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First pages

Prologue

He stood across the street, watching her through the windows of the camera shop. She smiled and laughed, talking animatedly with the man behind the counter as she closed her wallet, slipping both it and her camera into the large bag that served as her purse.

He had followed her from campus, staying close enough to keep her in sight, but far back enough so as not to arouse her suspicion. The school was so centrally located that she usually walked to run her nearby errands, as opposed to driving, and he found it made it easier to tail her.

He had crossed the street when the sidewalk narrowed, still keeping an eye on her and continuing forward a few paces when she stopped in front of the shop, doubling back once she was inside.

Though it was just after five o’clock, it was already growing dark, winter still holding the city in its clutches, snow still lingering in dirty drifts along the edges of the sidewalk. His breath fogged in front of him as he stood in a shadowed doorway, the nearby streetlamp catching the brief plume of vapor and making it glow until it dissipated.

A flicker of movement drew his gaze from her, and he saw a young man walk into the shop from the back room, stealing a glance at her as he carried a few boxes past her to place them behind the counter. He was blond and tall, and made him think of –

The bell over the door of the camera shop jingled, and his eyes flicked back to her.

◊◊◊

Hannah Cole stepped out of the camera store, the chill of the mid-February air somehow managing to catch her by surprise, even though she hadn’t been inside that long. She shivered a little and pulled the sleeves of her coat down over her hands before crossing her arms over her chest and starting down the sidewalk.

The street was busy with both cars and pedestrians, and though it was nearly dark, she didn’t feel too anxious about being in D.C. at night. All the same, she had her phone clutched in her right hand, and a small can of pepper spray attached to her keys, which were in her coat pocket; her father being an FBI agent gave her an edge of paranoia, and the idea of better safe than sorry had been drilled into her head since she was a little girl.

Normally, she went straight home after her last class of the day, unless she had plans, but she’d had to get her camera repaired, and the owner of the shop had called her earlier to tell her it was ready to pick up. She was in a good mood, so she decided to linger in the city, and headed for the thrift store that was a few blocks away. There was also one of her favorite restaurants nearby, and since it was Friday and her dad was having dinner with some coworkers, she thought she might treat herself to a nice dinner before going home.

After a couple of minutes of walking, she had the feeling of being watched, but ignored it, thinking it was just because there were so many people around her. It grew stronger, however, becoming a creeping sensation on the back of her neck, and she stopped and turned her head sharply, frowning as she scanned the area around her.

◊◊◊

The moment she stopped, he did too, shifting into the doorway of an empty store. He shrank into the darkness when she turned around, almost certain she couldn’t see him, but grateful all the same for his dark coat and pants.

He could see her frown, her expression vaguely confused as her eyes passed over the surrounding area, and just once her gaze landed on him, lingering long enough to make him wonder if she really could see him.

Finally, her eyes moved past him, still staring all around, still looking confused. He looked around too, and saw a man standing outside of a bar, smoking a cigarette and openly staring at her. A moment later, she spotted him too, and visibly shrank into herself, her expression now a mix of revulsion and anxiety as she wrapped her coat tighter around her and turned away.

The one watching from across the street sneered, half expecting the man at the bar to start following her, but he just flicked his cigarette to the sidewalk and went back inside. Shame, the other man thought; maybe he could’ve helped loosen her up a bit.

Over the past few weeks, he’d watched several men check her out and flirt with her, and she’d regarded nearly all of them as if they were all beneath her; like she was better than them. Quite frankly, it annoyed him, made him wonder what gave her the right to think she was better than anybody, especially a man giving her the attention she no doubt wanted, even if she pretended she didn’t.

Fucking tease, he thought, his lip curling a little.

◊◊◊

Hannah searched the street around her, still feeling eyes upon her, and finally noticed the man behind her, leaning against the wall of the bar she’d just passed. He was staring at her, a lit cigarette between his fingers, and her stomach twisted as she turned away, pulling her jacket tighter around her. She was no stranger to men checking her out, but it always made her uncomfortable, and she never knew what to do other than ignore it and keep walking.

