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Serving Up Trouble

Jill Shalvis

  Courteous, courageous and commanding—these heroes lay it all on the line for the people they love in more than fifty stories about loyalty, bravery and romance. Don’t miss a single one!


  A Vow to Love by Sherryl Woods

  Serious Risks by Rachel Lee

  Who Do You Love? by Maggie Shayne and Marilyn Pappano

  Dear Maggie by Brenda Novak

  A Randall Returns by Judy Christenberry

  Informed Risk by Robyn Carr

  Five-Alarm Affair by Marie Ferrarella


  The Man from Texas by Rebecca York

  Mistaken Identity by Merline Lovelace

  Bad Moon Rising by Kathleen Eagle

  Moriah’s Mutiny by Elizabeth Bevarly

  Have Gown, Need Groom by Rita Herron

  Heart of the Tiger by Lindsay McKenna


  Landry’s Law by Kelsey Roberts

  Love at First Sight by B.J. Daniels

  The Sheriff of Shelter Valley by Tara Taylor Quinn

  A Match for Celia by Gina Wilkins

  That’s Our Baby! by Pamela Browning

  Baby, Our Baby! by Patricia Thayer


  Special Assignment: Baby by Debra Webb

  My Baby, My Love by Dani Sinclair

  The Sheriff’s Proposal by Karen Rose Smith

  The Marriage Conspiracy by Christine Rimmer

  The Woman for Dusty Conrad by Tori Carrington

  The White Night by Stella Bagwell

  Code Name: Prince by Valerie Parv


  Same Place, Same Time by C.J. Carmichael

  One Last Chance by Justine Davis

  By Leaps and Bounds by Jacqueline Diamond

  Too Many Brothers by Roz Denny Fox

  Secretly Married by Allison Leigh

  Strangers When We Meet by Rebecca Winters


  Babe in the Woods by Caroline Burnes

  Serving Up Trouble by Jill Shalvis

  Deputy Daddy by Carla Cassidy

  The Major and the Librarian by Nikki Benjamin

  A Family Man by Mindy Neff

  The President’s Daughter by Annette Broadrick

  Return to Tomorrow by Marisa Carroll


  Remember My Touch by Gayle Wilson

  Return of the Lawman by Lisa Childs

  If You Don’t Know by Now by Teresa Southwick

  Surprise Inheritance by Charlotte Douglas

  Snowbound Bride by Cathy Gillen Thacker

  The Good Daughter by Jean Brashear


  The Hero’s Son by Amanda Stevens

  Secret Witness by Jessica Andersen

  On Pins and Needles by Victoria Pade

  Daddy in Dress Blues by Cathie Linz

  AKA: Marriage by Jule McBride

  Pregnant and Protected by Lilian Darcy

  USA TODAY Bestselling Author




  USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning Jill Shalvis is the author of more than fifty romance novels, including a series with firefighter heroes for Harlequin Books. The three-time RITA® Award nominee and three-time National Readers’ Choice winner makes her home near Lake Tahoe. Visit her Web site at for a complete book list and daily blog.


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16


  Chapter 1

  She’d always been happy enough. Well, if not happy exactly, then…content. But deep down, Angie Rivers knew some thing was missing from her life; she just couldn’t put her finger on it. Why should she, when she had a fine job, a fine apartment and fine friends.

  Fine everything, really—unless she thought about it too hard, as she some times tended to do.

  In any case, the niggling remained a mystery.

  Until Monday.

  By the time her break came she was already tired from waiting tables, but she had to get to the bank. She’d written her rent check, along with a check for what could be termed a luxury item—an artist’s easel. Her first and, as a budding painter, she was very excited about it.

  Racing down the block in the warm California sunshine, she dodged bikers, in-line skaters, scooters…it was Monday, for God’s sake. Why weren’t people working?

  If she didn’t have to work, what would she do? What a delightful dilemma to face. She’d kill herself if she strapped on a pair of skates, but…a day to sit in the park and sketch? An entire day to stand in front of her new easel and paint? Mmm, nice fantasy.

  Inside the bank, she hit the midmorning crowd. And a very long line. With a sigh, Angie pushed up her glasses and looked around at the people waiting ahead of her. As was usual for this upscale area of South Pasadena, everyone was dressed for success. Even the bank tellers.

  She tugged at the skirt of her waitress uniform, knowing few would understand that she did love her job, hard as it was. There hadn’t been money for college when she’d graduated high school seven years ago, despite her parents’ hopes and dreams of her becoming a doctor or lawyer.

  Sweet, but unrealistic. Angie hadn’t been the best high school student, hadn’t played sports or had a good hobby, either, mostly because she’d always worked to help her parents make ends meet. She hadn’t minded, though some times she wished they’d really see her, her, Angie Rivers, and not just what they dreamed Angie Rivers to be.

  Disturbingly enough, her parents’ expectations only seemed to get more unrealistic the older they became. Why hadn’t she become successful? Rich? Well connected?

  Married with brilliant children?

  She didn’t like to admit that she’d dug in her heels and purposely become the antithesis of their out-of-reach expectations. But that’s what she’d done.

