Ria finally tugged it out, did a juggle that any circus performer would’ve been proud of, steadied the phone, then punched in 9-1-1 as she ran up the steps of her house. She shoved the door open, gasping for her next breath right before she slammed the door behind her.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

“A man. He was naked. In the woods. Hurry.” God, she still couldn’t take a deep breath. She leaned against the door, gasping for air and trembling all the way down to her toes.

“Calm down, ma’am. I need an address.”

“This is Ria. Rianna Lancaster. I’m inside my house, but I was running…”

The dispatcher distinctly cleared her throat. “Oh, it’s you, Ria.”

Ria moved the phone away from her ear and glared at it before bringing it back. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” Why did Tilly have to be the dispatcher on duty? She was a real pain in the butt, besides being the biggest gossip in town.

Deep sigh. “I’ll send Heath over.”

“Fine! And tell him to hurry.”

“They always do, dear.”

The line went dead.

Ria straightened and reared back her arm, but stopped just short of throwing her phone against the wall. Destroying her cell wasn’t an option—she needed it. Besides, it wasn’t her phone’s fault the dispatcher was a moron—of epic proportions. In the end, she only snapped it closed. But really hard. Life was so not fair.

She began to pace the living room. Tilly hadn’t believed her. No one ever believed her. There had been a naked man in the woods. Dammit! She’d seen him.

Her gaze fell on the front door. When she’d turned the lock, it had clicked. Right? She hurried over to check it again. Locked. She ran a shaky hand across her forehead. Safe. Nothing could get her.

Her gaze strayed toward the back of the house. Oh, God, the back door wasn’t locked. She ran down the hall, slid around the kitchen table, grabbed the doorknob, and then clicked the lock, double checking to make sure. She breathed a sigh of relief. Now she was safe from naked men.

Like that’s been a problem lately. Shintara’s words dripped with sarcasm.

Ria grimaced. “I haven’t wanted to date anyone, thank you very much.” If she wanted a man, she could get one. There was a big difference between wanting one and needing one.

What if there was one already in the house? He could have sneaked inside while she was in the front room.

Goose bumps popped up on her arms. She grabbed the heavy flashlight off the kitchen counter. If anyone stepped out, she’d whack him over the head. Holding it in front of her like the Olympic torch, she tiptoed to the bedroom. She glanced inside, then hurried to the other side of the door, and did another quick scan.

It looked empty.

You’re really being overly dramatic. I thought the naked guy was hot.

“Shush,” Ria whispered as she eased along the bedroom wall and poked open the bathroom door with the toe of her tennis shoe.


Behind the shower curtain? She swallowed hard. That’s where all the killers hid; just waiting for some poor naked woman to pull the curtain back so she could take a shower.

Not this time!

She raised the flashlight, then flung the curtain open.


Thank God!

She set the flashlight on the counter, then sat on the toilet.

Everything she’d been through began to sink in. She’d survived a…an attack. He’d come at her, probably meaning to kill her, or worse, although she couldn’t think of anything worse than being dead. But Ria had remembered the training she’d taken at summer camp when she was thirteen. A satisfied smirk lifted the corners of her mouth. She’d maced his butt.

Technically, you maced his face.

“Shut up.”

Ria would do it again if she had to. Nobody better mess with this girl!

As she sat there, she stared at her bed. Had the dust ruffle just moved? There it was again. Her bravado quickly disappeared.

What if someone was under it? Killers hid there, too, just waiting for an unsuspecting woman clad in a lacy teddy…. Wow, maybe she did need to get laid. But not by a killer. She jumped to her feet, grabbed the flashlight and eased into the bedroom.

“If you’re under there, you might as well come out,” she said in a firm voice. Oh, yeah, that was really smart. If there was someone under her bed, did she really want them to come out? No, she wanted them to stay there until Heath arrived.

Drama queen, singsonged through her head.

Stupid voice.

But Ria couldn’t resist checking under the bed. She could escape before anyone scrambled out. She flipped the bottom of the bedspread onto the bed, then backed far away, and squatted down until she could see under it.

“Ruffles, what are you doing under there?” She eyed the black-and-white cat.

“Meow.” Her tail bumped where the dust ruffle would’ve been.

Ruffles pretty much stayed under the bed, hence the name. Shaking her head, Ria came to her feet, then went to the front window and peered out. No sign of the naked guy. What had he said? His name was Crisco, or something, and he was from another planet. An alien? More like a psycho on the loose.

But very sexy, the voice in her head said.

“Shut up,” she automatically mumbled.

She was tempted to call and see where the deputy was but forced herself to wait a few more minutes. Tilly would blow everything Ria said out of proportion if she called again.

Okay, she might be just a little…excitable at times, but was that a crime? Besides, she’d had good reason in the past to call the sheriff’s office. Like the time there had been a wolf in her backyard.

How the heck could she have known that Matt Jenson had bought a new show dog? It had looked like a wolf to her—sort of. And the big dog scared her when it came barreling around the corner while she was painting the back porch a pretty purple.

She actually thought the purple made the dog look very unusual…cute. And she had only gotten a little on his tail.

Matt hadn’t agreed.

People in a small town just never seemed to forget things. Even giving Matt’s dog a year of free grooming had only made things marginally better.

When she saw the patrol car pull up, her body sagged against the window frame. Tears threatened, but she rapidly blinked them away. Now she was truly safe. She unlocked the front door and hurried outside.

Heath climbed out of the patrol car with a tired sigh, and pushed his hat a little higher on his forehead. “What’s this about a naked man? You know your momma will skin you alive if you have a naked man in your house.”

She frowned. “I don’t have a naked man in the house.” She squared her shoulders. “Not that it would matter. I’m twenty-eight years old. If I want to have a naked man in my house, I will.”

“And that’s why I have to deal with your naked man, because you young kids don’t listen to your folks. Marry the guy first, and you won’t have nearly as many problems.”

She stomped her foot. “I don’t have a naked man in my house!”

“You don’t have to get testy. I’m here because you called about him, not the other way around. If he’s gone, then your problem is solved.”

She opened her mouth, then snapped it closed. She should sell her shop and move far, far away. Right now, that sounded like a good idea.

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