Shell-shocked after a nightmarish school shooting, Amalie Pope retreats to an aging plantation house near Bordelaise, Louisiana, to heal, physically and emotionally. She's there barely an hour when a tornado rips through bayou country, mercifully leaving the house intact. She's stranded, but unafraid-until a knock on the door.Four escaped prisoners barge inside, and in an instant Amalie is a hostage again. These men are wounded, desperate and dangerous-with one exception. Undercover DEA operative Nick Aroyo is on the run with the gang he's infiltrated. The only thing he wants more than this collar is to protect fragile, frightened Amalie, who has surrendered herself to his care, body, soulhellip;and heart. But he'll have to play the thug in order to keep her-and his secret-safe, because even though the storm has passed, the danger remainshellip;.
Sunday afternoon-Bordelaise, Louisiana A storm was brewing, and Nick Aroyo could tell, even from inside the Bordelaise Police Department, that it was going to be a strong one. The day had begun with sunshine and a breeze, but for the past couple of hours the wind had continued to rise, until now it had elevated to a high-pitched whine that he could hear through the three-foot-thick concrete block walls of his jail cell. For Nick, jail was the last damn place he needed to be, but getting arrested on a Friday night in Bordelaise, Louisiana, meant you awaited the judge's pleasure when it came to a "prompt" arraignment, and for whatever reason, this time it wasn't happening until Monday. In his other life, away from the undercover world of the DEA, Sunday meant sleeping in, hot wings and watching football on TV. But there would be none of that today. The jailer had yet to pick up their food trays from lunch, and the cockroach crawling on top of his leftover macaroni and cheese was so damn big he was afraid to turn his back on it. As for sleeping, at four inches over six feet tall, there was no way Nick could get comfortable on a jail bunk. So he paced, thinking about the three other men he'd been running with for the past eight months and who'd been arrested with him, and trying not to think of the luxurious extra-long mattress back in his Miami condo. Even though he knew his mother was keeping an eye on his place, he was anxious to put this case behind him and go home. There had been a time when he'd thrived on undercover work, but the older he got, the more he realized that real life was passing him by. He had yet to have one serious relationship survive his unexplained absences, and at thirty-six, his own biological clock was ticking. He wanted someone to come home to and a kid who called him Daddy. Suddenly he became aware that the wind outside had changed to a roar and a siren was going off somewhere, and when something hit the roof of the jail with such force that he felt the vibration beneath his feet, he ducked. To his horror, seconds later the corner of the roof began to lift. Knowing he only had moments to take cover, he grabbed his mattress, hit the floor, then slid beneath the frame of his bunk, pulling the mattress in on top of him. The sounds that followed were like something out of a nightmare. The air became a living, breathing banshee-screaming nonstop and ripping the roof and rafters from above him before sucking them up into its vortex. He clutched the mattress against him, then closed his eyes as he began to be pelted by rain and f lying debris. Suddenly something hit the bottom of his boot with such force that his entire body slid a foot to the north. Above the wind, he could hear a scream and thought it was Wayman French, one of the men with whom he'd been arrested. Then the winds ripped the mattress from his grasp, pulled him out from under the bunk and slammed him against the front of the jail cell. Before he could get a grip on the bars, his body went flying backward, slamming up against a wall; then he was turned around and slammed back against the bars. Realizing he'd just been handed a second chance, he locked his arms through the bars and ducked his head, trying to protect his face and eyes from the rain and wind-whipped debris. The last thing he was thinking was that his mother would have to identify his body; then something hit the back of his head and everything went black. When Nick came to he was laying on his back, looking up at the sky, rain pelting his face. The roof was gone, as was the back wall of his cell. His first thought was to make a run for it. He needed to contact his boss, Stewart Babcock, the deputy chief of the DEA, and tell him where he'd hidden eight months worth of intel. It would suck to have spent the last months of his life in the underbelly of society and then die before he could turn over the goods. The info was
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August 01, 2010
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