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Seduced By The Enemy

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“Not really, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me, anyway.”

Kellie turned to face her, a frown marring her delicate, petite features. “Leland’s safe, Peyton. He doesn’t make you feel too much. Not like…well, not like Jared.”

Peyton let out a slow breath. She’d been thinking about Jared, and now Kellie was reminding her of what she’d tried for three long years to forget but could never quite completely manage to do.

Her friend knew how difficult it had been for her when she’d made the phone call to turn Jared over to the bureau. But he’d gotten away, knowing she was the one to betray him. She hadn’t wanted to believe him capable of a brutal double murder or of stealing two million dollars, but the agents who’d come to see her had shown her the evidence against him. As an attorney for the United States, reviewing evidence and building a case out of that evidence was her job—a job she did damn well, if her recent promotion was any indication. And she’d seen more than enough to know there was little remaining doubt of Jared’s guilt. He’d claimed he’d been framed, but what she’d seen with her own eyes told another story. The story of Special Agent Jared Romine, one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s best turned bad.

The truth was indeed damning. Jared’s fingerprints had been all over the crime scene. From everything she’d been shown, the evidence not only pointed solely at Jared as the shooter, but as the one who’d taken the two million in cash from Senator Martin Phipps’s office, as well. She still hadn’t understood why the senator had had that kind of money lying around, and she probably never would know. Still, while her mind understood that everything pointed to Jared as the guilty party, her heart had taken a whole lot longer wrapping itself around the fact that he’d actually killed his partner, Jack Dysert, and the senator’s top aide, Roland Santiago. Two million bucks was a hell of a motivator, so maybe she had her answer, after all.

She looked at the solemn expression on Kellie’s face, at the compassion and understanding shining in her eyes. Kellie never judged. She only offered support and comfort. As far as friends went, she was easily Peyton’s closest and dearest.

Peyton stood. “I won’t deny it. On a certain level, yes, Leland does make me feel safe.” She stuffed the Howell motion back into the file before turning off her laptop, wishing she could shut down thoughts of Jared just as easily. “And yeah, I guess you could say he is safe, too. He’s got a solid career ahead of him. We have the same goals. We’re well suited. There’s nothing wrong with that, Kel. Not if it’s what I want.”

Kellie let out a long breath, her gaze filling with frustration. “What about passion? I mean, okay, I like Leland. He’s a nice enough guy and he obviously adores you, but come on, Peyton. The guy just screams beige.”

Peyton frowned. “Beige?”

“Yeah. Beige. You know, you’re making love with the guy and he’s feeling a little adventurous so he lets you be on top. But he’s not looking at you, he’s staring at the ceiling, and instead of saying something wicked and naughty that’ll excite you more, he says, ‘I think we should paint the ceiling beige.’”

Peyton couldn’t help herself; she laughed. “Okay, so Leland is a little conservative. But for the record, Ms. Nicols, there’s nothing wrong with beige. Beige is a nice, neutral color. It goes with just about everything.”

“Beige is boring,” Kellie countered. “I just don’t want you to settle for beige and then find out later you really wanted shocking blue or hot and sexy red.”

Her days of hot and sexy red were over. Peyton knew that, and embraced the staid, stable life she’d created for herself. She’d betrayed hot and sexy red and had made up her mind to opt for safe, secure and settled. The betrayal held a wealth of regret, but she’d had no other choice. If she thought about it, she was glad she’d finally made the decision to marry Leland, even if it had taken her two months to accept his proposal. She’d made the right choice. Wasn’t that what mattered in the long run? That’d she’d made the choice that was right for her?

Peyton slid her laptop into her briefcase, then considered adding the Howell file. Leland was away for the weekend at a judges conference, and chances were all she’d do tonight was more research, anyway, so she moved the file to the side of her desk. Since she’d be in the office tomorrow morning, there was no sense dragging it home with her.

She snapped her briefcase closed. “Hot and sexy red is you, Kel. Not me.”

Kellie planted her hands on her slender hips. “When I first met you, you could be classified as hot and sexy red.” She held up her hand to stop the argument hovering on Peyton’s lips. “I know, I know. That’s the past. Beige is safe. Boring, but safe. Just make sure Leland is what you really want, okay?”

Peyton set the briefcase on her chair to shrug into her navy blazer. “It is,” she said, adjusting the collar. “He is, okay?”

Kellie let out a long-suffering sigh. “Okay,” she said, but her eyes told another story, and Peyton didn’t want to look close enough to read the words. She didn’t need to. She had them memorized, and knew the story hadn’t equaled the stuff fairy tales were made of, but a cold, hard reality with a different ending, one filled with betrayal and heartache. A tale that told the story of a man and a woman who’d been made for each other, until one of them had taken a path the other could never follow.

“Come on,” Peyton said, leading the way out of her office. “I’ll walk you out.”

Kellie sat down at her desk just outside Peyton’s office and pulled the research notes she’d typed from the printer. “You go on ahead. I’m staying in the city this weekend, so I’m going to finish these Points and Authorities before I leave. I get to meet dear old mom for a late dinner, and then it’s back to her place for a girls’ weekend,” she said, then shuddered dramatically. “I told you my life was pathetic.”

