By: Brenda Jackson

She went still. Nobody ever visited her. Who would be doing so now? She crept back into the shadows of her hallway, hoping whoever was at the door would think she wasn’t home. She held her breath when the doorbell sounded again. Had the person on the other side seen her enter her house and knew she was there?

Moments passed and the doorbell did not sound again. She sighed in relief—and then there was a hard knock. She swallowed. The person hadn’t gone away. Either she answered it or continued to pretend she wasn’t there. Since the latter hadn’t worked so far, she rushed into her bedroom and grabbed her revolver out of the nightstand drawer.

She’d grown up around guns, and thanks to Bane she knew how to use one. This neighborhood was pretty safe, and even though she’d figured she’d never need to use it, she had bought the gun anyway. A woman living alone needed to be cautious.

By the time she’d made it back to the living room, there was a second knock. She moved toward the door, but stopped five feet away. She called out, “Who is it?” and tightened her hands on the revolver.

There was a moment of silence. And then a voice said, “It’s me, Crystal. Bane.”


The revolver Crystal held almost fell from her hand.

Bane? My Bane? No way, she thought, backing up. It had to be an impostor. It didn’t even sound like Bane. This voice was deeper, huskier.

If it was a trick, who knew of her relationship with Brisbane Westmoreland? And if it really was Bane, why had he shown up on her doorstep now? Why tonight of all nights?

It just wasn’t logical for her to have been thinking about him only moments ago and for him to be here now. She would go with her first assumption. The person at the door claiming to be Bane wasn’t him.

“You aren’t Bane. Go away or I’ll call the police,” she threatened loudly. “I have a gun and will shoot if I have to.”

“Crystal Gayle, it is me. Honest. It’s Bane.”

Crystal Gayle? She sucked in a deep breath. Nobody called her that but her parents...and Bane. When she was young, she had hated being called by her first and middle names, which her father had given her, naming her after his favorite country singer. But Bane had made her like it when he’d called her that on occasion. Could it really be him at the door?

Lowering the gun, she looked out the peephole. Her gaze connected to a gorgeous pair of hazel eyes with a greenish tint. They were eyes she knew. It was Bane.

She was about to open the door when she remembered the note. Trust no one. But this wasn’t just anyone, she reasoned with herself. This was Bane.

She unlocked the door and stepped back. Soft porch light poured into her foyer as Bane eased open the door. He’d always been tall and lanky, but the man entering her house appeared a lot taller than she remembered. And he was no longer slender. He was all muscles and they were in perfect proportion to his height and weight. It was obvious he worked out a lot to stay in shape. His body exemplified endurance and strength. And when her gaze settled on his face, she drew in a deep, sharp breath. He even looked different. Rougher. Tougher.

The eyes were the same but she’d never seen him with facial hair before. He’d always been handsome in a boyish sort of way, but his features now were perfectly masculine. They appeared chiseled, his lips sculpted. She was looking into the most handsome face she’d ever seen.

He not only looked older and more mature, but he also looked military—even while wearing jeans, a chambray shirt, a leather bomber jacket, Western boots and a Stetson. There was something about the way he stood, upright and straight. And all this transformation had come from being in the navy?

He closed the door behind him, staring at her just as she was staring at him. Her heart pounded. A part of her wanted to race over to him, tell him how glad she was to see him, how much she had missed him...but she couldn’t. Her legs refused to move and she knew why. This Bane was like a stranger to her.


She hadn’t imagined it. His voice had gotten deeper. Sounded purely sexy to her ears. “Bane.”