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RENEGADE
by Nancy Northcott

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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The more she thought about him, the more she believed he was Griffin Dare, no matter what name he gave her. His evasion about why he kept her here could only mean he had a purpose she wouldn’t like. Besides, if he was Dare, she had a duty to bring him in for execution. At least she had surprise on her side. One failure was enough for this week. A failure he’d saved her from. Okay, so maybe she wouldn’t hurt him if she could avoid it. Which was a crazy thought about a man holding her prisoner, a man already sentenced to death. Even if he had rescued her. She rolled her tight shoulders.

As a cadet, she’d met him a couple of times, and he’d treated her, as he did all the cadets, with interest and tact, even when pointing out errors. She’d admired him, maybe even had a crush on him. She hadn’t been the only one. With his clean-cut good looks, eyes the blue of a sunlit ocean, and tall, muscular body, he’d been a walking chick magnet. And the way he moved…Even then, his skill with a quarterstaff and his tactical abilities were legend. Then they’d become notorious. Reviled.

Val shook her head. Maybe this man wasn’t Dare. Maybe Dare was long dead, his shredded honor mere dust on a distant wind. Yeah, and maybe she’d win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Once she had him secured, she could find his phone and call for backup.

A faint ripple in the warding warned of its creator approaching. She stood and hoisted the chair, grimacing at the pain in her injured arms and shoulders.

“You’ve been busy, if not smart,” he said through the door. “I know you’re standing by the door, beside the hinges.” Amusement warmed his voice. “Where I would.”

He was laughing at her? She would kill him.

“Holding that chair has to hurt your arms.” He paused. “I can stand here until your strength fails. Or I walk in, you whack me, and I drop dinner to clock you with a knockout punch.”

He’d be the one knocked out.

He sighed. “I can outwait you, and I’m not blind or hurt. Give it up and eat.”

Her arms shook. The blasted chair felt as though it were made of granite. She couldn’t hold it much longer.

Now the crazy bastard was whistling! Furious, she smashed the chair against the door. It made a satisfying crash but no cracking sound, no hint of breaking.

She was weaker than she’d known. Hell, blast, and damnation! Her one chance, gone. Tears of frustration welled in her eyes, stinging like new venom, and she gasped.

“What’s wrong? Valeria, what is it?”

Stumbling away from the door, she choked on a sob. Hell with that. She would not let him hear her cry.

The salty liquid seared her injured eyes, and a whimper escaped. Her foot caught on the rug and she pitched forward. When her hands struck the braided fabric, it skidded. Val crashed onto her face.

Black agony rolled over her, obliterating the world. She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move.

Hands closed gently on her shoulders. Power rolled into her, dialing back the agony. Strengthening her.

“Breathe,” he urged, gently turning her onto her back. “C’mon, honey, breathe.” His arm slid under her legs, warm, bare skin to her bare skin, and he cradled her against his solid, cotton-covered chest.