To Die For by Linda Howard

  Getting things sorted out took a while, so I went into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee for everyone. I hobbled a little bit because my toe hurt, but I didn’t think it was broken.

  About six o’clock, Wyatt took me home.

  “Do me a favor,” he said during the drive. “For the rest of our lives together, don’t put me through another week that’s anything like this past one, okay?”

  “None of this was my fault,” I said indignantly. “And I’m the one who’s had the worst of it, you know. I’ve been shot and bruised and battered, and if you hadn’t kept my mind off how much I hurt, I probably would have cried a lot.”

  He reached over and caught my hand, held it tight. “God, I love you. The guys are going to be talking about that karate kick you gave her for the rest of their lives. Even the SWAT guys were impressed, and they try to be real hard-asses. Where did you take lessons?”

  “I provide all sorts of lessons at Great Bods,” I said demurely. What, you thought I was going to tell him I sort of automatically did a backflip and didn’t intend to do what I did? Not in this lifetime.

  This proves beyond a doubt, however, that you never know when you’ll need to do a backflip.

  We called all the family and told them the crisis was over, which involved lots of explaining, but Wyatt and I didn’t want any company. My latest close shave had been a hair too close, because there’s something more immediate about a rifle in your face than a car accident, even though the accident had been horrific enough and that was what I dreamed about. I didn’t dream about the rifle at all, maybe because Jason was the one who got shot, so that made it a good outcome, right? But we spent that evening cuddling and kissing and making plans for the future, sort of giddy with relief. Plans weren’t all we made, of course. I’m talking about Wyatt, the horniest guy in the county. If he was happy, he wanted sex. If he was mad, he wanted sex. He celebrated everything with sex.

  I foresaw a very happy and contented life with him.

  The next day he took me car shopping. His sister, Lisa, delivered his Chevy Avalanche to him, thanked him for the loan of it, and asked me a million questions. Thank goodness I liked her immediately, but she was a lot like his mother, so there was no reason why I wouldn’t have. I also liked his truck, and that’s what we drove to the Mercedes dealership.

  Of course I wanted another Mercedes. You don’t think I’d let Jason and his nitwit wife stop me from buying my favorite car, do you? Picture me in a black convertible. Black is a statement of power, remember. The insurance company hadn’t come through with the check yet and since it was Sunday, my bank wasn’t open, but the salesman promised to hold my car until Monday evening. I was a happy camper when we arrived at Mom and Dad’s house.

  Dad answered the door, and held his finger up to his lips. “Shhh,” he cautioned. “We’ve had another computer disaster and Tina has gone quiet.”

  “Uh-oh,” I said, pulling Wyatt inside. “What happened?”

  “She finally got her computer straightened out, she thinks, and this morning her monitor went blank. I just got back from the computer store with a new monitor, and she’s in her office hooking it up.”

  Jenni came into the family room, and gave me a big hug. “I can’t believe that stupid Jason,” she said.

  “I can. When you came by Mom’s office, could you hear anything?”

  “Not a word,” Jenni said, looking worried. When Mom’s mad, she mutters to herself. When she’s beyond mad, she gets very, very quiet.

  We heard Mom coming down the hall, and we all sat silently as she marched past without saying a word, or even glancing in our direction. She was carrying a large roll of plastic, which she took out into the garage. She came back in empty-handed, and again marched past us without saying anything.

  “What’s up with the plastic?” Wyatt asked, and we all shrugged in the classic “Who knows?” gesture.

  There was a heavy thump, then a strange sliding noise. Mom came back down the hall, her expression grim and set. She had a thick cord clutched in her hands, and she was dragging the offending monitor behind her. We watched in silence as she dragged it to the garage door, down the two steps with more heavy thumps, and into the middle of the plastic she had spread on the garage floor.

  She went to where Dad had his tools, attached to a big pegboard on one wall of the garage. She selected a hammer, weighed it in her hand, then returned it to its spot. She moved to what looked like a small sledgehammer or a mallet of some sort. I don’t know tools, so I can’t say for certain what it was. She took it down from the wall, considered it, and evidently decided it would meet her requirements. Then she returned to where the monitor was sitting on the plastic, and beat it to smithereens. She hammered it until it was nothing more than a pile of pieces. Glass flew; plastic splintered. She beat it almost out of existence. Then she very calmly returned the sledgehammer to its place, dusted her hands, and walked back into the house with a smile on her face.

  Wyatt had the weirdest expression in his eyes, as if he didn’t know whether to laugh or run for the hills. Dad clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re a smart man,” he said encouragingly. “Just keep a regular check on your list of transgressions so you’ll know if there are any major problems you need to handle, and you’ll be okay.”

  “You promise?” Wyatt asked drily.

  Dad laughed. “Hell, no. I have all I can handle; if you get in trouble, you’re on your own.”

  Wyatt turned and winked at me. No, he wasn’t on his own; we were in this together.

  Also by Linda Howard

















  To Die For is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Ballantine Book

  Published by The Random House Publishing Group

  Copyright © 2005 by Linda Howington

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  eISBN: 978-0-345-48085-9




  Linda Howard, To Die For



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