Hi there. Hope your week is going well. We had our first dusting of snow yesterday, which means I need to get into the Christmas spirit soon. It’s a cloudy cold day in Eastern Ontario, but really not as cold as it usually is at this time of year, so I thought I’d give you all a tatst of onr of the things that made my heroine’s blood boil.
Secrets and Lies is Book Four of the Hearts of Braden series, eight books, written by eight different authors, about a small town in Iowa. There are recurring characters, but each book is stand alone.
Burb for Secrets and Lies, Book Four, Hearts of Braden Series.
DEA agent, Emily Shepherd, is after the Chef, a crystal meth cook, who sets up labs for the Mexican cartel and walks away—the same man responsible for the deaths of her husband and unborn child. Her search leads her to Braden, Iowa, a small town just right for the Chef’s specialty. But identifying her quarry won’t be easy when she’s up against a woman who sees her as a threat, a male chauvinistic deputy sheriff, and an attractive school principal who might just be at the center of it all.
Jackson Harris has sworn off women. Life is satisfactory, if lonely, until he meets a hazel-eyed damsel in distress who gets under his skin, and triggers that protective instinct of his. There’s a killer in town, one who may or may not be a notorious drug lord. Finding him, and keeping his town, his students, and Emily safe, may be harder than he thinks.
Love is breaking out in Braden, Iowa. Follow all the romance with this collection of stories. Secrets and Lies is part of the Hearts of Braden Series, a multi-author series Secrets and Lies stands alone for your reading enjoyment, but the story doesn’t need to end there.
“You’re ten o’clock appointment is here,” Mary announced as soon as Jackson answered the phone.
“Thanks. Give me five minutes and send him in. How does he look?”
The secretary chuckled. “Mighty fine.” She hung up.
Jackson frowned at the phone before replacing it in the cradle and went into the small washroom attached to his office to comb his hair and straightened his tie. He’d forgotten to call Quinn last week about the haircut, but she’d agreed to fit him in later today. Satisfied that he looked like a man in authority even if his black hair had started to curl at the nape, he returned to the office and stood by the door waiting for Mary’s knock.
He’d been going over the information on the teachers he’d be interviewing this morning, and while some of his problems had been solved, others remained. With less than a week before the start of the new school year, he was worried. There’d been no other applicants for the math-science position, and he hoped this Micah Thomas would do. The man’s credentials were impeccable, too good in fact, and that alone made Jackson suspicious. Someone with that kind of accreditation could get a job anywhere. Why settle for Braden? He was proud of his school, but he was a realist. Graduates like that usually ended up either in fancier state schools or private industry where the money was substantially higher than the BCR school board paid. For someone raised in Braden, like he had been, working for the local school board was a way to give a little back to the community, but according to the documentation, Micah came from Des Moines, via Dallas, El Paso, and San Diego, and had no reason to want to come here.
Mary knocked on the door.
Pushing open the door, a smug smile in place, Mary stated, “Micah Thomas to see you, sir.”
It took Jackson less than a second to figure out what was behind his secretary’s unusual behavior. Instead of the studious, young man he’d expected, given the credentials he’d examined, Micah was an attractive blonde in her late twenties that some of the youngest kids would probably mistake for a real-live Barbie doll. She was as far away from Mrs. Beardsley, his own math-science teacher, as one could get, and for the second time, he wondered why the hell she’d applied for the job.
“Ms. Thomas,” he greeted, as he smiled and offered her his hand, hoping his shock wasn’t noticeable. “Welcome to BCR. Thank you so much for coming in on such short notice.”
She smiled showing off perfect, small, white teeth. “My pleasure. I’d anticipated having to do replacement work again this year, so I was surprised to find a full-time position like this one available.” Shaking his hand firmly, she handed him a brown envelope. “These are the references you requested.”
He reached for it and put it on his desk unopened. “Thank you. I’ll look them over after. Please sit down.”
Indicating the chair on the right, he sat beside her instead of going behind the desk as he normally would’ve. The lady was easy on the eyes, and he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. There were three bachelors on staff, four if he included himself, and hiring her might be courting trouble, but since she was the only applicant, he didn’t have a whole lot of choice. They would all be preening like peacocks within the month. It dawned on him that her appearance could very well be what was keeping her from being hired by the big boys. Sexual harassment wasn’t just a buzz word anymore.
“Your credentials are impressive,” he said hoping he didn’t sound condescending. “You did well on your state certification Praxis II subject test in both math and science, so I can’t find fault in any of that. I see you graduated from Michigan State seven years ago, and since then, you’ve taught in Michigan, Texas, and most recently in San Diego. Braden would be a rather substantial change for you, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, it will, but this place has a lot to offer. After I graduated, I wanted to travel and interim contracts give me the ability to come and go as I pleased, but I’ve had my fill of short term jobs. I’m looking forward to the smaller class sizes here, and while I’ll miss some of the advantages of the bigger city, I think it’s time I settled down. I thought I’d found that in my last school, but it didn’t work out.”
He tried not to frown, but her answer had made him more wary than satisfied. He hoped she would give him more than that since he wasn’t sure how deeply he could probe. If she’d been involved in any kind of scandal, the board wouldn’t endorse her no matter how high her grade point average had been.
“I’ve just ended a long-term relationship, and I didn’t want to stay there with all the bad memories,” she said, as if she’d read his mind.
He swore there were unshed tears glistening in her eyes, making them look even more attractive than they had.
“Especially when his new girlfriend works there,” she added.
He nodded and pursed his lips, knowing only too well, how a situation like that could affect staff morale, especially if some sided with one party while the others didn’t.
“Math-science teachers are in demand everywhere. There must’ve been another school in California that could’ve used your services.” Moving from a city of over a million to Braden, population one thousand, and that was on a good day, made no sense to him, broken relationship or not. Plus, after the sun and warmth of southern California, why on earth would she want to be in Iowa? As he watched her expressive face, he could’ve sworn he saw annoyance quickly veiled there.
“I needed to make a clean break. I’m sure you can appreciate that,” she answered with just the right amount of frost in her voice to make him uncomfortable. “But I haven’t moved to Braden. My aunt and uncle live in Colchester, and I’m staying with them.”
“Of course, because this is a district school, it’s the only one in the area,” he said nodding. So mind your own business and quit speculating.
There was nothing suspicious about wanting to go to family when you were aching. He’d done it, and her words reminded him how much he still missed Uncle Jack. It was the reason he had spent more time riding or working in the school this summer and less attending to the improvements he’d planned for the homestead. There didn’t seem to be much reason to fix the place up when he was the only one going to live there.
“Let me set the record straight, Mr. Harris. I didn’t come here to find a husband. I love teaching, and I just happen to be good at science and math. I want to do my job, help the school improve its SAT scores, and be left alone to lick my wounds.”
“Understood,” he replied, feeling properly chastised. She might not look like Mrs. Beardsley, but she’d certainly put him in his place just as effectively as the sixty-year-old woman had done twenty years ago. “Let’s talk about the position.”
Secrets and Lies is exclusive to Amazon
Now, please take time to visit all the other awesome Mid Week Teasers.