In Seconds

In Seconds

by Brenda Novak

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781488038297
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 09/10/2018
Series: Bulletproof , #2
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 23,784
File size: 589 KB

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Read an Excerpt

Pineview, Montana

It was the murder that triggered everything. The moment Laurel Hodges—Vivian Stewart as of two years ago—heard about it, everything she'd been through, everything she'd done to escape her past, came rushing back at her. And it happened at a place where she'd felt completely safe only seconds before. She was having highlights put in her hair at Claire's Salon, which wasn't much of a salon, just an add-on to her friend's small home.

Although Claire had grown up here, Vivian had lived in Pineview only since she'd assumed her most recent identity. She'd chosen this town because it had an extremely low crime rate, it was so far from where she'd been before and it was on the backside of nowhere. She'd never dreamed the people who'd been chasing her for four years would think to look here. And it'd been a long enough stretch of peace and quiet to believe the terrible years were over. She'd left her old self behind, adjusted, established her fledgling purse-design business and begun to live again. She and her two children—Mia, seven, and Jake, nine—were finally starting to belong.

And now, in the blink of an eye, everything they'd created here felt threatened.

"What'd you say?" Lifting the hood of the commercial hair dryer, she leaned out so she could hear. The postman, George Grannuto, had just walked through the doors Claire had flung wide so they could enjoy the breezy June morning while she vented the fumes of the hair-coloring chemicals.

"Pat Stueben's dead," he repeated, handing Claire her mail. "He's been murdered." His face, drained of its usual ruddy color, made him appear years older than he was. Vivian knew his exact age—fifty-five—because she'd attended his birthday party last month. His wife was part of her Thursday-night book group.

Claire, only five foot three or so, leaned on the broom she'd been using to sweep up hair. Vivian had wanted a sassy cut to signify the freedom and happiness she'd been experiencing so often of late. She'd also gone back to being a blonde, which was her natural color. But going so short was a big change. Now she couldn't help staring at the dark brown locks lying on the floor, feeling as if she'd just shed her skin.

"How? When?" Claire brought a hand to her chest. George's words had obviously shocked her as much as they had Vivian. With the disappearance of her mother fifteen years ago and the death of her husband after only a few years of marriage, Claire had had more than her share of bad news. And now this… "Leanne and I saw him and Gertie at Fresh Ketch last night," she said. "They were in the booth next to ours."

Tall and bony, George resembled a cartoon stork delivering a baby when he carried his bulging mailbag down Claire's little dead-end street, and the shorts that went with his warm-weather uniform didn't improve his appearance. They revealed stiltlike legs with knobby knees and varicose veins. But he always wore a smile. Except today.

"Someone called him," he explained, "wanting to rent one of those cabins he owns over on the north shore. So after breakfast he drove around the lake to show the property—and never came back."

If he'd said that Pat had died of a heart attack, Vivian wouldn't have found it difficult to believe. Pat was no longer as svelte as the picture posted on his real-estate signs. But…murdered? That couldn't be. They still didn't know what'd happened to Claire's mother, but no one had ever been killed in this tranquil place, not in recent memory. Folks here didn't even lock their doors at night. If the community had more deaths than some, that was because it had more seniors.

The old cloying fear welled up, making it hard for Vivian to breathe, let alone talk. After two attempts to clear her throat, she managed to find her voice. "Who discovered him?"

"Gertie." The clicking sound George made with his tongue was shorthand for "this makes it even worse."

"When he didn't come home, she drove over to see what was keeping him. You know how close they are. Were," he corrected. "The scene when she walked in was—" He shook his head.

"She got there too late?" Claire asked this question; Vivian was still chasing words around the vortex of panic in her head.

George lowered his voice. "She found him lying in a pool of blood, beaten senseless. He died before he could tell her anything."

The hair on the back of Vivian's neck stood on end. Beaten senseless? Who could hate Pat enough to kill him—and in such a violent manner? No one from Pine-view. He was popular, jovial, well-liked.

Did this tragedy mean what she thought it might?

"Do they know who did it?" Claire beat Vivian to the question that was uppermost in her mind. It was obviously important to Claire, too, and it wasn't hard to guess why, not with a mother who'd been missing for nearly two decades.

