Your email updates, powered by FeedBlitz

 
Here are the FeedBlitz email updates for you. Click here to start your FREE subscription



Too Stupid To Live heroines and more...

Too Stupid To Live heroines

I'm now blogging at the Suspense Sisters blog! In case you missed it, I was blogging about "Too Stupid To Live" heroines (don't you just love them?! Not) and my Regency romance, The Spinster’s Christmas, which I'm revising right now.
    



You're worth more than gold

I’m over at the Love Inspired Authors Blog talking about my heroine, Joslyn, from Gone Missing, and a song that inspired me while I was writing the book.

You’re worth more than gold
    



Extended Excerpt of GONE MISSING

My next romantic suspense, Gone Missing releases in May! Here’s an extended excerpt of the first three chapters.

Readers met Joslyn in the previous book in my Sonoma series, Treacherous Intent. However, you do not need to read the books in the series to enjoy this one, each story is stand-alone.

WITHOUT A TRACE

As a skip tracer in training, Joslyn Dimalanta knows she has the skills to track down her missing friend. As long as her friend's startlingly handsome brother, Clay Ashton, doesn't distract her. But then his sister's house detonates—almost killing Clay and Joslyn. Now they realize the harsh reality: they must either find the person after Clay's sister, or face deadly consequences. And the closer the get to exposing the source of the crimes, the more explosive surprises they discover. With every obstacle they overcome, Joslyn finds herself relying on Clay more and more. Still, the peril they face scares her less than the idea of trusting Clay with her wounded heart.

Here are links to pre-order Gone Missing:

Order print books:

Amazon
Amazon (Large Print)
Alibris.com (links coming soon)
Barnes and Nobleicon
Barnes and Noble (Large Print)icon

Buy ebooks:

Kindle
iBooks
Koboicon
Nookbookicon

You can get all the books in my Sonoma series on ebook—if you’re subscribed to Scribd, the first 3 books plus my two novellas are available—and some in print from online used bookstores. There may also still be new copies of Treacherous Intent still available on Amazon, Alibrisicon, and Barnes and Nobleicon.

CHAPTER ONE

The man had danger written all over him.

Or maybe that was just Joslyn’s perception because of the way his powerful body moved with that athletic grace of a man confident in his physical strength, and the grim cast to his mouth. His blue-gray eyes found hers across the hot sidewalk in front of Fiona Crawley’s Phoenix home, and her vision wavered as if he were a mirage.

The sun glinted off of the straight blonde-streaked brown hair that fell over his forehead, and it triggered a memory for her. Fiona had blonde-streaked brown hair, and in pictures she’d shown Joslyn of her brother, they’d looked very much alike.

Joslyn looked more closely at the man as he closed the car door and approached her where she stood at the edge of Fiona’s front yard. He had golden-brown stubble that softened his square jaw, but there was no doubt that the shape of his face was the same as Fiona’s, although wider and more sharply cut.

“Are you … Clay?” Joslyn guessed as he stopped in front of her.

His low brow wrinkled. “Who are you?” His voice was low but not gravelly, with a smoothness that made her think of honey.

The Arizona sun had been unbearably hot since six this morning, but it suddenly became a furnace. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of her neck, and she wiped at it. “I’m Joslyn Dimalanta. I was good friends with Fiona when she lived in Los Angeles—we were classmates in the same Master’s Degree program. You’re her brother, right? You look exactly like her.”

“Half-brother.” There was a tinge of bitterness in his tone. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here looking for Fiona.” She straightened her shoulders. “I got a postcard from her—”

“When?” Clay’s eyes suddenly became more intense, and he took a half-step toward her.

He wasn’t a large man, but something about the strength simmering beneath his wide shoulders gave Joslyn a flash of her abusive ex-boyfriend, and her heartbeat went into red-alert for a second. It must have showed on her face, because he looked conscientious and quickly stepped back.

She took a long breath before answering him. “Fiona sent it three weeks ago, but I only got it a few days ago. It was sent to my old address in L.A.”

“Three weeks? I got a phone call from her three weeks ago.”

“What did she say? Is she all right?”

“She said, ‘Clay, help me,’ and then she hung up.” A muscle flexed in his jaw.

That’ seemed odd and abrupt. “Did she sound frightened? Stressed?”

“Her voice shook.” Worry was etched in his face, in the lines between his brows and alongside his mouth. “I hadn’t heard from her in …” He stopped himself and looked away.

Joslyn knew, from what Fiona had mentioned when they were friends in L.A., that Fiona and Clay had been close as children, but something happened to make them drift apart from each other. Fiona had said that she hadn’t spoken to her half-brother since she graduated college. “Before I got the postcard, I hadn’t spoken to Fiona in the two years since she left L.A.” It was one of the reasons it had been so surprising.

“What did she say?”

“She said she was in trouble and needed my help. But she didn’t say where she was.” The handwriting had been messy, as if written in a hurry, but she’d recognized it as Fiona’s.

“Where was the postmark?”

“Phoenix. The card was a touristy Grand Canyon design, pre-stamped.”

Clay frowned. “That’s strange. Why would she call me and send you a postcard?”

“And why wouldn’t she say anything more than that she needed help?” The knot at the base of her skull tightened even more. “It’s why I came here. I had to do some digging to find her address—after she left L.A., it looks like she didn’t want to be found, which I thought was strange.”

“I had to hire a private investigator to find this address for me.” But there was uncertainty in his face as he glanced at the house. The house’s large bay front window had white curtains pulled across, and there was no way to know if anyone was inside. “Did you ring the doorbell?”

“No, I just got here.”

Clay’s mouth was grim. “Maybe it was just a bad joke.”

To two people who hadn’t spoken to Fiona in years? Joslyn didn’t think it was likely, but the alternative was that Fiona was in serious trouble.

Clay strode up the concrete walkway that wound through the stone garden in the front yard to the door. “Let’s hope she doesn’t run away screaming when she sees me,” he muttered.

“Fiona always talked about what a great big brother you were,” Joslyn said. Protective. Someone she’d trust. Fiona had loved him dearly, but had simply shook her head sadly when Joslyn asked why she didn’t try to get in touch with Clay again after all these years.

He looked at Joslyn in surprise, his eyes lightening to blue. It transformed his serious face into a man who had been lifted of some type of great burden. But then something painful flickered across his gaze and he turned away.

Joslyn followed him to the front door, trying to wrap her head around everything that had come out in the last few minutes. This was too much thrown at her at once—not just the postcard from Fiona, but Clay’s phone call, equally as vague. And then meeting him here, seeing firsthand the strength in his arms and the fearless way he carried himself, which fit the stories Fiona had told Joslyn about Clay being a mob strong-arm in Chicago, before he went to prison.

Her first reaction had been attraction, but her second had been wariness. She’d suffered physically and emotionally at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She knew not all strong men would hurt her, but she had become extra cautious about putting herself in a situation ever again where she had to be afraid.

Clay rang the doorbell, and they could faintly hear it ding-dong inside the house. He stood with his hands in his jeans pockets, but there was a tension across his wide shoulders that belied his casual pose. He rang the doorbell again. Still no answer.

