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Like Slow Sweet Molasses by Mickie Sherwood

Like Slow Sweet Molasses

by Mickie Sherwood

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-4543-0256-8

Teacher Angela Munso has lost control—of her spiraling life. She can control the fallout of recent news from whose loins she sprang as easily as she can her heart’s pitter-patter for arrogant Lt. Brock Alexander, whom she now wants to hate. Will love intervene and school their arrested hearts?

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Louisiana Hot Sauce by Mickie Sherwood

Louisiana Hot Sauce
by Mickie Sherwood

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-675-5
Print ISBN: 978-1604358124

Reclusive songstress Mesha Rayburn’s horrible secret keeps her shattered heart under lock and key. Can helicopter mechanic Jack Connolly break in to make the necessary repairs?

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Nicked Hearts
by Mickie Sherwood

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-4543-0026-7

K.C. Montreaux crashes the men’s room and straight into unsuspecting Nick Hart. Good deeds cloak his deceit from the Mainland to Maui. Will K.C. snuff out their combustible emotions like hushed Haleakala? Or will she forgive his misguided lies?

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My Son by Angela Kay Austin

My Son
by Angela Kay Austin

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-793-6

Kelly Ann Mitchell discovers this the hard way that sex, liquor, and men are not always a good thing. Charles Mitchell failed his family, his daughter, once. He’s determined not to do it again. Jerry Harte must pay for what he’s done, and Charles will be the one to make sure he does.

Note: This title has no chapter breaks so please enjoy the first scene.

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Susanna’s Heart
by A.M. Wells

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-699-1

Susanna Moore thought she’d found the man of her dreams, until she caught him in bed with her sister. Rancher Noah Weber vowed to never involve his heart again when it came to women until meeting Susanna. Will these two lovers find their happily ever after?

Chapter One

Hate was an emotion Susanna Moore had embraced and come to know well over the course of the past nine months. She hid it well beneath a facade of false happiness, plus one too many glasses of Christmas cheer. The emotion aptly equated with the smiling couple standing just a few feet away. In the midst of the Moores’ Christmas Eve gathering, they chose to announce their impending marriage.
While everyone gathered around to congratulate and toast the couple’s future happiness, Susanna stood off to one side, an almost-invisible observer of the scene that played out before her. It was a game she’d often played as a child to cope with her sister Kara’s never-ending need to be the center of attention.
Susanna wandered over to the fireplace. Absently, she picked up a childhood photo of Kara and her. There was a time when she truly adored and worshiped her big sister. In her eyes, Kara could do no wrong.
That is, until she witnessed just how cunning and cold hearted her sister could be. When Kara set her sights on becoming the future Mrs. Lawrence Albright, a minor detail like Lawrence being Susanna’s steady boyfriend of almost two years wouldn’t stand in her way.
All Susanna’s dreams of living happily ever after with Lawrence were shattered the night she entered his apartment, climbed the stairs, and found him fucking her sister in the same bed where he’d made love to her countless times before. The confrontation that followed was ugly and ended with Susanna cursing them both before retreating in tears.
Over time, Susanna came to realize Kara’s betrayal had been deliberate, calculated even. Though Susanna cared deeply for Lawrence, he hadn’t broken her heart. Her sister had. She glanced over at both Kara and Lawrence once more, and her blood ran cold as she fought to tamp down her anger.
“I still think you should have put a beat down on her trifling ass.”
Susanna inclined her head to find her cousin Tasha standing behind her and sighed, “Wouldn’t have solved anything.”
“So you’re going keep on pretending to be okay with what she did to you?”
“Tasha, lower your voice. Someone might hear you.” Susanna quickly glanced about the room before dragging her cousin off into her father’s study. Once behind the closed door, she rounded on Tasha. “I told you, I never want Mom or Dad to know what happened.”
“I don’t get you, Susanna. You didn’t do anything wrong. Why are you protecting her?”
“She’s still my sister,” Susanna replied. “Besides, it wasn’t just her. If Lawrence had really cared anything about me, he wouldn’t have been so easily led astray. It’s over and done with. I’m fine.”
“Bullshit,” Tasha shot back. “You’re not fine, Susanna. Seriously, have you taken a good look at yourself in the mirror lately? When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Something inside you is broken. It can’t be fixed by pretending it never happened.”
What was the use in continuing this pretence of normalcy? Susanna dashed away the lone tear that now trickled down her cheek and sniffled. Tasha knew her too well. “You’re right, I’m not fine. I can’t eat or sleep. My work is suffering. I’m so damn sick of carrying around this hatred, of being angry all the time. It’s too much. I can’t—no. I won’t go on like this. I’ve got to take back control of my life.”
“You know I’m here for you, Susanna. Have you thought about maybe getting away?”
“Yeah, I know.” Susanna embraced her cousin. “Thanks, Tasha. And yes, I have been thinking about going away for awhile now. What I need is some distance, time away from all this drama. It’s only going to get worse now that…”
“Girl, you do what you have to. How long are you planning to stay away?”
“I don’t know, six months, a year. Depends. However long it takes.”
“I can help you out if you run low on cash.”
“No, I’ve already got that covered. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.”
“Call me if you need anything, day or night.”
“I will.”
“I mean it, Susanna.” Tasha pulled Susanna into another hug. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Me, too,” Susanna returned the hug before taking a step back. “But I have to do this. My life has been in limbo long enough, I can’t move forward until I come to terms with what Kara…” Susanna shuddered then struggled to take air into her lungs. She didn’t want to give in to the tears of anger, hurt, and frustration yet again. To go on wallowing in abject misery would not solve or change what was now in the past.
No more, Susanna silently resolved.
Why wouldn’t they stop laughing? Tears streamed down Susanna’s face as the bodies lay there. Naked bodies tangled in the sheets, still clinging to each other. She screamed for them to shut up, but they wouldn’t. If anything, her outburst only caused them to laugh harder, louder.
Then there was the matter of the gun in her hand. She’d no idea where it came from.
Or why she was now pointing it at them. It all seemed so surreal. An eerie quiet consumed the room as she squeezed the trigger. Their bodies jerked as bullets ripped their flesh apart. Blood splattered the white sheets. She fired the gun repeatedly until the clicking sound of the empty chamber echoed in her ears.
The gun slipped from Susanna’s hand as her arm fell limply to her side. She approached the bed and peered down at them. Their lifeless eyes stared back at her. The realization of her sin turned Susanna’s mouth up into a sneer. “Not so funny now, huh, bitch.”
The sound of Susanna’s own blood-curdling scream woke her. Bolting upright, she frantically reached out to switch on the bedside lamp. Tears—those damn tears again—streamed down her face. Perspiration covered her body.
“Focus, breathe,” she chanted repeatedly. Her eyes darted about the room for something, anything, to quell the turmoil raging within her. Air. She needed to escape before the darkness consumed her yet again. Throwing off the covers, she pulled on a pair of sweats, sneakers, and a cap before leaving the cabin.
The cool early morning air felt invigorating as she jogged along the dirt path. One obligatory phone call to her parents was all it took to wipe out almost two months of uninterrupted solitude. An innocent remark from her mother reopened the old wound. Through some supreme effort, Susanna remained composed while her mother chattered away, relating all the latest news of her sister’s upcoming wedding. That little tidbit of information served to effectively knock down the wall of isolation she’d built around herself since her arrival in this peaceful North Georgia mountain town.
Susanna remembered her parent’s quite vocal objection to her relocation. They did not understand why she wanted to leave their small town, much less the state. The fact that she was twenty-seven years old didn’t matter to Bill and Frances Moore at all. In their minds, she would always be their baby girl. After growing up in her parents’ home in Boiling Rock, Illinois, then moving to her tiny apartment only two blocks away, Susanna insisted it was past time for her to spread her wings. Finally they relented and gave her their blessings.
On New Year’s Eve, Susanna set off on her cross-country journey to Georgia. Two days later, when she pulled onto the gravel drive, she felt like she was coming home. Seeing the cabin for the first time, surrounded by its panoramic mountain views, took her breath away.
Susanna didn’t take long to adjust to her new surroundings. Winter weather in Georgia she found mild compared to the below-freezing temperatures of Illinois for this particular time of year. Spending her days hiking about the countryside or exploring the town revitalized her spirit and reignited her creative muse. Now she was back at work again, doing what she loved. Yes, coming here was exactly what she needed to find her way back to her old self.
The nightmare had been the first she’d experienced since taking up residence in the cabin.
Picking up her stride, she ran to extinguish the past and bring her focus back to the here and now. Still, she wondered if she would ever truly be free of the past. Could she find happiness again? Susanna doubted she could ever open her heart to another. But neither did she wish to spend the rest of her life alone.
She smiled ruefully, recalling the care package Tasha had stashed in one of her suitcases. The brightly wrapped package contained scented bath oils, votive candles, a box of condoms, and a note.
Just in case. Never know what or who you might run across.
Always be prepared,
Love T.
So like Tasha.
The gesture had caused Susanna to do something she had not done in long a time: burst into laughter.
What on earth would she need with a box of condoms in the middle of Small Town, Nowhere? Still, her cousin’s thoughtfulness did help to lighten her dark mood.
Susanna now slowed her pace and took stock of her surroundings. If she kept going, she would end up on the main road to town. I’d better turn around and head back.
Out of the darkness, a horse suddenly appeared on the path. Susanna screamed, stumbled backwards over a fallen tree branch and landed on her backside. Instinctively, she covered her head then curled into a protective ball as the horse reared backwards on its hind legs.
“Whoa, Blue, settle down,” a booming, masculine voice commanded the massive beast. The rider managed to get the animal under control. He then dismounted the horse.
To Susanna, his shadowy figure loomed large and imposing, like the horse he now stroked and soothed. The darkness made it impossible for Susanna to discern his features as he spoke to the animal in a slow, smoky drawl that floated then evaporated into the cold winter air.
Leery now, she observed him withdraw a long object from his saddle bag. She shrank back, regretting being so impulsive as to leave the safety of the cabin. She couldn’t move as the sound of his footsteps drew nearer. As he stood over her, she opened her mouth, but no sound escaped when he raised the object in his hand.
Susanna tensed just as she was hit dead on in the face—by a bright beam of light.
“You wanna tell me just what the hell you’re doing out here?”

