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Sanctuary Hill

Written by Paula Graves

Only a woman like Lexie Walsh could pull off a sting that will nail a deadly predator. For Marine-turned-PI Mark Fitzgerald, recruiting his ex-lover means dredging up the past. And rekindled passion that's raging dangerously out of control. As a Tennessee socialite, Lexie plays her role to the hilt. But Mark remembers the wild Smoky Ridge mountain girl he fell so hard for…until it all went wrong. This is their chance to begin again. Until a cunning killer—and the secret Lexie's been harboring for over a decade—puts everything at risk.

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Chapter One

The burly trucker's hand slid across her backside for the third time in the last half hour. He'd been drinking whiskey with beer chasers, which probably explained why he thought groping his waitress was a good idea.

But Lexie Walsh was stone cold sober and the pitcher of draft beer in her left hand was full. On the fourth fumbling grab, she dumped the beer over the trucker's head.

Amid a roar of laughter, the trucker cursed, pushed to his feet and crowded Lexie against the bar. The comical look of bewilderment in his eyes when he realized he was still three inches shorter than her was worth every penny of money she was going to lose when her boss got wind of her latest escapade.

"Damn it, Lexie, what did I tell you about drenching my customers?" Joe Breslin approached, a couple of bar towels in one hand. Right on time.

"He kept putting his hand on my butt, Joe." She took one of the towels and patted down her apron where beer had splashed on her.

"And we talked about how to handle that, didn't we?" Joe's expression was taut with impatience. "Men come to this bar to drink and flirt and play pool, not get beer showers."

"I'll pay for the beer.You know I'm good for it."

The trucker called Lexie a name that made even Joe, a rough and jaded Army vet, recoil. "Out!" he barked to the trucker, one heavy-muscled arm outstretched toward the door. "And if you're drivin', you damned well better sleep off all that whiskey in your cab before you get behind the wheel."

"I'm driving," said the young man who'd been sitting across the table from the trucker. "What does he owe?"

"Get him out of here, don't come back, and we'll call it even." Joe nodded toward the door.

As the young man guided the other trucker toward the exit, Joe turned back to Lexie. "I can't keep doing this, Lexie."

"I'll hold my temper next time," she promised.

Joe shook his head. "No, you won't. Look, if you promise not to take another bar job, I'll give you a good reference."

Lexie's stomach tightened. "You're firing me?" He couldn't fire her. He just couldn't.To get Adelaide back, she needed a job. And in these parts, jobs were hard to come by even if your record was squeaky clean.

And Lexie's was anything but.

"I warned you three times already, honey." Sighing, Joe caught her elbow gently in his beefy hand and led her toward the corner of the bar. "Even fellows who wouldn't harm a fly while stinkin' drunk are starting to shy away because of the dragon lady."

Lexie drew back. "Dragon lady?"

Joe looked at her, one bushy eyebrow cocked.

She lowered her voice. "You know why I need this job."

"I do. It's why I've kept you this long. But I'm losing customers."

The door of the saloon opened, letting in a blast of hot August air barely tempered by nightfall. Lexie waved her arm at the opening door. "And gaining new ones. You need me, Joe."

"Maybe I do, sugar," he said sadly."But I can't afford you anymore."

"Damn it, Joe!" In frustration, she jerked her arm away, turning quickly toward the door. Too quickly. Her high heeled boots slipped across the beer puddling on the saloon's cement floor, and she went sprawling headlong into one of the newcomers who'd just entered Smoky Joe's.

Strong arms caught her up against a hard, hot body. A low, raspy voice rumbled from his chest, taking Lexie back a decade. "Hey there, Lexie."

Lifting her gaze, she found herself drowning in a familiar pair of smoky hazel eyes. Her heart skipped a beat, then gave a helpless flop.

Mark Fitzpatrick was back in Ridge County.

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About the author

Down here in the American South, we don't hide our crazy people. We sh...

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Paula Graves

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