SECRETS FROM THE PAST is a sensual Mystery/Romantic Suspense published by The Wild Rose Press in ebook and print. Scheduled for release on Monday, November 27, 2023
After the death of her husband, Shelby Haywood needs to escape the constant harassment from her former in-laws who blame her for his death. When offered a job with Pierce Industries in Seattle, she eagerly accepts but is unprepared for her instant attraction to the company's very desirable owner.
The moment billionaire Cameron Pierce meets Shelby, he knows she's what's been missing from his life. Veiled threats endanger secrets from his past and soon escalate to attempts on his life. When one attempt injures Shelby, he vows to protect her.
Shelby has her own secrets that could destroy her future with Cameronâ€¦or get them both killed.
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G Excerpt #3
Shelby Haywood took a calming breath in an attempt to quell the nervousness churning in the pit of her stomach. Even though she already had the signed contract for her services as a consultant, the deal had been negotiated by one of Pierce Industries vice presidents. And now the time had come to meet Cameron Pierce himself, the dynamic man she would be working with for the next year. A man known world-wide for his business acumen, power, and extreme wealth. A man also known for his patronage of the arts and many charitable deeds.
And a man with a past clouded in mystery and dark rumors.
The office door opened, and she found herself staring at an incredibly handsome manâ€”maybe an inch over six feet tall, athletic build, thick dark hair longer than she expected for an international business executive, and the most intense green eyes she had ever seen.
Eyes that seemed to delve into the very depths of her soul, a look capable of stripping someone bare of any pretenses while uncovering secrets hidden much deeper inside. The aura of power surrounding him sent a little shiver of trepidation down her spine.
Cameron Pierce read the anonymous letter again, being very careful to handle only the corners of the paper so he wouldn't disturb any existing fingerprint evidence. I know everything, and I'm going to make you pay.
The fourth threat he had received in as many weeks, this one just as ambiguous as the previous three letters had been. The anonymous threat didn't contain anything specific. Did it refer to something he, personally, had been accused of doing? Or a problem in one of his companies? And the reference to making him pay... an attempt to extort money or a threat on his life?
He dropped the letter and its envelope into a plastic sleeve, sealed it, and handed it to Tom Jenkins, head of security for Pierce Industries. "Put this one with the others."
"The last three letters arrived on consecutive Mondays. This is the Friday after the fourth consecutive Monday. When did you receive it?"
Cam glanced around his office, not happy with the sensation of being grilled by his own employee but knowing he had purposely withheld the information. "It came last Monday."
He directed a stern look at his security chief, putting a stop to what he knew Tom wanted to say. Tom's expression said he got Cam's unspoken message.
"Okay, Cam. Where was this one mailed?"
"It has an Edmonds postmark. That makes four letters postmarked from four different locations in the greater Seattle metropolitan area in the last four weeks."
"I still think they should be turned over to the police. I can call Lt. Crandall and put it on an unofficial personal basis."
"No... there's no reason to bother George with this. Men in my position are always receiving meaningless threats. The police have enough real crime to worry about without concerning themselves with crank notes. Besides, the letters are so vague that it's impossible to determine what they mean, and the writer has never made any specific demands."
"The threats are coming through the mail. That makes it a federal offense, which would put it in the lap of the FBI. They're also being mailed from four different law enforcement jurisdictions, possibly an attempt to confuse an investigation."
"Local or federal, there still isn't anything specific in the letters that says what the person wants or what I'm supposed to have done. Or, for that matter, if they're unhappy with me personally or if the vague threat is aimed at one of my companies."
Cam maintained a casual attitude until Tom left the office. One thing about this mess bothered him more than anything else--the possibility that someone had been able to unravel his past and discover his true identity. For over twenty years there had been unsubstantiated rumors about where he came from before he started his meteoric rise to the top, but no one had ever been able to track down anything before he legally changed his name to Cameron Pierceâ€”not even the fact that it had been the second time he legally changed his name. It was the main reason he refused to involve the police.
Then there was the other thing he didn't want to acknowledge--the threatening letters started two weeks after Shelby Haywood came to work for him. Could there be a connection? She had worked for Jerry Decker, a point not in her favor. Thirty-four made her too young to have any connection to his deep past. But what about her family? Had either his father or uncle crossed paths with some member of her family, resulting in disaster for her hapless relative? Could that have caused her to seek revenge?
