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First pages

One

Anna Eddington considered her options as she fingered the tiny plastic baggie of white powder in the pocket of her sweatshirt. She could put her car into drive and leave the dark street where she had been waiting for close to thirty minutes. Or she could stay and meet with a man she knew had committed several felonies in a desperate need to buy another hit of cocaine. But a sense of urgency drove Anna to that dangerous place. After nearly a year of trying to find the person responsible for killing Greg, she still had no solid leads. Tonight could change things—if she had enough guts to go through with the deal.

Seeing the thin figure of the man she’d lured to the spot outside the small bar on Van Buren Street in Phoenix sent her heart racing. Even in the low light, Anna recognized his scraggly face from the mug shot stapled to the file. The case her husband had prosecuted ended over two years ago, but the man hadn’t changed. He still wore facial hair, growing in rough patches. His greasy, longish blond hair was poking out from under a black-knit beanie. Being early March, the night was cool. He had on several layers of clothing, including a dirty hooded sweatshirt jacket not unlike the one she wore. Anna’s smelled like lavender, but from his grungy look, she assumed his didn’t. He’d spent all of six months sentenced to Phoenix’s county jail for pushing down an old woman and then stealing her handbag. Bystanders caught him red-handed, yet he got out quicker than common sense dictated.

Razor, the man’s nickname Anna read in Greg’s case file, bobbed his head around, no doubt looking for her. After a deep breath to bolster her courage, she pulled the hood up over her head and got out of the car. That movement got Razor’s attention. Fear pierced her heart, but she had to believe he knew something about the crash. She suspected that someone Greg sent to prison, or was about to prosecute, intentionally killed her husband. Nothing else made any sense. Maybe Razor heard who had sent Greg’s Cherokee off Interstate 17 and down into the Bloody Basin canyon.

A moment of panic made Anna stop short of where he stood. His squinted eyes were bloodshot. Had she made a mistake coming?

“Did you bring it?” Razor asked, stepping closer.

She brought out the baggie, her hand shaking slightly. He reached for it, but Anna moved it around her back.

“No, not until you answer a couple of questions for me. That was the deal.”

Razor had several teeth missing when he smiled. He pulled a box cutter from his pocket, sliding it open with a touch of his thumb.

A bright light blinded her.

“Stop—police!”

Razor pivoted and ran away.

“No, wait, come back!” Anna shouted—pleaded. The next instant, she was shoved up against the brick wall of the bar, face first, her shoulders pinned.

“You’re under arrest for the sale of narcotics,” a man’s gruff voice said in her ear.

“No!” Anna screamed. “Let me go. It’s not real. I swear!”

“Sure, lady,” the cop said, as he forced her arm behind her back.

“I can explain—please let me explain—” Anna stopped pleading when she remembered what her dad always told her. Never try telling anything to a beat cop. They won’t care, and all that could happen was you’d incriminate yourself. She needed to be careful and wait until she could call her dad for help.

“Do you have an ID?”

“It’s in my car.” The cop pulled her away from the wall, pausing only to pick up the small baggie from the sidewalk before leading her across the street, back toward her Impala. “How do you know that’s my car?”

“I was watching you.”

Anna cringed at how tight he held her arm. It hurt. “Why?”

“Your car is out of place on this street. I knew you were up to something, but I thought you were the buyer, not the seller.”

“But I told you …” Anna shut her mouth, knowing it was useless. His only goal was to make an arrest.

~*~

There were only so many excuses Detective Lee Adams could find for not going home. It was nearly ten PM, yet he couldn’t help but look around his office again, trying to see something else to clean or organize. Or maybe he could even delve deeper on another case—anything to keep from going back to a depressingly empty apartment. He caught sight of the over-used couch. Sleeping there again would save him the reminder that his divorce was nearing its end. He’d slept there on too many occasions when he had serious cases to complete even while he was married, so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.

“I need to make a phone call!”

