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Currently viewing the category: "Publisher: Resplendence Publishing"

Two Worlds, Two Men by Joy Frawley

Two Worlds, Two Men

by Joy Frawley

Resplendence Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781607358077

[ Time Travel Romance ]

Jocelyn and Neely are having a perfectly pleasant dinner at the Sheep Heid Inn when it happens: Jocelyn suddenly finds herself sitting across the table, not from Neely, but a strange man dressed in medieval garb. This man is no apparition. His eyes, the deepest brown, clearly look on her in intimacy; his touch causes her pulse to rise. Jocelyn realizes two things: from his clothes, he is clearly an aristocrat, and that she, Jocelyn Stewart, seems to be in some sort of romantic relationship with him! Minutes later Jocelyn returns to Neely, in the present day, weak and terrified.

Together they begin to unravel the forgotten past and find themselves facing the reality of medieval Scotland: A strange world steeped in folklore and superstition; where life begins and often ends with the sword. As Jocelyn travels back to medieval times she learns that the man she keeps seeing is no other than Sir Colin Campbell of the powerful Campbell Clan. When Jocelyn is with Colin, she wants never to leave his side; then she returns to the present and cannot imagine herself with anyone but Neely. Jocelyn struggles with a choice. Which man will gain her heart when both offer such different love? She is in love with two different men in two different worlds.

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Loose Ends by Lucy Felthouse

Loose Ends

by Lucy Felthouse

Resplendence Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781607356226

When Jonathan and Lauren met at University, it should have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Years later, Jonathan shows up unexpectedly throwing Lauren into turmoil. The pair start talking, and all the old feelings come back. But will this time be different?

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Chapter One

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Lie To Me
by JL Wilson

Resplendence Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60735-239-6

Grace Jamison went out on a blind date and ended up on a vacation that took her through the Badlands, across two states, and into the arms of the man of her dreams … now if she can only convince him to stay there!

