Corporate attorney at law Erin Donovan, has nothing on her mind except representing her clients to the best of her abilities. One fateful day, she shows an irritating new client, Carson Tierney, around the tenth floor space of her own building and her life takes an unforeseen direction.
Carson is an awe-inspiring woman by anyone’s standards. Possessing genius-level intelligence that has allowed her to become a self-made millionaire of a computer software company, Carson still has a dark secret that could be her undoing.
When the two are thrust together to escape a deadly killer in a high-rise office building while a blizzard rages outside, they have no one to count on but each other. So begins an unexpected yet tender romance. However, unchecked love and desire isn’t in their future. The murderer is still out there and he’s coming for them. Will Carson’s street-wise skills protect them both as Erin attempts to discover the killer’s identity just as relentlessly as he is seeking their demise?
Ebook copies are available through Flashpoint Publications
Paperback copies are available through Bella Books. As always many thanks
to the readers. Without you, writing would be pointless.
A 2013 Rainbow Awards Finalist
Carson opened her eyes and looked around groggily in the darkness. She had been asleep when something woke her up. At first, she couldn’t figure out what it was, but then heard it again. The sound of a ringing phone seemed to come from a great distance. Carson struggled up through a fog of sleep confused by the incongruous noise. She looked over at the phone on the bedside table that remained silent and wondered where the sound came from. It must be Erin’s cell since Carson’s was still in the car. She gently nudged Erin awake.
"Huh, what is it?" Erin asked huskily.
"Your cell is ringing."
"My cell? What time is it?"
Carson looked at the alarm clock while Erin sat up on the edge of the bed. The numerals that normally glowed red were completely dark. "I don’t know. The power’s still out, but it must be important. No one would call this late unless it was."
Erin’s phone stopped ringing and she thought it must have gone to voicemail. Whoever it was would show on caller I.D. and she would call them back after she put some clothes on. It had grown cold in the house with the power out for so long and they were still naked from their earlier lovemaking. Erin was quite content wrapped in the cocoon of shared body heat, but running through the cold house naked wasn’t her idea of fun.
"Do you have something I can put on?"
Carson climbed out of bed to retrieve some clothing. "If you insist, but I was sort of enjoying the view."
"Ha, that’ll be some view when I turn into a block of ice."
Carson handed her a pair of sweats and then grabbed another set for herself. "There’s no telling how long this storm is going to last so I guess I’d better start the generator."
"While you’re doing that I’ll find out who called."
A crash from downstairs made them freeze and look at each other in sudden fright.
"That was the cup I left on the coffee table," Erin whispered. "Someone’s in the house."
Carson’s eyes widened even more. "I forgot to set the alarm."
Worse, there was nothing upstairs she could think of that they might use as a weapon. "My phone."
Erin ran barefoot across the hall to the guestroom with Carson right behind her. She'd left the cell phone on the nightstand, but it wasn’t there anymore. It was set to vibrate before it rang and she thought it must have fallen to the floor. Erin dropped to her hands and knees to look for the phone, but she couldn’t find it right off.
Erin could hear heavy footsteps downstairs and almost cried out in frustration. Carson’s telephones were all cordless and with the power out the cell phone was the only way to get help. Just then, the cell started to vibrate. The light display came on and Erin snatched the phone up from under the edge of the bed. She flipped it open before it could ring at the same time that Carson grabbed her under the arm and pulled her into the hall.
"We have to get in the attic."
Erin willingly followed Carson, but frantically answered the phone at the same time. "Hello, who is this?"
"Erin, it’s dad. We know who the killer is. It’s Ron Adams. We think he’s going to come after you and Carson."
Carson stopped at the front of the hall near the stairs and reached up to pull on a cord that hooked into the ceiling. Erin never really noticed it before, but when Carson pulled on the string, a trap door dropped into view. There was a fold out latter attached to the door and Erin realized what Carson had in mind.
"He’s already here" Erin said in a loud, frightened voice.
"We’re on our way, the police our on the way. Erin, hide."
Heavy footsteps pounded on the stairs and she forgot about the phone. Carson grabbed her and pushed her toward the ladder.
She stumbled up the ladder as fast as she could go. Carson was close behind her, but the sound of the man running toward them was louder. The whole world narrowed down until all Erin could see was the opening into the attic. She lunged through the opening and swung around to look back down at Carson. Her head was just below the attic entry when the killer suddenly came into view. Erin gasped at the familiar sight of busy black hair, dark beard, and beady eyes but she also recognized his rapid deterioration since their last encounter.
His right hand raised high and she could see a glint of moonlight off a large, wicked-looking blade.
"Carson, look out."
Erin saw Carson look over her shoulder and how close Adams was to her. She seemed to realize at the same moment as Erin that there was no time for her to escape into the attic. She turned half way on the ladder and drew her left leg up. Then she kicked out as hard as she could. Carson’s barefoot connected directly with the man’s forehead, and Adams lost his balance as he jerked back. He slashed at her with the knife before he lost his balance and fell. He fell a few steps down the landing before he managed to grab the railing. She cried out in pain and Erin started to go back through the entryway to help her. She stopped when Carson shouted, "No." and started back up the steps.
