Romantic Suspense

Excerpt Reveal: THE STRANGER, by Anna del Mar

the2bstranger2bfinal2bcoverTitle: The Stranger

Genre: Romantic suspense

Author: Anna del Mar

Website: www.annadelmar.com

Publisher: Carina Press

Purchase on Amazon

When her sister runs away with a guy she met on the internet, a warmth-loving Miami architect chases her reckless sibling to Alaska and finds her life in danger from more than the elements. Only a stranger, a wounded warrior who is also Alaskan tycoon with a quarreling family as complicated as her own and no time for a lady in distress—let alone one who has a secret bound to get her into big trouble—can save her from disaster. Together, two strangers from different worlds and opposite spectrums of the thermometer must unravel the intrigues that threaten their lives to chase after a new dream, in majestic Alaska.

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Short Excerpt/First Kiss:

“I think we’d be better off accepting what’s happening here.”

“And that is…?”

“That I want to kiss you.” I hit the point of no return. “And that you want me to kiss you.”

Her voice was a hoarse whisper. “It’s not true.”

“It’s true and you know it.” I ran my thumb over the soft expanse of her cheek. “So I propose that I kiss you now and get it out of the way. One kiss. Then we go to sleep and I mean just that, sleep, together, on my bed.” I held my breath. “What do you think? Is it too much to ask?”

She opened her mouth and closed it. A storm brewed in her eyes. She wasn’t sure. I knew it was a long shot, but I wasn’t one to hold back for fear of failure. Her nostrils widened, taking in my scent as if sniffing for danger. The seconds ticked by, minutes, hours, centuries. And then…surprise. She nodded ever so slightly.

I didn’t wait for her to change her mind. I kissed her, a connection that my body celebrated with fireworks. I put my arms around her waist and tasted her lips, her tongue, her breath. Glory. My body resonated with the memories of our night together.

I kissed her, as I’d wanted to do for two days, and the kiss confirmed that the connection that tugged on my senses was real. I held her face between my hands and kissed her some more until we were both out of breath and I hovered at the edge of no return. I made a huge effort to climb out of a very steep drop before I screwed everything up.

“Christ,” I rasped when I finally managed to tear my lips from hers.

Her breath came in short gasps, her eyes sparkled and her face flushed as if she had overexerted herself.

“Hell, I could kiss you all night.” I tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before letting go. “But this little taste of you is going to last me ’til morning.” Body screaming in protest, I took a step back. “Now go in there, get in bed, and don’t be scared. Okay? I’ll be along shortly.”

Her lips wavered, then a new smile birthed in her eyes and spread to her face, a mischievous grin that turned those luscious lips up at the corners and warned of all kinds of trouble.

She leaned into my space and, approaching me slowly, delivered her own kiss to my lips. The kiss was like an arctic wallop, but scalding; like a blow to the senses, but soft. Her tongue swiped a little taste of me. I gasped when she cut me off without warning, leaving me reeling, rock hard and without a trace of oxygen flowing to my lungs.

“Erickson?” she said before she sauntered off. “I don’t think you understand.”

“Understand what?”

She halted at the threshold and looked over her shoulder. “I’m not scared of you anymore,” she said. “I’m scared of me when I’m with you.”

 

Long Excerpt: Complete Chapter One

 

Trouble welcomed me to Alaska. It ambushed me in the guise of an invisible patch of black ice that launched my car spinning into a triple Lutz. I pumped my brakes. Nothing. My rental careened over the ditch and bounced down the steep ravine. The rocks pummeling the undercarriage rattled my brain. I was distantly aware that the shriek piercing my eardrums came from my throat. My headlights illuminated the spruce that materialized before me, down to the huge, corrugated trunk that collided with the hood, bringing my involuntary detour to a jarring stop.

Silence. Only the sound of my ragged breath and my pulse, pounding in my temples, interrupted the atmospheric quiet. I pried my fingers from the wheel and stared at my shaking hands. They flickered in and out of focus until I managed to even out my breaths.

The good news? I was alive and, although the wreck had probably relocated some of my internal organs, nothing seemed broken. The bad news? The air bag hadn’t gone off and pain throbbed in my thigh and somewhere behind my ear. Crap. I’d come to Alaska to find my wayward sister, but my search had hit a major snag. Time to figure out how bad of a snag it was.

My hand was still quaking as I reached into my purse and found my cell. Zero bars. I groaned. What was the point of technology if it never worked when you needed it most? I snatched my purse and pulled on the door handle. The door refused to open. I scooted across to the other seat and opened the passenger side door, grateful to crawl out in one piece.

The cold hit me like a slap to the face. My nostrils flared and my lungs ached with the arctic wallop. To a tropical gal like me, the air smelled as though someone had stuffed a live Christmas tree in the freezer. Delicate snowflakes floated in the air like tiny speckles of silver. This was the first time I’d seen snow in real life. It was pretty, kind of magical really, but the cold crawled under my skin, stiffened my muscles and clung to my bones. I pulled my hood over my head. Had it been this cold when my plane landed in Anchorage?

