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YOU ANGEL YOU
Women empowering women--and the men who love them.
In a converted warehouse near downtown Dallas a group of strong, professional women volunteer their services to the women of an under-served community. They name their facility The Rainy Day Women’s Center. Each book is a stand-alone romance about competent, independent women and the equally competent, independent men they can’t ignore—or live without.
You Angel, You, book 5 of the series, features an old friend from book one, Tangled up in Blue. Dallas police detective Evan O'Malley can't seem to make connections with women--at least not with the right woman. Is it so much to ask to meet a kind, honest, modest woman who is willing to commit her life and her love to one man?
Trying to make a new start to her life, Abby Harper accepts a college internship teaching basic computer skills in a women's center. At the wedding of one of her colleagues, she meets soft-spoken, all-around nice guy Evan, and despite her distrust of men, is tempted to consider a relationship with him. But he sees her as a sweet innocent, and places her on a pedestal she doesn't deserve. How will he react when he learns about her past?
Clutching the skirts of her mint green cocktail dress, Abby Harper dashed down the steps of the wedding venue.
Had he recognized her? Heart hammering as loudly as her click-clacking heels against the cement parking lot, she paused and glanced behind her.
No one followed.
Perspiration dotted her upper lip. She could have sworn their eyes met during the second chorus of the Macarena. But maybe he’d just been eyeing the woman dancing in the line beside her. Maybe he hadn’t noticed Abby at all.
Maybe the dark-haired man wearing the self-satisfied smile wasn’t even Jordan Bayer.
She inhaled deeply, but oxygen barely oozed into her lungs.
It had been almost seven years. The face haunting her nightmares was beginning to fade. But the angst shaking her awake still gripped her heart.
The heavy scent of Texas humidity hovered over the parking lot. Shielding her eyes from the glare, Abby unsnapped her tiny clutch, drew out her keys, and started toward her car. Except she couldn’t remember where she’d parked. Staring out at a sea of vehicles that suddenly all looked alike, she gasped out rapid, shallow breaths.
Heavy footsteps thumped behind her.
Ice chilled Abby’s veins.
“Are you all right, Miss?”
Muscle by muscle, she turned. A man in a dark blue suit nearly blocked out the sun. Abby looked up into the emerald green eyes of the broad-shouldered, redheaded man she’d assumed was a security guard.
A silver lamé shawl hung over his arm. “This yours?”
“Yes.” She exhaled slowly. “Thank you.” In her haste to leave the reception, she must have left it on her chair. Abby draped the shawl over her shoulders. The hulk still obstructed her view. Edging around him, she trained her eyes on the building exit.
The man followed her gaze. “Are you in danger, Miss?”
“No, I…” Her throat ached. “I just…”
“You left the reception in a big hurry.”
“I’m fine.” Or she would be as soon as he went back inside and she could escape.
The man showed no sign of leaving. “If somebody’s hurting you, I can take care of that.” He opened his suit jacket to reveal a badge at his waist. “Evan O’Malley. Dallas P.D.”
So, she’d been right about him being an off-duty cop. Besides his height and sturdy physique, the man who’d stood at the side of the room during most of the reception gave off an air of confidence and authority.
“I’m Abby Harper.”
“Nice to meet you.” He held out his large hand.
Hesitantly Abby placed her clammy palm into his, finding a strange comfort in its strength.
“You sure you’re okay?” The officer shot a glance toward the building behind him, then focused again on her face.
“I’m…fine.” Abby let out a breath but couldn’t seem to capture another. She clasped her arms around her body, fearing she was having a heart attack.
“You’re hyperventilating.” The cop’s voice was calm and steadying. “Cover your mouth and breathe into your hand.”
Abby did. After long seconds her heartbeat slowed, and the pain in her chest ebbed.
She nodded, forcing a smile. “All good now. Thanks again, Officer, for rescuing my shawl.”
“It’s Detective. But call me Evan.” His eyes narrowed. “Has this happened before?”
“No. Well, maybe,” she amended. The first week after moving back to Dallas, she’d thought she’d spotted Jordan driving the car next to hers. When the red light turned green, the vehicle had peeled away, but Abby’d had to pull over until her heart resumed its normal rhythm.
“Do you know what triggered your panic attack today?” The detective’s serene eyes remained fixed on hers.
She wanted to repeat that she was fine and just wanted to go home but her helpful hero didn’t seem willing to leave it at that. “I…I thought I saw someone from my past.”
Abby gritted her teeth. “Just someone I used to know.”
Thankfully, he didn’t push further. Eyeing the keys in her hand, he said, “I’ll walk you to your car. Where did you park?”
God, he probably already thought her pathetic, now he’d add idiot to that assessment. “I don’t remember,” she admitted. A tear fought its way to the corner of her eye but she squinted it away.
