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Cops & Cowboysa duet featuring Her Wildest Dreams and Lora Leigh’s Cowboy and the Captive
Timid and shy, in her wildest dreams, Allie never imagined Alex would look at her with anything more than friendship and maybe a little pity in his eyes.
As if living a nightmare, one horrible night Allie is attacked, and Alex comes rushing to her rescue. He wonders if he is really needed when he finds a little hellcat fighting off her attacker. Much later that night, Alex holds that little hellcat in his arms.
Months later, he runs into Allie again, and he barely recognizes her. She’s no longer the shy little wallflower she had once been.
Problem is…she doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. Allie’s about to find out that he’s the only man guaranteed to make her wildest dreams come true.
It’s weird, the way a woman can go her whole life without ever really seeing herself. And the things that can flash through her mind when she’s come face to face with a knife-welding punk out to snatch her purse, and end her life.
He was high; Alison had spent two years giving out Methadone at a clinic and she could spot high easily enough. Basically that meant her life wasn’t worth the twenty dollars she had in her wallet—not to this guy.
Yet, in that moment—when seconds stretched out to a crawl—it wasn’t any odd sentimental moment from childhood that rose to her memory, no poignant moment spent in a lover’s arms.
Instead, she could see her reflection—as she had looked just twenty minutes before she had left the house to run to the bookstore—her nondescript brown hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her glasses sliding down her nose, her long narrow face pale and listless.
The clothes she had on were baggy and simple—jeans and a flannel shirt—covered by a serviceable jacket of black wool. They hung on a frame so skinny, it could have belonged to a teenaged boy, not a twenty-six-year-old woman.
And that was what she saw.
Herself. Miserable, pathetic, lifeless.
Dimly, she heard footsteps and a shout.
With a jolt, reality snapped back into focus and her eyes, hidden behind huge plastic frames and lenses, narrowed, her mouth tightened into a grim line. She looped one wrist through the purse strap and drew the other one down, cocked back, the ball of her hand driving up—a trick she had learned long ago, back when she had still lived with her folks and one very protective older brother.
To her surprise, the boy—God, was he even seventeen?—went crashing down, shouting with shock. She was certain she had felt cartilage crunch under her hand, but the pain of that wouldn’t faze somebody so obviously strung out. She drew her foot back, praying for forgiveness, and landed a kick square in his unprotected crotch.
That drew a howl from him…and a vicious curse. She dropped into a crouch she didn’t even know she remembered, drawing her hands up, eyes darting around for a weapon.
But it wasn’t necessary.
A body hurtled out from nowhere, tackling the boy who had rushed to his feet, taking him down. A large hand clipped the boy across the face, stunning him. Alison heard the clank of metal, followed by the quiet snick of handcuffs latching.
Her body had started to quiver and it took a long time to realize the voice addressing her was calling her by name. It took even longer to realize that voice was familiar.
Large hands closed over her shoulders and an irate voice demanded, “Girl, have you lost your mind?”
Slowly her lids lowered, then lifted once more and her gaze moved up, training on that face, her ears homing in on the rough, angry voice. It clicked and she smiled a dazed, rather dreamy smile.
“Why, Alexander O’Malley, how nice to see you,” she murmured as her body went from subtle shivering to outright quaking in a matter of heartbeats. Her own heart started to kick, pounding heavily against the wall of her chest, causing her breath to catch in her throat.
His dark brown hair spilled onto his forehead, falling into his chocolate-brown eyes as he glared down at her in unsuppressed rage. His mouth—that sexy, sexy mouth she had always wanted one taste of—was grim and tight, his lean, tanned face stark with anger.
Her mind felt oddly disconnected as she stared at him, head cocked. Vicious, furious curses drew her attention away from Alex, but the angry narcotics detective barely even glanced at the struggling boy at his feet.
“Little idiot,” he snapped out, giving her one final shake before drawing a cell phone from his pocket. She barely heard him barking into the phone. Instead, Alison focused on the battered boy who lay at their feet, moaning pitifully, crying and struggling to get up and away. Alex’s feet were braced on either side of him and his glittering dark-brown gaze locked on the boy’s face.
Alison’s eyes were locked on the boys face too, widening as she realized some of the marks on him had come from her—the meekest, mildest woman ever to stroll through southern Indiana.
A warm hand closed on her face and she felt her chin being lifted. Staring into Alex’s eyes, the fog that had started to envelope her brain thickened. “I think I might have broken his nose,” she said calmly.
“You little idiot, he was about to slit your damn throat,” Alex growled. “Why didn’t you just give him your fucking purse”
Her eyes dropped to the object in question and her lips pursed. “I really don’t know.” A frown marred her face as she looked back up at him and said quietly, “It wouldn’t have mattered though. He would have killed me no matter what I did. And we both know it, Alex.”
Alex paced the small office, watching the silent little figure huddled in the chair. Every now and then, Alison Ryan would sip from the cup of coffee she held, but for the most part, her eyes remained locked on the wall in front of her. He seriously doubted she was seeing anything, but he had to admit, she was much calmer than he ever would have thought.
It wouldn’t have mattered though. He would have killed me no matter what I did. And we both know it, Alex.
Damn it. Fuck.
The bitch of it all? She was right. The boy was so fucking strung out, he would have killed her and it wouldn’t have fazed him. Oh, he would have been sorry—once it was too late.