“At least you have a family who cares about you,” Peyton said, shifting her briefcase to her other hand.

“Yeah, too much. My weekend will consist of hearing ad nauseam what a perfect life my older sister, Monica, has with her perfect husband, perfect children and perfect house. Even her precision trained German shepherd is perfect. Oh yeah, and when am I going to find the perfect man, yada, yada, yada. Still sound like loads of fun?”

Peyton laughed and pulled her keys from her purse. “You know you love it. Have fun,” she said, then started toward the exit. “I’ll see you Monday after the Howell hearing.”

Since there were few people left in the building so late on a Friday night, it was no wonder the parking garage was practically deserted when she stepped off the elevator. Gripping her briefcase in her left hand, she positioned her keys in her right as a paltry weapon against any would-be mugger. She crossed the parking garage, listening for sounds other than the click of her own sensible navy pumps against the concrete.

The light nearest her car was still burned out, deepening the shadows as she approached her Ford Taurus. The light had been out since Monday. She made a mental note to have Kellie advise the building superintendent of the problem again. It really wasn’t safe to be waltzing through the parking garage at night, but doing so without adequate lighting was just plain stupid.

Having no other choice, she approached her car using a great deal of caution. She opened the trunk and placed her briefcase inside, then, after a cursory glance around the area, slammed the trunk closed and pressed the button on her remote to unlock the door. Out of habit, she looked through the rear driver’s side window, but it was an exercise in futility, since the interior lamp in the car had obviously chosen to burn out, as well. What was it with her and lightbulbs lately?

She slipped into the car, slid the key into the ignition and turned it over before reaching up to pull the seat belt in place. Her hand stilled in midair and a scream lodged in her throat when a large, callused hand covered her mouth. Then something hard and round was pressed against the base of her skull.



She’d recognize that voice anywhere. Deep, and as smooth as the highest quality brandy. Even though she detected a hardness in his tone she didn’t remember, there was no mistaking it was him.


He’d come back. For her? For revenge? Considering she’d turned him in once, coupled with the fact that he was holding a gun to the back of her head, she wasn’t about to make any snap decisions about his motivation for returning.

She inhaled slowly and fought to exhale evenly in an effort to still the rapid cadence of her heart. Fear-induced panic would do her no good and would have her thoughts scattering like autumn leaves dancing in a wind storm. Focus and concentration had to be her sole objectives if she had any hope of escaping him, and maybe even learning what he wanted from her and why he’d come back.

“Let’s just take things slow and easy,” he said, his voice low, as if he was talking to her over a candlelight dinner and not holding her hostage in her own car. “No one needs to get hurt.”

Not getting hurt was just fine by her. Slow and easy would give her time to think, to take advantage of the first opportunity to escape and call the authorities. He wasn’t the same man she’d once loved, and she desperately needed to remember that, instead of exhuming memories better left buried. The man holding her captive was the enemy, and dangerous. A fugitive who’d murdered his partner and the top aide to a prominent United States senator, and made off with two million dollars like it was some grand prize for his horrendous crime. Since she was the one who’d attempted to hand him over to the feds on a silver platter, she had a right to be fearful and cautious.

She remained perfectly still, concentrated on breathing evenly, and slowly opened her eyes, only to peer into the shadowed darkness of the deserted parking garage.

“Listen carefully, Peyton.” He reminded her exactly who was in charge by adding the slightest amount of pressure with the weapon he held on her.

As if she needed reminding.

“Put your hands on the steering wheel.”

In the rearview mirror, she sought him out, but the darkness inside the vehicle prevented her from discerning anything more than the reflection of his silhouette. She wanted, needed to see his eyes. For as long as they’d been together, she’d always been able to read him by the look in his eyes. It’d been the only way she’d known when he was upset, frustrated, even angry. She’d also known the love he’d once felt for her was as real as it got.

And when she’d betrayed him, she’d known how deeply she’d hurt him.

Those days were long gone. But that knowledge didn’t stop her need to look into his dark emerald eyes now when it was most important, when one glance would tell her whether or not she was in real danger. The blasted darkness prevented her from searching for the truth.

He kept his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream bloody murder. Not that anyone would hear her this time of night in the deserted parking garage, but just the same, he obviously wasn’t about to take any chances.

Her eyes darted to the steering wheel, then back to the rearview mirror. “Forget it, Peyton.” The silky tone of his voice stirred memories she couldn’t afford to think about now.

How he could see so clearly when she could barely make out the shape of his head was beyond her.

“I disconnected the horn.” He added a little more pressure with the weapon. “Hands, sweetheart. Steering wheel.” He nudged again. “Now.”

Sudden anger reared up inside her, white-hot and fiery, shoving aside her earlier fear and uncertainty. She did as he ordered, then tried to twist her head free of his grasp. A useless endeavor. He held her head firmly against the headrest and what she was certain was the nose of a pistol. Frustration nipped at her when she couldn’t even open her mouth to bite his hand.

“Take it easy, sweetheart. I’m not here to hurt you, but to save you.”

Save me? From whom? she wanted to rail at him. Or what?

“This car has automatic locks, right?” he asked her, instead of answering the question she couldn’t voice.
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