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First pages

THE GAME

The game of chess is a two-player strategy game played on a checkered gameboard. Each player has sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns.

The objective of the game is to checkmate your opponent’s king. When the king cannot avoid capture, it is checkmated and the game is over.

To play you must have a definite plan and knowledge of each aspect of the game. To win you must master three phases, the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame.

 

PROLOGUE

“Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.”

Chinese Proverb

 

When I was in grade school, my dad insisted that I join the chess club. I didn’t want to of course; I had better things to do with my after-school time, like sailing, surfing, and more sailing. But his mind was made up and I was just a kid, so every Wednesday afternoon from three fifteen to five I could be found sitting at a table in the back of the library with a dozen or so geeks.

After the second Wednesday, I understood why he’d been so adamant. The game was more than just moving a bunch of white or black chess pieces around a checkered board; it was about strategy, tactics, and planning.

I learned all the things he said I would: discipline, logic, concentration, and patience. These were all good things, but not the three most important things I learned.

The first most important thing I leaned was that it’s you who control or determine the moves you play. You are in control of your destiny; there is no luck in chess or in life.

The second most important thing I learned was that every move you make has consequences. Everything that happens in life and in chess is a reaction to your action or inaction. You are responsible.

The third most important thing I learned was that chess, unlike life, has set rules. But if you live your life within these rules, as if playing a game of chess, you will always be in control. So if you find yourself playing outside of the rules…

 

THE OPENING

The opening is the initial moves in a chess game. These moves set the foundation for the rest of the game.

There are three main aims in the opening: develop pieces, control the center, and shelter the king.

CHAPTER
ONE

THE PAWN HAS THE FEWEST OPTIONS OF ANY CHESS PIECE

 

I sit on an outcropping of rocks and look out at the Pacific Ocean. A cool breeze blows my dyed honey-blonde hair into my face. I reach into my hoodie pocket, remove a band, and pull my hair into a pony. My hair has never been so long. Not good at cutting it myself, and not wanting to risk any close contact with a nosy barber, it’s grown nearly to my ass.

As I look out into vast blue-green endlessness, I can’t help but relate to the ocean. Every day is the same. Every day the moon’s gravitational forces pull it out, and every day as the earth rotates, it’s pulled back in. In between the tides is just… being. That’s how I feel, as if I’m living between the tides. Never being pulled out or pulled back in. Leaving me forever floating in the in between, the nothingness.

I know only I am to blame for who I’ve become. I’ve come to terms with not being in the spotlight, not shining like the star I wanted to be. I’ve found a way to blend in. In a way, I’ve become a human chameleon. I was once okay with this camouflaged life, but I’m not anymore. I’m tired of it. So very tired.

Tired of the hiding and the running. Tired of the hair dye, the wigs, the eyeglasses, the contacts, the layers of makeup, the body padding, and the shoddy discount store clothes. Tired of cheap Barbie-sized rental cars, urine-reeking train stations, bus seats wet and sticky from sweaty fat asses, and greasy lice-matted hair.

I’m tired of seedy, small towns and their cockroach-infested, cum-stained fuckpad motels. Tired of always looking in the rearview mirror, scanning my surroundings, and being constantly on edge. Tired of the aliases, so many, I can’t keep track. So many, there are moments I’ve forgotten my real name, who I once was.

I’m tired of the aching isolation and the silent loneliness that takes up space in my head. Tired of holding my breath, waiting for the next page to turn, the next chapter to begin, the unknown cliffhanger ending.

I miss my dad, my friends, and my job. I miss my dog Hank, my house, my boat, and my Porsche. I miss sleeping between lavender scented, fifteen-hundred-count, Egyptian-cotton sheets. I miss warm lips pressed into mine before gliding down to my tits, pausing to lick, suck, and bite my needy nipples. I miss big, strong, man fingers rubbing and drawling circles on my throbbing clit before parting my sex and diving in. I miss being fucked by a cock that isn’t made in China, molded in plastic, and covered in latex.

I’m no longer the hot piece of ass who everyone wanted but very few got. I was and still am a bitch, but I’m no longer the bitch in designer suits and heels. No more am I the hardass LA County ADA who was on the fast track to somewhere. I’m no longer the woman who had her whole life ahead of her, a life full of endless possibilities.

Once I was somebody, and now I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m a tourist, a drifter, a forever wanderer without the lust. I’m one face in millions, one insignificant blip on a radar screen. I’m a homeless murderer forever on the run because I murdered a sick bastard who brutally killed my half sister and her unborn son.

