Last week we announced that Alexa Grace’s Deadly Deception (Deadly Trilogy) is our Romance of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the Romance category: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Romance excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded Deadly Deception (Deadly Trilogy), you’re in for a treat!
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With more than 600 5-star reviews, it’s time for you to discover the bestselling new author behind Alexa Grace’s Deadly Trilogy – Amazon’s #1 rated and #15 bestselling “Romantic Suspense” title!
In Deadly Deception, the trilogy’s second book, enter the disturbing world of illegal adoptions, baby trafficking and murder with new detective Lane Hansen and private investigator Frankie Douglas. (Special Note: Deadly Offerings (Book 1) is FREE)
by Alexa Grace
In Deadly Deception, the second book of Alexa Grace’s Deadly Trilogy, enter the disturbing world of illegal adoptions, baby trafficking and murder with new detective Lane Hansen and private investigator Frankie Douglas.
Lane Hansen has a problem. He needs a woman to portray his wife in an undercover operation and the only females on his team are either very pregnant or built like linebackers. Then he remembers gorgeous P.I. Frankie Douglas — a woman who could take his breath away by her beauty and take him down in 2.5 seconds. Unfortunately, she’s the same woman he treated like a one night stand six months before.
Frankie Douglas has a problem. She wants to rid the world of one baby trafficking killer. The only way to do that is to partner with Lane Hanson, the man who hurt her by disappearing from her life after a night of mind-blowing sex.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Mandy Morris was the kind of girl a man would want to take home to meet his parents. But that was not a sentiment shared by her man. When the college sophomore told the man she thought was the love of her life she was pregnant, things got ugly. He’d even suggested the baby wasn’t his. He’d walked away.
It was the toughest decision she’d ever made, but she had given her baby away. What else could she do? She had no parents, no baby daddy, no job and two more years of college on a scholarship that was barely enough to cover her expenses. How could she possibly support a baby?
So why was she standing outside the office of the adoption agency that had supported her financially and adopted out her baby to a loving, wealthy couple who could give her baby everything?
She wanted her baby back. She’d decided she’d move heaven and earth to support and care for him. She’d wasted four long weeks using conventional methods to get an appointment to talk to someone, anyone at the agency, about her change of heart. She wanted her baby back and that was that. He would be nearly six weeks old by now. She didn’t want to miss another second of his life.
So she’d resorted to desperate measures. She’d staked out Dr. Eric Caine’s swanky home outside of Bloomington, Indiana, and then followed him to his office this morning. She slung her small purse over her shoulder, took a deep breath, and then pushed open his office door. He was sitting at a huge, L-shaped glass desk in front of a floor-to-ceiling window working on his computer, his back to her. She walked inside and stood at his desk, and cleared her throat when she realized he had not heard her come in. He whirled around in his chair, his eyes wide with surprise.
“I didn’t hear anyone come in. I thought the building was empty.” His eyes scanned her as if trying to remember her name.
“I’m Mandy Morris. I was your patient during my pregnancy.”
“That’s right, I remember. What can I do for you, Mandy?” He looked at her suspiciously and wondered how in the hell she got into the building which was supposed to be locked down.
Mandy sighed and sat in one of his guest chairs. “I want you to know how much I appreciate how your adoption agency has supported me during my pregnancy.”
“That’s our job and we’re glad to do it.” The doctor looked at the door as a man with long, shaggy blonde hair entered the room. The man nodded to Mandy and sat at the round table in the back of the room.
She watched him then said to the doctor, “I know that I will need to repay you the money you gave me and I will. I want my baby back.”
The doctor now glared at her, gone was his friendliness from before. “Mandy, we explained during your orientation, that once you give up your baby to the agency, there is no turning back.”
“I want my baby back,” she insisted.
“You signed our documents relieving yourself as the child’s parent. He is living in a wonderful home with loving parents.” He was getting impatient now and began tapping his foot.
