BACKLASH, Book 1 in my Aspen Lake series, is on sale for 99 cents until September 3rd!
At all the using places, including:
What he’s sworn to protect, she’s willing to sacrifice to save those she loves…
When dedicated teacher Lily Wheeler interrupts a vicious gang attack on one of her students, she vows it won’t happen again. But her rash interference puts her in the path of a cold-blooded killer and the constable tracking him — a man she has little reason to trust, but can never forget.
Constable Chase Porter returned to Aspen Lake to see justice done, not renew old acquaintances. But when he rescues the woman he once loved from a volatile situation, he realizes his feelings for Lily haven’t lessened over the years.
Now, the dangerous killer Chase has sworn to capture has Lily in his sights. Can Chase and Lilly learn to trust each other again before it’s too late — or will old insecurities jeopardize their future?
“What can you tell me about the confrontation in the parking lot?” asked Chase.
Lily didn’t want to tell him anything. “Shouldn’t we wait for one of the officers before getting into that?”
“Right now, I’m it.”
“I don’t understand.” Her fingers tightened around her cup, and the resulting pop from the pressure filled the small space. She glanced back at the door, all confusion, and he knew she was hoping for some kind of intervention. For someone else to join them, anyone else. “What do you have to do with all this? Why are you back here?”
Stalling, he settled his arms on the tabletop. She didn’t trust him. He also got that he was the last person she’d want dropping back into her life. The file between them held some of her answers. The rest were buried so deep inside him, it made ignoring them all part of the routine.
He offered her an anemic look of confusion. “Here?”
“Yes. Here. In this room. In Aspen Lake. In the parking lot of my school.” She spread her hands out and motioned around her. “Here!” She averted her gaze and inhaled a deep breath before spotlighting him, apprehension darkening her eyes, deepening the blue color.
“My job.” To him, it was that simple.
“I’ve been transferred to the Aspen Lake detachment.”
“You’re a cop?” Her look of skepticism said it all.
The air of disbelief pricked at his ego. He shifted in his chair. Like all the times in fifth grade when his teacher, Miss Carlisle, had asked him why he had no lunch. Had asked questions about his father.
“Is that so hard to believe?” He had worked his ass off to get where he was, and he was a damned good cop. The work he did with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and his reputation, proved his dedication to his job. None of which she’d be aware of, or care about if she did. When he burnt a bridge, the only thing he left behind was ash.
“Yeah, kind of. But then, how would I know? You didn’t feel the need to let me in on all your plans. Remember.”
“So, we’re going to do that here? Now? Rehash the past?”
“You’re right. There’s absolutely no need. Feel free to skip ahead to the part about why you’re back now.”
“Among other things, I’m part of a collective task force targeting organized crime.”
“Which doesn’t explain why you’re back in Aspen Lake.”
She crossed her arms. “You think we have organized crime in Aspen Lake?”
While it had never been his, he needed to remember this was her place, her town, and her sanctuary, as well as a police matter. He kept his response brief. “Yes.”
“And the attack this afternoon? You think it was gang related?”
“And you don’t?”
She didn’t react, didn’t deny, which told him a lot. He sighed. “We know gangs are recruiting in the area. One gang in particular is increasing its presence, the Prairie Brotherhood. They run the gamut from drugs to money laundering and everything in between.”
“What’s any of this got to do with Jason? He’s a thirteen-year-old child.”
“That would be the question of the hour. Because one of the men who attacked him this afternoon, the one with the web tattoo, is a prominent member of the Prairie Brotherhood.”
She frowned as she uncrossed her arms and leaned forward. “But that doesn’t make sense.”
“Why?” He asked, because he needed all the facts, all the information on Jason he was able to gather, and figured his best bet was sitting in front of him.
“Because it just doesn’t.”
“You’re going to have to be a little more specific.” “How would Jason even know this person?”
He tapped a finger on the file folder between them. “This person goes by the name Raphael Tessier. On the street he’s known as the Enforcer, that’s also his job description, by the way, and he’s the number three man for the Prairie Brotherhood.”
Her palms settled on the table, and her chest expanded with the long slow exaggerated breath she drew into her lungs. “But what could he want with Jason? I can’t imagine Jason knowing this Enforcer person.”
“Or how the Enforcer knows him?”
“No.” She shook her head. “No idea.”
“How well do you know Jason?”
“Well enough to know he’d never get mixed up in this kind of thing.”
“Then apparently you don’t know him as well as you think. The Prairie Brotherhood doesn’t send out Raphael Tessier to terrorize kids. He has foot soldiers for that. He comes out when there’s a very heavy score to settle. When all other options have failed. When only the most brutal tactics will do.”
Hard to believe her skin could get any paler, but it did. He squelched the wave of pity and braced his arms on the table, ready to push back his chair. He needed distance. She reached across the table and laid a restraining hand on his arm. Before he knew it, memories got the drop on him. Of their special spot, of fogged over windows, of fumbling fingers and stubborn buttons. He set his butt back down in the chair. He didn’t have a choice. Standing wasn’t an option.
“So, you think…” She paused, collected herself. “You think they’ll be back. Looking for him again. Don’t you?”
He glanced down at her hand, registered the burn of his skin underneath hers. A four second time delay occurred before he stabilized enough to reply. “That’s what we have to find out.”
Her eyes squeezed shut for a couple of seconds. Her fingernails cut into his arm. “All right, you say you know your stuff. Tell me how to help him. I can talk to him. I can help.”
He carefully and methodically removed her hand from his arm and placed it on the table. “You can let the police do their job.”
She blinked, and the faintest flush of pink painted her throat and cheeks. “I need to do—”
“No, you don’t.” He gritted his teeth as she tucked her hands into her lap.
Her chin went up. “I’m involved whether you like it or not, so let’s skip past all the crap and move on to what I can do to help him. Because the one thing I will not do is stand aside and leave him to be terrorized by these…these people.”
Damn right you will, he thought. “Let’s not pretty it up. These people? These people are killers, thieves, drug dealers, and pimps. The police will handle it. The police will keep him safe.” He knew what happened to the people caught in the Prairie Brotherhood’s headlights, and she was the very last person he wanted trapped there.
“No offense, but from everything you’ve said, it might not be enough.” A true teacher, she held up a hand as soon as he opened his mouth. “He is in my classroom five days a week. I can help keep him safe. You can concentrate on the bad guys and put every effort into finding them. I, on the other hand, will be concentrating on my student.” She let her hand drop, took aim and fired her parting shot. “He’s all alone. His father couldn’t care less. You, of all people, should be able to relate.”
He closed his eyes at the low blow. Then he moved, made his way around the corner of the table, and came to stand beside her chair. “Still collecting lost souls, Lily?”
Her top teeth snagged on her bottom lip, and heat swept under his skin. She pushed her chair back and stood. “I don’t need to justify my actions to you.”
“You will if those actions put you, or anyone else, in danger.”
“You seem pretty sure of yourself.” Her hands went to her hips. “That’s new.”
“I do what it takes to get the job done.” No matter what.
“And when the job’s done? When there’s nothing left for you here?”
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and take a chance on the whole thing. And if you’ve already read Backlash – thank you! Book 2, EXPOSED, will be out on September 11th!