Joslyn checked her watch. It was eight o’clock on Monday morning. “Maybe she went to work already.”

“Do you know where she works?”

“She’s IT support at a manufacturing company.” It was a rather low-paying job for Fiona, assuming she’d ended up finally getting her degree, but maybe she couldn’t get anything on a higher pay scale, or maybe she preferred the hours.

Clay’s eyes narrowed to stormy gray. “You said you haven’t talked to her in two years. How do you know all this?”

“It’s my job to find out stuff like this. I’m training to be a skip tracer.”

“A skip tracer?”

“I find people. I also help people disappear.” Joslyn had been especially grateful to her friend Elisabeth, who had originally helped her escape her abusive ex-boyfriend, for giving her a job in the O’Neill Agency while she finished her last few quarters in school. Joslyn found she enjoyed helping people, especially other women who wanted to get away from dangerous ex-boyfriends or ex-husbands. She understood their situations only too well.

Clay went to the front window to try to peer through the crack in the curtains. Joslyn noticed an envelope sticking out of the mail box next to the door and opened the lid. It was full of mail. It didn’t look like Fiona got a lot of junk mail, but the envelopes she did get were postmarked several weeks ago. “I don’t think Fiona’s been home for a while.” That wasn’t a good sign.

Clay frowned. “I don’t like this.”

“I know where Fiona usually kept a spare key,” Joslyn said. “In the back, under—”

“The ugliest gnome,” Clay finished for her, flashing a smile. His eyes crinkled and turned a glittering aquamarine, and Joslyn’s heartbeat blipped. While Fiona was beautiful, her brother was incredibly handsome.

“How do you know that?” she asked.

“She got that from me. It’s where I hid the spare key at my house back in Chicago, years ago.”

They headed around the side of the house, through the wooden latch gate, which was unlocked. The shade from the building made the temperature drop a few degrees, but it was still oppressively hot.

The backyard was small, and instead of grass it was bricked over with plant beds along the walls, where there were a few orange and lemon trees. However, there were also a line of little gnome statues next to the glass back door, and the ugliest one was clearly the largest, a hideous creature with a long nose, flashing grimy teeth in his grinning mouth. Clay tipped it over and found a key underneath.

Joslyn tried to peer through the wooden slats of the blinds covering the glass door, but couldn’t see anything in the darkened room beyond except for a glimpse of a television set and a leather couch. It seemed unusually dark considering the number of windows the house had.

Clay inserted the key and it turned smoothly. He turned the handle and eased the door open.

Then suddenly he was grabbing her and leaping aside just as an explosion shattered the morning.

***

The noise of the explosion boomed in Clay’s ears as he rolled with Joslyn, protecting her with his body. The heat from the blast rushed over his back like a hot ocean wave, and debris pelted them like hail.

His brain felt like a bottle of soda that had been shaken and popped open, with fizzing bubbles clouding his vision. There was a ringing that roared in his ears, dominating all other sound. He blinked, and his vision cleared to the sight of Joslyn’s dark hair tumbled over the bricks of the yard. He was sprawled on top of her, and he could smell apricot and jasmine, and the scent of walking through a quiet wood.

“Are you all right?” His voice came from a long way away. He rolled to the side so he wasn’t crushing her beneath him. “Joslyn?”

She moved slowly, lifting her head. Her clear, golden-brown eyes were dazed. She didn’t speak, simply looked at him in confusion.

“Anything broken?”

She slowly sat up, checking her slender limbs. She shook her head, then looked behind him at the house.

There was a gaping hole where the back door had been. Plaster from the exploded wall still rained from the air. The roof lurched drunkenly.

“Come on, we need to get clear of the house.” He rose to his feet, feeling aches in his joints from the blast and the hard landing on the bricks. Joslyn took the hand he held out to her, and they skirted around the less damaged side of the house to get to the front again.

Fiona’s next door neighbor had rushed out to her front yard, an older woman with gray permed hair, dressed in a tank top and shorts. She gaped at them as they appeared. “Are you all right? What happened? Good gracious, was that a bomb? Fiona’s poor house. What was a bomb doing in her house?”

What was a bomb doing in Fiona’s house? It had been rigged to explode as soon as the door was breached. Clay had been incredibly lucky to see the tripwire as he opened the door, and his reflexes had taken over, grabbing Joslyn and leaping aside. Luckily, it looked like it hadn’t been a very large explosion, although it had been enough to blow out a few of the windows in the house. Glass covered the stone garden in the front yard.

Clay’s hearing was starting to recover because he now heard a dog barking from inside the next door house and a car alarm sounding from somewhere nearby. Luckily, there hadn’t been many people home at this time of morning on this street—just the next-door neighbor, and a couple people from houses across the street, including one older woman with two young children.

“We need to call the police,” Joslyn said to the neighbor.

Clay’s shoulders knotted. This was going to be interesting, once the police realized he was an ex-convict, at the site of an explosion, even though this had nothing to do with his unsavory past.

At least, he hoped it didn’t. The mob family he’d worked for years ago, before he’d gone to prison, was now defunct, and he hadn’t been very high on the totem pole to begin with. He didn’t think he had any enemies left who would want revenge on him, but if he did, then rigging his sister’s house to blow up was a rather melodramatic way to do it. A sniper shot would have been easier.

“I’m calling them right now,” said a neighbor from across the street, who had her cell phone. “I can’t believe this. My great-grandkids are with me today, too.”

The two kids were standing in the street staring wide-eyed at the house, which didn’t look much different from the front except for some dust and curls of smoke rising from the broken windows. “Can we go look—”

“No,” their great-grandmother said firmly, then spoke into the phone as the police dispatcher picked up the line. “Yes, I’m here at Braeden Court, and there’s been an explosion!” She gave Clay a suspicious look.

“Oh, don’t mind her,” said Fiona’s next-door neighbor to Clay. “She thinks the government put microchips in polio vaccines so they could monitor everyone.” The woman waved a finger in a circle around her ear. “Completely cuckoo.”

“Are you all right?” Joslyn asked her. “Your house is right next door.”

“Luckily there’s a lot of space in the side yards and the fence is good and thick. My windows rattled but no damage. I’m Mary, by the way.” She held out a gnarled hand.

Joslyn and Clay introduced themselves, and Mary looked closely at Clay. “You related to Fiona? You look just like her.”

“She’s my half-sister.”

“I’m a friend of hers from Los Angeles,” Joslyn said. “We came here to see her.”

Mary’s steel-gray eyebrows rose. “I’d hoped she’d just gone to someone like one of you when she disappeared.”

“She disappeared?” Clay had to fight the alarm he felt.

“A few weeks ago, I heard barking from her house and went to see what was going on. She gave me a spare key because sometimes she asks me to take care of her dog, Poochie. Poor thing had been left alone for a day or two, looked like, so I took him.” Mary jabbed a thumb backwards toward her house, where the dog was still barking intermittently. “I haven’t seen any sign of Fiona since. I filed a police report, but they haven’t done anything. Did this have to do with all that? It must have happened after I got her dog.” Mary shuddered at the close call. “Was it a gas leak or something?”

