RETRIBUTION (#15) NOW AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED!

I’m so excited to share this new release with my readers!

A Miranda and Parker Mystery #15

Amazon | FREE with Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Trade paperback

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MP15-sb-redo-June-2018-FINAL-350.jpg

IS WADE PARKER DEAD?

Almost three weeks ago on a cold dark pier in Boston, PI Miranda Steele saw her beloved husband shot down before her eyes.

Now she and her team are on a quest to find his body and bring it back to Atlanta.

But the criminal mastermind who gunned down Parker has a plan that’s more devious and evil than anything Miranda could ever have imagined.

If she can’t bring him down, it could be the end not only of her and her team, but of the whole world.

Can she stop him before it’s too late?

Find out now.

Amazon | FREE with Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Trade paperback

Chapter One

Six weeks prior

Just after dawn in a port in Odessa, Ukraine, Boris Petrov stood on the deck of a sixty-thousand-deadweight-tonne cargo ship barking orders at the man operating the crane high above.

“Careful! Slowly now.” Ignoring the chill in the air, Petrov scratched his dark beard and signaled to the left.

The wooden crate dangling forty meters overhead at the end of the heavy chain was huge. The first of almost a dozen, it was giving Petrov an ache in the stomach.

Though it was padded with foam, Petrov was not certain of the box’s strength. In his opinion, they should have used regular containers. But those who were above him had decided the interchangeable metal containers would draw attention, and possibly inspection.

That could not happen.

As extra cargo loaded with the usual scrap metal the ship carried, the crates were less likely to be noticed.

But as the heavy box was lowered into the first hold, Petrov’s anxiety only grew.

“Gently, gently,” he shouted to the men who were guiding it into place. “Handle her like a woman.”

“She is fine,” a young man called back with a too confident grin. “I know how to handle the fairer sex.”

Petrov did not like the man.

His name was Andruko. He had arrived from Kiev yesterday evening begging for a job and telling horrific stories of a shootout in a parking lot. The contraband Petrov himself had loaded into a truck days ago had been seized by the police, Andruko had said. All two hundred and forty kilos of it gone.

There was more. Udar had been raided and shut down by the authorities. Sergei Chumak and Irina Savko were dead.

Unbelievable. The details made his head ache.

How could this have happened?

He had checked and double-checked the texts on his encrypted phone. Was the voyage today canceled? No. He was to proceed as ordered.

A week ago the funds had been wired by a senator’s aide in Washington. Today’s cargo had been packaged and shipped to port from somewhere in the east. No one knew where. It was unnecessary information.

No time to ponder it. The next crate was being lowered into the hold.

He had a vague idea of what each one contained. The boost controls, the body section, the cable assembly, and so forth. And most importantly, the warhead itself.

That would go on the upper deck under strict watch.

And then it would be off for the long trip to the island south of the United States.

Petrov had been ordered to travel with the ship to ensure the cargo’s safe arrival and to help with the unloading at the destination. Experts would be in place there to reassemble the thing.

He wanted no part of that.

But it was by no means certain they would arrive. If the sea did not behave, if the cargo shifted too much? Well, he and all the crew could wind up as fish food on the bottom of the ocean.

Why take such a risk? Because it was orders. Petrov always obeyed orders. And this time, the reward was too handsome to turn down. Not that he had a choice.

What his boss had in mind with such a weapon as this, he could only guess. He only hoped it would bring power back where it belonged.

He guided the next crate into the hold and wished for the best.

He did not have answers. All he knew was to obey and keep his mouth shut. It was all he needed. Once he was paid, life would be better. The risk was worth it. Besides, one did not question the Man in Boston.

Amazon | FREE with Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Trade paperback

Predator

A Miranda and Parker Mystery #14

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

What’s wrong with Mackenzie?

PI Miranda Steele knows something has been eating away at her teenage daughter for months now. Does Mackenzie know her real father was a psychotic serial killer?

Miranda’s afraid to ask and this time, Parker has no answers.

But when her precious daughter goes missing, Miranda goes into a tailspin. Now she’s forced to ask the most painful question of all.

Has Mackenzie’s emotional state caused her to fall victim to a sexual predator?

You’ll want to read this exciting, fast-paced thriller because it’s a story readers say they can’t put down.

Get it now!

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited


Chapter One

She plodded along the concrete walkway of the interstate bridge, head down, barely aware of the cars whizzing past her.

She felt numb and yet she shivered a little in the chilly March wind. She’d worn too light of a jacket. Not that it would matter soon.

It was her time.

Everyone has a time, her mother used to say.

She’d been thinking about her mother a lot lately. The headaches brought on the memories. In her mind, she could see her mother stretched out on the old worn couch, dressed in the robe with the pretty blue flowers she used to wear, her hair a tangled mess. She could smell her breath. The odor made her sick, just like it used to.

She hadn’t learned until much later it was the smell of alcohol. She’d been too young to recognize it then. But she could remember those words.

Everyone has a time.

Her mother had been talking about her father.

She had never known him. He’d left before she was born. Her mother would call him names and cuss at his imaginary figure going out the door. Then she’d call her names. “You’re too stupid for words,” she’d say. “Why did I ever have you?”

And then one day she’d told her her father was dead. When she asked how that could be, all her mother had said was that it had been his time.

“Everyone has a time,” she’d told her.

The wind grew stronger as she reached the edge of the bridge where the railing stopped and the concrete barrier began. Her head pounding, she stared up at the chicken wire fence mounted high atop the ledge.

She peeked over the barrier and saw a small concrete platform about five feet down. That would work.

She blinked at the cars buzzing by down below the overpass. So many of them. All going so fast. Where were they heading? To soccer practice? To games? Shopping? It was the weekend.

How nice it would be to know who you are and where you were going every day.

She never had.

And then there was that girl at school. The junior with the perfect brown hair. The words she’d said about her at lunch on Friday still burned in her heart. Even now, she could feel her cheeks reddened. She’d been so humiliated.

The girl hadn’t been mean, exactly. Just superior. Far above her, anyway.

That’s when she’d known she’d never be good enough. Not for her faceless father. Not for her drunken mother. Not for the kids at school. Not for anyone. She’d never ever be good enough.

That’s when she knew it was her time.

She took off her jacket and laid it over the rail. The wind whipped through her, rippling her lightweight short-sleeve top.

Closing her eyes, she put her hands on the concrete and drew in its rough cold surface.

Minutes went by. Her hair blew around her face as her brain swam with hurtful words from her past, from her mother, from the girl at school, from deep inside her own mind. She breathed in the cold air, searching for the courage for what had to be done.

A shout made her open her eyes again.

The cars down below were slowing. There must be a traffic jam up ahead. She thought she heard tires screech behind her. And a cry.

But her head was so fuzzy with memories, she couldn’t make out anything.

She had to go.

Then a strong female voice came from the sidewalk beside her. “Hello, young lady.”

She turned and saw a police officer coming toward her.

No.

“Don’t be alarmed. I thought you might like to talk a little.”

Talk? What was there to talk about? Nothing would change. Nothing would ever change.

Again she peered over the railing. Cars were stopped in their lanes. Flashing lights came from a fire truck a few yards beyond the overpass. A group of firemen were assembling a large yellow inflatable thing just below her. It looked like a raft she’d been on at summer camp one year.

They were trying to stop her.

No.

She slung a leg over the rail.

“I just want to ask you a question.” The woman sounded friendly, but she wasn’t. “What’s your name, honey?”

She didn’t answer.

Instead she held onto the rail, pulled her other leg over, and let herself drop down to the concrete platform. It was only about a foot wide. She had to be careful or she’d land in the trees.

“C’mon, sweetheart. Don’t do that.”

“Leave me alone.” Trying to position herself, she clung to the iron bar of the railing now over her head.

“I just want to talk to you.”

The woman leaned over the rail and a strong hand gripped her arm.

“Let go of me.”

“I’m sorry I can’t do that.”

The grip was tight. The pain confused her. “You’re hurting me.”

“I don’t mean to do that. I’m just here to help.” The woman kept on talking, but she couldn’t make out the words.

She was in too much of a panic. She looked down. The men below were pointing up at her and moving the yellow raft thing so it would catch her.

If she was going to do it, it had to be now.

She looked up and glared at the woman. “Let go of me, I said.”

