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Excerpt: Losing Ladd

Losing Ladd (Ladd Springs) by Dianne Venetta

Book Five: Ladd Springs Series

Chapter One

Felicity Wilkins took the sharp turn with a death grip on the steering wheel. Negotiating the rural mountain road as fast as she could, she had to get to the hotel fast. Someone unlocked the gates at the hotel stables, setting the animals loose. Some were gone. Her horse, Blue, was one of them. Visions of what could happen to her black mare inundated her mind.

Felicity’s mother had called, her deadpan tone sinking in deeper with every mile. Blue was missing. Gone. Tightening her two-fisted grip, Felicity focused on the way ahead. There’d been a string of horse disappearances in the last month. Properties along the forest were being targeted due to the ease of escape. If anything happened to Blue, Felicity would die. She would die!

With a tap to the brakes, she veered hard to the left, then lurched right, taking the snake turn at high speed. As she barreled down the final stretch of pavement, she prayed no one pulled out of their driveway. She wouldn’t be able to stop. The road was heavily lined with forest, nothing but trees and bushes as far as the eye could see, save a few tin mailboxes poking out. A route ingrained in her memory, a road traveled many times with Blue.

Blue. Felicity’s heart caught in her throat. The mare had to be okay.

Driving past a wall of rock, Felicity faintly registered the stream of spring water spurting from its façade. The neighbors had inserted a makeshift pipe for easy collection of the water, water that belonged to Ladd Springs. Her family’s property. As she passed a rusty old house trailer parked twenty feet off the road, memories of Clem Sweeney flushed through her mind. Not only did he try to steal their water, but he tried to steal their gold. Gold that had been discovered deep in the forest of her family’s property little over a year ago. Her property. Last year, Uncle Ernie had signed it over to her before he died. Muscles jumped in her jaw. It had been a sore spot between him and her mother, Ernie refusing to give in and sign the deed as promised, but in the end he did. Ernie had signed it over and died weeks later.

At the time, Harris Hotels had been vying for the land to build a hotel. They specialized in luxury eco-resort hotels around the world and wanted to incorporate the Tennessee landscape into their portfolio. At first, her mother resisted. But once she and the chain owner became romantically involved, her position flipped. Felicity leased the land to Harris Hotels, and they transformed the property into a beautiful mountain resort, complete with spa, restaurant and stables. Stables someone had deliberately opened and forced the animals to flee.

Felicity’s car reverberated over the wooden planks of the creek bridge, skidding in a cloud of dust as she floored the gas pedal and headed uphill. The staff parking area would be closest to the stables. Spying an open space near a clump of trees, she spun the wheel and braked to a hard stop, pitching her body forward. Pushing out her door, she slammed it closed, startled by the thunder of noise behind her.

She whirled, calling out breathlessly, “Troy!”

Troy Parker’s truck rocked back and forth as it too took the gravelly terrain at high speed, mirroring her arrival. He parked haphazardly, jumped out and headed straight for her, his muscular swagger reassuring in her time of need. Relief swept through Felicity. Her mom must have called him to come help. As Troy closed the distance with determined jean-legged strides, she saw concern digging through the brown of his eyes. “Your mom told you?” he asked.

Felicity nodded. “Blue—” she sputtered, words choking away.

“She told me someone unhooked the gates,” Troy said. “Is that true? Do you know what this is all about?”

She shook her head, overwhelmed by a horrible helplessness.

The brown of Troy’s gaze darkened, underscored by the black of his T-shirt and cowboy hat. He was not a man to contend with lightly. Not with that matchstick temper of his. “Whoever did this is going to pay, Felicity.”

She nodded, suddenly grateful for Troy’s brash, bull-headed nature. She wanted whoever did this to pay, to suffer—especially if her horse had suffered. Felicity began to shake. “We need to find her.”

“We will.” Troy grasped Felicity by the arm and directed her toward the stables of Hotel Ladd, a place he loved as dearly as she loved it, marching them onward. Troy and Felicity had been friends for as long as she could remember, along with his twin brother, Travis. The three were a trio. They rode together, played together. Horses were in their blood, part of their everyday lives. The thought of anything happening to one of their animals cut deep. Would they find them?