“I said I want my baby back.” Was he hard of hearing or what?
“You’re twenty years old and a college student. Babies have expensive needs. How do you think you can afford to support a baby?”
“I’ll get a job. I’ll find a way.”
“This is not an emotional decision to make. Think about it. Think rationally. Can you give him the kind of life his new parents can? I think not.”
“I want my baby back. And if I need to involve the police, I will.” She was tired of listening to his crap. She ached for her baby and she would get him back no matter what she had to do.
“It seems your mind is made up. There is only one thing I can do. I’ll call the parents.” He picked up his cell phone and headed to the hallway outside the office. The man with the long blonde hair followed him. Several minutes later both men returned.
“Mandy, this is David,” the doctor said. “He’s my driver. I’ve asked him to take you to the home of the couple who adopted your baby boy. They’ve agreed to give him back to you.”
“Oh, thank you so much, Dr. Caine.” Tears flowed down her cheeks. She threw herself into his arms to hug him. “I promise to pay you back every penny. I promise. Thank you so much for doing this for me.”
Dr. Caine patted her on the back and guided her out of his office where she followed his driver.
It was an uneasy ride, both of them silent and seemingly deep in thought. They were hours and miles away from Bloomington before Mandy asked, “How much longer?”
David glanced at her for the first time since they started out and said, “Not far.”
She tried to make small talk by asking him how long he’d worked for Dr. Caine. He didn’t answer. He just watched the road and drove. That was fine with her. She wasn’t looking for a new BFF so she ignored him and imagined she’d soon hold her soft, cuddly little boy to her chest. She smiled at the thought.
It wasn’t long before they left the interstate and were driving a country road leading through the rich farmland the Midwest was known for. They drove for another hour then David slowed the car and turned onto a dirt lane that led into a wooded area.
“Why are we stopping here? Where’s the house?”
“This is where the couple agreed to meet us.” He opened his door and got out then leaned in to say, “Might as well get out and stretch your legs. They won’t be here for forty-five minutes.”
He walked around the car to open her passenger door and helped her get out. She stretched her legs and arched slightly to ease the dull pain in her back. She hated long car rides.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” She glanced at him as he leaned against the car.
“Yeah. I grew up around here,” he said. “I used to know every inch of these woods. See that path over there? It leads to one of the most beautiful fishing ponds you’ve ever seen.”
“Really?” Not that she cared, but this was the first friendliness he’d shown her and she wanted to keep things pleasant for the drive back.
“Hey, we’ve got time. Come on, I’ll show you.” He headed to the path at the edge of the woods then looked back at her to see if she was following. When he saw that she was, he waited for her to reach him then turned to walk ahead. “It’s this way.”
They’d walked for what seemed to her to be a couple of miles when she asked him, “How much farther is it?”
“Almost there,” he said.
She trudged forward, clutching her purse to her side, and almost slammed into him when he stopped suddenly. Her head jerked up. His expression was odd, his eyes dark and flat.
He pulled out a revolver. “End of the road, Miss Morris. Turn around.”
“What in the hell are you doing?” She turned away from him, her body trembling so hard she feared her legs would give out. She started to ask him why, but the bullet slammed into her head with a loud explosion and darkness clawed at her as she sank to the ground.
David walked to the car, but had to stop several times to throw up. He attributed his physical reaction to the fact that it was his first kill at close range. He hadn’t counted on the blood that sprayed onto his face, clothe, and shoes.
It was part of his job, he told himself as he wiped his face and shoes with a towel from his trunk. This was what he signed up for ten years ago when he assumed bodyguard duties for Dr. Caine. Serve and protect. Of course, when he signed up he didn’t know he’d have to kill to protect the lucrative business the doctor had built.
He pulled his cell phone out of his pants pocket and pushed a button on his speed dial. “It’s done.” He’d be meeting very soon with Caine. This turn of events would mean a higher percentage of the profits, whether the doc liked it or not.
