Saturday, September 21, 2019

Rourke


Hi, Everyone,

Hope you’ve all had a good summer? Our weather in the UK has been…changeable, is probably the kindest way to describe it. In other words, it’s been our usual couple of days of sunshine and then days of rain. The former is the perfect weather for reading a good book on the beach or in the garden, and the rain is the perfect weather for me to stay at home and write those books. Win-win, for me!  

This weekend sees the publication of ROURKE (Steele Protectors 4). The suave and sophisticated Rourke shows there is much more to him than on the surface when the woman he loves is put in danger.


HAYDN (Steele Protectors 5), my 250th book, is now available for pre-order. Haydn is known as the computer hacker of the family. But he also has another, more deadly talent. When Hailey Frost is threatened he won’t hesitate to use it.

Also available for pre-order is Bastian’s Surrender (Regency Club Venus 1), the first in a NEW Regency Romantic Suspense series. Bastian’s Surrender was previously published in the Christmas anthology titled Seduced Under the Mistletoe. It has had 1,000 words added to the original text in order to facilitate the continuing storyline of the whole series.

Another pre-order is the long-awaited and much asked for Dragon Reunion (Dragon Hearts 8). This is a Christmas story and the LAST book in the paranormal romantic suspense Dragon Hearts series. You’ll have chance to catch up with all the Pendragon brother dragon shifters along with the revelation of a BIG surprise for all of the Pendragon family.

My fourth pre-order is for Hidden Lover (Regency Men in Love 1) the first story in my NEW Male/Male Regency Romantic Suspense series. This series will be published under the name C. A. MORTIMER, in order to easily differentiate my M/M books from my M/F ones. But for those of you who love M/M romance as much as I do, this HOT Regency series is definitely for you!    

Talk to you again soon!
     
Carole xx

Buy link for ROURKE (Steele Protectors 4)
Also available on B&N, Kobo, Google, Smashwords. Applebooks.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

CITY GIRL vs COUNTRY BOY

With: Angi Morgan

Congratulations to "Bn100", the winner in Angi's giveaway. Please contact JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE to claim your prize!

The Cattleman is one of my favorite stories. Officially it’s book two of the West Texas Watchmen, but we met Nick in Protecting Their Child (the story that inspired the series). Without spoiling PTC for those who haven’t read it, Nick was not a super great guy. His story in The Cattleman is full of redemption, fun, more fun and a lot of city girl vs. country boy.  Hey, there’s a pair of purple boots with rhinestones…you can’t get more fun than that. 

This story also deals with the aftermath of trauma. We naturally associate PTSD with our Wounded Warriors. It’s harder to realize that someone who is a survivor might also be caught suffering long after they heal. Harder still to get them to realize they need help.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from Nick’s POV, seeing Beth’s boots for the first time:

Two heads in the Wrangler. When they got closer he could tell Beth was driving, with one of the ranch hands holding on for dear life. She skidded to a stop, causing his horse to jerk sideways, trying to bolt.
The ranch hand jumped out, crossed himself and ran to Nick. Looked like his medicine would be coming a bit earlier than he’d anticipated. Off his horse, he grabbed his gear, slung his saddle bags over his shoulder and kept his rifle in his hand. A year ago that much riding would have made him too sore to move.
“Straight back to the barn with this guy, then a rub and extra oats. Thanks, Paul.”
Before the shooting, Nick always sent the hands out to look for strays and broken fences. He’d stayed in the comfort of his office or had worked the horses in the corral.
Si, senor. I’ll take good care of him. You be careful with the she-devil. She’s one crazy driver.”
So, they’d given her a nickname. He had one or two himself.
“Any day now, Mr. Burke,” she said, tapping the wheel.
He tossed his things into the open backseat and stood by the driver’s side door.
“Aren’t you getting in?” she asked.
“Not if you’re driving. My Wrangler. My keys. My turn.”
“Oh, good grief.” She stood, popped over to the passenger side and buckled up while he got in and did the same. “We were about to come looking for you.”
“I see you bought yourself some boots.”
“Yes?”
“They’re purple.” And had shiny rhinestones. He stifled a laugh.
“I was assured they’re very popular.”
He reached for the key and paused. He’d avoided this area for a while now. One of the last times he’d driven down this road had been about a year ago with Kate next to him. A different time, different thoughts, different plans for his future that hadn't been set in reality. Beth was the complete opposite, no comparison.
“You coming after me would have been fun to watch. Again. I’ve been wishing I had a video from the last time.”
“You’re hilarious.”
“I needed time to get used to things.” He started the engine and didn’t gun it until they were well away from his horse. If he kept Beth clinging to the roll bars, she might keep quiet long enough for him to reach the hill. Or perhaps having the stuffing knocked out of her on the well-rutted, washed-out road would.
“Juliet and Alan were worried.”
He knew they were and wouldn’t argue. Admitting he was wrong would be hard enough to accomplish. “I’ll take it up with them. You’ve got my curiosity up. How did you know I was headed home and why the rush to get me there?” He shouted enough to be heard over the engine and the wind rushing by their ears.
“So you didn’t think we’d be coming to look for you?” she asked, looking ahead with only one hand holding to the door frame.
He skidded the Wrangler to a stop as he crested the last hill to the house. “What do you need to say to me that can’t be said where I might raise my voice and blow your cover?”
Eyes as big as a baby doe’s, she stared at him several seconds. “How did you figure that out?”
“I took more classes in college than just animal husbandry. But it really didn’t take much to get four from that two-plus-two equation.” He pushed his hands through his hair instead of reaching out for her as he wanted. They might as well get the apologies out of the way. “So what did you want to see me about?”
“We didn’t really get a chance to talk much before you took off. Your mom mentioned she saw you. So I, um…I just thought it would look better if I seemed excited to greet you.”
“Right. It has nothing to do with how anxious you are to hear what I found out there? And it doesn’t have anything to do with whether I decided to walk away from all this or stay and help you with your cover?”
“Go ahead, drive. I’m not in any hurry to hear anything.” She leaned back, trying to look casual. It didn’t look good on her. He liked that she stood and sat straight. Taller than everyone in the room except for him. Casual didn’t fit. “I really didn’t care when you got back. You were gone three days. I can’t help it if people began to wonder why you left.”
“On the very day you arrived, too. Must have been hard to explain. Probably even harder to your friend McCrea. My parents get it. I leave all the time.”
“Makes no difference to me. I get paid the same, whether you help or not.”
She clenched her jaw just as she did when holding her opinion to herself with the task force. Her teeth might split in two if she bit down any harder.
“And what if I said I did see something in one of the box canyons. Is there still no rush?” He watched the raven-black braid fly from its casual spot across her breast to hit the Wrangler seat as she turned to face him. It was hard to hold back his laughter. He raised his eyebrows and clenched his jaw so he’d appear serious. “Want me to take the long way home?”
“Are you kidding? Why are we waiting here?” The smoldering look she returned spoke every ounce of the frustration she’d obviously experienced. “We need to get a team together and get there as fast as possible. You should have called.”
He scratched the three days of beard. “I’ll be glad to hit the shower and get some of this stink off me.”
“Then why don’t we go to the house?”
He flipped his seatbelt off his shoulder and stood in the worn seat, gesturing for her to follow. She did. He leaned forward on the windshield frame like he had many times in the past year, just looking. And wondering where the men were who had ordered his death.
“Have you taken a look at a map, Beth? Do you have any idea how long it takes to get anywhere in this country? Especially on horseback?”
“Believe me, I study area maps all the time. In between my daily chores, that is. We should get moving. There’s a lot to arrange.”
Agent Conrad had ranch chores? He swallowed his surprise. Who did he have to thank for that bit of pleasure? “I should have thought of assigning you duties before I left.” He waved a hand in an arch toward his land. “Tell me what you see, Beth.”
“A lot of nothing in that direction. The ranch is behind us. What’s your point?”
“That’s exactly my point.” He was disappointed, but she said what he’d expected to hear. How most people reacted. “You see nothing.”
“Can you stop speaking in riddles, Nick? So there’s a lot of nothing between us and wherever this box canyon is. How far can we take the cars?”
She was such an attractive, competent woman. It would have been nice to imagine her here because she wanted to be. Because she saw the beauty of the land just like he did. Of course, appreciating the ranch had taken quite a while for him. He couldn’t expect that reaction from anyone overnight. Or even in three weeks.
Making love to Beth had been a welcome reward for getting pulled into that cold water cistern after she’d been dumped there by her horse. He’d been looking forward to getting her onto a soft mattress once or twice before she headed back to Chicago. But that was before she’d declared herself his protector and had been assigned permanently to this idiotic task force.
