Hey, friends! This week’s sneak peek is from a book I co-wrote with the amazing L.N. Cronk, and it’s called Obsessed. It’s a little different from my other books because there’s a mystery and some suspense… but still plenty of romance! Check it out…
If only I had known, this situation could have been so different . . . so easily.
An impossibly small receiver snaking into my ear. A similarly sized microphone placed elsewhere on the table. And then Andrew, sitting just a few tables over, reminding me to stop obsessing over the sugar packets, and telling me exactly what to say and when to say it, thereby making me look oh-so-cool.
Nearly every sitcom that’s lasted more than two seasons has pulled off some similar version of Cyrano de Bergerac, but the characters on those shows always planned things out in advance. I’ve planned nothing in advance because I had absolutely no idea that I was going to be meeting Maggie. I would have done things differently if only I had known.
I mean, of course I knew that I was meeting Maggie. She did, after all, call me less than an hour ago and ask me to meet her here at the coffee shop. But what I didn’t know? I didn’t know that—as soon as I saw her—I was suddenly and desperately going to want to appear to be oh-so-cool.
Because I didn’t know that I was going to be meeting Maggie.
Maggie, who is much more breathtaking than she sounded on the phone. Maggie, who is wearing faded calf-length jeans, pink flip flops, and a sleeveless paisley shirt showing off bronzed arms.
Maggie, with exactly the right number of freckles dotted across the bridge of her nose and hazel eyes and straight, white teeth. Maggie, whose copper curls swing and bounce as she approaches my table.
If only I had known.
He’s the last hope I have.
That’s what I’m thinking as I walk up to the table where he’s sitting. I pick him out easily enough in the crowd at the coffee shop. He’s alone, all by himself, while all around us there are groups, people talking and laughing together, people going through life as if there’s a reason to keep living.
I’m not sure there is.
Emma’s been gone for three days now. The police have been no help. Everything I’ve done on my own to track down Brandon, to try and figure out why he took our baby, and to get her back . . . well, it’s led to nothing.
Detective Meyer, who a few weeks ago had started looking into a bunch of money that Brandon claimed was stolen from his bank account, took pity on me. He didn’t volunteer to pursue a missing child case because Emma is with Brandon. There is no custody agreement—Brandon is her father, there’s no proof that he took her across state lines, and that’s that. I’d been inconsolable when he told me there was nothing he could do, but my tears prompted him to give me a name, a number, and the very last hope I have.
Peter Garrison. There he sits, waiting for me, his fingers moving carefully over the sugar packets on the table.
I walk up to him, willing my voice to stay steady, my tears to stay where they are, and my heart to stop pounding. I wipe my hands on my capris before holding one out to him with a hopeful look.
He looks up at me, apparently startled, then nods, stands, and reaches his hand out to shake my sweaty one. He bumps into the table as he reaches for my hand, spilling more than a little water from his glass. He glances down with another startled look on his face and then up at me with obvious concern. Whether it’s about me or the water, I have no idea.
“Uh, hi,” he says. “Maggie?”
I’m still looking at the water that’s dripping off the table and onto his jeans. He follows my gaze for just a minute, seems to consider sopping up the mess, then sits down. Then, as quickly as he sits down, he stands once more, his hand held out.
I put my hand into his to spare him any further embarrassment.
“Yes, I’m Maggie,” I say, swallowing, reminding myself to stay calm and coherent, to keep from getting emotional. “Thank you for agreeing to see me.”
He nods uncertainly.
“Sit down,” he says, pointing to the chair opposite his. Then he adds, even more uncertainly, “I mean . . . if you want.”
I sit down, momentarily distracted from the lump in my throat. It’s the look on his face. A grimace of sorts, as if he’s in pain. He’s an average looking guy, maybe a couple of years older than me, just about my height, dark hair . . .
But that pained look on his face, as though he’s uncomfortable. And his words.
If you want.
I’m the one who asked him here. I’m the one who needs his help. Why would he say this?
As he stares at me, I go ahead and just ask him.
“Why would you say that?”
“Well, I uhh . . .” he begins, managing to somehow look even more uncomfortable. “I just, uhh . . .”
He purses his lips together for a moment and glances away, rubbing his cheek and then looking back at me while rubbing his other cheek in the exact same spot.
“I wasn’t trying to tell you what to do,” he finally explains. “I should have said, ‘Would you like to sit down?’” He looks at me like he’s hoping for understanding, then asks,
“Would you like to sit down?”
“I am sitting down,” I say. Because I am. I have been, the entire time he’s been looking around and rubbing his cheeks.
I resist the temptation to find his number back in my purse and double check to make sure that the detective gave me the right guy.
Computer genius. Hacker extraordinaire. This guy. Peter Garrison.
I’m told if anyone can find Emma, it’s him. If he can track down Brandon’s money, he can find Brandon, then he’ll lead me to Emma.
I look to him expectantly.
“I know,” he says, then he sighs. He hesitates for a long moment, clearly uncertain how to proceed before finally deciding on, “So, um, you said that you want me to help you figure out where Brandon’s money went?”
Yes, but it’s more than that.
I’ve gone over the best way to tell him this, but no matter how I explain it, I come out looking bad. I’m so tired of looking bad and of being silently judged by everyone.
But Emma . . .
“Well, mostly I want you to help me figure out where Brandon went,” I say. “He has my daughter. Emma.”
Isn’t that the question? The million dollar question, the answer to which went missing along with Emma. Brandon came to pick her up for what I thought was a normal visit. I knew he’d been having some trouble with his business, but I didn’t know the extent of it. We didn’t talk about those things anymore. We were way past confidences with one another, as if he’d ever completely let me into all of his life before . . .
Not helpful, Maggie. What matters now is Emma.
I’d kissed her goodbye, already counting the hours until I’d see her again. I’d handed Brandon a diaper bag with just enough to get her through those forty-eight hours. Just forty-eight hours.
“It was supposed to be a two-night visit,” I tell Peter. “But he took her and didn’t bring her back, and I can’t get in touch with him. He’s not answering my calls . . . not returning my messages. I don’t know where he is. The police don’t know where he is, and he has our daughter, and I . . .”
I stop talking. Not because there isn’t more to say but because I can’t manage it past the sobs that are working their way into my voice.
I look to Peter helplessly.
He looks back at me, obviously confused. “‘Our daughter?’ She’s his daughter, too?” He narrows his eyes as if he’s trying to comprehend. “I didn’t know he had a daughter . . .”
He looks away for a moment before bringing his eyes back to me quickly as if he’s decided on something.
“I can do it,” he says with a confident nod. “I can help you find her.”
That’s enough for me. I don’t care what he’s going to charge me to do all of his fancy computer searching, hacking, whatsits, or whatever.
He can find Emma.
“Thank you, Peter,” I say softly, even as I feel the tears start to fall down my cheeks.
Want to read more? Get your copy of Obsessed here!