Title: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MASK
Author: W.L. Brooks
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Is Alexandra McKay the reason her sister Fletcher left town? Yes. Does that mean Alex wants to put her life on hold to bring the little beast back? No! But when she discovers her sister’s been abducted, Alex will do whatever it takes to rescue her.
Giving up his PI gig was tough, but Jake Keller would rather do that any day than partner up with Alexandra McKay. Unfortunately, if he wants to find his friend Fletcher, he has to work with Her Royal Pain-in-the-Behind-ness. Hot or not, the woman makes his jaw twitch.
Forced together by circumstance, and ensnared in a web of clues, the pair submit to their undeniable passion. But if they’re unwilling to face the truth, they will risk not only Fletcher’s life but their own chance at happiness.
Jake Keller was not a happy man. Ten minutes ago, he’d been fucking ecstatic to be home. This case had taken only about a week, but he was tired of the long trips. The crazy life he led was catching up with him.
This last job had been the final hoorah for Sleuths, the private investigation agency he owned with his twin brother. Jake had planned on keeping the PI gig a little longer with a new partner, but taking in the state of his condo, that would have to wait.
Glass crunched under his foot, and Jake froze. He lifted up his boot and swore; the ceramic shards stuck in the treads belonged to his favorite mug, the one his grandmother had given him. Damn it! Of course that wasn’t the only thing destroyed. Nope, his entire place had been smashed up, sliced up, and…Were those bullet holes?
“Damn it all to hell!” he mumbled, turning his kitchen table right side up. What the fuck happened here? It hadn’t been a robbery. For one, there was no forced entry, and two, any intruder would have had to bypass his state-of-the-art security system. He sighed; there was no way in hell he was getting his deposit back.
Jake checked each room for signs of life. Even more important than his personal keepsakes was the person he’d been keeping here. She meant a lot to him too, though it would embarrass both of them to say so.
There wasn’t a doubt in his mind this chaos had to do with her. Fletcher McKay attracted lunatics worse than shit attracted flies. Yep, the kid was trouble with a capital T. Not that he’d say that to her; she would kick his ass. Again.
Jake pulled out his cell and dialed the kid. His gut tightened; the call went straight to voicemail. “Damn it, kid, what happened? Call me when you get this.” He put the phone back in his pocket and froze when his front door opened. He slipped his hand to his gun and waited.
“My Lord, who lives like this?” came the wispy voice of his uninvited guest.
Jake grunted, lowered his aim, and holstered his weapon. “What are ya doing here, princess?” he asked his brother’s sister-in-law. Nearly two years ago, his twin had taken a job in Blue Creek, North Carolina, where he ended up meeting and marrying Casey McKay. Not only were the McKays a force to be reckoned with, Ryan had managed to marry into a family of hot ladies to boot.
“I’m looking for my sister,” Alexandra McKay said, motioning to the mess. “She’s obviously been here.”
“What makes you say that?” He bristled under the scrutiny of her raised brow. Out of the four McKay sisters, this was the only one who made his damn jaw—not to mention other parts of his anatomy—twitch. Well, he didn’t really get along with his brother’s wife either, but one thing had nothing to do with the other.
“Hmm. Let’s see, your apartment is in complete disarray. Now, I could be giving you more credit than you deserve by thinking this is not how you usually live, or it could be that my little sister has been here, and—as per usual—she brought catastrophe along for the ride.”
He grunted, then started righting what was left of his furniture. She huffed, and he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Every inch of Alexandra’s female frame was elegant. She always wore something fancy, and she looked it too. Fancy. Classy. Her dark red hair was in a precise bun on the top of her head, and her big blue eyes were looking at him like he was trash. Shit.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, and her truck is parked outside.”
“Yeah, so?” Jake wouldn’t look at her. She was the most judgmental woman he’d ever encountered. And there went his jaw…twitching.
“I need to find her.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be found.” What he needed to find was a broom; it was going to take him forever to clean this crap.
“What? Do you think Fletcher threw a tantrum, destroyed your things, and left without her truck? Though, I wouldn’t put it past her—”
“Course you wouldn’t,” he accused, then looked up when she didn’t defend herself. He stomped across the room to where she was holding a piece of paper, which surely belonged to him. “I’ll take that.” He snatched the note from her hand, ignored her tempting feminine scent, and read it.
Sorry for the mess, Jake. I cleaned up what I could. I’m going home to see Alexandra, so don’t bother looking for me.
Jake cursed and dropped the letter. Alexandra picked it up and read it. He shook himself. For a moment, he would have sworn actual concern hovered in her eyes, but he had to have imagined it; the woman was an ice princess.
She bit her lower lip. “Could someone have her?”
“That’s my take on it,” Jake said. “She said she was going to see you, and she hates you; that’s clue number one. Clue number two is she signed Jamie and that isn’t her name, so we can guess whoever has her doesn’t know her.”
Alex rolled her eyes. “Jamie’s her birth name. Our father changed it years ago. She uses J. as her middle initial.”
She made a move to leave, and Jake grabbed her arm. “Whoa! Where are you going?” He dropped the hand she was staring at and stepped back a space. He’d think about the name change thing later.
“I’m going to my hotel; then I’m going to make a few phone calls to see if anyone’s heard from her.”
“I have some questions for you first. If you don’t mind, princess,” he added to annoy her. “First, how did you know she was here? Second, who are you going to call? And third, who the fuck do you think took her?”
“Ryan told me she was here.” She smirked. “What? Did you think he wouldn’t cave?”
“That no good son of a—”
“I’m going to call my family,” Alex continued, “and see if they’ve heard anything. And finally, I have no earthly idea who the ‘fuck’ took her, as you so eloquently put it.”
“Okay, but you can’t call home,” he said, following her outside. She’d gotten a new SUV. It was a beaut. He’d just bought a new ride himself. His brother had the same luxury vehicle and Jake had been drooling.
Alex leaned against the driver’s side door. “Why?”
“Because they’ll worry; then the whole crew will be up here putting their noses in and muddying up the damn waters!” They both knew it was true. There was no way in hell Emmit McKay would sit around and do nothing while his daughter was who knows where.
“They’ll want to know.” She looked at her nails, then murmured, “They deserve to know.”
“If you say so.” Jake did an about-face and began to walk away. He made it three steps when she called out to him. He smiled to himself, then turned. “Yeah?”
“Why did you give in so easily?”
“I mean, what the hell.” He shrugged one shoulder “Tell everyone. It’s your fault she’s missing, and we all know it.”
“What do you mean…my fault?”
“If it weren’t for you, Fletcher would still be home, and this more than likely wouldn’t have happened.”
“Fine,” she said between clenched teeth. “What do you suggest we do?”
“We look for clues,” he said and headed back inside. He didn’t have to turn around to know she was following him.
Alexandra’s blood boiled. Why in the world did she have to be here with her brother-in-law’s insipid twin?
Jacob Keller was a throwback to the caveman. His long brown hair was in one of those ridiculous manbuns, his jeans had holes in the knees, his black T-shirt had seen better days, and his leather boots were caked with mud. At least, she hoped it was mud.
“Okay. Which room was hers or”—she looked him up and down—“was she staying in yours?”
“Whatever you wish to believe, princess,” he said with a bow and walked away.
Alexandra controlled her urge to growl and started searching through what was left of Jacob’s things. She should be home right now. She had a bed and breakfast to run, for goodness’ sake. Granny Vaughn’s, named after her late grandmother, was doing quite well, thank you very much. Almost two weeks ago, despite it not being the most lucrative time of year, she’d had an entire tour group in residence. But now she’d had to close her business to pursue her little sister. Sure, she could have let someone else run things for her, but Alexandra didn’t like other people taking control of her responsibilities.
She wouldn’t even be here if she’d had a choice, but she hadn’t been given one. Charlie, her best friend and slightly older sister, had given her an ultimatum. If Alex didn’t bring Fletcher home, Charlie would elope with her fiancé, Craig, and there would be no wedding. Charlie deserved a wedding, a big beautiful event—the works—and Alex would make sure it happened. But more than that, it was up to her to bring Fletcher back because—and she was loath to admit it—Jacob was right; it was her fault Fletcher had left in the first place.
Though Alex hadn’t acted alone, her suspicion of Fletcher’s best friend, Sheriff Jasper Hart, had thrown Fletcher over the edge and out of town. In hindsight, Alexandra could see her error in judgement, but did this punishment fit her crime?
Her family put the brunt of the blame on her, which she could handle; it had been her idea in the first place. But even people outside the family had been punishing her. Tiny Wellington, who was the head cook at the diner and someone Alex had known most of her life, had burnt her food. Tiny had never burnt a meal in his life, until now, so she knew he did it on purpose. And Trixy Mae, who had been doing Alex’s hair for as long as she could remember, had cut an extra four inches off the ends last week. Four freaking inches! Unbelievable.
Alex picked her way over Jacob’s things. Despite the mess, the apartment was clean; she’d give him that. It hadn’t surprised her to find out Fletcher had gone to Jake. The two were so much alike it was almost funny. Alex couldn’t see them sleeping together, but she hadn’t seen a lot of things lately.
“Jacob?” She waited until he came into the kitchen. God, why couldn’t he be more like his brother? Ryan was a prince among men, a—
“What?” Jacob growled. “I thought you were helping me. You’re not worried you’ll get mussed up, are you?”
“It’s occurred to me…” She waited until he was actually paying attention. “The only things destroyed are your things. And Fletcher stopped to write a note. Would she be able to leave a note if she were being kidnapped?”
His gaze traveled around the room. “You have a point, princess. What are you thinking?”
“It seems to me, Fletcher knew the intruder and went along willingly or pretended to.” Alex pinched the bridge of her nose. “Did she leave anything behind?”
“Yeah. Her clothes, tablet, her phone”—he jiggled the cellphone in his hand—“oh, and that locket thingy she always wears.”
The color drained from her face.
ORDER YOUR COPY
Amazon → https://amzn.to/3xIHFN2
About the Author
W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination. When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper. A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.
A native of Virginia Beach, she is currently living in Western North Carolina. Pick up her latest novel, Unearthing the Past – available now!