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Thank you so much to everyone that participated in this contest for a signed copy of PREDETERMINED ENDINGS! The final number of entries was 645! How awesome!

So, drum roll please…

The winners are: Barb from MN and Ivory from CA! Congratulations, ladies! Your books will be sent out very soon! 🙂

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Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Angelica Chappell’s story makes huge headlines. Only a few months ago, she released a new pharmaceutical drug called Krytonix that effectively slows the spread of cancer cells. She has no idea her story will attract the attention of a serial killer. Suddenly, she is a target whether she realizes it or not. This killer is interested in more than her life. He wants her reputation, too. His first mission is to sabotage Krytonix.

William Pierce worked undercover for the FBI for five years to bring down a ruthless mobster that he ultimately is forced to kill. Two months passes by since that assignment. Still, William saw things he couldn’t talk about. He did things he couldn’t talk about. He believes his soul is damned. Returning to “normal” everyday life isn’t an option. He isn’t the same man he used to be. He refuses to return to FBI headquarters. He becomes a rogue agent with an agenda.

These two characters literally collide when Pierce’s agenda leads him to Chappell. It will take both of them to keep Angelica alive and to figure out who is trying to kill her. William soon finds himself developing feelings for Angelica. Too bad for her killer, William worked as a trained killer for the mob. Will he find her killer and hand him over to the legal system to see that justice is served or will he search and destroy?

A special preview of PREDETERMINED ENDINGS

Chapter 1 of Predetermined Endings.

The blue flashing lights in his rearview mirror signaled for William Pierce to pull his car over. Great. He didn’t have time for this. He needed to get to the lab at Chappell Pharmaceuticals and scope things out for tomorrow night, July 4th. That was when he would break in. Only a minimal number of employees should be working on the holiday. He couldn’t let this opportunity pass him by. He may not get another one.
Chappell Pharmaceuticals had excellent security. William knew because he had kept surveillance on the company for three weeks. No expenses were spared in the three story building.

Around the clock staff kept the front lobby guarded where full-time monitors aired feedback from cameras placed in almost every room, hall and elevator. The guards were armed and well-trained to routinely make rounds of all three floors at least once every hour.

The only access inside was through the front lobby. The doors led to a metal detector and x-ray machine that all persons must walk through to enter the building. Higher security areas within required a computer generated pass code that was reassigned every three months. The fire escapes were set up as exit only doors. The windows did not open.
Breaking in was the last straw for William. On fifteen separate occasions, he’d requested a meeting with Bruce Chappell, the owner of the company, or his granddaughter Angelica, and all fifteen inquiries had been denied. Someone had the answers he sought. It was time to get more aggressive.

Fortunately, Angelica’s bodyguard had a secret. The man snuck out a side door every night at 9:00 PM to smoke a joint. He used his name badge between the door and the frame to keep from getting locked out. The other guards conveniently looked the other way.

There was no doubt in William’s mind that Angelica would work even though it was a holiday. She never missed work. So, when her bodyguard decided to make his exit, William planned to make his entrance.

The cameras would catch him, no doubt. He would have no way to avoid them. He would put a hat on to buy him a little time, but he would have to move quickly. He only needed to ask Angelica one quick question. One question, one answer, and he would be gone.

At one point in his life, even as little as five years ago, he would have been outraged by his plans to break into Chappell Pharmaceuticals. He was a man of strict code and honor, or had been. He had been a federal agent then, too. Times changed. That was then. This was now.

A bright spotlight shone through the back glass from the police cruiser. William watched his rearview mirror and saw the police officer walk slowly to his driver’s side window, a flashlight pointed at his car door.
“License and registration, please.”

The officer at the window was definitely a rookie. He still had acne. If not for the uniform, he wouldn’t have looked like a policeman. William couldn’t hand over an ID for three reasons. The first reason was that he didn’t carry one and he didn’t want his identity known. The second was that there was an APB out for him. The third was that this car did not belong to him. He should have felt some shame for himself; his fall from grace was as far as it was steep, but he didn’t and couldn’t.

