Carol Award finalist
Booksellers’ Best Award finalist
Daphne du Maurier Award finalist
Revell, ©2013, ISBN 978-0800721244
(Book 2—Private Justice)
When librarian Laura Griffth’s sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned PI James “Dev” Devlin to help—but the deeper he digs, the more he begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl’s disappearance. And the closer he gets to uncovering the truth, the clearer it becomes that the situation isn’t just dangerous—it’s deadly.
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The queen of inspirational romantic suspense hits a home run.
Hannon once again demonstrates her mastery at crafting spine-tingling
romantic thrillers that, without graphic violence and language, utterly
All the elements needed to become a bestseller…suspense, danger and deception.
New York Journal of Books
A gripping tale of deceit and love that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
The house was quiet.
Laura Griffith paused inside the back door and frowned.
Where was the thudding bass that usually shook the walls as it reverberated from behind Darcy’s closed bedroom door?
Where was the soda can her half sister always left on the counter, despite repeated requests to rinse empties and put them in the recycle bin?
Where was the faint odor of burned bagel that had greeted her at the end of every workday since the teen’s arrival in St. Louis four months ago?
She crossed the room and dropped her purse and tote bag on the kitchen table, the thump of the heavy satchel echoing in the uncharacteristic stillness. “Darcy?”
As a tingle of unease slithered along her nerve endings, Laura forced herself to take a deep breath.
Chill, okay? This could just be a new strategy. She hasn’t tried the silent treatment yet. Stay calm.
Chagrin twisted her lips as she walked toward the living room. Her placid existence had evaporated the day Darcy stepped inside the house, a hundred and two pounds of brashness, bravado, and attitude. It had taken mere hours for the girl to figure out her thirty-three-year-old half sibling had zero experience dealing with a sixteen-year-old—and Darcy had done her best to exploit that liability ever since.
Was it any wonder they clashed constantly?
Laura passed through the living room, giving it a quick scan. No gloves or hat thrown on the couch. No muffler trailing across the floor. No parka dumped in the wing chair.
Since it was doubtful Darcy had altered her typical behavior pattern and put her winter gear in the coat closet, the conclusion was obvious.
She’d broken the rule about coming straight home after school. Again.
With a sigh, Laura walked down the hall toward Darcy’s room. Not much chance she’d find the teen poring over her homework on a Friday afternoon, but it couldn’t hurt to check. Hope sprang eternal and all that—even if she was already psyching herself up for the battle of wills sure to come later in the evening.
As usual, Darcy’s door was closed. Laura knocked and called her name. After waiting a few beats, she turned the knob.
Once again, apprehension skittered through her, along with a sudden chill that had nothing to do with the frigid early February weather outside or the icy wind whistling around the corner of the house. Darcy’s bed was made, the desktop swept clean of clutter, the carpet pristine rather than littered with discarded pieces of clothing from the teen’s ritual morning search for the perfect outfit.
But it was the folded sheet of paper on the pillow that caused her heart to stutter.
Rubbing her damp palms on her slacks, she forced herself to move toward the bed. Hesitated. Then, pulse pounding, she picked up the note and flipped it open.
It took her only a few seconds to read the brief message.
A few more to quiet her chaotic thoughts.
A full half minute to formulate a plan of action.
Then she strode back to the kitchen, reached for her phone . . . and started to pray.
Chapter 1—Three Days Later
Stifling a yawn, James “Dev” Devlin pushed through the back door of Phoenix Inc., buffeted by a blast of Arctic-like air. Man, was he beat. His late date Saturday night had taken a toll, as had the Sunday double-shift surveillance gig for the insurance fraud case. At least those long hours of boredom in the cold van had paid off. He’d nailed the perp with that final batch of photos.
Dev detoured into the small kitchen, rubbing his hands together to restore circulation as he made a beeline for the coffeepot. Too bad he wouldn’t be there to see the look on the claimant’s face when he got a load of the incriminating shots. If you were alleging debilitating back damage from a slip on a wet floor at work, it wasn’t too smart to play a lively game of Twister in front of a picture window where there was no reasonable expectation of privacy . . . and where any PI worth his salt could snap away in full compliance with the law.
The guy was not only a cheat, he was an idiot.
“About time you got here.”
At the reproving comment behind him, Dev stifled a groan. So much for sneaking in an hour late.
He poured his coffee, took a long swallow, and braced himself as he turned.
With a pointed glance at her watch, Nikki folded her arms across her chest, raised an eyebrow, and waited.
“The streets are a sheet of ice.” Why he felt the need to justify his behavior to the Phoenix receptionist/office manager escaped—and annoyed—him.
“I got here on time.”
He took another fortifying sip of java. “I had a busy weekend.”
“I’ll bet. Who was it this Saturday, the blonde rocket scientist you brought to the company picnic who forgot to refrigerate the potato salad she contributed and made us all sick, or the nuclear physicist from last year’s Christmas party who thought computer forensics was a new video game?”
He did not need a razzing first thing on a Monday morning.
“For the record, I worked all day yesterday. And I mean all day. I put in a freezing double shift on the workman’s comp case while you lazed around in your warm house and changed the color of the stripe in your hair.” He squinted at the hot pink streak in her short platinum blonde spikes. “What happened to the purple?”
