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Authors: Marie Ferrarella

A Widow's Guilty Secret

BOOK: A Widow's Guilty Secret
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“Watch over my baby.”

As the mother of a newborn, Suzy Burris is accustomed to sleepless nights. But tonight, she’s waiting up for her husband, Peter, to tell him she wants a divorce. Instead, she learns he’s been murdered. And the sexy detective who’s just delivered the shocking news is asking questions indicating she’s a suspect.

When Detective Nick Jeffries left Houston for the sleepy town of Vengeance, Texas, he hoped to leave behind the city’s grisly homicides. The latest triple murder to hit his desk nixes that idea. Being attracted to the widow of one of the victims is the last thing he needs. But when Suzy and her baby are threatened, he’ll risk all to keep them from a killer’s crosshairs....

Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, Suzy pulled the door open, braced herself and then walked in.

The smell of dust and mold assaulted her nose the second she entered. She let the door close behind her as she looked around.

“Hello? Is anyone here?” Suzy called out.

Only the echo of her own voice answered her.

Had she gotten the address wrong? Was the kidnapper jerking her around, sending her to the wrong place to show her that he was holding all the cards and that she had none?

But she
did
hold a card, Suzy silently insisted. She dug in, holding her ground and giving it one more try.

“Look, I came here just like you told me to. Now stop playing games and show yourself, damn it!” she demanded.

There was still no answer, but she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. What was this creep's game?

Dear Reader,

As you may have noticed this month, Harlequin Romantic Suspense has a brand-new look that’s a fresh take on our beautiful covers. We are delighted at this transformation and hope you enjoy it, too.

There’s more! Along with new covers, the stories are longer—more action, more excitement, more romance. Follow your beloved characters on their passion-filled adventures. Be sure to look for our newly packaged and longer Harlequin Romantic Suspense stories wherever you buy books.

Check out this month’s adrenaline-charged reads:

COWBOY WITH A CAUSE by Carla Cassidy

A WIDOW’S GUILTY SECRET by Marie Ferrarella

DEADLY SIGHT by Cindy Dees

GUARDING THE PRINCESS by Loreth Anne White

Happy reading!

Patience Bloom

Senior Editor

Marie Ferrarella

A Widow’s Guilty Secret

Books by Marie Ferrarella

Harlequin Romantic Suspense

Private Justice
#1664
**The Doctor’s Guardian
#1675
*A Cavanaugh Christmas
#1683
Special Agent’s Perfect Cover
#1688
*Cavanaugh’s Bodyguard
#1699
*Cavanaugh Rules
#1715
*Cavanaugh’s Surrender
#1725
Colton Showdown
#1732
A Widow’s Guilty Secret
#1736

Silhouette Romantic Suspense

**
A Doctor’s Secret
#1503
**
Secret Agent Affair
#1511
*
Protecting His Witness
#1515
Colton’s Secret Service
#1528
The Heiress’s 2-Week Affair
#1556
*
Cavanaugh Pride
#1571
*
Becoming a Cavanaugh
#1575
The Agent’s Secret Baby
#1580
*
The Cavanaugh Code
#1587
*
In Bed with the Badge
#1596
*
Cavanaugh Judgment
#1612
Colton by Marriage
#1616
*
Cavanaugh Reunion
#1623
**
In His Protective Custody
#1644

Harlequin Special Edition

‡‡‡
A Match for the Doctor
#2117
‡‡‡
What the Single Dad Wants...
#2122
†††
The Baby Wore a Badge
#2131
#
Fortune’s Valentine Bride
#2197
‡‡‡
Once Upon a Matchmaker
#2192
-
Real Vintage Maverick
#2210

Silhouette Special Edition

***
Diamond in the Rough
#1910
***
The Bride with No Name
#1917
***
Mistletoe and Miracles
#1941

Plain Jane and the Playboy
#1946
***
Travis’s Appeal
#1958
Loving the Right Brother
#1977
The 39-Year-Old Virgin
#1983
***
A Lawman for Christmas
#2006
‡‡
Prescription for Romance
#2017
‡‡‡
Doctoring the Single Dad
#2031
‡‡‡
Fixed Up with Mr. Right?
#2041
‡‡‡
Finding Happily-Ever-After
#2060
‡‡‡
Unwrapping the Playboy
#2084

Fortune’s Just Desserts
#2107

Harlequin American Romance

Pocketful of Rainbows
#145
††
The Sheriff’s Christmas Surprise
#1329
††
Ramona and the Renegade
#1338
††
The Doctor’s Forever Family
#1346
Montana Sheriff
#1369
Holiday in a Stetson
#1378: “The Sheriff Who Found Christmas”
††
Lassoing the Deputy
#1402
††
A Baby on the Ranch
#1410
††
A Forever Christmas
#1426

*Cavanaugh Justice
**The Doctors Pulaski
***Kate’s Boys
‡The Fortunes of Texas: Return to Red Rock
‡‡The Baby Chase
‡‡‡Matchmaking Mamas
†The Fortunes of Texas: Lost...and Found
††Forever, Texas
†††Montana Mavericks: The Texans Are Coming!
#The Fortunes of Texas: Whirlwind Romance
-Montana Mavericks: Back in the Saddle

Other titles by this author available in ebook format.

