The Secret She Keeps

Book 2 in the Whitaker Island Series

Coming December 31, 2019

No matter where you run to…

Connor Rye seeks solace on remote Whitaker Island. When his first quiet evening ends with a blow to the head, it’s clear that nothing—and no one—is as it seems. Still haunted by his sister’s murder, he’s buried himself in work while trying to hold his family together. Now, when he has a minute to breathe, he knows better than to get involved with a stranger, but it might be too late to keep his distance.

Desire will find you…

For years she’s pretended to be someone else, but Maddie Rhine is done living in the shadows. Old habits are hard to kick however, and when her past follows her to Whitaker she’s forced to hide once more. Except with Connor. Effortlessly sexy Connor makes it difficult to ignore him. He sees right through her…and senses her fear.

Someone is watching her. And waiting for the right moment to strike. This time Connor vows to be ready.

The Secret She Keeps

Book 2 in the Whitaker Island Series
Romantic Suspense
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The Secret She Keeps

is Book 2 in the Whitaker Island Series

Connor Rye arrived on Whitaker Island a little after eight on an unseasonably warm fall evening. He knew the temperature was not the norm because all eleven people he met in and around the marina where the ferry landed told him exactly that. Then they asked if he, by chance, had a brother who once stayed on the island. As soon as he answered yes, the conversation took a sharp left turn into a discussion about his older sibling.

Happened every single time. Connor grew up listening to his parents, teachers, friends, and many women talk about Hansen’s general greatness. Not that Connor minded . . . that much. He’d counted himself as his big brother’s number one fan, or at least he had until Hansen got engaged after a whirlwind romance that started right here on Whitaker.

If island legend was correct—and he’d gotten an earful about that, too—the romance blossomed in the same cabin where Connor now stood. Probably in and around the two-burner stove he was leaning against.

Connor shot up straight and wiped his palms on his jeans because thinking about his brother’s love life was not a thing he did—ever—and he really didn’t want a mental play-by-play now.

He traveled to Whitaker for a much-needed break. He’d been on a wild roller coaster ride of work and grief for almost two years. Twenty-three months and seven days to be exact. But who was counting?

He’d buried himself in the day-to-day operations of the family business while straining to keep everyone around him moving forward and, damn, he was exhausted. Haunted and bone tired. Completely out of gas and aching for normal.

So tonight he craved quiet. He really hoped for a few weeks of relaxation but relaxation wasn’t exactly his area of expertise. He’d settle for anything that sounded close. Tomorrow he’d set out, meet people, buy groceries, and otherwise pretend to be friendly when he felt anything but. Tonight . . . nothing.

He unloaded the last of the few provisions he’d brought with him at Hansen’s suggestion. The first of many hints and interruptions over the last few days because his big brother had an equally big control issue. He’d texted up until Connor’s flight took off from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, and again as Connor stepped on the ferry from Seattle to Whitaker. A never-ending trail of texts filled with instructions and a few warnings about not messing up the place. One pointed out that the house was on sibling loan only and not to get too comfortable.

Uh-huh. Noted.

Connor decided to end the day of traveling the best way he knew how: with a cup of coffee in his hand, his ass on the couch, and his feet propped up on something. The living room area of the cabin, all cozy with the cushy sofa cushions, looked like the perfect spot. He sank down into a nest of stuff piled at one end and groaned. He’d been skeptical of the wall of pillows and blankets, but he was a believer now.

He kicked off his sneakers and reached for the television remote. He would have turned the thing on but the lure of a pre-bed nap, one where he could close his eyes and not think too hard, proved to be a strong lure. He dropped his head back in the tangle of fluffy accessories and let his eyes drift shut.

The wind rattled through the two-story cabin and swooped to the loft above. Inside stayed warm, but the temperature dropped outside. If he had more energy he’d get up and start a fire. But that would have to wait for another day, preferably after he’d fueled up on island hospitality and some homemade nonairport food.

Drifting in and out, he sensed time passing but he had no idea how much. Just as he started to fall under, something jolted him awake. Wide awake. Blame the strange stillness in the cabin, but his muscles no longer relaxed.

