April 18th, 2024
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Investigating a conspiracy really wasn't on Nikki's very long to-do list.

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Secret Identity, Small Town Romance
Available 4.15.24

Excerpt of Lawful Engagement by Linda O. Johnston


Harlequin Intrigue
July 2004
Featuring: Cara Hamilton; Mitch Steele
256 pages
ISBN: 0373227868
Add to Wish List

Romance Suspense, Romance Series

Also by Linda O. Johnston:

CSI Colton and the Witness, December 2023
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
The Soldier's K-9 Mission, May 2023
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
Shielding Colton's Witness, November 2022
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Guardian K-9 on Call, May 2022
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Trained to Protect, January 2022
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Uncovering Colton's Family Secret, November 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Her Undercover Refuge, August 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Colton First Responder, February 2020
Paperback / e-Book
Pick and Chews, May 2018
Paperback / e-Book
To Catch a Treat, May 2016
Bite the Biscuit, May 2015
Lost Under a Ladder, October 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Loyal Wolf, August 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Untamed Wolf, May 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Teacup Turbulence, January 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Covert Attraction, December 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Read Humane Hounds Abound, May 2013
Paperback (reprint)
Oodles Of Poodles, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Undercover Wolf, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Hounds Abound, April 2012
Paperback / e-Book
The More the Terrier, October 2011
Paperback / e-Book
Guardian Wolf, August 2011
Beaglemania, March 2011
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Alaskan Wolf, December 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Feline Fatale, July 2010
Howl Deadly, December 2009
Awakening The Beast, October 2009
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Back To Life, June 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Never Say Sty, April 2009
Alpha Wolf, January 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Double Dog Dare, June 2008
The Fright of the Iguana, October 2007
Meow is for Murder, February 2007
Fine-Feathered Death, May 2006
Sit, Stay, Slay, January 2006
Nothing To Fear But Ferrets, August 2005
Not a Moment Too Soon, November 2004
Lawful Engagement, July 2004
Guardian of Her Heart, February 2004
Special Agent Nanny, September 2003
Tommy's Mom, November 2002
Operation: Reunited, March 2002
The Ballad of Jack O'Dair, October 2000
Winter Wonderland, October 1999

Excerpt of Lawful Engagement by Linda O. Johnston

Cara Hamilton's heart beat a familiar, thunderous tattoo of anticipation deep inside her chest. She parked at the curb, slung her large purse over her shoulder and exited her small yellow Toyota. It was nearly one o'clock in the morning. Though most residences along Caddo Street were dark, lights blazed in the first-floor apartment of the three-story converted Victorian in front of her. Cara's friend Nancy Wilks, who lived there, had called half an hour ago. She hadn't said much, only that she had something important to show Cara.

But Cara sensed that, whatever it was, it could be the key to the biggest story of her life.

That was why she felt the familiar rush of excitement. She was on the trail of something newsworthy. And this time it was something beyond newsworthy. Something that could blow the blase citizens of Mustang Valley right out of their couch-potato seats. Make her career.

Only ... As she stood outside her car and glanced around the sleeping neighborhood, a sudden, strange chill enveloped Cara. It was northeast Texas in midsummer. Humid and warm, even at night. Too hot to make her feel so cold.

As she shivered nonetheless, her skin prickled.

"It's the news itch," she whispered aloud, determined to shrug off herinexplicable uneasiness. "I've been stung by the tattle bug. Right, Sally?"

As if her idol, Shotgun Sally, the stuff of incredibly inspirational folklore, could respond. But as usual, the silly little device of talking to her, using her legendary language, lifted Cara's spirits.

Not that she'd do so where anyone else could hear.

Cara flinched at the click of her car door closing. The night had been silent except for the crisp chirping of crickets, and their singing halted at the sound. Not even traffic noise from the highway, only a few miles away. And nothing at all from the direction of downtown Mustang Valley.

Cara's own deep and uneven breathing broke the stillness. That and the light tap of her boot heels on the pavement.

The humidity hung heavy in the air, stifling Cara, moistening her bare arms, for she wore a short-sleeved blouse tucked into her long skirt that matched the soft buckskin-colored vest over it. Why didn't the heavens just split into a thunderstorm and get it over with?

