Clint Gunderson hadn’t wanted it to end like this—but this…
This was the expected outcome.
Live by the gun—die by the gun.
It was about damned time.
And he was tired of living by the gun.
That it was at an end felt more than just surreal—it felt damned impossible. Far too many months of his life had gone to this case.
The worst case of his career.
It had cost him more than any other case ever had. Tonight, it had almost cost him his closest friend, too.
He couldn’t live like this anymore.
Now it was over.
Clint was finished.
He never wanted to work law enforcement again.
He never would.
He’d made that vow as he’d watched his truck burn to ashes more than five months earlier—after the sonofabitch who now lay dead at his feet had placed C4 beneath his backseat.
The backseat where his infant daughter normally rode. It had been luck that had had his baby at home that day.
Never would someone he loved be targeted because of what Clint did ever again. He’d made that vow and meant it.
Clint was a man of his word.
He looked at the man standing next to him. His supervisor appeared mean and hard and ready to chew through nails—as an appetizer. To be followed up with a main course of razor blades and glass.
Rexford Weatherby was just as dangerous as he looked.
Rex was one of the only close friends Clint had ever had. These past six months or so had just made that even clearer.
At times, the only one he’d been able to trust at all had been Rex.
Clint didn’t take that lightly.
It had come too damned close for Rex with this one, too. Clint had pulled him out of the way of a bullet at the very last moment. It hadn’t been in time—but it had kept Rex alive.
“I can handle the rest of the details,” Clint said, hoping the man would take the hint. Knowing he wouldn’t.
Rex nodded. The man looked completely out of place in the meth lab where their suspect had been hiding. Rex’s dark three-piece suit stood out amongst the filth. As did the dark stain growing on the man’s shoulder. “Thought this was never going to end. But we got every damned lackey and mule and runner out there now. It’s finished.”
Clint hadn’t looked that close at Rex in the heat of the moment. He did now. And cursed.
“You need to get that taken care of. Now.” Ambulances were on their way. Backup had arrived fifteen minutes ago. Clint could handle things from here.
Clint knew better than to even say more than that. The man wasn’t stupid. He’d get medical care when he was damned well ready. Nothing Clint said would change that.
Rex was damned stubborn at times.
“You leaving town soon, I take it? Do I need to stop by and grab the dog until you get back?”
“I’m leaving as soon as possible. Taking Kody to Dusty Talley to board him for a few days. My…family…is out there. Somewhere. I’ve waited long enough to find them.”
His baby girl was out there without him. His Violet. She was almost fifteen months now.
He had no idea where she was. Had no idea if she was safe, happy…alive. He had no clue where she was or whether she needed him right this very moment.
That knowledge had eaten at him every single night she had been gone.
Worry for her hit him hard.
He hadn’t let himself focus on what he was missing. Not for almost six months now.
He hadn’t been able to, or it would have destroyed him. He had had to make things safe for them all again. Violet and…
A sweet, beautiful woman with red hair and big blue eyes. Who had once looked at him like he mattered.
He missed them. More than he would have ever thought possible.
His own stupid fault.
The two people he loved most in this world were out there where he couldn’t get to them.
So they would be safe from his damned job.
His job had cost him more than five months of his daughter’s life and the time with Maggie when he could have been convincing her of how he felt about her.
Convincing her that what they’d had together was real. And not the stupid lies he’d told her back then to protect himself.
She had to hate him now, for what he’d caused.
He hated himself for that, too.
“I’m going to go find my family,” he said, as the sound of sirens split the cold mid-March air. “And bring them home. Where they belong.”
Home was calling her real hard tonight.
Maggie Tyler couldn’t answer. She couldn’t even decide whether she wanted to go home, either.
Someone knocked on her suite door. She hefted Violet up and put the toddler on her hip, ignoring the twinge in her back at the movement.
Moving around while being the size of a whale was a whole lot difficult, and a whole lot awkward. Violet was getting bigger and bigger every day, as well. It was becoming a little difficult to maneuver her all the time.
Maggie had to pee again, too. No surprise, she always had to pee now.
But first, the door. Whoever was out there could hold Violet while Maggie took care of more pressing business. Like waddling to the bathroom. For the three hundredth time in the past hour.
If she had to hide herself away, at least she was hidden in a place that had multiple staff members who could help.
Not exactly how she’d imagined this whole pregnancy thing going, but it could be worse.
She was seven and a half months along now. But looked closer to ten.
Clint Masterson made big babies. His baby number two had permanently settled on Maggie’s bladder. Where he liked to do tae kwan do. Plus gymnastics.
“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Mel said, once Maggie opened the door. Mel had been her savior these past five months. Without her and Mel’s cousin-by-marriage, Brandt, Maggie would have fallen to pieces months ago. “But there is someone at the gates looking for you. Demanding to be let in. Not going away. Once I got a good look at him, I figured you’d want to know. This man…long, tall, and cowboy gorgeous. Looks like he belongs on a western romance novel cover somewhere—and can give any woman the shivers. The good kind of shivers. He could almost give my husband a run for his money. Says he’s here for his woman and his baby and we’d better give them to him now. Was rather insistent on that. Since you’re the only one with a baby here right now…Process of elimination.”
There were very few possibilities.
Maggie’s mouth suddenly went dry. He was here.
“Should I have security let him in?” Melody Beck Barratt’s husband was one of the richest men in the US. They were currently at his property in Finley Creek—well guarded behind his stone gates. If she said no, no one would ever be able to get in to her. But…that was just delaying the inevitable. Clint had come for his daughter. He wouldn’t stop until he got her. “Or do you want me to chase him off?”
Maggie and Violet were safe here. They had protected her and the baby—when they had not had to.
She would never be able to repay them for that. But…there had always been an end in sight. She’d just somehow thought there would be more planning to it than this. She’d thought there’d be a phone call, and her uncle Phil—a good friend of Mel’s family—would come get her, she’d meet Clint at the airport and return Violet to him.
As simple as that.
Then she’d head back to her brothers’ ranch, where she’d stay until she gave birth. With five more than overprotective brothers hovering over her, watching every move she made.
Or, she’d fly home and introduce Clint to his son. She’d had nightmares that the baby would be born before Clint found her again, and she’d have to pick the name herself. To take that away from him, too.
Before she went home with her brothers. Back to the 8×10 room she’d spent most of her life in. At least until she could find a place of her own.
Maggie had never had that. A place that was just hers. A place she could decorate, could put her mark on. The way she would want it. Maggie had never had that.
She wanted that now. So much.
“It’s Clint, isn’t it? He’s finally here.”
He had been bound to find her sooner or later.
Well, he had been bound to find Violet.
Clint Gunderson wouldn’t have ever bothered looking for Maggie. Except for one thing—she’d basically abducted his daughter.
He was in for a nasty shock when he got a good look at Maggie. He’d come for one baby—surprise!
Clint was getting two.