Heat Wave (Twilight Cove Trilogy Series #2)by Jill Marie Landis
Private investigator Kat Vargas once cared about/i>
Throughout her dazzling career, bestselling author Jill Marie Landis has consistently written stories filled with unforgettable sensuality, creating characters whose vibrant emotions instantly sweep you into their lives. Now in Heat Wave, Landis turns up the heat and delivers her most riveting novel yet.
Private investigator Kat Vargas once cared about someone so much it hurt. Once she lived a dream life with her first love and fiancé—until betrayal followed by shattering tragedy ended it all. Kat has sworn never to get too close to anyone again. But now the peace and quiet of Twilight Cove is driving the straight-talking, no-nonsense P.I. crazy. Then a prospective new client shows up at the door. Moved by his stubbornness and sincerity, Kat takes his case, breaking a promise to relax, recoup, and rethink her solitary life.
Ty Chandler is desperate to locate the child he fathered nineteen years ago—a child he never knew existed until now. Although he’s no stranger to heartache, he is irresistibly drawn to the exotic, vibrantly alluring P.I. Their search not only leads them to Ty’s troubled, strong-willed daughter, but into each others’ arms. Though Kat courageously works to help Ty reunite his family, she’s terrified of confronting a painful secret of her own—one that will cost her the love of the only man capable of tearing down the walls she’s built around her heart.
From the tranquil beaches of the central California coast to the fast and furious streets of L.A., Heat Wave is a passionate and heartfelt story of families divided and brought back together, the magic of hope for new beginnings, and the overwhelming power love has to heal even the most battered hearts.
—LINDA LAEL MILLER
New York Times bestselling author of The Last Chance Café
“Riveting—a gripping novel that will pull at your heartstrings.”
—JOAN JOHNSTON, author of Colter’s Wife
“Sweet and sexy, warm and wise, Jill Marie Landis’ emotional stories will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.”
“Jill Marie Landis creates characters you want to spend time with and a story that will keep you turning the pages.”
—SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS
“Characters to love [and] emotion that tugs at the heart.”
“Jill Marie Landis can really touch the heart.”
—JAYNE ANN KRENTZ
Read an Excerpt
TWILIGHT COVE, CALIFORNIA five days later . . .
Another night. The same old nightmare.
The sorrowful sound of wind chimes. The roar of the surf. The tang of salt on the air. Dense, gray sheets of rain. The shimmering pavement. Tall stalks of sugarcane bowed by the storm, slick with moisture.
Her vision blinded by tears, she tries to blink against the light, to comprehend the blazing glare of headlights aimed straight toward her. The impact. The screech of metal on metal.
The never-ending scream that fills the silence afterward.
Kat awoke tangled in twisted sheets, sweaty, alone.
She shoved back the covers with her good hand, stepped out of bed, and walked through puddles of morning sunlight streaming through the windows. The unfamiliar house was cool and silent.
It had been a bad idea to agree to house-sit. She could feel it in her bones. She'd be better off in Long Beach working one-handed. At least her mind would be occupied.
The minute Jake had driven off with Carly and Christopher and their mutt, she started wondering how in the hell she ever let him convince her to take six weeks off. The peace and quiet were already driving her nuts.
She should have known her nightmares would come with her.
She paused by the window. In the distance, the Pacific sparkled like a polished aquamarine. The summer sun worked diligently to burn off the thin layer of morning haze that hovered over the tranquil California coastline.
Poised on a sandstone bluff a couple of miles away, the seasonal resort of Twilight Cove was a tourist stop for summer sojourners searching for old California withits golden, sun-drenched beaches and small-town atmosphere.
Downstairs, she found the damp chill of the night air still lingered in the shadows though it was already late morning. The cozy Craftsman-style house Jake was refurbishing had absorbed his family's happiness. Photos of Jake, Carly, and Chris were on display in every room. Carly's stunning oil paintings, works that included ghostly white figures set against vibrant local landscapes, adorned the walls.
Kat picked up a framed photo of Chris in a baseball uniform and rubbed her thumb over the glass. It was still hard for her to believe that Jake, of all people, had a kid. Though she'd never told him so, she envied his newfound happiness, his pride in Christopher, the love he'd found with Carly.
She set the photo down. Beside it was one of Carly and Chris walking along the beach at Twilight Cove. The love in Carly's eyes was there for all the world to see, hopeful, fragile—as love always is—and yet constant.
Kat teased Jake, but deep down she was happy for him. He had a family now. Something she had once wanted.
She crossed the open, casual living-dining room, thinking it was just too damned ironic that Jake, who'd sworn off romance, had wound up married again and living on an out-of-the-way road named Lover's Lane.
She tried to flex her injured hand and winced. Getting along with a bulky bandage was a chore, but she'd already regained some mobility in her thumb and fingers.
Every time she looked at her left hand, she was reminded of just how far betrayal could drive a perfectly normal person to commit an irrational act.
It was also a brutal reminder of what happened whenever her feelings got in the way. Whenever she thought with her heart, her head stopped working and she wound up hurt.
The sun was already above the top of the eastern hills behind the house. She couldn't wait to make a pot of coffee and stretch out in one of the teak lounges on the back deck, lift her face to the sun, and make up some of the sleep she'd lost last night, but just as she reached the kitchen, the front doorbell rang.
She glanced down at the crumpled knit shorts and tank top she'd slept in, then up at the clock on the wall. It was later than she thought—already noon.
