New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin
“delivers the goods” (Publishers Weekly) again
the eleventh title in the gritty, heart-pounding Tracers
When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police
detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined
get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up.
turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon
regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief
firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most
important case of her career.
As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black
knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her
case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best
friend’s younger sister for years, but when her
investigation brings them together, the sparks between
quickly burn out of control. Scott resolves to keep his
hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a
killer. But when that killer zeroes in on her, all bets
off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince
to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless
murderer who has her in his sights.
Everything about this felt wrong, and Tessa couldn’t
believe she was here as they bumped along the gravel
road, their headlights cutting through the tunnel of
trees. When they reached the clearing James rolled to a
stop and shoved the car into park.
Tessa gazed straight ahead at the moonlight shimmering
off the inky lake.
“This okay?” he asked.
He turned off the music, and she listened to the drone of
the cicadas and the guttural croak of bullfrogs outside.
An electronic chirp sounded from her purse. Crickets, her
sister’s ringtone. Tessa silenced the phone and dropped
it into the cup holder.
“Who is it?” he asked.
The car got quiet again and James reached for her,
pulling her across the seat and sliding his warm hand
under her shirt.
“Wait. Maybe we should talk first.”
“We don’t have much time.” He squeezed her breast.
“James, I mean it.”
He leaned back and sighed. “Talk about what?”
His face was shadowed, but still she could see the heat
in his eyes as his hand glided up her thigh.
“So talk.” He kissed her neck, and she inhaled the musky
scent of his skin--the scent that drew her to him in the
most primal way, in a way she’d never been able to resist
no matter what the consequences. She responded to this
man on a molecular level, with every cell in her body.
He kissed her mouth, softly at first, then harder. He
pulled her close, shifting her until she was almost in
“I can’t stop thinking about you.” His breath was warm
against her throat, and whatever she’d wanted to talk
about was gone now. He slid his hand over her shirt,
deftly popping open the buttons one by one. Then the
fabric was off her shoulders, and air wafted over her
skin. She reached for his belt buckle.
A sudden flash of light made her jump. She squinted over
her shoulder at the blinding white as a car pulled up
James went rigid. “Damn it, a cop.”
The car’s door opened. She hurriedly pulled her shirt on
and darted a look at James.
“Don’t talk,” he said sternly.
A light beamed into the driver’s side, and she shrank
back against the door as James buzzed down the window.
“This your vehicle, sir?”
“Yes, it is.”
The flashlight beam moved to Tessa’s face, then dipped
lower. She tugged the sides of her shirt together and
“Step out of the car, sir.”
James gave her a warning look and pushed open his door.
She sank down in the seat. Perfect. This was just what
they needed. Could they be charged with something?
Trespassing? Or public lewdness, maybe? Her cheeks burned
and she glanced back at the cop.
Pervert. He probably staked out this lakeside park every
weekend and waited for couples to pull in. He probably
got a sick thrill from embarrassing people.
The noise rocked the car and she lurched against the
window, shrieking. Terror seized her as she gaped at the
He’s shooting. He’s shooting. He’s—
The flashlight shifted. Tessa scrambled for the door
handle. She shoved open the door and lunged from the car,
landing hard on her hands and knees.
The sound reverberated through her brain, her universe.
She clawed at the grass and stumbled to her feet.
Adrenaline spurted through her veins as she raced for the
He was behind her, right behind her. She sprinted for the
cover of the trees, screaming so loud her throat burned.
No one can hear you. You’re all alone.
An icy wave of panic crashed over her and her cries
became a shrill wail. Her heart pounded as she ran and
ran, waiting for the bite of a bullet.
Hide, hide, hide!
She plunged into the woods, choking back her screams as
she swiped madly at the branches. Thorns tore at her
skin, her clothes, but she surged forward. It was dark.
So dark. Maybe he wouldn’t see her in the thicket.
He killed James. He killed him killed him killed him. The
words flashed through her mind as she swatted at the
She had to get out of here. She had to get help. But she
was miles away from anyone, stumbling blindly through the
darkness. Branches lashed her cheeks, and they were wet
with blood or tears or both as she plunged through razor-
sharp brush and her breath came in shallow gasps.
She tripped and crashed to her knees. Pain zinged up her
legs, but she pushed to her feet and kept going, deeper
and deeper into the woods. No one was out here to help
her. Her only chance was to hide.
She smacked hard into a tree. She swayed backward, then
caught herself and ducked behind the trunk, forcing her
feet to still, even though her pulse was racing.