After a few steps, Hannah looked behind her once more to make sure the man wasn’t following her, and then pulled her phone from her pocket. Her good mood had soured somewhat, but she was still hungry, and with the restaurant so close, she didn’t want to go home without eating, but now she decided she wanted some company.

“Maddie?” she said when her best friend answered. “Are you still at the bookstore?”

“Just getting ready to leave. What’s up?”

“You wanna come have dinner with me at Ruby’s?”

“Sure. Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Hannah murmured, making her way around a couple who was walking far too slow. “I’ll tell you when you get here. I’m walking there now; I’ll get us a table.”

“Okay, see you in a few.”

Feeling a little bit better, Hannah slid her phone into her pocket and hurried across the street to the restaurant.

◊◊◊

He watched as she disappeared into the restaurant, and slowed to a stop, hands in his pockets. Though he couldn’t be sure who she had called, he assumed it was her friend with the long red hair. He’d seen her several times, and appreciated the fact that at least she seemed to know what to do when a man gave her his attention.

Briefly, he considered waiting for her to come out, but realized he had no idea how long she might be in there, and decided to just call it a night.

He would see her again tomorrow.

Chapter 1

David Cole glanced out the living room windows as he started down the stairs, watching a school bus trundle along towards the stop at the end of the block. As it disappeared from sight, he tuned in to the sound of a spatula scraping against a pan, and his lips curved as he stepped off the bottom step and turned to the right. His daughter Hannah was at the stove when he entered the kitchen, and he tossed his jacket over the back of a chair before walking around the bar.

“Morning, sweetheart,” he murmured, stepping behind her to press a kiss to her head before moving to the cupboard to grab a coffee cup.

“Morning,” she replied, eyes on the eggs she was scrambling. “How late were you up last night?”

“Not – not too late,” he replied as he poured his coffee. She threw a look at him over her shoulder, and he gave her a wide smile, knowing she couldn’t stay annoyed with him for too long when he did that.

Sure enough, he saw the corner of her mouth rising as she turned back towards the stove, and he grinned, reaching for the sugar.

“Here, Dad,” she said a moment later, handing him a plate with eggs, fruit, and toast. He reached in the silverware drawer for a fork, staring all the while at his plate.

“Why can’t I ever have bacon?” he asked as he leaned against the counter, frowning and lifting a bite of eggs to his mouth.

“Because it’s not good for you,” Hannah replied, placing the skillet in the sink.

“You know, my doctor says I’m perfectly healthy,” David said, raising his eyebrows at her as she turned to face him.

“Yes, and I’m just trying to keep you that way,” she countered, her hazel eyes meeting his blue ones in a level stare as she arched an eyebrow right back at him. He grinned and speared a piece of melon with his fork as she walked past him.

“How come you’re not eating?” he asked, turning to watch her progress to the table.

“Already did,” she said, her brow creasing as she opened her schoolbag, peering inside for a moment before her face cleared and she closed it again, fastening the clasp on the front.

“Don’t you have a lab or something this morning?” David asked, chasing down a bite of toast with a swallow of coffee.

“Yeah, 8:30.”

David checked his watch and nearly spit out his coffee. “Han, you’re going to be late!”

“I wanted to make sure you ate breakfast,” she replied, slipping the strap of her bag over her head so it crossed her chest and then slinging her purse onto her shoulder.

“Well, I’m eating, so go.”

“I’m going, I’m going,” she laughed as she stepped quickly to his side to touch a kiss to his cheek. “Love you.”

“Love you too, baby. Now go,” he said, giving her a gentle shove towards the back door. She disappeared through it, and he listened carefully, waiting for her to start her car. It was old, and he was just waiting for the day when it died completely, but with only a minimal amount of protesting the engine turned over and the sound slowly faded as she backed down the driveway.