An angry woman’s voice gave Lee the temporary reprieve he needed to take his mind off his sleeping situation. The report room was quiet, adding to the loud volume of the woman’s voice. Lee stopped at his doorway in time to see Bobby Zimbroskie pulling her by the arm toward him. She had on tight blue jeans, a loose fitting t-shirt, and a sweatshirt jacket. Her ponytail held back blond hair, but several thick strands hung loose in her face. She looked so young—mid-twenties at best. A scratch on her cheek had bled down to her chin. The areas under her eyes were streaked in black. Her mascara had run. She looked as if she’d been crying. He’d seen it on his wife’s face like that only once, not too long before she told him she was divorcing him.

The woman looked straight into Lee’s eyes and pleaded, “Please, call Judge Jackson Wright for me.” Zimbroskie’s rough treatment nearly tripped her on their way farther through the report room to his usual writing station at the end of a long, narrow table.

Lee followed them. “Take it easy with her, Bobby.”

Zimbroskie glanced over his shoulder with a scowl on his brow. “She’s not cooperating.” He sat her down in a hardwood chair at the end of the table.

Lee noticed the woman’s hands were cuffed behind her back, and the chair’s wooden arms bit into her elbows. He could tell by the way she acted that she wasn’t intoxicated. Her pupils looked normal, so no drugs.

“What did she do?” Lee asked.

The cop held up a baggie filled with white powder and dropped it on the table. “I hooked her trying to sell cocaine.”

“I told you, it isn’t real,” the woman said, her voice low and tired sounding.

“I’m detective Lee Adams. What’s your name, ma’am?” he asked, keeping his gaze on the brown-eyed woman.

“Julianna Wright Eddington,” she said, staring hard at Lee.

Lee blinked several times as the name Wright sunk into his tired brain. “Holy …” He glanced at Zimbroskie, who didn’t skip a beat as he typed on the desktop computer, probably starting his arrest report. As Lee dug in his pocket for his handcuff key, he asked, “Bobby, did you field test the contents of that baggie?”

“Not yet.” Zimbroskie tossed a woman’s handbag beside the baggie. “I’ll get to it. But I caught her in the act of haggling with a greasy-haired scumbag tweeker.”

Mrs. Eddington looked up at Lee again. “Would you please call my dad?”

“Lean forward.” Lee reached down between the chair and her back and unlocked her cuffs. “Let’s wait a few minutes and get this cleared up without you using the judge’s name to get you out of trouble.” Zimbroskie’s head jerk up, as if he just connected the name. He wasn’t known as one of the best and brightest, but he was on top enough to see a drug buy. Or he had been voyeuristically watching the woman and stumbled on her attempt.

“Yeah, her dad’s Judge Jack Wright,” Lee confirmed to the startled beat cop. He also remembered reading that Mrs. Eddington’s husband died a year ago. She was widowed at twenty-four years old—much too young to have lost a husband.

“Hammer Jack,” Zimbroskie whispered. He shifted his eyes to Mrs. Eddington. “Your dad is going to be mad as hell when he finds out you’re snagged for drug sales.”

“Did you actually see the exchange?” Lee asked.

Zimbroskie sat back. “Not exactly. I stopped it just before. And it was a good thing, too. That scum pulled a box cutter on her.”

“So you don’t have sales.” Lee touched Mrs. Eddington’s arm. “Let’s go in my office to see if you even have possession.” He pointed to his door. “It’s over there,” he told her. “Bring your field test kit, Bobby.”

She tried to stand up, but she faltered. Lee grasped her shoulders, just to help her get up. When she straightened her back, he let her go. He picked up her handbag and led the way to his office. “Please, take a seat next to my desk, Mrs. Eddington.” Before he sat down, he opened a first-aid kit hung on the wall near the doorway and took out several things the wounded woman needed—a few packs of antiseptic towelettes and a small bandage. He set them on the edge of his desk closer to where she sat down. She stared like she didn’t know what to do with them.

“Your cheek is bleeding,” Lee said quietly.

She touched her face with her fingers. It must’ve been hurting. She had known which one to inspect. Her eyes began to shimmer and she sniffed a couple of times. Lee opened an antiseptic packet and handed her the towelette. When she looked around, he asked, “What is it?”

