Circle of the Red Lily #1
November 15, 2022
Available in: Audio, e-Book, Trade Size
“Atmospheric, vivid and intense, this is modern romantic noir at its best.”
~NYTimes bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz
Working as a Hollywood photographer means Riley Temple has seen it all, but that theory is put to the test when she finds herself staring at the chilling image of a dead woman. When her questions about the film’s origin results in violence, she finds herself reluctantly turning to the only person who assures her he can help: Detective Quinn Burton. Her history with the LAPD is complicated, her trust in authority, tenuous. But to find those responsible and to protect those closest to her, she’s willing to do anything. Even trust a cop.
After more than a decade on the job, Quinn knows a dangerous situation when he sees it and Riley Temple is up to her ears in trouble. But not for the reason she thinks. The pictures she’s stumbled on calls into question a notorious murder conviction; a conviction partially secured by Quinn’s own police commissioner father. A conviction powerful people have a vested interest in keeping in place. Quinn prides himself on being loyal but seeing this case through means betraying someone: his job, his family, or the woman he’s falling in love with.
As their investigation begins and old secrets are revealed, Quinn and Riley find themselves targeted by members of a secret society that for decades has maintained influence and violent control over Los Angeles and Hollywood’s powerful elite. A society that, until now, has remained hidden in the shadows.
A society that will stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried.
An explosion of tires screeching and horns honking had him turning to the street where he saw a woman racing across traffic.
She wore a stark button-down white blouse tucked into a knee-tight black skirt and flats that made his arches hurt. Keys and cell phone
clutched in her hand, shoulder length dark hair flying around her tear-stained, flushed face, she leapt onto the sidewalk with no indication she planned to let the crime scene tape slow her down.
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” One of the female patrol officers stepped effortlessly in front of her, both hands up to stop her. “No one’s allowed beyond the tape.
“I’m family.” Her breath hitched on a sob she was clearly trying to stop. “Merle’s my fam—”
“Miss Temple?” Recognizing her voice, Quinn moved toward them. “It’s all right officer. I’ve got this.”
Relief swept across her face even as caution rose in her eyes. “Detective Burton?”
“Yes. Come on through.” He lifted the tape, flicked his gaze to the nametag pinned over her heart as he drew her away, lowering his
voice. “I planned to call you once we were done with the scene.”
“Where is he? I want to see him.” She hugged her arms around her torso and squeezed, tried to catch her breath. “Where’s Merle?”
“They’re taking him to Cedars-Sinai. It was touch and go for the EMTs, but they got him stabilized.”
“He’s alive?” She reached out and grabbed his arm, letting that trapped sob escape. Once it did, she released a breath and closed her
eyes. “I guess I assumed when you said homicide—”
“I’m sorry. I should have been more clear during our conversation.” Not that there had been much of an exchange. He’d barely
gotten another sentence out before she’d hung up on him—probably to drive on over here. “Patrol units responded to the store’s silent
alarm. We were actually called to the secondary scene.”
Her dark eyes opened. They were clearer now. Sharper. And far more leery. “Secondary scene. Someone else was hurt?”
“Yes. I’m afraid they were killed.” He looked down to where she continued to cling to him. “In the parking lot. There’s a homeless—”
“Dudley.” She shoved past him, running through the parking lot gate. One of the crime scene techs shot to his feet. “Please. Let me
see …” She turned pleading eyes on Quinn. “Let me see him.”
Intrigued, Quinn didn’t have to ask if she was sure. Certainty was written all over her face. He nodded to the techs and they moved
aside, the police on the ready to intervene if she moved too close to the evidence, or pollute the crime scene in any way. She was careful, respectful even, as she moved deliberately before crouching in front of the opening of the makeshift dwelling. A tiny Christmas tree with no more than a dozen teeny light bulbs glowed dimly in the space.
A soft, grief-filled sound escaped the control he saw her fighting for.
“Give us a few minutes?” Quinn asked the techs. The parking lot’s solitary light flickered, as if it, too, was exhausted from the night’s
events. There weren’t any cars around, save for the SUV belonging to the crime scene team. For a downtown Hollywood lot, the place was pretty clean. The Jenga construction of the victim’s residence told Quinn he—Dudley—had been living here for some time.
Quinn bent down and rested a gentle hand on Ms. Temple’s shoulder. “We haven’t found an ID for him yet. You said his name
was Dudley? Dudley what?”
“He never said.” She shook her head, tucked her hair behind her ears as she pressed her lips into a hard line. “He showed up about
a year ago, tried to steal a pair of shoes from Merle’s shop.” A sad smile touched her lips as she reached for a yellow plastic disc lying
on the blanket.
“I’m sorry.” He caught her hand, held it gently. “I can’t let you touch anything.”
“Right.” She shook her head as if clearing her thoughts. “I knew that. He was just so proud … sorry.”
So was he, Quinn thought. It was clear this man had meant something to her. “You were saying? About Merle and Dudley? Dudley tried to steal some shoes?”
“He made a right mess of it. Knocked over a bunch of displays trying to get away. Instead of calling the police, Merle fed him dinner and offered him a deal. He could camp out here in the lot if Dudley kept his eyes on the place at night.” She reached out again, this time to touch the man’s lifeless hand, but refrained from making contact. “Guess, maybe, it wasn’t such a good deal after all. He looks like he’s sleeping.”
“It would have been quick.” Two bullets. One to the head. One to the heart. Gunshots around this part of town, at this time, caused
as much concern these days as errant firecrackers. “I know it doesn’t mean much.”
“It doesn’t mean anything. He was harmless,” she whispered. “He was harmless to everyone except to himself. Why kill him? Why …”
She stood, looked back to the gate. “This doesn’t make any sense. Why is Merle alive but Dudley’s dead?”
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“Atmospheric, vivid and intense, this is modern romantic noir at its best.” ~NYTimes Bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz
“From the very first page, Anna J Stewart’s new novel, EXPOSED, grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go. STEWART’s use of Old Hollywood in juxtaposition with the grit and politics of the LAPD was incredibly effective. A who-done-it series of bone-chilling murders that began long before this novel’s opening salvo. EXPOSED is a page-turner with images that will linger long after you finish the book.” ~Author and Award-Winning Actress Meg Tilly
"Anna J Stewart outdoes herself with a stunning job of storytelling. I was hooked from page one and finished in one seating." ~NYTimes Bestselling Author Tara Taylor Quinn
“A twisty, dark tale with a ripping plot and compelling characters set against a unique Hollywood backdrop!” ~Author JM Winchester
2023 Nominee, Daphne du Maurier Award, Best Mainstream Suspense (2nd Place result)
2023 Maggie Winner for Best Romantic Suspense