Black Knight (Black's Bandits #4) by Lynn Raye Harris

Chapter One

“What the hell?”

Jared Fraser swore as he drove up the private drive to the mountain cabin where he intended to spend the next few days getting the heat, blood, and dust of the latest mission out of his head. He wanted solitude after the violence. Craved time to reset his brain.

But it looked as if someone was intent on interrupting his retreat before it began. A woman stood in the center of the driveway a few yards from the cabin. She blinked as his headlights hit her, lifting her arm to shield her eyes, but she didn’t move away.

The truck jerked to a stop and Jared shoved the gearshift into park before popping open the door to stand on the running board. “I’m good, thanks,” he called out. “I got the key from the management office in town. I don’t need anything else.”

He’d told the woman in the office that he didn’t want to be bothered, but apparently listening wasn’t big on her list of skills. She’d probably sent someone to make sure the bedding was turned down before he arrived, or to leave a welcome gift.

He didn’t want either of those things.

The woman in the road lowered her arm a little, blinking at the light. Blood streamed down her temple and over her cheek. Jared swore and grabbed his Glock off the seat as he stepped onto the ground. He kept the gun at his side as he flipped the headlights off, letting the parking lights illuminate the area instead. It was more light than he wanted, but he needed to see her so he could assess her condition.

As he approached, her arm dropped and she frowned. She wore a light jacket, not at all what she needed for the dipping temperatures tonight.

Alarm buzzed in his brain. Something definitely wasn’t right about this situation.

“Hey,” he said softly, scanning their surroundings like he was back in the war zone. He’d learned to never underestimate a situation over the years. “Where’s your car? Did you run off the road?”

It was possible since the ground was covered in six inches of snow. The roads were being cleared, but with the temps dropping, ice was a danger. Perhaps she’d hit an icy patch somewhere, though he hadn’t come across any cars that had skidded off the road on the way up the mountain. She could have been coming from the opposite direction, though.

“I… I don’t know,” she said, her voice scratchy, as if she didn’t know how to use it. She lifted a hand to her head, then looked at the blood staining her fingers. “I feel....”

She started to swoon and Jared tucked the weapon in its holster and caught her before she could fall. Her body was solid in his arms, but there wasn’t much warmth. How long had she been outside? Too long if the way she shivered was any indication.

She made a sound of distress as Jared picked her up. He left his truck running and carried her the short distance to the cabin. He’d put the keys in his pocket at the management office. He fished them out as he stepped onto the porch and then fumbled with the lock. Once the door was open, he flicked on a light and carried the woman over to one of the couches that perched on either side of a big rock fireplace.

She moaned as he set her on it. She wasn’t unconscious, but he wasn’t sure if she’d stay that way. He did a quick check of her vitals and then probed her head wound. She flinched and gasped, but he was relieved to find there was nothing more than a deep scrape making her bleed. She also had a small lump near the wound, as if she’d knocked into something. There was another cut on her throat, right below her jaw. It was a clean cut, like she’d had an encounter with something sharp. Glass maybe. It wasn’t deep, but blood trickled from the part of the wound that hadn’t dried up yet.

“Does it hurt anywhere else?”

“I don’t know,” she said on a whisper. “I’m too cold.”

“What about a headache?”

She shook her head slightly. “I don’t think so. It only hurts in one spot, but not terribly.”

He took the lack of excruciating pain as a good sign. Cold wouldn’t stop her from feeling broken bones, and it definitely wouldn’t stop her from feeling a headache that was unlike any she’d ever had before. If there was a brain bleed, her head would pound from the pressure. Her eyes stayed closed, dark lashes fanning over wind-reddened cheeks. She had dirty blond hair scraped back in a ponytail that was coming undone, and two indents on the bridge of her nose where she’d worn glasses. He expected she’d lost them somewhere since they didn’t appear to be at hand. Maybe that was the source of the cut on her throat.