Category: Books In The Wind ‘N Air, Sneak Peaks and More


 

About the Book:

Title: Enamored

Author: J.S. Scott

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Montlake

EnamoredGraphic

Summary:

Like his brothers and sisters, Seth Sinclair went from blue-collar to billionaire overnight, and he’s decided to invest in what he knows best: construction. There’s only one thing in his way—the endangered birds nesting on a piece of prime beachfront real estate. And fighting for the birds is Riley Montgomery, a stubborn, pain-in-the-ass, drop-dead-gorgeous environmental lawyer. The worst part? Seth will do anything to keep her around—even if it means hiring her to be his fake girlfriend.

With a cause to fight for, Riley agrees to Seth’s scheme. If she keeps the superficial women away from Seth, then he’ll leave the wildlife sanctuary alone. But pretending to be his girlfriend comes with ground rules: No ass grabbing. And absolutely no sex. Ever. The problem? The sexual tension sizzles when they’re together.

Seth isn’t so keen on Riley’s rules, but he’ll keep his word, at least until she decides otherwise. But bringing Riley into his circle has brought her past back to haunt her in ways that neither of them expected. Now it’s less about broken rules and more about broken hearts, and Seth will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves.

Author Biography:

JSScott

J.S. “Jan” Scott is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous contemporary and paranormal romances, including the Sinclairs and the Accidental Billionaires series. She’s an avid reader of all types of books and literature, but romance has always been her genre of choice—so she writes what she loves to read: stories that are almost always steamy, generally feature an alpha male, and have a happily ever after, because she just can’t seem to write them any other way! Jan loves to connect with readers. Visit her website at www.authorjsscott.com.

Social Media Links:

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorJSScott

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2777016.J_S_Scott

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Excerpt:

“You said you’d trade for my services,” I prompted. “But I don’t have much to offer to a man like you.” 

He studied me for a moment, which made me uncomfortable. 

I didn’t want anyone to know me better. 

A man like Seth would never understand me. 

“You have a hell of a lot to offer any guy,” he considered. 

“Not exactly true,” I disagreed. “I was engaged once, but I was never enough for Nolan Easton,” I muttered, instantly wishing the name hadn’t left my mouth. 

For some odd reason, Seth was easy to talk to, but I needed to guard my words better. 

He whistled softly. “Nolan Easton? Head of Easton Investment Firms? The very wealthy Nolan Easton?” 

“Yes,” I said tightly. 

“Even so, I can’t believe he dumped you,” Seth answered. 

“He didn’t,” I admitted. “I finally broke it off. He didn’t know how to keep it in his pants, and I didn’t want to spend my entire life being who he wanted me to be.” I coughed nervously. “Now can we get back to the business at hand?” 

“Not yet,” he insisted. “I’m still trying to get why any guy would want to change a single thing about you. Not that I exactly love your line of work right now, but you’re passionate about it. You’re beautiful. You’re smart. You seem to know exactly what you want. Considering our circumstances, I can’t say I’ve seen your sense of humor, but I’m assuming you have one of those, too. What the hell else did he want?” 

I ignored his question. “I have three older brothers,” I shared. “I have to have a sense of humor or they’d drive me crazy.” 

He rested his arms on the table and leaned forward. “You didn’t answer my question, Riley. What else did he want?” His voice was low and persuasive. 

“It’s not important. My engagement has been over for a while, and I’m happy. I finally found my own home here in Citrus Beach, and I’m pretty content with being alone. It’s a lot nicer here than San Diego. Quieter.” 

It was a hell of a lot better than being with a man who made me feel like I was less than nothing. 

“When exactly did you move here? And where are you living now?” 

“Almost two years ago,” I ground out, growing impatient to get back to business. It wasn’t wise to dump a lot about my personal life to a defendant—no matter how good a listener he might be. “I had a condo, but I recently purchased your sister’s cottage. I’ve settled there now. She and Eli have the bigger home next door, so I already knew I’d have good neighbors.” 

“I’m right down the beach from there,” Seth said, sounding surprised. “I’ve never seen you.” 

“Like I said. It’s recent. I just moved in.” 

