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By:Cherry Adair

She’d call Bon Temps later and have a do-over. She hadn’t given them her number. Only one person had that, and that was Todd. “A do-me-over.” She smiled, wiping her hands as she looked out of the window toward the broad, majestic Spanish moss–draped oaks bordering the swampy wet edges of the bayou. From there the water glistened between patches of water hyacinths and the trunks of the cypresses.

The grass was overgrown and gone to seed, heavy heads sparkling as the sun broke through the rain clouds that had come in last night. That lazy old alligator was still there, sunning himself, which made her loath to go to the bayou side of the house to start clearing ten years of crap off the lawn. Fortunately, Marcel Latour, recommended by the clerk at the local hardware store, was a gardener, and he would be over later to start the massive cleanup necessary on the property. There were things Mia was willing to give a shot, but yanking out a snake-infested jungle single-handedly was not one of them. She’d hired him to do the things she wasn’t interested in learning.

The burner phone rang as she swept up the dead cookies littered around the island. Todd. They’d been raised from toddler age on all things Blush. They were more like brother and sister than cousins, and he was her best friend and trusted confidant.

Mia grabbed the receiver out of the sugar canister. “Hi.”

“You sound very chirpy for a woman afraid for her life who’s hiding out somewhere beachy and sunny and looking hot in a bikini—unless it’s a nudist beach, in which case, go you.” Todd didn’t waste time taking a breath when he talked. Even when talking, he was always go, go, go.

Mia didn’t correct him. Fat drops of rain played a musical score as it plopped into the buckets and on the tin roof, and the only beach around was the muddy strip of sand her gator friend slept on. Tucking the phone between ear and shoulder, she picked up the large chunks of broken crystal and used her toe to open the trash can so she could dispose of the evidence of last night’s passion. Her skin felt hot.

“No one knows where I am.” She poured a large mug of steaming coffee, and doctored it standing by the sink. “Not even you.”

“Good. Let’s keep it that way until we figure this out, ’k?”

Suddenly chilled, Mia dropped down onto a ladder-back chair beside the glass table in front of the window, bare feet crunching on broken cookies and flower stems still scattered on the floor. Someone had attempted to kill her. Several times. Blush’s security had yet to nail down any solid suspects.

“Clearly an incompetent killer, since he didn’t pull it off,” she muttered, righting a bar stool she’d kicked over as she climaxed the second time. The time she straddled and rode him, at his urging, as though there were no tomorrow. The irony had been lost upon her as she spent long, long moments clenching her thighs and relishing the slide of him in and out of her, but now, in the daylight, the meaning of no tomorrow brought reality back with a bang.

Someone wanted her dead. The first clue was a drive-by shooting six months earlier, which had scared the crap out of her. The scar on her upper arm was from the second shooting, late at night, in her San Francisco office.

A month later the brake line on the Mercedes was cut. Hardly original. And she hadn’t even been in the car when Carlos, her driver, crashed. He and her assistant who’d been with him in the car had both had minor scrapes and bruises, and the car was totaled. She’d wanted it in red anyway.

The elevator “accident,” at least, was somewhat creative. But only Beverly in Accounting had broken her arm. Amelia had just been shaken and annoyed.

The sniper shot through her office window had been the last straw.

Todd Wentworth, her trusted cousin/best friend/VP of marketing, was sure she had an angel on her shoulder. Which would be kind of creepy. No, the would-be assassin was an idiot, or she just had exceptionally good luck.

Probably both.

But as Todd pointed out—repeatedly—even an idiot could get lucky. It would only take once. Not that she planned on being dead anytime in the next, say, fifty years. But both Todd and Blush’s head of security, Miles Basson, had, in no uncertain terms, encouraged her to disappear under deep cover until they could figure out who wanted her dead. A woman with her wealth, connections, and power made enemies. That was the nature of owning an international multibillion-dollar cosmetics company like Blush.

“There’s news?” She placed her ankle on her knee to brush crumbs off her bare foot. “Who—”

“No, sorry. No new developments. Miles is working on it. He’s good, you know he is. He’ll figure this out and we’ll bring you home soon. All you’ll have to show for this experience is a great tan and a few extra pounds.”