After they passed through a cluster of trees, the packed clay ground was uneven, marked by jutting rocks and gnarled roots, the aroma of pine dominated the shaded trail. Unable to wait, Troy and Felicity began to jog, picking up their pace as they raced through the canopy of green toward the new stables. A creek trailed along their path, the babble nearly inaudible as fear and uncertainty rang in her mind, the pound of boots jarring her body.

Blue knew this land as well as Felicity, but the hotel stables were new to her, having moved in only weeks ago. Surely Blue wouldn’t run off. She might wander, but she wouldn’t go far.

Unless she had been frightened. But her mother didn’t relay any such detail. Probably because Felicity hadn’t given her the chance. The minute she heard Blue was missing, she ended the call, jumped in her car and peeled out of Casey and Troy’s driveway in two seconds flat. She’d been visiting with them and the baby when her mother called. As manager of the stables, the horses were her mom’s responsibility. It was a job she took to heart. Like Felicity, Delaney Wilkins Harris adored horses. She lived and breathed them. If anything happened to any one of the animals, her mother would be devastated. Felicity glanced to her side. As would Troy. He was a horseman through and through. He could work a horse quicker and better than anyone, retrain them for riders or break them in for the first time, his recent performance in the stables of Hotel Ladd proof positive. Hired by her mother, Troy had been in heaven. It was his second chance, his dream come true. Until her father stole it from him.

Her father, Jack Foster. An evil man, he had attacked her mother one night and Troy jumped in to defend her. The two fought, a gun was fired, then afterward her father lied like the devil to have Troy wrongly charged with assault. Assault with a deadly weapon. Troy had pointed a gun at her father—her mother’s gun to be precise—using it as a way to protect the two of them from the real criminal. Her father. Could he be responsible for setting the horses loose?

“Are you okay?” Troy asked.

Felicity was falling behind. Now they were out in the open air, the August sun was taking its toll, as was the incline. The trail was graded but steep. Lengths of white four-board fencing lined their path up to the stables. At the top of the hill the distant tin roof reflected silvery white.

Urgency clawed at her. “Fine,” she muttered, her chest heaving under labored breath. Troy slowed and she cried, “But we have to get there!”

“You sure you don’t need to slow down?” he asked.

Perspiration gathered at her neck and beneath her blouse, a sure sign her fair skin would be flushed red. “Yes,” she replied and pushed at him to continue forward. Blue needed her.

Her mother needed her.

Within minutes they reached the level ground surrounding the stables and paddocks. Her mother emerged from an open doorway of the stables, her bearing rigid, tense. Long white blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail; her low-waisted jeans hung snug on her slender frame, her body fit from a life outdoors. She wore a navy tank top, her bare arms buff. But that was her mom. Delaney Wilkins Harris would rather be out hiking, throwing sweet feed or sitting on the back of her horse, Sadie, than primping with fuss and makeup.

As she approached her mother, the chip of fear in her brown eyes stopped Felicity cold. Was her mom’s Palomino gone, too? “Is Sadie okay?”

“Fine. But the others are still missing. I’ve got several of the hands out looking, but you two are the ones I need.” Delaney glanced between Felicity and Troy. “The horses will respond to the sound of your voices.”

“What happened?” Felicity asked.

Delaney slid a hand over her shiny head of hair, then dropped it to her waistband. “Someone came in this morning and unlatched the gates. Several of the horses stayed around but most of them left.”

Because they were new to Ladd Stables. Because the animals came from other ranches and weren’t fully acclimated to their new home yet. As though reading her thoughts, her mom said, “Blue is probably down by the old stables. But Spirit…” She turned to Troy and his expression went slack. “Spirit is a different story.”

“He’s not ready for release.”

Delaney returned a minor shake of her head. Spirit wasn’t ready for riders, let alone free range.

“He could be anywhere,” Troy mumbled.

“You’re the one he’ll respond to, Troy,” Delaney said. “If anyone can find him and bring him back home, it’s you.”

Felicity looked to Troy. He’d been working with the horse since the animal’s arrival. He’d come to Ladd Stables from a rancher friend in Georgia with a warning. He wasn’t suitable for accommodating guest trails rides. But her mom took the animal anyway. Said she fell in love with the mahogany Quarter Horse the minute she laid eyes on him, and she was taking him. It was an emotion Felicity understood. And her assessment appeared to be right on, once Troy got his hands on the horse. He’d made huge progress but it was a process, one he hadn’t quite finished.

Because he lost his job. Because of her father. Felicity closed her eyes. Please don’t let him lose the horse, too.

