Deception

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$2.99

Heather Walsh writes sexy novels of romantic suspense, striving for that perfect balance between the two. Prior to beginning her writing career, Heather owned a successful accounting firm. Soon her love of numbers returned to her love of words, providing her with an opportunity to explore her creative side, because, as she would say, “Creative accounting is so not a good idea!”

Married with four wonderful children, Heather and her family live in an idyllic resort town in New York, where they enjoy skiing all winter and boating all summer. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from The College of Saint Rose and a Master’s in Educational Technology from Columbia University.


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Blurb

Fighting
for justice.

A seemingly innocent meeting in a café.

A slowly executed seduction.

A softly whispered demand to wear red to an upcoming
benefit.

When Investigator Katherine Collins discovers new
evidence in a six-year-old murder, the significance is terrifying. Suspicious
of ADA Stephen Chandler’s involvement, Kat succeeds in avoiding him until the
night of the benefit, when Stephen’s biggest rival is the victim of an
attempted murder.

Fighting
against temptation.

Convinced the bullet was meant for her, Kat’s trapped
in a deadly game of lies and deceit as Stephen’s relentless pursuit
intensifies. Despite her attempts to discourage him, Kat struggles against an
overpowering desire for a man she should never trust.   

Fighting
with the truth.

Captivated by Kat, Stephen’s determined to finish what
began months ago. Discovering Kat’s hiding much more than she’s willing to reveal,
he refuses to back down, never suspecting the truth has the power to destroy
them both. 

 

Chapter 1

Stephen Chandler slammed
on the brakes and rushed out of his car, abandoning it on the side of the
street as he raced toward the shooting, flashing his badge at the officers
securing the scene. Two Town of Windham deputies let him through the barricaded
quarter mile stretch between Church and Main, rerouting traffic away from Char,
a popular restaurant in the center of town.

Heart pounding as
he rushed east down Main Street, he flashed his badge again at the Greene
County Sheriffs who were setting up another barricade, this one for crowd
control. Police cars from three different agencies filled the street in front
of the restaurant’s double glass doors, shielding ADA Ethan O’Rourke’s
unconscious body from the growing crowd. As Stephen watched, paramedics
surrounded him, lifting him onto a stretcher.

Stephen huffed out
a breath and bent at the waist, attempting to regain the air that had been
knocked out of him as he watched Ethan’s unmoving body. Red and blue lights
flashed from every official vehicle, lighting up the darkness of the
unseasonably hot spring night, sirens eerily silent. Seconds after the
ambulance pulled away, Char’s entrance was cordoned off with yellow crime scene
tape. Klieg lights were powered on, illuminating the area and with it, an
incredibly large pool of blood.

Ethan’s blood.

“Single gunshot
wound to the shoulder. O’Rourke was unconscious. Still had a pulse, although it
was weak. We, uh, don’t know if he’ll make it.”

But there was hope. Stephen sucked in another breath
as he straightened, sharing a glance with Bishop, the newest member of the DA’s
office, though he’d been with them two years now. The Bureau of Criminal
Investigations, the plainclothes division of the New York State Police, would
handle this case, but the DA’s office would be with them every step of the way.
And as Chief ADA, Stephen would make damn sure the bastard who’d shot Ethan was
convicted to the fullest extent of the law.

“Is he going to
Albany or Hudson?”

“Hudson, for now,”
Bishop said. Columbia-Greene Medical Center was in the neighboring county,
separated from Greene by the Hudson River. Albany Med was larger, but much
further away.

“The call came in
from the manager about twenty minutes ago,” Bishop continued. “Two Windham PD
officers were first on the scene. They locked down the area as best they could
until backup arrived. The restaurant manager made sure everybody stayed, not an
easy feat considering the chaos that ensued. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough
manpower to cover the streets.”

And people fled,
both in panic and because of their unwillingness to get involved. Working for
the DA’s office for the past eleven years, Stephen knew the drill. Prying his
gaze from the pool of blood, he turned, focusing on the streets. Fleeing would
have been easy tonight. The crowds were especially thick, people escaping their
hectic lives in NYC to celebrate Memorial Day weekend in the peaceful mountain
community, never imagining peace wasn’t what they’d find.

“Based on the
witness’s statement, we’re thinking the shot came from across the street.
Forensics is combing the area now,” Bishop said.

“We’ve got a
witness?” Stephen asked. Directly across the street was an Italian grocery and
deli, closed for the night, no lights shining either upstairs or down. To the
left was a jewelry store and to the right a side street. A perfect escape
route. Flashlights bobbed down the darkened road that was quickly surrounded by
woods on both sides, thick enough to provide cover. A team of officers searched
for evidence that would likely remain undiscovered until daylight, hunting for
a shooter who was probably long gone by now. Once again, Stephen’s gaze
returned to the pool of blood, anger and fear tightening his gut.

