Good morning and welcome to March. Only three weeks until the official first day of spring. I’ve had enough of winter with its cold and flu season, so I’m looking forward to flowers, leaves, pollen and allergies. Hey! It’s a change.
Thank you to Angelica Dawson for making this weekly blog hop possible. Today, I’m sharing a scene from Secrets and Lies. This is one of the Hearts of Braden books, but like the other eight in the series, it is a stand alone book that just happens to be set in the same small town as the others.
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.
Listening to the rolling thunder, Emily sighed, hoping the storm wouldn’t bring on another nightmare, and wondered again if she could skip this meal, but when her stomach grumbled almost as loudly as the thunder, she giggled.
“Got it. No more missing meals,” she said leaning back in the chair, enjoying the quiet of the evening. The home she’d shared with Alex had been in a neighborhood filled with the almost incessant sounds of children at play, barking dogs, and traffic in the distance.
The bright, red and yellow floral cushions made the chair comfortable, and the overhanging balcony above would provide a roof to keep the pads dry in the rain, so she wouldn’t have to drag them in and out each day. Exhausted, she yawned and closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of the late summer roses that edged her small patio. Someone had a green thumb, and she hoped they would keep looking after the delicate blossoms. She would probably kill them if she tried.
While there would be a storm later tonight, there was another advantage to a ground floor apartment. It might be warm and humid out here, but it was cool and comfortable inside. Ceiling fans circulated the air, and even if she left the windows open, the fancy iron grillwork over them would ensure no one could get into the apartment at night. Some people might have found it confining, but to her, knowing she was in town specifically to stop the Chef, a homicidal sociopath, they were a comforting touch.
She sat up once more and checked her watch. Pulling the cellphone out of her pocket, she opened up the messaging window to check in as she’d promised to do. The first message went to Kyle. “Have arrived in Braden. Everything is fine.” The second one she sent to her new supervisor in Chicago. “All settled in. The place is great. Thank whoever’s responsible.”
Finishing her tea, she rose to put away the cup and get ready to go out. Her limp was a little worse than usual, but she didn’t think it necessitated the use of a cane or crutch. Going back inside, she closed and locked the sliding door.
Half an hour later, hair brushed and pulled into a ponytail, fresh lip gloss in place, she drove into one of the restricted parking spaces in front of Buddy’s, a square box of a building with neon signs in the windows advertising some of the beer brands sold inside. She hadn’t bothered to change, and while her T-shirt and jeans might not be immaculate, they were still clean. She hadn’t unpacked her suitcases yet, and probably wouldn’t until tomorrow.
Making sure her special parking permit was clearly visible through the windshield, she got out of the car. Thunder rumbled again in the distance, and she cursed the fact she’d forgotten to grab her raincoat on the way out. Maybe she should get her food to go and get back to the apartment before the skies opened up.
Locking the vehicle, she limped over to the front door, opened it, and stepped inside the air conditioned bar. Glancing around, she saw it was the kind of place Alex would’ve loved. The atmosphere was a homey one, typical of bars in small towns as opposed to the glitz and glamor of the big chain taverns found in El Paso. The gray, concrete floors would be much easier to clean than carpets, although she would bet a lot of bottles and glasses got broken on busy nights. The hunter green walls and dark ceilings made the place seem cozy, almost intimate, until you looked at the gleaming oak bar that ran the width of the place, behind which was a fortune in eclectic sports memorabilia—everything from old ball gloves and pennants to an MMA Championship belt. In amongst the sports paraphernalia, was the picture of a baby girl, something a proud mama or papa would display for all to see. Emily swallowed her pain and opted to avoid the counter. Maybe she would get her food to go after all.
There were half a dozen men standing or sitting at the bar, most of them still dressed in what they’d probably worn on their job sites. One man with red hair and a face full of freckles seemed vaguely familiar, but it was the dark haired man in a short-sleeved, powder blue shirt and dress pants who caught her attention. As her father would’ve said, he’d just had his ears lowered as the tan lines at the side of his face and neck testified, but it was his resemblance to Alex that stopped her in her tracks.
He looked her up and down appraisingly the way men sometimes did, and she fought the urge to squirm, well aware that she’d been the first one to stare. Having a man look at her that way shouldn’t have bothered her since it had happened to her time and again before the accident, but back then she’d been someone worthy of a second glance. Now, she resembled an anorexic teenager, not a woman deserving of admiring looks.
All eyes had turned to her when she entered the bar, and she could see the curiosity and interest in them, but one man’s chocolate brown eyes, unlike Alex’s blue ones, disturbed her, seeming to look beyond her outward appearance and into her soul. Alex had been the only man to ever affect her this way. Was it because this guy resembled her late husband that she felt his magnetic pull? He looked more like a businessman than an itinerant worker, although he could be an insurance adjuster or with FEMA.
Great, a town full of single men, anyone of which could be the Chef, and they’re looking at me as if I’m today’s special.
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