A split-second decision can alter the course of your life.
Adara’s enigmatic and sexy boss asks a simple question.
“How will you celebrate your twenty-first birthday?”
Adara’s plan to escape the lie she’s lived since her parents’ death is so close she can inhale freedom. Days away, it holds the key to her survival. Finagling a job at a private investigation firm has added the final touches to her strategy to live under the radar. Her hunters are as sadistic as they are persistent.
Julien Crofton, an ex-Special Forces, private investigator, is unable to forge a connection with his beautiful personal assistant. Submissive by nature, she holds a will of steel underneath the haunted exterior. When he learns she comes with her own psychopathic stalker, determination to keep her safe tests his skills.
Passions ignite while evading her perverted family and a psychopathic stalker.
Warning: adult content and ramifications of rape discussed.
Cell phones equaled the bane of Julien’s existence, except when they saved a life. His client, a woman targeted by her monstrous ex, hadn’t answered all afternoon.
With his attention divided between a staff meeting and the difficult client who ignored logic, his frustration skyrocketed. He’d fired off several texts before calling her house. The repetitive drone of her dial tone sent his paranoia level to DEFCON 1.
A homebody, her adventurous streak ranged the scale between knitting and collecting scarves. She should have been home.
He understood the type of man she’d married, weak-minded, controlling, and abusive, puppeteer to her marionette. From the first and only meeting where she sought his help, fear had radiated from her pores, exhaled in every breath until cloaking her damaged spirit.
Purple, blue, and maroon hues splashed the western sky, the color of the bruises she failed to conceal when slouched in the office chair. Soon, darkness would bleach all color from the sky, the same way death bleached color from soulless bodies. He drove faster, the wheels drumming on the asphalt, chasing headlights forever out of reach, just like her reasoning for going back to the house of horrors.
The setting sun reminded him that her husband would return from work soon and carry his rage home in search of a target. Similarities with memories from childhood provoked a shiver despite the meager light converted to heat via the windshield. Childhood flashbacks served no useful purpose.
Ignorance and nonchalance had twined to frame a bull’s eye on her forehead. He’d advised her to leave home two days prior, yet fear prevailed, dominating courage and hope. They could handle legalities later, but not if she lacked a pulse. The frightened woman insisted on returning to the dirtball in hopes of—something better.
The late morning call had demonstrated her new vein of determination, a declaration she was ready to pack it in and start a new life. Failure to arrive at his office either meant the scales of indecision favored the familiar—or she’d arrived at her decision too late.
As a private investigator, he’d seen the scenario rehearsed and unfold many times. For reasons unknown, human nature’s broken record played out on the Mobius strip, fate having trapped him in the loop.
The steady slap and scrape of windshield wipers whisked the few drops of rain from his windshield, evidence of heaven mourning its angels. He stomped the accelerator.
His Mazda ate up the miles as he tried to focus on the facts. The closer he got to her house, the more his mind screamed with recriminations…Too late. You should’ve come earlier.
Stones skittered into the grass bordering her driveway as the car slid to a stop in front of the bungalow. The one with the front door ajar.
Oh God, I’m too late. Not again. With little recollection of exiting the car or racing through the doorway, he knew in his gut what awaited. He’d promised her help, and failed. It didn’t matter that she’d ignored his advice.
In the middle of the living room floor, she lay face down, naked, remnants of pain still etched in her expression. Blood pooled under her abdomen in an ever-widening arc. Spatters of red adorned the surrounding wall cabinets, TV, and sofa. Her hair, burnt copper in the fading light and streaming through the bay window, didn’t cover wide staring eyes.
His heart pounded and sweat beaded his forehead. With shaking fingers, he bent and touched her neck to find a pulse, weak, fast, and thready. She’ll never make it, his subconscious roared as he snatched up his cell to dial nine one one.
The universe absorbed his bellowed pain, now perceived as colder than her body.
The warmth of her soul flowed out to stain the carpet in wild abandon. Air redolent of copper and the residue of gunpowder propelled the sour wad of acid to the back of his throat. The yapping of her ankle biter at his feet didn’t register until he saw its footprints surrounding the woman’s thin frame, written in her blood.
There were no second chances to avoid catastrophe. His excuses wouldn’t comfort her now.
Reily is a West Coast girl transplanted to the opposite shore. When she’s not working with her dogs, you can find her curled up with a book or writing her next story. Past employment as an ICU nurse, private investigator, and work in the military police has given her countless experiences in a host of different environments to add a real world feel to her fiction.