“Um … we’re not sure,” Joslyn said carefully. She looked briefly at Clay, but he somehow knew what she was thinking. The less they told the neighbors, the better.

“We were opening the door when it blew up,” Clay said to Mary.

“My goodness, are you two all right? You don’t look injured, but …”

“We feel okay,” Joslyn said.

“You better make sure you get seen by a doctor,” Mary said.

“What happened?” People started to arrive from other streets in the area, gaping at the house. Mary was only to happy to tell them a dramatized story of the explosion.

Clay and Joslyn stepped aside to speak in low voices. “You’re all right?” he asked her. She was tall but slender, and she seemed so delicate.

She nodded, although there was worry in her face. “Who rigged Fiona’s house to explode?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” He sighed and eyed the ruined shell of the house. “The real question is if they were trying to kill Fiona, or if they were trying to kill whoever came looking for her. Either way, whoever did it was ruthless.”

Joslyn shivered, even in the sweltering heat.

Clay had dealt with men just as ruthless when he’d been a street thug for that mob family in Chicago. He hadn’t killed anyone, but if he’d kept going down that road, who knows what he might have become?

That thought was like a dark blot on his soul.

There was the sound of police sirens, and soon a squad car turned the corner and came down the street toward them, followed by paramedics. Clay’s shoulders tensed out of habit, and he relaxed them. He wondered if there would ever be a time when his past wouldn’t crop up in his present.

He answered the officer’s questions evenly, but that only seemed to make them suspicious, if the curious looks they threw at him were any indication. He submitted to the paramedic’s exam, but other than a few minor cuts from flying glass and debris, he was fine. Part of the door frame had hit him on the side and a chunk of plaster had glanced off his shoulder, but he shook off the bruises. He’d had worse.

He knew the exact moment the officers had looked him up and found out about his prison record. They had hard glints in their eyes as they approached him—two men, not just one. “So Mr. Ashton, what are you doing here in Arizona? You’re a long ways from Illinois.” The officer’s name badge read “Campbell.”

“I came to see my half-sister, Fiona Crowley.”

“And that’s it, huh?” Officer Talbot, the younger man, squinted up at him. “Nothing else?”

“Nothing else,” Clay said through a tight jaw. He might have been tempted to mention the phone call from his sister if it hadn’t been for the suspicion in their tones. Anything he said to them would only make things worse for himself, and he needed to be able to find Fiona and make sure she was safe.

“So you just opened the door and the house exploded? Kind of odd, don’t you think?”

“It might have been a gas leak or something like that.”

“You didn’t have anything to do with it?” Officer Talbot gave him a look that said, Yeah, right.

“I had nothing to do with this.” His voice came out a bit harsher than he intended.

“And Miss Dima … Dia …” Officer Talbot squinted at his notebook. “What’s your relationship with her?” He gave a slimy overtone to the word.

Clay gritted his teeth. “I just met Joslyn when we both arrived at the house at the same time. To see Fiona. Why is it that the police didn’t contact me, her brother, when her neighbor filed a missing persons report?”

Officer Talbot’s face turned pink and he glanced at his partner. They apparently hadn’t been aware of the missing person’s report, either, or why Clay hadn’t been contacted. “It’s under investigation,” he snapped.

Calm down. Clay had to calm down. His temper had gotten him in enough trouble in the past. He couldn’t afford to get in trouble now, when Fiona might be in danger. He wanted to walk away from these two men and the insulting ring to their questions, but he forced himself to stand in a deliberately relaxed stance.

Officer Campbell, the older man, gave him a hard look, but then he said, “We have your hotel information and phone number. We’ll be in touch.” It was almost like a threat. However, the two men turned and left him. They began speaking to the other people gathered on the sidewalk.

Joslyn came up to him, but paused when she saw his face. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” he said in a clipped voice.

Joslyn glanced back at the officers. “They were giving you a hard time?”

“Nothing unexpected.” Considering his prison time. But it still bothered him.

Her eyes sparked amber. “But you were visiting your sister.”

“Look, I don’t know how much Fiona told you—”

“She knew about your time in prison,” Joslyn said quietly.

“Well, it’s not something officers of the law can forget about.”

“I suppose you’re right, but you didn’t have anything to do with this.”

“They don’t know that.”

She sighed and looked away. He could almost hear her thoughts. She knew he was right. “Mary was able to give me the exact date she went to collect Poochie. Fiona’s been gone for three weeks, about the time of the postal stamp on the postcard she sent to me.”

Clay frowned. “Where did she go? Why did she need to leave? Is she really in trouble?” Had she really called him and sent Joslyn that postcard?

“I was going to drop by her workplace. Since it looks like Fiona doesn’t want to be found, I want to gather as much information as I can about her life here in Phoenix to try to predict where she’d go.” Joslyn eyed the officers. Talbot was flirting with a young woman, while Campbell was speaking to two men in business casual clothing. “They say, out of sight out of mind, so did you want to come with me?”

Maybe the less the cops saw of him, the less likely they would be to unreasonably blame him for the explosion. “Sure.” Right now, it was the only lead they had on where Fiona might be. After that explosion, he had a feeling this wasn’t a case of his sister going on a spontaneous vacation. He’d been worried before, but now the fear for her was like a boiling pot in his gut.

If there was something dangerous going on, he wanted to make sure he was there to face it head on.

***

CHAPTER TWO

“We’re being followed,” Clay said, looking in the rearview mirror.

“Are you sure?” Joslyn angled herself so she could get a better look behind them through the passenger side mirror, but all she saw were several white cars behind them, a couple minivans, an SUV.

“The white Taurus, about four cars behind us.”

Joslyn tried to get a look at it, but could only see half of the blurry face of the man in the passenger seat of the Taurus. Still, the brief glimpse made her heart rate speed up.

“Do you recognize him?” Clay asked.

“No.”

“Me, neither.”

“How long have they been following us?”

“I didn’t see them on the way to Fiona’s workplace, but they appeared behind us when we started for the museum.”

They’d gone to Fiona’s workplace, an air conditioning parts manufacturer, only to hear that three weeks ago, a man had called, claiming to be her brother, asking for extended leave for her, citing a family emergency. However, the manager hadn’t been able to get in touch with her after that and she’d been fired.

Who had that been who’d called? It obviously wasn’t Clay. That may be why the police hadn’t followed up on the missing person’s report—if they checked with Fiona’s workplace, the manager had heard from her and so there wasn’t a problem, at least at the time Mary called the police about her.

Perhaps that had been the point of calling into Fiona’s workplace—to forestall any missing person’s report. Joslyn and Clay had exchanged tense looks. Did someone have Fiona?

They’d spoken to a couple of her coworkers who had been outside for a smoke break, but they hadn’t learned much—Fiona apparently wasn’t close with anyone at work, even though she’d been working there about fifteen months. It had seemed like a dead end.