  She had goals for herself—they just didn’t match anyone else’s. She wanted to paint. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of money in that, unless she found some superb talent from deep within. Oh, and she’d also have to die, as most artists made all their money posthumously.

  The bank line she’d chosen still hadn’t budged, and there she stood, with only seven minutes left on her break. Craning her neck, she saw an older woman at the counter, doling out change to the teller. One coin at a time.

  Behind her was every mother’s night mare. A young punk, wiry and dressed for a ghetto fashion show, paced edgily, muttering to himself. He looked like a simmering pot ready to explode.

  The man in front of her had a swagger. A sort of I’m-God’s-gift-to-women swagger. Angie could easily overlook his cheap, light blue suit and tacky tie as she appreciated—and remembered with vivid clarity—the pain of never having the in clothes.

  She was still feeling that pain.

  What she couldn’t ignore was the way he invaded her space and kept winking at her.

  “Come here often?” he actually asked her, brushing his shoulder against hers.

  She didn’t answer, hoping he’d give up if she didn’t encourage him. His hair had been slicked back with enough gel to grease a pig. His breath was hot and smelled like tuna.

  “Is the sun shining?” he wondered. “Because I can’t see anything but s
tars when I look at you.”

  Angie tried a vague smile—why was the line still moving so slowly?—and turned her back to him.

  With or without the tuna breath and bad pickup line, she wasn’t much interested in men. Her ex-fiancé Tony had been no better than her own parents when it came to seeing her, understanding her, and she was tired of that, thank you very much.

  She was who she was. A great waitress. A wanna-be artist. She was fine, darn them all. Fine just as she was.

  She peered behind her and saw that Mr. Edgy had gotten worse. His fists were clenched, his jaw tight. Pure fire and hatred sprang from his eyes, and though she couldn’t understand his mutterings, the tone was universal.

  And dangerous.

  Angie had heard of highway rage, but this waiting-in-a-terminally-slow-line rage was new to her, and a little scary. Shivering, she turned sideways, feeling sandwiched by desperation.

  In the next line over stood another man, and this one looked as impatient as she felt. Arms crossed, feet tapping, mouth turned downward in a frown, he embodied the man on the move. Only he was the most heart-stopping man on the move she’d ever seen.

  He looked out of place. Not because he was tall, leanly muscular, and gorgeous to boot. Not because he’d disregarded the up-and-comer Southern California look for a simple blue T-shirt tucked into perfectly soft and faded 501s. It was that he made everyone around him look as if they were playing dress-up.

  He scowled at his own unmoving line, all testosterone and barely contained power as his searing light brown gaze scanned the large, hustling bank.

  Just looking at him made Angie felt a little breath less. She stood up taller, wondering what he thought when he looked at her. She knew what she thought when she looked at him. Whoa, baby.

  He had sun-kissed hair cut short to his head. His rugged, athletic physique said he could have graced any men’s magazine he wanted, and he didn’t so much as give Angie a cursory glance when his eyes care fully and purposely surveyed the room.

  Check your ego at the door, Angie.

  The bank clerk called for the next customer with all the cheer of a woman facing a bikini wax. Mr. Tacky Suit swaggered up there while Angie willed the line to keep moving.

  Two minutes left on her break.

  One minute.

  Then—finally—it was her turn. With a sigh of relief, she moved across the tile floor toward the distracted-looking teller. The woman had a beehive hair style that looked as if maybe she’d worn it for the past fifty years, and fuchsia-pink lipstick. She glared at Angie as if it were her fault she had to deal with slime buckets in light blue suits.

  Later, Angie would marvel at how quickly it all seemed to happen, but for now, time shifted into slow motion. One minute she was glancing at her watch and handing over her signed check, and the next, Mr. Edgy had grabbed her arm from behind.

  “Hey—” she started, annoyed, only to swallow the words when the tip of a knife appeared in front of her eyes before settling against her neck.

  “Give me all the money in your drawer,” he said to the startled teller while still holding on to Angie. “And don’t even think about the panic button.”

  Amazingly enough, as Angie was turned in the robber’s arms so that he had a better grasp on her, everyone had froze on the spot. Even Mr. Knock-Me-Over-Magnificent, whose big body had gone tense and battle ready, didn’t make a move.

  “Do it, lady,” the man growled at the teller, who let out a little cry and froze like a deer caught in the head lights.

  Angie had a moment to feel badly she’d mentally poked fun at the woman’s choice of lipstick color before she was rudely whipped forward again. Mr. Edgy stared down at her with a look of blatant hatred, and she took a terrified breath that ended in a little squeak. Fear iced her veins so that her ears rang, making it difficult to hear anything other than the echo of her own blood racing.

  “You’ll be my ticket outta here.” The knife flashed beneath her nose again, making her glasses slip too low. “Got it?”

  A response didn’t seem to be required, so she closed her eyes, realizing now was a heck of a time to suddenly understand what was wrong with her life—it was boring! She lived her life so purposely staidly to avoid the parents’ hopes and dreams that it had become utterly…unnecessary.