She pulled her arm away as hard as she could. The officer’s nails scraped her skin as she lost her grip.

She lost her balance and fell backward.

Her feet left the narrow platform. She tumbled down toward the pavement below. Down past the bare tree branches. Past the beams of the overpass. Past the stains on its concrete supports.

Down, down, down. And into darkness.

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Vanishing Act now available in Kindle Unlimited!

Hello again Miranda and Parker fans!

I’m so excited to announce Vanishing Act (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #13 is now available in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.

I’m thrilled to share this riveting story with my wonderful KU readers. Links and details are below.

Enjoy!  🙂

Linsey

A Miranda and Parker Mystery #13

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Five thousand miles away from Atlanta.

A young man is killed.

A young man with secrets.

When Parker’s father asks him to travel to Ukraine to find someone who’s been missing over a decade, Parker flatly refuses. But Miranda can’t say no to Mr. P.

And so they board the plane.

After a long flight and a futile search, they are about to give up. Until they rouse the ire of a very dangerous group. People with secrets. People who will kill to keep them. People who now want Parker and Miranda dead.

You’ll want to read this next adventure, because secrets are about to be revealed.

Get it now!

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited


Chapter One

It was two o’clock in the morning.
The motor of his cycle growled beneath him as fear pounded in his temples.
Faster. Faster. Faster.
The cold November wind whipped his hair over his face, into his eyes and his mouth. Above the highway, streetlights twinkled against the blue velvet of the sky and the river below.
Kiev lay to the left of him, the lights of its majestic old buildings and ancient cupola-topped churches shimmering with the mystique of a beautiful woman attempting to seduce him.
He had always fallen for her charms, though he wished he hadn’t. Tonight he wished he had stayed in his little village and been content.
Too late for those wishes.
He could not think about home now. He could not stop. He had to keep going.
He had to get away.
He had left the club perhaps only fifteen minutes ago. He had taken what he had in his satchel and snuck out the back.
He had thought he had not been seen.
But now, as he raced along the wide highway that bordered the Dnieper River, he knew someone from the club was behind him.
If he could just make it across the river. Back to Troieshchyna and his bleak little apartment, he would be all right. That dingy living space fourteen stories up in the cheap Soviet era building. Olga deserved better than that. He had wanted to give it to her.
He had failed.
Just as he made it to the straightaway, a shot rang out from behind him.
Sergei. He had followed him.
He swerved, and the bullet missed him.
But he could taste the fear in his mouth.
Where was the politsiya? The police did not patrol this part of town so well as the wealthier sections.
Sergei was the enforcer. A huge man five years his senior. He could beat him to death with his bare hands if he caught him. He could easily shoot him. But it was difficult to aim well on a motorcycle.
Another shot spat over his shoulder. Sergei’s aim was better that time.
The vehicles around him began to slow, the drivers no doubt wondering what was going on. Why was there a gunfight on Naberezhno-Rybalsak in the middle of the night?
He sped up, swerved around a car on his left, another on his right. He took the curve to the bridge as fast as he dared.
He could not fall now.
Focusing on the tall buildings far away in the distance across the river, he ignored his pounding heart.
He could get there. He had to.
His motor roaring, he reached the bridge and swung out onto traffic without yielding. A little Lada blared its horn at him as they nearly collided.
Ignoring the driver’s protests, he zoomed ahead.
He was over the river now. In a month, the water would be frozen and children would come to skate along the banks.
But tonight the Pivnichny Bridge seemed to stretch across the world.
No, it was only a few more kilometers to home.
Would Sergei follow him there? The little flat would not provide much protection. He had not thought of that. Perhaps he should head south and into the forest, toward his old village instead.
He was almost to the left bank now.
He swerved past a Renault on the side closest to the railing. Between the iron barrier and the road lay a path bicycle riders used to travel back and forth across the river to their jobs on the right bank.
He had such a job once. And he had Olga. What would she think of him now?
He would never know.
Another bullet came from Sergei. This time it hit his rear tire. He spun, veered in a circle. He lost his balance and the cycle went down and slid out from under him. The pavement dug into his jeans, tearing his flesh.
No time to think of that now. He put a palm onto the asphalt to lift himself up.
Before he could rise, Sergei was on top of him, the short red curls atop his head glistening in the street lights.
His massive body hovered over him like the prize oak in the Buda village.
“Where is it?” His face was like a snarling leopard.
He would pretend not to know. “Where is what? Why did you shoot at me, Sergei?”
“Where is it?” Sergei shouted, ignoring the ploy.
He tried again. “I do not know what you mean.”
It was not a good answer. He saw the reply come in the form of Sergei’s boot.
He rolled, but not in time. The kick caught him hard in the kidney and he cried out in pain.
Yet somehow, he managed to get to his feet. If it was a fight Sergei wanted, he would give it to him.
He swung and grazed his chest as Sergei stepped back. Then the large man returned a jab.
He ducked, an American move, and Sergei missed.
He swung again, but once more missed the treelike target.
Sraka!” Sergei growled. “How dare you steal from us? From those who care for you?”
He wanted to deny it, but he could not lie to this man. Looking down at the pavement, he tried to find the words to say.
The hesitation was a mistake. He looked up just as Sergei’s fist flew toward him like a flash of lightning.
It connected with his jaw, shooting incredible pain through his skull. He stumbled back, tasting his own blood in his mouth.
He should not be tangling with Sergei. This man was one of the top fighters in the MMA club where he worked. Sergei’s footwork and balance were impeccable. His blows were like iron.
But he had little choice now.
He swung again and somehow landed a punch to the stomach. The leather of his jacket softened the blow, yet he heard Sergei groan.
And then Sergei’s face became a wall of stone.
“That was your last chance.” Sergei’s arm flew back. The blow sped toward him, too fast for him to duck this time.
He felt the cartilage crunch as Sergei’s knuckles landed against his nose. He crumbled to his knees, blood dripping onto the pavement.
And then he saw it.
His satchel lay along the railing, its strap just beyond reach. Biting back the pain, he crawled forward. Grabbing onto the leather band, with all his effort he pulled himself to his feet.
“What are you doing?” He heard Sergei yell behind him.
Too late. He took the satchel and hurled it over the railing as far as he could.
Into the air it went, then down into the river below. Never to be found again.
Bracing himself against the railing, he turned around. “And now we are even, no?”
Sergei did not reply. Instead he drew his pistol and aimed it at his chest. “You have betrayed us. You know what happens to traitors.”
He did.
There was no reasoning with the man now, if there ever had been.
And so he was not surprised when Sergei pulled the trigger and the final bullet hit him dead center in the chest.
His body recoiled with incredible pain. He felt himself fall backward. Felt his feet leave the pavement. His arms flapped the air like a young bird trying to take flight.
But he was no bird. He could not fly.
Instead he plunged head down into the river. All the way into the depths of the Dnieper.
And disappeared.

Amazon | FREE on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Vanishing Act

Hello Miranda and Parker fans!

If you’ve been waiting for the next book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, I’ve got some good news.

It’s available now!

I’m so excited to share this riveting story with my wonderful readers. So instead of letting any spoilers slip, I’ll just get right to the point:

A Miranda and Parker Mystery #13

Amazon | iTunes | B/N | Kobo

Five thousand miles away from Atlanta.

A young man is killed.

A young man with secrets.

When Parker’s father asks him to travel to Ukraine to find someone who’s been missing over a decade, Parker flatly refuses. But Miranda can’t say no to Mr. P.

And so they board the plane.

After a long flight and a futile search, they are about to give up. Until they rouse the ire of a very dangerous group. People with secrets. People who will kill to keep them. People who now want Parker and Miranda dead.

You’ll want to read this next adventure, because secrets are about to be revealed.

Get it now!

