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From the Publisher"Washington packs plenty of action, betrayal and love into a secondary storyline, too, making her tale a total must-read."
-RT Book Reviews on HIS TEXAS TOUCH
Sophia Hail was barely halfway through elementary school when her parents began Reed House. Gerald Hail, Sophia's father, was a well-known textile manufacturer. His factory put to work hundreds of people in and around the greater Philadelphia area.
Gerald's wife, Veronica, was a teacher in the same school her daughters Viva and Sophia attended. But Veronica was a dedicated daughter first and foremost. She was also an only child. When her parents grew ill, she left the career she treasured to care for them. For all her selflessness, Veronica pressed her girls to always follow their hearts. She urged them to seek and live their dreams for as long as their lives allowed them the option.
Sophia recalled her grandparents' illnesses all too well in spite of her age at the time. She also recalled her mother's heartbreak when Veronica realized how ill-equipped she was to care for them. Supportive to a fault, Gerald Hail had told his wife to spare no expense to find them the best.
The endeavor opened the Hails' eyes to the lack of quality care for the city's elderly. Once more, Veronica had found a passion—a new one that far surpassed her desire to teach. As she couldn't find quality care, she decided to create it herself for her parents and for other parents who, after a lifetime of caring for others, could no longer care for themselves.
Reed House, named for Veronica's parents, Glenn and Estelle Reed, grew into a premiere example of senior care. Local and national news stories had followed the assisted living center from its earliest days in a quaint Victorian-style home, capable of accommodating twenty "guests," to the impressive assisted living park, sprawled over a ten-acre tract of land just outside Philadelphia's city limits.
Veronica Hail was committed to providing her guests with virtually every aspect of the lives they'd enjoyed before the onset of age led them to her doors. Reed House was more than a retirement home. Nonresidents raved over the fine restaurants, which were exclusive to the center. It had often been said that Veronica Hail had discovered the secret to getting people to visit their loved ones in retirement homes more often: fine food.
Movie theaters, performance halls, an eighteen-hole golf course, community gardens virtually any interest was indulged. The center earned its reputation as the finest example of elder care. There was certainly no shortage of funds to operate such an establishment, either. Veronica worked hard so that Reed House would be able to accept all applicants regardless of financial status.
The annual Reed House Jazz Supper was but one of the ways she made that possible. The supper had been a staple in Philadelphia for years. The award-winning entertainment flown in for the Jazz Supper often took a backseat to features on Reed House itself and the awesome work it accomplished. The acclaim was always abundant and consistent, and Reed House had managed to operate without scandal since its inception.
That had all changed seven days ago.
Sophia Hail didn't need to see or speak with her parents to know how disappointed they were by the events that had taken place during the Supper. Although a wrong had been righted, Sophia knew that her parents were more focused on where the wrong had been righted.
The arrest of Waymon Cole at the event still had the city reeling from all the revelations and backlash it had created.
Cole was a financier who was known best as business manager to Jazmina Beaumont, the owner of Jazzy B's Gentleman's Club. The woman's death had roused a power struggle of sorts between Cole and Jaz Beaumont's niece, Clarissa David. Waymon Cole wanted to maintain a stake in the club as it was his front for a complex money-laundering scheme that involved many of the city's "finest."
Sophia's work with Clarissa David had uncovered the crime and many of its participants. Sophia was especially determined to see the racket brought to an end in light of the nurturing role Jaz Beaumont had played in her sister Viva's life.
Unfortunately for Sophia, her dedication to seeing the case closed put her at odds with her parents. Once again, her job had aggravated the sore spot the Hails had harbored since their daughter had announced her desire to join the police force. Veronica Hail refused to believe that such an occupation could truly be her daughter's passion.
The closing of the case also put Sophia at odds with many of her coworkers. Given her line of work, such an upset could make for a dangerous situation.
That all took a backseat, however, to what weighed most heavily on her mind: the fact that she'd had to cancel her date with Santigo Rodriguez.
He'd taken her call to cancel quite well, as she remembered. Then again, he was probably used to it despite the fact that they hadn't dated in years. After all, it had been the demands of Sophia's job that had crippled their relationship in the first place.
Santigo's offer to take her to the Jazz Supper was most likely a fluke anyway. Sophia had been having lunch with Clarissa David. They had been discussing the case when Sophia had looked up and there he was. After eight years of not seeing each other once, there he was. Maybe he thought it meant something. They lived in the same city and hadn't run into each other at all before that day. Sophia had wondered if it'd meant anything, as well. She could barely hear herself accept his offer above the bass-drum beat of her heart in her ears.
