Author Note: Protecting His Witness is the seventh story in the Red Stone Security series but can be read as a stand-alone.
Out of the corner of his eye, Vincent noticed the same four-door sedan he’d seen drive down his street slowly cruise by his house again. For the third time.
This time it stopped in front of a house two down from his and idled. He lived on a quiet, dead-end street and he recognized all the vehicles on sight. Even if one of his neighbors had bought a new car while he’d been out of town, there was no reason for the driver to be creeping around like they planned to do a drive-by. Not that he was actually worried about that. This was a middle class Miami neighborhood that rarely saw crime. But he believed in being vigilant.
Vincent kept his stride even as he walked from his neighbor’s house to his. His fifty year old next-door neighbor had collected his mail for him while he’d been in Vegas at his friend Iris’s wedding. He still had a couple more days off and he planned to spend it with his family. If he didn’t go see his mom soon she’d chew his ass out and then he’d hear about it from his three sisters. Now that they all lived in the same city, he caught hell if he didn’t see them on a regular basis. He might complain about them hassling him, but he loved them more than anything.
Right now he was going to find out who the hell was in that vehicle. Something about the way the person drove told him they weren’t lost. Maybe he was being paranoid, but he always trusted his gut and he always looked out for his neighbors. Life could change in an instant—something he knew from personal experience—and he wasn’t someone who sat idly by and did nothing if this was a potential criminal casing his neighborhood. He just wasn’t wired that way. Probably his Navy training.
Once inside his house he dropped his mail on the small table in the foyer, then raced for the backdoor. The sun was setting, giving him enough shadows to blend in for what he planned. His backyard had a privacy fence so he climbed it into his neighbors’ yard. Even if any of his neighbors saw him it was unlikely they’d be worried. He’d been nominated as unofficial leader of their neighborhood watch and he took his job seriously. Plus when he’d retrieved his mail his neighbor had mentioned a few petty break-ins a few blocks over while he’d been out of town.
Using the lengthening shadows, he scaled fences and jogged across backyards until he was six houses down. Adrenaline pumping, he hurried to his neighbors’ front yard and scaled another privacy fence because it was locked. His feet hit the grass with a soft thump and a second later, a security flood light came on, illuminating the side of the house. He inwardly cursed even though he was the one who’d recommended everyone on the street get the lights. Pausing, he took a moment before he peered around the corner of the house.
From his angle he was still hidden from view of whoever was in that vehicle, which was good. Instead of using the well lit sidewalk, he quickly walked across his neighbors’ front yards, avoiding kids’ toys and other crap left out. Two dogs barked in the distance, then he heard the soft sound of Mr. Canning’s automatic sprinkler going on like clockwork as he closed the distance.
Two yards to go. Then one.
The car still idled and even though the windows were tinted he could see the outline of a driver in the front seat. There was no one else in the vehicle and the person was small. Their head fit right against the headrest, but they were looking down at something in their hands.
Normally Vincent was armed, but hadn’t felt it necessary now. Besides, with his training, he could take almost anyone out in hand-to-hand combat. He closed the last few feet to the car, sliding along the side until he reached the driver’s door. He really hoped he was overreacting and this driver was just someone lost, but in his neighborhood, he never took chances.
He rapped his knuckles against the top of the car. Judging from the small size of the person, he guessed it was a woman. She jumped and dropped whatever had been in her hands.
He’d wanted to startle the driver, take her off guard and it worked.
A second later, the door opened and as the dome light flooded the interior and he saw her sitting there, he froze.
For a moment, it was as if time stood still. His surroundings, his neighbors’ houses, the distant familiar sounds of the evening, just fell away in that moment. All he could do was stare as her head tilted up toward him and he found himself looking into familiar hazel eyes. His chest constricted and he tried to drag in a breath, but it was as if an elephant was sitting on his chest.
Moving, breathing, thinking—impossible. His heart was a staccato beat against his ribs as he tried to control his breathing. He blinked once, sure this was a hallucination.
Or a fantasy he’d conjured up.
Nope, she was still there.
Her small hands were clasped tightly in her lap, her dark hair a sensual cascade falling over one shoulder as she stared right back.
His hands fell to his sides as he stared at Jordan Alvarado. The woman he’d loved more than anything. The woman who’d disappeared from his life seven years ago without a fucking word. The woman he’d never been able to get over. No matter how damn hard he tried. She was under his skin and in his heart, and nothing he’d done had worked her out of his system.
Her hazel eyes were wide as she watched him with a mix of nervousness and…lust. Yeah, that had always been there between them. The explosive attraction was like a living thing. Combustible and raw. That definitely hadn’t changed. And he hated that he felt it too.
“Jordan.” He hadn’t realized he’d been about to speak until he heard his own raspy voice scraping out her name.