Hidden Peril

Hidden Peril

by Irene Hannon
Hidden Peril

Hidden Peril

by Irene Hannon

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Overview

As teenagers, Kristin Dane and her two best friends took a vow to make the world a better place. Twenty years later, she's fulfilling that pledge through her fair trade shop that features products from around the world. All is well until, one by one, people connected to the shop begin dying.

Detective Luke Carter, new to the St. Louis PD, wants to know why. Before he can answer that question, however, the FBI weighs in and Kristin suddenly finds herself in the middle of international intrigue—and in the sights of the ruthless mastermind behind an ingenious and deadly, scheme. Can this cold-blooded killer be stopped before more people die . . . including Kristin?

Three-time RITA Award-winner and "queen of inspirational romantic suspense" (Library Journal) Irene Hannon doesn't disappoint in this edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have readers up late as they rush toward the explosive conclusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800727697
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Series: Code of Honor Series , #2
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 203,739
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels, including Dangerous Illusions, as well as the Men of Valor, Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA's elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews. Each of her suspense novels have been ECPA/CBA bestsellers. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

SIX WEEKS LATER

Brother Michael was dead.

Kristin Dane gripped the edge of the corrugated, travel- worn shipping carton that had logged more than six thousand miles on its journey from Syria to St. Louis, blinked to clear her vision, and forced herself to reread the letter.

Dear Ms. Dane:

I am pleased to send you the 50 pillar candles you ordered from our humble workshop here in the cradle of Christianity. We are grateful for your willingness to support our humanitarian work by selling the labor of our hands in your shop. As you know, every dollar we receive is used to help victims of the terrible violence here, Christians and Muslims alike. We continue to be amazed at the resilience and strength of the remarkable Syrian people, who have suffered so much.

And now I must pass on some sad news. Brother Michael has, quite suddenly, gone home to God. On February 22, he grew ill and took to his bed. The next morning, we found him on the floor in the workshop. We believe he rose during the night and went to the shop for some reason. It appears he tripped, or perhaps grew dizzy, and fell backward, hitting his head on the corner of a workbench.

I know this will be a shock to you, as it was to all of us. Our American brother spoke often of your kindness to him when you met three years ago while he was visiting your city.

Here at the monastery, we are already missing his selfless work and the deep spirituality and trust with which he lived his life. And we grieve the shortness of his days. Forty-four seems far too young to die.

Please pray for the repose of his soul, as we will continue to do here in the land he adopted — and loved.

With gratitude in Christ, Abbot Jacques Gagnon

"Kristin?"

From a distance, a voice penetrated her shock.

Refolding the single sheet of paper, she lifted her chin. Susan Collier was standing in the doorway between WorldCraft's stockroom and the retail section of the shop.

"Are you okay?" The woman took a step toward her.

"No. I'm trying to ... to absorb some bad news." She relayed the contents of the letter to her part-time clerk.

"I'm so sorry." Sympathy deepened the lines at the corners of the other woman's eyes. "From everything you've told me, he was a fine man."

"The best. A saint among us." She traced a finger over the hand-lettered label on the box. "Meeting him was an amazing experience. He had an incredible ability to draw people in."

"Some men are very charismatic."

At the hint of bitterness in her words, Kristin looked at her. "I meant that in a positive, spiritual sense. Brother Michael exuded holiness. Not all men are like your ex."

"I know." Susan's features relaxed a hair. "I keep reminding myself of that. Brother Michael sounded like one of the good guys." She motioned toward the box. "Do you want me to put those on the display for you? I know you usually like to do it yourself, but you're already cutting it close for the wedding."

Shifting gears, Kristin checked her watch.

Her clerk was right.

In less than three hours, the bride would be walking down the aisle. And since she was one of the two people standing up for the groom, she couldn't be late.

Letting Colin down wasn't an option.

"Yes, thanks." Kristin set the letter from the abbot on the desk wedged into one corner of the stockroom. "If you need me for anything later today or Monday while I'm at the small business seminar, call or text."

"I'll be fine."

"I know." She summoned up a smile. "In the year you've been with me, I've come to rely on you for much more than clerking duties. You've been a huge asset to WorldCraft."

Cheeks pinkening, the mid-fortyish brunette smoothed a renegade strand of hair back into the sleek chignon at her nape. "Thanks. I appreciate you giving me the job. If it hadn't been for you and Kate Marshall, I don't know where I'd be."

Kate Marshall ... Kate Marshall. Oh, right. The director of New Start, the agency where Susan had gone for career counseling after she finally walked away from her abusive marriage.

"You would have been fine. With your background in retail, someone would have snapped you up."

"I don't think so. My skills were rusty after being on hold for two decades."

"Not true. Your volunteer work with the handicraft co-op kept them fresh — and dealing with that kind of merchandise was perfect background for the fair trade goods I sell here." She retrieved her purse from the desk drawer. "Now I'm off to be best woman."

"You earned that title in my book the day you hired me."

"Don't give me so much credit." She squeezed the woman's arm. "I just recognized talent when I saw it. Thanks again for working extra hours on Monday to cover for me."

