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Authors: Debra Webb

Still Waters

In the next Faces of Evil book from
USA TODAY
bestselling author Debra Webb, is Amber Roberts a killer—or a victim?

Instead of reporting the news, Amber Roberts is the news. Has the beautiful journalist murdered someone she hardly knew or has she been brilliantly framed? Evidence points to the former. Enter Sean Douglas, the hottest bodyguard Amber’s ever seen. But Amber is all about her career, and giving it up for romance is unthinkable. Sean, she learns, has his own guilty reason for keeping things professional. The last woman who trusted him ended up dead. And now the same fate may await Amber, unless Sean can protect her while guarding his heart. Because someone is watching and terrorizing Amber...someone no one would suspect...

“You’re thinking they planted cameras so they could watch.”

“Oh, my God.” Both hands went to her face. “There’s no other explanation.”

Sean reached over and took her hand in his. “You’re okay. One killer is dead, and we’re onto another suspect. Whatever one or both did, it won’t happen again.”

She scrubbed at her eyes. “We have to search my house. Now. I need to know if they were watching me... I need to be sure.”

“I think it’s safe to have a look. But I’m not letting you stay there again until this is over.” Sean gave her hand a squeeze before letting go.

She held his gaze. “Okay.”

His entire being was aching to lean across the seat and kiss her. What he really wanted to do was pull over and make her feel this raging desire building inside him. She needed kissing. She needed to feel safe and cared for. For the first time in a very long time, he hoped he got the opportunity to make her feel that way.

STILL WATERS

USA TODAY
Bestselling Author

Debra Webb

Debra Webb
is the award-winning
USA TODAY
bestselling author of more than one hundred novels, including reader-favorite series Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency and Shades of Death. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to childhood on a farm in Alabama. Visit Debra at
www.debrawebb.com
.

Books by Debra Webb

Harlequin Intrigue

Faces of Evil

Dark Whispers

Still Waters

Colby Agency: The Specialists

Bridal Armor

Ready, Aim…I Do!

Colby, TX

Colby Law

High Noon

Colby Roundup

Debra Webb writing with Regan Black

Harlequin Intrigue

Colby Agency: Family Secrets

Gunning for the Groom

The Specialists: Heroes Next Door

The Hunk Next Door

Heart of a Hero

To Honor and To Protect

Her Undercover Defender

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

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CAST OF CHARACTERS

Amber Roberts—
An investigative journalist, Amber is a household name in Birmingham. Now someone is determined to make the world believe she’s a murderer.

Sean Douglas—
Former bodyguard to Hollywood celebrities, Sean is the best at personal security. Will his own painful past cause him to fall down on the job of protecting Amber?

Jess Harris Burnett—
Former FBI profiler and deputy chief of major crimes. Jess has joined forces with her old friend Buddy Corlew in a private investigations agency in an effort to help victims of crimes the police can’t always resolve.

Buddy Corlew—
Jess’s partner and oldest friend. Buddy is a top-notch PI, but will his skills be enough?

Captain Vanessa Aldridge—
The new head of crimes against persons, Aldridge dislikes reporters in general. She appears determined to make an example of Amber.

Kyle Adler—
Who wanted the reclusive deliveryman dead? Was he murdered for the sole purpose of framing Amber?

Peter Thrasher—
Is the mild-mannered floral shop owner arranging more than flowers?

Gerard Stevens—
As an investigative reporter himself, Stevens is determined to stay on top. He fooled Amber once; has he taken his ruthlessness to the next level?

Martha Guynes—
Is the kindly shop owner hiding secrets of her own?

Lori Wells, Chet Harper, Chad Cook—
Detectives from Jess’s former major crimes team who give her a hand whenever the need arises.

I feel so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful,
supportive friends. Among those many amazing friends
are the members of my incredible Street Team. Thank you
for all you do and for simply being you.

Chapter One

Fourth Avenue
North
Birmingham,
Alabama
Monday, October 17, 9:30 a.m.

Jess Harris Burnett had just poured her third cup of decaf when the jingle of the bell over the door sounded. As she walked toward the lobby, she heard receptionist Rebecca Scott welcoming the visitor to B&C Investigations. The office had been open almost a whole month now. Jess and her lifelong friend Buddy Corlew had made a good decision going into business together. With a nineteen-month-old daughter and a son due in a mere six weeks—Jess rubbed her enormous belly—stepping away from her position as deputy chief of Birmingham’s major crimes team had been the right move.

