Title: A Rush of Light
Author: Penelope Marzec
Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Callie, a cop on disability leave, plans a new career at the inn where her father was murdered years ago. Nick, a Christian, curious to learn who is opening up the old inn, stops in to find out and someone takes aim. His uncle, who is with him, is shot but survives. Callie assumes the shooting is a planned hit. She believes she can solve the crime, but instead finds herself protecting Nick from danger. She is also attracted to Nick—a man who will only be her friend because she is not a believing Christian. As Callie’s quest for the perpetrator lead her and Nick into more peril, she finds her lost faith restored when the only way out is prayer.
The heavy front door of the Lone Swan Inn opened, letting in a blast of the March tempest raging beyond the inn's solid brick walls. Callie Turner loathed the anxiety pumping through her. Once the toughest female undercover cop in one of the meanest cities in New Jersey, she held her breath. Her good hand tightened on the glass she was drying. Thirteen years ago, outside that door, someone gunned her father down.
She gritted her teeth. She must not allow the past to haunt her, she had enough problems. Simply drying glasses took forever due to her physically disabled left arm. She shoved the frightening memory to the deepest recesses of her mind, drew in a steady breath, finished drying the glass, and placed it firmly back in the rack.
Her first customer walked into the bar with a drenched head of hair. Rain streamed down his black leather jacket. He slid onto the barstool with a smudge of black grease on his cheek and a wide smile. She had seen that practiced grin on the faces of some of the people she had pulled over for traffic violations. They always thought they could charm her out of writing a ticket. It never worked.
“What's your poison?” She raised her eyebrows a fraction but did not return his smile.
“Valpolicella.” He ordered the drink with the appropriate Italian accent as his smile faded.
“That’ll be ten dollars, sir.” Rigid, she stood and stared back at him. Something flickered in the back of his unusual eyes, which did not match his coal black hair but shone with the luster of soft hazel flecked with brown and highlighted with gold. Something about those eyes disconcerted her far more than his smile.
Certain he would detect her unease, she added in a clipped voice. “And I don’t take checks or credit cards.”
He frowned and appeared disappointed, but he reached for his money. Instinctively, she moved closer to the drawer where the gun lay. Her aim would never be accurate again with only one good hand, but the presence of the weapon helped to calm her paranoia.
The Lone Swan Inn needed paying customers and she intended to collect the cost of all drinks before she served them. She and Butch threw all their savings into fixing up the old place. They needed to recoup their money and pull the inn out of the red. With his last breath, her father begged her not to sell it. She intended to honor that request.
When a fat wad of cash came out of the man’s pocket, Callie struggled to maintain her composure. Balling up the towel, she wished she could stop thinking like a cop. She almost got killed last year by jumping to conclusions. Her left arm reminded her daily how dangerous impulsive moves could be.
She glanced at the man’s fingers as he laid two five-dollar bills and five singles on the bar. Rimmed with black gunk, the filthy fingernails marred his long, strong hands. She pressed her lips into a thin line of distaste. With the big tip, this guy thought he knew the way to a barmaid’s heart.
Hurriedly, she thanked him and scooped up the cash to place it in the cash register before turning to ready his drink.
She scanned the shelves for the proper bottle of wine. The man’s voice resonated with an amazing depth, which made it clear and compelling. However, something else lingered in the back of her mind—something familiar. Where have I met this thug?
Mentally reviewing some of the arrests she made in the past, she lifted the bottle off the shelf, opened it, and poured the drink. She picked up a small napkin, swung around smoothly so she didn’t spill a drop, and gave him a tight smile.
“Thanks.” His gaze focused on the red wine and a muscle in his jaw twitched. He turned his head to glance up and down the length of the bar.
The glint of metal around his neck caught her attention. On a sturdy ball chain he wore a cross, though not a heavy gold one like those worn by members of the street gangs. Dull gray steel lay against his olive skin.
The symbol no longer meant anything to her—not since her father’s murder, at any rate.
“May I trouble you for some peanuts, please?” he asked.
“Oh. I'm sorry. I forgot.” Perspiration beaded up on her forehead. He must have noticed her staring at him. Flustered, she rushed to grab the jar of peanuts and dropped the entire, large economy-sized container. The plastic shattered and sent peanuts shooting everywhere.
Her customer had the audacity to laugh.
Callie closed her eyes and repressed a groan. Last year, the highest award for bravery, this year the klutz award.
She opened her eyes. “I'm sorry, sir, but we’re suddenly all out of peanuts.”
“Happy hour is going to be a bummer.”
He shrugged his broad shoulders and her heart did a strange little dance. Pressing a hand to her chest in disbelief, she stepped back. Nobody ever did that to her—especially someone who looked like a member of a famous crime family. The strain of the past year must be getting to her.
“Now, don’t worry, I won’t tell the boss.” He gave a wink with one of his enigmatic eyes.
“I am the boss,” she stated firmly.
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It’s sweet but strong in all the right emotions. The characters are very real. They come alive in their thoughts and interactions. This sweet, spirit filled story is a romance for all ages!
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Penelope Marzec grew up along the Jersey shore. She started reading romances at a young age and fell hopelessly in love with happy endings. Two of her inspirational romances won EPIC’s eBook Award and another was a finalist in that contest. Her paranormal, Irons in the Fire, was a nominee for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award. Her Christian historical, Patriot’s Courage, placed First in the Inspirational category of the 2021 National Excellence in Story Telling (NEST) Contest.
Visit her website at www.penelopemarzec.com for more information.
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