She tapped the back roll bar. He remembered her long manicured nails. The vivid memory of them being dragged across his back and then barely touching the puckered bullet scar had combined both of his dreams into one.
The best and worst thing that had happened this past year.
He pointed to the highest spot in front of them. “Up there is where most of the activity’s been.”
The sun was setting. Still high enough to just catch the hilltops and make Nick shade his eyes.
“It was clear this morning. No signs they’d been there in a while. Then I had a fight with one who destroyed my cell and stole my horse. I tracked the horse, waited until they pulled out and came home. In the time it took me to ride down, I’ve seen dust clouds. Heard sounds of a second chopper.”
“Let’s go. Now.” She popped into her seat. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her head tilted up to him. “I will find these guys and put an end to the threat they pose.”
“No, you won’t. That’s the point. In all this vastness, you can’t do this alone. Not without a lot of help and manpower. You have neither. Just me and a lot of ground to cover. You think of me as just a rancher, someone to teach you the necessary skills to complete your mission so you can move on. But I live here. This is my land, my home.”
“Look, I realize they twisted your arm to help me and that you might be—”
“No one can force me to do this, Beth,” he interrupted before she could make him angry. Hell, she’d already made him angry. “Here’s a secret, I don’t live here because I have no choice. I’m not afraid. You need to stop thinking that I am or we’ll never leave the paddock.”
“I don’t think of you that way, Nick.” Shoulders back, shades on the top of her head, she implored him with her eyes alone. “I never could. If I didn’t respect your skills, I wouldn’t have asked for your help.”
“You’re asking this time instead of the DEA?”
She laughed, tossing her braid over her shoulder, making him wish those gorgeous black locks were flying free in the wind. “The DEA doesn’t need to learn to ride one of those monsters you call a horse.”
The sun disappeared. Staying up here would give credence to their engagement story. If he was going through with this charade. “I had another reason for stopping.”
“It can’t wait?”
“Man alive, you’re just flat impatient.”
“I’m efficient.” The little remaining light was behind her and he couldn’t see her expression. But the agent had returned, standing straight and resting her hand on her hip.
“I stopped to give you a chance to say something without my mom and dad in the room. Don’t you have something to ask me?”
She jumped from the Wrangler and walked around to the hood, lightly hitting it with the palm of her hand.
“I don’t think I should. You’ve obviously made up your mind that this is a hopeless situation and you’re unwilling to help. I’ll just go back to the B&B tonight.”
“There you go jumping to conclusions again.” He’d decided to go through with this earlier and he didn’t know why he wanted to tease her so much with what ifs now. But it felt right. “You mentioned something about a fake engagement so everyone thinks you’re staying here is legit.”
“Yes. Does that mean you’re agreeing to teach me how to operate in this territory?”
“I wouldn’t go that far. But I’ll teach you what you need to get by.”
“Yes.” She did a classic double fist pump gesture for emphasis.
“That is if you ask me. And if I were you…” He ducked under the roll bar to the ground. “I’d ask me real nice-like. Bended knee, the whole shebang.”
“Oh my gosh. You can’t be serious. It’s a fake engagement.”
He gestured to the rocky ground again. “Not to everyone out there.”
“You’re for real? You want me to kneel? No one can see us. Oh, all right. Whatever.” She shoved his chest, causing him to retreat a step and giving her room to bend on one knee. “Okay. So. Um, Nick Burke, will you?”
“Wait. I think you’re supposed to hold my hand or something.”
She rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand, sighing as if touching him was going to absolutely kill her. “Will you marry me?”
“Marry you? I don’t know even know you.” For some unexplained reason he couldn’t help teasing her.
“Okay, that’s it. I’m out of here.”
He squeezed her hand, keeping her where she was while he knelt in front of her. Their thighs touched. It was clear that two layers of jeans weren’t enough to stop the sparks he remembered.
“Go ahead. I’m ready and will behave.”
“Again?” Beth cracked her neck exactly like she did before taking aim. “Fine. Will you marry me?” she asked in one long monotone breath.
“Sure. But I want to be up-front with you. I believe in long engagements.” He helped her to her feet.
“Thank heaven.” She started to slip away.
Someone probably watched them through the telescope they had on the patio. That’s how his mom would have known he was close. He knew it, but Beth didn’t. The entire gesture thing was to make her cover story believable. He should tell her. But not telling her for a minute was much more fun.
As many times as they’d kissed, even the first night they’d kissed, they’d never been standing. Now he held her close to his chest and slid his arms around her back.
“What the heck do you think you’re do—”
He kissed her. And kissed her again before her hands went from trying to push him away to sliding around his neck. Her lips were as soft as he remembered. She tasted like fruit. Strawberry or maybe cherry.
It was hard to remember that someone, most likely both his parents, were taking turns watching. His fingers itched to drop a few inches and curve around her shapely bottom. Instead he wrapped them around her waist and explored her cool mouth.
When they came up for air, Beth’s dimple was prominent in her cheek.
“Worth going down on one knee?”
“Don’t get so full of yourself.” She pointed a finger in his chest. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this was for your mother’s benefit. I finally remembered the telescope.”
There wasn’t a sharp jab from the tip of her finger. He grabbed her hand and took a closer look. “You cut your nails?”
“I realized it would be better if they were short. Easier to do ranch work. I took care of it in Alpine with Kate. I don’t mind.”
He did. He’d miss them. “Kate? When did you see her?”
“We went shopping. I needed appropriate clothes if I was going to take my turn mucking stalls like everybody else.”
“I have hands for that. Who the hell said we took turns?”
“Great. Just great. I am going to kill your father,” she said through gritted teeth as she walked back to her seat.
“Hey, Beth?” A Wrangler width’s between them and he continued to feel the heat she’d created being against his body. He wanted to stay and wait for the stars to come out instead of heading toward the house. He was very tempted to ask but that wasn’t the objective. “There’s another reason for you to stay on the ranch besides my mom’s ultimatum.”
He could see her smile, her brilliantly white teeth showing in spite of the darkening sky. Time to fill her in on his adventure at the canyon.
“I’m going to find who the cartel has spying at the Rocking B. I’m ending this once and for all.”