He opened his eyes to complete darkness. Fatigue had pulled at him when he sat down but he was pretty sure he’d left two lights on, the one across the room and the one over the sink in the kitchen. Neither was on now. The steady hum from the old refrigerator had also vanished.

He jackknifed into a sitting position, then froze, trying to take it all in. An unsettling sensation washed over him. The movement of the air in the room wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t name how. The confusion set his inner alarm buzzing.

He forced his breathing to slow as he concentrated on picking up any clues. A second later, a scraping sound, barely above a whisper, echoed around him. Then he heard breathing, labored and a little rushed.

Just when he started to jump up, he heard the grunt. Pain slammed into his head a second later. The hit dropped him off the edge of the couch. His knees hit the hardwood floor with a thwack.
“Shit.” He blinked as he landed on all fours and fought to keep his focus.

One thought tumbled around in his head . . . Move.

He shoved the ottoman to the side and crawled. He’d only been in the cabin a few hours and struggled to remember the layout. The front door waited a few feet in front of him and off a bit to his right. And his cell . . . where the hell had he put it?

Footsteps thudded against the old floorboards. The attacker didn’t attempt to hide the noise now.

Connor shifted but something—no, that was definitely a someone—landed on his back. Not too heavy or with enough strength to pin him down for long but the pressure slowed him down. He reached around to grab an arm or any limb he could reach when the attacker pressed a hand against his new head wound. One touch and the room began to spin. His arms gave out and his chest and chin crashed into the floor. The force of his yell surprised even him.

Off balance now, he wrestled for control. Repeated bouts of dizziness made it tough to throw the person off him. Everything whirled and raced as he tried to shrug and move. He choked back the need to throw up but froze when the attacker started talking. Right in his ear. Low and deep.

“Leave Whitaker now.”

The insistent sound didn’t hide the person’s attempt to use a fake gravelly tone. A woman? Maybe . . .

Nothing about the hit-and-threaten move made sense but the buzzing in his head had his arms shaking. His body listed to one side as he fought to keep from face-planting on the floor. “I . . . what the hell?”

The pressure against his body vanished in a flash. Then he heard the thump of footsteps as the person raced away. A rush of cold air swept through the cabin. Connor dragged in enough to revive some of his energy and lift his head. Even in the relative darkness he could see the cabin door standing wide open. The pain knocking inside his brain refused to subside. A haze blurred his vision and he tried to blink it away.

Help. He needed help. Get checked. Find the attacker.

But he didn’t know one person on the island. A few by name, but that was it.

He stumbled to his feet. Bobbing and weaving, he made it to the front door and slammed into the wall. His fingers found the light switch and clicked it on. Nothing happened. The cabin up through the loft remained plunged into darkness.

The whole thing had been weird but thorough—cut the power, sneak in, and attack. But that didn’t explain what the person wanted or why.

A few more blinks and his eyes finally adjusted to the relative blackness. Lumps that looked like furniture formed in the shadows. Taking slow steps, he bumped his way back to the sofa. Careful not to shift his head too much, he leaned down and patted the floor and the couch cushion in a desperate search for his cell. His fingertips knocked against it on the ottoman and it slipped to the floor.

“Mother . . .” Even talking hurt his head, so he let the front half of the grumbled profanity be enough.

A few seconds later he found the cell and turned on the flashlight, making sure to aim it away from him. The last thing he needed was a blast into his eyes. His headache would never go away after that.

Scanning the area right around him with a minimum of movement didn’t make things better. He spotted the blood streaked across the floor, on his hand. He wasn’t so great with blood. Seeing it made the dizziness come roaring back. He fought to stay on his feet long enough to make a call.

As the phone rang, one simple thought kept replaying in his head. He’d only been on the island a few hours and someone already wanted him gone.

End of Excerpt

The Secret She Keeps

is pre-ordering now,
and begins shipping & downloading December 31, 2019:

Avon

Dec 31, 2019

ISBN-13: 978-0062892799