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Authors: Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Secrets

 

Midnight Secrets
By Lisa Marie Rice

 

Former navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died—twice—on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He’s not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump-start a man’s hormones, it would be his new neighbor.

 

Meeting Isabel—loving Isabel—brought Joe back to life.

 

Isabel Delvaux came from one of America’s foremost political dynasties, until the greatest terrorist attack since 9/11 killed her entire family. She barely survived the Washington Massacre, only to become prey for rabid reporters. Fleeing to Portland and changing her name was a way out, a way to start over. The only way.

 

She knows she’s safe with Joe Harris. Not just because he’s big and strong, not just because he’s part of a security team that obliterates threats on the regular, but because he’s been to the abyss and back.

 

But as they help each other heal—through talk, through touch, through spectacular sex—the past comes back to play. When Isabel’s memory starts to return and a mysterious stranger sends Joe emails indicating Isabel is in imminent danger, he’ll do anything to help her uncover the truth. Even if that truth is the most terrifying thing of all...

 

78,760 words

 

Dear Reader,

 

This week, my ten-year-old daughter looked woefully at her Kindle and then at me and said, “I have nothing to read!” I asked her about several recent books I’d uploaded for her and if she’d read those yet, and of course the answer was no, but she still had nothing to read. It’s hard for me to get too upset with this sentiment, since I’m a bit of a book hoarder, and I own more books that I haven’t read than I care to admit, but...I’ll get to them someday! As someone pointed out to me, “nothing to read” is much like “nothing to eat” and “nothing to do.” It’s not a statement of literal fact, it’s a statement of mood and feeling. I don’t know if you’re in the same boat as my daughter and feeling as if you have nothing to read, but if so, one of our June 2015 releases should strike just the right note for you.

 

Lisa Marie Rice thrilled fans and new readers alike when she returned to the world of her popular Midnight Series with
Midnight Vengeance
and
Midnight Promises
. This June, in
Midnight Secrets
, we get to fall in love with her cracktastic and sexy romantic suspense series all over again. Former Navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died—twice—on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He’s not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump-start a man’s hormones, it would be his new neighbor. Meeting Isabel—loving Isabel—brought Joe back to life, and he’s not going to let anyone take her from him, not even a high-powered politician who needs to keep Isabel from remembering what he’s done.

 

Julie Moffett is back with her hit mystery series. Geek extraordinaire Lexi Carmichael is more comfortable with computer code than commandos, but in
No Woman Left Behind
, she’s about to undertake her most dangerous case yet with a little help from the Navy SEALs.

 

We also have several authors in the contemporary romance lineup this month. In Alison Packard’s latest book in her Feeling the Heat series,
Stealing Second
, Tom Morgan and Katherine Whitton, once deeply in love and planning a future together, now work together and are finally forced to confront their long-held belief that each one was betrayed by the other.

 

Elizabeth Harmon’s
Turning It On
brings us a new stand-alone romance in her Red Hot Russians series. On a steamy reality show, shy book editor Hannah Levinson fights to keep her fiancé from the clutches of a scheming dental hygienist with the help of an unlikely ally, sexy former figure skater turned stripper “Vlad the Bad” Shustov. Can she trust there’s more to Vlad than meets the eye?

 

Spoiled college student Olivia Christakos experiences the ultimate fall from grace when she’s hit by a car (losing her memory in the process) and catches her family (who she’s supposed to be able to trust at a time like this) lying to her about her past. Find out what happens in
Olivia Christakos and Her Second First Time
by debut author Dani Irons.

 

If male/male contemporary romance is what you’re looking for, check out previously released
In the Raw
and
In the Fire
from the In the Kitchen series by writing duo Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin. In that duology, we met Ethan and Jamie. In their latest stand-alone romance,
In the Distance
, Trevor Pratt and Tyler Mitchell just might have a shot at love—if, that is, they choose to follow their hearts, instead of letting their ten-year age difference and the three thousand miles separating them keep them apart forever.