Here’s what readers said about The Cattleman:
“Wow! Talk about action packed! I just couldn't put this book down because there was so much action. I didn't want to miss anything. Beth and Nick took on a lot of trouble and wowed me with their abilities and quick thinking. The storyline of the drug smugglers and gun runners continues in this story and I am anxious to see what happens in the next book. I highly recommend this book.” Margie on Amazon, 5 stars

This book had me from the very first page and keep me on the edge of my seat to the last page. I loved Nick and Beth very much, they both had something to prove and they did it. This story had it all suspense, drama, romance, everything you love in a great book. I can't wait to read the next book in this West Texas Watchman series. Thank you Angi Morgan for another outstanding read!!!” Therese on Amazon,5 stars

“Punishment for her supposed failure, became her triumph. Plus, it got her a sexy cowboy. He had demons of his own that were neutralized.” Irene on Amazon, 5 stars
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Check out the posts about Nick & Beth on Just Romantic Suspense:


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USA Today Bestselling author ANGI MORGAN writes Intrigues where honor and danger collide with love. Her work is a multiple contest finalist and Publishers Weekly best-seller. She drags her dogs –and husband– around Texas for research road trips so she can write off her camera. They now have a map with highlighted roads they’ve traveled. Every detour somehow makes it into a book. 
Website   Facebook   FB Fan Page   Twitter @AngiMorganAuthr     
Check out my newsletter or follow me on Amazon or BookBub
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DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
by leaving a comment for the $5.00 gift card.
Giveaway on JRS ends at midnight September 20th.  Contestants enter drawing by leaving a comment on Just Romantic Suspense. Don’t forget to check back to see who won!


Do you wear boots? If so…what kind?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What Makes Writing So Special: Now I Know


Congratulations to "Patricia B.", the winner in Margo's giveaway. Please contact JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE to claim your prize!

Few things thrill an author more than having someone say they enjoyed reading your book. Sometimes though, those special compliments come with a little extra. Even more treasured.

A short time ago, I was privileged to receive that ‘little extra.’ A reader whom I had come to know sent a note to say she had thoroughly enjoyed my most recent release. Then she went on to say… “Thank you once again for the escape with a good story during a difficult time. Over Christmas my best friend received the gift of a kidney. During her hospital recuperation she was ready to read—low and behold—I had your newest book with me during her surgery and passed it on to her for her day 1 reading pleasure! Keep up the good work!”