Chapter One

“Why do I let myself get talked into stuff like this?” Grace Jamison asked the pigeon pecking the dark brown paving stone at her feet.
The bird cocked its head and regarded her with a bright black eye. No idea, it seemed to say. But you always do.
She crossed one pale blue denim-clad leg over the other and leaned back, her curly dark blond hair flowing over her shoulders, so long it almost touched the base of the statue on which she sat. The May sunlight warmed her face despite the cool breeze washing over the Art Park outside the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. Spring had been cold that year, and it felt more like Easter was approaching than Memorial Day. Despite the cool weather, she heard music coming from the park a block away. She tilted her head, recognizing the raspy voice of Jonny Lang as he sang the blues. The park was a favorite gathering place for students from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University; a little cool weather wouldn’t keep their spirits down.
Grace glanced at her watch. She promised Margaret that she would meet this guy, so meet him she would. After all, Margaret was more like an older sister than a cousin, and her husband, Nathan Stokes, vouched for the guy. Margaret was anxious for Grace to find the Right Man just as she had found Nathan. Grace didn’t have the heart to tell her that she had already found the right man. He just didn’t know it.
“I’m leaving town tonight so it’s no big deal,” Grace murmured. “One cup of coffee and I can give him the old, ‘sorry, I’ve got to pack’ excuse.” In a few hours she would board a train to begin what she hoped would be a life-changing adventure. “By this time next week, I’ll see Kerry again,” she whispered. “I’ll see him and I’ll finally know what he feels for me.”
The bird pecked the pavement at her feet, oblivious to Grace’s discussion of her upcoming blind ‘date’ versus the Man of her Dreams, Kerry Songhorse. The bird and its companions were the only other warm-blooded creatures in the plaza. Several statues were spaced throughout the half-block square, as well as trees and shrubs, but the human patrons were all inside the glass-walled cafeteria that overlooked it.
Grace straightened and tugged her denim jacket tighter over her dark brown turtleneck sweater, going over Nathan’s description of Ben Cochran in her mind. “He’s a little bit nerdy, but give him a chance,” Nathan had told her. “He’s tall, too, which is good, right?”
Yes, tall is good, Grace thought. She was 5’10”, so the taller, the better. It wasn’t a requirement, but it certainly made life easier.
“He’s got black hair, and he wears glasses—just sometimes, not all the time. And he’s tall. Oh, I said that. And he’s into computers.” Nathan had laughed nervously. “He’ll probably go on and on about a project he’s working on. He’s a game player, too. You know, those role-playing things? He’s at Level Orange or something in one of those, and… Ben is kind of intense sometimes. But he’s a great guy. Really great. You’ll like him, Grace.”
Grace sighed. Just a cup of coffee. That’s all. One cup of coffee. I like Nathan. It’s the least I can do after all he and Margaret did to help me. Her wrist ached, reminding her of the cold weather and of the events a few months ago. She stared at the narrow segment of parking lot viewable in the distance. Because of the enclosing walls of the museum and cafeteria, the Art Park blocked her view of most of the lot, although she could see Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park beyond the cars parked in the distance. Sunlight glistened on cars driving through the rolling terrain of the four hundred acres, making the distant trees and golf course glimmer in the late afternoon sun.
A man was walking toward her, striding up the path from the parking lot with a long, purposeful gait. Was that him? He was tall, all right, although it was hard to tell just how tall at this distance. His black hair was long and curling up on his collar. Broad-shouldered, long-legged, attractive in an athletic, muscular sort of way. Sunglasses. Grace tugged a strand of hair that caught on the metalwork behind her and pushed the curly mass over her shoulder. If that was Ben Cochran, she might want more than a cup of coffee.
As he neared, he slid the sunglasses off, slipping them into the pocket of his dark gray sports coat. His gray T-shirt was tucked into black denims, emphasizing his big shoulders and narrow waist. That Nathan, Grace thought as she stood and smiled. He must have been kidding. Geeky? This guy? Good Lord, he’s almost as handsome as Kerry. The thought made her blink with surprise. They even look a bit alike with that black hair and the chiseled, sharp features. But Kerry’s eyes are dark and this guy’s eyes…they’re so pale. I’ve never seen eyes like that. They’re the color of ice.
Grace’s attention jerked away from comparisons to the man walking toward her, staring at her intently. Men often stared at Grace. It was the consequence of having a model-perfect body, waist-length honey blonde hair and a freckled, “girl-next-door” complexion. She’d been stared at since her body matured in puberty. But this wasn’t that kind of look. This was predatory, intimidating. He wasn’t examining her body or her hair. His eyes… She took a step back, surprised to find the man with the unwavering pale gray eyes standing right in front of her.
“Ben?” She held out her hand.
The man looked at it, looked at her. He was as handsome up close as he was from a distance, with an oval face, pointed chin, and straight, almost narrow nose. Thick black hair curled around his collar, strands blowing in the breeze. His eyes were his most distinctive feature, like chips of metal rimmed in black, giving him a blind, icy look. She stared up at him and smiled tentatively. “Ben?”
“Were you expecting someone else?” He jerked her into his arms. He was far taller than she originally thought. He had to be at least 6’6”. Those icy blue-gray eyes were like cold lasers as he stared down at her. “You know why I’m here, right?”
