In her epic series finale, IRS agent Tara Holloway prepares for her wedding – if she survives that long. Find out in Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding by Diane Kelly!
LOVE BEGINSAND ENDSWITH A BANG.
For IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway, this case is personal…
Wedding bells are ringing as Tara and her soon-to-be-husband Nick prepare for their big day. But along with all the RSVP cards are a series of death threats from an unknown source. The culprit must be someone from an earlier investigationa white-collar criminal with a red-hot grudgebut Tara has run across too many lawbreakers to narrow down the search. And time, like her biological clock, is ticking.Now, while dodging attempts on her life, Tara also finds herself embroiled in a rental scam in which a heartless crook is ripping people off left and right. Will she be able to track down the con artist and make it down the aisle in one piece? Or will “til death do us part” come before Tara can even say “I do”?
“This series [is] a real winner.”Fresh Fiction
About the Author
DIANE KELLY is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. The first book in Diane's IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, received a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Book #2, Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte, won a Reviewers Choice award. Diane has combined her fascination with law enforcement and her love of animals in her K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series.
Read an Excerpt
Bride to Be ... Killed?
Early on a Sunday morning in mid-August, I sat at my fiancé's kitchen table and placed a stamp on the last of our one hundred and thirty-eight wedding invitations. Done! Yay!
In a few short weeks, Nick and I would be tying the knot. Woot-woot! But until then, we'd be busy with our jobs as special agents for the Internal Revenue Service, fighting tax evasion and white-collar crime. Criminals don't take a day off, and neither would we — at least not until after the wedding when we planned to spend a romantic week in Cancún, Mexico. Margaritas. Cabana boys with sexy Spanish accents. Beautiful Mexican beaches. Life doesn't get any better than that.
Even though the invitations wouldn't be picked up until tomorrow, I figured I might as well get them in the mail. There was a blue collection box only a quarter mile away, at the entrance to the neighborhood. Besides, Nick's Australian shepherd mix, Daffodil, had been dropping not-so-subtle hints that she wanted to go for a walk. She'd pawed the inside of his front door, nudged my leg, and when that failed, she'd retrieved her leash and brought it to me in her mouth, dropping it at my feet as if to say Hey, dummy. Am I making myself clear now?
I reached out and ruffled her head. "Okay, girl. I give in. We'll go for a walk."
After clipping the leash to her collar, I stashed the invitations in my tote bag and slung the straps over my shoulder. Nick was still asleep in his bed upstairs. He'd had a tough week, learning the ropes as he prepared to move up the ladder at the IRS, taking on his new position as codirector of the IRS Criminal Investigations Division in Dallas. I let him continue snoozing. He'd earned it. Besides, he'd need to be well rested for later. We planned to spend the day packing for our upcoming move, and he'd be the one doing the heavy lifting.
Daffodil dragged me to the door, prancing happily on the floor, her nails clicking on the tile and her fluffy tail whipping back and forth. We eased past the stack of empty boxes in the foyer, headed out onto the porch, and made our way down to the sidewalk. When she stopped to sniff the tree out front, she took advantage of the opportunity to multitask and simultaneously crouched to relieve herself.
We continued down the sidewalk, pausing on occasion so she could smell a bush here, a curb there. It wasn't unusual for cars to be parked on the street in our neighborhood of town houses, so I paid little attention to the white pickup sitting halfway between Nick's town house and mine down the block. It looked just the same as thousands of other trucks in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex.
We continued on, passing my place across the street. In the yard was a recently erected FOR SALE sign with the phone number of my Realtor, whose tax returns I'd prepared while working my former job at the CPA firm of Martin & McGee. Nick and I were in the process of buying the house next door to his mother in another part of town, so I hoped my place would sell quickly. Couldn't hurt to get my equity out of my current home and put more down on the new place, lower our monthly payments.
