Shattered Fear: A Novella of Romantic Suspense

Shattered Fear: A Novella of Romantic Suspense

by Tara Thomas

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From romantic suspense author Tara Thomas comes the explosive first novella, Shattered Fear, in the brand-new romantic suspense Sons of Broad series.

Welcome to the sultry streets of Charleston, where simmering desire and dark danger rule...

Forbidden love never felt so good...

She’s got a killer to catch.
He just might be it.
Undercover detective Janie Roberts needs to find out for sure if Brent Taylor is a murderer.
Handsome, wealthy, and sexy-as-sin Brent Taylor.
She’s got to get close enough to learn his secrets.

But getting this close is dangerous in more ways than one…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250138026
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Series: Sons of Broad
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 80
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Tara Thomas’s love of books and writing started as a child and though she wanted to be an author, she decided a degree in science was more practical. After fifteen years in the pharmaceutical industry, she returned to her first love and hasn’t looked back since.

She writes erotic romance as Tara Sue Me. Her Submissive Series novels have been on both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. Her novel The Master earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was awarded Best Romance of 2016 from Best Book Awards.

Tara Thomas’s love of books and writing started as a child and though she wanted to be an author, she decided a degree in science was more practical. After fifteen years in the pharmaceutical industry, she returned to her first love and hasn’t looked back since.

She writes erotic romance as Tara Sue Me. Her Submissive Series novels have been on both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. Her novel The Master earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was awarded Best Romance of 2016 from Best Book Awards.

Read an Excerpt


Janie Roberts figured she had about three minutes' worth of patience left before she vaulted over the bar and smashed something over the head of the guy currently trying every cheesy line he knew in an attempt to get her number. She eyed the shelf behind her, mentally calculating the price of liquor in each opened bottle. She'd have to use something cheap since it was doubtful the Charleston PD would allow her to expense it.

Unfortunately, she was working undercover and if she started breaking bottles, the bar would probably kick her out on her ass. Serial kidnapper or not.

"Damn, honey," the half-drunk dweeb tried again. "You are H-O-T, hot. Why don't you come over here and warm me up?"

She considered complimenting his spelling, but discarded that idea almost immediately. No doubt her sarcasm would be lost on him in his current state. She opened her mouth to tell him no, again, when a man she'd served a beer to about an hour earlier stepped in between her and the hardheaded drunk.

"Seriously, man," he said, with a nod in her direction. "Have some pride. She said no. Many times."

Drunk Guy looked like someone had kicked his puppy, but Janie hardened her scowl and put on her best don't mess with me face.

"But ..." he said with a hiccup.

Her white knight crossed his arms and shook his head as the lights in the club dimmed slightly. Janie nearly laughed. He towered over Drunk Guy. Heck, he looked as if he could snap him in half with that icy glare alone.

Drunk Guy hiccuped again, sized up his competition, and turned away. He half stumbled toward the back of the club where dancing was getting ready to start.

When she was certain he was gone and wasn't going to come back, Janie faced the guy who'd run him off.

"Thank you so much," Janie said, taking the time to get a good look at the guy. Earlier, when she'd served him, the crowd at the bar had been too thick for her to pay attention to anything other than his drink order.

He was classically handsome in the guy-next-door look. Of course, she had no idea where that phrase came from; none of her neighbors had ever been half as good-looking. His hair was a messy, dirty blond, and his eyes were a warm brown. She estimated him to be a few years older than her twenty-nine because he had a few laugh lines barely visible. On another man, they might have aged him, but it only added to his character and they painted him as someone who enjoyed life.

"It's no trouble," he said. "Truly."

"He must have heard the Aristophanes quote and thought by being drunk he was being clever."

His eyes widened in surprise. "You mean, 'Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever'?"

Now it was her turn to be surprised. "You know Aristophanes?"

His laugh was soft and seductive. "I could ask you the same."

"Theater minor."

"Ah," he said in understanding. "I spent several summers in Greece with my grandparents."

