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Authors: Elle James

Deadly Obsession

BOOK: Deadly Obsession
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New York Times
bestselling author Elle James's latest, one woman finds she's unsafe in her own home—and in her heart...

Real estate whiz Jillian Taylor thinks heroes and haunted houses are bogus. But when a series of strange events leaves her in danger, Stealth Ops Specialist Chance McCall is quick to the scene. Jillian can't resist the chemistry brewing between her and the sexy agent. But as she and Chance deconstruct her nightmares, someone becomes more desperate to keep those secrets from surfacing.

Chance knows there's more going on at the derelict Victorian manor than just ghosts—just as he knows there's something about the blonde beauty he can't resist. If only he could help decipher the meaning of Jillian's tortured dreams...and keep her safe in his arms forever.

Her lips twisted. “Let me guess, if you tell me what you do—”

“I'd have to kill you.” He captured her wrist in his hand. “I think you've done enough. We should finish the work and get back to the B and B.”

Jillian stared into his eyes.

A few short inches separated them, but all Chance could think about was those pretty pink lips and what they might taste like if he dared kiss her.

Jillian ran her tongue around those pink lips, sending Chance's control flying.

“Do you realize how crazy you're making me?”

She shook her head, her eyes rounding, her gaze shifting to his mouth.

Like a moth drawn to the flame, Chance couldn't resist the temptation. He slipped his hand beneath her hair at the back of her head and dragged her forward until their lips almost touched. “Tell me to stop and I will,” he breathed, praying she wouldn't when the temptation to kiss her threatened to overwhelm him.

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Dear Reader,

We're back in Cape Churn! I thought
Deadly Allure
would be the last in the series, but when I told my
editor I wanted to write more Devil's Shroud books, I was thrilled she

Some of my fans asked for Jillian the real estate agent's
story, so I took the chance to bring her back and to introduce a new character.
And it's all because of a wedding. And since the area has its own spook factor,
I gave Jillian her very first fixer-upper home. Not only does the home have a
past, it helps Jillian learn more about the past she could never remember.

Enter former warrior turned Stealth Operations Specialist
Chance McCall, and things heat up in Cape Churn.

Hang on for a bumpy and often creepy ride!

Elle James

Deadly Obsession

Elle James

New York Times
bestselling author
is a former IT professional and retired army and air force
reservist. She writes romantic suspense, mysteries and paranormal romances that
keep her readers on the edges of their seats to the very end of every book. When
she's not at her computer, she's traveling to exotic and wonderful places,
snow-skiing, boating or riding her four-wheeler, dreaming up new stories. Learn
more about Elle James at

Books by Elle James

Harlequin Romantic Suspense

Deadly Reckoning

Deadly Engagement

Deadly Liaisons

Secret Service Rescue

Deadly Allure

Deadly Obsession

The Adair Legacy

Secret Service Rescue

The Adair Affairs

Heir to Murder

The Coltons of Oklahoma

Protecting the Colton Bride

Visit Elle's Author Profile page at
, or
, for more titles.

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This book is dedicated to my son, who has a heart bigger than the state of Texas, has a great sense of adventure and would do anything for you. He's the kind of guy with the ability to make friends everywhere he goes and keeps in touch with all of them. I wish him a happy, healthy life, full of the love he so richly deserves. I love you, Adam!


xcitement rippled through her. She could barely wait to get home from school. Instead of taking the road as she'd promised her mother, she cut through the woods. She carefully balanced the treasure her teacher, Mrs. Tillman, had given her. It was a thank-you gift for staying late every day after school the entire year to help straighten the classroom, clean the boards and check papers.

A gift hadn't been necessary, and that wasn't the reason she'd stayed after school. She loved helping her beautiful young teacher. The added bonus was access to all the books on the shelves in the classroom. They were filled with wonderful stories and picture books of places Mrs. Tillman had been—Germany, Russia, Italy, China—exciting, exotic places in all parts of the world. Reading about those places was all the thank-you she could ask for.

But the gift had been special. A beautiful black porcelain music box from Russia. Painted with colorful women in flowing ball gowns dancing with handsome men in military regalia. The pictures told a story of another time, of richness and beauty. And when she opened the pretty little box, music spilled out.
The Nutcracker
, her teacher had told her.

Mama would love it as much as she did. When she was younger, Mama had played the piano and sang in the church choir. Now she barely had time. Since her daddy had moved out, her mother had gone back to teaching, and she didn't play the piano anymore. But she loved music and made sure her daughter grew up with the same love.

