His jaw tight, Manuel nodded.

“Good. Keep one hand straight up in the air. Using your other one, pull the picture down, then unlock the safe. If you attempt to open it or reach inside, I’ll blow your head off.” She wasn’t bluffing and he must have realized that because his face paled.

The guy on the floor was still moaning and when he shifted lightly, she pulled the hammer on the revolver back. She didn’t technically need to because it would still fire, but she wanted to make a point. He stopped moving, though he continued to whimper in pain. Pathetic.

Her other gun was still pointed at Manuel. When he still hadn’t moved, she nodded at the tacky picture. “Do I need to repeat myself?”

Glaring, his dark eyes full of hate, he shook his head and did as she’d instructed. When the safe was unlocked, she leaned back, staying out of range in case it was rigged, but there were weapons inside, just as he’d said. Nothing more. She knew he must have a bigger stash somewhere considering he sold illegal weapons, but this is what she’d come for. There was a small black dusty duffel bag on top of one of the metal filing cabinets in the corner so she grabbed it, keeping most of her concentration on the men. Careful to touch only the weapons, she placed them inside her bag.

Once she was done, she waved her gun at Manuel. “Take off your clothes.”

His eyes widened. “What?”

“Do it or I’ll shoot you.”

He must have believed her because he quickly stripped down to his socks. With tattoos and a hell of a lot of scars for someone likely only in his thirties, she had no doubt he’d lived a hard life. But he’d tried to rob her and would have probably done worse so she had little pity.

“Now lay on the floor, hands stretched above your head. You too,” she ordered.

The thug rolled onto his stomach while still moaning and they both put their hands above their heads while staying face down. This part was going to be tricky but she’d been in a lot worse situations before. Walking backward toward her escape, her back brushed against the beads. She added the revolver to the duffle bag but kept the other weapon in her left hand. The beads jangled around her as she grabbed the metal rack next to the entrance.

It wasn’t bolted to the wall and there wasn’t much on it so she gripped it and shoved it forward onto the men. They cried out as they realized what she’d done.

Without waiting to see what happened she turned and sprinted for the front door. Unlocking it took precious seconds, but then she was into the parking lot and running without incident. By the time she made it to the car she was afraid at least one of them would have chased after her, but luck was on her side.

Tires squealing, she hauled ass onto the main road. A glance in her rearview mirror told her that no one was following her, so she allowed herself to push out an unsteady breath of relief. Damn. It had been a long time since she’d gotten her adrenaline pumping like that. It reminded her of her old job, back before she’d hated it. Back when something like this would have amped her up for more.

Rolling her shoulders, she tried to clear her mind of that. She nearly jumped as her phone rang. Her real phone, not the burner phone—which she still needed to trash.

When she saw Harrison’s number on the caller ID guilt and elation warred against each other. Driving with one hand, she answered. “Hey.”

“Hey, honey.” There was an odd edge to his voice.

Immediately she looked in the rearview mirror as fear flooded her. Harrison was very resourceful but he wouldn’t have followed her. Would he? No, she’d been so careful when she left the shelter that she would have known if she’d had a tail. “How’s work?”

“Busy. Gonna have to stay later than I thought, but I’ll pick up dinner unless you’re planning on cooking?”

Cooking was the last thing on her mind. Plus she sucked at it. “Do you want me to cook?” she asked teasingly, hoping her tone got him to loosen up a little.

Taking her by surprise, he pushed out an amused breath. “Takeout it is.”

“How about that Greek place you know I love?” Which they’d recently discovered was owned by a relative of Grant’s girlfriend.

“Sure… How’s work?”

She swallowed hard. “Sunday is yard work day so fun stuff,” she said jokingly, hoping her voice sounded light.

He was silent for a long moment. “I’ll pick up your usual then. See you in a couple hours.” Harrison disconnected before she could respond.

With clammy hands, she put her phone in the center console. For a moment it had seemed as if things were getting back to normal between them, but then he’d just basically hung up on her. Feeling paranoid, when she pulled up to a stoplight she popped off the back of her phone to see if Harrison had planted a tracker or something in it. The man certainly had enough high tech equipment at his disposal. She didn’t find anything though.

Adjusting her wig and hat, she took a few deep breaths. She still had one more thing to take care of then she had to drop off Pamela’s car. After that she could go home and see Harrison. He might be angry with her over the way she’d been acting the past few weeks, but she had a feeling that she could convince him to relax for the night. Maybe she would be naked and waiting on the kitchen table for him when he got home. That had never failed her in the past. And God knew she could use some pleasure right now.