“Big parking lot.” A nonjudgmental smile crinkled his freckled face. “What kind of vehicle do you have?”
“It’s blue.” Be specific, Abby. “Toyota Corolla.”
The detective pointed at the key in her hand. “Have you tried pressing the alarm button to locate it?”
Okay, he definitely thought her an idiot. “Remote battery’s dead.”
“No problem. We’ll do this old school.” Grasping her elbow lightly, he steered her down the first row of cars.
Though it was only March, the late afternoon sun hinted at the coming summer as it beat down on Abby’s head. The tight curls she’d so carefully piled atop her crown this morning drooped like wilted flowers.
There were half a dozen Toyotas in the first row of cars, Camrys, pickup trucks and SUVs, but no blue Corolla. Abby cast a furtive glance back toward the building.
“He hasn’t come out,” the detective said.
“Who?” She hadn’t mentioned Jordan’s gender.
“Nobody’s been out that door,” he revised.
Screening the vacant parking lot, Abby let out a tentative sigh. Anxiety drained from her pores.
They crossed back up the second row, Evan O’Malley leading with long strides, Abby taking choppy steps on her three-inch heels.
He slowed to let her catch up. “My vehicle’s right there.” He pointed to a late model SUV. “We can cruise the lot in air-conditioned comfort.”
Abby’s muscles tensed. “Thanks, but that’s not necessary.” He might be a policeman, but he was still a stranger. “I…um…think I see my car over against that wall.”
They headed in that direction but the blue vehicle that had caught her eye turned out to be a Honda Civic.
They continued their search. A Southwest Airlines jet roared overhead, drowning out any attempts at conversation. But as the skies quieted, and Evan made no effort to start one, Abby cleared her throat.
“I thought detectives made good money,” she said. “Why are you moonlighting as a security guard?” Damn, that came out a lot ruder than it had sounded in her head. Small talk had never been Abby’s forte.
He ignored her tactlessness. “My partner set it up. He thought it would be good for me to get out and meet people.”
Partner? Abby studied Evan O’Malley’s broad, masculine physique.
“Trey and I have ridden together for years and he used to be a wild soul, but since he got married and had a kid, he thinks everyone needs to be as blissfully happy as he is.” The detective about-faced at the end of the row and they started down the next.
Professional partner. “You’re not happy being single? I mean, if you are single.” Her cheeks flushed.
He took her arm to help her negotiate a puddle from the early afternoon shower. “Happy enough, I guess. I’m not playing video games in my mother’s basement, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“I know. There aren’t any basements in Dallas.” The detective grinned. “But I do play the occasional video game.” He winked. “And I am single.”
“I like video games too.” She averted her eyes, searching for the blue Corolla. The sooner she found it, the sooner she could get home, shed this scratchy dress, and forget this whole embarrassing incident.
“I couldn’t help but notice,” Detective O’Malley said, “that you were sitting alone during the wedding reception. No plus one?”
“I haven’t been in town very long,” she explained, “and I don’t know a lot of people. I only met the bride once.” She paused to face him. “We work together at this facility for under-served women.”
“Rainy Day Women’s Center?”
“My partner’s wife works there. Selena Dunn…er, Donovan.”
“Oh yes, I know Selena. She’s a private investigator.”
“And what do you do?”
“I’m a student at North Dallas University. Majoring in computer science. I’m doing an internship at Rainy Day teaching basic computer skills and--oh!” Like a needle suddenly appearing in a haystack, the blue Toyota showed itself ten feet away. “There’s my car.”
Abby hurtled toward it, snaring her narrow heel in a crack. She pitched forward and might have fallen on her face had the detective not grasped her shoulders from behind. Struggling to regain her balance, she slammed into a solid chest, inhaling a hint of sandalwood cologne.
“Thank you again.” Her face heated as she faced him. “You’ve been…very nice.”
“All part of the job.” He stood beside the Toyota as she unlocked it, sat, and started the engine. “You sure you’re okay to drive?”
“Yes. I feel much better.” Abby cast a final glance across the empty parking lot toward the wedding venue, where the reception was still going strong. She must have imagined seeing Jordan. She expelled a shaky sigh. Damn, when would she ever move past this?
Evan O’Malley leaned against the open door. “Well, go straight home, drink lots of water, and just take it easy for the rest of the evening.”
Exactly her plan. But maybe wine instead of water. “It was nice meeting you, Det—Evan.”
A smile the size of Texas filled his face as he closed her door. “Hope I see you again some time.”
I hope so too. She didn’t say that aloud. But her own smile surprised her. It had been a long time since anyone except Spencer had made her smile.
Evan O’Malley was kind. And easygoing. A big, comforting teddy bear.
But he was also a police detective. And the last person she needed in her life was a man who made his living uncovering people’s secrets.