 

Dana Marie Bell gives us paranormal romance
Song of Midnight Embers
, the next book in her Maggie’s Grove series. To prove she’s not a murderer, Mollie Greer will have to turn to the one person she’s been longing for—and avoiding—her whole life: Greer Berkley, the Singer of the Forest.

 

And last, this June I’m excited to introduce you to a new direction for author Julie Rowe with the first romantic suspense in her new Biological Response Team series.
American Sniper
meets the worldwide Ebola-outbreak response meets romance in
Deadly Strain
. A sniper tries to protect an infectious disease specialist while they combat a deadly new bacterial strain, but he might not be able to stop from her from making the ultimate sacrifice in order to save him.

 

I hope you find something from Carina Press to help you cure your “nothing to read” mood. And don’t forget our extensive romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy backlist is also always available where ebooks are sold.

 

Coming in July: A dragon-shifter romance trilogy from a brand-new author, the next book in Stephanie Tyler’s postapocalyptic motorcycle club world and a new male/male romance from A.M. Arthur.

 

Until next time, here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

 

Happy reading!

 

~Angela James
Editorial Director, Carina Press

 

Dedication

 

To my husband and son, the loves of my life.

 

Acknowledgments

 

Many thanks to Christine Witthohn and Angela James.

 

Also
Available
from

 
 

Lisa
Marie
Rice

and
Carina
Press

 

Midnight Vengeance

Midnight Secrets

 

And watch for
Midnight Fire
, the next book in the Midnight series, coming soon!

 

Chapter One

 

Portland
,
Oregon

 

There she goes
, Joe Harris thought. Isabel Lawton. The most beautiful woman in the world, and his next-door neighbor.

And she cooked for him.

Isabel Lawton, gorgeous mystery. One huge question mark. And a wounded woman.

Something bad had happened to her, something she never talked about. Of course, she didn’t talk about much of anything personal, but she particularly didn’t talk about whatever had happened to her.

Joe kept tabs on her. Because she was a wreck—weak and vulnerable. And because...well, because.

Joe’s house was surrounded by vidcams. As a former SEAL, he believed there could never be such a thing as too much security. And he lived by the specops maxim: one is none, two is one.

So he had 360-degree coverage that he could access at any time and was always on view on a monitor in the kitchen. He was sipping a cup of coffee leaning against the sink when he saw movement on the monitor.

Isabel. Dressed for a cold-weather walk. Carrying something almost too heavy for her. He had to clench his jaw and mentally nail his shoes to the linoleum floor to keep from opening his door and taking that heavy thing she was carrying from her.

She wouldn’t want that. And he didn’t want her to know he was keeping an eye on her.

So he watched as she slowly made her way up his walkway onto the porch and bent slowly and painfully to place something in front of his door, then slowly and painfully went down the steps and down his gravel path to the sidewalk.

When she was gone, Joe opened his door and saw a huge pot. It smelled like it had just been dropped from heaven. He picked it up and carried it into his bare-bones kitchen. It was still hot, she’d just cooked it.

He lifted the top and drew in a deep breath. Beef stew. Sort of. Not like the beef stew in a can that tasted like dog food mixed with dog shit that his dad had opened when he remembered to feed his young son. Which wasn’t often. Joe had learned early the fine art of can opening. No, this was perfect beef stew with some kind of special spices that nearly brought him to his knees.

She’d also cooked for an army, so his buddies would get to share, as usual. Maybe he’d call an extra poker night. After eating this, they’d let him win by default. Except maybe for his buddy Metal, nicest guy on earth except when playing poker, when a hidden mean streak always flared up.

Joe always won at poker, always. Drove Metal wild.

He wished he could share it with
her
, but Joe knew by experience that Isabel wouldn’t eat it with him. She was friendly but reserved. Not cold, but gun-shy. It wasn’t because of anything he’d done, that was for sure.

Joe was big and rough but he took care to control his voice and his movements around her. On his very best behavior. Any other time, he’d have made a play for Isabel, right from the first moment. Any red-blooded male would have, and his blood was redder than most. But he hadn’t. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he hadn’t had any moves in him when they’d first met. He’d been lucky to be alive and upright.