But Joslyn remembered that Fiona often visited art museums in Los Angeles. She’d been friends with the guards at the museum and had formed friendships with other people who visited the museum regularly, mostly artists and critics. Clay had agreed that she’d done the same in Chicago, when she had lived with him in the years during college and after she graduated. So they’d left Joslyn’s car in the business parking lot and headed to the largest art museum in Phoenix, the Kevin Tran Museum of Art and Art History.

But they apparently weren’t alone.

This was too coincidental, that they were being followed right after they’d triggered that bomb in Fiona’s house. Who had the bomb been for, Fiona or anyone coming after her? Were the people following them aiming to finish the job, since the explosion at Fiona’s house hadn’t gotten rid of them, or did they want to question Joslyn and Clay? “Do they want to stop us from finding Fiona, or do they think we know where she is?” she asked.

“I don’t think it would be a good idea to stop and ask them.” Clay signaled and switched lanes.

She had been in this exact situation barely a year ago, running from her ex-boyfriend, nervously looking behind her to make sure she wasn’t followed. She had felt like her life wasn’t her own anymore. She had thought she put those days behind her, yet here she was again. “Phoenix is a grid. How are you going to lose them?”

“I have to get onto a freeway.”

He got onto the 101 almost casually, as if he’d always meant to head in that direction, and moved into the leftmost lane. He then slowed down, and soon the white Taurus was directly behind them. Clay was driving so slowly in the fast lane that cars were passing them on the right, and the Taurus couldn’t hide behind other cars. There were two men in the Taurus, both with sunglasses on. The shorter one had curly dark hair, while the other had short dark hair. They also both had identical frowns.

“They know you’re on to them,” she said.

“It won’t matter in a moment. Hang on.” He cranked the wheel hard to the right and cut off an SUV. It honked at them as Clay swerved right again and cut off a Toyota. He then zoomed right in front of a Mustang in the freeway exit lane only a few feet before it split from the highway, separated by a concrete divider. Joslyn knew the circumstances were extreme, but the sight of the cars looming so close in front of them made her heart shoot up to her throat.

His aggressive driving had carried them too quickly across the lanes for the Taurus to keep up. It couldn’t make it to the right hand lane in time to exit, and Joslyn saw both men glaring at them as they were forced to continue on the freeway.

“You lost them.” Joslyn had always been a rather cautious driver, trying not to annoy anyone around her. Clay had cut off three cars in less than three seconds.

“Not yet.” Clay wove his way through the traffic and began driving in random circles.

He was a good driver, his motions controlled and precise, the car moving smoothly, almost effortlessly through traffic. But there was tension radiating from the corners of his eyes as he glanced in his rearview mirrors.

Joslyn kept an eye out behind them, also, and her heartbeat continued to gallop in her chest as she waited to see if the white Taurus or some other car would suddenly appear. But after several miles, she never saw the same car twice.

Clay finally nodded. “I think we did lose them.”

“How did they find us? Why are they following us?” She didn’t like not knowing. “Did they follow us from Fiona’s house, or from her workplace?”

“They could have followed us from her house and we just didn’t see them,” Clay said. “Although I don’t like the thought that they were watching us the entire time.”

“I don’t, either.” It made her feel vulnerable, right when she had been working so hard to get back control in her life.

Clay’s mouth grew hard. “Maybe they were the ones who rigged her house to explode and they were waiting to see who would show up.”

For a moment, he looked so much like her ex-boyfriend that Joslyn had to look away. Tomas had hated being trapped by other men, and it had brought out an ugly side of him. He’d had many ugly sides.

She took a deep breath. That chapter in her life was over. Tomas was in jail. She was safe. She had been doing everything in her power to make sure she stayed safe.

Except that hadn’t saved her from walking into this situation. “If they did rig her house to explode, they either wanted to kill her or anyone after her.”

“I don’t think anyone would expend manpower to watch an empty house for weeks, just to make sure the explosion kills someone looking for Fiona,” Clay said. “If they were staking out the house, it’s because they want to find Fiona, dead or alive.”

“So Fiona might be alive. On the run.”

“Let’s hope so. But if those men weren’t staking out the house already, it could mean they followed one of us to Fiona’s house.”

Joslyn thought back to what she’d had to do to find Fiona’s address. Had her digging around alerted someone that she was after Fiona? But who? What in the world had Fiona gotten into? “Did you have any idea Fiona was in serious trouble like this?” Joslyn asked.

He shook his head slowly. “I hadn’t talked to her in years. I didn’t even know where she’d gone after she left Chicago. I tried to find her but then …”

He’d gone to prison. Joslyn wondered why Fiona hadn’t reached out to him, especially when it seemed that he still loved her. Fiona hadn’t indicated there had been any bad blood or grudges between them, so why hadn’t she wanted to see her brother again?

“I didn’t know, either,” Joslyn said. “Fiona was just like any other girl when I knew her in Los Angeles, going to classes, hanging out with friends. Except …” She thought back. “She seemed a little sad sometimes, but I knew her mother had died and she didn’t like to talk about her father. I thought she just missed her mom.”

“She and Mom were close,” Clay said quietly.

“What’s a bit odd is the job she got here in Phoenix. Even if she hadn’t finished her Master’s Degree yet, with her Bachelor’s degree she could have gotten a position that paid so much more.”

“She must have gotten into some kind of trouble, something that made her need to take a different job than she normally would have.”

“She didn’t have many friends at her workplace, so maybe the answer isn’t in her job, but in what she did outside her job.” Which meant that if she did visit the museum here, as she had done in Los Angeles and Chicago, they might find something about what she’d been involved in. A standard tactic for skip tracers was to find out as much about the person as possible to figure out where they’d go.

The Kevin Tran Museum of Art and Art History was a beautiful sandstone building that rose out of the desert like a castle, surrounded by artfully arranged rock formations and different types of cactus. As they paid the entrance fee, Joslyn grabbed a pamphlet about becoming a season pass holder or a museum patron.

“If I’m right, Fiona would have gotten at least a season pass for the museum. She had a season ticket for one of the museums in Los Angeles that she enjoyed going to. She got invited to private showings and a few art galas.”

“She had a season pass for one of the museums in Chicago, too,” Clay said. “She took me to to a debut art show once. I had to wear a suit.” He grinned, suddenly. “She told me I looked like a bouncer.” But then something, some memory, made the light dim from his eyes and his smile. Joslyn had to stop herself from asking him what had made him so sad.

She consulted the pamphlet and saw that the patron services department was in charge of all season pass holders. “This way.” There were signs pointing the way to the patron services office.

They passed through several galleries. Some had ethnic themes, such as one long room with art from several premier Chinese American artists who had first settled in Phoenix at the turn of the century, and another room with huge murals of Native American art. One galley was a display of sculptures from different artists that looked like they were made from desert rocks of various colors.

“This is a museum Fiona would love,” Clay said as they crossed a room of Native American woven blankets hung from the walls. “She always talked about how art can tell you all about different cultures and periods of history.”

