BY: MONA KAREL
Rosalind Summerton led a charmed existence, right up to the day she accepted an invitation to visit a family in the Middle East and learn more about the culture up close and personal. It became far too up close, and she barely escaped with her life. She no longer has faith in herself as a survivor, and she needs to stay somewhere that she can see miles in every direction. Cold would also be nice.
Tyler Randolph has lost faith in himself and his judgement of people, especially women, after his wife left, along with his truck, trailer, and horse. He’s wondering why he’s bothering. Until he meets his new tenant: tall, sexy, intriguing—and scared.
Can these two cautious people have enough faith to try one more time?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In A Question of Faith by Mona Karel, we return to Stormhaven, this time with Rosalind Summerton, who goes to the New Mexico ranch after a harrowing experience in the Middle East. While she thinks her ordeal is over and she just needs a quiet place to recuperate, she is soon proven wrong. She and Tyler Randolph, the owner of the ranch, get off on the wrong foot when Ty thinks she’s a romance author, which he doesn’t like because it reminds him of his ex-wife, who used to read them all the time. But Ty is a sucker for wounded spirits and Roz soon earns his sympathy for what she has been through. But when she refuses to be a victim and shows not only a survival mentality, but a determined strength and character he doesn’t expect her to have, she also earns his respect—and his love. Now all he has to do is keep her safe and protect her from the scum who are trying to recapture her to use for their own nefarious purposes.
Karel really has a way with words, weaving a sexy romance into a “black ops” thriller. Her characters and their trials and tribulations are scarily realistic, making you fidget with tension while turning pages as fast as you can.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: A Question of Faith by Mona Karel is the second in her electrifying new romantic thriller series, Stormhaven Love Stories. Stormhaven is just that—a haven against the storm of PTSD—a ranch in rural New Mexico where anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome can find sanctuary, much-needed peace and quiet, privacy, and sympathetic comrades. The usual refugees are combat veterans, who have seen too much death and destruction and need a place to de-stress. So Stormhaven’s owner, Tyler Randolph, is a bit taken aback when Rosalind Summerton, a successful high-fashion model and author, rents a small cabin on the ranch. But as Ty soon learns, Roz is suffering from PTSD just as much as any soldier, having recently been rescued from being abducted and held as a hostage in the Middle East. Now the terrorists are after her, as well as elite “black ops” units, both of whom want to use her for their own purposes, which are hardly in her best interests. The bad guys want to use her as an example of “wicked American whores” and a patsy/scapegoat for their plot to kill innocent civilians. The good guys—if you can call them that—want answers Roz doesn’t even have, and they don’t care how much they harm her in the process of getting them. Roz and Ty clash at first, but as their relationship heats up, so does the danger. But Ty is determined to protect her from everything…even herself.
A Question of Faith is an excellent, well-written sequel to A Question of Honor. I loved Roz! She was so strong yet so vulnerable, you just can’t help rooting for her. As the plot revs up, along with Ty and Roz’s relationship, you’ll end up both cheering in triumph and screaming in dismay. It’s not a book you can read without getting emotionally involved—one you will want to keep on your shelf to read again and again.
Whoever came up with the expression “cursing a blue streak” must have shared an early winter morning with cowboys. Certainly the good-natured grumbling could turn the air blue, though the day seemed cold enough to freeze words in mid-speech. Rosalind wondered if, like Paul Bunyan’s story, the words would thaw, come spring, and shock someone walking near the barns.
She laughed at her whimsy, at the morning, at the freedom of standing in the snow under a lowering sky filled with billowing clouds edged in early dawn, with nothing blocking her vision for miles. For the moment, life was good.
The morning chill seeped through her new shearling jacket, sending tendrils of cold under the hem to tickle her body. Big city winter gear wasn’t up to this mountain weather, even when she tried to conserve heat by squatting on a tree stump. Under stiff jeans, goose bumps rose along her folded legs, and despite the heavy flannel of her shirt, her nipples were painfully taut. She reached up to run her fingers through familiar long, thick hair, only to encounter short, coarse strands flattened under a wool cap, and she took a quick breath, remembering why the color was somewhere around dark drab, instead of the normal rich mink brown, although these days she didn’t look in the mirror long enough to remember. The lack of silky weight on her neck reminded her enough all by itself.
Memories threatened, but in this morning’s clean open air she could ignore them. Only at night, trapped within walls shrouded in night’s shadows, did she wish for the oblivion of amnesia. A coward’s way out, perhaps. She’d proven to herself she was not the stuff of which heroes were made.