Amazon | iTunes | B/N | Kobo


Chapter One

It was two o’clock in the morning.
The motor of his cycle growled beneath him as fear pounded in his temples.
Faster. Faster. Faster.
The cold November wind whipped his hair over his face, into his eyes and his mouth. Above the highway, streetlights twinkled against the blue velvet of the sky and the river below.
Kiev lay to the left of him, the lights of its majestic old buildings and ancient cupola-topped churches shimmering with the mystique of a beautiful woman attempting to seduce him.
He had always fallen for her charms, though he wished he hadn’t. Tonight he wished he had stayed in his little village and been content.
Too late for those wishes.
He could not think about home now. He could not stop. He had to keep going.
He had to get away.
He had left the club perhaps only fifteen minutes ago. He had taken what he had in his satchel and snuck out the back.
He had thought he had not been seen.
But now, as he raced along the wide highway that bordered the Dnieper River, he knew someone from the club was behind him.
If he could just make it across the river. Back to Troieshchyna and his bleak little apartment, he would be all right. That dingy living space fourteen stories up in the cheap Soviet era building. Olga deserved better than that. He had wanted to give it to her.
He had failed.
Just as he made it to the straightaway, a shot rang out from behind him.
Sergei. He had followed him.
He swerved, and the bullet missed him.
But he could taste the fear in his mouth.
Where was the politsiya? The police did not patrol this part of town so well as the wealthier sections.
Sergei was the enforcer. A huge man five years his senior. He could beat him to death with his bare hands if he caught him. He could easily shoot him. But it was difficult to aim well on a motorcycle.
Another shot spat over his shoulder. Sergei’s aim was better that time.
The vehicles around him began to slow, the drivers no doubt wondering what was going on. Why was there a gunfight on Naberezhno-Rybalsak in the middle of the night?
He sped up, swerved around a car on his left, another on his right. He took the curve to the bridge as fast as he dared.
He could not fall now.
Focusing on the tall buildings far away in the distance across the river, he ignored his pounding heart.
He could get there. He had to.
His motor roaring, he reached the bridge and swung out onto traffic without yielding. A little Lada blared its horn at him as they nearly collided.
Ignoring the driver’s protests, he zoomed ahead.
He was over the river now. In a month, the water would be frozen and children would come to skate along the banks.
But tonight the Pivnichny Bridge seemed to stretch across the world.
No, it was only a few more kilometers to home.
Would Sergei follow him there? The little flat would not provide much protection. He had not thought of that. Perhaps he should head south and into the forest, toward his old village instead.
He was almost to the left bank now.
He swerved past a Renault on the side closest to the railing. Between the iron barrier and the road lay a path bicycle riders used to travel back and forth across the river to their jobs on the right bank.
He had such a job once. And he had Olga. What would she think of him now?
He would never know.
Another bullet came from Sergei. This time it hit his rear tire. He spun, veered in a circle. He lost his balance and the cycle went down and slid out from under him. The pavement dug into his jeans, tearing his flesh.
No time to think of that now. He put a palm onto the asphalt to lift himself up.
Before he could rise, Sergei was on top of him, the short red curls atop his head glistening in the street lights.
His massive body hovered over him like the prize oak in the Buda village.
“Where is it?” His face was like a snarling leopard.
He would pretend not to know. “Where is what? Why did you shoot at me, Sergei?”
“Where is it?” Sergei shouted, ignoring the ploy.
He tried again. “I do not know what you mean.”
It was not a good answer. He saw the reply come in the form of Sergei’s boot.
He rolled, but not in time. The kick caught him hard in the kidney and he cried out in pain.
Yet somehow, he managed to get to his feet. If it was a fight Sergei wanted, he would give it to him.
He swung and grazed his chest as Sergei stepped back. Then the large man returned a jab.
He ducked, an American move, and Sergei missed.
He swung again, but once more missed the treelike target.
Sraka!” Sergei growled. “How dare you steal from us? From those who care for you?”
He wanted to deny it, but he could not lie to this man. Looking down at the pavement, he tried to find the words to say.
The hesitation was a mistake. He looked up just as Sergei’s fist flew toward him like a flash of lightning.
It connected with his jaw, shooting incredible pain through his skull. He stumbled back, tasting his own blood in his mouth.
He should not be tangling with Sergei. This man was one of the top fighters in the MMA club where he worked. Sergei’s footwork and balance were impeccable. His blows were like iron.
But he had little choice now.
He swung again and somehow landed a punch to the stomach. The leather of his jacket softened the blow, yet he heard Sergei groan.
And then Sergei’s face became a wall of stone.
“That was your last chance.” Sergei’s arm flew back. The blow sped toward him, too fast for him to duck this time.
He felt the cartilage crunch as Sergei’s knuckles landed against his nose. He crumbled to his knees, blood dripping onto the pavement.
And then he saw it.
His satchel lay along the railing, its strap just beyond reach. Biting back the pain, he crawled forward. Grabbing onto the leather band, with all his effort he pulled himself to his feet.
“What are you doing?” He heard Sergei yell behind him.
Too late. He took the satchel and hurled it over the railing as far as he could.
Into the air it went, then down into the river below. Never to be found again.
Bracing himself against the railing, he turned around. “And now we are even, no?”
Sergei did not reply. Instead he drew his pistol and aimed it at his chest. “You have betrayed us. You know what happens to traitors.”
He did.
There was no reasoning with the man now, if there ever had been.
And so he was not surprised when Sergei pulled the trigger and the final bullet hit him dead center in the chest.
His body recoiled with incredible pain. He felt himself fall backward. Felt his feet leave the pavement. His arms flapped the air like a young bird trying to take flight.
But he was no bird. He could not fly.
Instead he plunged head down into the river. All the way into the depths of the Dnieper.
And disappeared.

Amazon | iTunes | B/N | Kobo

The #Audiobook is HERE!

At long last,  Someone Else’s Daughter is now available as an audiobook narrated by the fabulous Kristin James.

I can’t wait for everyone who loves the Miranda and Parker stories to hear it! Kristin really brings these characters to life.

Amazon | Audible | iTunes

PLUS – I’m giving away FIVE Audible coupons (US) for a FREE copy of the audiobook.*

Enter the contest here:

Audiobook Giveaway

More changes to win when you share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

The giveaway ends soon, so be sure to enter right away.

Good luck to you and thank you for your support.

Happy listening!

Linsey

PS: If you enjoy this audiobook, feel free to leave a review, especially on Audible. It means a lot to Kristin and me. Thanks in advance!

* Sorry, I can only give away coupons for the US. You also must have an audible or Amazon account to redeem the coupons.

The Stolen Girl is available on Amazon!

The Stolen Girl (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #12

Amazon | FREE with Kindle Unlimited subscription

On a sunny winter afternoon in West Hollywood, California, a seven-year-old girl gets into a car with a stranger.

Two hours later a single mother receives a call telling her not to go to the police.

On the other side of the country, Miranda and Parker are sparring in the gym—until a colleague tells them her sister’s daughter is missing and begs them to help.

A kidnapping? A missing little girl?

Of course, they have to help. With thoughts of the desperate search for her own daughter, Miranda boards the next plane to LA, along with Parker and the team.

But when they arrive in tinsel town, the clues are sparse. Locating the little girl seems hopeless, and soon they find themselves at the kidnapper’s mercy.

But is this just a kidnapping?

Or is it something much worse?

You’ll want to read this next installment in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, because it will keep you guessing.

Get it now!