Over time, and several careers, many incidents have flavored the plots of her stories. Man’s cruelty and ingenuity for torment and torture is boundless, not contained by an infinite imagination. Witnessing the after-effects of a teenager mugged at knifepoint for a pair of tennis shoes, or an elderly woman stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver for no apparent reason, left an indelible impression that will forever haunt her subconscious. In counterpoint, she has observed a woman stop her vehicle in severe, snowy weather to offer her own winter coat to a stranger, a teenager wearing a threadbare hoodie. Life’s diversities are endless.
Though her kids are her life, writing is Reily’s life after. The one enjoyed after the kids are in bed or after they’re in school and the house is quiet. This is the time she kicks back with laptop and lapdog to give her imagination free rein.
In reading, take pleasure in a mental pause as you root for your favorite hero/heroine and bask in their accomplishments, then share your opinions of them over a coffee with your best friend (even if he’s four-legged). Life is short. Cherish your time.
Sean spotted Brooke the moment he stepped into the
house. He turned to Jasper.
“You say the neighbor found her?”
“That’s right,” the officer said. “Lady let her
dog out, and he started barking like crazy, so she went outside to see what was
going on and spotted the victim in a pool of blood there on the porch. Name’s
Samantha Bonner. She works at a coffee shop.”
Sean raked his hand through his damp hair,
scattering water on the floor. “Married? Kids?”
Jasper shook his head. “Neighbor says she lives
Sean unzipped his SMPD windbreaker and glanced at
Brooke again. She was on her knees by the back door, lifting fingerprints. Just
beyond her was the victim, and the ME’s people were already unzipping the body
Sean was accustomed to seeing Brooke surrounded by
blood and gore, but this was bad. He studied the victim, noting the position of
the body, the clothing.
Brooke closed her evidence kit and got to her feet
as Sean stepped over.
“Hi,” she said, looking him up and down. “Where
were you guys?”
“Got stuck behind an accident near the tracks. Tow
truck’s blocking the road, so we had to hoof it.”
“Don’t drip water all over my crime scene.”
Sean smiled. “Yours?”
For a moment they just looked at each other, and
Sean tried to read her expression. She seemed grimmer than usual.
“Detective? Can we bag her?”
Brooke shot a blistering look at the ME’s
assistant, clearly not liking his glib tone.
Sean stepped into the utility room to take a look
at the back porch. The whole area was a bloodbath.
“Jesus,” Ric said, coming up beside him. “You get
all this, Maddie?”
“Yes, I’m finished with the porch,” the
photographer called from the kitchen.
The ME’s guy looked at Sean again. “Detective?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
Sean turned around. Brooke was watching the scene
now, clutching her evidence kit so tightly her knuckles were white. He motioned
for her to follow him into the living room.
Brooke was short and slender, with pale skin and a
plump pink mouth he’d always wondered about. As she looked up at him he noticed
the worry line between her brows.
Her eyebrows shot up. “You mean besides the fact
that this woman was practically decapitated on her doorstep?”
She took a deep breath and glanced around. “This
crime scene bugs me.”
“Look at it. See for yourself.”
Without another word, she stepped around him and
went back into the kitchen to crouch beside the pantry door.
Sean pulled some latex gloves from his pocket and
tugged them on as he surveyed the kitchen. It was clean and uncluttered, except
for a stack of mail on the counter beside a key. He studied the key for a
moment, but resisted the urge to pick it up.
He opened the fridge. Yogurt, salad kit, pomegranate
juice. On the lower shelf was a six-pack of root beer with a bottle missing
from the carton. A bottle sat on the breakfast table—unopened—and Maddie was
snapping a picture of it now.
Sean glanced through the open back door as the
ME’s people started loading the body bag onto a gurney. The victim’s clothes
had been intact, and she’d shown no obvious sign of sexual assault. At first
glance, it looked like the killer had grabbed her from behind and slit her
throat. Given the lack of blood inside, Sean figured the attacker had fled down
the driveway to the street or maybe hopped the back fence.
Ric stepped into the kitchen again. “Her purse is
on the back porch. Wallet’s inside, but no cell phone.”
“You check the car?” Sean asked.
“Not yet. Let’s walk through the house first.”
“Don’t move anything,” Maddie said. “I haven’t
been back there yet.”
Sean led the way. It was a simple layout, with
rooms off a central hallway. The bathroom smelled like ammonia. Sean switched
on the light.
“House is squeaky clean,” Ric observed.
The pedestal sink gleamed. Sean opened the
medicine cabinet. Toothpaste, cough drops, tampons. Ric eased back the shower
curtain to reveal a shiny tub with several bottles of hair products lined up on
They moved on to the bedroom, where they found a
neatly made queen bed with a light blue comforter. No decorative pillows, just
two in pink pillowcases that matched the sheets.
