Home > Corrupted Union

Corrupted Union
Author: Jill Ramsower

Humans hadn’t been hunted as prey for thousands of years, yet something in our DNA still remembered. An instinctive sense of survival. Even when the conscious mind hadn’t detected danger, the senses knew.
For example, the prickling sensation of unease that crept across the back of my neck after letting myself inside my parents’ house. The place was supposed to be empty. Mom and Dad hadn’t come home yet. The lights were off. The house was quiet save for the soft humming of appliances filling the sunlit silence.
I’d started to rummage through the fridge when I felt it—a burning awareness heating my back.
Someone was behind me. Watching.
A thousand thoughts flashed through my mind in an instant. Mom and Dad would have said something rather than skulk in the shadows, so it wasn’t one of them. Dad’s security? As the governor of New York, he always had a bodyguard nearby. Could one have returned to the house for something?
And decided to stalk you instead?
Not likely. I knew most of the team he worked with, and they were all good guys. Who did that leave? The alarm was still activated when I’d come in. Either the person had the code or had somehow broken in without triggering the alarm. So which was it? Only one way to find out.
My heart rate kicked up another notch.
I grabbed the milk and closed the fridge without turning around, stepping to the side and reaching into the cabinet above for a glass. At the same time, I slipped my other hand into the drawer at my waist to where the steak knives were kept and set one on the counter. Only then did I turn around.
How did the senses know? They’d been spot-on. I couldn’t help but be impressed by evolution, though that wasn’t where my thoughts should have taken me. The unfamiliar man leaning against the doorframe across the room was the very definition of intimidating. His muscular frame dwarfed my own, and tattoos peeked above the collar of his snug Henley. But it was more than that—his presence radiated a savage calm, as though the world was meant to lay at his feet because if it didn’t, he’d burn the whole damn thing to ash.
I should have been terrified. That was how a normal woman would react when confronted by such an unapologetic predator. But I wasn’t normal. I was only afraid of one thing in life, and this man wasn’t it.
“Are you lost?” I asked in a steady voice. Adrenaline filtered into my bloodstream, a purely physiological response that couldn’t be helped. Fear was a different monster. True fear was a tar-like quicksand that suffocated a person from the inside. I knew fear, and this wasn’t it.
The man tilted his head a fraction. Maybe only a single degree, but I noticed, and I could have sworn it denoted curiosity. He found me amusing.
I found his interest irrelevant.
“Not lost, just waiting,” he eventually answered. His voice was rugged yet soft, like the vibrating rumble of a hungry jungle cat.
“For my father?”
“People usually make an appointment. Tends to go over better than breaking in.”
“People are usually frightened when they encounter a strange man in their house.” He began to inch closer.
“Not my house.” I leaned my elbows on the counter behind me, getting my hands as close to the hidden knife as I could allow without revealing my weapon.
“Your parents’ house, close enough.”
As he neared, I could see the rich turquoise shade of his eyes. He was beautiful for a criminal—well-defined jawline, thick sand-colored hair, and a rare facial symmetry that Hollywood would envy. He had to know that with his looks, breaking and entering was pointless. He could probably charm his way inside the White House. Why had he felt the need to seek out my father this way?
“What’s your name?” My curiosity got the better of me.
His lips twitched in the corners. “Keir.”
I didn’t offer my name, and he didn’t ask. I got the impression he already knew. “If you’re here for my dad, then you must want something from him. You have to know this won’t help your cause. And if you’re here to hurt him, then you should know he always has security with him.”
“I’m only here to talk.”
“About what?”
A man of many words, I see.
He made it to the large marble-top island only a dozen feet from me. My jaw clenched. Something about this man piqued my curiosity, and I sensed the intrigue was mutual. Dragging out information annoyed me, however. Why wouldn’t he just tell me what this was all about? My father wasn’t the secretive type and couldn’t be bought, so what could this Keir need to discuss that warranted the cloak-and-dagger charade?
“Why aren’t you afraid?” he asked in an even, deliberate tone. Taking one step, then another, he started to round the island.
“Do you want me to be? Is that what gets you off?” I shot back, keeping my voice as level as his.
“You don’t like to answer questions.”
“Neither do you.”
His eyes, as bright as the Caribbean Sea, trailed over my face as though memorizing my features. His scrutiny made me uncomfortable.
“You shouldn’t come any closer,” I finally warned, a breathiness seeping into my voice.
“Why not?”
He was now only a couple of feet away from me. He seemed even larger up close. I wasn’t exactly petite at five feet five, but he towered over me. Had to be six feet three or four. And it wasn’t just his height. He was broad like a professional athlete, thick with mature muscle. Probably somewhere close to thirty years old. Confident. Calculating. Deadly. Pure predator.
I pulled the knife from behind my back in one quick motion and held it securely in my fist. “Because I have this, and I’ll use it.”
Keir’s eyes seemed to brighten further. “Now, why would you go and do a thing like that?” He inched forward.
“Protect myself?”
Completely ignoring the knife, he eased forward until the blade touched his chest. “Take out a weapon when you don’t plan on using it.”