Deceptions

By: Cynthia Eden

Chapter One

She should have been alone.

Elizabeth Snow had the late shift at the small library nestled on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. She was the one scheduled to close and secure the facility. She should have been the only one there.

So why had she just heard the faint pad of footsteps coming from the back?

Elizabeth froze a few feet from the library’s exit. Her purse was slung over her shoulder, and her fingers had a pretty strong death grip on the strap. Shadows loomed from the heavy shelves of books, seeming to reach for her.

Normally, the library was a haven for her. So safe. So secure. But...

It was late. Those shadows were thick and—

She heard a very distinct thud. As if a book had just fallen off a shelf. Or been knocked off. Elizabeth swallowed and called out, “Is someone there? The library is closed now. You need to leave.” She tried to use her firmest voice.

Silence.

Maybe her imagination was just a little too active. She had spent the last weekend watching a horror marathon on TV. Perhaps she was—

Thud. Okay, that definitely had sounded like a book falling to the floor. Someone is playing with me.

They’d never had any kind of security issue before. Sure, sometimes folks fell asleep among the library shelves, curled up at one of the tables, and those people would miss the announcements about closing time. But when she did her final walk-through, she gently woke them up and sent them on their way.

She’d done her walk-through a few minutes before and had found no stragglers.

“The library is closed!” She took a tentative step back toward her desk.

“Elizabeth...”

It was a whisper, raspy and low and male, and it had her tensing.

“Who’s there?” Elizabeth demanded, voice rising. “This isn’t funny. I’ll call security!” A total lie. There was no security at the library. Not then, anyway.

“Been...waiting...”

His voice sounded closer.

No, this could not be happening to her. “Stop it!” Elizabeth called. “Just—”

Someone banged on the door, a hard knock that had her yelling—screaming—in surprise and whirling toward the glass doors.

A tall man stood at the main entrance. His shoulders were wide, almost ridiculously so, and his powerful chest was obviously muscled. She recognized him on sight—it was rather hard to forget a man like him—and Elizabeth normally would have just paused to admire the very fine sight of MacKenzie “Mac” McGuire, but right then—

She flew toward the door. Her breath sawed in and out of her lungs, and her heart raced as her fingers fumbled to disengage the lock.

Mac held up his book, a thriller she’d picked out for him during his last visit to the library. “Sorry to come in so late,” he said, his voice that deep, rolling rumble that she secretly adored. “But I saw the light on and I figured you’d be—”

She grabbed him. His book tumbled to the floor. “Someone is in here.”

Mac’s green eyes narrowed on her. His face—a dangerously handsome face that maybe she fantasized a bit about—hardened. “What?”

She kept one hand on him and pointed behind her with the other. “I heard him. He’s back there, calling my name! I don’t—”

He pushed her behind him and immediately started stalking toward the shelves. She knew that Mac—like his brothers—had spent time in the military. According to the gossip she’d picked up, Mac was ex-Delta Force, as tough as they came. As he moved forward with the slow, steady stride of a predator, she could practically feel the battle-ready tension pouring off him.

She crept behind him, trying to move as softly as he did, but totally failing as her purse and keys jingled and jangled with her steps. Mac paused and glanced back at her, frowning.

She pointed to the left. “There,” Elizabeth mouthed. “He came from—”

Glass shattered. Only the sound hadn’t come from the left. It had come from the right. Mac took off running. She grabbed the first weapon she saw on her desk and rushed after him. Her high heels were slowing her down so she just kicked them off. She rounded the shelves, twisted around the library cart and then she—

Ran into Mac.