After the murder of a teenage girl, a mysterious man in a black leather jacket was seen lurking near the crime scene. Investigative reporter Tessa Novak has him in her sights as the culprit…
That man was Julian Darcangelo—an undercover FBI agent working with the Denver police. He’s closing in on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. Tessa’s accusations could blow his cover—and he wants her off the investigation.
But just as Tessa has made Julian a target of interest, she is now a target—of the killer. And as they are forced to trust each other, their physical attraction escalates as intensely as the threat from a ruthless murderer who wants to see both of them dead…
Read an excerpt below...
“With a really hot (as in HOT) male lead, a spectacular romance and a perfectly executed gritty, realistic thriller, Hard Evidence is a practically flawless, exciting piece of work.” —Debbie Jett Romance Reader At Heart
“Hard Evidence… is romantic suspense at its best.”—Jeri Neal The Romance Readers Connection
“Hard Evidence is a page-turner, a pulse-pounding thriller. The characters are so real, the story so vivid, you know Ms. Clare must have a long and experienced history of investigative reporting. And it shows in a majestic way. One could almost think Hard Evidence to be a prize-winning documentary with the details and flow of the story, the impact of the victims, the intense drama, the knowledge that this really happens in today’s society and we feel it unfolding as each new page is turned.”—Suzanne Tucker Fresh Fiction
“Hard Evidence is absolutely fabulous! Suspense and sensual romance combine to create an engaging atmosphere that will immediately grab the reader’s attention and hold it until the end of the book…The plot is intricate and well-executed and the sex hot enough to set the pages on fire.”—Kathy Samuels Romance Reviews Today
“Clare definitely seems to have found her niche.” —Jill Smith Romantic Times BOOKReviews - Four Stars
“Hard Evidence is an enthralling combination of action, suspense and romance. Ms. Clare had me burning the midnight oil because I refused to put this book down until the final page. From the horrifying opening scene, my emotions were engaged and my heart was aching. Tessa is a wonderful heroine with a strength and courage that few people could hope to match. Her fierce championing of an exploited group of people had me cheering her on from the sidelines. The secretive Julian packs a punch that no reader can ignore. Dark and brooding, fierce and protective, he had my devotion from his first step onto the page. And I can readily say that the heat generated by these two could warm Denver in winter.”—Jolie Dreyson Romance Junkies
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Tessa turned her rental car into the underground parking garage and had to drive down two levels before she found a spot. Not only had she lost her car—the first new car she’d ever owned—but her parking karma sucked. She turned off the ignition, grabbed her briefcase, glanced at her watch.
She was late for her interview with Chief Irving and the head of the gang taskforce. Did Christiana Amanpour or Barbara Walters or Jane Pauley have problems like this? Somehow she didn’t think so.
They don’t have Tom Trent for a boss either, girl.
She’d arrived at the paper this morning to find photocopies of her mug shot stuck on bulletin boards throughout the building with the word “WANTED” typed above it. She might have found it funny if she hadn’t lost so much sleep last night, first arguing with Julian in her imagination and then fighting nightmares. Even a triple-shot latté hadn’t been able to restore her sense of humor. She’d vented to Sophie about the arrest and the interrupted interview—taking care to keep Julian’s name secret—and was astonished when Sophie smiled.
“I think Holly’s right,” Sophie said. “He likes you.”
“Oh, well, lucky me! I suppose if he loved me I’d be in federal prison.”
Then, to make matters worse, Tom had spent forty-five minutes after the I-Team meeting grilling her for every detail of her arrest, clearly gearing up to bellow in Chief Irving’s ear. It had taken every evasive trick she knew to keep from giving him the arresting officer’s name. In the end, she’d had to resort to the truth.
“I can’t give you his name. He’s an undercover officer.” And I want to punch him right in his sickeningly handsome face.
Tom hadn’t been pleased, but, as a staunch advocate of reporter-source confidentiality, he hadn’t been able to object.
Now she was a full twenty minutes late. She could only hope Chief Irving hadn’t given up on her. She hopped out of the car, locked it and hurried to the nearest stairwell, rehearsing her questions as she ran up the steps, the staccato click of her heels reverberating off the concrete walls.
If there was so much violence between gangs and the city’s homeless, why was so little being done to combat it? How many reports of attacks against the homeless had they received over the past five years and how many had they investigated? What was being done to protect homeless youth from gangs and other street predators?
It wasn’t the news story she was looking for. It didn’t answer the question of who’d killed the girl. But it was a worthy issue on its own, and she felt sure there was at least some connection between all of this and the shooting.
¡Por favor Señor, ayúdeme! ¡Me van a matar!
Please, sir! Help me! They're going to kill me!
The girl’s terrified screams echoed in Tessa’s mind, made her stomach knot.
Gun shots. Shattered glass.
So much blood.