“I need a mirror.” She motioned to under his arm. “I have one in my purse.”

Lee set the bag down on his desk, and asked, “Bobby, did you search this?”

“You bet.”

“He also searched me,” she added very quietly.

Lee swung his eyes around to Bobby again. “Is that right?”

“Yeah—sure, I did.”

“Couldn’t you get a female officer to meet you at the scene?” Lee asked.

With a shrug, he leaned his shoulder against the doorjamb. “It was only a cursory search for weapons. It’s not like I did a strip search right there on the street.”

Lee let out a heavy breath and made a mental note to report the policy breach to the sergeant. But what was done was done. He would make sure the woman’s rights were protected from this moment on and he handed her the purse. While she found her mirror, he took the test kit and baggie from Zimbroskie’s hand and began the testing. It wasn’t hard. All it took was a tiny sample of the white powder dropped into a flat, plastic vial of special liquid. After Lee broke an even smaller glass bubble inside, he shook it. If the powder were a drug, then the liquid would change colors. The color chart on the side would tell him which drug it was. If it turned blue, it was positive for cocaine. Pink would prove it to be an opioid drug like morphine or heroine. If the powder turned the fluid brown, then she had meth. Not surprisingly, it stayed clear. Lee held the test up for Zimbroskie to see.

“It’s clean,” Lee said. He tossed the test kit vial down in the trash and watched Mrs. Eddington dab at the blood on her face. The towelette got dirty very quickly, and he opened another one knowing she might go through a couple.

“I’ll kick her loose,” Zimbroski said, pushing up from the doorjamb.

“No, I’ll take care of her,” Lee told him. “You just close out the case you opened on her.”

Zimbroski stared at Mrs. Eddington for several moments as she continued to wipe the blood off her wounded face with the towelette he’d opened for her. “Sure.” He turned and stormed back into the patrol room.

Lee stepped to the door and watched the patrol officer for a few moments. Zimbroski’s demeanor had changed slightly. He dropped down hard in his chair and started stabbing at the computer keys, Lee could see that he was angry about something … maybe because Lee had horned in on his bust? Or debunked it?

Lee pulled a chair away from the wall and positioned it in front of the woman. He noticed that she’d cleaned the makeup off from under her pretty brown eyes, as well as getting the rest of the blood off her face. He took the bandage from his desk and tore open the package.

“Hold still.” He carefully placed the bandage over the scratch. Using only his index fingers, he gently smoothed down the sticky-ends before throwing away the plastic coverings in the trashcan.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Eddington whispered.

He picked up the baggie and studied the powder inside. “You know, selling something that even resembles drugs is still a felony, if you were trying to pass it off as such.”

Mrs. Eddington licked her lips and swallowed a couple of times before she replied. “It’s powdered sugar and I wasn’t selling it.”

“Then what were you doing with it?”

Her eyes darted to his desk phone. She had wanted to call her father earlier, but there wasn’t a need to bring him in now. He lifted the phone closer to her, to give her that option, if she still wanted it. She returned her gaze to him.

“I—I was going to trade it for information.”

“What did you want to know from a dangerous, strung-out drug addict?”

She touched her cheek again. “It doesn’t matter now. I’ll never be able to ask him. He’ll never trust me enough to meet with me again.” She tossed the bloody towelettes into the trashcan. “I’ve lost my last chance.”

He waited a few moments before asking, “At what?”

Mrs. Eddington took in a gasping breath, biting back tears and shaking her head.

“Did you drive a car to the meeting?” Lee asked.

She nodded.

He stood up and grabbed his jacket off the back of his desk chair. “I’ll give you a ride home.”

“What?” Mrs. Eddington asked, standing up. “No, I don’t need—I saw the tow truck take my car away. Can’t I get it out of the impound tonight?”

Lee shook his head. “It’s nearly 10:30 PM. They won’t open until morning.” He could see the tears glisten in her eyes again. “If you want, I can pick you up and bring you back—help you through the process. Or do you want me to call your dad?”

