Authors: Chrys Fey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Chrys Fey
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2014
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-474-9
Published in the United States of America
To everyone in the medical field
for their dedication to save lives.
To everyone in law enforcement
for their promise to serve and protect.
To my editor, Lori Graham,
for taking a chance on me
helping me to start my career.
And to my good friend,
Danielle Wood, Dani’s namesake.
Dani Hart jogged up the five flights of stairs to her small but homey apartment in the heart of Cleveland. Fresh snow soaked the bottom of her scrubs, the soles of her wet sneakers squeaked against the wood, and her white medical coat floated behind her.
After pulling an all-nighter at the E.R., topped with three emergency operations, she couldn’t wait to sink into bed with a pint of coffee flavored ice cream. The thought of the frozen dairy stashed in her freezer gave her the extra boost of energy she needed to conquer the last dozen steps. She blindly rounded the curve and rammed head first into a solid chest. Strong hands steadied her before she could tumble down the stairs, and she found herself staring into evergreen eyes.
She gave the man wearing a knit beanie an exhausted smile. She couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was and how her stomach fluttered with attraction. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. Are you okay?”
His gaze jumped from the staircase to her; he seemed jittery. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”
She wasn’t worried about it. At that point, all she could think about was digging a giant spoon into her ice cream. She went to take a step back and the man yanked her to his chest. Her eyes widened in surprise.
“Stairs,” he told her.
“Oh, right. Excuse me.” She slipped past him and bounded up the last steps.
She had the first apartment on the floor, which meant she was closer to her pajamas and cold treat, but she grew impatient while she rummaged through her bag for her keys. Naturally, they were at the bottom. She pulled out a lump of key chains the size of her fist and fiddled for the key with the red dot of nail polish on it. She pushed it into the lock but the door stayed closed. Mumbling an oath, she gave the door a good, hard nudge with her shoulder to dislodge it from the frame. The bang carried throughout the hallway.
She had no time to react when a strong force bowled her through the doorway of her apartment, and a large hand plastered over her mouth. The man she had bumped into on the stairs had a firm grip on her as he kicked the door closed behind them. She struggled to get free, but his hold kept her back pressed against his chest.
“It’s okay. I’m a cop. My name is Blake Herro.” He hauled her into the living room. “There are six armed men coming up the stairs. We need to hide. Where can we hide?”
Her mind went blank, she even forgot about the ice cream.
“Where?” he demanded with a quick shake.
She pointed to the six-foot long, three-foot high handcrafted cedar chest she used for a coffee table. Officer Herro pulled her to it and flung open the lid.
“Get in,” he ordered.
She didn’t think twice as she lifted her feet and lay flat on the bottom. He climbed in after her. As soon as the lid lowered, the door to her apartment burst open. He laid a finger over her lips. She nodded. The inside of the chest was so cramped his back pressed against the inside of the lid, his body crushed hers, their limbs twisted and tangled uncomfortably. At least he braced himself on his forearms to take his weight off her lungs so she could breathe.
“You’re positive this is the apartment, Tony?” A man’s voice roared.
“The keys are still in the door,” another man replied.
From inside the chest, Dani heard her jumble of keys hit the floor.
“Check the damn place,” the first man ordered. “And kill anyone you find.”
Dani’s heart catapulted in her chest. She didn’t like being stuck inside her grandmother’s chest. It made her feel claustrophobic, and worst, it made her feel like she was in a coffin. She jolted beneath Officer Herro when she heard a loud crash. He cupped her shoulders to keep her still. The six men were breaking anything and everything as they went along with their business.
She panted with fear.
What if they see the chest? What if we get caught? What if my breath stinks and I’m breathing right into Officer Hottie’s face?
She shut her mouth and let oxygen flow through her nose.
Her eyesight slowly adjusted to the darkness inside the chest and she could see Officer Herro’s silhouette. His head was turned and he was listening to the thuds of heavy boots getting louder; the intruders were coming their way.
Then the thunder of footsteps sounded right next to them. “There’s no one here, Red,” someone announced.
“Look for documents,” a man ordered, who Dani could only assume was Red. “I want the name of the person I’m going to kill.”
A moment later, there was a reply. “All the mail is addressed to a Dr. Hart.”
Hearing her name said aloud by one of the men who had ransacked her place made her want to gasp. Her mouth fell open and her breath was reversing into her lungs, but before she could make a sound, Officer Herro lowered his lips to hers, silencing her.