“Who would have done such a thing?” Felicity demanded in a surge of anger.

“I have my suspicions, but right now we need to find those animals.”

Something moved behind her mother’s gaze. Did she know?

Troy responded immediately. Looking to Felicity, he asked, “You goin’ down to the old stables?” She nodded. “Okay. I’ll take the north side. Call me if you see anything, you hear?”

“Will do,” she replied.


At the sound of her name, she turned. Travis Parker jogged up to them, his gaze darting between her and her mother. “I came as fast as I could. What’s going on?”

Felicity circled her palm around his bicep, drawing him close. The smooth round of his muscle was reassuring in its strength, his calm level-headed presence comforting to her nerves. Travis was an identical twin to Troy, the brothers sharing the same build, sporting the same dark eyes and overgrown layers of brunette hair complete with a strong jaw line and determined gaze. Unlike Troy who never left home without his cowboy hat, Travis saved his for rides and hikes.

Yet both shared her love of horses.

Travis honed in on her mom. “Do we know who did this?”

“I think Jeremiah Ladd had something to do with it. Someone paid his debt to the casino, making him a free man.” Delaney glanced briefly to Troy. “He’s out and he’s back in town.”

Travis raked a hand through his hair, a fiery gaze landing on his brother. “You’d better watch your back.”

“Oh my gosh—” Felicity’s pulse tripped. Frightened for Troy’s safety, she darted a glance between the two of them. “You don’t think he would come back to cause trouble, do you?”

Travis glared at his brother. “Troy didn’t exactly befriend the man while he was in town.”

“Back off, brother.”

“Well, it’s true,” Travis shot back. “What did you think would happen when you tried to sleep with his girlfriend?”

Troy angled toward Travis. “I did no such thing.”

“I caught you in the act!”

Delaney stepped between the boys. “Stop it you two. Infighting will get us nowhere.”

Felicity thought Travis had some nerve bringing up the past at a time like this. Jeremiah Ladd was not a man to take lightly. Sure, Troy might have gotten mixed up with the man’s girlfriend, but it didn’t give Jeremiah the right to hurt him. Didn’t Travis care that Troy could be in serious danger? Didn’t he remember what happened the last time Jeremiah was in town? Not only had he tried to take Ladd Springs from Felicity and her mother, but he threatened Uncle Ernie’s life! Thank goodness her uncle was a tough old goat and didn’t take grief from anyone, including his own son. He’d signed the property to her and that was the end of that. Uncle Ernie didn’t care what Jeremiah wanted or why he wanted it.

Memory cut loose a flurry of angst. According to her mom, Uncle Ernie had even gone so far as to have Jeremiah beaten and left for dead in the street to stop him from interfering. Felicity centered on Troy. Would he now receive the brunt of Jeremiah’s revenge?

“He’s back,” Delaney intervened, “and I don’t think this it’s any coincidence, but it has nothing to do with Troy.” She paused, settling a heavy gaze on Felicity. “It has everything to do with us.”

Chapter Two

Travis stepped back, tugged at his plaid shirt and doused his anger. Felicity needed him. She needed to find her horse, and that’s why he was here. He’d deal with Troy another time. “C’mon,” Travis said, taking his girlfriend by the arm. “Let’s go after Blue.”

Felicity didn’t resist, though he could see the hesitation in her soft green eyes. As usual, her strawberry blonde hair was pulled back into a French braid, a frame of fine strands curling around her face. In the afternoon heat, her fair skin was flushed pink, brightening the spray of freckles across her cheeks. Felicity had always been sensitive at heart, but being hung up on Troy’s well-being, currently jeopardized because of his own stupid actions, was plain wrong. If Troy hadn’t tried to make it with Jeremiah Ladd’s trashy girlfriend, he’d have nothing to worry about. He wouldn’t be wearing a bulls-eye on his back. But that was Troy. Act first, think second. Travis deemed it would ultimately be his undoing.

“Go on,” Troy told Felicity. “I’ve gotta go after Spirit.”

“But what if Jeremiah finds you?”

“We don’t know it’s Jeremiah,” Travis interjected. Sending a dodgy gaze toward Felicity’s mom. Running off half-cocked was Troy’s specialty, not his. Miss Delaney should know better. Unfortunately, she shared Troy’s hair-trigger impulse control.

“Travis is right,” Delaney said. “We don’t know for sure who did this. The more important matter is finding those horses.”