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Voices On The Waves
by Jessica Chambers

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-786-8

When Faye Wakefield runs a competition offering nine lucky winners a two-week stay at her beautiful farmhouse retreat in Cornwall, she promises an experience they will never forget. However, even Faye could not have imagined how bringing these people under her roof would change their lives forever.

Note: Prologue omitted.
Chapter One

Leah Shaw still wondered if she’d been right to come. The letter congratulating her on winning this holiday had at first seemed a Godsend, the answer to her prayers. She desperately needed time to seek a path from the wilderness into which she had strayed, but, as the minibus bore her deeper into the Cornish countryside and her fellow passengers chatted and introduced themselves, this felt far too much like running away.
Misgivings aside, gazing out of the window at the rolling landscape tinted amber in the evening light, she could not help but be captivated. To one side of the twisting lane stretched an expanse of hills, interrupted only by the silver ribbon of the river Hayle. On the other, rocky cliffs plunged into the froth-tipped waves far below. Leah never imagined Cornwall would be so wild and yet so picturesque.
Sitting beside her, Tiffany Russell seemed oblivious to the magnificent scenery. She was draped over the front seat, auburn curls dancing around her shoulders as she flirted with their driver.
“You don’t get muscles like that pumping the steering wheel,” she purred in a strong Essex accent, her emerald eyes exploring his biceps. “Spend a lot of time at the gym, I bet.”
“Er, a bit.” Busy gaping at the vision of loveliness in his rearview mirror, the young man almost sent the bus into a ditch. Tiffany giggled as several people gasped.
Across the aisle from Leah, the elderly Rex Fowler glanced up from his crossword, and a few rows behind him, a burly Irishman named Patrick O’Leary cursed before resuming his rant to Will Everett.
“Jesus, call this a heat wave? A bloody microwave, more like!”
“Excuse me,” said Bronwyn Davis, a stern-faced old lady, “but I would appreciate it if you refrained from blaspheming in my presence.”
“I’ll use whatever language I damn well want, and while we’re on the subject, maybe you’d like to ask your God what he thinks he’s up to trying to cook us all alive!”
Mrs. Davis opened her mouth to retort, but to Leah’s relief, the driver announced their imminent arrival, thus averting an argument. A few minutes later, the minibus cruised through the wrought iron gates, and with a crunch of wheels on gravel, pulled up on the sweeping driveway.
At her first sight of the big, old farmhouse, Leah had the sensation of being transported back in time. Rising two stories against a backdrop of sloping lawn, its creamy stone was flushed in the setting sun and the many windows twinkled in welcome. Clematis abundant with pink and lilac blooms tumbled over the front porch and trailed up the walls, and two chimneys poked from the thatched roof, casting their tall shadows over the ground. To look at the façade, it was easy to imagine nothing had changed in the four hundred years since it was built.
Leah clasped her hands, enchanted. She’d seen pictures of Trewhella in the glossy brochure that accompanied her letter, but no photograph could have prepared her for its rustic charm, its aura of being untouched by the modern world. It seemed so removed from everything she knew—the fast pace of Newcastle and the toil of her daily life—that her past weeks’ anxieties receded into the background.
Leah waited while everyone else got off the bus before alighting herself. Will Everett smiled at her as she climbed down, but she ignored him. Men couldn’t be trusted, no matter how handsome and well meaning they might appear. Leah had learned this the hard way.
As the driver retrieved their luggage from the boot, a fair-haired woman smartly dressed in a white blouse and flowing skirt descended the porch steps to greet them. “Welcome to Trewhella, all of you. I’m Faye Wakefield.”
Leah watched as Trewhella’s owner shook hands with each of the others in turn. When Faye reached her, clasping her hand in a warm grip, Leah noticed the telltale signs of strain. Though probably no older than fifty, deep lines criss-crossed her face and bruise-like shadows marred her cheekbones. Leah recognized the symptoms of overwork from her mother, and her heart went out to her. Faye’s eyes, however, were the soft color of autumn leaves and radiated kindness.
“Do come on in, everyone,” Faye said. “You must be exhausted after your journey. Jeremy, if you could lend a hand with the cases.”
After collecting their luggage, they followed Faye up the porch steps and into the house. The driver brought up the rear with the suitcases belonging to the elderly people, despite Mrs. Davis’s protests that she was “quite capable of carrying her own.” Leah looked about her at the spacious hallway. Pale gold walls and soft carpet blended perfectly with the original beams and stone fireplace to create a feel that was both warm and authentic.
“Nice,” Will Everett said in appreciation.
Faye smiled at him. “Thank you. Now, if you’d all like to come this way, I’ll show you your rooms. I expect you’ll want to freshen up before tea.”
As their hostess led them up a steep staircase, Leah trailed her fingers along the banister, the polished oak smooth to her touch.
“Bit fancy, ain’t it?” Tiffany hissed in her ear.
Leah nodded absently, still examining her surroundings in delight. They reached a small landing with corridors to left and right. A second, even narrower staircase ascended to the attic, which Faye informed them housed her own quarters. Once she’d shown Mrs. Davis and Rex Fowler to their rooms, and the driver left to attend a family birthday party, Faye opened a door in the bend of the left-hand passage and ushered Leah inside.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable in here. You get settled in and then come down and have some food. The kitchen’s at the end of the passage and there are tables and chairs on the terrace.”
Left alone, Leah set her suitcase on the queen-size bed and took in the room with pleasure. Neutral décor and the evening sunlight pouring through windows on two sides gave the room an airy feel. Opening a second door, Leah discovered a charming en suite. She clutched herself in excitement. Why, the bedroom had to be twice the size of the one she shared with her sister, and the flat boasted only one cramped bathroom for the five of them.
After inspecting the spacious shower cubicle, Leah returned to the bedroom and paused by one of the leaded windows to stare out at the view. In the distance to either side of her, sheep dotted the hillsides like balls of cotton wool, while straight ahead, meadows rich with wild flowers rolled to meet the cliff. At the foot of the craggy rock face lay the sea, a sparkling ribbon in the setting sun.
Leah couldn’t quite shake off the notion that this was all a wonderful dream. In all her twenty-two years she had never traveled farther afield than Blackpool, and then merely for a long weekend. Yet, beneath her delight, guilt nagged at her conscience. How could she have left Mam to cope alone for two whole weeks?
It was eleven-year-old Helen, the youngest of the Shaw sisters and a zealous fan of everything from scratch cards to radio quizzes, who had pestered Leah to enter the competition. Since entrants had to be over twenty-one and their mother was at work, it fell to Leah to oblige, which she did for no other reason than some peace and quiet.
As she filled in the questionnaire, Leah wondered why Faye Wakefield should be interested in aspects of her life such as her hobbies and work history, but supposed she just wanted to make sure she chose the right people to take advantage of the prize. Leah never imagined she might actually win. When the letter arrived from Trewhella, Helen was ecstatic. She didn’t mind that she herself would be unable to benefit from the prize. It was reward enough that, after years of endeavor, she had finally won something truly worthwhile.
“You go, Mam,” Leah had urged. “You deserve a break.”
Her mother, however, was far from oblivious to Leah’s preoccupation and unhealthy pallor and insisted that it was she who was in greater need of a change of scene. Eventually, realizing her Mother could not be shifted in her decision, Leah acquiesced. She only hoped that when she returned home, she would have a clearer idea how to proceed with her life.
After luxuriating in the shower for as long as she dared, Leah pulled on fresh jeans and a loose-fitting blue blouse and wandered downstairs. She found the kitchen at the end of the passage per Faye’s directions, and couldn’t prevent herself from smiling as she looked around at the large room. It was everything she thought a traditional farmhouse kitchen should be, with a dresser displaying exquisite bone china along one wall and armchairs huddled around an Aga at the far end. Leah approached the scrubbed-pine table that formed the focal point of the room, her eyes widening at the spread Faye had laid on for them: heaps of sandwiches and mini Cornish pasties; several delicious-looking cakes oozing fruit and icing; scones with dishes of jam and clotted cream, and in the center, a large teapot and two glass jugs, one of Pimms and the other of lemonade.
As Leah was helping herself to a sandwich, a faint noise made her look round. She thought herself alone, but now noticed Patrick O’Leary hunched in a corner. Though he paid her no attention, being more interested in the contents of his glass, his presence disconcerted her. She found the Irishman’s hefty bulk and gruff manner rather alarming, and grabbing a slice of fruitcake, she headed outside.
Blue and white checked umbrellas shaded a number of small tables, around which the other guests gathered. Tiffany was deep in conversation with a suavely dressed man, who Leah supposed must be one of the three prize-winners that had opted to drive down themselves. Since they seemed so engrossed in one another, she decided against disturbing them. Will Everett, lounging on the steps that descended to the lawn, waved to her, his nut-brown fringe flopping over his forehead. Leah read the invitation in his smile, but just as she had earlier, pretended not to have seen. Instead she joined the two elderly people, who were in the midst of a discussion.
“I tell you it’s a disgrace,” Bronwyn Davis was saying, her beady eyes trained on the couple at the next table. “They should be ashamed of themselves, practically climbing all over each other when they’ve only been acquainted five minutes. Honestly, Mr. Fowler, I don’t know what the world is coming to!”
Rex glanced up from his newspaper, scattering it with crumbs from an enormous slice of cake. “They’re not doing any harm. It’s nice that the young people are enjoying themselves.”
“Young? Mr. Armitage must be pushing forty and that brazen hussy’s no spring chicken. Not that I would expect you to set much store by common decency. Any self-respecting man would be ashamed to be seen in public with his shirt hanging out.”
Rex hastily tucked the offending shirt into his expansive waistband. Then noticing Leah, he smiled across at her. Though Leah judged him to be in his seventies, he still sported a shock of thick, white hair and his eyes sparkled a vivid green behind their spectacles.
“So glad you’ve joined us,” Rex said. “Are you any good at crosswords? Only there’s this clue that’s got me totally stumped.”
“Well, I’ll do my best,” Leah promised.
“Super! Now which clue was it? Ah yes, eleven down. ‘Peculiar’, seven letters, third letter ‘r’, fifth letter ‘u’. Any ideas?”
Leah thought for a moment before shaking her head. “I’m afraid I’m not much use to you.”
“There’s no such word,” said Mrs. Davis, sounding impatient. “You must have made a mistake.”
“No, I haven’t. I’ve checked and double checked the other answers and nothing else fits.”
Leaving them to their bickering, Leah gazed out over the grounds. The lawn sprawled in every direction, interspersed here and there with ornamental rockeries and winding paths. She envisaged the days that lay ahead, spent wandering through these beautiful gardens or exploring the local towns and countryside, and for the first time in what felt like an age she began to relax.
* * *
No sooner had Faye shown Anjum Khan through to the terrace than the thud of the iron knocker signaled the arrival of the last guest, and she hurried to open the front door. A tall, black woman stood on the porch steps. She wore her hair braided to her waist, and her eccentric attire of a sequined tunic over aquamarine trousers showed off a buxom figure.
“Welcome to Trewhella.” Faye held out a hand. “I’m Faye Wakefield, and you must be Karenza Jackson.”
“I am indeed,” Karenza said. Her voice was deep and cultured, and she returned the handshake with equal firmness.
“Well, do come in. You must be worn out after your journey. If my memory serves, you’ve come all the way from London.”
“That’s right. Shouldn’t have taken me more than six hours to get here, but sod’s law dictated that I got caught in every traffic jam en route.”
Faye murmured in sympathy. Nevertheless, as she closed the front door and led Karenza into the hallway, she cast the other woman a wondering glance. With her clothes devoid of creases and her eyes full of lively interest as she gazed about her, Karenza certainly didn’t look like someone who’d spent the best part of the day traveling.
“I expect you’d like to see your room,” Faye said. “Or would you prefer some refreshments?”
“Actually, I know it’s a bit of a cheek,” Karenza confided, “but this place looked so beautiful in the brochure, I’ve been dying to have a nose around.”
“Of course.” Always glad of the chance to show off her beloved farmhouse, Faye was only too happy to oblige.
She had purchased Trewhella over twenty years ago, at a point in her life when everything went wrong. Seated in the doctor’s waiting room, interested in nothing but securing a prescription that might ease her depression, Faye had stumbled upon Trewhella while thumbing through an edition of ‘Country Life’. It was love at first sight. Within a month, she’d sold the family home and moved into the dilapidated farmhouse, where upon she set about numbing her grief amidst a determination to restore it to its former glory. As the house gradually came alive at her touch, Faye, too, began to believe she might have a future. Less than a year later, Trewhella opened as an idyllic retreat. She had barely looked back since.
Now, as she opened the door to the right of the hall revealing a cozy lounge, Faye glowed with pride at her achievement.
“Wow, a real Inglenook fireplace,” Karenza exclaimed. “Is it the original?”
“Why yes, though the house was very run-down when I bought it, I managed to save most of the structure.” Faye had a sudden recollection. “But, of course, you’re the interior designer.”
“Sorry,” Karenza said, her grin rueful. “My friends dread taking me anywhere new. They’re always nervous I’ll embarrass them by saying something derogatory about the decor.”
Faye laughed and crossed the hall to show Karenza the drawing room. Here her guest went into raptures over the large space, dominated by another huge fireplace, and French windows overlooking the terrace to add a modern touch. To Faye’s gratification, Karenza took particular interest in the antique sideboard she’d unearthed in an antique shop and which she always kept well stocked with drink.
“Trewhella’s an unusual name,” Karenza said as they headed along the passage to the rear of the house. “I wondered where it came from. Did you choose it yourself?”
“Heavens no. Trewhella is a traditional Cornish name that features in an ancient legend about a young man who falls in love with a mermaid. Rumor has it that one of the previous owners bought this house after his fiancé eloped with her lover. He became a recluse apparently, and named the place after the old story. This is probably my favorite room,” Faye added, preceding her into the kitchen.
“Gorgeous,” Karenza agreed. Her eyes alighted on the table. “And that food definitely looks good enough to eat.”
“You must be hungry. I’ll just show you your room, and then you can tuck in and meet everyone.”

