Reserve officer Nash Brewer is a born care-taker, so of course he pitches in after his neighbor and mentor has heart surgery. But it's not just the former Wishful Police Chief who needs his help. Robert's strong, gutsy niece is hurting and haunted—and someone's been targeting her. Nash can't help but fall as he and Rowan investigate, while keeping the secret from her fragile, but sharp-eyed uncle.
When evidence points to Rowan herself as the perpetrator, the former Navy pilot knows in his gut there's something more going on. But how can he ignore the facts of the case? And how can Rowan stand for one more person to believe she's unstable, especially the man she wants to trust with her heart?
This is a Wishing for a Hero Novella. You should expect a quick read, a fast-moving adventure in Wishful that's a complete and satisfying story--no cliffhangers here!--and a "happy for now" ending. Grab a glass of sweet tea and enjoy!
Release date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Take The Leap Publishing
Print pages: 140
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Watch Over Me: A Small Town Romantic Suspense
Rowan Beale glanced at the clock on the wall and fought to keep her expression neutral, her posture relaxed. She’d had enough of these sessions to know that any sign of impatience or resistance would prompt Dr. Powers to extend their time together, trying to unearth the root of the discomfort. Rowan would rather have bamboo shoved under her fingernails than continue to have this woman explore her psyche. But the department had its rules, and as the in-house shrink, Tisha Powers had all the control. Without her go ahead, Rowan wasn’t getting off the desk she’d been riding for the past two months. So she’d play nice.
“How are you feeling today, Rowan?”
“Fine.” A lie, but the truth would keep her on the desk.
One blonde brow arched, telling Rowan that Dr. Powers didn’t buy it. “What did you do this weekend?”
For once, she had something to report. “I went to a birthday party.”
“Going out with friends is an excellent step.” Dr. Powers’s voice had the kind of bright tone one used to praise a dog for good behavior.
Rowan had to fight the urge to tense her shoulders in irritation. “It was for Anna Sofia. She turned three.” And David hadn’t been there to see it. Just like he wouldn’t be there for any other of his daughter’s birthdays ever again. Rowan’s throat went thick, but she swallowed against it. “Stacy had me over to help wrangle the pack of tiny humans.”
That David’s wife could even look at Rowan, let alone still speak to her, was a constant amazement. Stacy didn’t blame her for David’s death. Maybe someday Rowan would manage to believe that. For now she was still caught up in the fresh hell of what if, playing that horrible night over and over, wondering what she could’ve done differently, how she could’ve stopped it.
Dr. Powers smiled. “And how did that go?”
“I’d rather face off with a group of gangbangers than a herd of toddlers. They’re relentless and impossible to negotiate with. I will have the music from Frozen stuck in my head for the next month. Maybe longer.”
“Can’t let it go?”
Really? Dr. Powers was gonna make a joke? They didn’t have that kind of relationship. And damn it, now that song was running through her head again. She probably shouldn’t flip off her therapist. “Thanks for that earworm,” she said flatly.
“Sorry.” Dr. Powers’ pale pink lips twitched before returning to her usual concerned expression. “How are you sleeping?”
“A little better.” That, at least, was true. She hadn’t woken screaming for the past week. “Things have been quiet.”
The moment those pale blue eyes sharpened, Rowan knew she shouldn’t have said that. “You’ve had no further...incidents?”
“I’ve had no further harassment,” Rowan corrected. She could only assume that was because she’d kept her mouth shut and her head down. She was still persona non grata in the department. That’s what happened when you made accusations against one of your own. Accusations that remained unsubstantiated.
“You still believe someone is targeting you.”
Rowan wrestled with her need for the truth versus her desire to be done with this bullshit and sent back out on duty. Apparently her silence was answer enough.
Dr. Powers folded her hands. “You’ve made progress these past couple of months, Rowan. But I still believe you have work to do. I’m not sure you can really do that work while ensconced within a department where you feel persecuted and not trusted.”
The first hints of panic scrabbled up Rowan’s throat. “What are you saying?”
