Cover Reveal: Ditched by RC Boldt

Title: Ditched
Author: RC Boldt
Genre: Contemporary/Sports Romance
Cover Design: Cover Me Darling
Photo: James Critchley
Release Date: April 3, 2018

He’s playing for the heart she’s had sidelined for years.

Dating can be a rocky journey. Once the new shine wears off,
you may end up with a case of buyer’s remorse.
That’s where I come in. I set the backdrop and coach you
through the breakup.
Don’t want overblown drama, hard feelings, or a drink tossed
in your face? Then I’m your fairy godmother, child.

As an NFL quarterback, endorsement ads and the media
pandering after me are all part of the game.
Ivy Hayes is the first woman who doesn’t care about my money
and the notoriety that goes along with it.
But I’m a long-term guy, and she operates strictly in the
now. Which means I need to bring my A-game.
Otherwise, I’ll end up getting ditched.

Pre-order Links


Author Bio

RC Boldt
currently lives on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, enjoys long walks
on the beach, running, reading, people watching, and singing karaoke. If you’re
in the mood for some killer homemade mojitos, can’t recall the lyrics to a
particular 80’s song, or just need to hang around a nonconformist who will do
almost anything for a laugh, she’s your girl.
Author Links

Surprise Cover Reveal + Pre-Order: Mogul by Katy Evans


A brand new contemporary romance from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Katy Evans is coming May 31st!

Mogul Amazon-2


Author: Katy Evans

Release Date: May 31st


He’s my most delicious secret.

The hot Suit I had a one-night stand with one evening.

I didn’t know anything about him, not even his name.

Only that we shared a taxi, and he was staying at the hotel where I worked.

We met in room 301. Where he commanded not only my body but my soul.

The next day he was gone and I only had a memory of him.

I could still taste his kisses, feel his demanding touch.

I searched for him for months. Daydreaming about him. Wondering if I’d ever find him.

Until the day I find myself staring face to face with his jeweled black eyes again.

He says lets keep it casual, and my heart knows that falling for this workaholic in a three-thousand-dollar suit is off the table.

Because he has a secret. One that’s a deal breaker for me.

My Suit has a name.

Ian Ford.

And this is our story.

Preorder Mogul Today!

Amazon US I Amazon Universal I iBooks I Kobo I Barnes & Noble

Add to your Goodreads

Paperback, GooglePlay, and other links to come!

About Katy


Katy Evans is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her debut REAL shot to the top of the bestselling lists in 2013 and since then 9 of her titles have been New York Times bestsellers. Her books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages across the world.

Connect with Katy

Facebook I Twitter I E-Mail

Cover Reveal + Pre-Order + Giveaway: Royally Pucked by Pippa Grant

Title: Royally Pucked
Author: Pippa Grant
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Release Date: April 6, 2018
Cover Designer: Lori Jackson

Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

A hockey-playing prince, a most
improper lady, and one accidental pregnancy…
When you’re an heir so spare that getting attacked by a
shark is more likely than you ever wearing the crown, you’re only allowed certain liberties. Yet
still, those liberties can bite you in the ass.
Good thing I’m such a charming devil.
But even my charms haven’t kept me from being
banished to America for a year under the pretense of playing professional hockey while my
father cleans up my latest mess. However, trouble follows me wherever I go. Generally, trouble
of the beautiful female variety and Gracie Diamonte is no exception. Or possibly, she’s the best
Until the dinosaur suit. The cookie incident. And the
accidental pregnancy.

Of course, I’ll do the right thing.
Just as soon as I solve that pesky problem of my royal
I’m about to be the biggest scandal to ever rock my
country, and there’s a good chance my father may throw me to the sharks after all. The funny
thing is I’ve heard that raising children may not be so different from swimming with the sharks.
So no matter how you look at things… I’m ROYALLY PUCKED

PRE-ORDER your Copy TODAY!!!!!