It needed replacing, along with Hannah’s old laptop, but she refused to let him buy new versions of either one. Even when she was little she’d never let him spoil her, very rarely asking for things she didn’t think she needed. While he was proud of her restraint, and savored how different she was from her mother, from time to time he wanted to buy her something she wanted, something nice but frivolous, and he jumped at any chance he got to spoil her, if only a little bit.

He knew he couldn’t afford to buy her a car, at least not one he thought she deserved, and especially not with their upcoming trip to Florida after the summer semester was over, but he reminded himself that her birthday was coming up. He’d buy her a new laptop, knowing she wouldn’t say no if it was a gift, and thought maybe he’d start looking this weekend.

Cheered by the thought, he finished his breakfast and set his plate in the sink before heading to his office to finish getting ready for work.

◊◊◊

Hannah sat on the couch, one leg folded underneath her, the other pulled to her chest, her chin resting on her knee as she read the journal article in her hand. Her free hand rested on her foot, her thumb rubbing absently over the nail of her big toe. She could feel the smoothness of the polish there, a shimmery bright orange, but knew it was starting to chip, and spared a thought that maybe she’d redo her toenails later that night.

After her lab earlier that morning, she discovered her other morning class had been canceled, and since her next class wasn’t until three that afternoon, she’d decided to come home to do her reading.

It was almost eleven o’clock now, and bright sunlight streamed through the windows in the kitchen, stretching into the living room and warming her as she read. She couldn’t wait for it to be spring again, couldn’t wait until the flowers in her garden in the backyard started blooming, and the hummingbirds returned to the feeders with regularity. Her favorite part of the season was the blooming of the cherry blossoms.

Ever since she was a little girl, she’d loved the pretty pink flowers, and it had become a tradition for her and her dad to go into D.C. when the blossoms reached their peak bloom to admire the flowers, and then have dinner together.

When Hannah had taken up an interest in photography in high school, it had been incorporated into their yearly trek, and for the past several years, she had allowed her father to turn her camera on her and snap a picture of her standing under the trees. It was the one picture of her he kept on display in his office at work, right next to his computer, and he changed it out every year when they took a new one.

The peak bloom was still a few weeks away – the florets were only just beginning to show – but that didn’t stop her from being excited. There was a new dress in her closet that she had bought recently for this specific occasion, and she couldn’t wait to wear it.

Taking a breath, Hannah pulled her gaze from the article to glance at the clock on the wall.

It was getting close to lunch time, and while she wasn’t quite hungry enough to eat yet, she imagined her dad was, and her nose crinkled at the idea of what he might eat for lunch. There were plenty of good, healthy restaurants around his office, but she knew he was more likely to choose the quick and cheap, and invariably unhealthy, option.

Deciding she would make him something for lunch, she leaned forward to set the article on the coffee table, and then stood and stretched as she walked into the kitchen. It was unlikely he’d eaten yet – more often than not he either got too busy or just forgot – and it was a good excuse to visit him, not to mention a few other agents she was friends with.

◊◊◊

A short while later, Hannah was walking down the sidewalk towards the Washington, D.C. FBI field office, a small paper bag dangling from her fingers as she made her way against the trickle of dark-suited agents on their way to lunch. She waved to a couple, not knowing very many agents outside of her dad’s division.

It was a nice day, though a bit of winter chill still lingered in the early March air, not to mention her body had a tendency to run cold, and she was grateful for her warm sweater as a breeze blew by.

She rounded the corner from F Street onto 4th, and stepped quickly out of the way of a group of people heading in the direction she’d just come from before continuing on. She was almost to the doors when a flash of color caught her eye, and she looked in its direction.

A young man in a bright blue t-shirt was moving towards the building as well, from the opposite direction. He stood out like a patch of sky visible through heavy storm clouds, and she stopped a moment, inexplicably drawn to him. She carefully set her dad’s lunch between her feet and brought her bag in front of her, reaching inside for her camera. She always carried it with her, knowing the best shots were sometimes the ones you didn’t plan for.