I did it with honor, with pride, and with zero shame or guilt. I killed with heartless cunning and in the coldest of blood. And it had been so easy—too easy. I felt… let down, disappointed even. It should have been harder to seduce and kill a man like Terrance Thomas Caldwell III.

To the outside world, Terrance Thomas Caldwell was just another cocky, spoiled, daddy-ass-licking, trust-fund-boy, darling of the South. But this darling just happened to be a serial rapist and murderer. For him, abusing, raping, and murdering naive young women was as simple and as casual as adding apples to his Happy Meal, ice cream to his peach pie, or choosing the red paisley tie over the green and blue striped.

Terrance was clever, charming, and handsome; I’ll give him that. But the poor darling had become sloppy and overconfident. He thought he was untouchable, he thought he was a god. But even gods falter and fall, stumble and die.

I remember his falling and subsequent death as if it were yesterday, maybe even hours; it’s so clear in my head. His irises clouded over with desperate want. A slow cocky grin wrinkled his cheeks, pushing dimples to the surface. The smell of his wintergreen breath as his nose scanned down my throat. His full lips, how they sweep over my collarbone before his tongue flattened and lapped over my hardening nipple.

I remember the smell of his Armani aftershave, or maybe it was Dior. Whatever the designer fragrance, it seemed to seep out of his pores and blend with his own, turning it toxic. I remember the musky smell of sex—no not sex, the stench of animals fucking their prey. I remember the feel of his hot, damp skin and how it pebbled under my fingertips as I ran them down his arms and then up his spine.

He entered me with one hard thrust. I knew immediately he was one of those—a greedy lover, a lover who never cared or thought about anyone’s pleasure beyond his own.

The only sounds in the room were the low hum of the air-conditioning, the staccato of hearts beating, the slapping of damp flesh against flesh, and the inhales and exhales of hot air. It was as if nothing beyond the hotel room existed, so acute my senses and so intense his fucking.

His eyes were like none I’d ever known, gray-blue, flecked with green and gold. How ironic I thought—he too possessed uncommon eyes; eyes that taunt and haunt. If eyes are windows to the soul…

His gray-blues never left mine; they were studying me, searching, or maybe asking a question; a question that had no answer or he didn’t want to know. And then there was a flash of… I wasn’t certain. Maybe the lights had flickered or a cloud had paused in front of the sun casting us in a moment of shadow. He didn’t seem to notice or care as his fucking kicked into a near frantic pace.

I remember watching the veins on the side of his neck pulse and swell as beads of sweat began to sprout from his shadowed philtrum. Then I felt the tightening of his balls, and I knew he was close to his release, on the verge of the best and last orgasm of his life.

I Kegeled his cock, and his upper lip rose in a fleeting smirk. He didn’t ask if I was close; he didn’t care. It was all about him. His conquest. His release. His kingdom.

God, I was turned on. It wasn’t the sex that had turned me into a wet-hot-mess. The sex was part of the trap, the next to final move in my game. I was wet with anticipation, anticipation of the blood about to be shed and the light in his eyes that would be forever doused.

When his eyelids fluttered, I knew it was time. He was at the point of no return, the cusp of the petite death. I reached out, my hand gliding over the mattress then slowly sliding under the crumpled sheet. Finding the object I desired, my fingers surrounded it.

I had hoped to be milking his cock, riding him. But he fought me for control every time I tried to push or buck him off. Although this scenario, this position, wasn’t what I had desired, I’d prepared for it. But even with all my planning and preparation, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. As my grip tightened around the handle, there was a second of hesitation and doubt. But I had prepared for this as well, expected it even. My years as an ADA, prosecuting rapists and murderers, listening to them confess their sins, had taught me that even the most sinister sociopath had a brief moment of uncertainty right before the crime.

As my hand slid from underneath the sheet, it was as if my mind had separated from my body and I’d become an observer. I watched my hand hold the knife sure, not too tight or too loose. It seemed to float into position and rest against my right thigh. Seconds later his eyes closed and his head tilted back as he began to ride out the last orgasm of his life. I remember thinking how odd and yet how wonderful. He’d put himself in the perfect position. One swift slash across the carotid artery and…

The deed was done in seconds. His head flopped forward as if a rag doll’s before his eyes popped open and he looked down at me. There was no shock, hurt, or pain in them. Pure bliss, unadulterated ecstasy shined clear and bright, spilling over me faster than the blood seeping from his artery. Had he known what I was about? Had he let this happen? No, I told myself, again, and again, so wanting my revenge, my act of cold-blooded murder to be an unfathomable shock.

