Protecting His Witness

By: Marie Ferrarella

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This is a mistake, Krystle thought, as her body heated and she gave in to desire for the man who held her in his arms. You know it is. Damn it, stop...

But she couldn't. It made no sense. It wasn't like her to let go like this, not with someone she hardly knew, and yet she couldn't stop herself, couldn't pull back.

Didn't want to.

She didn't understand what it was about Zack McIntyre that fired up her attraction.

All she knew was she needed this, wanted this. Needed to feel like a woman again. The hired killer who has been pursuing her for so long had robbed her of so much, including her feelings. She hadn't allowed herself to feel anything, all these long months. She desperately wanted something, at least one thing, back—if only for a few precious minutes.

She wanted to feel again....

* * *

* * *

To families everywhere, and to my own small circle. What would I ever do without you?

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Chapter 1

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He could sense the blood leaving his body.

His hand turned sticky where he pressed it against his side and he began to feel dangerously light-headed.

With effort, Zack McIntyre forced himself to focus on his end goal: to get away and find help.

He cursed himself for letting this happen, but who would have expected to be jumped in the alley right behind an Internet cafe? Especially in an upscale neighborhood. When the man he'd been following had slipped out the back a minute before the owner closed down, Zack had been about a minute behind him.

Once outside, he was jumped. The confrontation— and ultimate end result—had been unavoidable.

The alleyway had been deserted. At eleven o'clock, he had no doubts that most of the people who lived around here were already home, most likely in bed. He'd fled, bleeding, before anyone else showed up.

The shop was located at the tail end of a small strip mall nestled on the corner of a not-so-frequented thoroughfare. Facing the street, it was flanked on three sides by three separate housing developments. Zack had managed to escape into the smallest one, all while doing his best not to pass out. Whimsically named Stonehenge, the development was comprised of tiny, cookie-cutter white brick houses sealed two or three to a package, their backs all turned to a common alley.

It was through this alley that he found himself weaving.

Weaving badly.

Zack strained to hear the sound of approaching sirens. All he heard were crickets searching for love and companionship. That meant no one had found the body. Yet.

His side felt as if it was on fire.

Looking down, he was surprised there weren't any flames radiating between his fingers as he continued pressing against the wound. Blood kept seeping along his palm.

All attempts at calling this in had failed. There was a radio tower not too far off. That and the power lines crackling along the right-of-way in the damp night air played havoc with cell phone signals, imprisoning them within their phones.

Nothing was coming or going.

Just his luck.

Par for tonight. The car he was using had had two of its tires slashed. No getaway there.

Zack staggered and nearly fell, face forward. It was hard holding on to consciousness when his head was spinning so badly. It felt as if the edges were slipping through his fingers. Everything was exceedingly blurry and out of focus.

He needed help.

Arriving at one door, clutching his side with one hand, he pounded on a door with the other. When that yielded nothing, he tried another door. And another.

No one answered. No one stirred. Either he'd somehow managed to stumble into a ghost development, or people had finally learned not to open their doors after eleven at night.

Good for them, he thought. Bad for him.

"I should have arranged to get shot at noon," Zack muttered to himself. Everything in his head became progressively jumbled.

Damn it, somebody had to be home, someone had to answer their door. He just needed one person, just one. That and a first-aid kit.

Hell, he could do without the person as long as he had the kit. He wasn't Rambo, but he knew enough to be able to stitch up his own wound.

As long as he didn't lose any more blood.

Somehow, he made it to yet another back door. His fist outstretched to try to rouse whoever lived inside, Zack stumbled again, the toe of his boot hitting uneven gravel. This time, he pitched forward as the darkness around him descended, moving in closer until it merged with the growing darkness within. And then there was nothing.