Nowhere to Run by Jeanne Bannon
What’s a girl to do when she falls in love with the man whose mission it is to bring her down?
With the murder of her only sister, Sara, just a few months past, Lily Valier—a woman of beauty and substance—tops the sheriff’s list of suspects in small town Maine, and for a very good reason.
Dear old Dad had willed his fortune to Sara and only Sara, leaving Lily to fend for herself. However, with no murder weapon or witnesses, the evidence against Lily is only circumstantial.
Enter P.I. Aiden O’Rourke, black-haired and blue-eyed, charged with gaining Lily’s trust and learning her secrets, all to finally get the goods on her. Things move fast and feelings run deep, yet when Lily discovers the truth about Aiden, everything begins to come apart.
Aiden’s torn. Despite his feelings for her, Lily is the most logical suspect, with a great big fat motive. Except something’s not quite right. Aiden trusts his instincts and they’re screaming at him to have a look at a former suspect with far more to hide than first appeared. With little left to lose, Lily decides to stand her ground, and staying put has its consequences when the murder weapon finally turns up—and it’s Lily’s gun.
What happens to love, when trust is betrayed?
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A few hours later, Lily was sailing her way along the narrow, snow-slicked driveway up to Aiden’s cabin. If one could even call the swath of mowed-down forest a driveway. It was more like a trail tamped down by the continued passage of cars and feet. There were light posts every so often and for that she was grateful.
“What the hell am I doing?” she said out loud. “This is nuts.” There was still enough sunlight to see the driveway, but later she’d be on her way back down in the dark and without her snows on. Was she truly so blinded by this handsome stranger that she was willing to not only take her life in her hands, but also chance being stranded with him?
Lily glanced in her rear-view mirror. The driveway was too narrow to make a three-point turn, and there was no way she could back out all the way to the road. So she continued cautiously to the cabin that was slowly growing larger as she neared.
Large, wet flakes splatted on her windshield, and between swipes of the wiper blades, she spied Aiden, shovel in hand, clearing what he could. The stairs to the front porch were free of the white stuff as was a patch of driveway about twenty feet by twenty feet. He looked up with a smile when he saw the flicker of headlights.
She crunched to a stop just a few feet from him, grabbed her purse and the wine, and got out of the car.
He leaned the shovel against the porch railing. “God, I’m so sorry to make you drive here. I should have picked you up.”
“No worries. It was a piece of cake,” she lied as she pressed the lock button on her key fob.
Aiden grinned. “Did you really just do that?”
“You do realize we’re in the wilderness here. What do you think, a bear or coyote’s gonna jack your car?”
She handed the wine over. “One can never be too careful.”
“You know, I haven’t even locked the front door once.” He laughed, then, spying the pine box housing the Merlot, he said, “I told you not to bring anything.”
She threw him a wink as she made her way up the stairs toward the front door. “Nice jacket.”
The cabin was smaller than it looked from the outside. From the road below, it seemed to loom large from its place on the hill, like a sentinel, keeping watch over passersby. The cabin was constructed of pine logs with an A-line sloping roof and huge picture windows. Its high vaulted ceilings and even larger windows, which ran across the entire back of the cabin, gave it an open, spacious feel. The heavenly scent of pine surrounded Lily and she took it in, savoring a few deep breaths.
Aiden took her jacket to hang in the closet. “Please, go make yourself comfortable.” He gestured toward the living room straight ahead of them. “I’ll build a fire.”
Two rich brown leather sofas were set in a large L in front of a granite fireplace that went from floor to vaulted ceiling. As Lily spun in a slow circle taking in the place, she spotted a loft over the back of the living room. His bedroom. She wondered if she would be seeing it tonight. The prospect of warming Aiden’s bed brought on a lustful longing.
The fire sounded like a great idea—a little cliché maybe, but she supposed it was what people did in log cabins. No bearskin rug in front of the fireplace, but there was a cozy-looking area rug.
She stifled a smile. Her imagination was starting to run away with her again.
“Be right back.” Aiden walked to the kitchen at the front of the cabin, adjacent to the living room. There was barely a wall in sight. Only the occasional sturdy wooden pillar stood in place, holding up the structure.
Lily sank into the soft leather sofa, curled her legs up under her, and covered herself with the fluffy throw draped over the arm of the couch. Gooseflesh pricked her arms, but she’d soon be warmed by a fire and wine and perhaps even by Aiden.
He came back carrying a tray with an assortment of cheese, crackers, and pâté. After setting it down on the coffee table, he gave her a quick smile and was gone again. This time when he returned, he had the wine she’d brought and two plastic glasses.
“Here you go.” He handed over a half-filled glass of plum-colored liquid. “Sorry for the plastic. I should have bought some real wineglasses. Wasn’t thinking.” Then he poured some for himself.
“A toast.” Aiden held his up and Lily did the same. “To the most beautiful woman in town.” They touched rims and sipped.
His gaze lingered and she felt herself flush, but not enough to turn away. It was damn good to have a man look at her the way he did. Those hungry eyes made her feel sexy. Lily let her own gaze roam down to his checkered flannel shirt. He looked like he belonged in the Maine wilderness. The top two snaps were undone, giving her a glimpse of a well-muscled chest. She toyed with the idea of reaching out and tugging open the rest of the snaps on that shirt.
“You look like you’re thinking something wicked.” He raised a questioning brow.
Lily took another sip of Merlot, a coy little smile playing on her lips. “Maybe I am.”
“Tell me then. What wicked thoughts could possibly be going through that pretty head of yours?”
