The Sniper (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) Online

Chapter 1

Jaci Williams hadn’t always been a party girl, but after a night of body shots and now puking her guts out in the alley behind Ricochet, who would believe her?

The truth was, sometimes a girl would do anything to blot out a memory—including killing multiple brain cells with tequila and lime.

“Hold on, there, chica,” her best friend and partner in crime slurred as she tried to keep Jaci from falling into the muddy muck that reeked of bad decisions and too many free drinks from guys hoping to get lucky. “If you go face-first in that garbage, you’re on your own,” Sonia warned, trying to keep Jaci steady. “You done? Or do you need to go another round?”

Jaci wiped her mouth and offered a sloppy grin. “I’m good. Where’s the cab? I’m ready to go to bed.”

“Not down this creepy alley, that’s for sure,” Sonia managed to quip as they helped each other down the uneven pavement, stumbling a few times. “We should’ve left through the front door. They have cabs lined up, ready to go. But no, you wanted to go out the back door so no one saw you throw up. Jaci, I swear to God, if I get jumped or raped, I’m going to kick your ass.”

Jaci smiled, feeling somewhat better, if not totally steady on her feet after unloading an excess of liquor onto the dirty ground. Ricochet was their favorite club and Fridays it was always hopping. Both Jaci and Sonia loved to dance and drink, two activities that Ricochet honored with plenty of loud music and even more alcohol.

“Did you see that guy totally checking you out?” Sonia said as they walked arm in arm down the dark path. The lights from the street glittered in the pale moonlight as the nightlife dwindled to nothing in the early-morning hours. The Los Angeles heat was still oppressive, causing Jaci’s skin to prickle with sweat. She pushed her hair from her eyes and tried to remember who Sonia was talking about. She simply shrugged when she couldn’t recall.

Sonia nudged her in the arm. “Come on, you can’t tell me you didn’t notice him. Tall, dark and a little dangerous-looking, actually,” Sonia said with a happy shiver. “The kind who’ll at least buy you dinner before having his way with you.”

Jaci kept her thoughts to herself on that score. She’d known a man like that and while the sex had been incredible, he’d snapped her heart in two and left it a bloody mess without once looking back. Sonia exhaled, adding, “Well, I thought for sure he was going to buy you a drink but he left about an hour ago. Sorry, kid. He might’ve been The One.”

Doubtful, Jaci thought, but smiled anyway. “Stop trying to find my Mr. Right,” she murmured on a hiccup. “There are no Mr. Rights, only Mr. Right Nows and Mr. You’ll Do For the Nights. Remember?”

“Right,” Sonia said with mock seriousness. “Whatever you say.”

They giggled, their laughter echoing in the still, closed-in heat, with Jaci’s thoughts happily soaked in tequila, drowning anything that resembled regret or sadness. This was the way to get over a broken heart, she thought giddily. Who needed therapy when you had good friends and even better liquor?

They were nearly to the curb when a form stepped out from the shadow. Jaci and Sonia startled at the hulking man’s sudden appearance. The alcohol in Jaci’s stomach curdled with apprehension, something setting off her internal sensors to be wary. Sonia, however, suffered from no similar sense of caution and before Jaci could shoot her a warning look, Sonia reacted with irritation.

“Hey, you’re blocking the way,” Sonia said, motioning for him to let them pass. When he didn’t budge, she yelled, “Hey, stupido, get out of the way. Are you deaf or something?”

“Let’s just go around,” Jaci muttered, pulling on Sonia’s arm. “This feels weird.”

“Weird is right,” Sonia agreed with a glower as she pulled her pepper spray free. “You see this? It’s called pepper spray and you’re about to get an eyeful if you don’t get the hell out of our way.”

“Jaci Williams...” The man’s voice was rough and sounded as if he gargled with gravel. Then he grinned, and Jaci’s blood chilled. Who the hell was he? Why did he know her name? Nothing good could come of this little tableau in the making.

Sonia sucked in a sharp gasp and her hand tightened around Jaci’s as he pulled a 9 mm gun with a silencer screwed onto