Angel was sleeping deeply when a sound penetrated the most delicious of dreams. Brushing it off as Barnie getting into something he shouldn’t be, she rolled over, punched her pillow, and willed herself back to sleep. She was halfway there when another noise snagged her attention again, too loud and distinctive to be the troublesome cat. She yanked back the covers and sat up. What was that?
“Darn it!” she swore under her breath. She focused her gaze on the alarm clock on the nightstand. Two o’clock! She’d stayed up late watching Syfy and had only crawled into bed an hour ago. Barnie appeared at the foot of the bed and began to rub the side of his face against her big toe. At the same time she heard another noise from downstairs, and with growing fear Angel realized that someone else was in the house with her.
She was supposed to be alone!
Alex and Diana were on a two-week-long cruise in Europe, and she was watching the house and cat-sitting for them. She swung about and put her feet on the floor. The action caused Barnie to jump off the bed.
He began weaving in and around her bare legs, arching his back for attention, totally oblivious to her sudden concerns. Angel rose to her feet, wondering what she should do. She remembered reading an article once, that had recommended sleeping with your car keys close by so that if someone broke into your house you could set your car alarm off, and possibly scare the intruders away. Now she wished she had taken the advice more seriously.
Her next thought was that her cell was in her purse, downstairs. Lord, how could she have been so careless? Knowing there was no land-line, she would have to make her way down there and get her cell if she wanted to phone the police. Another, louder sound coming from the direction of the kitchen decided it for her. She had to try.
“Not now, Barnie!” she whispered sharply, gently shooing the twenty-pound feline away with her foot. Angel slowly made her way to the bedroom door, and listened at the threshold. Whoever was downstairs must have thought they were alone, they weren’t even trying to be quiet. That was good, because as long as they made noise she would know where they were as she made her way to her purse.
She closed the door, shutting Barnie inside her bedroom, and walked to the top of the stairs. All the lights were off, but the outside security lights were on and shining through the sheer curtains on the windows, giving off just enough light so that she could see the layout of the room below and that no one was there.
The noise the intruder was making was definitely coming from the area of the kitchen. Angel was almost certain she heard the slam of the fridge door, and then the distinctive sound of someone opening a can. Are they actually helping themselves to a beer? She’d brought a six-pack with her, along with a few other staples to get her through the week. Diana and Alex had left her food, but there were some things she couldn’t live without.
Taking a breath for courage, Angel rushed down the carpeted steps in her bare feet. She stopped at the bottom and listened before turning the corner. Her jaw dropped in surprise when she noticed the kitchen light had been turned on. Talk about a brazen burglar! She glanced toward the living room, remembering that her purse was on the floor at the far end of the sofa. In order to get to it she would have to pass the kitchen doorway.
Crap! She darted as close to the doorway as she could, and then dropped down to her haunches. The unique sound of the toaster popping up made her gasp. She quickly covered her mouth, and held her breath. The smell of toast reached her nostrils. I can’t believe they’ve actually made something to eat! Who did that when they broke into a house? As they moved around the kitchen she made her way to the edge of the doorjamb.
Curiosity caused her to try and peek around the edge of the doorjamb and into the kitchen but she lost her nerve at the last second, jerking back out of sight. She could hear them moving around, opening cupboards, and the fridge again. They even turned on the faucet in the sink once. While she heard the water running, Angel decided it was time to make her move. She took a breath and scooted as fast as she could past the doorway. Once she reached the other side she stopped to exhale, not surprised to find her heart beating rapidly.
A couple seconds later she reached her pursue. She quickly dug around blindly inside, finding her cell at the bottom. Thank God it lit up when she dialed. Another moment later the 911 operator answered the phone.
“My name is Angel Smyth. Please send someone,” Angel said in a rushed tone. “Someone has broken into the house, and I’m all alone.” She was trying to listen to both the operator and what was going on in the kitchen at the same time.
“You’re calling from 1299 Briar Patch Way?”
“Where are you in the house, ma’am?” Her tone was calm and almost robotic.
“I’m downstairs in the living room.” Angel was growing impatient with the dispatcher’s lack of urgency. “Are you sending someone?”
“The police are on the way, ma’am. Where is the intruder now?” the operator asked.
Angel listened for a moment. “He’s still in the kitchen.”
“Is the intruder male?”