The man seemed to be moving towards the entrance of the building, and she hoped she could get a picture before he disappeared inside, wanting to catch this spot of color that made her think so much of the approaching spring.

He paused, his attention drawn to something across the street, and she seized the opportunity, snapping just one picture of him, stealing the moment forever.

As soon as she lowered the camera, he looked at her, almost as though he had been waiting for her to finish. She felt her face redden at being caught, and then he smiled at her. She smiled back, and for a moment it looked as though he wanted to approach her, but he looked at his watch and his shoulders sagged. She watched his lips form a murmured curse, and he glanced up at her, his expression regretful, before turning to head inside the building. She tucked her camera back into her bag as she watched him go, feeling a tiny tug of regret as well.

Chapter 2

Across the street someone else stood watching. His pale blue eyes narrowed as Hannah closed her bag and shifted it back to rest on her hip. She stood out too, in jeans and a grey sweater, long blonde hair spilling down her back.

She bent to pick up the paper bag between her feet and moved to set it on one of the stone benches nearby as she adjusted her shirt, showing a glimpse of the brightly patterned material as she tugged it down over her hips before letting the sweater fall back into place.

He stared at the small brown sack as she took it between her fingers again, knowing she was going to see her dad, bringing him his lunch like a good daughter. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, his lip curling as he exhaled the smoke, eyes still on her as she started towards the building and then stopped again, pulling her phone from her pocket.

He could just see her smile from where he stood as she read the message on her phone, and he tilted his head as he watched her. He traced the curve of her hips and the line of her legs with his eyes, frowning as he looked at her small hands, delicate fingers typing out a reply. He’d already decided she couldn’t be very strong, not with that slender little body, and he felt sure that she wouldn’t fight back very much, if at all.

He took a breath as he flicked his cigarette to the sidewalk, crushing it under the toe of his boot as his thoughts swirled around in his head. He had nothing left to lose, but knew someone who could stand to lose a great deal, and a small feeling of satisfaction swept through him.

Chapter 3

Hannah slipped her phone back into her pocket and frowned, turning her head sharply as another breeze swept through the small courtyard, gently ruffling her hair.

It wasn’t the first time she’d felt someone watching her, but now, as every time before, she saw nobody who seemed out of the ordinary, nobody who wasn’t moving along the sidewalk towards some unknown destination, and she gripped the strap of her bag in her fingers, her frown deepening.

After a moment, she shook her head and turned to make her way into the building. She passed through the security checkpoint, exchanging pleasantries with the guards before clipping her visitor’s badge to her shirt and heading for the elevators.

She emerged on her dad’s floor and made her way through the corridors, waving as she passed by offices and work stations. She’d known a lot of these agents for years, some for her entire life, and always enjoyed coming to visit.

There was a familiar figure inside one of the offices as she passed, and she backed up a step, poking her head inside to see Juliet Grayson crouching on the floor, untangling a bundle of cords. She straightened, pushing her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears as she walked around the desk, stopping in front of the computer monitor and staring intently at the screen.

Hannah stepped into the room and Juliet looked up, her expression startled before a wide grin spread across her face.

“Hey, sweetie,” she said, stepping over to pull Hannah into a quick hug.

“Hey, Jules,” Hannah replied, smiling when she pulled away. “What’re you doing?”

“Oh, just the usual tech support lackey stuff,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “You know, in addition to my actual job.”

She rolled her eyes and Hannah laughed.

“I’ll let you get back to work; I just came by to see Dad.”

“He’s in a meeting,” Juliet replied, glancing up at the clock on the wall.

“That’s all right, I’ll wait.”

Juliet nodded as she headed back to the desk. “Lunch soon?” she asked, glancing back at Hannah.

“Yeah, definitely,” Hannah replied, smiling. “Just call me, you know my schedule.”

Juliet nodded, and Hannah moved towards the door, calling a goodbye as she exited into the hallway and receiving a distracted, “Later,” in response.

Hannah continued to her dad’s office, pushing her way inside and dropping her bag into one of the chairs in front of his desk as she set his lunch on top of his calendar.