“Ethan’s
girlfriend,” Bishop answered. “She was with him when he was shot. The paramedics
are checking her out now. They’re in the kitchen with Lieutenant Allen,” Bishop
replied, pointing toward a small alley on the side of the restaurant,
presumably the kitchen door.

Girlfriend. Emma. The night just kept getting better
and better. Stephen nodded his thanks to Bishop and drew in another deep
breath, forcing himself to tear his gaze away from Ethan’s blood. This was
going to turn into a circus. An ADA, gunned down in the middle of town on a
busy Friday night.

On the eve of the biggest case of his career. “Oh fuck. The
trial. Alex. Tracy. Get somebody—”

“Already taken
care of,” Bishop interrupted. “I’ve spoken to them both. They’re contacting
everybody involved with the trial, at least until we know what we’re dealing
with.”

Stephen drew in
another breath, relief washing through him. The Morris trial was supposed to
start Monday, the culmination of a two-year joint investigation between
federal, state, and local police agencies, the largest the county had seen. A
win would catapult Ethan O’Rourke’s career. And create a challenging opponent
for the DA position. A position they were both striving for.

Memories of their
semi-public argument in Stephen’s office last week flashed through his mind. It
was the last time they’d spoken directly to each other. “Good. Has my father
been notified?”

Even as he asked,
Stephen felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. His father, the Greene County
District Attorney. For now, he hit the silence button, ignoring the call and
pocketing his phone. “Never mind. That was him. Call him with an update, let
him know I’m here and I’ll call after I’ve gotten more information.”

“No problem,”
Bishop said.

In just the few
minutes he’d been there, the crowd on the street had grown, but it was still
about half the size it should have been for a Friday night. People had run. It
was a small county, with a total population of about 49,000 people. It wasn’t
as if they didn’t have their share of crime, but violent crimes were few and
far between. And there hadn’t been a murder in years. Most of the crime in the
area were property crimes, mainly theft due to the rapidly increasing drug
problems, which the county was ruthlessly trying to fight.

Forty feet away,
the media arrived, held back from getting closer to Char’s entrance by the
sheriff’s deputies. Within seconds of the Daily
Mail’s
arrival, the reporter from the local CBS affiliate out of Albany
rushed toward the barricades. Emma Anderson wasted no time shoving the
microphone into one of the deputy’s faces.

Obviously not the girlfriend tonight. Stephen would bet
she had no idea who’d been shot. He felt a moment’s pity for her a second
before a sinking feeling lodged itself in his gut.

Not her. Don’t let it be her.

Stephen turned,
heading down the small alley toward the restaurant’s side door before Emma
could spot him through the crowds, neither wanting nor needing his picture on
the front page of tomorrow’s paper. Or his face aired umpteen million times in
the breaking news story. Undoubtedly, tonight would be the beginning of a media
frenzy that would follow the entire DA’s office until the case was solved. With
a glance at his watch, 10:30 p.m., he had the passing thought that Ethan’s
shooting was perfectly timed to make the 11:00 o’clock news. It would be all
over the airways in minutes. If it wasn’t already.

Inside, the
restaurant’s kitchen was bright as day. Lieutenant John Allen was seated on a
stool at the end of the stainless-steel prep counter, a notebook in his hand,
lights reflecting off the top of his bald head. Like Stephen, he still wore his
tux from tonight’s benefit. A uniformed officer from the Windham PD stood with
her back to him, partially blocking his view of the girlfriend. But it didn’t
matter. He recognized all that long, wavy black hair he knew from experience
was as soft to the touch as it looked.

Fuckin’ A, it was her. And for the second
time that night, he felt the sucker punch slam into his gut, this one packing
enough power to make his head spin. Allen looked up, silently asking him to
wait a minute by holding up his finger. Stephen nodded, pulling out his phone
when it vibrated. His father again. Welcoming the interruption, Stephen left
the kitchen through the swinging door. Opening to a coffee area complete with a
complicated looking espresso machine, Stephen was partially hidden from the
rest of the restaurant. Private enough. 

“You’re at the
scene?” his father asked without preamble.

“Just got here and
I don’t know much. Didn’t Bishop call?” Without waiting for a response, Stephen
continued. “Ethan was shot in the shoulder right outside the doors as he was
leaving Char in Windham. The ambulance was pulling out when I arrived. Bishop
said Ethan was unconscious, but had a weak pulse. I’m waiting to talk to Allen
right now. He’s with Ethan’s…date,” Stephen said, ignoring the twist in his
gut.

“I just got off
the phone with the sheriff’s office,” his father replied. “For now, they’re
going with the theory that Ethan’s shooting is related to the Morris trial. As
second chair, Tracy’s a possible target. And Alex…holy hell, what a fucking
mess.”