Jake's nearest neighbors were beyond shouting distance. The place was totally isolated.
Insistent, the bell chimed again.
She hesitated. Even with a bum hand, she was confident that she could defend herself. Still, she was wary. She'd definitely seen too many movies about fugitives stumbling across isolated homes in the middle of nowhere, heard too many news stories about home-invasion robberies.
And right now she really wished she hadn't stayed up all night to finish Edward Cain's novel An Even Dozen, the serial murder thriller that everyone was talking about.
Her purse was on a chair drawn up beneath the dining table, and as she passed it on her way to the front door, she slipped out her .380 automatic.
Get a grip, Vargas. You're not in L.A. County. It's probably just a Girl Scout selling cookies, someone out to save your soul, or the Avon lady.
Lord knows you could use a makeover.
Nearing the front door, she glanced out the picture window and spotted a Toyota Land Cruiser in the driveway. Black, newer model, parked parallel to the house. At this angle, she couldn't see the license plate.
The stained-glass window set in the front door gave her a mottled glimpse of a tall, dark-haired man hovering on the other side. His image was blurred by rippling red, yellow, and green glass. He was alone.
Kat took a deep breath, refusing to let the incident in Seal Beach infect her courage. She cracked the door open, kept the automatic out of sight. Her attention was immediately absorbed by the man standing on the opposite side of the threshold.
Khaki shorts, black polo shirt open at the throat. Over six feet, wide shoulders. His blue eyes stared directly into hers. His lashes were thick, his brow smooth, his jaw strong. His hair was just as black as hers, close-cropped.
She'd never laid eyes on him in her life, but he was smiling as if actually happy to see her.
He was mind-numbingly handsome. Definitely the kind of man she'd sworn off of a long, long time ago. Her mind was going blank.
She opened her mouth to ask what he wanted but all she managed was a very weak, embarrassing, "H-hi."
Great. He'd reduced her vocabulary to a fractured syllable.
"Hi." Impossible as it seemed, his smile intensified. "Are you Kat Vargas?"
She tried to focus, cleared her throat, and attempted not to stare. "Who wants to know?"
"I'm Ty Chandler. You're a private investigator."
"I mean, I'm looking for a private investigator."
"Oh, I get it." She relaxed and laughed. "Jake put you up to this."
She could imagine Jake and Carly playing Cupid. Especially after the "Don't you want somebody to love? You better find somebody to love" speech Jake gave her on the drive up.
The man shook his head. "No, actually. Selma Gibbs at the Plaza Diner suggested I look him up, then she remembered he was going out of town. She said another P.I. was house-sitting for him."
Kat knew Selma Gibbs. They'd met two nights ago when the Montgomerys took her to the diner where Carly used to work.
As she stared up at Ty Chandler, she figured the bad news was that he probably had a wife who was cheating on him, which meant either his wife was nuts, or that he was no prize in the husband department.
The usual rush hit her. It was the same when any prospective client called. She was curious to learn the details, but she could just hear Jake telling her to send the guy on his way, reminding her that she was supposed to be relaxing and sorting things out, deciding what she was going to do with the rest of her life.
"Sorry. I'm on vacation. You'll have to find somebody else. I'm sure there are some fine private investigators in San Luis Obispo." She kept her tone cool, firm, and waited for him to leave, but he didn't look discouraged. In fact, he didn't look deterred in the least.
"Selma had nothing but good things to say about Jake Montgomery," he said. "I hoped you'd be willing to help. Can I just come in and explain? It won't take long."
He was very charming. Certainly friendly enough. And he looked perfectly harmless. But then again, so had Ted Bundy.
He sighed. Frustration and disappointment were etched across his face, but he didn't budge. He obviously wasn't going to give up easily. She admired that in a person.
"Look, Ms. Vargas, I'm desperate. I've been searching for somebody on my own, but I keep running into dead ends." He shoved his hands into the pockets of his khakis and shrugged. "Just hear me out before you turn me down."
Surely Selma wouldn't have sent a total stranger to her door, let alone a serial murderer.
When she didn't answer, his gaze shifted out to the sea and then slowly back to meet her eyes. "If you can't take the case, is there anyone you'd recommend?"
Spending a few minutes listening to his story would give her something to do other than roam through the house wondering how to stay sane while being suffocated by peace and quiet.
What would it hurt to hear him out? Maybe give him some advice?
She opened the door a bit wider and with a wave of her hand indicated the two wooden rockers side by side on the expansive covered porch.
"You can have a seat out there."
His eyes widened when he caught a glimpse of her gun.
"Don't worry. I've never shot anyone who didn't deserve it." She set the handgun on the table by the phone and joined him outside. By the time she crossed the porch, he'd chosen one of the rockers. She leaned against the low porch wall.
Kat couldn't help but notice that his gaze swept the length of her bare legs before it slowly traveled up to meet her eyes.
"So, exactly who are you looking for, and why do you think you need to hire a P.I.?"
He stopped rocking, leaned forward, and rested his elbows on his knees. "You might as well sit down. This'll take a few minutes."
Meet the Author
The critically acclaimed author of numerous bestselling novels, Jill Marie Landis lives with her husband in California and Hawaii. Her list of award-winning books includes Come Spring, Blue Moon, Sunflower, Just Once, Summer Moon, Magnolia Creek, and Lover’s Lane. She loves hearing from readers at www.jillmarielandis.com.
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