Read Guarded Online

Authors: Mary Behre

Guarded

Guarded
Number II of
Tidewater
Mary Behre
Berkley (2014)

She’s given up on finding love…

Veterinarian Shelley Morgan has always preferred animals to humans, and not simply because she can communicate with them psychically. Unlike most people she’s known, animals have never broken her heart. But after six months in her new town, some of her favorite four-legged companions begin disappearing from the local zoo. Determined to track down the animals and their thief, the telepathic vet decides to investigate, unknowingly delving into a deadly mystery…

He’s ready to make her heart go wild…

Although his bear-like physique has been an advantage in the Tidewater Police Department, Dev Jones’s size often intimidates people. Only Shelley has seen past his massive build to the intelligent man inside, but that was years ago. So when she contacts him requesting his help to solve a series of animal kidnappings, he’s eager to reconnect with her. But the thefts escalate to murder and all the evidence points to Shelley as the killer, and Dev faces a devastating choice: forsake his career or risk losing the woman he’s grown to love…

Praise for

GUARDED

“A terrific read! The story kept me turning those pages.”

—Tara Kingston, author of the Secrets & Spies series

SPIRITED

“Great! A real page-turner. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down until you’re done!”

—Lynsay Sands,
New York Times
bestselling author

“[A] sweet, funny, sexy debut!”

—Lena Diaz, author of the Deadly Games Thrillers

“No magic crystal ball is needed to foresee this writer is bursting with talent! I can’t wait for more from her!”

—Shelby Reed, author of
The Fifth Favor


Spirited
is an intriguing blend of romance, mystery, and ghosts to keep you up late at night.”

—Dianna Love,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Belador series

“This mix of romance, ghostly visions, and unexpected danger is unbelievably fun and thrilling!”


RT Book Reviews

“Lively, funny, and fresh, this engaging debut novel is just the thing for readers who want their mystery thrillers with a ghostly twist and an offbeat sense of humor.”


Library Journal

Berkley Sensation titles by Mary Behre

SPIRITED

GUARDED

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

GUARDED

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2014 by Mary Behre.

Excerpt from
Spirited
by Mary Behre copyright © 2014 by Mary Behre.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY SENSATION® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63025-9

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / August 2014

Cover illustration by Tony Mauro.

Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Version_1

For my children, who really wanted me to write a story about talking animals.

CONTENTS

Praise for titles by Mary Behre

Berkley Sensation titles by Mary Behre

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

EPILOGUE

 

Sneak Peek at
Spirited

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Leis Pederson and Nalini Akolekar, thank you for believing in this series. Working with both of you is an honor.

The Berry Best Betas: Chris Behre Jr., Chris Behre Sr., Valerie Bowman, Kim Kenealy, Tara Kingston, Yvonne Richard, you patiently read whatever I put in front of you and the feedback is amazing. I simply cannot thank you enough.

Dianna Love, thank you for reading my first book in the airport and sending a cover quote that made me squeal with delight.

Kim, thank you. You are truly my best friend.

Thank you, Chief Scott Silverii, for patiently answering all of my questions about the various roles and responsibilities of police officers. Any mistakes made in this book were completely my own and sometimes intentional.

And as always, thank you, Sparky, Indy, and The Captain. You three make every day special. I love you.

PROLOGUE

T
HE COF
FEE SUCKED.
Why had he agreed to meet at this out-of-the way diner? Adam toyed with the stained mug in his hand, waiting impatiently for his client to arrive.

Client
.

His lips twitched. No, the prick was Adam’s mark. On the very short list of men Adam would make suffer and bleed for their crimes. The men would finally face the retribution they should have seen long ago.

The front door opened. Light shafted through briefly, outlining the balding man’s large frame. And he was a beast. Well over six feet tall, he filled the doorway or would have had he paused there long enough to cast more than a quick shadow. Instead, the client had spotted the table and loped into the room. Dressed in pressed blue jeans and a starched-collar, white button-down shirt, he gripped the strap of his messenger bag. He probably thought his semicasual look, despite the man-purse he clutched, made him blend in with the regulars of this establishment. He couldn’t have stuck out worse had he shown up wearing Armani and suddenly broken into a rousing rendition of “The Eye of the Tiger.”

