You’ve been waiting for the third book in The Iron Angel Series. Coming soon – The Only Sin (target release date: October 2017).
Six months ago, Joan Bowman’s fiancé, Duncan, was shot during an ATF sting operation. He left a message with a friend that if anything happened to him, she was to call a certain phone number. That message led her to Yonkers, New York and Duncan’s longtime friend, Jeb, who has control over Duncan’s estate. Their understanding was that if Joan called, something happened to Duncan, and she was to inherit everything Jeb was holding for him.
Duncan’s plan was for Joan to use the money so she could buy a new identity and disappear. However, Jeb has other plans. He cannot accept the fact that his friend is dead, and believes Joan had something to do with Duncan’s death. He gives the money to her in advances only large enough to live on. If he keeps her close, he can play her, befriend her, and get her to open up to him and confess to her part in Duncan’s demise. But he has yet to learn what Duncan learned: never play a player.
Joan is not interested in the money. Nothing can replace the love of her life. Guessing she is being played, she sets out on her own scheme to discover Jeb’s sudden, personal interest in her. It’s a dangerous cat and mouse game until Duncan appears. He did not die in Phoenix, but instead spent the past six months hiding out and recovering from his gunshot wound in the Ozark Mountains. He delays reuniting with Joan until he sets a plan in motion that will give Joan what she has wanted since they first hooked up – a quiet life together.
In true Iron Angel Bad Karma fashion, the elation of Duncan’s return doesn’t last. A mistake he made while recovering in Arkansas follows him to Yonkers, and causes a tragic divide between Joan and Duncan. His plan requires Joan’s love for him to remain strong. If Joan doesn’t forgive him, the plan will fail, and they both will spend the next thirty to forty years in prison. Joan’s street name is Iron Angel because she is strong and she is good. But will she be strong enough to overcome this setback and good enough to overcome her sense of betrayal?
A bird twittered in the tree a few feet from the deck. It hopped from branch to branch eyeing Joan and Jeb. Its feathers fluttered when it flew off across the backyards to the south. Joan mulled over going inside to get another beer. It would be a good excuse to check things out. Something might reveal Jeb’s plan or motivations.
“I’m getting another beer. Want a fresh one?” she asked him, rising from her chair.
It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust to the light, but she found her way to the refrigerator and pulled out two cold bottles of beer and stilled at the immaculate interior. Not one little spill mark. No ring from the milk carton. It was Marine clean.
She broke the trance and opened the bottles then, not wanting to upset Jeb’s penchant for neatness, wondered where to put the caps. She set the bottles down on the counter, cringing at the sweat rings they would leave. The third cabinet she checked housed the trash can. She moved on to a drawer. Nothing unusual. The second drawer held unopened mail.
After a glance to see if Jeb was still busy with the steaks on the grill, she fingered through it. The usual marketing letters from insurance companies, a postcard announcing a sale at a local store. Nothing important or out of the ordinary. A wall calendar might have held clues, but he was fully invested in the electronic age. A shadow passed across the doorway to the deck. She quickly turned and pretended to admire the commercial grade range.
“Did you get lost?”
“Oh,” she said, pretending to be mildly startled. “I’m admiring this stove. Five burners, a spigot to fill pots with water. Double oven. This is really nice.”
“Yeah, it’s a beauty. I can cook, but I don’t think I do it justice.” He picked up one of the beers, leaned on the counter next to the stove, and took a swig. “You’ll have to show me how to use it right, Miss Rachel Ray.”
“I can cook but…” The soft, lingering look in his eyes made her squirm inside. Backing up would make her look weak. He was blocking the way to the deck. The lack of options jacked up her discomfort.
“But what?” He put his bottle down.
“But I’m no Rachel Ray.” She hoped her eyes didn’t reveal her nervousness. If he came on to her, she wouldn’t know what to do. Duncan had not been her first boyfriend, but he had been one of only a few. It had been so easy with him. Jeb was different. And he was her boss. And her inheritance administrator. She couldn’t lose sight of that.
He smiled and it seemed that his dimple brightened the room. “Let’s go sit on the deck and enjoy the fresh air.” He stepped aside to let her lead the way to the deck.
They stood looking at each other until he glanced over his shoulder, took a couple steps back, and pulled a bottle out of the wine rack at the end of the counter. While he concentrated on the wine bottles, she walked around the opposite end of the work island and slid onto a stool.
“Would you like to switch to wine?” he asked, checking the labels on a couple bottles before settling on one of them. “This is a nice Pinot Noir.”
Joan eyed the dozen bottles in the rack. “Hey, why did you bring the apology wine from the club, and not from your private stash?”
Jeb winked at her before skillfully de-corking the bottle. “Nothing gets past you.” He opened a glass-front cabinet and took out two wine glasses with large, round bowls. After pouring a conservative four ounces in each, he slid one of the glasses across the island to Joan.
“To friendship,” he said.
“To friendship,” Joan repeated when they clicked glasses. She took a sip.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know much about wine, but it has a nice aftertaste. It’s not quite as bold as the Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Jeb smiled and turned his head slightly. “And you say you don’t know anything about wine.” He put his forearms on the counter and leaned halfway across the island. “You are such a liar, Joan Bowman.”
A slight lilt in his voice made his statement playful, and instead of taking offense, she flowed with the mood he was trying to create. She flashed a flirtatious look over the top of the glass.
Jeb pushed off the counter and began putting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. “So was Archer—hey, why do you call him Duncan?”
“It was his street name when we met, and that’s all I’ve ever called him except when…” Her thoughts went to Duncan’s lovemaking. He had been a rough man, and his sexual appetite reflected that, but she had always felt safe with him. She watched Jeb fill the dishwasher and wondered exactly how safe she was with him.
“Except when?” he asked without looking up from his task.
Joan’s face felt hot. She was a veteran, a battle-hardened freedom fighter, and a fugitive. She hoped she wasn’t blushing from talking about sex.
Jeb leaned on the counter again. If she was blushing, he didn’t point it out.
“I never called him Archer, and I only called him Dennis when we made love. He seemed to like that…” She could feel his weight on top of her. Hot, bare skin touching the length of their bodies, mixing their sweat. She swallowed the lump in her throat. “…a lot.” She downed the wine in her glass. “I never called him by his given name in public.”
Jeb wiped the counters with the hand towel. “When did you know you were in love with him? Was it at first sight?”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about the past.”
Jeb refilled her glass. This time with a healthier pour.
“He always said he loved me at first sight, but he always told me I was a pain in the ass.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
Joan threw a napkin at Jeb. He promptly put it in the trash can.
“You are a full-bore neatnik, Jeb Durham.”
“Don’t change the subject. You were talking about Duncan.”
Jeb’s use of Duncan’s street name did not go unnoticed, but she decided against bringing it up. They were getting into a flow, and she didn’t want to get distracted. First, they would talk about her, then after the wine flowed and loosened him up, she would turn the conversation to him.
“Well, he professed his love for me when I was still cluelessly looking at him as a mentor and a friend. It took me a while to change gears.”
“I can’t imagine you clueless about anything.”
Joan raised her eyebrows, nodded, and took a sip of wine.
“So I take it you didn’t have a lot of boyfriends before Duncan.”
“I hate wishy-washy men. I need a guy who’ll stand up to me. And Duncan was the guy.”
Jeb hitched around the island and sat on the stool next to Joan. “He really loved you. I knew him a long time. I never saw him so wrapped up with a woman as he was with you.”
An emotional mudslide buried her words. Her eyes stung. “I have to…” She cleared her throat. “Where’s your bathroom?”
“There’s one under the stairs.”
“I want to see the one you bragged about earlier this evening.”
Jeb smiled with pride. “Top of the stairs, straight ahead.”
The stairs creaked when she climbed them. When she turned on the bathroom light, all the pent up emotion about Duncan’s love vanished in the luster of the glass and chrome she had expected downstairs. A hint of a rose scent softened the hard lines. Part of the adjoining bedroom had been commandeered for the walk-in shower surrounded entirely in glass—not a water spot anywhere. A sleek soaking tub sat in the alcove that must have been the original shower. Everything gleamed. The granite floor was so shiny, she hesitated to step on it, thinking it was wet.
Jeb pushed away the image of Joan and him in the shower, but not before he imagined the silkiness of soap lather on her wet skin and the pelting water from the three shower heads leaving water drops on her lashes. Her smiling up at him. It took all his willpower to remain in the kitchen.
Joan’s phone caught his eye.
He picked it up, glanced at the stairs, and listened. He turned on her phone. He thumbed through her contacts. Checked messages. A slow smile curled the corners of his mouth—dozens of texts to Kearney remained unanswered. After another moment of listening for a hint of Joan’s return, he opened the photo gallery, hoping for a picture that could reveal her partner in crime. The gallery held only five photos: four of her bike, and one picture of her sitting on her bike. She had leaned forward, resting her elbow on the gas tank, holding her head in her hand. A long earring dangled below spike hair. A coy smile graced her face. Her long, leather-covered leg stretched forward in front of the kick stand. He stared at it for several seconds before shutting off her phone and placing it on the counter.
The pose was one he would have never imagined from her, but now that he had seen it, he couldn’t get it out of his mind. It revealed steamy, molten rock beneath her stony exterior. Who shot the picture? Who elicited that smile?
He rubbed his jaw before pulling another bottle of wine from the rack. Brother, you better get your feelings in check or you are going to blow your plan. He thought of the morning she had walked into his office strung out from wandering the city, her life in two bags. Braless.
Get your shit together, Bro—
The stairs creaked as Joan returned to the kitchen.
Stay objective. Don’t blow this.
Haven’t read the first two books in the series? CLICK HERE to learn more about Worst of All Evils and Hottest Places in Hell.