“We’re supposed to—”
“Shh.” His eyes held her captive. “You look like a princess, sitting here waiting for your prince.” He smiled slowly, the edges of his mouth curving up. Dimples deepened in his cheeks and long creases appeared at the edges of his eyes, small flecks of white in the smooth tan of his skin. “Princess.”
A game player. “Is this a game?” she whispered.
His eyes changed, darkening like the clouds drifting on the horizon. “Of course it is. I’ve heard you’re an exceptional player, too.” He tilted his head to one side and regarded her, his eyes flickering over her face. “You’re going away soon, right? Do you plan to have a little fun while you’re gone?” His sly smile told her exactly what kind of ‘fun’ he had in mind.
Grace glared at him coldly. “That’s none of your business.” Had Nathan told this guy about her plans to visit Kerry?
If Nathan talked about that, I’ll skin him alive!
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I make you mad?” He picked out a strand of her thick honey-colored hair and fingered it. “No one told me how beautiful you were.”
“Didn’t Nathan tell you what I looked like?” She wiggled in his arms, and he loosened his hold but didn’t release her completely.
“Nathan?”
“Nathan Stokes.” Grace moved away from him, suddenly nervous. It was one thing to have a guy act like a goof, but this was weird. She managed to put a few more inches between them, but he was still uncomfortably close. Grace leaned to her right but a statue was at her back, preventing any movement in that direction.
“Stokes. Sure.” He looked distracted, his eyes narrowing and momentarily far away. “I forgot about Stokes.”
“How could you forget about Nathan? He’s why I’m here.” Grace pushed at his arms, and he released her, but he didn’t step back. On the contrary, he moved as close as he was before. “I’d rather not play this game,” she said and immediately regretted the words when she heard how whiney she sounded.
“You don’t want to play the game.” He spoke flatly, his face just inches from hers.
Grace flinched back. “No. I mean, I’d rather not…it’s not what Nathan said…I mean, can’t we just—?”
“You promised me a kiss, didn’t you?”
“What?” She stared up at him, so surprised, she couldn’t move.
“I was told you’d give me at least a kiss.” He smiled, but it was just his lips that moved. His eyes didn’t warm.
“Who told you that?” Grace pulled back but a knobby bit of statue dug into her back. She tried to ignore it, anxious to escape this stranger’s angry glare. “Did Nathan—?”
He jerked her into his arms, and his lips came down on hers.
Grace was so shocked she hung in his arms for a second before struggling. His lips were fixed on hers, his tongue delving into her mouth, his body pushed hard against hers. Between his tight arms and his probing kiss, she could barely breathe. She wasn’t an experienced kisser—far from it—but even in the midst of her chaotic thoughts, Grace realized he was very, very, good. His mouth, hands, and body all worked together, making her feel like the center of his universe, as though she was all he had thought of. If she hadn’t been so frightened, she would have been aroused. You are aroused, a little voice in her head whispered. Don’t lie.
The thought was like a shock of cold water. Grace tried in vain to pull away, but he put one hand on her head, keeping her face pressed against his. His other arm was around her waist, pulling her tight against him. She felt his erection, hard and insistent, a rod of flesh pressed against her stomach as he stepped forward, forcing her back against the concrete of the statue base behind her.
“No…no…” she mumbled, twisting her head. His hand tangled in her hair and tears sprang into her eyes when he jerked her head back. “What are you doing?” she gasped as his lips finally released hers.
He stared into her eyes. His were like gray chips of stone, cold and hard. “You know what I’m doing. I’m doing what you suggested. I’m combining business with pleasure.”
“What?” Grace put her right hand against his left shoulder and pushed. It was like pushing one of the statues behind her. He remained pressed against her. She realized how it must look—two lovers, meeting in the Art Park, his arms entwined around her, her arms pinned to his chest as she stared up into his face. “What do you want?”
“You’re very good. Beautiful and good. I’d love to stay and entertain myself, but this project has to get done and soon.”
Project? Grace gulped, trying to make some sense out of the words he whispered in a harsh, husky voice. Nathan said he was intense but… This can’t be the guy. Nathan would never set me up with a… “Who are you?” she asked.
His arms slipped down to her waist, pulling her against him. She tried to look down as she felt something touching her side.
“Don’t look,” he snapped.
Her head snapped up, almost hitting him. He reared back, his mouth tight and hard. “Good try but it didn’t work, bitch.”
Fear, anger, and incredulity all surged within Grace. Fear won out. She opened her mouth to scream, but he must have sensed what she was going to do because he forced her face close to his. “It’s in your pocket. Thank you. They were watching.” His eyes were blue—no, gray—no, they were blue. They were so changeable. They snared her, trapped her. “I put it together just for you. It has all the information you need to make up your mind. Call me when you decide.” He looked beyond her, over her shoulder to the cafeteria and the patrons sitting there.
Grace twisted, following his gaze. Four or five tables were near the glass wall overlooking the plaza. Most of the people at those tables were talking to each other. Two men at the center table, though, stared out the window at them. They were too far away for her to see their faces clearly, but their interest was evident.
She gaped at him. “What?”
