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SYNOPSIS: The murder of two women in the basement of Thomas Marshall’s home goes undetected due to a shifty coverup. Years later, Marshall’s daughter, Maria Anna, becomes a target for murder. Someone wants to silence her latent memories from childhood—someone with secrets worth killing for. With time running out, will her fiancé, Private Detective Sam Hesston, be able to stop a diabolical killer before Maria Anna becomes a fatal victim? And of equal importance, will their relationship be able to survive the traumatic situation testing their love?
Thomas Marshall drove from the hospital to his home, a bandage covering his forehead where he sustained a cut during a minor car accident. It was Saturday night, his card-playing night. His friends would likely be well into the game by the time he arrived home since he had spent a considerable time in the hospital waiting room. Nevertheless, he had called home, speaking to one of his house maids and asking her to inform his friends he would be late.
It was a dark night outside, but unusually cool for that time of year. He drove through the gated entry to his estate and down the long drive that circled in front of his spacious home. Eager to participate in the card game in his basement, he parked behind the other cars and hurried inside.
When he opened the basement door, everything was unusually quiet downstairs. He smiled, thinking his card-playing friends were engrossed in their game.
“I apologize for being so late, fellows,” he said when he neared the bottom of the stairs. “A van with parents and four children were in a bad wreck and they arrived ahead of me at the emergency room, so…” His voice went silent. He stared in disbelief. His friends weren’t sitting around the card table as he expected. His face contorted into a worrisome frown. His breath quickened.
He saw Yolanda’s body on the floor. “God almighty, what has happened here?” he gasped out in a raised voice brimming with shock.
No one spoke.
Thomas ran and knelt down by Yolanda’s unmoving body. He sees her panties draped around one ankle. He checks her pulse. With shock and puzzlement marring his usually calm features, he looks from one man to the next, and then back again to the most composed of the three men who stood in the doorway of the little reading room containing a daybed. Thomas spots Pia’s prone body on the daybed behind his old friend. Touching Yolanda’s neck again for a pulse, he shakes his head mournfully and comes to his feet.
Pushing past his friend whose bulk is blocking the doorway, he stops dead in his tracks to stare at the still form on the bed. A pillow covers the beautiful young woman’s face. Thomas snatches it off and checks her pulse, shaking his head in sheer horror and disbelief at the bloody sheets between her legs. He turns about so he can see the three men all at once, his face ravaged with shock.
“What in God’s name have you done?” Thomas Marshall cried
Excerpt from Chapter One
Walking from the parking lot, Maria Anna glanced through the plate glass window advertising the name Samuel Hesston, Investigative Services, painted in large pale blue letters. White light from the overhead florescent light fixtures washed his office, spotlighting Sam sitting behind his old banged up metal desk bought at a thrift store. He held a phone to his ear and a pen in his right hand, jotting notes on a yellow pad. She waved at him and her movement drew his glance. He motioned to her to come inside.
She opened the door to his office and stepped over the threshold just as he put the phone down. “Hi,” she said, smiling despite jittery nerves from her recent event with the blue car. Excitement from being in the same room with Sam had the effect of a pleasant electric charge. He put sunshine in her life even when there was none outside, and the mere touch of him could send her passions soaring. He was her first love, her first sexual partner, and she hoped someday he would be her husband.
“Hi Baby.” He spun his swivel chair about to greet her, his gaze drifting over her, registering approval. Her long black wavy hair, thick and fluffy, framed the delicate curve of her oval face with its natural olive complexion. His glance slid on down the length of her, her beautifully clad figure more sensuously inviting than any female he had yet known.
“Something important?” she asked, indicating the phone call he just ended.
“You might say that. The caller was answering a newspaper ad I placed. I have decided to hire someone to answer the phone and help with the paperwork around here. I also plan to hire an assistant who can do some of the legwork and use a computer. Business has been steadily picking up and my time is so scattered with different cases that I can’t adequately apply myself to my clients’ problems.”
“Have you found anyone yet?”
“The ad just went in the paper today and the girl I just spoke with is the first caller. She’s coming in for an interview later today.”
A tinge of disappointment skirted across Maria Anna’s brow. She was so used to stepping over to Sam’s office anytime she wanted and catching him all alone that the thought of a woman employee sharing him touched off a tinge of envy.
