Honor Bound #1
November 1, 2016
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Available in: Paperback, e-Book
More Than a Lawman
A journalist and a sexy detective team up to catch a serial killer in USA TODAY bestselling author Anna J. Stewart’s new romance!
Haunted by the death of her childhood friend, journalist Eden St. Claire has dedicated her life to catching serial killers—and she’s always done so alone. But when the lethal murderer Eden is tracking puts her in danger’s crosshairs, she agrees to accept protection from longtime friend Detective Cole Delaney.
Cole has secretly carried a torch for Eden for years. She might not want to let anybody in, but the thought of losing her is unbearable. Passions flare as the threats intensify. Can Cole convince Eden to break her own rule to never fall in love…before the killer snuffs out their happily-ever-after?
Icy air shot through Eden’s lungs.
She choked and dragged in breaths as fast as she could and moaned against the pain blazing across her shoulders. She lifted heavy lids and stared down at the yellowed laminate floor, nausea swirling as she swayed in the air. Her face had gone numb with cold, freezing the terrified tears on her cheeks. Not just cold air. Arctic air.
A whimper escaped her throat as she twisted back and forth and kicked out, but the movement sent new waves of pain slicing through her, especially her arms. She’d never hung like a slab of meat in a freezer before, but she figured there had to be a first time for everything.
She licked her cracked, dry lips and forced her chin up and back. A solitary bulb blazed bright enough for her to look up and see the raw bruises forming around her chained wrists.
Panic set in, stealing what little breath she had. Her head pounded like a freight train had rumbled through her skull. She could hear the thudding of her heart in the tomblike silence.
Hysteria clawed its way at her, but she ignored the terror as the image of the rusted metal hook that suspended her from the ceiling burrowed into her brain. Fear was useless. Fear wouldn’t do any good. Fear wouldn’t get her out alive.
She kicked harder this time, but only spun herself in a dizzying circle. She took advantage of the miscalculation and scanned her prison. And the bodies surrounding her in what could be her tomb.
No windows, only one door…
She whirled again as her mind caught up with her and questioned how she’d gotten here. The last thing she remembered was heading to Monroe’s to meet Cole…
Cole. Oh, God. Cole.
Wait. Eden squeezed her eyes shut. She recalled getting out of the car. She’d heard footsteps, heavy shoes, quick steps, alarming enough for her to reach into her bag for her stun gun, but an arm had locked around her throat before she could grasp it. And then she was…here.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
She’d let down her guard, fallen into a routine. Predictability was as much an enemy to her as the criminals she stalked. What had she been thinking? Eden dropped her head back, let out a long breath and blinked her eyes open. No use dwelling on mistakes she couldn’t change. Not when she had to figure out a means to escape. Her eyes adjusted to the dimness, even as she wished she could block out the sight in front of her.
Men and women, various ages, sizes and ethnicities, hung in similar fashion, only their arms were stiff at their sides, hooks pierced through what she hoped were their clothes. Every one of the eight bodies had the same horrified death mask. Icicles had formed on their extremities. Sheer, sharp blades of ice dangled from fingertips and noses.
Eden swallowed. How long had it taken them to die?
She wiggled tingling fingers. How long did she have?
Stop. Detach. Work it out. What do you see? What can help you?
Eden grasped at the calm she’d spent years honing as an investigative reporter. She couldn’t think about these people—people who had once led full lives, had friends and families who cared about them, were missing them. If…when, when she got out, she would do something for them.
Starting with bringing the Iceman to justice.
Even though she was already so cold, Eden’s blood chilled at the thought of the serial killer who had been preying in the Central Valley on and off for the past three years. They—the authorities—had believed he’d disappeared after leaving three frozen, mutilated corpses hanging in abandoned food storage facilities within the Sacramento region, but Eden always suspected otherwise. Her frigid companions proved her right. The Iceman had been stocking up; storing his victims for this one big reveal.
The killer probably thought of Eden as the candle on the cake.
“Okay…whatever God is up there…if I get out of this, I’ll tell Cole he was right.” He’d been saying for years that she’d go too far one day; push someone over the edge. The detective and longtime family friend might be a pain in the neck, but he was the only cop willing to give her the time of day when it came to her theories. She knew what it was like to live without answers, without justice. She was not giving up. Not when she still had to have answers herself.
Her arms strained as she tried to pull on the chains and haul herself up. No go. The air was thinning. Breathing actually hurt.
In hindsight, perhaps she shouldn’t have spouted off about the Iceman. On her blog, she’d called him every name she could think of. Her boss at the paper had accused her of becoming a liability and a danger to both herself and the reputation of the publication. Clearly, he’d been onto something. Karma may be paying her back—given the name of her blog, Eden on Ice, was currently more than just a play on words.
“Maybe it can be my epitaph.” Eden shivered so hard she thought her bones might snap. She was so weak, and yet the monster that dwelled within Eden—the monster that had been birthed twenty years ago when her friend had been murdered—stirred to life. She would not surrender.
Not to one of them.
A searing pain soared between her shoulder blades as she hoisted herself up a mere inch. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. The movement sent blood rushing to her starved muscles. The strain on her wrists was unbearable, but she welcomed the sensation. If she hurt, she was alive.
Terror washed afresh. Wait. Why was she alive?
She turned her head to one side and then the other, as if her kidnapper was about to come through the metal door.
She had to get down. Now.
An image of Detective Cole Delaney exploded in her mind and she laughed. How would Cole handle this situation? What would he do? “Cole wouldn’t be in this situation,” Eden chattered.
“Cole would have taken out the Iceman the second he realized he was being followed.” Oh, how she really, really wanted to live long enough to see if her instincts were right.
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What They're Saying...
“Anna J. Stewart’s page-turning romantic suspense debut is a pitch-perfect blend of romance and suspense. With a smart, engaging heroine and a sexy cop hero, what’s not to love? Fun and suspenseful, MORE THAN A LAWMAN rocks.”
~NYTimes Bestselling Author Allison Brennan
“This book starts off with an amazing first scene and just keeps getting more intense from there. The plot has an original premise and keeps the twists and turns coming. Cole and Eden’s romance is well integrated into the plot and handled in a very realistic way. This romantic suspense worked on every level. I can’t wait to get Ms. Stewart’s next installment of this trilogy!”
~5-Stars, TOP PICK, Avonna from The Romance Reviews (read the full review here)
“I am very thankful that I got to review this book. Let’s just say, “Wow!” If you at all like the T.V. show, Criminal Minds, then this book is for you. Hopefully the very first page will grip you like it did me and keep you on the edge of your seat as it did me until I finished the book. The plot keeps twisting with unexpected surprises.”
~4-Stars, Long & Short Reviews (read the full review here)
“Stewart’s style echoes the promise of a Nora Roberts trilogy—smart plot, fun dialog quips, character chemistry on sizzle, and a cast of friends to love that you know will get their own book—something I could take under a blanket by a fireplace and sink into for a few hours.”
~Heart’s Kiss Magazine