Mistletoe and Murder [Secure]
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by Jenna Ryan
Description: Twelve nights and counting down to Christmas.... Every Christmas the threats started again. They came delivered in red greeting cards, and this year Romana was forced to take them seriously. Even if it meant turning to Jacob Knight--the sexy detective she'd always kept at arm's length. After seven years, he was bigger, stronger and more man than she was prepared for. His dark past endangered Romana--but only his arms could provide protection from the convicted killer bent on exacting revenge. And as the nights grew longer and more difficult, their passions threatened to erupt--and expose them to dangers as irresistible as they were reckless.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Intrigue,
eBookwise Release Date: November 2007
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [455 KB]
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"It's the perfect scent for you." The woman behind the department store perfume counter gave one of her test bottles a spritz. "Mysterious and exotic, with a hint of Eastern spice."
Romana Grey sniffed her wrist. "It's lovely, but I'm not shopping for me."
A finger in her spine preceded a cheerful, "Note to self, Ro, as females, we're always shopping for 'me,' even in December." Romana's cousin, Anna Fitzgerald, picked up another bottle and sprayed the already pungent air. "This smells expensive."
"Ten dollars a pump," the saleswoman confirmed, then excused herself to intercept a group of excited teenage girls.
Fitz set her forearms on the glass case. "So, who are you shopping for today? Mom, Grandma Grey or one of your six sisters-in-law?"
"Five. Noah's divorced." Romana gave her wrist a shake. "This really is nice." Then she glanced at her watch. "Why are you here at three in the afternoon?"
"Some wires fried in the main lab. The forensics team's been evacuated until morning." Out of the corner of her eye, Romana saw Fitz finger a tiny bottle. "I was bagging a hair sample when I smelled the smoke. Well, actually, Doc Patrick smelled it. You know him—tall, sexy dude who never remembers to get a haircut and whose socks don't match."
Romana swatted her cousin's wandering fingers. "Stop doing that."
"I'm not going to steal it."
"And I'm supposed to know that? It's me, Fitz. I arrested you twice for shoplifting when I was a rookie."
"Then got me into rehab and back on the straight and narrow. I'm a respectable citizen these days, thanks to you, a kindly judge and a totally cool bunch of coworkers in forensics. Which brings me back to Patrick North. Unmarried, shy, in need of a female to match up his socks."
Romana knew where this conversation was headed. Her cousin's mind was a one-way street. "Patrick worked with Belinda Critch, Fitz. I hate the way it all circles back to that. It feels like everyone around me knows or has a connection to somebody who was involved in her death."
"Cops know people in forensics, Ro. It's the nature of the biz. Belinda analyzed body fluids. She got around. You knew her, I knew her, and, trust me, so did a whole lot of men."
"Including my ex." Romana toyed with a fat genie bottle. Her much-anticipated shopping trip was starting to suck. "I figure Connor slept with at least two of his female coworkers. Belinda was probably one of them."
"Connor was also taking bribes from Cincinnati drug lords." Fitz sniffed. "Don't sweat the loss of a creep."
"I never sweat my losses, but marrying Connor Hanson wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done."
"No, divorcing him was."
"Good point." Shoving her brief funk aside, Romana sprayed a cotton ball, frowned and wrinkled her nose. "This smells like jalapeño peppers."
"It smells like Belinda Critch."
It did, actually. Romana warded off another pang of guilt and dropped the ball into a silver waste receptacle. "Belinda's gone, Fitz. Life goes on."
"That's a fact. You traded cophood for a college degree. I got my head screwed on straight and managed to work myself up the forensics ladder to a great tech job. It's not your fault or mine that Belinda Critch is dead. Maybe it's Jacob Knight's fault, but no one could prove it, so one way or another, her killer's probably still out there."
"Not helping me here, Fitz."
"Sorry." A pause, then, "Do you think he did it?"
"That's it, just a flat no? Come on, Ro, someone put a bullet in her chest, and Jacob Knight was involved with her once."
"If a guy I dated in high school turned up dead tomorrow, would that put me at the top of the suspect list?"
"I think you're not sure about him, and that's why you get twitchy when the subject comes up. You saved Knight's life, and, bam, two days later, Belinda's dead. Critch said Knight threatened her, so he must have believed it. Although…" She drew an air line with her finger. "Knight's partner did stick up for him. Michael O'Keefe…" Her smile flashed quickly and dimpled. "Who am I to doubt the word of a fellow Irishman?"
"An Irishman you dated once as I remember."
"You remember very well. O'Keefe's cute. Okay, older than me, but I like an age gap."
"You like any gap when it comes to men."
"Guess I have something in common with Belinda, after all. Maybe two things. Her brother Dylan's kind of cool, don't you think?"
"Uh-huh. Tell me, Fitz, is there a man we both know that you don't like?"
"Yeah, Jacob Knight. Except I don't not like him, I'm just not sure of him. Critch was convinced that Knight killed his wife, so much so that he pulled a gun on him. But there you were, on the scene and duty-bound to jump in, with no idea who was wrong or right. Come on, Ro, a dilemma like that would give anyone twitches."
Romana erased the smell of peppers from her fingers with peach hand cream. She considered changing the subject but knew Fitz would only find a way back. With a sigh, she said, "It's guilt I'm feeling, okay? Not about helping Jacob in that alley—that's what cops do—but because I didn't listen to Critch when he said his wife's life had been threatened. He had no proof, there was nothing to go on. Someone—not Jacob—" she shot her cousin a warning look "—wanted Belinda dead. I didn't investigate the allegation after Critch was arrested, but I should have, because that's also what cops do."
Copyright © 2007 by Jacqueline Goff.