No noise. Nothing.
Only the whisper of wind through the branches and the
wild thudding of her own heart. She dug her nails into
the bark as she strained to listen. She couldn’t breathe.
It felt like someone was squeezing her lungs in a big
fist. She shut her eyes and tried to be utterly still as
she fused herself against the tree and waited.
In the distance, a soft rustle. She turned toward the
sound and felt a swell of relief. Had she lost him?
Please, God. Please, please, please...
A faint snick behind her, and Tessa’s heart convulsed.
She hadn’t lost him at all.
Dani Harper steered her pickup down the narrow road
toward the whir of lights. She reached the clearing and
pulled up beside a white van, surveying the scene through
the mist. A pair of uniforms stood off to the side.
Beyond a line of haphazardly parked vehicles, swags of
yellow tape cordoned off a silver sedan.
She glanced at the logo on the van and her nerves
fluttered. The Delphi Center. Her boss must have called
them. The lieutenant didn’t like using outside help, but
San Marcos PD didn’t have the resources to handle a scene
Dani reached for the poncho she kept in back, then
thought better of it. It would be hot as a trash bag, and
she was already sweaty from her yoga class. She pushed
aside the grocery sack containing the frozen dinner she
wouldn’t be eating anytime soon and grabbed a baseball
cap, settling it on her head and pulling her ponytail
through the back as she got out. Her cross-trainers sank
into the muck.
One of the uniforms trudged over, and Dani recognized him
as he passed under the light of a portable scene lamp.
Jasper Miller. Six-three, two-fifty. He was a rookie out
of Houston, barely six months on the job.
“Hey, Dani.” He smiled, catching her off guard again with
those boyish dimples that seemed at odds with his huge
“Tell me you didn’t touch anything.” She pulled a pair of
gloves from the box she kept in the back of her truck.
“I didn’t touch anything.”
She tugged the latex over her hands and took out a mini-
flashlight. She picked her way across the damp grass,
careful not to step on any sort of evidence.
“When did you get here?” She ducked under the scene tape.
“Oh, about--” He checked his watch. “Twenty minutes ago?
Not long after the first responder. Old lady that lives
off the highway thought she heard someone shooting off
fireworks here in the park.”
“And them?” She nodded at the two crime scene technicians
crouched behind the sedan examining something. A tire
impression, maybe? Whatever it was, they’d erected a
little tent over it in case it started to rain again.
“They showed up five minutes ago,” Jasper said.
The car was a late-model Honda Accord, squeaky clean
right down to the hubcaps. It must have arrived before
the rain. The driver’s side door stood open, and Dani’s
stomach tightened with dread as she walked around the
front, sidestepping a numbered evidence marker. She
halted and stared.
The victim lay sprawled in the grass. Khaki pants,
button-down shirt, short haircut. He had a bullet hole
just below his neck, and flies were already buzzing
around it, making themselves right at home. They hovered
below his belt, too, where the front of his pants was
dark with blood.
Dani felt a wave of dizziness. Then it was gone.
She stepped closer, glancing up at the blue tarp someone
had thoughtfully erected over the body. She switched on
her flashlight and crouched down for a closer look. On
the victim’s left hand was a wedding ring, and Dani’s
Some woman’s whole world would be shattered tonight. It
was shattered already--she just didn’t know it yet.
She glanced up at Jasper. He looked nervous and eager for
something to do.
“I’ve got a portable scene lamp in the back of my truck,”
she said. “You mind?”
He trekked off, and she focused on the victim again.
Given the location at this park she’d expected a
teenager, but he looked more like an accountant. She
studied his face carefully. His eyes were half-shut and
wire-rimmed glasses sat crooked on his nose. A determined
line of ants had already formed a trail into his mouth.
Dani aimed her flashlight inside the vehicle.
No wallet, no cell phone, no computer case. The wallet
was likely in his pocket, but no one could touch him
until the ME’s van arrived. She skimmed her flashlight
over the car’s interior, paying close attention to the
floorboards and cup holders.
Jasper returned with the lamp and started setting up.
“Was this other door closed when you got here?” she
“I told you, I didn’t touch anything.”
She looked back at the CSIs pouring quick-dry plaster
into an impression on the ground. Roland Delgado glanced
up at her.
“Hey there, Dani Girl.”
“Hey. Who else is here?”
“Another one of your uniforms.” Roland nodded at the
trees near the lake where flashlights continued to
flicker. “He’s combing the woods with Travis Cullen.”