Still, Adam nodded his greeting, gesturing to the open, faded maroon seat opposite him.

“Hi, hon. Welcome.” The too-friendly, two-pack-a-day waitress nearly beat the behemoth to the table. She lifted a smudged glass pot and shook it gently, sloshing around the brown liquid. “Coffee, Mister?”

“Smythe. Jake Smythe,” the client said, as if she’d been asking for his name. Given the addition of the many wrinkles on her forehead, it was clear she hadn’t wanted anything other than his order.

“He’ll have a cup of your
unbelievable
coffee too, Essie,” Adam answered with a smile, reading her yellowed name tag.

She poured the vile liquid into a chipped white ceramic mug, then pointed to the milk cow and sugar container on the table. “If y’all need anythin’ else, just give a yell.”

Smythe watched the woman walk away.
Smythe, right, ’cause that didn’t sound at all like Smith.

“Mr. Smythe, do you have my money?”

Smythe’s eyes widened and he glanced around before slouching in his seat.

No one looked at them. The four people in the diner, including the cook and the lone waitress, Essie, were on the opposite side of the room. Adam had selected that booth, in the corner farthest from the rest of the patrons at Café and Gas
,
to insure privacy.

Smythe didn’t appear convinced. He fingered his coffee cup without taking a sip, frowned and darted nervous glances around the restaurant. Finally appearing reassured, he pushed the cup away from him and withdrew a thick white envelope from his murse. He flirted with dropping it on the table, twice letting the crisp edges brush the cracked laminate before twice pulling back. Finally, he dropped it into his lap.

Adam ground his back teeth, but said nothing and waited.

“How do I know you can deliver? I don’t want some government busybody knocking on my door with a search warrant. It’s imperative that the
thing,
” he emphasized the word in a whisper, “I’m purchasing is free and clear.”

Adam curled his lips into his best “you can trust me” smile. “
He’s
all yours, free and clear. I’ve got the paperwork showing the transfer of ownership from a fictitious private collector to you. No one will come after you. Just make sure you don’t pull an Ohio stunt, and the government boys will leave you alone.”

Ohio. The site of the worst private zoo disaster in recent history. Revulsion crossed Smythe’s face. “Right. When do I get it?”

“Tonight,” Adam said and waited for Smythe to smile. Which he did. Predictable shit. “Provided you pay me. In full. Right. Now.”

Smythe squirmed. Again, that fat envelope came into view. Like an overfed snake, sneaking up from beneath Smythe’s side of the table. Smythe pushed it across the chipped laminate toward him.

Adam waited to see if the asshole would snatch it back again. When it remained there untouched for a full thirty seconds, he picked it up and glanced inside. While the envelope was thick, it wasn’t filled with Benjamins. No, those were fifties in there. He shifted in the booth to relieve the sudden ache in his too-straight back. “Where’s the rest of it?”

“Half now. Half upon delivery,” the client beast said with a smug expression, then sipped his coffee. Smythe’s eyes widened, smugness gave way to disgust, and he swallowed audibly.

Coughing into his fist, Smythe wheezed, “Take it or leave it.”

“That wasn’t the deal.”

“What are you going to do? Sue me?” The Smythe asshole grinned.

Adam didn’t curl his hands into fists. He didn’t smash Smythe’s face into the table hard enough to shatter his nose. He didn’t jam the coffee spoon into the self-righteous shit’s eye.

Instead, he shifted in his seat again trying to alleviate the strain on his spine. “I’ll take it,” Adam said, adding a heavy amount of aggravated surrender to his voice.

“Good.” Smythe fished a business card out of his back pocket, then pushed it across the table. Pointing to it with one beefy finger he added, “Meet me at nine. I’ll have the rest of your money.”

Adam didn’t answer. No need. Smythe was already heading out into the August afternoon sunshine.

One down. Four to go.

He’d go to the meet, show off the rare white tiger, and collect his money.

Then he’d feed Smythe to the hungry cat.

Or maybe not.

No sense giving the tiger indigestion before transferring him to his new home.

But Smythe would pay. Tonight.

Adam stood, dropped a couple of bills on the table, and headed toward the door. All the while envisioning how many pieces he could slice off Smythe before the bastard finally died.

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