Ten years ago, Black Ops commando Deke Bronson's bullet left up-and-coming journalist Lexie Murrough paralyzed
It's taken years of painful physical therapy to bring Lexie back from the brink. And Deke is just grateful that she has no memory of his part in the incident that left her injured and him emotionally scarred. He's tried to put the past behind him, leaving the military and joining the Dundee Agency, but he's never been able to forgive himself....
When Lexie, now head of an international charity organization, begins receiving terrifying threats from the son of the dictator killed during that long-ago operation, it's Deke who's assigned to keep her safe from harm.
Maybe it's fate's way of giving him another chance, but falling for Lexie isn't supposed to be part of the deal. And what if she finally discovers the truth?
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November 30, 2007
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Excerpt from A Time to Die by Beverly Barton
Ten years later...
Lexie Murrough gazed out of her office window overlooking the Market Street Bridge, which was now a pedestrian-only crossing. When arranging the furniture in her office, she had made certain the beautiful view was available to her throughout the workday. For the past two years, she had called Chattanooga home, ever since she'd joined forces with billionaire heiress Cara Bedell to found a charitable organization to help the underprivileged worldwide. Although Lexie was listed as the group's president and was the person who oversaw the day-to-day running of the charity, Cara not only provided the bulk of the funds for Helping Hands, she often took an active role in the decision-making. Since joining forces for such a worthwhile cause, Lexie and Cara had become good friends.
There had been a time when Lexie had taken friendship for granted, when she'd taken many things for granted. But that had been another Lexie, the young and very foolish rookie reporter who had thought the world revolved around her. In the span of five minutes, her entire life had changed forever. The cute, feisty college cheerleader who'd been voted Most Likely to Succeed and had reigned as homecoming queen her senior year at the University of Georgia had died in a godforsaken African country on a sweltering June day ten years ago. But unlike her cameraman, Marty Bearn, Lexie had been reborn, given a second chance at life.
"Daydreaming again?" a female voice inquired, breaking into Lexie's thoughts.
Lexie sighed, then turned and smiled at her assistant, Toni Wells. "I was just enjoying the view." Lexie didn't discuss her past with her friends and associates. Her therapist had helped her understand that in order to move forward, she had to let go of the past. Not only of the lost hopes and dreams, but of the guilt and the anger.
"I come bearing gifts." Toni placed a lidded foam cup on Lexie's desk. "Fat-free mocha, no whipped cream."
"Thanks. You're a sweetie." Lexie picked up the cup, snapped back the plastic lip of the lid and took a sip of the hot coffee. "This is just what I needed."
Toni sat in a chair across from Lexie's antique desk--a gift from Cara--crossed her long, jeans-clad legs and relaxed as she sipped her own drink, no doubt something sinfully rich and loaded with calories. Toni was one of those fortunate women who never gained an ounce and ate like a lumberjack.
Years ago, when she'd been in her early twenties, Lexie had never worried about her weight. But inactivity and overeating had added a good thirty pounds to her five-five, medium-boned frame. It had taken her years to shed twenty of those pounds, and she now had to watch every bite she ate in order to maintain her weight.
Lexie studied her young assistant. Antoinette Wells was twenty-five, tall, slender and exotically lovely, with curly black hair, a caf�-au-lait complexion and striking hazel eyes. Her mother, an African-American poet, and her father, a white third-generation Georgia politician and now a state representative, had divorced when Toni was twelve.
"Don't look at me that way," Toni said. "I didn't bring any doughnuts or Danish today. And I can't help it if I inherited skinny genes from both parents, can I?"
Lexie laughed. "Heredity can be a bitch sometimes, but in your case, it was a blessing."
"Only in the looks department," Toni said. "At least you don't have the complications I do, dealing with a mixed heritage."
"You're right. Life isn't perfect for any of us, is it?"
"Ooh, you're in one of those moods, huh?" Lexie scooted back her chair and turned it so that she faced the window instead of the room. With her back to Toni, she said, "I went for my six-month checkup yesterday, and the news was pretty much what I expected."
"No change?" Toni's voice held just a hint of pity. Lexie shook her head. "No change. And after all this time, there isn't likely to be any further improvement." Emotion welled up inside her, tightening her throat. But she didn't cry. Wouldn't cry. At this point in her life, tears would be a waste.