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       Razor's Edge, p.1

         Part #1 of Shadow Stalkers series by Sylvia Day
 
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Razor's Edge


  Berkley titles by Sylvia Day

  The Crossfire Novels

  Bared to You

  Reflected in You

  Entwined with You

  Anthologies

  Hot in Handcuffs

  (with Shayla Black and Shiloh Walker)

  Men Out of Uniform

  (with Maya Banks and Karin Tabke)

  The Promise of Love

  (with Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Jamie Denton, and Kate Douglas)

  Razor’s Edge

  Sylvia Day

  INTERMIX BOOKS, NEW YORK

  INTERMIX BOOKS

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  RAZOR’S EDGE

  An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

  PUBLISHING HISTORY

  “Razor’s Edge” was previously published in the anthology The Promise of Love.

  InterMix eBook edition / September 2013

  Copyright © 2011 by Sylvia Day.

  Excerpt from Taking the Heat copyright © 2011 by Sylvia Day.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.

  “Rocky morning seascape on the California Coast” © Edwin Beckenbach/Getty Images.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-15407-0

  INTERMIX

  InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group

  and New American Library, divisions of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  Contents

  Berkley titles by Sylvia Day

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Special Excerpt from Taking the Heat

  About the Author

  This is for the men and women of the U.S. Marshals Service.

  Thank you.

  And for the children at the One Way Farm . . . “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May God be with you and bless you. May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.” (Irish blessing)

  acknowledgments

  My gratitude goes to Cynthia D’Alba, whose early input in this story really helped me pull it together. I send hugs to Shayla Black, whose friendship has brought me much joy and support on my writer’s journey, and to Lori Foster, whose Brava Novella contest led to the sale of my first book. What a thrill it is to share a book with you, Lori! (As well as Erin, Kathy, and Kate with whom I’ve also shared drinks, hotel rooms, and too many laughs to count.)

  one

  When Jack Killigrew’s phone rang, it usually meant someone’s life was on the line. Since he was on leave from the U.S. Marshals Service office in Albuquerque, the only calls he would be receiving were in his capacity as a Special Operations Group deputy. As such, he was a last resort and on call twenty-four hours a day. His twelve-man response team was activated only after the shit had already hit the fan.

  There were a lot of emotions that filtered through Jack when he was called in, but relief wasn’t usually one them. Right now, however, he’d give just about anything for an excuse to head in the opposite direction.

  His fellow deputies would laugh if they knew how edgy he was getting with every mile that passed. As a SOG deputy marshal—a Shadow Stalker—he squared off with hardened criminals and suicidal terrorists as a matter of course. He hunted and apprehended the country’s most-wanted fugitives. He did his job with mechanical precision, never breaking a sweat. The guys called him “Iron Jack,” the man who’d do anything. He faced death as if he had nothing to lose or nothing to live for.

  Yet the thought of facing Rachel Tse was shredding him.

  “Killigrew,” he answered via the hands-free Bluetooth control in his steering wheel. He’d already noted the lack of a shoulder on the two-lane road. With agricultural fields on each side of him, turning his long Chevy Silverado around wouldn’t be easy.

  “Jack.”

  Christ. The voice on the other end of the line reverberated through him like a gunshot report.

  “Rachel,” he replied gruffly, slowly recovering from the husky sound of her voice. “Everything all right?”

  “Yes.” She said the word breathlessly, which made him hard. “I was wondering if you’d be here in time for lunch.”

  “Lunch?” God, he was screwed. His best friend’s widow was winded from pulling together a birthday party for his eight-year-old godson and he was getting a boner.

  It had been two years since he’d last seen her, but apparently time didn’t matter. He’d put off this reunion as long as he could, but the time had come to deal with it. Steve’s last request had eaten into him far enough to become hazardous. Jack couldn’t allow his own personal crap to jeopardize his team any more than it already had.

  “Jack? Did I lose you?”

  “I’m here. I was just calculating the possibility of my arriving in time for lunch. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

  There was a pause, as if she sensed the lie.

  He hated bullshitting her, but he couldn’t see her today. He needed time to get his head on straight. He hadn’t taken a leave of absence in years and without work to occupy him, he found himself thinking too damn much about her. Visions of her blond hair fisted in his hands . . . her taut, sweet nipples tightening against his tongue . . . her long, lithe legs spreading in invitation . . .

