Watching Over You | Lori Foster

Watching Over You

Book 3 in the McKenzies of Ridge Trail Series

Detective Crosby Albertson has been tracking a criminal network. While investigating leads, he keeps crossing paths with members of the highly trained, suspiciously well-informed McKenzie family. They’re always one step ahead of him — especially their alarmingly attractive intel specialist, Madison. He wants to find out why.

Madison McKenzie is the tech and surveillance whiz of her family’s operation. A recent case introduced her to Detective Albertson. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to the sexy and mysterious cop. There’s just one problem. He’s a detective, and her family’s work is secret. When Crosby starts digging for information about the McKenzies, Madison’s got to get him off the scent…while keeping him at a safe distance.

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Watching Over You

is Book 3 in the McKenzies of Ridge Trail Series

The full series reading order is as follows:

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Watching Over You

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Chapter 1

When Crosby Albertson frowned, he didn’t just show displeasure in his incredibly handsome face. He also showed it in the rigid lines of his big body, in his tightened fists and the angle of his wide shoulders, how his feet braced apart and the way the muscles in his thighs flexed.

Honestly, Madison McKenzie thought he was downright scrumptious top to bottom, though now wasn’t the best time to be admiring him.

Using her admittedly incredible digital surveillance skills, she’d been shadowing Crosby online for a while now, ever since she realized that he was keeping tabs on her family.

Granted, her family had made unique choices to combat injustice, specifically every form of human trafficking and forced labor. She and her brothers, under their father’s instruction, had become elite fighters weaponized with skill, knowledge, and drive.

As a cop, Crosby had somehow caught on to them, despite how she meticulously covered their tracks.

He’d impressed the heck out of her, which wasn’t easy to do — especially after he worked with them to bring down a truly heinous trafficker who’d gotten far too personal.

But Crosby was still a cop through and through, and she and her family still skirted the edges of illegal activity by pursuing their goals without involving the law.

Didn’t stop her infatuation with him.

When he found out that she’d ramped up her surveillance of him, he’d likely be annoyed.

That couldn’t be helped though. No other man had fascinated her like Crosby Albertson did, and in her line of her work, as her brothers had often pointed out (the hypocrites) she couldn’t be too careful. She knew a lot about Crosby already, but now she wanted to know more.

Physically following him today wasn’t exactly necessary, but she’d had a little free time, so why not? Never mind that Ridge Trail, Colorado was under extremely severe weather, with a huge dumping of snow and freezing temps making the roads slick.

Her motto was that if Crosby could go out, she could, too. Overall, she figured she could do just about anything a guy could do, with a few notable exceptions. Like, she couldn’t pee standing up. Then again, she had no desire to.

She couldn’t get a testicular injury, so yay, score one for lady parts.

And honestly, as strong and skilled as she might be, she still took pleasure in her femininity, so knocking out a dude with one punch — something her hulking brothers managed easily — was usually out of her realm. Not that she couldn’t effectively disable a guy in other ways. She could (hello testicles) and yet, the majority of her contribution to the family business was handled behind a computer screen.

Now, with Crosby, she wanted to be a little more hands-on.

Snuggled into her chic white snowsuit, complete with a faux fur trimmed trapper hat and attached googles, Madison parked her SUV behind Crosby’s car, all the while wondering why he would tool around in this weather in a sedan. At least he had chains on his tires, taking some precautions.

She wondered, too, why he would stand there on the sidewalk outside a small Mom and Pop style store and do that whole-body frowning thing. Something had angered him, but she didn’t yet know what. Since he hadn’t yet looked at her, she figured she wasn’t the cause of his irritation.

After staring through the window for a flat ten seconds, Crosby went into the store, leaving her with a tingle of anticipation at seeing him again. The last time she’d been so close to him was well before Christmas, and now it was early February. She’d kissed him then… and he’d laughed.

Worse, he thought she’d kissed him for underhanded reasons.

