THE QUIET DAY will be released this week, but you can read Chapter 2 now!
As a female firefighter in a small town, Suzanne O’Connell knows that every day will go one of two ways: Either nothing happens, or she suddenly finds herself in over her head. Firefighters never, ever say the words “It’s a quiet day!”—because that’s when all hell breaks loose, and their peaceful, easy day suddenly turns into their worst nightmare. This is exactly what happens to Suzanne when she finds herself trapped with Harold Waters, local law enforcement officer and her old flame, and fellow fireman Toby Chandler, who, according to everyone, is the kind of guy you want watching your back.
In an unusual turn of events, the stakes turn deadly, and Suzanne discovers that trusting the wrong man could leave her life hanging in the balance.
Did you miss your sneak peek of Chapter 1? If so, click here.
Suzanne’s cell phone rang from where it was stashed on the passenger seat with her purse as she worked the clutch in her seventies classic MGB, which would likely always be a work in progress. In fact, she’d just replaced the clutch, a part that wasn’t exactly stocked at the local auto shop, given her car’s age. The canvas top was up, and she was still smarting over how Charlotte and Marcus had come at her over Toby as if she were a teenager who didn’t know any better. What business was it of theirs, anyway? Why couldn’t they see that Toby was a great guy?
And why hadn’t she bothered to respond to his text? It had made her feel like she was an afterthought, but that was ridiculous, because she was…what?
She was going to surprise him, she told herself. Maybe that was the reason for the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Doubts were something she’d never allowed to get stuck in her head, but her brother and his live-in girlfriend had just alluded to the possibility that Toby wasn’t as into her as she was into him, and that was so off base!
She dragged the stick and heard the grind as she changed gears too fast. Her cell phone started ringing again, and when she glanced over to the lit-up screen and saw it was Toby, she considered for only a second before pressing the green icon and holding the phone to her ear.
“I’m on my way,” she started, balancing the phone between her shoulder and ear so she could shift gears again.
“Was wondering, since I didn’t hear from you. Was about to give up and head out.”
Seriously? She actually pulled the phone away and stared at it for a second as she pulled up and stopped at a set of lights that had turned red. She put the phone back to her ear, her hand ready to shift gears again.
“You’re going out?” she said. There it was, that feeling she hadn’t been able to shake. “What’s going on, Toby? I thought you and I were supposed to go for drinks, but then you didn’t respond to any of my texts. Now, after how long, I suddenly get one from you telling me to come on over? Thought it was time for the two of us to date in public. We are dating, right…?”
She heard the sigh on the other end and could sense some brush-off coming.
“You’re reading too much into things,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t respond, but I was held up, unavoidable. Comes with the title, you know. But you know what else, Suzanne? This is starting to feel like you’re giving me the third degree when all I want to do is stay in tonight. Didn’t realize we had plans set in stone. You didn’t respond to my text, so what am I to think? Come on, don’t push so hard…” There he went, sounding pissed when she was the one who should’ve been.
“Not so much set in stone,” she said, “but we were going out.”
She wasn’t sure what sound he made on the other end, considering the purr of the engine wasn’t exactly quiet. The light turned green, and she gave it gas and had to juggle the phone between her shoulder and ear again.
“Look, how about I cook dinner?” Toby said. “I’m hungry. Maybe you haven’t eaten? I’ll whip up a batch of linguini for us. What do you say?”
Dinner, just her and Toby…and, of course, what would follow but sex? Hot sex. Then she’d go home, because they were still at that stage of not staying over.
There they were again, those doubts from her brother and Charlotte. Damn them, already!
“Well, I suppose dinner would be nice,” she said.
“That’s great,” he said. “Hey, listen, since you’re on your way, would you mind stopping at the store and picking up a package of linguini noodles? And garlic, too, since I’m out. Oh, and looks like I’m out of tomatoes for a sauce, too. Why don’t you grab one of those premade jars of linguini sauce, as well, and I can whip up a salad to go with?”
She was sure he was rummaging through a cupboard or fridge, and she was stuck on the fact that she was now picking up groceries. “So instead of going out, you’re making me dinner…yet I’m picking dinner up. Really?” She didn’t even try to dial back the sarcasm in her tone.
“Well, I just thought since you’re already out…”
“Fine, never mind,” she said. “I’m just giving you a hard time. I’ll stop and pick up dinner so you can make it for me and hide me away at your place, alone, and not be seen in public.”
“I’ll make it up to you—and I have some news to share, too. You’ll be happy for me…” he drawled in that sexy voice of his, the one that could get her to do anything. At least he had eased her confusion from seconds ago. Damn Marcus, anyway, for getting in her head. She was better than that.
“Fine, I’ll stop at the box store and should be there in about fifteen,” she said. “Can’t wait to see you.”
She could see the store just up ahead as she geared down, then realized as soon as she hung up, just as a smile touched her lips, that he’d initially said he was about to go out, then that he wanted to stay in—and he’d never corrected her about not wanting to be seen as an item in public.
So he had news, what news? What was it with Toby? At times he seemed so elusive, all over the place and all about himself.