I was squirming in my chair. I didn’t care for the feeling of being interrogated. I was usually the one asking the questions. 

He shot me a playful grin that made my heart trip. “Welcome to the neighborhood,” he said jokingly. 

“Thanks,” I said uncomfortably. “Now tell me what you want from me to leave that piece of property alone.” 

He took his time answering, and the silence seemed to stretch out forever. 

I gulped down the last of my tea while I waited for him to answer. 

Was he playing with me? 

Or did he actually have some kind of proposition? 

Probably the former—since I really didn’t have much to offer him in the way of services. I could guarantee that Eli Stone had set Seth up with his gaggle of business attorneys. Why in the hell would he need an environmental attorney? 

“If you’re playing with me, this encounter ends right now,” I said tersely. 

“I’m not,” he said emphatically. “I’m just wondering how to explain what I want.” 

“If it’s acceptable, I’ll write up the contract today,” I offered. 

“It’s not exactly the contract I’m thinking about,” he said thoughtfully. 

God, I was jittery, and I wasn’t used to feeling that way. I was pretty certain that it wasn’t the extra-large chai I’d just consumed, either. 

It was him. 

Maybe it was the way he studied me. 

Or the way his steely gray eyes never left my face. 

I couldn’t read him, and that completely pissed me off. As an attorney, I’d gotten very good at judging exactly where a defendant’s mind might be, and what their motives were. 

“Just name your terms,” I said irritably. “I’ll work out the details.” 

I forced myself to meet his eyes in what I thought would be a battle of wills, and then was sorry that I had even glanced his direction. 

My breath hitched as I fell into a stormy gaze that wouldn’t let me go. 

I was stunned at the possessive way he eyed me. 

I was confused about the emotions I saw there. 

And I was mesmerized by the carnal desire that flared up in his steely irises like a bolt of lightning as he held me still with a single look, unable to rip myself away from his fixed stare that was holding me in place. 

I knew I was blushing like a damn teenage girl with her first major crush. My brain was begging my body not to react, but my stupid body wasn’t listening. 

His voice was hoarse and beguiling when he finally said, “I need a woman, Riley. And that woman has to be you.”

***

 

Courtesy: St.Martin’s Press

TheOnesWhoGotAwaySeries

St.Martin’s Press is running a series ebook sale for Roni Loren’s The Ones Who Got Away and wanted to let you know about it! Readers can catch up on the series for only $2.99, just in time for the fourth and final installment, The One for You coming on December 31st! We’re also running a giveaway that includes an advance reader copy of The One For You, plus some other goodies! Will you share with your followers? The sale ends on 10/8.

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More about The One For You
The highly-anticipated fourth book in Roni Loren’s unforgettable The Ones Who Got Away series.

She got a second chance at life.
Will she take a second chance at love?

Kincaid Breslin wasn’t supposed to survive that fateful night at Long Acre when so many died, including her boyfriend—but survive she did. She doesn’t know why she got that chance, but now she takes life by the horns and doesn’t let anybody stand in her way

Ashton Isaacs was her best friend when disaster struck all those years ago, but he chose to run as far away as he could. Now fate has brought him back to town, and Ash doesn’t know how to cope with his feelings for Kincaid and his grief over their lost friendship. For Ash has been carrying secrets, and he knows that once Kincaid learns the truth, he’ll lose any chance he might have had with the only woman he’s ever loved

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What a privilege to be part of this Golden moment….am so thrilled!!!!!
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About the Book

Title: Say it Again

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Montlake

SayItAgainGraphic

Summary

Protector-for-hire Sasha Budanov is accustomed to life as a loner. Always on the move, she’s now reached a crossroad. Looking for answers about her shadowy youth, she’s returned to the strict boarding school in Germany where she was raised. It’s also where she was trained in the stealthy, militarized art of survival. But behind its gleaming gates, Richter is a fortress of secrets, including those buried in Sasha’s mysterious past. To uncover them, she’s clinging to her first rule of defense: stay guarded.

