Joanie has a Julian jones (EXCERPT)

    So I heard from Joanie tonight. She's in Indonesia at Club Med on her way back to Hong Kong from Las Vegas. Yeah, rough, I know. Usually when the people I know say they're at Club Med I think they meant Club Fed and are serving time in federal prison. But Joanie actually meant Club Med.

    So Joanie had a jones for Julian. Since I adore the guy myself, I thought I'd post his big return scene in Unlawful Contact. Julian for those of you who don't know belongs to Aimee C., but he's also the hero in Hard Evidence. And hard is the least of what Julian is. Oh, my. pant, pant.

    So here he is....

    From Chapter 6 of Unlawful Contact

    The cabin door flew back on its hinges, hit the wall with a crack, the suddenness of it making Sophie scream.

    “Freeze! Police!”

    They’d gotten here faster than she’d imagined they would, streaming through the door with a burst of frigid air, guns drawn, a familiar face in the lead.

    Relief surged through her, strong and warm. “Julian!”

    Dressed head to toe in SWAT team black, his Kevlar jacket emblazoned with yellow letters that spelled “POLICE,” Julian Darcangelo swept the room with his gaze, making eye contact with her for the briefest moment as he and the rest of the team secured the cabin.

    “I promise I’ll come quietly.” Sophie managed a smile, wiped the tears from her face with her free hand.

    “Get medical in here!” Julian holstered his pistol and reached her in two strides, sitting beside her on the bed and pulling something from his pocket—a silver key. He uncuffed her, took her wrist in his hand, and rubbed it, his expression turning dark when he saw her bruises. “It’s going to be all right, Sophie. The paramedics are right behind us.”

    Sophie sank into the hug he offered—and burst into tears.

    She couldn’t say why she was crying, exactly. Her emotions were so jumbled she couldn’t sort through them. Shock. Adrenaline overwhelm. Sheer exhaustion.

    Heartbreak. Rage. Grief.

    She buried her face in Julian’s shoulder, unable to hold back her sobs, the weight of all that had happened crashing in on her.

    “It’s going to be all right.” He held her tight, his Kevlar vest hard as steel, his voice soothing. “I’m going to stay with you till we get you to the ER. You’re not alone anymore.”

    She soaked in the warmth of his friendship, felt him pull the sleeping bag more tightly around her, heard him issue a handful of orders, his voice quiet as if he were afraid of disturbing or upsetting her.

    “Taylor, get out there and break trail so the band-aid boys can get through. And shut the door behind you. We need to keep her warm. Michaels, you’re stepping on evidence. Wu, you’re in charge. I’m taking myself off duty as of this moment—oh-three-twenty hours.”

    And suddenly she felt silly.

    She drew back, sniffed back her tears. “I-I’m sorry.”

    “You have nothing to apologize for, Sophie. None of this is your fault.” He brushed his thumb over the bruise on her cheek, a muscle clenching in his jaw. “No matter what happened, no matter what he did to you, we’re going to help you through it.”

    And then she saw the situation through his eyes—her crying, the handcuffs, her bruises, her clothes lying wet and torn on the floor.

    “He didn’t hurt me, Julian. I’m okay, really.”

    He frowned. “Like hell you are.”

    “The bruises are my fault. I tried to get away and—”

    The look on his face told her he wasn’t buying it. “How long ago did he leave you here?”

    “About two hours ago, I think.”

    Julian passed the info on to his men, then pulled out his cell phone and typed in a quick text message. “I promised Tess I’d let her know when you were safe. She’s waiting this out with the rest of the gang at Reece and Kara’s place.”

    The thought of her friends gathered together, worrying about her, made fresh tears sting her eyes. She realized that Julian was here not so much because it was his job—he was vice, not SWAT—but because she was Tessa’s best friend and he cared about her. He’d been willing to risk his life to save hers.

    She swallowed her tears. “Thanks, Julian.”

    He brushed her thanks aside. “I didn’t do anything. I’m ashamed to say it, but if he hadn’t called to tell us where you were, you’d still be sitting—”

    The door opened, and two men stepped inside, one carrying a folded stretcher, the other what looked like a large blue tool box.

    “Finally.” Julian stood and made space for the paramedics, his hand strong and reassuring on her shoulder.