She looked startled when he mentioned her dad. It took another moment before she said, “There’s no need to get him involved now. I’ll accept your offer.”

Lee had no choice now but to leave his office and head to his apartment—alone, after he dropped off a very lucky woman at her home. She may not have known it, but Zimbroski probably saved her life when he arrested her. A junkie in need of a hit would be willing to use a weapon to get it. He had a box cutter? That sounded familiar. Lee might’ve seen an assault report that involved a weapon like that within the past few weeks.

He locked his office after they stepped out into the patrol room. Zimbroski watched them leave out the back door, to where Lee had his private vehicle parked.

Mrs. Eddington was noticeably quiet while he opened her door. She didn’t speak a word until he pulled his car to a stop at the edge of the parking lot.

“Which way?”

She let out a heavy sigh. “I live in Scottsdale.”

He nodded and turned north. He knew the way to the affluent city, and truthfully, he wasn’t surprised she lived there. Lee remembered what had happened to City of Phoenix Assistant Prosecutor Greg Eddington a year ago. He’d seen pictures of the prosecutor and his wife in the online newspaper shortly after his car crash. He’d had a promising career ahead of him. The crash was suspicious, but the highway patrol had no leads. There was an investigation, although he didn’t hear where it went—if anywhere.

Lee looked over at Greg’s widow. She kept her head turned away from him, staring out into the darkness. He wondered what she was doing tonight on a dangerous street normally occupied by prostitutes and strung-out losers. She said she wanted information. Now Lee was curious about what she would’ve asked that crack head if she hadn’t been arrested. She was right. She probably wouldn’t have another chance to ask him any questions, but maybe Lee could for her.

“What’s your address?”

“East Gainey Ranch Road.” She finally turned to look at him. “Do you know where that is?”

“I do.” Lee glanced at her. “I started out as a patrol officer in Scottsdale about ten years ago.”

She nodded, and fell back into the quietness she’d been in for the past twenty minutes, resuming her staring out the window as if she would miss something important if she stopped looking. He headed east. Another fifteen minutes later he pulled onto her wide street. He’d forgotten how huge the houses were on her cul-de-sac—and expensive.

“Second house on the right,” she said just above a whisper.

The single-story, sprawling ranch-style house had stacked stone accents along the lower half of its exterior and sat back a good distance from the street. Lee stopped at the sidewalk in front of the curved driveway and killed the engine. Just as he reached for his door handle, she spoke up.

“The porch light is off.”

“Do you remember turning it on before you left?” he asked.

“I’m sure I did.” She turned and stared at him.

“The light bulb could’ve burned out.”

“I suppose.”

“I’ll walk up with you.” He got out and went around to her door, but she’d already opened it and was starting to get out. He followed her only a few steps up the driveway before she stopped.

“I’m positive I closed the courtyard gate,” she told him.

Lee could see the short, wrought iron gate standing ajar. Putting that together with the missing light, his internal alarm rang loudly. He took Mrs. Eddington’s elbow and moved her back to his car. Once inside, he backed up far enough they weren’t in view of the front window any longer in case a perp heard his car drive up. He took out his cell phone.

“I’m calling this in, Mrs. Eddington.” Her eyes were wide, but she didn’t argue with him. He touched 911 and waited for only a moment before hearing a woman’s voice.

“Scottsdale police, fire, what is your emergency?”

“This is Phoenix Police Detective Lee Adams. I need officers at thirty-five forty-six East Gainey Ranch Road for a possible burglary in progress. I have the homeowner safe in my private car—a two thousand seven black Buick, parked next door.”

“Yes, detective. Right away. Do you want to stay on the line?”

“No, it’s not necessary. Thank you.” Lee pressed END but held onto the phone.

“You think I have a burglar?”

“I don’t know, but telling that to the dispatcher will get help faster than saying we have suspicious circumstances.”

Mrs. Eddington relaxed and sat back. “Oh, you don’t really think this is all that serious?”

Lee leaned over the steering wheel, keeping his eyes on the dark house. “I don’t like to take chances.”

“But sometimes taking chances is a necessary evil,” she said quietly.