She winced as her footsteps grew louder when she walked up the three steps to the wooden porch. So what? She was expected.

There was no reason to hide her presence.

The outside light was on, but shadows gathered beyond the porch rails. Cara rang the doorbell for the first floor apartment, hearing the muffled chime from within. Beside this door was another, which led to the stairway to the upper floors.

Cara waited for a moment, listening. She heard nothing from inside. No reason to get impatient ... but she was.

Her odd uneasiness began to loop knots inside her.

She rang the bell again.

Still nothing.

For the heck of it, she tried the doorknob. It turned easily in her hand, and she was able to push the door open. Maybe Nancy just figured Cara would enter when she arrived.

But why hadn't she come to greet her?

Speaking of edgy nerves ... hers had begun shrieking at her. Quiet! she insisted, to no avail.

Cara stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "Nancy?" Damn! Her voice shook. "It's Cara," she called more loudly. "I'm here."


The entry was a tiny hallway, painted pale yellow. A small glass hanging fixture bathed it in soft light.

Cara had been here before. To the left was an open, arched doorway into the living room. Ahead was the way to the kitchen, bathroom and the apartment's single bedroom.

"Nancy? Where are you?"

If Cara had felt unnerved before, now she trembled with tension. Tattle bug? Heck, she felt as if an army of ants marched formations along her spine.

"Nancy?" Cara called. She glanced into the living room. Though the lamps on either side of the floral print sofa were lit, the room was empty. She continued down the hall.

The farthest door on the right, the one to the bedroom, was ajar. "Nancy?" Cara's voice rasped, and she cleared her throat. No reason to feel so weird. Nancy was probably in the bathroom with the door closed, the water running so she couldn't hear Cara.

But neither could Cara hear water in the pipes.

She called out once more, "Nancy," as she pushed the bedroom door open. And gasped.

Nancy was there. Wearing a pink top and blue jeans, she lay on her bed, facedown, her dark hair askew as her head hung over the side.

"What's wrong?" Cara cried as she dashed over to her friend, who remained motionless.

Cara's question was answered in less than a moment, when she turned Nancy over. Her eyes were closed - and there was an ugly, black-rimmed red hole in the middle of her forehead. And so much blood ...

USING HER CELL PHONE, Cara had called 911. Help was, she supposed, on the way.

There would be no help for Nancy.

Cara's head spun as she glanced sidelong at the poor, limp body that lay half off the bed, turned back just the way Cara had found her. Before calling, though, she had put two fingers at the side of Nancy's neck. No pulse.

Nancy's skin hadn't been cold. This had only just happened.

No surprise. Nancy's call had only been twenty minutes earlier. Cara had left her home nearly immediately, since Nancy had sounded ... well, excited? Scared? Cara wasn't sure now.

Had she guessed what was about to happen to her?

No, Cara thought as tears filled her eyes. I won't fall apart.

After all, she wasn't actually here. This hadn't actually happened. Her intense, dedicated friend Nancy. Nancy, the office manager who'd so angrily spilled details of her employer's disgrace to Cara off the record after the scandal broke, wasn't actually dead.

Get real, she instructed her mind. No defense mechanisms for Cara Hamilton. She was a realist. Nerves of steel, despite her earlier folly. A gritty, down-to-earth investigative reporter ready to do whatever it took to get a story, go wherever that story might lead her.

Yeah, but none had ever led her directly to a murder victim before....

Get to work, Hamilton, she commanded herself. Someone could arrive at any moment.

"What was it, Nancy?" she whispered, forcing herself to draw closer to the bed again. "What did you want to show me?" It had been something important. Cara was convinced of it.

She shook so hard as she surveyed the area around Nancy's body that she had to lean on the mattress to keep from falling.

Nancy's sheets were white with pink flowers. She had a handmade quilt on her queen-size bed. Everything was bunched about her. Gently, Cara rifled through the bed clothes but found nothing to explain Nancy's call.

It had to have something to do with the law firm where she had worked. Of course Lambert & Church was in the process of disbanding, after what had happened before.

A siren wailed in the distance. Coming here, Cara was sure. No more time to waste.

Excerpt from Lawful Engagement by Linda O. Johnston
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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