G Excerpt #3
Cam placed his hand at the small of her back as he guided her out of the building and toward the parking lot. Tremors of excitement assaulted her senses the moment he made physical contact, then the excitement stalled as it mingled with her feelings of guilt.
"I'll follow you to your house so you can drop off your car," his voice broke into her thoughts, "then we'll go to dinner from there."
Cam's gaze quickly but expertly swept the surrounding area. He wrinkled his brow into a slight frown as he pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial for the maintenance department.
"This is Cameron. We have a couple of security lights burned out in the executive parking lot. Could someone please get them replaced as soon as possible?" He listened for a moment before speaking again. "Thanks, that will be fine." He returned his cell phone to his pocket. "Strange that the two burned out lights would be next to each other. That makes a very large, dark area."
They stepped off the curb into the darkness, crossing the driveway toward the parking lot and Shelby's car. The roar of an engine and screeching tires came at them from out of the dark. A hard adrenaline surge shot through Cam. Grabbing Shelby's arm, he yanked her aside so hard they both fell to the pavement. He held her tightly as he rolled out of the way, taking her with him. The car sped off, barely missing them. It scraped against a signpost on the way out of the parking lot before it disappeared down the street into the night.
Cam cradled Shelby's trembling body in his arms. His heart pounded as he tried to force his breathing under control. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"
"I... I'm fine." The quaver in her voice matched the fear on her face. "What about you? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, nothing's broken." The image from twenty-five years ago suddenly flooded his mind as vividly as when it had happened, the sight of his innocent little six-year-old cousin being cut down by bullets meant for someone else.
Shards of glass flew across the room as the large window exploded around them. Then a second shot rang out. Cam reacted immediately by shoving Shelby under the heavy conference table. He protectively covered her body with his. A second later, he had security on his cell phone.
"Someone just shot at us through the conference room window. It came from the parking lot. I didn't hear a car."
Even though he rushed his words, his voice contained control and authority. He didn't display any of the panic that grabbed her the moment she realized what had happened. A hard adrenaline surge pounded through her veins, and the taste of fear filled her mouth.
He pulled her into his arms, caressing her shoulders and stroking her hair in a comforting manner. His voice carried a calm, controlled sound. "Are you okay?"
"I... I don't know. My arm feels kind of..." She didn't seem to have any control over the quaver in her voice or the way her body trembled. She didn't feel pain so much as a throbbing sting. "I'd swear I actually heard the bullet zip right by me, but that's ridiculous. It couldn't be."
The shrill sound of the alarm cut through the air. Her muscles instantly tensed as her body jerked to attention. Her heart pounded but not from the passion of mere seconds ago. A quick jolt of fear assaulted her senses. She looked to Cameron.
He immediately leaped out of bed and headed straight for the closet. He emerged a moment later wearing a pair of sweatpants and carrying a 9mm semi-automatic. He barked out orders, leaving no room for objections or discussion.
"Stay here. Don't leave the bedroom."
She watched in stunned silence as he left the room, closing the door and shutting her inside. What had been total bliss had turned to fear in the blink of an eye. And that fear was for his safety. A cold shiver moved through her body. Had the unknown assailant attempted to break into the house? Could there be a simpler explanation? Perhaps the earlier mentioned squirrel climbing over the wall?
She quickly slid out of bed and pulled on some clothes, ready to do whatever the situation required. The sound of the alarm died away to be replaced by an eerie silence, broken by the roar of a car engine and the sound of squealing tires. She slowly made her way toward the bedroom door. She listened but didn't hear anything.
Nervous tension churned in the pit of her stomach. She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the door as if trying to force Cam to return by simply willing it to be so. It seemed like forever before she finally heard someone approach the door, but who? A stranger? The intruder?
Cam stared at the top of his desk as he digested the information and considered the course of action that would be best. He returned his attention to Tom. "Contact that detective agency we've used in the past. Have them put the two suspects under surveillance starting Friday morning. Either of them starts in this direction, I want to know about it immediately."