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Eureka Point
by Betty Ann Harris

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-050-0
Print ISBN: 978-1-60435-970-1

Katie learns that her estranged husband has been deceiving her and is involved with a dangerous drug cartel. He leaves her alone and in danger. The FBI assists Katie and assigns one of their best agents to protect her. A romance is ignited as unexpected twists reveal themselves in this romantic thriller.

Chapter One

KATIE, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
The day had gone exceptionally well. The decorating assignment I‘d been working on for the last five months had finally come to completion and my client was delighted with the outcome. Driftwood, Carly‘s Long Island cottage, turned out to be one of the best decorating jobs I have ever completed and I was extremely happy about that. Carly was such a nice person and over the five months I worked on the assignment we became good friends.
Elegant Interiors Magazine was featuring Driftwood in their next issue. It would be the first time one of my interior designs would be appearing in the prestigious magazine. It would definitely serve as a boost to my already lucrative career. I was happy and excited and in the mood to celebrate. With that assignment complete, I planned to take several weeks off and travel to Bermuda with Craig for some well-deserved rest, relaxation, and perhaps, some romance. Lying on a beautiful beach with my toes in the sand while sipping a pina colada seemed like the perfect payoff for the months of hard work I had put into the assignment.
Excited, I couldn‘t wait to get home and celebrate with Craig. Carly had thoughtfully arranged for her chauffeur to drive me home. I sat back in the limo and enjoyed the ride, admiring the beautiful landscape along the Long Island coastline. A bit later, once it came into view, I marveled at the sheer magnitude of the New York City skyline off in the distance.
My career was on course, I had a close circle of friends and my parents were healthy, happy and enjoying their retirement years. For the most part I was content. Yet I couldn‘t shake the feeling of something not being quite right, like a nagging thorn festering just under the surface of my skin. Recently I felt a detachment from Craig, whose priority was his restaurant business, which had been occupying more and more of his time. Perhaps this trip to Bermuda would help to bring us closer together and re-ignite the fire in our relationship. I had been missing that fall-in-love type of enthusiasm Craig and I shared when we first began dating. The passion had lasted into our marriage but had slowly died off. I knew it was somewhat common for married couples to occasionally fall into a dull routine after a few years, but I didn‘t want that to happen to us. I refused to allow Craig and I to drift apart. My priority was to save my marriage, to get back the love and passion, and I hoped it would be his as well.
As the limousine pulled into the driveway, I grew apprehensive. The house was dark and appeared deserted. I gladly accepted the driver‘s kind offer to escort me inside. Once inside, I switched on the light in the foyer and disarmed the security system. Thanking the driver for his assistance, I handed him a twenty-dollar bill. He thanked me courteously, tipped his hat, and left quietly, closing the front door. And there I stood, alone.
I went over to the front window, slightly pulled back the curtain and watched the limo drive off. I wondered where Craig was this time. Perhaps he was just late, although he hadn‘t called or left a message on the answering machine as he usually would.
After switching on the living room lamp, I sat on the sofa and kicked off my shoes. I noticed an envelope propped up on the mantel. Curious, I went over to the fireplace and hesitantly picked it up. My name was written on the front in Craig‘s handwriting. I braced myself for disappointment. My instincts were right on target as I read the note:
Dearest Kate, I’m sure congratulations are in order. I know you had your heart set on Bermuda. Unfortunately we will have to delay our trip. One of my largest restaurant suppliers in California is having a problem that I need to take care of or it could cause serious problems for me. I had to fly out this afternoon. If I get a chance I’ll give you a call sometime tomorrow. Love, Craig.
“Of course!” I said aloud as I recalled all the times Craig and I were supposed to take a vacation together or celebrate over a romantic dinner and he had gotten called away. Perturbed and let down, I rationalized that this is the price one pays for success. I was very seriously beginning to wonder if it was worth it. What good is success if you don‘t have the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor? It bothered me that it didn‘t bother Craig. He seemed to thrive on the stress of it all. Or maybe he didn‘t feel the stress, just the thrill of being a success in business. It seemed like he was out to prove something to the world. I‘ve been through this kind of thing before and decided I wasn‘t going to let Craig‘s absence ruin my sense of accomplishment or my desire to celebrate.
I returned to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. I grabbed the bottle of champagne I had left in there to chill just that morning. I wrapped a kitchen towel around the bottle and tilted it, pointing it away from my face, as I had seen Craig do many times before. As I carefully opened the bottle, the top flew off, popping loudly, and champagne erupted out, flowing down the sides. I poured myself a glass, took it into the living room, put on my favorite music, and toasted myself.
It was late October and although the weather had been unseasonably warm, tonight there was a definite chill in the air, so I lit a fire in the fireplace and stood in front of it, allowing the warmth of the flames to permeate through my body.
I returned to the sofa and sipped the champagne, feeling the rush go through my limbs. Warmth followed, mellowing me as my mind wandered, taking me back to my high school days and my friends from the neighborhood in Philadelphia. I wondered what Jeannine was up to these days and decided I would try to find her and give her a call sometime soon. I missed those good old days and wished times hadn‘t changed so drastically.
After two glasses of champagne I decided it would probably be a good idea for me to eat something or I would end up sloshed. Last night I had made French beef stew in burgundy wine sauce for the two of us. Craig had forgotten to tell me he had a dinner engagement and his portion had been left over, so I heated that up now for dinner. I‘ve always enjoyed cooking but lacked the enthusiasm to prepare a meal or just myself.
While I ate, I gazed out of the dining room window to watch the full autumn moon rising in the dark sky like a huge golden lantern with feathery clouds flying past it. The scene was dramatic and magical and stirred something deep within me. I had a sense of longing, but exactly what for, I did not know. The moon always fascinated me and I was hypnotized by its beauty and allured by its power. A full moon often made me feel romantic and nostalgic.
What a waste, to be alone on such a wonderful evening. While I stared at that full gorgeous moon, a strange sensation came over me, as if the moon beseeched me, called to me, tried to tell me something. Or maybe it was the champagne affecting me.
As if reading my mind, a huge, dark cloud passed in front of the moon, removing it from sight. I wondered if that was an omen of some kind, when suddenly, and as quickly as it had disappeared from view, the moon returned and cast a silvery glow into the darkened room. It settled on me, like a searchlight singling me out. “What do you want moon?” I asked aloud. Yes, too much champagne I guessed. I was now talking to the moon.
I finished my dinner, cleaned up the dishes and spent the rest of the evening sitting in front of the fireplace. My eyelids grew so heavy that I could no longer keep my eyes open, so I dragged myself upstairs to bed. As tired as I had been, I laid there, snuggled under the covers, unable to sleep. I had a sense of impending doom but rationalized that it was just my imagination. In the very early morning hours, my tired body finally won and at last I fell asleep.
I had a strange dream about being lost in the middle of the deep and dark woods on a miserable and gloomy night. A mist hung around my feet, the rain poured down, soaking me, and I was cold and shivering with fright. And then the clouds parted and a bright, full moon lit my path, helping me to find my way home. It was a house that was not familiar to me but one where I felt I belonged. I stepped inside and warmed myself in front of the fire. Strong but gentle hands came from behind me and rested comfortingly upon my shoulders and I felt safe, warm and content.
Then I awoke, greeted by the bright morning sun as it cheerfully streamed in my window. Craig returned from his trip a week later with a nice tan and in an exceptionally good mood. He never mentioned the business problem he had to take care of, never asked about the decorating job I had completed, nor spoke about our cancelled trip to Bermuda. Neither did I.
Hurt and feeling unappreciated at home, I plunged into my work, completing another decorating job for a wealthy client in East Hampton. Craig was rarely home for dinner and seemed anxious and disinterested when he was there. I tried to talk to him about his disinterest in our marriage, or anything else other than his business, for that matter. He always gave me the same answer – that he was under a lot of stress and did not want to discuss it at that point. I gave him his space and time and hoped it was just a phase.
But as time went on he got irritated and angry if I so much as looked at him in the wrong way. I felt like Craig was holding back and keeping secrets. So, like a cat with her nose out of joint, I kept my distance. It was not in my nature to stir up an angry brew and I usually shied away from confrontations. But I could not shake the sensation that something was wrong.
Finishing the job in East Hampton, I drove home one Friday evening and found the house dark and empty again, as was normal these days. Again, I ate dinner alone and fell asleep on the sofa while watching an old movie.
I woke the next morning and realized that Craig had never come home. Anxious and furious, I tried to call him on his cell phone but got a recorded message saying his number was no longer in service. Frantic, I called his office but there was no answer there either. When I contacted some of his business associates, I was told that they had not heard from Craig for several days. I contacted the police and was told I would have to wait at least forty-eight hours before Craig could be considered a missing person.
By Sunday evening I was certain that Craig had either left me and his life behind or that he was dead. I stayed up late every night hoping Craig might call or show up with some explanation or excuse as to where he had been, what had happened and why he had not contacted me. That never happened. When I finally crawled into bed each night, I tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. My mind kept going over possible scenarios of what might have happened to him. I finally drifted off to sleep at about three am.
I was startled awake Monday morning by the sound of banging on the front door and men yelling, identifying themselves as FBI agents. They demanded that I let them in. I jumped out of bed, scrambled to put on my slippers and robe, ran down the steps, and frantically unlocked the front door.
Several agents pushed open the door, almost knocking me over, as they charged in with guns drawn. Paralyzed with fear I asked, “Oh my God! What is going on?”
“We‘re looking for Craig Montgomery. Are you his wife?”
“Yes.”
“Is he here?”
“No, Craig has not been home for two days. I contacted the police and tried to report his disappearance on Saturday but was told I would have to wait for at least forty-eight hours before he can be declared a missing person. I was going to contact the police again today. I‘m very worried. I can‘t imagine what might have happened to him.”
I was in disbelief and shaking like a leaf, and had just inquired if I needed to call my lawyer when Agent John McClintock, an old and dear friend of my father‘s, walked in and took control of the situation. The agents searched the house and were satisfied that Craig was not there and felt I was telling them the truth about not knowing where he was.
McClintock suggested that he and I go into the kitchen. He asked me if I would make a pot of coffee, which I did, and then he told me to sit down so we could talk. I pulled out a chair and nervously sat. My hands were shaking so badly I was unable to hold my coffee cup steady. McClintock, in a gesture of concern and support, took my hands in his and told me he had something he needed to tell me. From his behavior and the look on his face, I knew that whatever it was, it wasn‘t going to be good news.
He told me an unbelievable story about a drug cartel Craig was allegedly involved with. If this was true, Craig had been dealing drugs on a very large scale and involved in one of the largest drug smuggling operations in South America.
I was shaken to my core and thought I had heard the worst when McClintock reminded me that Craig was a wanted fugitive and I could be in real danger. I asked him why I would be in danger; I had nothing to do with any of this. He explained that if this drug lord believed I had information concerning the cartel, Craig‘s contacts or their operation, he would have me killed. I sat, pondering the mess I found myself in, unable to respond for several minutes.
McClintock told me we had no time to waste. He suggested I get dressed that we needed to go downtown to FBI Headquarters.
“I‘m not in any legal trouble myself, am I?” I asked, still dazed as I tried to sort this all out in my mind. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I couldn‘t comprehend this unbelievable turn of events.
“No Katie. But you may be able to answer some questions that might help us find Craig. And we need to protect you from the cartel, and maybe even from Craig himself. I don‘t think you really know Craig and what he‘s capable of. Did you know he‘d been in a mental institution being treated for a bipolar disorder for almost a year before you met him? We believe he‘s delusional at best.”
I shook my head, this shocking information barely seeping into my confused mind.
“But I‘ve been married to him for almost ten years. Sure, he has a bad temper but never seemed actually dangerous or mentally ill to me.”
“I believe he came across to you as a certain kind of person to earn your trust, but the truth is, he deceived and used you. He hid things from you Katie. And it‘s a safe bet to assume he controlled his rage in order to get what he wanted. But we can discuss all this when we get downtown.”
McClintock escorted me upstairs and waited while I dressed and grabbed my purse. We returned downstairs, heading into the garage from the kitchen. I retrieved a few things I had left in my car. McClintock whisked me into his car and drove me to FBI Headquarters downtown. I was in a total state of shock and disbelief. Could this really be happening?

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To Catch A Cop
To Catch Series, Book 1
by Elle Druskin

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-715-8

Meet Lindy Kellerman. No money. No job security. No man in her life. Oops! And one dead body plus a very hot cop who can’t decide whether to arrest or seduce her. Maybe both. Who killed Sasha? And why is Lindy being set up to take the blame?