Her attention was on the pretty black box, and she was in such a hurry to get home, she didn't see what tripped her until she flew forward. She tucked the little box against her body to keep from breaking it when she hit the uneven ground. She landed hard, the wind knocked from her lungs, her head bouncing off a big rock. For a moment she lay still, trying but not succeeding at dragging air into her lungs. Darkness gathered around the edge of her vision, closing in...swallowing her.

How long she lay there, she didn't know. Cold seeped into her skin, making her shake. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't open her eyes. The darkness was inside her, gripping her like a hand, squeezing so tightly it wouldn't let go.

Shivering turned to violent tremors. Pushing against the grasp of the black abyss, she cracked open an eyelid. Fog closed in around her. Nothing looked familiar. She didn't know where she was, or where she'd been going. “I want to go home,” she cried. But she couldn't remember where home was.

Sobs rose up her throat and tears ran down her cold, damp cheeks. She lay curled in a ball, trying to warm herself but failing miserably. Maybe, if she went to sleep, she'd wake in her bed...where she belonged.

Closing her eyes, she lay as still as her trembling body could. Soon a warm blanket was wrapped around her. By the coarseness of the fabric, it had to be wool. It covered her body, her face and her head, making it harder to breathe and blocking out any daylight that managed to filter through the fog. Then she was lifted into strong arms and carried. How far, she didn't know. But it seemed like forever.

She would have kicked, screamed and cried for her captor to release her, but she didn't have the strength, and she didn't want him to take away the warmth of the blanket. He kept going and going.

At last he stopped and fumbled with something. A screeching sound could have been a rusty hinge. She couldn't see through the thick wool of the blanket, wrapped so tightly around her that she couldn't move.

They were going down steps; the musty scent of dirt and decay filtered through the blanket. It was the same dank smell she could remember from visiting someone's earthen root cellar in the country. She grasped at the memory, but before she could identify whose basement she'd visited, the thought drifted away like smoke in the wind.

Finally, she was deposited onto cool, damp earth. She struggled to free herself from the blanket. By the time she did, her captor was already up the wooden steps leading out of the ground where he'd brought her.

Her heart hammering, her voice lodged in her throat, she pushed to her feet and stumbled on wobbly legs toward the light. As her foot hit the first step, a heavy metal door dropped down over the opening, shutting out the light, plunging her into darkness so complete, it had to be hell.

Chapter 1

hance McCall pulled the rented SUV into the parking area in front of the McGregor Bed-and-Breakfast and shut off the engine. The flight from the East Coast to the West Coast had been long, with a four-hour layover in Chicago. Now that he was in Oregon, he could relax and enjoy seeing his friends and take in the peace and calm of the stunning seaside town of Cape Churn.

He dropped down from the vehicle and stood for a long moment, taking it all in: the craggy coastline, the steely blue waters of the cape and the sprawling old mansion the McGregor siblings had converted into a successful bed-and-breakfast. Already, he could feel the tension of his last assignment easing from the muscles in his neck and shoulders.

Dragging in a breath of the salty sea air and evergreen-scented forest, he filled his lungs. He could see why Nova had chosen to stay in Oregon instead of heading back east to Alexandria, Virginia, where the Stealth Operations Specialists headquarters resided.

This was heaven.

“Amigo!” Casanova Valdez burst from a screen door onto the wide front porch. “We didn't expect you for another hour.”

“Traffic was in my favor in Portland.” Chance crossed the yard and met Nova at the bottom of the steps in a bone-crushing bear hug. From a large Hispanic family, Nova wasn't shy about displaying his affection for his family and friends. And Chance was about as close to Nova as Nova's own siblings. Closer. They'd been in combat together and survived.

“I'm glad you concluded your assignment in time for the wedding,” his friend said. “I would have postponed if you hadn't.”

“That's crazy.” Chance pounded Nova's back and stepped away. “The way you've been talking about Molly, I would think you'd have eloped by now.”

“No way. Molly is special. She deserves the works.” Nova flung out his arm, grinning. “The bigger the wedding, the better.
Muy grande!

“I tried to hold him back, but between Nova and my wedding planner, this simple ceremony is taking on a life of its own.” A beautiful redhead dressed in a white button-down blouse and well-worn jeans that hugged her long slender legs and curvy hips stood at the top of the stairs, a smile tugging at her lips and a twinkle in her green eyes. She held out a hand. “You must be Chance.”

Chance climbed the steps and took her outstretched hand. “And you must be the Molly Nova can't shut up about.” Chance winked and shook her hand.

“Oh, no, you don't. I feel like I know you already. Come here and give me a hug. You're practically family.” She dragged him close for a quick hug and stepped back.

Nova slipped an arm around her waist and kissed her. “What did I tell you?” he said. “Isn't she gorgeous?” He beamed at Chance, his love for his fiancée shining from his eyes.