She'd spoken to him only once since the Cole arrest. Even then, he'd sounded calm, telling her, "Work happens." He'd sounded cool enough, yet Sophia couldn't help but make note of the change in his demeanor. He'd made a joke about being too old to get riled up over things. Even still, Sophia remembered her ex-lover's temper all too well.
She had to wonder how long the slower-to-rile, easier-going Tigo Rodriguez would maintain a presence.
Sophia jerked herself from the cavern of her thoughts and found that the coffee she'd been nursing in the break room had grown cold. Settling back in the uncomfortable metal chair, she sighed. Her dark gray stare appeared as weary as she felt while she studied the clutter she'd made on the small round table she occupied.
She had taken to finishing reports and making calls in the area since the case had broken wide-open. The remote space was rarely used since most cops took to eating at their desks or heading out.
Sophia grimaced and traced the tip of an index nail around the coffee circle the bottom of her cup had left on the manila folder. Break time in a bona fide break area or at a desk would be forever changed when upward of twenty cops—soon to be former cops—would either be sent to the unemployment line or jail.
And that was all her doing. Many of Sophia's remaining coworkers blamed her for it all. This, regardless of the fact that the disgraced officers were dirty cops. It was a tough thing to deal with, tougher than it might have been, given the whole Reed House dinner fiasco.
Her colleagues had said little, but they didn't need to. Their thoughts were clearly echoed in the venomous looks they slithered her way. Sophia snorted, wrinkling a small nose spaced perfectly above her bow-shaped mouth. Being treated like an outsider was no surprise. She'd never received much more than a "hi" or "bye" from her coworkers anyway.
Because of who her parents were, almost everyone thought Sophia was merely playing cop. She couldn't blame them. There weren't too many heiresses who chose to be public servants.
A tap on her shoulder jerked Sophia from her thoughts for the second time that day.
"Sorry." Kelly Fields made the apology sound like a word of welcome as she smiled down at Sophia. "I've been looking all over for you."
Sophia winced and took in her surroundings. "Sorry about that." The apology was humble and genuine. Kelly was one of the switchboard operators, and that group rarely journeyed from the hallowed department that served as the nerve center of the precinct.
"Why didn't you call?" Sophia began to put the cluttered network of papers into some kind of order. "Oh," she said on discovering that her phone was nowhere on the small table or in the pockets she patted on her navy trousers.
Kelly cleared her throat, and Sophia looked up to find the petite redhead waving her cell phone lazily.
"I went by your office to look for you first," Kelly explained.
"Thanks." Sophia shook her head and took the phone. "Not a problem."
"No, really." Sophia turned the rectangular device over in her hand. "Thanks for being thoughtful enough to drop this off. At least there's somebody around here who's not treating me like a pariah."
Kelly threw back her head and laughed. "I'm sure it's not as bad as you think."
"Hmph." Sophia toyed with a loose mahogany-brown curl she'd left dangling from her chignon. "What cop shop do you work for?"
"Well, the D.A.'s been trying to track you down," Kelly said after another bout of laughter. "She wants you to call her ASAP."
"Thanks again, Kelly." Sophia raised her phone in a gesture of mock salute.
Kelly leaned over to give Sophia's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Thank you."
Sophia smiled at the young woman's departing figure and then got to work returning the district attorney's call.
D.A. Paula Starker rarely answered a call with a hello. There were always the few additional moments it took for her to close out the conversation she was already involved in before she gave the next person her full attention.
Sophia smiled and listened in as Paula spoke to who Sophia assumed was one of her assistants.
"Now find me at least one piece of worthwhile evidence we can take into court instead of the beef the defense ground the prosecution's ass into yesterday. Hello?" Paula answered the call as though it was an afterthought.
"Returning your call, Madam D.A.," Sophia sang.
"Ah Detective Sophia, don't you own a mobile? I've been trying to reach you all morning. Waymon Cole?" The clipped, no-nonsense tone Paula reserved for her A.D.A.s had softened into her more natural native Georgia drawl. "Cole." Sophia frowned. "What about him?"
"Wants a deal."
"Possible. That is, if what he's dealing is good."
Sophia left the small table and began to stalk the uninviting, fluorescent-lit room. "What's he dealing?" Her voice was like stone.
"I'd rather discuss that in person. When can you meet me?"
Sophia was preparing to reply when the phone shook with another call coming through. Santigo.
"Paula, um, let me get back to you. Another call's coming in."