Stephen could hear
the stress in his father’s voice, could picture him running his hand through
his hair. Alex Chandler, Stephen’s brother, was one of the undercover DEA
agents involved in the Morris case.

“We can’t take any
chances,” his father continued after a moment. “Find out what you can while
you’re there and coordinate a time to meet up with Tracy. She’ll have copies of
everything related to the case. I’ll call when I get into Catskill. I should be
there no later than 12:30 a.m.”

“I’ll let you know
if we learn anything before then,” Stephen said before ending the call. He
stood in the corner for a second, surveying the dining room, steeling himself
before returning to the kitchen. Ambience lighting had given way to harsh
fluorescents, though candles remained lit on most of the linen covered tables.
Nearly every seat in the restaurant was occupied. Full house tonight. The small
tourist town was packed.

Noticeably empty
was a small booth tucked into the corner, hidden by much of the dining room.
Intimate. Private. And from the gaze of some of the patrons and whispers
between them, it wasn’t hard to determine the booth had been occupied by Ethan.

The rest of the
diners remained seated, most likely a request from the police as they tried to
keep track of possible witnesses. Five police officers were conducting
interviews, checking pictures on phones, collecting further contact
information. Another officer was recreating a seating chart and yet another
took pictures from every angle of the room. Stephen spotted Sergeant Burke with
a couple near the windows, windows that looked directly out onto the street.
Had they seen the shooting? The shooter? As if feeling his gaze, Burke turned
and looked up, giving him a small nod before saying something to the couple and
making his way over to him.

“Anything?”
Stephen asked as Burke approached.

“No. We just
managed to get everybody back in their seats.” Burke swept his gaze over the
crowded restaurant. “It’ll take hours. Allen’s in the kitchen, getting the
girlfriend’s statement. And other than the few people sitting by the windows,
she’s all we’ve got so far, though we’re not holding out much hope that she
actually saw the shooter. We’ll keep you guys posted.”

“Thanks,” Stephen
said before Burke went back to the couple, focusing his attention out the
windows, watching as forensics took pictures.

Glancing once
again at that small tucked-away booth in the corner, he turned. In the kitchen,
the paramedic was packing up his bag. The female officer was now standing next
to Allen as they spoke quietly. Ethan’s date stood, holding onto the counter
for support and that small kernel of hope he’d held onto evaporated in an
instant.

Katherine Collins’
wavy black hair, nearly the same shade as his own, tumbled over her shoulders
as she bent to pick up her bag from the floor. Her sleeveless dress shimmered
golden-green as she moved, hugging every curve of her body before flaring
gently at her waist, ending a few inches above her knees, showing off lightly
tanned legs. As always, she captivated him, pulling him toward her with an
invisible force he couldn’t control or ignore.

As if sensing his
presence, she straightened, her entire body going stiff as she faced him. He pulled
in a quick breath when their gazes met; instantly lost in her beautiful emerald
green eyes that sparkled with unshed tears. Didn’t seem to matter how often he
saw her, she stole his breath every single time. But the flash of pure fear in
her expression had him pause in his approach.

Wariness he was
used to seeing in her expression, but fear? Stephen clenched his hands into
fists to keep from reaching for her. The need to touch her, make sure she was
alright, so overwhelming it was like a physical ache. She backed up a step,
increasing the distance between them as if she had sensed his thoughts,
throwing a glance toward Allen and the uniformed cop as if searching for help.

What the fuck?

Allen made his way
toward him, forcing Stephen to pull his attention away from her. “We can talk
outside,” Allen said, gesturing toward the door he’d entered through minutes
before. Stephen followed, glancing once more at Kat. Her face was turned away
from him again as she spoke with the uniformed officer, whispering something
Stephen couldn’t hear.

“Ethan’s date?”
Stephen asked as they stepped out into the night, letting the door shut behind
them. The dumpster to the left smelled like rotting seafood, overpowering in
the unseasonably warm night. Allen nodded and Stephen couldn’t help the stab of
jealousy that pierced through him.

Stay the fuck away from her, Chandler. She’s mine.

Ethan’s threat
last week echoed through his mind, the truth of his words haunting him now. Kat
and Ethan were dating? Just when the
hell had that happened? 

“Katherine
Collins. Ethan’s date, possible witness and investigator with the BCI—”

“Wait. What? She’s
a cop?” Stephen cut in, shock coursing through him. Jesus, he couldn’t catch a breath
tonight. Seems there was much, much more to Katherine Collins than her love of
mocha lattes with a shot of espresso and whipped cream.

“Oh, she’s not
just any cop. She’s an investigator with BCI’s Computer Crime Unit. They just
keep getting younger and younger, don’t they?” Allen said.

I work with computers. Nothing exciting. What about
you?
 