My wrecked rental was wedged between the slope and the spruce like a deflated accordion. I had no prayer of backing it up the hill. I tackled the ravine, scrambling on all fours, and followed the wheel ruts up the slippery incline. It wasn’t easy. I wore a narrow pencil skirt under my Burberry trench coat, and a pair of four-inch heels I now wished I’d never bought.

It served me right for allowing my stepmother to choose my outfit for the Darius project presentation. Louise was a sucker for shoes—the taller, the better. Note to self: never again relinquish your feet to someone else’s sense of fashion when it’s you—and you alone—who has to suffer the resulting torture.

I’m not sure how long it took me to climb back to the road, but by the time I reached the top, my toes had gone numb, my hands ached and my fingertips had turned white. The road I’d been driving on looked totally benign, not like the camouflaged skating rink that had hurled my vehicle into the ravine.

I clapped my hands together to warm them up. The sound echoed for miles around me. Stuck in the Alaskan wilderness. Unreal. It was an unlikely predicament for a gal who’d much rather be at the beach. Shark attack? Sure, it wouldn’t surprise me if that ended up being part of my obituary. But frozen alive? Only if it involved a freak accident in Publix’s frozen food section.

“Summer Silva, get your act together,” I said out loud to break the eerie silence. My father hadn’t clung to a capsized raft for three days in the Florida Straits in order for me to die on my first day in Alaska.

I straightened my coat, shoved my hands into my pockets, and began to walk. A layer of slush-covered ice crackled beneath my heels. Crap. My feet slid every which way and my legs wobbled. Steady, Silva. I could handle the unwieldy shoes…on firm, unfrozen ground. The only ice I’d ever dealt with came out in little cubes from the automated dispenser in the freezer door.

Five minutes later, the cold skewered me and not a single car had made an appearance. I leaned into the bitter wind. I wasn’t made of sugar and spice. I was tough, and I meant to get out of this one, but I was majorly pissed. I was so going to give Tammy a piece of my mind when I found her.

I envisioned my sister lying on a white pelt in front of a roaring fireplace. I mouthed off into the deepening darkness. I was the levelheaded one. I was the one who always followed the rules, cleaned up the messes, did the responsible thing. And yet, right now, I was the one freezing my ass off on a desolate Alaskan road.

The headlights caught me by surprise. They sprang out from behind the curve and pierced the dusk. I waved my hands to flag down the speeding vehicle. As it got closer, I made out a Ford F-450 Super Duty, black as night, the type that would’ve made my truck-obsessed sister drool with envy. The truck drove right by me before the taillights lit up and it skidded to a stop, then accelerated in reverse.

The window whirred down to reveal the warmth and comfort of the softly illuminated cab. The leather-scented, heated air wafted from the window and teased my frozen senses. A man sat at the wheel, enveloped in a black thermal jacket that I would’ve gladly traded a thousand bucks for, on the spot. His face might have been handsome, if it hadn’t been distorted by the scowl that wilted my poor attempt at a smile.

He more or less growled. “Who the hell put you up to this?”

“Excuse me?” I clutched my hood against a sudden burst of wind.

“You better come clean right now,” he bit out in a tone that matched the frosty temperature. “A name. I want to know who the hell hired you and what you were expected to do.”

“Hired me?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.” He eyed me like a wolf eyed a meal. “Who was it? Was it someone related to me? I swear, if you don’t tell me this goddamn minute, you’re going to be sorry.”

I stared at the man in the cab, unable to comprehend his rage. What on earth was he talking about? The fury blazing in his striking amber eyes frightened me. As it was, I was so cold I couldn’t think, let alone make sense of what he was saying. I rubbed the sore spot behind my ear. Maybe I’d hit my head harder than I thought. Maybe this was a dream or a nightmare. Oh, God. My stomach clenched. I really hoped I was awake. I shoved my hand up my sleeve and pinched my arm. It hurt. In fact, a lot of me was either throbbing or aching. A good sign, yes?

“Well?” he said. “Are you going to speak up or are you dumb, deaf, and mute?”

“Um, no.” I rubbed my arms. “I usually have a lot to say. It’s just that…well…I’m cold and you—I’m really sorry to have to tell you—but you sound like a crazy person.”

He launched another blistering glower in my direction. “For the last time,” he said, his tone intractable, “who the hell put you up to this?”

“Nobody,” I said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. My car skidded off the road and I’ve got no cell reception.”

“Your car?” He looked up and down the road. “I don’t see a car. Where is it?”

“Back there somewhere.” I’m not sure whether my treacherous heels slid on the ice or if fatigue did me in, but my feet went out from under me and, though I clung to the window, I landed on my knees. “Ow,” I might have said aloud.

“What the hell?”

I let go of the window and my dignity at the same time. I surrendered to the elements and settled precariously on the frosty ground. The cold iced my shins, traveled up to my core, and chilled my spine. I was about to pass out from exhaustion. I’d been up for over seventy-two hours. On top of that, I was suffering from a bad case of jet lag. If all of that wasn’t enough, the wreck had jarred my senses. I wasn’t in good shape and I knew it.