“You saved my life.” He kissed her again. But this time it was gentle and sweet. And once again Grace was so surprised she just stood there, her brain whirling. “Thank you.” He pushed a thick strand of hair over her shoulder, his hand touching her cheek with a soft caress. “What’s your name?”
She gaped at him. “Grace. You know my name. Didn’t Nathan tell you?”
“How appropriate. Amazing Grace.” He smiled at her but there was sadness in his eyes. “Your looks won’t help you, Grace. Pity. I wish I could see you again, I really do, but I’m not sure it will be possible. But…” He kissed her, his lips a lingering brush against hers. “I hope you’ll contact me.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” she said when he released her and took a step back. As she did she heard shouts coming from her right, where the parking lot was hidden from her view by a grove of trees. She turned, trying to see what the noise was all about, and when she turned back, the man was walking away from her, his head down as he focused on the uneven pavers.
A sudden chill washed over her, and she stared again at the cafeteria. The two men who had been looking at them were gone, hurrying through the tables to the side exit near where the man disappeared. Sirens erupted, close enough that she winced when the noise vibrated around the semi-enclosed space. Something big was happening. People ran through the parking lot, heading for a spot to her right. Grace walked toward the parking lot, peering from side to side as she emerged from the Art Park.
A crowd of people milled around a side door on the far end of the north side of the plaza. Two policemen in uniform held out their arms, keeping people from moving forward and two men were on the opposite side of the circle, keeping the people there from moving. Two other officers were near the door. One of them spotted Grace as she emerged from the plaza. “Ma’am, can you wait right there, please?”
Grace stopped. “Me? Why?”
“You might be a witness. Please wait there.”
Dozens of people turned to stare at her. “Witness to what?” Grace asked a man as he hurried by.
“Murder. They found a woman’s body near the door.” He gestured toward the far side of the plaza as he pulled a phone out of his pocket. At that moment the crowd shifted, and Grace caught a glimpse of a body on the ground. Long blonde hair covered the woman’s face where she lay sprawled in a pool of dark blood.
Secret Agent Man chimed from the phone tucked into Grace’s jacket. She fumbled in the deep denim pocket, her fingers first encountering a small hard object. It caught on her wristwatch as she pulled out her Blackberry, her hand trembling when she opened the phone’s leather holder. “Nathan?”
“I’m sorry, Grace. I heard from Ben, and he can’t get there. He didn’t have your phone number so he couldn’t call you himself.”
“Huh?” She stared down at the object swaying from her wrist.
“Ma’am, we need to talk with you. Can you hang up the phone?”
Grace untangled a necklace from her wristwatch and stared at a small black bear studded with rhinestones and pearls, dangling from a silver chain.
“What’s happening, Grace?” Nathan asked.
Grace looked at the police officer in front of her. “I have no idea,” she said faintly.
* * * *
Ben Braden looked behind him, thankful for the distraction that kept the watchers off his tail. People were streaming past him, going to whatever was causing the fuss, and he silently thanked curious onlookers for providing him with some cover.
What had started as a lousy day was ending well. He’d been on this project for almost a year, and it was finally showing results. Everything hinged on the next few days. As soon as they wrapped it up, he could get on with the next phase of his life.
Whatever that might be.
Ben looked back over his left shoulder but the woman—G. Martin—was lost to sight. She wasn’t what he expected. Her voice made her sound a lot more coarse, a lot more experienced. She had called when he was near the outdoor fountain at Phipps Conservatory, at the edge of the park. All he’d wanted to do was get this handoff over with so he could go home and sleep. He’d been on the move for five days, and it was catching up to him.
“I’ll be waiting for you at the Art Plaza.” The voice paused then asked suspiciously, “You’ve got it, right?”
“Yeah.”
“You sound like you’re in a bad mood,” the voice said teasingly. “Maybe I’ll have to cheer you up.”
“Just stick to the plan,” Ben snapped.
“Hey, I heard you like the ladies,” the voice said smoothly. “I don’t know if you can handle one who’s had my training, though.”
He ground his teeth. How long before the stories about Paris died out? “We’ll see. What do you look like?”
“I’m tall, I’m blonde, and I’m waiting near the Art Plaza. I’ve heard I’m your type. I’ll be waiting for you, sweetie,” the voice said seductively. “No reason we can’t combine some business with pleasure. You’re used to that, right?” She laughed and hung up before he could snarl a reply.
Ben grimaced as he remembered that conversation now. All he had to do was meet that bitch, give her the memory stick disguised as a necklace and get out. She would take the damning data back to her handlers, and they could finally find the traitors they were looking for.
He didn’t count on her being so young, though. Ben paused. He was starting to notice how young a lot of the agents were. Of course, he was fifty-five and retirement loomed large in his future. No matter what anyone said about his ‘contribution to the Bureau’, he would always hit a glass ceiling when it came to promotions and assignments. The Paris Thing would haunt him forever. There would always be talk. He knew that when it happened, and he accepted it, but it still galled him.
Ben stopped on the corner of Forbes and Craig as a city bus pulled to a stop nearby, the exhaust fumes overlaying the scent of daffodils from the flower bed in front of the museum’s cafeteria. A sudden chill made him hunch his shoulders, and he bent to pick up a scrap of paper from the pavement, using the movement to glance behind him. He was still being followed. Damn. Those guys were good.