“Why did you pull me over?” William asked around a toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth. He ignored the kid’s request for a license and registration altogether. He kept his tone easy and bored. He didn’t want any trouble. This new cop might actually want the added paperwork tonight. What better was going on in the wee hours of the morning?

“Rolling stop at the stop sign on the corner,” the kid said as he leaned closer to the window.

Damn rookies. William kept his face in the shadows of the car, far away from the open window. The kid would recognize him from the APB, for sure. Maybe if he kept his face hidden and played his cards right, he could convince this guy to just let him go.

A rolling stop? How ridiculous. William had to talk his way out of this stupidity. Intimidation wouldn’t work in this scenario, not with a new cop looking to prove himself. He needed to take things nice and easy.
“Listen, I’m sure you don’t want to go back to the precinct and tell the guys that your biggest excitement tonight was a ticket for a rolling stop. How about you just let me go?”

“License and registration,” the rookie said, his voice growing tighter.

“I just didn’t notice the sign. Don’t make this such a big deal. I have an excellent record. It shouldn’t be tainted over something so trivial,” William said, wishing he could just grab the punk through the window and punch him. This was just plain stupid.

“I’ll let you off with a warning, sir, but I still need to see a license and registration.”

Damn. Damn. Damn. “I left my wallet at home, and I never carry the registration with me. That’s not safe in case the car’s stolen.”

“Get out of the car, sir.”

“Come on, it was just a mistake. Let it go.”

“Get out of the car, now,” the rookie said in an angry tone, opening the door and stepping around it to wait for William to get out.

William stepped out of the car, biting back a curse. The street lamp lit up his face and he saw recognition in the cop’s eyes instantly. So much for his anonymity.

“Hands on the hood of the car, now.”

The rookie carried out procedure by the text book. He kept a good distance between them as he ordered the standard arrest positioning. Smart kid, but distance wouldn’t stop William. Without warning, he suddenly whirled around.

The policeman pulled the trigger, but missed even at close range. William grabbed the man by the throat, cutting off his circulation even as he grabbed the kid’s gun away from him and threw it across the sidewalk. It didn’t take long for the boy to pass out and slump to the ground.

William climbed back into the rental car and pulled back out onto the street, heading for the lab. He felt nothing by the fact that he had just assaulted a cop. He felt no guilt. For just a brief moment, he felt regret at his lack of emotion, but there was no changing the person, more like the thing he had become. He was empty inside, one of the living dead, not the zombie or vampire kind, but the real-life void of all human compassion kind.

He didn’t check his mirrors for traffic so he didn’t see the kid wake up seconds later and pull his backup piece. The noise of the gunshots didn’t startle him. He was too accustomed to that specific sound for even the volume of it to bother him.

Most of the shots aimed at the car missed in a big way. The rookie had bad aim. One shot, however, met its target by way of the back windshield and imbedded itself into William’s shoulder. His response to the pain was an annoyed grunt and a grimace as he bit down harder on the toothpick he chewed. Stupid kid couldn’t hit him when he’d stood right in front of him, but he’d managed to get him all the way at the end of the street. Now he needed a new car. Damn the luck.

* * *

At Chappell Pharmaceuticals the next day, Angelica Chappell stopped working to listen to the National Anthem on the radio. She didn’t have a flag to salute so she simply stopped and stared at the white wall of the lab, fingering the cross necklace beneath her shirt as she did so. All the walls were bright white; the tables were white; her lab coat was white, and the long skirt she wore underneath was also white. All she needed was a little blue and red to finish the trio of the nation’s colors, but all she had was white. The color was blinding at times because it was so bright, but it was by no means cheerful. It was sterile as the lab was supposed to be.

Sterile. She was just like the lab — uncontaminated, isolated, boring. Her life was her work and that was not how a young woman’s life was supposed to be, especially not in Nags Head, North Carolina, the most popular vacation spot in the Outer Banks. How depressing. It was July 4th, a Tuesday, and she was staring at a blank, white wall without family, without friends, without a date, and without a place to go to celebrate.