Molly blushed. “Nova, stop. You're embarrassing me.”

Chance chuckled. “No, really. He's right. You're as pretty as he said. Congratulations on your engagement.”

“Thank you.” She nodded toward the rental. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

He shook his head. “All I have is a duffel bag.”

“I'll get it,” Nova offered. “Molly can show you to your room. Oh, and just so you know, the McGregor mansion is haunted.” Nova left Chance with Molly and hurried to the SUV.

Molly clucked her tongue. “Don't let him scare you. The ghosts here are benevolent. They rarely make a nuisance of themselves.”

Chance followed Molly into the old mansion. “I never knew Nova believed in the supernatural.”

“Oh, neither one of us did at first. It took some hocus-pocus on the ghost's part to convince us. He can tell you all about it. After I show you to your room, I have to get back to my kitchen. I'm baking bread and need to get a start on it to let the dough rise.”

“You don't have to show me around,” Chance assured her. “Just point. I can figure it out.”

She looked at him, her brows coming together. “Are you sure?”


In the large front gathering room, Molly pointed to the top of the massive staircase. “Hang a left at the top and your room is the third door on your right. I gave you the room with the view of the cape. The bathroom is down the hall. Let me know if you need anything.” Molly hugged him again. “Nova is thrilled you made it. I believe he really would have postponed the wedding if you couldn't have come.”

“I take it his family will be here for the wedding?”

She laughed. “He said as many as could make it. I think there will be at least twenty of them.” Molly held up a hand. “Don't worry. Not all of them are staying here. We have several vacation cottages reserved. His parents and grandparents will be staying at the B and B. Siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins will be scattered along the shore in the cottages.” She waved her fingers. “I'll be in the kitchen if you need me.”

The front screen door banged shut behind Chance.

“Molly isn't used to large family gatherings,” Nova said. “It's just her, her brother, Gabe, his wife and two kids. You'll like Gabe and his wife, Kayla. She's a renowned artist and he works for the local police department.” He hefted the duffel bag onto his shoulder. “Come on, I'll show you to your room.”

Chance didn't bother telling Nova he'd just informed Molly he could find his room on his own. Instead, he climbed the staircase, following Nova to the top.

“I just got back from an assignment in Los Angeles. Molly was getting worried
wouldn't be here for our wedding.”

“What did Fontaine have you working on?” Chance asked.

“I tailed a suspected terrorist for a couple weeks. Long enough to know he was plotting to blow up one of the major movie producers' lots during a big social event.”

Chance frowned. “And why was SOS called in for that?”

“The terrorist was the new husband of the California senator's daughter. The senator is up for reelection and they wanted everything to be kept on the down low.” Nova opened a door and stepped back. “This is your room for the duration. It's the largest guest room and has the best view.”

Chance entered. The room was nicely decorated with antique furniture, a large mahogany bed with a matching chest of drawers and a full-length floor mirror. But it was the French doors leading out onto a balcony that captured Chance's attention. He pushed through the door and stepped outside.

“Molly calls that the Juliet balcony.” Nova stepped up behind Chance. “She says I'm the romantic, but she's just as much so. That's why I love her so much.”

“You're a lucky man.”

“I know. I never thought I'd find the woman of my dreams in some obscure town in Oregon.”

“About that.” Chance turned to face his friend. “How is it there are enough SOS agents in this town to start a regional office?”

Nova shrugged, a grin spreading across his face. “There's something about this place that draws you in. And once you come to Cape Churn, you can't leave for long. It keeps calling you back.”

Chance clapped a hand on his back and smiled. “Or is it the people you meet here that keep you coming back?”

Nova nodded. “It's a combination of both, with the people we meet at the top of the list.” He winked. “Watch out. You might be the next to fall victim to the magic.”

“First you tell me there are ghosts here. Now you're telling me there's magic, too?”

Nova turned back into the room. “Just saying you never know what surprises might happen in Cape Churn.”

“Well, I'm not here to find a wife. I'm here to see that you get married and settle down. And if I can get a little R & R, even better. I could use it.” Chance ran a hand through his hair.

“You still battling PTSD?” Nova asked.

Chance nodded.

Nova's lips pressed together. “Sorry to hear it. I have dreams, but for the most part, I'm managing.”

“I'm sure it helps having someone like Molly to keep you grounded.”

That ready grin spread wide on Nova's face. “
Not only is she
muy bonita
, she's smart, tough and a fighter.”

“You need a woman like that when you're in the business we're in.” Their SOS assignments took them all over the world.