Adams was on the move again just as Carson got through the opening. She jerked on the rope from above to pull the trap door up just before he could grab the ladder. Erin expected the man to pull the cord to open the door again, but Carson was way ahead of him. As soon as the door closed, she pushed a heavy metal bar through two rings mounted on either side of the trap door.
"Help me with this."
Carson limped over to a trunk sitting against the wall. Even in the scant moonlight through a small attic window Erin could see the trail of blood.
"No time. Help me push this over the door."
Erin helped maneuver the heavy trunk over the entry, but Adams didn’t give up simply because they were out of sight. She could hear him moving around downstairs and then something thudded against the floor. Carson groaned and slumped against the wall.
Erin was beside her in an instant. "Here. Sit down." She grasped Carson by the shoulders and helped her sit on the floor. "We’re safe right now, he can’t get in. That was dad on the phone. The police are on the way."
She pushed Carson’s pants leg out of the way to have a look at the wound. The cloth was already saturated with blood, but she needed to see how badly Carson was hurt. The fact that Carson didn’t try to stop her told Erin it was bad. The noise below them stopped abruptly and captured Erin’s attention as completely as a gunshot would have. She turned to look at the attic door when Adams began to pound on it from below.
"He must have dragged something over to stand on," Carson mumbled.
"It doesn’t matter. He can’t get in."
"He won’t give up."
"Good. He doesn’t know the police are coming either. They’ll get him."
Below them, Adams cursed and pounded on the attic door. For a while, he seemed to be trying to break in by sawing through the wood with his knife. Erin listened to him, but concentrated on checking Carson’s leg. The sharp blade had neatly sliced the calf muscle, but she didn’t think he’d severed any major arteries. Carson’s quick thinking when she kicked Adams in the head had probably saved her life. Erin shuddered in horror at the thought, but hid her reaction from Carson.
"I don’t think it’s too bad, but we need to get the bleeding stopped."
Carson licked dry lips and looked around the room for something they could use. That was when Erin got her first look at the attic. Cobwebs and dust hadn't taken over, like in most attics, and the hardwood floors shone brilliantly.
"This wasn’t on the tour."
Carson smiled at the small joke. "You know me, I like to be prepared. There’s a small desk over there in the corner. I think I left some shop towels on it."
Erin left her side for only a moment and walked over toward the corner Carson indicated. The table was small and would have been easy to miss in the darkness, but it was there. She felt around and found a folded cloth. It smelled like furniture polish, but at least it was something. It went quiet again downstairs, but Erin knew Adams would be back. She returned to Carson’s side immediately, but her lover already looked like she was about to nod off. Surely, she couldn’t have lost that much blood so quickly.
"Oh no you don’t. Stay awake. Talk to me."
Carson forced her eyes open. "There is something I want to tell you. Just in case we…"
"No. Don’t talk like that. We’re going to be fine."
"Please, Erin. Let me finish." Carson gently cupped Erin’s cheek and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I love you, too. I think I loved you before we actually met. Didn’t you notice how I used to hang around your firm and how we were always accidentally bumping into each other?"
"I never really…" Erin’s eyes widened when she realized what Carson was saying. "You mean you were stalking me?"
When Carson blushed and looked away Erin felt her heart melt a little more. All this time she thought of Carson as the self-assured, always in control executive. Carson secretly pining for Erin’s affection didn’t fit that image, but it was so touching that for a moment Erin didn’t know what to say.
"You certainly didn’t sound that way the first time we met in my office."
"I was afraid."
Something suddenly struck the attic door from below with explosive force. Erin heard the wooden door splinter under the onslaught and looked fearfully toward the noise.
"He must have found the sledgehammer in the garage."
"What are you doing with a sledge hammer?" The question was reflex; all of Erin’s attention was riveted on the attic door. She didn’t really expect Carson to answer.
"I used it to break through some concrete when I remodeled the basement. The construction workers were positively livid that I wouldn’t get out of the way, but you know me. I had to be in on it to make sure they got everything exactly how I wanted it." Carson’s voice trailed away and Erin looked up from the wound. Her eyes were closed and Erin thought she might be about to lose consciousness.
"Carson." Erin grasped her chin with thumb and forefinger and lifted Carson’s face to get her to open her eyes. "I need you to talk to me, honey."
Thinking furiously for a topic that would keep her with her, Erin asked, "Your father, you said he blamed you for your mother’s death. What did you mean by that?"
It wasn’t a tactful question by any means, but it seemed to do the trick. Carson sat up a little more and took a deep breath.
"When I turned five I got a soccer ball for my birthday. I was outside playing with it and it…got away from me." She took another breath and said, "I didn’t think. I just went after it. It rolled into the street."
Erin closed her eyes, suddenly sure where this story was going.
"My mother saw the truck coming. She grabbed me from behind and tossed me onto the curb. The driver couldn’t stop in time, and she couldn’t get out of the way."
"Oh, Carson. I am so sorry." A part of Erin understood that not only did Carson’s father blame her for the accident, but so did Carson. "Honey, it’s not your fault. You were five years old."
The wood suddenly cracked again under Adams’ attack and the large trunk on top shifted to an abrupt downward angle.
"He’s coming through!"