Celia St. John doesn’t want to be attracted to Tom McMillian. He’s arrogant and alpha—exactly her type. But he’s also the district attorney, which makes him her boss, and Celia is sure he’s still hung up on his ex.
After his infant son died and his marriage to a law enforcement agent fell apart, Tom vowed to never get involved with another cop. The solution to his attraction to Celia seems to be a no-strings affair. But working together and sleeping together becomes complicated when the illegal baby adoption ring they’re investigating turns into a murder case and there’s evidence that points to Tom as a suspect.
The more they dig into the case, the higher the risk—to their burgeoning relationship and their lives.
Each book in the Hearts of the South series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed in any order.
Books in the series:
Book #1: Truth and Consequences
Book #2: His Ordinary Life
Book #3: Hold On to Me
Book #4: Anything But Mine
Book #5: Memories of Us
Book #6; Hearts Awakened
Book #7: Fall Into Me
Book #8: Facing It
Book #9: Uncovered
Book #10: Gone From Me
Book #11: All I Need
About the Author
How does an English teacher end up plotting murders? She uses her experiences as a cop's wife to become a writer of romantic suspense! Linda Winfree lives in a quintessential small Georgia town with her husband and grand-dog. By day, she teaches English/Language Arts and is an all-round education nerd; by night she pens sultry books full of murder and mayhem.
To learn more about Linda and her books, visit www.lindawinfreewrites.com or connect with her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/lindawinfreewrites. You can also contact Linda via email at email@example.com.
Read an Excerpt
Celia St. John sipped at a virginal strawberry daiquiri and shifted in her chair, trying to quell the low pulse of desire between her legs.
She really had to stop thinking about screwing her boss.
Being at a sex-toy party wasn't helping.
Around her, women giggled and squealed over the array of adult playthings — everything from lotions, oils and powders to vibrators and dildos. Each item she selected only fueled her fantasies about Tom McMillian.
Damn it, why couldn't she get the man out of her head?
She'd purchased a bottle of the scented warming body lotion and imagined his hands rubbing it into her skin.
She'd tested flavored body powders and envisioned her tongue lifting the pink crystals from his flat stomach.
And the lifelike vibrator? Holding it, she'd wondered what he looked like in comparison.
She was obsessed. That was all there was to it. And it was a hopeless obsession. McMillian wasn't aware of her beyond her role as his lead investigator. He was still too hung up on the redhead sitting across the room, the one laughing as she wrote a check for a peek-a-boo bra and an assortment of body oils. McMillian still wanted his ex-wife — hell, the whole tricounty area knew it — and that left Celia wanting a man who saw her as nothing more than a valued colleague.
Celia straightened, draining her daiquiri. She was done. No more obsessing. She'd take home her warming lubricant and one of those toys, and tonight she would not think about McMillian.
Her cell phone pinged its subtle tones and she pulled it from her purse. "St. John."
"Where are you?" McMillian's voice shivered over her, as if she'd conjured him with her musings. Her gaze darted to the table of toys once more.
"A party at Altee Price's. Why?"
"I need you." His voice was more terse than usual, not a good sign. "Do you have your car?"
"No, I rode with my sister."
"I'll swing by and pick you up. I'm turning off the highway now, should be there in about seven minutes."
The connection went dead. Celia gave the phone a rueful look and returned it to her purse. Typical McMillian behavior — giving orders without doubt he'd be obeyed. Maybe it was a good thing he was still hung up on Kathleen Harding. The man would be a bitch to date.
She gathered her purchases, packaged in a discreet lilac bag, made her goodbyes and stepped outside Altee's small lakefront home as the silver Mercedes purred into the drive. She walked down the steps, her stomach tightening with a tingling anticipation.
McMillian leaned over to push the passenger door open, the interior light glinting off his short brown hair. He was dressed casually, a golf shirt and khaki slacks hugging the well-defined muscles of his arms and thighs. Celia jerked her gaze from his torso to his face, set in grim lines.
"Get in. Thanks for coming." A fleeting smile, which she supposed was a concession, flashed over his thin mouth. "I should apologize for interrupting your evening."
