Wait Until Dark
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Don’t miss the thrilling prequel to New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin’s brand-new series, Maximum Security!
Private investigator Jonah Wolfe knows trouble when he sees it. So when April Vale storms into his office at Maximum Security, all his warning signs flash red. April’s been accused of murder, except she has no memory of how she woke up in her coworker’s bed—drenched in his blood, as he was shot with her gun.
As the campaign manager for the mayor, April’s job and life are on the line if she doesn’t figure out who’s trying to frame her. But the clock is ticking, and the pair must find the murderer…before April winds up dead.
Excerpt #1 From Wait Until Dark
WAIT UNTIL DARK
The sound of voices cut through the pounding in her head, dragging her from a dark void into the light of day. As uniformed policemen streamed into the bedroom, April Vale looked down at her naked body and saw a sea of blood soaking the mattress. A naked man lay beside her, a bullet hole in the center of his chest.
A scream tore free as she recognized David Dean, Mayor Rydell’s campaign manager. Then strong arms hauled her upright and a wave of dizziness hit her, making her stomach roll. One of the officers draped a blanket around her bare shoulders and they hustled her over to a chair by the window.
Fighting a fresh wave of nausea, April gripped the blanket, her body shaking head to foot. “What…what’s happening?” She didn’t realize her hands were being cuffed together in front of her until she heard metal clanking and cold bands of steel wrapped around her wrists.
“What’s your name?” The room swarmed with policemen. The one in front of her was stocky and balding, in his early forties. A pair of EMTs rushed into the room and began working over the bloody man on the bed, but his eyes were open and staring at nothing and she knew he was already dead.
April swallowed the bile in her throat and fought to clear her head, but when she tried to remember where she was or how she got there, all she came up with was a blank.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” she said, trying to keep the blanket around her.
“This will all go smoother if you cooperate,” the stocky policeman said. “Tell us your name.”
“I’m…I’m April. April Vale.” She glanced over at David. The hole in his chest seemed even bigger and bloodier than before.
“Can you tell us the name of the victim?”
Victim. A thick lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke her. “That…that’s David Dean. We work for Mayor Rydell.”
A young officer with black hair slicked straight back from his forehead walked up. “Looks like we’ve got the murder weapon, Sarge. It was right there on the floor next to the lady’s purse.”
April frowned, her mind foggy again. “Wait…wait a minute. What’s going on? I don’t understand.” Her fingers tightened on the blanket, trying to keep it in place over her naked body. “I don’t know how I got here. I don’t remember what happened.”
A gray haired man in a navy blue suit brought the gun over in a plastic bag. She recognized the little .380 she carried for protection.
I’m Detective Sullivan. Does this belong to you, Ms. Vale?”
She took a deep breath. “I think it’s mine. I have one like that. I have a legal permit to carry.”
The EMTs began checking her over, her blood pressure, her vision, whether or not she had a concussion.
“We need to get her to the hospital,” one of them said, “have her checked out, get a blood sample.”
“Hospital? I don’t want to go to the hospital.”
A female police officer walked up just then. “We’ve cuffed your hands in front of you so you can hold onto the blanket. If you cooperate, we’ll leave them that way. If not, we’ll have to cuff them behind your back.”
She closed her eyes. This couldn’t be happening. “You think I shot him? I don’t even know how I got here.”
The woman’s expression never changed. “You need to go to the hospital. We need to make sure you’re okay. If you were drugged, it’ll show up in your tox screen.”
Tox screen. Drugs. Her pistol and a dead man.
That’s when it began to sink in how much trouble she was in. That’s when April’s brain finally started working and she began to figure out what she needed to do–before things got a whole lot worse.
At the sound of the glass front door swinging open, Jonah Wolfe looked up to see a tall, leggy redhead walk into the office.
“I hope she’s looking for me.” Jason Maddox, one of the country’s top bail enforcement agents and one of Jonah’s best friends, had an eye for beautiful women. This one definitely met Jase’s exacting standards.
But being a former undercover police officer, Jonah noticed more than her stunning face and figure. Her hands were shaking as she approached the receptionist desk and her face was pale. He wondered what kind of trouble the lady was in.
“May I help you?” The receptionist, Mindy Stewart, shoved up the tortoiseshell glasses perched on the end of her nose. She was petite and cute, and smart enough not to date any of the confirmed bachelors who worked at Maximum Security.
“My name is April Vale. I’m looking for Jonah Wolfe.”