Lost in her thoughts, Tessa ran headlong into a wall of chest and found herself staring up into a pair of dark blue eyes.
Startled, she jerked back from him, lost her balance.
Strong arms grabbed her, steadied her, held her fast. “We just keep running into each other, don’t we, Tessa?”
He was dressed as he’d been the first night she’d seen him—dark hair tied back in a ponytail, black leather jacket, jeans. His jaw was clean shaven, his eyebrows dark slashes on olive skin, his lashes long. And those lips…
She remembered only too well what it felt like to be kissed by those lips, the shock of it, her body’s response. She wished he’d been bald or toothless or had a vicious scar on his face—anything to make him less handsome. Somehow just the sight of him was enough to make her mouth water and her brain go blank. Then she remembered how much she disliked him.
“What are you doing here?”
Clever, Tessa! He’s some kind of cop. What do you think he’s doing here?
“I’m the ‘shadowy criminal type,’ remember? Criminal types belong at the police station.” He bit his lower lip, measured her through narrowed eyes. “But if I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re following me.”
The opposite was closer to the truth, and they both knew it. He hadn’t run into her by accident last night. He’d tracked her down.
She laughed. “Why on earth would I want to follow you? It’s not as if you’re going to get all chatty and tell me what angle you’re working on this shooting.”
“Not likely.” Then his mouth turned up in a slow, sexy smile that made her insides skitter. “Maybe you’re hoping I’ll kiss you again.”
Heat rushed into her cheeks, and she gaped at him. “You’re delusional, Darcangelo!”
He grinned a self-satisfied, smug grin that told her he knew exactly what that kiss had done to her. “Am I?”
She forced her expression to go ice cold and pulled herself out of his grasp. “I hate to wound your male pride, but I haven’t given that little peck on the lips a single thought. Besides, that wasn’t really a kiss.”
Head high and shoulders back, she stepped around him.
Julian was tempted to laugh. She might pretend to have sleet for blood, but he’d never known a woman to melt down quite like she had over a single kiss, pretend or otherwise. He could feel her arousal. But why argue with her about it when he could prove it?
In one move, he had her up against the wall, her wrists shackled by his hands, her arms stretched out on either side of her head. “You’re right. That wasn’t a kiss, but this is.”
“Shut up.” He ducked down, brushed his lips down the curve of her cheek, ran the tip of his tongue over the whorl of her ear. She smelled good enough to eat, her perfume subtle and sexy and so female. Hungry for her, he sucked her earlobe into his mouth, pearl earring and all.
He heard her quick intake of breath, felt her body tense.
“You… are sooo… arrogant!”
“I said shut up.” He released her right wrist, cupped her chin, tilted her head upwards.
Then he kissed her deep and hard.
And she melted.
Her body seemed to go liquid, every soft, feminine inch of her pressing against him. The contact sent a bolt of lust blazing through his gut, made him painfully hard, his erection straining to be someplace more welcoming than his jeans.
In a heartbeat, the kiss turned rough. Teeth scraped skin, bit, nipped. Tongues invaded, clashed, plundered. He felt her hips move, betraying her need. Then her arms wrapped around the back of his neck, and she whimpered.
The sound was like gasoline on the fire already raging in Julian’s veins. He groaned, felt his control slip. He hadn’t meant for it to be like this. He’d kissed her to wipe that conceited look off her face, to prove to her that she wanted him despite her words last night—not to get caught up in wanting her.
But he wanted her. Right now. Right here.
Trailing little bites down the silky skin of her throat, he slid his hand up her silky nylon-covered thigh and under her skirt to cup her through her panties. They were silk. And they were already damp.
Tessa was lost. She was lost in his scent, in the hard feel of him, the heat of his lips on her skin. If there were some reason she shouldn’t be doing this, she couldn’t remember what it was. God, she hated him, wanted him, needed him.
She felt the pressure of his hand against her, and her knees went weak. Rather than hitting his hand away, she found herself pushing against the pressure, parting her legs for him. “Oh, Julian!”
Heat spread in a liquid rush through her belly. And when he flicked his thumb over the hard bead of her nipple, she moaned, the sound reverberating up and down the stairwell.
A door opened.
He growled deep in his throat, cupped her hard, pressed his erection against her belly. Then he whispered. “If you try to tell me next time I see you that you haven’t been thinking about fucking me, I’m going to call you a liar.”
With that, he released her and was gone.
Shaking, her body on fire, Tessa struggled to compose herself. She straightened her skirt, picked her briefcase up off the floor where it had fallen, and smoothed her hair. How had she let this happen? My God, she’d practically been having sex with him in the stairwell! And she’d enjoyed it!
A police officer passed her on his way down the stairs, gave her a nod.
And then she remembered.
She glanced at her watch — damn damn damn! — and ran the rest of the way up the stairs.