Chef and ex-con Theo DeLeon returns to Colorado to work and be left alone. Fate doesn’t cooperate. He’s offered a job as head chef at a restaurant, but believes it is more about his having killed a man, than his culinary skills.

Gabrielle needs a chef or she’ll lose her restaurant. Taking a huge gamble, she offers the job to a disillusioned ex-con. Could her heart be his next victim?

The smell of stale sweat slapped Gabrielle as she stepped through the door. The mid-day heat of northern Colorado mixed with the sweat caused by the exertion of the gym’s patrons made for an interesting aroma. Straightening her shoulders, she remembered her reason for being here and continued walking further into the room rather than backing out the door. No foul smell was going to keep her from her goal.

Besides, she should have expected it. This was not a spandex and neon lights type of gym. Here the patrons didn’t care what they looked like while they jumped rope, sparred in a makeshift boxing ring, or took out their frustrations on a punching bag. The people here weren’t worried about looking good. Their focus was on training, not trying to impress anyone with their fashion statements. That and punching the daylights out of someone, she thought watching two men spar in the ring. She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and moved on.

Gabrielle knew she would never understand boxing. Honestly, she didn’t care to, but that wasn’t why she was here. A friend had recommended someone who was possibly working out here. She had said he possessed the skills she desperately needed.

Knowing she looked out of place in her feminine, but professional attire, Gabrielle didn’t take offense at the stares or eye rolls she received. She met each one dead on with a friendly smile before moving on to the next. Not one of them matched the picture a friend had sent her after they had discussed her restaurant troubles. She continued scanning the room as she made her way around the ring.

She spotted him.

On the far side of the room, apparently oblivious to her entrance or the distraction it had caused stood Theo DeLeon pounding his fists into a large hanging bag. His name fit him. Her friend said the other prisoners dubbed him the Lion partly for his disposition and unruly mane of brown hair, but mostly for his strength.

He had killed a man with one punch.

Remembering that, Gabrielle shivered despite the heat caused by the September sun pouring through the second story windows. Watching him pummel the bag she had no doubt it was true. The power behind each punch he threw made the bag swing. She noticed other men working on similar bags didn’t have the same effect with their punches. She shivered again.

Okay, enough with being a ninny, go talk to him.

She started walking toward him and tugging the front of her jacket as she thought to herself that Yeti would have been another good nickname for him, the man was enormous. Then again, any man over five ten seemed tall to her, and this man was well over that. He also had plenty of muscle filling out his frame. Figuratively, shaking her head at herself for taking inventory of the man’s assets, she stopped several feet away from him. Knowing she was in his peripheral vision, Gabrielle decided not to interrupt, but wait for him to acknowledge her.

He didn’t.

In fact, the way he slammed his fists repeatedly into the huge bag in a series of mind-numbing blows, Gabrielle was positive he knew of her presence. She was just as sure he didn’t want her to know. The seriousness of her situation wouldn’t allow her to back down. When he moved to put his back to her, she sidestepped him so she was once again in his line of sight. His continued dismissive attitude irritated her.

“I need your help.”

Without so much as a glance, he moved to another bag.

Undeterred, Gabrielle followed. She watched him attack the new bag, making it swing at an amazing speed. His movements were fluid, not halting and stiff. His gaze never left the bobbing sphere in front of him as his taped fists rolled over and over each other in a hypnotic rhythm that momentarily mesmerized her. After a mental shake to refocus her thoughts, Gabrielle tried to engage him again.

“You can ignore me all day, but I won’t leave. I’m desperate and patient. A dangerous combination.”

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