Relieved by her retreat, Travis asked, “How many others have gone missing?”

“Other than Blue and Spirit, we’ve got five unaccounted for. One of the guys called and said he located two of the animals grazing in a field on the other side of the river. The other three might be of a similar mind. I’ve asked the men to check all the clearings.”

“Spirit won’t be in the open,” Troy said. “He’s too skittish.”

Delaney looked to Troy, and Travis felt an admiration string between them. “I’m going to let you decide on where to look for Spirit.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Delaney Wilkins Harris was like a mother to them. Hanging out with Felicity since they were kids, Travis and Troy spent nearly every day at her house or on horseback along the river. They’d been a team, an inseparable trio. The first cracks in their bond didn’t show up until high school when it became clear as a mountain stream both brothers harbored feelings for Felicity, feelings that went beyond friendship. In the beginning he and Troy joked about it, but one afternoon it came to fists. Travis insisted Felicity wasn’t Troy’s type. She was more like him. Studious, more sophisticated. Troy flew out of control and the two hit the ground, rolling and punching. It had been ugly, both walking away with bruises. In the end, Felicity chose him. Travis had won and Troy couldn’t get past it. He’d stewed over the loss for weeks. Until he decided to hook up with Casey—right after he was messing with her father’s girlfriend. Disgust roiled in Travis’ gut. Sometimes he wondered how they could be brothers.

“Be careful, Troy,” Her gaze held immense affection as Felicity said, “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Travis’ stiffened as Felicity’s words lit into him. Maybe I chose the wrong brother. Maybe Casey’s the smart one and I’m the loser. The remarks from months ago still cut raw. Felicity seemed more concerned with Troy than him. And Casey and her brand new baby, too. She brought clothes for the kid, played the flute for her. She went to their cabin practically every day. Staring at his girlfriend, Travis felt the pinch. Since when did they rank higher than him?

“I’ll be fine,” Troy replied. “You go on with Travis.”

Travis agreed. “C’mon,” he said quickly and led Felicity away.

She followed his lead, cruising down the trail, keeping pace with him. The sun was scorching today, not a cloud in the sky, and Travis was hot. Mostly from his run up the hill, but the temperature had to be pushing a hundred. Swiping a hand through the hair on his forehead, he slid it back. Grass was dry, more brown than green. There hadn’t been much rain lately, and the fields were beginning to wear. Casting a sideways glance, he could see Felicity was hot too. Not only was her skin flushed from exertion, but her neck was slick beneath her braid, her green shirt spotted with perspiration. The crux of her concern could be found in her face. While orange-blonde strands of hair caught and reflected the sunlight, reminding him of many a day spent outdoors in the sunshine, her emerald green eyes were knotted with worry.

Travis hated that she was upset, but at least she called him to come over and help her look for Blue. Ever since Felicity had overheard the Foster wives gossiping about how her father hit her mother and that’s why she dumped him, she seemed changed, as if what happened between her parents ten years ago had bearing on her life today.

It didn’t. He’d heard the rumors. People talked. They whispered. Didn’t change anything about who Felicity was today. He was only surprised she hadn’t heard the talk before. But she’d heard the women that night and totally went off on her mother, reaming her a new one after he’d dropped Felicity off at the cabin. Travis heard them arguing before he made it down the porch steps and felt bad. It wasn’t Miss Delaney’s fault that her husband was a jerk, but Felicity didn’t see it that way. She was mad because her mother never told her, that she had to find it out from strangers.

Strangers that were family. Travis could understand why Miss Delaney didn’t say anything. How do you tell a kid her daddy’s a monster? Then, as if his past transgressions weren’t bad enough, the guy attacked her mom in the stables one night, and that’s when Felicity woke up. She turned on him, forgiving her mother completely. Only Jack Foster decided to pin the crime of assault on his brother, because Troy happened to be in the stables and jumped and saved Miss Delaney.

“Travis, if we don’t find Blue I don’t know what I’ll do.”

He placed an arm around her narrow shoulders and pulled her close. “Don’t worry. We’ll find her.”

“Do you think Jeremiah did this?”

“Don’t know. But what I do know is that if it was him, we’ll figure it out.”


The way he did everything. Clues. Research. Fit the pieces of the puzzle together. “We’ll gather evidence. Whoever did it had to leave fingerprints behind. A hair sample, something.”