His response flustered her a bit. Spent summers in Greece? Who did that? But he, apparently, thought nothing of it as he tipped his glass back and drained what was left.

"Let me get you a refill." She nodded toward the empty glass in his hand. "Stout, right?" "Thank you, but that's really not necessary."

"It may not be necessary, but you probably saved my job. Before you showed up, I was trying to decide which bottle would be the least likely to get me fired if I busted it over that guy's head."

His smile was back. "I can't turn you down when you put it like that."

She took his glass to refill, watching him from the corner of her eyes as she poured him another beer. He leaned casually against the bar, but she had the underlying feeling it was a rouse. The air around him pulsed with a restrained energy.

The realization was enough to shock her back into the reality of her situation. She wasn't here to flirt or meet men. She was working the bar in an attempt to discover information on the disappearances of several young women while they were working at the club. And something about him suddenly had alarm bells going off in her head. The way he stood, perhaps. Confident. Self-assured. Or maybe the way his eyes swept over the club, always watching. Definitely not typical.

No matter. She'd been a cop long enough to know not to ignore those warning bells.

She schooled her features before turning to hand him the beer.

"Thank you," he said, taking the offered glass. "Will I be too much like the guy I chased off if I ask your name?"

"Janie Roberts." She didn't offer to shake his hand since she'd picked up a dishrag as soon as he'd taken the glass from her.

"Brent Taylor," he said, and she couldn't stop the little gasp she gave when she recognized his name. She thought he looked a bit disappointed that she knew who he was.

"Thank you again, Mr. Taylor." She had spent enough time talking to him; there were other customers to attend to. And she didn't miss the manager on duty standing not too far away with his arms crossed and giving her that look. The I don't care if the Charleston PD wants you here, when you're behind my bar, you're to be working look.

Brent nodded, probably catching sight of the manager's expression. "I'm going to head out. Hope to see you again soon."

He was gone before she could reply. Shaking her head, she shifted her attention to the men waiting for her to take their orders.

* * *

Two hours later, Janie groaned as the last club patron left and the door was locked behind them.

"Talk about a long night," Tilly, one of the club's waitresses, said as she slid onto a barstool beside Janie.

Janie enjoyed talking with Tilly, who was young, vivacious, and funny. Normally she tried to stay emotionally detached when she worked undercover, but Tilly had the type of personality that naturally drew people to her. All except one person, Janie hoped. Tilly didn't fit the profile of the women the kidnapper was focusing on. So far, he seemed to target blondes with little to no family, and only one had an education beyond high school. Tilly was certainly pretty with her wide blue eyes set against her light brown skin and wavy dark hair, but she didn't fit the profile. Except, she didn't have any family.

"You can say that again," Janie said. "I think it was the busiest since I started."

"I did happen to notice a few men with an interest in hanging out by the bar," Tilly teased.

"The drunk guy who wouldn't take no for an answer?" "Not only him, but the blond guy, too."

Her white knight in shining armor, who just happened to be a well-known philanthropist. "Brent Taylor?"

Recognition flashed in Tilly's eyes, even though she said, "Oh, I don't know his name. I just thought he was very interested in you."

Interesting. But Janie played along. "From what I've heard, he's the biggest playboy in the South. He's a trust-fund baby." As soon as she said the words, it struck her that this might be the man they were looking for. Well-educated. Wealthy. Good-looking. Come to think of it, he fit every item the profiler had told her to look for. Could he also be the type to enjoy playing the double life? Magnanimous on one hand, calculated killer on the other?

Was it possible he thought himself above the law and went about kidnapping women to prove it? She'd seen it happen before, particularly among the very wealthy. It was almost as if they saw other people as beneath them.

In the last year, six women had gone missing. Four had some sort of tie to this club. Janie had been the first person to connect the dots and when her boss asked her to go undercover three weeks ago, she'd jumped at the chance. She was also trying to find a link between the club and the other two girls.

Her mind drifted back to the feeling she'd had in the bar earlier.

Well, damn.