If anyone can challenge Sasha’s rules, it’s devilishly sexy stranger AJ Hofmann. He wants answers, too. And he needs Sasha’s help. The recent deaths of several of Richter’s former students—including AJ’s own sister—have aroused his suspicions. He’s arousing something more in Sasha. Never one to surrender to her emotions, she senses something tempting in AJ. She trusts him. He’s fearless. And he kisses like a demon. Sasha’s found her match.

But treading Richter’s dark halls—and following their hearts—has its risks. As the decades-old secrets of the past are mined, Sasha and AJ are falling deeper in love . . . and into danger.

Author Biography

Copyright Julianne Gentry Photography

New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written thirty books that collectively have sold more than five million copies and been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series. For more information, visit www.catherinebybee.com.

Social Media Links

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Author Interview: 

1) Sasha, from your newest novel Say it Again, is unlike any character that most readers will have encountered. Can you give us a rundown of your heroine?

Sasha is a female James Bond with all the skills that kick ass and the sexy that opens doors. She’s a master of disguises, speaks more languages than anyone should…and has a razor-sharp mind that doesn’t sleep. In all her badassery, (pretty sure I just made up that word) Sasha has a soft spot—a vulnerability that makes her want to protect the innocent. She’s a true to life superhero who walks the fence between right and wrong. She really doesn’t have any issues breaking laws to get what she wants. And that’s what makes her so fun to read, and for me to write.  

2) Fans have been following Sasha throughout your First Wives series. Did you always know you wanted to write her story?

No! Not at all. The first four books in the series were going to be it. However, Sasha commanded attention the first moment she walked on the page and I couldn’t get enough of her once I dreamed her up. I was almost finished writing the first book when I decided that Sasha was not going to be a bad guy. Yes, I’m a pantser, and have no real outline before I sit down to write. I think the fact that I didn’t know she was one of the good guys made her all that more believable. I don’t even think she knew she was going to be on the side of right and justice until the end of Fool Me Once.  

3) While many of your novels have a mystery or suspense element, you dive head first into action and spy-games in this book. How easy was this transition for you?

It was super easy and tons of fun. In fact… I think I may have a spin off of a spin off rolling in my head with all the fun characters I played with while writing this book. Neil was one of my very first book boyfriends from the Weekday Brides. And having him come back in this book just reminded me how much fun it is to write all the action and intrigue. I hope my fans love it enough for me to continue the theme with new books. 

4) When AJ is first introduced he seems pretty average—just a guy looking for answers about his sister’s death. But in reality, there is nothing average about AJ. How would you describe him? 

The best picture in my mine that I can describe with all clarity is Brian O’Connor, Paul Walker (RIP), from Fast and Furious. Innocent until he isn’t. 

I would say that AJ is exactly what Sasha needed to open up and accept that she too can be loved. I wanted AJ to come off as average until he wasn’t. Sasha is such a strong character that she needed someone who wasn’t going to try and overpower or overshadow her badassery (love that word). AJ does that. Yet he has some badass moments himself and that is what makes her fall for him even more. He is in no way perfect and neither is she. 

5) AJ and Sasha have something in common—they are both characters with lots and lots of secrets. What makes them open up to each other? What else do they have in common?

Trust through time. That’s the best way for me to describe how they evolved in my head. There is a common respect the moment they “acquire” the other’s phone. A moment where they take notice and begin to respect the other. Honor among thieves as they say. I think the common ground that isn’t apparent until the story evolves is how they want the love of a family. AJ is much more open to it than Sasha, but they both have to fight for it in the end.  

6) While you have written books with scenes in foreign countries, this story takes place internationally. Have you visited the same places as your characters? Where do you hope to take readers around the world in the future?

Yes, I have been to all the places I have written about. I was in Berlin a couple of years ago at a book signing and managed to get their by taking the train from London, through Amsterdam etc. So yes, I’m blessed to have visited these places which makes the story that much richer in my opinion. Richter, the school in the story, is from my imagination. I did some fact checking and learned that post Hitler’s Germany, military boarding schools were not welcome in the country. So I made one up and made it as great and awful as I could while still making it believable. 

I have placed most of my travels, or experiences from them, in my books. And as I travel the world, I will bring my readers along…eventually. 