Pippa Grant is a stay-at-home mom and housewife who loves
to escape into sexy, funny stories way more than she likes perpetually cleaning toothpaste out
of sinks and off toilet handles. When she’s not reading, writing, sleeping, or trying to prepare her
adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, she’s fantasizing about chocolate
chip cookies.

A Rafflecopter giveaway

Excerpt Reveal + Pre-Order: Fearless by Carly Phillips

Fearless Excerpt Reveal Banner.jpg

From Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips comes a powerful new story of love, hope and redemption, of finding light in the darkest places.

Fearless, an all- new emotional standalone by Carly Phillips is coming March 20!


Fall in love with the Wards…

Mechanic and garage owner, Kane Harmon is used to the wealthy beautiful women visiting his beach town. He doesn’t get involved because he knows most females would merely be slumming for the summer.

Except Halley Ward isn’t just passing through. She lives a solitary life in a bungalow on the beach. A woman tormented by her past, distant from her wealthy family, different from Kane’s usual fare of town girls who know his M.O.- Don’t expect more than he’s willing to give.

Kane rescues Halley and her broken down car from the side of the road and instantly he’s hooked. She says she’s not interested in him. He knows she lies. And he makes it his mission to bring her back to life, to return her emotionally to her family. To show her the colors around her were as vibrant as the ones she puts on her canvas.

Until past meets present and threatens all the progress they’ve made. Then it’s Halley’s turn to step up and stand up for the relationship and life she’s finally coming to believe she deserves


He nipped at her lip one last time, swiped his tongue over her in a soothing motion before pulling back and gazing into her eyes.

“So much better than I fucking imagined,” he said in a gruff voice.

She let out a hesitant laugh as reality drifted back and settled on her shoulders. “Kane…”

“No regrets,” he warned her.

She shook her head. “I don’t. I can’t regret that kiss. But you need to know, I’m not a good bet for a relationship.”

He narrowed his gaze, that heady stare still hot on hers. “What makes you say that?”

She swallowed hard. “I’m different. You know that about me. I like being alone. I work hard, get lost in my paintings. I forget what time it is. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to days and nights. I spend more time alone than with people and most guys don’t want a girl they can’t take out with their friends because she doesn’t like big crowds.” There. She’d said it all, put her truths out there for him to hear.

Not all of her truths, of course. There were some she didn’t drag into the light of day. Ever. She didn’t even allow them in her nightmares if she could help it. The problem was, sometimes she couldn’t control her dreams. She wished she could.

“And?” he asked, as if what she’d said meant nothing.

“I’ve had unsuccessful relationships. And do you want to know why they were unsuccessful? Because I’m odd,” she said before he could answer. “And they got frustrated with me and broke things off. So I don’t do relationships anymore. I don’t like disappointing people and I don’t like being hurt when things inevitably end.”


She opened her eyes wide. “That’s all you have to say? Hmm?”

An understanding smile curved his lips. “You’re forgetting that I know you and I like what I see. I’m not looking to change you. And I’m not looking to force you into a relationship you don’t want.”

She blinked and braced herself up with a hand on the sand. “You aren’t?”

He shook his head. “I like you. I like spending time with you. And yeah, I like kissing you. A fuck of a lot. And I plan to do it more often. But trap you in a relationship if that’s not what you want?” He shook his head. “Not happening.”

She swiped her tongue over her kiss-roughened lips. “I don’t know what to say.” Nor did she know what to make of his proclamation and easy acceptance.

“I like you and you like me, yes?”

She nodded.

“And the kiss, it was good?” he asked, stroking a hand down her cheek and eliciting a shiver that went straight to her already erect and aware nipples and down to her sex.

“Yes,” she murmured.

“Then let’s not overanalyze or examine what this is or isn’t. My life is crazy what with the garage, my father, my nephew who hangs around every day… and now a side gig that I definitely enjoy.” He gestured back to her deck. “No need to label and complicate things.”