Travis Cullen. So no Scott tonight. Dani felt a twinge of
relief as she stood up.
She leaned into the car and popped open the glove
compartment. The insurance card was sitting right on top
inside a protective plastic sleeve.
She stepped away from the Accord and turned her back on
the victim as she dialed Ric Santos. He answered on the
“Where are you?” she asked.
“On my way. What do we got?”
“White male, thirty to forty, gunshot wound to the chest
and groin, point-blank range.”
“Damn. What else?”
A low grumble had her turning toward the road. Her nerves
skittered as a gunmetal gray Dodge pickup pulled into the
clearing and glided to a stop beside the crime scene van.
“No ID yet,” she told Ric. “But there’s an insurance card
inside the vehicle. James Matthew Ayers, 422 Clear Brook
“That’s near the university.”
“There’s a hangtag on the mirror. A university parking
Scott Black slid from his pickup and slammed the door. He
reached into the truck bed to unlatch the shiny chrome
toolbox. He pulled out his evidence kit and glanced up.
Their gazes locked.
“Dani?” Ric asked.
She turned away. “What’s that?”
“The permit. Is it A or B?”
“B. Faculty parking.”
“Just what we need.”
“What’s your ETA?”
“Five minutes,” he said.
“You’ll probably beat the ME.”
She ended the call and closed her eyes briefly. Raindrops
dampened her face and water trickled between her breasts.
She was in yoga pants and a tank top, and she wished
she’d had time to change into something better suited for
detective work, because it was going to be a long night.
She took a deep breath and made a mental list. She had to
interview the first responder. And she had to get a K-9
team out here. She sent her lieutenant a text coded 911
Roland and the female CSI were still crouched behind the
car, and the woman was snapping pictures. She had to be
the Delphi Center crime scene photographer, but Dani had
never met her.
Scott stood beside the Accord now, his back to the victim
as he skimmed his flashlight over the ground. The
firearms expert was tall and broad-shouldered, with the
super-ripped body of a former Navy SEAL. Instead of his
usual tactical pants and combat boots, he wore jeans and
a leather jacket tonight, so maybe he’d been out when
he’d gotten the call. Dani knew from experience that his
jacket had nothing to do with the weather and everything
to do with the Sig Sauer he carried concealed at his hip.
Something glinted in the grass, and Scott crouched down
to tag it with a numbered marker. Two minutes on the
scene and already he’d discovered a piece of evidence. He
stood and squared his shoulders, and Dani felt a pang
deep inside her as he approached.
He stopped and towered over her, and for a moment they
just stared at each other.
“Was the passenger door closed when you got here?” he
“Where’s the girl?”
“No sign of her.” She nodded at the woods. “One of our
officers is searching near the lake with Travis.”
Jasper joined them by the car. “How do you know there’s a
Scott knelt beside the body. “He didn’t come all the way
out here to jerk off.” He looked at Dani. “You have an ID
He watched her for a moment with those cool blue eyes.
His gaze shifted to the woods. “You need a K-9 team.”
She bristled. “I know.”
He strode over to his truck and opened the toolbox again.
He took out a metal detector, which would help him locate
shell casings or bullets, and maybe even the second
victim if she was wearing jewelry or a belt.
Then again, the killer might have taken her somewhere
else. Dani glanced back at the road and got a queasy
feeling in her stomach. Where was she?
She turned her attention to the lake, visible just beyond
the trees. It was a scenic spot, usually--a tranquil
little oasis for couples. But not tonight.
She glanced at Scott again, and he was watching her
closely--so closely it made her wonder what he was
“You coming?” he asked.
She nodded at the body. “I’ll stay with him until the ME
Scott walked off, and Dani let her gaze follow him until
he disappeared into the woods.
The medical examiner’s van rolled up, followed closely by
Ric, and Dani’s stomach tightened as she thought of
everything she didn’t like about this case. And it wasn’t
even an hour old yet.
Ric walked over, his expression grim as he took in the
scene. “The media has it.”
“That didn’t take long.”
“It was all over the scanner,” he told her. “I give us
ten minutes, tops, before they roll in here with their
cameras. We need to barricade the road.”
She turned toward the sound of Scott’s deep voice calling
her from the woods. He was a tall silhouette at the edge
of the trees, and from his tone Dani knew it was bad.
“What is it?” she yelled back.
“I found her.”
Start Reading AT CLOSE RANGE Now
No comments posted.
Registered users may leave comments.
Log in or register now!
Our Past Week of Fresh Picks