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MURDER ON THE 4TH TEE
Sports Romantic Suspense
BY JUDITH LUKE
Women from a small New Hampshire town are disappearing. Some do return…as corpses.
Lexi Starre wants nothing more than to get back to golfing competition after recovering from a car crash. But there is something alluring about this new visiting photographer Donovan Thorne. His masterful persuasion makes her heart swell with feelings long gone. But when the body of a local woman is found on their golf course, she wonders why Donovan is working as a photographer for the Sheriff. And why is he helping to search their home and club house?
When an FBI informant goes missing, Special Agent Donovan Kelly is sent undercover as a professional photographer to find a possible serial killer. Getting close to pro-golfer Lexi Starre helps him meet and question residents without arousing suspicion. When clues point to the Starre Farm and the Starre Golf Course, he can’t eliminate the beautiful pro-golfer as a suspect. But when Lexi’s life is threatened, he uses every skill he has to save her. His unpredictable job leaves no time for romance, but could Lexi unknowingly hold the key to catching the killer and the key to capturing his heart?
Donovan Kelly hadn’t moved, sitting as still as the post behind him. For three days he sat at this same spot at the same time. The tripod held his most expensive camera, the lens sighted and waiting. His prey was in sight, just beyond the tall sea grass. Near a large red pine, the tall, water bird ruffled its feathers. He held the button of the extension impatiently. His heart tripped with excitement as he thought this would be his lucky day.
Until he heard her voice.
“Donovan?” And then loudly, “Donovan? Where are you?” His aunt’s sandals slapped across the white-tiled floor of the large gourmet kitchen.
As the bird scurried further into the vegetation, he stood with a sigh. Damn, he needed one more print for the current collection of wild-colored water birds.
“I’m here, Ruby.” He picked up his camera and walked around the corner of the deck. He entered the comfortable screened-in porch just as she raced out the open kitchen door.
Ruby was dressed for lunch with her volunteer-for-everything lady friends. Small in stature, she was a human dynamo, giving off energy even when she sat. Her hair was cropped short, the top spiked. Being part Irish, she had strawberry blonde hair, more pink than red, and the top of her head looked similar to the crown of the bird he was trying to film. Her knee-length, white skirt was overlaid with a billowing blue and green blouse to match the bejeweled sandals on her feet and the dangling turquoise earrings swinging from her ears.
A surprise to her middle-aged parents, Ruby’s brothers were ten years older than her. At fifty-five, she was often presumed to be much younger. Once while working on a particular job together, she and Donovan were mistaken as a couple, even though she had twenty years on him.
Her bright blue eyes were clear and direct, noticing everything around her. Those eyes bore into his. “Donovan, I’ve got a signal on my phone that someone is at the dock. Looks like a cabin cruiser.”
She carried a small handgun. Being an FBI Special Agent as he was, he knew she could handle herself. But she had become more protective since he returned a few months ago. A bullet chipped his femur. Although he was a foot taller and nearly a hundred pounds heavier, she insisted on being his human crutch, getting him from room to room, even to the shower. She nourished him with his favorite foods. He still walked with a limp and sometimes with a cane.
“Let’s look.” Entering the kitchen, he stared at the monitor. A click on the security camera enlarged the dock’s image and revealed the invader. “It’s Stan. One agent is walking with him, another is staying with the boat.”
She put her hands on her hips and tapped her sandal on the tiled floor. “If Stan is here, you know he isn’t bringing steak for your recovery. He wants you to go back to work.”
Donovan turned and with a grin teased. “Maybe he’s coming to take you out for lunch. You know he has a strong affection for you.”
Donovan chuckled as he returned to the porch. He loved Ruby. She was his last relative. They only had each other now. Ruby’s husband of many years, Marvin Redbird, had been an investment banker and did rather well. A sudden aneurysm took his life.