She was still mad at him for that — she really was — but even though their relationship was strained at best, hostile at worst, she’d missed him.

Assuming he wouldn’t recognize her bundled up as she was for the weather, Madison trudged through the deep snow and entered the quaint store. A bell jingled over the front door, drawing attention her way.

As was her habit, she immediately did a quick assessment of the small interior. Shelves lined every wall, packed from top to bottom. Besides Crosby, she noted a clerk behind the counter and a youth who’d been stocking the shelves.

Unfortunately, there were also three men in the process of robbing the place.

Well. She supposed that explained Crosby’s fierce frown.

She also had the terrible suspicion that he recognized her even under all her winter gear. Had he been on to her following him all along?

His cleverness was just one more appealing trait to admire.

Guns drawn and faces hidden behind thick winter ski masks, the robbers mostly kept their attention on Crosby and the clerk, but they did repeatedly glance her way.

Aggressively, one of the men gestured with his gun, saying, “What the hell are you people doing out on a day like this?”

Another man said, “I knew we should have locked the door.”

Crosby said, “I offered, if you’ll recall.”

So he’d planned to lock her out? Too bad for him.

Dressed as she was, the men couldn’t see much of her face or body, but she felt certain they knew she was female. It was there in the way she stood with her hands on her hips, in the long hair trailing out of her hat, and probably in the way her lips smiled. “Am I interrupting?”

The man who waved the gun around barked, “Over here, now.”

That suited her just fine.

As Madison started forward, her awareness of Crosby sharpened. Today he wore a dark puffer coat, thick wool scarf and padded gloves. Always, no matter the situation, he managed to look like an impeccable male model. Well, except for his sandy brown hair. He wore it just long enough for it to curl a little on the very ends. It gave him an appealingly messy look in stark contrast with his otherwise impeccable appearance.

Those dark as sin eyes of his never left the men standing before him, though he didn’t look anxious about the situation.

Annoyed, yes. Alert, certainly. She sensed more than saw that all he needed was an opening, and he’d take on all three of the intruders.

In that, she could certainly assist.

As she strode forward, she asked the stock boy, “Would you mind ducking behind that shelf?”

Startled, the kid said, “Um…”

The robbers all started protesting at the same time, one of them barking, “No one fucking moves!”

Speaking over him, Madison said to the clerk, “If you could possibly duck down very quickly?”

Crosby issued a sound like a snarl, and took a quick step to his left, which effectively shielded the clerk. The older man dropped fast behind the counter. That got the kid moving too, and he jumped behind a shelf of canned goods.

With the two innocents protected, she set about wrapping up the danger.

“Bitch!” one of the robbers snapped, lunging for her and catching her arm in a vicelike grip. Madison let him propel her forward. Deliberately crashing into him, she grabbed his wrist to control the weapon. Because the floor was concrete and could cause a ricochet, she forced his arm up and back. The gun discharged, the sound loud in the small store, but the bullet merely hit a wall of beer cases. The yeasty brew sprayed out.

Fluid, even graceful — or so she liked to think — she swung the first man’s gun hand around and, since he fired again, caused him to pop the second man in the thigh, making him buckle.

Guy number two cursed a blue streak as he went down.

The dummy who’d grabbed her slipped in the beer and went down, finally releasing the gun. She wrenched it away, turned, and shot him in the shoulder. His shout of pain mingled with curse words.

Crosby had already gone after the third man, making quick work of subduing him. She heard the snap of bone and knew it was the man’s arm breaking. That one wouldn’t be holding a gun for a while.

Furious, guy number two held his bloody thigh with one hand and took aim at her with the other.

Crosby kicked his gun away at the same time she stomped his privates. Her snow boots were heavy, her aim sure.

As if in slow motion, the dude curled in on himself, his groan low and deep.

She had just a moment to admire Crosby’s skill, seeing him finish off the third man with a punch that sent him collapsing back into a display of chips.

