Book 2 of the
A cold case is suddenly too hot to handle...
Police officer Rowan Winchester wants nothing to do with his family's A-list Hollywood legacy. Working with the LAPD is his way of atoning for the Winchesters' dark and secretive past. And, right now, the last thing Rowan needs is true-crime novelist Evie Fleming nosing around the most notorious deaths in Los Angeles - including the ones that haunt his own family.
To make things worse, he's torn between wanting the wickedly smart writer out of his city... and just plain wanting her.
While researching her latest book, Evie suspects that a dangerous new killer is prowling the
City of Angels. Now she just has to convince the devastatingly handsome cop that she's right. Soon Evie and Rowan are working together to try to find the killer, even as their attraction ignites.
But when the killer hones in on Evie, she and Rowan realize they'll have to solve this case fast if they want to stay alive.
Read an Exclusive Excerpt of
After a quick stop at her home to get a change of boots , they reached the Santa Susanna Pass state park, whose land included what had once been the Spahn movie set, and she realized it would have been far more difficult to find her way around on her own. He knew exactly where to park, and which guard rail to step over. The ranch certainly wasn’t on any trail map. But once they were near it, there was a trail. Lots of Manson lookey-loos still came out here. The dead cult leader’s mystique had lingered for decades, and would probably continue to linger on for many more.
“Everything’s pretty well gone, isn’t it?” she said as they explored scrubby, empty land where old-fashioned stores and saloons had once stood, serving as backdrops for some famous Hollywood western films and TV shows.
“Yeah. All the set buildings burned down in the early 70s.”
“Yes, at the same time the trials were taking place.”
The fire was not long after Charlie and his “family” had gone on their reign of terror. Although the cause was a spreading wildfire, she couldn’t help thinking locals probably would have happily set it themselves, torching the blighted land from which so much evil had sprouted.
It didn’t take long for Evie to figure out layout of the “town.” There were no scraps of metal or wood, nothing that hadn’t been scavenged by Manson-fans long ago. It was just dusty, empty space. Nearly fifty years after its last human inhabitants, the area had been reclaimed by Mother Nature, which was for the best, as far as she was concerned.
"I looked up how to get down to the cave,” Rowan said once she indicated she was finished up here. “It’s going to be a little iffy; you’ll probably be glad you changed your boots.”
She was already glad. The last thing she wanted to do was fall around here. Not just because of the jagged rocks, some hidden beneath tall scrub, but also because of the poison oak. Not to mention the rumored snakes.
Less than five minutes later, she discovered that the rumors were true.
When she spotted the curled-up rattlesnake lying almost directly at the entrance to the overgrown trail that led down to the infamous cave, she let out a surprised little shriek.
“It’s okay,” he snapped. “Be quiet.”
After that one squeal, her vocal cords had stopped functioning, so being quiet wasn’t a big problem. Of course, her feet had stopped working, too. And she might have come close to peeing her pants.
The snake—a big one, as far as she was concerned, but what snake wasn’t?—had spotted them. Its head rose from its coiled body, and it stared and hissed. The tail sticking out at the bottom of wound-up pile of teeth, venom, and slitheriness began to quiver, making that unmistakable sound that had also somehow been deemed appropriate for little baby toys.
“Back up slowly,” he murmured, taking her arm and pulling her with him.
“I hate snakes, Rowan,” she whispered.
“You’re okay. He’s more scared of you than you are of him.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“He’s just protecting his territory.”
The animal could become king of the ranch as far as she was concerned.
When they were about fifteen feet away from the creature, it lowered its head and settled back down into its sunny spot, but it kept looking in their direction. Evie had the feeling it had no intention of going anywhere. It wasn’t like they’d scared it out of their path, but he’d definitely scared her out of his.
“You okay?” he asked, turning and placing both hands on her shoulders. His expression and tone were concerned.
“Yeah, I think so. But I’ve seen enough. Ready to go? I could really use a corn dog. Or pizza. You want some pizza?”
