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She shook her head vehemently. “No, but he would have if Lucy hadn’t returned. He ripped the towel off me and slapped me across the face. He told me I was a whore and deserved everything that would happen to me. Then he grabbed me over my panties and started…”

“I don’t need the details, honey.” His voice sounded rough and strangled to his own ears.

He sat next to her on the couch and tried to contain the violence raging inside of him. He wanted to comfort her but didn’t know how. He’d gone undercover in nearly thirty different countries and could blend in anywhere in the world. He was confident in every situation. The one thing he had no clue about was comforting a crying woman. At least not this crying woman.

“I just feel so violated. I know it could have been much worse, but the fact that his hands were on my body makes me ill. I’ve taken self defense classes. I thought I would know what to do if anyone ever attacked me.”

She threw her hands up. “I feel helpless and I hate it.”

Dane hated to keep questioning her but he needed answers. “What happened next?”

“That’s when Lucy came in. I swear it was like instinct. She rushed at him like a maniac. That’s when he pulled the knife out. Blood. That’s what I remember. Blood everywhere.”

“Do you remember anything else?” he gently prodded.

“I managed to hit him.”

“With what?”

“Honestly I’m not even sure. When Lucy rushed him I grabbed something…maybe it was a bottle of oil. I remember hearing the sound of breaking glass and then all I remember after that is holding onto Lucy.”

“Do you remember the color of his eyes?”

“Maybe.” Calista frowned and bit her bottom lip.

“Come on. He was on top of you. Think.”

She closed her eyes and he felt her shudder next to him. “Blue, like yours but darker. Deeper. Familiar maybe.”

Familiar? “Could you see anything through the mask?”

Her eyes were still closed in concentration. “No, it was a solid black ski mask.”

“What about clothing? Anything that stands out?”

“Dark jeans, dark sweater…” Her voice trailed off.

“What? Nothing is insignificant.”

“It’s probably nothing, but I guess now’s not the time to hold anything back. Do you remember my friend Lena who was at the salon? And I use the term friend loosely. She was the blonde sitting next to me.”

He grimaced. Her nasally loud voice was gratingly memorable. “She was hard to miss. She looks familiar, almost like I should know her but I can’t place her.”

“She’s her own best friend. Lena is a self-promoting socialite who tries to make an appearance anywhere she thinks she’ll get her picture in the paper.”

“I take it you don’t like her.”

“It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s just… Never mind, we’re getting off track. Her boyfriend called while we were there. He mentioned something about Aidan McIntyre. It’s probably nothing but Lena said he’s still in town, and the other night when they were all out he couldn’t stop talking about me. Apparently he even asked if you and I were dating despite the fact that I’ve already told him we weren’t. Then, a few minutes later Aidan called her asking about me. He knew I was there.”

Dane clenched his hand into a fist. He wanted to punch something. Or someone.

She put a gentle hand on his thigh, which temporarily distracted him. “Don’t jump to conclusions. He and his girlfriend just broke up and Nikolai said all his whereabouts are accounted for. I just thought it couldn’t hurt to mention it.”

“No, I’m glad you did. Did you put your bloody clothes in the plastic bag I gave you?”

“It’s in my bathroom.”

When she nodded and yawned, he glanced at his watch.

“It’s almost midnight. You need to get some sleep.”

“What about you?” She stood up and stretched.

“I’ve got work to do.” He took her arm in his and guided her in the direction of her bedroom.

“Maybe I can help.”

“No, there’s nothing more you can do.”

“Where’s Nikolai?”

“He won’t be back here for a couple days. He’s taking care of some things.”

“Things huh? You’re my mystery man.” She rolled her eyes and chuckled, the sound music to his ears.

He knew it was an offhand comment, but his heart stopped when she referred to him as hers. She mumbled something else and stumbled to her bedroom.

As soon as he was sure Calista was asleep, Dane called Nikolai. “I need someone to pick up her bloody clothes.”

“All right, I’ll send Chad over. He’s right around the corner.”

“Pay careful attention to her undergarments. It’s unlikely, but you might get a possible print.”

“Did he assault her?”

