blend of Suspense, murder
and romance. A fine debut..." ~New York
Times bestselling author of
SINNER, Hannah Howell
by Leeann Burke
Philippe Lafrance is a well known reclusive writer whose life is
suddenly thrown upside down when the grandfather he never knew
existed, dies. He investigates the reason and learns that his
family has kept secrets from him. Deep, ugly secrets. Worse, a
killer is murdering the men in his family. He discovers that his
father, then his grandfather, were murdered by someone desperate
to keep secrets buried.
Bereft, Roxanne St-Clair is left to manage a restaurant when the
only person who ever mattered to her, her foster parent and
mentor, is murdered. She puts her life on hold to find his
killer and bring him to justice.
Thrown together by circumstance and a mutual goal, Philippe and
Roxanne fight their attraction and team up to find the killer,
bring him to justice and unearth the truth. To stay alive, they
must keep one step ahead of the assassin in order to prevent him
from killing his next target, Philippe.
Will they succeed in bringing to justice this killer before
Philippe becomes his next victim? Will they be able to deal with
the truth behind the deadly secrets?
A cold September
breeze whipped at the fallen leaves near where she stood in
front of the mahogany coffin. Roxanne St-Clair’s curly long
strands of hair were blown into her eyes. Unconsciously, she
tucked them behind her ear as she glanced over at the lone man
standing across the coffin from her. She turned her attention
back to Father Joe, who was completing prayers for the final
farewell of George Lafrance.
From his dark
well-cut suit to his cold green eyes, this stranger, who
resembled George, had to be the estranged grandson, Philippe
Lafrance. The grandson no one knew existed until a few days ago.
Father Joe closed
his bible and lowered his head in silent prayer. Roxanne took
this moment to caress George’s mahogany coffin in her own final
private farewell. She would forever be grateful and indebted to
the compassionate man.
Ten years ago, he’d
given her a chance at a better life when he took her in,
becoming her last foster parent, her only family.
straightened and cleared his throat. “Before we leave, I wish to
take this opportunity, on behalf of George’s family, to invite
everyone back to Rock Heaven, and toast George one last time.”
He gave a curt nod to the stranger, then to Roxanne.
mumbled and began to scatter. Roxanne accepted the odd
condolence but from the corner of her eye she watched Philippe
linger by his grandfather’s coffin. It looked as if he were
saying his own farewell.
He raised his head,
and their eyes connected for a fleeting moment. Was it sadness
she saw in their depths? Quickly, he masked his angry jade eyes
with aloofness. He acknowledged her with a curt nod, turned
around and left without a backward glance.
Her best friend,
Vanessa, leaned towards her. “You know Roxanne, in all the years
I’ve known George, I never heard him mention a word about a
grandson. He talked about losing his son to a heart attack and
his wife to breast cancer, but not a word about a grandson. It’s
kind of weird, don’t you think?”
Against her own
better judgment, Roxanne wondered as well.
The grandson had
inherited George’s build, from his broad shoulders and trim
waist to chiseled face. The only difference was, George never
made her heart flutter with a fleeting eye contact; his grandson
did. She tore her gaze from Philippe’s retreating back and
turned her attention back to Vanessa. “He must have had his
As if reading
Roxanne’s mind, Vanessa acknowledged her. “He does resemble
George, don’t you think?”
“I bet that’s the only thing he has in common with George.”
Roxanne couldn’t help but stare at Philippe crossing between the
cemetery gates. He reached a blue Toyota, unlocked the driver’s
door and slipped in.
A police cruiser
crawled by, blocking her view of Philippe’s car. The police
officers openly stared at the remaining mourners.
* * * *
In a secluded
corner of the Rock Heaven restaurant, Philippe brooded. He
struggled with the notion that so many people had expressed
their sympathy for a man he never knew existed until his death.
He checked the room, once again seeking the long dark brown
curls and slim figure of Roxanne St-Clair.