Frankie Douglas sat under the white wedding tent with the other guests. It was a beautiful spring day. She felt the breeze caress her face and flow through her long blonde hair. The sweet scent of the roses in Anne Brandt’s rose garden was incredible and reminded her of the times Anne taught her how to tend the bushes with exquisite care and love.
She’d been to weddings where the bride looked beautiful; but Anne was breathtaking. Her long ivory gown was silk with hand-sewn pearls. It had an empire waist with a long train. She had a glow about her that seemed to radiate from within. Michael Brandt, the groom, hadn’t taken his eyes off her since she’d arrived at the altar to join him and the minister. He seemed unaware of the hundred or so guests watching the ceremony. His total focus was on the woman standing before him. Frankie had never seen a couple this much in love.
Although the happy couple had eloped last November, the groom’s mother and Anne’s friend, Daisy, had their own ideas about the celebration of matrimony. The two would have a formal wedding — period. Both women loved Anne as the daughter they didn’t have. So the young woman who’d lost her mother years before ended up with two. They planned the wedding with zeal enjoying every second of the planning.
It’s funny how things happen, she thought. She was in the hospital last November with a gunshot wound that cut through one side of her shoulder and out the other when Michael wheeled Anne in a wheelchair into her room. After he introduced them, Anne clasped her hand and thanked her for working to protect her from a serial killer who had his sights on her as his next victim. She remembered explaining to Anne that it was her job as a private investigator to protect her but Anne would hear none of it.
They’d become fast friends, which was surprising to Frankie, who had never had a female friend nor had she wanted one until Anne. She and Anne had gotten together at least once a week at Anne’s wind farm or at the Front Page Bar for drinks ever since. She’d found that she and Anne shared the same off-the-wall sense of humor, a love for Lady Gaga, as well as cravings for junk food when stressed.
The ring bearer pranced up the aisle holding a basket in his mouth that contained a black velvet jeweler’s box inside. Harley, Anne’s Giant Schnauzer, aimed for Michael and sat in front of him as Michael removed the ring from its box. Harley then took his place with Hank, Anne’s farm foreman who sat at the end of the first row.
The minister pronounced them husband and wife; the couple kissed then turned toward their guests. Frankie watched Michael kiss Anne again as he briefly rested his hand on her baby bump, and the guests erupted with applause. She had never met a couple who wanted a baby more.
Frankie joined the rest of the guests as they made their way inside the house for the reception. She scanned the crowd and saw Lane Hansen, the star of her erotic dreams. Her stupid heart slammed against her chest.
Lane had the dubious distinction of shooting her the year before. Guns drawn, they’d been creeping down some rickety storm cellar steps to stop a serial killer from killing Anne. One of the steps gave way under Lane and as he tumbled down the stairs, his gun went off, piercing Frankie’s shoulder.
It had been six months since she’d seen Lane and seeing him now didn’t exactly make her day. In fact, it pissed her off.
After three days of unconsciousness, last November, Frankie had awakened to find six foot five, decidedly gorgeous Deputy Lane Hansen asleep in the chair next to her hospital bed with his hand clasped around hers. She would learn that he’d spent three days in her hospital room watching, okay more like hovering, over her before she woke up.
When she was released from the hospital, he dropped by her apartment for five straight days equipped with enough food to feed an army. After dinner each night, he’d ignored her protests and insisted on looking at her bullet wound and changing her bandaging. Then they’d relaxed on her sofa; playing music, watching television, or just talking.
By the third day, though she’d never have admitted it, she was looking forward to his visits. On the fifth day, after he changed her bandaging, he’d kissed her. She remembered the moment as if it had just happened. She’d played it in her mind a million times.
He took her lips tenderly, tentatively exploring her mouth with his tongue. He broke off the kiss and looked into her eyes as if asking for permission. She responded by snaking her arms around his neck and pulling him to her. Then she was kissing him and he was kissing her back, as he swept her off the couch and onto his lap, stroking her with his wonderfully large hands. His mouth tasted like the wine they’d had for dinner and his scent was a mix of musk and man that was intoxicating.