An IED on the last day of his last mission, a month from separation of service, had reduced him to rubble.

Taliban karma.

Two months in a coma, four operations and four months of unrelenting hell delivered daily by his best friend and sadist Metal, who oversaw his physical rehab. And now, here he was, almost as good as new.

Now.
Now
he could go after the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, a woman who intrigued him like no other. But the fact was, she was still in bad shape.

Isabel wasn’t as good as new. She was still as shaken and unsteady as the day she’d moved in next door to him three months ago.

She was looking particularly shaky as she made her slow way along the sidewalk. She’d turned left at the gate. Outside the gate there was left and there was right. Left was to a small park about five blocks down, right led eventually to the Green, a big meadow about a mile away where people played Frisbee and flirted in the summer and jocks ran in the winter, with a shopping mall on the other side. When Isabel was feeling better, she went right. If she went left it meant she didn’t trust herself to stay out for long.

It wasn’t his business, really, but the thought of her falling down on her walk was like acid on Joe’s brain. So after texting his buds Jacko and Metal—
Neighbor
lady
brought
food
come
for
poker
if
you
get
back
early
,
otherwise
our
regularly
scheduled
transfer
of
money
to
me
tomorrow
—he went looking for his ancient black watch cap and black running gear and suited up.

Once outside, he couldn’t run, he’d pass her in a minute and he wanted to stay behind her. So though he felt like a jerk, instead, when he was worried about her, he walked fast then stopped to do stretches. Luckily there wasn’t anyone around to look at him, because they’d think he was insane to stretch longer than he walked. He looked like a fool.

Which was cool, because that’s how he felt. Awkward and clumsy. Joe was usually pretty smooth with the ladies. He’d never had a big problem attracting them and he’d never wanted one he couldn’t have. It had all worked out really well until Isabel.

She tied him up in knots.

A month ago, Isabel had come home limping and he’d rushed out the door. It wasn’t a sprain, thank God, but she’d banged her knee badly. He’d patched her up the best he could and had Metal come over to be sure. Metal had been their team medic and what he didn’t know about injuries wasn’t worth knowing.

No one else had come to her, for her.

Isabel seemed to be alone in the world, which baffled him. She was so beautiful his jaw had dropped the first time he saw her, talking to the moving guys. Good thing she wasn’t looking his way otherwise he’d have scared her off. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

She’d been sick, that was easy to see. She’d clearly lost a lot of weight recently. Joe knew all about that. He’d dropped from his fighting weight of 210 to 150 by the time he was released from the hospital. When he’d walked with two crutches outside the rehab unit’s doors, the skin seemed to drop off him. If they’d put him in old smelly clothes with a hat and a guitar on a sidewalk people would have been lining up to drop coins in the hat out of sheer mercy.

He’d worked hard and was back to 180, and it was all muscle. He’d get all the way back to 210, most of it thanks to Isabel’s cooking.

That first day had started it. The moving guys had been total shitheads. They clearly’d had another delivery before the day’s end and had simply dumped her stuff as fast as they could and left. Some things they’d even left on her front lawn.

He’d never forget that sight of her, lost and lonely in the middle of boxes and a few pieces of good furniture shoved up against the wall. He’d knocked on her open front door and she’d turned to look at him and
pow!
He was lost.

“Hey,” he’d said gently, “I’m your next-door neighbor. Joe Harris. Need a hand?”

Bones, his orthopedic surgeon, had given him strict instructions to use the cane until the end of the month. Bones had also said that with anyone else, he’d order the use of two crutches for the next two months. But Bones knew Joe was a former SEAL and he knew it was pointless trying to stop Joe from pushing forward with his rehab.

However, Bones had been really strict on using at least the cane for the next four weeks and had given Joe a long, boring lecture on load-bearing coefficients and fusion time and yada yada. It had all made sense at the time and Joe had been following doctor’s orders like a good little patient.

