“My With Me In Seattle series is one of the most beloved series that I write. So when I created Lady Boss Press and these authors came to me and wanted to write their own stories within that universe, I was honored and thrilled! I think you’ll enjoy each of these sexy, contemporary romances, each linking in some way to my world. Get ready to fall in love all over again!” —New York Times Bestselling Author Kristen Proby
Eight all-new standalone stories set in Kristen Proby’s With Me In Seattle Universe are out this week and I am so excited to share with you little snippets from them all.
“What are you doing here, Callie?” He didn’t bother with the formalities as he set his extra-large travel mug on his desk along with his breakfast sandwich that he’d made at home. What an awesome little kitchen appliance. He could live on egg sandwiches.
“You haven’t changed, and I see you’re still using my gift,” she said.
“Actually, I tossed yours through the window of my old pickup and broke it. I bought a new one.”
“You like hurting me, don’t you?”
He laughed. “That’s rich coming from you. Seriously, Callie, the title for your book is a slap in the face.”
“It’s not the title I want, and I’m still fighting with the publisher.”
“Oh, really. And what do you think the name of the book should be?”
“The Trinket Killer, Still at Large.”
“That’s a shitty title,” he mumbled. Not that he liked the other much better, but the working title would sell books. That one people wouldn’t even use the paperback cover to wipe their ass with. “What about The Trinket Killer, And How He Got Away With It.”
“That’s actually not bad. I’ll run it by the publisher.” She tucked her long blond hair behind her ears. It had to have grown a good two inches since the last time he’d seen her. Her dark-brown eyes had lost a bit of their sparkle, but they still had the same determination etched in the rich color.
“I was kidding. I’d prefer you not publish that rubbish at all. I’m sure the Seattle Police Department is giving you some blowback.”
She nodded. “There are some things they’ve forced me to take out, but this is a complicated case, and now that I’ve had a little time and space from it, I realize how much we both didn’t see things.”
“I don’t need to be reminded of that,” he said. “Now, seriously, why are you here?”
She held up her pad of paper and pen. “First, I want to interview you for the book. And second, I want you to investigate the Trinket Killer with me again.”
“Well, fuck. And here I thought you might be here to apologize for humiliating me in front of my family, your family, our friends. Hell, the fucking world when you tossed the engagement ring I bought you in my face and called me a murderer on national—”
She held up her hand. “I’m apologizing now.”
“I’m going to make this real easy for you. I have no comment on the Trinket Killer or my involvement in it. And if you want help, go to cold cases. I’m sure someone there has been assigned the case, and I’m sure they’d love some help, though you do have quite the reputation for being a bitch.”
She tilted her head and pursed her lips. “No thanks to you.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. We could go on like this forever,” he said.
She laughed. “We sure did hurt each other, didn’t we?”
He leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “That we did, but it’s the past, and it’s time to let it stay there and move forward.”
“Now you sound like Kara. She’s doesn’t even want to stay on as my researcher for any other true crime books or pieces I do for the network.”
He dropped his hands to the desk. “That’s shocking. She was more passionate about the Trinket Killer in the beginning than you were.”
“Her wife was the first victim,” Callie said. “She made it her life work, but now she’s found love again and wants to put this behind her. That said, I often wonder if the case hadn’t gone so cold would she be singing a different tune.”
He’d always liked Kara. She stayed in the background, never inserting herself into the thick of the investigation, and when she had an opinion about something, the way she presented it was always professional and in a way that never stepped on anyone’s toes.
But she always took Callie’s side in any argument, and even more so the moment she found out Callie and Jag were a couple. He thought Kara believed Callie could do better.
Perhaps she could.
“Or maybe you used her to the point she has nothing left to give.”
“Wow. You just want to keep on hurting me, don’t you?”
“Sorry,” he said. “Old habits die hard. But have you ever thought that Stephanie wasn’t killed by the Trinket Killer, but a copycat, who also killed Adam?” It was a weak theory but one that had legs.
When Adam had been released from county lockup, he’d disappeared. On the same day, a male body had been found. A few days later, the same day that Stephanie was killed, the male body turned out to be Adam.
Too many coincidences and in his line of work, those didn’t exist.
However, that theory was a stretch, and he knew it.
“Of course, I’ve thought about it,” Callie said. “Stephanie had called me a half dozen times the night she was murdered, but you and I were in the middle of getting engaged, so I ignored her calls. Her last message was that she had something important that she had to tell me and you. She sounded desperate and scared.”
“I know. I listened to the message a few times. Something definitely had her spooked, and the fact she wanted me there has always made me wonder what upset her.”
“Or what she knew. She was desperate to talk to me, but I blew her off.” Callie dabbed the corner of her right eye with her shirt, which showed off a little bit of her taut abs.