“I have to admit I didn’t always see it,” Joslyn said. “But then again, when Fiona went with me to a concert, she didn’t go into raptures about the musical nuances the way I did.”

“What kind of concerts?”

Out of habit, Joslyn hesitated before answering. “Mostly classical music. Fiona was my only friend who’d go to concerts with me and not fall asleep in the middle.”

“I like classic rock, myself. But I’ve been known to listen to some instrumental movie scores, too.”

She blinked at him, then laughed. “The classic rock I would have guessed.”

His smile was open and charming. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It would be so easy to fall into that charm. But then again, Tomas had been charming, too, at first.

They arrived at a door marked “Patron Services” and went inside. A woman sat behind a desk with horn-rimmed glasses and smiled at them. “May I help you?” Her name plaque read, “Ruby Padalecki.”

Joslyn gave her one of her new business cards. “I’m an investigator with the O’Neill Agency. I’m looking into the disappearance of a young woman who might have been a season pass holder with the museum, Fiona Crowley.”

Ruby’s mouth grew pinched. “I’m afraid I can’t give any information about our museum patrons.”

“We’re just worried about her,” Clay said. “I’m her brother.”

The woman looked at him with her brow furrowed. “Oh, my, you look exactly like …” She swallowed and lowered her voice. “I’m sorry, but I could lose my job.”

“No, we don’t want you to do anything to jeopardize that,” Joslyn said quickly.

Clay held his hands up. “We’re just museum patrons chatting with you, okay? We’re not after any confidential information that might get you in trouble.”

Ruby relaxed and smiled. “Okay, sure.”

He looked harmless, approachable. She envied the easy way he could engage with Ruby. Joslyn always felt awkward socially. It was the reason she liked computers so much.

Clay leaned a hip against the edge of the desk. “My sister likes visiting art museums. She visited all the ones in Chicago.”

“She also liked visiting museums when I knew her in Los Angeles,” Joslyn said.

Ruby nodded. “Oh, she comes in here every week. Sometimes a few times a week.”

“Once, a museum had a new exhibit by a well-known artist and she went five times that week,” Joslyn said. “I began to wonder if she were in love with the artist until I found out he was sixty-five years old.”

“There was one artist in Chicago who was twenty-five,” Clay said dryly. “I was a little worried since she was only seventeen at the time.”

“What did you do about that?” Ruby asked.

Clay scratched the back of his head. “I have to admit, I was really mean. I was at some party with her, and I went to where she was talking to the artist. I told him an embarrassing story about when she was in kindergarten that involved feathers, glitter, and pink panties. She didn’t speak to me for a week, but she didn’t talk to the artist again, so it was a win for me.”

Joslyn and Ruby laughed. “She actually told me that embarrassing story,” Ruby told him, “so she must have gotten over it.”

“No artists here that she’s in love with?” Clay said.

Ruby winced. “Well, there is one Native American artist who’s tall, dark, and swarthy—he looks like a pirate. All the girls on staff here think he’s incredibly handsome. Fiona’s friendly with him, but then again, she’s just as friendly with Rufus, one of the guards.”

Clay cleared his throat. “How often is the, uh, artist here?”

Ruby giggled. “Not very often. Don’t worry.”

“When’s the last time you talked to Fiona?” Joslyn asked.

Ruby sobered. “It’s been several weeks. Rufus and I are a little worried. I even called her house a few times, but she didn’t answer.”

“Why do you think she’d stop coming to the museum?” Clay asked.

“Rufus thinks it’s because of that man who came a few weeks ago.”

“What man?”

“Some older man talked to her in the ancient Chinese art room. You should talk to Rufus about it, he was on duty that day and saw them.”

“Fiona didn’t say anything about what was wrong?” Joslyn asked.

Ruby shook her head. “But I didn’t see her the last day she was here. I had taken a sick day.”

“Is Rufus here today?”

“He’s wandering around, just keeping any eye on things. Tall, lanky, African American man.” Ruby reached out to grab Joslyn’s hand. “Please find out what happened to Fiona. I hope it’s nothing serious.”

“We’ll find her,” Joslyn said. Fiona had left a hole in Joslyn’s life when she left Los Angeles. Joslyn didn’t have many women friends, and she always wondered if she might not have dated her abusive ex, Tomas, if Fiona had still been there with her frank opinions and logical insights. The least she could do was find out what happened to her friend now that it looked like she’d gotten into something dangerous after she’d left the master’s program in L.A.

They had to circle almost the entire museum before they found Rufus, an older man so slender that his guard uniform hung loosely on him. He had a short gray beard and almost completely bald head with his curly gray hair cut short. As they approached him, he frowned at them as if he were trying to look menacing. “Something I can help you folks with?”

Then his eye fell on Clay, and his brows rose halfway up his forehead. “Well, I’ll be. You look just like Fiona. You must be that brother she told me about.”

Clay grinned and shook the man’s hand. “Anything she told you about me, it wasn’t true.”

Rufus guffawed. “She said you’d say something like that.” He nodded to Joslyn. “This your missus?”

Joslyn felt as if her head was in a furnace, and Clay had turned redder than a beet. “I’m Joslyn. I was Fiona’s friend when she lived in Los Angeles.”

His handshake was firm, his fingertips calloused. “Did you go to school with her?”

“Yes, sir. She and I had most of the same classes.”

“We’re here looking for her,” Clay said. “We hear she hasn’t been around for a few weeks.”

Rufus sighed heavily. “Don’t know what’s happened to her. I’m worried. She didn’t seem like she was into anything shady, but that man she met seemed awful slick, if you know what I mean.”

“Who was he?” Joslyn asked.

“This older guy, although not quite as old as me. Seems like nobody’s quite as old as me, these days.” He flashed a grin, his smile bright in his dark face. “He was sitting and chatting with Fiona, and she looked pretty shaken.”

“You didn’t hear what they talked about?” Joslyn asked.

“Naw, I was standing by the door. There were some high school boys in the next room making fun of the abstract art, so I was keeping an eye on them in case they got rowdy.”

“Maybe she and the guy were friends,” Joslyn said.

“No, she didn’t come in with him. She was alone when I saw her enter the front door—she gave me a smile and a wave—and this guy came and met her in the antique Chinese art room only half an hour later. She seemed surprised to see him, so I don’t think she was intending to meet him here. They only talked five or ten minutes, but it was enough to make Fiona look upset and leave the museum early.”

“Did he leave with her?”

“Nope. He sat in the Chinese room for another few minutes—looked sorta down, you ask me—and then he left.”

“Anyone with him?” Clay asked.

“Nope. But he was wearing some fancy suit, like those rich guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a driver waiting outside.”

“I wonder why she was upset,” Joslyn said. “Did Fiona say anything to you before she left?”

“No, she just smiled and waved, but she looked kinda distracted,” Rufus said. “Sometimes she chats with me, sometimes not. But that was the last time I saw her. No police have been by, so I wondered if maybe she was on vacation or something. But I think she’d-a told me if that was the case. It must have been that guy.”

“You said he was slick.”

