USA Today Bestselling Author
Paxton, while trying to get clearance to return to work, calls his physio to ask why he’s refusing to sign off on his documents—only to hear gunfire through the phone, killing the man he was talking too. Racing to the scene, he finds the gunman still there, in anguish and in fury, telling Paxton a tale of blackmail and fraud, before killing himself.
Hearing the same phone conversation that Paxton made while in her office, Cherise races behind to make sure he’s okay, as the police move in. Standing together at the scene of the crime, however, puts them both in the target zone, as someone tries to keep the details of the blackmail a secret.
Trying to keep Cherise and himself safe, while unravelling the rot going on under the surface, Paxton realizes just how personal this case has become …
If there’s one thing Dale Mayer does well, it’s starting a book with a bang. In this one it’s a bit more than that. Paxton has requested a transfer to Mason’s group and is waiting for clearance. Mason tells him to check with Cherise since she would be able to spot something that might be wrong in the paperwork. What she finds is a note from his Physio and that has Paxton calling to ask why. Instead of answers he hears gunshots.
Cherise calls 911 while Paxton races to his Physio’s office. When he gets there, he’s accosted by the gunman who tells him quite the story before shooting himself. Now Paxton wonders if there’s anything to it.
On seeing Cherise outside the building after being released by the police, Paxton talks her into having dinner with him. Cherise texts Mason to let him know what’s going on and he asks that she keep him updated, including Paxton’s mental state.
Cherise recognizes the name of the gunman. He made her uncomfortable when he came in to get information on his paperwork. Although everything Paxton relates about the man sounds like a conspiracy theory, it could also be more than that. The question is motivation, the man wanted to go back to work not the opposite.
After returning home, Cherise feels uneasy. When Paxton calls, she admits to that and also an urge to flee. Paxton heads back to her and intercepts a messenger that then gives Cherise what appears to be a veiled threat to stay away from ‘him’.
Instead of staying put, Paxton and Cherise go out for coffee, and as they go over the events so far, Paxton decides to call Mason. Mason agrees that the MPs and civilian police should be talking in the case and sets that in motion. It’s when they return to Cherise’s that they find another warning in her apartment. Instead of reporting it Cherise lets Paxton take pictures and send them to Mason and then sends him home after they straighten things up.
Cherise is going to end up knee deep in this as the next day she does a search and finds others who have complained about being stopped from returning to work. Mason agrees Paxton should have the names so they can investigate further.
Then dead bodies start showing up.
This is a favorite scene.
“I’m going back to Cherise’s place,” he replied. “That’s the fourth death connected to this case— that we know about. I don’t feel good leaving her alone.”
“It’s still a bit of a stretch to say it’s connected,” Mason cautioned.
“Not that big of a stretch,” Paxton murmured, “but I hear you.” He was already headed toward her apartment. When he got there, he called up from the outside intercom. When she answered, he felt a wave of relief flood his senses, and he realized how much tension had built up on the drive over.“Hey, it’s me. May I come up?”
“Did you bring lunch?” she asked crossly.
He winced at that. “I thought maybe we’d pick something up and head for the beach.” After a moment’s hesitation, she buzzed him in. He bolted up to the fourth floor, with her standing outside her apartment when he got there. “Hey, are you okay?” he asked, reaching out his hand to gently grasp her upper arm.
“I’m fine. I’m just more pissed off than anything.”
“Did you ever ask management if video cameras might have captured any intruders here?”
“I did,” she huffed. “Security cameras haven’t been working all week. So I’m guessing you can probably say all month,” she murmured. “Apparently it’s something they’ve been trying to get fixed.”
“Of course.” Paxton motioned to the living room. “May I come in?”
“I thought we’re leaving,” she said, looking at him suspiciously. Then, seeing something in his expression, she motioned him inside. “Okay. Let’s talk about … whatever.” As soon as she closed the door, she turned to look at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Rick, one of the two guys I know on that first list of four, remember?”
She nodded. “Yeah, what about him?”
“He’s dead,” Paxton shared starkly. Then he quickly relayed the morning’s activities.
She stared at him in shock. “Oh my word.” She walked to her couch and sat down. Then she looked at him sharply. “But there’s isn’t any guarantee that it was connected to this mess, is there?”
“Not at this point,” he replied. “He was apparently at a party last night.”
She reached up a hand to her forehead and whispered, “What are the chances?”
“Not great,” Paxton confirmed.
“You still have a few other names to check.”
“I sent the other guy I know a text message, but I haven’t heard back.”
“Did you check where he lives?”
“I don’t know where he lives,” Paxton noted. “I could head down to the gym and see if he was there, which is where I usually see him.”
“Right. Maybe you should do that first.” She checked her watch. “It’s only eleven. I was planning on getting out of here soon, but I need to run some errands and do some banking,” she shared. “Why don’t we meet up someplace in about an hour, so meanwhile you can check out those other names.”
“Agreed,” he said immediately, then hesitated. “I did get the message with the other four names that got pulled, and Mason told me about Dr. Comline being killed in a car accident.”
She nodded grimly. “And the chances of that not being connected are?”
“Almost impossible,” Paxton declared. “So, as much as I would like to keep track of you all day, I’m pretty sure you won’t agree to having a tail.”
She immediately shook her head. “Besides, you have things to do,” she replied gently. “I’ll just stay aware. I’ll do a couple simple errands, and then I’ll meet you … where?”
He mentioned a hamburger joint within walking distance. She nodded. “Fine, I’m not sure I can do burgers two days in a row, but—”
“We can always eat somewhere else. That’s just an open public meeting place. So I’ll see you there in an hour.” He reached over, gave her a gentle hug, and said, “Promise me that you’ll stay safe.”
Dale Mayer. Paxton (Kindle Locations 1250-1283). Valley Publishing Ltd..
These two are getting to know each other in spite of or maybe because of the circumstances surrounding them. Things are a bit convoluted, and the path gets complicated, but the romance evolves.
The suspense stays high, and the romance begins to sizzle as this story unfolds.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.