Three men, now all wounded, two with gunshot wounds and one with a broken arm. Crosby grabbed the one she’d shot in the shoulder, stopping him from scurrying away.

He used that effective one-punch power she so often admired in her brothers and put the guy to sleep.

“Well done,” Madison said, smiling at how seamlessly they’d worked as a team. Leaning over the counter, she said to the clerk, “Could you call 911, please? In this weather, it might take them a bit to respond. They’ll need as much notice as possible.”

Rigid, Crosby stood there glowering at her among the fallen bodies, spilled beer and scattered chips. Rage still permeated his entire being.

Those clenched fists of his? Impressive.

The rock solid line of his shoulders under his coat? Very stirring.

“You,” he whispered, the sound raw-edged with anger, “are not in charge here.”

Smiling, Madison held up her hands. Unlike her brothers, she didn’t mind stepping back — just a little.

He then proceeded to secure the men, rolling them one by one to their stomachs and fastening their wrists together with nylon cuffs. Had he carried those along? Obviously he’d known there would be trouble.

She kept watching him, but not once did he look at her.

Okay, the robbers hadn’t unsettled her, but Crosby’s attitude made her a little uneasy.

Pretending it didn’t, she moved to the boy who continued to cower behind a shelf. He looked fifteen or so, in that awkward stage of long limbs, acne, and sparse facial hair on his upper lip, which he wore like a trophy.

She crouched down in front of him. “You okay, bud?”

“They were going to hurt us this time,” he whispered, his face still ghostly pale.

This time? “Did they say so?” she asked, wondering what in the world she’d walked into. Maybe it hadn’t been a simple robbery after all.

“They didn’t have to,” the boy agonized. “It was their attitudes. If Crosby hadn’t showed up-”

A long arm reached past Madison, offering a Coke to the kid. She glanced up to see Crosby’s set face.

With his tone sounding mild, Crosby said, “Drink up, Owen.” When the boy took the can, Crosby rested his hand on Owen’s shoulder. “Why don’t you join your dad behind the counter? I’ve put up the closed sign and locked the door so you can both have a few minutes.”

Nodding, Owen shot to his feet, then skirted around the downed men and the beer that now crawled across the uneven floor. When he reached his father, Madison heard the low murmur of their voices, both of them sounding shaken.

Now that Crosby said it, the two did have a similar took. “So father and son were here working together and you—”

His finger pressed against her lips, shocking her silent. When had he removed his gloves, and why hadn’t she noticed? She rarely missed a single detail.

“Give me a minute,” Crosby rasped, still looking somewhat savage. “Do you think you can do that?”

Madison nodded. She wouldn’t mind giving him a week. Maybe a month.

Resisting the urge to lick his finger required more concentration than keeping quiet.

Crosby moved away again.

Freed from that strange and overwhelming effect he had on her, she dragged off her hat and unzipped her coat, suddenly far too warm.

Letting Crosby do his thing, she moved to stand before the counter and held out her hand. Keeping her voice very low, she said, “Hi. I’m Madison.”

The older man took her hand in both of his. “Winton Maclean. Thank you for helping us.”

Proving he had excellent hearing, Crosby said, “I had it in hand.”

Winton smiled at him, his look almost paternal. “I’m sure you did, but a little help didn’t hurt.”

“Depends on the help,” Crosby shot back.

Well, she liked that! Had she, or had she not, taken out one of them and helped with a second? She had. So…

Leaning in, Winton confided, “He’s angrier when he worries.”

Oh, she liked Winton. “Have you known Crosby long?”

Rubbing his forehead, Winton cast a quick glance at Crosby. “Most of his life.”

Now on his phone, Crosby pinned her with a warning gaze that pretty much stated: Don’t ask questions about me.

Fine, she’d save her questions for later. “Mop?” she asked Winton.

