Secrets—and safety—melt under a midnight sun…
Liv Chandler is running for her life, and the cops haven’t been able to do a thing to help. But there’s one man who makes her feel safe, no matter what…rugged charter boat captain Rafe Brodie.
To Rafe, Liv is a beautiful mystery, one he can’t ignore. He means to unearth her secrets, and in the process, if luck is on his side, maybe the spark between them will ignite.
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It took the death of someone she cared about for Olivia to let down her guard enough to follow Rafe Brodie out of the house. For six months she’d been avoiding him.
Now Scott Ferris was dead and she couldn’t get Cassie’s haunted features out of her head. Cassie wanted Scotty’s killer caught. So did Liv. Wanted it bad enough to risk helping Rafe Brodie make certain it happened.
Why she believed he could handle the job, she wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the hard glint in his eyes when he’d promised Cassie that whoever had done it wasn’t going to get away with it. Maybe it was just that everything about Rafe Brodie said he was an extremely capable man.
“I don’t think the police have talked to Ben yet,” she said as he drove his SUV toward the Seaside Motel. “Lois told me Cassie got completely hysterical when Chief Rosen told her Scott was dead. Her mother drove over and gave her a Valium. The chief promised to come back later, after she was a little more in control, but he hasn’t been back yet.”
“I’d like to know what the medical examiner found out,” Rafe said. “She should be able to give us the official cause of death, maybe come up with a more exact idea of the murder weapon.”
“Dr. Karen Ward. Works at the clinic. Town this size isn’t big enough for a full-time forensic examiner.”
“That isn’t exactly good news. Someone who only works part-time could miss something important.”
“She’s a good doctor, but you’re right. It’s not exactly like having some hot-shot CSI on the case like you see on TV.”
“Speaking of forensics, maybe Scotty left something on the boat. Have you been back aboard yet?”
“No. It’s part of the crime scene. As soon as it’s cleared, I’m supposed to take a look, see if anything’s missing.”
Olivia leaned back as he turned the SUV at the corner and drove up in front of the Seaside Motel.
“In the meantime, we’ll see what Ben has to say.” Pulling into the parking lot of the two-story clapboard structure, he turned off the engine and Olivia climbed out of the vehicle. The motel was inexpensive but clean, with two dozen sparsely furnished rooms, six upstairs, six down.
Rafe held open the motel office door, and Liv preceded him inside and walked up to the counter. When Rafe leaned over and rang the service bell, his big, hard body brushed hers, and her breath caught. Just standing next to him was making her heart beat a little too fast.
Olivia couldn’t remember a man affecting her the way Rafe did. She’d noticed him the first time he’d walked into the café and every time since. She’d told herself it was just that he was such a handsome man and she hadn’t had sex in years. It was just that he was tall and good-looking, with a lean-muscled body that filled out his long-sleeved thermals in exactly the right places. Any normal, red-blooded female would be attracted to a man as sexy as Rafe.
Whatever the reason, she needed to keep her guard up.
Then again, Rafe Brodie was the most eligible bachelor in town. Half the women in Valdez were in love with him. Since he had never shown any real interest in her, maybe she was worrying for nothing.
She latched on to the thought as Ben walked out of the back and spotted them on the opposite side of the counter. He was a short man, a little rotund, with a receding hairline and a cheerful disposition. She could tell by the grim set of his features that Ben had heard about Scotty.
“I guess you know,” Rafe said, coming to the same conclusion.
“It’s all over town. Goddamn the bastards. I can’t believe he’s dead.”
“Did you see him last night? Did he show up for the poker game?”
“He was here. Scotty rarely misses.”
“Have you talked to the police?”
“Not yet. I’m surprised no one’s come round asking questions.”
“Rosen wasn’t able to question Cassie. She was too upset. The chief doesn’t know Scottie was here last night before he was killed. You know why he went back to the boat instead of going home?”
Ben shook his head. “No idea. We were all feeling real good with the tourist season kicking in and business picking up. We decided to raise the limit a little, and Scotty started winning. The kid was on a roll, cleaned us all out. When he got up to leave, Marty ragged him about staying, thought he should give the guys a chance to win back some of their money. But Scott wanted to get home. Said something about buying Cassie a real nice wedding gift with his winnings.”
Ben shook his head. “Damn shame is what it is. Goddamn shame, nice boy like that.”
Olivia looked up at Rafe. Scott had left with more money in his pocket than he usually carried. Maybe that was the reason he’d been mugged. But how would anyone except the other players have known?
Rafe asked the question she was thinking. “Besides you and Scott, who else was in the game?”
“Like I said, Marty Grossman was a player. Sam King and Chip Reed were the other two guys.”
“Reed used to date Cassie,” Rafe said. “They were pretty hot and heavy at one time. Then she met Scotty and Chip was out the door. How did Reed and Scotty get along? Any animosity?”
Ben shrugged his rounded shoulders. “Chip used to goad Scotty once in a while. Joked about him being henpecked. Told him to grow a pair and keep Cassie in line. Stuff like that. But you know Scott. Rolled off him like water off a duck’s back. Scotty liked everyone and everyone liked him.”
“Not everyone,” Olivia said darkly, drawing Rafe’s sharp gaze back to her.
When she said nothing more, he returned his attention to Ben. “Soon as the police find out Scott was here last night, they’ll want to talk to you and the other players.”
Ben nodded. “I’ll call and let them know. If there’s anything I can do to help catch that murdering bastard, believe me I will.” He let out a weary sigh. “Thing like this . . . makes me wish Alaska had the death penalty.”
A muscle tightened in Rafe’s jaw. “I know what you mean.”
“What time did Scotty leave?” Liv asked.
“Guess it was a little after midnight.”
“Coroner puts time of death between eleven and two,” Rafe said. “If Scotty left around midnight, he must have been killed sometime not long after. What time did the rest of the players leave?”
“Game broke up maybe ten, fifteen minutes after Scotty took off. Hell, he had all our money.”
“Are you sure he didn’t say anything about going back to the boat?” Liv asked. “Mention some errand he needed to run or something?”
“Not that I recall.”
Rafe flicked a glance in her direction. “Anything else?” he asked her.
Liv shook her head.
“Thanks, Ben,” Rafe said. “If you think of anything that might help, you know where to find me.”
“You got it.”
Olivia turned and started for the door, and Rafe fell in behind her.
“Rafe?” Ben called after him. Rafe stopped and turned. “You won’t let this drop, will you? You’ll keep after them till they find the guy who did it.”
Rafe’s jaw turned iron hard. “I won’t stop until the sonofabitch is arrested—or he’s dead.”
Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty books across multiple genres. Sixteen million copies are in print and she has been published in twenty-one foreign countries, including Japan, France, Argentina, Greece, China, and Spain. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA award and won both the Lifetime Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews.
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.
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