When the bliss in his eyes was nearly extinguished, that’s when I began to see the truth. As the fire dulled to a mere ember, his pupils dilated, turning his eyes black. It was as if a door had been opened, and I was beckoned to step in and over the threshold. I couldn’t resist the invitation, even if I had wanted to. I stepped in and immediately fell through a dark endless crevasse. He was empty. There was nothing left to salvage, no hope of redemption, no soul left to patch. He was living in a hell that he’d created. A hell that had eaten his soulless flesh, and he wanted it to be over. He knew. He’d let this happen. This angered me, yet at the same time made it moral. Made it just. Made it perfect.

When his body stilled and slumped to his right side, only then did I dare take a breath. And God help me, I couldn’t stop the smile that brushed over my lips.

As I pushed him off me, a ting of worry pebbled my flesh. My clothes. Keeping them on hadn’t been in the plan. I had hoped we’d be free of clothing, making cleanup faster and easier. But I’d teased him and strung him along; he couldn’t wait to sink his fat cock into me. I was lucky to have gotten him to pause and roll on a condom.

But the ting quickly faded, and my skin smoothed out. I had planned every possible scenario and had planted a change of clothes earlier when I’d hid the knife.

After I pushed him off me, I didn’t dare pause. I knew I was riding high on adrenaline, and it would soon dissipate, pop like a balloon. So without skipping a beat, I pulled and stretched out his semi-hard cock and sliced it off. I remembered thinking two things at that moment. One, thanking God it had remained semi-stiff. And two, so glad I’d read that book, Basic Knife Techniques for the Beginner.

After I cleaned up the scene, leaving no possible trace of evidence, I placed his penis in a padded prepaid overnight envelope, addressed to Mrs. Toddy Maryellen Caldwell. I don’t know why, but her first name, Toddy, brought a smile to my face. I had decided to send it to her, because unlike her husband’s mail, it would go directly to her with no filters or screens.

I imagined her smile as she looked down at her son’s return address. Would she think it was a birthday present or early anniversary gift? Did she love receiving unexpected gifts from her precious son? Or did she know who he was and what he did and shudder at the thought of opening a package from him. It was something I’d never know.

I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to say I feel terrible. That guilt and remorse are eating away my soul. But I am not going to say it. It would be a lie. I simply did what had to be done. I killed a monster, and in doing so, set my half sister’s soul free and gave all the other women a silent justice.

But life is full of lessons and irony. And the irony to setting my sister’s soul free is that mine will forever be caged. I will never be Morgan Ann Steel, the woman who once owned a carefree heart full of wonder and joy. I will no longer be the woman who had a conscience and sense of duty worn respectfully and proudly on the cuff of her custom-tailored sleeve. I will never be an attorney again or practice law, and I will always be an aka. But maybe, just maybe, I can stop and take a break. Maybe I can own my pillow and sleep in my own bed for six months, a year if I’m blessed.

The sky darkens and the tide rushes in, nearly touching the rocks. I retreat and sit on a fallen log that’s closer to the trail leading to a pullout and my parked rental car. While I sit, my mind drifts again, but this time to better, happier times. Back to my childhood, back to the white-sand beaches of Spain and Costa Rica. Back to the days spent sailing during school breaks with my dad. Back to the days spent combing the beaches for that perfect shell with my half sister Tara.

Ten years ago, Dad and I sailed from Cabo San Lucas to Seattle. We dropped anchor in many small coastal towns as we made our way up the US, West Coast. One of those small towns was Pine Rock, Oregon. I remember walking its rocky beaches with my dad’s dog Hemingway, and the bakery on Main Street whose Marionberry muffins were to die for. I remember the quaint centuries old cottages on Shoreline Drive that seemed to beckon one to stay awhile. I felt oddly at peace and at home in this small coastal town, oddly because small towns weren’t my thing. I was a big-city girl who’d always been more comfortable surrounded by a large gathering of strangers than I did with a small group of friends. And oddly because “home” wasn’t a label I’d been able to apply in years, if ever.

My phone rings, startling me, bringing me back to the present. I dig it out of the front pocket of my hoodie and look at the screen. As I look at the number, I shake my head. I do so because it’s silly that I look. It’s not necessary being only two souls know I exist or care I’m alive.