We also planned to hold a garage sale at my place next Saturday to get rid of the things we'd no longer need once we were married. Given that we'd both lived on our own for several years, we had duplicates of some items. Two living room sets. Two sets of pots and pans. Two gun cabinets. We'd begun sorting through our things and separating them into piles of stuff to keep and stuff to put out at the garage sale.
While we hadn't yet agreed whose living room furniture or pans we'd be selling off, there was no doubt we'd be keeping my gun cabinet. Nick had bought mine for me for Valentine's Day. It was painted a glossy red and held my extensive collection of handguns and rifles, even a sawed-off shotgun. But there would be room for Nick's guns in it, too. He had fewer than I did. He'd grown up in the country where he might need a rifle to shoot into the air to scare off a wandering coyote before it went for the chicken coop. I, on the other hand, grew up in a family of gun nuts who liked to hunt. While I'd inherited their affinity for the sport of shooting, I had no killer instinct and couldn't imagine taking aim at an innocent deer or bird. I preferred target practice only, putting a bullet through a paper target or a root beer can. That's not to say I'd never shot anyone. I'd put bullets in the legs of suspects after they'd first shot at me, and I'd even put a bullet through the brain of a member of a dangerous drug cartel. My one and only kill. I hoped it would stay that way. I derived no pleasure from having to use my weapon against people. I hoped I would never have to do it again.
"This way, girl," I told the dog as I rounded the corner. Daffodil turned up the street too, trotting a few feet ahead of me as we made our way onto the main road.
We reached the mailbox and I circled around to the front of it, grabbing stacks of invitations out of my bag and slipping them through the slot, where they plunked to the metal floor inside. Finished, we began to head back down the sidewalk.
We'd taken only a few steps when my ears picked up the sound of a big automobile engine coming up the street in front of us. Daffodil heard it, too. I looked up to see the white truck heading our way. Still, I would have paid it no mind had the dog not pricked up her ears and stopped dead in her tracks, staring at it, as if she sensed something was amiss.
"Everything okay, Daffy?"
VROOOOOM! The driver floored the engine and swerved right at us.
What the —?!?
Luckily for us both, Daffodil's canine instincts were quicker than my inferior human ones, and she darted behind a mature oak tree, yanking me after her. Not a second too soon, either. As I fell to the grass behind the tree, the truck came up the curb, ran over the sidewalk where we'd just been standing, and hit the mailbox with a resounding BAM!
The four legs of the box had been bolted to the concrete. But not anymore. The force of the impact ripped them from their moorings. The box flew up in the air and performed a back flip, its door opening and showering out wedding invitations in every direction before the box came down in the center of the main road. CLANG! The white pickup never even braked, careening back onto the street and roaring off before I could catch its license-plate number.
SCREEEEEEECH! An oncoming red Ford Fiesta braked hard but couldn't stop before crashing into the mailbox. CRASH! An instant later there was a poom as the airbags inflated, followed by tinkle-tinkle- tinkle as the Fiesta became a metal piñata, raining parts onto the asphalt. Meanwhile, the mailbox spun like a top down the street, finally coming to rest against the curb.
As I levered myself up from the ground, the airbag deflated to reveal a teenaged girl at the wheel. Heck, the ink was probably still wet on her license. Her eyes bugged wide and her mouth hung open in shock.
I ran to the curb, holding Daffodil's leash tight. "Are you okay?" I hollered to the girl.
She looked at me through the window and burst into tears but nonetheless managed to nod, her dark curls bobbing about her face.
I whipped my cell phone from my pocket and dialed 911.
"Dallas 911," came a male voice. "What's your emergency?"
"A driver in a white pickup nearly ran over me and my dog, and hit a mail collection box. The mailbox ended up in the road and a car crashed into it." I gave him the names of the streets at the intersection. "Last I saw the truck it was heading east."
"Did you get a license-plate number?"
"No. It all happened too fast. But there's got to be front end damage to the truck."
"No." Thank goodness!