She was surprised to hear him be so nonchalant. With his pursuit of a date and him showing up here to build her deck in his limited spare time, she definitely thought he wanted something serious.

If he didn’t, if he could accept who she was and what she could give, then she didn’t see an issue with letting things be and taking it one day at a time.

“So are we on the same page?” he asked, his lips brushing over hers. “We have fun? We enjoy each other? And we don’t put pressure on either one of us with expectations?”

“Agreed,” she said, wondering why her stomach tumbled over the idea that he didn’t want her for anything more than just a good time. He’d given her exactly what she’d asked for.


Preorder Today!

Amazon US:

Amazon Universal:

Amazon Print –




Google Play:

Add to Goodreads:

Photo Feb 18, 3 04 19 PM.png

Meet Carly Phillips:

Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels, including the Indie published, Dare to Love Series. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.


Connect with Carly:

Sign up for Carly’s Newsletter at:
Sign up for Blog and Website updates at:
Sign up for Text Updates of New Releases:
Friend Carly on Facebook:
Hang out at Carly’s Corner! (Hot guys & giveaways!)

Cover Reveal: Iron Princess and Rogue Royalty by Meghan March


We are thrilled to bring you the covers for the final 2 books on the SAVAGE TRILOGY by New York Times bestseller Meghan March.

IRON PRINCESS releases on April 24 and ROGUE ROYALTY on May 22!




He’s a mystery. An enigma.

His very identity is a secret buried beneath layers of deception.

He’s also an addiction I can’t shake. An attraction I can’t fight.

And then I found out exactly who he is—a man more dangerous than the devil himself.

Now I need him in order to save everything that matters to me.

I have to pull back. Protect myself from the danger that haunts his every step.

Which would be easy . . . if I could stop myself from falling in love with him.


iBooks | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | BN | Kobo | Audible



Unthinkable. Unbelievable. Inconceivable.

I don’t recognize what my life has become. I can’t tell where the lies end and the truth begins anymore.

He came into my world and urged me out of my safe little corner.

All my dreams are coming true except the one thing I want most— my own happy ending.

But I’ll fight for it.

For now.

For always.


iBooks | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | BN | Kobo | Audible








Who knew things could get even darker and dirtier in New Orleans? New York Times bestselling author Meghan March introduces the Savage Prince of the city, the man you never want to meet.

I do what I want and who I want. I don’t follow anyone’s rules—even my own.
I knew I shouldn’t touch her, but it didn’t stop me.
Didn’t stop me the second time either. Only made me want a third.
My lifestyle suits the savage I am, and she doesn’t.
But Temperance Ransom is my newest addiction, and I’m nowhere near ready to quit her yet.
I’ll have her my way, even if it means dragging her into the darkness.
Hopefully it doesn’t kill us both.

Savage Prince is book one of the Savage Trilogy, set in the same world as Ruthless King, however you do not need to read the Mount Trilogy to devour this scandalously hot new story.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | iBooks | BN | Kobo





A New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty novels, Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had.

Sign up for Meghan’s newsletter and receive exclusive content that she saves for her subscribers:

To get the inside scoop on a daily basis, search Meghan March’s Runaway Readers on Facebook and join the fun.




Cover Reveal: The Boy & His Ribbon by Pepper Winters


The Boy & His Ribbon by Pepper Winters
The Ribbon Duet Book 1
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Genre: Coming of Age Romance


“What do you do when you meet your soul mate? No wait…that’s too easy. What do you do when you meet your soul mate and have to spend a lifetime loving him in secret?

I’ll tell you what you do.

You lie.”


Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn’t exist—that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.

His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.

But then…he ran.

He thought he’d run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.


I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.

My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.

At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.

For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.

But by the end…he loved me.

The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.

And slowly, my secret drove us apart.

Pre-Order Today!


Google Play:
More Information:


Google Play:
More Information:

About the Author:

Pepper Winters is a multiple New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today International Bestseller.

