CHAPTER ONE

The petite brunette ran her fingers through her hair and lazily reached across to switch off her laptop. It was late, eleven o'clock and high time she wasn't working. She had just finished the story and wanted only to go to bed and sleep now. It had been a long day. Her editor had advised her to work from home for a few days after this latest story. The outing of a top officer in the military police was bound to have repercussions, but she had done stories like this before and couldn't see why Anthony was fussing so much over this one. He claimed that the officer had dodgy connections, but in Dolly's experience, most people with something to hide did have. She smiled to herself and stood up, stretching some more. A nice hot bath before she went to bed, she decided. To get her completely relaxed so that she might actually sleep a little; she had had a lot of trouble sleeping lately. A friend at work had suggested she try lavender oil, but at the moment she felt like she'd need a whole field of the stuff to have any effect. She smiled as she sprinkled a few drops of the oil into the bathwater though. Maybe it would help. Slowly, she lowered herself into the steaming water and sighed deeply as the vapours rose around her. Dolly closed her eyes, her mind wandering over the story she had just finished. No, she told herself, sternly, no work. She needed to relax if she was going to sleep. When the insomnia first started her doctor had told her that it was because she worked too late at night and her mind couldn't relax; hence the bath now at this late hour.

As she sank her head down under the water and emerged, dripping wet, she sighed deeply. Time to get out. The water was cooling and it was getting late. Reluctantly, she heaved herself out of the bath and wrapped the towel around herself. She dried herself off and wrapped a white, towelling robe around her, fastening it at her slim waist. She rubbed her hair distractedly with the towel and then headed for her bedroom. The scream barely left her lips as the man leapt at her, placing a large hand over her mouth, muffling her cry. Struggling hard against his grip, she brought her teeth down hard into the flesh of his hand. The man swore, but released her. He placed himself in front of the door, so that she could not escape. He looked at her through the greenest eyes she had ever seen and she shivered.

"Wh… who are you?" she asked, trying to keep her tone even. "And how did you get in here?"

"You don't need to know who I am," he replied. "As for getting in here, it wasn't a problem. You didn't lock your back door."

She cursed and he raised an eyebrow, vaguely amused, despite himself.

"Are you here because of the article I wrote about Simons?" she asked her tone now steady. She still trembled slightly though; he could see her hands shaking.

"You must have realised there would be repercussions for such a slanderous article."

Dolly smiled a tight smile.

"It's only slander if it isn't true," she replied. The man glared at her and she actually flinched just at that to his surprise. He lifted his hand, with the intention of backhanding her, but she gave a cry of fear and suddenly he found he couldn't do it. He dropped his hand and looked at her, closely.

"You frightened?" he asked. Dolly stared at him for a moment and then she laughed.

"A seven foot thug turns up in my bedroom at half past twelve in the evening, with the intention of beating me up and probably raping me and you ask if I'm frightened?"

"I have never raped anyone," he replied, indignantly. Dolly couldn't help herself; she laughed at his tone of voice; he sounded offended.

"Forgive me if I don't believe you," she said, moving herself to the far end of the room. He watched her through narrowed eyes. As Dolly backed up against the wall, pulling her robe closer to her, the man paused. He sighed, suddenly confused. He never usually let his emotions get in the way when he was on a job. It had never phased him before, having a woman as part of his job, but this time it did. Dolly seemed so small and what she had done seemed too insignificant. Dolly watched him warily, like a rabbit caught in headlights and then sat down on the edge of her bed. She narrowed her eyes slightly as she looked at him and then spoke again, quietly. "Your name is Mark, isn't it? You work for Paul Wright?"

Mark stared at her hard. None of his jobs had ever known his name before and none of them had ever known who he worked for. She smiled at his expression.

"It's my job, Mark. I'm an investigative journalist. I've known about Paul Wright for quite some time; probably the real reason he sent you. As for you, well, I used to follow the bike shows, partly for work and partly for pleasure."

"You like bikes?" said Mark, surprised.

"Sure. Well, used to. Actually, it's probably fairer to say I liked the men on the bikes. My ex was a biker, in fact all me exes have been bikers. I remember you from the show. Must admit, I was quite surprised when I found out who you worked for and what you do to people. You did quite a number on Amanda Wright."

"You heard about that?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, yes. I was sent to investigate it. You covered your tracks pretty well, but unfortunately Amanda recognised you."

"You never printed a story."

"No, turns out my boss owed your boss a favour," she said, wryly. Mark smiled and she realised that he was actually a quite attractive man. "So then, what happens now?"

"I guess you should phone the police," said Mark.

"They'd never be able to hold a case against you," she replied. Mark laughed, knowing that that much was certainly true.

"You certainly like to bath late," he said, suddenly. Her eyes widened slightly and then she smiled.

"I'm something of an insomniac," she replied. "Can't help myself sometimes. Everything I've read about, researched, followed up runs round and round in my head; guess you could say I'm pretty dedicated."

"Dolly, has anything like this ever happened before?" asked Mark, amazed at how calmly she was taking the fact that he was standing here in her bedroom, more or less a stranger, sent to hurt her.

"Naturally in my line of work I get threatened quite a bit," she replied, with a wry smile. "Well, Mark, I'm guessing you changed your mind about the job, so unless you're planning on staying the night, I suggest you find your way out again."

"You inviting me to stay?" asked Mark, raising an eyebrow.

"No," said Dolly, firmly, but with a glint of humour in her eyes. "Maybe next time we could meet in more auspicious circumstances?"

Mark shrugged and turned to leave, but as he closed the back door behind him a wide grin spread across his face.