My new paranormal romance series – Unknown Tasks – drops January 4 with Baked Goods, now available for pre-order.
Check out the lovely cover by Leslie Ray –
She’s worked alone since she graduated, but the task before her now is different, long-term and complicated. Is this a promotion or a test? And why is the object of her task so . . . male. There’s never been attraction before, everything about this task is different.
Brandy Carter drove her small SUV into the parking lot of a chain motel and plucked an overnight bag out of the back seat. No need to open the trunk for her large suitcase. She wouldn’t be here more than overnight. She took a room on the second floor and, using the card, let herself inside. Identical to so many rooms she had stayed in, it held the obligatory pastel landscape bolted to the wall, white puffy cover over the bed. One chair, a desk, and a TV stand. The tiny fridge and even tinier coffeemaker sat outside the bath. The room was clean and as always, temporary.
Her assignment tonight was a simple one. She’d need very little, and as usual, no one would remember she had been here when she was gone.
She trotted down the stairs and out the side door to head to the small restaurant adjacent to the motel. An easy walk, and the weather was finally cooling as the day ended.
Stopping just inside the door, Brandy let her eyes sweep the place. The woman she’d come to help wasn’t in sight, but Brandy could pick up her essence close by. Brandy no longer dwelled on how her employers knew these things. She went where she was needed and asked no questions. Most of the people she helped never knew of her involvement, or even that they had been assisted. That’s the way those that assigned her tasks wanted things.
Nice place, friendly, warm atmosphere. Brandy wasn’t familiar with Tennessee, maybe every place was like this. She’d been in Minnesota for her last job and to be honest, with this heat and humidity she wished it had been the other way around. Still, she didn’t question what she referred to as her tasks, and she went where she was needed.
She chose a two-person table at the back of the restaurant and took the seat facing the door. She wasn’t armed, not in any traditional sense, but she’d learned to be aware, to always observe what was going on around her.
Shortly after taking her chair, Brandy spotted the young woman she’d been watching for enter the dining area from the back of the restaurant. She was younger than Brandy expected but looked a little worn. The waitress glanced around, spied Brandy and headed toward her table.
“Good evening. What would you like?”
Brandy looked at the laminated menu on the table. “What’s your favorite?”
The waitress smiled and that lightened the tired look in her eyes. “The pulled pork barbeque.”
“I’ll have that then.”
“It comes with slaw and hushpuppies, but you can substitute fries.”
“No, the original sounds find. And ice water, please.” She glanced at the pocket on the waitress’s uniform, “Jen.”
“It’ll be right up.” Jen smiled and made her way to the counter, speaking to several people, probably regulars.
The food was delicious when Jen brought it. This type of barbeque was different than what Brandy had eaten before. The vinegar taste was quite good and added another new sensation for her to absorb. Her head lifted when the door to the restaurant opened and the essence of wrong wafted in. That was followed closely by a young man with a scowl on his face darker than the scruff covering his chin. He looked rough, in need of a shower at least. Yeah, this was him.
As Brandy observed from the far side of the room, he moved toward Jen. She saw the young woman tense and surreptitiously look around. Escape or protection? This was the man who had put those bruises on Jen’s arms. The man didn’t touch her here in public but backed her up to the counter. He spoke low so none of the others in the restaurant would be able to hear, but Brandy had no trouble listening in, even at this distance. Some people had looked up, then away, not getting involved. This guy was well-known and not popular.
“How much have you got in tips?”
“Not much, it’s early.”
“Damn it, hand it over.”
“Now, I need to get moving.”
Jen reached into her apron pocket and withdrew a few bills. He snatched them, looking around to ensure no one was paying close attention. He didn’t focus on Brandy, no one ever did.
“This is for shit.”
“It’s early,” she repeated.
“Lotta good that does me. You’re off work at nine. I expect you inside the house by ten after.”
“Do you want me to bring some food?”
“Not from this dump. I’m tired of everything they burn here.”
“It will take me longer if I stop somewhere else,” she pointed out.
“Fine, a burger. Don’t you be late.”
Brandy recognized that as her cue. Wouldn’t be good for him to leave until she had the opportunity to act. She rose from her table and picked up the empty ketchup bottle. She approached the couple and Jen glanced over at her. Jen’s eyes were wide and seemed to be trying to warn her.
“Could I have a little more ketchup?” Brandy asked, moving closer to her target, Keith. Yes, waves of bad rolled off him and now that he saw her, his eyes were assessing her closely. He seemed to like what he saw.
“Oh, yeah sure.” Jen quickly reached behind the counter and snatched a fresh bottle, almost thrusting the container at her. She obviously wanted to get Brandy out of the line of fire as soon as possible. “Sorry about that.”
“No problem.” Brandy turned and allowed her hand to brush Keith’s arm. For an instant his expression lost focus, not long enough for anyone else to notice and Brandy continued to her table.
“Give me what you’ve got,” he hissed at Jen, Brandy already forgotten.
“I did. That’s all I have.”
He looked down at the bills in his hand. “Shit.”
“I’ll have more later.”
“You’d better.” He looked around again, then headed outside. Brandy listened to an engine rev, probably annoying everyone around him, and then his vehicle peeled out.
She returned to her meal, relaxing. People came and went. Due to the heat, she ordered the cobbler with ice cream for dessert. Then she watched and waited.