After chasing her dreams to become a full-time writer, Pepper has earned recognition with awards for best Dark Romance, best BDSM Series, and best Hero. She’s an multiple #1 iBooks bestseller, along with #1 in Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary, and Erotica Thriller. With 19 books currently published, she has hit the bestseller charts twenty-six times in three years.

Pepper is a Hybrid Author of both Traditional and Self-published work. Her Pure Corruption Series was released by Grand Central, Hachette.

Her books have garnered foreign interest and are currently being translated into numerous languages, including already released titles in Italian and Turkish. Audio Books for her entire back-list will be available in 2017.

Connect with the Author:

Twitter: @PepperWinters
Facebook Fan Group:
Never miss an update! Sign up for Pepper’s newsletter today!

Chapter Reveal + Playlist + Pre-Order + Giveaway: Seed by Cassia Leo

Today we have the chapter reveal for SEED by Cassia Leo! Check it out and pre-order your copy today!


Title: SEED
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: Evergreen Series
Release: March 16, 2018


About SEED

The explosive continuation of the Evergreen Series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

The seeds of doubt have been planted.

Two to six weeks. That’s how long it takes, on average, to get a divorce in Oregon.

With Jack convinced I betrayed him, I expect to be served divorce papers within hours of moving out. But weeks pass without word from Jack, and the papers never arrive. Though my heart isn’t ready to give up on him, I can’t shake the feeling that we may be better off apart. And Isaac is more than happy to help me move on.

But just as I begin to build some semblance of a life and career, a new and improved Jack arrives on my doorstep. Divorce papers are the furthest thing from his mind as he delivers news that both shatters me and restores my faith in the love we shared. But is it too late for us?

Pre Order Now

iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google Play

Amazon Release Alert

Add the Evergreen Series to Goodreads

Chapter Reveal


May 10, 2015

“Stay with me, baby,” I murmured as I stroked Laurel’s hand to keep her from falling asleep. “You realize our son is going to be born on a very special day.”

Her eyes rolled back in their sockets as another contraction hit. “What?” she groaned.

I had been trying to keep her mind distracted from the pain with idle conversation about the things she most liked to talk about. So far, I’d engaged her in a wide array of topics: Stoic philosophy, ridiculous names for baked goods, inappropriate wedding songs, and her favorite topic, names for baby boys.

“His birthdate is going to be May 10th, 2015. In numbers, that five, ten, fifteen.”

She managed to groan and chuckle at the same time. “You’re so American. The rest of the world would say it’s ten, five, fifteen,” she said. She breathed in and out a few times through pursed lips before she continued. “Drea would make fun of you if she heard you say that.”

“It’s a good thing Drea’s not here then.”

As soon as I said the words, I wanted to take them back. I didn’t want to bring attention to the fact that, besides Drea, Laurel’s mom also was not here.

As if on cue, Laurel asked, “Where’s my mom?”

I squeezed her soft hand, which seemed to be getting colder. “She’s stuck in traffic, baby. There’s an accident. But she’s trying to get here as soon as she can.”

I didn’t have to lie for Beth. I had to lie for Laurel. I didn’t want her to worry that her mother was abandoning her in her time of need. This was probably the most important day of Laurel’s life, and her mother couldn’t be bothered to come when called.

Beth insisted this was a private moment for Laurel and I to share. According to her, most grandmothers weren’t in the labor and delivery room to see their grandchildren born. That was the parents’ “job.” She insisted she would get here as soon as the baby was born.

The fact that Beth referred to what I was doing at this moment as a “job” only made me angrier. I wasn’t here with Laurel because it was my job to be here. I was here because I loved Laurel, and this was where she wanted me to be. If Laurel told me to leave, I’d leave. She was the one making the decisions today, not me or Beth or the fucking Dalai Lama.

The midwife came into Laurel’s room just as the baby’s heart rate monitor began to beep loudly. The swift, hollow tap of our baby’s heartbeat had slowed to a slow, muffled thump. The midwife’s black eyebrows shot up as she raced to the monitor to get a better look at the flashing red numbers.

“What’s happening?” Laurel asked, but her eyelids were only half-open as her voice trailed off. “Is the baby… Is the baby okay?”

Maisie, Laurel’s Filipino midwife, lifted the sheet covering Laurel’s legs and her dark eyes became as wide as planets.

“What is it?” I demanded as the doctor rushed in.

“Get Florence and tell the others to get the OR ready,” the doctor ordered Maisie, who quickly disappeared into the corridor.

“Dr. Eastman, what’s wrong?” I demanded.

But as my words fell like stones at our feet, Laurel’s hand went slack. Suddenly, four nurses raced into the room and shoved me aside as they locked the side rails on Laurel’s bed and systematically disconnected her from various machines.

My stomach went sour as they rushed her out of the labor and delivery room to the operating room. As I followed closely behind them, I felt as if I were having an out of body experience. I was watching these medical professionals pushing a gurney with someone else’s unconscious wife. Maybe I’d fallen asleep in the chair in Laurel’s hospital room and this was all a nightmare.

But when we arrived at the double doors to the OR, someone grabbed my arm to stop me from entering. That was when I knew this was really happening.

Before the doors swung shut, I caught a glimpse of three more nurses inside the operating room. They appeared to be hanging bags of blood on IV stands and prepping instruments.

“She’s hemorrhaging,” Dr. Eastman finally said, as I watched what was going on through the windows in the double door.

“What do you mean? How? Why?” I replied as I watched two nurses wheel Laurel’s bed into the center of the OR.

“Mr. Stratton, please look at me.”

I turned toward the doctor and the grave look in his eyes sent me into a panic. “What’s going on? Tell me what the fuck is happening to my wife!”

“Do you remember at a previous sonogram when I said we would have to do more sonograms every three days instead of every week, to keep an eye on the placenta?”

I nodded vigorously. “Just cut to the chase and tell me what the hell is happening to my wife.”

Eastman sighed. “The placenta was not over the cervix at the start of labor, but it seems the contractions have moved it down and Laurel’s losing a lot of blood. We’ll have to deliver the baby via C-section.”

I tried to follow a nurse into the OR, but Maisie and Dr. Eastman stopped me again. “I have to be in there!” I shouted.

“We need to scrub before we can enter the surgical suite,” East said. “Follow me.”

In the washroom, Eastman introduced me to the anesthesiologist, Dr. Brunei, who was already washed up as a couple of nurses helped him slip into a fresh pair of scrubs.

“Doctor, I need you to be straight with me,” I said as I set down the disposable nail brush and proceeded to rub the red Hibiclens soap all over my hands and up to my elbows. “Should I be worried?”

“Hemorrhaging in labor is not ideal, but it’s not uncommon. It’s a situation we’re always prepared for, especially with what we saw in the previous sonograms. You’re in good hands today. We’re going to deliver your baby and replace the blood your wife lost. I just need to verify that neither you nor your wife have any religious objections to receiving blood transfusion?”

I shook my head as I held my arms under the running water. I couldn’t speak. This couldn’t be happening.

When Eastman and I were gowned and gloved, we entered the surgical suite in time to see the nurses using a sheet to lift Laurel’s limp body off the hospital bed and onto the operating gurney, her arm flopped over the edge of the mattress.

Her skin was drained of the usual golden-peach glow. Her fingers were blue.

No. I shook my head, unwilling to accept what I was seeing.

“Mr. Stratton?”

I turned my head to the right and found four-foot-eleven Maisie staring up at me.

“You’re very pale, Mr. Stratton. You should sit,” she said, motioning to a chair on the other side of the room, closer to Laurel.

I nodded as I trailed behind her like a lost puppy. “Thank you,” I muttered, but I didn’t take a seat. I couldn’t rest when both my babies needed me.

Due to the hemorrhaging, Laurel would be put under general anesthesia instead of the usual spinal block used for C-sections. Maisie made it clear that this meant I would be the first person to hold our baby, not Laurel. I knew this would make Laurel sad, when she woke and I had to tell her what happened. But I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel about it.

I held Laurel’s hand through the entire surgery, stroking and kissing the back of her hand and murmuring words of encouragement as if she were awake. When our son was pulled from her womb, his blue skin covered in blood, I stopped breathing. Mere seconds passed before he took his first wailing breath of life, but it felt like an eternity.

As the nurses cleaned him up, I kept a firm grasp on Laurel’s hand while I whispered in her ear, narrating what was happening. I hoped that somewhere in her subconscious mind, she was listening, and maybe someday she could piece together this moment.

Maisie smiled as she approached me with the bundle wrapped in a striped baby blanket. As I took my son in my arms for the first time, I was overwhelmed by a wave of emotion so powerful, it should have knocked me out of my chair.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I looked down at his puffy, pink face. “This is my boy,” I said with a chuckle. His tiny body moved in my arms and it my chest filled with sheer wonder and joy. I shook my head, unable to believe I’d made something so pure and so real. “This is our son.” I put my finger next to his tiny hand and my heart nearly burst when he grabbed on. I kissed his fingers the way I’d kissed Laurel’s hand earlier and his eyelids fluttered. “Laurel, baby, I wish you could see this.” I looked up at Maisie. “Doesn’t he need to be breastfed or something?” I asked.

She smiled. “They will bring her out of anesthesia in a few minutes, once she’s stitched up. For now, he needs to be held by his papa.”

The words echoed in my mind. His papa.

My face screwed up as I was overcome with emotion. The fear and doubt I’d felt about becoming a father seemed like a distant memory. I’d never been so filled with absolute joy in all my life.

I was a father. I was papa.


Present day

I had let my jealousy and rage distract me from what was truly important. I’d driven Laurel away twice, at a time when my pixie needed me most. I knew Laurel didn’t owe me a third chance, which was why I was going to earn my way back into her arms. And there was only two ways to do that.

One way was to catch the bastard who stole our happiness. The other way might prove more difficult. It would involve closing my case files and admitting that my need for justice was tearing my marriage apart. But I couldn’t do that, not until I gave my quest for justice one final effort. If I couldn’t get justice for my boy by the time Laurel turned thirty next month, I would pack away my case files and do whatever I took to get her back.

I handed my suitcase to the guy wearing the fluorescent safety vest, then I climbed the steps of the private charter plane at exactly eleven a.m. Immediately, I slid my cell phone out of the interior pocket of my sport coat and called my assistant, Jade Insley.

“Good morning,” she answered cheerily.

“Jade, I need you to forward all my calls, even the ones to my cell, to your desk phone. I’m out of town and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Absolutely,” she replied. “What should I tell the partners?”

“Tell them I’m visiting family. I’ll check in occasionally for messages.”

I ended the call and immediately removed the SIM card from my phone, tossing the tiny chip over the side of the staircase before I stepped inside the plane. I gave the attendant my drink order — club soda with lime — then I tucked my cell into my coat. Sliding the burner phone out of the front pocket of my slacks, I took a seat in the plush leather seat. I turned the phone on and shot off a text.


Plane taking off. Should land in less than two hours. We still on for three p.m.?


I’ll be there with bells on.


I pulled my rental car into a space in front of a two-story office building clad in weathered cedar shingles. The dark tinted windows and lack of signage made it look like a place one would go to get illegal plastic surgery. Other than my rented Chevy Tahoe, the only other cars in the lot were a beat up Cadillac Eldorado and a pristine 80s era cherry-red Porsche.

When I stepped into the lobby, I was not surprised to find a directory missing a third of its letters. But I was still able to determine that “SEA D GHE TY PI 2 1” meant Sean Dougherty, Private Investigator was in suite 201 or 211. That narrowed my options down significantly.

I opted not to take my chances on the wood-paneled elevator and took the stairs up to the second floor. The smell of body odor and desperation engulfed me as I walked down the hallway. The first door I saw was 201 and I quickly reached for the doorknob, eager to escape the smell in the corridor, but the knob didn’t turn. I rapped on the steel door a few times, certain that no one would hear me. I was surprised when my knocking was met with a loud grunt from within.

I immediately lifted the right side of my sport coat, my hand hovering over the gun holstered on my hip as I waited for the door to open.

“Who is it?” a gruff voice called from the other side.

“Jack Stratton. We have an appointment.”

The door opened slowly and we both smiled when we realized we both have our hands poised over our sidearms.

I slowly moved my hand away from my weapon and held it up in front of me. “All good.”

The man lowered his hand and pushed the door wide open. “Good to meet you, Jack,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’m Sean.”

We shook, and I was not at all surprised to find his calloused hand had a killer grip. “It’s really good to meet you,” I replied as I stepped inside suite 201.

My shoulders relaxed instantly when I realized Sean’s office was actually quite clean and modern and smelled like coffee. Not a hint of despair. Sean was a sturdy man in his early fifties, with thick salt and pepper hair and muscled limbs clothed in a crisp button-up and slacks. Not at all what I expected from a gritty private investigator who worked in the ninth circle of office park hell.

“The exterior throws people off. Only the people who are serious make it past the front door,” he said as if he were reading my thoughts. “Have a seat.” He continued speaking as I took a seat across the glass desk. “Hood River PD approved my request to see the file this morning, and I was able to go through most of it before you got here. We’re both obviously most interested in this memo they received from Boise PD. Have you spoken with Detective Robinson yet?”

I shook my head. “She couldn’t say much over the phone. I have a meeting scheduled with her tomorrow. She didn’t seem very optimistic that this would lead anywhere. She hasn’t had a whole lot of luck with sealed adoption records. But I’m working on a piece of software to cross-reference birth records and the NCIC persons files for individuals in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. I should have the code finalized and ready to run in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to get you on the case to see if we can track down that adoption decree. I mean, I don’t even have the guy’s name. I’m flying blind.”

NCIC stood for National Crime Information Center, the database shared between the FBI and federal, state, local, and tribal criminal justice users to cooperate on investigations and policies.

Sean leaned back in his desk chair and cocked an eyebrow. “So what put you onto this lead anyway? This is a pretty serious accusation.”

I shook my head as I stared at the manila folder on his desk. “Just a hunch, I guess. I always felt like there was more to Beth than any of us knew.”

“And Beth is your wife’s mother, right?”

I nodded. “Don’t get me wrong, Beth was a great mom and I couldn’t have asked for a better grandmother for my son. She… She gave her life trying to protect my boy. I hold no ill will toward her. But there was always something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

“I used to chalk it up to the same mysterious quality Laurel has. A strange, otherworldly kind of beauty and wit. But with Laurel’s mom, there were other signs that I didn’t know the real Beth.”

“Like what?”

“Just general secretiveness when it came to what caused her divorce from Laurel’s father and stuff like that. It wasn’t until someone in our Facebook group passed on the tip to Boise PD about Mike O’Toole that Detective Robinson decided to do a little digging into Beth’s past.”

“So who’s Mike O’Toole?”

I waved off the question. “A dead lead, but it did get Robinson asking questions and that’s why I’m here. The PI I spoke to in Portland told me that it could take years to win a battle to unseal adoption records. She said my best bet, if the suspect is living here in Idaho, would be to try to find someone who could track him down here. So here I am, hoping like hell you can help me find the piece of shit that killed my son, because… I’m on the verge of losing everything.”