It was getting later, darkness having fallen probably thirty minutes ago or better, a detail she knew only by a clock on the wall because there were no windows in the lab. She could hear the first faint cracks of fireworks exploding in the sky outdoors. She glanced at her guard, standing just inside the doorway of the lab. He had his back to her. His name was Patrick. He was a sweet older gentleman that maybe would have been a friend under different circumstances. He sometimes joined her in conversation. She knew he was happily married with two sons. He was also very loyal to her grandfather. He probably wouldn’t let her go watch the fireworks no matter how she pleaded her case. The rule was for her to stay in the lab, away from media, away from people, away from a life.

She allowed herself a rare moment of self-pity that holidays sometimes produced. She dreamed of all the things most young women took for granted. She wished she had girls to hang out with. She wished she could go out to the movies, out for a drink, or down to the beach. She wished she had a male friend, a date, maybe even a boyfriend. Mostly, she wished she didn’t wish anymore.

Lord, please forgive me for my self-pity.

Patrick turned and watched her with a worried expression. He probably thought she was growing tired. Her last night off was what — nine nights ago? Twelve hour shifts took a toll quickly. But no, she wasn’t physically tired. On the contrary, she was ready for some excitement, some adventure, something to happen to let her live a little. What she was tired of was her life.

It was so sad and she would never reveal her secret wishes to anyone. She was a mature woman at age twenty-one with an IQ higher than the norm and more degrees than she could count thanks to her wealthy grandfather and an extensive home study program. She didn’t want anymore education. She wanted to live like a normal adult woman.

When her country’s song came to an end, her deep sigh would have echoed in the lab if not for her radio. She was the only one working. It was always that way. The other biologists worked during the day. She was the only one to take the night shift. That schedule was orchestrated by her grandfather without regard to her preference, but as usual, she would not argue.

The hiss of the lab door broke Angelica’s concentration and she looked up to see its cause. Patrick was no longer standing there. The door was made of glass and she could clearly see that he wasn’t anywhere in the hall. Perhaps he had gone to the restroom, though it was very odd for him to go anywhere without telling her first.

She looked back to her microscope, unworried. She wondered if he’d snuck away to get a peak at the fireworks. She wouldn’t have blamed him if he had. It wasn’t fair that he didn’t get to see them just because she couldn’t go out.

“Hands where I can see them.”

The unfamiliar voice made her jump in surprise, breaking a rack of glass vials when she knocked them to the floor with her arm. She did as the deep, velvety voice commanded as she stared wide-eyed at the man before her. She was terrified, her pulse taking a speed out of control, her breathing suddenly an effort rather than involuntary movement.
No one could just walk into the lab. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. This couldn’t be happening. Her brain just couldn’t process what she was seeing. What should she do? What could she do? He stood between her and the door.

He moved like a lion — slowly, muscles tense and almost twitching, eyes on his prey. This man carried no visible weapon, yet he still scared her easily. She knew he was dangerous by intuition and instinct. His body language spoke volumes. He was huge in both build and height, his presence towering over her with power and intimidation.
He sweated profusely and his face looked flushed, as if he had just run a marathon, or maybe he was taking some kind of drug. His animalistic, dark eyes held hers just below the brim of his hat with a steady, unwavering grip that conveyed his seriousness without voicing a threat. He intended to hurt her; she understood immediately. She placed her hands in the air and didn’t move, certain this man could kill her just as easily as a bullet.

William blinked sweat from his eyes, trying to clear his blurred vision. Angelica looked distorted before him, her all white clothing casting a white reflection around her like a halo. She looked like an angel. She was too beautiful for words.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized his perception was distorted. He was sick from the gunshot wound in his shoulder, running a fever evident by touch. He should have gone to the hospital. Instead, here he was breaking into Chappell Pharmaceuticals to talk to Angelica, except now he couldn’t talk. She literally took his breath away.

She glowed just like an angel, a real angel from Heaven. He felt an odd panic that he hadn’t felt for a long time. He thought his emotions were dead, but here they were coming to the surface at the worst possible opportunity. For one crazy moment, he wondered if she was there to punish him for all his sins. A strange flood of fear swooned over him and through him. The things he had done were awful, he knew. The FBI had sent him undercover into the land of the living dead for five long years. It had slowly killed him inside. He was a broken man, and the damage done was irreparable.

