Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.
Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.
But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.
About the Book
by HelenKay Dimon
A Games People Play Christmas Novella
November 14, 2017
Excerpt from Chapter One
He rose from the dead.
Lauren Gallagher couldn’t come up with any other explanation. Her once-dead husband was very much alive and standing on the other side of her front door . . . and she felt nothing but numbness spreading inside her.
For a man who supposedly washed overboard in the middle of a violent storm, he looked pretty healthy. Big smile. Bright white teeth. Khaki pants and deck shoes. She’d forgotten how much she hated the deck shoes.
The wattage on his supersmile dimmed a bit as he shifted his weight from foot to foot and rubbed his hands up and down his arms. “Aren’t you going to let me in?”
Her mind went blank. The world flipped sideways on her and her stomach rolled. The whole time she could hear him talking but the words didn’t make sense. None of this made sense. She opened her mouth but nothing came out but a tiny gasping sound. That’s all she could muster as she blinked, trying to process what she was seeing.
“Lauren? Why are you just standing there? Open this door.”
An order. The sharp smack in his voice sounded far too familiar. That quickly it brought her crashing back to reality.
She really wanted to say no to his command. Not that she hadn’t mourned him. Even with the dysfunctional state of their faltering marriage at the time he disappeared, she had. She’d grieved for what could have been and the dreams that fizzled out early in their time together. She grieved for his loss as she would an old friend, not as a person she viewed as her soulmate, if there even was such a thing.
That was less than three years ago. The police had arrived and she’d dropped to her knees feeling sick and hollow at the idea of Carl gasping for breath as the water he loved so much overtook him.
Months had passed slowly after that. She’d been locked in a perpetual state of shock, topped off with a wallop of guilt because she’d visited a divorce attorney for the first time just before he disappeared. With him gone she’d found out about the lies. His hidden debts and how he’d taken their business to the brink of bankruptcy, all while showing her fake bank statements he’d manufactured. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to carry on the ruse of pretending their finances were fine.
And then things had gotten even worse. All those whispers about Maryanne, the girlfriend who seemed to be an open secret to everyone except Lauren. The one who, unlike Lauren, did not have any debts or an unpaid mortgage or a business on the verge of bankruptcy. Maryanne Lightwood, the same woman who’d mysteriously walked out on her rent and left town right as Carl’s boat disappeared.
Lauren prided herself on being practical. She was skeptical of coincidences and not stupid, so confusion had turned to fury in record time. As the cool December wind blew in the front door of the small cottage now, she realized the fury still simmered inside her.
She lived far enough from the water that the breeze wasn’t frigid, but it carried a bite. For the past few years early winter in Annapolis, Maryland, had meant an unwelcome amount of snow. This year had been mild. As someone who ran a pleasure boat and fishing tour business and depended on tourists, she thought she might get lucky this year and only have to survive a short off-season.
Apparently, her luck had just run out.
“Lauren, honey?” Carl pulled on the handle of the screen door. When it didn’t immediately open, he shook it, rattling it in the door frame. Still, it didn’t move.
She’d never been so grateful for her lock-the-door paranoia. He should be happy, too, because the thin screen might be all that was saving his sorry lying ass right now.
Under the numbness and shock lurked a layer of bubbling resentment and rage. She’d kept up the outward farce of being fine for so long that she’d started to believe it. Now the mask slipped. She wanted to throw open the door and pound on his chest and make him apologize for every wrong.
But Carl had never taken responsibility for anything in his life. Even now he had the nerve to stand there with a stupid look on his stupid face, as if she were the unreasonable one for not welcoming him home with a big hug. So, yeah, the door stayed closed for his protection because she knew once she unleashed her temper she would not stop.
“Hey, what is this?” Carl’s hand dropped to his side as he frowned at her through the mesh screen. “Honey, I’m back.”
Honey? What kind of man checked out of his life for almost three years and expected to step right back into it, no questions asked? It was as if he were empty inside, without a conscience. And he was so close to getting a kick in his junk.
About Helenkay Dimon
HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a…divorce attorney. Not the usual transition, she knows. Good news is she now writes full time and is much happier. She has sold over thirty novels, novellas and shorts to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Kensington, Harlequin, Penguin, Samhain and Carina Press. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. She is on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and MiraCosta College.