Moving to the tall bookshelf set against the wall, she tilted her head and stared at the titles. Her dad thought she was a bit strange for finding his reference books so interesting, and always shook his head a little disbelievingly every time he saw her with one of the thick tomes in her hands.

Bending slightly, she scanned the titles on the lower middle shelves, and then reached for one on forensic psychology she’d only flipped through a couple of times. She straightened and turned, and then nearly dropped the book when she saw a young agent standing behind her. His eyes flitted to her face, and she got the distinct impression he’d been staring at her backside. She adjusted her shirt self-consciously, tugging it down over her hips before pulling the halves of her sweater together as she folded her arms, hugging the book to her chest, and a brief look of guilt flashed across the agent’s face.

“Sorry if I scared you,” he said, smiling a little sheepishly. “I just came by to get Agent Cole’s signature on this report.” He held up the folder in his hand, and then stepped towards her, extending his hand. “I’m Eli. Eli Shaw.”

“Hannah Cole,” she replied, the corner of her mouth rising as she shook his hand.

He looked at her for a moment, and then his eyes flicked to David’s desk before he looked back at her. “Cole? You’re not –”

“David Cole is my dad,” she said, giving a short laugh as she nodded towards the desk.

“Right,” Eli murmured, looking even guiltier than before.

Realization suddenly dawned as she looked closer at Eli, and she said, “Hey, I just saw you outside,” noticing how different he looked in a black suit as opposed to the blue t-shirt he’d been wearing just a little while ago.

“Hey, yeah,” he said, a slow smile spreading across his face. “You took my picture.”

It was Hannah’s turn to look sheepish, and Eli’s smile widened.

“Are you new here?” Hannah asked, wanting to change the subject. “I’ve never seen you before.”

“Yeah, I just started a few days ago.”

“You must be the greenie Dad was talking about last night,” Hannah said, grinning as she moved to replace the book in her hands.

“Greenie,” Eli murmured, smirking. “That’s a new one.”

“It’s what Dad calls new agents,” Hannah explained as she stepped back over to him, pushing the sleeves of her sweater to her elbows.

“It’s clever,” he said, nodding. “Usually I just get the terribly unimaginative ‘rookie’.”

Hannah giggled softly, and Eli smiled at her, thinking she had one of the best laughs he’d heard in a long time. They fell silent a moment, and then Eli cleared his throat.

“So, do you normally take pictures of total strangers?” he asked, grinning when she blushed.

“It was your shirt,” she said, slipping her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “You just… stood out.”

“I went for a run on my lunch break,” Eli explained, and raised his eyebrows. “Can I see the picture?”

Hannah was a little taken aback, but she recovered quickly and nodded. “Sure.”

She leaned over the chair, opening her bag and pulling her camera out as Eli stretched his arm to place the file on David’s desk.

Eli stepped closer to her as she turned it on, and she could feel the warmth of his body, could feel the soft fabric of his suit as his arm brushed against hers. She took a very shallow breath as she called up the picture, holding the camera so he could see the display.

“I like that,” Eli murmured. “You’re right, it does stand out. You’ve got a good eye.”

Hannah shrugged modestly, and Eli grinned.

“Well, you made me look decent, anyway.”

“I don’t think that had anything to do with me,” she said quietly, and then looked up when Eli laughed softly, embarrassed that he’d heard her.

There was no denying that he was attractive, with his dark hair and blue eyes. They weren’t quite as vibrantly blue as her father’s, but more like the sky on a hazy summer day, blue with just a touch of grey mixed in. He was taller than her by a few inches, and even just standing next to him like this, he felt solid, and warm, and strong.

Safe, she thought, inexplicably.

Eli, too, was noticing how beautiful Hannah was, maybe the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Her long blonde hair looked soft and silky, and his fingers itched with a sudden unexplainable urge to touch it.