Stunned, she could only lie beneath him with her eyes wide and her body tense. She couldn’t believe he was kissing her. She wanted to push him back, but knew if she did he might hit the inside of the chest, giving away their hiding place. That was when she realized he was kissing her so she wouldn’t gasp.
She let her body relax. After her initial shock faded, she was able to feel his lips. They were comforting and caused a reaction deep inside her, a reaction that had started when she first laid eyes on him on the stairs. She couldn’t stop her lips from reacting to his. It was an innocent connection, a soft touch of lips. Until his hand slid from her shoulder to her neck and the kiss deepened into something else.
She forgot she was inside a chest, hiding from armed men. She forgot she was kissing a cop, and that the situation she was in was dangerous. All of her focus was on his coffee-tainted mouth, and she thought he tasted better than the ice cream in her freezer.
When he eased back, he kept his lips resting against hers. Their breath tickled and warmed each other’s lips. His eyes bore into hers as he pulled away, as if he was making sure she wouldn’t make a peep, but all she could manage was to keep air circulating in her lungs.
The boots stomping around her apartment headed back toward the door. “The owner will be back, so we’ll be back, too,” the man known as Red announced.
“What if the doctor doesn’t come home?” someone asked.
“Then we’ll come for him.”
Dani thought in confusion.
They think I’m a man?
Her mouth opened, not from the shock of being mistaken for a man, but because they were running out of oxygen.
“All right, let’s get out of here before someone calls the cops and we have to kill a bunch of pigs.”
Slowly suffocating, Dani heard the men file out one-by-one and the door close. Officer Herro waited until the echo of hurrying feet grew faint before he shoved the lid open. Cool air swooped inside and she concentrated on swallowing it. She didn’t even care that he was straddling her.
He put his hands on either side of her face. “Hey, slow breaths.”
She opened her eyes. “I’m fine,” she insisted.
“Are you sure?” He looked concerned.
“Yeah, and I’ll be even better once I get out of this damned coffin.”
When she stepped out, she studied the cedar chest—big enough to fit two people—and made a mental note to thank her grandmother for giving it to her. “It’s a good thing I didn’t put my medical books in there last weekend,” she said aloud.
She indicated the three towers of books stacked beside her TV.
He nodded. “I’d keep this thing empty,” he said while closing the chest. “Just in case.”
She frowned at him. “What the hell was all that anyway?”
He took a deep breath before explaining. “I’ve been undercover for a month. Red must’ve sensed I wasn’t one of them because he retaliated tonight. I was able to get away and came in here to hide out. It was early, so I wasn’t expecting anyone to come or go.”
“And then I came along.”
He nodded. “They must’ve come in right after you, heard you open your door, and thought I was trying to escape. They would’ve killed you if I hadn’t—”
He winced at her choice of words. “More-or-less.”
She was starting to get the full picture now. “So they came here for you?”
“But now they think you’re Dr. Hart?”
He nodded again.
“And thanks to you, they’re going to come after me!”
He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close. “They will come for Dr. Hart, which is why I need to get you out of here as soon as fucking possible. Pack a bag. I’ll get you somewhere safe.”
In a duffel bag, Dani piled in scrubs, jeans, T-shirts, pajamas, underwear and an expensive dress with its original tags because she didn’t want it stolen. In a backpack, she stuffed a first aid kit, bathroom toiletries, never-before-worn heels she bought to go with the dress, a pearl necklace given to her by her grandmother, and her most prized possession, her photo album.
When she returned, a black claw restrained her red hair and she wore a pair of jeans and sneakers. Before she left the bathroom, she noted the red lightning bolts of exhaustion lining her blue eyes, but she couldn’t do a thing about that.
Officer Herro turned his back on the window. “Are you ready?”
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “This is all happening way too fast.” He might’ve saved her life moments ago, but she wasn’t sure if she should trust him. Her mother had always said not to go anywhere with strangers.
“If it doesn’t happen fast, you’ll find yourself back in that chest.”
She eyed it wearily. “I think I’m claustrophobic, but that’s not what I meant. What’s going to happen now? Where are you going to take me?”
“Protective custody. I already spoke to my police chief and he agrees your protection takes priority.”
“Does he know I’m in this mess because of you?” She saw his jaw tighten.
“Yes, he does. Now are you ready?”
“Yes. No. Wait.” She hurried over the tile covered in sugar crystals and coffee grounds to the refrigerator. She opened the mini-freezer and took out the pint of ice cream. Even though her life had just been in jeopardy, she couldn’t deny her craving. “Do you like coffee-flavored ice cream?”