He stared at her, a tiny smile on his lips. “You really are scared of snakes?”
“I didn’t think you were afraid of anything, Evie Fleming.” He shook his head. “You go up against a serial killer, you fight with a mugger, but a three-foot-long animal who hisses at you sends you running?”
Glaring, she replied, “Everybody has one weakness, okay? My stupid brother dragged me to see Snakes on a Plane when we were in high school. I never recovered.”
“You have a brother?”
She nodded. “Two actually, one older and one younger.”
“Wow, so do I. One older, one younger.”
Smirking, she said, “Yeah, I’ve heard.”
“To think I didn’t know that about you.”
“There are plenty of things you don’t know about me. But that’s okay, I don’t know a whole lot about you either.”
“Except what the entire world has seen in every tabloid on the planet since I was six years old.”
“But then almost nothing since you left Hollywood when you were, what, twelve? Thirteen?”
She had always assumed the death of his only sister was what had driven the boys out of Hollywood. Although he had only mentioned Rachel once or twice, she suspected the bond had been very tight and that none of the brothers had ever truly gotten over the loss. Her brothers were a pain in her ass sometimes, but she didn’t even want to think about losing them.
“I don’t think cops rate tabloid covers.”
“True. But I mean, there are a lot of things I don’t know about you from that point in your life on.” Licking her lips, she went on. “Maybe we’ll start letting each other in on some of those things.”
He met her eye and she knew he heard her unasked question. She wasn’t flat-out saying he should just tell her whatever it was he didn’t want to get out about Harry Baker. But she’d like to think there might be a chance for them to someday be more open with each other.
Frankly, it was about time she was open with him about her side project. And she would be. Tomorrow.
“We’ll see, Evie,” he finally replied. “Now, you ready to go, great snake chicken?”
“Oh shut up. Everybody’s got an Achilles Heel. You watch for the snakes. If we see a tarantula along the way back, I’ll take care of it.”
He visibly shuddered before he could stop himself.
She laughed out loud. “You’re scared of bugs?”
“Tarantulas aren’t bugs. Haven’t you heard? They’re mutant creatures from another planet.”
“And once they’re all here, a sun flare is going to blow them all up to the size of swingsets. There’ll be intergalactic wars and we’re gonna need Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, and we better just hope water burns their skin.”
Her laughter turned into a peal of giggles. He managed to maintain a serious tone despite his ridiculous words.
“Swingsets?” she asked, that one image having popped foremost in her mind. “Why the size of swingsets? Why not cars or something?”
“Because Reece once threw a spider down my shirt when we were on the swings. And that’s when I learned their whole plot.”
Her giggles continued.
“I’ve been watching for swingsets outside of playgrounds everywhere I go.”
“You said they’d be the size of swingsets, not that they’d disguise themselves as them.”
“It is a perfect disguise, you have to admit. All those legs.”
“I think if every spider blew up into the size of a swingset, they wouldn’t be too worried about being disguised. The secret would pretty well be out.” She smiled brightly at him, knowing he’d intentionally teased her out of the snake-mood, not to mention the darkness of what they’d come here to do. And it had worked. Damn, the man was likable. “So we have a deal. You watch for snakes, and I’ll watch for spiders.”
He stuck out a hand. She shook it. And they grinned at each other.
“Just remember,” he said once they let go. “Spiders come in all sizes, and you agreed to take care of them. I threw up in the theater when that crazy ass one rolled Frodo up in that web, so if we see him, just so you know, I’m running my ass off.”
“And if I see a snake as big as the one in Anaconda, I’ll be standing on top of your head to get away from it.”
“Okay, ‘cause I know you have had enough of these motherfuckin’ snakes on this motherfuckin’ trail.”
“Ack! Don’t ever quote that movie to me again.”
They started walking, and she soon heard him mumble, “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
“Would you please shut up? If not, I am going to have to feed you to the giant spider from the woods near Hogwarts. I think she’s even bigger than the one Frodo got webbed by.”
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