Amazon | FREE with Kindle Unlimited subscription


Chapter One

Imogen Wesson didn’t always like the teacher at her elementary school in West Hollywood, but today she thought she was just great.
Ms. Bishop told the class they would be going into second grade soon, and it was never too early to think about the future. Their assignment was to write about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Imogen knew what she was going to write about. And as the bell rang and she pulled on her backpack and headed out the door, her mind raced with ideas.
She wanted to be either an astronaut or a zookeeper. Or a rock star.
A zookeeper, she decided following the rest of the kids out to the waiting buses. She loved animals.
She’d been begging her mother for a puppy. In fact, she’d asked for one that morning before school. But Mommy said they couldn’t have one in their apartment. And they were both too busy to take care of a puppy. She’d gotten mad at Mommy and said she didn’t care about her. She said she bet her Daddy would let her have a puppy.
She hadn’t mean that.
She was sorry she’d said that to Mommy. When she got home, she’d tell her so. And maybe if she made good grades, maybe Mommy would let her have a puppy for her birthday.
Though that was a long way away.
No, not a zookeeper, she thought. She wanted to be a veterinarian.
Thinking about what it would be like to play with puppies and kittens every day, Imogen lingered along the blue fence. As she peered through the gate, something caught her eye.
A squirrel was sitting on the lawn in front of the school chewing on a nut he held in his little paws. He was looking straight at her. She glanced back at her bus. Most of the other kids were climbing aboard, but she still had a little time.
Trying to be quiet, Imogen opened the gate and took a few steps toward the animal.
“Hello, there,” she said, grinning.
The squirrel froze, dropped its nut, and scampered away across the grass and up a nearby tree.
“Oh, you didn’t have to run away,” Imogen pouted, wondering if she really could be a veterinarian.
Then her gaze drifted to the street.
A man stood behind one of the skinny trees growing in the sidewalk. Imogen had always thought it was funny to plant trees in the cement.
The man was tall and dressed in black leather. He had tattoos on his arms, like her daddy. Was it her daddy? She hadn’t seen him in so long, she wasn’t sure.
He was staring at her and smiling. He seemed friendly in a scary sort of way. And familiar.
Slowly she inched toward him.
He bent down and his smile grew bigger. “Hello there, Imogen.”
She sucked in a breath. The man knew her name. “Daddy?” she said softly, her heart starting to beat faster.
“I’m a friend of your Daddy’s. He’d like to see you.”
“He would?”
The man nodded. “He sent me to get you and take you to him.”
“He did?” She’d dreamed about her father coming to get her.
“C’mon. My car’s right over there.” He held out a hand to her.
It was big and rough. Don’t go with strangers, Mommy always told her. But this man wasn’t a stranger. He was Daddy’s friend.
She put her hand in his and let him lead her to the car. It was an old car. The side was dented. As she climbed inside, she saw the seat was torn. The man closed the door, then came around the other side and got in beside her.
He snapped a seatbelt around her. “Don’t want anything to happen to you,” he chuckled, then he started the car and drove away.
She watched the apartment building across the street fade away as they rolled down the street. This was the same direction the bus took every day. She recognized the bushes and the houses.
Was this man taking her to Mommy’s shop? Was Daddy with Mommy? Were they getting back together?
But then they were on the big street with the tall palm trees, and she was sure the bus would have turned by now. They passed a place with a big orange machine. A crane. They were building something here. Green pipes held up a ceiling with no walls.
She turned around and peered out the back window. She didn’t see the bus anywhere.
They were on a wide highway now, with grassy places and lots of trees. She didn’t recognize it.
They drove and drove.
“My Daddy must live very far away,” she said at last.
“It’s only a little longer.”
“Maybe he’ll take me for ice cream when we get there.”
“Maybe.” But there was a scary sound in the man’s voice now.
Mommy never let her have ice cream after school. She made her eat a sandwich. If she finished all her dinner later, then she might get ice cream, but she usually didn’t.
The man made so many turns, Imogen didn’t know where she was. They were on a big street she didn’t recognize at all, with lots of auto repair places. “Trans—mis—sion,” she read on one sign.
Then the man turned down a side street, drove a few blocks, and slowed.
They were at a light green two-story house with dark red trim and a short driveway. It looked funny. It didn’t have a front door. Imogen wondered how they would get in. Then the man turned into the drive, pressed a button, and the garage door opened. He drove into a tidy garage and pressed the button again to close the door behind them.
It was dark in here, and Imogen was frightened. “Where’s my Daddy?”
“Inside. I’ll take you to him.”
She didn’t believe the man, but it was too late to change her mind now.
She got out of the car and followed the man up a short step and into a kitchen. It was small and the edges of the countertops were chipped. On the other side of the refrigerator there was a door. It smelled bad in here. Like someone had forgotten to take out the garbage.
She moved away from the man and hurried into a nearby living room. The furniture looked old and worn here, but there was nobody here.
“Where’s my Daddy?”
“He’s at work. He’ll be home soon.”
“I think you should take me back home now.”
“Sorry. Can’t do that.”
“What if I run away?”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Yes, I am. I’m going right out that door.” She pointed toward the kitchen.
Though she had no idea what she’d do outside. Would someone help her? Mommy made her memorize her address, but right now, she couldn’t think of it.
She moved toward the kitchen again. The man blocked her.
“I said, you’re not going anywhere.” He sounded mean now.
“Yes, I am.” She tried to go past him.
Before she could get around him, he bent down and picked her up in his arms. She beat against him with her fists, but it didn’t do any good.
He carried her down a hall to a small room. She kicked and screamed, trying to get away from him, but he was too strong.
He stuffed her under one arm and opened the door to the room. It was a dirty place with a mattress on the floor and a wrinkled blanket on top of it. It smelled bad in here, too. He wasn’t going to make her lay down on that. She wouldn’t.
But instead he carried her to the corner and opened another door. A closet.
Was he going to put her in there? No! She screamed again. Then she did the only thing she could think of. She bit his arm.
“Ow. You little bitch, you.”
But he let go of her and she dropped to the floor.
She ran.
She almost got to the hall. Almost got away. Then he lunged for her. His big hand clamped around her arm hard, making her cry out.
“Leave me alone!”
“Shut up.” He picked her up and carried her to the closet.
He slung open the door, tossed her inside and shut the door in her face.
She could hear him locking it from the outside. She banged on the door. “Let me out of here.”
“Shut up, I said.”
“My Mommy will call the police. They’ll put you in jail.”
“No, she won’t. Not if she knows what’s good for her.”
And then she heard the man walk away.
She sat down on the floor. It was dusty and smelly like the rest of the place. She began to cry. Why hadn’t she listened to what Mommy told her? Why had she got into the car with that bad man?
Where was her Daddy? Gone. He had been gone for a long time. He was never coming back.
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” she blubbered into her hands. “I’ll never be angry with you again.”
All she wanted was to go home, but she had no idea how to do that. She didn’t know what to do.
Except cry.

Amazon | FREE with Kindle Unlimited subscription

Mind Bender (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #10 – Now Available!

It’s finally here! The tenth Miranda and Parker Mystery is now available.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |  B/N  |  Kobo

Book #10 in the gripping mystery-thriller series from bestselling author Linsey Lanier

A shooting. A bank robbery. A car chase. A kidnapping. And that was just PI Miranda Steele’s morning.

After a relaxing vacation in the North Georgia Mountains with her sexy husband and boss, Miranda Steele gets mixed up in a bank robbery that leads to a desperate hunt for a missing woman. Never in her life would she have guessed it would be that woman, but she can’t give up now. The woman’s life may be in danger, as well as the trust of Miranda’s new team at the Parker Investigative Agency.

On a twisted trail of violence, kidnapping, and mind control, Miranda is forced to face a frightening question: Can someone brainwash you to do something that’s not in your nature? Like rob a bank and kill everyone in your way?

Miranda and Parker are about to find out.

Mind Bender is the tenth book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, a continuation of the popular Miranda Steele, private investigator, stories from bestselling author Linsey Lanier (the Miranda’s Rights Mystery series). Buy this exciting, fast-paced thriller for a story readers say they can’t put down.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |  B/N  |  Kobo


Chapter One

She was so excited, her skin tingled.

She could feel her own heartbeat as she listened to the murmur of Friday business being conducted around her.

As she waited in the roped-off line, she bounced on her toes and gazed up at the tall glass façade of the front wall and entrance to the downtown Buckhead bank. Ten minutes ago she’d marched through those doors, her first paycheck tucked in her pocketbook under her arm.

Well, it wasn’t her very first paycheck.

She’d worked all kinds of jobs back in Austin. She’d waitressed in dives, cleaned houses, even tried a little panhandling. But she’d gone to school and taken acting lessons for the past eight year, and all that effort had finally paid off.

She was in a real movie being filmed in Atlanta.

She was about to deposit her first check from the production company.

Okay, she wasn’t a star yet. She was only an extra, and the part was only supposed to last a few days. But the second assistant director seemed to be taking a liking to her. He’d asked her to stay on another week, and she thought he might give her a line in one of the upcoming scenes. Who knew where that could lead? She was on her way. She could feel it. The sky was the limit. Someday, she would be a star. She always knew she would be.

She couldn’t stop smiling.

Bouncing on her heels with excitement, she glanced around at the other customers waiting in line and the busy bank clerks behind the counter. The place was crowded and felt close. She could smell the colognes and body washes of the customers near her. One large man in a suit grumbled impatiently. She should have expected the bank would be busy on a Friday just before noon. Everyone was here to cash their own paychecks and go out for a good time.

She wasn’t in a hurry.

She was done for the day and didn’t have plans for tonight. She’d be heading home after this stop. So why was she suddenly feeling so anxious? Maybe because Drew had promised he might stop by later.