"I don't think so," George replied. "Maybe that would be different if we had cell phone service here, but we don't. And if the sheriff knows anything, he's not talking."

Sheriff King happened to be Vivian's next-door neighbor, so she knew him, at least a little. He wasn't the type to divulge details until he was good and ready, especially if doing so might jeopardize a case. Myles was a by-the-book kind of cop. He was also a handsome widower with a thirteen-year-old daughter. He'd asked Vivian out on occasion, but she'd never accepted. Claire said she was crazy for rejecting him, but she was still trying to get over Rex McCready, her brother's best friend who'd entered WitSec—witness protection—when she did. Besides, she was afraid to get too close to anyone who was unaware of her real situation for fear her past would come crashing into her present, just like it seemed to be doing today.

"How do you know all this?" There. She'd found her voice again. She'd also come to her feet.

"My route covers the whole lake." He gestured toward Crystal Lake, even though they couldn't see it from this part of town. Claire's house was artsy, in a hippie sort of way, but it was located on the poor side of Pineview.

Claire started to speak, but Vivian plowed over her. "You were at the scene?"

"I was. So was the coroner, the sheriff, some detectives and forensic techs from the county. Boy, were they were a grim bunch. The sheriff was downright stone-faced."

For good reason…

Heedless of the hair clippings that remained on the floor, Claire set her broom aside. "Is he the one who told you about Pat?"

"No, C. C. Larsen did. When Gertie found him, she ran to C.C.'s to use the phone."

"But C.C.'s house is a quarter of a mile from those rentals," Claire said. Having lived here her whole life, she knew every street, every alley, every empty field and rental cabin. She'd searched them all, at some point, for her mother.

He adjusted his bag to redistribute the weight. "She didn't want to go to another rental for fear of who might be there. You can understand." Wrinkling his nose, he added, "C.C. and I watched 'em cart out the body."

"This is terrible," Vivian muttered, but she wasn't really thinking about what she was saying. She was wondering if the panic intensifying her sadness over Pat's death was justified or simply an echo of an earlier time.

"I tried to get a few more details from the sheriff, but…it was useless," George said. "He told me he's 'investigating the incident' and that he'll know more later. He also said everything will be okay. But I don't see how it can ever be okay for Gertie."

The sheriff had answered without really answering.

Vivian recognized his "cop-speak" because she'd heard it before. When her stepfather had been shot and killed, the investigators wouldn't tell her or her family anything. Not knowing what was really going on had been almost as agonizing as learning that they were placing the blame on Virgil, her older brother, and prosecuting him, at eighteen, for murder.

"We've got a right to more information than that," Claire complained. "It's our community, too."

George nodded. "I see those shows on TV. I know what can happen when a serial killer gets started. Psychopaths don't quit till someone stops 'em. And this sounds like a psychopath to me. Who else would beat a man to death for no reason?"

"Do you think maybe some drug addict wanted Pat's wallet and he wouldn't give it up?" Vivian grasped at any feasible explanation, hoping the truth wasn't what she feared.

"It's possible, I suppose," George replied. "C.C. told me that Gertie said his wallet was missing. But there was only about fifty bucks inside. Still, a bungled robbery would be better than a serial killer. Imagine someone like that Zodiac fella or—or BTK setting up shop here in the Chain of Lakes."

Vivian couldn't imagine it. That was the problem. Claire's mother disappearing fifteen years ago was the only blemish on this town, and most folks believed she'd run off. Pineview, nestled so close to Crystal Lake, was picture-perfect. Safe. Close-knit. Stunningly beautiful. Untouched by the rest of the world. Apart from it, too. As George had said, Pineview didn't even have cell-phone reception.

It did, however, have its first modern-day murder.

"The FBI would descend on us. The media, too." George was expanding on his psychopath theory.

Claire checked the street, probably hoping to see her sister, Leanne, roll toward them in her motorized wheelchair. Crippled in a sledding accident when she was thirteen, Leanne drove it everywhere, even through the ruts on their road. "Maybe Chester over at the paper will get a letter from the killer, taunting Sheriff King."

