder remained still.
Her arm ached from holding the rifle to her shoulder. "Let me tell you something about myself. I'm an expert shot, and two of the things I hate in this world are liars and thieves. You're batting a hundred."
"Where do you want me?" His movements as he bent over and snatched up the cord conveyed his anger more than his words.
Anywhere but here. She searched her memory, trying to determine how this was done in the movies. "Sit in that rocking chair and tie your feet together."
He walked to it and stopped. "May I turn around now, or do you want me to sit in it backward?" Sarcasm sliced through his question.
"Slowly. Any sudden moves and I might get trigger-happy." She was sure she'd heard that in some cop movie.
"Will that make your day?"
He slowly faced her. His gaze locked with hers. The penetrating intensity in his stare unnerved her. As his slate-gray eyes—as cold as a tombstone—assessed her, she had the horrible thought that if he wanted, he could probably disarm her before she got a shot off. This man exuded danger. Why had she decided to come inside? Her heartbeat caught for a second, then battered against her chest. Why hadn't she run when she'd had the chance?
Because she had been so furious that someone had dared to defile her grandfather's memory on the day she had buried him that she hadn't been thinking straight.
She motioned with the rifle. "Sit."
The wooden rocking chair creaked as the intruder lowered himself into it. When he dropped his gaze from hers, she released a long sigh while he tied his ankles together with the cord Maggie had kicked to him.
Rugged features set in harsh lines greeted her perusal. Dark brown hair with touches of fire brushed his nape. His full lips and high cheekbones added to his commanding presence. Over six feet tall, lean and muscular, his frame reinforced that impression of lethal force.
"Does this meet with your approval?"
His insolent question drew her gaze back to his face. His voice held a steely quality that matched his look, as though he had stared down the barrel of a rifle before, and survived.
Fear tingled up her spine. She refused to answer him, but instead found another length of cord and walked a wide circle around the chair to stand behind it. Once he was tied up, she would be all right. "Give me your hands."
He complied. She quickly cradled the rifle between her legs, then looped the cord from the blinds around his wrists. The feel of his flesh against her fingers jolted her. For a long second she fumbled with the rope, almost dropping it. Sucking in a deep, fortifying breath, she hastened to finish the job, blocking from her mind the warmth of his skin against hers. Relief trembled through her as she grasped the .22 and backed away.
With her eyes cast downward, she knelt in front of him and checked the cord about his ankles. She felt the drill of his stare and fought the urge to quail. As she rose, her gaze finally trekked upward. The rage she saw in his expression took her breath away. This man wasn't accustomed to being subdued by anyone. She hurriedly moved toward the phone and picked it up.
"Do you seriously think I look like a thief? Would a thief drive a sports car like the one out front?" he asked after she made the call to the sheriff.
"You probably stole that, too."
"C'mon, lady. I did not have anything to do with this. I came here—"
"Oh," she said, cutting him off, "then you just make a habit of stopping by houses that have been ransacked to have a look around? Were you looking for some garage sale and made a wrong turn? Or perhaps you're an insurance adjuster getting a jump on the job?"
Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Daley.