Title: Locked, Loaded and Lying
Author: Sarah Andre
Genre: Romantic Suspense
He might be innocent.
Or he might be very, very guilty...
Olympic skier Lock Roane was on top of the world: smashing world records, collecting medals, and basking in the love of a nation and his beautiful heiress girlfriend. It all comes crashing down after Lock discovers his girlfriend had an affair - then wakes from a drunken bender to find himself covered in her blood. Disgraced and dethroned, Lock awaits his murder trial with dread, not knowing if his girlfriend died at his own hands.
Journalist Jordan Sinclair is out of options. To satisfy her blackmailer, she must get the inside scoop (and its cash reward) on Lock Roane. An attraction to the arrogant athlete was not part of the plan. Neither is trying to find out what really happened that night. Now Jordan risks everything - including her life - to help the man she's falling for. A man who just might be a cold-blooded killer...
“Any recollection yet, Lock?”
Lock Roane turned from the onslaught of stinging flakes and hurricane-force wind. He flicked his jacket sleeve and squinted at his watch. Almost midnight. Three hours ago when he’d slipped into Sam’s Bait and Tackle Shop, lit only by purring beverage refrigerators, the flakes had been sparse. Now that the hellish clandestine meeting with his lawyer had wrapped up, snow pummeled down. This would probably turn into a blizzard before he reached the top of the hill.
“Any recollection yet, Lock?”
He continued his dispirited trek up the dense forest to the cabin, desperately searching the black hole of his memory for the trillionth time. Had he killed Tiff? Why couldn’t he remember something? He swallowed down the ever-present sense of horror.
When jury selection started Monday and this insane hiding in a remote cabin ended, he vowed he’d pay to renovate Old Sam’s decrepit shack. He owed Old Sam for all the times he’d jimmied the lock with a credit card to meet Parker after the place closed down. Lock was pretty sure the old man knew about the “break-ins,” given the peculiar absence of a six-pack once in a while and the twenty-dollar bills Lock left on the counter. But even when he wasn’t swiping beer, he owed Sam for his company. For keeping his identity a secret these last ten months. Sure, the old man talked way too much about being a cook aboard the Princeton aircraft carrier, but it sure beat hanging with Leo hour after hour, day after day.
Out of the corner of his eye, headlights barreled around the bend of Highway 145 far below. Has to be a tourist—who else would drive like a lunatic in this mess?
As if on cue, the car skidded sideways on the highway. He stiffened, squinting through the swirling snow and dense mist of his breath.
The car swerved the other way, then in an ominous pirouette, sliding across the second lane. Either the wheels had just locked up or the driver stupidly fought the slide instead of turning into it.
Another 360. Lock stared helplessly at the unstoppable disaster hundreds of yards away. Time stretched out. The car now faced backward but skated forward, gathering momentum as it slid straight for the guardrail and the San Miguel River beyond. Oh shit! It’s gonna—
A grinding screech echoed uphill as the rear fender smashed through the guardrail. The car sailed in the air and disappeared into the dark abyss below.
“Hold on, just—I’m coming!” His voice sounded tight in the eerie silence, and his knees shook as he stumbled downward, the horrific grinding sound still echoing sickly in his head. Damn it to hell for not having a cell phone! This was gonna be bad.
The thick forest would have made this descent treacherous on any given night, but combined with the stinging snow and thin, bobbing beam of his flashlight, his journey became one of survival. Flakes blinded him and clogged his breathing. Slashes of frigid wind whipped him until he staggered. He pushed on, slipping and sliding, and twice collided with cottonwood branches, the second one clocking him so hard it sheared off his knit cap.
Uttering an oath, he continued on, his breath now ragged. He reached the highway and half-ran, half-skated across. He halted at the guardrail’s serrated hole and swept the flashlight in an arc. A Honda Civic lay upside down on the embankment. The headlights shone with morbid stillness into the swirling river three feet away.
“Hang on,” he hollered, sidestepping carefully down the embankment. A blanket of innocent-looking snow hid jagged rock and loose stones. One misstep and he’d pitch right into the howling river.
When he reached the upside-down driver’s side door, he shone the light through the shattered glass. A figure in a red sweater was still belted in and slumped away from the door. A dark ponytail cascaded to the car ceiling, and a crimson gash on the woman’s temple glistened in his beam.
“Come on, honey, please be alive,” he whispered, his teeth chattering from bitter wind and sweat-soaked clothes. What if she had a broken neck? In trying to save her, he’d kill her. Fear clawed at him, so raw he thought he might vomit.
He straightened and gazed up the embankment to the silent, snow-covered highway beyond. This was the boonies. There’d be no snowplows or cars passing through for a long, long time.
He turned back and yanked the door handle with all his strength. The dented metal groaned as it yawned open, and shards of glass showered around his boots, glittering under his flashlight’s beam. He hunched down, shining the light on the woman. A thin rivulet of blood ran from her temple into her hairline before dripping rhythmically onto the ceiling in a growing pool.
“Hey. Can you hear me?”
An eyelid fluttered, and he released a harsh breath, jamming the flashlight into a mound of snow, the beam directed on her face. He braced her torso, released the seatbelt, and lowered her body an inch at a time until he had her half out of the car. He kicked a small portion of snow and glass away and tugged off a glove, gently resting her head on it.
In the dim light, her face was horror-movie pale, lips bluish and puckered. The only sign of consciousness was that one eyelid flutter. Blood stained his jacket sleeves, and he was seized with dread. He pressed two fingers to her carotid, trying to steady their shaking as he concentrated on feeling even the faintest of beats. Nothing. She was dead.
He staggered over to a formation of large, flat rocks by the swollen river’s edge, fell to his knees on the closest one, and vomited into the black, swirling water.
What was he going to do? He could already see the headlines: Olympic Champion found with SECOND dead body.
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This enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn romance set in a remote cabin in the middle of a blizzard is a can’t-put-down read. A who-done-it mystery, where the murderer might very well be IN the cabin with them.
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Sarah Andre writes romantic suspense and is a 2017 RITA® Award finalist, which is Romance Writers of America highest award of distinction.
She lives in serene Southwest FL with her husband and two naughty Pomeranians. When she’s not writing, Sarah is either reading novels or coloring. Yes, you read that right. She’s all over those coloring books for adults.
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