She’d only known him a week, but she really liked him. She’d met him back in Austin and he’d asked her out. When she told him she was trying to get into the movies, he said he had some connections and might be able to get her something in Atlanta if she was willing to start at the bottom.

At first she’d thought it was a come on line. But there was something about Drew that made her trust him. But leave home and go all the way to Atlanta with him? It might have been risky, but she’d decided to do it. And it had worked out. Drew hadn’t been lying. Here she was, cashing her first paycheck.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. As if he’d materialized from her own thoughts, Drew appeared at her side, wearing that heart-stopping smile of his.

“Hey, honeybun.”

“Hey,” she breathed in answer.

He was so handsome. Tall and broad-shouldered, dressed in jeans and his leather motor-cycle jacket, his thick black hair tousled as if he’d just been on a ride. His face was to-die-for. He was part Asian and his dark exotic eyes always made her knees feel like jelly.

“Cashing your check?”

“Making my first deposit.”

“We need to go out and celebrate tonight. My treat.”

She bounced on her toes again. Could this day get any more perfect?

Drew touched her shoulder again and she caught a whiff of that sexy aftershave he always wore.

It smelled like honeysuckle and cinnamon—and something else she couldn’t quite identify.

The man behind her stepped a little too close. Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she glanced around at the crowd. She was uncomfortable, antsy. She started to perspire. The A/C was on, but her skin felt like it was on fire. There were too many people in here.

She heard a voice calling to her.

“Ma’am?”

Looking up, she saw the clerk standing behind the counter. A fuzzy red haze surrounded her.

The clerk beckoned her forward. “Can I help you ma’am?

Awkwardly she stepped toward the window.

“What can I do for you?”

The clerk was wearing a ridiculous smile. She reminded her of Emmy Holt, a girl in high school who’d always made fun of her.

Suddenly, she hated that clerk. Who did she think she was, anyway?

“Would you like to make a deposit?” The woman prompted.

“Deposit?” She put a hand to her forehead and tried to think.

She couldn’t remember what she was here for. She opened her pocketbook and stared down at its contents. There was a check, but she didn’t remember putting it there. She saw lipstick, tissues, a cell phone—and tucked neatly beside the phone was a small handgun with a pink handle.

How did that get in there?

“Ma’am?” The clerk said again.

The red haze grew dark. Blue and purple clouds began to form around the edges of her vision. She felt dizzy, sick.

“Ma’am? Are you all right?”

And all she wanted was to make that clerk shut up. She reached into her purse, pulled out the gun, and fired at the woman.

The clerk crumbled to the floor as a collective scream rose from the crowd of customers.

She spun around flailing the gun at the sea of terrified faces. Suddenly, she knew exactly what to do.

“All of you,” she growled. “On the floor or you’ll be next.”

Continue reading on:

Amazon  |  iTunes  |  B/N  |  Kobo

 

Kobo books are 50% OFF!

Kobo is having a 50% OFF sale from now (June 25) until June 27, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST!

If you’re a Kobo reader in any of these countries you’re eligible:

U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

Just enter promo code 50JUN when you check out (for me this was on the second page).

For your convenience here are the links to all my books on Kobo. If you’ve been wanting to get more Miranda stories (or any of my other books), now’s the time to stock up.

Happy reading at half price!

~Linsey

THE MIRANDA’S RIGHTS MYSTERY SERIES
Someone Else’s Daughter
Delicious Torment
Forever Mine
Fire Dancer
Thin Ice

THE MIRANDA AND PARKER MYSTERY SERIES
All Eyes on Me
Heart Wounds
Clowns and Cowboys
The Watcher
Zero Dark Chocolate
Trial by Fire
Smoke Screen
The Boy

OTHER SUSPENSE BOOKS BY LINSEY LANIER
Chicago Cop (A cop family thriller)
Steal My Heart (A romantic suspense)

THE PRASALA ROMANCES
The Crown Prince’s Heart
The King’s Love Song
The Count’s Baby

Note: If for some reason a link does not work, please navigate to your Kobo site and enter “Linsey Lanier” in the search box.

Kobo Inc.

The latest Miranda and Parker mystery is out!

The Boy (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) #8

Amazon | iBooks (Apple) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

There’s nothing more terrifying than losing your child

After two weeks of a lazy second honeymoon with Parker, private investigator Miranda is startled when her husband gets a strange call on his cell phone. Not only does the eerie robotic message raise more questions than answers, it throws the pair into the investigation of a grisly murder, a tussle with a GBI agent, a secret branch of the FBI, and a frightening kidnapping.

To top things off the team they were supposed to form is disgruntled with the management.

If Miranda can’t pull things together soon, this time more than one person might end up dead.

The Boy is the eighth book in the Miranda and Parker Mystery series, a continuation of the popular Miranda Steele stories from bestselling author Linsey Lanier (the Miranda’s Rights Mystery series). Buy this chilling, fast-paced thriller for a story readers say they can’t put down.