I press Accept and my dad, Jack Steel’s—yes, that Jack Steel, the international bestselling mystery writer and cad—voice rings out.

“Baby.”

“Dad.”

“Your message was unexpected. Is something wrong?”

I frown into the phone. “You’re lying. I know you’ve spoken to him. He told me he was going to call you after we talked yesterday.”

There’s a long pause, and then he says, “Okay, so we spoke. It’s not going to happen. So forget about it.”

“I’m tired.”

“You’re alive.”

“Yes, but I’m not living. I want a life. A home. A purpose.”

“It’s too soon.”

“I’ve been dead for almost two years. He said there’s been zero inquires or red flags for over a year. Everyone believes I was shark bait, and my bones are on the bottom of the Pacific.”

There’s another long pause before he says, “What about them?” By them, he means the Caldwells.

“Like I said, no inquiries. There’s no way he’ll be digging up his son’s past now.”

“You mean now that he’s…”

On the short list for vice president. “Yes, that’s what I mean.”

“It’s too soon. Give it another year. Six months at least.”

“Dad…” I pause and think about my sales pitch. Jack Steel is a stubborn, cocky Englishman, who I rarely win over. “If you could no longer write, if it became off limits, how would that make you feel?”

“Is that the best you’ve got? If it were a matter of me spending the rest of my life behind bars bending over and taking it up the arse from some fat fuck named, Bubba, or on death row watching my life tick away, hell yeah, I’d give it up.”

“Dad, I’ve given up everything.”

“It was your choice. If you would have let me in, maybe none of this…” He pauses, his breathing weighted down by unsaid words.

I know he’ll never forgive me. Not only did I change my life forever, I changed his. But it’s done, and I can’t undo it, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. That’s how selfish I was and still am.

“I get that I’ll be living a lie for the rest of my life, but that’s just it—I have no life,” I say, my voice harsher than I intended. “Dad,” I say, my voice back to normal. “I’d like to sleep in a bed I can call my own. I want to work and to think about something other than my next alias, or what color of hair dye I should buy.”

“It’s a big risk.”

“I’ve been careful. No one will ever know who I am.”

He blows out a frustrated breath. “Okay. I’ll help you any way I can. I’m going overseas to do—research for my next book.”

Fucking Jack Steel. Calling him a cad is a lame and weak adjective one would use to describe him. Jack is an international womanizer, a bastard, a friggin’ manwhore. The six-two, fifty-five year old, looks not a day over thirty-five, tops. His mother was an astute beauty from Cuba, his father a blond, blue-eyed, trust-fund-wearing Englishman turned California surfer. He’s gorgeous and knows it. And unfortunately so does over half the population.

“What’s the name of your ‘research’?”

He chuckles, but it’s flat. I know if I were able to look into his eyes, his laughter would never reach them.

“Her name rhymes with ‘card.’ And she makes me rather—”

“Okay, that’s way more than any daughter wants to know.”

He laughs again. This time I think it reaches his eyes.

It’s good to hear him laugh. I can’t remember the last time I heard him do so. Things between us were good before all of this. After years of yo-yoing tension, our relationship had finally mellowed out. I forgave him for my lonely childhood caused by his absenteeism, and he let go of the guilt he’d carried around like a badge of honor.

Our conversations once weekly are seldom now. When we do speak, there are too many unsaid words, heavy sighs, and impersonal facts. I know he loves me but hates me all the same. I pray he knows I never meant to hurt him. Never meant to kill the only child he had.

He laughter dies off, and I force myself to tell him something I should have months ago. “Dad, I know I’ve asked for more than any daughter has a right to. But I want you to know that I—”

“Morgan,” he says.

It’s been years since I’ve heard my name. The use of our real names, even on the phone is one of Peter’s “don’t ever” rules. Even so, hearing it makes my heart swell and my breath catch.

“Sorry, baby, I didn’t—”

“Please don’t apologize. It’s been… so long,” I say, choking on my words.

He clears his throat. “Tell me about this town.”

I swallow a threatening tear. “Don’t you remember it? On our trip…”

“Of course I remember. I guess what I’m asking is why there? It seems… well, riskier than others because you’ve been there before.”

“You’re probably right. But it felt like home then, and it still does.”

“How long?”

“Six months, a year at most. Then I’ll disappear and start over again.”

After several beats he says, “You know how to contact me if you need to.”

