When his beloved adoptive daughter’s life is threatened, Houston, Texas, lawyer William Richards can think of only one person to protect her: Cord Anderson—the battle hardened, war-weary, mercenary son of an old friend. Cord would keep Marlie safe from outside harm, as well as safe from her own impulses if she were ever to learn that her father’s life had also been threatened. Without a word to Marlie, William Richards hatches a plan.
What wasn’t included in that plan was for Marlie and Cord to fall in love during their enforced time together. Marlie, impatient with captivity, unwillingly fascinated by the man who was so hard and aloof. Cord, burned out by the dangerous and violent path he had chosen when he thought there was nothing left for him in life.
What does the future hold for them? Can a malicious act by a madman destroy their lives forever?
Read a Review:
I really enjoyed this book. A little of mystery and a little of love. Would recommend. Great story of a dad trying to protect his.daughter… Sharon T., Amazon, 5-stars
Read an Excerpt:
Cord Anderson sat with his back to the wall, his arms crossed lightly over his chest, his narrowed eyes not missing a move in the cavernous lobby as businessmen and women, dressed in suits and clutching briefcases, flowed into the building. With a deceptive air of detachment, he studied the tightness of their features, the taut way they held their bodies, the intentness of their minds. Like modern gladiators, they were off to do battle with telephone and computer, and each seemed just as unsure as those in ancient days of who the victor might be. Once, he might have been one of them…if he had chosen another course, followed a different path. But he had done neither.
One jeans-clad leg became cramped from too long a time in inactivity and he shifted it. His action drew the attention of the nearby security guard. Cord pretended not to notice when the man’s mouth tightened in disapproval. He wasn’t here to please anyone—not even the person who had summoned him.
The muted ring of a telephone was soon followed by the guard motioning for Cord to come to the security station. With indolent ease, Cord rose from the bank of chairs, unfolding his lean length until he had reached his full six-foot two inches.
“Mr. Richards can see you now. Sign this,” the guard said, tapping a book with numbered lines that was open on his desk. Cord added his name under that of the last visitor. “Wear this at all times while you’re in the building,” the guard continued as he thrust forward a plastic visitor’s badge. “And don’t forget to give it back when you’re done. Mr. Richards’ assistant will be down shortly to accompany you to his office.”
“Thanks,” Cord murmured, as he picked up the badge. His cool gray eyes flickered over the man across from him. Cord had seen his type before: men puffed up by the importance of their uniform, but of doubtful help when a real emergency threatened.
He clipped the badge to the pocket flap of his denim jacket. He had come straight from the airport, having had neither the time nor the inclination to change.
A few of the people passing by noticed him, his appearance breaking their concentration. Their eyes, especially those of the women, dwelt on him with surprised interest.
Cord resettled in his chair. At his feet, stuffed into the space of a worn duffel bag, were most of his worldly possessions. He was prepared to wait for as long as it took.
A nicely dressed middle-aged woman soon appeared at his side. “Mr. Anderson?” she questioned, her tone brisk. At his nod, she said, “Come with me, please.”
Cord reached for his bag.
“You’ll have to leave that here with me,” the guard stated, starting around his desk.
“I don’t think so,” Cord replied softly, a warning behind his words.
The guard’s face flushed. “It’s the rule,” he bleated.
Cord’s hand tightened on the duffel bag’s strap, his darkly handsome features not giving away any of his thoughts.
“It’s all right, Waldo,” the assistant intervened. “He can bring the bag.”
The woman motioned to Cord. “This way.”
As Cord followed her, he could feel the guard’s impotent gaze burning into his back. But since he had suffered much worse during his lifetime, a simple hard look meant nothing to him.
The journey in the elevator to the twenty-second floor was silent. The assistant, embroiled in her own thoughts, left Cord to his.
A few years back, he never would have considered doing a job of this kind, not even for an old friend of his father’s. But then, a few years back he had been younger. His bones hadn’t started to ache occasionally from old wounds; his mind hadn’t begun to question the futility of his actions.
The elevator doors whooshed open and Cord and the assistant stepped into a long corridor that led to the reception area of a suite of executive offices. The woman disappeared through the first door to the right and held it open for him to enter.
“Mr. Richards’ office,” she said, motioning across the wide expanse of carpeting to yet another door.
Cord opened it without notification. A man was seated behind an expansive mahogany desk. Behind him was a bird’s-eye view of the city of Houston—a sea of green trees cut by ribbons of steel and concrete, with freeways spreading into the suburbs.
