Title: Dead To Rights
Author: Margo Hoornstra
Genre: Romantic Suspense
One step off the path could be her last. Police dispatcher Whitney Rhoades has one word for her current life…contentment. Even after a disfigured body is discovered near her home. When word gets out she’s found a piece of a broken mirror, the deadly mishaps begin to pile up, and her peaceful world becomes a nightmare. Veteran detective Gabriel Tate knows a vendetta when he sees it. What he doesn’t know is who wants Whitney dead. But despite her terror, she tosses his offer of protection back in his face. She trusted him once, and he betrayed her. He can’t…won’t…let that happen again. Unless he can regain her trust—and soon—the results could be fatal. Find a murderer, or risk losing her again…permanently.
“You need to understand what happened. You need to stick by me and convince everyone it wasn’t my fault.” His eyes grew wider and wider, his voice more intense until he was shouting at her.
After making her drive back to Harmony Lake, holding the nine‑millimeter at her head the entire time, he instructed her to park in a secluded clearing by the path.
“Gabe’s going to be home soon. He planned to get off early. He’ll expect me to be there.”
“You think you need to be home to greet him?” Anger bordering on panic flared in his voice as he grabbed her arm.
“No. Of course not.” She recoiled as she tried to shrug off his hold.
“Then why even mention it?”
“You said you were innocent. That this wasn’t your fault. Maybe Gabe can help the authorities see that.”
“You think he would?” His grip on her arm tightened.
Alarm bells clanged a cacophonic din. He was nearing the breaking point. She needed to take advantage of that.
“Sure. Why not?”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen.” He dragged Whitney from the truck with such force her purse was left behind. “Don’t do anything cute, or I swear I’ll shoot you where you stand. Make up whatever story I can to justify my actions. Get going.”
He prodded her up the path in front of him. Now and then, jabbing her in the back with the gun barrel to keep her moving.
“I’ll do what I can for you.” Though she was on the edge of spinning out of control, Whitney called on her extensive skills as a dispatcher to reflect calm.
“I’m telling you, it wasn’t my fault.” He hissed the words. “She was flirting with me all evening. Sending me signals like she wanted it. You know, the way all you women do.”
Whitney clenched her teeth to keep from yelling a denial. Maintaining her self-control, she pretended to commiserate. “Oh, I know what you mean. Leading you on.”
“Exactly. I figured we’d seal the deal when she told the guy she worked for she had to leave. I knew that was my cue to follow her. When I saw her walking down the road I offered her a ride.”
She had no idea what he was talking about and didn’t care. “You need to tell me exactly how it happened. Explain to me how it wasn’t your fault.” She did all she could to keep her voice even. “If I’m going to help you beat this, I have to know these things.”
Her only goal was to keep him talking. Buy time to escape.
“We’re going to the top of the bluff. I want you to see exactly how it happened.”
Then what? She clamped her lips together.
“What was I supposed to do? She attacked me first. With a mirror of all things. She would have sliced my neck open if I hadn’t punched her.” He let out a sickening laugh. “That stopped her. But then she started bleeding from her nose. Crying and choking. It wouldn’t stop. None of it would stop.” His tone lowered as if remorse had finally taken hold. “I had every right to defend myself, but I didn’t mean to hit her that hard. I never intended to break her nose. I sure as hell never expected her to die on me.”
Being forced to walk in front of him, Whitney was hearing what amounted to a confession to murder. Without the benefit of cameras recording every word in an official interrogation room. Without the luxury of a confessed murderer being unarmed and in custody.
There was only one reason he’d be so freely confessing to her. What better way to clear his conscience? Then make sure she’d never tell anyone.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen.” His voice jarred Whitney out of her thoughts.
Her step faltered, which earned her another sharp jab from the gun barrel. Wincing as pain radiated through her ribs, she had no choice but to continue moving.
“It was an accident.” She spoke the first words that came to mind. “Everyone will see that.” Convincing him she was on his side was the only way she had a prayer to get out of this alive.
“You’re damned right it was an accident. Her fault. Not mine. She never should have resisted.” The strength of his voice rose before falling to a mere whisper.
When they reached the top of the ridge, he came along side and turned to face her.
“That mirror evidence is our little secret. Yours and mine. Of course, you’re not going to be around to talk about it. And I’m sure not going to tell. Don’t worry. If you don’t die from the fall, I’m an excellent marksman. You can even decide the location of the kill shot ahead of time. Brains or heart? Your choice.” With an ominous chuckle, he nudged her in the side one more time. “Should I push you, or would you rather jump?”
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Dead To Rights is a feel good contemporary romance about redemption and second chances set against the backdrop of mystery and murder.
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Margo Hoornstra authors romantic suspense such as the Brothers in Blue series, On The Surface, On The Force, On The Make and, the soon to be released On The Move as well as several titles of various lengths in contemporary romance. A city girl turned country woman from Michigan, Margo enjoys hiking with her husband of many years around the wide open spaces near their home, hates to cook and loves to read.
Whatever the genre, she enjoys giving her characters a well deserved happily ever after.
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