Tory Richards returns to North Carolina to help her mother set up a B&B, never expecting to stumble across several murder victims, fall in love, or get abducted by human traffickers.
Fortunately, when she’s run off the road on her way into town, Dave Miller, who is working undercover on the task force for human trafficking, comes to her aid. She blows off the near fatal accident as just that—an accident—but she rethinks her position once events escalate.
Someone is trying to kill Tory. Failing that, she’s being set up as a suspect in four murders. As Dave falls more deeply for Tory, how will he tell her who he is and what he does? Will she ever trust him?
Trust becomes a moot point when Tory is abducted and everything points to the group of human traffickers Dave’s had under surveillance. He calls in the task force, but will they reach Tory before she’s used as a sex slave?
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As Dave walked around the car to the other side, he thought about how beautiful she looked and her sweet scent. He remembered how she felt when he kissed her earlier at the town house. He could feel the beginning of an erection tightening, and he quickly adjusted himself before he got into the car.
Once settled in the vehicle and on the way to Hickory, Tory asked, “How was the rest of your day today? Have you made a decision on which property you like best?”
“No, I’m torn between the one and two bedroom units. But I need something pretty fast. Mom and Dad’s place is fine for a couple of days but not for six months. I’m not sure how many more nights my back can take the cruel and unusual punishment of the old pull-out sofa bed, if you know what I mean. So I need a place now or sooner.”
“Let me show you my town house. Maybe you’d like it better. It’s more spacious than the other ones I’ve shown you. It’s a two-bedroom, two and a half bath, multilevel unit. I love it. Completely furnished. All you need is your toothbrush.”
“When can I move in?” Dave asked, winking at her. “It’d be kind of a waste of money for both of us to have the same place but separate, don’t you think?”
She felt her face blush, probably her chest as well. “I wasn’t suggesting that you move into my place. You need a place of your own.”
“Oh, I get it now,” he said with a sour-faced grin.
“Tell me about your job,” Tory said to change the subject. “I’ve never heard of a specialized task force.”
“Well, it’s classified, but let’s say that I work with various law enforcement agencies throughout the region.”
“But what exactly do you do?”
“I arrest bad guys who abduct women and children.”
“But how are they abducted?”
“Some are abducted right off the street on their way to their car after a day of shopping or from a park or playground. You’d be amazed with the stories I could tell. One strong person, man or woman, can easily overpower a small woman or child.
“Others are befriended for a certain period of time. Once they start trusting their ‘new friend,’ they’re usually drugged and driven across state lines. All the proof of who they are, their identity, is left behind. One woman we were able to rescue was purposely targeted by an ex-boyfriend to be abducted and sold to a gang boss for a large sum of money. She escaped and ran into my partner, and we eventually arrested the entire gang.”
“No wonder you need to take a breather every now and then. Your work appears very intense.” Tory listened carefully but continued to turn and look behind her through the back window.
Dave finally asked, “Are you looking for someone?”
“No. Have you ever had the feeling you’re being watched?”
“It’s a small town. We’re probably being watched. Let’s plan on a nice, quiet dinner, okay?”
“I’m probably overreacting,” Tory replied as she made one more glance over her shoulder.
Dave pulled up and parked at the restaurant in Hickory that Trevor suggested. He got out of the car and rushed to Tory’s side before she could open the door. He opened her door and helped her out, ushering her into the restaurant, his hand at the small of her back sending shock waves throughout her body.
The restaurant was small with dim lighting, white linens, uniformed waiters and waitresses, the ambiance of romance and intimacy. Candlelight reflected off their wine glasses. The band played a soft melody in the background.
Dave held her chair for her. She sat down, putting her small clutch purse on the table beside her. A waiter handed them menus, including a wine list. Dave ordered a bottle of chardonnay, and they studied their menus until the wine arrived. After agreeing to the sample taste, the waiter poured wine in both their glasses and took their order. They sipped their wine while studying each other.
“There’s something about you. I don’t know what it is yet, can’t put my finger on it, but I feel this energy between us,” Dave said with a smile after a sip of wine.
“Tell me about it,” Tory replied.
“I don’t think I have the words. I can’t explain my attraction to you.”
“So what makes you think it’s an attraction? Maybe it’s just friendly companionship that draws you to me.”
“I’ve never been the kind of guy to talk about things like this. I guess you bring out the best in me.”
“Or possibly the worst.” Tory smiled as she swallowed the last of her wine.
After dinner, Dave poured more wine for her. They ordered crème brûlée for dessert. He wiped some whipped cream from her lip with his finger and licked it clean. He imagined the taste of her lips when he kissed her and then began a slow nibble along her ear and down her long neck, settling between her breasts. He wanted to be closer to her than across the table.
“Would you like to dance?” Dave asked. When she said yes and took his hand, he felt her heart racing in her pulse at her wrist.