“Dressed real smart, navy suit—even in this heat—and big silver cufflinks on his sleeves.”

Clay had suddenly stilled. “What did he look like?”

“Oh, roundish face. Black hair, but receding like there was no tomorrow.”

“Kind of heavy-lidded eyes?”

Rufus’s eyebrows rose again. “Yeah.”

If Clay knew who the man was, Joslyn would have expected him to be more triumphant. Instead, he seemed even more perplexed. “Do you know him?” she asked.

Clay was frowning at the floor. “I think so, but it doesn’t make sense.”

“Why not?”

He looked up at her, and his eyes had turned a stormy gray. “It doesn’t make sense why she’d disappear because of him. I think that was Martin Crowley—her father, and my stepfather.”

***

CHAPTER THREE

Why would Fiona disappear after talking to Martin? As far as Clay knew, they were still on comfortable terms. Maybe not chummy, but not at odds with each other. And Martin wouldn’t do anything to hurt Fiona, no matter what he’d done to Clay.

The memories, more bitter than medicine, burned his tongue and throat, and he swallowed to get them out of his system. Even after all these years, it still made him react as if it had happened yesterday.

“Her father?” Rufus said. Clay had forgotten he was still there. “Now that’s interesting. Fiona never seemed happy when she talked about her daddy. And she certainly wasn’t happy that man had come to talk to her that day.”

Joslyn had been shocked when Clay had said the man was Martin, but now she looked thoughtful. “Can you remember anything else?” she asked Rufus.

He pursed his mouth, but then shook his head. “Sorry, I didn’t hear anything about what they said, and that’s about all I saw.”

Joslyn handed him her business card. “If you remember anything else, give us a call.”

“Sure thing.”

As they headed out of the museum, Clay asked her, “You didn’t seem surprised that Fiona and Martin hadn’t seemed very friendly that day. When I knew her, Fiona was pretty close to him.”

Joslyn tilted her head. “Well, she was closer to Martin when I first knew her, but especially just before she left Los Angeles, he seemed to annoy her or upset her more often. She never wanted to talk about him. I guess in the past two years, they never healed the breach.”

“He must have said something to her to make her upset. But I don’t know why he’d have anything to do with why she’d disappear. He wouldn’t hurt her.”

“But the fact is that sometime after he spoke to her, she disappeared.”

“If she were in danger from Martin, he’d have taken her at the museum, and he wouldn’t have bothered to speak to her first.” Clay sighed. “Plus I have a hard time believing Fiona would be involved in anything shady that Martin might be doing.” He remembered his last big argument with Fiona in Chicago, and the reason she’d moved away from him.

“He might have helped her leave. If she were in trouble and he could help, she’d accept it.”

He remembered Fiona’s thready voice in the phone call he’d received. “The thing is, if she were safe with Martin, she wouldn’t have asked us for help. My phone call and your postcard happened after she disappeared.”

“Maybe it wasn’t her?”

“It sure sounded like her. I knew her immediately.”

Joslyn blew out a breath. “And the handwriting on that postcard was pretty close to hers. I recognized it.”

Clay rubbed his forehead. He knew what he had to do, but didn’t like being forced to approach Martin again, like a servant asking for a favor. “I have Martin’s extension at his office. I’ll give him a call and ask about Fiona.”

The look Joslyn gave him seemed to understand what he hadn’t said, seemed to see the emotions churning in his gut whenever he thought of Martin. But she understood, as much as he did, that Fiona came first.

There was a small hallway off of the front foyer that offered them some privacy, so he headed there and pulled out his cell phone. He found Martin’s phone number and dialed.

He tasted acid at the back of his throat as he listened to the phone ringing. When a man’s voice answered, he almost couldn’t speak and had to swallow before he said, “Martin? This is Clay.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Crowley’s not available at this time. This is his assistant. May I help you?”

Clay felt both relief and frustration. “Please ask him to call his stepson as soon as possible. It’s about Fiona.” He gave his phone number, but he had a feeling Martin wouldn’t call him back. Not to be malicious, but simply because to Martin, Clay didn’t matter.

When he hung up, Joslyn asked, “He wasn’t in?”

“I left a message, but Martin doesn’t always return my calls.” Actually, Martin almost never returned his calls.

“He might since this is about Fiona.”

“But if he’s involved in all this, he’s not going to want to talk to us.”

She sighed. “I’m afraid you’re right.”

They exited the front double doors of the museum into the bright sunlight, and the heat slapped them like a ten-foot wave. Clay had to pause to adjust to the change in temperature. That’s when he saw it.

Just a slight movement from the farthest end of the parking lot stretched out in front of them. Clay squinted in that direction, but didn’t see the movement again.

But he’d lost the men following them, hadn’t he?

“What is it?” Joslyn’s voice was low but sharp. Her eyes scanned the parking lot also.

“I thought I saw … I don’t know what I saw.”

“How could they have found us?” Her eyes unfocused as she thought, and she began lightly rubbing a strange-shaped scar above her left eye. It seemed she wasn’t aware she was doing it. “Maybe your rental car … I’ll have to check it.”

“Check what?”

“Maybe they put a tracker on your car or mine when we were at Fiona’s workplace.”

“That’s kind of high tech. Then again, if they’re the same guys who rigged Fiona’s house, I guess I could believe they could do it.” Clay kept sweeping his gaze over the parking lot even as they headed to his car.

“Don’t unlock it just yet.” Joslyn began circling the car, checking the rims, finally dropping onto the sizzling asphalt to check the underside of the carriage. “I don’t see anything.”

Clay hadn’t stopped looking around, but they were the only ones moving around out here. The other cars in the lot seemed empty, and he couldn’t see the white Taurus, although many of the cars were white. He’d noticed that about Phoenix—lots of white and light colored cars, probably to combat the heat. “Let’s get out of here.”

The inside of the car was a furnace and he cranked up the air conditioning.

“Even if we don’t know for sure that they followed us here, we should take precautions,” she said.

“Like what?”

“Maybe there’s a tracker on our clothes. Or maybe they found a way to clone one of our cell phones, and that’s how they’re tracking us.”

“People can do that?”

“It takes special equipment, but yeah.”

And men who had access to explosives might have access to that kind of equipment. “Okay, so where to?” He backed out of the parking stall.

“The nearest mall.”

Clay kept an eye behind them as they drove, but he couldn’t spot a tail if there was one. He had done his fair share of tailing people when he had worked for that mob family in Chicago, but even then, he hadn’t been great at noticing them following himself. How ironic that he could have used some of his criminal skills now. Still, he didn’t regret getting out of that life, paying his dues. He just wished he could feel he had finally settled that debt.

There was a mall a few miles away that looked rather new, with a cluster of golden-red buildings rising up at the side of a freeway, surrounded by empty lots of stone and dirt. “Is this good?” he asked.

“Yes. We don’t want any mall too upscale. They may not have the burner phones we need.”

They walked through the outdoor mall until they found a phone kiosk, and Joslyn bought several burner cell phones.

“We need that many?” Clay asked.

