It was just a day's work for Texas Ranger Egan Caldwell. Except this time, the victim of the crime was rich, beautiful heiress Caroline Stallings. Egan and Caroline couldn't be more different--she was upper crust, he was a lawman. Yet this woman stirred feelings in him that refused to be ignored. Problem was, Caroline's memory had gone the way of Egan's willpower and her amnesia had attracted a killer. Ensuring her safety was something he took very seriously. But giving in to their distracting, combustible attraction was the only chance Egan had of uncovering the secrets hidden in Caroline's mind...before someone else did.
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Questioning the Heiress by Delores Fossen
San Antonio, Texas
Sgt. Egan Caldwell already had four dead bodies on his hands. He sure as hell didn't want a fifth.
"I need a guard in place by the entrance gate. Now!" he ordered into the thumb-size communicator clipped to his collar. And by God, the two rent-a-cops had better be listening and reacting. "Secure the area and await orders. Do not fire. Repeat. Do not fire. If this is our killer, he might have a hostage."
And in this case the hostage would be none other than Caroline Stallings, the Cantara Hills socialite who'd made a frantic call to Egan six minutes earlier. He'd been a Texas Ranger for over four years, and that was more than enough time on the job to have learned that six minutes could be five minutes and fifty-nine seconds too late to save someone from a killer.
With his Sig Sauer Blackwater pistol gripped in his right hand, Egan blinked away the sticky summer rain that was spitting at him, and he zigzagged through the manicured shrubs and trees that lined the eighth of a mile-long cobblestone driveway. He'd parked on the street so the sound of his car engine wouldn't alert anyone that he was there. He tried not to make too much noise, listening for anything to indicate the killer was inside the two-story Victorian house. Or worse.
Egan couldn't let this guy get away again.
Things had sure gone to hell in a handbasket tonight. Less than ten minutes ago, Egan had been eating a jalape�o burger, chili fries and going over forensic reports in his makeshift office at the country club. Less than ten minutes ago, the two-hundred-and-eighty-six residents of Cantara Hills had been safe with a Texas Ranger and two civilian guards they'd hired to stop anyone suspicious from getting into the exclusive community.
And then that phone call had come.
"This is Caroline Stallings," she'd said, her voice more breath than sound. Egan had felt her fear from the other end of the line. "There's an intruder in my home."
Everything had gone dead.
Well, everything except Egan's concerns. They were sky-high because two of the three previous murders in Cantara Hills and an attempted murder had been preceded by break-ins.
Just like this one.
And even though the person responsible, Vincent Montoya, had been murdered as well, there was obviously someone else. Montoya's boss, maybe. Or someone with a different agenda. Maybe that someone was now right there in Caroline Stallings's house.
Egan slapped aside some soggy weeping willow branches and raced toward the back of the house. He didn't stop. Running, he checked the windows for any sign of the killer or Caroline Stallings. Enough lights were on to illuminate the place, but no one was in sight in the large solarium that he passed.
"I'm at the entry gate," one of the guards said through the communicator. "My partner's by the west fence. That covers both of the most likely exit routes, and San Antonio PD backup should be here soon to cover the others."
Soon wasn't soon enough. He needed backup now.
"I'm going in the house," he told the guard. Egan had to make sure Caroline Stallings was alive and that she stayed that way. "If the intruder comes running out of there alone, try to make an arrest. If he doesn't cooperate, if you have to shoot, then aim low for the knees. I want this SOB alive."
Because this particular SOB might be able to answer some hard questions about the four deaths that'd happened in or around Cantara Hills in the past nine months.
Egan glanced around to make sure the intruder hadn't escaped into the back or east yards. If he had, then it was a long drop down since the house was literally perched on the lip of a jagged limestone bluff. An escape over that particular wrought-iron fence could be suicide. But Egan did spot someone.
The brunette with a butcher knife.
She was standing just a few feet away on the porch near double stained-glass doors, and she had a white-knuckled grip on the gleaming ten-inch blade. Her blue-green eyes were wide, her chest pumping with jolts of breath that strained her sleeveless turquoise top.
It was Caroline Stallings.
Alive, thank God. And she seemed unharmed.
Egan had seen her around Cantara Hills a couple of times in the past week since the Texas Rangers had been called in to solve three cold-case murders and then a hot one that'd happened only forty-eight hours earlier. During those other sightings, Ms. Stallings had always appeared so cool, rich and collected. She wasn't so cool or collected now with her shaky composure and windswept dark brown hair.
But the rich part still applied.
Despite the fear and that god-awful big knife, she looked high priced, high rent and high maintenance.
She jumped when she saw him. And gasped. That caused her chest to pump even harder.
"Where's the intruder?" Egan mouthed.
She used the knife blade to point in the direction of the left side of the house.