Harper hadn’t thought she would be this nervous. But as an
ominous fall wind whipped her pale hair and dark clouds threatened rain, Harper’s mouth felt
dry and her palms were sweating. Crossing the sidewalk, she paused to take a deep breath,
then pushed through the glass front door into the single-story brick building that housed the
offices of Maximum Security.
For her meeting with Chase, she had dressed with care in a
navy blue cotton pencil skirt, a crisp print blouse, tucked in and belted, and high-heeled navy
pumps. Simple, classic pieces, moderately priced, from the latest Elemental Chic collection.
“May I help you?” A perky little receptionist, pretty and dark-
haired, with big blue eyes behind round tortoiseshell glasses, sat at the front desk.
“I’m Harper Winston. We spoke on the phone yesterday. You
made an appointment for me with Chase Garrett.”
“Yes, I remember. Chase saw it when he checked his
calendar this morning. I’ll let him know you’re here.” She buzzed him and announced Harper’s
arrival. Harper had no idea what sort of greeting she would receive.
The petite brunette smiled. “You can go on back. His office
is just through that door.”
Harper crossed the room, paused for a moment to steady
herself and pulled open the door. She walked into an airy corner office furnished with a big
oak desk, a brown leather sofa, and photos on the walls of the Hill Country ranch Chase
owned with his brothers, Reese and Brandon.
Seated behind the desk, Chase rose, walked around and
took the hand she extended in greeting. “Hello, Harper. It’s been a while.”
“Hello, Chase.” She managed to come up with a smile.
“Actually, I saw you last night at the gala.”
His mouth curved. He’d always had the sexiest smile. She
wished she hadn’t remembered.
“Now that you mention it, I saw you there, too.”
She withdrew her hand, ignoring the little tingle that raced
up her arm. “You must have left early. I saw the article about your daring rescue in the
newspaper this morning. You found that missing girl, Tammy Bennett.”
He shrugged as if it meant nothing. “I followed a lead. I got
“You did a good thing.”
“At least she’s back home. It’s going to take some time for
her to heal after what happened. I hope it works out for her.”
He walked back behind his desk. “Why don’t you sit down
and tell me why you’re here.”
She took a seat on the opposite side of the desk in one of
two dark brown leather chairs, and Chase sat back down.
“Can I have Mindy get you something? Coffee? Soft
“No, I’m fine.” Her nerves returned. He had always had that
effect on her. She crossed her legs. Chase’s whiskey-brown eyes followed the movement of
her skirt hem, his gaze sliding over her bare thighs. She tugged the skirt down, surprised he
“What can I do for you, Harper?”
She steeled herself. She had to convince him. Her brother’s
life could very well depend on it.
“I need your help, Chase. Mikey’s missing. I’m afraid
something terrible has happened to him.”
“Missing? Are you sure? How long has he been
“Today’s the fifth day. Almost a week without a
“As I recall, it wasn’t unlike Michael to disappear for several
weeks at a time. He always turned up sooner or later.”
“He’s isn’t the same man he used to be. Michael doesn’t do
drugs anymore. He hasn’t for nearly five years. He turned his life around, moved to Houston
and started his own tech company. He was doing really well before he disappeared.”
“Remember how he loved to sail?”
“I remember. We went out on your dad’s yacht a few times
when we were in college.”
“Michael always loved the ocean. Last year he bought a
forty-two-foot Beneteau. This year, he took a month off to sail the Caribbean.”
“That’s where he was the last time you heard from
“That’s right. He would email or text every day or two, letting
me know where he was and where he was going. He had a satellite phone and internet on the
boat.” Her chest was beginning to ache. She was so worried about him.
“Everything was fine. He was having a wonderful time. Then
five days ago, I stopped hearing from him. No emails, no texts. Nothing. I’ve called his cell
phone over and over, but the calls go straight to voice mail.” She swallowed past the lump that
was forming in her throat. “I know he’s in trouble. I can feel it.”
“You could be wrong, Harper.”
She pulled herself back under control. “I’m not wrong. I
know my brother. After he moved to Houston, we got really close. We made a deal before he
left. I was worried about him going on a trip like that
by himself. He promised he would stay in touch every few days so I wouldn’t worry. He would
never go this long without letting me know he was okay.”
“You think he could have had some kind of trouble at sea?
Some problem with the boat?”
“No. He is a fantastic sailor. I think it’s something else. But I
called the authorities in Aruba and reported him missing. I called the US Coast Guard and
asked them to look for the boat. Apparently, they weren’t able to make radio contact, but they
said sometimes that happened.”