7) Say it Again wraps up your First Wives series. What have you learned while writing these books? Will these lessons affect your writing in the future? 

On a personal level, I will say that I’ve leaned to write with a great deal of personal turmoil. There have been times I’ve doubted my process and this final book in the series has told me to never do that again. I would like to always keep the door open for more books because of characters like Sasha. I love writing fast moving romantic suspense and intrigue and can see Claire, Cooper and the whole of Neil’s team as a great setting for future books. Yeah… I’m liking that idea more and more. I hope my readers do, too. 

***

Excerpt:

AJ was being stood up.

It was half past noon and Sasha wasn’t there.

The Brandenburg Gate was one of the busiest tourist attractions in Berlin. The square was filled with families and walking tours led by someone holding a colored flag on a stick and talking into a microphone while a line of dazed, zombie-like visitors followed behind. Aside from those in the square learning about the history of the place, there were a dozen police officers and security guards moving around. Considering the American, British, and French embassies were all within a stone’s throw of each other, AJ was surprised there wasn’t a stronger military presence. 

AJ kept scanning the crowd in search of Sex on a Stick in black leather pants and a bad attitude. 

Nothing. 

Left without options, AJ dialed his phone number on her phone and waited. It rang twice. 

Behind him, the riff of “Bad to the Bone,” his ringtone, shot through him. He dropped his hand from his ear and saw a blonde standing three feet away, her back to him. 

Slowly she turned. 

“Whoa.” 

Sasha stared back at him, wearing white capri pants and a bright floral top. The blonde wig overdid it but completely camouflaged her in broad daylight. She took a step closer, reached out her hand holding his cell. “Hello, AJ.” 

They switched phones. “How long have you been standing there?” 

“Half an hour, give or take.” 

He looked her up and down. She looked like a typical American housewife, minus the kid in the stroller. “Impressive.” 

“I wanted to make sure you were alone.” 

AJ glanced around at the passing tourists. “Is there a reason behind the cloak-and-dagger?” 

She moved closer, lowered her voice. “You’ve come here to look for your sister’s killer. You think there is some connection to Richter. Went so far as to go there asking questions. You’re stalking the local pub and hitting on, not to mention stealing from, the patrons . . .” Sasha waved her phone in the air before tucking it into her back pocket. 

“I’m calling pot to kettle on that last accusation.” Although all the rest she pointed out was spot-on. 

“I like to go unnoticed. If someone followed me here, they lost me the second I made the city limits and went clothes shopping.” 

“What if someone followed me?” 

“Then I would have seen them watching in the thirty minutes you’ve been standing around looking like a lost child without a parent.” She turned and started walking toward the gate. 

AJ had no choice but to follow. 

“What makes you think anyone is following either of us?” 

She smiled, didn’t answer his question. “I used to help your sister on her agility training,” she told him. 

The mention of his sister brought his attention back to what he should be focused on. “She wasn’t the most athletic woman.” Amelia took after their mother, who didn’t grow more than five feet five inches tall and had a sweet tooth that always kept her rounder than she’d liked. At least that’s what she’d blame when she went on one of her many diets. 

“No. But she held her own most of the time. Everyone at Richter was pushed to do at least that.” 

“Her coworkers said she had recently started taking morning walks before work,” AJ said. 

“Which explains the police report about her being murdered in the park and tossed in the river.” 

AJ stopped walking. “You looked her up.” 

“Only because I knew her.” 

He jumped in front of her, stopped her from moving. “Then you’ll help me.” 

“There is nothing to suggest that Amelia’s death is at all linked to Richter.” 

AJ looked over Sasha’s shoulder and noticed a man eating an ice cream cone and staring at Sasha. The middle-aged guy turned his attention away and took a few steps in the opposite direction. 

“Maybe she . . .” 

AJ felt eyes, turned to his left. 

No one. 

“What is it?” Sasha asked. 

“The guy with the ice cream, over your left shoulder.” 

She grinned, cocked her head to the side. “We did this last night.” 

“Yeah, only I’m not asking you to lay a lip lock on me. Tempting as that might be.” Truth was, he’d thought about that kiss more times than he wanted to admit. “If how you’re dressed is any indication, you’re the expert on all things undercover. You tell me if you feel the weight of someone’s stare.” 