She stepped over to where he sat, his ancient old desk facing the wall to avoid the glare of light through the front plate glass window. He swung around in his swivel chair to face her. Maria Anna bent down to rest her hands on his shoulders, leaning forward to plant a kiss on his lips. He liked it so much he pulled her onto his lap and extended the kiss. She could feel the rock-hard arms clasped about her and the smooth sleek firmness of his well-muscled chest pressed against her bosom. Traces of thick dark hair on his chest peeked above the V-collar of his pullover shirt.
“You’re trembling,” Sam said. “Are you okay?” He leaned away from her and studied her face.
Not wanting to spoil the intimate moment, she shrugged and nodded affirmatively. Then she closed the space between them with another kiss.
“I’ve got a few minutes if you want to visit my back room,” he whispered suggestively in a teasing tone—except he was not teasing. They had spent many lunch periods in that backroom that was barely large enough to hold more than the small cot.
Maria Anna laughed, brushing his plundering hand aside. She was highly tempted, and it certainly would not be the first time. He had a magnetic pull on her that required no more effort than a suggestion most of the time. “It’ll have to wait until tonight,” she stated with promise, pecking him on his cheek before moving off his lap.
“Where have you been all day?” Sam inquired.
“The usual, I had a couple of clients earlier whom I drove around on a tour of homes for sale. I put out a For Sale sign at a piece of property I contracted to sell, and then I met with your old friend Pete Scarborough and his architects. He wanted my input on what features of his newly constructed homes were receiving the greatest interest from buyers.”
“I take it you wowed them with all your observations.” He sent her a cockeyed grin.
She arched a brow and smiled. “Pete already knows what he wants. He just wanted me to confirm that he’s doing a good job building saleable homes.”
Sam glanced at his watch, noting it was well past the lunch hour. “Have you eaten yet?”
“No, I have a sandwich in the office. I have lots of paperwork I need to catch up on.” She was thinking about the blue car, wondering if she should mention it to Sam.
“You’re still trembling. Are you sure everything is alright with you?”
“Actually, I’m not alright,” she said and paused.
“What’s wrong?” Sam’s attention piqued.
“Someone followed me yesterday and today.”
Sam’s expression took on avid interest. Frown wrinkles creased on his forehead. “Why do you think that?”
“A blue car followed me home yesterday and followed me again today back to the office. When I turned, he turned. When I sped up, he sped up.”
“Tell me about it,” he urged.
She told him as many details as she remembered from the time she saw the blue car yesterday until today when he drove pass her turnoff into the strip mall entrance. “Sam, if I have any enemies, I sure haven’t done anything to foster their intrusion into my life. You know the hours I put in at my job and the office—six days a week and sometimes seven. I go to work, pay my bills, and never break the law. I’m always careful with people’s feelings, and am grateful enough for my security that I help others whenever I can. If I had to describe myself, I would say I am friendly, harmless, and altruistic—so why would someone follow me?”
“I don’t know, baby, but if this happens again, I want you to call me immediately, and then call the police.”
He pulled her onto his lap again and pressed his lips to her mouth, drawing an instant response. The kiss went on for several seconds until they had to come up for air. Sam loved touching her, being close to her, but she equally loved him touching her. She was “touch” deprived after growing up in a home where the demonstration of affection was not practiced. She had loved her father and Cassie, her nanny, but Sam was the first person in her life with whom she could demonstrate feelings and share affection.
“Are you sure it was the same car yesterday and today?” He asked, nuzzling his tongue in her ear.
“Sam, stop that,” she laughed and moved off his lap. “I’ve got work to do. And yes, it was the same car.”
He appeared unconcerned about someone following her, but she knew he was deeply concerned. “What are you doing tonight?” His flashing white teeth behind his seductive smile hinted boldly.
“What do you have in mind,” Maria Anna asked saucily, reveling in the closeness of him and the way his look could make her feel like the most important person in his world.
The slow grin that followed and the sparkle in his translucent blue eyes was disarming enough to zap the strength in her knees. “I’ll have to show you.” His jaunty grin held supreme promise.
“Behave your self,” she declared, playfully slapping his hand. Then more seriously, she added, “Do you think I should be worried about the blue car following me?”
“Baby, with all the weirdoes out there now a days, one never knows. Just keep your eyes open and if you see the same car tailing you again, then I will definitely look into it. Try to get a license plate number if you can, plus the make and model of the car.”
“Hey,” she said, giving him another hug and a tweak on the cheek, “I’ve got to go.”
“Remember we have a date tonight,” Sam reminded her.