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Living Dangerously is the winner in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence!



Julie took a deep breath of the cool night air. She needed it to clear her head. House lights spotted the dark canyon as she gazed out. She hadn’t expected to see Ari and she really hadn’t expected to see Troy Mills. It had taken her this many weeks to stop thinking about him and now he’d shown up with Ari.

He’d never told her who employed him and like an idiot, she’d assumed wrong. Now she realized he wasn’t security for the Sporties. He worked for Ari.

The whoosh of the slider doors behind her made her sigh. She’d have liked a little time to herself, but at a party this crowded, it was virtually impossible.

“How’s the back and the arm feeling?”

She closed her eyes as Troy’s voice melted over her senses. Why did she have it so bad for this guy?

“Really?” she asked, turning to face him. “I’m a little surprised you want to know.” She sounded bitchier than she’d ever been in her life and she didn’t like it. The hurt she’d felt at him leaving without saying goodbye had turned into anger. “I’m sorry,” she said, slapping a muzzle on her irritation. “I’m doing much better. How are you?”

He studied her closely. Too closely. His scrutiny made her cheeks hot, and she set her elbows on the rail and leaned out, trying to enjoy the night and the view of all the homes across the canyon and wishing like hell she wasn’t so affected by this man’s attention.

“I’m doing okay. Although I am wondering what I did to piss you off so badly.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and shook his head. “Nope. Can’t figure it out. You’ll have to tell me.”

Julie took another deep breath and tried to ignore the second wave of anger that crept up from inside. She couldn’t look at him, and a rough chuckle escaped her throat. “I’m not pissed off.” Except her denial rang false. Hurt described it better, but she didn’t plan on sharing that. “Honestly? You have no idea?” She shook her head. “I guess it’s true… Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.”

“Wow,” he muttered. “I guess I was wrong about you.”

She narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean? Wrong about what?”

“I wasn’t sure what you’d be like and I never thought I’d find out. But then I did and I thought you were one of the nicest people I’d ever met.”

I was wrong about you. He didn’t need to repeat the words. They hung in the air from the first time he said them, like a battering ram ready to hit again.

Now she was pissed off. Fine. He wanted an answer, she’d give him one. “You know what?” She spun, ready to tell him exactly how she felt at discovering he’d gone without a simple goodbye, ready to admit he’d hurt her when he’d left so suddenly, but the sliding glass door shattered into a million pieces. The explosion of glass scared the crap out of her and she jumped a mile as people screamed from inside the house. A second later, Troy rammed into her, knocked the breath out of her as they fell flat onto the balcony floor. He’d turned her sideways and kept her weight on top of him, but once they landed he covered her fully as glass sprayed them from the second slider door.

Was it an earthquake? Couldn’t be. Nothing else moved besides the shattering glass. “What’s happening?” Julie shouted above the din. Each slider door along the back of the house systematically splintered into razor sharp shards that rained over them in a dangerous shower. Troy turned her away from the glass and protected her head with his hands as his weight kept her pinned down.

The noise finally stopped. Beige curtains riddled with rips and holes gently swung out onto the balcony. Bullet holes. At least an inch of shattered glass covered the balcony floor around them. Shouts and cries from inside the house punctuated the silence.

“What the hell?” Julie murmured. She tried to get up, but Troy didn’t budge.

“Are you hurt?” he asked. Looking into her eyes, he studied her face, lifted off her only enough to scan her body for any injuries.

Tremors shook her from head to toe. “N-no,” she stuttered. “I don’t think so.” Not physically, but being on the receiving end of more bullets was hell on her psyche. “I’m okay.” She moved her hand along his back and ran into more broken glass. “Oh, my God, are you okay?” Tons of glass shards stuck to her damp palm.

He nodded and gingerly shook out his hair. Glass sprinkled and tinkled around her. “Yeah. I’m good.”

Someone moved behind the curtain, then something shattered inside the house. Julie flinched and people screamed.

“Shit,” Troy hissed. He reached for his phone and called 911. “Busy,” he muttered. “Someone had to have called this in by now.” He tucked the phone away.

They were trapped out here. She tried to shake the glass off her hand with little luck. “What are we going to do?” she asked.

He shrugged and adjusted his weight over her so he wouldn’t completely crush her. “First, we can’t do anything but wait for the police. There’s a sniper out there. Second, this isn’t like the Sporties. We’ve got all night to wait this guy out because you’re not bleeding out.”

Her eyes widened even more and she forgot about the glass in her hand. “A sn-sniper? You mean like the same sniper who shot me—us—before?”

His eyes narrowed. “Yeah. Just like that.” He studied her carefully, his gaze searching hers. “Who wants you dead?”

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