Temptation Calls. Caridad PiñeiroЧитать онлайн книгу.
MILLS & BOON
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To my husband, Bob Scordato, who puts up
with my insanity, makes sure we all aren’t wearing pink
underwear and has always believed in me! Thank you
for your never-ending love and support, Bubba.
Spanish Harlem, 2004
As lives went, both of hers had sucked. Still, life went on and on and on, and everyday things had to be dealt with.
Samantha Turner bore the weight of the heavy grocery bags without complaint. They were for her shelter, The Artemis Shelter, a halfway house where women and their children could heal and find a way out of the abusive relationships in their lives. With her help, many families had already broken the cycle of violence that had cursed Samantha’s long existence. She was finally doing something positive with this life.
A clerk from the local Gristedes supermarket would have delivered the groceries, but after being trapped indoors all day, Samantha wanted to breathe the night air. To savor the activity of the city that never slept. To revel in the city’s humanity so she could prepare for another day of battling its cruelty.
She rounded the corner onto her street and noticed a few youths from the neighborhood and two younger children lingering on the stoop next to the shelter. It was nearly midnight. Too late for them and their hip-hop music blaring from the boom box on the railing.
Despite the distance and the dark, Samantha identified Juan Williams, his little brother and sister, plus an assortment of kids from Juan’s self-made posse. Mrs. Williams worked the late shift at a nearby hospital and Juan was supposed to take care of things when she was gone.
He did anything but.
Samantha quickened her pace. She could get the younger Williams children inside and in bed where their mother expected them to be. It was the kind of thing they all did in the neighborhood, watching out for each other.
In the years since Samantha had brought the Artemis Shelter to this part of New York, life had gotten better for this block and that sense of community had slowly spread to the adjacent streets. Funny that her little point of light came from something darker than most could begin to imagine.
Samantha was halfway down the street when a car came sharply around the corner. Tires squealed as the car swerved, but the noise was not enough to hide the sound of a weapon being locked and loaded. Voices urged on the shooter as he stuck himself out the open window.
So many in harm’s way. Too many.
Knowing even as she did so that it would raise questions she didn’t want to answer, Samantha dropped the bags and accelerated beyond human speed. She grabbed the two youngest children and carried them down the stairs to the shelter’s lower floor. She shoved them into a far corner before returning to street level to help the others.
The loud pop-pop-pop of gunfire erupted in the night. Bullets flew, striking sparks where they hit brick and stone, splattering blood and more where they connected with flesh and bone. The teenagers scurried to get away, their bodies jerking and thrashing as they failed to avoid the line of fire.
As Samantha grabbed one youth, a bullet tore into her upper back and another hit lower, in her side. She kept moving, carrying the teenager to the stairwell while the shooter continued to fire.
Then as suddenly as it began, it stopped. The car peeled away with another angry squeal of its tires and loud rejoicing from its occupants. Anger rose up sharply within her. The animal she’d been for too long wanted vengeance. But the human side of her knew that instead of going for their throats she should memorize the faces of those responsible and note the car’s license plate number.
Besides, Samantha couldn’t chase the car. Others needed her. Even this far down the block, the smell of gunsmoke and blood was strong. Too strong. Samantha battled the urge threatening to overwhelm her.
She took a deep breath. In the distance, a siren was fast approaching. It grated on her sensitive hearing and she reached up to cover her ears.
A familiar hand touched her shoulder.
“The children can’t see you like that,” he said, motioning with his free hand to her face. “And you’re hurt.”
“I’ll be okay, Ricardo, but…Is there anything you can do for the others?” Samantha gestured to the bodies littering the stoop and sidewalk.
Ricardo slipped off his jacket and draped it around her shoulders, revealing his naked chest and a low-slung pair of pajama bottoms. He’d clearly run out of his small botanica on the corner of her block without bothering to change.
“I’m not sure—”
“Someone has to see to them and you’re right. I can’t go back now,” Samantha said. She couldn’t afford to have her secret revealed to anyone else. It was bad enough that Ricardo had discovered the truth about what she was so soon after she’d moved to the neighborhood. Right now, there were too many things tempting the animal to emerge—her anger, the smell of the blood and the pain from her injuries.
Ricardo handed her the keys to his place. “Go and rest. I’ll do what I can.”
After quickly giving Ricardo a description of the occupants and the car, she fled to