“Yes, but he didn’t rape her. Not that he didn’t try. Now we have no doubt of his intentions. He’s violent and the fact that he struck in the middle of the day says he’s losing his patience.”

“I know.”

“Have you heard anything from your contact at the police department?”

“They found three types of blood at the scene and they got a pretty good boot print. Too large to be female, not to mention Calista wasn’t wearing shoes and the other woman was wearing slippers.”

“All right, I’ll call you when I have anything.”

“Remember the cigarette butts and the boot prints I sent to be analyzed a few months ago? The evidence I collected from the hotel in Maryland. Pull up that file and see if you find any similarities. At first I thought he was just a photographer. Now I’m not so sure. He couldn’t have known who I was, so if it is the same guy, chances are he wasn’t being as careful then.”

“I’m already on it.”

Chapter 13

Calista stared at the ceiling, listening to the icy wind whistle outside her window. She sat up and punched her pillow. An hour and half had passed since she’d gone to bed and she still couldn’t sleep. She should be worrying that there was a man trying to kill her, but all she could think about was Dane. Even today, for the few minutes had Lucy massaged, her she wondered what it would feel like to have his hands on her body.

Before she could change her mind, she shoved the covers off and decided to end her celibate streak. Two years was long enough.

She stood outside Dane’s door and waited. For what she wasn’t sure. She stared at the door. What if he rejected her? She shook her head. She’d never know if she didn’t ask. Quietly she knocked. Part of her hoped he wasn’t awake.

Dane’s deep voice called out, “It’s open.”

Calista opened the door and stepped in. Almost immediately her resolve faded. How would she even broach the subject?

“Is everything okay?” He sat up and moved his laptop onto the nightstand.

Her eyes widened when she realized he didn’t have a shirt on. She also noticed a faint jagged scar along his rib cage. In fact he had scars all over his body. They made him even sexier. Strange she hadn’t noticed them in Maryland.

“Calista? Is everything okay?” he asked again and slipped out of his bed. Before she knew it, he stood directly in front of her.

It was hard to breathe with him so close to her. Blood rushed in her ears. “Yes.”

“What is it? Are you having a hard time sleeping?” He lifted her chin with one finger with such a tenderness Calista felt all her earlier reserve melt away.

No matter what happened later, he would be good for her now. Instincts alone told her he would be a good lover. Gentle? Probably not. But he would make sure she was satisfied.

She tried to tear her gaze away, but his eyes locked on hers, holding her steady. Okay, she could do this. Dive right in. That was her motto. “I want you to make love to me.”

Dane’s hand dropped as if she was toxic. His voice was odd and strained to Calista’s ears when he finally spoke. “You’ll regret it in the morning. As much as I want to, I can’t.”

She tried to joke, but her voice came out as a whisper. “Am I that hideous?”

“Do you know how much I want for this to happen? How much I’ve been fantasizing about you naked and underneath me? You’ve had a traumatic day and I won’t take advantage of you. Trust me. You’ll thank me in the morning.”

No, she seriously doubted she would thank him. She’d probably be too embarrassed to come out of her room.

She cleared her throat and wrapped her arms around herself. “Is that what you think, that you’d be taking advantage of me? Dane, I’m a grown woman capable of making my own decisions. I want to feel your hands on me. I need to erase today, but I won’t beg.”

She turned to leave but stopped when he reached out and clasped her wrist in an iron tight grip.

His voice was hoarse when he finally spoke. “You’ll never have to beg me, honey. One last chance to back out?”

Unable to speak, she shook her head. They looked at each other in silence for a moment.

After what seemed like an eternity, he sighed and a faint smile touched his lips. “Good, because at this point, I don’t think I’d let you.”

Her heart took up residence in her stomach as his mouth descended on hers. He showered kisses on her lips and jaw as if he was afraid she’d run away. When he located the sensitive spot at the nape of her neck, a pent up moan of ecstasy escaped.

She clutched his shoulders before wrapping her arms completely around his neck and tried to steady herself. His natural male scent enveloped her, making her feel even more loopy. This was Dane. Dane!

Her brain threatened to overload when one of his hands slipped underneath her flimsy tank top. In a swift movement, he pulled it above her head. Her nipples, already taught beneath the thin fabric, pebbled at the rush of cool air.