George staggered under the weight of his bag. "Or someone else will die."

A real-estate agent beaten to death inside his own vacation rental spoke more of rage than a stalking type of murder, but Vivian didn't say so. She preferred to fade into the background, didn't want Claire or George to think she knew anything about the subject. No one here had any idea that her stepfather had been murdered, or that her brother had served fourteen years in prison before being exonerated. They had no idea of the problems that had started upon his release, either. Because all of that had happened to Laurel Hodges, not Vivian Stewart.

"If there's a serial killer running around, the danger is far from over," Claire said, but Vivian wasn't so sure this perpetrator had killed just for the thrill of it. If the violent gang her brother had joined while he was in prison had caught up with her yet again, it could be that Pat had merely gotten in the way. Like that U.S. marshal in one of the places she'd been before. The Crew had slit his throat and left him bleeding out on the floor. They would've killed her, too, if not for—

She couldn't even think of what had almost happened, because it involved her children. The men who belonged to The Crew were ruthless. They'd proven that, hadn't they? They'd also proven that they could get hold of whatever information they wanted. Vivian was convinced that someone in the very agency charged with their protection had been talking. That was the only way The Crew could've found them before, when they were all living in D.C. So they'd left the witness protection program, assumed new identities yet again and separated. Other than Virgil, his wife, Peyton, and Rex, who lived in Buffalo, New York, no one knew where she was, not even their handler from WitSec who'd helped them relocate the first time. After all that, what more could she possibly do to keep her small family safe?

Should she have changed her children's names, too? Because children were so difficult to trace—they didn't sign up for credit cards or get jobs or do any of the other things that left a trail—she'd opted to keep their first names. They had a different last name, though, which they understood was because of her divorce. Her new first name, she'd told them, was because she liked it better. Even that had taken them a while to get used to.

"We need to look out for each other, report any strangers we see," Claire said.

"But it's tourist season," George responded. "There're always strangers this time of year, most of 'em young guys who've come to hunt or fish or canoe. And you know how rough some of 'em can look, with all their tattoos and body piercings."

"Then we'll have to keep an eye on all of them." Claire glanced at Vivian, anticipating her full agreement, and did a double take. "Oh, my God! We've got to get you rinsed!"