Was he the reason behind the disappearance of so many women? It made her sick to her stomach just thinking about it.

"Hey." Tilly waved her hand in front of her eyes. "Are you there? What happened?"

"Nothing. Just thinking of some things I need to take care of when I get home."

"This late at night?"

She knew for a fact Tilly was in school. "Don't give me that look. I know somebody who's going to home and study for about three hours before they turn in."


"Are you two going to stay here all night?" the manager asked. "Or do you plan on leaving sometime in the near future?"

Tilly grabbed her purse and Janie's hand. "We're leaving."


"Run that by me one more time," Alyssa, her friend and coworker, requested after Janie gave her the high-level details of the night before.

Janie sighed and excused herself to Alyssa's kitchen where she poured herself another cup of coffee. "You want it all or just the highlights?" She tried to keep the irritation out of her voice. Unfortunately, after spending the night before wide awake, unable to shut her brain off, she wasn't sure it was possible.

"I'm sorry." Alyssa followed behind her. "But Brent Taylor?" She asked like it would make far more sense for the kidnapper to be the vice president of the United States. Hell, it probably would.

"I know he's done a lot for the city." At Alyssa's lifted eyebrow, Janie conceded, "And for the state of South Carolina. But you have to agree, if you were going to get your hands dirty by kidnapping women, it wouldn't hurt to have a stellar reputation for being one of the most charitable men in the South. Besides, usually it is someone with power and they end up exerting that power in unsavory ways."

Alyssa didn't say anything, so she continued. "It's always the people you least expect. You never hear the next-door neighbor saying, 'I could tell he was a whack job the moment I laid eyes on him. Everyone knew he was batshit crazy and it was only a matter of time before he snapped.'"

At least that got a hint of a smile out her friend.

"Admit it," Janie said. "You know I'm right."

"I'll admit it does happen like that most of the time. But," Alyssa added before Janie could gloat, "you know we get plenty of calls from neighbors who just plain despise each other. In fact, I think it's about time for old man Green to call and ask if he can have his neighbor's dog arrested for trespassing.

Since Janie had been called to Green's home more often than she cared to remember when she was new on the force, she had to admit there was truth behind Alyssa's statement as well.

"I think it's wise not to let Brent Taylor's reputation cloud your judgement," Alyssa said. "But make sure he's not the only one you're keeping your eye on."

Janie would have been offended if she thought Alyssa was telling her how to do her job, but she knew it was only her friend's personality. Deciding to turn the topic away from Brent Taylor as a suspect, she sighed. "It'll be hard to keep my eyes on any other man. Do you know how hot that guy is?"

"Brent Taylor?" Alyssa's forehead wrinkled and Janie nodded. "Only from what I can tell from pictures. I've never had the privilege of seeing him up close and personal."

"See what up close and personal?" Alyssa's boyfriend, Mack, strolled into the kitchen, swiped an apple from the fruit bowl at her elbow, and gave her a quick kiss. Janie couldn't help but feel just a little jealous.

"Nothing." Alyssa smiled and pushed a strand of dark hair out of his eyes. "Just girl talk. You heading out?"

"Yeah." Mack frowned. "But I'll make it quick. Meeting your cousin for dinner at seven, right?"

Alyssa nodded, and both women watched as Mack walked away.

"I've said it before," Janie said. "You got one of the last great men."

"I'm a fortunate woman."

Alyssa and Mack had been dating for over two years. Alyssa confided in Janie recently that Mack had been dropping hints about getting married and starting a family. But she didn't feel the same pull.

"I'm an idiot for not agreeing to marry him, aren't I?" Alyssa asked when the front door closed behind him.

"I'm sure you have your reasons." Janie knew Alyssa always had a reason for everything she did, but she hadn't shared the reason she was hesitant to marry him. "If you don't hear your biological clock ticking and if you're completely happy living in sin, then by all means, keep it up."

Alyssa looked sideways at her. "You're kidding me, aren't you? I hate that I've known you for so long and I still can't tell."