His kiss deepened; his tongue exploring the inner recesses of her mouth. A surprising, urgent need flowed through her veins like molten lava. She leaned into him, tightening her arms around his neck and pressing her soft breasts against the hardness of his massive chest.
A heat swept through her as she remembered how he’d carried her to her bedroom and gently eased her down onto the bed. They’d made wild, turbulent love for hours and hours that night and she’d slept in his arms. In the morning, he was gone. Just like that. No good-bye. Nothing. Like a ghost, he’d disappeared; leaving her like it’d just been a one night stand.
She was so angry she’d punched his pillow then screeched as pain shot down her arm from her shoulder wound. Damn him. She’d broken her own rule of not dating cops and look what had happened. She’d learned the hard way cops found it way too easy to lie, and obviously, this one found it quite easy just to screw her and leave.
She glared at Lane who stood talking to another cop, who looked familiar. Lane was dressed in a navy suit, white shirt, and red tie looking like he’d just left a photo shoot. Her stupid heart leapt.
Her first instinct was to leave, but she’d promised Anne she’d stay throughout the reception and dinner. It was going to be a long night.
Lane didn’t see Frankie at first, but rookie Deputy Edward Smith pointed her out.
“Isn’t that your sister, Frankie, over there?”
His eyes followed Ed’s index finger that aimed at one of the most gorgeous women he’d ever seen standing next to Anne Brandt in a low cut, lavender silk dress that provocatively skimmed over her body, ending at her knees revealing her endless long legs. Damn, had he really forgotten how sexy she was? He started counting to ten and prayed his arousal was not obvious.
“I told you before. She’s not my sister. She told you that at the crime scene so she could get information out of you.”
“Are you doing her? Because if you’re not, I’m going to be all over her like a dog on a sausage salesman at a dog park.”
“I don’t kiss and tell. Anyway, I heard she was in a relationship.” Okay, that was a lie, but he found he didn’t like the idea of Ed Smith or any other man making a move on her.
“I don’t care if she’s in a relationship or not. He’s not with her, so she’s fair game,” he said as he moved toward her.
Lane clenched his jaw and scowled at him as Ed now stood next to Frankie pulling her into a conversation. She looked more uncomfortable than pleased and looked toward him. When their eyes met, she sent him an icy glare. He needn’t wonder whether or not she was angry with him. That glare said it all. Damn it. He’d screwed up badly with her and had no idea how to fix it. And he did want to fix it, because he couldn’t get her out of his head, awake or sleeping. He’d relived making love to her a million times and taken as many cold showers.
If she was haunting him, it was his own damn fault. What kind of a bastard had he become leaving her after a night of mind-shattering sex? The truth was, he’d never felt like she made him feel and it scared the crap out of him. So he’d walked away. And now there was nothing he regretted more.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning and Detective Lane Hansen was up to bat. The pressure swirled around him like a thunderstorm. The bases were loaded with two balls and two strikes. The Cop Team needed a hit or there was a good chance the Fire Fighter Team would win the game. The Fire Fighters hadn’t beaten the Cops for five years and he certainly didn’t want to be the reason they won.
The pitcher unrolled a curve ball that surged past him and clapped in the catcher’s mitt. Ball three. A cell phone went off in the dugout and Ed Smith announced it was Lane’s. The pitcher aimed another one and Lane’s bat cracked like a whip. The ball sailed over left field, out of the park. Lane flew to first base, then raced to second then third following his teammates before him. The crowd in the bleachers was now standing up and the cheering was ear piercing. He slid into home base creating a cloud of dust that coated his eyes. He heard the umpire call the play safe and realized his team surrounded him, patting him hard on the back. Lane rubbed his eyes and noticed Ed running toward him from the dugout with his cell phone in his hand.