“Like what you did tonight?”

She didn’t respond.

It took another couple of minutes before Lee saw two cars with their headlights off slowly roll around the corner. When the streetlight hit them, he could see that they were patrol units. They stopped parallel but across the street from him.

“Stay here,” Lee told her. “I’ll explain what’s happened.” He paused before getting out. “Do you have dogs in the backyard?”

“No, no dogs. I’m alone.”

He gazed at the woman for several moments after that admission. His heart tugged knowing she didn’t have someone to go home to. He knew what that felt like.

With her gaze on the dark house, she said, “Just so you know, there are motion-detecting lights around the sides and back of the house.”

“Okay. This shouldn’t take long. Hold tight and keep the doors locked.” Lee got out and met up with the two officers, briefed them on the situation, and then followed them into the courtyard carrying his .40 caliber Glock he took out of his holster. They moved in the darkness up to the front door, and only then did Officer Sanchez use a small flashlight to check the lock. It was secure. When they reached the side yard Lee got an uncomfortable feeling.

“The homeowner said there are security lights.” His eyes were adjusted to the darkness enough to see a light fixture protruding from under the eaves. “That one didn’t come on.”

“Like the front porch light,” Officer Newman said quietly.

Systematically, they checked around the whole house, wriggling doorknobs and pushing against windows in darkness. Nothing moved beneath their hands, but that didn’t mean someone hadn’t gotten inside and was waiting for her to come home.

“I’ll go get the homeowner’s keys,” Lee told Officer Newman. “We’ll need to clear the interior before we let her in.”

“We need to ask her about that,” Officer Sanchez said. He pointed at the patio lawn chair pushed up against the side of the house under a small window, clearly out of place. The other matching outdoor furniture was positioned around a cozy fire pit farther in the backyard.

“Yeah.” Lee walked back to his car, and as she saw him approach, she got out.

“Is everything okay?” she asked, looking at the officers coming up behind him.

“We couldn’t find anything open, but the lights didn’t come on.”

“Any of them?”

“No, ma’am,” Officer Sanchez said.

“We’ll find out why before we take off, but we need to clear the inside.” Leaving her alone felt wrong. “We did find something else.”

Mrs. Eddington pulled her sweatshirt jacket tighter across her chest and looked toward the front of her house. “What?”

“A patio chair was pushed up against the house under a window.”

“That isn’t right. Did someone get into the house from there?”

“We found some scratches on the frame, but all your windows are locked. May I have your house key?” Lee asked.

“That can’t be a coincidence,” Mrs. Eddington told him, holding out her key ring to Lee.

“Do you have an alarm system?”

She shrugged. “I do, but when I try to arm it the base’s voice tells me that I have an open window. I haven’t called the company to fix it.” She shuttered. “I wasn’t in a hurry because we have a security service that patrols our neighborhood. I thought that would be enough. I guess I should make that call.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Lee said.

“Should I wait in your car again, detective?”

“No, I’ll stay out here with you while the officers go inside and do their jobs.” Lee gave the keys to Sanchez. “It shouldn’t take long.”

“Okay.” Newman and Sanchez went to the front of the house and disappeared through the door.

“Are you cold?” he asked when she crossed her arms over her chest.

“A little. And I’m worried.”

She had a right to be worried. Someone had been on the property, but for what purpose? Robbery? Or for something even more insidious? She was alone, and anyone who had read a newspaper about her husband could piece that together—if they had enough intelligence. “It shouldn’t take too long. These guys are well trained. And then you can get yourself a hot cup of coffee.”

Mrs. Eddington took a sudden breath—and then sneezed once, and then twice.

“Are you ill?” Lee asked, touching her shoulder.

She pointed at the trees planted along the side of her property. “Allergies.”

There were at least ten or more citrus trees in a row near the wall. They were all in blossom and smelled sweet.

“What can I say—I love the fruit,” Mrs. Eddington said, when she caught him staring at the trees. “This way, I have fresh juice any time I want it.”

“Even when getting what you want causes you pain?”

“If I think it’s worth the trouble, then, yeah.”