For now, in this place of open skies and cold air, she could push away those memories and enjoy the moment, watching cowboys prepare well bred horses for a day’s work. Listening to them grumble good-naturedly, and filing away the cadence of their voices for possible future use. Since her arrival two days before at the secluded ranch in the mountains of northern New Mexico, the men had been polite but distant. They acknowledged her presence as a guest, returned her greetings, but didn’t go out of their way to interfere with whatever she did. It was comforting to know she was accepted but wouldn’t be bothered.
The walk-through barn door opened, and a new man joined the group. Physically he didn’t seem much larger than most of the others, but his carriage and movement drew her eye. From the reaction of the gathered crew, turning their attention in his direction, it looked like the boss man was back from his trip. The group exchanged smiles and nods, then one of the cowboys pointed in her direction
The new man looked up the slope. Rosalind sank lower, automatically minimizing her height. They couldn’t possibly see her sitting so still in the shadow of the trees. She felt her tension ease when the cowboys mounted then moved off after a final exchange of good-natured grousing, the horses streaming clouds through their nostrils like amiable dragons.
Unfortunately, the boss man was still coming her way. Perhaps the men who shared her arrival hadn’t seen her, and he wasn’t actually looking for her. Perhaps if she sat very still, he would walk on by and up to the charming old house on the hill. She recognized the memory of being hunted.
His voice was deep and smooth, like fine whiskey and old traditions. Laughter and years spent under the sun and wind left lines etched in his face, bracketing bright blue-green eyes. He removed his hat as he approached, revealing thick sun-gold hair. Merciful heavens, the man was a walking billboard for cowboys.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here to greet you when you first arrived. I’m Tyler Randolph. Welcome to Stormhaven.” He removed the glove from his right hand and held it, plus his hat, in his left hand. Rosalind stood as she slid off her own glove to grasp his hand briefly. Large and calloused, strong, capable, and…warm. She felt the warmth easing into her skin and up her arm. She’d been cold for so very long.
“No problem, Mr. Randolph. Everyone has been most helpful, especially your housekeeper, and your ranch has more than met my requirements.” She pulled her fingers back, missing the warmth of his hand.
His eyes were on a level with hers, though he stood downslope. Head tilted, he squinted a bit against the sun, as though he was trying to see her more clearly among the dark trees. How polite he was, pretending to want to get a closer look at her.
She knew he saw legs that were too long and thin. A body that bypassed slender and dove straight to gaunt. The mane of hair that once was her major attraction was gone, of course. The sad remnants were currently hidden under her knit cap. Her eyes hadn’t changed, still that irritating purple that made people think she had the IQ of an eggplant.
Not that it mattered what he thought. Of course not.
His lips quirked in a smile it seemed he shared only with her. “Since I received your request through a third party, I’m curious, what were your requirements?”
“Some place cold and peaceful, with no hunting.” Actually, she wanted somewhere as far away from the desert, guns, and death as she could get.
“You rented the cabin for six months, are you taking a long vacation from work?”
“Not really. I needed some time alone, and since I’m self-employed it doesn’t matter where I work.”
“What kind of work, if I can be nosy?”
The private smile slipped away as if it had never been on his lips, and she felt the cold seep once again into her bones. “Oh? What do you write?”
“Whatever sells.” Generally she didn’t share this very personal part of her life, particularly not with someone she just met.
“I hear those romances sell.” His voice could not have held more scorn.
“They certainly do,” she said, not bothering to confirm or deny what she wrote. “So do thrillers, mysteries, and many end of the world by destruction books.”
His well-shaped lips flattened into a smirk, and he swept one of those warm hands through his thick hair before settling the Western hat on his head, pulling it down as if for emphasis.
“At least those have some real content.”
“Because they’re written about death and destruction and the ugly side of life, instead of about hope and the belief in a possible happy future between two people?” She would not give him the satisfaction of rolling her eyes, but she couldn’t stop the breath escaping from her lips.
There was no mistaking the sincerity in his expression. “Because they’re about reality, not some fancied up nonsense glossed over with sex.”
He was serious, whatever the reason for his opinion. “Yes, the world coming to an end tomorrow due to an asteroid or volcano or weather inversion is definitely reality. Not to mention a zombie apocalypse.” Realizing if she continued, she was liable to say or do something she might come to regret, she took a deep breath and strove for a less aggressive tone. “Personally, there’s too much reality in our world these days. We all deserve a nice dose of fantasy from time to time.” She managed a smile, though she could feel her teeth grind. This sort of discussion hadn’t bothered her for years. When had her habitual easy dialogue disappeared?