But I couldn’t allow myself to go unconscious. No, sir, no way in hell. I knew the risks of passing out in front of a stranger too well. I just needed a moment to gather my strength, defrost myself and get my act together. I leaned my forehead on the door and, basking in the warmth radiating from the undercarriage, forced myself to stay alert. Surely, I could get some help, the crazy man would go on his merry way, and I could move on to finish what I’d come to do.

The engine quit. The truck quaked with the slam of a door. Angry steps crunched on the road. A pair of hiking boots parked by my side. I looked up and cringed. The man’s scowl pummeled me. From my perspective on the ground, he soared above me, tall and imposing, a giant really. His knees cracked when he crouched next to me.

“Did Alex hire you?” he said. “Alex Erickson?”

“Who?”

“Are you telling me you don’t know who Alex Erickson is?”

“I don’t.”

His breath came out in angry puffs that condensed in the air. “Do you know who I am?”

“No clue,” I said. “Am I supposed to know?”

“You tell me.” He looked like he was about to spit fire. “If no one put you up to this, then what the hell are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?”

“Not taking a walk in the park, that’s for sure.”

My throat made this weird noise, a cross between a sob and a giggle, a sound that combined confusion with hilarity, fear with absurdity. But I wasn’t going to cry. No freaking way. I wasn’t going to panic either. The part of me that felt utterly ridiculous kneeling on the frozen pavement in the middle of nowhere won out. I pressed my hand over my mouth, but the quiet giggles leaked out anyway.

The man rubbed the back of his neck and frowned, a dip of full eyebrows that screamed vexation. “Do you think this is funny?”

“Funny?” I couldn’t stop giggling. “No, not funny, more like hilarious.”

“Jesus Christ.” He raked his fingers through his longish hair, leaving a bunch of straight, flaxen strands in disarray. He didn’t know what to make of me, but he sure knew how to scowl.

The shivering, combined with his radioactive glower, stifled my giggle attack. I forced myself to pay attention. Determination whetted the man’s features and set the line of his jaw into a straight angle. A shade of stubble covered the lower half of his face, imbuing him with a golden glow that echoed the gleam in his eye, but there was nothing soft in his stare, not a hint of humor or friendliness.

At least he looked clean and groomed, unlike the rugged, hygiene-challenged bunch I’d met in the back-to-back episodes of Alaska’s Bush Men I’d binge-watched on the plane. Alaska had never been on my long list of places I wanted to visit, and after watching the show, I’d questioned my sister’s sanity along with that of people who lived away from even the most basic human comforts. Now I wondered about this surly stranger too, the first off-the-grid Alaskan I’d met.

“Is your cell working?” I said. “Could you please call the police?”

“There’s no reception on this stretch of road.” The copper-hued eyes probed my face. “If you really need help, I’m all you’ve got.”

Great. Just great. The world whirled around me. I steadied myself against the truck. Three days ago, I’d been in the middle of the most important presentation of my professional life when Louise had called to tell me about my stepsister, Tammy. I’d already been short of sleep and high on stress, but since then, I’d been on the go, trying to get to Alaska.

The earth beneath my knees shifted again. I tightened my grip on the truck and took a deep breath. I wasn’t one to fall apart so easily. To bad weather , a brave face , my father used to say, quoting an old Spanish proverb. I might be out of my comfort zone, but I hadn’t given up on my pride just yet. I straightened my coat and, balancing carefully on one knee, planted one foot first, then the other. I rose slowly from the iffy crouch.

“Oops!” My heels skidded in opposite directions. I fell, bounced on my butt, and ended up sprawled on the ground all over again, rear smarting from the impact. I cursed under my breath.

“Dammit.” The man hooked his hands under my arms, lifted me up, and set me upright. “There. Do you think you can stand on your own?”

“Maybe,” I mumbled, rubbing my ass. My legs buckled, but I steadied myself on the truck and willed my feet to stick to the ground.

“You’re shivering.” He opened the car door. “Get in.”

“No, thank you.” Even if I was freezing, there were rules about cars and strangers. “Can you please call for Roadside Assistance?”

The man actually scoffed. “No reception, remember?” He eyed me impatiently. “Lady, you do know that there’s a storm barreling down on south central Alaska, right?”

“The clerk at the airport did mention that.”

“But did he mention that anytime now, a Bering Sea superstorm is expected to bring blizzard conditions with winds in excess of sixty miles an hour?”

“Yeah, no.” I swallowed a dry gulp. “He didn’t put it quite as bad as that.”

“It’s going to get a hell of a lot colder,” the man said. “Emergency services went on lockdown about fifteen minutes ago.”

Fabulous, just fabulous.

“What I’m trying to tell you,” he explained in a strained tone obviously intended for the dimwits among us, “is that—assuming you’re not a trap—I’m your only option at the moment. So get in the damn truck, before you freeze your ass off.”

Dressed in his black jacket and blue jeans, glinting with all that gold in his eyes and hair, he looked perfectly normal. Minus the scowl, he might have even been good looking. But his bad temper and my flash-frozen brain made for a bad combination. Plus, there was a good chance he was more than paranoid and grouchy. Maybe he was off the grid in more ways than one.

