One Night Standoff - By Delores Fossen

Chapter One

Marshal Clayton Caldwell figured this could be bad.

He waited at the window and watched the woman exit the dark blue car that she’d just parked next to the Marshals Service building where he worked. She glanced around, but because of the other vehicles, there was no way she could have seen the black truck that eased to a stop about a half block up the street.

Clayton saw it, all right.

And he didn’t like the looks of this.

Had the driver of the truck followed her?

And if so, why?

Since Clayton had been at the second-floor window finishing his morning coffee and watching for his visitor to arrive, he’d been able to see the car and truck. Both unfamiliar. Not that he knew every vehicle in Maverick Springs, but the truck’s front license plate was obscured with mud or something. That, and the fact that the driver didn’t get out, made Clayton very uneasy.

Or maybe that was just a reaction to Lenora Whitaker’s visit.

Until the night before, he hadn’t heard from her since—well, just since. After nearly two months, Clayton had figured it’d stay that way.

“Everything okay?” Harlan McKinney asked. His fellow marshal and foster brother was seated in the corner of the desk-clogged room. Harlan’s attention was on some reports, but judging from his concerned look, he’d given Clayton a glance or two.

That’s when Clayton realized he’d slipped his hand over the Glock in his leather waist holster.

Old habits.

Sometimes he wished he could turn off this blasted LEO—law enforcement officer—alarm in his head, but he’d been a marshal for nearly a decade now. Too long to turn off alarms. Or to get a decent night’s sleep, for that matter.

“I’m not sure if everything’s okay,” Clayton answered. “I got a bad feeling about this.”

And that sent Harlan from his desk and to the window, where he looked out, as well.

Clayton waited, watching the wipers on the truck slash away the rain from the windshield. Not a gentle April shower. More like a downpour. But it wasn’t long before he heard the footsteps on the stairs. Not just ordinary footsteps, though.


They really stood out in the building where all six of the marshals were male. There were female employees in the other parts of the building, but this time of day they rarely came to the second floor.

The woman stepped into the doorway of the squad room, her attention zooming right to Clayton.


Yeah, it was her, all right. She stood there, her damp shoulder-length brown hair clinging to the sides of her face. The water dripped from her raincoat and the umbrella she had clutched in her hand and splattered onto the floor.

“Clayton,” she said on a rise of breath.

Her gaze darted to Harlan, and she cleared her throat. Maybe because Harlan was just plain intimidating, with his linebacker-size body and hard lawman’s eyes. Thankfully, Clayton’s foster brother went back to his desk in the corner and pretended not to notice they were in the room.

“Marshal Caldwell,” Lenora corrected herself.

That surprised him. Women he’d had sex with didn’t usually get so formal after the fact. Of course, Lenora and he had only been together for that one night—and at one of the worst times in her life, to boot—but still she had to remember it.

He certainly did.

Despite being all mussed and wet, Lenora was a darn attractive woman. And judging from her dark green eyes, a troubled one.

“There’ve been no updates on the investigation,” Clayton volunteered to test her reaction. Was that why she’d asked to see him?

Clayton glanced at Harlan, who was glancing at them and no doubt wondering what the heck was going on.

So was Clayton.

Lenora had been cryptic when she’d called the day before, saying only that she needed to catch up with him.

“No updates,” she repeated. “Yes.” And that was all she said for several seconds, before she cleared her throat again. “Marshal Walker called a few weeks ago to say there’d been no progress.”

Marshal Walker, as in Dallas Walker, another of Clayton’s foster brothers. Dallas was indeed in charge of the investigation into the murder of Lenora’s best friend. A murder that’d happened nearly two months ago.

The last time Clayton had seen Lenora.

And they hadn’t exactly parted under good circumstances. In fact, Lenora had sneaked out of the hotel room while Clayton was in the shower, and she’d left him a note saying it’d been a big mistake for them to have sex.

Since that wasn’t exactly a good memory, Clayton pushed it aside and hitched his thumb toward the Copyright 2016 - 2024