“It’s the sheriff. A couple of hikers found a body in a wooded area near State Highway 55 off of U.S. 41 close to Kramer. He said for you to get your ass out there ASAP. The crime scene techs are there and the coroner is on his way. Call dispatch for the exact location.”
Lane grabbed his cell out of the deputy’s hand and raced toward his county sheriff department issued SUV. He turned on his lights and sirens and sped out of the parking lot. His adrenalin shot into high gear as it always did when a possible homicide was assigned to him.
He saw flashing lights ahead and knew he’d found the crime scene. He pulled up behind a patrol car, threw his county sheriff investigator jacket on over his baseball uniform and pushed his small notebook in his back pocket. He noticed Karen Katz, a crime scene technician, standing near the crime scene investigation van and headed toward her.
“Karen, how’s it going? What do we have?”
“See for yourself. Enter over there and stay in the woods and off of the path we’ve got secured with crime scene tape. Other than the hikers’ shoe impressions, we won’t have any others. The rain storms we’ve had for the past week washed away any chance of getting the victim’s and the killer’s shoe impressions. Same goes for tire impressions. Where’s your partner?”
“Jan is out on maternity leave.”
“Already? I thought she had a couple of months to go.”
“Twins. Her doctor put her on bed rest.”
Lane hiked through the brush and soggy earth, his boots making a squishing sound with each step. He walked as close as he could get to the narrow dirt path which was more mud than dirt. He was grateful that although it was early evening; there was still enough light so he didn’t need his flashlight. He noticed two sets of shoe impressions, which were undoubtedly those of the hikers. He pressed onward and hoped he wouldn’t get a raging case of poison ivy like he did the last time they found a body in a wooded area.
Soon he saw a pair of teenaged hikers sitting on a log a short distance from the immediate crime scene talking with a deputy named Sam Hillsen. They looked like they might be fourteen years old. One was holding his stomach and looked like he’d either been sick or was getting ready to be sick. He overheard Sam tell them that their parents were on the way. He made a mental note to get their names from Sam and schedule an interview with them with their parents present. Judging from the terrified expression on their faces, he may also need to call in one of the victim advocates or counselors.
He saw Bob Goldberg, another crime scene technician, holding a camera and taking photos of the body and scene. He carefully inched around the body of a young girl lying face down in the dirt careful not to disturb the scene. She was fully clothed and a small leather purse lay near her. He wanted to search it for identification, but knew he couldn’t before the Coroner arrived and photos were taken.
He moved closer; the bullet wound at the back of her head was unmistakable. It looked like the gun was shot at point blank range. Lane could see stippling around the wound that had burned onto her skin. The killer could have been as close as three feet from the girl when he fired. He looked around for any sign of a bullet in case it went through the victim. He saw nothing and assumed the bullet was lodged in her skull. If so, the medical examiner would recover it from the body during the autopsy.
“I won’t be able to get blood spatter,” said Bob. “Did Karen tell you that we can’t get shoe or tire impressions either?”
“Yeah, I know, thanks to the rain.”
He inched closer to the body and bent down to examine her hands ans wrists. There were no defensive wounds nor was there any damage to her long fingernails. He checked the wrists for ligature marks to determine if she came to the scene voluntarily. There were none.
From what he could see, there was no sign of a struggle, nor were there signs she’d been dragged here. For what reasons would she follow her killer to this remote area willingly? And why would someone want to shoot her at point blank range?
He heard someone approaching and turned to see his supervisor, Sheriff Tim Brennan had arrived.
“What’s your initial assessment?” Tim studied his face as he asked the question. Lane Hansen had been promoted to detective just five months before and the sheriff still considered Lane a rookie. He was a smart and perceptive rookie, but a rookie just the same.
“There are no defensive wounds or physical signs that she fought back nor are there any signs she was dragged here. I think she knew her killer and I think her killer lives in this area now or has lived here in the past. How else would he even know this place exists? I don’t think it was a random decision that he lured her here to kill her.”