She slid into the passenger seat, the leather molding to her body. The gift bag she laid in the floorboard next to her feet. "It's fine. What is it?"
"Crime scene." He shifted into reverse, the smooth engine barely revving. "Body of an infant discovered during a roadblock check."
Slanting a look in his direction, Celia snapped her seatbelt. The white light from the dash illuminated his expressionless face. His voice hadn't betrayed any emotion, either, but she knew cases involving children got under his skin. They had to.
"What county has jurisdiction?" She matched his cool demeanor. Please, not Darren County. Of the seven county and nearly fifteen city departments she interacted with as an investigator for the DA's office, she hated Darren County the most. Or rather, the lead investigator hated her. He still remembered what had happened with Turello.
God, that was a relief. "Which investigator?"
Celia nodded. She liked Mark Cook, respected his expertise as an investigator. Plus, he generally wasn't a jerk about having a woman on his team. A grin quirked at her mouth. Or letting a woman take the lead, for that matter.
"What kind of party?"
Celia glanced at him, her gaze flicking over his hands on the wheel. "Just one of those hostess parties."
He lifted one eyebrow in inquiry.
She sighed. "You buy things. The hostess gets credit toward free stuff according to the amount her guests spend."
"Oh." He shook his head, a slight frown between his brows. "What kind of things?"
Pull off up here and I'll show you. She jiggled off the thought and glanced out the window, dark shapes of trees flashing by, the lights of someone's boat house glimmering on the still surface of the lake. She intended to leave behind the obsession. Starting tonight. "Depends on the party. Candles, gourmet food, jewelry, Tupperware."
She turned to study him again, a sharp, searching stare. Of course. A hint of pique twisted through her. He wasn't really interested in Altee's party itself. He had to have seen Kathleen's Jeep there. That's what was up with all the questions.
Celia narrowed her eyes. Instead of dodging and weaving about what type of party Altee had thrown, she should have told him in detail what Kathleen had purchased to use with her new husband. Except she'd seen his face when Kathleen had announced her engagement to Jason Harding, the way he'd withdrawn the weekend of her wedding.
Wonder what he'd do when he discovered Kathleen was pregnant.
He swung onto US 19. The sleek car ate the miles, the tires a bare whisper against the asphalt. Silence lingered between them and Celia stared at the darkness beyond the windows. It was always like this — he couldn't be bothered to carry on a real conversation with her. Anger trembled through her. Why was she so darned drawn to him? The man lacked basic social skills.
Or more likely, he wasn't interested in her beyond her professional capabilities.
Not knowing what to say to him didn't improve her mood. It wasn't an issue with any of the other men she was acquainted with — put her in a room of cops and she could talk shop all day long.
Put her this close to Tom McMillian and the cat got her tongue every time. Too bad she wanted McMillian to get it instead.
Blue lights whirled in the distance, mixing with spotlights and casting an eerie glow on the highway. McMillian pulled the Mercedes to a stop behind the patrol cars from three counties plus the Georgia State Patrol lining the four-lane. Orange barricades filtered traffic into one lane on each side.
Operation Barbed Wire. Celia eyed the officers perusing license and insurance information as cars crept through the checkpoint. She remained a little miffed she hadn't gotten an invite to this particular party, a huge exercise in cooperative law enforcement.
A battered Toyota had been drawn to one side, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime scene van sat alongside it. The coroner's car waited nearby.
McMillian killed the engine and pushed his door open. Light flooded the interior and Celia blinked. He glanced at her. "Let's go."
She pushed her door open and met him at the hood.
He waved an acknowledgement at a state trooper who used a light stick to guide traffic forward. The beam bounced over her feet. He frowned. "Can you do this in those?"
She glanced down at the thin strap of leather peeking from beneath the hem of her jeans. The light glinted off her Pompeii Purple-polished toes. She smiled. A definite change from the sensible loafers she normally wore to the office, but no reason she couldn't work in these. "Of course."
His gaze traveled up her body, over her skinny jeans, the green beaded camisole beneath her light corduroy jacket. She refused to shift under his cool scrutiny.
He waved toward the Toyota. "Let's go."