The thought of having to leave him soon was carving her heart out. If she was going to, she wanted to take even more memories with her. She still wasn’t positive that she needed to leave, and if she was stronger she’d already be gone. Leaving Harrison, however, was almost impossible. She selfishly wanted to stay, to tell him about her past… God, she really needed to get her shit together and just make the break.

* * * * *

“What the hell is going on over there?” Harrison growled at his brother Porter as he took a sharp turn. Following his wife in one of his company vehicles, he was wondering where she was going now and more than agitated that she’d flat out lied to him again.

Porter grunted something unintelligible. Then, “Hold on.”

Harrison and Porter had taken two separate vehicles when following Mara and he’d left Porter back at that pawn shop in one of the worst sections of town. The place had sounded familiar and once he’d had someone look up the owner he’d recognized who it was because the guy was a low level gunrunner. And that term was stretching it. The guy sold guns out of the back of a car for the most part. Harrison wanted to know what the hell his wife had been doing there.

Through the phone, Harrison could hear what sounded like Porter arguing with someone. A few seconds and a few more grunts later, Porter was back on the line. “You’re not going to believe what I found.”


“Give me a sec…” A moment later Harrison could tell that Porter was outside by the change in the background noise. “I just found Manuel Sanchez naked and fucked up in his office because some puta, as he put it, shoved a metal rack on him. And the other guy—damn, I’m impressed by what Mara did to him. She fucked him up good.”

“Wait, what? Mara roughed up some guys?” For a moment Harrison wondered if this had something to do with a woman at her shelter. Maybe she’d been at that pawn shop to try and talk to an ex or something. But that didn’t make sense. Mara would have told him about that.

“That’s a mild way of putting it. She also took a bunch of pistols.” Harrison could hear the ding of Porter’s seatbelt reminder as he got into his truck. “Manuel tried to say she robbed him with no provocation, but after some convincing, his buddy told the truth. She wanted weapons, and they planned to take her money and give her nothing. So she kicked their asses and took the weapons instead.”

Harrison was having a hard time wrapping his mind around that. He knew Mara could defend herself well enough. He’d showed her some moves and she took various aerobics classes like kickboxing, but to bring down two grown men? And she took a bunch of weapons? He didn’t want to spend any time speculating what-if scenarios with his brother. Hell, he didn’t want to talk about this anymore. He felt as if someone had slammed a two-by-four into his stomach. If his wife was capable of taking out two men, he wondered what else he didn’t know about her.

“Thanks for the help, Porter. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.” Harrison disconnected before his brother could respond. He was too damn embarrassed that he’d had to resort to following his own wife for answers.

Pushing aside the fact that he was tailing the woman he loved and clearly didn’t know as well as he’d thought, he focused on the task at hand. He’d put a tracker on Mara’s car and in her phone—even if he’d felt scummy doing it. The tracker in her phone was damn near undetectable so on the off chance that she looked for one, it was unlikely she’d find it.

Watching the small computer screen that displayed a moving dot of her location, he shook his head as she took another left turn. She was going in circles, which meant she was worried about being followed. Interesting—and it only made him wonder if she’d had training of some kind. That thought opened up a whole mess of other worries. After driving around for half an hour, he realized she was finally making her way to an actual destination. At first he thought she was taking Pamela’s car back to the shelter, but then she slowed and stopped. Though he didn’t have a visual on her, he could see the address on his computer.

She was at a self storage place. Probably to stash the weapons she’d taken. From a thug. Who the hell was this woman that he shared a bed with? A life with. Anger and raw pain surged through Harrison as he wondered if he really had married a stranger.

Chapter 4

Mara steered her vehicle into the two car garage she shared with Harrison. His truck was already there and that surprised her. She’d hoped she would have some time to decompress. After dropping off her stash of weapons and disguise at a storage place, she’d returned Pamela’s car then hightailed it home. All she wanted was a hot shower and some hot sex. She desperately wanted to reconnect with Harrison, but she had a feeling the latter was out of the question considering Harrison’s attitude toward her during their last conversation. And she didn’t have the energy to seduce him tonight, even if she wanted him so badly her entire body ached with the need. At least she didn’t have to cook. The only silver lining.