"No problem. Have fun at the wedding."

"I'll give it my best shot."

But as she left by the rear door and crossed to her Sentra, even the sunny skies on this second day of April couldn't chase away the pall hanging over her.

Brother Michael was dead.

Not from militant bullets or bombs or blades as she'd always feared, but from a tragic accident.

Why would God take a man who'd left everything behind to do desperately needed work in a dangerous land?

It didn't make sense.

And it felt all wrong.

But as Colin always reminded her when she raised such questions, trying to understand the mind of God was an exercise in futility. You had to trust in his goodness and accept that he saw the bigger picture, even if your own lens was murky.

Bottom line, at some point you had to let questions like this go.

Depressing the auto lock on her keychain, she closed the distance to her car in a few long strides, slid behind the wheel, and started the engine.

This was one of those times — at least for the next few hours. She couldn't allow her gloom and grief to ruin the biggest day of Colin's life. She and Rick owed their best bud total support and focus.

So she'd fix her hair, do her makeup, slip into the knockout black dress she'd splurged on for this event, and smile for the world.

Even if her heart was aching.

* * *

Plate of hors d'oeuvres in one hand, drink in the other, Luke Carter surveyed the elegant room at the country club. Appetizing food was displayed at various stations. Tables for eight and tall cocktail rounds were draped in white linen, with candles and flowers in the center of each. A string quartet played in the background to the accompaniment of tinkling glasses and the laughter of the animated reception crowd. Outside, lanterns twinkled on the terrace, where some of the guests were taking advantage of the unseasonably balmy weather.

It was a first-class party in a beautiful setting.

And he did not want to be here.

But when one of your new colleagues went out of his way to invite you, not showing up would have been rude — for the reception, anyway.

The church ceremony?

Different story.

Besides, no one in this crowd would have noticed his absence for the exchange of vows.

Nor would anyone miss him if he ducked out fast tonight. Except for Sarge and a few other detectives seated at two adjacent tables across the room with spouses or girlfriends, everyone was a stranger.

And he wasn't in the mood to socialize with coworkers or make small talk with people he'd never see again.

Skirting the crowd, he kept out of his colleagues' line of sight. No reason to sit. He wasn't staying that long. The minute he was through eating, he'd track down the bride and groom, pass on his best wishes, and beat a hasty retreat.

As he hugged the fringes of the group, he gave the place a sweep. He needed an out-of-the-way spot to deposit his plate and glass so he could chow down.

An empty cocktail table in a shadowy corner caught his eye.

Perfect.

He made a beeline for it.

Ten feet away, he saw an older gent approaching it as well.

Before he could decide whether to fade back into the crowd or lengthen his stride to claim the table first, the elderly man spotted him and grinned.

"Don't even think about it, young man. You may be faster than I am, but this cane hanging off my arm can be a lethal weapon. However, I'll be happy to share."

The corners of Luke's lips flexed. The guy appeared to be good-natured, and it might not be a bad idea to take him up on his offer. Other guests might think they were together and leave them alone.

He finished the short walk and set down his plate. "Sold."

"Happy to have the company." The man held out his hand. "Stan Hawkins."

"Luke Carter." He returned the gent's firm shake.

"Friend of the bride or groom?" Stan speared a meatball with a toothpick.

"Groom. But I'm more coworker than friend. I've only been in town since January, so I'm still learning the ropes and getting acquainted."

"Ah. Another detective. You boys do good work."

"Thanks. We try. What about you?"

"I retired long ago. From accounting. It was a pleasant, steady job — but crunching numbers isn't as exciting as tracking down criminals."

Luke stifled a smile. "I meant, do you know the bride or the groom?"

"Oh. Well, of course you did." He dabbed at the corner of his mouth with a napkin. "Both — now. But I knew Trish first. I live across the street from the house where she grew up. I had a little hand in getting the two of them together, you know."

"Is that right?"

"Yep." He squinted toward the front of the room, where the newlyweds were posing for a photo by the cake. "I'll have to get a piece of that to take home to my wife. She was real disappointed to miss the wedding, but she had one of her arthritis flare-ups this morning."

"I'll be happy to get a couple of pieces for you after they cut it." Luke finished a stuffed mushroom and moved on to a crab cake. As soon as he was done, he'd exchange a few words with the bride and groom, fetch Stan's cake, and slip out the exit that was mere steps away from their table.

He ate faster.

"That's very thoughtful of you. Navigating through a crowd is tricky with that nuisance." He waved a hand toward the cane he'd propped against the wall. "It's tough getting old — but better than the alternative, as they say." The man winked at him. "So are you here by yourself?"

"Yes." He downed his last toasted ravioli in one bite and took a swig of his drink. "I'll go get that cake for you now."

"I'll save your place."

Keeping the bride and groom in his sights, Luke circled the perimeter of the crowd and crossed to the couple.

"Luke! I'm glad you made it." Colin shook his hand. "Let me introduce you to my bride." He drew the woman beside him closer and went through the formalities.