“What about the hospitals? Maybe he was in a car accident
on shore or something.”
“I called everywhere. Even the morgue.” A chill swept
through her at the memory of the dreaded phone call she had forced herself to make.
Chase shifted forward in his chair. “Aruba? That’s where he
was the last time you heard from him?”
“That’s right. So far no one’s found any sign of the boat or
His dark gaze never wavered. “So you’re here because you
want me to find him.”
Not exactly, but close. “I want you to go with me. I’m leaving for Aruba in the morning. I
back till I know for sure Michael is safe.”
Chase eyed her with speculation, then leaned back in his
chair, giving himself some time, she figured.
He didn’t want anything to do with the Winstons. He’d never
approved of her father’s business tactics. And he believed Knox Winston’s emotional abuse
had been the cause of Michael’s addiction.
Chase had done his best to help her brother, but it hadn’t
been enough. Not back then. But Michael had finally found the courage to defeat his
addiction. Harper prayed Chase would be willing to help him again.
“All right, I’ll go after him,” Chase finally agreed. “But I go
alone, Harper. I’m a private investigator. That’s what I do for a living. I’ll find Michael for you.
There’s no reason for you to get involved.”
She shook her head. “I knew that’s what you’d say, and I
understand your feelings. But I won’t sit here and do nothing. Not when I know Michael is in
trouble.” She had only one brother. Her mother was dead. She and her father rarely spoke. She
couldn’t lose Michael, too.
“I don’t know what you think of me,” she continued, “but I’m
not that naive young girl you knew all those years ago. There are ways I may be able to help.
I’m going, Chase—with or without you.”
The words hung in the air, and she silently prayed he would
agree. She needed his help, and both of them knew it. She prayed his past affection for
Michael would be enough to sway him.
She swallowed, felt the sting of tears. “Please, Chase…” She
couldn’t believe she was pleading, but she was desperate. “There isn’t anyone else I trust. I
need your help.”
(C) Kat Martin, The Conspiracy, 2019
Perennial New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin
returns to her Harlequin home with a brand-new series
doing what she does best! Maximum Security is full of
larger-than-life heroes and whip-smart heroines caught up
in high-stakes, fast-paced romantic suspense. Fans of
Sandra Brown, Linda Howard and Julie Garwood will fall in
love with The Max.
As the wealthy owner of Maximum
Security, Chase Garrett has made his share of enemies
managing a team of private detectives, bail enforcement
agents and personal security experts. Although risk is
his stock in trade, when Harper Winston hires him to find
her missing brother, Michael—his former best friend—
dealing with the Winston family goes against everything
he knows. No matter how attractive his new client, Chase
knows all too well that the Winston family patriarch is
mixed up in some deadly business, and suspects there’s
more to Michael’s disappearance than meets the eye. In a
fast-paced thriller that takes readers from the jungles
of South America to sultry Miami and the dry Texas heat,
Kat Martin returns with her hottest novel yet.
Romance Suspense [HQN, On Sale: January
22, 2019, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781335541895 / eISBN: 9781488098901]
For New York Times
bestselling author Kat Martin
, a career in real estate led
her down the road to romance.
Through real estate, Kat found her own perfect match--her husband, Western author Larry
"We were on opposing sides of a transaction--I represented the seller and he represented the
buyer," Kat recalls.
A short time after the two became acquainted, Larry asked her to read an unpublished
manuscript of an historical western he'd written. Kat fell in love with both the book and the
"It was quite a romantic story," she admits. "I'd still like to see it get published." Then, after
doing some editing for her future husband, she thought she'd try her own hand at writing.
Kat moved on to become the bestselling author of over fifty historical and contemporary
romance novels. To date, 15 million copies of her books are in print, and she's been published
around the globe, including Germany, Norway, Sweden, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Russia,
England, Estonia, Lithuania, South Africa, Italy, Poland, Thailand, Portugal, Turkey, The Slovak
Republic, Spain, Argentina, Estonia, Czech Republic and Greece.
When she's not writing, Kat also enjoys skiing and traveling, particularly to Europe. Currently,
she's busy writing her next book.
15 comments posted.
I love your books, and after reading the excerpt of The Conspiracy, I want to read more. I was sorry when it ended!
(Kathleen Gardiner 11:27am January 14)
I have enjoyed Kat Martin books since discovering the historical many years ago. I
have really enjoyed the suspense books since that sub-genre was my first love. I
have a shelf of keepers from all the types of books she writes. This one sounds
like another good addition to her body of work.
(Patricia Barraclough 2:13am January 17)