When Maddox groaned his disappointment, Jonah’s focus sharpened on the redhead. He rose from behind his desk and started toward the front of the office. A waiting area with a dark red tufted leather sofa and matching chairs, oak coffee and end tables, gave the place a western feel that perfectly suited the misfit Texans who worked there.
“I’m Wolfe,” Jonah said when he reached her. “What can I do for you?” His gaze ran over her, taking in her spectacular curves. He couldn’t help hoping she needed him for something a lot more intriguing than his skills as a private detective.
He might have smiled, would have if a TROUBLE sign wasn’t stamped in the middle of the pretty lady’s forehead.
“My name is April Vale. Thank you for seeing me.
“No need to thank me, Ms. Vale. I haven’t done anything yet.”
“I’m hoping you will.” She had the face of an angel and legs that went on forever. But she was a redhead and all that fiery hair just ramped up the warning signs flashing in her big blue eyes.
“Is there somewhere we can speak in private?” April asked.
“Conference room. Follow me.” As he led her down the hall, she caught an appreciative glance from Jax Ryker and Dante Romero, the only other guys currently in the office, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“This way.” Jonah held open the door to a glass-walled chamber with a long oak table seating twenty. April walked in and he waited for her to take a seat.
She smoothed the navy blue pencil skirt she was wearing with a pair of sky high heels. She looked good. Classy but not completely untouchable. “As I said, I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice.”
“Not a problem.” Jonah leaned back in his chair. “All right, April, why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”
She took a deep breath, drawing his attention to the full breasts he’d been doing his best to ignore. Since he never mixed business with pleasure, he shoved the buzz of attraction he was feeling to the back of his brain.
“I work for Mayor Rydell,” April said. “Currently I’m…. I was just released from police custody a short time ago, Mr. Wolfe. That’s…that’s why I’m here.”
Jonah straightened in his chair. “You were under arrest?”
“Officially, I haven’t been charged yet. But the charge could be murder.”
Jesus. He hadn’t seen that one coming. Now she really had his attention. Jonah leaned toward her. “So who did you kill, Ms. Vale?”
Excerpt #2 From Wait Until Dark
WAIT UNTIL DARK
Excerpt #2 of 3
Jonah Wolfe was not what she expected. Not at all.
April’s best friend had gone out with him a couple of times so she figured he’d be attractive. She hadn’t imagined he would be at least six-foot-two inches of handsome-as-sin, black-haired, lean-muscled male. With his perfectly symmetric features, slashing black eyebrows, and brooding dark eyes, Wolfe was beyond good-looking.
Though in a way she was surprised she’d noticed.
With the election bearing down on them, she had no interest in men, hadn’t dated in nearly a year. More importantly, she was consumed by the murder of a man she worked with and terrified of what might happen to her.
She needed help, and Jonah Wolfe appeared to be exactly the kind of help she needed. Murder was a dangerous business. The private investigators who worked for Chase Garrett at The Max were reputed to be the best in Dallas. Wolfe wouldn’t be there if he weren’t extremely good.
He returned to the conference room with a yellow pad tucked under one arm and two Styrofoam cups filled to the brim with freshly brewed coffee. He set a cup down on the table in front of her, black, as she had requested, and returned to his seat, stretching his long legs out in front of him.
“If we’re going to be working together,” he said, “let’s stick with first names, all right, April?”
“Start at the beginning. Give me a quick run through of your day, into the evening as far as you can remember.”
She took a fortifying drink of coffee, set the cup down on the oak conference table. “It started off as usual. I got up, got dressed, and went into the mayor’s campaign office. I had a meeting scheduled with members of my staff to work on poster designs. Mark is up for re-election in November so we have plenty of work to do.”
“I’ll need a list of everyone in the office. Separate the ones on your personal staff.”
“What happened after the meeting?”
“I took the designs down to the printer to get things started.”
“I went back to the office. We had a working lunch and kept going. We didn’t finish till about six p.m.”
“So you left around six?”
“Some people left, some of us stayed. It’s not unusual for me to work till seven or eight.”
“What about Dean? Was he there?”
She nodded. It made her chest feel tight to think those hours were the last David would live. “We both stayed. There were five others besides David and me.”
He pulled a pen out of the pocket of his jeans. “I need the names.”
She rattled off the names of the two volunteers and three staff members. “We all walked out at the same time. Since it was Friday night, we decided to stop at the Derby and have a beer. It’s just a few doors down from the office. If we’re going somewhere after work, that’s usually the place we go.”
