Here's an excerpt from Loving Vin (subject to editing)...
Vincenzo Barretti eased his finger off the trigger when he noticed two things about the woman standing in front of him. One – the guard dogs he had himself carefully picked out as youngsters and trained were flanking her protectively, indication that even though she stood in his house uninvited, she’d been there long enough to gain the dogs’ loyalties. And two – she didn’t seem scared to be looking down the barrel of his gun. No, she looked…accepting. Like facing death was nothing new for her and showing fear was as useless as histrionics or pleading.
He’d known something was off when he pulled his car into the secluded, well-fortified property north of Seattle that he called home when he wasn’t off trudging through the endless deserts and ruined cities of the Middle East. The dogs typically prowled the grounds when he wasn’t home and on the off chance they had gone into the house using the doggy door that was operated by specialized remote triggers on their collars, they would have come running out at the first hint of any car or person entering the compound. So before he had even walked through the front door, he’d had his gun drawn. Briego, the slightly smaller Belgian Malinois, had appeared within seconds of his entry into the house, but had indicated no anxiety or distress that something was amiss. The dog’s brother, Bane, was a no-show though and that had made Vin nervous because even though the dogs were there to do a job, they were also part of his family.
Doing a quick search of the lower floor had yielded no clue as to what was going on, but Briego had disappeared up the stairs, his nails clicking along the wood floor until they came to a halt at the end of the hall opposite his bedroom. Instead of searching the entire upper floor room by room as would have been his first instinct to do, he tracked Briego’s movements, then raised his gun at the sight of the woman standing in the doorway of the guest bedroom. The majority of her body was hidden in shadows since he hadn’t turned any lights on to give away his presence, but the automatic track lighting he’d had installed along the base of the floor for the purpose of allowing him to move and see quickly and easily enough without letting any potential intruders know his exact location gave him enough of an outline to discern a few things.
Although her shape was a mystery, he could see she was wearing what looked to be a loose fitting pair of shorts – pajama bottoms – he suspected, as well as a plain, white T-shirt that was several sizes too big for her…he had the sneaking suspicion it was one of his. Long hair covered much of her face and hung nearly to her waist, though he couldn’t tell the color. What he could see was Bane sitting on one side of her, Briego on the other. Her arms hung loosely at her sides, the fingers of one touching Bane’s head. The fact that neither dog had torn her apart whenever she had first entered his house meant that someone had let her in and the list of who might have done so was pretty short. Both Santo, the guy who took care of his yard and fed the dogs and Kayla, the woman who had bred and raised Bane and Briego and stopped by to work with the dogs several days a week when he was out of town, had the security codes to get into the house but he doubted they would have the audacity to stash a woman there for any reason. That left his brother Dom as the likely culprit, though that made little sense to him either.
The woman still hadn’t made a sound or move so Vin said, “Take one step forward. Slowly.” She did as he asked without hesitation, but the second the light from the floor illuminated her frame, she raised her left arm and covered her throat with her hand. The move had been quick, likely more instinctive and ingrained than anything else, but if he’d been the typical, trigger happy homeowner who just found a stranger inside his multi-million dollar home, the move could have cost her her life. He kept the gun trained on her as he studied what the light had revealed – she was taller than the average woman - 5’8 he guessed, which would put her at shoulder level with him. Something he didn’t see often since at 6’3 he tended to tower over the few women in his life and many of the men as well.
What stood out more than anything was how young she looked – early twenties at best. She was thin, but not the kind of thin that many women intentionally worked at to be. No, she looked malnourished and her pale skin suggested she didn’t see much of the sun…not that springtime in Seattle had much of that to offer. Her hair turned out to be brown – at least mostly anyway. About halfway down, the color of her hair changed suddenly from brown to black. A twinge went through him as something about that flashed in his memory somewhere, but then it was gone.
“Drop the hand,” he ordered as his eyes quickly flashed to his peripheral to make sure she was alone. The situation was off and even though the dogs weren’t signaling on any other presence in the house, he couldn’t quite get a read on what was going on and that had him on edge. “Do it now,” he ordered firmly when she didn’t respond, instead keeping her hand clutched to her throat.
It was the first sign of any kind of emotion from her and he was satisfied to know that at least she understood him, because her fingers fluttered, then clenched into a fist before she finally dropped her arm back to her side. One look at her neck had it all coming back to him in a rush.
“Mia,” he breathed and he saw her inhale sharply at the use of her name.