Colters' Lady

By: Maya Banks
Chapter One


Seth Colter walked into the soup kitchen and was greeted by a chorus of hellos from several police officers from his precinct.

“Hey man, I didn’t think you were going to make it,” Craig Sumner called.

Seth cracked a smile, surprised at how glad he was to see the guys he’d worked with for the past few years. “I said I would be here.”

“How are you feeling?” Rob Morgan asked as he slapped Seth on the back.

“Better,” Seth acknowledged, and for the first time in weeks, he realized it was the truth. He did feel better. He’d been sleeping easier lately, and his dreams weren’t so littered with the images of a faceless gunman and the exploding pain of a bullet tearing through his shoulder.

“Hey, that’s great. You’ll be back before you know it,” Craig said.

Seth nodded. Yeah, he’d be back. He hated being away from the job. He hated being away from the camaraderie of his fellow cops. For the first while, he’d sequestered himself in his house, refusing visitors.

He hadn’t wanted their pity. He’d resented the hell out of the fact that they were still on the job and he was stuck in his house popping pain pills and hoping he regained the use of his arm.

“What do you want me to do?” Seth asked.

Craig threw him an apron. “Get behind the serving line. We open for lunch in fifteen minutes. And hurry. Margie runs a tight ship.”

“I heard that.”

Seth turned to see a small, gray-haired lady standing behind him, her green eyes bathed in warmth.

“Hello, Seth.” She stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. “It’s so good to see you again. Are you taking care of yourself?”

She patted him on the cheek for good measure, and he smiled as he returned her embrace.

“I’m good, Margie. How about yourself?”

“Oh, I’m the same as ever. Busy. Just how I like it. Now you better get to your station before I open the doors. Looks like we have a lot of folks lined up to eat today.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said with a grin.

“See?” Craig said. “She’s a complete slave driver.”

Feeling lighter than he had in a while, Seth tied on the white chef’s apron and walked behind the buffet to stand in front of the baked chicken.


“Smells good, Margie. Who did you harangue into catering for you this time?” Seth asked.

She grinned. “I called in a favor. Or two.”

He laughed. Margie Walker was simply good people. She was a surrogate mother to many, but beneath the good-as-gold exterior lay a hard-driving woman who didn’t think twice about leaning on people to help her causes. Her pet project was Margie’s Place. Simply named, but it was appropriate. Every day, rain or shine, she opened her doors to the homeless, and she always had enough food to feed as many as filtered through her doors. No one was entirely sure how she managed it, but she always did.

His precinct routinely volunteered and they worked in shifts. Seth and five others came in once a month to serve, although for him it had been three months since he’d last been in.

“Okay guys, I’m opening up,” Margie called as she walked over to the doors.

For the next two hours, a steady stream of people came through the line. Workers from the kitchen brought out more food as soon as the trays emptied, and the guys dished it up.

The flow had dwindled when Seth looked up to see the most startling pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen in his life. In the process of extending the pair of tongs with a piece of chicken, he stared in shock at the woman standing in front of him, small hands gripped tightly around the lunch tray.

There was something infinitely fragile about her and equally arresting. His gut tightened, and for a moment he forgot to breathe. Or maybe he was unable to.

Dressed in a shabby, worn sweater and a pair of jeans so faded they were nearly white, the woman stared back at him, wispy midnight curls escaping the knit cap she wore.

She was beautiful. And haunting. Her gaze looked wounded and faint smudges rimmed her eyes. A fierce surge of protectiveness welled up inside him, baffling him.

Her fingers tightened around the tray, and she started to move forward without the chicken he still held in the air like an idiot. He thrust it forward onto her plate.

Then she smiled, and it took what little breath he had left and squeezed it painfully from his lungs.

“Thank you,” she said sweetly.

She moved down the line as a man moved into the spot where she’d stood and looked expectantly at Seth. Still staring after the woman, Seth slapped the next piece of chicken on the man’s tray and wondered what the hell had just happened here.

He watched as she sat away from the others, finding a corner where there were only two chairs at a tiny table that looked out a window.

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