I know that’s not what he wanted to say. He wanted to say, ‘Don’t do it. You’ve hurt me so much already.’ So I do the same, not tell him what I really want to, keeping it impersonal and to the point. “Yes. I’ll be careful. Don’t worry.”

“I will always worry about you,” he says and pauses again. I know he’s holding back his emotions, his fears. Every time we talk, the pain in his voice seems to increase, not decrease with time, as I had hoped. “Be smart and watch your back. Do everything he tells you to do.”

“I will.”

“It’s too risky for us to talk for awhile. If you need me, make contact with him, and I’ll get the message.”

“I will,” I repeat.

“I’m—I’m sorry about–I’ll never get over—I’ll never get use to this…”

A lone tear runs down my cheek. I don’t wipe it away because the tear is for him, not me. I don’t deserve tears, not even my own.

“Take care,” he says and disconnects.

“I love you, Dad,” I whisper to myself. He used to always end our calls with, “I love you, baby.” He can’t bring himself to say it anymore.

I never told him of my plans. He thought it was because I didn’t trust him or his ability to help. But that’s not why. I didn’t want him as an accomplice to murder. I never intended his involvement at all, but I needed his help to disappear. He’ll never forgive me, and he’ll never understand the why of it all; why justice is so important to me. To be truthful, I don’t fully understand it myself. It’s like a thorn in the middle of my back; I can feel it, but I can’t see it or reach it.

I stand and walk toward my rental. Before I reach it, I drop the phone onto the pavement, smash it with the heel of my boot, pick up the pieces, and scatter them between three different receptacles. Then I walk to my car, unlock it, sit behind the wheel, and think about my next move.

When I need to speak with my dad, I contact Peter first. I do so through websites that change monthly. When contact is made and further communication is needed, we use burner or prepaid phones, used once then destroyed. It sounds as if we’re paranoid fictional characters in one of my dad’s novels. But we aren’t. We are real. It was real. I might complain about Peter’s rules on occasion, but I know if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be in a Florida penitentiary, bending over while a Bertha screws me with a fist or a spoon. Or I’d be on death row wishing time would stop.

I retrieve a new burner phone from my handbag and turn it on.

While I wait for Peter to call, I reflect on our unplanned relationship and when and why it began.

CHAPTER
TWO

EVERY PAWN HAS A HELPER PAWN

 

The seduction and subsequent murder of Terrance Thomas Caldwell III wasn’t a random act of revenge or spontaneous reaction performed in the middle of processing the stages of mourning. It was a well-planned and calculated event—murder in the first degree.

As an ADA, I had the skills and the resources to examine my plan from a murderer’s point of reference, the police’s, and the prosecutor’s. Every T was crossed, every I dotted. So when a PI from Atlanta made a visit to my office, a year after Mrs. Caldwell received her son’s FedExed cock in a box, it had been unexpected and unnerving, to say the least.

The private investigator, Peter Costa, was an intelligent, street-smart, smooth-talking former NYPD detective. He was a large man with a commanding baritone who possessed the grace of a man half his size.

He gave me his card and introduced himself. He then proceeded to tell me straight out he’d been hired to find a woman. He took out a photo from the breast pocket of his Men’s Wearhouse jacket and handed it to me.

I took it and looked it over. It was me, no doubt about it. I was entering or exiting the hotel where I’d killed Terrance Thomas. I had no clue how or where he had acquired it. I handed it back to him. “Am I supposed to know who this is?”

“Come on, Ms. Steel. I know it’s you. What I don’t know is why or how you’re involved with the murder of Terrance Thomas Caldwell III.”

I shook my head and played it cool. “Sorry. Wrong girl.”

He pointed to a chair that sat next to my desk. “Do you mind?”

I did mind, but I nodded the okay, and he sat. I followed his lead and sat behind my deck. Then I picked up a pen and twirled it around as if I was bored and disinterested, something I was not.

“Ms. Steel, I’m going to skip the introduction of the players in this game, because I know, despite your… indifference and claims, you know them well.”

My only reply was a pause of my pen midtwirl and a slight raise of my right brow.

“Senator Caldwell hired me to find a woman. This woman,” he said and waved the photo. “He told me that she might be a key witness or have information about his son’s unsolved murder.”