The man rose and extended his hand. Cord took it after a moment’s hesitation. He had met William Richards only once before, after his father’s questionable business practices had landed him in real trouble with the law. Cord had been a teenager then, with only a few years left before he graduated from high school. The lawyer had come to the small town where his father reigned supreme and saved him from a jail sentence at worst and a financially strapping fine at best. The man had aged over the intervening years: his dark blond hair had changed to silver, wrinkles had softened his eagle-like look, but his dark eyes remained the same—alert, intelligent, quick to spot a flaw in any line of reasoning.
“Cord! I’m glad you could come. Sit down.”
Cord took the proffered chair. He felt the man’s gaze run over him in assessment. He met the look with level calm. He had nothing to hide.
“You’re the spitting image of your father at your age,” William Richards said, as he retook his seat. “You’re what? Thirty-three, thirty-four?”
Cord nodded. He saw no reason to settle on either.
The older man leaned back. “Your father and I had some good times when we were young. A regular pair of rapscallions. Has he ever told you about our adventures?”
William Richards seemed intent on reminiscing, a fond smile on his lips. “The things we used to do. Drove my father almost crazy.” He shook his head. “Had some tight scrapes.”
After a moment of Cord’s continued silence, the man recalled himself to the purpose of the meeting. He sat forward and folded his hands on the desk, his expression losing all traces of humor.
“Did your father tell you why I wanted to see you?”
“He gave me a brief summary.”
“Then you understand the seriousness of the situation.”
The man’s hands jerked convulsively. “If there was any other way around this, I’d use it. But I don’t see any.”
“Wouldn’t a simple warning work?” Cord asked.
The man laughed shortly. “If you knew my daughter… No, a warning wouldn’t have any effect on her. In fact, it might make the situation worse.”
“And that’s something you want to avoid at any cost.”
“I’m willing to pay whatever it takes.”
“Then I guess that’s why you can afford me.”
“You don’t come cheap.”
Cord’s smile wasn’t pleasant. “No, I don’t.”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “But you will get the job done. I have to know that. I won’t pay a penny unless—”
“I’ll get it done,” Cord interrupted. “But I don’t agree with the initial method. It’s too loose-ended. Someone might see.”
“We’ll have to take that chance.”
“No. Either I refine it or I leave.”
The man held Cord’s gaze. Cord could sense the desperation roiling inside him.
Finally, William Richards gave a tight nod. “What’s your idea?” he asked.
Cord’s explanation was succinct.
When he finished, the older man gave reluctant approval and slid open a side drawer of his desk. Cord automatically tensed as he reached inside, and relaxed only upon seeing the magazine clipping the man extracted.
“Here,” he said. “This was taken about a year ago at some kind of charity function.”
Cord found himself looking into a pair of wide-spaced, light blue eyes, with eyebrows that winged upward in a delicately formed oval face. Pale, wheat-colored hair fell to her shoulders in a soft line.
Once again he wondered if he should turn the job down. This was so far removed from his usual fare. Then he remembered the weariness he had been carrying like a weight for the past six months. The nights of disturbed sleep, the days when haunted memory would give him no peace. Causes no longer interested him. Too many of them came down to greed—for power, for wealth. At the moment he wanted no more of it.
“May I keep this?” he asked, flicking a corner of the clipping with his thumb.
“You have everything else arranged?”
“Yes.” William Richards confirmed and told Cord of his preparations.
Cord nodded. “That sounds all right, but I’ll check it out.”
“I thought you might,” William Richards murmured.
Cord pushed to his feet. He didn’t extend his hand. Instead, he said, “I’ll be in touch.”
The older man nodded tightly.
Cord arrived at the security desk in the lobby without the guard noticing. With a flip of his wrist, he deposited the plastic badge on the surface next to the man’s arm. The guard jumped as if he’d been shot.
Cord’s gray eyes met the man’s startled look. Then, without a word, he turned on his heels and walked away, leaving the guard to stare after him.
The guard watched as the visitor strode into the oppressive heat of a Houston summer morning, and followed the tall form for as long as the glass wall allowed. Then a shiver ran up his spine. He had read descriptions of people with danger written all over them in some of the men’s action magazines he collected. He had even practiced giving such a look in his bathroom mirror. But if this was what it was like to come into contact with someone who actually had that look, he hoped never to see it again!