Would she tell him he was going to hell? He understood that he would and deserved to. No matter what had happened, he was responsible for his fate. He was a self-condemned man.

William saw her trying to glance around him to the lab door. She was probably hoping her bodyguard would come and rescue her. He simply looked at her for a long time, trying to break the spell he suddenly felt under. Her eyes widened and dropped to the floor.

She was obviously terrified and frozen by her fear. It would do her no good to scream. No one would hear her from the lobby. She must have also realized it was futile to run. He wouldn’t let her get away. He could see her visibly trembling and he felt an unusual pang of guilt for causing this angel such great fear.

He felt like the Beast standing before Beauty. She was trapped, his prey. As he still stared, she quickly glanced back up, and then returned her eyes to the floor. He forced his weakening body forward, stepping closer to her. If he touched her, would God strike him dead?
Wobbling slightly, he planted one of his hands on the table between them to steady himself. He couldn’t show the weakness. Her fear was his control.

Angelica despised her immobility. She was in shock and frozen with fear. Why didn’t she do something? Run! Her body screamed at her to move, but there was just nowhere to go.

One of his gloved hands was planted on the table between them. He seemed to be leaning on it for support. Maybe drugs were making him dizzy. Maybe he was hurt. Maybe he was crazy and angry, just wanting to press something. Maybe he really was some kind of animal.

“Where is Alberto Palmetto?” he suddenly asked in a thick voice.

Her head jerked back up at the sound of his voice, again jumping. She wished she had the courage to shove him and run, at least try to escape even if it seemed futile, but she didn’t want to do anything to cause him to hurt her. Surely if she just cooperated with whatever he wanted he would leave her alone. Trying to fulfill that plan, she had to struggle to get her voice working so she could answer his question.

“I don’t know anyone by that name,” she managed softly, confused.
Out of all the possible reasons that had entered her mind for him to be there, this possibility was not among them.

“Do not lie to me. Where is he?” he said sharply.

“I- I’m sorry. I don’t recognize the name.”

Her eyes stayed riveted on his this time, afraid that if she looked away he might attack. He slowly pulled out a photograph from his front shirt pocket and held it out. Never increasing pace, he walked around the table toward her, showing her the man he thought she knew. She stood unable to move just as a deer caught in a headlight, her body’s betrayal a dire threat to her life, even as curiosity held her just as still. She was a natural puzzle solver. It was instinct that held her ground so she could get a look at the picture. She wanted to understand what was going on.

The danger approached; her muscles were tense and ready to bolt, yet she did not move. Who was Alberto Palmetto and what did he have to do with her? Her eyes were wide and frightened as she watched the lion walk to her.

Then, she saw the photo. The man in the picture was a small, middle-aged man that looked of a foreign descent because of a dark tan and rounded eyes, though she couldn’t name a specific country of origin. He was wearing a lab coat in the photo and he was standing in her lab. She recognized her radio in the background. But she did not know who this man was.

Tingling sensations raced up and down her neck. What was going on? She made no more denials to the lion. He wasn’t going to believe her. He had evidence that the man he was looking for stood in the very lab she’d worked in since age five, and she’d never seen him. It didn’t seem possible even to her.

“I’m still waiting, Ms. Chappell,” the man said, his expression both intense and cold.

Her eyes fell back to the ground, in part because she couldn’t bear to face him any longer, and in part to hide her shock at his use of her name. The dizziness came on suddenly, making her feel faint and light-headed. She knew she was reacting to the adrenaline and drama on top of too many hours worked without enough sleep in between, but she couldn’t bring her body back under her command. She swayed on her feet and tried to catch herself on the table.

Her hands landed, not on the table, but on something just as solid. She felt the ridges and plains of the man’s chest move under her palms as his arms went out to steady her. An invisible fire she was unable to name the origin of scorched the bottoms of her hands, the feel reminding her of raw energy and stealth, and she tried to jerk away, unable to do so because the man held her in place. He would surely kill her now. No one touched a lion and lived to tell about it.

