*A Note from the Author:
The Smart Investigations, Inc. series is not your typical mystery series. There are two things you might like to know about it. First, the pace is fast, like a great suspense novel, and the mood is tense…a bit darker than your average cozy mystery but not too dark. The romance in the books is sweet, with sensual overtones, like an old time murder mystery from film noire days. And of course there’s a cute little dog named Max, a dachshund, who pees on bad guys because…well…he can! And because he’s a dachshund and they always have an opinion.
And secondly, you’ll notice a second author’s name on the cover. Edric Honeybun is one of the brothers from my popular Honeybun Heat series. In the Heat, Edric is a thriller/suspense writer and the Smart Investigations, Inc. series was originally his before I stole it. So I thought it was only fair to give him some credit. Thus the co-authorship.Read the reviews, check out the blurb and if it sounds like something you might enjoy, I hope you’ll give this exciting new series a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Fractured love, treachery and cold-blooded murder…
A nightmarish new case plunges Alex and Matthew into personal and professional chaos as they pursue a killer who traffics in the most vile of human traits. They quickly learn that the current killings are somehow tied to a decades old murder, which comes with a hefty mix of suspects. As they begin to dig into the cold case, they start to realize that one of their suspects is hiding an evil so horrific it can barely stand the light of day.
Unfortunately, the evil they stalk is only one side of a multi-sided problem. Twisted around old loves and never forgotten treacheries, the case threatens their growing feelings for each other and dangerously undermines their professional relationship, while pitting them against a killer more deadly than any they’ve faced. Can they survive the dual threat? Will they reach for each other when things get rough? Or will they let misunderstanding and menace kill the future they’ve started building together?
Tandy Smart clicked blood-red nails on top of Alex’s desk and tugged on a shiny blonde curl as she talked into her pink phone. Alex watched Matthew’s twenty-something sister with a mixture of awe and disbelief. She, Alex, had never been the flirty girl sort. She’d always been driven by the need to learn and, as such, had somehow threatened the tender psyches of any men she might have formed attachments with.
Before Matthew, there had been only one other man who’d seen past Alex’s brains and acerbic sense of humor to the slightly insecure, loving woman beneath. But, watching Tandy do her thing, Alex realized the younger woman’s modus operandi was a mature one, no doubt built over years of flinging out test bubbles to see what worked and then adjusting strategy to get what she wanted. That was where the awe came in. Tandy Smart was as good as her last name. She was no ditzy blonde, though she carefully crafted that persona when interacting with her victims. She was every bit as smart as her sexy brother, even if their methods were as different as night and day. Alex saw what none of the young girl’s brothers seemed to see. Tandy Smart was as savvy as the most dogged femme fatale. And every bit as dangerous because of her ability to hide it.
“Would you do that for me? Aw, that’s so sweet. You’re just the best. Thanks, Roger. I’ll owe ya one.” Tandy hung up the phone and threw Alex a smug grin. “Dandy Joes at two o’clock Wednesday. Back booth as requested.”
Alex shook her head. “You’re amazing.”
“Thanks.” Tandy surged from her chair, seemingly already focused on her next task. Her quick changes of mood and high energy were only two of the things that made Tandy exhausting to be around. “I’m meeting some friends for lunch. Can I bring you something back?”
“No thanks. I brought my lunch.”
Tandy grabbed a cute little clutch and headed for the door.
Alex eyed both the purse and the tiny behind swaying away from her, thinking she’d give anything to have a butt or a purse that small. But then she realized she’d have to give up carbs and store her gun in her bra. Nope, not worth it. “Enjoy your lunch.”
Tandy stopped at the door, turning back with a frown. “You know, my brother is an idiot.”
Alex felt the statement like a physical blow. Blood crawled into her face and turned her cheeks hot. She shook her head, unable to respond. Heading for her desk, she flung a hand dismissingly over her shoulder. “Have a nice lunch, hun.”
The door closed and Alex took a deep breath, her gaze sliding to the closed door of Matthew’s office. Sadness tugged at the sight, regret flared. Alex looked determinedly away, refusing to give in to the despair threatening to drag her down. She’d made a good run at it all. The relationship. The job. The last few months with Matthew, working at his side and sharing his life, had been the best days of her life.
But she’d made a decision and she was determined to live with it.
The office door reopened and Alex spoke without looking up. “Forget your lipstick again?” When Tandy didn’t respond, Alex glanced up from her computer. Her world tilted. Her lungs seized. She stood too quickly and thought she might faint as stars burst before her eyes. “Ben.” Her gaze slipped over him. Over the blood-shot blue eyes and the rumpled clothing. His face was whiter than the t-shirt he wore under the filthy hoodie. His baggie trousers were wet, the knees black with filth. But it was the trail of dried blood on his face that had her rushing forward. “Oh my god. What happened?”
The man she used to love more than anything let her take his arm and walk him toward a chair. His legs buckled out from under him more than once during the short trip. He groaned, clasping his head as Alex grabbed her client chair and pulled it over to the sound of wood screeching against wood.
When he was seated, Alex crouched before him, her hands over his on the arms of the chair. “Who did this to you?”
He frowned down at her, his sexy blue gaze filled with confusion and pain. “I…I don’t know exactly.”
Max yipped behind the closed door, his nails clicking across the floor in Matthew’s office. A beat later he was throwing his tiny body against the scarred wood, whining plaintively. Alex skimmed a quick glance in that direction before returning her gaze to Ben. Something inside her rebelled at the idea of asking Matthew for help with the man she’d once thought she’d marry.
“Ali, I think I’m in trouble.”
She sucked in a small gasp at the sound of that name. No one but Ben had ever called her Ali, and it had usually been in the most intimate of situations. Panicking at the flood of disconcerting memories, she stood up and moved away from him. Alex perched on the edge of her desk and crossed her arms. She knew even as she did it that the distance and the crossing of arms were both protective, shielding mechanisms, but she didn’t care. If there was anyone Alex needed to protect herself from it was the man sitting a few feet away from her. “Tell me what happened.”
His story was fractured, with small blank spaces his injured brain couldn’t fill in. But the gist of it was that Ben had been trying to help what he’d assumed was a homeless guy and had gotten himself caught in the crosshairs of the person who’d attacked him. “Have you gone to the police?” she asked him.
“No.” He shook his head and grimaced, his blood-covered hand flying to his head. “I can’t.”
He lowered his hand and looked at it, seeming to see it for the first time. He didn’t speak for long enough to make Alex think he hadn’t heard her question. “Alex? Why haven’t you gone to the police? The man who hurt that homeless guy and you is still out there. He might hurt someone else.”
“The police already have their suspect.” Ben’s gaze slid to hers and darkened with fear. “It’s me, Ali. They think I killed that man.”
Though her stomach twisted painfully at the news, Alex made a dismissive sound. “That’s ridiculous, Ben. Why would they think that? Because you tried to save him and couldn’t? Ben, was that what happened? If so, we can help you.” She realized the word “we” had flown out of her mouth all too easily and, truth be told, she wasn’t entirely sure it was a true statement anymore. It was highly likely Alex was no longer a “we”. So she quickly amended her words. “I can help you.”
Ben Phillips continued to stare at his bloodied hand, his face the very picture of confusion. “No. You can’t.” He lifted a terrified gaze to her. “Because I’m afraid I did kill that man.”