Within Range

By: Janice Kay Johnson

If the detective was going to protect her,

He’d have to get her to let her guard down first.

Helen Boyd had thought she and her son were safe from her abusive ex-husband. Then she finds a dead woman in her house—a woman who looks a lot like her. Detective Seth Renner suspects that Helen was the intended victim, but soon learns Helen has many secrets... He doesn’t know what to believe, except that this woman and child need care and, right now, protection.

“You really get to me. You know that, don’t you?”

She straightened enough to be able to see his face, with eyes that had never been so blue. “Because you feel sorry for me?”

“Angry for you,” he corrected. “You’re a strong woman.” His jaw flexed. “A beautiful woman. And I shouldn’t even have said that.”

“Why not?”

“As much as I want to kiss you, I need you to be able to trust me more.” He made a sound in his throat. “Which means I should get my hands off you.”

His arms tightened instead, for only an instant. Feeling his arousal, heat settled low in her belly.

“I like your hands on me,” she admitted.

He groaned. “I’m trying to behave myself.”

She ached to feel his mouth on hers, but how could she initiate anything when she still had secrets? Still, she gripped his shirt in both hands, unable to look away from him.

His head bent slowly, so slowly she knew he was giving her time to retreat. Instead, she pushed herself up on tiptoe to meet him.

Chapter One


Helen Boyd glanced in the rearview mirror first to her two-year-old son, then out the side window to the row of crows sitting on the electrical wire.

“Lots of birds,” she agreed. “Those are crows. Crows are always black.” Helen had the passing thought that in some cultures, they were considered bad luck. Or was that ravens?

Jacob tried to shape the word, which came out sounding more like “cow.”

“Crow,” she repeated. “Like ‘row, row, row your boat,’ only it’s c-row.”

He giggled. “K-k-krow.”

“Yes.” She laughed. “And we’re home!” Thank heavens; her feet were killing her, and she was starved. The day had been so busy, she’d never had a chance to stop for lunch. And, ugh, this was only Tuesday.

Home was a small rental house with an even smaller detached garage that held the lawn mower, a rolling tool chest belonging to the landlord, and some boxes and furniture that might have been left by previous tenants. There was no room for a car, so she parked in the driveway.

Helen climbed out stiffly, her attention caught for a brief moment by bright sails on the Columbia River. Her view was barely a sliver, but that was better than nothing. This was June, but the day seemed way too chilly for anyone to want to go windsailing. Whoever was out there was sure dedicated to the sport, she’d learned. The winds channeled through the Columbia Gorge were one of the biggest draws of the small towns strung along the banks of the river east of Portland.

She circled around to release Jacob from his car seat and swing him up in her arms, using her hip to bump the door closed. “Hamburgers for dinner tonight,” she told him.

“Hot dogs!” he shouted.

She planted a big kiss on top of his head. “Hamburgers.”

He loved to argue. “Hot dogs.”

“Hamburgers.” After letting them in the front door, she set him down, staying crouched beside him for a minute. “Do you have to go potty?” He still wore a diaper at night but was doing pretty well using the toilet during the day.

“Uh-uh,” he declared.

“Hmm.” Tempted to kick off her heels right now, Helen decided to make it to the bedroom first. Set a good example. Or maybe she should dump them straight in the trash. There was a good reason they’d been on clearance. Knowing Jacob would follow her, she started for the hall—and came to an abrupt stop, staring into the kitchen.

What on earth was that?

Her heart thudded hard. Jacob, fortunately, was clambering up onto the sofa. She took a tentative step, then another, disbelief and fear clawing inside her chest.

It was a high-heeled shoe sitting all by itself that had first puzzled her. She had on the only pair of black pumps she owned. But then...then she saw the woman who lay sprawled on the kitchen floor.

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