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FINAL EXIT -- Lena Diaz



Mountain Witness
Tennessee SWAT Series (Book#2)

A woman in hiding and a man on a mission in the Smoky Mountains 

Detective Chris Downing doesn't know much about his neighbor. In the rural town of Destiny, Tennessee, Julie Webb lives a life of seclusion, rarely even offering a smile or wave. Only when Chris hears her frantic screams one night does he gain a glimpse into the life of a woman in hiding, and in saving her life, he is forced to kill her attacker. But Julie's troubles are only beginning to unravel. When Chris learns the identity of Julie's attacker, questions of trust are raised and suspicions run high. Together they will uncover the motives of a killer…and the undeniable attraction between them. 

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Chapter One

Blood, there was so much blood. Julie stood over him, one hand braced on the bed’s footboard, the other still holding the gun. The blood soaked his shirt, seeping between his fingers as he clutched at the bullet hole in his side. Air wheezed between his teeth, his startlingly blue eyes blazing with hatred through the openings in the ski mask. The same eyes that had once stared at her with such love that they’d stolen her breath away.

Right before he’d said, “I do.”

Julie Webb shook her head, blinking away the memories, wishing she could put the past behind her just as easily. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel as she sat in the driveway, the thin pale line on her ring finger the only tangible reminder of the diamond that had once sat there.

Stop it. He can’t hurt you anymore. It’s time to move on.

Unfortunately, with most of her assets frozen while the courts did their thing back in Nashville, moving on meant hiding out in the tiny—aka affordable—rural town of Destiny, Tennessee. And with the limited rentals available in Blount County, she’d chosen the lesser of evils, the one place with some land around it—an old farmhouse that had sat vacant for so long that the owner had been desperate to rent it. Desperate equaled cheap. And that was the only reason that Julie had taken it. Well, that and the fact that Destiny was a good three hours from Nashville. She wasn’t likely to run into anyone she knew in the local grocery store.

The sound of a horn honking had her looking in her rearview mirror, reminding her why she was in her car to begin with. The moving truck sat idling in the gravel road that ran past the expansive front yard, waiting for her to back out so it could back in. After two days of living out of a suitcase and sleeping on the floor, having a couch and a bed again was going to feel like heaven.

She put the car in Reverse, hesitating when she noticed that her only neighbor had come out onto his front porch. Long, unpaved road, dead end, surrounded by acres of trees and pastures, and she still had a neighbor to contend with. A handsome, sex-on-a-stick kind of guy to boot. Which was going to make ignoring him difficult, but not impossible. She’d had her own sex-on-a-stick kind of man before. And look what it had gotten her.

He flashed her a friendly smile and waved just as he’d done every time he’d seen her in the past two days. And once again, she pretended not to notice. She backed out of the driveway.

Rhythmic beeping sounded from the truck as it took the place of her car, stopping just inches from the porch that ran along the front of the white clapboard house. It was a much smaller, one-story clone of the place next door. There weren’t any fences on either property, so she wasn’t sure where his acreage ended and hers began. But clearly he had a lot more land than her rental. The mowed part of his yard extended for a good quarter of a mile to the end of their street.

She didn’t care, didn’t want to know anything about him. The only way to survive this temporary exile was to keep to herself and make sure that none of her acquaintances figured out where she was. Which meant not associating with the hunk next door or anyone else who might recognize her name or her face in case any of the news stories had made it out this far. She fervently hoped they hadn’t.

The movers had the ramp set up by the time she’d walked up the long gravel driveway. It would allow them to cart the boxes and furniture directly to the top of the porch without having to navigate the steps. That meant everything should go quickly, especially since she didn’t have much for them to unload—just the bare essentials and a few things she’d refused to leave in storage.

She risked a quick look toward the house next door. The friendly man was gone. A twinge of guilt shot through her for having ignored him. He was probably a perfectly nice guy and deserved to be treated better. But her life was extremely complicated right now. By ignoring him, by not letting him get involved in any way in her problems, she was doing him a favor.

“Ma’am, where do you want this?” one of the movers asked, holding up a box.

Apparently, the thick black letters on the side that spelled “kitchen” weren’t enough of a hint.

She jogged up the steps. But, before going inside, she hesitated and looked over her shoulder at the thick woods on the other side of the road. The hairs were standing up on the back of her neck.

“Ma’am?” the mover holding the box called out. He lifted the box a few inches, as if to remind her he was still holding it.

“Sorry, this way.” She headed inside, but couldn’t shake the feeling of doom that had settled over her.

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