Sudden Second Chance

By: Carol Ericson

A man with too many secrets. A woman with everything to lose.

As if the Timberline Trio cold case isn’t nightmarish enough for FBI agent Duke Harper, he runs into the TV reporter who loved and betrayed him—beautiful Beth St. Regis. Duke quickly concludes she’s not after a sensational story. She’s there to solve the haunting mystery of who she really is. But all her questions unleash a killer, and Duke steps up to protect her when she becomes a target. Despite their bitter past, Duke finds he’s still attracted to Beth, and maybe they deserve a second chance. First, though, he has to keep Beth alive—and from discovering the shocking truth about her past...





Her frame trembled beneath his hands. “It was...terrifying... I’m going to hear that sound in my nightmares.”

“What’s it gonna take for you, Beth?”

“To leave Timberline? The truth. I’m going to leave Timberline when I discover the truth about my identity. Otherwise, what do I have?”

“You have me.” He sealed his lips over hers and drew her close.

She melted against him for a moment, her mouth pliant against his. But then she broke away and stepped back.

“I just don’t think you understand what this means to me, Duke. It’s a lifetime of questions and doubts coming to a head right here. All my questions have led me here.”

“You don’t know, Beth. It’s based on feelings and suppositions and red doors and frogs.”

“And that’s a start.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t want to take that all away from her—the hope—but he’d snatch it all away in a heartbeat to keep her safe.





CAST OF CHARACTERS

Beth St. Regis—The host of the Cold Case Chronicles TV show. She uses the show as a cover to find out if she’s one of the missing children of the Timberline Trio, but she runs into a former adversary...and lover, who will either stand in her way or make her forget all about why she’s in Timberline.

Duke Harper—This FBI agent is sent to investigate the Timberline Trio cold case, but the dead-end assignment turns into a battle of wits and wills when he meets up with the TV reporter who used him for a story but has been on his mind and in his heart ever since.

Heather Brice—Beth believes she might be this kidnapped child and will stop at nothing to prove it.

Bill Raney—His realty business is suffering due to his chronic drinking and poor business practices, and he’s willing to do just about anything to get back on top.

Rebecca Geist—A local Realtor who knows more of Timberline’s secrets than she realizes, which puts a target on her back.

Jordan Young—This Timberline mover and shaker is anxious to put the town’s dark history in the past, but are his motives civic or personal?

Gary Binder—A recovering drug addict and ex-con, he’s either trying to get his life back on track or he’s up to his old tricks.

Scarlett Easton—A local artist and native Quileute, she offers to help Beth get in touch with her past, but she pays a price for her generosity.

Serena Hopewell—A bartender at a local restaurant, she owns a prime piece of property in Timberline. Is she a savvy investor or a savvy blackmailer?

Sheriff Musgrove—The new sheriff in town may be a little too cozy with those who would circumvent the law in order to hide the truth.





For Chuck, one of the most avid readers I know.






Chapter One

Beth’s heart skipped a beat as she ducked onto the path that led through a canopy of trees. The smell of damp earth and moldering mulch invaded her nostrils. She took a deep breath. The odor evoked the cycle of life—birth, death and rebirth. She’d smelled worse.

She gasped as a lacy, green leaf brushed her face. Then she knocked it away. If she freaked out and had a panic attack every time she delved into the forest, she’d have a hard time doing this story—and getting to the truth of her birth.

Straightening her shoulders, she tugged on her down vest and blew out a breath. She stepped over a fallen log, snapping a twig in two beneath her boot. The mist rising from the forest floor caressed her cheek and she raised her face to the moisture swirling around her.

The scent of pine cleared her sinuses and she dragged in a lungful of the fresh air. She’d definitely classify herself as a city girl, but this rustic, outdoor environment seemed to energize her.

Either that or the adrenaline was pumping so hard and fast through her veins, a massive anxiety attack waited right around the corner.

She continued on the path through the dense foliage, feeling stronger and stronger with each step. She could do this. The reward of possibly finding her true identity motivated her, blocking out the anxiety that the forest usually stirred up inside her.

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