  Getting that obsession under control was a necessity if he had any hope of convincing her she was off the hook as far as he was concerned. He was still reeling from Steve’s request that he look after her if she was ever left alone. Jack realized his friend must have known how he felt. As careful as he’d been to hide his longing, something must have betrayed him.

  And that killed him. No man should have to deal with knowing his best friend is in love with his wife.

  “Where are you?” she pressed.

  “I haven’t reached King City yet.” Jack had passed K
ing City long ago and was about twenty minutes away from Monterey. He would pick up the keys to his cottage in Carmel from the property managers who rented it out for him, then grab a six-pack of beer and hunker down for the night. He’d get his bearings and be better capable of facing her in the morning.

  “Let’s make it dinner, then. Riley’s spending the night at a friend’s house so I can wrap his gifts without him peeking. It’ll be just you and me. We can catch up.”

  Just her and him. At night. With Riley gone until morning? Yeah, right. Jack could imagine the mess running through Rachel’s head now. She’d been crazy about Steve. Madly in love. If she thought Steve wanted them together, she’d make it work, even though he scared the shit out of her. Part of his job was reading people, and as focused on her as his instincts were, there wasn’t a damn thing about her he didn’t register. When he walked into the room, she became skittish—nostrils flaring, eyes widening, body moving restlessly. Her primal reaction aroused every predatory sense in his body, making him edgy and sharpening his hunger for her.

  “How about I take you two out to breakfast in the morning?” His voice was rough with desire. “Then I’ll help you finish setting up for his party.”

  “All right. But if you make it into town sooner, call me. And be careful on the road.”

  It wasn’t a casual warning for Rachel. Steve had been killed by a drunk driver on the way home from work one night, changing all of their lives forever.

  Jack hung up. Shifting on the seat, he adjusted the fit of his jeans, which was now extremely uncomfortable. Ahead of him, the road to perdition wound its way through the tiny town of Spreckles.

  It was going to be a long week.

  two

  Jack twisted off the top of his fourth beer and tossed the metal cap in the trash. Then he headed back out the open sliding glass doors to his small fenced-in patio. His bare feet sank into the sand and he drank deeply, absently admiring the streaks of orange and pink flaring across the sky. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the temperature fell along with it. It was much cooler here than Albuquerque, but thoughts of Rachel kept him warm enough to go shirtless.

  He was beginning to think drinking had been a bad idea. The alcohol wasn’t smoothing the jagged edges of his lust at all. He was acutely aware of the fact that Rachel was home alone right now and he was only a short drive away. If he left now, he could be inside her within thirty minutes. He had no doubt he could seduce her. He also had no doubt that she’d regret it in the morning.

  It wasn’t her fault he was strung out from wanting her. She’d never led him on or enticed him. Rachel was shy and quiet unless she was surrounded by people she felt comfortable with, an aftereffect of being raised by an aunt who reminded her daily what a burden she was. At least in his childhood, when he made himself invisible, he’d been left alone. She had been verbally abused and tormented no matter what she’d done.

  His cell phone rang and he cursed as he withdrew it from his pocket. The caller ID told him it was Brian Simmons, a fellow deputy and a guy who’d saved Jack’s ass more than once.

  “Killigrew,” he answered.

  “So, have you seen her yet?”

  “No.”

  “Man, that would have been my first stop. She owns a cake shop; she might be huge and your problem would be solved.”

  “Riley e-mails me pictures. No such luck.” And the fact was, Jack doubted it would make a difference to him if she had put on weight. He was attracted to the whole package, not just her looks. Besides, a few weeks sharing his bed would take care of any extra pounds.

  “Well, then, you should think about what you’re throwing away. First off, there are those cupcakes of hers. If she stops sending them, the guys might have to hurt you. Second, I’d give anything to be with Layla right now. It kills me knowing she’s out there somewhere in WitSec—hopefully, still in love with me—and I can’t have her. You don’t have that problem; you’ve got permission. And although I haven’t seen much evidence of it, I’m sure you must have some charm to you. Lay it on her and see what happens.”

  Jack knew he wasn’t what Rachel needed. He had nothing to offer her. Steve had a large extended family that enfolded her with open arms; Jack had only his job, and her and Riley. Steve was the steady and dependable type, a chiropractor who’d come home for dinner every night and was there for breakfast in the morning; Jack never knew when he’d be leaving or when he could come back. Rachel had lived with enough neglect and abandonment as a child. She didn’t need it in her adult life as well.

  “She deserves better than me,” Jack said.