Lee didn’t think they were talking just about the fruit. He thought he caught a glimpse of a stubborn personality under her cautious shell.

One at a time, each window they could see had light coming from behind the blinds. Moments after the garage light blinked on, Sanchez came out and made his way to them.

“It’s clear. If you’ll come inside, you can check to see if anything is out of place,” the officer said to Mrs. Eddington.

Lee stayed a step behind the widow up the driveway. He was anxious to see what the house looked like inside. From the outside, it easily was ten times bigger than his apartment. It even dwarfed his house—the one that his soon-to-be ex-wife still occupied.

When they passed the garage, his curiosity about seeing what cars were parked inside had him looking in through its window. Plastic tubs of various sizes had been stacked on shelves lining one wall. Two refrigerators sat next to each other near a door, and a small car wrapped in white canvas setting on a utility trailer took up a single bay. He couldn’t tell its make, but it was low and small.

Mrs. Eddington caught him looking—again. She headed for the courtyard without commenting.

With the lights shining from every window of the house, Lee was sure that would make Mrs. Eddington feel safer after they left. He knew it would make him feel better about leaving her . . . alone.

Two

Anna watched the detective walk down the driveway. It was odd, the way he looked back a couple of times, almost like he expected her to stop him. He didn’t need to worry about her. She didn’t find anything touched. It didn’t look like anyone got inside. Although they did discover all the security lights had been loosened. Not just one, but all four, just like the porch light. A sudden sensation of loneliness began to build in her chest when his figure disappeared into the darkness. It wasn’t like tonight would be any different than every other night over the last year. She had her coping mechanisms solidly in place. Dependable routines were what saved her sanity after Greg died.

With Detective Lee Adams’ business card in her hand, she checked the door lock again before marching to the kitchen and straight to the freezer. Tucked inside were several quarts of premium ice cream. After such a stressful adventure, she needed chocolate fudge and peanut butter, and lots of it. Tonight, she wouldn’t even use a bowl. She yanked off the lid in a surge of pent-up angry energy, took a large spoon from the utensil drawer, and strode back and forth alongside the breakfast bar as she ate. It took a few bites of the icy creaminess before her shoulders began to relax. The next spoonful slowly melted in her mouth as she stopped her anxious pacing. She savored the blend of rich chocolate and peanut butter while she stared at the little white card on the counter.

The detective wanted her to call him if she needed anything more tonight. He also told her he’d be back around nine in the morning to take her to the police impound yard to get her car released. That was an offer she’d readily accepted. He might have some pull on getting the service charge dropped. After all, it was an unjustified arrest and her car would’ve never been towed if the cop had followed procedure and did that field drug test. But he also managed to stop her from being robbed of her little packet of powdered sugar. Razor had pulled a box cutter so fast she didn’t have time to react.

Someone had come to her house, and it freaked Anna out. Over the last eleven months since the highway patrol closed out Greg’s case, she’d asked a lot of questions of too many people, it seemed. Had she rattled someone enough for them to come after her—or at least try to break into her house to see … something? Could that someone have known she was keeping a scrapbook of information on what she’d learned since starting her investigation of Greg’s death?

Anna plunged the spoon into the ice cream, then left it on the counter before heading into the dining area to the antique sideboard behind the table. Where tablecloths and linen napkins would’ve been kept a century ago, she had her home office stored. Covering the top of the chest, she had her most important pictures framed and arranged in chronological order from left to right. Seeing Greg’s smiling face and the happier times they’d had went a long way toward helping her hold to her goal, especially whenever she hit another dead end. He deserved to have his death resolved, and not just closed and forgotten. Anna would find his killer, and if he or she were coming after her, then she’d be ready.

She lugged a big binder off the sideboard’s bottom shelf and carried it across the room, over to the hope chest positioned in front of the couch. Her main scrapbook held not only copies of old police reports of the cases that Greg prosecuted, in chronological order, of course, but also mug shots, and the outcome of each case. Shortly after he’d died, Anna had taken his personal laptop from the second bedroom which he’d turned into his office and had printed out all of his files, including his closed cases. Knowing his password made that easy. It was the same as hers. The county office didn’t know about her pilfering. She’d kept that a secret from everybody.

