Title: When Love Intrudes
Author: Christi Snow
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Editor: Mia Downing, Sarah Negovetich
Cover Designer: AM Design Studios
Toni Vincent’s last relationship ended with violence. Since then, she’s decided she’s better off without men. But when she finds her young seventeen year old neighbor, Nathan, unconscious and beaten, this is one man she can’t abandon. But helping Nathan means trusting Detective Brian Barnes, another man who hurt her in the past. It’s something she’s just not sure she can do.
Detective Brian Barnes has seen one too many criminals beat the system. He’s burned out and regretting a lot about his life. At the top of that list is how he dealt with Toni Vincent when he was wounded. At the time, he couldn’t stand to look at himself, much less have someone he failed care for him. Now she needs his help and he refuses to fail her again. But keeping her alive requires keeping his heart out of it. Something not easy to do when trapped in a romantic mountain retreat, even if it is the safest place for Toni and her unexpected charge.
With danger around every corner, it’s hard to know who can be trusted, especially for three people who have been burned before. But they may just find the best family is the one not tied together by blood.
As an avid reader her entire life, Christi Snow always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy she felt when she read. But…she never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.
When her husband retired from the Air Force, Christi decided it was time to chase her dream and she started writing. She hasn’t stopped since. With twenty-seven published books in various romance genres, she’s found her passion. Now she spends her days with her laptop writing about sexy, alpha heroes finding the loves of their lives.
Writing both as Christi Snow and one-half of the writing duo, KB Jacobs, Christi has fulfilled her dream… filling the world with more romance and suspense.
Her tagline is… Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. She loves this adventure and has truly found her tribe!
“Detective, are you okay?”
The soft, but urgent voice caressed Brian Barnes as it echoed through his brain. It called to him, soothing his soul like wisps of cool touches across his fevered skin. He needed to see who it belonged to. He had to open his eyes.
His muscles tensed and fire tore through his side, burning and stealing his breath, as Brian pushed back to consciousness. Automatically he wanted to reach toward the pain, but he couldn’t move his arm. His groan rumbled as the agony in his gut radiated out over his entire body.
“Oh, come on, don’t do that.” The voice again, but this time it wobbled like she was about to cry. “When you try to move, you bleed more. Come on, Brian, listen to my voice. Hold still. I don’t want you to bleed to death, just open your eyes so I know you aren’t going to die and I’m not alone here.”
He had to follow the compulsion of her voice. Disappointing her wasn’t an option, not with that voice pulling at him. Slowly his eyes fluttered open.
A vision of the beautiful Toni swam in front of him. Why was she crying? What happened? A blistering pain shuddered across his torso and reality came flooding back. He’d come over to Pete’s house because he thought something was wrong. His instincts had been right, but the reality of the situation was so much worse than he’d ever imagined. He refocused on Toni and the bruises marring her face and arms.
She was dating Pete and right now she looked so freaking scared. But who could blame her since her boyfriend, his friend, had gone bat-shit insane. How had he missed all the signs that the cop and the man who’d been his friend had lost all touch with sanity? He hadn’t seen it until today. So now he sat here on the floor with a gunshot to his gut and two women in terrible danger. If Toni was here, somewhere Julie, her friend, and the focus of Pete’s obsession, had to be here too. Somehow, he had to get them both out before Pete hurt them.
“Toni…are you okay?” Goddamn, even breathing hurt. Black spots danced before his eyes as another wave of pain crashed over him. He moaned.
“Shh, I’m fine. He didn’t want to hurt me.” She strained to look down at him from her position on the bed and her face paled even more. “Oh God, you’re bleeding so much. We’ve got to get you out of here.”
He didn’t even have to look down to know how bad it truly was. He couldn’t feel anything below the radiating pain in his gut anymore. Blood soaked everything. The cold seeping over him was definitely not a good sign, but he wasn’t going to freak her out even more by telling her that. She needed to get to safety.
He took a shallow breath and focused to take stock of the room.
Pete shot him and then dragged him to this bedroom and cuffed him to the leg of a heavy armoire. The gunshot to his gut was why everything hurt so fucking bad.
It was hard to tell from where he was at on the floor, but it looked like Toni was handcuffed to the bedframe. As he watched her, she wiggled.
“What,” he gasped, “are you doing?”
Her torso twisted. “I’m trying to get my charm bracelet off.”
Okay, Brian knew his brain wasn’t functioning at full capacity, but why was she worried about her jewelry right now?
His question must have showed on his face because she gave him a wink. “I have a handcuff key on it. Think about what that means for a moment instead of what’s happening here.”
Her mischievous look and the reality of their situation were at complete odds, but the reason why she had a key like that hit him and he couldn’t help but find the humor. He gave a bark of laughter which morphed into a moan when his gut clenched. It took a moment to get his breath back. “You wear a…” he breathed through the black spots and nausea, “handcuff key on your bracelet?”
Her chagrined smile took his breath away and this time it had nothing to do with the gunshot wound in his gut. She was so beautiful, even roughed up and messy like she was now. Her auburn curly hair fell over her eyes. She kept blowing it to move it out of her face. The urge to touch it, to run his fingers across those curls, pulled at him. He instantly regretted that this would be the last time he’d see her.
The numbness spread along with the pool of blood below him. He had a feeling that he wouldn’t wake up again when the unconsciousness, creeping at the edge of his brain, overtook him this time.
“Got it!” Toni raised her freed hand in victory and rushed over to his side clutching the key. At the same time a muffled scream echoed throughout the house.
Her frantic eyes met his as she fumbled with his cuffs. “That’s Julie,” she whispered.
He wasn’t going to be any help to her now. He was too far-gone. At this point, he’d just endanger and slow her down. She had to get out of the house.
“Toni, you can’t help me.”
She stilled for a moment, squeezing her eyes shut. When she re-opened them, resolve shone through their turquoise depths. He had to use that to get her to safety.
“Get out. Go get help.”
“I can’t leave you here.”
Another scream sounded out.
“Do you know how to shoot?” He winced as another arc of pain shot through him.
She gave a frantic nod.
“There’s a gun inside my right pant leg. Get it out and help her. Do whatever you have do, Toni, to get both of you out of here safely.”
She fumbled for a moment with his pant leg and rose up on her knees with the gun firmly in her grasp.
“That a girl.”
Their eyes met for a moment before she leaned down, gently brushed the hair off his forehead, and gave him a soft, light kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be right back. Don’t die.” The fierceness in her voice was a powerful thing, but he had a feeling he didn’t have much say about it anymore.
As she crept out of the room, the cold of his body swamped him.
A gunshot rang out over the house and then eerie silence ensued.
Black dots encroached over his vision.
His job was to protect.