Bodies bumping as they walked in close contact, Felicity glanced up at him. “I don’t think my mom will call the police.”

“Why not?”

“If she didn’t call it after being attacked, I doubt she’ll call them now. Especially after the way they treated her.”

Travis nodded. Felicity might have a point there. Apparently Officer Gavin Shore didn’t give Felicity’s mom a warm welcome when she went down to the police station to give her statement. Of course, her ex-husband had already been there and filled the man’s head with lies but still, that was his job. Gavin Shore was officer of the law, sworn to uphold The Constitution. Whether he believed her or not, whether he liked her or not, Officer Shore should have treated her with respect and dutifully taken her statement. The fact that he didn’t could work against him in a court of law, a fact Travis had tried to explain to Felicity at the time.

But she didn’t understand things like he did. She was an artist, a flutist. She dealt in feelings and rhythm. Not Travis. He dealt in facts and logic. He was going to be a lawyer. He was going to be the man who defended the wrongly accused. Even if it included the likes of his brother, who in this case happened to be innocent. While he didn’t approve of Troy’s choice not to attend college, or his actions that knocked up his girlfriend, the two having a baby out of wedlock, Travis didn’t want to see Troy convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.

Entering a wooded section of the property, Travis and Felicity headed off the main trail. He welcomed the shade, brushing the moisture from his upper lip. This was a shortcut through the original Ladd homestead, leading to the old stables Felicity and her mom used before Nick Harris built the new ones. Mr. Harris was the man who owned and built the hotel, transforming the natural beauty of Ladd Springs into a luxury retreat for wealthy guests from around the world. Specializing in “green” development, he made a business of carving properties into the land, incorporating his hotels into the landscape so guests could feel at one with the nature of their surroundings. While Mr. Harris didn’t actually own Ladd Springs, leasing the right to use the land for his hotel from Felicity, he married Delaney’s mom, which made him family. Felicity had received title to the property after her Uncle Ernie signed it over prior to his passing.

But she didn’t own all of it. Her mom had her sign over half the property to Troy’s wife, Casey. Apparently Casey was Jeremiah’s daughter from a relationship he had in high school. Her mother had finally been able to prove the point when they hauled Jeremiah off to jail, making it real convenient to court-order a DNA sample. And when the results came back positive, the matter was settled. Casey deserved half because she was kin. Family.

Travis didn’t care for Casey or her mother. He thought it greedy of them to fight for the land in the first place, but Miss Delaney saw it differently, and hers was the opinion that counted with Felicity. Not like anyone would argue with her. Miss Delaney was a kind woman, but she was a tough one.

“Blue!” Felicity called out randomly. Moving a branch from her path, she yelled again, “Blue!”

Travis followed close behind, trampling over underbrush as he scanned the sea of leaves and tree trunks. Blue wouldn’t be in this area. The foliage was too dense.

Felicity cupped hands to her mouth and called out for the horse again.

“She’s probably hanging by the stables,” Travis said, “eating old feed from the ground.”

“Blue wouldn’t eat stale food,” Felicity huffed.

“Animals don’t care if it’s stale. If they can smell it, they’re gonna eat it.”

Felicity stomped on a dead branch on the ground. The loud crack seemed to underscore her displeasure with him. Travis raised his brow. Was there anything he could do right these days?

Ahead, Travis detected the first sign of the old stables, the outline of black-brown decayed wood and sagging tin roof just beyond a group of tightly packed trees. He could almost smell the rotting structure from here. Felicity walked faster as they neared the stables, heedless to the boulders in her way. “Blue?” she hollered, leaping over the side of a huge rock, its gray surface covered with patches of white fungus. “Blue? Are you here?”

Scrambling over a fallen tree, Felicity hurried to the structure. A rusted-out wheel barrow was parked to one side, a busted fence post stood feet from the entrance. The place reeked of wet mold and mildew, mixed with the dank scent of rotting leaves.

Felicity dashed into the stable, then darted out just as quick. “She’s not here.”

Her crestfallen expression tore at Travis. “Maybe she’s farther up, toward the cabin.”

Felicity turned, took a few steps in that direction and murmured, “I don’t see her.”

“She’s probably behind a tree,” he suggested.

Trailing Felicity’s steps, Travis tracked her all the way to the trail opening, the one that led to Ernie’s old cabin and a small clearing that marked the trail up to her mother’s place. No Blue. “Where else could she be?”

