Continuing her sparkling, sexy Stewart Sisters trilogy, bestselling author JoAnn Ross pens a romantic suspense story set in the glorious Great Smoky Mountains, where a tough man and a passionate woman find love amid danger.
Lark Stewart is on the run from a singing career that skyrocketed out of control...and from someone who's bent on murder. When one of her band members is killed in New Orleans, Lucas McCloud -- her first love and a former FBI agent -- takes Lark home. But the remote Stewart family resort offers no protection from the madman who's working his way across the mountains.
A Desert Storm hero and FBI sniper, Lucas is haunted by a tragic mission in his past. But with the mysterious killer stalking Lark, Lucas is forced back into the life he left behind. For Lark is the only woman he's ever loved, and the only person who can save his soul...provided he saves her first.
There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible, as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man. -- Polybius
It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.
-- Mary Wollstonecraft
The moon over New Orleans was a thin silver sickle, the dense night air scented with salt and the musk from the surrounding swamps; Lucas McCloud lay prone on the roof of the building, the familiar weight of a Remington rifle pressed hard against the hollow of his shoulder. His cheek rested against the wooden stock. Lucas didn't know how long he'd been in the same spot, in the same pose. He'd learned to be silent, still, and patient. And disinterested in anything but the target that kept moving in and out of the night scope's crosshairs.
The French Quarter had glowed with red twilight when the hostage team had arrived at the small shotgun house. Now the only light came from the neon flash of the strip joint across the street. There should have been streetlights, but they'd probably been shot out by criminals who preferred no audience for the indecencies human beings could perpetrate against one another. Lucas didn't mind the dark; the night scope didn't need much light. He didn't mind the waiting. Nor did he have any interest in the conversation taking place between the team negotiator and Lucas's target, who, on a murderous spree, had already killed four people, including a Louisiana state trooper, and had now taken a nineteen-year-old college student from Baton Rouge hostage.
If Lucas heard the conversation, he might make the mistake of getting emotionally involved, which would only complicate what he was paid to do. It was important to keep his work in the abstract, to not allow the slightest tinge of doubt to creep into his mind. And brooding about the results afterward was only asking for trouble.
The rifle was an old friend. When he'd first arrived on the roof, he'd loaded a total of five rounds to satisfy the Bureau's desk jockeys: four in the magazine, one in the chamber. He had no intention of using the four in the magazine. One shot, one kill. It was the marine sniper motto, one Lucas had lived by during the Desert Storm war.
Focused as he was, he was aware only on the most distant level of the others involved in this Code Red situation. The Containment Team had secured the outer perimeter, restricting the target area. The Rescue Team, whose specialties were firing on the move, room entries, and evacuating hostages, waited inside the perimeter along with the Arrest Team.
As members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Lucas and his spotter provided observation and intelligence at the crime scene, along with their more obvious duty of precision suspect neutralization. A damn stupid euphemism for taking the life of another human being, he'd always thought.
His spotter, Jack Barnes, a fellow former marine scout, sat in a folding chair nearby, calmly drinking coffee. Lucas never drank caffeine; it jangled the nerves, something a guy in his business couldn't allow. Barnes's job was to listen to the ongoing conversation on the earphones. When he got the green light from the team on the ground, he'd pass the order on to Lucas, who'd bring the Remington's hammer down and bring an end to the standoff.
Moody blues floated seductively on the night air; Lucas didn't notice.
A rat scurried through the shadows, his eyes shining in the thin slash of moonlight. Lucas didn't care.
He watched the target pacing back and forth in front of the window, phone to his ear, a shotgun in his hand. Even without sound, Lucas could sense that the tension level was cranking up inside the house. It wouldn't be long now.
He squinted and ordered his mind to stay cool and collected. The New Orleans humidity could affect bullet trajectory, but he'd adjusted for that. His finger caressed the trigger as he steadied his lungs and slowed his heart, seeking the stillness deep within himself as he waited.
One shot. One kill.
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This paperback book is in good condition with light spine creasing and mild cover wear.