MARIE FERRARELLA

This
USA TODAY
bestselling and RITA® Award-winning author has written more than two hundred books for Harlequin Books and Silhouette Books, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide. Visit her website,
www.marieferrarella.com
.

To Patience Bloom,

For constantly making this fun, not work.

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Marie Ferrarella for her contribution to the Vengeance in Texas miniseries.

Prologue

M
abel Smith knew something was wrong the moment she walked into the house.

She could
feel
it.

Feel it despite the fact that there were no signs of a struggle and nothing out of place.

The longer she stayed, the more convinced she became that she was right.

As was her custom, the petite, pleasantly plump housekeeper had let herself into Professor Melinda Grayson's modern, two-story house with her own key. It was a copy of the master key, awarded to her amid much fanfare. She viewed the key as a status symbol, a testimony to her character.

Her employer, Melinda Grayson, did not trust easily, holding the people she dealt with suspect until they proved themselves worthy in her eyes. As someone who cleaned the woman's house and perforce was given access to every corner of it, she'd been watched with an eagle eye for the better part of two years.

At the beginning of Mabel's third year of service, the renowned, somewhat controversial and eccentric sociology professor dramatically bestowed her with a copy of the house key, making Mabel literally
swear
that she would never allow anyone else even to hold it, much less use it. It was a well-known fact that Professor Grayson guarded her own privacy as zealously as she delved into everyone else's when she was doing research for one of her highly contentious books.

Entering the house that she'd cleaned from top to bottom once a week, Mabel had expected to find the professor somewhere on the premises. The woman's car, a sky-blue vintage 1957 Chevy Impala, one of her few extravagances, was parked in the driveway. Since that was her only mode of transportation to and from Darby, the college where Dr. Grayson taught, Mabel had assumed that the woman was in the house somewhere, possibly working on a paper or getting lectures ready for the new, upcoming academic year.

But when she called out her greeting, the housekeeper received no answer.

That in itself was no cause for concern. More often than not, the professor was either lost in thought or uncommunicative. However, she always made an appearance within a few minutes of Mabel's entry, just to make certain that the woman had come alone and hadn't brought someone with her to help with the work.

Not that she ever did. Dr. Grayson had made it abundantly clear that she did not care to have any uninvited strangers walking across her floors, nor would she tolerate it.

“Something is wrong,” Mabel said to herself, speaking loudly enough for someone else to hear—had there
been
someone else in the room to hear, which apparently there was not.

Feeling progressively ill at ease with the situation and possessing an extremely healthy and active imagination, Mabel still forced herself to clean the house, hoping she was just being unduly concerned.

When there still appeared to be no sign of the professor, she felt she had no choice but to place a call to the local police.

Private creature or not, she knew the professor would have wanted her to call them.

* * *

He didn't hear the phone ring at first.

Didn't realize the next few minutes would upend his life.

Oil baron Gabe Dawson was in Malaysia on important business, far away from Vengeance, Texas. He finally picked up the hotel phone.

“Gabe. You need to come home. Now. It's Melinda,” his assistant said.

It was only when he heard his ex's name that he froze. Gabe stopped and sat on the bed, braced for the news.

“She was kidnapped.” His assistant gave him some details, but there was little information. Just that someone had made her disappear.

Along with the shock, a wave of nostalgia came over him and he allowed himself to drift back and remember. Remember how things used to be with Melinda. In the beginning. Back when they had been just two overachieving graduate students, wildly in love and bound and determined to leave their marks on the world.

Melinda had been even more focused on that than he'd been. She'd been resolute about making a name for herself—her
own
name—as if she wanted everyone she had ever known from birth to know that this was what Melinda Grayson had become. It was important to her, to the exclusion of everything else.

Eventually, even he had found himself excluded, standing on the outside of her world.

In hindsight, he supposed they began growing apart almost from the very moment they took their vows before a justice of the peace ten years ago. Melinda started pointing her finger at what she perceived were social injustices, while he, with his well-honed business acumen, became a recognized leader in his field, and exceedingly wealthy to boot.

With his bank accounts totaling in the billions, he, in effect, found himself becoming the enemy against whom Melinda was so profoundly railing.

Looking back, he accepted that their divorce was inevitable.

But in the beginning, ah, the beginning, there had been some really good times. Excellent times.

“What else can you tell me?” Gabe asked.

“It is suspected that the professor was kidnapped from her home. You're the closest to immediate family that can be located. The Dean of Darby College has put in a plea that the kidnappers get in contact with him and make their demands known.”

“Get me on the next flight,” Gabe said.
“I'm her family,”
he emphasized. He was aware that Melinda had siblings, but she never talked about them and he never prodded her. The estrangement, he'd gathered, went way back.

Melinda had been his first love. Though they became as different as fire and ice, he'd never loved anyone as much as he had loved her. Most likely, he never would.

If something had happened to Melinda, then he wanted to help get her back. God knew, if money was the issue, it wouldn't be for long. He had more money than he could possibly spend in a lifetime.

Two
lifetimes.

Gabe started toward the winding staircase. He needed to pack.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the very money that Melinda had once turned her nose up at would come to her rescue?

He didn't know if that would come under the heading of poetic justice or not but it would certainly point to the fact that God had an incredibly sardonic sense of humor.

BOOK: A Widow's Guilty Secret
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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