Her heels clicked on the blacktop. The spotlights and the waiting horror grew closer. She tucked her hair into her jacket. All she needed was to contaminate a crime scene, giving Mark Cook any reason to rag on her.
The tension emanating from McMillian didn't help. She glanced sideways at him. He remained straight faced, but the entire line of his body screamed with anxiety. Cases involving children were his special interest, hence the DA office's Child Death Investigation Task Force. She understood why his interest was so strong. What she didn't get was why he tortured himself by coming out to the scenes, instead of focusing on preparing the prosecution.
That wasn't entirely true. She did know why — the man was all about honor and duty and justice. He wasn't about to let his own emotions get in the way of what he thought was right.
He'd have made a hell of a cop.
Yellow crime scene tape twisted and crackled in the breeze. A deputy waited at the barrier, and within the cordoned area, Mark Cook snapped photo after photo, which Celia knew would become a painstaking record of the scene. She smiled and nodded at the deputy standing watch. "Parker."
He returned the nod and glanced at McMillian. "Evening, St. John. Mr. McMillian."
Cook didn't stop taking pictures. "Hey, St. John, glad you're here. Come have a look."
She stopped at the tape. "You sure?"
"Yeah. Gloves are in the kit."
She moved to the folding box holding his equipment for evidence collection. Taking two pairs of gloves, she snapped them both on, one atop the other. "Coroner pronounce it yet?"
The camera flash strobed again. "Yeah."
"So what have you got?" She ducked under the tape, carefully treading to the area where he stood. Her existence narrowed to the space within that tape, everything fading to the background — McMillian, sexual obsessions, the noise and lights of the roadblock.
Cook lowered the camera. "Caucasian infant, pretty small. The guys from the Drug Task Force pulled the car, found the baby like this."
She peered at the bundle nestled in an infant seat, strapped into the Toyota's backseat. One tiny hand, curled into a fist, poked out of the folds. "A suffocation? SIDS, maybe? Where are the parents?"
He shook his head. "I don't think the driver is the dad. He's clammed up tighter than a church-going girl's legs before she has a ring."
She glanced over her shoulder at the line of patrol cars. "Where is he?"
"Sitting in Parker's car." A sneer curled Cook's mouth. "Think he's allergic to dog hair. He's sneezing up a storm."
She eyed the K-9 unit. The tinted windows made it impossible to see the man inside. "So if he's not the father, where did the baby come from?"
"Hell if I know." Cook shrugged. "That's what we have to figure out."
He'd ceased to exist.
Tom leaned a hand against the roof of a patrol car and watched Celia work the scene with Cook. He frowned. She moved with the same brisk professionalism as always, but something was different.
Maybe it was the clothes. He couldn't remember seeing her in jeans before. Hell, he'd never seen her toes before tonight. Purple-polished toes. Pretty too.
Damn, he sounded like a foot fetishist.
Her hair was loose, although she'd tucked it inside her jacket before entering the crime scene. He was accustomed to seeing the silvery blonde strands in a neat knot. She looked younger, softer somehow, with it loose around her shoulders.
He hadn't seen this Celia St. John before. She got to him.
His frown deepened. St. John was one of the best investigators he'd ever seen and his office was lucky to have her. If he had to describe her, the words would come easy — professional, thorough, disciplined, cool.
He shook his head. The physical tug buzzed within him, but he tamped it down. Letting himself focus on his attraction to her was a disaster in the making.
One, she was his employee.
Two, he didn't ever want another cop in his personal life, not after Kathleen.
The memory of his ex-wife jerked through him, bringing the expected rush of emotions — frustration, anger, pain. Simply seeing her Jeep at Price's earlier had sent the same old feelings washing over him. The strength of them had surprised him. Over the years, the intensity had diminished.
But one conversation on the golf course that afternoon and the hurt was back, strong as ever.
Kathleen was pregnant with Harding's baby. Kathleen, carrying another man's child.
He'd been trying all evening to wrap his mind around that reality. Maybe that explained why seeing Celia outside the mold he'd assigned her had him more off- kilter than usual where she was concerned. That, and a phone call telling him the Chandler County Sheriff's Department was investigating a deceased infant.
