USA Today Bestselling Author
Finding out that an old friend was kidnapped, tortured, then deep-sixed in the harbor, complete with cement boots—and survived—sends Steve rushing to California to help. Also Opal and her mother had appealed to Levi to find Steve and to send him to help, if possible.
Opal has been through the worst possible scenario, but it’s not over, as her kidnapers were looking for something she didn’t have. She’d been to hell and back for a couple years already and had hoped the worst was over. How wrong could she be? And it wouldn’t ever end, unless she found what these men were looking for or stopped them altogether.
With her in hiding, and Steve now back in her life, she’s finally hopeful she might survive. Until things take an ugly turn, … and having a future is no longer a guarantee.
The case Levi has for Steven is one he doesn’t expect and is practically running for the door when he hears what has happened. Opal is friend from long ago, he keeps in touch but not as frequently as he maybe should.
The last couple of years have been hard on Opal and her mother, Ruby. Her father was a dirty cop, and even his partner Marshal didn’t know what he was up to. Marshal had to leave the force with all the side-eyes and constant questioning of his abilities. It was him and a doctor friend of his who saved Opal from certain death.
When Steven and his partner on this, Reyes, meet up with Marshal there’s a lot of
secrecy around where they were going. Marshal has put Ruby and Opal’s safety above all else.
As they get details, what they find is there are a lot of suspects due to the nature of the crimes Opal’s father committed. All Opal knows is that there questioning of her centered on some sort of stash.
As Steve and Reyes get ready to go check into their hotel they are met with a resounding NO from Opal.
This is a favorite scene.
Opal stood up slowly and walked stiffly. “Mom, no need to panic. We will cross that bridge when we get to it. I’ll be right back.” She used the facilities and then washed her face, trying to put some of her sense of self back together again. She did feel pleasantly alive for the first time in a very long time. The fear was still there, yet, for the first time, it was muted in the background.
She didn’t know how much of that was the sleep versus having Steve here to help out. No doubt she felt stronger with him around, but then he had always had the ability to make her feel as if she counted. He made her feel alive, special even. She didn’t even know if he could do anything with this mess, but, if he could, she knew he would do his best.
She was blessed to have him and was also sad that they had lost touch over the years. She didn’t really know why, but they had drifted apart. He’d always been busy on missions and not able to tell her very much about them. She’d heard through the grapevine at some point that he was engaged. It had saddened her for her own sake, and somehow she still knew his fiancée was a very lucky woman.
He hadn’t mentioned it to her, but then why would he? So far it had been all about Opal and what had happened with her dad. It’s not that she wanted to steer the conversation to Steve’s engagement, but it was hard not to, when there was so much mess in Opal’s world. Any other subject would be easier to talk about.
When she made her way back to rejoin them, Opal looked over at her mother and asked, “Are there leftovers or anything?”
“Oh my.” Her mother stared at Opal in amazement. “Are you hungry?”
She nodded. “I think I am, yes,” she murmured, “though I’m not sure how that happened.”
“I don’t care how it happened, but I’ll go get you something, something easy for your throat.” She stopped and looked from Steve to Reyes and asked, “Have you guys eaten?”
They shared a glance and a shrug. Steve shook his head. “We can catch something later, and we still have to check into our hotel.”
At hearing that, the word instantly exploded from Opal’s mouth. “No!”
“What does that mean?” Steve asked Opal gently. She took a deep breath. “Please stay here,” she whispered, the slightest waver in her voice. That said so much, even as she tried to stop it from showing.
He looked at her for a long moment and then nodded. “I guess we can stay for a while, yes.”
“It’ll reduce our movements back and forth, so we wouldn’t be followed quite so easily,” Reyes added.
Steve interrupted, “But you also know it’s temporary, right, Opal?”
She gave him a ghost of a smile. “Of course, but maybe in the meantime I can regain some strength and self-confidence and grab some sleep. Having you two around is a huge boon for that.”
“I get that,” Steve murmured, then looked over at Reyes. “What do you think? Do you see any problem with that?”
Reyes shook his head. “Nope, if there is room for us, it would be perfect. We’ll need a table or desk to work at too.”
“We have lots of that,” Opal shared. “This rental house has plenty of spare rooms. Even though we didn’t move very far, we left home to get away from the media. I’m pretty sure Mom is bound to be looking at selling that house, now that my father is gone.”
Steve nodded. “That may not a bad idea, as the place is full of memories, I’m sure. What about you? Were you still living there?”
“No, I have an apartment, but we gave notice, although I still need to get everything moved out,” she said, with a wince. “I only have a couple weeks left, and I’m definitely not looking forward to that.” She brushed back her hair and added, “I can’t seem to think that far ahead.”
“Hire it out. Move whatever is there into a storage unit for now. You don’t know where you might end up living,” Steve suggested instantly. “Then you don’t need anybody to know what happened. You don’t need to see anyone. You just need it taken care of. That’s why you hire people.”
She stared at him and then nodded. “You may be right. I was avoiding dealing with it. I could have just paid another four months’ worth of rent, but the media found my apartment.”
