Sudden Second Chance(6)

By: Carol Ericson


He’d been drawn to Beth like a magnet for all the wrong reasons. You couldn’t use a living, breathing person to fix whatever you’d missed in your childhood. But, man, it had felt good trying.

When he’d had Beth in bed, he couldn’t get enough of her soft porcelain skin, the way her breast fit neatly into the palm of his hand and the feel of her fine, silky hair running down his body.

The thought of those nights with Beth’s slim legs wrapped around his hips got him hard all over again, and he broke into a jog to work off the steam.

When he got to the car, he collapsed in the driver’s seat and downed half a bottle of water. Just his luck to run into the woman of his dreams on this nightmare assignment.

He dug his cell phone from the pocket of his jacket and called his boss, Mickey Tedesco.

“I was just thinking about you, man. All settled in up there? I hear it’s some beautiful country.”

“Don’t try to sell this, Mick. I checked into my hotel and took a walk in the woods to have a look at where the kidnap victims were held a few months ago, not that those kidnappings had anything to do with the Timberline kidnappings, except that the brother of one of the original victims turned out to be the kidnapper.” He dragged in a breath. “Why am I doing this? Doesn’t the FBI have more urgent cases that need my attention?”

“You know why, Duke.” Mick coughed. “It’s always a good idea to ease back into work after a...um, situation.”

“I’m good to go, Mickey.” His hand tensed on the steering wheel. “I don’t need to be poking around a twenty-five-year-old kidnapping case based on some slim new evidence, which isn’t even evidence.”

“I don’t know. It may not have started out too promising, but you might be getting more than you bargained for, Duke. You might have yourself a hot one.”

A vision of Beth aiming her pepper spray—pepper spray he’d given her—at his face flashed across his mind. “I might be getting more than I bargained for, all right. That bogus Cold Case Chronicles show is out here nosing around.”

Mick sucked in a breath. “Beth St. Regis is there, in Timberline?”

“Yeah.” Mick knew a little about the drama that had gone on between him and Beth...but not all of it.

Mick whistled. “That makes total sense now.”

“It does?” Duke clenched his jaw. “Are they promo-ing the segment already? She doesn’t even have her crew out here.”

“No. It makes sense that Beth’s doing a show about the Timberline Trio because someone sent us an email about her yesterday.”

Duke’s pulse skipped a beat. “About Beth? What’d it say?”

“The email, untraceable of course, said ‘Stop Beth St. Regis.’”





Chapter Three

Beth parked her rental car in the public parking lot on the main drag of Timberline and flicked the keys in the ignition. Why did Duke Harper have to be here mucking up her investigation?

She chewed her bottom lip. He’d been sent out on a cold case because of what had happened in Chicago. She’d read all about the botched kidnapping negotiation that had ended in the death of Duke’s partner, a fellow FBI agent. But Duke had rescued the child.

Tears pricked the backs of her eyes. Duke had a thing about rescuing children...but he couldn’t save them all.

She plucked the keys from the ignition and shoved open the car door. She couldn’t get hung up on Duke again. This story had presented her with the opportunity to get to the bottom of her identity, and she didn’t plan on letting tall, dark and handsome get in her way.

She locked the car with the key fob and dropped it in her purse. The chill in the autumn air had her hunching into her jacket as she walked toward the lit windows lining the main street.

If she recalled from the TV news story on the kidnappings, the tourist shop was located between an ice-cream place and a real-estate office. She started at the end of the block and passed a few restaurants just getting ready for the dinner crowd, a quiet bar and a coffee place emitting a heavenly aroma of the dark brew she’d sworn off to avoid the caffeine jitters. The Pacific Northwest was probably not the best place to swear off coffee.

A neon ice-cream cone blinking in a window across the street caught her attention. She waited for a car to pass and then headed toward the light as if it were a beacon.

The tourist shop, Timberline Treasures, with the same frog in the window, nestled beside the ice-cream place, and Beth yanked open the door, sending the little warning bell into a frenzy.

A couple studying a rack of Native American dream catchers glanced at her as she entered the store.

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