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.
RYAN’S VOICE SOUNDED SO STRANGE and distant in Nikki’s ears now that he was gone. However, in spite of everything he’d done, she was happy to hear him one last time and a warmth spread over her as she listened.
“Nicole.” His voice was rushed and breathless. “Listen, I’ve gotta hide out for a while and I don’t really know when I’ll see you. Something bad happened and you may hear some bad stuff about me. Some… some of it’s true but—no matter what they say—I’m not a killer. After you hear their lies, I know you’ll think I am, especially since some of what they’re gonna say will be true. But I can prove I’m innocent. The phone is the proof.”
She looked at Josh who was nodding, his face in law enforcement mode.
“Watch the video I saved on it and you’ll see. I can’t bear you thinking I’m a murderer. Watch it and you’ll see but—and this is really important—don’t show it to anyone else. Who knows? Maybe you won’t even listen to this because I was so awful you just threw the package away. And I’d deserve that. But… if you do watch it, do not take it to the cops. The guy framing me is a cop and if he thinks you have this, he will kill you. It’s too dangerous. I don’t mind going to jail because I’ve done enough worth paying for. I-I’m just not the complete monster they’ll say I am. Go and be happy, Nicole. Live your life. I know it’ll be better than any life I could’ve given to you. Goodbye.”
Tears filled Nikki’s eyes. She had thought Ryan was a monster and a killer. She’d always known he wasn’t exactly a good man. That he was sad, and sick, and angry, but she should’ve known that he wasn’t a murderer. And he didn’t deserve to die in a rat-infested roller rink.
A sob escaped her lips. “I should have opened this a long time ago. Then Ryan might still be alive.”
Josh’s hands grasped her shoulders and he turned her to face him. “You couldn’t possibly have known about this.” He cupped her face. “Ryan was abusive and controlling. And you were trying to start a new life. There is no blame in wanting to leave that behind, honey. And he was right that viewing it could be dangerous. Considering what’s happened over the last three days, someone knows he sent it to you.”
Nikki blinked back tears and smiled up at him.
He pressed his lips to hers, and she relished the comfort in his touch as she released her guilt.
Then, she got angry. Livid that the true villain was still free. “Then I think it’s about time we found out who this scumbag is and stop him once and for all. Ryan deserves that. We all do.”
Josh nodded and she opened up the saved videos. There was only one. The one. She was slow to select it, knowing that whatever they saw was going to change their current reality. Someone close to them was a killer and it might very well be someone they all knew. She took a deep breath and tapped the screen.
The picture came to life and they had all huddled in around Ryan’s phone when a different phone started ringing.
Koby quickly pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket and glanced at it. “It’s Liz. I’d better take this.” He turned and walked from the room as he answered, leaving Nikki alone with Tom, Josh, and the video.
She squinted at the tiny screen. The setting looked like a parking garage. It was dark and the few lights on the ceiling seemed to flash on and off like the bulbs were ready to burn out. The angle of the camera was weird, too, like the cameraman was holding the phone in his hand down at his side. Like he didn’t want anyone to know he was recording them. To another person, it would just look like someone holding their phone.
Nikki could only see the chest of a man in a gray button-down shirt. He had a black pistol holstered on his belt.
“Is this all of it?” Who said that? Where have I heard that voice before?
“Yep.” Ryan’s familiar voice came from closer, then the camera tilted up and they saw a black brief case opened on the hood of a car. Inside, were bags of white powder that Nikki knew were drugs. “You got my money?”
The gray-shirted man laid a brown paper bag down next to the brief case. The camera leaned forward as presumably Ryan looked to confirm there was cash in the bag.
“It’s all here?” Ryan asked.
Just then another voice broke in. “Police! Freeze!”
Ryan and his camera turned, then a uniformed police officer came into view with his gun raised. “I want you both to raise your hands slow—” The officer stopped talking and a strange expression passed over his face as he looked further to the right off screen and apparently recognized the gray-shirted man.
Beside her, Josh’s hand clenched into a fist.
The cop’s confusion grew and his gun dropped slightly. He probably didn’t even realize he was lowering it. “You?”
The gun shot was so loud it sounded distorted in the speakers. Nikki shook, but kept watching.
“Why did you shoot him?” Ryan’s voice sounded frantic.
The gray-shirted man didn’t say anything but walked over to the crumpled officer. His back was to the screen and so they still couldn’t see who he was. He leaned over the slain cop, making sure he was dead before putting his gun back in his holster. Then, he turned back to Ryan, his face coming into full view.
Nikki gasped and her hand went to her mouth. No. Not him.
Josh let out a low growl.
The killer started to answer Ryan but then he seemed to notice something. His brow furrowed and he looked right into the camera. “Are you taping this?”
As he reached again for his gun, the screen shook as Ryan clearly fled. The picture was blurry as things zipped by and the only thing they could hear was Ryan’s heavy breathing before it all went black.
She didn’t speak, letting what she’d just seen sink in.
Tom turned to Josh. “Was that…?”
Josh slammed a hand on the table. “Yeah, it was.”
“I know who it is.” Koby blurted as he burst back into the room.
“So do we.” Josh took the phone out of Nikki’s shaking hands and slipped it into his pocket.
Koby didn’t seem to hear him and kept going. “Liz was able to get a list of all the cops that worked Ryan’s case, and you’re never going to guess whose name was on it.”
Nikki wanted to puke as she remembered all the times he acted like he was on her side. “Vaughn?”
“How did you know?” Koby walked toward her from the doorway.
“Because she’s been watching things she shouldn’t have been.” The young deputy entered the room with a sinister smile and a pistol pointed at them.
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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