We are excited to share the next installment of Glazed Suspicion by Allison Pearl, the first book in the Love and Danger in St. Claire series. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!
If you’re just joining us for this book, we recommend you start with chapter 1.
JOSH MET UP WITH HIS sister as she stepped out of her car. “Did you have any trouble finding—”
A car door slammed and Nikki blew past them, towards the front door. Josh followed, his sling hanging from his side. Should he stop her so they could hash this out? He caught the door before it could close on him and watched her disappear up the steps, the kittens scampering up behind. Would they ever be on the same page?
There was a tug on his arm. “Everything alright?”
He stepped aside to let Lizzy in.
He shouldn’t have pushed her. He was the one keeping secrets now, after all. How could he expect the truth from her if he wasn’t willing to speak it himself? He’d sensed her retreating to a defensive position. What if she used his mistake to throw more bricks on the wall she’d kept between them for so long? She wasn’t just mad that he hadn’t told her about the tailing car or the sabotaged truck, she was angry to find herself suddenly vulnerable.
“Yeah.” He tossed the sling through the archway to the den at the sofa.
Lizzy stepped in front of him and then glanced over her shoulder at the stairs. “Did you guys fight or something?”
Josh leaned back and flicked on a light. “Or something.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Lizzy raised an eyebrow.
“She was acting like she was mad at me.”
“Acting?” She put a hand on her hip. “Why would she fake it?”
“She wasn’t faking exactly.” Josh chewed on the inside of his lip. “She said she was mad because I didn’t tell her we were being followed, or that we are going to make a run for it tonight… ”
Lizzy snickered. “Anything else?”
His shoulders drooped. “I also didn’t tell her right away that her truck had been sabotaged. But it’s not really about that. She’s scared to admit she loves me. And sometimes, fear looks like anger.”
His sister threw her hands up in the air. “And it couldn’t possibly be because you didn’t give her credit for having a brain. Or because you’re bossing her around like she’s one of your soldiers.” She punched him in his uninjured shoulder. “Obviously, she cares for you and that can be scary. But I know you, Joshie. And you can be … maddening sometimes, big brother.”
“Me?” Josh clutched his chest and fell back a step.
Lizzy rolled her eyes.
“Maybe you’re right.” Josh rubbed the back of his neck. “I’d better go talk to her.” He stepped forward.
Lizzy’s hand on his chest stopped his progress. “I think you’d better let me.”
“Um… why you?”
“Because, by now, I suspect she’s tired of all the men around her making her crazy and telling her what to do without asking what she thinks. I’ll go make sure she’s okay.”
“Fine.” But she’d already turned away. I guess I don’t get a say.
Josh pursed his lips but he liked how strong the women in his life were. That had been one of his wife’s most attractive qualities, and it was absolutely one of the things pulling him to Nikki like an unstoppable magnetic force. Some men might be threatened by a capable, no-nonsense female but Josh certainly wasn’t one of them. Except she was right about him keeping things from her. Maybe it was time to let her help brainstorm ways to ditch their shadow.
Making his way into the den, Josh tiptoed to the window and peered into the night, careful not to touch the curtain. Disturbing the fabric would alert any outside eyes of his presence. The marshals had turned their lights off when they got close but Josh was pretty sure they were parked off road right before the turn into the driveway.
Still as a statue, Josh waited in the dark room, letting his eyes adjust to the fallen night. Scanning the property, he looked for any sign of the unnatural and, just when he started to worry that they had turned back and all his planning was for nothing, he saw the glint of a windshield through the tree line lit up by the full moon.
“Gotcha.” Josh turned his back to the window and pulled out his phone to send a text.
You all set?
Yep was the singular reply.
Great. We’ll see you in a few.
Josh pocketed his phone, then glanced around the den. I need to make it look like we haven’t left. He could turn on the television but the light would cast a shadow that could show them leaving later. He opted for an old-timey looking record player in the corner. If he turned on some music, anyone approaching the house would hear it. That and turning on a couple lights upstairs should make the house seem alive for a while. Josh prayed it would be enough time for them to make a break for it. He padded towards the hall but found his progress halted by three little sentries stretched out across the middle of the stairs.
“You guys here to make sure I don’t interrupt the girls?” He smirked at the three sets of unblinking eyes.
The darkest critter meowed.
“I’ll take that as a yes. But then again, I am bigger than you guys.” Josh took a step, testing their resolve.
The same kitten sat up straight and yowled in warning.
“Okay, okay.” Josh retreated. “I’ll stay down here. Any chance you could tell them to hurry up, though?”
The tiny guardian kept mum on that one.