Sean is silent for a long while as he stares at the glass desktop, and when he finally looks up, his square face is fixed with a tight smile. “Well, you were honest with me, so I guess it’s my turn for a little show and tell.” He reaches behind him, opens the top drawer of a two-drawer file cabinet, and pulls out a silver picture frame. “This is my Rosie,” he says, placing the picture on top of his desk so I could see the photo of a teenage girl with wavy blonde hair and a beaming smile. “Rose hated when I called her Rosie,” he said, staring at the picture with a wistful look in his steel-gray eyes.

“She’s beautiful,” I said, stopping myself before I could say she reminded me a bit of Laurel.

“Rose was seventeen when she went to an ice skating rink with some friends. Same as she’d done every winter since she was eight years old. But this time, she went outside to have a smoke. A nasty habit. I kept grounding her to try to get her to stop, but she just wouldn’t listen. She was too pigheaded.” He finally looked up and met my gaze. “That was the last we saw of her until her body was discovered two months later, in a creek forty miles away.”

I clenched my jaw as I imagined how I would have felt if I’d had seventeen years with Junior before he was murdered. Or if, God forbid, it had been Laurel who had been taken away from me. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Laurel.

“That was a knockout punch. I was down for the count. No coming back from that, I thought,” Sean continued. “So I doubled down on how fast I could wreck my life. I was a financial crimes detective at the time, but I began sleeping in my office, poring over the case files day and night. I became obsessed.”

I lowered my gaze as his words shamed me. All the nights I’d spent sleeping on the couch in my home office instead of in the bedroom with Laurel were mirrored in Sean’s story. And somehow, I didn’t think his story had a happy ending.

“Did you find out who did it?”

Sean smiled as he shook his head. “Nope. I lost my job. Lost my marriage. Lost my house. That bastard took my daughter from me, but I willingly gave him everything else. You understand?”

I nodded in silence. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t think of a single cynical thing to say. I was only in this office because this was my last resort. I couldn’t come back to Laurel emptyhanded. I’d given her every material thing she could ever want. I gave her shelter and security. I gave her my love. But I hadn’t given her my full attention.

Unfortunately, I knew myself too well to know that I would not be able to focus on my marriage and work until I was certain I’d done everything I could for Junior. And, yes, even for Beth. She may have had her secrets, but I meant it when I said Junior could not have asked for a better grandmother. She deserved justice as much as my boy did.

Sean Dougherty and the software program I was working on, which I had dubbed PNW Checkmate, were my last hope. If the software helped us find Junior’s killer, I would expand the software to include all fifty states and territories. For now, I had to focus on this area, and specifically Boise. If Ava Robinson’s suspicions were correct that Beth and Junior’s murders were not random, this was surely the missing piece of the puzzle we needed to help us crack this case. Laurel and I might finally be able to turn the page on this gruesome chapter of our lives.

Sean and I chatted for more than two hours. I filled in any holes in the case file he’d received from the Hood River Police Department. I laid out my suspicions about Beth’s past, information I’d gleaned through conversations with Beth and Laurel over the years. The most interesting tidbit being the time Laurel told me her mother had left her father for a few months when she was about five years old. It wasn’t definitive evidence, but it was one brushstroke in a colorful picture of a woman who lived her life with as much verve as the flowers she so carefully nurtured.

“Whatever you do, do not—I repeat, do not attempt to approach any potential suspects or interviewees on your own. You hear me?” He glared at me with his thick eyebrows raised, awaiting my agreement.

“You have my word,” I replied, probably not as definitively as I should have.

“I’m serious, Jack. Don’t get yourself killed or arrested for this shit. It’s not worth it. Tell me you understand.”

I nodded. “I understand,” I said with a bit more vigor.

He eyed me warily. “I’ll handle all interviews. You’ve got too much at ´stake. Too many emotions that pose a threat here. And I’m the experienced interrogator. So this is not a request. This is an order. You hear me?”

I looked him dead in the eye. “Loud and clear.”




Enter the Facebook Giveaway


Spotify Playlist


About Cassia Leo

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

Find her on…

Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website

Join Club Cassia