His hands shook all over again. To think how close he’d come to doing just that, to screwing up the life they’d built together. He stroked reverently along her side, over her hip, savoring the warm caramel sheen of her skin.

A purr rising from the back of her throat, she clasped him, stroked the length of him with her thumb gliding over the tip, spreading the dampness for a slicker glide again and again. Arching her hips closer, the soft curls between her legs teased along his erection, invited him to take this further.

Still lying side by side, he pressed inside her, slowly, careful of her pregnancy. And as much as she said she didn’t need to be treated like spun glass, he was careful. Treated her with reverence.

She was perfection to him.

The satin heat of her flesh clamped around him as he thrust, drawing him in over and over, closer to her, both physically and in other ways. Something had shifted between them tonight. She’d reached inside of him with her words and her love, touching parts of him that had been walled off for years.

Her leg draped over him, she dug her heel into his ass, locking them tighter together as their hips rocked, as he angled in just the way he knew made her breath hitch. She bit her bottom lip, her head thrown back, enticing him to nip, lick, kiss his way up to her ear. He cupped the back of her head, his fingers combing into her hair as he guided her toward him.

He burned to see her eyes as he moved inside her, wanted her to see how crazy with desire she made him. No walls tonight. No holding back.

Her lashes fluttered open, her brown eyes turning that sensual shade of golden just for him. He didn’t know why she’d stayed with him, why she still held strong to him, but she did. The way she loved him humbled him and lifted him at the same time. In her elegant, serene way, she demanded he give all—in life and in bed.

Like now.

And as he watched her expression, the love he saw there rocketed through him, knocking him over the edge and into a shattering release. And damn it all, he wouldn’t go there alone, refused to finish without her, because nothing in his life meant a thing without Lisabeth.

He pumped through his release, driving her, urging her to—Her blissful cry flowed over his ears, her arms and legs spasming around him as she found her release. He took her mouth and her sighs, whispering her name as she cried out his until the last ripple shuddered through him.


Lisabeth rolled to her back, her arm flung over her face as she panted. Her body shivered in a way he knew meant even the brush of air was almost too much for her skin in the aftermath of a powerful orgasm.

Words… he needed to find some, preferably coherent ones to say how much she meant to him. But his brain wouldn’t engage. His senses were still immersed in the scent of their mingled sweat, the feel of her skin against his, the musical tone of his name from her lips.

He was a man completely in love with a wife he wasn’t sure he deserved. And there weren’t words enough to express that.

He slipped his hands over her stomach, still flat, but where she carried his baby. Their baby. Although just the thought scared the hell out of him, the reality settled a little more firmly in his brain. It would take him time to adjust thoughts and feelings he’d held for decades.

But for Lisabeth, for both of their children, he was determined to make it work. He just prayed he would still have that chance to prove himself with Joshua.


Hugh counted at least eleven children inside the beach cottage.

Crouched about fifty yards away, he’d been watching the sleeping children and the four awake adults in the well-lit hut for the past ten minutes. The two-room concrete structure was packed to the gills. Given how close in age they all were and how different they looked, he was certain they weren’t siblings in some bizarre TV reality show. He briefly considered the Good Samaritan angle, but why not have some of them stay in the main house, where it was roomier?

Why hide them? Why not mention it to him or to Amelia? And why pretend not to know what’s going on beyond the gates, when every damn one of those guards carried a two-way radio that appeared to be in full working order?

After what had happened to Joshua at the hospital and what he’d heard in the van, he knew he was looking at some kind of illegal adoption ring. And apparently he’d found the heart of it right here, on Jocelyn’s land.

Once he’d slipped out of the house, he’d done a recon run around the property and spotted security cameras beyond what a simple sugarcane plantation should need. He wasn’t sure if they were operational after the power outages, but just to be sure he avoided them anyway. At least he hoped he’d steered clear of them all.

The three armed guards, however, had been in full working order with firepower to spare. He’d evaded them easily enough alone. Doing so later with Amelia and Joshua? That would be tricky, to say the least.

He’d located two trucks, another van similar to Oliver’s, and an additional Jeep. He’d also located lines of gas cans, all full.

Stealing a ride would be easy. Getting Amelia and Joshua into that ride and out of the fenced-in compound without being spotted would be a bit more complicated. He couldn’t afford to waste another second. Just thinking of how they were alone in that house threatened to steal his focus.

Backing away without a sound, he picked his way through the compound. The darkness was his friend as he moved from building to building, tree to tree, avoiding the cameras—not to mention the three guards Jocelyn had failed to mention.

As much as he burned to race into the main house and haul Amelia and Joshua out, he couldn’t afford to rush. He couldn’t risk detection, leaving them vulnerable here. One small corner of the house was hidden from camera angles by an overgrown tree someone had failed to trim. The one vulnerable vantage point to breach the property. He’d left from that side and now it was his way back in.

Gripping a ridge on the corner post, he hefted himself. Muscles strained as he pulled himself up, up, up higher still until he swung his legs up to…

Got it.

