Home > Watching Over You (McKenzies of Ridge Trail #3)

Watching Over You (McKenzies of Ridge Trail #3)
Author: Lori Foster

 

CHAPTER ONE


   WHEN CROSBY ALBERTSON FROWNED, he didn’t just show displeasure in his incredibly handsome face. He also showed it in the rigid lines of his big body, in his tightened fists and the angle of his wide shoulders, how his feet braced apart and the way the muscles in his thighs flexed.

   Honestly, Madison McKenzie thought he was downright scrumptious top to bottom, though now wasn’t the best time to be admiring him.

   Using her admittedly incredible digital surveillance skills, she’d been shadowing Crosby online for a while now, ever since she realized that he was keeping tabs on her family.

   Granted, her family had made unique choices to combat injustice, specifically every form of human trafficking and forced labor. She and her brothers, under their father’s instruction, had become elite fighters weaponized with skill, knowledge and drive.

   As a cop, Crosby had somehow caught on to them, despite how she meticulously covered their tracks.

   He’d impressed the heck out of her, which wasn’t easy to do—especially after he worked with them to bring down a truly heinous trafficker who’d gotten far too personal.

   But Crosby was still a cop through and through, and she and her family still skirted the edges of illegal activity by pursuing their goals without involving the law.

   Didn’t stop her infatuation with him.

   When he found out that she’d ramped up her surveillance of him, he’d likely be annoyed.

   That couldn’t be helped, though. No other man had fascinated her like Crosby Albertson did, and in her line of work, as her brothers had often pointed out—the hypocrites—she couldn’t be too careful. She knew a lot about Crosby already, but now she wanted to know more.

   Physically following him today wasn’t exactly necessary, but she’d had a little free time, so why not? Never mind that Ridge Trail, Colorado, was experiencing extremely severe weather, with a huge dumping of snow and freezing temps making the roads slick.

   Her thinking was that if Crosby could go out, she could, too. Overall, she figured she could do just about anything a guy could do, with a few notable exceptions. Like, she couldn’t pee standing up. Then again, she had no desire to.

   She couldn’t get a testicular injury, so yay, score one for lady parts.

   And honestly, as strong and skilled as she might be, she still took pleasure in her femininity, so knocking out a dude with one punch—something her hulking brothers managed easily—was usually out of her realm. Not that she couldn’t effectively disable a guy in other ways. She could—hello testicles—and yet, the majority of her contribution to the family business was handled behind a computer screen.

   Now, with Crosby, she wanted to be a little more hands-on.

   Snuggled into her chic white snowsuit, complete with a faux fur trimmed trapper hat and attached goggles, Madison parked her SUV behind Crosby’s car, all the while wondering why he would tool around in this weather in a sedan. At least he had chains on his tires, using some common sense.

   She wondered, too, why he would stand there on the sidewalk outside a small mom-and-pop store and do that whole-body frowning thing. Something had angered him, but she didn’t yet know what. Since he hadn’t looked at her, she figured she wasn’t the cause of his irritation this time—a nice change for once.

   After staring through the window for a flat ten seconds, Crosby went into the store, leaving her with a tingle of anticipation at seeing him again. The last time she’d been so close to him was well before Christmas, and now it was early February. She’d kissed him then... And he’d laughed.

   Worse, he thought she’d kissed him for underhanded reasons.

   She was still mad at him for that—she really was—but even though their relationship was strained at best, hostile at worst, she’d missed him.

   Assuming he wouldn’t recognize her bundled up as she was for the weather, Madison trudged through the deep snow and entered the quaint store. A bell jingled above the front door, drawing attention her way.

   As was her habit, she immediately did a quick assessment of the small interior. Shelves lined every wall, packed from top to bottom. Besides Crosby, she noted a clerk behind the counter and a youth who’d been stocking the shelves.

   Unfortunately, there were also three men in the process of robbing the place.

   Well. She supposed that explained Crosby’s fierce frown.

   She also had the terrible suspicion that he recognized her even under all her winter gear. Had he been onto her following him all along?

   His cleverness was just one more appealing trait she admired.

   Guns drawn and faces hidden behind thick winter ski masks, the robbers mostly kept their attention on Crosby and the clerk, but they did repeatedly glance her way.

   Aggressively, one of the men gestured with his gun, saying, “What the hell are you people doing out on a day like this?”

   Another man said, “I knew we should have locked the door.”

   Crosby said, “I offered, if you’ll recall.”

   So he’d considered locking her out? Too bad for him.

   Dressed as she was, the men couldn’t see much of her face or body, but she felt certain they knew she was female. It was there in the way she stood with her hands on her hips, in the long hair trailing out of her hat and probably in the way her lips smiled. “Am I interrupting?”

   The man who waved the gun around barked, “Over here, now.”

   That suited her just fine.

   As Madison started forward, her awareness of Crosby sharpened. Today he wore a dark puffer coat, thick wool scarf and padded gloves. Always, no matter the situation, he managed to look like an impeccable male model. Well, except for his sandy-brown hair. He wore it just long enough for it to curl a little at the very ends. It gave him an appealingly messy look in stark contrast with his otherwise immaculate appearance.

   Those dark-as-sin eyes of his never left the men standing before him, though he didn’t look anxious about the situation.

   Annoyed, yes. Alert, certainly. She sensed more than saw that all he needed was an opening, and he’d take on all three of the intruders.

   In that, she could certainly assist.

   As she strode forward, she asked the stock boy, “Would you mind ducking behind that shelf?”

   Startled, the kid said, “Um...”

   The robbers all started protesting at the same time, one of them barking, “No one fucking moves!”

   Speaking over him, Madison said to the clerk, “If you could possibly duck down very quickly?”

   Crosby issued a sound like a snarl and took a quick step to his left, which effectively shielded the clerk. The older man dropped fast behind the counter. That got the kid moving, too, and he jumped behind a shelf of canned goods.

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