Chapter One

We’re all smart after the fact, isn’t that right?
Right from the start, I should have known the day would be a stinker. A run in a brand new pair of pantyhose, my son couldn’t find his sneakers for gym class, and the toilet backed up, flooding the bathroom with a nauseating mess that you don’t want to know about. We drove halfway to school, only to have to turn back to get my daughter’s forgotten lunch, since I couldn’t spare lunch money in its place.
It would’ve almost been a relief to get to work, where I was planning to teach my nursing students how to prime an intravenous line. That seemed a lot easier than the morning bedlam which reigned at my house.
I hurried down the hall, already two minutes late for class. As I rushed to the classroom, I could hear students’ excited voices echoing down the corridor.
“What are you doing Saturday night?”
“Have you seen the latest issue of Cosmo?”
“What mark did you get on the essay for Gloria?”
Twenty students clustered in the hall, chattering loudly outside the nursing lab, in anticipation of my arrival. They parted like the Red Sea, clearing the doorway for me, as I furtively clutched a scrap of paper with the series of numbers I had to punch into an electronic keypad, in order to unlock the door.
The locked pinged and the door swung open. I stepped inside, my nose a-twitch from the stench of alcohol enveloping the lab.
In the dim light, I glanced quickly at the lifeless mannequins tucked into bed, their glassy eyes staring up at the ceiling. There were notes clipped on the bed frames for students to decipher, oxygen tanks and masks were scattered between the beds. A locked drug cabinet, filled with simulated medications, perched on a table beside the motionless dolls that were supposed to be hospital patients. Shelves filled with syringes, needles, dressing packs, and all sorts of paraphernalia used in hospital wards were stacked neatly, ready for practice sessions with students.
Reflexively, I flicked the switch for the overhead fluorescent lights as I started forward, almost stumbling. It wasn’t that there was anything unusual about the odor, nor the neatly stacked plastic chairs against the wall, ready to be set up around the five work tables.
What stopped me dead in place was the unexpected discovery. Another patient. But there was no lesson plan for this one.
Close behind me, twenty sets of eyes focused on the ghastly sight, putting an abrupt end to the loud chatter, which now gave way to a chorus of gasps.
Wide-open grey eyes stared up at the ceiling. Dirty blonde hair stuck up at odd angles, adding to the ghoulish spectacle. Prominent cheekbones, bleached of color, and the tongue protruding from his mouth, seemed fairly conclusive evidence that the lifeless body splayed on the floor of my classroom had been dead for hours.
A scream that would have rivaled Fay Wray pierced the silence. A second later, I realized that I was the one who had screamed.
I jumped in place as a hand tapped my shoulder.
“Gee, do you think he’s dead?”
I whipped my head around to see who had asked such an incredibly stupid question, as the shocked students pressed over my shoulder, like a brood of chicks gathered around a mother hen.
“What kind of clinical skills are we teaching you if you can’t even recognize a dead body?” I said, in a panic.
Uncontrollable shudders racked my body; I could sense hysteria breaking out like hives that no antihistamine would ever relieve.
Breathe deeply. Do it again. You’re in charge here.
Still shaking, I steeled myself to get control of my own emotions, lest pandemonium break out. Another deep breath and I pointed with an index finger to the door, my eyes never leaving the gruesome sight at my feet.
No one moved. Our legs seemed to have lost their ability to function, as if the body had paralyzed us all against our wills.
“Everyone out, now!”
Obediently, the group shuffled backwards as one, towards the door.
One student cried silently, huge tears streaming down her cheeks, as a couple of others patted her back for comfort, and still others exchanged whispered comments. One miserable student retched, the disgusting mess only adding to the macabre scene in the room.
Pale, frightened faces stared back at me, more of them reacting to the initial shock as tears dribbled down their cheeks.
A shiver ran up my spine as I stood over the supine male. His denim clad legs were spread-eagled like a carelessly-thrown rag doll. I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to take anymore.
Maybe this is a hallucination. Please let me open my eyes and let there be nothing there.
Fat chance. I knew even before I opened them he’d still be there. Sasha. A macabre remnant of the young man who had been my student only the day before.
I drew a deep breath in an effort to get a grip on my jangled nerves, forcing myself to recall the crisis training from my own undergraduate nursing studies years before.
The best way to handle an emergency situation is to give people something to do.
The drone of the psychology professor’s voice echoed through my foggy brain, as I visualized his stuffy lecture theatre and the hundreds of bored students, carelessly jotting down notes.
I blinked, desperately trying not to gawk at the sickening corpse, but I seemed unable to avoid staring at Sasha’s chalk white face. I had seen plenty of dead bodies as a nurse over the years, but not someone I had personally known.
Another deep breath and I was ready to face the crisis.
Right. A plan. I always feel better when I have a plan.
Give people orders and they’ll do what you say.
I squared my shoulders and addressed the horrified students.
“Pam, go upstairs and get a security guard. Kate, go straight to the Dean’s office and get someone down here from administration. Try to get Bill Kingsley.”
Bill, the pain in the ass. He was the faculty manager. Let him manage this.
“Tell them to call the police.”
Years spent engrossed in crime shows on television, and a small fortune spent on hundreds of mystery novels had finally paid off. Janet Evanovich would be proud of me. I had some semblance of how to react, thanks to multiple re-runs of Law and Order.
“Nobody touch anything. Kerry, take Louise to the toilet and help her wash up. Don’t leave her alone.”
The others clustered outside the door, stunned into silence. Profound shock radiated on their faces, pale and wide-eyed, their brows furrowing in thought at the sight they had just stumbled upon. Several slumped on the floor, backs braced against the brick wall. Backpacks, notebooks, pens and other assorted student paraphernalia were scattered on the worn, beige carpet.
I backed out of the doorway, crouching among them.
Despite their distressed state, one of the girls leaned over and managed to whisper softly in my ear.
“Lindy, are you okay?”
I nodded grimly, grateful that in their shock, my students had thought of my feelings, too. This particular group of students had bonded well. They had formed solid friendships and I knew that, in some way, they thought of me as friend, too, even if I was their teacher.
Years ago, I had a professor who told me that whenever a crisis occurred, she would delay getting hysterical until later. That advice served me well. I shoved aside my own revulsion, knelt among the girls, and spoke quietly. I did my best to soothe them, trying to alleviate a palpable rising sense of panic. I knew without a doubt that none of them would ever forget what they had seen, but that they would also never forget how I had handled this fiasco.
“It’s okay. Whatever happened, the police will take care of things.” I sounded like a broken record that skipped over and over on the same phrase of music, but it seemed to help.
They settled, several of them whimpering. Their arms wrapped around each other, all of them gazed up at me, as if I could magically change what had happened.
Nineteen heads in various shades of red, brown, blonde, and one student with green punk hair turned at the sound of rapidly striding feet. Wearing a designer grey-pinstripe suit and scowl, Mr. Manager, Bill Kingsley marched down the hall.
He stopped in front of me, frowning.
Ridiculously, I wondered if he was judging my appearance. I looked away, discovering that the run in my pantyhose had widened and now appeared to be a peculiar stripe down one leg. I gazed up again but kept silent.
His eyes flickered at the teary-eyed group. Mascara lines ran down their faces, several had red noses, and they were passing tissues back and forth.
“What’s the problem down here? Can’t you handle one simple class? Fail too many on the last assignment? Student issues aren’t in my portfolio of tasks.” Sarcasm fairly dripped from his voice, matching the smarmy look on his face.
Wise guy.
Bill had ambitions, and minor student problems were definitely not on his agenda. He had other matters to occupy his time, being too busy playing politics around the university. Ambitious and more than a little ruthless, he wanted to move up, and he had no patience for what he must have presumed was something minor to distract his attention.
Obviously, Kate had been so upset that she hadn’t told him what awaited him in the classroom.
As I boosted up on one knee, a snag caught on my other leg. A matched set, two prize-winning runs in the pantyhose. My last pair.
Small potatoes compared to Sasha.
I lifted my chin defiantly, pointing towards the lab.
“In there.”
