Monday, November 7, 2011
Skip-tracer Renee Stratford-Knight's life is becoming stable again. Eighteen months prior, the murder of her sister and the soon-to-follow collapse of her marriage left her reeling. She made it through those dark days with the help of family, embracing faith and starting her own skip-tracing business, New Beginnings, which specializes in relocating abused women. Now, her ex-husband -- and former business partner -- Jonas Knight shows up asking about her most vulnerable client.
Jonas knows his ex-wife helped embezzler Gina Howard elude the authorities and plans to bring the young woman to justice. When Renee is threatened, Jonas grows suspicious of his client's reason for finding his niece. In order to uncover the secrets their clients hold, Jonas and Renee must struggle through distrust and the pain of their pasts to work together to save the life of a teenage girl -- and their own.
Renee locked the apartment up tight and took the stairs. Gripping the rail, she plodded down the steps, each step draining energy. The eventual battle with Jonas weighed down her spirit. She didn't want to relive the painful moments of her life.
She stepped onto the ground floor, tugged open the door leading to the back parking lot and walked outside. A cold breeze played along her skin, drifting against her unprotected neck. The impulsive summer haircut she chose that winter over the hairdresser's recommendations no longer symbolized independence to her but teenage rebellion.
She tugged up the small collar of her leather coat. "Showed him, didn't I."
Hands clapped. Renee halted under the dim lights of the outside doors. Her heart rate accelerated as she looked around the darkening area. Parked in the lot were three cars and a van. She swallowed hard and stared at the windows of the van, trying to make out any figures. Placing her hand into her front pocket, she pressed her thumb onto the keypad of her cell phone. She sent out a heads-up message to her brother.
Jonas stepped into the light, a sarcastic smile stretching across his face. Better to face a known enemy than an unknown one. She typed another message to her brother. False read. Lord, let that work to keep Alex at home rather than charging to the rescue.
"Your skills at deception have gotten better." Jonas loomed over her.
"I learned from the best." Regret tugged at her conscience as the words left her mouth. She pushed it away. If she allowed Jonas to get the upper hand, then she offered an opportunity for his words to steal away her confidence.
She tilted her head back and locked onto his storm-cloud gray eyes, standing in place even though her neck muscles ached. She promised herself not to ever allow a man to make her feel powerless. The streetlights allowed her to see her reflection in his eyes. As he studied her face, his gaze softened. He reached out, fingers lingering by her cheek.
The air between them crackled. A shiver raced through Renee and she fought the instinct to lean those few inches toward his touch. They were divorced. They no longer meant anything to each other. She drew back but not before awareness crept into his gaze. He knew. He sensed it.
Time to end the silent duel, and leave. Now. She held in a frustrated sigh as she asked the question Jonas silently demanded. "What do you want?"
"Gina Howard's location."
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