“Wouldn’t the rain have washed away the drag marks?”
“Not if there’d been a struggle. The drag marks would have been deep enough so that the rain would fill the indentations in the ground, not washed them away. The surrounding plants would have been disturbed too.”
“Agree. Find a bullet or casing?”
“No, sir. Chances are it’s still lodged inside her skull.”
Doc Meade arrived and shot a glance over to Lane and Tim before he bent to look at the body.
Lane slipped on his latex gloves as he watched Doc Meade open the girl’s purse as Bob took photos. Doc handed the purse to Lane, who looked inside and took out a small wallet. A bank debit card, driver’s license, library card and Indiana University identification card were inside.
“Victim’s name is Mandy Morris, 19 years old, and a student at I.U. There’s a dorm address on the ID. The driver’s license lists an address in Bedford that may be her parents’ residence. I’ll do a computer search for the phone number and contact them first.” Lane jotted notes on a small pad he’d retrieved from his pocket. Contacting a victim’s parents was his least favorite thing to do, but it had to be done.
“Shit. She goes to I.U.? My daughter, Jennifer, is a junior there.” Tim cringed and pulled his jacket collar up and a chill rushed through his body. This murder hit too close to home. How many times had he and his wife, Megan, worried about his only daughter’s safety since she’d moved out of their home to live in a dorm in Bloomington? He was well aware of the crime statistics related to coeds on college campuses. On college campuses there are large concentrations of young women who are at greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women in the general population or in a comparable age group. Therefore, Jennifer’s safety remained on his worry top ten list.
“There’s a cell phone.” Lane took out a plastic sandwich bag and placed the slim silver cell phone inside. He’d examine it later for recent calls, etc. There were no car keys, but that was not a surprise if Mandy Morris lived on campus and walked to her destinations or used public transportation.
The deputy and the crime scene technician gingerly loaded her body on a gurney and headed for the M.E.’s van. Doc Meade turned to follow them and said, “Lane, I’ll do the autopsy at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I’ll see you there.”
Lane had stopped by his apartment to shower and shave and felt almost human again as he found his cubicle in the bull pen at the Sheriff’s office. He found his cubicle lined with streamers and colorful confetti to celebrate the Cop Team’s win over the Fire Fighters.
He turned on his computer then searched for the home address listed on Mandy Morris’s driver’s license and found the name of Nelle Morris as the homeowner. He’d go to Bedford in the morning after the autopsy to talk to Nelle Morris in person, then to Bloomington to talk to Mandy’s friends.
At 10:00 a.m. sharp, Doc Meade made the initial Y-shaped incision in the body of Mandy Morris. Lane didn’t think Doc would find anything of interest in his examination of the victim’s organs. She was nineteen years old, for Christ’s sake. Lane’s interest was in the skull where he’d seen the obvious entry of the bullet.
He was feeling queasy and cursed himself for meeting with some buddies from the baseball team at Mom’s Cafe for his usual farm style breakfast which included everything from the kitchen except the sink. It wasn’t the smartest move just hours prior to an autopsy but it wasn’t his first and he didn’t think eating all that food would matter. Until now. It was the combination of the formaldehyde smell and the sickening ripening of the dead body that had the contents of his stomach doing acrobatics. The Vicks VapoRub he’d smeared in each of his nostrils hadn’t helped a bit. He’d walk into the hallway for some fresh air, but his boss, Sheriff Tim Brennan stood beside him and he didn’t want to give the impression he was the rookie his supervisor thought he was.
The fluorescent lights were old and periodically crackled and blinked as the coroner went through the motions of removing and examining her organs as he spoke into his tape recorder. Lane’s mind wandered and he was startled when Doc plunked a bullet into a stainless steel bowl and handed it to him.