He braced himself
when he noticed her. She was heading his way and her ankle
length black dress accentuating her slim waist.
She switched her
cola to her other hand and extended her hand. “I’m Roxanne
anger in her eyes, he shook her hand. He wondered how her soft
hands would feel caressing the rest of his body. Philippe
mentally shook himself. “Philippe Lafrance, but you already know
that.” To his annoyance, silently she settled in the seat beside
him and toyed with the straw in her drink.
shrugged, “I didn’t know George had a grandson. Imagine my
surprise when his lawyer told us the news a few days ago.”
Her comment hit a
sore point. He averted his gaze. Past experience taught him raw
emotions left a person vulnerable. It was the last thing he
wanted this woman to pick up on, his vulnerability. Anger he
could deal with, but sympathy infuriated him. He’d already
spotted it on her face. If she knew how much he hurt...
the last of his beer. “That makes two of us.”
Her eyes widened in
shock at the news, only to shrink into small slits. Sharp as a
whip, she’d picked up on his sarcasm.
“I have a hard time
believing that,” said Roxanne harshly.
“This will come as
a surprise, but I really don’t care what you or anyone else
believes.” He met her glare with one of his own. “So what was
the bastard really like?”
He winced at her
sudden sharp intake of breath and instantly regretted the slip.
Her eyes darkened to a deep hazel. His words now lay between
them like a heavy cloth ready to smother them both.
“Don’t you dare
speak of George like that. You have no right to criticize him,
especially on the day we buried him.”
A moment passed,
gazes clashing. “What would you call a man who ignored his only
grandson all his life?” he demanded, teeth clenched. “I would
love to know why he never tried to contact me.”
sagged. She sighed, “I don’t know. He must have had his
“Well, we’ll never
know now, will we?” He raised his empty glass. “To the man who
made time for everyone but his only grandson.”
Before he knew it,
she reached over and gently touched his forearm. He looked down
at her blunt cut and clear fingernails lingering on his coat
jacket, willing his body not to respond.
“I’ll leave you to
your pity party.” Roxanne rose and walked away, shaking her
“Way to go,
Philippe,” he muttered to himself, “you can be such an ass. You
really know how to impress a lady.”
His mind quickly
turned to the puzzle his grandfather had become. Could George be
the wonderful man all these people were toasting? Why hadn’t he
found room in his life and in his heart to give his only
grandson some of the support and love he so generously dished
out to others?
stared into his empty glass. It reflected how his heart felt,
empty. He should find Roxanne and apologize for his
inappropriate comment. She didn’t deserve getting the blunt of
His debate was cut
short by a young woman slipping into Roxanne’s vacated seat. The
voluptuous blonde had been talking with Roxanne when he’d left
the cemetery grounds.
“Hi handsome!” She
winked at him. “You must be the mystery grandson no one knew
about until two days ago. I’m Vanessa Dixon.”
He shook her
extended French manicured hand. “Philippe Lafrance,” he offered,
scanning the room for Roxanne.
“If you’re looking
for Roxanne you’re wasting your time.”
“What do you mean?
Has she left?”
her short curvy frame. “I’d say she’s probably out back, licking
her wounds after your talk.”
wounds?” His social skills were a little rusty, but he hadn’t
been that harsh with her, had he?
“She mentioned that you’d been a bit harsh.”
He rose, intent on
finding her, but Vanessa grabbed his arm, applying enough
pressure to gain his full attention.
“I’d give her a
little breathing room if I were you. She took George’s death
“Why is it harder
for her in particular?” Philippe dropped back into his seat. He
wanted information, and Vanessa seemed willing to provide.
“She found him,
dead, in this here kitchen.”
his eyes shut and mentally kicked himself.
“I take it by your
reaction that you didn’t know.”
He shook his head.
“How come you never
came to visit George?”
He had to give it
to her, Vanessa didn’t beat around the bush. “Listen, we don’t
know each other. Why would I confess to you?”