Anna wrote her own notes, too, after she’d gone back and questioned as many people involved in each case as she could, looking for any lingering grievance against Greg, thus any implied motive. She’d had some close calls with angry family members who didn’t appreciate her hints that their criminal relative could also be a murderer.

Greg had also sent more than a half-dozen murderers to prison in his three years in the Phoenix Prosecutors’ office. The two years before then, he was one of a handful of Maricopa County public defenders, and not very many of his clients were innocent, but he negotiated plea bargains that kept them from serving long sentences. She didn’t rule out one of them not being happy with the sentence and holding a grudge against him.

In the beginning, she’d started with those cases, but like Razor, some had still been in jail, and she didn’t question all of their relatives while they were still serving time. She’d need to go back over those files again to check on new releases.

Anna opened the binder to where she had it bookmarked. Razor’s picture stared up at her. If by chance, he was the one who tried to get inside her house, not taking the proper precautions would be stupid. She got up and retrieved the ice cream from the counter, along with the detective’s business card, and took them to the coffee table. She then went to her bedroom.

Kneeling next to her side of the mattress, she reached under the bed with her right hand and pushed a button on top of a metal box suspended from the frame, and then placed her four fingers on a cool, contoured pad, using her prints to unlock it. A low subtle beep was followed by the sound of a door falling open. Without looking, Anna grasped Greg’s Walther PPK .380 caliber handgun from the biometric safe. She reached in again and took out the extra magazine, too. She needed to be ready in case that someone came back and tried again—and actually made it inside.

Sitting on the couch, Anna put the gun and mag on the table next to the binder, then picked up the carton of ice cream as she kicked off her tennis shoes. Her routine would continue, although each time her thoughts drifted back to the detective and the way he stared at her, the ice cream seemed to lose some of its deliciousness. She must’ve looked dreadful to him.

With her finger and thumb, she unbuttoned her jeans with a pop, and sat back until she was comfortably leaning against the soft cushion and her feet were up next to her binder. Her waistband had grown too tight, and they were relatively new jeans. It’s not like she didn’t know she had a problem with her weight—her mother practically wouldn’t let her forget it. Lately, she made sure she found something else to do when her parents’ dinner invitation came.

Truth be told … her mother might be right. She hoped she wouldn’t need to buy another pair of pants in yet another larger size. Obviously her eating habits had taken a dive for the worse. She pulled the rubber band out of her hair, letting down her ponytail.

Funny, she hadn’t thought about how she looked in a long time. Why would she care, really? Anna was a woman on a mission, and being fashionable and trim didn’t factor into how well she did her investigation. But becoming an out-of-control over-eater of her beloved ice cream and fast food didn’t help, either, especially if it impacted her health or potentially clouded her judgment.

She set the half-empty carton down on the floor and dropped the spoon inside of it. Figuring out a new routine shouldn’t be too difficult. Instead of downing a quart of ice cream every night, she’d … eat something healthier.

Starting tomorrow.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

While growing up, going to libraries felt like an adventure filled with mystery and wonder to Debra. The hushed tones invoked secrets, and the dusty, sometimes moldy scent of paper smelled like perfume. Leaving the library with just a single book never happened. Years later, her love of reading turned to passion for writing. She’s an award-winning artist who lives in southern Arizona where the average summer temperatures are truly hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I've always loved adventures and writing my own just seemed like a natural course of action, and with adventure comes romance.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
I have two more books in the works that follows the young female private investigator in A STRANGE TWIST OF FATE, Candice Shane, solving arsons in Phoenix, Arizona in a full-length novel titled FIRE SETTERS, and also Candice gets involved with tracking down a serial killer in THE COLOR OF PAISLEY.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
Why do I write? I have dozens and dozens of stories rolling around in my brain. I don't just want to write--I have a physical need to write so I don't have to think about them anymore. I get them out of my head by writing them down on paper. And I do it well.

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