Lord, please help me to get out of this alive. This man is the Devil, himself.

“Look lady, I don’t have time for this. I’m not going to hurt you. Just tell me where Palmetto is and I’ll go,” he said with a huskiness to his voice that hadn’t been there before.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice sounding so soft she didn’t know whether he could hear it.

The door opening caused the man to jerk around, taking her with him, her back landing against him. His heat burned into her as she was swung around to face the front of the lab. Patrick stood there with his gun drawn and aimed high. Angelica again worried about fainting as the world seemed to spin around her.

“Let her go,” Patrick said.

The man’s hands left her arms and slid around her throat. He had gloves on his hands; the cool feel of the leather spread across her esophagus. The threat was easily communicated. He was either going to snap her neck or choke her. She went like stone, still needing to lean into him so she wouldn’t fall to the ground, vaguely wondering if she would be better off by doing so.

“Back away from the door.”

Patrick backed away as told. He probably didn’t have a choice. He was a security officer, not a marksman. He couldn’t shoot without the possibility of hitting her.

“Drop your gun and slide it this way. Get on your knees, put your hands on your head, and face the wall.”

She listened to the mesmerizing voice behind her and thought that maybe Satan would use that same velvety tone. Patrick, again, did as he was told. She still didn’t blame him.

They moved slowly to the door, only stopping long enough for the man to bend over and pick up Patrick’s gun, which disappeared from his hand to a place Angelica couldn’t see. Then, it was the lion to enter a security code into the lab’s keypad to let them out. How he had a code, she didn’t know.

The pace was increased as they headed out a side fire exit. Patrick’s gun was tossed onto the sidewalk. Angelica’s panic escalated as she realized she was being kidnapped. Quiet tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Please, don’t do this,” she pleaded.

He ignored her, of course, as he led her to a silver Lincoln and sat her in the passenger seat. It wasn’t a car she expected a man like this to drive. It wasn’t the kind of car criminals drove in the books she read. Oddly, she also took note that no fireworks lit up the sky. They were over for the night, at least up above anyway.

She put on her seat belt and tried breathing exercises to get her dizziness under control. She couldn’t get comfortable. Folders filled the floorboard of the car and it didn’t feel right to trample them with her feet. She realized it was pretty dumb not to want to trash this guy’s stuff, but she couldn’t help herself. He should have moved his stuff if he planned to kidnap someone.

The interior light of the car didn’t come on when he got in the driver’s seat. Was it broken or was that planned? Details were her forte. The papers on the floor might have suggested he had not meant to kidnap her, but the inconspicuous car without an interior light and gloves on his hands most certainly did. He was also wearing long sleeves in July.

The car smelled of stale cigarette smoke. She wondered if he’d been watching the lab. She watched him as he calmly tossed his hat to the backseat, then put the car in drive and smoothly pulled onto the street. He faced straight ahead at the road without looking at her. She fingered the cross under her shirt as they went. I’ll be okay. Everything will be okay, she tried to calm herself. If I just do as he says, he’ll let me go.

She distracted herself by studying her abductor. She could see his side profile from the soft glow of the dashboard. She could also see a shine of moisture on his right gloved hand. With his arm stretched before him, his sleeve came up enough to see a dark black substance on his arm just above his black glove. She knew it was blood.

“You need medical attention,” she said, her voice shaking despite her best efforts to find a brave face.

He closed his eyes firmly just once and reopened them as if he was just now remembering the pain. She worried that his wound would impair his ability to drive. What would she do if he passed out at the wheel?

“Where is Palmetto?” he asked again.

“I don’t know, and kidnapping me isn’t going to change that answer,” she repeated softly and shakily, fearful of angering him.

He didn’t respond, his expression maintaining a blank slate. He didn’t seem angry that he didn’t get the answer he wanted. She continued to study him, the dark making her brave. He had a strong jaw line, Italian good looks with dark brows, lashes and pupils, dark long hair that fell to just past his shoulders, the front threatening to fall in his face, and just the beginnings of a mustache and goatee. He looked the part of the villain in the thrillers she liked to read. He was handsome, yet his looks did not soften her fear of him. The details were impossible to deny.