“Not a lot of pillows,” Sean said.
“Pillows. Most women put a lot on the bed, don’t
“I don’t know,” Ric said. “My wife does.”
Sean studied the room. It smelled like vanilla. On
the dresser were several plastic trays of makeup and one of those bottles of
liquid air freshener with the sticks poking up. Sean spied a sticky note
attached to the mirror and leaned closer to read the feminine handwriting: One day, one breath.
Was it a poem? A song lyric? Maybe Samantha’s own
The closet door was ajar, and Sean nudged it open.
Six pairs of jeans, all on hangers. A couple dozen T-shirts, also hanging.
Ric whistled. “Damn. You know anyone who arranges
their T-shirts by color?”
Sean looked around the bedroom again. “Pretty
basic,” he said. “Not a lot here.”
He walked back through the house, noting a conspicuous
absence of anything that would indicate a male presence. No razors on the sink
or man-size shoes kicking around. No beer in the fridge. The living room was
simply furnished with a sofa, a coffee table, and a smallish flat-screen TV.
“Looks to me like she lives alone,” Ric said,
turning to Jasper. “You say she works at a restaurant?”
“Coffee shop, according to the neighbor lady.”
Jasper took out a spiral pad and consulted his notes. “The one over on Elm
“I’ve never been in there.” Ric looked at Sean.
Sean glanced around the living room, which was
devoid of clutter. Maybe the victim didn’t have a lot of money for extras, but
even so, most women tended to decorate their homes more than this. Sean hadn’t
spotted a single framed photo in the entire place.
The strobe of a camera flash drew his attention
into the kitchen again. Brooke was right. This scene seemed odd. Sean had
worked a lot of homicides over the years, and most boiled down to money, drugs,
Sean had seen no sign of sexual assault. No drugs
or drug paraphernalia or even alcohol. No hint of illegal activity. No evidence
of a boyfriend.
A remote control sat on the coffee table. Sean had
watched Brooke in action enough to know it would be one of the first items she
collected to dust for prints.
“I don’t see any blood trails or signs of struggle
inside,” Ric said. “Doesn’t feel like the assailant was in the house.”
“I’m not getting a read on motive.”
“I know.” Ric shook his head. “Doesn’t look like a
rape or a robbery. No cash or drugs around.”
“We need her phone. I want to search her car and
the surrounding area.”
“I’ll go check the car,” Ric said.
He exited the front, and Sean returned to the
kitchen. Brooke wasn’t there. Maddie knelt in the pantry with her camera, and
Sean noticed the pantry door was missing.
“What happened to the door?”
She glanced at him. “Brooke took it.”
“Took it where?”
“Back to the lab.”
Sean stared at her. “You mean she’s gone?”
“She needed to test something. She said it was
“Yo, Sean, come here,” Ric called from outside.
Sean walked out the front, glancing at his watch.
Why had Brooke left already? This scene would take hours to process and they
were just getting started.
Ric was in the driveway near the Kia. Another
Delphi CSI in gray coveralls was crouching beside the car.
Ric glanced up at Sean. “Jackpot.”
There’s nothing like a ringside seat for the action! An absolute 5 star read.
Though, (regrettably) I haven’t read all of the Tracers’
books in this series, they are now at the top of my TBR list. The good news is,
you don’t have to read them in order. The bad news is – you won’t sleep until
you’re finished reading!
Brooke Porter is a fingerprint expert called to work a
particularly gruesome murder scene, a woman slaughtered on her own doorstep.
Brooke’s special training and attention to detail reveals clues other
detectives overlooked and provides the first leads in the case.
Sean Byrne is a homicide detective who has investigated the
worst of what man can offer. When he arrives at a victim’s house, the woman
nearly decapitated, he and his partner are stymied until Brooke presents a scenario
involving a child witness.
The characters are so real and down to earth, you can see
them as people you’d interact with. Their interactions are consistent and
heartfelt throughout while the banter stays lively and tension remains high.
As usual with this author’s writing, this book takes you on
a twisted ride with the perfect amount of detail to keep you intrigued. Technical
aspects are described in a way that is both easily understood and flows very
well with the plot.
Both Brook and Sean are incredibly hot, their romance interwoven
throughout the ride. Still the fast pace will keep you glued to your seat.
Warning: Line up your favorite beverages before you start.
You won’t want to miss a darn thing. Of all the authors I’ve read, Laura
Griffin should be at the top of everyone’s list!
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN
started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic
suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner as well as the recipient of the
Daphne du Maurier Award. Laura currently lives in Austin, where she is working
on her next book. Visit her at www.LauraGriffin.com
To celebrate TOUCH OF RED Laura's hosting a Rafflecopter