“I’m no bullet expert, but that sure looks like a .38 hollow point to me.” Doc wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced at Lane. “It will be interesting to find out what ATF has to say about it as well as what kind of gun it was shot from.”
Lane put the bullet in a padded envelope to send to ATF for analysis. He, too, was curious about the make of the gun the killer used. It would be one more piece to a puzzle he intended to solve to bring justice for the victim and her family.
He pulled up to the house and rechecked Mandy Morris’s home address on his notepad. This was the right place. The house looked like it was overdue to be condemned with grass and weeds that went to his knees and house paint peeling down to raw wood in places. There was an ancient sofa on the front porch with a can of cigarette butts lying on a table beside it.
He knocked on the front door several times and was getting ready to leave when he heard a female voice on the other side of the door say, “What do you want?”
Not the friendliest greeting, but he could deal. “I’m Detective Lane Hansen and I’m looking for Nelle Morris.” He held his badge up to the peep hole.
“Yeah, well what do you want with her?” She barked through the door.
“I have news about her daughter.”
The door flew open and a middle aged woman with scary, wiry gray hair, yellow teeth wearing a stained flowered house dress stood before him holding a glass of what smelled like bourbon.
“That’s funny. I don’t have no daughter,” she said. “I’ve got a good for nothing niece that my brother left me when he died. But she ain’t here.”
“Are you Nelle Morris?”
“Who else would you be talking to at this address?”
“Is your niece named Mandy Morris?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“Then spit it out. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Mandy Morris was found dead yesterday.”
“No kidding. That’s what she gets for going to college when she should have stayed here and supported her aunt. She needed to get a damn job to help pay for things around here. But no. Her mother filled her with all these ideas that she could be anyone she wanted to be. And she sure didn’t want to be anything like her dear Aunt Nelle.”
Lane just stared at her. He’d just told her that her 19 year old niece had lost her life and this is her response? She was most definitely one of those women devoid of maternal instincts. He clenched his jaw and asked, “When was the last time you saw Mandy?”
“A couple of summers ago. Just before she got that scholarship and left for college.” She slurred the word “college” like it was a dirty word.
“And you haven’t heard from her since?”
“Nope and I didn’t expect to hear from that ingrate. After all I’d done for her too. Who else would have taken her in after that car accident that killed her parents?”
“Do you know anyone who would want to hurt Mandy?”
“Nope. If you’re done with your questions, I’m busy,” she said as she pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her dress pocket. She then stumbled back a couple of steps and slammed the door in his face.
Lane folded his notebook and slipped it in his pocket. As he walked to his car, he thought of Mandy Morris, only nineteen years old, lying face down in the dirt, with a bullet through her head. She’d been so young with her life ahead of her. Her mother had been right. She could have been anyone she wanted to be. That her young life was cut so short and her only living relative didn’t give a damn sickened and saddened him at the same time.
His cell vibrated in his jacket pocket. He pulled it out and checked the display. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hi, sweetie. How’s my handsome boy? Just calling to see if you can come for supper tonight. Your dad caught some catfish yesterday and we’re having a fish fry.”
“Not tonight. I’m in Bloomington on a case. I may be here for a couple of days.”
“Lane, there’s another reason I called. You remember Nancy? I work with her at Dispatch. Well, Nancy has a pretty daughter and I thought…”
“Don’t go there again, Mom. You’re not fixing me up. I thought we had that settled. I don’t need your help in that department.”
“Honey, I respectfully disagree. You should have made me a grandmother years ago.”
“Seriously, Mom? This is why you called me? Because I’m at work and I have a lot to do today.”
“I love you, Lane.”
“Love you too, Mom. Good-bye.”
That was one thing about the Hansen family; love was never in short supply. What his mother didn’t know was the only woman he wanted was one who haunted his dreams. The one he’d probably never have again. Not that he’d stop trying. Seeing Frankie at the wedding had only deepened his resolve. Now he just needed a plan to make her forgive him and let him back in her bed.