The memory of being held prisoner by Ted Holmes attempted to bully into her thoughts, and Jess pushed it away. Holmes, like the many serial killers before him she had helped track down, was history now. Still, Jess was well aware that there would always be a new face of evil just around the next corner. She intended to leave tracking down the killers to the Birmingham PD. Her goal now was to concentrate on the victims. With B&C Investigations, she was accomplishing that goal.

“I’ll let Mrs. Burnett know you’re here, Ms. Coleman,” Rebecca said as Jess came into the lobby.

“Gina, what brings you here this morning?” Jess flashed a smile for the receptionist. “Thank you, Rebecca. We’ll be in my office.”

Gina Coleman, Birmingham’s beloved and award-winning television journalist, gave Jess a hug. “You look great!”

“You’re the one who looks great,” Jess countered. “Married life agrees with you.”

Gina smiled and gave Jess another quick hug. On the way to her office, Jess grabbed her coffee and offered her friend a cup.

“No, thanks. I’ve had way too much already this morning.”

When they were settled in Jess’s office, Gina surveyed the small space. “You’ve done a wonderful job of making this place comfortable.”

Jess was proud of how their offices had turned out. The downtown location was good for business even if the building was a very old one. In Jess’s opinion, the exposed brick walls gave the place character. It was a good fit. Anyone who knew them would say that she and Buddy had more than a little character.

“Thanks.” Jess sipped her decaf and smiled. “You really do seem happy.” Gina looked amazing, as always. Her long brunette hair and runway-model looks had ensured her a position in the world of television news, but it was her incredible ability to find the story that had made her a highly sought-after journalist. Her personal bravery, too, inspired Jess. Gina had taken some fire when she’d announced she was gay and married the woman she loved. Standing firm, Gina had weathered the storm.

“I am very happy.” Gina stared at her hands a moment. When she met Jess’s gaze once more, her face was cluttered with worry. “Barb and I need your help.”

“What can I do? Name it.” Jess set her coffee aside.

“A couple of hours ago Barb’s younger sister, Amber, was called into the BPD about a murder.”

A frown lined Jess’s brow, reminding her that by the time this baby was in high school she would look like his grandmother rather than his mother. She spotted a new wrinkle every time she looked in the mirror.
Don’t even go there.

“I hadn’t heard. There was a homicide last night?” This time a few months ago and Jess would have known the persons of interest and the prime suspects in every homicide long before an arrest was made in the city of Birmingham. Not anymore. Dan made it a point not to discuss work when he came home. Though she could still nudge him for details when the need arose, it was one of the perks of being married to the chief of police. A sense of well-being warmed her when she thought of her husband. He was a genuinely good man.

“Dan explained as much as he was at liberty to share. He assured me it was routine questioning, but I’m worried. I told him I was coming to you.” Gina sighed. “I don’t think he was very happy about my decision. He obviously prefers to keep murder and mayhem away from the mother of his children.”

Two years ago Jess would have been jealous at hearing Gina had spoken to Dan. The two had once been an on-again, off-again item. Now she counted Gina as a good friend. “Don’t worry about Dan.” Jess shook her head. “I’ve warned him time and again that just because I’m no longer a cop doesn’t mean I won’t be investigating murders.”

“If he had his way, you’d retire,” Gina teased. “We both know how he feels about keeping you safe.”

Jess had been cursed with more than her fair share of obsessed killers during her career first as an FBI profiler and then as a deputy chief in the Birmingham PD. Dan’s concern was understandable if unwarranted. Just because she was a mother now didn’t mean she couldn’t take care of herself. Admittedly, she had grown considerably more cautious.

“Tell me about the case.” Considering it was a murder case, she could get the details from Lieutenant Chet Harper or Sergeant Lori Wells. Chet had recently been named acting chief of the small major crimes team—SPU, Special Problems Unit—Jess had started. Lori was reassigned to Crimes Against Persons. One or the other would be investigating the homicide case. Jess hoped the case was with Harper. She counted Lori as her best friend, but the new chief of the Crimes Against Persons Division, Captain Vanessa Aldridge, was brash and obstinate, and carried the biggest chip on her shoulder Jess had ever encountered.

