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       Melissa gazed up at him. Her eyes darkened, her gaze fluttering down to settle on his mouth.

      His breath hitched, trapped somewhere deep in his lungs. He bent toward her, his own gaze fixed on the Cupid’s bow curve of her pink lips.

      He wanted to taste her. He wanted it more than he wanted his next breath.

      In the distance, a dog barked. She stepped away from him.

      Aching with frustration, he followed her up the sidewalk to the house. As they neared the wooden porch steps, something just in front of the first step glittered in the morning sunlight, catching Aaron’s eye.

      His heart jumped into his throat. “Stop!”

      Melissa jerked to a halt.

      “That,” he said, “is a trip wire.”


      “Melissa, I think there’s a bomb somewhere around your porch.”

      Bachelor Sheriff

      Paula Graves


      MILLS & BOON

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      For Jenn, who makes me a better writer every time.


      Alabama native Paula Graves wrote her first book, a mystery starring herself and her neighborhood friends, at the age of six. A voracious reader, Paula loves books that pair tantalizing mystery with compelling romance. When she’s not reading or writing, she works as a creative director for a Birmingham advertising agency and spends time with her family and friends. She is a member of Southern Magic Romance Writers, Heart of Dixie Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.

      Paula invites readers to visit her Web site, www.paulagraves.com.


       Melissa Draper —This contracts lawyer knows she’s not the type of woman who inspires passion, good or bad. So why is someone going to dangerous lengths to see her dead?

       Aaron Cooper —Melissa’s high school crush has grown up to be a well-known heartbreaker. He’s also the deputy sheriff assigned to investigate her case.

       Riley Patterson —Aaron’s brother-in-law proves to be invaluable help investigating the attempts on Melissa’s life. But is he also right about Aaron’s growing feelings for Melissa?

       Derek Draper —Melissa’s father is well-known around town as an upstanding citizen. But Melissa knows he has a dark side.

       Carter Morgan —Melissa’s boss is also her trusted mentor.

       Alice Gaines —Melissa’s coworker is on vacation, but is it odd that nobody can reach her at all?

       Dalton Brant —Melissa’s fellow lawyer is jealous of her relationship with their boss, Carter Morgan. Is he jealous enough to want her out of the picture altogether?

       Amy DeLong —When Melissa’s friend becomes the victim of an attack meant for Melissa, the attempted murder could give them a clue about the killer’s identity.

       Evan Hallman —Melissa’s ex-boyfriend has a very good motive for revenge against Melissa, but he’s safely locked away in another state. Or is he?


      Chapter One

      Chapter Two

      Chapter Three

      Chapter Four

      Chapter Five

      Chapter Six

      Chapter Seven

      Chapter Eight

      Chapter Nine

      Chapter Ten

      Chapter Eleven

      Chapter Twelve

      Chapter Thirteen

      Chapter Fourteen

      Chapter Fifteen

      Chapter Sixteen

      Chapter Seventeen

       Chapter One

      Jasper’s low whine jarred Melissa Draper awake. Blinking to clear the sleep from her eyes, she peered into the inky gloom at the foot of her bed, where the Beagle-mix puppy usually slept. But Jasper wasn’t there.

      Her heart quickening, she sat upright. “Jasper?”

      She kicked off the bedcovers and shivered, surprised to find the room had grown frigidly cold during the night. From the doorway, Jasper whimpered softly.

      Melissa turned on the bedside lamp. Nothing happened. The digital alarm clock on her bedside table was also dark.

      The power must be out. That explained the cold.

      Outages weren’t unusual where Melissa lived. Fallen tree limbs, lightning strikes—any number of events could cause a break in her power supply. She’d bought a gasoline generator last year for that very reason.

      She kept a flashlight in the bedside table drawer. She found it and turned it on. A beam of light sliced the darkness, bouncing off a light haze.

      Then the acrid smell of smoke hit her nose.

      “Come, Jasper.” She grabbed her robe and entered the narrow hallway. The puppy kept pace as she headed for the stairs.

      As the smell of burning wood and plastic assaulted her in a bitter cloud, her heart rate soared. Now she could hear the faint shriek of the smoke detector going off downstairs.

      Her house was on fire.

      The hallway smoke detector went off right over her head, making her jump. Leaning against the wall, her hand over her galloping heart, she tried to think what to do next.

      The phone in her room depended on electricity, but her cell phone usually worked, even this far out of town. It was in her purse downstairs. She had to get to it.

      Gagging on the acrid haze, she crouched low and hurried to the top of the stairs. She paused there, peering down the steep stairs, her head swimming. She hated heights, even in full daylight when she could see each step down. With the bottom floor barely visible through the smoky haze, the dizzy sensation was that much worse.

      Clinging to the rail all the way down, she reached the first floor unscathed. The smoke seemed to be coming from the back of the house, near the kitchen. Had she left the stove on?

      She dropped to her knees, crawling through the thickening smoke toward her purse on the foyer table. Purse in hand, she groped her way to the door, reached up and twisted the dead bolt.

      Nothing happened.

      She tugged

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