“No, no!” Angel said, and then quickly lowered her voice when she realized she’d spoken too loud. “I don’t know if it’s a woman or a man.” She’d been too afraid to look when she had the chance. Movement coming from the kitchen told her the intruder was still there, but for how long? She was crouched at the end of the couch, too afraid to turn around, frightened that at any moment she would be discovered. “Please hurry!”
“They’re on their way. Stay calm and—”
“I think he’s in the room with me!” Angel’s eyes rounded with fear when she sensed someone moving up behind her.
“Ma’am stay on—”
Angel knew the intruder was behind her now. She stood up, whipped around and slammed her phone into the side of his head with a piercing scream. All she could make out was a tall, dark outline.
“What the fuck—” a male voice boomed.
Angel let out another scream and slammed her hands against a massive chest, shoving him away from her as hard as she could. Her only thought was making it back upstairs to the safety of her room until the police arrived, but the second her palms landed on the man’s rock-hard chest she knew she was in trouble. He stumbled back but she had a feeling it was due more to her catching him by surprise than the force of her push.
She scooted around him but suddenly his hands were on her, and for a moment they struggled against each other. Angel was hyped up on adrenaline and a strong sense of survival, and she used her nails and teeth on the naked arms and powerful hands trying to subdue her. It gained her enough freedom to make it to the stairs but halfway up she found her ankle being grabbed, she fell, and then she was pinned beneath a heavy weight.
“No!” she cried out, struggling wildly against him. But she was no match for his superior strength and the honed muscles she felt beneath her hands. In no time his hands had wrapped around her wrists, and she was pinned against the stairs.
“Who the hell are you?” he demanded, his face too close to hers.
“Who the hell are you?” Angel demanded right back, twisting beneath him. It was then she felt cool air in places that she shouldn’t, reminding her that all she had on was a thin night-shirt and a pair of bikini panties. Judging by the super hard pecks she felt pressed against her breasts, her shirt had come undone, too. An insane thought crossed her mind, why wasn’t he wearing a shirt? She wiggled wildly, unintentionally scraping her nipples across his flesh.
“Stop before you get hurt!” he warned. In an effort to subdue her he pressed his body against hers.
“Then get off me!” Angel hissed, arching her body in an effort to dislodge him. His muscled thighs and powerful legs flexed against hers, easily holding hers still.
“Not until you tell me who you are,” he grated in a rough voice.
His warm breath slapped her in the face. “I live here,” Angel said without hesitation, glaring up into his shadowed face. She was aware there was no way he could see her because it was too dark.
“The hell you do.”
How did he know that? “The police are on their way so I suggest you let me up and get out of here.” Her energy was beginning to wane. He was too strong and big, and the longer they remained like that, the more she began to feel uncomfortable with their intimate proximity.
“Good. Then we can get to the bottom of this.”
That wasn’t the kind of response an intruder would make if he were caught in someone else’s house. Maybe he was delusional or something. Angel decided to switch tactics. “These stairs are hurting me,” she said weakly.
Things grew still between them and she sensed his silent contemplation, as if he were wondering if he should believe her. She whimpered a little for good measure.
“Okay, I’m going to let you up, but don’t try anything stupid,” he warned.
The second he released her and lifted off her body, Angel got to her feet and dashed the rest of the way up the stairs.
“Son of a bitch!” he cursed behind her.
Angel slammed and locked her bedroom door in his face. She didn’t know what she hoped to accomplish, except to get away from him until the police arrived. What was taking them so long? She ran to one of the windows and opened it. Maybe she could push out a screen and—
Without warning her bedroom door was kicked in. She screamed and made a beeline for her connecting bathroom.
“Oh, no, you don’t.”
A muscular arm wrapped around Angel’s waist and she was lifted off her feet. “Let me go!” She wiggled and kicked, very much aware that her butt was against a very intimate part of his body. Burning heat replaced the fear flowing through her blood because his cock wasn’t as flaccid as it should have been.
“Look,” he slammed her down onto the bed and for the second time she found herself pinned beneath his superior strength. “Before this goes any further I think we need to talk.”
“You can talk to the police,” she panted, twisting beneath him.
“I intend to,” he said without hesitation. There was a confidence in his tone that surprised her.
Without warning he reached up and turned on the reading light at the head of the bed. How did he know that was there? Meeting eyes the color of blue topaz, everything in Angel froze, including her breath. Oh God, I know those eyes! She didn’t know the man personally, but she knew of him from the pictures on the fireplace mantle downstairs. He was Diana’s older brother, and Navy SEAL Bishop Strong. Suddenly everything made perfect sense.
After six years, he’d finally come home!