Travis came to a stop by Felicity’s side, hating the heartbreak in her eyes. “A hundred places,” he replied. “Maybe she’s down by the river. If I were her, that’s where I’d go on a hot day like this.”

Where Travis intended the comment to lighten the mood, his remark resulted in the opposite. “Not by herself. She’s never ventured that far without me.”

Part of him agreed. Before the hotel stables were built, Felicity and her mom would let the horses loose, allowing them free grazing in the open pastures. Most of the time, that’s where he and Felicity would find them when they went looking to ride. Occasionally the animals would hang out in the woods, preferring shade to the heat of the sun. Never once did they find them by the river. Placing hands to her shoulders, Travis looked her in the eye, willing her to believe him. “Blue is okay. We’ll find her.”

“How many horses have you recovered?” Nick Harris asked as he strode into the stable office. An air of quiet confidence flowed in around him, filling Delaney’s working space with his masculine presence. Standing six-four in boots, his long legs rising into a tapered waist and broad shoulders, Delaney felt the weight of her concern lift. Where she once considered his black eyes swarthy and suspicious, she now found them attractive and soothing. When Nick walked into a room, it felt like he was lifting whatever ailed her at the moment. “Two. An Appaloosa and a Quarter Horse.”

“The new one?”

She shook her head. “Troy’s out looking for him now.”

“Good,” he said and circled her desk. Taking her hand, he pulled her from her chair enfolding her in a hug. Delaney melted into the hard lean line of his body, immersed herself in the woodsy spice of his cologne. She didn’t consider herself a weak, needy woman, but next to Nick, she felt every ounce of her femininity.

Kissing the top of her head, he said, “I talked to Malcolm.”

“And?” she asked, pulling away.

“He’s going to call his pal in Vegas and find out who paid the marker for Jeremiah.”

“Do you still think Jillian had something to do with it?”

“Damn straight I think she had something to do with it, and as soon as Malcolm calls his man, we’ll know for sure.”

Delaney hated to utter the woman’s name, but it did seem she was the most likely culprit. A vixen of the highest degree, she’d already proven herself capable of such tactics. Nick’s jilted ex-lover, hotel developer Jillian Devane, wanted nothing more than to see their lives filled with misery. It seemed like her life’s calling had turned from building hotels to exacting revenge against Nick and Delaney. One phone call from Nick had iced her first attempt. Her last had been spoiled by none other than Annie Owens.

Jillian had tried to purchase Casey’s half of Ladd Springs. Annie had tried to negotiate a sale so she and Casey could get their hands on the money, but reneged on the deal before closing. Seems Annie realized there was more to happiness than dollar signs, a lesson learned with the help of one Cal Foster. Jillian had been livid to hear she would not have the pleasure of ruining Harris Hotels from the comfort of the adjoining property and left town in a huff.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the threats. And there was only one person who could pay fifty thousand dollars on Jeremiah’s behalf—one person with a motive. Jillian Devane. Delaney swallowed back a rush of nerves. “What are you going to do if it was her?” she asked, battling a slew of mixed emotion.

Anger thrashed in the black of his gaze. The lines around his mouth hardened. “I’m going to make her wish she’d stayed in Brazil.”

“You don’t think she’s coming here, do you?” Jillian was the last person Delaney wanted to see in Tennessee. Jillian Devane once held an attraction for her husband. Despite her tendency for revenge and cutthroat business dealings, Jillian had the looks and body that didn’t quit. Delaney didn’t consider herself an insecure woman, but putting Nick and Jillian in the same room might remind him of why they’d gotten together in the first place! After all, Jillian had tried to seduce Troy the last time she was in town. Why not take another swing at Nick?

Nick looked away, his gaze drifting through the pane-glass window and into the stables. “If she did have something to do with Jeremiah’s release, she can’t be far behind.”

“But how could she know about Jeremiah? She never met him. Not that I don’t trust you, but that part still doesn’t make sense.”

Nick turned back to her, his face devoid of pleasure. “Jillian has her ways. She’s not a woman to be underestimated. And until she gets her revenge, she’ll use whatever means necessary to do so.”

Gets her revenge. On Nick. On them. Delaney glanced around the office, the stables beyond, her mind filled with horrific thoughts of flames and destruction. In the past, Jillian had chosen fire as the method to exact her revenge on a rival hotel. Delaney gulped. Would she do so again?

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