by Cate Beauman
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
Isabella Colby has always yearned for normalcy. Now that she’s settled in LA, she finally has it. Good friends, a pretty home, and her thriving career as the Palisades’ top skincare specialist are a dream come true. Bella is content until she meets her hunky new neighbor, but her attraction to the blue-eyed cutie is the least of her worries when contacting her long-lost father threatens to destroy her happy life.
Reed McKinley is more than ready to forget the past. His seven-year stint as an NYPD detective nearly got him killed. His wounds have healed and he’s starting over as Ethan Cooke Security’s latest recruit. With sixty-hour workweeks and little time to himself, the last thing on his mind is a relationship. Then he bumps into the gorgeous woman next door.
Reed and Bella become fast friends. Before long, Reed discovers that Bella is keeping dangerous secrets. Bella may have the answers to decades-old questions he’s been searching for. Reed will risk it all to uncover the truth, but he soon realizes that the deeper he digs, the direr the consequences.
*NOTE: While reading the series in order is recommended, it is not necessary. Each story is a stand alone title featuring new primary characters with limited overlapping secondary characters.*
Bella drew a heart on the back of a pale pink envelope while she sat at the small table tucked in the corner of her room. Smiling, she set down her lilac crayon, pleased that the shape of this heart hardly looked wobbly at all. She studied the assortment of stickers Mommy had given her to decorate her invitations with and picked the glittery fuchsia ones for the corners. Locking her ankles, she kicked her legs back and forth and hummed along with the music on the CD player, trying to ignore her parents shouting in the living room. “Here is my handle, here is my spout,” she muttered, sealing the envelope closed with a puffy star sticker. “Tip me over and pour me out.”
The yelling suddenly stopped, and footsteps stormed down the hall. Bella jumped when Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom door slammed shut. Pausing, she listened to the quiet, then picked up the next envelope and smiled again when she recognized the letter ‘M.’ “Mary Rose.” She snatched up the sheet of silly smiley faces and put one right below Mommy’s pretty handwriting, certain her best friend would love it.
“Bella Boop,” Daddy called, giving a quick knock on her door.
“I’m in here.”
The knob turned and Daddy walked in dressed in jeans and one of the grease smeared white T-shirts he always wore to work.
Bella picked up a sky-blue crayon. She paused as she met Daddy’s gaze and realized his brown eyes were red, the way hers looked when she scraped her knees or got shots at the doctor’s office and cried. “Are you and Mommy mad at each other?”
Daddy sat on the bed, wrinkling her Hello Kitty comforter with his weight. “No. We’re not mad at each other.”
“Mommy yelled at you. Did you leave the toilet seat up again?” She frowned, remembering the cold water she’d fallen into the other morning. “I don’t want my tushy to get wet again when I sit down.”
He closed his eyes as he laughed, but it wasn’t his regular laugh that always made her giggle.
“No, I didn’t leave the seat up.”
“Good,” she said with a decisive nod and got back to work.
“What are you doing in here?” he asked.
“Coloring my invitations. Mommy said we can bring them with us to school in the morning. Everybody gets to have one—even the boys—so we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.”
“That’s my girl.” He winked.
She handed over one of the envelopes in her finished pile for Daddy to admire. “This one is for Clara. See how it has a letter ‘C’? That’s how I know.”
“What’s this?” Daddy pointed to the next letter in Clara’s name.
She grinned, always loving it when he called her that. “Clara’s going to be five too. Her mommy’s bringing brownies to school next week when it’s her birthday—just like you brought in the cupcakes for me to share yesterday. Everyone liked them. Pink frosting is the best kind.”
“With purple sprinkles, right?”
“Right.” She took the invitation back and continued decorating Mary Rose’s.
“I can’t believe my girl’s almost five. You’re not a baby anymore.”
“I’m a beautiful young lady now, right?”
He sighed. “Somehow you are. Not all that long ago, I was rocking you to sleep.”
“Beautiful young ladies have pierced ears and paint their nails.” She beamed at him, thrilled that she had both after a trip to the mall and a visit to the nail painter woman Mommy knew. “And young ladies go to kindergarten when the leaves fall off the trees, right after the summer is over.”