He paused looking somewhat putout. Then he said, “Then a couple of months ago, the senator’s man, Hodges, made an unannounced visit to my office. He handed me an envelope containing $500K and informed me that my services were no longer needed. I hadn’t finished the job and asked him why. He said the FBI had found the woman in the photo and had her in custody. I asked if the FBI was certain. He said, ‘Yes, there’s no doubt about it.’ I knew he was lying.”

“Sorry, I’m not following,” I replied as I tossed the pen on my desk.

“I think I should start at the beginning.”

I glanced at my watch. “I have a meeting with the DA in thirty minutes.”

He nodded and continued. “The senator called me out of the blue.”

I glanced at my watch again, adding an annoying tap. “My time is valuable Mr. Costa, and yours is limited. You can’t afford to be redundant,” I said with a bite. I knew I was coming across as the bitch I wanted to hide from him, but I needed him out of my office so I could think about that photo. I needed to go over every detail again and figure out what I had missed.

He frowned my way before continuing. “When the senator called to ask if I’d take the case, I asked him, why me? He told me he’d heard good things about me, which I knew was a lie. I was new to the Atlanta area, having just moved there a year prior. And since hanging out my shingle, I had taken on only a few cases, all of them low-key; nothing that would warrant any notice.”

I nodded for him to continue while upping the annoyed with further tapping.

“My conversation with the senator didn’t sit right with me, but I agreed to take a look at the information he had. When Hodges dropped off the file that afternoon, I asked him the same question. Why me? He said, ‘I think you know why.’ I told him that I was sorry, but I didn’t. He said, ‘The senator was told that you’re a man with good instincts and one who knows when to walk away and keep his mouth shut.’”

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”

“The senator had information on me. Information he shouldn’t have been able to acquire.”

“Go on.”

“After I looked over the file I knew something about the case wasn’t right.”

“How so?”

“The crime scene photos had been altered. It wasn’t obvious; it was a professional job. But he had to know I’d see it.”

“He was testing you?”

“I thought so at first, but now I think he was…”

“Hiding something?”

“Yes.”

“But you still took on the case. Why?”

“I was curious, and…”

“And?”

“It was personal. He had misjudged me. I’m not someone who walks away and keeps his mouth shut. I took a knee one time because my family had been threatened. I told myself I’d never do it again.”

“If the senator fired you, why are you here?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“I know you’re the woman it the photo.” He paused and looked me over. I knew he was looking for some kind of reaction. I gave him nothing.

“What evidence do you have other than a photo of a woman who looks nothing like me?”

“None.”

I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t push it. “So this is, what?” I asked and waved a hand between us.

“I’m not sure, Ms. Steel. Like I said, I’m curious. But it’s more than that. There’s something about this case”—he shook his head—“I can’t let it go. Nothing adds up and…”

“And?”

“I’m sure you’ve had cases that kept you up at night.”

“Too many to count.”

“For me, this is one of those cases. I need to solve this mystery and I believe you’re the only one who can help me do that.”

I remained silent and took him in from behind my desk. I was trying to figure out his game. I was good at reading people. Knew all the signs of someone who was lying or attempting to cover tracks. I knew he was telling the truth. But I wasn’t sold on his reason for being there, out of curiosity, looking for the truth. But then again, he’d spent months on his own dime to find me. In the end, I decided to trust my instincts, my gut, and make my first move in a game I had no idea at the time I’d end up playing for years.

In retrospect, I think I trusted him because he reminded me of my dad. Not in looks or manner, but in the way he looked at me, directly and without falter into my eyes. They were my mother’s eyes, unusual in color and shape. Many had described them as haunting or unsettling and couldn’t look into them without pause.

After a minute of ogling each other, I stood, walked to the front of my desk, and sat my ass on its right corner edge. I used this move to disarm, putting myself in a more vulnerable position without appearing weak. Most of the time, it preceded pleads or confessions, especially with men. I knew it wouldn’t work on Costa, but I did it anyway. I had hoped it would help him to see beyond the bitch in Gucci.

When he didn’t speak I said, “Mr. Costa, I’m good at reading people, and there’s something about you…”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

TL Alexander, the author of smexy LOL romance and mystery, lives in the middle of Oregon wine-county. When she’s not enjoying a fine glass of Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris (she’s not picky) by the fire, you can find her behind her Mac, writing her latest and greatest.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
In a dream. I dreamt of this clever ADA, who commits the ultimate crime, and finds herself not seeing the world so black and white, anymore.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
I love Jane Austen and have read her books over and over again. Each summer I pick one. This summer I'm reading Emma, again.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I write romance because I love to read it.

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