“You need to pack a bag, now.” He stood there staring at her like he owned the place.

“I’m not going anywhere with you until you tell me exactly what you’re doing here.” As nervous and shook up as she was, she somehow managed to keep her voice strong.

He reached out and placed a light hand on her upper arm. “I promise to explain everything once we’re out of here.”

She yanked away from him, hating that his touch sent an unexpected electric shock of awareness curling through her. “Just like you promised you’d always be there for me?” Bitterness laced her voice. Tears threatened, but she fought them back. She wouldn’t allow him to see her like that.

His expression softened. “Alexis, I realize I’ve hurt you, believe me. I understand more than you think, but we have to get out of here. Now.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and dug her feet into the carpet. Her throat seized so tight she could barely get the words out. “Not until you give me a reason.”

“If you don’t, I’ll hog-tie you and throw you in the backseat of my vehicle.”

Instinctively, she took a step back. “You wouldn’t.” But she knew he would. It was written in every line of his face and his dark, piercing eyes.

“Try me.” He advanced so quickly she almost stumbled. He didn’t stop until they were practically toe to toe. His expression told her that he would make good on his threat. He might not like it, but he’d do it.

She rolled her eyes to cover her panic and stepped around him, ignoring the familiar earthy scent of him. He rarely wore cologne, but there was something about him that was all male. All Hunter. And it drove her crazy that she still noticed.

It wasn’t as if she actually planned to go anywhere with him, but if packing was the only way to get him to leave, she’d do it. She needed to get to her son then call the police. She might not have a clue what was going on, but she needed to know her son was safe. “Fine. How much should I pack?”

He immediately relaxed and sat back on the bed only to stare at her expectantly. “Enough for a couple of weeks, but only what you need.”

She slid open her closet door and he still hadn’t moved. “Excuse me? Am I going to let you watch me undress?”

His shoulders lifted and she witnessed the achingly familiar gleam of desire light up his eyes. Those dark eyes raked over her from head to foot in a slow caress that left her breathless and aching. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Hot tears burned her eyes. How could he still want her after the way he’d abandoned her? What kind of monster was he? She turned away from him and rolled an oversized black suitcase from her walk-in closet. When she came back out he’d moved from the bed and stood in the doorway, his hand on the knob.

“I’ll be downstairs.”

She managed a small nod. If she opened her mouth the floodgates would open, and she refused to cry in front of him. She’d cried enough over this man for two lifetimes.

“Oh, and Alexis?”

She turned and lifted her eyebrows at his question.

“If you try to leave, I will make good on my promise.” With a smile that wasn’t quite apologetic, he shut the door behind him.

She tossed a throw pillow at the door. It might be childish, but it made her feel better. Hurrying to the door, she slid the lock into place. The flimsy thing wouldn’t stop Hunter, but it would give her a little warning if he came back. Her cell phone was downstairs, and after checking the portable in her room and not getting a dial tone, she realized someone must have cut the line. Another shiver snaked through her, knowing the man who’d come after her had taken that precaution. She bit back a scream of frustration and forced herself to calm down and think.

Quickly she tugged on her clothes and boots. Hunter might not want to physically hurt her, but her only priority was getting to her son. She didn’t want to tell Hunter about him yet. She could worry about why Hunter had shown up out of the blue later. One way or another she would get her questions answered from him. For now though, she had to get to Jonathan. Just because she didn’t have a vehicle didn’t mean she couldn’t get away.

Chapter 3

Hunter paced the length of Alexis’s living room and went over their limited options. He could drag Alexis with him while he disposed of the body, making her an accessory. Or he could leave her alone for a few minutes and hope she didn’t split. He’d seen that gleam in her pale blue eyes. Even if he could leave her alone, she wouldn’t stick around long. There had been so much anger emanating from her as she’d clutched that towel and glared at him.

What he wouldn’t give to have pulled that towel away from her and feasted on everything he’d been fantasizing about for years. As a vivid memory of making love to her on the beach under the moonlight played in his head, he suddenly wished he’d never met her at all. He didn’t even have to shut his eyes to see it. Her back was arched. Her dark hair spilled over her shoulders and onto the blanket. Her eyes were closed and she was moaning his name. His. Not someone else’s.

