Publisher: Champagne Books
Date of Publication: September 7, 2015
Number of pages: 284
Word Count: 93254
Cover Artist: Ellie Smith
The wedding date is set, and life is magical for Doyle Flanagan and Cady Delafield. Yet trouble has a way of finding these two. Honor bound to repay an old debt, Doyle agrees to help a friend find her sister. As he searches for the girl, painful memories surface, stunning Cady when she discovers facts about Doyle’s hidden past.
In spite of incredible odds, Cady and Doyle’s love has flourished. Now mired in tragedy and secrets, their happiness is in jeopardy. Their wits are put to the test when catastrophe strikes close to home threatening those Cady loves the most. Can they overcome the turmoil with a fateful decision that will change their future forever?
“Ummmm.” Eyes closed, Cady Delafield savored the velvety concoction on her tongue. A hint of orange added a sublime touch to the chocolate mousse.
“I take it you approve.” Doyle’s voice skated over her skin as smooth as the creamy dessert.
Smiling, she looked at him across the table, beyond a low centerpiece of white flowers embedded in forest greens. Dressed in eveningwear as black as the lustrous hair on his head, he lounged against the padded brocade chair, the perfect image of strength and elegance. One arm draped casually over the linen tablecloth, while tapered fingers stroked the stem of a wine glass in a languid manner. The tempo reminded her of his caress to her neck when they’d ridden to the restaurant. In the carriage, the light had been dim, seductive, and the subtle pressure of his thumb against her nerve points divine. She wanted to moan again from sheer delight.
At other times, she wanted to pinch herself awake from this incredible dream and face reality. It seemed unbelievable a man such as Doyle, robust and attractive, a self-made millionaire and just dangerous enough to keep her on the edge of her seat, chose her to love. Yet time and again, he’d told her so. If she’d learned anything from their brief time together, it was to trust his word.
Her smile widened.
“Mousse? I adore it.” Her breathy tone had an immediate effect upon him. His blue eyes darkened with lust, stirring a delectable heated reaction.“I’ll have to get the recipe and make it every day.” She laughed lightly. “But then I’d get dreadfully plump.”
“You?” He canted his head. In the mellow glow of the table lamp, he gleamed, igniting an urge to stroke his tawny skin. “No need to worry. Should you ever get fat, there’ll be more of you to love.”
“Ha!” Their laughter peeled against the drone of other diners and the sweet music of a string quartet lodged in a far corner. How wonderful to laugh, she realized, pleased her malaise of the past few months had lifted.
Beneath his watchful gaze, her blood flamed. How could one man hold such power over her? Quivery fingers itched to stroke every inch of his magnificent body. Alone in her bed at night, she could scarcely sleep for the sheer want of his touch. Yet between them, he was the one who had shown restraint, who had kept her from indulging her deepest passions.
As wonderful as the dessert tasted, Doyle represented a much greater temptation. It would require a great deal of discipline, perhaps more than she possessed, to keep her hands to herself. Yet Doyle, traditional, respectful and stubborn, intended to delay their sexual completion until their wedding night. Could she do it? She had her doubts.
She took one more bite then settled the spoon on the gold-trimmed dish, thinking she was the most fortunate of women. “To love and be loved is such a heady experience, don’t you agree?”
He answered with a smile that wrapped about her shoulders like a warm blanket on a wintry eve.
“Doesn’t it strike you as amazing such an outspoken administrator for a women’s vocational school, a progressive thinker and non-conformist, and a woman inclined to impulsive actions, should have attracted a man like you?”
At twenty-four-years old, an age many considered the portal to spinsterhood, she’d given up dreams of love and marriage. Important needs, such as earning an income, had consumed her time. Then along came Doyle and everything changed.
His strong brow pulled in question.
“It’s not as if I’m unfit to love,” she rushed to add. “Although there is my horrid temper.” A temper which often got the best of her.
He studied her carefully. “I like a woman who doesn’t hold anything back.”
At the seductive implication, her breath stalled. “Then it’s fortunate for you I’m so outspoken.”
Overhead, electrical light transmitted through stained glass in the ceiling. It cast a mixture of colorful tones, which had the effect of giving his skin a tanned look, as if he’d spent days in the sun. The effect softened the strong angles of his chin and muted the thin scar that sliced through one eyebrow.
“Tell me, Cady. Do you possess everything your heart desires?”
How like him to be curious about her wishes and dreams. “I have your love, don’t I? What more could I ask?”
He squeezed her hand. “There’s one more thing you ought to have.”
Cady startled when one of the doors to the morgue flew open with a scraping squeak. Jack passed through, looking grave in the poorly lit corridor. Doyle followed, grim lines carved in his face.
“Doyle!” Arms outstretched, she jumped up and ran to him. Engulfed in his strong arms, he gave a glancing kiss to her temple. Caustic smells of the morgue clung to him.
“It’s her, Sarah Jenkins,” he whispered at her ear.
Filled with regret, she closed her eyes, absorbing the shock. “Oh, no. I had so hoped the outcome would be different.”
“As did I.”
Holding him close, she derived reassurance from his steadiness. Still, there was no mistaking the deep weariness that weighted his spirit.
He gripped her about the upper arms and set her away. Studying his pained face, she realized it wasn’t she who needed comforting so much as him. “You look torn at the seams, Doyle. I’m so sorry.”
“I am, too.” He took her hand. “Let’s get away from here.”
Silent, except for their footfalls, they walked side by side, following Jack up through the maze of corridors and stairs, stopping only when they reached the front doors of the police station. They spoke a few words to Jack, promising to meet again and said good-bye.
From experience, Cady knew the identification of a body, even one of a stranger, was a difficult and unpleasant experience. Yet a pale and shaken Doyle surprised her. Even in the worst of times, he acted so confident and handled life’s difficulties with strength and boundless determination. So what was different about today?
About the Author:
Joyce grew up in Minnesota and attended college and grad school in Chicago. After working in mental health, she retired at a young age to write full-time. Her first book, Eliza, was published in 2012. A Wicked Truth is the third book in the Cady Delafield series. When she isn’t writing mysteries or historical romances, she loves to swim, walk and is a crossword puzzle fanatic. She and her husband live in Florida and Minnesota, in her very own little house on the prairie.
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