Monday, October 23, 2017

Week 43: Undercover Justice by Wendy Davy


Convicted criminal Skylar Hart is determined to salvage her reputation. When evidence of a crime points in her direction, she fears she will be the prime suspect. As Skylar sets out to prove her innocence, she becomes an unwilling participant in a deadly game of chance, and finds herself tossed into the arms of the one man who has the power to bury her or to save her. Security specialist Slade Marshal is determined to gather evidence against the thief who wreaked havoc on his family. When a case of mistaken identity jeopardizes Slade's covert operation, he fears his chance of putting the monster behind bars may be short-lived. As he sets out to complete his mission, he finds himself at the mercy of the one woman who has the power to impede his plans, or bring him to victory.


Breathless, Skylar Hart stared at the computer screen.

Was this a cruel joke?

She refreshed the online banking web page. Same results. This wasn’t a hoax. The transaction was real. The money set aside for the women’s shelter was gone—all of it. To make matters worse, the account fraud had originated from her office computer’s IP address.

The authorities would investigate, and when they did…

She would be the prime suspect.

How could God allow this to happen? She had given her life to Christ. She was His now. Weren’t things supposed to be easy for Christians?

Lord, why now? I was so close to earning a solid reputation.

Skylar’s heart thudded fast and loud as she scanned the office building’s fifth floor. At half past nine on a Friday night the other employees at her uncle’s real estate firm were long gone. She’d stayed late to tie up loose ends before the weekend. The last item on her list, processing Uncle Winston’s monthly charity donation, should’ve taken only a few minutes, and it would have if not for finding the savings account compromised.

What would the shelter do without the funds? What would her uncle think? He’d trusted her when others had shunned. But, would he believe her to be trustworthy after this? If not, the authorities would follow the path of least resistance. Why would they bother to search for the true thief when they had a perfectly good suspect thrown into their path?

Her head began to throb. The backs of her eyes burned. Skylar straightened her spine and blinked away tears. She had to contact Uncle Winston, convince him she had nothing to do with the missing money. Then, he could direct the authorities toward finding the real culprit.

Skylar shut off her computer and pulled on her jacket. Thanks to casual Fridays, she sprinted across the floor in sneakers, the commercial gray-and-burgundy carpet silencing her footsteps. The phone rang at her desk. The unexpected sound jarred her frazzled nerves.

Should she answer?

No. She had to go. She approached the elevator, finger shaking as she punched the down button. The light glowed within, but she pressed the control a second time.

How had things gone so wrong? Moving to Forest Lake was supposed to be a respite from her past; and it had been. Until now.

The elevator chimed, and the doors opened. She rode to the lobby and exited into the foyer. Florescent lights reflected off the polished tile floor, and a colorful flower arrangement adorned a pedestal in the room’s center. The security desk flanking the entrance stood empty, the security televisions turned off. Was she alone in the entire building?

She hastened her steps, glancing toward the darkness which loomed beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. Shivers wracked her body and hairs stood on end as if someone was lurking beyond the main doors, watching. Had the thief come to silence her? No one could possibly know she’d discovered the missing money. Could they?

Shaking off her unease, Skylar hurried across the wide open space and shoved through the double doors. As she stepped onto the sidewalk, Virginia’s crisp autumn air surrounded her, and she zipped her jacket. The doors closed behind her, the automatic locks engaging.

She scanned the dark, wet streets. When had it rained? Puddles formed on the black asphalt and overhead streetlamps reflected off the placid surfaces. Headlights speared the night as a full-sized cargo van cruised along the street. Tempted to rush across to the parking garage before the vehicle approached, Skylar stepped off the curb, but then thought better. She retreated and paced the sidewalk.

The driver applied the brakes, and the van slowed.

Her patience thinned. Couldn’t they see she was in a hurry? Skylar waved them on but instead of continuing past, the van pulled to the curb and stopped. The throaty exhaust rumbled as the engine idled. Tinted windows concealed its occupants and instincts urged her to take precautionary measures.

She took a few steps back, clutching her purse.

The side door swung open. A tall, dark clad figure sprang out, his combat boots splashing into a deep puddle as he lunged forward.

