Contemporary Adult Romance
Orginally published April 2011
54,044 words, 174 pages
1-Flame Sensuality Rating
Love is about to bloom for Mia Stallone…
Photographer Drew Harper's sister is convinced of one thing: the resident of 410 South Elm Street is her husband's mistress. The cheater had sent roses there after all. When Drew helps with a little reconnaissance at that address, he meets Mia - who doesn't seem the mistress type at all. In fact, she seems like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of woman…
Plagued by survivor's guilt from the kind of loss no one could guess, Mia Stallone is afraid to let herself be happy. When Drew shows up in her yard asking questions, she feels a spark she never thought she'd feel again. But is his interest in her only in gaining information for his sister? And will he still love her when he learns the truth behind her loss - or solves the mystery of that rose delivery?
He'd never tried to stop anyone from committing murder before.
It was definitely a nerve-wracking business, Drew Harper realized as he sat tense in the passenger seat of his sister's six-year-old Honda Civic while she blew a four-way stop and careened around a corner, making the tires screech in protest.
He yelped out a curse and clutched the seatbelt strapped over his chest. "What in the world are you doing?"
"I told you not to come," she muttered, her murderous glare fixed steadily ahead.
"Well, what do you expect me to do," he retorted. "When I find you storming out the door with a gun in your hand and muttering something about killing a cheating witch?"
Good Lord, he knew he shouldn't have stopped by her place to raid her refrigerator. But he'd been starving, there'd been no cash in his wallet and his own kitchen was bare of the essentials. And besides, he honestly hadn't expected to find anyone home. His two nieces should be in school, his nephew in day care, and both their parents gone to work. Instead, he'd snuck in the back door to discover Amanda stuffing a handgun into her purse and marching determinedly toward the exit.
"Care to tell me what's going on?" he asked, surprised he was able to sound so casual about the whole situation, when in truth his heart thumped against his ribcage, and he feared he just might have a stroke if his sister blew another—
"Stop light!" he yelled, already bracing himself.
Amanda hit the brake. The seatbelt caught him tight, ripping another stream of curses from his lungs.
"Are you totally out of your mind?" he exploded.
"Last chance to get out," she said from between clenched teeth, sending a meaningful glance toward the curb.
"No," he told her. "Mandy, this is insane. You're a PTA mother for God's sake. What's gotten into you?"
The light turned green. She punched the gas, tearing through the intersection. "Jeffrey's cheating on me."
Drew sucked in a breath. "What?" He knew his brother- in-law looked at other women and occasionally flirted, but touching? He snorted. "No way."
"Way," Mandy growled. Her voice vibrated with emotion and when he glanced over, he realized her entire body quivered from a barely suppressed rage.
He figured arguing with her over the point while she was still in control of the vehicle wasn't smart. So, he more calmly asked, "And you're sure of this because … ?"
"Because I'm not stupid," she hissed. "There's a florist charge on the credit card bill. And that jerk never sent me any flowers. He never sent our daughters flowers. I called his mother today. She hasn't received any flowers. He sent them to his little woman. I just know it."
Drew blew out a breath and scrubbed his hand over his face.
Still trying to think up something logical to say to talk her out of, well, whatever she was trying to do, he sucked in a breath when she jerked the steering wheel to the right and slammed them to a stop. Clambering blindly for the armrest, he looked up, only to find them in a peacefully quiet neighborhood with trees lining the street and a pair of young children playing in the yard a few doors up.
"This is it," she murmured, sounding too malicious for his comfort.
Following her gaze to a small light-green bungalow with white trim, he frowned and glanced toward his sister. Her eyes gleamed with an intensity that, frankly, spooked him.
Turning back, he studied the harmless-looking house. "This is what?" he asked. "Who lives here?"
"Her," Amanda breathed the word. "Jeffrey's mistress."
He blinked. "How do you know?"
"Because I visited the flower shop," Amanda answered. "Half a dozen red roses were delivered to this address … by my loving, faithful husband."
The loathsome sneer in her voice made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. For some reason, he checked the address—410 South Elm—and envisioned the headlines. Mother of Three Commits Murder at 410 S. Elm.
"I can't believe it's true. I can't believe he's really seeing another woman."
Drew came around to find Amanda pulling her purse into her lap and unzipping it.
He reached for the bag. "Mandy," he said, anxiety growing thick in his voice. "Give me the gun."
With a sigh, she shoved the entire purse at him. "Oh, stop worrying. It's not even loaded."
Not taking any chances, Drew checked the chamber. After popping out a live round, he removed the magazine to find it full as well. Arching a look across the seat, he asked, "Not loaded, huh? Then what do you call these? Fake bullets?"
Her jaw dropped. "That jerk. I told Jeffrey not to keep any of his guns loaded with our kids in the house. He promised he wouldn't."
Drew stared at the bullets, wondering what that meant about Jeff's word, when the front door to 410 South Elm came open. Together, both siblings whirled to watch the solitary figure that emerged.
Drew's jaw dropped. "Wow," the word was pulled from him.
But really. Wow.
The woman was slim and small, just the size he liked. No thanks to his parents, he was a tad vertically challenged and felt self-conscious around tall women. He liked being the larger, more masculine half of a couple. But this petite female was, well, she was perfect.