Secret Stalker – February 21, 2017 (paperback)
March 1, 2017 (eBook)
Tennessee SWAT Series (Book#3)
Publisher –Harlequin Intrigue
A SWAT officer must protect the woman who broke his heart
Years ago, detective and part-time SWAT officer Max Remington proposed to the woman he loved. Her response? To flee town—and Max's life—under a cloud of suspicion. Folks said Bexley Kane killed the man "allegedly" stalking her and got away with murder. Now Bex is back in Destiny, Tennessee, but their tense reunion is cut short when bullets start flying, and this time, they're aimed at her. As Max fights to keep Bex safe, he's also fighting to protect his heart. Can they unravel the secrets of the past in time to save each other? Or will Bex's final secret destroy them both?
Read Reviews | Read Excerpt
“Fantastic as always…Must read book.” – Mona, Goodreads
“A Nail biting Suspense!...The chemistry between the two, sends sparks flaring all over.” – Nicole Laverdure, Goodreads
The whispers started thirty seconds after Bexley Kane walked down aisle three in the Piggly Wiggly on Magnolia Street. Not that there was a Piggly Wiggly on any other street in the tiny town of Destiny, Tennessee. With a population the size of a large high school in other parts of the state, this town could only support one grocery store. And one movie theater. And one Waffle House. But, oddly enough, there were four Starbucks. Too bad not one of them was anywhere close to Magnolia Street. Bex sure could use a venti caramel macchiato right now.
Head high, shoulders back, she began filling her cart as quickly as possible while pretending not to notice the other shoppers talking behind their hands as she passed. But, come on, did they really believe that she didn’t know they were gossiping about her? She could well imagine what they were saying.
Is that who I think it is? What’s it been, ten years? Why is she back in town?
You didn’t hear? Her mama done passed away. I heard she died of a broken heart, on account of her daughter didn’t visit even once after she got run out of town.
You think Chief Thornton will arrest her this time?
Is there a statute of limitations on murder?
“Miss Kane, nice to see you today.” Mr. Dawson gave Bex a genuine, welcoming smile from behind the deli counter. “I was hoping I’d see your lovely face at least one more time before you left Destiny. You here for lunch? We’ve got a brand-new batch of pickled pigs’ feet.” He proudly thumped a large jar on top of the display case that looked like a science experiment gone horribly wrong.
Bex very nearly lost her breakfast. She averted her gaze from the nauseating sight and smiled at one of the few person in Destiny who hadn’t treated her like a pariah in the week that she’d been back.
“Hello, Mr. Dawson. I called in an order for some lunch meats and grilled chicken. Could you see whether it’s ready, please?”
“Gladys must have taken that order. I’ll check the cooler. Won’t take but a minute.” He opened the massive walk-in refrigerator behind him and headed inside.
Bex checked her grocery list. The only thing left to get was mustard, one of several things she’d forgotten the first time she’d been in the store. After today’s shopping trip, she should have enough to tide her over for several more days, until she finished taking care of all of the details of her mother’s estate. Then she could hop into her car and leave Destiny in the dust. Again. And this time, she’d never come back.
If she remembered correctly, Mr. Dawson kept the condiments across the aisle from the meat case. Since little else had changed in this town, she doubted that had, either. She turned around—and locked gazes with the one person she’d hoped to avoid.
His golden-brown eyes stared at her in shock for all of three seconds. Then they filled with anger. His jaw clamped tight and, without a word, he circled around her and headed to the sandwich counter at the other end of the deli.
Gladys miraculously appeared as if from thin air, eager to take Max’s order. Bex couldn’t help noticing that he was all smiles and yes, ma’ams, no, ma’ams when speaking to the older woman. But he couldn’t even spare a hello for his former lover.
His curt dismissal shouldn’t hurt. After all, she was the one who’d left him. But he’d been her first love. And she’d built him up in her mind over the years as her handsome hero, dreaming of what life could have been, should have been, if she’d said yes that night.
And if Bobby Caldwell hadn’t died.
She grabbed a jar of mustard and allowed herself the guilty pleasure of admiring Max from beneath her lashes—all six feet two of him. At eighteen, he’d been the cutest, sweetest, most popular boy at Destiny High. At twenty-eight, he was a devastatingly handsome man with bulging biceps and muscular thighs filling out the gangly frame of his youth. His dark hair was short on the sides, thick and wavy on top. He’d been clean shaven when she’d been with him. Now his angular face was framed by neatly trimmed stubble, as if he was considering growing a beard but hadn’t yet committed.
He dressed pretty much the same as he had back then: nothing fancy, just a no-nonsense button-up blue linen shirt neatly tucked into a pair of crisp jeans. In deference to the chilly autumn air outside, he wore a lightweight navy blue jacket. And as he turned to point to something in the display case for Gladys, the white lettering on his back reassured Bex that she’d made the right decision all those years ago—the letters spelled Destiny Police Department.
Good for you, Max. You chased your dream after all.
“Will you be needing anything else, Miss Kane?”
She forced her gaze away from Max, her face flushing with heat when Mr. Dawson glanced down the counter, then back at her, obviously noting her interest in her former high school sweetheart.
He handed her a brown paper sack that was stapled closed. “Your order’s inside. Just show the cashier that code on the bag at checkout and she’ll ring up the manager’s special. That’ll save you a couple of dollars.”
“Thank you.” She lowered her voice. “I really appreciate how nice you’ve been to me. You’re one of the few people who’s made this trip bearable.”
“You don’t need to thank me for doing what’s right. It’s a downright shame how nasty folks can be. They ought not to be throwing stones without taking a long, hard look at themselves first.”
She smiled again, painfully aware that Max and Gladys had stopped talking the moment she’d thanked Mr. Dawson. Was Max looking at her? Had he decided to acknowledge her existence after all?
The sound of his boots echoed on the tile floor as he strode toward her. She clutched the bag and jar of mustard against her chest, frozen in place while she desperately tried to think of something, anything, to say.
He stalked past without even looking at her.
Bex’s breath rushed out of her, deflating her like a popped balloon.
Someone cleared their throat. Mr. Dawson. He was watching her with a sympathetic expression on his face. Beside him, Gladys looked decidedly less friendly, a frown wrinkling her brow, her hands on her generous hips. There was no doubt about whose side she was on. Not that there were any sides to take. A fight required two people, and Max hadn’t cared enough about the outcome to even stick around for the first volley.
Bex nodded her thanks to Mr. Dawson before putting her items in the cart and heading toward the back of the store, as if there was something else she needed. What she really needed was a moment to compose herself.
Not wanting to risk another encounter with Max, she strolled along the rear aisle toward the other side of the store, putting off checking out until she was certain he’d be gone.
Maybe she should just get in her Rav4 and hit the road right now. She could hire someone else to pack up her mom’s house. Settling the last legal details of the estate through the mail instead of working with her lawyer in person would delay things. But at least she wouldn’t have to endure one more person’s disapproving stare. And her heart wouldn’t have to face Max again.
She tried to convince herself that it wasn’t cowardice that had her wanting to run—it was self-preservation. Because it had taken years to tape and glue the pieces of her broken heart back together. But shattering it again had only taken one angry look from Max Remington.