He straightened and considered his options. The bus door opened a few feet from him, and he got on, flashing his Metro pass at the driver. As he settled into a seat near the back, he had a good look at the bald-headed man who had followed him most of the afternoon. The guy was talking on his cell phone. Ben leaned back. In the 18 months he’d been living in Pittsburgh, he made it a point to learn a lot of the bus routes. There were several points along this route where he could get off, cross the street and hop another bus. He could come back and get his car later that night.
With a belly-aching growl, the bus lurched away from the corner and ambled along Forbes Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Oakland – Pittsburgh’s University district. Ben looked back and saw police cars streaming toward the museum, their sirens wailing. A gorgeous red Corvette darted past the bus, a white-haired man at the wheel with a luscious-looking blonde sitting in the passenger seat.
Not as luscious as G. Martin, he thought. Good Lord, it was all I could do to let go of her. Those legs! Ben shivered. Long legs were his weakness, and Martin’s were toned and long, fitting right in with the rest of that beautiful body. And her hair! Honey-brown hair with gold highlights, so thick and long a man could get lost in it. Her green eyes were like looking into a forest and her complexion – all freckles and pinkness – shouted All American Girl!
How did somebody like that get tangled up with the biggest traitors on the planet? The thought made his stomach twist. Why the hell did she have to be so beautiful? He glanced at his watch. It was five o’clock. He’d give it a few hours, hopping buses, then go back to the office. The project was closing down, and once Martin played her part, he could put it all behind him.
He was tempted to log on and find Martin’s home phone number in the Bureau database. As soon as he considered it, Ben rejected the idea. She was a suspect in an ongoing investigation and any contact with her had to be strictly monitored. It had taken this long to dig himself out of the hole he fell into when Michelle betrayed him in Paris. He wasn’t going to blow it all on Grace Martin, traitor.
Ben got off at the next stop, ducked into the parking garage across the street, and emerged on Bigelow Boulevard, where he immediately caught an express bus downtown. Instead of getting off at the Federal Building, he rode the bus through the city center and to the South Side, where he got off and hopped another bus that took him to a western suburb. Two more buses and two hours later, he was back downtown at the Federal Building.
He paused at security, handing his badge and gun to the guard on duty then passing through the scanners. His desk was in the bullpen on the nineteenth floor, and, as he waited for the elevator, he scanned the headlines in the newspaper kiosk. The elevator was almost to the ground floor lobby when his cell phone chimed.
Ben glanced at the display. Unknown. He recognized the number, though. “Yeah?”
“Mr. Braden.” The voice—precise, British, and clipped—sounded exasperated. “Why did you kill our agent? That was impulsive.”
Ben frowned. His contact, who he thought of as ‘Bond’ because of the accent and the fact the man was in the spy game, sounded honestly perplexed. “What are you talking about? I didn’t kill anyone.” He stood aside for a man to exit the elevator, and, as he did, the headline on the newspaper stand next to the door caught his eye. Ben fumbled for the correct change and got the newspaper just as the elevator doors opened. “What do you mean?” He skimmed the story as the elevator glided upward, his phone jammed between his shoulder and his ear.
“We saw you with a most lovely girl. Who is she?” Bond laughed. “She certainly was kissable.”
“What do you mean? She’s—” Ben stopped, ‘your agent’ almost escaping. “You saw me with…” What was her name? “Grace? Your agent is dead?”
“Hmm.” The voice hesitated. The elevator chimed on the nineteenth floor. The floor was quieter than usual. Ben glanced around, spotting Charlie Davidovitch at his desk near Ben‘s, staring at a computer screen. “I didn’t kill anyone,” Ben said, his brain in overdrive. “I was just mixing a bit of business with pleasure.” Believe the lie, he pleaded silently. Don’t blow this operation. You’ve got two years invested in it. Don’t blow it. “When I saw the crowd I figured the deal was off.”
“Pleasure? Really? So the pretty blonde lady is your girlfriend?”
Ben swallowed hard. “Of course.”
“Hmm. It’s true you have a predilection for women of that type, but we had nothing in our files about her. Is she new? It’s irrelevant. Our agent is dead, and you didn’t do it. Does that mean…?” Bond’s bantering tone was replaced by one that was cold and angry. “We’ll be in touch. I need that data, Mr. Braden. Soon.” The line went quiet.
Ben sank into the chair at his desk and logged on to his computer, bringing up the Bureau directory. He searched for Grace Martin as a cold feeling of panic spread into his chest. He rubbed it, wondering absently if he was having a heart attack.
There was no Grace Martin working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There was a Gail Martin working for the FBI in Pittsburgh. But no one named Grace in the Pittsburgh office. “Son of a bitch!” he said loudly and stood up so fast his chair fell over.
Charlie looked up in surprise, his lush black beard and shaggy hair giving him the appearance of a Cossack in a blue flannel shirt. “What’s up, B.B.?”
“A royal screw-up, that’s what’s up.” He looked at the newspaper headline: Woman Murdered at Museum Art Park. Ben called homicide and had his worst fears confirmed.
The victim was Gail Martin. The woman he was supposed to meet. And Grace whoever-it-was now carried data files that were supposed to be on their way to New York.
“Son of a bitch.” He picked up the phone and dialed the cell phone of Stan Brewster, his boss. As he listened to the phone ringing, he wondered again,
“Who the hell is Grace?”