Chance's last assignment had been to Syria to rescue a missionary surrounded by an organization by the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Had Chance not arrived when he had, the missionary would have been tortured and killed as a warning to other Christians. Luckily, he'd arrived on the outskirts of the small village as a twenty-man contingent raided the missionary's hideout.

By staging an explosive distraction, Chance had been able to slip in, free the missionary and get him out. But it had cost him.

The explosion and the resulting gunfire threw his mind back into his final mission in Afghanistan before he was medically retired from the army rangers. It was all he could do to keep his head on straight and pull the missionary out while his mind played tricks on him, making him think he was fighting the Taliban.

Everything that could have gone wrong did on his final active-duty mission. No matter how much his gut told him it was a bad deal, he'd had no choice. The intelligence guys had gotten a hot lead. One of the most notorious Taliban leaders had taken refuge in a small village. His team had to move quickly, but from the moment they'd put boots on the ground at the drop zone, everything had gone to hell.

Rappelling from the chopper, one member of his squad hit hard on a big rock, rolled his ankle and broke it. The chopper was forced to land to retrieve him and two other teammates had to help get him back into the helicopter, thus slowing the entire mission.

They'd scaled the village wall and moved in, seeking their quarry. The village was quiet. Too quiet. Chance had opened his mouth to tell his men to fall back when all hell broke loose.

An explosion rocked the walls around them, and automatic gunfire filled the air, tracer rounds lighting the night.

Too late to turn back, the men had to fight their way out, outnumbered two to one. One by one, his men were picked off. All Chance could do was get as many out as possible.

His radio communications man called for reinforcement before he took a hit that rendered his radio unusable, and he nearly didn't make it out with his own life.

Chance felt a sting in his right hip, but pushed on, adrenaline pumping, the safety of his squad on his shoulders. He was responsible for those men. He'd have to face all their wives, mothers and children if they didn't come home alive.

A hand on his shoulder brought him out of Afghanistan and back to the McGregor B and B.

“Thinking about it again?” Nova asked.

Chance shook himself to clear the images that filled his memories and dreams. He gave Nova half a smile. “Sometimes it creeps up on me.”

“I know. It does me, too. But you can't let it run your life. We did everything we could to get them out alive.”

So they said. Chance still felt he could have done more. Again, he focused on the present, the way his therapist had taught him. “I'm here to help with the wedding preparations. What can I do?”

Nova clapped a hand to his back. “That's more like it. I'm not really sure what we need to do. Molly's friend Jillian has the plan well in hand, or so they say. They won't let me do anything except fetch and carry.”

“So you're telling me we just sit on the front porch and drink beer while the women do all the work?” Chance's lips quirked. “I'm all for relaxing and drinking beer, but I can't stand by while others are working hard.”

Nova laughed. “Same here. I've been doing repairs to the B and B and some touch-up painting. Molly wants to have the wedding out near the cliffs with the cape as the backdrop. I think it involves setting up chairs and an arched trellis I have yet to see or be tasked with going to the rental shop and acquiring.”

“When does your family arrive?” Chance asked.

“Some are coming in the day after tomorrow and the rest arrive a couple days before the wedding. We have a few days of relative peace until that time. Then all bets are off.”

Chance chuckled. “I remember.” He'd visited Nova's family while they'd both been on terminal leave, having been discharged from the army. His mother had welcomed him like one of her own. And she probably wouldn't have noticed he wasn't one of them, considering all the people moving through his parents' home.

Nova was one of eight children. Some of his siblings were already married with children of their own. It had been overwhelming for Chance, whose one brother rarely contacted him. And their parents were retired and traveling all the time.

“I look forward to seeing your family,” Chance said, and meant it. The Valdezes were close-knit, valuing the time they spent together.

“Once you get settled, come down to the kitchen. Molly will have a list of things for us to do before dinner.” Nova hugged Chance again. “Damn, it's good to see you.”

After Nova left, Chance stood in the room with a knot in his throat, his chest tight. Nova had his head on straight. PTSD wasn't ruling his life, and he had a lot going for him—a hot fiancée, living among some of the most beautiful scenery Chance had ever encountered and having a home to go to when he finished assignments.

Chance found himself wanting what Nova had, knowing he never could. Not when he was struggling with violent dreams and having the feeling he needed to be moving all the time. He was afraid if he stopped for too long, the memories would come crashing in.

Chance had no business starting a relationship with a woman. He wasn't what he considered good boyfriend material, much less husband material.

Getting the itch to move, stretch his legs and walk off some of the pent-up energy he'd had to contain en route, he tossed his duffel bag in a corner and went in search of the communal bathroom. A splash of cool water on his face did a lot to restore his focus. After drying his hands and face, he headed down to the kitchen.

BOOK: Deadly Obsession
5.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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