“You and Dean went there together?”
“And Susan, Timothy, Collin, Brad, and Peggy. Collin sprang for pizza.”
“What happened after that?”
“David drank too much. He’s been known to overindulge on occasion. He needed a ride home and I was the only one with a vehicle parked close by. My car was in the lot behind the office so we went out the back door and walked directly there.”
“So you and Dean left the bar together. The police will be looking at camera surveillance in the area. They’ve probably already found that out.”
“I told them that. It wasn’t a secret.” She took a sip of coffee, her hand trembling when she picked up the cup. She took a moment to compose herself. Wolfe didn’t rush her, for which she was grateful.
“Okay, so the two of you are out in the parking lot.”
“That’s right. I remember feeling a little dizzy as I reached my car. I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t be driving either. Maybe we just should have shared a cab, but David’s condo was only a few blocks away. I knew I hadn’t had that much beer, and I’d eaten plenty of pizza, so there was no way I could be drunk.”
She touched her forehead, straining to recall more of what had happened. She’d had a headache all morning. The harder she tried to remember, the more her head throbbed.
“I got in my car and David got into the passenger seat. He was really drunk–or at least that’s the way he seemed. I remember reaching for my seat belt, but I was beginning to feel sluggish and I had trouble clicking the belt into place.”
She looked up at Wolfe. “I don’t remember starting the car. In fact, trying to fasten my seatbelt is the last thing I recall before the police burst into David’s bedroom this morning.”
April stared at Wolfe, trying to gauge his reaction. She didn’t like the dark look on his face.
Excerpt #3 From Wait Until Dark
WAIT UNTIL DARK
Excerpt #3 of 3
April didn’t see the dark sedan speeding toward her until headlights appeared at the edge of her vision. She screamed the instant before Jonah slammed into her, sending both of them flying toward the opposite side of the street, knocking her out of the path of the oncoming vehicle.
At the last second, he must have turned mid-air, using his body as a shield, taking her weight on top of him as they landed, skidding across the rough black asphalt, her dress riding up, the bodice tearing, the front gaping open.
The car shot past, engine revved, tires squealing as it disappeared into the darkness. April fought to battle down her fear and catch her breath. Her mind was spinning, her heart racing. It took a moment to realize she was still lying on top of Jonah, probably crushing him, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
Thank God he was wearing his leather jacket, she thought in some vague corner of her mind. She spoke her next thought out loud, “My God, Jonah, you saved my life.”
For an instant, Jonah tightened his hold, grateful he’d been able to reach April in time. Grateful she wasn’t dead.
Cars coming down the lane slowed to a stop. Headlights illuminated the two of them lying on the pavement. April was shaking as she lifted herself away from him and Jonah followed, coming to his feet. Ignoring the scrapes on his hands, the dirt and cuts in his leather jacket and the rip in his jeans, he led her back to safety on the curb in front of the bar.
He could hear voices inside but apparently no one had heard the commotion out in the street. April’s high heels were gone, the bodice of her sexy black dress ripped and hanging open, exposing the tops of her pretty breasts above a lacy black bra.
Without the shoes, she was inches shorter than he was. Her eyes were big and blue and filled with the remnants of fear.
“Jonah…” she said softly.
At the plea in her voice, the last of his control vanished and he pulled her into his arms. “It’s all right, honey. You’re safe. Everything’s okay.”
She was shaking all over. A shudder rippled through her body as she buried her face in the curve of his neck and just hung on. He thought she would start crying but only a sob escaped. Then her shoulders straightened, she pulled in a shaky breath, and eased away.
April looked up at him. “The car didn’t stop.”
“Were they…were they trying to kill me?”
“It looks that way. Come on. I’ll take you home.” Where he planned to spend the night. She was his client. She was right. He felt responsible for her. He wasn’t going to let her end up like David Dean.
“Should we…should we call the police?”
He would–if he had a plate number or a decent description of the hit-and-run vehicle beyond a dirty white four-door sedan, one of thousands in the city.
Unfortunately, he’d only had seconds to react, barely enough time to keep April from getting killed.
Jonah clamped down hard on the anger pounding through his blood.
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- File Size: 1641 KB
- Print Length: 86 pages
- Publisher: HQN Books (November 1, 2018)
- Publication Date: November 1, 2018
- Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07D7XR8P2
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