He dug his fingers into his palm, pain shooting up his arm. All he'd needed to top off a perfect day was seeing a dead baby.
"Cook, there are prints all over this car." The lyrical notes of Celia's cool voice washed over him. He glanced up, watching her as she pointed out the area.
Cook squinted. "Man, running those will take forever. And we won't have any elimination sets."
"Want me to start taking them?"
"St. John, you can take whatever you want for me, anytime you want."
"Don't hold your breath." Celia lifted the gray powder from the evidence- collection kit.
Cook peered inside the front seat before placing a crime scene marker next to the fast-food wrappers visible in the floorboard. He grinned down at Celia's head when she bent to dust the door handle. "So did you go to Price's little soirÃ©e?"
"Oh, I'm impressed, Cook. Your vocabulary's growing. And, yes, I went to Price's party. Why? You upset you didn't get an invite?"
"They were afraid I'd upstage the merchandise."
Celia laughed, the sweet sound sending a frisson over Tom's spine. He scowled. Nice place for flirting, with the baby's body mere feet away. He shouldn't be surprised — he knew how cops compartmentalized their emotions.
But he'd expected different, expected more from Celia. Distance he could understand. Insensitivity was a different matter altogether.
Insensitive? You're standing here lusting after your investigator, and she's insensitive?
"How long do you think it's been deceased?" Celia was once again the consummate professional.
Cook shrugged. "Rigor's beginning to set in. Haven't checked for lividity yet. A couple hours, maybe?"
Celia frowned. "Wouldn't he notice that baby hadn't cried in a while? It's young. They cry a lot when they're little, don't they?"
Tom closed his eyes for a second, the sound of wails and snuffling cries not dimmed by the distance of time. The hollow feeling in his chest tightened.
"No clue." Cook pulled his notebook from his pocket. "First thing we'll do is check missing-persons reports. But seems like we'd have an Amber Alert for a missing child."
"I can help with running those reports." Her voice softened as she began dusting the back door panel. The spotlights picked out the darker tones of her hair.
"Great. Appreciate that." With swift strokes, Cook penned a rough sketch of the car's interior, scribbling in the margins.
Celia cast another glance at the Chandler County K-9 unit, her blue eyes gleaming in the reflected light. "I want to be in on the questioning."
The corner of Cook's mouth lifted and he returned the notebook to his pocket. "Kinda thought that, since you showed up with McMillian. Didn't figure you were dating him. He doesn't seem like your type."
Her shoulders stiffened. "Funny, Cook."
Tom glared at the back of Cook's head. Not her type? What the hell did he mean by that?
"Know what kind of guy you need?"
"I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"Fun, no strings attached, shows a girl a good time. One who actually smiles."
"I see where this is going and it's not working." Celia's mouth curved. "I don't date Chandler County boys, remember?"
"Who says I wanted you to date me?"
"You know you're secretly pining for me, Cook."
"Oh, hell yeah, St. John. I doodle your initials all over my reports. Sheriff gives me hell about it all the time."
Irritation jerked under Tom's skin. He'd had enough. She could damn well conduct herself with the decorum demanded by his office. Tom took a step forward, shoulders tight, and stopped. The yellow tape snapped in the light breeze, a visible "keep out".
He was the outsider here. Hell, how many times had he been there in his marriage? On the exterior of the little world cops built around themselves. He folded his arms over his chest and stared at Celia.
She glanced around as if feeling the weight of his look. He kept his face impassive, hoping she'd pick up the nonverbal warning. She held his gaze for a moment, her own face expressionless, before she turned away, back to the little world where he wasn't allowed.
His cell phone buzzed at his waist and he jerked it free. "McMillian."
"What the hell is going on?" Rhett High's gruff voice filled his ear. Tom used a finger at the other to drown out the commotion around him and focused on his friend and chief assistant district attorney. "You missed the damn dinner meeting, Tom. I waited a fucking half hour for you."
Excerpted from "Memories of Us"
Copyright © 2009 Linda Winfree.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this series
Outstanding! In my top three favorites in the series even though I love them all.