"I'll get law enforcement en route."
By this time, traffic had slowed to a crawl as cars backed up behind the stationary Ford and rubberneckers inched around it, gawking as they rolled over the invitations we'd paid a pretty penny for and spent untold hours addressing and stamping. But there was nothing I could do about that now. Holding Daffodil's leash tight, I stepped up to the curb and motioned for the girl to unroll the passenger window. "The police are on their way."
She held out her phone to me. "Can you call my parents?" she blubbered. "They're going to be so mad!"
"Not at you," I assured her. "I'll let them know this wasn't your fault."
I took the phone, found "Mom" on her list of contacts, and dialed the number. "Hello," I said. "My name is Tara Holloway. Your daughter is fine but she's been in an accident."
"WHAT?!?" shrieked her mother.
"She's okay," I repeated to calm the woman. "The accident wasn't her fault. A truck hit a mailbox and it flew out into the street right in front of her car. She's not hurt. She's just scared."
I gave the woman our location.
"I'll be right there!" she cried.
I ended the call and handed the phone back to the girl. "Your mom's on her way."
Sobbing, she nodded and took her phone.
The girl taken care of, I phoned Nick. "Put on some pants," I told him. "Daffy and I need you." I gave him a quick rundown. Truck. Mailbox. Crash.
"Holy shit!" he hollered into the phone. "I'll be right there!"
We ended the call and I slid the phone into my pocket. In mere seconds, Nick came running around the corner in sneakers, a rumpled pair of shorts and nothing else.
"Are you all right?" he shouted as he ran toward us.
"We're fine." Well, other than my shoulder having been pulled out of the socket. But I wasn't about to complain.
Nick grabbed me in a bear hug and pulled me to him, holding me so tight I could barely breathe.
When he finally released me, I told him about his hero dog. "Daffodil yanked me to safety. No telling what would have happened if she hadn't clued in and pulled me out of the way." Actually, that was a lie. I knew exactly what would have happened. I would've been plowed down, that's what. I owed her my life.
Nick crouched next to me and cradled Daffodil's face in his hands, looking into her eyes. "You okay, baby girl?"
She trembled in fear, but nonetheless gave him a lick on the cheek. He returned the gesture by kissing her snout. "I can't believe someone tried to run over an innocent dog." He stood and turned to me. "Unfortunately, I have no trouble believing someone would want to run you over."
I frowned and put my hands on my hips. "Thanks a lot!"
"You know what I mean." Nick's eyes darkened with concern. "You've made a lot of enemies."
I certainly had. Trouble just seemed to find me. Since joining the IRS, I'd put dozens of people behind bars. Far as I knew, though, all of them were still behind those bars. "Maybe this was just a freak thing," I said. "Maybe the driver wasn't aiming for me. Maybe the driver just lost control of the truck."
"I suppose that's possible. But until we know for sure this was an accident we'd better keep our guard up." Nick turned to the crumpled car and eyed the sobbing girl behind the wheel. "Let's get her out of there."
Putting up a hand to halt the traffic, he circled around the car and opened her door. "Why don't you come wait with us?"
She swiped her tears away and nodded. She tried to climb out, realized her seat belt was still on, and reached down to release it. Nick held out a hand to help her out of the car.
After leading her over to the oak tree where I waited with Daffodil, Nick glanced back at the envelopes strewn all over the road. "Tell me those aren't our wedding invitations all over the street."
I sighed. "Wish I could."
Sirens sounded in the distance, drawing closer. A minute later, a fortyish female police officer pulled up behind the Fiesta, the lights flashing on her cruiser. She climbed out and came over to speak with us. Her gaze went to Nick, and she eyed his biceps appreciatively. I used to get jealous when this type of thing happened, but by now I'd gotten used to it. Female attention was a given when you were dating a hottie. Fortunately, Nick didn't let it go to his head.