“She didn’t see
anything, didn’t even hear the shot,” Allen continued. “She and Ethan were
leaving, had just walked through the doors. Collins said Ethan was turning
toward her just before he was shot. If Ethan lives, he’ll owe the girl his
life. A waiter heard her scream and saw Ethan fall when he glanced out the
doors. Collins immediately flipped him over, put pressure on the wound. The
waiter grabbed a handful of linen napkins and together they kept up the
pressure until the paramedics arrived.” Allen shook his head, pulling the
bowtie of his tux loose.

“Jesus,” Stephen
huffed out. What if she’d been shot? Or worse…Christ, he couldn’t even go
there. “She’s lucky she wasn’t hurt.”

“She was. More
than she’ll admit anyway. She was pinned between Ethan’s body and the concrete.
Hit her head on the cement in the fall, has a pretty nasty bump on the back of
her head. The paramedics want her to go to the hospital and get checked for a
concussion, but she refused when they wouldn’t let her ride with Ethan. We just
managed to calm her down right before you showed up.”

With effort,
Stephen put thoughts of her aside, forcing himself to focus on the case. Not an
easy feat, knowing only one unlocked stainless steel door separated them. “The
Morris trial was supposed to start Monday. Until they can prove otherwise, the
sheriff’s office is working under the assumption Ethan’s shooting is
connected.”

“Shit, the drug
case.”

“That’s the one.”

Allen nodded,
rubbing his bald head. “We’ll need to coordinate our efforts.” He looked down
at his watch. “Give me a few hours to see where we are.” He paused for a
moment. “Long before Ethan’s father was Chief of Police in Windham, we were
partners. We stayed close, were still close when he died. It’ll kill Ethan’s
mother if she loses him, too.”

Stephen hadn’t
known Ethan yet, when his father was hit and killed by a drunk driver. It had
happened just before Ethan started with the DA’s office. “He had a pulse,”
Stephen said, for lack of anything better. As if having a pulse ensured Ethan’s
survival.

After another
moment of silence, Stephen said, “As far as I knew, Ethan was supposed to be at
the benefit tonight with Emma Anderson.” Especially considering the charity
ball raised money for families of police men and women killed in the line of
duty, like Ethan’s. “Maybe find out when his plans changed.”

“Emma Anderson?
The talking head with Channel 6?”

“Yeah, last I knew
they were together.” And hell, didn’t he wish that was still the case?

“Obviously, they
weren’t together tonight. Maybe a jealous ex-lover thing,” Allen said, but his
expression said nothing about this case would be that easy. “For some good
news, Char has a surveillance camera that captures the entrance and the street
out front.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s sent off-site live. We’re waiting on
the owner, should just be a few more minutes. Which reminds me, I’ve gotta let
them know we’re expecting him,” Allen said as he nodded toward the street.
“Meet me in the office off the kitchen if you want to watch.”

Inside, Kat
quickly stood, spinning toward him when Stephen walked back into the kitchen.
Fear flashed in her eyes again as she gripped the counter to steady herself
with one hand, raising her other to hold her head. She took a deep breath, let
it out slowly. “You startled me.”

Her voice was the
same mixture of sweet and sexy as he remembered. Two weeks. Two excruciatingly
long weeks had passed since he’d seen her, touched that silky hair he longed to
bury his hands in. She’d avoided her favorite coffee spot, avoided him. Now she
was acting as if they were strangers. “Sorry,” he said automatically. “Are you
alright, Kat?”

It was a stupid
question; one she didn’t bother answering beyond a slight shake of her head.
She was pale, her body trembling. It was probably taking every ounce of her
strength to not breakdown, not to let those tears swimming in her eyes spill
down her cheeks. Again, he wondered about the fear, wondered why she hadn’t
told him she worked for CCU, especially after he told her he was with the DA’s
office. But above all, he wondered why the hell she hadn’t shown up tonight.

 “Any word on Ethan?” Kat asked, probably more
to fill the awkward silence than believing he had an answer. For the first
time, he noticed the blood covering the front of her dress, her bare knees, her
hands. Once again he had to fight the urge to go to her.

“No.”

Kat said nothing
for a moment, taking in his tux without comment. But he knew exactly what she
was remembering. “I need to get to the hospital.”

“Aren’t you
watching the surveillance?”

“Oh, God,” she
breathed as she sank onto the stool again and closed her eyes.

Forcing himself to
stay away was impossible. Stephen stepped forward, pausing when Kat opened her
eyes, staring directly into his. A host of emotions he couldn’t begin to fathom
passed through her eyes, but he was never afforded the opportunity to figure
out what those emotions might be. Lieutenant Allen entered through the swinging
kitchen doors, the restaurant’s owner at his side, interrupting the moment. 

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Heather Walsh

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