A recovering alcoholic, Jake Inman has found a new, healthier addiction: training for his successful triathlon career. But when his manager is murdered and beloved goddaughter kidnapped, another obsession takes hold: doing whatever it takes to find Brandon’s killer and keep Amy safe. Jake turns to a private investigator for help in solving the case, and though he finds temptation in her whiskey-colored eyes, he knows he must resist his attraction, or risk losing his heart.
After a devastating case, Winona Wall has turned her back on her skills as a private investigator, preferring a quiet life as a part-time bartender. That is, until Jake storms into the bar, demanding her help in tracking his missing godchild. Unable to resist Jake’s charm, she reluctantly agrees. But even after Amy is found unharmed, Jake insists Amy’s mother was more involved with her kidnapping than the police suspect. When the situation takes a turn for the worse, Winona must trust her instincts in order to save them all—and avoid falling in love.
The Jeep bounced along the road, up steep mountain slopes, as rain fell in sheets. Winona gasped as the Jeep slid through slick channels of mud, but Jake managed to hold it tight. The roads were spongy, absorbing water, then wringing it out in a collection of goo.
She imagined water gushing around her. Imagined falling to their death. Being sucked into the earth by sludge. The sky had turned dark, merciless, and she couldn’t see a damn thing but the Jeep lights soaking an otherwise indistinguishable trail. The wind clamored across the ragtop as if it wasn’t even attached.
“We’re almost there,” Jake had assured her several times as she clenched the grab handle. They had made it past the public roads just fine, and she felt this trail was way worse than he’d described. “It feels worse than it is,” he continued. “I’ve traveled this road hundreds of times.”
“We should wait for backup.” She checked her phone yet again but had no service. She couldn’t call Garret to find out what was going on at his end, and none of her texts was going through. As a private investigator, she’d done many stupid things alone. This ranked top of her list.
She opened the glove compartment. Searched under the seats, behind the seats.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking to see if Chayton has any ammo or guns in his Jeep. Knowing my brother, he doesn’t.”
Her arsenal consisted of the .380 she’d hidden in her pants and the 9mm she kept in her purse. She’d feel much better if she had an assault rifle as backup, or at least her shotgun. Not that she could handle any more than two at a time anyway, if she was lucky to handle more than one.
Jake cracked his knuckles. “The only ammo I need is right here.”
Winona settled in her seat and faced him. He continued to peer out the window as the heavy downpour seemed to crack the Jeep’s ragtop. But the Jeep held steady. “Really, Jake?”
“Yep. That and adrenaline.”
“So your fists, your arms, will help you dodge bullets? You don’t think that whoever we meet at this cabin won’t have their adrenaline? You know we could be heading into a trap, right?”
“You think I care about that right now? All I care about is my little girl.”
“How do we know she’s even there? Lillian could be lying to you. Setting you up. If she had anything to do with Brandon’s murder, anything at all, then—”
“You didn’t have to come!”
“We can’t just go in there without a plan.”
“I have a plan.”
“We don’t even know who’s there. How many are there. If Amy is even there.”
“I know that cabin like the back of my hand. We’re close, and I’m damn sure not stopping or turning around.”
She squared her shoulders, digging in her purse for the 9mm. She checked the clip and handed it to him.
“Do you at least know how to shoot?”
“Are you kidding me, Winona?”
“No, I’m not kidding you. If it comes down to it, can you shoot a living, breathing human being if he’s threatening your life or those you love?”
“Maybe you’re a tough street chick who carries a couple of guns everywhere she goes. I can picture you with an AK on your back and a belt of bullets strapped around your chest. But I can hold my own. I might not be a cop, but I’m probably a better marksman than most. I was four years old when I shot my dad’s rifle for the first time. I grew up around hunting and fishing, spitting and shooting.”
“Hunting is a lot different than killing a person.”
“And you would know better than me how?”
“Well, I’ve never had to kill anyone. Most of my PI work didn’t involve danger.”
Jake glanced at her. Shadows deepened the hard lines of his face, making him appear lethal. But the last time a friend had helped in an investigation, he’d ended up dead.
In many ways Jake reminded her of Naomi’s ex, Caleb. Caleb had become addicted to alcohol, ruined his relationship with Naomi, and Winona had befriended him when he came to Montana to try to win Naomi back. He was trying to change, trying to get better, when he was shot outside the police station by the cronies who wanted to kill Garret.
Caleb had died because of quick and irrational decisions. At the time, she had been holed up safely with her mother and she knew it was nobody’s fault. But she knew they hadn’t thought things through, and she worried the same thing was about to happen again.
“If my life or the life of anyone I care about is in danger, I will shoot. If you threatened Amy, I’d shoot you.” Jake patted her on the leg before returning his hands to the wheel. “You worry too much. Stop worrying.” He turned off the lights and drove.
“What are you doing?” Winona squinted through the gray. It shouldn’t be dark yet, but the unrelenting skies held the sun hostage.
Jake pulled under a tree and shut off the engine.
“I think it’s best if we walk the rest of the way.”
“Walk? I didn’t exactly bring my hiking gear.”
Jake glanced down at her tennis shoes. “Those will have to do.”
About the Author
Angela Smith is a Texas native and was dubbed most likely to write a novel during her senior year in high school since she always had her nose stuck in a book. Although high school was decades ago, the dream began when her mom read ‘Brer Rabbit’ to her and her sister so often they could recite it back to each other before ever learning to read. Research is one of her favorite parts of piecing together a story, and she loves creating new characters. Angela started with writing romantic suspense and is branching into other genres, but she hasn’t been able to write one yet where falling in love doesn’t come into play. She works as a certified paralegal and office manager at her local District Attorney’s office and spends her free time with her husband and the animals on her small farm. Although life in general keeps her very busy, her passion for writing and getting the stories out of her head tends to make her restless if she isn’t following what some people call her destiny.
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