Oh, God. Help me.

Skylar turned and dove toward the building.

The man gained ground, fast, his heavy footsteps approaching without mercy. He was close. Too close. She drew in a breath to cry for help. His gangly arm encircled her neck, pressing tight and cutting off her emerging scream. His scent—a pungent combination of sweat and grease—assaulted her.

Skylar threw an elbow into his gut and reared back her head. He grunted as her skull connected with his face. He was stronger than he looked; he held tight, dragging her toward the van as he spewed foul words.

Adrenaline surged. She fought. Twisting. Striking. Kicking. She tried to dig into her purse for pepper spray, but the bag slipped and smashed onto the sidewalk. She wrenched toward it, but the man held tight. Inch by inch, he hauled her closer to the vehicle.

Wet concrete hampered her efforts to dig in her heels. Panic, raw and intense consumed her as her abductor climbed inside, pulled her in behind him, and then shoved her deep into the interior.

Darkness swallowed her as she fell backward onto the van’s cold, corrugated steel floor. Pain erupted, shooting up her backside and into her spine. Skylar gasped for breath as she took quick inventory: One driver. One assailant. One open door.

Freedom lay only a few feet away. She fisted her hands, preparing to fight her way out.

As if anticipating her thoughts, the man’s eyes narrowed into slits and then his gaze travelled over her shoulder. “Hold onto her. I’ll get her purse.” He disappeared outside.

The air shifted behind her. Masculine, rugged aftershave filled the chasm surrounding her—she wasn’t alone in the back after all. Outnumbered by at least three to one, she’d miscalculated her odds. In a final, fleeting attempt she lunged for the door but rock-solid arms wrapped around her shoulders preventing escape.
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I hope you've enjoyed this peek into Undercover Justice by Wendy Davy. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Week 42: A Second Chance by Alexis A. Goring

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life. 

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

Chapter 1:

Knee-deep in debt from wedding expenses, Traci Hightower sighed as she filed through the credit card statements. She should be married now, back from her honeymoon in Bali, and settled into her new home with her husband.
Not single and broke.
She slapped an envelope against the desk. Five months of struggling to survive and pay off the debt. Her meager, entry-level journalist salary didn’t stretch far enough. She’d been paying her dues for seven years. She rubbed her temples. The numbers on the credit card statement blurred in front of her eyes.
The doorbell rang. A little thrill rushed through her. She stood from her cross-legged position on the floor and hopped over the mess of papers and laundry that decorated her living room. “Who is it?”
“The woman who gave you birth.”
For the first time today, Traci smiled. She opened the door and reached for a hug from the one person who never left her hanging. “Hi, Mom.”
Her mom returned her daughter’s embrace, then dragged her suitcase inside. She glanced around. “Oh, my.”
Traci locked her door, then turned and shrugged. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been looking forward to this. Can’t you stay for more than two days though?”
Mom stopped picking up the bills from the floor and faced her daughter. “No, honey. I’m sorry, but I need to return to home by Wednesday morning. Dad and I have an important meeting later that day.”
Traci’s heart dipped. Mom paused and placed the bills and the stack of paper she’d picked off the floor on Traci’s kitchen counter. “Oh, sweetie.” She cocooned her daughter in another embrace.
Traci snuggled close. She inhaled the familiar scent of her mother’s favorite perfume. It smelt like coconut and lime.
“You always were a cuddler.” Mom stroked her hair. “Still up to your eyeballs in debt?”
Traci nodded.
“Why don’t you let me and your father help?”
Traci took a step back and made eye contact with her mom. “We’ve been through this. I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out.”
Mom smiled. “Your father and I were talking. We hate to see you struggling.”
“You don’t exactly live in a palace either. I know you want to retire soon, and I won’t have you dipping into that money.”
Mom reached into her purse. “Living in the nation’s capital area is expensive.” She rummaged through her handbag’s contents. “Have you considered moving home?”
“I can’t do that. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else. My life and career are here.”
“How’s that going for you?”
Traci picked at her fingernails. “It could be better.” Better boss, better pay, better office space. The works.
Mom nodded as she retrieved one sealed envelope from her purse. She looked toward Traci’s kitchen. “Can we make some tea? I’d like to talk with you.”
“Sure. Come with me.” Traci reached for the box of peppermint tea bags and got a bottle of honey from her refrigerator. As she put the kettle on to boil, her mom settled into a wobbly kitchen chair. She smoothed the creased edges of the envelope.
Traci poured the hot water over the tea bags in each mug and the scent of peppermint filled the air. “Everything okay?”
“Just thinking, honey.”
“About what?”
“Have a seat.”
“Sure, just let me allow the tea to steep.” After she placed a plate over each mug and set it aside, settled into the chair across from her mom. “What’s up?”
“I never did like Greg.”
Traci traced a ring stain on the table. “Do we have to talk about my ex-fiancĂ©?”
“Yes, because your grandfather always trusted my judgment.”
“So, Grandpa didn’t like Greg either?”
“I inherited my instincts of discernment from him. Speaking of discernment, here.” She pushed the envelope within Traci’s reach.
She frowned as she picked it up and tried to flatten its wrinkles. “What’s this?”
“Open it. Read it, and I’ll bring our tea to the table.”
Traci turned over the letter-sized, manila-hued paper that was addressed to her. She drew out the paper.
Dear Traci,
If you’re reading this, it means I’ve passed away, and your mother kept her promise to give this to you at the right time. As you know, I like to cut to the chase first and explain later. So here it is, plain and simple: I left an inheritance for you. It’s enough for you to make a solid and secure living, for it will cover more than what you need for the rest of your life.
Traci dropped the letter, her hands shaking. This could be the answer to her financial struggles and give her what she always dreamed of. Her own bookstore. The thought stole her breath for a moment. She envisioned the words on the sign out front. Hallee’s House. Just like she promised her cousin Hallee before she passed away from cancer. Tears welled in Traci’s eyes.
Forcing herself to take a deep breath and will the emotional waterworks away, she picked the paper off the floor and continued reading.
But you cannot receive the money until after you are married, and before you are, your mother must approve of the man you want to wed. Why? Because your mother inherited my sense of judgment and discernment between right and wrong when it comes to people. She can spot someone who’s going to break your heart from a mile away. I trust that you will listen to your mother now that I’m gone and can no longer advise you. So there you have it, dear. You have an inheritance. Sounds like a movie, right? Only it’s not. It’s better, because it’s now part of the story of your life.
After you’re married, you and your husband need to visit my lawyer, Chadwick Morrison. Provide him with the original copy of your marriage certificate, and he will give you your inheritance.
Your grandmother and I loved you. We wanted nothing more than for you to find the type of love that we had during our lifetime. Now, I trust that you will allow yourself to be guided by God, your mother’s love, and your father’s protection.
With love, your grandfather,
Henry Allen Fort
P.S. Take this seriously. Don’t marry the wrong man just to get the money. Let love happen. There’s no deadline. My will said you had to be married first. It didn’t say when.
“Let love happen.” Traci snorted as she folded the letter and placed it into the envelope. “The last time I let love happen, I was left at the altar with nothing more than a pile of bills.”
Mom placed her mug on the table. “It’s time for you to move on and trust God.”
“I trusted God to bring me a husband. He brought me Greg. Remember? The man who left me on my wedding day and ran off with my best friend?”
“Honey, I know it hurts, but that was months ago. You shouldn’t allow Greg’s actions and wayward heart to tarnish your future. Be glad he showed you his true colors before tying the knot. Honestly, look at this as a blessing. God protected you from a lifetime of heartache.”
Traci focused on her I Love Maryland mug.
Mom touched her hand. “Your grandfather just wanted to see you happy in a committed romantic relationship like he and your grandma had. Like your father and I have.”
Traci sipped her tea.
“Keep the letter.” Mrs. Hightower pushed her chair back. “Do you want me to stay here or at a hotel?”
“Here, Mom, of course. You can stay in my room. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Alright then. I’m going to put my luggage in your room. After that, we’ll clean your apartment.”
Traci picked up the mugs while her mind ran a marathon. Forgive her ex-fiancé and move on? Trust God?
Thanks so much for joining me this week!
 I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into A Second Chance by Alexis A. Goring. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy.