Book 3 in the Men of Courage
A sizzling fan-favorite tale
After a blaze on his block results in an overturned Dumpster, firefighter Harris Black finds a shoebox filled with striking nudes and a handwritten note admitting to the woman’s love for…him? Who is the enigmatic woman in the photos, and how does she know him so well? His next door neighbor and best friend, P.I. Clair Caldwell, is the perfect person to help him solve the mystery. Except that Clair is already more involved than he ever could have guessed…
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is Book 3 in the Men of Courage
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As Harris stepped out from beneath the building’s overhang, a fat raindrop landed on his nose. Given the heavy static in the air, he knew it’d be storming before they finished their run. He sprinted across the lot at the same time that Clair’s doors opened and she strolled outside. Harris stared toward her with a smile.
Her personality put her somewhere between an egghead an a jock; she loved sports of all kinds, and was almost too smart for her own good. But no matter what the situation, and despite a lack of feminine flair, Clair always looked stylish. Granted it was her own unique style, but her appearance was always deliberate, not one created out of lack of taste or time.
A few weeks ago she’d cut her glossy, dark brown hair shorter, and now she wore it in a stubby ponytail that looked real cute. She’d attached an elasticized band to her black-framed, oval glasses to hold them on her head while she ran. Somehow, on Clair, the look of an athletic librarian worked.
With her hair pulled back that way, Harris noticed for the first time that she didn’t have pierced ears. In fact, he realized he’d never seen Clair with jewelry of any kind. Odd. In this day and age, he thought every grown woman had her ears, if not other body parts, adorned. But then he’d always know Clair was different from other women.
At five feet five inches tall, she would be considered medium height except that she was all legs. Very long, sexy legs that even in clunky running shoes looked great. Tonight she had those gams displayed in comfortably loose, short shorts. Like Harris, she’d made a concession to the rain and wore a nylon pullover.
Harris looked up at the black sky. There was no moon, no stars to be seen through the thick clouds. Branches on the trees bent beneath an angry wind. Debris scuttled across the road. “Looks like we’ll get one hell of a storm tonight.”
“Backing out on me, sugar? Afraid you’ll melt in the rain?” She swatted him on the ass. Hard. Then took off.
Grinning, Harris followed. “Paybacks are hell, sweetheart.”
To tease him, she put a little extra sway in her backside for a few steps, then she got serious again. They ran side by side, silent except for the slapping of their sneakers on the damp ground and the soughing of their steady breaths. Within fifteen minutes, the drizzle changed into a light rain. Clair said nothing, so Harris didn’t either. He could take it if she could.
After about a mile, Harris glanced toward her. She wore a concentrated expression, and her short ponytail, now darker with rain, bounced in time to her long stride. “Anything interesting happen at work today?” he asked.
She scrunched up her brow. “Dane caught a guy screwing around on his wife.” Disgust dripped from her tone. “Dane was pissed when he came in to file it. Said the wife was real sweet and better off without the guy, but that she was bawling her eyes out.”
“Shame.” Harris didn’t want to marry, but if he ever did, he knew he’d be a faithful hound. He thought spouses who cheated were lower than slugs. If you wanted to screw around still – as he did – then you shouldn’t say the vows.
Clair pushed a little harder, her feet eating up the ground with a rhythmic slap, slap, slap. “I wouldn’t cry.” Her hands balled into fists and she picked up her pace even more until they were running instead of jogging.
“What would you do?”
The seconds ticked by and she slowed, gradually going loose and limber once again. With an evil, anticipatory grin, she said, “I’d take a ball bat to him. Then I’d leave him.”
“Effective.” Harris laughed. “But I think that’s illegal.”
“Yeah. Well I’d find some way to make him pay – “
A slash of white lightning illuminated the entire area, followed by a crack of thunder that seemed to rip the night. They both pulled to a startled halt.
“Wow.” Clair propped her hands on her knees breathing hard, wide-eyed in awe of Mother Nature’s display.
“This is nuts. Come on.” Harris grabbed her arm and hauled her toward the main street. #Time to head back.” Normally they’d take the long route to extend their jogging time, but now Harris just wanted to have Claire safely out of the storm.
She didn’t protest, but then that was another of Clair’s assets – sound common sense. He’d found it rare for people to have both book smarts and everyday logic. But Clair had both, which was another reason he liked her so much.
They were within minutes of their apartments when the rain turned into a deluge, soaking them through to the skin in a matter of seconds, making visibility nil. The sewers couldn’t handle the flow and the streets filled like creek beds, washing icy water up past their ankles. With the help of the wind, the rain stung like tiny needles, making Harris curse. Trying to protect Clair with his body, he steered them toward a closed clothing shop and into a dark, recessed doorway. The opening wa narrow, forcing them close together. Clair didn’t seem to notice the intimate proximity.
Her hair was plastered to her skull, her entire body dripping. She shivered, but she didn’t complain. “You think it’ll let up soon?”
Another fat finger of lightning snaked across the ominous sky. The accompanying thunder shook the ground beneath them. “No. but we’ll wait here a few minutes to see.”
End of Excerpt
is available in the following editions:
Out of Print Editions
February 1, 2004