The lock was pathetically easy to pick.
Reilly O’Neill cursed under his breath as the tumblers fell into place after only a few seconds’ work. What the hell was Mandy thinking of, still having such a worthless lock on her back door? Her house was so isolated, she might as well just put up a sign saying Rob Me. This thing wouldn’t keep a determined child out, much less someone bent on doing her harm.
The doorknob turned and the door swung open. Reilly slipped inside. Even after almost twelve months away he remembered the simple layout of Mandy’s house, so he didn’t need light to guide him. Surefooted, cloaked in darkness, he made his way to her bedroom.
He’d been shadowing Mandy for the past three days, not wanting to approach her in public, and by now he knew her routine. She’d be home in a few minutes, at about a quarter to midnight. The first thing she’d do was go to her bedroom, strip out of her clothes, and take a shower. And he would be waiting.
At one time in his life, Reilly would never have been able to wait like this, to see Mandy from a distance and not go to her. But waiting—and watching—had become second nature to him now. Amazing how your priorities change when just staying alive long enough to see tomorrow’s sunrise enters the equation. Though the immediate danger was supposed to be over, his instincts said otherwise, and old habits were hard to break. Anyway, it was safer for her this way. The last thing he ever wanted to do was jeopardize Mandy.
Reilly paused for a moment just inside Mandy’s bedroom, as a once-familiar scent came back to him—the lilac fragrance that Mandy always wore. Even her sheets had smelled of lilacs, he remembered now. With that thought came memories of the two of them entwined on her bed, her long, honey-blond hair streaming across his chest, the sheets pulled around them as their bodies cooled.
A sudden surge of desire hit him, and Reilly cursed again. It had been far too long since he’d held her, far too long since he’d made love to her in this room. Somehow he’d forgotten how the smell of lilacs affected him.
No, that wasn’t right. Not forgotten, exactly. He just hadn’t let himself remember, or he’d have gone crazy with longing during all these months away from her.
He sat on the edge of Mandy’s bed, then stretched out, overwhelming his senses with her scent. If he was going to torture himself with memories, he decided, he might as well make it worth his while.
Mandy. She’d been the best thing that ever happened to him, a vivid patch of color in an otherwise black-and-white world. The months he’d spent with her were the happiest in his life. Now, lying in her bed, he could almost hear her voice, husky with passion, calling his name. No one but Mandy could say “Reilly” quite the way she could.
It wasn’t his real name. It wasn’t even the name on the six-month-old California driver’s license in his wallet. In fact, he’d lost track of the number of different aliases he’d used in his career. But Reilly was the name Mandy knew him by, so Reilly he would be once more.
God, he was tired. Tired of running. Tired of waiting. Well, it wouldn’t be long now. She’d be here soon, and he’d hold her and love her to his heart’s content. And he’d never leave her again. Never.
REILLY’S RETURN, Copyright © 2016 by Amelia Autin Lam