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eBook by Jessica Andersen
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: With her badge and her reputation on the line, criminal psych specialist Maya Cooper vowed to catch the serial killer whose attacks plagued Bear Claw Creek. She had no choice--she was his next target! Now, to catch the madman, she'd need Thorne Coleridge's help. But trusting Thorne had never been easy for Maya. Her former police academy instructor was the one man who knew the secrets of a past she'd worked hard to forget. And remembering what they might have had together threatened the safety of Thorne's protection. Protection that was the only thing keeping her from falling prey to the killer's deadly scheme.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Intrigue
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2006
19 Reader Ratings:
Wearing jeans and a fitted blue T-shirt on her lean, five-foot-nothing frame, with her dark hair tucked beneath a straw hat and a canvas bag slung over her shoulder, Maya Cooper looked every inch the tourist she'd intended to portray. But inside, she was all cop as she scanned the swept-clean brick roadway that ran down the center of the faux ghost town outside Bear Claw City.
Her training as a criminal profiler told her she was reaching, but her gut told her she was on to something.
She was positive the Chuckwagon Ranch was connected to the sick bastard who'd planned two separate violent crime sprees over the past six months.
Wexton Henkes, part owner of the theme park, was a Bear Claw legend. Born in the city and raised up through the school system, he'd taken his father's one-room electronic repair shop and built it into an empire. Once he'd made his first million—or ten—he'd started giving back to the city that had brought him his success. He'd funded everything from civic projects and art revivals to nature conservation and the local sports teams. In short, he was a prince.
On the outside, at least. Inside, Maya was convinced he was something else entirely. He'd broken his own son's arm three months earlier—nobody could tell her different—and he was poised to duck the abuse charges because he had money, power and influence.
Enough influence to get her in serious trouble the last time she'd gone after him.
"But not this time," she said aloud, earning herself strange looks from the passing tourists.
The June morning was warm and bright, perfect for a family trip. The Wild West theme park was cut down the middle by Main Street, a wide brick causeway flanked with false-fronted buildings that had been painted to look like a saloon, a general store and a livery. Tourists streamed into and out of the buildings in a chaos of movement and sound that made it almost impossible to pick out individuals. On either side of the buildings, bison-dotted pastures stretched for miles, taking up most of the shallow, hill-bounded bowl of land.
Maya scanned the low ridgetops that flanked the road and saw nothing. A faint feeling of wrongness prickled at the nape of her neck, a familiar sense of being watched. Of being alone.
But damn it, she was alone. She'd been suspended from the Bear Claw Police Department pending an inquiry into the incident at the Henkes mansion three months earlier.
Anxiety pressed at her, echoing her heartbeat in the low-grade headache that had plagued her ever since she'd awoken in the Hawthorne Hospital with a knot on the back of her head and no memory of attacking Henkes in his own home.
But that was what she'd done. Or so they said.
What if they kicked her off the force? Maya's throat closed at the thought. She was already on the outside of the Bear Claw City Police Department—BCCPD—looking in. Alissa Wyatt and Cassie Dumont, her best friends and coworkers within the start-up Forensics Department, had tried to include her in the gossip, but they were run ragged shouldering her work as well as their own.
The new three-woman forensics team was struggling to gain acceptance within the Bear Claw PD as it was. What if—
No, Maya told herself, she wouldn't dwell on that. The previous night she'd finally decided it was time to stop with the futile attempts at self-hypnosis, the painful efforts to force some remembrance of that night at the Henkes mansion. It was no use. The memories were gone, and she had an ugly feeling she knew why.
She touched a hand to her throat, where her charm necklace held five bangles. There should have been six more, but she'd lost them to a mistake. To temptation.
Would she lose the remaining five charms as well?
What if she had to start over again?
"No," she said aloud. "I'm stronger than that, and I'm damn well going to prove it. Starting now."
As though on cue, her cell phone rang, a digital bleat that cracked through the background hum of tourism. Not expecting a call, Maya slapped open the unit and checked the number, but the ID was blocked.
Annoyed, she flipped the phone shut and dropped it in the front pocket of her canvas bag. These days most of her calls came from media hounds looking for quotes on the dismissal of the Henkes child-abuse trial, or supporters of Wexton Henkes himself calling to threaten her, somehow still believing the bastard had a solid shot at the upcoming Congressional election. She didn't need to talk to either group.
Focused on her own special way of doing the job—more organic than straight detecting, more regimented than pure profiling—she followed the flow of tourists toward the livery building, which held a petting zoo.
She wanted to get a feel for the theme park and the man who'd bankrolled it.
Inside the building, rough-hewn boards and crooked center beams gave the sense of an old, rundown barn, though a closer look showed her that everything was neat and new, and painted to look old. The place was packed with excited children, along with adults wearing expressions that ranged from enthusiasm to exhaustion. Small goats and lambs wandered a straw-bedded center pen, begging for handfuls of pellets that could be bought from quarter-operated machines on the wall. Box stalls on either side were set up to hold larger animals, though only one was occupied, holding a shaggy bison that looked close to five feet tall at the shoulder and probably weighed in well over a thousand pounds. Its short, curved horns were dulled at the ends, but that did little to blunt the physical impact of the creature as it snorted and stomped in its enclosure.
Copyright © 2006 by Dr. Jessica S. Andersen.