John MacAlistair slipped the house key into the lock, twisted it, and froze. There was no customary click releasing the deadbolt. The door to Sean Malone’s house wasn’t locked as it should’ve been—as Mac had left it when he’d taken Sean to the hospital that afternoon.
Adrenaline spiked through Mac’s system, squeezing out exhaustion that had crept into his bones during the last few hours. Rather than drive home to La Grande for the night, he’d opted to stay in Rockton until he reached Sean’s daughter to give her the news about her father.
After the day he’d had, surprising an unwelcome intruder wasn’t on his agenda. However, he refused to let some stranger ransack his old friend’s home. Clearing his mind of the emotional last eight hours, he slowly turned the handle and stepped across the threshold.
Through the open door, the porch light cast a dull gleam on a long, metal object. An expletive caught in the back of his throat as he stared down the barrel of Sean’s favorite semi-automatic, 12-gauge shotgun. Mac’s hands instinctively rose to shoulder level before he remembered the folding knife strapped to his belt. He started to lower a hand, but a threatening lift of the gun stopped him. It was probably a good thing he couldn’t reach the knife. Although handy in most situations, it would be useless against a gun. His only chance of coming out unscathed in this encounter would be quick reflexes and luck. Mostly luck.
Breathing slowly, he cleared his mind, took a cautious step forward—and froze when he heard the click of the gun’s safety release.
The time it took to consider alternatives should’ve been spent backing out the door. However, in his nearly thirty years, he’d only run away from one situation, which, although dangerous to his emotional well-being, hadn’t been life threatening. He wasn’t backing down now.
The gun didn’t waver. The person behind it remained shadowed, but steady hands indicated someone other than a fly-by-night burglar. Had one of Sean’s old nemeses come after him for some long overdue retribution?
“I don’t know who you are.” Mac kept his voice calm, soothing. “But I’m pretty sure I’m not the person you want to shoot.”
The snick of a switch and a blaze of overhead light prevented more talk. Blinded by the sudden brightness, Mac stood rooted to the floor, hands in the air, not daring to make any sudden moves.
“Damn it, Mac, I could’ve killed you!”
Mac’s heart stirred to life. Blood surged through his veins as his breath released on a whoosh. He lowered his hands, but his body refused to budge. His reaction had nothing to do with the fact Caitlin had greeted him with a shotgun, and everything to do with the woman herself.
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