One rapid glance inside at the sight of Sasha sent Bill gagging, and running towards the men’s room.
“I bet that wasn’t in his job description, either,” I murmured innocently, sinking down to sit on the carpeted floor with the girls.
Disappointed by Bill’s less-than take-charge response, I prayed for the arrival of the security guard to take over.
Surely he would know what to do and get me off the hook. How long could it take to get down a few floors of the building?
One of the girls giggled, a nervous reaction to the gruesome situation as Pam panted toward us, her legs striding down the corridor, followed by one of the security guards.
After a quick glance inside the open door, he bolted like Bill. One more for the men’s room.
“Men. Real wimps,” muttered Pam.
“Are the police on the way?” My hands shook, although I desperately tried to hold myself together for the sake of the girls who counted on me.
In the back of my head, I had the crazy thought that I hoped this wouldn’t take too long. I was supposed to be at an open day at my kids’ school in two hours.
An involuntary shiver went through my body. I was unable to control my sick reaction to Sasha’s death as I considered various explanations, none of which made the slightest sense.
What did I know about him? Not all that much.
Sasha Azimov was never one of my conspicuous students; the ones you know will do well, no matter how much work you give them. Nor was he outstandingly bad at his work, which also draws attention like a radar signal. It’s only the really exceptional ones, at either end of the spectrum, that stick in your mind. The students who are so keen and interested, that they do superb work, no matter how much you dump on them. At the other end were the failures. You can’t wait for the semester to end so you can get rid of them.
Sasha really didn’t fall into either category, although he was a candidate for the failure crowd.
Despite my offer, he never came to my office for extra help, although he certainly could have used all the help he could get, based on his latest assignment.
Like the majority of his fellow students, he usually managed enough work on an essay or exam to scrape by, and was satisfied at that level.
You could honestly say the most distinguishing thing about Sasha was the way he died. And the place he had chosen.
For that matter, what could he have done to deserve death? Did he commit suicide deliberately in my classroom, as a pointed reminder that he had failed his last essay? Was this my fault?
A twinge of guilt made me gulp as I recalled that I had awarded him a low, failing grade only the day before yesterday. Had that been enough to send him hurtling over the edge?
Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to recall anything distinctive about Sasha, other than his overpowering lack of oral hygiene.
He had stormed into to my office two days ago after I had handed back the assignment. The smell had been enough to make me choke. Sasha had reeked of enough garlic to ensure that I would be safe from vampires well into the next century. Despite my calm attempts to explain the reasons he had failed, he refused to listen, shouting abuse so loudly, I was certain all my colleagues could hear the harangue, in his heavily-accented English.
“You be sorry, Missus Keelerman,” he had threatened, wagging a dirty index finger at me.
Was this what he had meant?
It seemed excessively dramatic to commit suicide over a failing grade in my lab as a pointed comment on my marking procedure, but it certainly made a point.
Where were the police? How long could it take?
I didn’t know how much longer I could hold myself together. My small sob was interrupted by the sweetest sound I could possibly imagine at that instant. Wailing police sirens made me jerk towards the deafening blare with a start. Thank God.
Loud footsteps, sounding like a stampede of buffalo pounded down the steps to the classroom. No Old West posse. Something better, as far as I was concerned. The cops had finally arrived.
The girls gazed up at them with shining adoration on their tear-streaked faces. Hallelujah! Their saviours had arrived, minus horses and lariats. No cowboy chaps or ten gallon hats either.
Instead, several cops, dressed in navy-blue jumpsuits, complete with nightsticks, handcuffs, pepper spray, and revolvers, flicked eyes over the group. One held his hand on his revolver, his chocolate eyes narrowing as if one of the girls was about to pounce and attack him. Another swivelled his head over the group like a periscope, seeking out the enemy.
From my vantage point, I could only see more feet as they thundered down the steps. Reebok sneakers and Doc Martens seemed to be the preferred footwear for Sydney’s boys in blue.
One pair of Reeboks came to a halt in front of me. My eyes traveled upwards, over worn jeans and a navy-and-yellow rugby shirt.
Like a toddler staring up at an adult in awe, my eyes continued the upward climb to the face that frowned down at me. Fine lines etched around the bluest eyes I had ever seen. Those eyes reminded me of a pair of lapis earrings I hadn’t worn in ages. They stared over a long, straight nose that complimented the full head of salt-and-pepper hair. Hard, chiseled features revealed nothing of what he was thinking, as if he had pulled on a mask to hide his emotions. About forty–two, I quickly calculated.
“Detective Fraser MacKinnon. You in charge here?”
The low, gruff voice had a rough quality. I swallowed hard, boosting up on one knee again. This time the pantyhose run turned into a hole over the knee.
His hand reached for mine as I rose to meet his hard glare. The second it touched mine, I felt a zing up my arm.
My body had decided that the police had arrived, and now I could finally relax and get hysterical. Fuchsia and purple dots danced in front of my eyes as I pitched forward into the waiting arms of Fraser MacKinnon.
***
Screams echoed down the grey, drab corridor. Several nurses in starched uniforms and caps, and white-coated physicians glided past the room, none of them reacting to the high-pitched shrieks.
The sounds were muffled in the treatment room.
“Draw up sodium pentothal,” the doctor ordered. “Patient number 7703 requires further persuasion. She needs some help telling the truth.”
The nurse blinked at him, but trained to follow a physician’s orders, she unlocked the drug cabinet from a set of keys around her neck. Her hands withdrew the glass vial, laying it beside a syringe and large-bore needle.
The doctor’s eyes scanned the writing on the vial, and he nodded.
“Bring it to the room.” Without another word, he turned on his heels, leaving the treatment room, the white coat flapping as he strode away.
The nurse snapped the glass vial open, carefully withdrawing a large dose of the drug into the syringe, and squinted at the tiny numbers that marked the side.
Satisfied that she had withdrawn the correct dose, she locked the cabinet again, placed the syringe on a tray, and walked in the direction of the room from which the screams had come.
The doctor was inside, standing at the foot of the bed. An exhausted woman lay on white sheets, her body in shivers from the cold.
“Here you are, sir,” the nurse said, offering him the tray that contained the syringe and an alcohol saturated cotton ball.
“Hold her arm,” he ordered.
Quickly, she strapped the tourniquet on the woman’s forearm. Dark blue veins stood out from the increased pressure.
The patient moaned softly but offered little resistance. Deep lines on her face made her look much older than her thirty years. She’d look much worse if she didn’t admit to her crimes, but that wasn’t the nurse’s worry.
Grasping the arm, she pressed firmly against the hard mattress. The physician leaned over, withdrawing the cap from the syringe. He pressed lightly on the barrel; a tiny drop of liquid dripped from the needle’s tip. Tapping a prominent vein, he injected the full amount into the woman’s arm.
***
Pungent whiffs of ammonia made me cough, as I struggled to sit up, forcing myself to blink open my eyes.
A rainbow forest of denim surrounded me, like something out of a weird fairytale. For a second, I couldn’t remember what had happened. My amnesia was cured when I stared up at the face that frowned back at me, and I became conscious of a strong arm wrapped firmly around my waist.
In my delirium, I thought I sniffed a trace of Cool Water aftershave. I blinked again, wondering if this was another hallucination. Unlike Sasha, this one looked pretty good.
“I just loved you as Dirty Harry,” I mumbled. Girlish titters echoed in the silent corridor.
A cold, wet paper towel pressed down on my forehead, and big drops of water dripped down my face. I looked bad enough today, this would only add to my less-than-alluring appearance. Still trying to get a grip on myself, I hoped the Clint Eastwood clone didn’t lean in too closely.
He might have smelled of aftershave, but I suspected that my aroma was the seductive fragrance of “Eau de Barf,” courtesy of my son’s early morning upchuck, the tail end of a stomach virus. Kids. It’s always something.
I squeezed my eyes shut again for several seconds to savor the unusual sensation of someone supporting me, in any capacity, for a change. I wanted to lean back in those arms and stay there forever. There was something safe and secure about the feel of them around me. Regretfully, I forced a reality check on myself, opening my eyes.
“Feeling better?”