“Look,” he said. “I’ve had a long day and I’m in a shitty mood.”

I rolled my eyes. “No kidding.”

“I wasn’t expecting this. You. Whatever.”

I perched my fist on my hip. “Do you think I was expecting you?”

“Just get in, okay?” He gestured to the cab. “I want to get indoors before the storm hits.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” I considered both, the brawny guy and his burly truck. “Where I come from, hitchhiking is dangerous.”

“Too bad,” he said. “In Alaska hitchhiking is a common form of transportation.”

“As far as I know, you could be a serial killer.”

“So could you.” He held the door open for me. “And my risk is higher than yours since, according to the Discovery Channel, female serial killers have been proven to be more dangerous than male serial killers.”

I’d either met my match or found the only other person in the world who watched as much Discovery Channel as I did.

“Get the hell in,” he said impatiently. “We’re running out of time.”

The weather was getting colder. The wind had picked up and the snow fell in bigger, wetter chunks. I was shivering violently, but still, I hesitated.

“Can you please take me to the nearest gas station or hotel?” I said, trying to keep my voice from quavering.

“The nearest gas station is sixty-five miles that way.” He stuck out his thumb and pointed behind him. “The nearest motel is seventy-eight miles in the opposite direction. There’s no time to get there. My cabin is close by and I have the full intention of being there by the time the storm hits in…” he paused to look at his watch, “…anytime now.”

The mention of the word “cabin” did nothing to appease my fears. I’d seen plenty of “cabins” in my reality show marathon. I didn’t want to spend a moment—let alone hours—chewing on squirrel parts in a rustic shelter without heat, electricity, or plumbing, especially in the company of a pissed-off guy whose actions so far put the strange in stranger.

“What is it going to be?” he said. “I’m willing to play the female killer odds if you decide you don’t want to turn into an icicle. It’s your choice, but I’m hauling ass right now.”

What’s the use of choices when one has none?

I said a little prayer, shuffled on the ice and, balancing carefully on my unwieldy heels, climbed into the front seat. He helped me up, shut the door, and walked around the truck. My head began to hurt, pangs of pain stabbing behind my eyes. Not good.

The man climbed in next to me in the cab. “Strap in.”

He switched on the ignition, pressed on the pedal and accelerated down the icy track as if truck skating was an X Games signature event and he was going for the gold. My knuckles tightened around the door handle. I bit down on my lips, but the backseat driver in me was out of control. Whether he was a serial killer or not was irrelevant. We were both going to die today.

He glanced in my direction. “You got a name?”

“Yes.” I pressed my frozen fingertips against the heating vent, reveling in the blessed heat.

“Well?” he said in that demanding tone of his.

I stared at him, mystified by his persistent state of grouchiness. “Well what?”

“Are you going to tell me what your name is or what?”

“Oh.” I was close to frozen stupid. “My name is Summer, Summer Silva.”

“Summer in Alaska?” He stared at me for an instant, then burst out into quiet laughter. “You’re a little late. Summer arrived in Alaska just in time to meet winter.”

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t slept in a while, but yeah, no. He wasn’t going to laugh at my expense. I narrowed my eyes on him.

“That’s quite the glare.” He suppressed another round of laughter. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Well, you are rude, a lot rude in fact, accusing me of God knows what and acting like a total jerk.”

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s just that… Summer in Alaska.” His lips twitched. “You’ve got to admit. It’s pretty damn good.”

“Are you drunk?” I said. “Because if you are, maybe I should be doing the driving. I imagine they’ve got laws in Alaska, including some about drinking and driving?”

“You’re turning out to be a piece of work,” he said, smirking. “Bossy too, for someone riding in my goddamn truck. Here I am, doing you a favor, not letting you freeze off your pretty little stuck-up ass and yet you’re being a smartass and giving me attitude.”

“Are you for real?” He had a lot of nerve calling me a smartass. “You’re not exactly attitude free yourself.”

“And yes,” he added, ignoring my comment, “we do have some laws here in Alaska, although not nearly as many as they’ve got in the lower forty-eight. As to your question, nope, I’m not drunk, haven’t had a drop all day. Should’ve, but didn’t.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean that if there was ever a good day for drinking, today was it.” He stomped on the clutch and shifted gears. “But no, unfortunately, I’m not drunk. That and the shitty day probably explain why you’re getting a double dose of sarcasm.”

“Sorry about your shitty day,” I said. “But you need to mellow out. Do you always go around trying to bully people into doing whatever you want?”

“Pretty much.” He flashed what could’ve been a semi-contrite glance in my direction. “Look, I apologize for my lack of manners.” He offered his hand. “My name is Seth, Seth Erickson.”

I shook his hand, mostly because, sarcasm aside, he was making an effort to be civil. Plus, he was a fellow Discovery Channel watcher. His hold was firm, hot, and supremely comforting to my fingers. My entire body wanted to shrink into his grip if only to bask in his radiant heat. My fingertips tripped against the unusual texture at the bottom of his hand. I spotted a patch of mangled skin scarring his palm, crawling up his wrist and disappearing into his sleeve. He caught me looking and covered most of the scar with a self-conscious tug of his sleeve.