He’d turned the ignition to start his car when the cell buzzed again.
“Hansen,” he answered.
“This is Dr. Meade. After you left the autopsy, I discovered something that may help your investigation.”
“Mandy Morris had given birth within weeks of her death.”
Lane disconnected the call and leaned back in his seat and felt anger wash over him. He had two immediate thoughts. The first was how could anyone have killed this girl? The second was this sick bastard is going down.
Like most cops, he knew the leading cause of death for pregnant women is homicide at the hands of the baby’s father. So finding the baby daddy jumped to first on his agenda.
Lane checked into the Comfort Inn and spent most of his evening eating pizza and making interview plans and appointments for the next day. He wanted to talk to Mandy’s dorm roommate as well as visit area hospitals to find out where she’d given birth. He vowed the name of the baby daddy would be his by the end of the next day.
He pulled out the information he’d gotten from the college. He learned that Mandy Morris was an A or B+ student who was on a scholarship that paid all her expenses as long as she was enrolled in college, taking classes and maintained at least a B average. Student records revealed she had missed numerous classes this term, though she had not missed even one in the past.
He turned on his laptop to view her bank records. There were direct deposits of $500 to her checking account every two weeks from F.H.A.A. Since she was not working and had a scholarship, these deposits made him curious. There were debit transactions to a grocery store, a pharmacy and small amounts for cash. There were no payments made to a physician, which he found odd since she was pregnant. In addition, there were no payments for rent. Something that popped out was a direct deposit of $10,000 that was made six weeks prior to her death from F.H.A.A. Who the hell was F.H.A.A. and why were they paying her this much money?
Her phone records revealed she’d made multiple calls to F.H.A.A. The last call was made the day before her death. Other than that, the only calls she made the month before she died was to a pharmacy, a Pizza King, and a Chinese restaurant. It seemed odd to him that someone her age had not called or texted any friends.
It was close to midnight when he closed his laptop and turned on the television. Exhausted, he fell asleep watching a Seinfeld rerun.
He awoke on fire, panting and aroused. Damn it. Not again. He glanced at his phone — 3:00 a.m. The dreams had started again. Not that they’d ever stopped. This one was in erotic Technicolor and started with the back of a dress Frankie was wearing. The zipper was stuck so he pulled on it, his knuckles rubbing against her satiny skin, the sexual electricity sharp between them. He plucked a tiny piece of fabric from the zipper teeth and the zipper flowed down easily.
He slid his hands inside her dress and around her waist, pulling her closer to him until he could feel her heat. He pushed the dress to the floor to reveal her perfect naked body. He turned her around and possessed her mouth in a deep kiss that sent fire shooting through his body down to his toes. Beads of sweat formed at his temples, the heat becoming unbearable as he pushed her onto the bed, her soft body beneath his hard one.
The dreams were his punishment for leaving her like he did. One night with her and he experienced a sexual explosion like no other. He’d had sex with a lot of women but none who made him feel like he’d died and gone to heaven. He always had the control, but with Frankie, he didn’t give a damn who controlled what as long as he was having mind-shattering sex with her.
Lying next to her that night, the realization had branded him that she was the one he might not be able to leave behind and it terrified him. So he’d held her while she slept and at dawn he slipped out of her bed and out of her life.
When had he become such a bastard? Why in the hell did he do that? That was a stupid question with a puzzling answer. She scared the crap out of him. With the S.W.A.T. team, he’d crashed through a known and armed drug dealer hideout and had not blinked; but this gorgeous, spunky woman and her effect on him had him shaking in his boots.
Now he’d lost her. He knew he had. It was his own damn fault. He cursed and threw a pillow across the room. He then got out of bed and headed for the shower — a cold one.
They’ve been warned! Getting personally involved with a partner can put cases and lives at risk. Going undercover as husband and wife, Lane and Frankie struggle to keep their relationship strictly professional as their sizzling passion threatens to burn out of control.