She reached for some cheese and a couple of crackers. “Maybe later,” she said, leaning back into the softness of the sofa, the Merlot already beginning to work its magic.
Aiden stretched an arm across the back of the couch, his fingers finding her hair. “I’ll know your secrets sooner or later,” he teased as he trailed a finger up her neck and along her jawline.
If he kept this up, he just might.
He put his glass down and stood suddenly. “Can’t believe I forgot the fire.” He chuckled as he made his way to the hearth.
Never mind that, get back here and touch me again, Lily wanted to say, but all she managed was a smile.
“So, how long have you lived in Higgstown?” he asked over his shoulder while piling kindling and crumpled newspaper into a mound.
“Since I was seven. Mom moved Sara and me here after my parents divorced.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I mean about the divorce. It must have been hard on you and your sister.”
“It was. At least at first, but we found comfort in each other.” She thought about those days.
Their dad had been a troubled man who took out his frustrations on Lily and their mother. Sara learned at an early age how to manage him and always slipped under his radar.
Aiden turned toward her, a log in each hand. “You don’t talk about your family much. Is there a reason for that?” He looked genuinely concerned and that melted her heart a little.
She drained her wineglass, poured some more, and decided to answer. “Dad was”—she wanted to say “an asshole” but softened her language—“an abusive man. Mom put up with his crap way too long. It took her a while to find the strength and resources to leave him. We didn’t have much and what little we did have, Dad lost gambling. It’s a miracle we finally got away.”
“At least you did in the end. That’s what counts.”
Lily’s throat cinched. Should she tell him more about her parents? That they were dead? Aiden had a way of making her feel safe, as if she could say anything and he would support her, even comfort her. The wine had melted her defenses. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to give him a few more personal details. “My parents are both deceased. Dad died when his plane crashed while landing on his way back from New York City. A stroke killed my mother.”
“Sorry to hear that.” There was sympathy in his voice, but she could see in his eyes that the words “plane crash” had piqued his interest. “You don’t hear of people dying in plane crashes very often. Was it a commercial flight? Sounds like a huge tragedy.”
Lily reached for her wine; a few more sips were in order. “Private plane. Just Dad and the pilot on board.”
Aiden’s eyes grew wide. “That’s something you hear even less often.”
Lily nodded her reply. The big kick in the ass was that her dad made his money after the divorce, leaving their mother to continue struggling. There were never support payments, and too many years had passed after they’d divided up their meager assets for her mom to go after him. At least that’s what her mom had said, but deep down, Lily thought she just didn’t want anything to do with him ever again and decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
The fire was blazing now, and Aiden took a seat beside her on the sofa. “I guess it’s safe to say he was a wealthy man?” He topped up her glass and sipped from his own.
“A millionaire many times over. Fell in with the right business partners. He wasn’t the smartest guy, but he could charm acorns from a squirrel.” Lily felt the inevitable coming. The next question would be: where was the money now? Then Aiden O’Rourke would be like all the rest of the men she’d dated. She’d tell him how her father left his fortune to Sara, and only Sara, and how she’d inherited it after her sister’s death. Was it wrong to tell him so much so soon? She sidled away and nibbled on more crackers and cheese.
“Ever feel like leaving town?” His question surprised her.
Where was the question? She tried not to look surprised. “No. This is my home.”
“But Higgstown is so small; everyone must know your business.”
She nodded. “True. There are no secrets in this town.” There was something strangely comforting in knowing what people thought about you. Would it be easier in a city? In a place where she could blend into the crowd and be anonymous? Maybe, but here her roots ran deep and firm, and it would take a hell of a lot to run her out of her own town.
“And what secrets do you have?” He grinned.
She shifted her gaze, tentative and uncertain. Was he teasing her? “Well…” She drained her glass. “Um…” Why was she so nervous? Everyone had secrets, but what innocuous thing could she say that would throw him off this subject, maybe even coax a smile?
Aiden took her hand. “Are you OK? I was just kidding around.”
She forced a smile but couldn’t help wonder if she should test the waters, give him what he wanted. It was unlike her to open up so quickly and easily, but his touch made her yearn to trust him. The words came out before she had the chance to think it through. “My secrets might change your opinion of me. You sure you want to hear them?”
He let go of her hand and cupped her face. “We’ve just met, but I’m a good judge of character, and I can already tell you’re a wonderful woman. I want to know everything about you. Nothing you could say would change what I think of you, Lily.” A feathery kiss on the forehead sealed the deal.
She took in a deep breath, then the words tumbled out. “What if I told you I killed my sister?”
Jeanne Bannon has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years, first as a freelance journalist, then as an in-house editor for LexisNexis Canada. She currently works as a freelance editor and writer and is represented by Karen Thomas of the Serendipity Literary Agency.
Jeanne’s debut novel, Invisible, is a young adult paranormal romance, published by Solstice Publishing and has recently been optioned for film. Invisible is an Amazon bestseller both domestically and internationally and continues to receive wonderful reviews.
On October 3rd, 2014, Nowhere to Run, Jeanne’s latest novel, is set to be released by Etopia Press. Nowhere to Run tells the story of Lily Valier, a woman of substance and beauty, and her dilemma when she falls in love with a man whose mission it is to bring her down.
Currently, Jeanne is finishing up work on her third novel, Dark Angel, a paranormal thriller.
When not reading or writing, Jeanne enjoys spending time with her daughters, Nina and Sara and her husband, David. She’s also the proud mother of two fur babies, a cuddly and affectionate Boston Terrier named bad boy.
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