“You’ve got some icy fingers there.” He tapped on the console’s screen and punched up the temperature of my heated seat. “Tuck them under your thigh. Trust me. It’s the quickest way to warm up those puppies.”

He was right. Trapped between the heat of my body and the seat, my fingers began to thaw.

“Where the hell are you from?” he asked. “Miami.”

“Ah.” He smirked. “That explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Your inability to cope with ice. And the outfit.”

I looked down at myself. “What’s wrong with my outfit?”

“No gloves, hat, boots, or a proper coat,” he said. “When I first saw you I thought you were either crazy or—well—you know.”

“No, I don’t know.”

“I thought maybe you were a plant, someone looking for attention, or more specifically, my attention.”

I stared at him for a full thirty seconds, unable to figure out what he meant. “What are you talking about?”

“Nobody in their right mind out here wears skirts and high heels on the roads, except the occasional call girl, playing a pre-ordered role or meeting a very specific customer…”

“Oh no you didn’t.” What was wrong with this man? “You thought I was a whore?”

“I couldn’t see beneath the coat…”

“Are you like…freaking insane?”

He cleared his throat. “It was probably the heels that gave me the wrong impression…”

“You’re out of your mind, you know that?” I snapped. “First you think your family is out to get you. Then you think I’m…what? A prostitute? Which implies that you think someone in your family was going to set you up with a…Jesus!” I rubbed my temples, wishing that I’d never come to Alaska and also that I’d ditched those damn shoes. “I really want to go home.”

“Don’t get upset.” His eyes betrayed a hint of concern. “I would’ve bought the look if I’d seen you down in, say, Ketchikan getting down from one of them fancy cruises. For future reference, Alaska 101: dress warm, keep dry, stay warm. That coat might look fine for a fall afternoon on Fifth Avenue, but in Alaska? It’ll kill you faster than a dip in the Bering Sea.”

Great. Advice from Mr. Sunshine himself. His condescending tone annoyed the hell out of me. “Okay, fine, maybe I’m not properly dressed for the weather, but that’s only because I had no time to plan for this trip. I’m not as stupid as you’re making me out to be.”

“No offense,” he said, “but all the tourists are gone. What the hell is someone like you doing all the way out here at the end of September?”

“It’s kind of a long story.”

“I don’t know why,” he muttered, “but I’m itching to hear it.”

“If you must know,” I said, “my sister ran away with a guy she met on the internet. He’s from Alaska and I came to find her.”

He flashed me a skeptical look. “Is your sister stupid?”

“No,” I said, but at times like these, I wondered. “Tammy is just…impulsive.”

“Has she done stuff like this before?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s not really her fault.”

“What do you mean it’s not her fault?”

“She struggles with bipolar disorder.”

“Hey, lady, Summer—right?” he said. “There’s no excuse for stupidity. I’ve met people with all kinds of injuries and disorders who know better than to run away with a stranger they met on the internet.”

“I know, but Tammy is…”

My cell rang to the tune of chirping birds. Reception. I had reception! I groped through my purse until I found the phone.

“You might get a minute or two if you’re lucky,” Seth cautioned. “After that, nothing for a while.”

My tepid fingers fumbled over the keypad, accidentally hitting the speaker in the process. “Hello?”

“Did you find Tammy?” Louise’s voice blared in her best Brooklyn accent, shrill, loud, and capable of busting an eardrum or two. “Where is she? Is she okay?”

“Calm down.” I tried to turn off the speaker but my stiff fingers succeeded only at increasing the volume. “I’m on my way to find her now. There might be an itsy-bitsy delay. The weather is not cooperating, but don’t worry, I’ll find her.”

“Are you locked in a fancy hotel room?” Louise demanded. “You won’t find Tammy from behind a bolted door.”

“Of course not.” Louise could be such a witch when she was anxious. “I promised you I’d find Tammy and I will.”

“I sure hope you’re not enjoying room service while your sister is gone and I’m here, suffering, imagining all the terrible things she could be going through…”

“Please, don’t be a drama queen,” I said. “We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Tammy is in immediate danger.”

“Find your sister!” Louise’s voice flickered in and out of range. “Find her! I don’t care what you have to do, just do it…”

The phone lost all its bars again and the call dropped. The narrow reception zone had ended. Part of me was grateful for the reprieve. The other part knew I was cut off again. The headache throbbing behind my eye intensified. The sights blurred before me.

“Hey,” Seth said. “You okay?”

“Fine.” I dropped my cell in my purse and straightened my back, fighting the exhaustion.

“Who was that very loud woman?”

“My stepmother.”

“Is she right in the head?”

“She’s just worried about Tammy.”

“Something’s not adding up here.” He rubbed his wide back against the seat like a great big bison scratching against a tree. “Your sister’s an idiot. Your stepmother demands that you drop everything and go chase her. Your family? Sounds like a major clusterfuck.”

