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By the Numbers Book 11
BY LEEANN BETTS
Carly looks forward to a vacation when Mike is hired to assist a rancher family in western Colorado catalogue their various mineral rights following the discovery of a large copper field on their property. However, Carly soon learns that the real wealth—and the real danger—aren’t below ground. Someone is out to keep a secret bigger and more profitable than copper.
And they’re willing to kill for it.
Wednesday, November 18
Carly gritted her teeth. Would they never get off this plane and begin their working vacation? Well, working for husband Mike, vacation for her. The door of the jet stood wide open, the ramp waiting for their exit, but nobody was moving.
She should have insisted on sitting closer to the front. But Frugal Mike—cheap to some—insisted they didn’t need to spend the extra few bucks to choose their seat. And besides, everybody knew sitting nearer to the back of the plane was safer in the event of an airborne incident.
Who was he kidding? No in-the-air event was likely to have a good outcome.
At which point, she’d reminded him that flying was safer than driving a car.
Not true of Bear Cove, of course, since it had no airport and only a couple hundred vehicles. Accidents were few and far between, and even more rare was a fatality.
Despite her best arguments, they occupied the seats three rows from the back.
Finally, the illuminated seatbelt sign went dark, and people filled the aisle, pulling all manner of carry-on items down, handing them along the line to their owner, or setting them on their seats. Inch by inch, minute by minute, the hundred and fifty or so passengers ahead of them filed out.
When she thought she would scream, Mike stood, retrieved their items, and smiled at her. “Our turn. Hurry up. What’s taking you so long?”
Then down the aisle he went, smiling and nodding like the life of the party he was, as though he owned the entire airline.
She sighed. Vacation. Vacation. If the next seven days were anything like this flight, she’d return home more tense than she left.
And she left Bear Cove uptight for a good reason. Their return flight was booked for the evening of the day before Thanksgiving. Then they had the four-hour drive from Bangor to get home. And she was hosting dinner. Sure, Denise was cooking the turkey, and Sarah volunteered to look after desserts, but seriously? Who knew what mischief Doc the cat would get into in their absence? They might return to find he’d shredded the sofa or chucked up hairballs all over the dining room table.
Of course, Mike poo-pooed her worries, saying everything would be fine. And he was probably right. Didn’t stop her from fretting, however.
She followed her husband out of the plane and up the jetway, glad he took stewardship of their small carry-on cases. Especially the one with the wonky wheel. As he stopped to right the bag, she chuckled. If it was up to her, she’d toss it in the trash and get a new one.
Not Frugal Mike, though.
Welcome to Denver.
No matter how much she traveled, she never tired of that rush of excitement at being in a new place. Her first time in the Mile High City, so named for its altitude. She recalled her recent research that advised ‘lowlanders’—folks from sea level—to be sure they drank lots of water and limited physical activity for the first few days. Well, flying and water didn’t mix—at least, not for her. She’d make up for it now, though.
She dug her phone from her purse. “Mike, hold up. I want to get a picture of you under the welcome sign.”
His brow pulled down but he paused and posed, and she snapped the picture. Nope, that wouldn’t do. A stranger had inserted himself into her keepsake photo. She held up a hand as Mike turned to continue his trek. “Hold on a minute. Let me try that again.”
But the man seemed intent on remaining right where he was. She caught his eye and gestured with her phone toward where Mike stood and then indicated for him to move in the opposite direction, but he either didn’t get the message, or didn’t speak Carly-ese.
Maybe a different angle. She took a couple of steps to the left. Nope, the sun through the glass meant Mike would be in shadow. Perhaps the other direction? The stranger was now more in the frame than ever.
Well, it had to be done. “Excuse me, sir? Could you move aside while I snap this photo? Then you can stand wherever you like.”
In response, the intruder shifted a millimeter to his left and broke eye contact with her.
She clamped her jaw tight. Fine. At this rate, she’d need dental work before getting back on the plane next week. “Mike, let’s go. I’ll simply crop him out of the picture.”
And out of our lives, I hope.
Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. Missing Deposits is the 11th title in her cozy mystery series, and together she and Donna have published more than 30 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Christian Authors Network, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories, and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.
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