Amazon | iBooks (Apple) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble


Chapter One

She risked another glance in her rearview mirror and caught the dark outline of the man behind the steering wheel of the black van.
He was a large man. The van drew close and he looked straight at her.
A shiver of nerves went through her.
But then he’d probably seen her the first time she’d noticed him. Right after she’d exited the grocery store on Krog Street.
She never should have left the house this afternoon, but they had run out of food and the only thing left was peanut butter.
The boy was allergic to peanuts.
It was a pretty little blue house off Irwin Street in the Old Fourth Ward of the city. The homes there were close together and the neighbors seemed friendly enough. Not that she had spoken to any of them. That was forbidden. There were children in the neighborhood and the boy longed to play with them. That was also forbidden.
For three long days she’d attempted to keep him occupied with books and toys and video games. All the while she’d been waiting for word. What to do next? How would she know when it was safe again?
And then the food supply got low.
The light changed and she continued on Spring Street not knowing what else to do.
She shouldn’t have left the house, she told herself again. She should have contacted someone for supplies. But the phone number she had was only for emergencies. She’d thought she could handle a simple trip to the grocery store. But somehow the man in the van had found her.
She could handle this, she told herself again, straightening her shoulders with determination. She’d had training, after all. She’d done well in the exercises for losing a tail. But that had been two years ago and it had been just a drill.
She’d never had to do it for real.
How had he found her? Had he followed her from the house? If so, then the boy was in trouble. The thought filled her with a sinking feeling.
No. She was positive no one had followed her from the house. This man had been cruising the streets looking for her. Had it been just her bad luck that he’d spotted her? That meant they knew what she looked like.
If only she hadn’t left the boy alone in the house. Her resolve wavered and she shivered again.
James would never have made such a silly mistake as to run out of supplies. But James was dead and she was here alone on the streets of downtown Atlanta, shaking all over with nerves.
So far she’d followed protocol.
As soon as she’d seen the van in the parking lot, she’d put the groceries in the trunk of the old gray Camry they’d given her and slipped into the driver’s seat as casually as she could. She’d headed in the opposite direction, away from the house and the quiet little neighborhood, and toward the highway.
The van had followed her. She glanced down at her gauges. She’d gone about half a mile.
Now what?
She made a turn and got on the Interstate. She drove to the next exit then got back off, hoping that would confuse him.
It didn’t work. The van was still behind her.
She headed downtown, turning left then right through the mid-morning traffic. She made her way past the novelty shops, the hotels, the assorted tall bank buildings. Past Centennial Olympic Park and the World of Coca-Cola building and the Aquarium. She passed a half dozen other cars but the van was still behind her. Surely the driver knew she’d made him by now. He’d known that right away, hadn’t he?
Apparently he didn’t care.
She headed back toward the interstate, but instead of getting on, this time she took the overpass and headed up West Peachtree. She drove past the hospital and bank buildings and more hotels.
She glanced up at the approaching street sign. Third Street. She put on her signal, as if to turn right. The light turned yellow.
She floored it and shot through the light—going straight.
The van did the same.
She couldn’t lose him. Again nerves made her hands shiver on the steering wheel.
Oh, James. If only you hadn’t signed up for that last tour of duty. If only you had come home to me. If only you hadn’t died in that last raid in Afghanistan. She could have been at home right now, waiting for their own son to come home from school. Or rocking a new baby to sleep in her arms for naptime.
It wasn’t meant to be.
But, no. These last two years in this job had taught her the needs of others had to come before her own. It was what James believed in. What they both believed in. What he’d died for.
This was no time to wallow in the past. She could do this. She was trained to do this.
Concentrate.
She looked around to get her bearings again and formulate a plan. After another ten minutes, she turned onto Fourteenth and headed back toward the highway.
The van was still behind her.
If she couldn’t lose the tail, at least she could lead the man as far away from the boy as possible. She’d go to South Carolina if she had to. She glanced down at her gauges. She’d need gas for that and she’d just passed a station.
Nothing was going her way.
Wait a minute. Why not stop there? Go inside the store at the gas station and get help from someone. Anyone. That would make the man in the black van disappear.
She made a right and headed around the block.
She drove along the road fronting the Interstate and around the curve to the next light. It turned red and she stopped. She let out a breath.
It would be okay. She was going to get help.
Then she remembered the edict never to involve civilians. She’d just strike up a conversation with a stranger. That ought to be enough. What if it wasn’t? She had her secure cell phone. There was the one number she could call.
And there was something else.
She glanced down at her small pocket book lying on the passenger seat beside her. In addition to her fake IDs, it had a secret compartment. Inside the compartment was a tiny vial. Inside the vial was a tiny pill.
Only for an emergency.
No going back after that. She squeezed the steering wheel and stared up at the light.
Bam!
The jolt threw her forward, knocking her forehead against the steering wheel.
Heart pounding, she glared into the rearview mirror. The black van had rammed the back of her car. The man inside it was getting out. He must have sensed where she was going so he’d faked an accident.
He was big and bulky and dressed all in black. His bald head was tattooed with a frightening black spiral-and-spike design.
She couldn’t let him get near her.
She put the car in park, grabbed her pocketbook, scooted across the front seat and got out on the passenger side.
She rushed onto the sidewalk and ran as fast as she could. The street she was on was nearly deserted. She was about a block from the gas station but it was a long block. She might as well be a mile away.
A car rolled by. She wanted to flag it down. No civilians. She hesitated too long and it was gone. Someone would report the accident, wouldn’t they? A police car could be along any minute, right?
She glanced behind her. The man was following her.
She hurried down the walkway.
The cement was broken in spots. This wasn’t the best cared for section of town. A row of overgrown holly bushes and maple trees lined one side of the walk. The city was known for its tree canopy. Could it provide a hiding place? She pulled her lightweight sweater around her feeling chilly despite the warm fall day. It was in the mid seventies. The sky was clear. People should be out walking.
But no one was on this road.
Could she make it to the gas station? It was too far away. She needed a hiding place. Across the street stood a tall office building. It was vacant. A parking garage sat next to it. Between the two structures stretched a dark narrow space.
Too risky to go in there.
She could hear the man panting behind her and knew she didn’t have much time. If she didn’t find a way to escape soon he would catch up to her.
She didn’t have a lot of details but she knew the type of organization he was with. She could only imagine what they’d do to her to find out where the boy was. She thought of the pill inside her purse.
As she hurried along, she opened it and reached inside. It was the cell her fingers touched first. Emergency contact. If this wasn’t an emergency, she didn’t know what was.
Quickly, she keyed in the special code she’d memorized when she took this assignment and pressed send. With a sinking sensation, she knew it wouldn’t get to anyone in time to help her. But maybe that message could save the boy.
Suddenly, the hedges along the sidewalk opened revealing a narrow paved road.
Beyond a low hill rose the back of two billboards. The Interstate.
There were cars there. She could hear them buzzing along. There was always traffic on the interstates in this town. If she just could get there, she could run out into the road. If she were hit head on, she’d be better off. But she’d be sure to get someone’s attention.
She ducked through the bushes and ran.
On the other side was nothing but an empty parking lot. One lone pickup truck sat in the grass beside the pavement. The building beyond the foliage was deserted as well.
But the man was still behind her.
She could hear his steps getting closer, clopping over the asphalt like a Clydesdale’s hooves.  She raced across the lot as fast as she could, wishing she’d worn running shoes instead of flats. Jeans instead of a skirt. If only she could make it to the road.
But the clopping grew louder. Closer.
Desperation tearing at her, once more she opened her pocket book, struggling with it as she hurried along. She found the secret compartment. Her fingers maneuvered the tiny vial into her palm.
And then it was too late.
Large strong hands gripped her shoulders. She dropped her purse and tried to kick out as she spun around.
She connected with his shin but he didn’t even feel it. He was so huge. Big shouldered. Strong as three men. He squeezed her arms, forcing her to look at him as if he wanted her to see him.
That face.
Big and knobby, weathered skin like old leather. Shaved head. The twisted tattoo climbing up the side of his neck. The smell of liquor on his breath. The face of a man with many gruesome murders behind him. What was one more?
Panic pummeled her brain. She couldn’t think.
The pill. It was her only hope.
She raised her hand to her mouth, but he gave her a brutal shake. The vial flew out of her hand and smashed on the concrete.
The man laughed. “You are not getting off that easy, little one,” he whispered in a strange, frightening accent.
And then he put a big hand around her neck and began to squeeze. The arterial nerve. A strong person can make you pass out by pressing in the right spot. She’d learned that in training, too.
She tried to fight but it was no use.
The traffic sounds on the interstate faded into a low whir. Stars began to whirl in her brain. The trees and buildings around her dimmed and went black.
As she went slack into the big man’s arms, all she could hope for was that her last message had saved the boy.

Amazon | iBooks (Apple) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble


The Count’s Baby – Now Available for Preorder!

The third Prasala Romance, The Count’s Baby will be released March 16, 2016. I’m so excited to share Megan’s story with my readers! (More below.)

You can preorder The Count’s Baby now on:

Amazon | iBooks (Apple) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble


When Megan Russell’s life is shattered after her politician husband leaves her for another woman, she flees to Prasala for solace where her best Prasala3-8_350friend, Katy, is now a princess.

Megan hopes to get a new start here and put the pieces of her life back together. She can’t go on as an emotional basket case because of what her husband did to her. She has to move on. She needs to find a meaningful career.

Especially now.

But the handsome Count with the wicked smile is making her mind go in other directions.

Count Philippe de BelleBourge enjoys his reputation as Europe’s most notorious playboy. He longs to get back to that life. But he has been saddled with handling his late father’s estate.

And now the intriguing divorcee from Kentucky has caught his attention. If only he could get her into his bed, she would realize what pleasures he could show her.

Megan senses danger around this man—that only makes him more interesting. But she can’t risk another betrayal. Can she hold her own against the Count’s wiles?

Or will she lose her heart to a man she can never have?

Preorder on Amazon

Preorder on iBooks (Apple)

Preorder on Kobo

Preorder on Barnes & Noble


Chapter One

Megan Russell smiled down at the pair of bright blue eyes gazing into hers with curiosity. From beneath the plush chenille blanket, a tiny hand reached out and wrapped around her finger.

The pressure was stronger than she expected, and her heart broke with tenderness at the sensation, even as she breathed in the sweet smell of baby powder—and fought the bitter taste welling up at the back of her throat.

“Little Prince Beaumont,” she whispered softly. “He’s beautiful.”

Beside her, Katy beamed. “Isn’t he? If I do say so myself.”

Megan sighed. The patch of black hair was like his father’s. The tiny mouth like Katy’s. “He has your eyes.”

Dressed in a pale pink slacks outfit, with her short blond hair smoothed back in a mature style, Katy didn’t look like the country girl she’d once been. Unless you knew her.

Megan watched her maternal moves as she fluffed the bedclothes of the hand-painted crib, a bed made long ago by specially commissioned carpenters to cradle the country’s royalty.

“Mama says that, too. And Darcy is beside herself with excitement over having a nephew.”

Megan still had trouble believing Katy’s little sister was the newly-crowned Queen of the country. She’d known Darcy since she was Prince Beaumont’s age.

Katy held out her arms. “Two o’clock. Nap time.”

Megan gave the little Prince back to his mother, watched her lay him gently on the silken sheets.

The afternoon sun danced playfully on the high majestic walls of the castle nursery. The intricate gold-leaf patterns glistened while the fanciful pastel scenes of knights and horses seemed to mock her. But the mural’s sweet innocence reflected the right tone for a baby.