Still dazed, I nodded as he helped me stumble to my feet. I swayed again and felt his hand slip snugly around my waist. All my nerves were on edge, even though I knew it was probably defensive action on his part.
He must have figured I would pass out again, and it would be easier to catch me if he had a secure arm around my waist. His touch was the closest I had come to a man since my divorce, several years earlier.
Even in my stupefied state, I noticed that he was at least several inches taller than I, no mean feat at my own five foot, eight inches.
MacKinnon dug into his jeans pocket for a mobile phone. Still supporting me with one hand, he punched in several numbers, holding the phone to his ear.
“We’ve got a coroner’s case. We need the medical examiner on site right away and a photographer. The guys are cordoning off the area now.”
For the first time, I noticed that he spoke with a slight accent. Nothing overt, merely a soft burr on his r’s, not the typical Australian speech that dropped the letter so that here sounded like he to my American ear.
He clicked the phone off and gripped my forearm.
“You okay now?”
Like a speechless idiot, I nodded again. His eyes raked up and down my disheveled attire, and I felt blood rush to my face. Who did this guy think he was?
“I think you’d better invest in another pair of pantyhose. Yours would be better off dead and buried,” he commented dryly, a note of amusement in his voice. His lips curled up slightly as he stared at my face.
Great. Another wise guy. What is it with men?
“What’s your problem? Is this a new detail, the fashion police?”
Big mouth. One hand clapped over my mouth in horror. Oops. Like a Britney Spears’ tune. I’d done it again. Things seem to jump out of my mouth from nowhere. When was I going to learn to shut up? I should have kept the snide remark to myself, but this time I was too annoyed to care.
This guy irked me. He made me nervous and I honestly couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t like I’d done anything wrong.
“There’s a dead person in there! Why don’t you do something about it?” My voice cracked and I wobbled again. My hysteria was back, and I could feel it peak like the waves that broke over Bondi Beach.
Here I was with a dead student in my classroom, twenty distressed young women, and all this guy, okay, a great-looking guy, I’ll grant him that, could talk about is my less-than-fashionable appearance.
So what if I looked like a mess. Cops! What are we paying taxes for?
He bent his head so close to my face that I caught a whiff of breath mints.
“You heard me call the medical examiner. The guys are cordoning off the room. They’ll start to take statements from your students, so what else did you have in mind? A call to Patricia Cornwell?”
I was right. Mr. Hotcop was a smart ass. How do I find so many of them?
His cool, superior attitude grated on my already overstretched patience. I glared back at him, but could tell he was amused with me by the quirk in his lips. With a determined shove, I peeled his hand away from my waist. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had noticed the definite roll of fat around my middle. I could only hope his powers of observation had a temporary power outage.
In my heart I knew I had to find an exercise program and this time, stick with it. I started hundreds of them, but inevitably stopped out of boredom or lack of time, or whatever other excuse I could find. I cringed as I recalled the binge the previous evening. A whole carton of Haagen Dazs cookies and cream ice cream. Eat it today, wear it tomorrow.
With a start, I reflexively turned away from the lab, where plastic bands of yellow with the black, bold words ‘Crime Scene. Do Not Cross.’ were already being taped in place over the door. My mouth tightened in a grimace.
Who cares about my most recent sugar overdose? What did that matter in the big scheme of things? A student, my student, was dead on the floor of my classroom and someone had to find out why.
I was about to open my mouth to ask what had been the cause of death, I could only hope the cop wouldn’t say ‘essay failure,’ like some new academic variation of heart failure, but before I could steel myself to ask, he cocked his head at me with a one-word question.
“American?”
I nodded. My accent still gave me away the minute I opened my mouth. Nobody would ever mistake me for an Aussie sheila.
Two younger cops were busy in the midst of the group of students taking down names, addresses and phone numbers.
A few of the girls giggled with the one that resembled Paul McCartney, in his better days. The other one was already asking one of the girls for a date.
I couldn’t get over their callousness, and the rapid recuperative powers of the students. A date, as if a dead body wasn’t lying on the floor of my class!
Before I could open my mouth to criticize the heartless attitude of law enforcement, Bill hurried up to the group followed by Barbara, our Dean of Students.
Ever gracious, her carefully styled blonde hair perfectly in place, Barbara is always dressed in beautiful designer suits. Her closet was the antithesis of my wardrobe of no-iron skirts and sweaters, mostly acquired when I could afford them at sales. Divorce settlements don’t seem to cover clothing allotments.
Today, she was wearing a dark-green, flowing top, and pants of a silky kind of material. The stores probably have some sort of name like moss-fern green, like one of the crayons I used as a kid.
I gazed down at my appearance ruefully. Ripped tights and a coffee stain that had appeared out of nowhere on my black skirt. My concession to the fashionable color of the season was a purple bruise on my knee that clashed with the dull red scrape next to the mark, a legacy from the early morning mad-rush to get the kids off to school on time, before racing down the road in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to work.
“Bill told me what happened. I’m Barbara Atwater, Dean of Students. How can I help?” She extended her hand to MacKinnon who shook it briefly.
Barbara spoke in a calm, authoritative voice that made clear she was used to being in charge, but MacKinnon put her in her place. I thought I was off the hook now that Her Majesty had arrived, and sighed loudly with relief. I should have known better.
“The room is now being cordoned off until the medical examiner arrives. Until that time, no one enters the room. My men will take down any statements from your students, and I’d like to see-” He fumbled with some crumpled notes that he had jammed into his jeans pocket.
“Mrs. Keeler. On her own.”
“Kellerman,” I mumbled.
“Right, Kellerman.”
Barbara nodded her understanding, leading the way to her office, a gracious suite full of light and fresh flowers, always neat and tidy, never a book out of place. Even the coffee table in her office had carefully arranged journals, placed in a precise, geometric display. Her fancy office was a complete contrast to my cubbyhole where books, papers, and stacks of work piled up on chairs, shelves, my desk and most of the time, the floor as well. I keep making a mental list of chores that need to be done, but cleaning the mess in my office always magically seems to end up at the bottom of the list.
I glanced down at my watch. Nine-thirty. The kids’ open day at school. I had sworn that I would be there, and the one thing I never do is make promises to the kids that I can’t keep. Kids never let you forget them.
“Will this take long?”
My voice wavered, and I knew that I sounded like a student called for an interview that reeks of bad news.
MacKinnon didn’t look like the type to sympathize with parental assurances that I would be at the kindergarten presentation, and I decided to keep that commitment to myself.
Despite what you see on television, this cop didn’t seem to be the empathetic type.
MacKinnon shrugged.
With a sinking heart, I knew I was right, and turned back to the girls, still busy giving their details to the cops. They included their availability on Friday night to the two policemen. All of them laughed together as if the whole thing had turned into an impromptu party.
I sighed at the incredible change in tone on the worst morning I could imagine. Nobody asked what I was doing Friday night. The same thing I always did anyway, spend it at home with my kids.
The last time I had been on a date had been about sixteen years in the past.
“Nothing like youth for resiliency.”
Jolted out of my reverie, I squared my shoulders and met MacKinnon’s face, but his expression was unreadable. I tried one more time to escape.
“I’m very busy, so if you’ll excuse me—”
One arm grabbed my elbow.
“Not so fast. I want a word with you. A few words. The sooner we get started, the better for you, since you’re so busy.”
I cleared my throat, turning back to the group.
“Class is cancelled.”
MacKinnon snickered as Barbara did an about-face and proceeded to walk regally back to her office. Like courtiers, we were obviously supposed to follow.
“That was an understatement.”
Before I could reply, MacKinnon’s fingers touched my elbow.
“As for you, I wouldn’t make any plans for Friday night.”
Without another word of explanation, he strode ahead, following Barbara through the glass doors marked ‘School of Nursing’ in heavy black letters, and continued into the administrative wing.
I trudged behind, wondering if the Dean’s petty-cash fund covered bail. It was starting to feel as if I might need to dip into the cash box. Not a happy perspective.