“Waste of time in my opinion,” he muttered.
“It’s obvious you aren’t helping contribute to the financial needs of writers, Mr. Randolph.” This time she managed a smile, one practiced enough to be wide and bright, despite the dull surrounding features that remained makeup free.
He stared at her, his mouth opening as if to respond, only to close slowly, no doubt wondering where that smile came from. He shook his head before tugging the brim of his hat, jamming it lower on his head. “Everyone’s entitled to their own point of view, I guess.”
“They certainly are.” She watched him turn away and suddenly felt colder than ever.
Fresh snow squeaked under his boots as Ty strode uphill to his house, reaching for and not achieving the calm he usually found when returning to the ranch. What started out as a pleasant conversation with an attractive stranger had sure deteriorated fast. But knowing the person sharing his ranch for the next six months wrote the kind of books his worthless ex-wife had been addicted to didn’t sit well with him. He tried to recall what Rosalind Summerton looked like without turning around. Her words, spoken softly as though her throat hurt, kept him from remembering much more than a wide mouth, odd-colored eyes, and hair hidden by a wool cap. She did seem awfully thin, probably one of those women who was afraid to gain an ounce, thinking her lunch buddies would make fun of her.
He stomped up the stone steps and out of the cold, letting the door slam behind him in a satisfactory manner.
“Take off your boots, Tyler Randolph, before you track up my floor,” Maria, his diminutive housekeeper, called out from the kitchen. She liked doing floors least of any part of housework, but refused to give in. Once the floors were done, she was obsessive about keeping him off of them.
“I missed you too, Maria.” He padded in stockinged feet to the cozy warmth of the big family kitchen, having left his outerwear in the front room. Enticing odors of all-day-long cooking wafted from the oven, along with the ambrosia of fresh-brewed coffee.
“You go on a trip, you come back.” She shrugged, poured out a mug of coffee, and set it in front of him. “You want to be missed, get yourself a wife. I have better things to do.”
He wrapped his hand around the hot coffee mug and took a deep, appreciative sip. “You’re in a good mood this morning. Bad night on the town?”
She didn’t respond to the jibe, turning back to the stove to check a boiling pot. She seldom left the ranch, except to shop. “My sister called yesterday. Her husband gets out of jail soon, and she’s worried.”
“He went in for abusing her, didn’t he?” Ty sipped at his coffee, watching for her nod, and waited for more information. Maria continued working at the stove. “You know she’s welcome to come out here and stay, if she wants.”
“The children are doing well in school. It wouldn’t be fair to change them now.” She set a plate of pancakes and bacon in front of him, and went back to cleaning.
“Do you want me to send someone to help her?”
The offer was considered seriously before she shook her head. “No, it could make things worse right now. Maybe later. I might need to go there myself for a while, if that would be all right.”
“I think I can avoid starving for a while. There’s always frozen dinners.” Usually that brought a scold. When she didn’t offer her usual acerbic comment, he knew she was worried. “Whatever you need, let me know.” Then, to distract her, “Have you met our new tenant?”
Now she did turn away from the stove, her expression lightening. “Miss Summerton? Of course. She’s a lovely young woman, but so thin. I think she’s been sick.”
“She’s a writer,” he bit out, before he could control himself.
She smiled at his growl. “Everyone makes money somehow, Tyler.”
“Well, as long as she stays out of my way.”
Now she did frown at him. “Your mother raised you to have better manners than you’re showing. That young woman has seen some bad times. The least you can do is try to be polite to her.”
Taken aback by Maria’s comment, Ty hesitated, staring at the shiny oil floating on top of his coffee. “What makes you think she’s seen some bad times? Her clothes look new and not cheap, and she was able to rent the cottage for cash up front.”
“Money isn’t the only reason for bad times. You should know that.”
“Not for ranchers,” he shot back, ignoring the twinge of guilt as he almost agreed with Maria’s chastisement. “At least not most of the ones I know.”
“Well, she’s kept to herself so far, but she seems careful to look around before she goes anywhere.” She paused, the toast-colored skin on her brow pulling tight. “And her lights stay on most of the night.”
“Maybe that’s her writing schedule. You know she writes those romances like Lana used to read?”
Maria frowned, spoon held over the mixing bowl. “She told you that?”
“Yes–” He stopped and thought back through the brief exchange, before reluctantly admitting, “No, maybe not. Not sure now if she did tell me what she wrote.”