And after all, the southeastern European country of Prasala was famous for its horses. No wonder some women from Kentucky felt so at home here.

Megan hoped to feel that way, too. She hoped she could heal here. She hoped to finally escape the emptiness in her heart.

Some things, though, were inescapable.

As the little Prince yawned and closed his eyes, Megan pressed a hand to her stomach. The familiar tremor of bitterness and fear rippled through her—feelings that had engulfed her for a few weeks now.

Her secret.

Stubbornly she bit back the hurt and fought the threatening tears with all her might. She would not fall apart in front of her friend.

Were they still friends? She hadn’t spoken to Katy in months.

As if she had read her thoughts, Katy took Megan’s hand and led her to a nearby divan.

“Who would have thought I’d grow up to be the mother of a Prince?”

“Or the wife of one.” Megan forced a smile as she eased herself onto the traditional Vendome sofa with its lavish carvings and cushions.

Katy continued to hold her hand, her face riddled with concern. “I’m so glad you’re here, Meg.”

With her free hand Megan smoothed the lap of her designer jeans.

She was still in the clothes she’d worn from the airport. Two days ago on a whim she’d had her light brown hair dyed dark and cut in a modern fringe. She must look a sight to Katy.

Avoiding her friend’s gaze she braced herself for the inevitable conversation.

“Tell me how you’ve been.”

How she’d been. Megan almost sighed out loud.

They used to be close.

She and Katy had been best friends when they were kids together in school. Back home in Kentucky, while Megan’s family had been well off, Katy’s had owned a struggling horse farm.

Funny. Katy always said Megan defended her from the bullies at school. The snobby rich kids who’d make fun of her because she didn’t wear designer clothes or couldn’t afford the latest gadgets. But Megan had always admired the way Katy stood up for herself.

Such an odd twist of fate.

As adults, Megan had been the one to comfort Katy when her well-to-do fiancé cheated on her days before her wedding. Now their situations were reversed. Katy was happily married and Megan was the one who’d been jilted.

Jilted. She hated that word.

Katy squeezed her hand. “Oh Meg, I’m so sorry about Tom. I wish you’d told me you were having problems sooner.”

“I didn’t know it myself until it was too late.” Megan stared down at their entwined fingers.

She and Katy had drifted apart the past year while she’d tried in vain to keep her life from disintegrating. When she’d called out of the blue last week and asked to come to Prasala for a visit, Katy had been understandably surprised. Even a little terse.

Megan could tell she wanted answers. Answers Megan couldn’t give her.

Not yet.

When Katy asked if Tom was coming, she’d quietly said, no. She and Tom were divorced. She hadn’t told her the details.

Katy leaned closer. “I wish I knew how to help you. You’ve always been there for me. It must be devastating to…lose him.”

Lose him. As if he were a missing pet.

“I lost him years ago,” she said. “If I ever really had him.”

Bitterness churned inside her.

She had trusted Tom completely. They had been childhood sweethearts. She’d thought they had the perfect marriage. She’d wanted children with him.

She had helped him get through law school, find his first job as an attorney, run for city council, the mayor’s office, all the way up to the Assistant Attorney General of the state.

But she should have seen the telltale signs years ago. The strain in his eyes, his coldness, his avoidance of her with constant work that kept him at the office.

Though apparently it hadn’t all been work.

“There was another woman.”

Katy’s grip on her hand grew tight. “Oh, no, Meg.”

It was eight months ago now. Just after she’d returned from her last trip to Prasala for Darcy’s coronation. Megan had barely walked through the door and begun to unpack when Tom told her, in a very calm, very unemotional voice, that there was someone else.

He wanted a quiet divorce—as in keeping it from the media—with as little fanfare and fuss as possible. For him their marriage was over, he’d said. He felt nothing for her any longer.

She bored him.

His words had stung her like a gunshot. Shock and disbelief had immobilized her senses. She bored him? How could Tom say such a thing? Maybe the spark had gone out of their marriage, but they could get it back. Couldn’t they? How could there be someone else?

Who was she? What was she like? Megan never got a chance to ask.

Tom had already packed his bags. As soon as he delivered his message, he picked them up and left the mansion they had shared as man and wife as if it were a hotel he’d stayed in for a weekend.

The following months were a blur. Megan cried for days, feeling stupid and humiliated and angry and betrayed. But despite Tom’s unfaithfulness Megan refused to believe their marriage was done.

It couldn’t be over. What did he expect her to do with herself?

Like a desperate fool, she called his office over and over. She asked to meet him at their favorite bistro, to talk with him. To try to patch up whatever was wrong with their marriage.

He refused.

All through the summer and the holidays and the winter she wandered the halls of her house, at a loss for what to do. She refused to sign the papers when they came. Her family didn’t believe in divorce. Neither did she. She didn’t think Tom did, either.

This couldn’t be happening.

She called Tom again. This time she begged him to come to the house. She told him he’d left some of his things and insisted he pick them up in person.

He agreed but only if she signed the papers.

She said she would. But that wouldn’t be necessary.

When Tom walked through the door she’d greeted him with a candlelight dinner of creamed lobster and double stuffed potatoes with chocolate cake for dessert.

His favorites.

He’d wanted to turn around and leave but somehow she convinced him to stay, to eat, to talk. If only he would talk to her. They could work out their problems. Through the dinner they made idle chitchat. Finally she managed to tempt him into the bedroom.

They made love. For old time’s sake, she told him. Just one last time. She’d hoped he would see what he was throwing away.

But in the morning he’d simply gotten dressed and left.

His last words to her were, “I expect to see those divorce papers soon.”

That very morning she signed them and sent them back.

A little over a week later, the smell of her morning French toast had her running to the bathroom. She felt bloated and irritable.

Then she missed her period.

Praying it was the stress of the breakup or that she was coming down with the flu, she bought a pregnancy test from the drug store.

When she read the result, she refused to believe it. She made an appointment with her family doctor. His tests told her the same bitter news.

She was pregnant.

Pregnant with Tom Russell’s child. The child she had wanted so much with him.

That was when she woke from the daze she’d been wandering in and finally saw the truth.

Her marriage was over. Tom wasn’t coming back. She was on her own. She didn’t cry this time. She was done with tears. Instead the pain settled into a dull ache that wouldn’t go away. And neither would the result of that night.

She touched her stomach again.

She hadn’t been able to keep the news of her divorce from Katy, but she refused to tell her about the stupid mistake she’d made with Tom.

“I don’t believe it,” Katy murmured, pity in her voice. “I always thought you two were the perfect couple.”

Megan stared down at her waist. She’d always been so optimistic, blithely telling others their problems would work out for the best. Until now, things had always worked out for her. She’d been so blind. Her advice had been so shallow, so naive.

“Far from it,” she said coldly. “We never had what you and your Prince Julio have found. The night Tom left, he admitted he’d been cheating on me a year.”

Typical politician. The power had gone to his head.

“Meg, no.”

Megan’s lip quivered. She turned her head away, unable to bear the thought of falling apart in front of her friend. She thought she was done with the crying, the shock, the pain. All she wanted was to get past it. To get over this nightmare, this agony, and get on with her life.

But suddenly, she couldn’t hold back.

She leaned her head against Katy’s shoulder and wept.

Katy ran her hand over her back. “There, there. It’s good to get it all out.”

Megan winced.

She used to say those words to Katy. She had always been the level-headed one, the sensible one. The one who gave Katy advice about her heartaches. She hated being on the receiving end. Being the needy one. The one who craved sympathy.

She lifted her head and wiped her eyes with her hands. “I just want to heal and move on.”

“What are you going to do with yourself?”

“I don’t know, Katy.”

It was time to get on with her life. But that was the problem. She didn’t have a life.

She’d spent the last thirteen years playing hostess at dinner parties, charity balls, social events. Her days had revolved around Tom Russell and his campaigns, his goals, his schedule, his agenda. He said she was boring. If she’d become boring, it was because of everything she’d done for him.

“I need a job.” She could barely hide the resentment in her voice.

Katy studied her thoughtfully a moment, as if she knew Megan was hiding something from her.

“You majored in Art History in college,” she offered.

Megan had thought about that. “It’s a possibility. I’ve always loved art. I’ve thought of taking up painting again. Maybe becoming a dealer.”

“You used to love to paint.”

She smiled wistfully.