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Dreamweek
by Viviane Brentanos

Red Rose Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60435-683-0

At only twenty-three, Isabella Stevens is already tired of life. With the untimely death of, first her parents and subsequently, her grandmother, it seems to her, God is having a good laugh at her expense. Paul, the errant boyfriend, blames Izzie for his unfaithfulness, accusing her of being cold and emotionally immature. After so many years, he claims it’s only normal for him to want to have a physical relationship with her but Izzie was never ready.

Enter David Wells.

Chapter One

Isabella Stevens stretched out her arm, knocking the alarm clock to the ground. She winced. Sheet still wound mummy-fashion around her legs, she wriggled over to the edge of the bed and hung her head over the side. Not a good move. The calypso drum beat in her frazzled brain. Sofia was going to have a fit. The chip in the biscuit tiles was almost non-existent, but their psychotic landlady would notice for sure. Well, she could go to hell. Isabella rolled over and buried her head under the pillow. The whole world could go to hell and she wanted to go with it.
“Izzie!”
A call from the direction of the kitchen told her that she was overly optimistic. The world wasn’t going anywhere and she was stuck with her misery.
“Izzie get up!” Nat, her too-morning flat mate, stuck her head around the door.
“Go away!” Izzie tunneled deeper under the pillow. “I don’t want to get up now. I don’t want to get up ever!”
But Nat was made of stern Baptist stuff and she was inside the room pulling at the sheet.
“Get lost, will you?” Isabella hung on for dear life, blinking as the room was bathed in a shower of blinding Mediterranean sunshine. “Christ! I thought you “born agains” were supposed to be compassionate. And close the goddamn shutters! I’ve got a headache.”
Nat shook her head. “One Christ and a goddamn? My, we are in rare form today. And as for the headache, you’ve only yourself to blame. I know you’re upset but two bottles of rosé is no cure for heartache.”
“No.” Isabella gingerly sat up and waited for the room to stop spinning. It did not oblige. “However, it felt good at the time. And please—no lectures. I do realize that on a global scale, my problem does not warrant mention on CNN, but walking in on your boyfriend and another woman—a woman he’s apparently been shagging for three months, I might add—having mad sex in my bed, well… Let’s just say that I think Jesus may forgive me, don’t you think?”
Nat’s lips remained tightly sealed on that point and Izzie knew she didn’t. Instead, her big-hearted friend sat down on the edge of the bed and put a comforting arm around her. “Forget him, Izzie. He’s not worth it. All guys are shi…well, not very nice.”
Despite the seriousness of her situation, Izzie smiled. It would take a lot to make Nat swear. “You were right the first time. Shit” just about sums it up.”
“I didn’t mean that.” Nat flushed. “I think Paul is a great guy. At least he used to be, but men…they’re not like us, are they? They’re weak.”
Isabella swung her feet over the side of the bed and stood up on decidedly shaky legs. “I think Paul probably still is a great guy but now he’s involved with her. Oh God!” She sat down again and buried her head in her hands. “How am I going to face her? She did it, didn’t she? From the day she landed on this island she set out to get him and I helped her.”
Nat stared, openmouthed. “Please don’t tell me you blame yourself for this.”
Izzie hung her head, knowing she wouldn’t understand. “It’s complicated.”
Nat let out a snort. “There’s nothing complicated about it. There is right and there is wrong. Paul cheated on you and that’s all there is to it.”
“It’s so weird.” Izzie stood, legs finally obeying her, and staggered to the kitchen in search of coffee.
Nat followed, grabbing the coffee jug from her shaking hand before she dropped it, and the intrepid Sofia added it to their ever-growing list of breakages, mostly Paul’s.
Isabella sat down at the pine refectory table, gratefully accepting a mug of fragrant brew. “You don’t understand, Nat. Paul’s always been in my life. He is…” She struggled against tears. “… was my life.” She took a welcome sip, swallowing the two paracetamols Nat slipped into her hand.
“Oh, why is it Monday morning? I’ve got ten bloody flights to meet—as does Paul and his bimbo.” Isabella screwed up her face in disgust. “How can he hang around with that crowd from Go4It? That company makes Club 18-30 seem like a nun’s convention.” She let rip with a grunt. “Can you believe Paul joked they might as well call it Shag Holidays and be done with it. Well, Paul obviously has done “it”, hasn’t he. And done it very well, if Mel’s screams of ecstasy are anything to go by.”
“Izzie, really.”
Izzie ignored Nat’s crimson hue. “She must be so gloating now.” She forced down a piece of dry toast. “I bet she’s wasted no time telling everyone. My tale of “demise” is probably circulating the Rep. circles as we speak, the bitch!”
“She’s always been jealous of you.” Nat bit into a downy peach. “Of all of us, actually. Just because we work for Dream.”
“But naturally,” Izzie scoffed. “It’s so glamorous. I mean. I just love being hauled out of bed at two in the morning to turn off a dripping tap, just because some poor Hooray Henry didn’t think to turn it to the left instead of the right. Still, like Paul says, Biggles probably had his brains buggered out of him at his public school. I tell you, the morons don’t know the half of what we have to put up with. As long as their guests get a handful of free condoms stuffed in their welcome packs, they’re happy.”
Nat giggled.
Izzie drained her cup, warming to her theme. “They think we spend our days at cocktail parties by the pool.”
She stared morosely into her coffee dregs. It was true, but the reps working “steerage” wouldn’t believe it. Yes, Dream Villas specialized in discreet island holidays for the rich, the not-as-rich-as-they-used-to-be-landed gentry and, of course (and by far the most interesting), the super-rich-and-famous. But Izzie’s job of pandering to their every whim wasn’t so glamorous. Mel and her cronies didn’t see it.
“Thing is…” Izzie sniffed away dry tears. “It isn’t just the job. The other reps have never liked me. It’s because of Paul. There isn’t a girl working on Kuros who doesn’t fancy the pants off him­—except Mel has done more than just fancy the pants off him; she probably ripped the buggers from his legs.”
Izzie rubbed at her eyes, her lids burning. She wouldn’t cry; Mel wasn’t worth the energy.
“Oh God—sorry, Nat—but why is it Monday? Katlyn’s bound to be doing her impression of the Gorgon, and she’s hardly going to let me bunk off work because my heart’s breaking. Katlyn hasn’t even got a heart. She’s been pure evil all season because we’re short-staffed.”
“But what about the string of hopefuls London sent over last week?”
Izzie skewered her with a look; Nat was ever the optimist. “You know they never stay the course. One week working under Katlyn”s psychotic wing and they’re running for the first plane back home. Can’t say I blame them.” Izzie slurped at her cold coffee.
Nat grunted her accord.
 “I suppose I’d better get dressed.” Izzie groaned, remembering she’d forgotten to iron her airport uniform. Another nail to be added to her coffin. Katlyn would flip.
***
 The morning traffic was horrendous; Monday morning and thus the island’s busiest airport day. By the time Izzie and Nat parked their scooters in the staff car park, Izzie’s blouse stuck to her back and her face shone with sweat. Nine a.m. and the thermometer inched its way to thirty-eight degrees Celsius.
“Cheapskate bastards,” Izzie cursed the company’s owners. “God, even Thomas Cook reps get air-conditioned cars. Ah, heaven!” Stepping into the cool of the airport arrivals hall, she let the blast of icy air wrap her in a blanket of relief.
Her respite was short-lived. Two flights were down and she didn’t even have her list and—AS if that wasn’t enough to make her want to turn around and head back home—she spotted Paul and Mel in front of the reps’ station, locked in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Her first reaction was that Katlyn would have a fit. Paul was making a spectacle of himself; it was hardly Dream Villa behavior. Her second thought was that she wanted to go and tear out every single hair extension from Mel’s head and stuff them down her very much on display ample cleavage. But, of course, she didn’t; she’d spent a lifetime controlling her emotions and she wasn’t about to stop now. Head held high, she walked by the group of breath-holding reps and made for the Dream airport office.
