Snowed

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SNOWED, by Veronica Forand

Don’t fall in love with the man sent to kill you…

Lorena Rubio lived a safe, simple life until she’s kidnapped by Andres “Con” Conesa, right hand man for the drug lord who murdered her sister. Con must keep her at a cabin in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains until his boss can confirm or deny the rumor that she’d provided specifics about his drug cartel to the police. Their attraction ignites in the middle of this winter wonderland, but he’s in deep cover for the FBI and has to remain there, and she refuses to attach herself to someone in the criminal world. When the boss arrives a few days and wants Lorena put on ice, Con’s willing to blow his cover to save the woman he craves beyond reason, but he may be too late.

Excerpt

Snowed

by Veronica Forand

CHAPTER ONE

An annoying buzz woke Lorena from a peaceful sleep. The doorbell? She glanced at her phone. Five o’clock. Two hours before she had to get up.

The doorbell sounded again, followed by a firm rap on the flimsy wooden door. Working at the car dealership answering phones earned only enough money to afford the cheapest of apartments, so her front door didn’t open into a secure hallway. It opened straight into the parking lot.

Hopefully, it was only that drunk guy next door at the wrong apartment again, but it could be someone looking for money or a single female companion. A million possible scenarios streamed through her head, each one worse than the last. No longer tired, she threw off the covers and stalked toward the door with the baseball bat she’d left in her umbrella stand for this exact situation. Her heartbeat thumped across her chest like the pulse-pounding music of a horror movie.

She looked into the peephole.

Andrés “Con” Conesa stared through the hole from the other side, as though he could see her as clearly as she could see the distorted view of his face and those amazing brown eyes. Her heart lifted a bit. Con had helped her through some of her worst moments of the past year. He’d been a protector, a friend, and a secret crush. He also worked for the man who had killed her sister.

He was the only guy she knew linked to the drug world without dabbling in the stuff. His lack of an addictive personality, however, didn’t mean he was an angel. Just the opposite. He’d do anything to please Mendoza, her sister’s crime boss ex-boyfriend. When Alicia had died, so did Lorena’s fledgling relationship to Con.

“Hurry up.” The smooth baritone request confused her into doing something utterly stupid. She opened the door.

“Thanks.” His easy-on-the-eyes body, outlined in denim and leather, rested against the doorframe. His presence still caused dreams of an impossible future with a guy who, if given a choice, would never choose her over his job. Why then was he standing three feet in front of her? This wasn’t a social call.

Lorena tried to act confident, but his presence tended to mess with her brain cells. “You better have a good reason for waking my entire neighborhood.”

His gaze slid over her, and he lifted one eyebrow as though her current outfit wasn’t up to his standards. “Mendoza wants to see you.”

“Why?” She crossed her arms over the worn cotton nightshirt to cover herself.

“He’ll tell you.” Something in the tone of his voice warned her to run. A meeting with the man she’d accused of murdering her sister wouldn’t go in her favor.

She couldn’t scream out for help, because no one would call the police. People tended to avoid police interaction in the worst section of San Diego. A place where gangs ruled, and no one played in the streets.

“Morning, Mrs. Lopez.” She waved to no one down the hall and smiled. As expected, he turned. She slammed the door and locked it.

One chance to escape. She ran to the back window. The sound of him kicking her door open spurred her on. Too late. His arm wrapped around her waist before she could maneuver through the window to the fire escape. She struggled to break free, but he merely tightened his hold until she seemed like a toddler struggling in a parent’s arms. What felt like two hundred pounds of him restrained her and spun her around until she was eye to eye with the most confusing man on Earth. At least if he’d roughed her up, she’d be more inclined to scratch his eyes out.

His touch, however, was gentle. His muttered words soothing as though a snake had hypnotized her into compliance before striking her dead.

When she last saw Con, the coroner was zipping her sister inside a body bag. Despite her pleas for the police to arrest someone, they’d ignored her, Mendoza had told her to go to hell, and Con had escorted her from the premises.

His only words to her that day had been, “I’m sorry.” He’d acted as though he’d meant it, but then his boss called to him, so he’d left her in the street alone, crying over the loss of her sole family member.

With no more energy to fight, her forehead fell against his black leather jacket. She needed to remain strong, but a sob escaped. His world continued to haunt her, long after her sister’s murder. He let her remain tucked in his arms for a moment, then released her with the cool expression of a man who had to complete a job and move on.

“We need to leave, Lorena. You have three minutes to get dressed.” He looked at his watch. “Starting now.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” With what was left of her strength, she pounded Mendoza’s minion in the chest. Hard. “Get out.”

Wrong move. He pulled a gun out of his waistband and pointed it at her. His face, an icy mask, revealed zero emotion. “Now.”

He wouldn’t shoot her—would he? A tremor rumbled through her. Her instincts told her he wouldn’t shoot, but her body was prepared for anything.

“Darn it, Con. Can’t you find some old woman to harass, or maybe a puppy to kick? I’m done with you and Mendoza.”

“Two minutes.” The weapon now pointed at the floor, and his finger wasn’t in the trigger. Maybe he was softening.

In the past, one smile from him had made her stomach crumble in a twisted ball of nerves as though she were a nobody teenager and he was way too cool for school. Now, however, his steely expression told her schoolgirl crushes could be lethal.

“Please.” She glanced up at him, hoping to see compassion. Instead, he turned away from her and began rummaging through her things.

“One minute, fifty seconds.” He grabbed her wallet and cell phone from the kitchen table. He pocketed the wallet, walked over to the bathroom, and dropped the phone into her toilet.

“Bastard.” Why did she keep trying to make a nice guy out of this jerk?

She grabbed a pair of shorts and her flip-flops, hesitant to move too far or too fast with Con still waving his gun around.

“You need more than that.” His voice demanded compliance, and yet he never spoke louder than a grumble.

“Why?”

He wasn’t listening. He holstered his gun, pulled her by the arm to her bedroom, and started rummaging through her clothes. Most of her favorites sat in the hamper, but he never made it that far. He threw her a pair of jeans and a blue low-cut t-shirt from her dresser. “Put these on.”

She backed into the bathroom to change. Nothing in the small tiled space but towels and shampoo to help her escape. By the time she came out, Con was at the front door, carrying a plastic grocery bag stuffed with some of her clothes.

He held up a red hoodie. “Is this the warmest thing you own?”

“Why? Where are we going?”

“Come on.” He closed the distance between them again. “Three minutes are up.”