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One night. Two bullets. Three runaways.
Addy Michaels, living her careful life on a forgotten back road, thinks she's safe--that her past and its corpses are long buried. Surely after fifteen years the cops have quit looking for the street kids believed to have kidnapped a baby and killed their prostitute foster mother, Belle Bliss.
Addy couldn't be more wrong.
A cold case. Hot again, when the missing child's grandmother hires renowned profiler Cade Harding to find her grandson. Cade tracks Addy to her safe haven in a remote area of Washington state. Their attraction to each other is immediate, dangerous, and badly timed because...
Cade isn't alone.
A twisted killer, faceless and unknowable, follows in Cade's footsteps--on the hunt for anyone who can tell the truth about killing Bliss.
All roads lead to Addy.
EC Sheedy lives and writes on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. With the ocean a few steps from her door and Zuke, a 110 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, sleeping on the sofa in her office, she considers herself one very lucky writer. But her real luck is being married to Tim, her first and final husband.
EC writes both contemporary romance and romantic suspense, the latter because sometimes a nasty and conniving villain pops into my head and she just has to get him out.
She dislikes cooking.
She dislikes nosy people.
She dislikes too many rainy days in a row.
She dislikes snakes.
And the only word she hates is hate—especially when used as a verb.
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Cade looked at Stan and Susan, two aging lovers—and he'd decided they were definitely lovers. Susan's eyes were wide, expectant. Stan's were judgmental and pissed off.
Cade turned to Susan, genuinely puzzled. "Why now?" he asked. "After all these years, why ask me to investigate now?"
"Mainly because I didn't know, until your mother's funeral, that you could help. It was your wife who told me what you did, how successful you were. She was very proud of you, you know." She paused. "As for your mother? Whenever I asked about you, she said very little, other than you'd 'taken off and left her alone, just like your father."
Cade might have protested, except for the glint of understanding in Susan's eyes, an understanding that no doubt came from years of her lending his mother money. He didn't bother defending himself, say how he'd kept in touch with his mother until she died and sent a regular monthly check. His business.
"That it?" he asked, wanting to end the conversation.
"No. The big reason is Frank Bliss is being paroled after serving seven years for manslaughter."
Stan interjected. "Go back a bit, Susie."
She pursed her lips. "A few months after the murder, I met with Frank Bliss. I'd hoped to learn something the police hadn't—stupid, I know—but..." She took a few steps, then turned back to face him, her expression defiant. "Ever since, I've felt that boy knew more than he'd told."
"You 'felt'?" Even though Cade's career as a profiler centered on building a whole loaf from discarded chaff, he'd learned to distrust the I felt phrase—so often too close to its sister phrase, I wish, to be worthwhile.
"I figured you'd glom on to that word, but regardless, I'll stand by it. Frank Bliss was either lying or not telling everything he knew."
"If you consider his mother was brutally murdered—literally before his eyes—why would he lie? What do you think he'd gain from it?"
"I have no idea," she said. "But ever since the murder, Frank Bliss has been in jail more than he's been out. I suspect he lies for all kinds of reasons."
"And his brother?"
Stan answered. "Dead. Knifed in an alley after a fight in some club. About three years after the murder."
"Unlucky family," Cade said. "A good psychologist might say it was his mother's murder that turned Frank bad in the first place."
"He'd be wrong," Susan said, "because Frank didn't like his mother."
"He told you that?"
"He didn't have to. It was in his face, in his eyes. I think he was happy she was dead."
"Even if you're right, it doesn't prove—"
She stopped him with a raised hand, her eyes coal hard and direct. "If he didn't care about his mother, he certainly wouldn't care about a sixteen-month-old baby. Whatever his reasons, I think he lied." She waved her hand in a frustrated action, her voice rose. "Maybe he killed his mother, maybe the lies were to protect himself, or his kid brother—"
"That's a lot of maybes, Susan." Cade said quietly. "Besides, you said the police checked Brett's alibi."