Katlyn didn’t look up when Izzie tried to slid by her desk and collect her clipboard, but the sharp “You’re late” stopped her in her tracks.
“I’m sorry…”
Her apology was brushed aside and her boss looked up, her quick, sky blue eyes raking her over. “Isabella, I don’t know what’s going on with you and Paul, and, quite frankly, I don’t care. I do care that you do your job and that you do it well, which, I will say, up until now, you have done. Paul is another matter. I don’t like him hanging around with the Go4 crowd. It’s hardly good for our image. I would suggest you talk to him, but I gather from the repspeak that you two are no longer an item.”
Isabella flushed and the pain in her chest increased tenfold. Somehow hearing it from Katlyn made it official, so final.
The older woman’s expression softened slightly. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” Her eyes grew glacial again. “But life goes on and the guests keep arriving. We must be professional at all times. Our company’s reputation is built on offering quality service. Our guests are not interested in the trials and tribulations of one Isabella Stevens.” Katlyn handed Isabella her Arrivals list. “As I told you in London when I interviewed you both for the job, it’s not usually our policy to hire couples; and for this very reason. But, I liked you; I liked you both. And for three seasons I have been more than happy with your performance. Please don’t make me regret sticking my neck out for you. The Harcourt-Browns are arriving this morning and I don’t want them suspecting that all is not well in the ranks.”
Inside Isabella wanted to scream at her boss, and tell her to take her job and stick it where the sun most definitely didn’t shine. That was all she needed; the arrival of the company’s owners.
“And what, may I ask, is with that look, Isabella?”
“Nothing…lecherous old goat….”
Too late. Izzie had forgotten that Katlyn had the hearing capacity of a dog.
“I hope you are not being disrespectful. Mr. Harcourt-Brown is— “
“A lech.” Izzie plumped for honesty.
“Isabella! That will do!”
“You wouldn’t say that if you’d seen the bruise on Nat’s bum. If you want my opinion—”
“Which I don’t.”
Izzie knew when to retreat.
“Isabella, are you listening to me?”
Katlyn’s sharp rebuke brought her up short.
“You can handle Departures today.” She thrust the list into Isabella’s hand. “I’ll keep Paul down here with me. I think it is best you stay out of each other’s hair until the dust settles.”
Izzie didn’t miss the pointed stare. What she really meant was that she didn’t want to risk an ugly scene in front of their revered guests.
“I won’t let you down,” her retort was as sarcastic as she dared make it.
Katlyn was sharp in her response. “Don’t be defensive. I wasn’t suggesting you would, but if my sources are correct and Paul is with that…Mel… Well, I wouldn’t put it past that Jerry Springer candidate to start something. These people …they simply do not have the breeding.”
Isabella suppressed a smile. Katlyn’s snobbish attitude usually disgusted her, but it proved the Bimbo’s reputation had penetrated even the hallowed circles of Dream. “I’ll steer clear,” she promised, as she ran a practiced eye down the lists. “Wow!” She raised an eyebrow. “I wondered why the Press were lurking around outside. David Wells and family?”
Katlyn snorted. “Strike the “family”. He and his wife are in the midst of yet another messy trial separation, and she will not be joining him. Something to do with him finally having enough of her affairs, or so I’m told by the London office. And may I remind you that there shouldn’t be any Press. This is why I am so concerned about Paul’s relationship with that girl.”
“I’m sorry…” Izzie was puzzled. “I’m not making the connection.”
Katlyn rewarded her with a pained expression. “Really, Isabella, I would have thought it obvious.”
Izzie’s eyes widened. “Surely you can’t think Paul…” She stopped, amazed that after all that had happened, she came to Paul’s defense. She supposed it was going to be a hard habit to break.
“Loyal to the end, I see. Admirable, but unnecessary.” Katlyn smiled. “Paul is a big boy, Isabella, but he is also extremely gullible.”
“I still don’t believe he would have told Mel. After all, he signed the confidentiality paper with the rest of us.”
“Oh, don’t be so naive,” Katlyn tutted. “There is such a thing as pillow talk.”
She either ignored her discomfort or was insensitive to it. Izzie’s money was on the latter. Katlyn didn’t do sensitive.
“Anyway, I’m sure it will be fine. As long as we don’t have a repetition of the incident with that singer…what was his name?
Isabella knew to whom she referred. The R & B star had put a local photographer in the hospital and then threatened to sue Dream for compromising his privacy.
“Mr. Wells will be staying in Scheria House, so you will have the honor of soothing any feathers that may be ruffled.”
“But you just said I’m on Depart…”
“Nat will see him off in the car—as long as she doesn’t thrust an Alpha tape into his hand. I’m really going to have a word with that girl. I’m all for doing God’s work, but I wish she’d give him a day off on Mondays.”
Isabella collected her lists and made her escape before Katlyn, a self-confessed atheist, started on about the wrongs of organized religion.
Paul was waiting outside the office, a suspicious glare on his handsome, bronzed face. “I’ve been summoned.”
Isabella resented his accusatory tone. “I haven’t been telling tales out of school, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“No, of course not.” He was defensive—guilty. “The controlled Miss Stevens wouldn’t do that, would she?”
His cutting words hurt her more than his physical betrayal. “Why are you being like this, Paul? Like you’re mad at me. You cheated on me, remember—and with her. You told me you loathed her. You said…”
“Well, I obviously lied, didn’t I?”
“Obviously.” Isabella felt the tears well up into her eyes and she tried to push past him, but he caught hold of her arm.
“You shouldn’t blame Mel, you know. What did you expect, that I would wait forever? I have my pride, you know.”
Isabella laughed and turned to look over to the reps’ station where Mel laughed and joked with her equally moronic friends. “Pride? Oh pul-ease! Mel Compton? She’s slept with half of Kuros.”
Paul gritted his teeth. “At least she’s not cold.”
He walked into Katlyn’s office, leaving her rooted to the spot in shock. By now, a small audience had gathered and she squirmed under their morbid delight. She had an inkling that they knew exactly what Paul had meant by his last crack.
“Back off, Izzie.” Mel blindsided her, hands resting on her hips in a challenging stance. “You win some; you lose some, so get over it!”
She turned away. Mel wasn’t worth the energy. The pain in her heart increased, but ignoring the girl’s hostility, she walked off to departures with her head held high, and {she hoped} her dignity intact.
***
Two hours later, despite the air-conditioning, she was hot and worn out. The day had been disastrous. First, a huge delay on the Gatwick flight, then one of her guests had left his passport back in the villa and, to top it all, ninety-year-old Lady Wentworth was now refusing to board. The gray-haired lady, who, if her tales were to be believed, single-handedly fought of hoards of Indian rebels in Kandahar, had freaked at the sight of a turbaned gentleman in the check-in queue.
“It’s him!” she clutched Izzie’s arm, frail, bony fingers uncannily strong. “It’s that Bin Laddie.”
A great deal of patience, a good strong dose of Valium from the airport doctor and a promise of a complimentary fortnight in a free villa next season and Lady Wentworth finally agreed to make her way through passport control. Izzie didn’t care what she did on the other side. She was no longer her responsibility. Let the Greek police deal with the old witch. She was ready for home and a dip in the pool before it was time for her evening welcome visits.
Making her way out of the departures hall she was almost bowled over by Damien, Dream’s mandatory gay.
“You missed it. He was simply magnificent.” His eyelashes fluttered. “What a hunk! I thought he was going to put his fist right through the TV camera. Oh, I do love a masterful man, don’t you?”
“Damien, have you been at the Red Bull again? You know it’s not good for your nerves.”
Damien giggled coyly. “Oh, don’t tease. It’s your guest, David Wells. He was in such a tizzy.”
Izzie groaned. What a perfect end to the day opportunity.

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