“I was in a pink mood. And don’t try that best-defense-is-a-good-offense baloney on me. We have a new client in the waiting room, who fought her way here through the ice storm. She’s been twiddling her thumbs for half an hour, which has not helped calm her down. Why haven’t you been answering your phone?”
“It didn’t ring.”
“Is the battery dead?”
“No.” He pulled it off his belt.
The battery was dead.
“I guess it needs to be charged.”
“I guess it does. You want me to show her back?”
“In a minute.” If this potential client was anything like the hysterical woman he’d dealt with last week, who suspected her husband was cheating on her and wanted Phoenix to gather incriminating evidence so she could sock him with a huge settlement, he needed a few slugs of caffeine before he explained that wasn’t their kind of case and sent her on her way.
“It’s not a marriage-on-the-rocks issue.”
He narrowed his eyes at Nikki. What was she, psychic? Or was he that transparent? Had to be the latter—but how had he survived as an undercover ATF agent if he was that easy to read?
Then again, he almost hadn’t.
Pushing that thought aside, he snagged a packet of sugar to cut the bitterness of the coffee.
If only he could cut the bitterness of his memories as easily.
Nikki gave him another disapproving look. “I bet you ate a bowl of sugar-coated cereal this morning too.”
Without responding, he ripped the top off the packet and dumped the whole thing in—an act of defiance more than prudence.
“That’s what I figured.” She leaned a shoulder against the door frame, expression smug.
He grabbed a plastic stir stick, fighting down another surge of irritation. “Just because your new husband caved under your health-food crusade doesn’t mean we all have to sign on to the cause.”
“Hey.” She lifted her hands, palms toward him, and shrugged. “It’s your body—but I don’t want to hear any complaints when it starts to fall apart. So can I show this woman to your office? With Cal on his honeymoon and Connor tied up with that protection gig, you’re it.”
“How come Connor gets all the glamorous assignments? I wouldn’t mind protecting a Hollywood star for a week while she films a movie in town.”
“If you were a former Secret Service agent, you might get a few of those plum jobs too. As it is, you get a distraught woman by the name of Laura Griffith. It’s a runaway case, by the way. I’ll stall her for three more minutes. Drink up.”
(Warning: Contains Spoilers!)
- Laura and Darcy were practically strangers when Laura took in her half sister, and she had no experience with teens. How might this have contributed to the tension between them?
- Do you know any teens who have run away? What prompted them to take that action? What can parents or guardians do to make sure their teens don’t take this last-resort step?
- Many people in this book feel guilty—Darcy, for contributing to her father’s death and for disrupting Laura’s life; Laura, for being too strict with Darcy; Dev, for letting personal feelings get in the way of doing his job, thus causing the death of the woman he loved. Is any of this guilt warranted? What are some things these characters could do to come to grip with their feelings of culpability?
- Mark had a terrible childhood. Talk about how this manifested itself in his adult life. Identify the links between his feelings as a child and his actions as an adult.
- What do you think drew Faith to Mark? Do you think she was actually in love with him, or merely infatuated? Why?
- At one point in the book, Laura says that we can find God in small gestures of kindness even in the worst of times. Have you experienced that? Can you offer an example when a gesture of kindness brightened an otherwise dark day and reminded you of God’s goodness?
- When Laura’s father died, she and her mother had very different ways of grieving, and that led to resentment. It took many years for that rift to mend. What are some ways we can deal with people whose behavior or philosophy don’t mesh with ours—especially if they’re family members—to avoid rifts?
- Dev begins to fall for Laura very early in the story, even though she’s not the type of woman he’s usually interested in—as his coworkers teasingly point out. Besides the fact that she’s attractive, what are some of the qualities that made her appeal to him?
- Things heat up between Laura and Dev fairly quickly, but he abides by company policy and keeps her at arm’s length until the case is over. Do you think it’s wise to keep personal and professional relationships separate? Why or why not?
- Most of the action in this story takes place in less than two weeks. Do you think that’s too quickly for people to find common ground and suspect that a relationship has serious potential? What are some of the dangers of acting on those kinds of feelings too quickly? Why might a high-stress, intense situation like this intensify personal feelings?
- Dev, Cal and Connor have been best friends since their college days. Now they’re successful business partners. Why do you think they’ve done so well as a team? What are some characteristics of good partnerships—be they personal or professional?
- Nikki puts some people off by her punk-rocker appearance. Have you ever wrongly judged someone based on appearances? Did that affect your relationship with them going forward? How?
- Were you surprised by Mark’s actions at the end of the book? Why or why not?
- Dev has seen the worst the world has to offer, and while he believes in God, he thinks the almighty has given up on the human race and walked away in disgust. Do you know anyone who feels that way? How would you counsel them?
- In the epilogue, Darcy sports a streak of neon color in her hair, and Laura says she’s learned to pick her battles. Do you think this is a smart philosophy? Why or why not?
- Did you find Trapped suspenseful? Did you think the plot was well constructed and credible, and the characters believable? Why or why not?
- Talk about your impressions of this book from a literary standpoint—its strengths and weaknesses. Cite specific examples. If you were the author, would you have done anything differently?