He was shaking his head to deny her help, but Owen said, “Through those swinging doors,” then caught his dad’s exasperated huff. “But you don’t need to—”

“Thanks, but I’m not good with idle time.” Smiling to reassure them both, she went for the mop and found it with a big bucket. Used to cleaning the sparring mats at her family’s at-home gym, she quickly added water and cleaner, then rolled it out. Using the mop, she stopped the beer from spreading farther across the store, but she was careful not to interfere with the “scene.” Cops could be prickly about things like that.

Good thing one of the robber’s helped stem the flow, too; the beer was currently soaking into his side, all along his waist, hip and thigh. He tried to squirrel away, but one glare from Crosby and he went still again.

Suddenly police sirens echoed over the snowy streets. Blast, she’d run out of time. Abandoning the mop bucket, she sidled into the back room and quickly called her father. Crosby would be busy for a few minutes at least. Hopefully, everything would be wrapped up before her brothers could barge in. They tended to be overprotective where she was concerned.

Hearing the opening of the front door and the voices of officers, she quietly explained the situation to her father, giving him the address of the shop and assuring him it was all under control.

Never one to get ruffled, Parrish said, “So you’re okay?”

“Of course.”

“Are you positive you don’t need any help?”

“Absolutely certain.”

“I suppose it’s too late for you to pretend to be a weak woman?”

She grinned. “Afraid so.”

Her father hesitated a moment, then said, “Try not to get too involved, but if you get dragged in, let me know and I’ll start covering our bases.”

Yes, given their family enterprise, it was never wise to make the law too curious. Except for Crosby. Since they’d come to an understanding of sorts with him, he could be as curious as he wanted — about her.

Not the business.

One of the swinging metal doors moved and then Crosby was there, his dark gaze accusing, accessing, and… more. “Calling in reinforcements?”

“Did I appear to need them?”

Instead of answering, his gaze took a slow trip down her body.

Madison struck a pose. “It’s a great snowsuit, right? Soon as I saw it, I had to have it.”

One side of his mouth barely twitched before settling into a hard line again.

A near smile? She wanted to think so.

“Detective Bard wants to speak to you now.”

She affected a pout. “If I have to talk to a cop, I’d rather it just be you.”

Without even a blink, he said, “I not a cop anymore, so that won’t do.”

* * *

It wasn’t every day that he took a McKenzie by surprise, so Crosby enjoyed the rounding of Madison’s bright hazel eyes and the slight parting of her lips.

Then all her arrogance rushed back in and she stated, “Impossible. I’d know if you left the police force.”

“Apparently not.” He took her arm and urged her from the room, not in the least surprised when her confidence melted into the mien of an untrained person. Somehow she managed to look rattled, unsure, and wary all at the same time.

Crosby barely resisted rolling his eyes.

Not that long ago he’d crossed paths with the McKenzie family. For a while, he’d suspected her father of organizing vigilante justice, with her two brothers employed to see through well planned rescue missions. Too many times human traffickers had been thwarted, practically dumped on the doorstep of the precinct with all necessary info to make a tidy sweep of the scumbag perpetrators, along with their contacts and clientele.

Crosby had appreciated the end results, but not the methods utilized. It had taken a lot of diligence, but he’d finally found his way to the McKenzie clan. No problem.

That is, no problem except for Madison. She was the tech whiz, and he did mean whiz. Practically genius level. If she wanted to hack NASA, she probably could. Hell, even the White House might not be safe.

That alone made him uneasy, but then for her to set her sights on him? Talk about unnerving a man.

It didn’t help that she was equal parts gorgeous and bold. Nearly six feet of slender femininity shot through with brilliance and wrapped in capability.

For too many reasons she unsettled him, and that was a new feeling for Crosby. Didn’t stop him from wanting her, but he wasn’t an idiot. That road led to trouble and he had enough on his plate already.

