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Authors: Kathy Clark

KILLER DATE (SCANDALS)

BOOK: KILLER DATE (SCANDALS)
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SCANDALS:

 

KILLER DATE

 

 

By

 

 

Kathy Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.TheThrillOfSuspense
.com

LICENSE NOTES

 

 

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the site where it was purchased and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.

 

This is a work of fiction based loosely on actual events involving fictional characters, names, businesses, places and incidents.  They are either a product of the author’s imagination or were actual events, locations or places and were used in a fictitious manner.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

All rights are reserved.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or
NightWriter, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

Contact information:
[email protected]

 

Cover Art by Bob Wernly

 

Publishing History

First NightWriter93, Inc. Edition
August, 2014

 

Copyright © 2014 by Nightwriter93

 

Published in the United States of America

 

 

Recommended for 17 years and older
– language / mature subject matter

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

I absolutely couldn’t get my books out on the e-shelves without my great beta readers.  My mother, Betty Jones, is the charter member of my fan club and can always be counted on to give me her honest opinion, no matter how painful.  Now Steve Barker has joined my A-team as my #1 editor (and a dear friend).  My latest great discovery is Kristi Schluckebier who has just started her own editing business (and also happens to be my son, Scott’s significant other).  Thank you all for your eagle eyes and spot-on input.

 

And, as always, to my readers and my street team for their super fandom, a special thank you.  It is because of you that I write.  For exclusive bonus scenes and fun contests, be sure to sign up for my newsletter at
http://eepurl.com/Z5ypX
via MAIL CHIMP.

BOOKS BY KATHY CLARK & BOB KAT

 

NEW ADULT

Life’s What Happens

FINALIST BEST INDIE BOOK OF 2013

FINALIST READER’S FAVORITE 2014

Due Dates
(Book #1 of Scandals Series)

Killer Date
(Book #2 of Scandals Series)

Worst Date Ever
(Book #3 of Scandals Series) scheduled Winter, 2014

 

YOUNG ADULT

OMG (Oh My God!
)
(Book #1 of CUL8R Series
TM
under pen name Bob Kat)

WINNER BEST INDIE YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2013

BRB (Be Right Back)
(Book #2 of CUL8R Series
TM
under pen name Bob Kat)

WINNER READER’S FAVORITE 2013

BION (Believe It Or Not)
(Book #3 of CUL8R Series
TM
under pen name Bob Kat)

FINALIST READER’S FAVORITE 2014

RIP (Rest In Peace)
(Book #4 of CUL8R Series
TM
under pen name Bob Kat)

 

SUSPENSE

After Midnight
(#1 Denver After Dark Series)

WINNER BEST INDIE SUSPENSE BOOK OF 2013

READER’S FAVORITE 2013

Cries in the Night
(#2 Denver After Dark Series)

FINALIST COLORADO HUMANITIES AWARD 2014

Deep Night
(#3 Denver After Dark Series) scheduled Fall, 2014

 

ROMANCE & CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION

Angel of Mercy
(#3 Angel Series)

Another Sunny Day

Born to be Wild

Cody’s Last Stand

Cold Feet, Warm Heart

Count Your Blessings

Golden Days
(sequel to
Another Sunny Day
)

Goodbye Desperado

Hearts Against the Wind
(Crystal Creek Series)

Kissed By an Angel
(#1 Angel Series)

No Satisfaction

Passion and Possession

Phantom Angel
(#2 Angel Series)

A Private Affair

Risky Business

Sight Unseen

Stand by Your Man
(Crystal Creek Series)

Starry Nights

Starting Over

Stroke of Midnight

Sweet Anticipation

Teacher’s Pet

Tempting Fate
 

KILLER DATE

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

A month ago I was in a private cabana at the Bellagio doing Beach Bum Jell-O shots off the rock-hard abs of the redhead I had cut in half ten hours before.  Now?  Vegas and super-hot showgirls were about twelve hundred miles away, although I’d done my share of Jell-O shots last night around the pool of my deceased father’s mansion on Lake Travis just outside of Austin.  

I started to drag my fingers through my
perfectly rumpled black hair, but my hand stopped as soon as I touched my forehead.  Two days after getting out of the hospital, I still had a pounding headache and even my skin hurt.  In retrospect, hanging around the pool, downing shots and sangria probably hadn’t been the smartest idea, especially since my new-found siblings and I had almost been killed by Special K-spiked margaritas from a greedy bastard who had tried to burn us alive.

Then again, the fact that we had survived was definitely a great excuse for a party.  

“Don’t take this wrong, Reno, but you look awful…are you sure your doctor cleared you to come back to work already?”  Pam asked with motherly concern.  Not that she was
my
mother.  But she knew more about the Scandals detective agency that my four surprise siblings and I had inherited than any other person alive.  Her real son, Christopher, was now part owner and general manager of Scandals, not to mention semi-attached to one of my new sisters, Killeen.

It was even more complicated than it sounded, and it made my head pound when I spent too much time thinking about it.

“God, I hope I don’t look as bad as I feel,” I moaned.  “Doc didn’t put any restrictions on us when he let us leave the hospital yesterday.”

“I doubt he has
much experience treating someone who was knocked out by Ketamine and slammed their head on a tile floor.”  She smiled, but her lips quivered, giving away how deeply worried she had been.  “I’m glad you guys are okay.  I still don’t understand how he put the drugs into the margaritas without anyone noticing.”

“When he said it was
AsomBroso 11 Year Anejo, we kind of dropped our guard.  That shit costs a $1,000 a bottle.  We suspected he had killed Roger, but it never occurred to us that he’d have the balls to try to kill all six of us, too.” 

“Seven, counting Killeen’s baby,” Pam reminded me.

“Yeah, who figured that would be what saved us?  If she hadn’t been pregnant, she’d have been right in there with the margaritas.”

“Sounds like it caught him by surprise.”

I nodded ruefully.  “It caught us all by surprise.  I had no idea softball pitchers had that much speed…and accuracy.  She pegged him right between his eyes.  He never saw it coming.”  I leaned a leather-covered hip on Pam’s desk and hooked one leg on the edge.

“You kids were really lucky.  I’m so sorry that Roger isn’t here.  He would have so much fun running this business with you guys.”

“I feel a lot closer to him now,” I told her.  After digging through his old stuff and meeting his past associates and friends, we found out a lot more about the man who had sired us, then disappeared off into the sunset.  “It’s like he’s still here.”

“I’m glad you’re all going to stay.”

“We may kill each other in the process, but we’re learning how to be a family.”

“So where are Christopher and Killeen?” Pam asked.

“Probably fucking their brains out.”  I suddenly remembered I was talking to Christopher’s mother and hurried to soften my comment.  “I mean, they…”

Pam laughed.  “I know what you mean.  And I’m glad.  Everyone could see that they were perfect for each other…except them.”

“Well, she had her chance to cut and run but she chose to stay and save his life…must be love.”  I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my tone.  In my opinion, love was a highly over-rated emotion, but all sorts of irrational behavior could be blamed on it.  I wasn’t sure what I would have done had I been in Killeen’s situation.  Getting the hell out of the house and calling the cops might have been my first response.  When given the choice of fight or flight, my history had always taken the latter path.

The front door opened and bright morning sun flowed through the doorway into the lobby of the agency.  A slender woman glided into the lobby.  She was short, probably no more than 5’ 3” and slender, but she had a knock-out body that was hidden beneath a scoop-necked yellow t-shirt and a pair of
white shorts.  Her coal black hair was cut into a shaggy pixie with spiky bangs reaching her huge emerald green eyes. 

I typically go for the six-foot tall showgirl
s that are all legs and tits.  This girl was definitely not my type…too short and compact.   So no one was more surprised than me that my border patrol south of my belt-border went AWOL, and it took all my damaged brain cells to force my gaze upward to her small oval face.  It had been a long, dry two weeks, and I was obviously horny as hell if this pixie got my juices flowing.

She met my gaze steadily with just the slightest hint of contempt in her expression. 
God, it was like she was reading my mind.  In her hand was a Scandals’ business card.  She held it out and I couldn’t help but notice the tattoo on the inside of her wrist of a pink heart, a yellow moon, a green clover and an orange star.  What kind of woman had a Lucky Charms tattoo?  Either she had a sense of humor hidden beneath her prickly exterior, or she
really
liked cereal.

I slid off the desk so abruptly that it startled her and she dropped the card. 
As she bent over to pick it up, I noticed the elaborate curlicues of another tattoo on her lower back.  She straightened and held the card toward me again. 

“I need you to find my sister,” she said in a surprisingly husky voice. 

I grinned.  I never could resist a girl with a tramp stamp.  Nothing serious, of course, but maybe a temporary relief from my recent celibacy.

“Is Roger Elliott available?” she asked.

I took the card, glanced at it and saw it had Roger’s name printed on it.  An unexpected sense of melancholy swept through me as I realized that my father…this man I had never even met…had been very much alive and well when he left this card wherever this young woman had found it. 

When I didn’t immediately respond, Pam stood and extended her hand.  “My name is Pam, and you are…?

“Jennifer Caldwell, but I go by Jenny.”  The girl took Pam’s hand and managed a shaky smile.

“I’m sorry, but Roger Elliott has…,” Pam paused and swallowed back her still fresh
emotions, “…he’s no longer with us.”

“Oh,
I’m so sorry.  I didn’t actually know him.  Someone gave me his card.”  She looked toward the offices in the back, completely ignoring me.  “Anyone will do.”

I s
tepped in front of her line of sight.  “I’m Reno Marks, and I’m available.” 

Jenny’s dark eyebrows lifted, disappearing beneath an uneven fringe of bangs.  Now it was her turn to sweep me from head to toe with a look that clearly judged me to be lacking.  “Is there someone…older…
uh, more experienced?”

“I just finished solving a major murder case,” I assured
her, ignoring the disapproving glance Pam shot me.  Okay, so it had been my first case, and I hadn’t been the only person involved in figuring out who had murdered Roger.  Being a performer in Vegas involved a certain level of deception.  In fact, my life with an alcoholic mother, an absentee father and a constant rotation of men who had no fatherly ambitions had caused me to escape into an imaginary world.  It wasn’t that I was a liar; it was more that I was a survivor who did whatever I needed to do to control the outcome. 

And, for some reason, it was suddenly very important that I gain
this young woman’s trust and take on her case.  My lips stretched into my finest showman’s smile, proven to melt even the frostiest attitude.  I was not a man who was accustomed to being turned down…for anything.

“We’ll be in the conference room,” I informed Pam, then turned to Jenny.  “Please follow me.  I’m sure you want to be reunited with your sister as soon as possible.”

Mentioning her sister must have been the key phrase, because Jenny nodded and followed me without further protest.  I had a moment of doubt.  This was a serious situation, and, in truth, I had almost no experience.  I could bluff my way through the meeting, but when it came down to actually finding someone who wasn’t in the same room as I was, I knew I was in over my head.  As much as I wanted to impress this woman, I still didn’t want to screw up any chance of her sister being found.

“Because I’m sure time is of the essence, I’m going to bring in one of the partners on this,” I told her.  “Pam, could you see if Christopher or Dallas are around and ask them to join us, please?” I called over my shoulder.

“Will do,” Pam answered and picked up the phone.

Jenny and I reached the conference room.  I opened the door and stood aside, allowing her to enter first. “Please, sit wherever you’re comfortable.  Can I get you a cup of coffee, a soft drink or water maybe?”

Jenny collapsed on the chair closest to the door, apparently barely able to hold it all together for much longer.  “A bottle of water would be great.  I’ve been rushing around since five this morning.”

“Is that when you found out she was missing?”  I opened the small refrigerator in the corner of the conference room and
pulled out two bottles of water.

I set one on the table in front of her after taking the time to twist the top to break the seal, a throwback to my bartending days. 

Before she could answer, the door opened and Dallas walked into the room.  His expression was calm and professional, but behind his back he gave me a thumbs-up signal.  “How can we help you, Miss…?”

“Jenny Caldwell, this is Dallas Smith…my brother and also a co-owner of Scandals,” I finished the introductions.

Dallas reached out and shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jenny.”  He sat down across from her. 

I picked up a writing table
t and pen from the sideboard and sat at the head of the table. “She’s here to talk about her sister…”

“She’s gone missing,” Jenny explained.

“How long…?” I started to ask, but the door opened behind me and Tulsa entered.

“Mind if I sit in?” Tulsa asked.  “I’ve been trying to focus on designing our website, but my head’s killing me.”

“No, not at all.”  Inwardly I sighed.  If every member of my new family popped in, I was never going to have a chance to find out about this intriguing young woman’s problem.  Oh, who was I kidding?  I really just wanted to get to know her a little better.  I decided to cut the introductions short.  First I nodded at Jenny, then at Tulsa.  “Jenny…Tulsa who is one of my sisters and yet another co-owner.”

Tulsa and Jenny exchanged friendly nods,
then Tulsa moved to the other end of the table.

“Back to
your
sister,” I tried to get everyone to focus.  “Let’s start with her name.”

“Angela…I call her Angie.”

“How long has she been missing?” I asked again.

“Three days.”

Dallas and Tulsa exchanged skeptical looks, and I had to admit my alarm level dropped dramatically.

Jenny leaned forward in an attempt to convince them of the urgency.  “She’s never done that before.”

“How old is she?” Tulsa asked.

“Twenty.  She’ll be a junior at UT in the fall…graphics arts major.”  Jenny must have realized she was losing her audience
because she heaved a big sigh and slumped back in her chair. 

I felt sorry for her.  I’d lost a few audiences in
my day, and I scrambled to find a way to get the crowd focused again.  “So, you think she’s in danger?”

Jenny’s eyes filled with tears.  “I don’t know.  This isn’t like her.  She never stays out all night without calling or leaving me a note or something...and that
was usually only for field trips or something school related that I knew about in advance.”

“You live together?” Dallas prompted.

Jenny nodded.  “Our parents died five years ago when I was eighteen and Angie was fifteen.  I had just graduated from high school, but I couldn’t let them put her in foster care.  I was able to sell the house and make enough to get us a nice little duplex near the campus.  I found a job at a day care center so I could be home at night to help her with her homework.”  A wisp of a smile touched her lips.  “My mom really wanted us to go to college so I was determined that Angie would finish high school and go to UT.”

“What about you?” I couldn’t resist asking.

“There was only enough money for one of us, and Angie has so much talent.”  Jenny tried to act like it didn’t bother her that she had missed out on college, but I could tell it did.

“So, she’s a twenty-year old college student who didn’t come home after a Friday night party,” Dallas summarized.  “Have you checked
with her friends?  Classmates…teachers…neighbors?”

Jenny shook her head.  “This is going to sound mean, but she doesn’t have any friends…not close friends anyway.  We live on a really tight budget.  I still work at the pre-school and bartend on weekends.  She’s got a full course load every semester, including this summer.  Once a week we’ll hit one of the happy hours on Sixth Street as a treat and to save on food money.  Neither of us ha
s any time for friends.”

BOOK: KILLER DATE (SCANDALS)
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