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Former runaway Mari Del Lobo works hard to save her struggling restaurant and to trust people again. Dallas surgeon Dr. Luke Goodman turns her world upside down with terrifying news. A recent murder has her late brother's - aka the Smiling Killer - signature and MO. When attacks on her escalate, Mari fights her growing attraction to the good doctor as fiercely as she fights for her life. To rescue herself and those she loves, will she be able to stop the murderer before he strikes again?
Luke couldn't save his fiancée from the Smiling Killer, but he'll do anything to prevent more murders, even ask help from the serial killer's sister. Finding a kindred tortured soul and the perpetrator's next target in Mari, Luke is determined to protect the stubborn ex-rebel. But Mari would rather face danger than risk the safety of the man she comes to love.
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Luke approached the road Mari was taking at ninety degrees. Her motorcycle was dashing between cars. His jaw dropped. Was someone after her?
Saying a quick prayer for her safety, he floored the gas pedal and came to the intersection at full speed.
Ignoring the red light, he turned to the right, wedging himself into traffic before the oncoming car. Angry honking exploded behind him. But he could only concentrate on Mari’s figure that was rapidly disappearing in front of him. With no opening to his left, he passed the car in front of him by driving on the shoulder. Now he had a duet of honking cars. Shrugging it off, he moved to the left, afraid she was running away from somebody. But what if it was her usual way of driving?
He turned on his left blinker, and the car in the passing lane slowed down, letting him in, probably the driver figuring it was safer anyway. He repeated the maneuver several times and arrived at The Café’s parking lot.
Mari’s lanky figure was moving toward the entrance. He jumped out of his car and gave chase. He caught up with her before she reached the door.
“What was it?” He was breathing hard. “Was somebody after you? Or do you like riding between cars?”
“I do.” She turned around.
He clenched his teeth. What was she thinking? “You were putting yourself and other people in danger!”
“But I haven’t done it for an adrenaline rush in forever. And not this time. Somebody tried to run me off the road. I had to get away.”
Cold ran down his back. “How do you know?”
“Something about the way he was trying to hit my motorcycle might have given him away.” Mari placed her hands on her hips, but her lower lip trembled slightly. “The guy was wearing dark glasses, a gray T-shirt, and a cowboy hat. Not much to go on. He was driving a black SUV with tinted windows.”
The same type of car that had rushed out of the hospital parking lot the night before. “Did you get the license plate number?”
Teasing sparks danced in her eyes, and her lip wasn’t trembling anymore. “Nope. I was too busy trying not to be run off the road. I’ll text Aidan about it regardless. By the way, I have doubts now you’re the one threatening me. You couldn’t be in SUV and your car at the same time.”
“Thanks. I think.” He heaved a sigh of relief. “I don’t believe you helped Antonio to kill those girls. And I’m sure you didn’t kill June.”
“Because I was at The Café at the time. You checked my alibi, didn’t you?” She narrowed her eyes.
“That, too. Do you trust me now?”
“I don’t have much choice. We have to find the murderer before he kills somebody else, me included. One more thing. I probably overreacted at home,” Mari said.
Luke opened his arms, and she accepted his embrace. He stroked her short hair, so soft under his fingertips, and her fragile shoulders, and his heart melted. How was it possible that in such a short time she’d become so important to him? Her fight was his fight now.
“I’ll keep you safe,” he whispered.
Mari was still alive, and he’d gained some of her trust back.
Probably just in time. It seemed that with Mari every extra day she lived was already a victory.
* * *A NOTE FROM ALEXA
I love traveling, though I'm starting to get cautious When visiting caverns in the heart of Texas, I passed a more adventurous tour in favor of a regular one. Not only because I don't enjoy darkness and heights too much. Some openings seemed to be too narrow to my liking, and I didn't want to follow the bright example of Winnie the Pooh who got stuck in the Rabbit's house doorframe. Granted, we probably wouldn't be required to go through such openings, but why take the risk?
However, I like to make my characters do what, frankly, I don't have the guts to do. So when they go the caverns to uncover a clue essential for the investigation, methinks I'll make them do some serious climbing, crawling, rapelling, and maybe even turn off the lights on them.
In compensation, I'll send my characters on the Rhine river cruise in Germany. I've been there. It's beautiful. I might even resist the temptation to make one of them fall overboard. I like it that in the book, we can go anywhere safely.
Great Wall of China and Louvre Museum in Paris are on the list of places I'd like to visit (not just in books, for real). And wouldn't they make a great setting for a romantic suspense novel?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?