“You might ask her again. Even if she does write romances, she writes books that make other people happy. What’s wrong with that?” Maria continued mixing the batter. “You are usually tolerant.”
“Well, Stormhaven needs the money from her rental, and it’s not as though she’s going to get in my way much.”
An undignified snort sounded. “That will be difficult. She’ll be eating dinner here tonight, and so will you.” When she looked up, her smile seemed way too smug.
“I knew you’d be home tonight and you would want to have your guest come for dinner.”
For a minute, Ty wondered if Maria was giving in to her occasional urge to matchmake, then he decided she was simply being nice to another lost soul. “I don’t see where dinner will be much of a problem. She probably doesn’t eat much anyway. What are we having?”
“I’ve made a pot roast with winter vegetables and we’ll have biscuits and a salad.”
“I guess the salad’s for our guest?” He really tried to keep the disdain out of his voice.
“No, the salad’s for me.” Laced with humor, the answer came from a new voice behind him.
Ty spun around to see his best friend’s wife in the entryway. “When did you get in, and where’s Dev?”
“He’s bringing in something from the car. We got in about an hour ago. We had a quick delivery from Phoenix to Denver, so we dropped back down when we were done.” She said this all in a rush as she deposited her scarf, gloves and coat on a chair, then ruffled her short hair.
Ty enveloped her in an embrace, wondering once again at how short she was–her personality always made her seem much larger–and at how lucky his best friend was to find this woman.
“You manhandling my wife, Randolph?” Speak of the devil. Devin stepped in and leaned a shoulder against the doorjamb.
Ty grinned, but didn’t let go of the female in his arms. “Just thinking about what I might need to do to take her away from your sorry self.”
Sydney pushed him away with an indelicate snort. “Looks like I got here in time to save you from degenerating into a narrow-minded, right-leaning bigot, you old rancher you.”
Feigning taking a hit, he clamped a hand to his chest and stumbled back a step or two. “See what happens when you’re not around to keep me in line?”
“We have someone else around now who can maybe teach Tyler to have more respect for women with spine,” Maria called out from the kitchen.
Curiosity sharpened Sydney’s attention. “Oh, what’s this?”
Hoping to nip whatever hare-brained ideas were floating around inside Sydney’s skull, he explained, “I took a six month rental on the cottage through our agent. Didn’t know at the time it was a woman. Turns out she’s a writer.”
Excitement lit her face. “Wonder if I’ve read any of her work?”
“Doubt it, she writes those romances,” Ty said.
The smile breaking across her face was filled with mischief. “You think I don’t read romance?”
Folding his arms across his chest, Ty shot back, “Thought you’d be more of the war lord/soldier of fortune type reader.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Why would I want to read about shooting people and crawling through the jungle? I lived through enough of that myself.” Though it was said with a laugh, there was a grim note in her voice. Before Ty could apologize, she shook her head and gave him a small smile.
“So, you’re saying you read romances because you don’t get enough romance in your life?” Devin’s deep voice rumbled through the room and his hard face softened into a rare smile.
She shrugged, her gaze bright. “Well, no one’s brought me flowers or carried me through a crowd of cheering peasants lately.”
Before she could continue, he swept over and lifted her in his arms, twirling her around until she shrieked with laughter. The trio moved into the kitchen.
“Enough, be careful of the walls!” Maria warned, eyeing the couple. “I don’t know if you two are a good influence on Tyler anymore.”
They laughed. Devin let his wife slide down to the floor, then turned to Ty. “So, hanging good?”
“’Bout the same. You?”
“Can’t complain. Been in the damned city too much but other than that, holding up okay.”
“You here for long this trip?”
“Depends on if we get a call. For now, we’re just hanging out. Syd’s gotta check in later.” He headed to the counter where Maria set out another cup of coffee. “So, you have a guest?”
“Someone rented the cabin for six months. Sorry, old man, thought you’d be gone for a while.”
Devin brought the cup up and indulged before responding. “No prob. Takes too long to warm up if we’re only going to be around for a couple days. Who’s the tenant?”
Ty blew out a breath. “You’ll get to meet her. Maria’s invited her to dinner.”
The sun eased behind the mountains, lengthening the shadows as Rosalind prepared for dinner with her landlord. A short nap helped restore some energy but it generally took being outside, facing the wide expanse of snow covered plains with no visual obstruction, before she was able to breathe normally. Set among pine trees, the cabin was charming and private, but none of the windows were very large, and most faced the pine trees or the mountain, giving her the sensation of being closed in.