Perhaps most remarkable of all were her eyes. He supposed if he were to classify them with any of the accepted colors for eyes, he would call them hazel, but they were more than that, many different shades of green and brown swirled together in her irises. He imagined how they must change in different lighting, and found himself wanting to know just how many different colors Hannah Cole’s eyes could be.

And then, before he could stop himself, he breathed, “You have really pretty eyes.”

His heart pounded hard as he looked at her, watching as her eyes widened slightly. A faint flush colored her cheeks, and then she looked down, her lips curving as she mumbled a soft, “Thanks.”

A brief silence fell between them, and then Hannah took a breath.

“Do you – do you want to see more?” she asked hesitantly, glancing up at him.

It was Eli’s turn to widen his eyes, and Hannah closed hers for a second, shaking her head minutely.

“Pictures,” she amended firmly. “More pictures.”

“Sure,” Eli said quickly, trying to ignore the low fluttering in his stomach and the sudden realization that her shirt and sweater had slipped down her shoulder enough to reveal the strap of her bra.

Hannah transferred the camera to his hands, adjusting her shirt as she showed him what button to press to advance the pictures, and he started to slowly cycle through them. There were several of the cherry trees downtown, one of a cat napping in a solitary beam of sunshine, a close up of a couple walking hand in hand down a sidewalk, and several others which ran in a similar vein. He pushed the button to move to the next picture and saw what appeared to be his new boss, at home and sitting on the couch. His feet were propped on the coffee table, sleeves pushed to his elbows as he stared intently at a report in his hands, glasses perched on his nose.

It was so utterly domestic, and he was forcibly reminded that the girl standing beside him was his boss’s daughter and that he really should not be feeling what he was feeling –

“Agent Shaw, don’t you have work to do?”

The new voice, already so familiar, cut through the silence of the office, startling Eli so badly he fumbled the camera in his hands. He would’ve dropped it if not for Hannah’s quick reflexes, and she took it from him, cradling it carefully in her hands. He stepped away from her, very nearly tripping over his own feet as he looked at the stony face of David Cole.

“A file – case report,” Eli stammered, reaching for the folder he’d placed on the desk just a few moments ago. “You need – I need your signature.”

David took the folder from him, his gaze scrutinizing as he looked at the younger agent.

“I’ll have it to you before the end of the day. Now get back to work.”

Eli nodded as he stepped quickly to the door, murmuring, “Yes, sir,” and daring the barest of glances at Hannah when David turned towards his desk.

He received a small apologetic smile and a wiggle of her fingers in a tiny wave, and his lips curved slightly upward as he tipped her a nod before exiting the office.

“Dad,” Hannah said once Eli was gone, her tone admonishing as she looked at her father.

“What?” David replied, avoiding her gaze as he flipped through the file Eli had left.

“You know what,” Hannah said, giving him a look as she braced her free hand on the back of the chair in front of her, dipping her head to try to meet David’s eyes. “We were just talking.”

“Yeah, well, he’s here to work.”

Hannah rolled her eyes and leaned down to put her camera back in her bag.

“So, what brings you here, other than chatting up my newest agent?” David asked, finally raising his gaze to her face as he shrugged off his suit jacket and hung it on the back of his chair. She smirked and shook her head, choosing not to rise to the bait.

“I brought you lunch,” she said, gesturing to the bag on his desk.

“Mmm,” he hummed, reaching for the bag and peering inside. “What is it?”

“Tuna on pita bread, an apple, and yogurt.”

David raised an eyebrow at her, and she laughed.

“Relax, I used real mayonnaise.”

“Oh, well then,” David replied, grinning as Hannah giggled.

David plucked the yogurt from the bag and peeled off the lid, licking it and dropping it into his trash can before fishing in the bag for the spoon.

“What’re you doing the rest of the day?” he asked as he raised a spoonful of yogurt to his mouth.

“Probably go back home and do some work,” Hannah replied, glancing at her phone to see what time it was. “I’ve got class at three.”

“But you’ll be home after that?”

Hannah nodded. “What about you?”

