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Welcome to Aces, Arizona, where the big excitement on Saturday night is the sand drags, and folks look forward to the annual sidewalk egg fry contest. That's fine with Devon Dawes. Peace and quiet are just what she's looking for after the death of her brother in a big-city police chase. Small town life is also just right with Rick Tredino, whose career as an undercover Phoenix cop nearly cost him his life when the woman he loved betrayed him.
But Aces has also attracted a stalker bent on revenge.
The stalker, dubbed "Mr. Ace" for his habit of sending an ace playing card with each threat, brings Devon and Rick, now a part-time P.I., together, but Rick's progress on the case goes nowhere. Are the threats a result of Devon's strong public stand against police pursuits? Or are they connected to the youth center Devon runs - retribution from troubled teens Devon was forced to turn over to the police? Rick's efforts to protect Devon are hampered as much by her dislike of cops as by Mr. Ace himself.
When their tumultuous professional relationship turns personal, the past catches up with Devon and Rick. In spite of her attraction to him, Devon doesn't want Rick invading the walls she built up to deal with her grief. And the last time Rick got close to a woman, he almost died. The strain of the past breaks them apart just as Mr. Ace gets ready to deal his final card, only this time it isn't just vengeance on his mind...it's murder.
As if they had a mind of their own, the fourteen sheets that passed for a newspaper wriggled from Devon’s grasp and flopped to the tabletop, the back two pages floating open from the impact.
Her can of diet soda, already wet with condensation, rolled from her fingertips, and she fumbled to right it as she dropped her lunch cooler and the morning’s mail to the table with a sigh. It was another one of those days.
A small ad caught her eye. Free Crime Prevention Survey, Commercial or Residential, No Obligation. Marshall Security, Full Line of Security and Investigative Services, 256 Coyote Lane, Aces, Arizona. She lingered over the ad as she popped open her soda, downed a long swallow, and reached into her cooler for her turkey, tomato, and alfalfa sprout sandwich. Sure, she thought, no obligation, right. A free five-minute survey and they talk you into laying out several hundred dollars for a security system.
The phone call, still fresh in her mind, replayed again, the voice in her mind as clear as it had been two days ago.
“Devon...are you as hot in person as you are on TV? I can’t wait to find out. Did you get my calling card?”
A small shudder rippled through her at the memory, and she rubbed her hand along her trousers to wipe the can’s wetness from her fingers. She had received a few prank and obscene calls when she had lived in Chicago, and the requisite number of nasty calls and letters when she had sued the City of Milwaukee following Josh’s death, but that didn’t make it any easier to handle this call. Besides, this hadn’t sounded like a kid playing games. This voice had been low, clear, masculine, and definitely adult. Nor did it sound like somebody upset with her brand of politics. This had sounded personal.
She had hesitated to call the police, even after incessant prodding from Laurinda Salis, her office assistant. In the end it had been worry for the Center and the kids that had prompted her to call APD. For all the good it had done.
Experience was scarcely in evidence as she had eyed the young responding officer. He had hardly looked old enough to be out of the police academy, but his physical attributes were in abundance. Biceps that had stretched the fabric of his short-sleeved uniform shirt bespoke a strong devotion to the gym, and Devon had been painfully aware of the handcuffs, expandable baton, pepper spray, and semi-automatic that crowded the belt on the officer’s slim waist.
No, she hadn’t recognized the voice.
No, she didn’t know why anyone would want to threaten her.
No, she hadn’t had any other trouble or received any other threats.
No, she hadn’t thought to hit *69 on the phone to give her the number of the caller.
Yes, she had been on TV the week before, for a grand total of two minutes. Why? To make a proposal at the town council meeting that the Aces Police Department establish a vehicle pursuit policy in light of the two deaths near Phoenix earlier in the month that had been caused by a police chase.
She had studied the young officer’s eyes then, and knew without a doubt that behind the practiced indifference in his gray eyes she was definitely not making brownie points as a victim. As if they ever cared, she thought.
Yes, she had been mentioned on TV as being the Director of the new Aces Youth Center.
Did she think the threat was due to her proposal or related to the Center? As if she would know.
The officer had snapped his memo book shut, advised her to get Caller-ID, then, almost as an afterthought, added that he would file a report. As if to say, Lady, I have better things to do.
“ACES is a great book to sit back and read in one seating. Short and well written, it is full of enough mystery and relationship building to keep the reader interested.” - Reviewed by Sarah Silversmith, The Romance Reader’s Connection
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 246
Paper Weight (lb): 10.4
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