“Look who’s talking.” I sniffed. “My family may be a little different, but we love each other. We don’t hire people to try to set each other up. Sure, we can be loud and a tad dramatic on occasion, but honestly? Your family sounds a million times more screwed up than mine.”

His mouth twisted into the sarcastic smirk he favored. “You might have a point there.”

“Yeah, you bet I do.” I leaned back on the headrest. After a two-day journey, a three-hour drive, and a car wreck, I felt as if someone had taken a bat to me.

“You’re looking very sleepy there,” he said. “Talk to me. Are you all right?”

“I’ll live,” I mumbled, rubbing the knot behind my ear.

“Are you hurt?” He turned on the cabin lights and leaned over to inspect my head as he continued to drive. “Is that a bruise behind your ear? Hell, I didn’t notice before.” The truck swerved in the road. “Did you hit your head when your car went off the road? Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Just concentrate on driving straight, please.” I inched away from his touch and switched the cabin lights off. “I’m a little tired, that’s all. I haven’t slept for a few days.”

“A few days? That’s not good.” He groped behind the seat, opened the top of a small cooler and, after grabbing a bottle, handed it over to me. “Here you go.”

“No, thanks.” I wasn’t about add alcohol to my troubles.

“It’s not for drinking.” He pressed the cold bottle to the side of my head. “It’s to keep the swelling down.”

“Oh.” I took the bottle from him and held it against the lump.

“Hang on tight,” he said. “That’s a real nice handcrafted lager. I wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”

“Got it,” I said. “Hanging on to the brew over here.”

He smiled, a genuine, eye-lightening grin that eased the angles on his face and radiated charm and warmth. Could a guy who smiled like that really be a jerk or a serial killer?

The world around us turned into a white maelstrom. The wind wrestled with the truck. The road became invisible under a new layer of snow. Seth geared down and kept his eyes on the road as we negotiated some hairy turns and the road’s deteriorating conditions. In all my twenty-nine years of life, I’d never seen weather like this.

“We’re not beating the storm, are we?”

“This is just the beginning.” He tilted his head and surveyed the sky. “It’s going to get bad soon, thirteen hours of very nasty wind, snow, and ice.”

My timing sucked. “And I thought this was bad.”

“This is nothing.” He slowed down to maneuver over a bridge. “I don’t suppose you get blizzards in Miami. But don’t worry, we’re almost there.”

“Goody,” I mumbled.

I knew my chances of getting to a hotel tonight were nil, but I needed to keep it together, at least until we got to the cabin. With a little luck, it might be a two-room cabin, with a door and a lock between me and the rest of the place. A door chain would be nice, but I could always improvise.

I eyed the man riding next to me. Maybe under all that hubris, he’d turn out to be a decent human being. After all, he had stopped to help me. I toyed with the idea of giving him a quick rundown of my condition, but my hackles went up. No way. He was a stranger and a guy and maybe even a little off, with all that paranoia. I knew from experience what would happen if I warned him. No need to add premeditation to humiliation.

All of a sudden, my vision narrowed. My thoughts slowed down to a crawl. My body slacked and my eyelids slammed over my eyes like hurricane shutters. I ran out of time and energy at the same moment. Oh, crap. I knew exactly what was happening to me.

“Hey, Summer.” Seth’s voice came from far away. “We’re almost there.” He shook me softly. “Wake up. Stick with me, girl.”

I had no time to explain. “Make sure you lock the door,” I mumbled, before I conked out.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Romantic Suspense, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

WEEKENDS by Lindy S. Hudis

Title of Book: WEEKENDS
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Lindy S. Hudis
Website: http://directorbabe.tripod.com/
Publisher: LBF Books
Date of Release: January 28, 2006
ISBN: 978-0977308217

BUY WEEKENDS HERE!

WEEKENDS SUMMARY:

An innocent-sounding family reunion at an exclusive California beach resort turns into a weekend of murder, deceit, exposed secrets and unexpected intimate encounters. John Peterson has it all: he is a respected, successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer with a loving wife and grown son, the strikingly handsome young film director Joe Peterson. John also has a secret, and he decides to gather his disparate family members at the elegant Hotel Del Moor in picturesque Linda Bella, California for some luxurious fun, togetherness and re-connecting before revealing his secret. Unbeknownst to the family, a brutal serial killer is lurking in the midst of all the wondrous festivities.

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Weekends Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

The plane touched down at the Santa Barbara airport around ten a.m. During the short flight from LAX, John Peterson contemplated the weekend ahead. He had not seen his younger siblings in ten years, and was looking forward to seeing them and their families. He was also very concerned, because he had bad news to break to all of them. Very bad news, and everybody’s life would be affected. He was nervous as to what the family’s reaction would be. John was a fifty-year-old, extremely successful entertainment lawyer in Beverly Hills. His clients included rich and powerful movie stars, producers, and studio heads – they were the reason for his phenomenal success. He was the kind of man who silenced rooms when he entered them, and would tell another man’s children to be quiet.

Sitting next to John was Joyce Peterson, his wife, age forty-seven. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, and being the daughter of a prominent L.A. heart surgeon, was used to the good life. Her one and only dream was to marry a rich doctor or lawyer, have children, and be a good wife.