His lack of emotion terrified her. It was as if he was just doing a job. A professional. A killer?

She closed her eyes against the tears and silently recited the Lord’s Prayer as she rocked herself back and forth against the seatbelt. It will be okay. It has to be. How could this be happening? She didn’t want to get hurt. She didn’t want to die! What should she do? She couldn’t jump from the car. They were traveling too fast.

She wasn’t sure how long they drove. It seemed like forever. Maybe twenty minutes went by before he turned into a solitary paved driveway and parked in front of a small, white house. No neighboring houses were in sight. No other cars were parked out front. They were all alone. No one was around to hear her scream.

Angelica wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and gulped back a lump of fear as he pulled her from the car. No light was left on to welcome them. She was partly dragged onto the porch when she stumbled on the first step, yelping as she scraped her leg on the cement. Because she was off balance, she offered no struggle. The front door wasn’t locked and they crossed the threshold faster than she had time to process.

The inside of the house was dark and she had to allow him to guide her as he turned on the lights. The first room they entered was meant to be a living room, she thought, though it resembled nothing of the like. One wall of the room was decorated with sticky notes, pictures, newspaper clippings and tacked notes so vast and thick that it seemed like a mural of a bulletin board. One corner of the room was stacked with piles of manila file folders. Another corner had a small sofa and table, perhaps the only sensible aspects of the room.

To her right she glimpsed a kitchen of complete contrast of the room in which she stood. It looked normal and spotlessly clean, though not unused. A chopping board and a knife sat in a drainer by the sink. A wash cloth draped the counter. A dish towel sat folded within easy reach. The appliances looked modern and state of the art quality. It was the type of kitchen a chef would keep, she thought.

He didn’t pause long enough for her to inspect further as he led her down a dark hallway with a no-nonsense shove and a guiding hand at the small of her back. They next turned into a bedroom that she saw as soon as he flicked the switch by the door. A waterbed marked the center of the farthest wall. A dresser sat adjacent the bed. Both were piled with stuff — papers on the bed and a lot of things on top of the dresser in a way that didn’t look as dirty as it did cluttered. This room looked as much like a bulletin board as the living room with maps spread out on the walls, markings drawn on each that she didn’t understand.

He guided her to the bed and forced her to take a seat despite her stiffened, uncooperative figure. She landed softly against the mattress though the quality felt firmer than water. Papers crunched beneath her. This room was maybe the most dangerous in the house for her to be in. What were this man’s intentions? She didn’t want to speculate.

“Don’t move,” he said.


She felt oddly calmer now. He didn’t act like he planned to kill her, just talk. She could do that. Then, he would let her go. That made sense, didn’t it? She continued to finger her cross and rock as she trembled with fear, waiting for whatever came next.

He went into a bathroom connected to the room. She could see him from where she sat — his choice instead of hers. He took off his gloves and placed them on the counter. Next went his jacket. Her panic escalated. He was undressing! The only item that remained on the top portion of his body was a black tank top. Then, she realized what he was doing. He was looking at his injury. She could clearly see blood flowing down his arm. It was coming from the back of his shoulder.

An unprofessional bandage covered the wound. With one hand, he took off his tank top so that he could tend to the shoulder. Angelica’s eyes flew to the floor. Did he not care that she was there? Her eyes returned to him when she heard him moving, fearful he was heading in her direction, but he wasn’t.

His chest was fit and sculpted, a noted fact in the mirror rather than observation. His wound was finally uncovered and she could see that it was definitely ugly…and infected. The skin was aggravated and swollen around a bleeding area that she was sure was a gunshot wound. She had medical training. It looked raw and painful and she couldn’t believe he was standing on his own two feet with that kind of damage.

Acting on a stronger instinct than her fear, she got up from the bed and walked to him, keeping her movements slow and calculated, fully aware she was approaching the lion at her own risk. She just had to. There wasn’t a situation in this world where she could ignore someone hurt.