He shouldn’t notice, much less stare. He shifted his gaze upward.
“And then we both got called to a murder, only it was hers,” Callie said.
Jag stood and made his way around to the other side of the desk. He sat in the chair next to Callie and took her hands in his. A sizzle crawled across his skin in a blaze of glory. All of his muscles twitched and tightened in preparation for what they remembered having her in his arms meant.
Only it wasn’t going to happen.
Not like that.
He was only going to comfort her for a second.
“The one thing I’ve never actually gotten to say to you without us slinging mud at each other is how truly sorry I am about Stephanie.”
“Thank you for that.” She gave his hand a good squeeze and pulled away, leaning back in the chair. “I wasn’t thinking straight that night. Nor for days after. Hell, I’m not sure my head’s been on right since. Even Kara is tired of me and my obsession, but I can’t let it go. Stephanie was all the family I had left, and I let her down. I let her down big-time.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long puff of air. His heart hammered against his ribs. “No. You didn’t. But I did,” he admitted. “You were right. I fucked up, and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since. But for fuck’s sake, why do you have to write about it?” He slammed his fist on the desk. Two files jumped right off the surface and landed on the floor.
“I know you’ve read some of it, or you wouldn’t be this mad.”
“The title pissed me off enough that I didn’t have to open it.” He pushed back the chair and gripped the door handle. “I don’t know why I thought we could be nice to each other. But we can’t. So, I think it’s best if you go.”
“I can also tell you didn’t read the last chapter.” She gathered up her things and shoved them in her backpack. “I’ll save you the effort.” She stood and closed the gap between them. She stood so close he could feel the heat rising off her skin, coating his like a weighted blanket meant to protect, only he felt stifled and unable to move. “Stephanie knew the Trinket Killer.”
“Well, duh, we both came to that conclusion at the crime scene,” he said with a little more sarcasm than was warranted.
“The Trinket Killer has a type. Women with—”
“Tell me something I don’t know, or leave,” he said with a dark tone. One of the reasons he couldn’t sleep more than an hour or two was because his dreams were haunted with visions of someone murdering Callie. A nightmare he couldn’t escape until the Trinket Killer was caught.
Only the bastard had to strike again for that to happen, and it had been a year.
“The crime scene changed subtly three times over the course of twelve murders. The first time had been at murder six when he went from gold to silver trinkets. But I also found that other than my sister, those last victims also either wore contacts or glasses. The other victims didn’t.”
He opened his mouth but snapped it shut. It was an interesting point, one that had been overlooked and could speak to victimology.
“Another pattern I started to notice was height. While all relatively tall and slender, the first girls were all over five six, and some could be a little more curvy than others with larger breasts and all had implants, which was noted but tossed when the trinkets changed.”
“It didn’t appear relevant at the time, considering I had dead bodies piling up, and some had implants and others didn’t. All we knew was pretty young blond women who were professionals.”
“Well, the latter victims were closer to five foot five with small breasts, except my sister. My sister didn’t fit the current MO. So, either something changed with the Trinket Killer, or my sister stepped in the killer’s way.”
“Or both,” he said with an arched brow. “This is not earth-shattering information.”
She pulled out a piece of paper and shoved it in his face. “Do the math, something I didn’t even think about a year ago because it wouldn’t have made sense to.”
He held the timeline of victims and their deaths with all the information she just spewed in his hands. “What the fuck am I looking at, Callie?”
“Victim number six literally happened the night we ran into each other at Mcurdy’s. The first night we slept together.”
“I remember the night, not the day of the week or month.” He scratched the side of his head. “And, so?”
“I never told you this, but the Trinket Killer contacted me.”
He let go of the door handle. His jaw slacked open. “Jesus, Callie. You were fucking the lead detective on the case, and you just don’t think to tell him, oh, by the way, I spoke to the killer the other day.”
“It wasn’t like that, and I didn’t actually speak to the killer, but he left me a couple of notes. They are in the book in the last chapter.”
“He contacted you more than once?”
“The first time was after his ninth murder, and the note said: this one’s for him. At first, I didn’t know it was from the killer or what it even meant until he did it again with the next two murders.”
“You should have told me,” he said. “Those notes could have had prints.”
“I had an independent lab—”
“Save the justification. I’m not even sure why I’m standing here listening because I’m not a detective anymore. I’m the chief of police of a very small town where stopping someone for running a red light is the most thrilling part of my day.”
She set her purse on the desk and pulled out a plastic envelope. “Okay. Then this will be in your jurisdiction.”
“What is it?”
“A note from the Trinket Killer that was left in front of my door at the Saratoga Inn this morning.”