After obtaining our names, she said, "All units are keeping an eye out for a damaged white pickup in the vicinity. Nothing so far." She turned to the girl, angling her head to indicate the crumpled Fiesta. "That your car, hon?"
"Yes," the girl said. "My mom and dad bought it for me for my birthday last week."
"It doesn't look safe to drive. I'll get a tow truck out here." With that, she squeezed the button on her shoulder-mounted radio to contact the Dallas PD dispatcher.
Being the sweet dog that she was, Daffodil seemed to realize that the girl, too, was rattled. She looked up at her and wagged her tail, giving a soft woof? of concern. The girl crouched down and ran her hands over the dog, the effect seeming to soothe them both.
The officer pulled a notepad and pen from her pocket. "Either of you ladies get a look at the person driving the truck?"
"I didn't," the girl said. "I didn't even see the truck. All I saw was the mailbox flying out into the street and the airbag coming at me."
The cop shifted her gaze to me.
I raised my palms. "Sorry. It all happened so fast and there was a glare on the windshield from the morning sun."
"Can you at least tell me whether there was anyone in the truck besides the driver?"
I shook my head, knowing my responses had to be frustrating her. I felt the same way when a witness was unable to provide helpful information in my cases.
"Did you recognize the truck?" she asked.
"No. It was just a typical white pickup."
"Make or model?"
"Couldn't tell ya." I should've paid more attention.
"Anybody got a reason to try to run you down?"
I issued an involuntary snort in response.
She arched an intrigued brow.
"I'm a special agent for IRS Criminal Investigations," I explained. "Since I joined the agency last year, I've arrested an ice-cream-truck driver, several businessmen and tax preparers, a televangelist, the leader of a secessionist group, members of a terrorist operation, a drug-dealing pimp, a country-western singer, members of a drug cartel, a mafia boss, a guy who'd catfished women online, a local talk radio personality, and a human smuggler."
"Among others," Nick added.
The woman looked up and down my relatively scrawny five-feet-two-inch frame. "Never would've taken you for such a badass."
"Most people don't," I acknowledged. "Sometimes that works to my advantage." I told her that despite my numerous arrests, I wasn't aware of anyone in particular being after me. "This whole thing could have been nothing more than an accident." Maybe the driver had been using a cell phone and accidentally hit the gas and swerved our way. Or maybe the driver panicked after hitting the mailbox and had driven off to avoid the repercussions. After all, distracted drivers and hit-and-runs were not uncommon.
"Maybe." She wrote down my contact information as well as the girl's. "If anything comes up, I'll be in touch." She slid her pen and notepad back into her pocket. "In the meantime, let's see about getting that mail rounded up. Sure seems to be a lot of it."
"I'd just mailed our wedding invitations."
She cut me a look. "Seriously?"
She shook her head. "I hope you don't believe in bad omens."
While the police officer held traffic at bay with a raised palm, Nick and I scurried about, collecting the envelopes and stuffing them back into my bag. I found three in a storm drain. Some of the invitations had ended up lodged in the branches of nearby trees. Fortunately, Nick was able to reach those or get them down by shaking the branches until they fell. Many of those that had landed on the road bore telltale tire marks. But at least the addresses on all of them were still legible.
After we finished collecting the envelopes, Nick grabbed the dented mailbox and dragged it up onto the curb. He looked inside and found a couple more invitations lodged between the frame and the damaged door.
The tow truck arrived, followed by the girl's mom. The anxious mother eyed the squashed front of the Fiesta, leaped from her car, and ran over to wrap her arms around her daughter. "I'm so glad you're okay!"
Cocooned in her mother's embrace, the girl burst into fresh sobs.
Her mother eyed me over her daughter's shoulder. "What happened?"
"A truck came out of nowhere and hit the mailbox. It flew into the street. Your daughter was coming up the road and had no time to stop."
Excerpted from "Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding"
Copyright © 2017 Diane Kelly.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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