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In Seconds 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
livlife More than 1 year ago
This is Brenda's second book in her Pineview Trilogy. I was captivated from the beginning starting with the immediate murder of a close neighbor. I love books that start with a bang! I loved the small town backdrop of this series. The characters were very realistic you wanted to root for Vivian (Laurel) and Virgil. The suspense in this story had you nestled in your covers at night afraid that the "crew" was at your back door. The romance in this story was not farfectched like other books. I would recommend this book it has just the right amount of suspense and romance..the perfect balance. I look forward to the finale in the series due to come on in October.
rhonda1111 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
4 STARSThis is the second book I have read about in this town. This one comes first and In Close after. I read them backwards. I was kept in suspense except for information about a few things about Clair in her story. So yes I will read more of Brenda novels in the future.Vivian (Laurel) for the last couple of years lives in Pineview, Montana with her two kids. Vivian has had a rough life but she is in a good place now. Vivian keeps her past and tries not to get involved with anyone. So she won't have to lie or if trouble comes get them involved. Myles King the sheriff lives next door and as asked her out a few times but she keeps saying no.Myles has a teenage daughter. His wife died 3 years ago from cancer. Many women have tried to get his attention but he has not wanted anyone except his neighbor but he wants to go slow their but not as slow as she wants.Then their is a murder at a cabin in the area and no one is found to have a reason to kill him. Vivian is afraid that the gang who wants her dead has found her again. She was part of witness protection for a couple of years, but when they were found again and marshall killed they went off on their own. Vivian tries to get information out of sheriff by asking him to fix her fridge that she sabatoged and got wine out too.Vivian drank to much and asked the sheriff for a one night stand and never again.Myles can't get her to except dinner or anyother date turns her down because she had too much to drink. Then another times tries to see her bluff, but than an old boyfriend of Vivian comes to visit and tells her she needs to run again.Lots of actions, murders and falling in love. I want Rex to have a story of his own. You want to route for the good guys and hope bad guys are stopped for good.
BookDivasReads on LibraryThing 10 months ago
In Seconds by Brenda Novak continues with the ongoing saga of Virgil Skinner and his family. The action takes place four years later and Virgil is now married to Peyton. The feared gang retaliation and threats continue and as a result Virgil, Peyton and Virgil's sister Laurel, have been forced to move several times. Virgil and Peyton are now residing in upstate New York. Laurel has relocated to Montana with her two children. She is now known as Vivian and trying to rebuild her life. Although neither Virgil nor Laurel is a part of the Witness Protection (or WitSec) program, they both knew that you don't maintain contact with family members. Laurel resides in an area without cell phone coverage and she hasn't been able to sever ties with her mother. As in Inside, the good (and possibly) bad thing about living in a small town is that everyone knows everyone. Laurel, a.k.a. Vivian, fears that her identity has been blown when a local real estate agent is murdered for no reason. It turns out her fears are not baseless. Laurel knows that there isn't much her brother can do, especially since Peyton is in the last trimester of a difficult pregnancy and they have a toddler at home. She also isn't willing to trust her neighbor, Sheriff Myles King to protect her and her children. Just when she thinks that things can't get any worse she finds out that her mom has been murdered by the gang and they definitely know where she is living. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse, not only for Laurel and Myles but also for Virgil and the new leader of the gang. Will they be able to protect their families in time? In Seconds provides plenty of suspense and some light romance and makes for a quick but satisfying read. Look for In Seconds to be released this August.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Anyone else tired of getting roped into paying for a book you've already bought and read before, but realize after it's too late? Please stop marketing old books as "new." It's dishonest and turns loyal fans away.
heathercm2001 More than 1 year ago
This was full of romance and suspense. I thought we would be seeing Laurel and Rex get their happily ever after, but that was not the case. I think that may have made the book even better. Laurel moves to the small town of Pineview, Montana. She has started up her own business, and essentially, a whole new life. This new life includes her neighbor, the sheriff, Myles, but she tries to stay away from him because she has so many secrets. Everything starts to fall apart when the people who are trying to kill her and her family come to town. She is determined to stay where she is and face The Crew head on, once and for all. Brenda Novak's characters in this book were great! It was wonderful to see Laurel doing so well, and her kids settling in. Jake seems to be growing up, and it was interesting to see how he is so determined to form bonds with people, while his mom is kind of doing the opposite. Myles had a great story too, which made it easier to accept that things did not work out with Rex. I loved when Myles and Laurel (Vivian) butt heads. They are great together! As weird as it sounds, I liked seeing Ink again too. I find his character fascinating, a complete psychopath, but fascinating. Novak does such a magnificent job writing the good guys, but she is amazing with the bad ones too. This was just an all-around great book! I loved seeing more of the characters from the first book, and hope to see more of everyone soon! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Read, Enjoyed it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved all 3 in the series.
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bookfiendDJ More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of small town romances and I love the way the story starts off strong and never lets up. The characters feel so real. This is a great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Action packed, fast paced page turner. Enjoyed it and liked reading more about Vigil, Peyton and Rex.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first Brenda Novak novel and I loved it. I had to buy the other novel "In Close" also and loved it too. She is one of my new favorite authors and I look forward to reading her other novels. She has mystery, suspense, and romance. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished my first Novak book. It was very good will read the rest of the series. The only thing is the ending I wanted more. I read 400 pages to get to the end and it was all summed up in less than 20 pages. But it eas still good.
Staffer_Coffee_Time_Rom More than 1 year ago
Ms. Novak has done it again with another great joy for her fans and other readers looking for a great read. Although this is the second book in the series and I always recommend to read in order, each book can also stand on its own, and you are given enough background information so as not to be lost. This is a book I had a hard time putting down; tons of excitement and danger, some romance and excellent storyline to satisfy. Matilda Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More
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Absolutely adore Brenda Novak - can't wait for the third in this series!
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Mocha4 More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed many of Brenda Novak's novels. I did not enjoy this book as much of the others because I found Laurell character not as strong as in her other books. She was a bit too winey for my taste. But I would still recommend this author.