Being outside as much as possible was helping, as well as using the daylight for sleep. Since sleeping all night was still impossible, she spent that time losing herself in her writing, lights blazing to hold the dark at bay. She promised her future self many hours of sleep in a dark room with covers pulled to her chin. Another issue to lay at the door of her own foolishness. For now, she drew in a deep breath of open air and readied herself for a brisk walk.
Multiple layers protected her body from the crisp cold air: silk long underwear, flannel-lined jeans, a wool sweater, and her shearling jacket. A wool scarf covered her hair and a woolen hat on top of that held in the warmth. A hood might be more efficient, but hoods blocked too much of her vision. Her feet were covered by silk socks, then thick wool, and stuffed into fur lined boots. She was ready to head up to the house.
Someone had shoveled a path between her cabin and the other buildings. Grateful, she made a mental note to find out who to thank, as she stepped back inside long enough to pick up a powerful flashlight for the walk back.
Sounds of disturbance drew her along the path. A small woman, well bundled, dashed into an open area, closely followed by a larger male, clad only in a flannel shirt, jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat. He closed the distance between them quickly. As he reached out to grab the woman, she dropped as if she had tripped. Then Rosalind watched the man flying through the air, turning neatly to land on his knees in a snow bank.
The woman immediately pounced and what Rosalind initially assumed were sounds of fright turned out to be hysterical laughter as the woman shoved handfuls of snow down the man’s neck.
Pulling back quietly, Rosalind decided to leave what was about to become an intimate scene when both bodies stilled, and their heads turned simultaneously in her direction.
The couple stood, the man using his hat to brush snow from his legs. The woman studied her with a small, polite smile. “Hello, you must be Rosalind. We were coming down to escort you to dinner.”
“Ha!” The man bumped the small woman with his hip but she slid away before it could have any impact. “You were trying to sneak out and meet her before I could so you could have girly-girl talk.”
Rosalind could only gape, speechless, while trying to bring her skittering emotions under control. The smaller woman hesitated then stepped forward alone, lightly touching the large man’s hand as she did so. “I’m Sydney.” She hesitated, glanced over her shoulder with an impish grin. “Sydney Starke.”
Rosalind thought she heard a grumbled “Damned right, you are” but considering the man wore a slight smile and his gaze held a proprietary glint, it seemed more of a fake complaint.
“My glowering over-protective husband, Devin,” Sydney offered.
Rosalind nodded but did not step forward. “Rosalind Summerton, but you obviously know that already.” She extended her hand, then smiled when their clasp was more a matter of thick gloves than joined fingers.
Sydney peered closely into the shade cast by Rosalind’s hat. “Are you all right?”
Rosalind tensed then offered her brightest smile. “Never better. I think the air here is more restoring than good champagne.”
From the expression on the small woman’s face, she obviously wasn’t as convincing as she’d hoped. “I know, we miss it when we have to go to a city.” Sydney stepped to the side, waving Rosalind forward.
They started up to the house together and Rosalind decided to make small talk. “Do you go to cities often?”
“That all depends on where the jobs take us. We work free-lance and sometimes end up in a city.”
Remembering the concrete canyons of the city closing in on her, Rosalind muttered, “This is so much more beautiful.”
“Yeah, it’s rough to leave but great to get back. We’re hoping to build our own place here soon, further away from the main part of the ranch. Devin used to live in the cabin you’re renting.” She glanced across to her husband and shared a small smile.
Sydney waved her hand. “Not to worry, we’re here so rarely, you’re more than welcome to stay.”
They came into the house and began removing layers. Uncovered, Sydney was even smaller than Rosalind had thought, but her body displayed a toughness under the soft rose colored sweater.
Gloves came off, revealing a spectacular set of nails.
Catching the direction of Rosalind’s gaze, Syd held her hand up, showing them off with a comic flair. “Yeah, it’s my one real indulgence. Gotta keep the fingers decorated.”
Rosalind kept her own hands curled, not wanting to reveal the still healing nailbeds and ragged quicks earned when she tried to dig her way out of a stone cell.
As the wrappings transferred from bodies to convenient resting places, Sydney’s eyes narrowed as she took a closer look at Rosalind. “Somehow I think we’ve met before.”
Rosalind shrugged, half turning away while she attempted to fluff her hair. “Anything is possible. I’ve been a lot of places.”
“Not sure if we’ve met in person or…something. You look familiar.”
“Maybe you saw her on the back of a book?” Tyler strolled into the room, hands in the pockets of his Western-cut slacks. “She writes and must be successful to afford the rent on that cottage.”