"Done." Tom made a notation, then turned his attention to another matter. "About the report you wanted on Stan Haywood..."
"How are you coming with that?"
"I hit a little bit of a delay. I gathered as much as I could, then contacted a source in San Francisco to dig a little deeper. He came up with some interesting stuff. Apparently, there was a lot more going on with Stan Haywood than Shelby realized. My source is still doing some digging. I'd rather wait to give it to you when I have all the information. I should have everything by Friday."
Cam gave Tom a curious look but didn't ask any questions. "Okay, but make it as soon as you can. If Bennett is correct in his assessment, our perpetrator will follow the established pattern and strike again Friday evening."
As soon as Tom left, Cam leaned back in his chair and went over the conversation in his mind. Interesting stuff going on with Stan Haywood. More going on than Shelby realized. That certainly fit in with Shelby's suspicion that Stan's death might not have been accidental regardless of what the coroner's verdict stated.
Whoever wrote the letters and whatever the reason, it had all taken a giant step into a much more complex realm. One inescapable factâ€”the perpetrator had initiated a war of nerves and Cam was beginning to feel the stress. And most of that stress resulted from his fear that he hadn't adequately protected Shelby. He clenched his jaw into a hard line of determination and forced his thoughts back to the work at hand. He still had a large corporation to run.
He placed a tender kiss on her lips--not one of heated passion but one of concern, caring... and love. He continued to hold onto her hand as he walked her out to her car.
"It's not too late to change your mind. Are you sure you don't want to stay?"
Shelby opened her car door, slid in behind the wheel, and started the engine. She looked up into the clear depths of his green eyes. Her breath caught in her throat, making it difficult for her to speak. "Yes, I do want to stay... so very much." Her words came out as a barely discernable whisper. "And that's why I can't."
She drove her car through the entrance gates of Cameron's estate. She braked to a stop at the street and glanced in the rearview mirror. She watched as the gates closed. A cold chill ran up her spine. It almost felt as if the gates were shutting on her life. The tears welled in her eyes. She quickly wiped them away with her hand. She loved him so muchâ€”a love that had her so confused.
She turned her car into the street and headed toward home, her mind a swirl of conflicting thoughts. She hadn't driven more than a couple of blocks when she became aware of headlights behind her. Her mind snapped to sharp attention as a bolt of trepidation shot through her consciousness. Was someone following her? She shook her head. Ridiculous. Her rattled nerves had her on edge. Just rattled nerves, that's allâ€”rattled nerves and nothing more.
But try as she might, she couldn't quite convince herself. She continued to glance in her rearview mirror. The car headlights were always there. She drove faster, then she slowed down. The car maintained the same distance behind her regardless of her speed.
An uneasy sensation jittered through her body like a sixth sense trying to warn her of something. She pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center. Several small shops were closed for the day, but the grocery store and drug store were still open along with a couple of fast-food places. The car pulled in behind her. Her uneasy feeling elevated to genuine concern, well on its way to panic.
She parked in a well-lit space right in front of the grocery store. She reached for her cell phone. Should she call Cam? Then she shook her head. And tell him what? That a car traveling the same route pulled into the parking lot where several businesses were open? She glanced around and spotted the bank with the drive-up ATM. There were any number of legitimate reasons for the other car to have driven to that location other than following her.
She scanned the parking lot but didn't see anything suspicious. She also couldn't tell which car had been following her. All she had seen were headlights. If the car had actually been following her rather than simply driving the same route to a specific location.
She took a calming breath, once again told herself she was being ridiculous, then backed out of the parking space. She pulled out of the driveway into the street.
She immediately spotted the headlights in her rearview mirror. Her heart pounded and her pulse raced. A ripple of trepidation swept across her skin. Her throat went dry and tried to close. She turned into the next driveway, which put her back into the same shopping center parking lot she had just exited. She sat, her muscles tense and her gaze glued to the mirror. The car drove down the street rather than following her back into the parking lot.
She sank back, relief flooding through her body. Nothing more than an everyday incident, but she had allowed her imagination to take over. She took a deep breath, held it for several seconds, then slowly exhaled. She took another calming breath, then once again drove out of the parking lot. But her relief was short-lived.