Truly, Madly, Dangerously
Linda Winstead Jones

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Sadie reached into the pocket of her jeans. “I’m going to get a knife and cut the tape away from your hands and legs, is that all right?” She didn’t want to flash a blade without warning the boy; she didn’t know what the kidnappers had used to scare him.

Danny nodded, and she flicked the knife open with her thumb.

Santana backed away while she sliced at the duct tape. “I’m going to double check and make sure those bad guys are—uh—really gone,” he said, leaving so he could move the body and the bound kidnapper to a place where the kid wouldn’t have to see them.

When the duct tape had been peeled away, Sadie slipped the knife into her pocket and examined Danny’s wrists and ankles. They were red and a little raw, but she’d seen worse. “Your daddy has been so worried about you,” she said softly.

“He has?” Danny’s blue eyes were wide and still damp with tears.

“Of course he has. We’re going to call him right now, okay?”

Danny nodded enthusiastically.

Sadie retrieved her cell phone from a back pocket and dialed. After only one ring, Mr. Graham answered with a frantic, “Hello?”

“Mr. Graham, I have someone here who wants to speak with you.” She handed the phone to Danny and stood. The kid gripped the small phone with both hands.


She stepped away from the bed for a moment to give Danny and his father some semblance of privacy. When she reached the doorway, Santana joined her. “All clear?” she asked softly.

He nodded.

A chill ran down Sadie’s spine and her arms prickled. Adrenaline crash. She was coming down as if she’d been on a powerful drug. She’d done her best to be calm and cool with the kid, but in truth her heart was still pumping too hard and her skin was flushed and overly warm. It was always that way when bullets started flying.

She was starving.

Sadie glanced up at Santana, who watched the kid on the bed with calm, contented eyes. He looked like he’d just stepped out of a dull but satisfying business meeting.

The man was gorgeous, dark and fit and downright pretty. She liked him a lot as a person, and they worked together well. And no matter how tempting she might occasionally find him, it was never a good idea to mix business with pleasure. Santana didn’t do emotion where sex was concerned, but she did. It was Sadie’s downfall, the chink in her armor, her Achilles’ heel. It was the reason she had been single in every way for the past several years.

“I’m thinking of taking a few days off,” he said. “What about you?”

“I wish,” she said softly. “I got an urgent phone call from my Aunt Lillian yesterday.”

Santana turned his brandy-colored eyes to her.

“It’s nothing, really, just…” No way was she going to tell Santana or any of her other co-workers—all males as testosterone-laden as he—why she was going back to Garth, Alabama. “I have to go home for a few days and take care of a little family business.”

He didn’t pry, but he did ask if she needed any help. She declined the offer, horrified at the very idea of anyone at the agency seeing her in the element she was about to jump back into. The Benning Agency was more than a P.I. firm. They didn’t take on seedy divorce cases or investigate insurance scams. Instead, they provided top-notch security, rescued lost or kidnapped children like Danny and took on dangerous jobs no one else wanted. Their agents were the best of the best.

Sadie smiled at Danny as she walked to the bed to take the cell phone.

“It’s going to take us a couple of hours to get you home,” Sadie said as she scooped Danny’s shoes off the floor and sat beside him. “Are you hungry?”

He nodded.

“Me, too. I could really use a nice, big chocolate milkshake right about now. And maybe some cheese fries and a chili dog.”

Santana lifted one curious brow. “What gives, Harlow? You only eat like that when you’re really nervous.”

Sadie took Danny’s hand as he left the bed then sent a tight smile at Santana. “I told you. I’m going home.”

And it was going to take a lot more than a junk-food binge to soothe her nerves.

Chapter 1

The old saying “You can’t go home again” was wrong. Sadie had quickly discovered that going home was easy. Much too easy. The saying ought to be, “You shouldn’t go home again. Ever.”

“Sadie,” the intrusive, whispering voice interrupted what was left of her dream.

Sadie opened one eye, barely. The bedside clock glowed green in the dimly lit bedroom. Four-fifty—in the morning! She’d gotten to sleep about one-thirty, after unpacking, listening to Aunt Lillian’s list of troubles and cousin Jennifer’s hours of unending complaints and trying to adjust her body to this hard, less-than-welcoming bed.

“Go ’way,” she mumbled as she closed her eye.

“It’s almost five. Rise and shine!”

Rise and shine were words that should definitely be justifiable cause for homicide, especially at this hour. With a moan, Sadie rolled onto her back and glared up, that one eye drifting open again. Lillian Banks stood five foot one, weighed maybe a hundred and five pounds, and carried her fifty-seven years as if it were thirty-seven.

“I didn’t get to sleep until after one,” Sadie said. Surely that was explanation enough, she thought as she closed her eye.

“Sadie,” Aunt Lillian whispered.

The dream was right there. And it had been a good one. Hadn’t it?

“Sadie.” A nudge accompanied this more urgent call.

The hard bed felt almost soft, she was so tired….

“Sadie Mae.”

Sadie sat up as quickly as was possible considering her condition, and both eyes flew open. The sound of her full name usually did that to her. She didn’t know if it was early years of maternal training or the horror of the full name that made her sound like a hick wearing a pair of cut-off overalls and straw in her hair. Whatever the reason, Aunt Lillian knew the trick. “I’m up!”

Lillian smiled widely. “Mary Beth called in sick. You’ll have to work her shift.”

This was so unfair. “Can’t Jennifer do it?”

A shake of a gray head was her answer. “No. Jennifer was out late, and besides…she’s got all the housekeeping to do and the last time she filled in for Mary Beth she spilt coffee on one of my best customers.”

Sadie’s airhead cousin, Lillian’s own daughter, had spilled that coffee on purpose, no doubt, to save her from such early-morning abductions. Maybe Jennifer wasn’t such an airhead after all. “Five minutes,” Sadie said, drifting back toward the mattress.

It wasn’t fair. Jennifer had gotten the normal name and the ability to weasel her way out of anything she didn’t want to do.

Lillian tossed a dress at Sadie, a hideous, bubble-gum pink, lace-trimmed waitress uniform that actually had her name stitched over the pocket. Just plain Sadie, thank God.

“You had this made for me?” Her heart sank. Obviously her aunt expected that these early-morning duties were going to become a regular thing. Sadie asked herself again how she had ended up here. “I didn’t come back to Garth to…”

“If you’re going to help out until I get things in order around here, you need a proper uniform,” Lillian said. “And don’t give me that look. Waitressing is a perfectly acceptable occupation for a young lady.”
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