That was a lifetime ago. She hadn’t had time for a hobby with Tom’s busy schedule. Painting wouldn’t provide a livelihood, though. She had some money to live on. The alimony was adequate for now, more than she’d expected with Tom’s legal connections. But soon there would be another to care for.

She needed a solid career.

“Have you decided how long you’ll stay in Prasala?” Katy asked quietly.

“A few weeks, at least.” She had nothing to go back to. Her life in Kentucky, for all practical purposes, was over.

“You are going back to Chevalia with us after the christening, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” Megan nodded. “It was a spur of the moment decision to come early.”

When she’d discovered her condition, she hadn’t cared where she went as long as it was far away from Kentucky and everything that reminded her of Tom Russell. Though she’d planned to attend Beau’s christening, the trip to Prasala became an excuse to escape.

“I can’t wait for you to see our palace, though it’s not as regal as Avante.” Katy gestured at the ornate nursery. “You can stay with us as long as you need, Meg.”

“Thank you.”

Touched by Katy’s generosity and unwavering loyalty, Megan hugged her friend.

Then Katy whispered softly in her ear. “Are you sure there’s nothing else you want to tell me?”

Megan pulled back and studied Katy’s too-sharp blue-green eyes. But before she could answer, there was a soft knock and the tall gilded door of the nursery opened.

A familiar figure peeped inside, and the pretty face broke into a wide grin. “Megan! They told me you were here.”

Katy’s sister, Darcy, rushed across the floor and threw her arms around her.

She had on a ruby red silk dress with a flared skirt that accented her thick dark hair which flowed over her shoulders. Darcy looked very grown up and regal indeed.

After a long, hearty hug, the new Queen pulled away with a grin. “If I’d known you were coming in this morning, I would have gotten up early and met you at the airport. How are you?”

Megan straightened her shoulders, trying to smile back.

She could see from Darcy’s face Katy had told her about the divorce.

It wasn’t a secret. Probably everyone knew by now. But Darcy’s way of handling the news was to chase it away by pretending life was wonderful.

It was for her, she was married to the King of this country, a man who adored her. Not that Megan was resentful. She was happy for Darcy. And proud of the girl who had been like a little sister to her growing up.

And maybe it was a good idea to act cheerful—whether she was or not.

“I’m fine,” Megan told her.

“Good.” Darcy gave her another hug, then tiptoed over to the crib, the material of her elegant dress making a soft rustle as she moved.

“So you’ve met my new nephew? He’s so cute I just want to eat him up.”

“Shhh,” Katy chided her sister. “We’ve just put Beau down for his nap.”

“Sorry,” Darcy whispered. Then she turned and cooed at the baby.

“If you wake him, you’ll have to get him back to sleep.”

“He’s already sound asleep. He takes after his aunt.” She yawned.

“I’m warning you, Darcy.”

Megan smiled, feeling suddenly wistful at the sisterly bickering she remembered so well. “I remember Darcy in diapers, trailing us around your house when I came to play. And now she’s married to the King of Prasala and has become his Queen.”

“She’s really grown up,” Katy said under her breath. “I’m proud of her.”

Darcy turned with a frown and put her hands on her hips. “What lies are you telling Megan about me, Katy?”

“I’m just complaining that I always have to keep an eye on you.”

Darcy waved her hand dismissively, then joined them in a chair near the sofa. “I’m so glad you’re here, Meg. You’ll never guess what news I have.”

Megan felt her spirits rise a bit. Darcy’s exuberance for life had always been infectious. “Have you written another song? You’re a wonderful songwriter.”

“Well, yes I have. But that’s not all. Philippe is giving a party.”

“Philippe?” Megan thought the name sounded familiar.

“You remember him. The Count with the cute dimples and devilish eyes? You met him at Katy’s wedding.”

“Philippe is giving a party?” Katy said before Megan could reply.

Darcy nodded. “It starts tonight.”

Katy didn’t seem to like the idea. “A party tonight?”

“More than a party. A three-day celebration. There’ll be hunting and a picnic and lavish dinners. And I’m going to sing my new song.”

“A three-day celebration starting tonight and he hasn’t invited anyone until now?”

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows about it but you. And Megan, of course, because she just got here. It’s a surprise in honor of Beau’s christening.”

Speechless, Katy stared at her sister.

It wasn’t the reaction Darcy had been expecting. She launched into a defensive tirade.

“Philippe has spent months fixing his place up. It’s the first social event at the Castle Rosa since his father died, and he’s hosting it all by himself. Everyone’s going. The Queen Mother, All the advisors. Even the stuffy old Lord Sebastian. Megan’s invited, too, of course.”

Katy shot Megan an uncomfortable glance. “I don’t think Megan feels up to it. Do you, Meg?”

But Megan couldn’t answer.

She was barely been listening to the squabbling sisters now. Her mind was focused on the Count with the cute dimples and devilish eyes. She remembered him now. He’d been at Katy’s wedding. She vaguely recalled a suave young man in a tuxedo with dark curly hair with tinted ends. A flamboyant man whom Darcy had run off with.

Much to Katy’s disapproval.

Darcy raised her hands in frustration. “Don’t be silly, Katy. Everyone’s invited. Besides, Philippe is just the person to cheer Megan up.” She smiled slyly.

Megan felt Katy stiffened with anger. “Are we talking about the same person? Darcy, do you really want Megan to meet Philippe? Now?”

Darcy looked at Megan, then back at Katy. “But she already met him at your wedding. You remember him now, don’t you, Meg? Count Philippe de BelleBourge?”

The picture in Megan’s mind was getting clearer. Now she could see the tall, dashing figure of the man with green eyes. She remembered his wicked, playful grin.

“I think so,” she murmured.

Beside her, Katy stiffened. “Darcy. This is very bad timing. You know how difficult it’s been for Megan lately.”

“That’s why this party will cheer her up,” Darcy insisted.

Katy got to her feet. “You intend to cheer her up with the likes of Philippe de BelleBourge? The most notorious playboy on the continent? The man who’s broken every heart from the Mediterranean to the North Sea?”

“You’re exaggerating,” Darcy scoffed.

Megan blinked. Oh, yes. “Now I remember him.”

The man had caused a real stir among the guests when he’d run off with Darcy at Katy’s wedding reception. She recalled the gossip she’d heard about him that night.

He had the reputation of a devil.

Suddenly her mind filled with the image of the audacious man in the elegant black tuxedo. He had looks that took your breath away. Megan recalled Katy had disliked the Count since she’d first met him.

That night at the reception, Megan had been inclined to agree with her.

Darcy stood up and straightened her shoulders. “You’ve never understood Philippe, Katy. He’s my friend. He and Leopold are cousins and have been best friends since boyhood. And Philippe has changed his ways. He’s settling down and trying to run the estate his father left him. He’s giving this party in Beau’s honor to try to make amends.”

“I don’t care what he’s doing,” Katy snapped.

Darcy’s voice became a plea. “You can’t ruin it for him. Or for Julio.”

Katy gritted her teeth, her love for her husband getting the better of her. “I may have to attend Philippe’s party with Julio for protocol’s sake, but I refuse to let Megan go.”

“Katy, you’re being impossible.”

Megan rose as well and calmly raised her chin. “She’s right, Katy.”

Katy spun around, eyes glowing. “What?”

“Staying away from a celebration because of the host’s reputation would be cowardly.” Even if the Count’s reputation made Tom and his philandering look like a Boy Scout. “Besides I came to Prasala to forget my old life. A party is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Katy’s mouth opened. “But Megan—”

Megan laughed. “This Count may have bedazzled every woman in Europe, but I’m certainly not going to fall for his charms after what I’ve been through.”

He’d be lucky if she didn’t scratch his eyes out. No, she would be civil. She was well trained in behaving in public no matter how she felt on the inside.

She turned to Darcy with the poise of a politician’s wife. “Tell Count de BelleBourge that we’ll be glad to come to his party.”

Triumphantly, Darcy grinned and stretched out a hand. “Come on, Meg. Let’s find you something cool to wear. We have to be there in a few hours.”

Leaving Katy to fume in the nursery, Megan followed Darcy out the door and down the castle hall.

Preorder on Amazon

Preorder on iBooks (Apple)

Preorder on Kobo

Preorder on Barnes & Noble

Bestselling author of chilling mystery-thrillers that will keep you up at night