Silence fell with a heavy weight. Devin turned his head abruptly, brows gathering in a frown. Mouth pressed in a straight line, Tyler seemed embarrassed by his tone as well as his words, but he plunged on. “Nothing wrong with writing books. Too bad some books give people false ideas.”
“Like people meeting and building lives?” Rosalind shot back.
“Like happily ever after. It doesn’t exist.”
“Umm, Ty?” Sydney glanced over at Devin and back, with a slight smile softening the determined lines on her face.
Tyler flipped one large hand in the air. “You guys are still on your honeymoon.”
“And will be for the next forty or so years.” Devin held out a glass of whiskey to his friend and partner. “Anyone else?”
Sydney took a glass of wine, Rosalind shook her head then sucked in a deep breath. “What is your real problem with romance books?”
Sydney and Devin drew a collective gasp.
“My wife read romance books, Ms. Summerton. She used them as her escape from the reality of being the wife of a working rancher. When she left, she took my truck, my trailer, and my prize stallion. She left her books behind.”
Rosalind hesitated, searching for the rest of the story. Ty’s voice was cold but a sense of loss, of failure, emanated from the large rancher. “She was a dedicated reader, and she left her books behind?”
“Made for a really great fire that winter, warmed me more than she ever did.”
Rosalind frowned and noticed the other two avoided her gaze, but Sydney seemed pensive. Then she tipped her wine glass up to her mouth, finishing the dark red liquid. “Lana is my sister,” she said. “Fortunately Ty lets me visit, especially since I brought back said truck, trailer, and stallion.”
Ty finally had the grace to blush and set down his untouched drink. “Sorry to unload on you like that. You’ll think Western hospitality is as much a fairy tale as romance books.”
As an apology, it left much to be desired, but Rosalind decided to let it slide for now. There was obviously a lot more to the issue than a reader marrying a non-reader.
“Summer!” Sydney said, sitting straighter and staring directly into Rosalind’s eyes.
Rosalind stilled, contemplating the bite of delicious stew on her spoon. So good, but she was already full. Welcoming the distraction, she smiled tightly.
Devin snorted and leaned over to contemplate his wife’s expression. “No, Syd, it’s snowing outside. Snow means winter.”
“You have to sleep sometime, big boy.” Syd turned back to Rosalind. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
Cornered, Rosalind nodded then waited for what invariably came next–how different she looked, what happened, where had she been? Syd turned to the men. “I had a job, the daughter wanted to be a model. By the time I was done, I knew all the major players in the industry.” She turned back to Rosalind. “The cameras love you.”
Rosalind took a deep breath. What were the odds of someone on a remote New Mexico ranch recognizing her? “The cameras love anyone with a touch of Marfan syndrome, which elongates my bones, and an overactive metabolism. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and know some really good photographers.”
Ty stared, brow furrowed.
“You haven’t done much lately,” Sydney said.
“It’s been a while since I did much fashion modeling. Some book covers for a friend, but that’s all.” She decided she could not force down another bite, at least not around the lump forming in her stomach. “I was overseas for a while.”
She noticed intense looks between the three of them. This might be one group where overseas had an entirely different meaning than for most of the people she knew.
Sydney let herself back into the house, stomping snow off her boots then toeing them off and dropping her jacket on a chair before padding into the living room. The fire had died down to glowing coals, barely illuminating Devin and Ty sitting back in the deep cushioned chairs with glasses of brandy at their elbows.
“Well, that was quick.” Devin’s voice rumbled from where he sat in the deep chair, face in the shadows, legs extended to the fire.
Sydney perched on the arm of Devin’s chair, reaching for his brandy snifter. “She doesn’t dawdle, that’s for sure.”
“Those long legs are for more than just looks?” Devin’s deep voice rumbled.
“Keep it up, big guy.”
“Just making an observation.” He took back the brandy, set it on the side table, and pulled her into his lap. After a token protest, she settled but didn’t relax.
“What’s got you frowning?” Ty asked, leaning forward.
“Remember when Powers wanted me to work for him?”
Both men nodded.
“It was an extraction. Extremely sensitive and hush hush. Somewhere in the Middle East, one of those small countries we don’t hear much about. Seems a former model got herself kidnapped but no one would admit she’d even been there.”
Ty straightened. “What are you saying?”
“I need more information first, but I’m thinking there might be more to your guest than you realize.” She snuggled closer to Devin, needing the comfort of his arms, not saying anything more.
© 2016 by Mona Karel