Emma Thomas hasn’t been home in years. Only back in Staunton for a few months, she plans to put her investigative reporter skills to use in exposing the trafficking group using her peaceful, idyllic hometown to move drugs. But when she stumbles onto more than drugs, bullets start flying and she has to ask the one person she left Virginia to avoid for help. Detective Adam Marshall has been working this cartel case for months.
On the precipice of breaking the organization wide open, he can’t believe the one woman he’d never been able to get over now holds the key to closing his case. His head warns him to steer clear, but his heart won’t let him walk away when Emma’s life is on the line. Thrown together by chance after so many years, Adam and Emma work together to break the biggest case of both of their careers and heal some old wounds in the process. Falling in love wasn’t on the docket for either of them, but things don’t always go as planned.
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Science teacher by day, writer and baseball mom by night, Carolyn LaRoche lives near the ocean with her husband, two boys, rescue puppy and four cats. She loves crocheting, books, food videos and trying new recipes.
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Emma clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle the scream that tried to escape. The shooter looked toward the window. Had he heard her? She turned to run, her boots instead slipping on some leaves, sending her crashing to the ground.
Heavy footsteps moved across the floor of the cabin, echoing in the quiet woods around her.
Emma scrambled to her feet and ran for all she was worth, crashing through the brush, no longer even trying to be quiet.
The door to the cabin slammed open as she sprinted for the pathway back down the mountain to her car. The air reverberated with the echo of several gunshots. Tiny hairs prickled on the back of her neck as a light whistling noise passed her ear.
"Stop! I'm warning you! Stop or I'll shoot you!" The man's voice echoed off the trees but she kept running. It was a stupid thing to say, since he had already tried to shoot her. Her gut told her there was no way she'd get out of this alive if she stopped moving.
Halfway down the mountain, Emma's toe caught one of those roots again. The action sent her sprawling to the ground, and she began to roll down the mountain. Grabbing at branches and brush, she finally stopped herself and pulled her aching body up off the ground. Her knee burned where the fabric had torn and flesh had scraped against the ground. Footsteps and voices sounded behind her, but they were further away than she'd expected. Her little fall seemed to have given her an advantage. She pulled herself up, ignoring the pain in her injured knee, and ran as fast as she could.
The sun had almost completely become lost below the treetops; the darkness made it hard for her to navigate. Finally, Emma burst out of the trees, gasping for air and sweating like a fiend. Her old car sat quietly, right where she'd left it. She dug in her pocket for the keys, but they were gone.
She must have lost them on the way down! Running straight to the back of the car, Emma groped around up under the bumper. Her fingers grasped the small magnetic box and she pulled the hidden key out of its safe storage container, grateful her father had insisted on putting it there when she left for college. As she ran to the driver-side door, the back door window exploded beside her, covering her in tiny little pieces of glass.
Yanking open the driver door, she jumped into the seat, slammed the door shut, and jammed the key into the ignition. Just as the engine turned over and she floored the gas pedal, the man from the cabin ran out of the woods. Her tires ground into the shoulder, spewing a cloud of rocks and dirt. Eventually, she gained control of her car and took off down the mountain roadway known as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Clutching the wheel, she prayed she'd stay on the road.
All the way back to Staunton, she kept an eye on the rearview mirror. When a dark-colored car came into view, she panicked, but it had a different shape than the one she'd seen and turned off a couple of exits later. As soon as Emma hit the Main Street exit, she drove straight through town.
Twelve years she'd stayed away from Staunton, avoiding her hometown and missing her parents, to not have to do the very thing she was about to do. Emma took a deep breath and steered her car onto the street that housed the Staunton Police Department. She had no other choice. There was only one man who could help her figure this out.