Under His Skin. Rita Herron

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Under His Skin - Rita Herron

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      MILLS & BOON

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      For Kim Nadelson: my former editor who still reads me

       even though she doesn’t have to!


      Chapter One

      Chapter Two

      Chapter Three

      Chapter Four

      Chapter Five

      Chapter Six

      Chapter Seven

      Chapter Eight

      Chapter Nine

      Chapter Ten

      Chapter Eleven

      Chapter Twelve

      Chapter Thirteen

      Chapter Fourteen

      Chapter Fifteen

      Chapter Sixteen

      Chapter Seventeen

      Chapter Eighteen

      Chapter Nineteen

      Chapter Twenty

      Chapter Twenty-One

      Chapter One

      Grace Gardener hesitated outside Detective Parker Kilpatrick’s hospital room, nerves fluttering in her stomach. She had to find out who had murdered her brother.

      The police were wrong. Bruno had not killed himself. He wouldn’t take his own life. Not and leave her alone.

      Ever since her parents’ murder twenty years ago, she had practically raised him. And he had vowed to find out the truth about their deaths. Had that investigation gotten him killed?

      Maybe Detective Kilpatrick could help her.

      Although he was still recovering from the terrible fire that had put him in the hospital, he was alert, and he could ask around.

      She had to be careful and guard her emotions, though. For some insane reason, the detective rattled her nerves. But she refused to get involved with a detective, not after losing two loved ones to the job.

      For heaven’s sake, he’d only been with the Savannah Police Department a short time and he’d ended up at death’s door, and now in the hospital.

      With a shudder, she remembered the night they’d wheeled Parker into the ER. He’d been injured trying to save a woman’s life in a fire. A hero, but he’d suffered second-and third-degree burns, had a collapsed lung and crushed leg. Had nearly flatlined. She’d held his hand and called to him, urging him to fight for his life, and miraculously they’d revived him.

      And when he’d opened his amber eyes and looked at her, even glazed with pain, she’d felt an odd chemistry between them. A chemistry she hadn’t felt with a man in a long time.

      She clenched her hands; she was the delirious one. She’d simply connected to him because of his close call with death, the excitement of bringing him back and knowing that she would play a part in his recovery.

      But he’d barked at her over the next few weeks and thrown her out of his room more than once, refusing her help. Still, she’d held on to her patience because she’d understood his frustration.

      He was an alpha male who liked being in charge, and he’d been robbed of his independence. Her brother and father had been tough as nails like him, and would have responded the same way to being physically incapacitated.

      Remembering them again sobered her, so she knocked on the door. When she heard his gruff voice, she stepped inside. For a brief moment she paused, her breath catching at the sight of him standing on his own. He was over six feet and had powerful shoulders, now encased in a dark blue T-shirt that emphasized his muscular physique. Thick, wavy dark brown hair framed an angular face constantly darkened by beard stubble, and though a scar ran along his temple, his face, thank God, had not suffered burns.

      She remembered seeing him half-naked when she’d tended to him, and her stomach quivered. Even in a hospital gown, he was the best-looking masculine specimen she’d ever met. She’d wanted to soothe his pain, to heal him with her hands, and had admired his fierce determination and insistence that the doctors were wrong, that he’d show them all and walk again.

      “What are you doing here?”

      A small smile tilted her lips at his surly tone. “Nice to see you, too, Parker. I just dropped by to check on your progress.”

      His jaw tightened, and a flicker of something that resembled pain flared in his eyes as he walked toward her. He wasn’t using the crutches, although he probably should be. “I’m fine, as you can see. Now you can go.”

      “Ah. I forgot you don’t like company.”

      “I’m a cop, not into chitchat.”

      Right, the cop part. He was antsy to get back to the job. To put his life on the line again to save others.

      And possibly end up right back here or worse, dead like her brother and father. She still didn’t understand what drove them to put themselves in danger, and make their loved ones worry and suffer.

      She spotted the newspaper on the bed, noted the story about the missing bodies from the morgues and the story about the body she’d found at the graveyard the night before when she’d stopped by to visit Bruno’s grave.

      Nightmares of the man’s blank eyes staring at her in death haunted her all night. “I see you’re keeping up with the crime in Savannah.”

      For a moment concern warmed his eyes. “Yeah, I saw the story. Are you all right?”

      She nodded, moved by the slight tenderness in his husky voice. “I hope they find whoever left his body. That poor man didn’t deserve to be desecrated like that.”

      “My partner’s on the case. He’ll get to the bottom of it.”

      She tucked an errant strand of hair behind one ear. He’d just given her an opener. “I spoke with Captain Black about my brother’s death. But he said they still don’t know anything. And I’m not convinced that he believes me.”

      He shrugged, drawing the T-shirt tighter across his massive chest while the cotton running shorts he wore slid down to reveal his flat stomach. Dark hair was broken by patches that had been singed off, and scars discolored the bronzed skin, but they were healing.

      “Captain Black is a good guy. He’s trying to find out the truth, Grace. So what are you really doing here?”

      She stared at him for a long moment, debating over whether to leave or ask for

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