  “Yeah, you’re right.”

  Against his determination to be in a shitty mood, Jack’s mouth curved. “Fuck you, too.”

  “Call me if you need anything.”

  “Same to you.” Jack shoved his phone back in his pocket and was lifting his beer to his lips when he heard a car door shut in what sounded like his driveway.

  Pivoting in the sand, he canvassed the public beach just beyond his short picket fence. His attention narrowed on the side of his house just before a lipstick red dress rounded the corner. The slender body it encased caught his eye next and held it.

  “I guessed you’d be out here,” Rachel said, waving. She headed toward the gate with a square cake pan in one hand.

  Jack wanted to do the gentlemanly thing and let her in, but he couldn’t move. She’d cut her hair short and wore it in sexy, tousled curls that exposed her slender neck and emphasized her fine-boned features. As she passed by him, he saw the back—or, rather, lack of a back—to her dress. Held up by thin straps, the material dipped down to the upper swell of her buttocks, betraying the lack of a bra.

  Jesus. She’d lost her mind coming around him dressed like that.

  “What are you doing here?” he asked without finesse, his gut aching from a soul-deep longing. He rubbed at the center of his chest with the bottom edge of his bottle but found no relief.

  “You said no to lunch and dinner but didn’t decline dessert.”

  She came through the gate, her long legs on display thanks to the short skirt and two-inch slit at her right thigh. There was no hesitation in her approach, which changed the rules of engagement. She’d never outright avoided him, but she hadn’t gone out of her way to be near him either.

  Lifting onto her tiptoes, she balanced herself with a hand over his heart and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “You look fabulous, Jack,” she murmured. “It’s really good to see you again.”

  Jack wondered if she was aware of the soft note of invitation in her words or how it made his heart race beneath her palm. He didn’t want her under a sense of obligation. He didn’t want to be the tie that bound her to memories of her past with Steve. And he sure as hell didn’t want her martyring herself in his bed.

  “But,” she went on, stepping back, “I’m not so sure you’re happy to see me.”

  He took the opportunity to breathe, sucking in the salt-tinged air in an effort to clear his head. “I’m just surprised but in a good way.”

  Rachel smiled. Her fingertips slid down his arm to his wrist, then circled the neck of his beer bottle. She tugged it loose and took a long pull, her lips wrapped around the top and her throat working with each swallow.

  His mind fell straight into the gutter.

  He turned as she skirted him and went into the house. He hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on and she didn’t, either. Instead, she used the fading sun as a guide to reach the kitchen island. A moment later a flare in the shadows preceded the igniting of a candlewick. The property management company had scattered groupings of seashell-covered candles all over the house, part of the nautical theme they’d utilized throughout.

  “I’d forgotten how charming this place is,” she called out to him.

  Jack debate
d the wisdom of following her inside, knowing the leash on his hunger was tenuous at best. “I can’t take credit for it. It’s staged by professionals to appeal to the vacation renters.”

  “I wish you’d reserve more time here for yourself.” She lit another candle. “We’d love to see you more often.”

  “I’m thinking about it.” Knowing it would be ridiculous to keep shouting at her from outside, Jack entered the living room. “I’d like to start spending more time with Riley, now that he’s older.”

  “He’d love that.” Turning away from him, she searched the cupboards.

  “The plates are to the left of the fridge,” he directed. He watched the way the hem of her skirt lifted a couple tantalizing inches as she reached upward. Feeling like a randy dog, he looked away, then couldn’t resist looking back again. “What have you got there?”

  She looked over her shoulder and her mouth curved. “Better Than Sex cake.”

  Jack searched for a sign that she was joking. “Whoever came up with that doesn’t get out much.”

  Her laughter hit him like a punch to the gut. He’d always loved that carefree sound. It said so much about her. She made him laugh, too, with her e-mailed stories about hysterical run-ins with customers. He’d startled his fellow deputies more than once by laughing aloud at something she sent him. She brought light into his life, which made him even more aware of the darkness he could bring into hers.

  It figured he would fall for the one woman he was the worst possible fit for.

  Kicking off her low-heeled sandals by the island, she padded over with a single plate in her hand. “I make a cupcake-sized version of this at the store. It’s one of my most popular flavors.”

  “Everything you make is popular. You’re an awesome cook.”

  “Thank you. I can’t grill, though, so I’m relying on you to handle the hot dogs and burgers tomorrow.”

  “Put me to work. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

 
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