Sasha paused, then looked over her shoulder. “That him?” she asked, thumbing toward the guy with the ice cream. 

“Yeah.” 

She grabbed AJ’s hand and walked directly toward the guy he thought for sure was watching them. 

“What are you doing?” 

She didn’t answer. “Excuse me?” Her voice rose a full octave, her smile was sickeningly sweet. Any accent he’d detected from her voice was gone . . . or changed. 

The man with the cone turned toward them. “Yes?” 

“Are you American? You look American.” 

“I’m, ah . . . yeah.” The guy looked directly at AJ.

Sasha kept going. “Good. Would you mind taking our picture? I can’t get the gate behind us with a selfie.” 

Again the guy offered AJ unblinking eyes. “Ah, sure.” He reached for the phone Sasha was handing him. 

Next thing AJ realized, he was standing beside Sasha, her arm slipped around his waist, and he was smiling like all of the other tourists surrounding them while the man he thought was spying on them took their picture. 

The stranger holding Sasha’s phone, while trying to balance his ice cream cone, looked completely out of place. 

“Take a second one, just in case.” Sasha giggled. 

The sound of her voice didn’t suit her. The hand on his waist, however, suited him just fine. The feel of her there, the warmth, the softness he knew she would hate if he pointed it out, felt a little too right. 

“Thank you so much.” 

The stranger handed her phone back with a nod. “Have fun.” 

She waved. “We will . . . thanks.” 

And he was gone. 

AJ watched the man slip away as Sasha removed herself from AJ’s side. 

He missed her warmth, instantly. 

“Any self-preserving spy wouldn’t have made contact,” Sasha told him. 

The two of them walked toward the center of the square. “Okay,” AJ started. “Maybe I’m a little paranoid.”

“You’re a lot paranoid.” 

AJ paused in the middle of the plaza and stared at the massive horses that sat atop the gate. The image of his sister at Christmas the previous year surfaced. It was the last time he’d seen her alive. “I know Amelia’s death wasn’t random, Sasha. I feel it with every breath I take.” 

She sighed. “I know you do.” 

He looked at her. “You don’t believe me.” 

“I believe you believe.” 

He lowered his head, studied the salt-and-pepper colored stones beneath his feet. “You’re not going to help.” Damn it . . . he was back to ground zero. 

Another heavy sigh from the woman at his side. “I will help you.” 

AJ snapped his head up. “What?” 

She placed a hand in the air as in warning. “Not because I think you have anything other than grief inside you. The not knowing, or never accepting the facts, can eat you alive.” 

Not ground zero. He wanted to kiss her. Not that she would be receptive to that kind of thing. “Why are you doing this?” There wasn’t anything in it for her. Sasha turned away from him and focused her attention on the Brandenburg Gate. 

“Because I’m not bored.” 

***

 

 

About the Book
 
Title: Save Your Breath
Author: Melinda Leigh
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Montlake
SaveYourBreathGraphic.jpg
 
Summary
 

When true-crime writer Olivia Cruz disappears with no signs of foul play, her new boyfriend, Lincoln Sharp, suspects the worst. He knows she didn’t leave willingly and turns to attorney Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger to find her before it’s too late.

As they dig through Olivia’s life, they are shocked to discover a connection between her current book research on two cold murder cases and the suicide of one of Morgan’s prospective clients.

As Morgan and Lance investigate, the number of suspects grows, but time is running out to find Olivia alive. When danger comes knocking at their door, Morgan and Lance realize that they may be the killer’s next targets.

 
Author Biography
MelindaLeigh
 
#1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. A lifelong lover of books, she started writing as a way to preserve her sanity when her youngest child entered first grade. During the next few years, she joined Romance Writers of America, learned a few things about writing a novel, and decided the process was way more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s also garnered Golden Leaf and Silver Falchion Awards, along with two nominations for a RITA and three Daphne du Maurier Awards. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate; teaches women’s self-defense; and lives in a messy house with her husband, two teenagers, a couple of dogs, and two rescue cats.
 