“Sounds like a good reason to me. I can help now that I am here.”
“It’s been a long time to reach out. I’m sorry for that,” she muttered.
“Don’t be sorry. You’re not to blame. It was just life.”
“I was thinking about that, when I came out of the bathroom just now, wondering how we let so many years get between us.”
“It doesn’t matter now because we’ve reconnected again, and I’ll always be there for you. Whenever you need me, I’m there.”
“I do know that,” she murmured. “My mother wasn’t so sure that you were coming, but I’m grateful that Levi went the extra mile to make it happen.”
“And how do you know Levi?”
Opal glanced at her mother and explained, “Ice’s father has a medical facility here.”
Steve sat back, nodding. “Of course. I’d forgotten that. And that’s how your hospitalization records were changed, I presume?” Steve shot a look at Marshal, then to Opal.
“Yeah, it sure is,” Opal confirmed.
“If it helps,” Ruby added, “the records will be corrected later, but, for the moment, to keep her identity hidden and to keep her safe, Dr. Danning was happy to do whatever needed to be done.”
Reyes noted, “Plus your kidnappers and would-be killers may not yet know that you survived this, Opal. So best to keep you hidden, especially as we delve into this more.”
Then Steve spoke up. “So, that led to Ice, which led to me. And you’re really lucky because I had only contacted Levi recently about joining his team. He’s always had an open-door policy for anybody looking for work,” Steve explained. “We all come out of whatever military service area we served in, and a lot of us have gone to work for Levi. It’s crazy how many former military guys Levi has brought on. Baffling almost that you could locate me so quickly.” He stared at Opal. “Actually it’s a miracle.”
Ruby added, “But it’s good that you all come with abilities that most people don’t have access to.”
“Exactly,” Steve agreed, “and, in this case, Levi and Ice have access to a ton of civilian experts too, including medical staff and facilities apparently.”
Opal smiled. “The hospital staff put in a lot of work to keep me alive. I don’t think it was easy. My lungs had water in them. My throat was damaged. I’d taken quite a few blows to the face, and, although not all my bones were broken, several were, and it’s taken a while to heal. Even now, my face might need plastic surgery, when the swelling goes down.”
Steve held her face, while he critically assessed the damage, then shrugged. “You still look beautiful to me.”
She gave him a dry look. “I almost believe you. I know when you look at my face that you don’t see my face. You were always more concerned about the me on the inside.”
“When I first saw your face, and there was nobody I could punch to take out my aggravation on,” he murmured, “there wasn’t a whole lot of sense in focusing on it. However, you can bet that I didn’t miss the damage done.”
“No, of course not,” she murmured. “How could you? It’s pretty obvious.”
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Steve told her. “It’s really not that bad.”
“Oh please,” she cried out in a hoarse voice.
“Okay, it’s terrible.” He chuckled. “Only because you’re still vain.”
“I’m not still vain,” she stated trying for outrage but sounding like a hoarse frog instead.
At that, Reyes broke them up with his laughing. “I’m really glad to hear that you’re not vain and that you do know him as well as you do because that will help you when we start probing into your life and that of your father’s,” Reyes forewarned Opal. “There will be times when you want to order us out of here, and yet we can’t go. Once we commit to this, we commit fully, and there’s no going back.”
She took a deep breath. “I understand, but there’s no life for me after this if we don’t solve it. They’ll come for me again. Thankfully they don’t even know I’m alive— at least I hope they don’t.”
“Have you had any interaction with the media yet?” Steve turned to look at Marshal.
Marshal stood with his arms akimbo, as he stared at him, hardly moving. “No, we’ve managed to keep her rescue quiet.”
“So, the kidnappers are probably looking for some notice that she’s missing.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Her mother was supposed to be leaving for a holiday, until I contacted Ruby— once we found out what was going on.”
“You mean, when you brought Opal up to the surface?”
He nodded. “More or less, yes. I’d been talking to Ruby anyway. I was supposed to join her on this vacation. You might as well know that we’re in a relationship.”
“Got it,” Steve noted calmly, “I had a pretty good idea on that already.”
He flushed. “I’ve known them all my life, and Opal is like a daughter to me. When I saw what was going on, I—” Then the emotions choked him. He spun away. “I’ll go help Ruby with the food.” And, with that, he disappeared.
Steve looked down at Opal. “Are you okay with their relationship?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes. Marshal makes Mom happy.”
Dale Mayer. Stevens-Solace-Dale-Mayers-re (Kindle Locations 400-476). Kindle Edition.
The last Opal knew Steve was engaged, and when the conversation comes around to that she’s absolutely indignant that the woman needs to be punished for leaving him. It shows how much she really cares for Steve even if he has to restrain her enthusiasm.
This is a convoluted path they have to follow, and so many people to eliminate as suspects. Surprisingly it’s her father’s Lawyer that along with the will, has something for Opal that helps bring everything to a head.
So many twists, unbelievable betrayal, and a long-time coming relationship kept me turning the pages to the conclusion.
I really can’t wait to see what Dale comes up with next for this group of heroes.
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.