“I’m recommending you for a period of mandatory leave.”
Rowan exploded out of the chair. “That’s bullshit!”
Dr. Powers didn’t react to her outburst. “You’ve been through so much since Officer Reyes’s death. And with the other incidents, I simply don’t feel you are presently fit for duty.”
“You can’t do this. You can’t take this away from me.” Rowan didn’t know who she was when she wasn’t a cop.
“This isn’t a punishment.”
The hell it wasn’t. “I passed all my certs. Fitness. Firearms.”
“But you’re not passing the psychological evaluation. You’re a powder keg, Rowan. You’re still struggling to process what happened to your partner, still in denial about it. You’ve been given a perfectly reasonable explanation for the things you heard, yet you refuse to believe it. You cling to your version of events because you need someone to blame for Officer Reyes’s death.”
She clung to her version because it was the truth.
“You need to take some time.”
“I need to get back to work.” I need to feel normal. “I’m going to talk to the captain about it.”
“Feel free. But he won’t go against my recommendation.”
She was right and they both knew it. But Rowan couldn’t just sit by and take this without a fight. Before she could start for the door, her phone rang.
Grateful for any kind of interruption, she yanked it out.
“Oh, now really. We’ve talked about having your phone silenced in session,” Dr. Powers chided.
Seeing her mother’s name flash on the screen, Rowan ignored the therapist and answered. “Hey Mom.”
“Rowan.” The single word, uttered in a voice strangled by tears had her going stock still.
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
Her mother took a shuddering breath. “It’s your Uncle Robert, honey. He’s had another heart attack.”
Her gut took a swan dive. “What? No. He was better. He’s been doing what he was supposed to after the last one.”
“That’s what we thought. But he’s had another. A bad one, this time. They’re taking him into surgery now. Your grandfather and I are on our way to Lawley.”
“Lawley. Not Wishful?”
“They needed a specialist.”
Rowan closed her eyes and began to pray. If anything happened to Robert… Sucking in a breath, she opened her eyes and looked at Dr. Powers. “I’m on my way. I’ve got some leave time coming.”
“Good. That’s good. Nash is flying to get you. He’s on his way to the airfield now.”
The ex-Navy pilot was her great uncle’s neighbor and had been one of his reserve officers before he’d retired as Chief of Police in Wishful. He’d been the one to keep her from losing her shit after Robert’s first heart attack. If he was flying all the way to Houston to pick her up, it must be bad.
“He’ll text you when his flight plan is in place.”
“Okay.” She took a breath and reached for calm. “Okay, I’m headed home to pack. I’ll see you soon.”
Without another word to Dr. Powers, Rowan strode out of her office. She had a more important mission right now.
* * *
Nash Brewer fought against a wicked headwind to maintain control of his little Cessna 210 Centurion, Diana. All that extra moisture being sucked in from the Gulf of Mexico gave the storm teeth and a helluva bad temper. But it wasn’t the first bad weather he’d flown in, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. He had a mission, and he’d be damned if he’d fail. Robert’s family was counting on him.
By the time the landing strip came into view, beads of cold sweat had traced their way down his spine, dampening his shirt beneath the battered leather jacket. After a brief conversation with the tower, he made his approach, dropping the landing gear, adjusting the flaps as he dropped Diana toward the ground. She bucked a bit, but settled on the runway with a single skip. Slowing her pace, he taxied to where he’d been ordered and parked.
“Welcome to Houston.” Nash patted the instrument panel. “Good girl. I’m gonna let you suck down some more juice, pick up our passenger, and we’re gonna head straight back home.”
The weather on the ground was no more hospitable than the sky. Rain lashed the tarmac in gusts that were almost horizontal. Sane people weren’t flying in this shit. But there was a reason he’d been dubbed Loco during his years in the Navy. He preferred to think of himself as having balls of steel.
He turned his phone back on and sent a quick text to Rowan. Just touched down. You here yet?
Her answer came back immediately. In the terminal.
Nash: Gotta refuel. Liftoff in twenty.