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Shadow of Doubt
by JL Wilson

Resplendence Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60735-104-7

FBI agent Nathan Stokes planned to propose to Margaret Dalton on Valentine’s Day in the Bahamas. But the best laid plans of mice and men and FBI agents often go awry. Nathan and Margaret end up in Possum Bottom, Minnesota, in the middle of a brutal cold spell. They also end up getting embroiled in a brutal inheritance fight that involves a casino, Native American land rights … and murder.

Chapter One

“Remind me again why we’re in Possum Bottom, Minnesota, and not in the Bahamas like we planned.” Nathan Stokes hunched his shoulders in his dark overcoat and peered at Margaret Dalton from the confines of his scarf as they walked into the wind. “It’s almost Valentine’s Day, Margaret. We were going to be in the Bahamas for Valentine’s Day.”
“I delegated,” she snapped.
Nathan jammed his hands deeper into his coat pockets. “You delegated?” He looked to his right, down the two-block shopping district and winced as the swirling wind blew snow into his face.
“I told you, Nathan. I’m the executor of Uncle Arlen Thibodeaux’s will. He died a month ago and the lawyer I hired apparently didn’t—or wouldn’t—deal with the estate.” Margaret settled her Coach purse more comfortably on her leather-coated shoulder. “I delegated the task and look where it got me.”
She looked at the piece of paper in her gloved hand and peered at the brass numbers on the brick storefronts. “Mother and Shannon say I need to delegate responsibility. They always say I’m too—” She glanced at Nathan, a flush pinkening her flawless porcelain complexion. “Well, you know.”
Nathan did know. He could almost hear Katherine and Shannon say it. Margaret’s mother and younger sister had occasionally pulled him aside to prod him about his relationship with the middle Dalton girl. Margaret’s such a control freak. How can you stand it? Isn’t she too bossy for you?
He smiled innocently at Margaret. “Too busy?” he suggested.
“Hmm.” Margaret smiled perfunctorily at a young woman in skin-tight jeans and a short jacket who walked by them. She smiled at Nathan then gave Margaret an assessing look before moving past. “This should be it. I believe the lawyer’s office is upstairs.”
Nathan eyed the Possum Bottom Bowling Alley and Lanes ‘O Fun warily. This trip was shaping up to be more interesting than he’d anticipated, although his plans had been pretty damn interesting to start with. They were supposed to be on a trip to the Bahamas where he had hoped to pop the Big Question while he and Margaret were lounging on the beach. His daydreams about his vacation hadn’t included a foray to western Minnesota through sub-zero temperatures in order to talk to a small town lawyer about a deceased uncle’s estate on an Indian reservation.
Through a cracked pane of glass, Nathan heard Garth Brooks shouting his love of friends in low places and felt a wistful kinship with the singer. The song mingled with the moist aroma of beer and cigarettes coming from an establishment that seldom experienced fresh air.
“His office is above the bowling alley?”
“There aren’t a lot of options in town,” Margaret pointed out.
Nathan looked across the street at the Just-A-Buck store, Al’s Pharmacy and Computer Exchange, Benjamin’s Baubles, and the PBBT—Possum Bottom Bank & Trust. The two story buildings all seemed to house a business below and either another business or an apartment above. He’d noted the same arrangement on their meander down Main Street as they passed Julie’s House of Dance, the Joltin’ Java Café, the Lac Qui Parle Disc-Go-Round, and Frank’s Furnaces & Furniture.
“What is Lac Qui Parle?”
“Not ‘Lacky Parl’. You sound like a native. It’s Lac Qui Parle,” Margaret enunciated, her French accent impeccable. “It’s the name of the county. And the lake, of course.” She smiled at his blank expression. “Loosely translated, it means ‘the lake that talks.’”
“Oh.” Nathan hunched his shoulders, frowning at his reflection in a window and the light dusting of snow he spied on his military-cut brown hair. It added to the gray at his temples. “Is Possum Bottom the biggest town around?”
“The biggest one in the county.” Margaret reached for a massive wooden door next to the fogged-over glass door leading to the bowling alley. “I believe there’s about two or three thousand inhabitants.”
“A metropolis.” Nathan intercepted her, pulling open the door and slipping inside.
He unbuttoned his coat and pushed it open, revealing his worn blue jeans and blue plaid flannel shirt covered by a loose blue sports jacket. He peered up the dark stairway to the landing above, where a light in a bulbous fixture dangled. Satisfied no one was above them, he turned his attention to the boxes inset into the wall.
Margaret edged into the small landing behind him and watched as he inspected the brass mailboxes. “What are you doing?”
“I’m an FBI agent, Margaret. I’m naturally curious. I thought I’d check and make sure we’re in the right place.” He tapped one of the four mailboxes. “Jon Kincaid, Attorney at Law. Looks like we got it in one.” Nathan winked at her, his smoky gray eyes glinting with mischief. “Let’s get this over with and get back to the Lamb Chop.”
“Lion and Lamb,” Margaret said patiently. “Our B&B is called the Lion and Lamb.”
“I prefer Lamb Chop.” He started up the worn wooden steps, his thick-soled boots adding a layer of gritty sand to the deposit already there.
Margaret followed, carefully pulling her beige cashmere scarf from her head and settling it around her shoulders. She tucked a strand of chestnut hair more securely into her demure French twist. Like Nathan, she wore jeans, but hers were crisp, ironed, and fit her slender body like a tailored glove. Her rust-colored turtleneck sweater exactly matched her hand-tooled leather boots that in turn matched her leather gloves, now tucked securely in her leather coat’s pockets.