But seeing that beautiful woman trying to tug a couch toward the wall...well, he couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t sit by and watch. He tossed the cane and spent the afternoon helping her unpack. His bones had ached that night, but what the hell. Though he was just back on his feet, he was still stronger than she was. So he’d carried in boxes from the lawn, set up some furniture, unpacked her books and when he saw that she couldn’t take it anymore, he’d gone back to his place and stared at the wall for an hour, seeing that face.

The next morning he found freshly baked cinnamon buns and a pan of banana bread outside his front door.

That first week became a pattern. He helped her set up her stuff and he’d find amazing things to eat outside his door.

She didn’t talk much and he didn’t press her. Something crappy had happened to her—he recognized the thousand-yard stare of someone who’d seen bad shit. The bad shit had gone down fairly recently, too. Once, the sleeve of her sweater rode up and he saw a big scar where something had sliced her. He knew scars. That couldn’t have been more than six months old.

Also—it looked a lot like a knife scar and he’d stopped what he was doing as a fit of rage overtook him.

Someone had knifed her?

Some fuckhead had taken a knife and
sliced
her? He knew knives, was good with knives. Knew what knives could do to the human body. In many ways, a knife could be more devastating than a bullet.

Isabel had caught his look, quietly pulled her sweater down over her forearm and turned away. It couldn’t have been more plain if she had shouted the words.
I
don’t want to talk about it.

She was clearly traumatized. She couldn’t talk about it? Fine. He knew all he really needed to know, anyway. Amazingly beautiful, really sad, incredible cook.

Messed with his head and his gonads.

The rest would come later, whenever she felt like talking.

And if someone had done this to her and he found out who that fuckhead was? The fucker was a dead man walking.

So Joe had resigned himself to waiting it out until she felt comfortable enough with him to talk about it.

God knew he had time on his hands. He wasn’t going anywhere. The doctors wouldn’t let him go to work for another month, though he was itching to.

His rehab was hard but he was on the mend and it was a steadily upward trajectory. Metal wouldn’t let it be anything else. Sometimes Jacko showed up, too, at the gym, to spot him. Metal knew everything there was to know about physiology and Jacko was a world-class gym rat so between the two of them he was putting himself back together again in record time.

He had friends, he had the full support of his company, ASI.

Who did she have?

Nobody. Except him.

She wasn’t looking well at all today. The ground had frozen overnight and there were unexpected pockets of ice.

Joe had good balance but Isabel didn’t.

Isabel might need him.

Joe headed out.

* * *

 

“I think it might be time to pass on to phase two,” the voice on the phone said.

“All right,” Hector Blake answered and there was a faint click and then silence.

The voice, as always, had been put through an anonymizer and was a metallic tenor. It could be anyone—man, woman or child—there was no way to tell. The software program was created to disguise any identifying characteristics. Though Blake would bet good money it was a man.

Blake could bet good money because the voice at the other end of the line had made him several billion dollars overnight, and so he could be an alien from Aldeberan for all Blake cared.

Still, he had a mental image of the man, sitting at a desk somewhere.

The office would be ordered and plush, full of comforts. There was something prissy about the voice. The anonymizer changed the timbre and tone of the voice but couldn’t change the syntax, the small pauses, the vocabulary.

So, Blake had built up this image of an elegantly dressed, fussy man sitting in an elegant office, dispensing orders like God. Just about as powerful as God, actually, because the man was planning on bringing down the most powerful country on earth in several stages.

Phase one had been a resounding success. So he supposed it didn’t really matter who the voice belonged to.

He remembered clearly the day the voice had called. First of all, he’d called on Blake’s personal cell, which was interesting in and of itself. Very few people had his personal number and Blake took care to keep that number low. He had a very busy, highly successful law practice. His office had ten lines and he had two—one for internal calls and one for outside calls. His staff answered his phone at home and very few were forwarded on to him. He had two cells for business and one for personal calls, which he rarely used. The person who’d called that day had called him on his personal cell.

It had been clear immediately that the voice was altered. Right away, Blake had been both intrigued and irritated. He was a busy man and silly games bored him.

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