The toe of his boot hooked on the ledge of the second floor. He inched his finger along until he grabbed a porch rail and vaulted over. He landed in a cat’s crouch. Waiting. Not moving until he was sure no one stirred.

Then step by step, he made his way back to doors leading into his room with Amelia. Through the open curtain he could see her moving around the room, jostling Joshua on her hip. And she appeared to be alone. The nursery-nook curtain was open, as was the bathroom door. No one hiding.

He breathed a sigh of relief and eased the door open.

“Amelia,” he called softly, just to be sure she didn’t freak and shoot him.

“Hugh,” she whispered.

“We have to leave,” he said at the same time as Amelia held up a bottle of juice.

“Have you seen this? Look at the label.” She spoke fast, her hand shaking. “It’s the same kind that was in the van. And the T-shirts—Wait.” She stopped short. “You already know we have to leave?”

“Gather everything you can carry, food, baby supplies, anything,” he said, glad she and the kid were already dressed. “There’s a second house on this property, full of babies in cribs, and given what happened with Oliver—It’s time to go. Now.”

She yanked a pillowcase off and began stuffing it full of crackers, bottled juice, diapers, anything she could lay her hands on. “And how are we going to get out of here?”

Hugh tucked the spare knife into his gun belt and took Joshua from her arms. “We’re going to steal a Jeep and ram the gate.”

Chapter 16

Scaling down a porch column was a helluva lot tougher than it looked. But then Amelia had never claimed to be superhero material. She preferred to fight her battles in the courtroom, with her words as her weapons.

All those litigation skills weren’t going to do her much good right now as she struggled to find a toehold on her way down from the second-story balcony, which was actually more like a third story, if she counted the fact that the house was built on stilts. Hugh had his hands full with Joshua. Asking for his help would be—

Hugh planted a palm on her butt. How he’d managed to scale partway up again with a baby in his vest and a hand free to help her, she didn’t know. But the broad steady support gave her just the help she needed to regain her grip and footing.

His deep bass voice drifted up to her softly. “Slow and easy. Slow and easy.”

Then his hand was gone and she was on her own again. She could—she would—do this. An inch at a time, she shimmied the rest of the way down until the earth was close enough for her to let go.

Ooof. The ground was harder than she’d expected. Her bottom would be bruised for sure, but at least she was in one piece.

Hugh extended a hand and she was on her feet again. She clasped his fingers for a reassuring second before nodding. With her eyes, she let him know. Ready as I’ll ever be.

He carried Joshua in the front of his vest now, not as easy to maneuver, but he’d said he would have more latitude in keeping Joshua quiet if need be. Although God help them if Joshua decided to cry or scream. It wasn’t as if they could explain things to the little one in a way he could understand.

Skirting around trees and darting from cover to cover felt damn creepy. No lights. No sense of direction. And no way to see what she might be stepping on next.

Shuddering, she kept as close to Hugh’s back as possible, trusting that wherever he put his feet would be safe. Night creatures scuttled through the undergrowth. The trees rustled overhead, the wind whistling until she could have sworn it all came together to play some kind of tune through the branches.

And then she realized Hugh was humming ever so softly to Joshua. She couldn’t recognize the song, it was so low, nearly imperceptible, but obviously enough to keep Joshua content for the moment, thank God.

Hugh had told her it was only a quarter mile to where they needed to go, but the distance felt like an eternity, when there were armed guards posted. Not to mention the security cameras. Hugh had said he hadn’t been able to determine if they were running off generator power or not. But it was best to assume the cameras were operational.

Eyes locked on Hugh’s broad back, she followed and listened, taking some reassurance of her own from the soft crooning of his voice. Until it stopped. His body tensed into a block of stock-still ice. She froze in her tracks as well.

Footsteps sounded, snapping sticks and scrunching leaves. She stayed immobile, as Hugh did, even though the urge to run pulsed so heavily through her veins, her vision blurred. Keep eyes averted, she reminded herself. No matter how much she wanted to look around and see where the threat was coming from, she was better off not looking at the person. There was truth to the notion that someone could feel a person’s eyes on them.

The footsteps halted.

Her heart sped up so fast and loud, she could have sworn it echoed in the trees, and oh God, what if Joshua cried now? She forced herself to breathe steadily, in and out, to keep from fainting.

The guard started walking again, the crunch of footsteps growing fainter, farther away, then gone altogether. She grabbed Hugh’s vest to keep from sinking weak-kneed to the ground. He reached back to pat her hand before easing forward, humming again.

Three trees later, the barn came into view, with a couple of vehicles parking alongside, including Jocelyn’s. It even had the angel dangling from the rearview mirror.

Hugh dipped his head toward her. “The vans in the barn look to be in better shape, but I’m concerned there may be alarms. I think we should hedge our bets and take one of these.”

“Jocelyn’s?” she whispered.

“Yeah, my thought too. At least we know it works.”

And the fact that Jocelyn had chosen it when there were clearly sleeker options available doused her with a fresh slap of clammy fear. Why would she hide her assets and mislead them about her ability to travel freely?

Hugh passed over Joshua. “Take the kid and duck down between the barn and the Jeep while I fill it up with one of the gas cans.”

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