In my humble opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that. And why I continue to write.

Brothers In Blue is a four book series featuring heroes who met at the police academy to become lifelong friends. Brad, Vince, Adam and Luke. All share a passion to serve and protect, each in their own unique way.

Books 1 and 2, ON THE SURFACE and ON THE FORCE are now available.

ON THE SURFACE – Brad’s Story: The Dropout

He sought vengeance only to discover love.

Wrongly convicted ex-con and recent parolee Jenny Reynolds wants to forget her tarnished past and focus on a brighter future. One that begins with a return to the small tourist town where she grew up. The restoration of her family’s once proud Rest Easy Bed and Breakfast is the only thing on her mind. Fleeing an ex who refuses to let her go, what she doesn’t need to complicate her already problematic life is another man. Enter handsome handyman Brad, a man who seems to care as much about restoring the B and B as she does. A man who soon becomes ready, willing and able to steal her heart. A man, as it turns out, with more than a few secrets of his own. A dropout from law enforcement, the real Brad Collins will use anyone and anything to fulfill a personal vendetta. When two pasts collide and danger threatens, their budding love for each other may be the first casualty.



ON THE FORCE – Vince’s Story: The Straight Arrow

Losing her job was nothing compared to the prospect of losing her life.
Top notch CFO Sydney Raines is devastated when her coveted job working for a high profile conglomerate is yanked out from under her. Determined to restore her mangled reputation, she finds her second chance when the owner of an upscale art gallery hires her as his personal assistant. Straight arrow cop Vince Miller is assigned to crack an international art theft ring. Working undercover, he never counted on meeting Sydney Raines, let alone falling in love with her. Then an unexpected twist in the case reveals the identity of a serial killer, along with the shattering realization that Sydney could be the psycho's next victim.



ON THE MAKE – Adam’s Story: The Movie Star – Available soon
Will a tragic past sabotage future dreams?

When it comes to husbands, Madison Clark’s track record is the thing of nightmares. Twice widowed, she’s given up on happy ever after—terrified any new love is certain to end in heartbreak. But with two young boys to raise, a stable family life is all she longs for. Cop turned movie idol, Adam Pride always craved the family he never had. Though Madison and her boys are hard to resist, he wants his own. Not someone else’s readymade version. When the unexpected ties them together forever, he’s torn between growing hope for the future…and nagging fear his dreams will be crushed. In an alarming turn of events, Madison unknowingly lands in a desperate killer’s crosshairs. For Adam, all bets are off. But can he save her from the deadly threat? Or will a shocking revelation destroy their fragile love?

ON THE MOVE – Luke’s Story: The Maverick – Available 2020

This disgraced cop will do anything to clear his name, short of murder.

Chapter One
It had been a long time since Luke Simms was held in a woman’s arms. By God, he was going to make the most of every precious second. Incredible warmth flowed into him from her body pressed to his. Lost in the pure, sweet scents only a woman carried, he relished the smooth, moist skin of her throat against his cheek. The only thing better in this life would be to caress her as well. Give back some of the pleasures he received. Which he’d do in a heartbeat. If only his right arm hadn’t been effectively rendered useless. Shattered at the shoulder by a couple of nine-millimeter slugs. Fired at close range.
I hope you’ll give my Brothers In Blue series a try.


Reader’s Choice Giveaway: I’m pleased to offer one commenter a format of choice, e-book or print copy, of either Brothers In Blue Book 1, ON THE SURFACE or Book 2, ON THE FORCE  (Print books available in the US only.)

Has anyone ever ‘made your day’ in a similar way? I’d love to hear your stories as well.

Also, please visit me at these locations on the web.

FaceBook     Twitter     Goodreads     Amazon Author Page

Bio: Award winning author Margo Hoornstra writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense, always providing that happily ever after for her characters. A big city girl turned country woman, Margo enjoys hiking and walking around the wide-open spaces near her home, especially in the fall, hates to cook and loves to read.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST September 18th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact maureen@justromanticsuspense.com to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Interview with Melinda Leigh


Giveaway Alert!

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: Save Your Breath by Melinda Leigh


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. 

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 fiancĂ©e, 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.
***

SAVE YOUR BREATH

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

#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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