    The one carrying the tool box knelt beside her. “Looks like you’ve had a rough day, but we’re going to take good care of you.”

    “I’m fine now, honest.”

    But she was the only one who seemed to think so.

    The paramedics took her vitals and told her she was still mildly hypothermic. They stuck an IV of warm fluids into the back of her hand, a process that hurt more than she thought it would. Then they lifted her onto the stretcher, covered her from head to toe with heated blankets and, with Julian’s help and that of another cop, carried her through the snow to the waiting ambulance, despite her protests that she could walk.

    “Hush, Sophie.” Julian looked down at her, his expression stern. “This is the part of the adventure where you quit being tough and let other people take care of you.”

    In short order, she found herself inside the brightly lit ambulance, Julian beside her, a body-length heating pad beneath her, a ton of blankets on top of her, warm oxygen flowing through a mask into her lungs. It was as if someone had given her a sedative. She couldn’t keep her eyes open.

    “Why… am I suddenly… so sleepy?”

    “Your body has been fighting to normalize your temp for hours,” one of the paramedics told her. “Together with everything else you’ve been through today, I’d say you’re exhausted.”

    Sophie barely heard him, her eyes drifting shut, her thoughts shifting to Hunt. He was out there somewhere. Out in the cold. Alone. What if they shot him? What if he froze to death?

    She willed her eyes to open, sought out Julian. “He’s still out there.”

    But Julian misunderstood. He leaned down, gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “He’s not going to hurt you again, Sophie. We’re going to find him. I promise.”

    Before she could explain, she was asleep.

    # # #

    Cocooned in warmth, she slept as the ambulance wound its way silently down the canyon, the occasional bit of conversation reaching her, Julian speaking in hushed tones with the paramedics. Some part of her realized they were talking about her, but she couldn’t summon the strength to open her eyes or respond.

    “—looks like he hit her across the cheek with a crow bar.”

    “—think he raped her?”

    “—a man his age in prison for six years…”

    “—pretty woman, alone and helpless, would be tempting.”

    “—put him in solitary for the next hundred years.”

    “—shoot him first.”

    It was the siren that finally woke her, startling her from her sleep.

    “It’s okay, Sophie.” Julian still held her hand. “We’re trying to get past your colleagues into the hospital parking lot.”

    Her colleagues?

    “You think they’d show a little more respect for one of their own,” said the driver. “CNN. MSNBC. Fox. Geee-zus!”

    A media feeding frenzy.

    You’re news, Alton. How do you feel about that?

    She felt pretty cruddy, actually.

    “Let’s see if I can’t give her some privacy.” Julian pulled out his radio. “Eight-twenty-five.”

    A voice crackled back. “Eight-twenty-five, go ahead.”

    “Eight-twenty-five, I need a unit on each side of the ambulance to create a barricade and block the windows.”

    Sophie listened, fighting to clear the cobwebs from her brain, as Julian spoke in police code, using his position as one of the city’s top cops to shield her. Touched by his thoughtfulness, she gave his hand a squeeze. “Thanks.”

    “Figured you didn’t feel much like giving interviews right now.”

    The ambulance rolled to a stop. The door at Sophie’s feet opened, cold air rushing in. And suddenly she was moving, the gurney sliding feet-first out the door.

    She gasped, grabbed the rail, the sensation more than a little strange as the paramedics pulled her over the edge and the wheels beneath her dropped to the ground with a loud clunk.

    “Easy, Sophie.” Julian leaned over the gurney and placed a hand on each side of her face, blocking her from view. “We’re almost inside.”

    How unreal it all seemed. The blazing fluorescent lights of the ambulance bay. The bright white flashes from a hundred clicking cameras. The burst of shouted questions.

    “What’s her condition?”

    “Is it true the perpetrator called in her location himself?”

    “Is Marc Hunter in police custody?”

    The question jolted her, made her pulse jump.

    Had they caught him?

    Then she realized it was only a question. It didn’t mean anything. The reporter was just fishing for information.

    You’re not worried about him, are you, Alton?

    Yes, she was. Despite everything he’d done, she was.

    Be careful, Hunt.

    Even as the words formed in her mind, she drifted off again.

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