It wasn't as hard as Luke had expected to utter a few pleasantries. Probably because they didn't look like a traditional bride and groom. Colin was in a suit, and the bride wore a fancy knee-length pale blue dress. Other than the sprig of flowers tucked into her hair and Colin's boutonniere, they could be any couple at any cocktail party.

Except ... the love between the bride and groom was almost palpable. As it should be on a wedding day.

As it had been on his.

Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he wrapped up the conversation, snagged two pieces of cake and some paper napkins, and retreated to his table. At least talking with Stan wouldn't dredge up any painful memories.

Only the older man wasn't alone anymore.

Luke's step faltered as he approached the tucked-away spot.

A woman had joined their twosome.

Her back was to him, but he could see she was much younger than his new friend.

He gave her a quick head-to-toe. Blonde hair cut in a longish shag. A black dress with skinny straps and a low-cut draped back, the fabric molding her curves. A pair of killer legs showed off to perfection by high heels, each of which sported a small bow on the back.

So much for the safe haven he'd staked out.

Maybe he could ask one of his colleagues to deliver the cake and ...

Stan leaned around the woman and waved him over.

Blast.

He was stuck.

But it didn't have to be for long.

He'd hand over the cake, make small talk for a minute or two, and offer some excuse to escape.

Armed with that plan, he returned to the table and set the cake and napkins in front of Stan.

"Thank you, young man. I saw the best woman wandering around and invited her to share our cozy corner."

Best woman?

He turned his attention to their new tablemate.

The front view of the thirtysomething woman was equally arresting. Intelligent blue-gray eyes. Strong chin. A tad-too-thin nose. Prominent cheekbones.

She wasn't beautiful in a classical sense. Her features didn't have perfect proportions. But her face was ... intriguing. Distinctive. Filled with character.

It was the kind of face that would age well. Long after the Hollywood-type beauties among her peers faded, this woman would continue to draw second looks from men.

All at once, he realized she was holding out her hand.

Uh-oh.

He must have missed Stan's introduction.

Grasping her fingers, he offered the first excuse that came to mind. "Sorry. The background noise is getting louder. Your name was ...?"

"Kristin Dane."

"Luke Carter." He squeezed her hand and released it. "Did I hear Stan say best woman?"

"Yes." She picked up a prosciutto-wrapped spear of asparagus. "I shared the honors of standing up for Colin with another friend. The three of us have been tight for more than twenty years." She tilted her head. "Weren't you at the wedding?"

"No. I, uh, was working a case today." Only in the morning, though. He could have attended the ceremony if he'd wanted to be there.

"Luke's a detective too, like Colin." Stan folded a napkin around the first piece of cake.

"Oh?" Curiosity sparked in her eyes. "I don't recall Colin mentioning your name."

"I'm new in town."

"That might explain it."

Stan finished wrapping the second piece of cake, stacked it on top of the first, and reached for his cane. "Well, I'll leave you to keep Kristin company while she eats. I want to go home and share this cake with my own bride of sixty-one years. A pleasure to meet you, young man."

Luke smothered a groan.

He was going to have to make more small talk after all.

"Don't worry ... I eat fast." Amusement glinted in Kristin's irises as Stan headed toward the exit.

Whoops.

She'd picked up on his dismay.

"No need to hurry." He did his best to contain the rush of warmth to his cheeks. "I'm not staying long, but I don't have to leave yet. Shouldn't you be at a head table somewhere, though?" "If there was a head table, yes. But Colin and Trish opted to keep everything simple and low-key since it was a second wedding."

"Colin's been married before?"

"No. Trish has. Her first husband was killed in a car accident a few years ago."

Ah.

That could explain why the bride had forgone the traditional white gown.

"I didn't know that. Like I said, I'm new in town."

"Hey, Kristin!"

A guy with a sprig of flowers in the lapel of his dark suit wove through the crowd toward them.

"That's the best man, Rick Jordan." She leaned closer as she shared that tidbit, and a whiff of some pleasing floral fragrance tickled his nose. "Hey, Rick." She lifted her hand in greeting and made the introductions.

"Sorry to drag you away" — the best man gave him a visual frisk as he responded to Kristin — "but Colin wants a Treehouse Gang picture."

Treehouse Gang?

Luke sent her a quizzical look, which she ignored.

"Sure." Kristin popped the last meatball in her mouth, then tipped her head back and washed it down with a long swallow of soda — giving him a perfect view of her slender, graceful throat. "It was nice meeting you." She smiled at him and picked up her tiny purse.

"Likewise."

With that, Rick grabbed her hand and led her away.

As they disappeared into the crowd, Luke released a long, slow breath and fought back a sudden wave of melancholy.

Colin and Trish had just taken vows as husband and wife.

Stan was hurrying home to spend the rest of the evening with his companion of more than six decades.

Kristin might not have been wearing a ring, but she and Rick seemed like a couple. They'd probably boogie the night away once the small dance floor was cleared of the cake.

He was alone.

And joining his coworkers at one of their tables wasn't going to ease his loneliness.

It was time to leave.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Hidden Peril"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Irene Hannon.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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