Then there was Joe. Joe was the twenty-three year old son of John and Joyce. To say that Joe was good-looking would be the understatement of the year. Joe was beautiful. He looked like a work of art, a Greek god. He had long, blond hair that hung just below his shoulders, and fantastic azure eyes, the color of the California sky itself. His body, although on the thin side, was cut and lean, with pronounced chest, biceps, and a washboard stomach. The facial structure, with its defined jaw and cheekbones, was captivating in its exquisite, masculine beauty. He could easily be a beautiful woman on testosterone.

He, like his mother, was born and raised into wealth in L.A., but his goal was not to become a doctor or a lawyer. He had just graduated from New York University Film School. Although his looks were better suited for being in front of the camera, his dream was to become a movie director. Having inherited his father’s magisterial personality, he simply answered, “Because I don’t like being told what to do.” whenever he was asked why he was not an actor. Through his father’s many industry connections, Joe was not at a loss for employment. He chose, however, to start at the bottom, doing Production Assistant work to get his foot in the door. His father told him it builds character, and advised him to “work for it” rather than have it handed to him. Because he was also very charming, he was meeting and networking with all the right people. The only direction Joe was going was up.

As the plane landed, the family unbuckled their seatbelts, even though the steward had instructed the passengers not to. When the plane came to a complete stop, the family was the first ones off. Joe passed by three flight attendants who gazed at him, with a look on their faces that Joe saw all the time. He smiled and bid them good-bye.

The three hiked through the jet-way into the busy airport, carrying their weekend luggage with them. They took the escalator to the lower level where the car rental stations were. While John was making arrangements for the family to rent at nice, slow sedan, Joe stepped outside. It was a hot Spring morning; a light, cool breeze offered relief from the sweltering heat.

The famous California sunshine shone brightly, reflecting off Joe’s equally golden hair. He squinted his sapphire eyes to look at it, and decided that he was determined to enjoy the insipid family reunion that his father was forcing him to attend. He did not have much in common with his simpleton cousins. Some of them he had not seen in ten years, although his father’s brother, Uncle Stephen, kept in touch with them by phone. It was, of course, just a weekend.

It was now Friday morning, they would be back home by Monday, and not much happens over weekends anyway. He decided that he would just smile and say hello to the many relatives that will be in attendance. At least, he had his own room, hopefully with cable television and an oceanview. Maybe getting away for the weekend on a mini-vacation would do him good, and he could relax a little. An older lady and a pretty, teenage girl walked by, both turning and smiling at him. He smiled back.

At only twenty-three, he was very aware of the amazing power he had over women, and as he got older, it would only get more intense. Females started throwing themselves at him when he was fifteen, and the feeling was more than mutual. He loved women, and would never use his power for cruel or destructive purposes, like many attractive, rich men do. That was not his style. Quite a few of his Beverly Hills buddies teased him for that. “Take the goods and run”, the guys said, and kidded him for being so sensitive.

Joe was not like the other guys, being a romantic, he honestly believed that there was the love of his life out there somewhere. He was determined to find her, but he wanted to win his Oscar first. The sliding glass doors of the airport flew open and John and Joyce hurried out. Joyce was carrying the keys to the Lincoln Continental that would take them to their final destination, the elegant Hotel Del Moor, overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. The three climbed inside the automobile, secured their luggage, and took off, with John driving, Joyce up front, and Joe in the back.

The family cruised north along the Pacific Coast Highway, with it’s incredible, palm-tree lined vision of the long, sandy beach that stretched all along the length of the Golden State. While Joyce and John were heatedly discussing who would be there, what to do, and so on, Joe gazed out the window, lost in thought. The enormous ocean and the endless sky met over the horizon, both equally wondrous and awe inspiring. Joe rested his head against the plush back of the seat and just stared at the blueness of the sea, and the swaying palm trees.

He thought about his life and how lucky he was. Being the adored only child of a wealthy L.A. lawyer and a loving mother, not to mention his genetic good fortune, he was thankful the world was at his feet.

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LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION by Lois Winston

Title of Book: LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION
Genre: romantic suspense
Author: Lois Winston
Website: www.loiswinston.com
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing
Date of Release: 5/29/07
ISBN: 978-0-505-52719-6

PURCHASE LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION HERE!

SUMMARY:
Life has delivered one sucker punch after another to Emma Wadsworth. As a matter of fact, you could say the poor little rich girl is the ultimate poster child for Money Can’t Buy Happiness — even if she is no longer a child. Billionaire real estate stud Logan Crawford is as famous for his less-than-platinum reputation as he is his business empire. In thirty-eight years he’s never fallen in love, and that’s just fine with him — until he meets Emma. But Emma’s not buying into Logan’s seductive ways. Well, maybe just alittle, but she’s definitely going into the affair with her eyes wide open. She’s no fool. At least not any more. Her deceased husband saw to that. Besides, she knows Logan will catch the first jet out of Philadelphia once he learns her secrets. Except things don’t go exactly as Emma has predicted, and when Philadelphia’s most beloved citizen become the city’s most notorious criminal, she needs to do a lot more than clear her name if she wants to save her budding romance with the billionaire hunk someone is willing to kill for.