Though they’d only met once or twice, Jess was familiar with Barbara’s younger sister. Amber Roberts was a reporter at the same station, Channel Six, as Gina. She was young, beautiful and talented. Her and Barbara’s parents were from old money, but Gina would be the first to attest to the fact that a sparkling pedigree didn’t exempt one from murder. Gina’s own sister had paid the price for her part in a long-ago tragedy.

“Kyle Adler’s body was found in his home yesterday. He’d been stabbed repeatedly. Amber hardly knew the man. The very notion is ludicrous.” Gina held up a hand. “I know you’re probably thinking that I felt the same way about Julie, but this is different. Amber had nothing to do with this man’s murder.”

As much as Jess sympathized with Gina, Amber would not have been questioned if the police hadn’t found some sort of connection between her and the victim. “The police have something,” she reminded her friend. “You know this. What about the murder weapon—was it found?”

“They haven’t found the murder weapon.” Gina shook her head. “The whole thing is insane. Amber swears the only time she ever saw this guy was when he made a delivery to her or someone at the station. Apparently he made a living delivering for various shops around town. But the cops claim they found evidence indicating she’d been in his house. Unless someone is framing her, it simply isn’t possible.”

Jess chewed her bottom lip a moment. “It’s conceivable someone may have wanted Adler dead and set it up to look as though another person, like Amber, committed the act.”

“If that’s true—” Gina leaned forward “—not only do we need help finding the actual murderer that the police may not even try to find, we also need to protect Amber. She could be in danger from the real killer.”

Jess sent a text to Harper. “Let’s see who’s working the case first. Then we’ll know whether or not we have to worry about finding the truth. As for the other, I agree. If Amber is being framed, it’s quite possible she could be in danger. Personal security would be a wise step until we know what we’re dealing with.”

“Buddy said you do protective services as well as private investigations.”

“We do,” Jess agreed. “Right now the only investigator we have available is Sean Douglas.”

Gina’s gaze narrowed. “I’m sensing some hesitation. Do you have reservations as to whether he can handle the job?”

Jess considered how to answer the question. “He spent the past five years as a bodyguard to various celebrities in Hollywood.” She shrugged. “Based on our research into his background, he was very, very good at his job. For two years prior to that he was a cop with the LAPD. He’s had all the right training, and his references are impeccable.”

Gina said, “There’s a
but
coming.”

“His last assignment was Lacy James.”

Gina sat back in her chair. “Damn.”

Lacy James had been a rising pop star. The rumors about drug abuse had followed her from singing in the church choir in her hometown of Memphis all the way to her Grammy nomination in LA last year.

“Her agent hired Douglas to keep an eye on her,” Jess explained. “According to Douglas, she had been straight for a while and her agent wanted to ensure she stayed that way. Six months into the assignment, she died of an overdose.”

Gina pressed her hands to her face, then took a breath. “Do you think what happened was in some way his fault?”

Jess shook her head. “Responsibility for what happened to Lacy James lies with her agent and her other handlers. They cared more about her career than they did her health and welfare. My only hesitation is that Douglas is a little too cocky for his own good. I think he uses attitude to cover the pain and guilt he feels about James’s death.” Jess paused to weigh her words. “I’m concerned his need to prove himself again might be an issue, but as for his ability to protect a client, he’s more than capable.”

Gina’s expression brightened. “Trust me—whatever this guy’s attitude, Amber can handle it. You don’t rise as rapidly in my business as she has without a tough skin and a little attitude. I’m desperate, Jess. I promised Barb I would take care of this.”

Jess felt confident Gina was right about Amber. Putting herself in front of the camera every day was hard work, and it wasn’t for the faint of heart. “Why don’t I learn all I can from the BPD and then I’ll brief Douglas. I’ll arrange a meeting with Amber, and we’ll go from there.”

“I will be forever in your debt.”

“We’ll take care of Amber,” Jess assured her friend.

Gina stood. Jess did the same, albeit a little less gracefully.

“I’m aware that we don’t always know a person as well as we believe—even the people closest to us,” Gina confessed. “But I would wager all I own that Amber had nothing to do with this man’s death.”

Jess nodded resolutely. “Then all we need to do is ensure she stays safe until the BPD can find the killer.”

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