Margaret looked pointedly at Nathan’s hand, hovering at his right side, near his belt on his worn blue jeans. “Are you carrying a gun?” She eyed the loose blue sports coat he wore over his flannel shirt. “You never wear a coat unless you have a gun.”
“I always wear a coat.”
“My point exactly. Are you wearing a gun? We’re on vacation.”
“Of course I’m carrying a gun.”
“It’s Possum Bottom, Minnesota. Why do you need a gun?”
“Angry marsupials, perhaps?” He paused on the step above her. “Why don’t you wait there and I’ll see if anybody’s home.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. You’re seeing boogie men.”
“I’m paid to see boogie men, Margaret. Wait there.”
She sighed loudly but waited until Nathan ascended four steps. Then she stealthily crept up the stairs behind him, the noise from her Frye boots masked by his heavier tread and an occasional muffled shriek of warped wood from the steps.
“Margaret, just wait.” He didn’t even turn around as he said it.
“How did you know—?”
“I’m trained to know that kind of shit. Just wait.”
Margaret hesitated until he got to the landing and disappeared around a corner. Then she darted upward, puffing by the time she got to the top of the eleven steps. She collided with Nathan, bouncing back slightly from his solid bulk as she rounded the corner on the landing and entered a small foyer in front of three doorways. The heels of her boots made her exactly Nathan’s height and he smiled into her eyes as he put his arms around her.
“Hello, there. I was expecting you.”
“Quit being smug, Nathan.” Margaret tried to pull away but he held her firmly. She gave up and relaxed in his arms. “What are you smiling at?”
“You.” He kissed her, his lips gentle then insistent. “I think we should get back to the Pork Chop and get a fire going in that fireplace.”
She put her arms around him. “You do, hmm? A fire in the fireplace?”
He tugged her nearer so their bodies were as close as winter clothing would allow. “That’s not the only fire I’d like to get going.” His lips brushed her ear, his dark brown beard stubble rasping her cheek and making her shiver. “You know what they say—abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.”
She smiled dreamily at him, wiggling her hips. “That’s not the only thing it makes grow. How long has it been since I saw you?”
“One month, three weeks, and two days.” He brushed a kiss against her ear lobe. “That was the last time I saw all of you, I should say. It’s been one month, three weeks and one day since you went back to St. Louis. Not that I’m counting. I’m glad your plane wasn’t late. I’m anxious enough as it is.”
“It was fortunate your Chicago plane and my St. Louis plane were able to meet in Minneapolis,” she agreed, running her hands over the hard planes of his back. “Otherwise we might have had to do some extra driving.”
“Perish the thought. Did you bring your swimsuit like I asked?”
“Yes, but why? I bought it for the Bahamas, not Possum Bottom, Minnesota.”
“I have plans for that swimsuit.” He pulled away reluctantly. “Let’s get this legal crap over with, okay? I’m not getting any younger.”
Margaret grinned. “I’m eight years older than you. I should be saying that.”
“You’re wearing me out, you insatiable old lady you. Besides, when men get in their forties, they need to start conserving their strength.”
Margaret pulled him back to her. “Don’t conserve too much, okay?” She put a hand on the back of his head and drew his face closer. “Your hair is short. Did you just get it cut?”
“Yep. Problem?”
“Not at all.” She smiled. “I like tickly hair.”
“I’m thinking of shaving my head completely.” He frowned. “You know.”
She nodded. “And I’ve told you, it doesn’t matter to me if your hair is thinning or you’re going bald. I still think you’re sexy.”
He stared into her dark brown eyes. “You’re wearing that perfume again.”
“What perfume?”
“The stuff that makes me just a little bit crazy.”
“Damn. I was hoping it made you a lot crazy.” Margaret kissed him quickly then slipped out of his arms. “Is that the office?”
Nathan shook his head and staggered slightly. “You have such an effect on me, Margaret. All my blood leaves my head and pools in my—”
She shot him a reproving look.
“—toes,” he finished. “Yep, that’s the office.”
The oak door was inset with a frosted window. Jon Kincaid, Esq. was painted on the glass in a florid black script. Nathan tested the brass doorknob cautiously, pushing open the door and looking inside. He stepped into a small antechamber.
“Nobody here,” he commented, looking at the empty wooden desk facing the doorway, another door behind it.
Margaret followed him into the space. “Perhaps his secretary is taking a break.”
Nathan held up a plastic nameplate. “Megan Buchanan appears to be A.W.O.L.” He put the plastic rectangle near a tidy stack of papers and went to the door behind the desk, knocking twice sharply. “Mr. Kincaid? Your three o’clock appointment is here.” He pushed the door open.
“Heavens, it’s cold in here,” Margaret said as she followed him into the inner office.
The lawyer’s office was a big room with a massive oak desk facing the door, a swivel chair behind the desk with its back to a bank of windows. Nathan glimpsed a view of snow-covered fields and a frozen lake in the distance. A small black dot was moving across the lake and he heard the faint growl of a snowmobile. Oak file cabinets lined the wall to the right of the doorway and a floor-to-ceiling bookcase covered the wall on the left.
“The window’s open,” Nathan said. He gestured to an open sash near one of the filing cabinets. “That explains the cold.”
“Why would someone have the window open when it’s barely zero outside?” Margaret put her hand on the radiator near the door. “The heat’s on but it can’t compete. I wonder where he went. I told him we’d be here between three and four.”
Nathan went to the desk and looked down at the squat black telephone, the metal in/out baskets, and three massive books, each with several tufts of paper sticking out the ends. A computer keyboard and monitor sat on a side desk, the screen on the monitor dark.