"Not a problem. I'll look to hear from you before five."
"Right." Sophia made quick work of clicking off from Paula to catch Tigo's call before it went to voice mail. Still, she took care not to sound overly excited when she greeted him.
"Hey." His voice was like caramel over chipped ice—sweet, cool and with an edge that roused shivers that had nothing to do with a chill. "This a bad time?" he asked.
"No, no, not a bit."
"You're lying." He sounded amused. "But I won't hold it against you. I want you for dinner."
"Do I get to eat, too?" Hell. Where did that come from? Sophia asked herself. The words had tumbled past her lips so fast she hadn't even realized they'd been verbalized.
Santigo laughed, the sound warm and thick. Obviously, he was surprised by her comeback. "Sure you do, but I get the feeling you don't eat much."
"So is this your way of saving me?" Sophia returned to settle back into the hard metal chair.
"Trying to save myself, Soap." The caramel smoothness went soft, quietly affecting. "I'll see you soon, all right?"
He disconnected before Sophia could say anything else. She studied the phone, rolling it over in her hand. "Do you know what you're doing, girl? Uh-uh," she answered herself in the negative. She never knew what she was doing when it came to Santigo Rodriguez.
"Oh, hey, Sophia!" Dionne Battles, another of the switchboard crew, strolled into the break room on stylish six-inch heels. "D.A. Starker's been tryin' to reach you."
"Thanks, Dee." Sophia threw a hand up to the operator who was on the way to the candy machine in the corner of the dim room. Turning back to the papers in her hand, she told herself to get back to work—the only thing she did well.
Santigo Rodriguez and his partner Linus Brooks were trading amused looks as they subjected their partner and old friend Elias Joss to a series of twenty or more questions. Elias had just announced that he was taking a quick trip, and he stood behind his desk trying to convince his partners that it was all business.
"Ah, man, please. You need to squash that," Linus grunted with a playful smirk.
Tigo chuckled. "Line's right, El. Admit it. Business and Clarissa David don't even belong in the same paragraph for you."
Eli kept his gaze on the folder he held. "We're professionals," he said.
"Bull," Tigo declared.
"Double bull," Linus added in the same playful grunt he'd used earlier.
Elias rolled his eyes, two mesmerizing orbs of sky blue that contrasted against a complexion of creamy caramel. "I seem to recall all of us being in the same meeting, where we decided to visit the locales of the clubs." Joss Construction had won the bid for the redesign of Jazzy B's locations across the country. Clarissa and Elias were to set off on a series of trips meant to ensure Clarissa's desires for the clubs were along the same lines as the architects' working with Joss.
"Damn." Santigo closed his eyes and raked both hands through the silky coal-colored waves crowning his head. "Line, man, help me out. What's the word I'm lookin' for?"
"Convenient," Linus supplied, idly scanning the copy of Architectural Digest he'd grabbed from an end table.
"That's it." Tigo snapped his fingers.
Eli grimaced, but it was all in fun. "I'm thinking of a word, too." He shut the folder he'd been attempting to browse. "Maybe two words—peaceful and quiet!''
"Ah, man." Tigo threw up a lazy wave. "Don't get upset because you can't admit you're using business to fulfill your pleasure."
Elias tried to appear exasperated but only broke down in amusement. Soon all three men were enjoying a hearty round of laughter.
"Seriously, El." Linus stood once the largest portion of laughter had been spent. "You and Clarissa, it's a good look." He slanted his friend a wink.
Elias reciprocated with a nod. "Doesn't feel half-bad, either," he confessed.
Linus walked over to shake hands with Eli, and then he took his suit coat from the back of the armchair he'd occupied and left the office.
Tigo left his place on the sofa and strolled the room to claim a new spot on the edge of Elias's desk. "He's right," Tigo said.
Elias gave his friend the benefit of a quick and knowing smile before resuming his scan of the folder's contents. "Think you're in line for the same?"
"Huh?" Tigo's hand stilled on the paperweight on the desk. He laughed abruptly at the look Elias sent his way.
"Don't even try it." Eli closed the folder and picked up another. "We all know you've seen Sophia. Even Clari could tell there was something up when she saw the way you were drooling over her when they had lunch that day."
"Ain't that cute? You and Clarissa already exchanging scoops about mutual friends. This is serious." Tigo bounced the weight in his palm.
"All right, all right." Elias laughed. "Keep your secrets."
Posted July 7, 2013
As usual Ms. Washington gives us a story with great characters, steamy romance and a whole lot of mystery. I love this series and looking forward to the next one.
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