David sighed, raising his eyebrows as he dipped into his yogurt once more. “Well, I come into work every morning with the intention of leaving on time, so I may surprise you, or it may end up being the same old, same old.”

Hannah smiled and opened her mouth to speak when a sudden knock on the open door cut her off, and she looked around to see Chris step into the office.

“David, it’s the Vasquez case,” he said, sounding rushed and practically bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Somebody jumped the gun; the deal’s going down now.”

Now? In the middle of the fucking day? ” David exclaimed.

“Yeah, we gotta go.”

“Shit,” David muttered, setting his yogurt down and reaching for his suit jacket.

Chris looked over at Hannah, seeming to notice her for the first time.

“Hey, Hannie,” he said, smiling broadly at her. “How are you?”

She rolled her eyes at the nickname, resisting the urge to smack his arm for it.

“Fine, I just came by to see Dad,” she replied, glancing at David as he checked his gun.

Chris’s eyes dropped to her feet and then back to her face, and her lips curved in anticipation. She knew what he was going to ask, but before he could speak, David stepped suddenly around his desk.

“Chris, move your ass,” he muttered, shoving the younger agent towards the door.

“Right, sorry,” Chris said, smiling at Hannah once more before he hurried from the office.

David stepped forward and pressed a quick kiss to Hannah’s forehead. “I’m sorry, baby. I’ll see you tonight, okay?”

She nodded and David flashed her a smile before dashing after Chris.

Hannah sighed as she reached for the rest of her dad’s lunch and the yogurt sitting open on the desk. She took the time to write him a note telling him she was putting his lunch in the break room refrigerator, then wrote his name on the bag and stapled it shut before grabbing her purse from the chair and striding from the room.

Chapter 4

After leaving the break room, Hannah started to head for the elevators, and then bit her lip as a different thought occurred to her.

Another glance at her phone told her she had plenty of time before she had to get back home to get her stuff for her afternoon class, and she deviated course from the elevators towards the mass of cubicles in the center of the main office. She wasn’t sure where Eli might be, but after a few minutes of looking around and trying to be as inconspicuous as she could, she finally spotted him.

There was a brief moment of hesitation, wondering if she should really do this, and then something inside her propelled her forward. As she drew closer to his work station, she saw him hunched over his desk, head bowed, evidently reading something. There was another small hesitation, not sure if she should disturb him, and then her hand rose to gently tap her knuckles against the edge of his cubicle. He looked up, startled, and she had to press her lips together to stifle the laugh that threatened to escape when she saw the pretzel rod sticking out of his mouth.

His eyes widened at the sight of her, and he snatched the pretzel from his mouth, dropping it to his desk and swiping a self-conscious hand across the lower half of his face.

“Hey,” he said, casting a quick glance at his shirt as he shifted in his seat.

“Hey,” she replied. “Um, Dad just ran out on a case, and I thought maybe you and I could – have lunch or something? Maybe talk some more?”

A look of monumental disappointment flashed across Eli’s face. “I already took lunch –”

“Oh, yeah,” Hannah said quickly, giving a brief shake of her head and a slightly nervous laugh, her cheeks lightly flushed as she raised her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I've been writing almost 20 years now, but it's only been in the last few years that I've considered publishing. The first book I published is actually the second book I wrote, and I have a few others in the pipeline to work on next. I've lived in Florida all my life, and I work as an in-home caregiver for seniors, but my dream career is to be a full-time writer.

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Dianna Agron has been Hannah in my mind since this idea first came to me, while I've always pictured Gary Oldman as David. I do have the full cast in my head, but those are the two most important ones for me.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
I think the hardest part of writing this book was trying to make a cohesive and suspenseful thriller, making all the threads tie together while keeping it interesting for the reader. It's not something I ever thought I could do, so I was wary going in, but determined.
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
I learned that I could actually write a book! This was the first book I ever wrote (though not the first I've published), and it remains a great source of pride for me, and these characters are very close to my heart, particularly Hannah.

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