He took care of gassing Diana up and navigated her toward the main terminal. With the weather being what it was, he didn’t have to fight for space. He’d go in to get Rowan, help with her luggage. The wind tried to tear the cockpit door out of his hand. Nash fought it back in place and wished he’d packed rain gear. He was soaked in seconds. Resigned, he trudged toward the small, glass-front building.
One of the doors swung open and a woman stepped into the storm, a large duffel thrown over her shoulder. Even at this distance, he recognized that fall of dark brown hair. As he should. He’d spent plenty of time itching to run his hands through it during her last visit. He hurried forward to meet her.
“You’d think one of us would’ve had the sense to pack an umbrella.” He shouted to be heard over the roar of the wind.
“Wasn’t a priority.” Her lush mouth was set in a grim line.
Nash saw in an instant that she’d lost weight since September, and the dark circles under her sky blue eyes were deeper than she’d have simply from the shock and worry over her uncle. What had happened to her in the last few months? Had she been ill?
“Has there been any news since I took off?”
“He’s in surgery now. They said it could take up to six hours.”
“Then we may be back before he’s out.”
“Are we ready to go?” she asked.
“Soon as we get on board. Here, let me take your bag.”
“I’ve got it.” Rowan brushed past him, hoofing it toward the plane.
Well okay then. Nash followed. She did have to give it over so he could stow it for the flight. He helped her inside. “You want to ride up front with me?” Not that the little four-seater offered a lot of options.
They settled in. Nash cleared takeoff with the tower, turning all his attention on his instrument panel and the stretch of runway in front of him.
“Hold on to your butt. This may be a bit of a bumpy takeoff.”
Rowan said nothing, but he caught the whitening of her knuckles on the armrest of her seat as they left the ground and wobbled. “C’mon, baby. Settle down.”
“Not you, the plane.”
“Is it safe to fly in this storm?”
Nash gave her props for the conversational tone. “I’ve flown in worse. Don’t worry. I’ll get you back to Lawley all in one piece.”
Rowan lapsed into silence again. Half an hour into the flight, he managed to climb above the worst of the storm to some calmer air. Beside him, Rowan exhaled. “That’s better.”
“This storm is a slow moving bastard. In another twenty minutes or so, we’ll be out of it entirely.”
“It always rains the day a good man dies.”
Startled, he glanced over at her. “What?”
“Somebody I knew said that once. Seems like he’s usually right.” Her blue eyes were haunted as she said it, and Nash wondered who she’d lost. Was grief what had winnowed her down since he’d seen her last?
“Robert’s not gonna die.” He didn’t know that, not for sure. But the alternative wasn’t something Nash could contemplate right this second.
“They’ve got one of the best cardiac surgeons in the state working on him. It was a bad attack, but bypass surgery is commonly done. There’s every reason to believe he’s going to pull through.”
“I just don’t understand what happened. He was in good shape when I left him in September. He was following doctor’s orders, getting rest, easing back into exercise.” Rowan fixed her gaze on him. “You’ve been there with him. Has he been eating right? Overdoing it?”
“Well, I haven’t been policing his food, but I haven’t seen him shoveling in chili cheese fries and double cheeseburgers. As to whether he’s overdoing it...I don’t know. He’s been feeling good. Restless, but that’s to be expected. He didn’t want to retire.”
“No, he didn’t. A cop who’s not a cop doesn’t know how to behave.”
There was something in her tone that had him glancing over, but Rowan wasn’t looking at him.
“What the hell is a man like him supposed to do with retirement?” she demanded. “He’s not even sixty.”
“I don’t know. Heal up from this, for starters.” But Nash knew as well as she did that Robert Curry was not a man who tended toward idleness. He’d been bored during his recovery. Nash had tried to look out for him, but there was every possibility he’d done something he shouldn’t have when nobody was watching.
Nash squelched the trickle of guilt. “Look, you’re worried. So am I. But Robert is a tough old bastard. He’s not going down without a fight.”
Please, dear God, don’t let him make a liar out of me.
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