With trembling hands, she examined the wound. She did it without his verbal permission, though she considered his silence to be consent. Or maybe he was in too much pain to voice a complaint. As tenderly as possible, she explored the tissue.

As soon as her hands touched him, William’s skin felt in flames. He almost gasped by the sheer force of it, not of pain, but of her. His eyes closed and he pressed his lips firmly shut to keep from making a sound. He held himself tightly rigid, refusing to let threatening tremors come to the surface.

He couldn’t ever remember reacting so strongly to any woman before, but this wasn’t a woman; this was an angel. He was instantaneously overwhelmed with too many emotions to comprehend at once. It had been so long since he’d felt anything, and it all seemed to be coming at him at once. It wasn’t just his sudden arousal, though that was definitely one reaction he felt. It was her beauty, kindness, intelligence, or even her seeming naiveté. He had kidnapped her, and still, she was trying to help him. She had come to him. How long had it been since anyone had shown him they cared?

The sudden guilt and shame that pierced his chest was unbearable. He didn’t deserve for her to take care of him. He didn’t deserve her at all!
She smelled sweet, not of perfume, but of a flowery fragrance that filled his nostrils and beckoned him closer. He wanted…wanted… Suddenly, his eyes flew open and he stilled himself from obsessing anymore into these unexpected reactions. He had no right wanting this woman. He wouldn’t!

“The bullet is still imbedded in your shoulder,” she said, her voice trembling so much that she sounded as if she were crying.

Her voice made him ache inside. It shouldn’t be her tears. It should be his. Perhaps this was why an angel had been sent to him, to punish him and torture him. Opening the feelings inside of him was like opening Pandora’s Box. He was terrified he wouldn’t be able to make them stop. He longed to go numb again. The guilt would kill him! He couldn’t stand it. All his damn feelings belonged hidden in the black hole inside. He couldn’t let himself open up like this, not now, not ever again. He’d let himself die inside because he couldn’t handle it all. He couldn’t let this woman reawaken his soul! Please, stop. He wanted to beg her not to make him feel, to just go away, but he couldn’t say anything past the emotion within.

A groan escaped his tight lips.

Angelica jumped at the sound that came from him, partly from fear and partly because she thought she had hurt him. She was so scared! She looked up from the wound and found him looking down at her over his shoulder. His eyes shone glassily with dark intensity. The shock sent a jolt to her system.

She froze again with indecision. Would he retaliate because she had hurt him? She was foolish for joining him in the bathroom! Without speaking, he reached for a drawer, pulled out a pair of tweezers and handed them to her.

Her hands shook violently as she accepted the tool with a slow nod of understanding. She didn’t know if she could do this! She was shaking too badly! He needed a medical doctor!

Lord, please help me get through this alive.

She used a bottle of alcohol that sat on the vanity to sterilize the tweezers and her hands before beginning. She also took a moment to gather her nerves. She was terrified of him and of the situation, but also of further injuring this guy. The wound was really bad. Could she possibly live with herself if this guy died? She didn’t know if she could do this! She had some training, but… There would be blood… She hadn’t pursued a medical career for this very reason. She wouldn’t even allow Patrick to step on a bug in the house for crying out loud. Did this jerk want her to have a heart attack?

“Sit on the toilet, please,” she said, ignoring the inner voice that suggested she wasn’t strong enough to do this.

He did as commanded, straddling the seat so that he faced the back of the toilet. She went to work. If he noticed her further emotional breakdown, he made no comment. He showed her no emotion. She would have thought he would be terrified that she would hurt him.
The bullet wasn’t too deep, thank goodness. She felt his muscles contract as she performed the dissection and a wave of nausea almost forced her to leave the bathroom. He did not cry out, though she was sure Hercules would have. His silence made her question his status as a human. He had to be some kind of professional killing machine. Or maybe it was divine intervention because if he had made any sound of pain, she would have quit right then and there; she was sure of it.
At the moment of extraction, several things happened at once. The bullet fell to the floor, blood instantly free-flowed from the wound, Angelica cried out and jumped back, and the man went limp and slumped forward over the toilet. Her kidnapper passed out. Apparently, he was human after all.

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