EXCERPT

Winter wonderland, my ass.

The stinging wind whipped at Emma’s exposed cheeks and brought tears to her eyes. Lowering her head, she trudged around the enormous mounds of black snow piled along the curb, searching for a semi-safe path onto the sidewalk.

Finding none, she grabbed a parking meter and hauled herself over the smallest of the soot-encrusted icebergs. Some people would go to any lengths for their morning cup of java, and she was one of them.

As she yanked open the door to Chapters and Verse, the “Spring Movement” of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons greeted her. Someone had a really warped sense of humor. Or hoped the power of positive thinking could affect weather patterns. Still, the music held a reminder that the harsh realities of early February in Philadelphia would eventually give way to sunshine and flowers come late March. Maybe. Last year they’d suffered through
one of their worst blizzards ever the first week in April.

Emma shivered, thoughts of daffodils and crocuses quickly replaced by the chill rippling through her damp body. Shaking the moisture from her hair, she deposited her coat on a chair in the café, then headed for the coffee bar.

“Morning,” said the barista. “The usual?”

“Please.”

With her morning shot of caffeine and sugar in hand, Emma trolled the stacks of books, occasionally pulling a volume from the shelves and sliding it under her arm. She needed the predictability of this daily routine. It helped her get through the rest of the day. Every day.

Why the hell do I stay?

If she had any courage, she’d leave. Sell the house. Move away. Start over. But she couldn’t leave, and her reasons had little to do with a lack of courage. Life in Emmaville was just too damn complex. One part guilt, one part masochism. But how could she leave the only tangible reminder she had of life before everything had turned to shit?

So she stayed, losing herself in work that at least gave her the satisfaction of knowing her efforts helped others. She pushed herself each day until exhaustion overcame her and she fell into nightmare-riddled sleep.

Tomorrow morning the cycle would repeat itself. I’m a twenty-first century Sisyphus, eternally damned to live out an unending punishment for my sins. Not that she had a clue as to whatever sin first condemned her years before, but she’d certainly committed a whopper since then. Whether a sin of omission or commission, it hardly mattered. The result was the same.

Still, what would be the harm in a short escape? She deserved that much, didn’t she? Emma closed her eyes and conjured up a distant memory of a sun-kissed Adriatic coastline. Hell, why not? She opened her eyes and headed for the travel section.

* * *
Logan Crawford’s mind kept drifting back to the events of last night, an evening definitely not worth remembering. Even her name escaped him. Although normally not a problem, this time he was saddled with Candi-Randi-Bambi-whatever-the-hell-her-name-was for the length of his
stay in Philadelphia. As head of the city’s redevelopment office, she was his official escort-slash-liaison, the person assigned to make certain he chose the City of Brotherly Love as the East coast site for his corporate headquarters. And last night Candi-Randi-Bambi, a woman who wore her ambition emblazoned across her surgically augmented chest, made it abundantly clear just how far she’d go to get him to sign on the dotted line. And it was far from brotherly. Or sisterly.

Logan doubted he was the first billionaire businessman she’d bedded in her quest up the corporate ladder, but he’d wager a good portion of his sizeable fortune that he was the biggest — the wunderkind west coast urban developer who was giving The Donald a run for his money. Only Logan had better hair — as the media was quick to point out.

With a snap of his fingers, he could provide Candi-Randi-Bambi with an express elevator straight through the glass ceiling, and she knew it.

No fucking way in hell.

Last night when he stared down into Candi-Randi-Bambi’s come-hither eyes, he saw the reflection of a disillusioned, unhappy man. And damn, up to that moment he hadn’t even realized he’d been disillusioned or unhappy. He had wealth; he had power. So what was up with the sudden emptiness and dissatisfaction?

Beryl would say it was because he led a shallow life devoid of emotional commitment. As much as he protested to the contrary, he knew she was right. Maybe it was time to leave the bimbos to Trump.

Struck by the epiphany, he’d bolted from Candi-Randi-Bambi’s bed. They’d used each other. She spread her legs hoping to advance her career; he’d taken advantage of the offer. Sex without emotional entanglements, the pattern of his adult life. He got the release he needed, and the woman got a notch on her bedpost. Only this time it hadn’t worked. After thirty-eight years Logan Crawford realized it was time to grow up. Only damn it, he didn’t have a clue how.

Still reeling from the self-revelation, he’d canceled his morning appointments and headed his rental car north, needing some time alone to think. After driving for half an hour he found himself in a quiet, upscale section of Philadelphia. A bookstore on top of a hill beckoned like a
siren.

For the rest of his stay in Philadelphia he vowed to spend his nights curled up with a good thriller rather than a cheap thrill. Now all he had to do was find one. At the moment he couldn’t even find the damn fiction section in the boundless maze of shelves that wound around the first level of the two story megastore. Lost in the travel section, he spun on his heels
and

THUD!

###

WATCH THE TRAILER!

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Categories: Chick Lit, Romantic Suspense | Leave a comment

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