Standing back, arms crossed, Crosby watched her weave her spell on Detective Bard. The poor dude never stood a chance. He bought her act, every trembling, grateful, soft spoken second of it.

Hell, even Winton and Owen looked convinced, and they’d watched her easily annihilate a grown man.

Good thing he wasn’t a cop anymore, or he’d have to set the record straight. The goons still might, but who would believe them? They each had long records of petty crimes, like trespassing, simple assault, vandalism, and public intoxication. Now there was proof that they’d been harassing Winton and other small neighborhood businesses, forcing them to pay for “protection.” What a joke.

Luckily, he’d just put an end to that.

Poor Madison. She’d shown off her skills with ease, but now couldn’t gloat about it. Too many people were willing to give Crosby the credit for taking down all three men.

It’d be hilarious if he was dealing with anyone other than the McKenzies. Madison might be the only one on the scene right now, and God knew she was enough, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the family had their noses in it before the day was over.

Once the thugs were taken away and the police left, Madison went right back to cleaning, swinging the mop with practiced ease. Swipe, rinse, wring, repeat.

Her family had deep pockets, so he hadn’t expected her to even know how to clean.

Was there anything she couldn’t do well?

“Whew, it’s getting warm.” Propping the mop handle against the counter, she dragged down the snowsuit zipper even more, down and down and down, all the way to the flare of her hips, then she peeled off the top layer and let it hang over her stellar tush.

Beneath the snowsuit she wore a black turtleneck that hugged her breasts and fit snug to her narrow ribcage. Using both hands, she gathered her long, light brown hair, then asked Winton, “Do you have a rubber band or anything?”

Owen scrambled to a drawer and produced one with a flourish that left his face hot.

Recognizing that infatuated look, Crosby figured the poor kid would be dreaming of Madison for weeks.

She bent forward at the waist, quickly put her hair into a high ponytail, and straightened again – still looking like a wet dream.

“I’m going to change this water. Be right back.”

All three of them watched her roll the bucket to the back room.

Winton slowly turned to stare at Crosby. Owen grinned.

Shaking his head, Crosby said, “No. It’s not like that, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Too late,” Owen said, then he quickly ducked the smack his dad aimed at the back of his head. “I’ll, um, go see if she needs any help.”

Crosby couldn’t help but laugh. Fifteen year old boys — almost sixteen, as Owen said any time his age was mentioned — were made up of testosterone and determination. An uncomfortable combo, from what he remembered, though it’d been twenty years since he’d had to deal with that anatomical and emotional upheaval.

“Quit frowning, Winton. He’s a good kid.”

“I know.” Winton sighed. “And he’s currently in love with a cheerleader at his school. But still…”

“Madison will handle it. No worries.” Switching gears and getting down to business, Crosby added, “Thanks for following my lead.”

“You know what you’re doing.” Bracing a hand on the counter and lifting his brows, Winton asked, “What are you doing?”

So much for Winton’s patience. “I know her and her family. Trust me, the less she’s involved, the better.”

“Because?”

Unable to share the reason, he shrugged. “I knew she was following me today.” She was always following him, usually online, but it figured Madison would decide to tail him in person during a snowstorm. “Warning her off wouldn’t have done me any good, and I didn’t want to take the time to try to reason with her.” Lessons in futility weren’t really his thing.

“So she wasn’t part of your plan?”

Snorting, Crosby said, “Definitely not.”

“That put you in a tight spot, since you knew they’d be here today.”

Crosby nodded. He had good street informants. Winton’s store had been targeted more than once, and Crosby had planned to put an end to the harassment. Things had gone according to plan…

Except that his initial plans hadn’t factored in Madison being around. Once he’d realized she was following him, he hadn’t had time to reconfigure things. Losing her would have been tough, too, with the roads so slick, some of them impassable. He’d had no way for tricky driving or fast turns.

Delaying his arrival to Winton’s store could have put Winton and Owen in danger. He’d been caught in an untenable position, not the first time when dealing with McKenzies.