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Author Interview: Melinda Leigh
 

1) Your newest release features two of your most popular characters, attorney Morgan Dane and P.I. Lance Kruger. While this couple has a habit of getting involved in difficult (and dangerous) criminal cases, the mystery in this book is much more personal for them. 

In Save Your Breath, Morgan and Lance aren’t working for a client. They’re looking for Sharp’s girlfriend, Olivia Cruz, who vanished from her home in the middle of the night. After Olivia goes missing, Sharp realizes his feelings for her run much deeper than he’d thought. As the investigation continues, with no trace of Olivia, the usually calm and centered PI begins to unravel. Morgan and Lance had always depended on Sharp for his insight and stability. Save Your Breath reverses these established roles.   

2) How does the personal nature of the crime affect the other characters? 

Morgan and Lance are also thrust into unaccustomed roles. In the previous five books, Sharp has been the source of stability. He is their rock. Now Morgan and Lance have to step up and help him hold it together. The book deliberately challenges the cohesiveness of the team.

3) The story starts with a terrifying scene where Olivia is kidnapped. It is raw and visceral and plays on everyone’s worst fear—being unsafe in our own home. How do you get into the mindset for crafting this kind of scene?

I close my eyes and envision the scene in my mind from beginning to end. Everyone has been woken by a strange noise in the middle of the night. We’ve all stared at the ceiling, listening for the sounds of a stranger moving through the house. Being attacked in our sleep is a basic, primal fear. That’s the vulnerable feeling I wanted to generate in the reader, so I imagined it happening to me. Basically, I’m channeling the overactive imagination that got me into so much trouble as a child. 

4) Morgan and Lance are planning a wedding and solidifying Lance’s place as a step-dad to the Dane girls, all the while dealing with terrible crimes around them. How do they disconnect from the violence around them in order to create a space just for themselves and their family?

The family demands their full attention, and in their world of chaos and crime, their home is what keeps them sane. Both Morgan and Lance operate best when they have the support and love of their family to return to at the end of the day.  

5) Can you give readers any hints of what’s next for Morgan Dane and her crew?

I wrote Save Your Breath as the final book in the Morgan Dane series, but my next project is a spin-off. The Bree Taggert Series will take place in Grey’s Hollow. Morgan and the crew will likely make appearances. 

***

 
Excerpt: 
 

Her weekly dinner with her family had distracted her earlier in the evening. Her mother had served frijoles negros, Olivia’s favorite traditional Cuban dish. Olivia had overindulged, and the minute she’d left her parents’ house in Albany to make the hour drive back to Scarlet Falls, her true crime research had flashed right back into her mind and unsettled her stomach. 

Chewing an antacid, she mulled over her stunning discovery. The implications of what she’d learned further stirred the black beans and rice in her belly. As a journalist, her job was to seek the truth, not play judge or jury. But should she choose to pursue and publish this truth, other people could pay the price for her revelation—possibly with their lives. 

SaveYourBreath

Her new book proposal was overdue, but Olivia’s predicament felt like a no-win situation. Ignoring the truth went against all her principles. Then again, so did putting other people in danger. 

But how much risk was involved? Could she live with being responsible for even a single innocent person’s death? 

Obsessing about her book research had translated into three consecutive nights of insomnia. Enough was enough. Olivia didn’t need to make this decision alone. What she needed was outside perspective. She brought the antacids with her into the bedroom, picked up her phone from the nightstand, and checked the time. Eleven o’clock. She sent a CALL ME IF UR UP text message to Lincoln Sharp, her . . .

The word boyfriend seemed silly at their ages. She was forty-eight. Lincoln was fifty-three. They’d been dating for several months, and they spent the night together once or twice a week. She assumed their relationship was exclusive, although they hadn’t specifically discussed it. 

Labels weren’t important to either of them, but when she saw him or he called unexpectedly, the stirrings of excitement and joy in her blood made her feel like a teenager. Beyond her attraction to him, she respected him both personally and professionally. 

So why had she been stewing over her decision instead of asking for his opinion? 

