Special Agent Riley Kincaid was fearless when it came to hunting ruthless criminals. But he was clueless when it came to marriage. Even a pretend one. Now, faced with a gorgeous single mother who needed protection from the killer next door, Riley was forced to play the doting husband and loving father...then walk away when the danger had passed. Too bad nobody warned him that Lana Tyler and her little girl could stir up feelings Riley had firmly avoided all his life. Claiming the key to everyone's survival meant having razor-sharp focus on the mission, Riley did everything he could not to be alone with his temporary wife. Which was turning out to be his toughest assignment yet....
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August 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Wanted by Carla Cassidy
Lana Tyler silently crept out of the small bedroom and breathed a sigh of relief. Getting almost four-year-old Haley down for a nap was always a bit of a challenge and today had been no different, but finally, after two stories, a backrub and a drink of juice, the little girl had fallen asleep.
Now if Lana were lucky she'd get a couple of hours to herself. As she walked through the living room she eyed the overstuffed hunter green sofa with a touch of longing.
A nap for mommy wasn't such a bad idea, but she had a big jewelry show coming up in two weeks, and the best time for her to work on her new pieces was when her daughter was either napping or tucked into bed for the night.
A knock on the front door halted her progress from the living room to the kitchen, and she backtracked to see who was at the door.
Two men stood on her porch, both clad in dark suits and wearing matching somber expressions that led her to believe they were either there to save her soul or to serve a warrant. She hadn't broken any laws that she was aware of, and as far as she was concerned her soul was in pretty good shape.
"Yes? May I help you?" she asked through the screen door.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Tyler. I'm FBI Agent Bill McDonald, and this is Agent Frank Morrel." He opened a badge holder and held it up so she could see his official identification. "May we come in and speak with you?"
FBI? For a moment a rush of hope filled her, hope that somehow they'd come to tell her the name of her husband's killer, that finally, after twenty long months, she would have some closure.
She looked carefully at the badges and assured herself they were real, then unlocked the screen door and opened it to allow the two agents into her home. "Is this about Joe? Have you finally caught the person who murdered him?"
"Sorry, Mrs. Tyler, this is about another matter," Agent McDonald replied.
She frowned. "Another matter?" She gestured them into the living room, where they both sat on the sofa. "If this isn't about Joe, then what's it about?"
"We need your help," Agent Morrel said.
"My help?" Lana sank into the chair facing the two men. What could the FBI possibly want with her?
She was just an ordinary single mother working hard to get by.
"We'd like to put an agent in your home for the next week or two. He'd be undercover, and we'd like him to pose as your new husband."
Lana stared at first one man and then the other. "Excuse me?" She must have misunderstood what he'd said. "Did you say husband?"
Bill McDonald nodded and leaned forward. "We understand that you're friendly with your neighbor Greg Cary."
Again a rivulet of surprise swept through Lana. "Yes, we're friendly," she agreed. "He's been a good neighbor over the years and a huge support since my husband was murdered. Why, is he in some kind of trouble?"
"I'm afraid we can't go into any specific details," Agent Morrel replied. "All we need from you is the okay to put an agent here in your home to do some surveillance work. We can assure you that there is absolutely no danger to you or your little girl. All we ask of you is that you go along with the charade of a marriage and don't tell anyone the truth. Not family, not friends. It's imperative that everyone believe Special Agent Riley Kincaid is your husband."
"Riley Kincaid?" She felt like a parrot, repeating random words as she tried to make sense of what exactly they wanted from her.
Morrel nodded and looked at his wristwatch. "He's a good man and has been assigned to this particular piece of the operation. He should be here within the next fifteen minutes or so."
Lana felt as if things were spinning way out of control. "Fifteen minutes? You certainly aren't giving me any time to think about all this," she said with a touch of resentment.
"What's to think about?" Agent McDonald asked. "We need you and your house, and as the widow of a law-enforcement official, we know you'll want to help out, to do your civic duty."
What on earth was going on? What could Greg have done that would warrant FBI interest and an undercover operation? "Is there somebody I can call and speak to about all this?" she asked, reluctant to agree to anything before talking to somebody in authority, somebody not currently sitting on her sofa.
Morrel nodded. "You can call Associate Deputy Director Chris McCall at the Kansas City field office."
Lana got up out of her chair and grabbed the cordless phone. It took her only minutes to get the phone number for the Kansas City FBI field office from information, dial it and be connected to Chris McCall, who had obviously expected her call.
"Our man Special Agent Kincaid will be as unobtrusive as possible in your home, in your life," he assured her smoothly. "I understand that this is short notice, and we certainly appreciate your cooperation in allowing us to use your home for the next couple of weeks. Agents Morrel and McDonald will be your contacts should any problems arise."
He went on to praise her once again for her cooperation and willingness to step up and help. The way Lana saw it, she didn't seem to have much of a choice in the matter.
She hung up the phone and returned to her seat in the overstuffed beige chair, not thrilled by this crazy turn of events. She'd only recently gotten accustomed to not having a man in the house. She wasn't exactly excited to welcome in a stranger.
"Why does he have to pretend to be my husband?" she asked.
"Wouldn't all of your neighbors find it odd for you to suddenly have a man living here?" Agent Morrel asked. "How could you explain the presence of our man to Greg Cary? I doubt if he'd believe that Special Agent Kincaid was your brother."
"I'm not sure he'll believe that I have a new husband," she replied.