"They could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time."
The room went quiet, and Stan arched a brow and looked at Cade, his expression bordering on sympathetic. "Susie hasn't let this case go since she found out about Josh. She's not about to stop now," he said.
Maybe not, but Cade knew they'd stepped hip deep into the realm of conjecture and magical thinking on a murder that occurred fifteen years ago. "It's a waste of time. Mine and yours," Cade said. He hadn't left WSU to get mired in someone else's problem, someone else's grief—or to work a case with a serious case of freezer burn. He'd walked this walk before. Swampland in a fog. "I'm sorry," he said again, more firmly this time. "I can't help you."
Again the room fell to silence, broken finally by Susan's heavy sigh.
"I didn't want to do this," she said. "But you leave me no choice." She met his eyes, her gaze unwavering. "You do this for me, Cade, and I'll forget what your mother owed me, which over the years came to over sixty-five thousand dollars."
She might as well have hit him in the gut with a two-by-four. His breath swooshed out, then he shook his head, muttered, "Son-of-a-b****."
"No," Susan stated in a clear, measured tone. "I'm the mother of a dead daughter who's missing her grandson. Sons-of-b****** don't even come close."
Addy picked up her paint gear, straightened, and let her gaze drift over Star lake. Ruffled by the wind, it was a blanket of rippling diamonds in the afternoon sun. She swiveled, her gaze feasting on the tiny property: the cabins, ten of them sporting new paint jobs and looking proud and pretty, the fresh gravel she'd laid in the driveway, and the new sign in amusing fifties-style lettering she'd had done for over the office door. All of it her work, her dream, her safety net.
She headed for the maintenance shed, but hadn't taken more than three steps before she heard a car turn off the highway and scrunch its way along her new gravel.
She looked over her shoulder to see a Cherokee—maybe three or four years old—pull up to the office steps. A man and a dog—probably the same age as the truck—got out. Knowing Toby would handle them, Addy continued on to the shed and stowed her supplies neatly on the shelves.
The man was coming out of the office as she approached. The big yellow dog, who'd been sitting outside the door, got up, wagging its tail and wiggling its rear end as if he'd been abandoned for a month rather than the few minutes it had taken for his owner to check in.
There were three steps up to the office door. From the bottom one, she said, "Friendly?" And nodded at the dog.
The man smiled and patted the dog's head. "A teddy bear, especially if there's food around."
"Does he have a name?" She ran a hand along the silky fur on his back. She really should get a dog... if she stayed.
"Redge." He shifted his gaze from the dog and met hers. "What about you?"
Her nerves jangled, and she tucked her hands in the pockets of her overalls. "Me?" she said, sounding confused and stupid and knowing she was neither.
"Name. Do you have one?"
She pulled her hands from her pockets, stuck one out straight as a lance, and said, "Addy Michaels. I'm the owner of Star Lake."
She wasn't sure, but she thought she saw him blink a couple of times, his eyes sharpen. He definitely hesitated before taking her hand, then smiled as if he was obliged to, kind of cool and polite. "Addy. I'm Cade Harding. Nice to meet you."
"Likewise. I take it you'll be staying with us?" She dropped to one knee to pet the dog, and get out from under his eyes, which suddenly seemed a bit too intense.
"A couple of days at least." He hesitated. "Maybe more."
She got to her feet, risked looking up at him. He resembled Gus a little, or how she imagined Gus would look with a few years on him. Dark hair, dark eyes, a bit of stubble around the chin, body on the lean side. Gus's face would be harder though, colder, not so... bookish or calm. And Gus’s eyes were a strange amber brown, nothing at all like Cade Harding's, which were a green color that reminded Addy of cedar boughs. "You sound like a man without a destination."
He didn't smile this time, but he did tilt his head a bit. Her nerves skittered again when his gaze fixed on her. “As destinations go this will do just fine.”