Hunter cursed under his breath. Having had her and knowing he never could again was worse than any torture he’d ever endured.

A lead ball congealed in his stomach at the thought of dragging her with him as he disposed of the dead assassin, but he couldn’t see another way out of it. Even if she didn’t leave the house, if he left her alone she’d be unprotected.

Before he could change his mind, he drove the SUV into the garage and transferred the body to the back. If there was any other way to handle this, he’d do it. If he called the police, Alexis would be hauled down for questioning, making her an easy target. No, he wasn’t depending on a small town sheriff’s department to protect her. He’d walked away once to protect her. This time he’d take care of things his way.

Survival sometimes outranked man’s laws. He’d learned that at a young age.

He retrieved the extra gun from beneath his pants leg and rushed upstairs. After a quick knock, he tried the door handle only to find it locked. He knocked once. “Alexis?”

No answer.

He pulled out his pocket knife, flipped up the small flathead screwdriver and inserted it into the small hole. With a quick twist, he unlocked it and opened the door.

Her empty suitcase was on the bed but she was by the open window with one leg hoisted out the opening. Her pale eyes flared wide and her mouth dropped open.

“What the hell are you doing? You plan to jump from the second story?” he growled.

Without answering she looked out the window then back at him.

He could see the decision in her mind as clear as if she’d said it aloud. She was going to jump. Cursing under his breath, he flew across the room and lunged at her before she could follow through. Looping his arm around her waist, he yanked her back inside and maneuvered her onto the bed, using his body to pin her. He hated using his strength against her of all people, but he had no choice.

“Get off me,” she shrieked as he flipped her onto her stomach.

As she struggled underneath him, he fought the guilt pumping through his veins. The need to protect her won out. “Will you just stop for a second?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“What the hell is the matter with you? Why are you doing this?” She thrashed underneath him so he kept his weight against her, pressing his knee against the back of her legs.

Leaning down so that his mouth was next to her ear, he fought the shame of his actions and words. “If you fight me, I’ll tie you up.”

At his statement she immediately fell limp. “I hate you,” she whispered so low he almost didn’t hear her.

Her words shouldn’t carry so much power, but they pierced his chest like a sharp, unforgiving dagger.

“Why are you doing this?” Her voice cracked on the last word.

He ignored her question. “If I move are you going to try to run again?”

“No,” she ground out.

Without pause he stood up, freeing her.

She rolled over and jumped from the bed. As she backed away from him, it was hard to miss the anger—and fear—etched on her face.

He let out a low curse. The last thing he ever wanted to do was scare her. “Someone just broke into your house and tried to kill you. Kill you. If you leave, I can’t protect you. And if you go to the police everyone you care about will be in danger. Everyone. Do you understand what I’m saying?” When she didn’t respond he continued. “I need to take care of something and you have to come with me. It won’t take long.”

She eyed him cautiously and he could see a battle raging in her head but she finally spoke. “Fine,” she bit out. “Where are you taking me?”

As they passed a menagerie of pictures on the stairs of Alexis and her—their—son, he forced himself not to react or pause. “I’ve got to take care of something but it’ll only take half an hour max, I promise.”

“We’ll see,” she muttered.

He didn’t blame her for being wary of his promises, but didn’t comment. When he spotted what he assumed was a recent school picture of the kid, the band around his chest tightened with painful precision.

Even if she wanted to deny the child’s paternity, it would be impossible. The boy had the same dirty blond hair and dark eyes as him. Now that he could see him up close there was no doubt. He had the same olive complexion as Alexis but other than that small difference, it was like looking at pictures of himself when he was younger. Not that he had many of those. His mother hadn’t been very sentimental. Hell, he’d been lucky if she’d shown up once a week to make sure he had food. His throat clenched impossibly tight as a foreign rush of emotions threatened to bubble up. He shoved those thoughts away.

“This is why you need me to come with you? That guy’s body is underneath there, isn’t it?” She motioned toward the back of the vehicle.

The body was covered but she could see the blanket visible through the rearview window of the vehicle.