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BY SANDY LOYD
It’s all fun and games until someone dies.
Claire doesn’t miss her lying, cheating husband, but that doesn’t mean she killed him. Someone else committed the crime and framed her for it, and she prays it was anyone but her twin sister, who had motive and opportunity.
Jason wants to believe Claire, but a lie of omission destroys his trust in her. Is she truly innocent and deserving of his heart, or is she seducing him to ensure he defends her? With doubts assailing him, Jason is determined to solve the murder, even if it means hardening his heart and pushing Claire out of his life.
Shards of lies and betrayal can shatter anyone’s dreams, but her mistake just might destroy him.
BY SANDY LOYD
Claire Grayson Carter felt the warm sun on her face long before she dared open her eyes. When she finally did squint, brightness invaded and pain shot through her brain. Her eyelids snapped shut.
It took a while before she risked another attempt. This time she used a hand to block out the early morning light and opened her eyes hesitantly while she slowly sat up.
Moaning, she gripped the seat to still the subtle sway of the anchored sailboat. To fend off the offensive rays and to ease her queasy stomach, she bent over with her face in her lap.
“Oh God.” Would the pounding in her head ever stop?
Why did I drink so much? That and the question about where her husband might be were her two most pressing thoughts.
“I should’ve never had that last glass of champagne,” she muttered as another wave of queasiness passed. Please, Lord, Claire prayed, get me through this and I’ll never drink so much again.
With shaky hands, she grabbed hold of the railing until a flush of perspiration passed. Then she pulled herself to her feet, taking deep breaths. Once she felt confident to move again, she raked trembling fingers through her matted hair. Resting her hand on the back of her neck, she scanned the calm seas.
A fish jumped. Its plop distorted the clear water for seconds. Eventually, the ripples fanned out and left the blue-green mirror intact.
Though her nausea had receded, little grenades inside her head hadn’t. One right after the other exploded. She lifted her hand to rub the pain away, and saw red streaks along her arm.
Startled, she glanced down. Dark stains saturated her white silk shirt that hung unbuttoned. When she caught a coppery whiff, the distinct scent of blood, her scalp tingled.
Her heartbeat quickened as she took in the teakwood deck, where a couple of drained champagne bottles and two flutes were strewn about, along with the remnants of a gourmet meal.
She then focused on a red trail that led below. Another cold sensation washed over her despite the heat of the harsh sun. Her lungs seized, and dread rose up instead of air.
“Carl?” She tentatively followed the dark spots that increased in size down the stairs, to the galley and open salon below, where they just stopped in a small dried puddle in front of the stove. “Carl?”
She unlatched the door to the back berth. The bed was undisturbed, and the stowed nylon bags on the teakwood floor were exactly as she’d left them the evening before.
She pivoted and stumbled toward the V-berth as the forty-foot sloop lurched unexpectedly in the water. Gripping the door frame for support, Claire climbed on top of the bed’s rumpled sheets in the center of the tiny room, pushed open the front hatch, and poked her head out.
“Carl?” she yelled at empty space. The quiet stillness of the morning was amplified as her heartbeat pounded in her ears.
Hysteria set in as another wave of nausea rolled over her, lapping at her gut like the sea hitting the beach. She dropped the hatch and had to sit a moment on the edge of the bed until the feeling passed.
The jackhammers in her head weren’t helping matters any. Neither was the fact that she felt weak. The desire to exert any effort had completely deserted her. Through sheer willpower, she mustered forth every bit of energy she possessed and continued her search.
At the door of the head, she halted with her hand on the latch. “Stop! Get a grip.” The sharp verbal reprimand worked like a crutch, and gave her the courage to open the door. Yet when she did, her fear expanded at the sight of a bloody hunting knife on the sink in the small bathroom.
She staggered two steps back, far enough to grab the galley stove, and sank onto the settee cushions next to it. Her gaze landed on the table a few feet away. The chart she’d used the day before still lay open where she’d left it.
Breathe. First one breath, and then another. Breathe.
“Okay . . . okay. Think.” Claire peered unseeing out the window at the water beyond. Why couldn’t she remember?
A few tears escaped and trekked down the sides of her face. Her memory was a blank slate after she and Carl had made love last night. Worse, the events leading up to that moment were blurry.
“Did I drink so much that I blacked out?” After whispering the words, she glanced around the open room. Nothing seemed out of place. Except dried blood.
There had to be a plausible explanation. Maybe Carl had a nosebleed and then took the inflatable to shore for a newspaper, and he just hadn’t returned yet. He probably left her a message on her cell phone.
She jumped up from the coral-colored cushions, and avoiding the blood on the teak floor, rushed up the steps to the deck outside. Seconds later, she lurched toward the stern where her cell phone was stashed. Clutching the lifelines to keep from falling, she reached for her phone and brought it to life. No new messages were on the phone, either via text or on voice mail.
When her gaze flew to the stern, hope deflated as rapidly as an inner tube with holes when she spied their dinghy bobbing in the water. Her attention then moved to the port side. Their diving gear was situated in a straight line, exactly where they’d left it the day before.
She glanced out at the crystal-clear water and spent several minutes thoroughly searching the horizon and the area surrounding the boat. The sun beat on her neck. Birds screeched and fish jumped, disturbing the quiet and indicating a morning coming to life. But no Carl.
“Carl,” she yelled.
Nothing! Claire worked to stop a fresh flow of tears and to push past her immobilizing fear as questions consumed her.
She needed help. Someone had to help her find Carl. She wiped away tears with her blood-soaked shirt, ignoring the implications, and slumped down onto the padded bench to call the police.
Spying the dried blood on her arm, she halted with the phone in midair. What would she say? That she’d woken up alone, all covered in blood, and couldn’t remember?
With no other choice, she punched in 911, closed her eyes, and hoped for the best. “I’d like to report a missing person,” she said to the operator.
Sandy Loyd is an empty nester who now resides in Kentucky and writes full time. She’s published almost two dozen novels in several genres, including contemporary romance and romantic suspense.
Her latest, Shattered Dreams, a romantic suspense/mystery, is set in South Florida and the Florida Keys. Having lived in the area for ten years, Sandy wanted the reader to feel as if they were there experiencing some of the wonders of the tropics, including the awesome sailing. She also had a lot of fun to playing with the characters, especially the female characters, twins, who are opposites in demeanor and actions, even though they are identical. Their backstory, as to why they are so different today, is slowly revealed, while the mystery of who killed Carl Carter unraveled. Claire just prays it isn’t her twin, Crystal, just before she passes out in a déjà vu scene near the end of the book.
As with Shattered Dreams, Sandy strives to come up with fun characters, people you would love to call friends. We all know that friends have their baggage, and when we discover what makes them tick, we come to love them even more.
No matter the genre, she always tries to weave a warm love story into her work, providing enough twists and turns to entertain any reader. She feels she’s achieved that and more with her latest.
Links to Sandy’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon: Shattered Dreams
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Sandy is giving away copies of SHATTERED DREAMS to all readers March 22-24 so everyone’s a winner!! She’s also giving away a $15 B&N gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this Karen’s Killer Book Bench Blog. Thank you, Sandy, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!