  “Move and you die,” the punk said with enough fury in his voice that Angie believed every word. “Scream and you die. Breathe and you die.”

  Okay, she got it. She was pretty much dead.

  The teller moaned in distress, and her fingers at tempted to work the drawer in front of her, but she couldn’t quite seem to manage it. Angie wanted to scream at her.

  “Move it,” the guy holding her muttered to the shaking woman.

  The teller stared at him blankly and he yelled it again. “Money! Now!” For emphasis he shook Angie, hard.

  She couldn’t contain the helpless whimper that was ripped from her throat. Her sweater tore from her shoulder. Her glasses slipped off her nose, but she couldn’t catch them because he held her so tight. She heard them hit the floor.

  Without them, her vision blurred. Her world became reduced to the knife against her throat. The cold steel of the knife dug into her skin. The arm that held her imprisoned was amazingly strong and her knees wobbled as her life flashed before her eyes.


  Oh, yes, that’s what the niggling had been. Her life had been too unnecessary. Anyone could have lived it. That it was because she’d tried so hard to break free from those expectations of her didn’t make her feel any better. A wasted life was a wasted life.

  She needed more time. She needed another chance. She wouldn’t waste anything this time!

  Her heart drummed. She broke out into a sweat. As if from a mile away, she could hear the teller fumble at her drawer with clumsy fingers, but it must not have opened, because the man holding her swore lividly beneath his breath and shook her again, so hard this time that she cried out more loudly.

  “Shut up.” His grip tightened, and Angie cringed, biting her tongue, waiting for the searing pain she figured would accompany a deep knife wound.

  “Money,” he demanded of the teller. “Give me the money!”

  “I’m trying!”

  It wasn’t going to happen, Angie realized blindly. He’d petrified the poor teller so thoroughly that the woman didn’t have a chance in hell of opening the drawer, not with those violently shaking fingers, not to mention the shock that had already set in, making her eyes two huge blurry orbs of panic.

  Angie was going to die, right here, right now, and all because of bad timing. If she hadn’t written the rent check, if she hadn’t for got ten to come to the bank yesterday, if, if, if…she could think of a thousand of them.

  Standing there, as good as a blind mouse, her sense of absurdity took over. Why else would she think about her apartment, and the plants that would die without her?

  And, oh God, she was wearing under wear with a rip in the elastic. Her mother had warned her about that, hadn’t she, about getting in an accident with torn panties? Now everyone in the hospital would know.

  If she even made it to a hospital.

  Her parents would be contacted and told the truth. Their daughter had died before becoming someone. Anyone. And she’d died in old underwear.

  It would kill them.

  A shot rang out, and Angie automatically jerked. Then some thing slammed into her captor, hard enough to loosen his hold on her. The momentum sent her to her knees with a bone-jarring crunch. Someone screamed.

  And screamed.

  Pandemonium seemed to strike and Angie lifted her head, squinting like crazy, but it was no use—everything was out of focus.

  She could hear and feel though, so that when she was scooped up against a warm, hard chest, her hair shoved out of her eyes by a big, callused palm, she somehow instinctively knew who had her.

  Mr. Knock-Me-Over-Magnificent.

  Her hero.

  “Are you
all right?” Sam O’Brien demanded.

  When the woman’s huge eyes just blinked up at him, he swore to himself. Heart thudding, he tipped her head back, his fingers running over her neck, looking for the wound as he went cold inside.

  Amazingly enough, he found nothing but a slight scratch, and lots of warm, creamy skin with soft, satiny light brown hair that had escaped its confines.

  “You okay?” he pressed, needing to hear her, his voice rough with concern and rushing adrenaline.

  Again she blinked those big, dark brown eyes, then squinted. “I…can’t see very well. Everything is fuzzy.”

  His heart wedged in his throat. Had she hit her head? Damn it, despite everything, had she gotten hurt?

  It had been every off-duty cop’s greatest nightmare as he’d stood in line watching the at tempted robbery take place. He’d had no backup, no radio, nothing but the comforting weight of his own gun at his back.

  And too many possible victims to count.

  He’d been forced to wait until the punk with the knife had turned away, knowing if he moved too soon the woman would die right in front of his eyes.

  So he’d held his breath while she’d been cruelly shaken and manhandled, biding his time so that he didn’t get her killed.

  Finally he’d had his moment and he’d fired.

  The bad guy was now bleeding, unconscious on the floor, and this wide-eyed beauty in his arms appeared to be going into shock.

  “Get an ambulance,” he barked to the growing crowd, but he could hear the siren in the distance. “Good. Okay,” he said, squeezing the woman’s arm. “They’re on their way, you’re going to be fine.”

  “I’m not hurt. I just can’t see well. Is he…dead?”

  Sam glanced over, saw the chest rising and falling on the perp. “No.”

  Using Sam’s shoulder for leverage, she sat up and pushed at the hair falling in her face. She reached down to pull at her torn sweater, then patted her hands on the floor, searching while still wrapped securely in his embrace.