Emerging from the backroom, Madison returned to mopping the floors, now with fresh water. “Might need to go over them one more time, so they won’t be sticky.”

“We’ll take care of it,” Winton said. “With the weather worsening, there’s no point in us being open anyway.”

Owen hefted the damaged case of beer and carried it into the back room.

Winton began cleaning up the spilled chip display.

“I’m glad to help,” Madison insisted, using the wringer on the bucket. “We’ll have it all tidied up in no time.”

“You,” Crosby said, feeling very divided, “have some explaining to do.”

She smiled and, proving she’d been listening, said, “You were right, you know. If you’d told me not to come in, it would have only sharpened my curiosity.”

Winton laughed. “I’m sure Crosby could have handled it on his own, but I admit I enjoyed seeing you in action. Are you in law enforcement?”

Her gaze slanted over to Winton. “Have you ever seen a cop fight the way I do?”

“Only Crosby.”

Her slim eyebrows climbed high. “Is that so?”

Always ready to sing his praises, Winton paused in his cleanup. “Before he was even Owen’s age, Crosby was training. He’s always been a fitness buff. Every coach at the high school tried to talk him into playing sports, but he was never interested. Said team sports weren’t his thing.”

“Dad says he’s mostly a loner,” Owen added.

“Or at least he was before—”

“Winton,” Crosby warned. There weren’t many things he could tell Madison that she didn’t already know. She’d made no secret of researching him, using methods to open files that even cops couldn’t easily access. What she didn’t know she’d eventually find out, whether he liked it or not.

Winton shot him a look of apology — one that Madison didn’t miss.

What concerned Crosby most at the moment was how Winton would tell things, with all the nuances and added affection of a father.

Winton and Owen fell silent.

Madison didn’t. Returning the mop to the bucket, she folded her arms on the counter – a pose that had her breasts thrusting forward and her backside sticking out in an impossible-to-ignore way.

Deliberate, he was sure. Everything she did or said had a purpose. He’d never known a woman who was so entirely bad ass, a research whiz who could uncover anything, a fighter capable of leveling a grown man with ease, who also flaunted her sexiness.

It was an enticing mix, and damn it, he wasn’t immune.

“I already knew he was a fitness buff,” she said, using a casual tone likely meant to regain Winton’s trust. “I mean, look at him.”

“He’s rock solid,” Winton agreed.

She turned her head to see Crosby, her glittering hazel eyes far too compelling. “He’s into fashion, too. Looks like a cover model, don’t you think?”

Hooting, Owen completely relaxed again. “That’s exactly what Mrs. Cline says. She always shops on Monday at six so she can time her visits with Crosby’s.”

“Mrs. Cline?” Madison asked, her interest no longer playful.

Winton patted her hand. “Pam is nearing seventy and just likes to flirt.”

“Ah.” Grinning again, Madison asked Crosby, “Have to deal with a lot of flirting, do you?”

Since it was none of her business, Crosby declined to answer. “You should get going while you still can. The roads are getting worse by the minute.”

Her smile curled even more. “Not without you. In fact, I’m convinced your car won’t even make it away from the curb.”

Crosby opened his mouth, but again, Owen beat him to it. “He has an SUV, but Silver probably-”

Winton interrupted his son with, “Go bundle up so you can help Madison clear her ride.”

Once Owen left the room, Madison took a turn eyeing each one of them before straightening to face forward. With her penetrating gaze locked on Crosby, she folded her arms under her breasts. “Why is everyone trying to get rid of me?”

Crosby didn’t hesitate. “We have private things to discuss that don’t concern you.” He saw one scenario after another flit over her features as she determined how to proceed. So damned tenacious. “Enough, Madison. It’s time for you to go before Winton, Owen and I get stranded here.”

Concerned, she turned to Winton. “Do you have far to travel in this mess?”

