Title: True Gold
Author: Michelle Pace
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Mystery
Cover Designer: Michelle Preast
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2019
Growing up in True, Alaska, the only truth I knew was that Delilah Campbell was an arrogant pain in my ass. She was also my everything, and still haunts my every waking moment.
I don’t have a single memory that doesn’t include Lie, and I can still taste her, even though Alaska’s no longer big enough for the both of us. After our savage breakup, I fled, chasing my dream and becoming a decorated Green Beret. Ten years later, one bad jump propelled me straight from Special Forces back home, guiding rich idiots into the wilderness, where I struggle to keep them from getting themselves killed. It’s not the life I planned, but at least I’m not behind a desk somewhere.
Then one night, my cell rings, shattering my peaceful existence.
“Connor,” I’d recognize her voice anywhere, and it’s like I’m sixteen again, crazy in love and cocky as hell after finding all those gold bars everyone’s been searching for since before we were even born.
I want to tell her to go to hell and throw my phone in the river, but it seems Delilah’s visceral grip on me is permanent.
“It’s mom. She’s missing. I need your help….”
Raised in small town Iowa, Michelle Pace is an international best-selling, multi-genre author. After studying theater and vocal music and directing and performing in numerous productions, Michelle went on to earn degrees in both liberal arts and nursing.
Determined to avoid shoveling snow, she relocated to the Lone Star State with her husband, author L.G. Pace III. Michelle is a mother of three, and she enjoys traveling, live music, and is an enthusiastic amateur beer connoisseur.
Still most at home while entertaining an audience, her mission is to write gripping fiction, not fairy tales.
“This is new.” I reach out to brush her tiny strap aside for a better look at the ink. The tattoo is an antique compass rose, the figure that displays the orientation of the cardinal directions on old maps. The design is actually really nice; a couple of roses and some leaves give the outer circle a wreath-like quality.
“Not really. I got it a long time ago.” Her voice is husky as my fingertip glides across her silky skin. Gooseflesh appears on her upper arm, and that gives me a thrill. “When I was like…twenty… maybe twenty-one.”
She turns around, and her hip brushes against the front of my zipper. I’d say the contact made me hard, but I was halfway there watching her from outside. She looks up at me, and though she’s had to crane her neck to meet my eyes since we were in middle school, it’s always felt as if she were the one looking down on me.
“I was dating the tattoo artist. I guess you could call it ‘dating.’” Her tiny eye roll implies it wasn’t one of her finer moments.
I tilt my head, my blood pumping something fierce between my jealousy at the idea that anyone else has ever touched her and her sheer nearness in this moment. “Oh yeah?”
She nods, and a macabre smile flits across her face. “He was tall. And a major know-it-all. Totally my type.”
I feel an appreciative smile working at my lips.
“Why didn’t you marry him?” It’s a bold and weighty statement and her mouth drops open. She searches me, and for a rare, candid moment, I allow it.
“He was mean.” I see something flicker behind those liquid amber eyes.
“Sounds like a match made in heaven.” My voice is gruff, but I’m glad I spoke the truth. I’m even gladder for how solidly the blow lands, based on the way her perfect bow of a mouth turns down at the edges. In a surprising move, she lifts herself easily onto the counter so she’s sitting on it, and I struggle to keep my eyes off of her well-defined arms and that gravity-defying chest. “This doesn’t have to be ugly, Connor. Let’s have a beer. Catch up. Talk about old times.”
I say nothing, and her lips form a slanted smile. “We did have some good times, didn’t we?”
That’s for fucking sure.
I could step between her legs right now. Slip her panties aside and bury myself in her tight, wet heat. It would be as easy as breathing, and three-quarters of me is ready to take the easy route. I move to the far cabinets away from her, putting temptation at arm’s length. From there, I have an even better view, so I force myself to look away, grabbing a beer from the fridge. “No.”
“No we didn’t have good times, or no we can’t talk about them?” She sounds entertained.
I crack my beer and lock eyes with her. “We’re not talking about us.”
She’s completely unreadable now, and that puts me on edge. “Why not?”
I lean against the cabinet, sipping from my beer. “Because I’m not done being mad at you.”
She blasts an incredulous laugh and when I don’t respond in kind, her laughter dies, and she gives me another thorough once-over.
“You’re mad at me? You’ve got to be kidding.”
I tip back my can in response.
She lets out a sardonic chuckle, but she’s obviously pissed. “That’s rich.”
I wait for her to convince me that I shouldn’t hate her. She seems to be waiting on something too. Her smile, the one that isn’t really a smile at all, fades.
“You promised me, Connor. You promised we’d always be friends.” It’s nearly imperceptible, but her lip quivers. Most people wouldn’t have noticed, but most people aren’t me.
I wrinkle my brow, squinting at her in amazement. “You were very clear, Lie. You said I should never contact you again. How’d you put it? Oh, yeah. You said, ‘Have a nice life.’”
Her shining eyes narrow into dangerous slits. Then, in a classic Lilah move, she wipes her expression blank, closing the shutters, blocking out any hope of peeping inside. “Fair enough.”
I should be glad we’re on the same page. That we’re slamming the door on all of that shit. Instead, I want to roar. Frustrated, I chug my beer. By the time I’m done, she’s chewing on her bottom lip. It’s a quirk of hers that I’ve always found sexy as hell, so it’s like a metaphorical kick in the nuts.
“I’m staying in my old room.” She’s either blushing, or she’s still coming down from the crisp night air. “Take any of the other beds you like.”
My treacherous mind recalls the handful of times I snuck in her bedroom window, and I know exactly which bed I want to slip into. I hurry to grab my bag from where I’d dropped it in the entryway. I’m startled when she speaks again.
“Yeah?” I turn, hopeful that I’ve finally gotten through her armor in some minute way. Maybe she’ll cry. Crying would be excellent.
“Thank you.” Her earnest eyes tug at my worn and frayed heartstrings. “For coming to help me.”
I drop my bags and stride toward her. Instead of flinching away, she leans forward in anticipation. Though we don’t touch, we still clash like two storm fronts, me dark and ominous, her all lightning and show. I’m close enough to kiss her, and she bats those long lashes, which used to be my undoing. The challenge in her smoldering gaze elicits a deep ache in my groin. I grip the counter top on either side of her thighs until my knuckles turn white.
“I’m not here for you,” I growl.