“You never know.” After Joslyn had paid using cash, they walked away and she said, “Plus, I noticed the kiosk didn’t seem to keep good records. If anyone knows we went here, they might have a hard time figuring out which phones we bought, and their numbers.”

“That’s good thinking.” He’d had to find people for his bosses every so often, but it had never been an intricate business like this, and he’d never had to try not to be found.

There wasn’t an all-in-one clothing store at this mall, so they went to a men’s clothing store first. “I can’t just get athletic shorts and a T-shirt?” he asked her.

“If we need to talk to people, they respond better if you’re better clothed.”

“I don’t need a suit, do I?” Clay inwardly groaned. He wasn’t uncomfortable wearing a suit, but in this heat, it would be torture, even though all of the places had air conditioning.

Joslyn’s eyes twinkled like chips of amber, as if she could guess what he was thinking. “No. Just something that doesn’t look like you just played basketball with the fellas.”

He found some khaki shorts and a short-sleeved polo shirt, which he wore out of the store, his old clothes in a bag. He caught Joslyn looking appreciatively as he stood in line to pay. When she saw he had noticed, she blushed and turned away.

Other women had given him double-takes often enough for him not to be embarrassed by it, especially since he’d grown stronger and dropped some of his body fat through his training at his local mixed martial arts gym. But Joslyn’s glances somehow made him stand a little taller.

They headed to a women’s clothing store. Clay looked at the faces in the crowd, and because of his height, he could see over most heads, but he didn’t notice anyone who looked like the men in the white Taurus. It was hard to tell if anyone was following them in the crowd since most people were going from store to store, like they were, so he saw several people more than once.

Clay was used to women who browsed slowly along the clothing racks, but Joslyn surprised him by glancing quickly over the clothes and grabbing an outfit similar to what she was wearing, khaki pants and a navy blue polo shirt.

He didn’t know why he did it, but his hand closed over hers as she lifted the hanger off the rack. “Wait. You’re not getting that, are you?”

She frowned at him. “Of course I am.”

“Look, I’m no fashion expert, but how about we get you something that matches what I’ve got?”

“It matches. Polo shirt, khakis.”

“Not for a girl. It makes you look like a sales clerk.”

“But it’s what you’re wearing. How would my wearing something else not make you look like a sales clerk?”

He couldn’t quite explain it, and he was muddling things up by trying, so he looked around, and then grabbed a sundress in light blue and brown. “How about this?”

She looked at him as if he’d grown two heads. “I don’t … wear dresses.”

He stared at her. “Ever?”

“Well, I’ve worn dresses, of course, but usually …” She looked flustered. “I don’t know, it’s just kind of … girly.”

“But you’re a girl.”

“I know that.” She glared at him.

He tried another tactic. “You said it yourself, if we talk to other people, they respond better if we’re better clothed. It’s less intimidating if we look like a couple. And we’d look more like a couple if you wear a dress rather than pants and a polo shirt.”

Her brows were knit as if she wasn’t sure she quite believed him, but she took the dress and put it back. He was about to argue when she said, “It’s the wrong size.” She grabbed another one and headed to the changing rooms.

Clay blew out a breath. She was nothing like the other women he’d known. Joslyn seemed more masculine in some ways, carrying herself as if unaware of her body, and yet she was so beautiful.

She stepped out of the changing room, and despite the scowl on her face, the image of her in the sundress made his heart stop for a moment. Her collarbones rose above the modest neckline and her arms were bare, showing off her delicate bone structure. The skirt swirling above her knees floated around the curves of her figure.

“What is it?” She looked faintly alarmed.

“Nothing,” he said quickly. “You’re just … you look captivating.” The word was more romantic than he’d intended to say, but it just popped out, and it was exactly what she was.

Joslyn turned a deep red and looked away. It seemed as if she were struggling with some memory. Then she took a deep breath and seemed to regain her composure. “Is this fine?” Her voice was businesslike.

He couldn’t help it. He reached out to run the backs of his fingers down the side of her face.

She stilled, like a deer in the woods, her brown eyes wide. Her skin was soft, and the feel of it sent tingles up his hand, his forearm, his shoulder.

Then someone accidentally bumped into him from behind, and the moment was over.

“I’ll go pay for this.” She walked away before he could say anything.

Not that he could have said anything. That one touch had shaken him, and he wasn’t sure why or what to do about it.

Nothing. He was a man haunted by his past mistakes, and no woman would want to saddle herself with that.

They went to a shoe store to get new loafers for Clay and sandals for Joslyn, which were a far cry from the heavy Doc Martins she’d been wearing, but which fit the dress better and lengthened her legs even more. At the store, she was also able to get a new purse, as large as a tote bag.

“Do you really think we’ve got trackers on our clothes?” he asked as they walked back to the car.

“Better to be safe than sorry. We should probably throw them in the trash …” She stared at the parking stall. “Wasn’t our car here?” Instead of his gold-colored Nissan rental, a silver colored pickup truck stood in the spot.

“Maybe we’re on the wrong row.” He strode down a different row, but he was almost certain it was wrong. He remembered that they’d gotten out of the car and the row had led directly to the children’s clothing store at the edge of the mall.

They circled the lot, and Clay hit the button on the remote as he walked, but there was nothing. Finally they returned to the spot he’d thought he’d parked the car.

There was no denying it. Someone had stolen his car.

***

“This is too coincidental.” Joslyn could only stare at the pickup truck. It must have parked in their spot right after their car had been taken.

“But what would anyone have to gain by stealing a rental car?” A muscle twitched in Clay’s jaw.

“I don’t know.”

Clays hands opened and closed into fists as he paced in front of the truck. It reminded her a little of her ex, Tomas, when he became angry, and she couldn’t stop the blip of panic at the sight.

God had protected her once, and she’d trusted that He’d protect her again, especially if she was careful about the situations she’d put herself into. But since coming to Phoenix and meeting Clay, the situation had gotten more and more unpredictable.

Yet a part of her seemed to sense that while Tomas’s temper had gotten out of control, Clay wouldn’t cross that line.

Then again, she’d been wrong about Tomas. How could she know that she wouldn’t be wrong about Clay?

“Let’s get a cab to Fiona’s workplace, since my car is there,” she said.

Clay blew out a long breath and put his hands on his hips, then his back lost that stiffness and he turned to her with an expression still frustrated, but calmer. “You’re right. I’ll call them now. And I have to call the rental company, too.”

Joslyn was surprised she hadn’t had to do more than suggest it. Tomas would have said … But Clay wasn’t Tomas, was he?

In that clothing store, the way he’d looked at her had made her feel …

She hadn’t been attracted to a man in a long time. Her last relationship had been so disastrous, she had walled off her heart and her senses. But now it seemed she was changing, and she wasn’t sure she wanted it that way. She still felt vulnerable after all she’d lost.

She closed her mind to that thought. She couldn’t think about her losses, because then the pain would grip her again and it would take too much time and effort to make it let go.