“Um…” Shifting, looking guilty as hell, Winton muttered, “No.”

Damn, Winton was bad at lying, even lies of omission.

He knew the second Madison looked up that her quick mind had already put too many things together.

Golden eyes slanted in his direction with accusation. “Let me guess. They live upstairs?”

Winton cleared his throat. “I’ll go see what’s keeping Owen.” He literally fled the shop front.

Knowing he couldn’t do the same, Crosby mimicked her stance, arms crossed and expression arrogant. “Contrary to what you believe, some of my business is still private.” It was a miracle she hadn’t uncovered every bit of his life yet — including the things he’d worked so hard to hide.

To his surprise, she retrenched with a sigh, her hands falling to her sides, her expression subdued. “I’ve been too pushy.”

That pretty much described her, always.

Two tentative steps brought her closer to him, and with her height she nearly looked him in the eye. “I’m sorry. It’s a bad habit of mine.”

Damn it, now he felt like an asshole. “No one is perfect.”

“I want to be,” she admitted. Then with surprising candor, she added, “I guess I’ve been competing with my brothers for so long that being anything less than perfect – perfectly informed, prepared, and capable – makes me a little nuts.”

Incredible insight…that made sense. “Was I wrong in thinking your brothers would show up here?” His experience had been with assertive men who wanted to take over every situation. That rubbed Crosby the wrong way, so how bad would it have been for a younger sister?

“I called Dad. He’s the only one who could hold them back, and he,” she said with emphasis, “trusts me.”

Her father was an imposing figure to be sure. Crosby likened him to Batman because of the way he entered a scene to the awe of all spectators. The man definitely brought a lot of larger-than-life presence everywhere he went. His sons weren’t much different. And Madison? Overall, she was cut from the same cloth.

The senior McKenzie had probably been a strict taskmaster. After all, he was the one who’d determined that his kids would be the alphas of all alphas, apex predators who would go up against the worst society had to offer. Each of them had incredibly honed skill and a drive to conquer.

Crosby could have easily labeled them with the criminal class, except that the more he’d learned, the more he’d… respected them.

They could label them vigilantes, true, and that definitely placed them in the category of illegal activity. The conflict for him was that they fought against human trafficking, and for that, they had his deepest gratitude.

“I see you’re not going to agree.”

Crosby had no idea what she was talking about.

“Trust?” When he still hesitated, she said, “Never mind. I guess it’s too soon for that.”

Shaking his head to gather his thoughts, Crosby asked, “Are you ready to go?”

“Guess I might as well.” Disgruntled, she began feeding her arms into the sleeves of the white snowsuit. “I’ll feel better about this whole cluster if you answer one question for me.”

“You need me to confirm something? Seriously?”

“Oh, I’ll be on my computer as soon as I get home, but given the weather, that could take a little time and it really wouldn’t kill you to share one tiny tidbit.”

Deliberately, he exhaled as if impatient. In truth, he had a difficult time keeping his hands at his sides when he really wanted to touch her. Just a small stroke of that long, sun kissed brown hair. Or a grazing of his knuckles over her downy cheek. Or… “What is it?”

“You’re really not a cop anymore?”

“No.”

“Well, why not?”

“That’s two questions.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I think I feel faint. Maybe I shouldn’t drive? I should probably ask Winton if I could hang around for a little while to—”

“No.” She didn’t even try to look sickly as she said all that, but then the point was for her to prove she’d do anything to get her way. That was something that alarmed him the most.

Madison McKenzie had no idea how to give up.

“I retired,” he said.

She snorted. “At thirty-five?”

Easy enough to explain. “I have an old injury that was causing me some difficulty.”

Her brows leveled over her eyes. “Someone actually bought that story?”

Jaw tightening, he explained, “I was shot in the leg.”

“Five years ago, but it hasn’t slowed you down. Heck, I just saw you in action, remember? So try again.”

End of Excerpt

Watching Over You

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