Lincoln owned and operated a private investigation firm. As a retired police detective, his practical experience with the legal system—and his knowledge of criminal behavior—exceeded hers. She valued his insight and trusted him to keep her research confidential. If she decided to pursue the story, she would hire his firm to help with the investigative legwork anyway. She may as well bring him on board now. 

She burped. Her indigestion began to burn its way up her esophagus. She chewed a second antacid, the chalky taste coating her mouth. She reached for the glass of water on her nightstand and sipped. 

A few seconds later, her phone rang, and she pressed “Answer.” 

“Is everything OK?” Lincoln asked in a worried tone. Her late-night text was unusual. 

“Yes,” Olivia assured him. 

“I’m sorry I missed dinner with your parents again,” he said. “I wrapped up my case tonight. I should be able to make dinner next week.” 

He didn’t talk much about work, which was fine. She understood his professionalism and appreciated his need to maintain client confidentiality. But he had mentioned the case had involved a great deal of evening surveillance. 

“They understand,” she said. “I called because I’m stuck in my research, and I’d like your opinion. Are you free sometime tomorrow afternoon? I can come to your office.” 

“Sure.” Interest brightened his voice. “How much time do you want me to block out?” 

“An hour should do.” She considered his associates. Lincoln’s business partner, PI Lance Kruger, and Lance’s fiancée, defense attorney Morgan Dane, could also provide useful insight on Olivia’s dilemma. Morgan’s legal advice might be particularly helpful. “I’d like Morgan’s and Lance’s thoughts as well. Could you see if they’re available?” 

“Hold on. Let me check their digital calendars.” The line went quiet for a few breaths. “Lance should be here in the afternoon. Morgan has a client meeting at nine a.m. Her calendar is clear the rest of the day. How about I put you in the one p.m. spot?”

“Perfect.” Olivia lowered the phone and made a note in the calendar app. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” 

“You know, when you texted”—Sharp’s voice deepened—“I had hoped this was a booty call.” 

A little thrill rushed through her, followed by another burp. Olivia rubbed the fire behind her breastbone. “Tonight isn’t a good night. I ate way too much of my mother’s food.” 

He snorted. “That happens. She’s an incredible cook. Get some rest and feel better.” 

“Good night.” Olivia lowered the phone. 

Satisfied he would help her make her decision, she slid into bed and picked up a book. At midnight, she still wasn’t sleepy. She set down the book and redirected her mind. Lincoln was teaching her to meditate. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on her breaths. She conjured a mental image of the beach in her mind and synced her breathing to the ebb and flow of the imaginary waves. At first she had trouble concentrating, but eventually her body felt heavy. 

Olivia jolted, her heartbeat quickening, sweat dampening her T-shirt. 

What was that? 

A glance at the clock on her nightstand told her hours had passed. It felt as if she’d just closed her eyes, but she must have fallen asleep. She scanned the darkness of her bedroom. Her gaze passed over her dresser and chair. Had she heard something real, or had it been a dream? 

She concentrated, listening hard to the sounds of her house, but she heard nothing unusual. A thunk and hum signaled the heater switching on. Hot air blew out of the floor vent and moved the sheers that hung over her windows. 

The alarm hadn’t sounded. She reached for her cell phone. It was far too early to rise for the day. She double-checked the security system app on her phone. The house was secure. She needed to go back to sleep. 

She shifted her legs under the covers, closed her eyes, and tried to get comfortable. 

Something whooshed. Her eyes snapped open. A large shape rushed toward her. A heavy body landed on top of her, pinning her to the mattress. The weight and size of her attacker felt male. She flailed and tried to push him off, but her arms and legs were trapped as he straddled her. She was cocooned in her comforter like a swaddled baby. Her throat constricted. She couldn’t scream. 

Panic sprinted through her bloodstream as she stared up at the dark assailant looming over her. His face seemed distorted, his features brighter and flatter than normal. He was wearing a mask. 

With a bolt of gut-twisting horror, she recognized the character as Michael Myers from the movie Halloween. 

A flash of terror shot up her spine. She inhaled, preparing to force a scream out of her tight throat. 

He slapped her across the face. Pain, bright and sharp, sang through her cheekbone but faded in seconds as her adrenaline surged. The scream died in her chest.


***
 
 
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