Her eyes refocused on Clay, speaking to a cab company on his cell phone. Fiona had spoken warmly, although a bit sadly about her brother. She could see aspects of Fiona in Clay, their friendliness to others, their protectiveness. And like Fiona, Clay made Joslyn think differently about herself.

At the clothing store, he had made her feel feminine. She was used to being around men because of her major in software engineering, but even the women she met had been tomboyish like her.

But not Fiona. She’d tried to get Joslyn out of her shell, going out more, interacting with other people more.

Clay had pulled her even further out, shattering her habit of thinking of herself as “one of the guys.” He’d had difficulty in explaining why, but he’d wanted her to wear that dress. And she didn’t understand why she’d listened to him.

After all, Tomas had done the same thing—bought her dresses, told her she was beautiful. Since that episode in her life, she’d retreated to her old fashion sense, the one she’d had before Tomas, which consisted of pants and shirts, practical things that were similar to what the other engineers wore. So why had she listened to Clay about the sundress? Wasn’t this a bad thing?

Luckily she’d brought her side flashbang gun holster with her on this trip, so she hadn’t had to worry about a visible gun harness for her firearm. She only recently gotten her conceal and carry license, since she started working for the O’Neill Agency.

Clay hung up. “The cab should be here in a few minutes. They’re not far away. The rental company said they’d file the police report since they have GPS tracking on the car.”

“Speaking of trackers, I don’t know how they found us. We should check our clothes for trackers.”

They dumped their clothes out on the ground and carefully felt around, but didn’t find anything obvious. “It’s probably still a good idea to toss our clothes. It might make it harder for the men following us to recognize us. Our cell phones, too, in case they managed to put a tracker in them or clone them.”

“No, wait,” Clay said. “Let’s keep our cell phones for a little while.”

“We should at least dismantle them so they can’t trace the GPS—”

“No, keep them on. I have an idea.”

But before she could tell him, the cab arrived. It drove them to Fiona’s workplace so she could pick up her car. When the cab had left, Joslyn asked, “What now?”

“Let’s go to my hotel.”

“But the men after us will know you’ll go back there.”

“It’s what I’m hoping for,” Clay said.

She looked at him strangely. “Does this have to do with the cell phones?”

“Yup. Let’s go.”

His hotel was close to Fiona’s house, which was unfortunately halfway across town, so it took them the better part of an hour before they were finally pulling into the hotel parking lot. There were a couple police squad cars parked outside the front doors. Clay’s shoulders were bunched as he saw them. Joslyn wondered if it was a throwback to his time working for that mob family. He certainly wouldn’t have been happy to see the police back then.

However, as she drove slowly past the squad cars, there was suddenly loud shouting. She instinctively hit the brakes.

Then they were surrounded by police officers, and it seemed like all of them were shouting. Joslyn looked at Clay, but he had the same perplexed look. “What do we do?” she asked.

“Get out of the car, I guess.”

She turned off the engine and slowly got out of the car. Clay opened the passenger side door and slowly stood up, his hands raised.

And suddenly the officers were slamming him face-first against the side of the car and slapping handcuffs on him.

“What’s going on?” Joslyn said. The officers weren’t bothering with her.

“Clay Ashton, you’re under arrest,” one officer said.

“For what?” he demanded.

“A hit and run accident. You put a kid in the hospital.”

(C) 2015 Camy Tang

Here are links to pre-order Gone Missing:

Order print books:

Amazon
Amazon (Large Print)
Alibris.com (links coming soon)
Barnes and Nobleicon
Barnes and Noble (Large Print)icon

Buy ebooks:

Kindle
iBooks
Koboicon
Nookbookicon

You can get all the books in my Sonoma series on ebook—if you’re subscribed to Scribd, the first 3 books plus my two novellas are available—and some in print from online used bookstores. There may also still be new copies of Treacherous Intent still available on Amazon, Alibrisicon, and Barnes and Nobleicon.
    



Protection for Hire book #3

Several of you awesome peeps have emailed me and posted on my Facebook page, asking about the third Protection for Hire series book. Well, I’m working on it right now!

Since Zondervan opted not to publish the third book in the series, I’ll be self-publishing this one. And since I’ll be self-publishing, I can do a little genre-bending.

It’ll still have the same (twisted) humor and suspense/mystery, but it’ll also be a sort of “what if?” storyline. I’ve been calling it a Dystopian, but that’s not accurate—it’s not a far-flung future like The Hunger Games or Divergent, but more like a, “What if something catastrophic happens next week?”

It’ll set the stage for more books in that “what if?” story world, which will be more like true Dystopian books.

Why Dystopian? Because I stinkin’ love them!!!!

I didn’t realize this until recently, but Dystopian and “what if?” storylines have been very popular in anime and manga for a long time, and that’s what I would watch and read when I was a kid. I also loved Marvel comics, which again is that sort of “what if?” alternate present world.

Also, about two and a half years ago, I had a strong Word from God—complete with vision and everything—about this Dystopian world/storyline, and an injunction to WRITE IT. I was powerfully moved, but I also had several writing contracts at the time and decided to finish those and then write the Dystopian.

Well, that never happened. I’d get more contracts, which I’m certainly not going to turn down, and I always told myself I could write the Dystopian in between those contracts. But I was never able to do it. And I started getting burned out. Remember that “bad place self-confidence-wise” that I talked about in my last post? That’s what happens, I guess, when—like a complete idiot—you utterly ignore a Word from God.

So now I’m back on track and writing the books He wanted me to write. While this will be the third Protection for Hire book, it will be the first of, I hope, many in this story world. And some of those might even get traditionally published if a publisher decides to take a chance on me.

So if you’re on my email newsletter, you’ll be sure to hear when this new book will be available. I hope people like it!

And don't worry, I'll still be writing more Regency romance novels, too! My other favorite genre. :)
    


Revised version of THE SPINSTER'S CHRISTMAS

Some of you wonderful people bought Mistletoe Kisses, the Christian romance anthology I self-published with 7 other Christian authors, which has my short novel, The Spinster’s Christmas included.

However, I wanted to revise the Spinster’s Christmas because it had some problems. I wasn’t in a good place self-confidence-wise with my writing when I wrote the book, and so there are some threads that just weren’t resolved well enough for my taste.

So I hired Meredith Efken at The Fiction Fix-It Shop to do a macro/developmental edit on the book (a macro edit is a high-level critique that looks at things like plot structure, character arc, pacing, etc.). I just finished doing revisions on the book and ended up rewriting about 25% of it!

It’s now with Moonshell Books for copy/line editing, because Shelley has an amazing eye for detail and can let me know if anything is too “modern” or “American.”

I’ll be releasing this revised version hopefully the end of this month or early in May as a separate ebook. If you belong to my Camille Elliot newsletter, you’ll be sure to hear when it’s available.

I’ve already got a cover for it, thanks to Dineen Miller. Isn’t this beautiful? He’s even got a cane in the picture, and the dress is in the book.
    


More Recent Articles



Click here to safely unsubscribe from Camy's Loft. Click here to view mailing archives, here to change your preferences, or here to subscribePrivacy