There it was again, that seed of doubt from her brother that just wouldn’t get out of her head.
She pulled into the parking lot and into a spot beside a black pickup, then stepped out of her car and gave the heavy door a shove closed with a squeak. She slid her key into the lock and headed in.
Way too many choices. She found herself grabbing two jars of marinara sauce, pasta, and what else did he need? Garlic, right. But there was already some in the sauce, so…
“Suzanne, almost didn’t recognize you.”
It was his voice, so deep that it pulled her abruptly from her distraction. She found herself looking over to Harold Waters, in a deputy uniform much like her brother’s, but from the next county over. His blond hair was short and tidy, not something she remembered, but he still had that perpetually pissed-off expression that reminded her how much of an absolute asshole he was. He dragged his gaze over her, and she had to fight the urge to slap him.
“Like what you see?” She inclined her head, holding the basket of groceries and resting her hand on her hip, still in her blue uniform, having not changed since work. His basket was filled with steak, chips, nachos, and milk. She dragged her own gaze up and over him in the same manner. It was then she thought she spotted an edge, something in the pull of his lips, not a smile.
All he did was grunt, taking his time before answering. “You look good,” he said. “Guess I don’t have to ask what you’ve been up to. Thought I heard you joined the fire department.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of the way he’d said it. There was just something about Harold that she’d never been able to figure out. He had a way of giving her everything when he was talking to her.
“Excuse me,” a woman said, and Harold gestured to Suzanne, moving her out of the way as if they were together, barely glancing over. She didn’t miss how buff he had gotten. He was under six feet, but his arms… He looked like he had taken up bench pressing as a new pastime, not that she had any idea what his pastimes were.
“Yup, going on five years now,” Suzanne said. “So are you lost or something, or just slumming in Livingston?”
He didn’t smile. There it was, that heavy gaze, those hazel eyes. He had a square face, a hard, chiseled look, and scars on his face from acne as a kid. To some, it was distracting. But there had always been something about Harold. He didn’t fit the image of a typical pretty boy, didn’t have the natural charisma, wasn’t the total hot package that Toby was, but something about his personality and the way he moved gave him a level of attractiveness that kind of snuck up on her.
“Stopped in to visit my sister and her husband, who live here, after meeting with your brother today. Not slumming, just shopping on my way home,” he said as if setting her straight, another reminder of the way he was.
She wasn’t quite sure what to say to a man she had gone out of her way to avoid seeing for years even though she had known exactly where he was and what he was doing. She was rattled to hear that he had met with Marcus. Why hadn’t her brother said anything? Then again, why would he?
“I see you’re still with the Gallatin County sheriff’s office,” she said. “Still living in Bozeman?”
He said nothing but kept looking at her in that way of his, giving her everything, definitely not the self-centered, surface-level crap she’d become used to. She had to remind herself this was just a ruse. He was a player, too, and she’d never been able to wrap her head around how he’d yanked the rug right out from under her.
“I’m back in Gallatin, but maybe not for long.”
“Back? Did you go somewhere?”
He hadn’t looked away. It was unnerving, not something she was used to, considering Toby was always looking away. “Yeah, took a job down in Oklahoma City, with hate crimes. I’ve been back only a month.”
So that was why she hadn’t run into him. “Wow, I had no idea you were gone. So you’re thinking of leaving again?” she said. What was it about hearing him now? She couldn’t shake this unsettled feeling, considering how things had been left between them.
“Weighing options, is all,” he said. There it was again, something in those hazel eyes—sadness or something else? She didn’t know, considering she really didn’t know him as she’d once thought she did.
“Well, this has been fun,” she said, “but I’ve got a dinner date. I should be going. Great to see you.”
She went to step away, but he pressed his hand to her bare arm, glancing past her and then stepping in closer, really looking at her in a way that made her feel as if he were scrutinizing her, and she didn’t have a clue why. For a second, she thought he was going to say something, but he stepped back and shook his head as if deciding not to. She hated when guys did that. Why did she have this feeling that so much between them had been left unsaid? Too much misunderstanding, betrayal, and uncleared air.
“What?” she said. Even she could hear how sharply it had come out.
“Nothing. Just…you look great, Suzanne. Hope life is treating you well. Stay safe out there,” he said. Then he stepped around her and strode to the end of the aisle.
She took one last look at her basket, sure she had everything, and started to the cash register. She spotted him at the next till over, paying. The cashier laughed at something he said, and he took his plastic bag and turned to where Suzanne was paying for her own groceries. He just nodded at her as he walked on by. It was pure instinct to watch him. He was mysterious, sexy, and at one time, she’d thought he was the one.
“Is that everything?” the cashier said.
Suzanne had to pull her gaze away. “Yes, thank you,” she replied, then tapped her debit card, took the groceries, and walked out of the store, into darkness.
She found herself looking around for a man that she shouldn’t have been paying any attention. Because there was Toby, even if there was no commitment, no depth. What she did know was that tonight, she and Toby needed to have a talk or something to establish exactly which direction they were headed in.
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