Agent McDonald held her gaze intently. "It's important that you make him believe." There was a sudden harshness in his tone and a darkness in his eyes that caused a ripple of apprehension to waltz up Lana's spine. Again she wondered what they thought Greg had done.
"We're putting a lot of manpower and resources into this operation. We just don't want things to get screwed up." Agent Morrel offered her a tight smile, but the friendly gesture didn't quite reach the winter gray of his eyes.
At that moment there was a loud knock on the door and then it whooshed open. "Honey, I'm home," a deep voice called from the foyer. Lana stiffened.
He stepped into the living room and it was as if he sucked all the oxygen right out of the room. Tall, with curly dark hair and a face that had the bone structure of a model, he wore a pair of jeans that hugged his slim hips and a white T-shirt that tugged across impossibly broad shoulders.
He was definitely hot and exuded bold male sexuality, and as his vivid green eyes met hers, then slowly slid down the length of her, she felt a blush heat her cheeks and had the irrational desire to kick them all out of her house and quickly lock the door behind them.
He approached where she sat and held out his hand. "Riley Kincaid, and you must be my lovely bride, Lana."
Lana didn't take his hand, but she did stand, not wanting him to hover over her. "I can tell you right now, Mr. Kincaid, I'm not real happy about this," she said with a cool tone.
"Please, call me Riley, or better yet, call me honey," he replied with a slow, sexy grin. "And I promise you this won't be too painful. In fact most women I know would love to be my bride, pretend or otherwise."
"Then I guess I'm not like most of the women you know," she replied stiffly.
Agent Morrel cleared his throat. "We'll just get out of here and let you two work out all the details," he said. "Again, we appreciate your help," he said to Lana as he and his partner headed for the front door.
It had all happened so fast. One minute she'd been a simple, average widowed mother of a young daughter and the next she was part of a covert FBI operation with a man too sexy for his shirt looking at her expectantly.
Special Agent Riley Kincaid wasn't thrilled about the way this particular operation was going down, but he was definitely eager to get Greg Cary and his accomplice behind bars.
He'd been worried that this mock marriage thing could be awkward. After all, Riley was a healthy male, and being cooped up with a hot woman for a couple of weeks could definitely prove tempting, but thankfully Lana Tyler wasn't his type at all.
She had that girl-next-door, fresh-scrubbed look that had never attracted him. He preferred his women a little exotic, a lot sexy and definitely without happily-ever-after shining from their eyes. Although he had to admit that Lana's blue eyes were rather pretty.
"So, what happens now?" she asked, obviously ill at ease.
"I go get my things from the car and then we sit down and figure out our cover story." He headed for the door and then paused and turned back to her. "Oh, and for future purposes, as my new wife you should know that I love a big breakfast in the morning, I take my coffee black, and I sure wouldn't turn down a nice shoulder and back massage at the end of a long day."
She narrowed her blue eyes into a steely gaze. "Then I guess it's important for you to know, as my new hubby, that I do as little cooking as possible, I drink hot tea, not coffee, and if you really think I'm going to offer you a massage at the end of the day, then you're not only the most unprofessional FBI agent I've ever met, but also completely delusional."
Riley nodded in amused satisfaction. Good, she wasn't a total pushover. Beneath that long sandy-blond hair and those charming freckles that danced across the bridge of her nose was a touch of sass and a strong will. It was probably going to take both to get through this ordeal.
As Riley left the house and headed to his car in the driveway, he glanced next door where Greg Cary lived. These homes were small ranch houses, with little yard between them.
By setting up a camera with a telescopic lens in Lana's spare bedroom he would be able to see not only who came and went from Greg's home but also see into the man's living room. He was their initial target, but they suspected he had an accomplice and that's who they wanted to identify. Hopefully, within a couple of weeks they could get them both under arrest.
Greg Cary's house was painted white with traditional black shutters and a row of summer flowers lining the walkway that led to his front porch. It looked neat and respectable.
Nobody ever wanted to believe that the guy next door was a criminal. Whenever it was on the news that one of these creeps had been arrested, there were always interviews of stunned neighbors exclaiming that they never would have guessed that the quiet man next door was a maniac.
He fought against a small wave of irritation. This wasn't what he wanted to be doing. He was too impatient to be stuck on surveillance, but as he lifted the two suitcases from the trunk of the car he felt the painful twinge in his shoulder that had kept him on light duty for the last three months.
Nothing like a bullet to the shoulder to slow you down, he thought. He supposed he was lucky not to be on desk duty. He supposed he was lucky to be alive.
He definitely wasn't looking forward to sharing his personal space with a woman. As far as he was concerned women were good for a few hours, maybe a night of pleasure, but before dawn broke he wanted them out of his bed and out of his life.
As he reached Lana's porch he shot one more glance next door. Nothing stirred and nobody was in sight. By the end of the day he wouldn't be the only person keeping an eye on Greg Cary. There were at least half a dozen agents ready to rotate shifts to make sure that Cary didn't burp without somebody knowing about it.
Lana stood in the living room, her arms crossed and her features unreadable. "I don't really understand why you're here or exactly what it is you need."
"The first thing I need is your guest bedroom. Why don't I get unpacked and settled in and then we can talk about how this is all going to go down."
At that moment Lana's daughter cried out from down the hall. "Mama! I'm up!"
"You go take care of the kid. I'll unpack and we'll meet in the kitchen in half an hour or so," he said.
He followed her down the hallway and couldn't help but notice that her butt looked damn good in the tight jeans she wore.