“I hear confessions
are good for the soul.” She leaned back on the stool and smiled
confidently. “Not that I’ve tried it lately.
the urge to return her tantalizing smile. She was the type of
woman who would interest him. No strings. However a particular
brunette with plenty of strings and expectations captivated his
attention right now. He might as well find out as much as he
could about her. “How long have you known Roxanne?”
“Since she came to
live with your grandfather.” Vanessa eyed him sideways. “Why?”
He ignored her
question. “What kind of relationship did she have with my
Her eyes were an
open book. He could see her internal debate on how much to
reveal. Her glance traveled the room before landing back on him,
giving him her full attention once more. “They were very close
and good for each other.” She sighed. “If you talked to the
regulars, you’d discover that when your grandmother died of
breast cancer, a part of him died with her. His famous phrase
being, she was his better half. Then his son, your father, died
a few years later. Everyone feared the heartbreak would kill
“Why is that?”
“George loved life.
He lived it to the fullest, but after their deaths, he felt he
no longer had a reason to live. He never came back to his former
self, until he found Roxanne sleeping behind the restaurant’s
dumpster. Raising her gave him a reason for living again. He, in
return, gave her a chance at a better life, away from the
Roxanne’s family? Where were they?”
“I don’t know,”
Vanessa rose, “but if you want to know more, you’ll have to ask
her yourself. You won’t get any brownie points with her by
grilling her friends.”
Vanessa threw her last words over her shoulder. “Roxanne will
tell you, if and when she’s ready. Don’t push her.”
blond sashayed her way across the room. To his dismay, her
sumptuous body left him cold. She exuded the kind of sexuality
that always turned him on, but for once in his life, it didn’t
His interest lay
fixated on another woman, Roxanne. He knew it the moment their
gazes had clashed at the cemetery. He hated not having total
control of himself and his surrounding but the feelings this
slim woman evoked in him annoyed and scared him. He intended to
be rid of it the moment he figured out how to do just that.
* * * *
Roxanne heaved a
sigh of relief when the last mourner left the restaurant.
However, she wasn’t completely alone. Throughout the entire
evening, she’d felt Philippe’s gaze on her which provoked
spin-tingling shivers each and every time he looked her way.
She leaned her back
against the front door, exhausted. She needed to sleep for days
on end but first, she had to deal with Philippe.
occupied the same stool he had all evening long, at the far end
of the bar. During the evening, he’d removed his jacket, dark
green tie and undone the top two buttons of his white shirt. He
looked handsome, in a roguish kind of way with his straight dark
brown hair grazing his shirt collar, tapered waist and broad
shoulders. This man spent time in the gym on a regular basis.
against the doorway, postponing the inevitable. Until he said,
“I won’t bite,” and sipped from his beer mug.
“I’m not scared of
you.” Her voice sounded weak even to her, but right now, she
really didn’t care. She wanted to lock up, walk the few blocks
to her apartment and cry herself to sleep. “I don’t want to
argue with you.”
Philippe nodded in
agreement. “One question before I leave. Can you explain why
cops staked out the funeral?”
Roxanne sent him a
‘what-do-I-care’ look. No one else had mentioned their presence
at the cemetery so she figured they hadn’t noticed them. It
seemed Philippe didn’t miss anything. She forced her legs to
move towards him. “They weren’t staking it out,” she said. “They
were probably paying their respects. George donated a lot of
money to their charities.”
Philippe shook his
head. “I don’t think so. If they were paying their respects,
they would have been standing among the mourners instead they
remained in their car. Why is that?”
He gave her a curt
nod and changed the subject. “Look, about earlier, I was out of
line.” At her raised eyebrow he added, “my comments about George
were uncalled for.” He lifted his hand to hold off her
interruption. “I shouldn’t have said anything to you, especially
today of all days.” He looked away. “He was someone important to
you, and I’m sorry if my comments hurt you in any way.”
He swiveled in her
direction and raised a glance to her. “Do you always accept
apologies from rude men so quickly or am I in luck?”