“I guess they do.” He blew out another breath. “Will you come sit with me for a couple of minutes?”
She hesitated as she glanced from the stickers to Daddy’s sad eyes. “Okay.”
He grabbed her under the armpits of her favorite Hello Kitty pajamas and boosted her up, settling her on his thigh. “Here we go.” He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight.
She returned his embrace, breathing in the familiar oil smell of the garage where he fixed cars. “Is your tummy sick?”
“No, baby.” He played his hand through the curls Mommy had made at the end of her long ponytail this morning.
“Did you get a boo-boo at work?” She picked up his stained black fingers, checking for a cut.
“No, honey.” He clenched his jaw. “I have to go on a trip.”
She gasped her excitement and clapped. Daddy always took her on the best adventures. “Can I come?”
He shook his head. “Not this time.”
“We could get ice cream at the Dairy Stop,” she said in a singsong voice, hoping that would convince him to change his mind.
“I wish we could, Bella. I have to go on this trip by myself.”
She pressed her cheek to his chest. “I don’t want you to go unless I get to come too. I always come too, Daddy.”
His fingers moved through her hair again. “I know.”
“You can stay right here with me.” She leaned forward and picked up her favorite book from the pile on the nightstand. “We can read instead.”
He nuzzled his chin on top of her head, keeping her close.
She clung to him as her stomach started to hurt. Daddy never went away. He and Mommy always read her books together and took turns bringing her to school after breakfast. “Will you come back soon?”
He shook his head. “Not for a long time. Not till you’re an even bigger young lady.”
Her lips trembled as her eyes filled. “But I’ll miss you so much.”
“I’ll miss you too. I’ll think of you every day.”
“Daddy.” She sniffled. “I want you to stay.”
“I have something for you.” He grabbed something from behind his back she hadn’t noticed when he walked in and held up a small snow globe.
She took the delicate glass and studied the pretty two-story house surrounded by pine trees in the center—much bigger than the home she lived in now. “It’s so nice.”
“When you look at it, you can think of me.”
“You’ll live in there?”
He looked at the ceiling as he swallowed. “Something like that.”
She stared at the lights on in the cheerful home as the snow fell to the ground. “Will you come out for my party in a couple of days and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”
Her shoulders sagged. “But you can come out at night and read to me and tuck me in?”
He shook his head.
Her lips trembled again, and she blinked as tears fell.
“Don’t cry, Bella.” He wiped her cheeks with his thumbs, like he always did. “If there was any other way… If I could be sure you and your mom would be safe, I’d take you with me.”
“We could call the policemans. They’ll make us safe.”
“That’s an idea.” He swiped another tear away. “How about I tuck you in and we’ll read?”
She nodded. “Can I sleep with this?” She gestured to the globe.
“How about we put it right next to you on the table? I don’t want it to break and cut you.”
“All right.” She leaned over and set it next to her lamp. “There.”
Daddy stood, lifting her with him, and pulled back her covers, then settled her in bed. “Here we go.” He tucked the blankets around her and read the story she and Mommy had picked out at the library.
She giggled when the silly puppy got into mischief and yawned, struggling to keep her eyes open as Daddy turned to the last page.
“That’s a good one.” She yawned again. “Maybe we can get a doggy like the girl in the book.”
“I love doggies.”
“I know you do.”
She rubbed her tired eyes. “Let’s read it some more.”
“You need to get some rest.” Daddy stood from his chair. “Snuggle up.”
She rolled on her side and nestled her cheek on the pillow. “Night-night, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you too.” He knelt down and hugged her tight, his breath shuddering in and out next to her ear. “I love you, Bella.” Clearing his throat, he eased back and smiled. “I love you.”
She smiled too. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
He shut his eyes, swallowing several times. “Okay.” Standing again, he turned off her light. “Bye, baby.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2015, JUSTICE FOR ABBY was selected as the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Gold Medalist, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards.
Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular Bodyguards series.
For information on Cate’s new releases, monthly giveaways, and upcoming events, sign up for her newsletter at: http://www.catebeauman.com/author/home.html#!newsletter-sign-up/c9td
You can follow Cate on Twitter @CateBeauman
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