"I kid. I kid." At least, she was half kidding. She really didn't think she'd be able to turn a man like Mack down.

"Back to you and Brent Taylor," Alyssa said.

"There is no me and Brent Taylor." She said the words, but if that was the case, why did her stomach get all excited just speaking his name? And why was she actually looking forward to going back to work in the club tonight just in case he happened to be there?

Which he wouldn't be. Last night was the first time she'd seen him in the weeks she'd been working there. And there was no way possible she'd have overlooked him.

Alyssa looked at her with that you can't fool me look, but she didn't say anything.

"You still think it's for the best you went in as a bartender instead of a dancer?" Alyssa asked.

When they had first set everything up, the original thought was that Janie should be a dancer, but after a few nights spent observing, it was decided she'd work behind the bar. She was glad, too. Not that she would have minded dancing, but the dancers didn't have the opportunity to see and talk with customers the way a bartender did.

She was thankful as well that it was an upscale gentlemen's club. Though the crowd ran anywhere from college boys to middle-aged men, for the most part they were well behaved and not scummy like she'd feared.

"Definitely for the best," Janie said. "After all, Brent Taylor wouldn't have even seen me last night if I'd been a dancer. He spent all his time at the bar."

The corner of Alyssa's mouth quirked up in a slight grin. "I think that was because he was smitten with you. If you'd been dancing, he'd have still found you."

"Smitten." Janie rolled her eyes. "Really?"

"What time do you go in tonight?" Alyssa asked, instead of answering.

"Eight." Twelve hours to go, she thought, looking at her watch.

"Text me when he shows up."

"He's not going to show up."

Alyssa crossed her arms. "How about we make it interesting? He shows up, you owe me dinner at the new farm-to-table."

Just to call her bluff, Janie added, "And if he doesn't, we go shopping for wedding gowns."

But Alyssa didn't falter. She stuck out her hand. "Deal."

Holy hell, he was going to show up.

* * *

The first few hours of her shift passed by in much the same way as every other night she'd tended bar at the club. It started out slow, with a sparse crowd that gradually grew over time. As the clock neared midnight, she excused herself for a quick bathroom break. She stuck her phone in her pocket, planning to text Alyssa and ask her what day she wanted to go wedding-gown shopping.

She tried to plan her text in her head. She wanted it to be snarky with an I told you so attitude, though she wasn't in the mood at the moment. It pissed her off how much she'd actually wanted Brent Taylor to show up.

No. Scratch that. What really pissed her off was how much she'd been looking forward to seeing him again.

This was why she shouldn't get her hopes up, she told herself as she turned to head down the hall leading to the restrooms. Because she always felt like warmed-over, day-old hell when nothing lived up to her expectations.

"Janie?" the seductive voice that haunted her fantasies all day asked.

She shook her head. It must be her fantasy this time, too.

"Janie Roberts."

It was the addition of her last name that made her stop. Interesting. There was no need for her fantasy Brent to use her first name. Even so, she turned slowly, wanting to draw out the feeling that he had returned to see her.

She'd done such a great job at convincing herself he wouldn't show up, it took her brain a few seconds to comprehend that yes, he had returned and yes, he sought her out.

Well, damn.


"What are you doing here?" she asked and then cringed, because out of all the things she could have said, out of all the things she'd planned to say, that wasn't one of them. The only reason she could think of was she'd just convinced herself he wasn't coming.

It obviously wasn't what he'd expected, either. His smile left and the light that was in his captivating eyes dimmed.

"I'm sorry," she managed to stammer out. "That was horribly rude."

"I caught you off guard," he said. "It's fine."

But he didn't look like he was fine and he wasn't smiling. Two things struck her at once. One, she didn't want him to leave, and two, if he was the man she was looking for, she couldn't allow him to leave.

She placed a tentative hand on his arm. "Let me get you a drink."

Something in her words or demeanor must have struck a chord, because the tension left his body.


Excerpted from "Shattered Fear"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tara Thomas.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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