Nikki sat on the edge of her bed gripping her quilt so hard she was seconds away from tearing the stitches in the fabric. Even the kittens who had wrapped themselves around her feet when she’d arrived had abandoned her. Her cheeks burned like hot embers, but she didn’t know if it was due to anger or despair. Tears filled her eyes but even their presence was a mystery.
“You okay?” A voice asked from her door.
Elizabeth. Good. Because she wasn’t ready to face Josh again. She glanced at her lawyer. “I think I’m going crazy. I don’t even know why I’m crying anymore.”
“Well, from what I can tell, you have quite a few reasons to.”
“True.” Nikki snorted. “My truck is wrecked, my business is in ashes, and the cops want me to lead them to my drug-dealing, maybe murdering ex-boyfriend who I thought I’d finally left behind. My life is an absolute mess. I don’t know why you would want to help me or how I’ll pay you for what you’re doing. And I just drove away the one person that believes in me.”
Elizabeth came further into the room, turning the chair from Nikki’s dressing table around so that she could sit facing her. “It’s no charge and Josh isn’t going anywhere.”
“He should go. He shouldn’t be anywhere near me. I’m bad luck.”
“It’s a good thing then that Josh doesn’t believe in luck.”
“I believe in my brother.”
Nikki looked into her eyes for any hint that one day Elizabeth might believe in her, too. “But not me.” Nikki frowned.
Elizabeth blinked. “Now wait a minute—”
“It’s okay. In your shoes, I’d doubt me, too.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you.” Elizabeth touched her knee. “I’m just trying to keep Josh from getting hurt.”
“Me, too. That’s why I couldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.”
“And what did he want to hear?” Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow and sat back in her chair.
Nikki averted her eyes. “That I want to be with him. That I… love him.”
“Do you?” Elizabeth tilted her head to the side.
Nikki didn’t answer but her silence screamed one word: Yes.
“I see.” Elizabeth drummed her feet on the floor. “Then why not tell him?”
“I’m trying to spare him pain.”
“By breaking his heart?” She squinted.
Nikki clutched her sweater above her own heart. “N-No. I just don’t think I’m right for him. He’s such a good and kind man, and I’m just a coward from the city who ran from my problems to hide here.”
“To me, it sounds like you ran from an abusive man and built a whole new and better life. I don’t think that’s cowardly at all. And that’s coming from someone who knows what it means to take off and leave.” Her voice cracked with emotion.
“Where did you run away from?”
“Here.” She held her hands out to indicate St. Claire as a whole. “I was in love with someone, too. I didn’t want to tell him, either, but, like my brother, he was persistent, and eventually, we gave a relationship a try.”
Nikki drew her legs up onto the mattress and propped herself up with an elbow. This sounds intriguing.
“It was a wreck from the start.” Elizabeth pushed a hand through her hair. “We drove each other crazy and fought all the time. We were just so alike. So stubborn. When we weren’t at each other’s throats, it was… amazing. But eventually, I’d get mad or he’d get mad and it would start all over again.”
“Something bad.” A blank look washed over her eyes as she was pulled back into her past. “After… I-I just couldn’t be in this town anymore. So, I left and… he didn’t chase after me.”
He didn’t? Elizabeth was beautiful and brilliant. How could a man not fight for a girl like her? And when would Josh stop coming after her? Maybe he already has. “I’m sorry.” Nikki reached out and touched her forearm.
Josh’s sister rallied, straightening in her chair. “Elizabeth makes me sound old. Please, call me Lizzy.”
“Alright.” Nikki nodded.
“Now, let’s pack you a bag and get going.”
“Josh told me he’s not sure when we’ll be able to come back, so you should pack a couple changes of clothes and bathroom stuff.”
“We’ll? Are you coming with us? Can you be away from your job that long?”
“I’ll make it work.”
Nikki tasted guilt in her mouth. “I’m so sorry that you got dragged into all of this. You’ve already done so much and none of it is your responsibility. You must really love Josh.”
Lizzy sucked in a breath. “If I didn’t, I would never have agreed to this plan of his.”
“What plan? Why wouldn’t you want to go along with it?”
“Because the man that drives me as crazy as Josh is driving you… is the one sneaking us out of here.”
Like what you read?
Read chapter 16 now
And don’t miss SPRINKLED WITH SABOTAGE, the latest book by Allison Pearl
About Allison Pearl
Allison Pearl is a small-town girl who’s lived just about everywhere. She loves books,tea, chocolate, and watching old movies with her husband and black lab, Sal. To keep in touch and get updates on new releases follow her Facebook page ‘Books by Pearl’ at http://www.facebook.com/allisonnicolepearl/ or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonPearl5 andInstagram at @allisonnicolepearl