Too late—once Alex have had to go see quiet little Allie one last time, right before her coffin was closed. She had saved her own neck. A sick, hot little ball of nausea slid through his gut and Alex clenched his jaw. Fuck. He had known her since she was a kid. There was no way to describe the rage he had felt when he had raced upon the scene and seen the teenager flashing that knife, so close to her white neck.
But she had handled it. Who would have thought it? Alison Ryan. She was such a, well, mouse. It wasn’t the nicest thing to say about his best friend’s baby sister, but what else could he say? It was the truth.
Her pale little face was a bit paler than normal, but nothing that was worrying him.
The signs of shock had faded and she was calm. Geez, how long had he known her? Going on twenty-five years now. And he didn’t think he had ever seen her upset. Alex seriously doubted she had the passion it took to get upset. So why was it surprising that she wasn’t upset now? Hysterical, even?
Why, Alexander O’Malley, how nice to see you, she had said, pushing her glasses up and staring at him owlishly, like she hadn’t almost been killed.
Little fool, he thought. For the fifteenth time.
Her ponytail had been tidied at some point, pulled back tightly from her face. Every now and then, her eyes would glance at the plain watch on her wrist, but she still hadn’t said much. “Why don’t I call your brother to come get you?”
In her soft, hesitant voice, she said, “Mike’s out of town until next Saturday.”
Alex pressed his fingers against his eyes and muttered, “Tahiti. I forgot.”
Forgotten that he had stood up for Mike in his wedding only four days earlier? Alison smiled slightly. She didn’t doubt it; Alex looked strained. And she doubted it had anything to do with what might have happened earlier. She set aside the half empty coffee cup and stood, folding her arms across her chest. “I can call a cab,” she said. “I just need to get back to my car, anyway.”
A cab. He stared at her, his pen falling from his hand. A cab? After damn near getting her throat slit, she was going to call a fucking cab? Mike would kill me. Shit, I’d kill me. “No,” he said slowly, shaking his head and lowering his gaze back to the report. “No cab.”
“I don’t mind,” she said softly. “It’s late and—”
“No cab, Allie,” he said in a steely voice. “I’ll take you. I’ve got a few things to finish up and then I can take you home.”
He scowled. Home? Alone? “Is there a friend you could call? Go stay with?”
She frowned at him quizzically. “Why would I do that?”
“Because you almost got your throat slit?” he snapped and then mentally kicked his ass as her eyes fell away and her mouth twitched.
His date had called and cancelled at the last minute, which explained why he had been in the area. He had stopped to pick up a book and on the way out had seen Allie’s car. He had almost turned around to go find her, to see if he could talk her into grabbing a bite with him, thinking it was better than going home alone.
Actually, even though it would end up without any sex, it was better than a date. Once you got her talking, Allie was adorable, funny, sharp-witted. And unmistakable.
He would have seen her in the store.
She hadn’t been there. The worry hadn’t even had a chance to settle in his gut when he heard the scuffle and the muttered curse from the small alley between the old bookstore and the run-down grocery and had known—just known—that the little twit was getting in trouble.
So instead of settling down with his book, dragging the shy kid sister of his best friend out for some food, or looking up another date, he was writing up a police report because the idiot was too stupid to realize it wasn’t safe to walk from one store to the other—not in this neighborhood. Allie was a cop’s sister, for crying out loud. She should know better.
“I’m sorry. Look, just give me a few minutes to wrap a few things up and then I can take you home, okay? Hang around a little while. You don’t need to be alone just yet, okay?”
She nodded, slowly, hesitantly, and lowered herself back into the chair. Alex went to his desk and finished typing up the report. As he whipped the paper from the old typewriter he preferred, his eye caught sight of a file.
Hot damn. About time, he thought as satisfaction slid through his gut.
Eyes gleaming, he flipped it open. This was it, all right. What he had been waiting for. Within five minutes of poring over the files, he had completely forgotten Alison was there.
After another thirty-five minutes had passed, Alison realized he had forgotten her. Biting back a sigh, she rose and made her way to the door on silent feet. Glancing back over her shoulder, she released the sigh. She was so forgettable. She knew damn well if she had been a criminal under arrest, or any other woman, she would never had made it out of that tiny office without Alex’s sharp eyes catching her.
But her? Quiet, mousy little Alison Ryan? He didn’t so much as glance up as she slid through the door. He still had his nose buried in the file as she made her way to the woman occupying the huge desk up front. It hurt, but Alex had always had the ability to hurt her. Since she had spent the majority of her life dreaming about him, it was no surprise. At first, they had been the sweet romantic dreams of a girl, him sweeping her away, vowing to love her forever.
He was so damn sexy, so adorable, so hot…but it was more than that. Not that being six-feet-four with thick, curly brown hair, melted-chocolate eyes, and a flashing white smile didn’t help. And his shoulders, that wide chest…tapering down to a flat, muscled belly and a tight ass that filled out a pair of jeans like nothing she had ever seen.
And of course there was always the front view—long, powerful legs, muscled thighs, a sizeable bulge that Allie eyed when she knew he wasn’t looking. Which was often—he never really looked at her. Oh, yeah, there was a lot about Alex’s looks to fuel her dreams.