“It’s on,” he said, looking at the power light on the monitor. “Where’s the lawyer?”
“Perhaps he got his days confused.” Margaret watched as Nathan went around the desk and looked at the papers on the top, picking up one clipped clump and reading it. “I don’t think you should do that. That’s probably privileged communication between attorney and client.”
“Nothing here but a letter from Darla somebody and some contracts.” Nathan tossed the papers back on the desk. “A seed company contract.”
“It’s probably still private.” Margaret turned toward the outer office. “I think we should wait in the secretary’s office. If he doesn’t return soon, I’ll leave a note.”
Nathan crossed behind the desk. “I think we should see why this window is open.”
“Perhaps it’s broken. Or maybe he spilled something and was trying to get the smell out. Or maybe he got overheated.” Margaret scowled at the empty chair. “Maybe he gets hot flashes. If there’s a God, men will get hot flashes so they know how it feels.”
Nathan paused and regarded her over one shoulder. “Men know what a hot flash feels like, trust me.”
“Really?” She looked at him suspiciously. “What do you mean?”
“Do you get all nervous and flustered feeling? Do you break out in a sweat and feel like your face is red and funny looking?”
Margaret nodded.
“Are you exhausted when it’s over?”
She nodded again.
Nathan shrugged. “That happens to me whenever I see you and I get a hard on. Trust me. I know what a hot flash feels like.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Margaret muttered. She crossed the room slowly. “I suppose we can have hot flashes together, then.”
“Not a problem,” Nathan said absently as he peered out the window. He leaned over, looking down. “Damn. I was afraid of something like this. I knew this trip wasn’t going to work out the way I wanted.”
“What?” She came up behind him and tried to wedge herself in front to look out.
Nathan shifted position, blocking her access to the window as he pulled his gun from the holster near his waist and held it at his side. “Stay in the front office.”
“What is it? Is something wrong?” She leaned over the windowsill then saw the gun in his hand. “What is it, Nathan?”
“Don’t touch anything.” He pulled her back from the opening, one hand on her bicep. “Margaret, don’t look.”
“Oh, dear.” She looked up at Nathan, her eyes big. “Is he—?”
He steered her past the desk and toward the antechamber. “Don’t touch anything, okay? It’s a crime scene.”
“Is he—?” Margaret stopped when they entered the small foyer outside the office door.
“I’m guessing he is, but I need to check. Wait here.”
“Should I call 911?” Margaret reached for her Coach bag then saw Nathan already had a cell phone out and was talking into it.
“FBI Special Agent Nathan Stokes, calling from Possum Bottom, Lac Qui Parle County, Minnesota. 925-B Main Street. A male victim is down in the alley behind the building. It appears to be homicide. Hold the line; I’m going to verify status.” He pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at Margaret. “Stay here. Promise me.”
She nodded weakly as he whirled and headed for an exit door opposite the steps they’d ascended. “Nathan?”
He paused and looked back at her.
“Homicide?”
He nodded. “Lots of blood.”
“Oh.” She leaned against the wall. “I see.”
He noted her white face and the way she clutched her handbag. “I wish you hadn’t seen. I’ll be right back.” He headed for the door, cursing the bad luck that tossed a dead body in his path while he was on the most important vacation of his life.
As he’d hoped, the door led to a staircase, dimly lit and stark. One flight down and he was out the back door, angling it open with his shoulder while raising his gun, the cell phone tucked into his coat pocket.
He was in an alleyway, one dark red truck near a trash container but otherwise empty. Low buildings on the other side of the alley faced away, presenting the appearance of rude spectators who chose not to look at the bloody body on the ground. Deep tire tracks in the snow showed where the truck had come through the alley.
Nathan knelt next to the body lying on the only clear spot of pavement. He was careful not to step in the blood pool extending beyond the man’s head in a fan-like pattern. The victim was dressed in dark pants and a brown sweater, the body on its side and head pressed against the pavement. When Nathan touched an out-flung wrist, he realized the man was frozen to the ground. He stood and backed away carefully, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. The agitated sound of the voice on the other end told him how often they got calls from FBI agents in Possum Bottom, Minnesota.
It was shaping up to be a very, very interesting vacation.

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Nowhere To Run by JL Wilson

Nowhere To Run

by JL Wilson

Resplendence Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-93499-213-5
Print ISBN: 978-1-60735-026-2

[ Romantic Suspense, MF ]

Retired sheriff Harry Mortonson has just found the woman of his dreams, and there’s no way in hell he’s letting her get hurt — or get away from him. He’s got ideas about a future with her and they don’t include a stalker.

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Brilliant Disguise by JL Wilson

Brilliant Disguise

by JL Wilson

Resplendence Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 987-193-499-2456
Print ISBN: 978-193-499-2463

[ Romantic Suspense, MF ]

Nick Baxter, an undercover FBI agent, thinks his BRILLIANT DISGUISE will fool the hicks in New Providence, Iowa. They won’t suspect he’s there investigating widow Shannon Delgardie, under suspicion of treason. What Nick doesn’t know is that everybody in town is conspiring to protect her and investigate him in return.

Note: Prologue omitted.

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