Marvin built this home for Ruby, a large two-story, classic southern style with many verandas and porches. The house was constructed on caissons to accommodate the occasional high water from the Cape Fear River. The gated driveway was long and curvy, cameras on every turn, privacy foremost on his mind. Marvin knew Ruby’s job could be dangerous, and when she wasn’t working out of their shared townhouse in Boston, he wanted her down time to be secure. Marvin understood she would not give up her job.
They traveled through the kitchen and out through the porch to wait for Stan to make his way on the boardwalk. Stanley Whitaker was his supervisor. He was also Ruby’s. Stan was working with Donovan when he was shot. The extra time he had off made him think the man felt responsible. He didn’t blame Stan, just a quirk of fate. Getting shot at was a risk of the job.
“I can’t go to lunch with him. I have things to do today,” she half protested. “Besides, I think you knew he was coming. Now he’s making me late.”
Donovan’s dark eyes softened with her protest and he smiled. “Ruby, you can attend your luncheon. You should leave before he arrives. I’ll tell him you aren’t here.”
“No,” she huffed. “I’m staying to see what odious job he has for you. I’m sure that’s why he’s here.” She turned and tapped in a message on her phone.
They watched their boss tread up the stairs to the deck. His accompanying agent, securing a rolling tote, stayed on the deck facing the river. When Stan arrived at the door to the screened porch, she opened the door and put on her southern lady hospitality. “Stan, I thought it was you.”
Stan entered and gave her a warm hug. He slid his hands down her arms to her elbows and gently set her away from him. “You get prettier every time I see you.”
“Yes, my dear, and you get younger.” She tapped his cheek and chuckled. “I’ll pour some iced tea.”
As her sandals tattooed across the kitchen, Donovan smiled, knowing in the past they were not only a young team but lovers. The residual spark between them couldn’t be hidden. Stan was fifty-six and ready to retire. He shared his thoughts with Donovan when he came to visit him in the hospital. Stan wondered aloud what he would do with himself if he did retire. He wasn’t a hobby man.
Stan was slightly built, fit, and of average height. His hair was graying and thinning on top. Dark observant eyes framed classically handsome features. His engaging personality with lots of humor allowed him to work in different fields as an undercover agent. Usually, he dressed in a navy blazer and loafers. On this day he wore lightweight, black running pants and matching shirt. White running shoes gave him a casual look.
Donovan took a seat at the wicker table and motioned for Stan to do the same. Stan gave him a once over.
“Ready to get back to work?” Stan folded his hands on the glass top. “Actually, I may need Ruby, too.”
“Need me for what?” She placed a tray with colorful glasses filled with iced tea on the glass table top. She carried one glass out to the waiting agent. Inside, she sat opposite Stan. She took an iced tea, added sugar, and placed it on a napkin in front of her. “So?”
Stan grinned at her with affection. “Donovan has a perfect cover for an assignment, his photography. We want to infiltrate a southern New Hampshire town called Riverview. Three women have gone missing in the past three years. Never found.” He paused sipping the tea before he continued.
“Three others were murdered just this year. Two were from your home base of Boston. One was discovered in the woods by a hunter. She came to live with her sick mother to help out and took a job at a pharmacy. Another was tangled in the branches of the Contoocook River at the bottom of the waterfall. She moved there with a friend to start a small café. Another local woman was found floating in the water near the town park. All were killed with blunt force trauma to the back of the head. We have no weapon.”
Ruby fingered the water on her iced tea glass. “Sounds like a serial killer.”
Stan sipped the tea. “Some restraining marks on her wrists. Other than the head trauma, there were no large bruises or defensive wounds.” His lips thinned and his whole demeanor grew in severity. “We have a missing informant who has been living there for a year. Do you remember Avis Jones?”
Donovan stiffened. “Avis? She’s missing?”
Judith Luke lives in Florida with her husband and canine administrator, Toby. In between golf and MahJongg, she now has time to write. She called Colorado home for most of her adult life. With a Masters in English and Education from the University of Colorado Denver, she was privileged to teach reading and writing in wonderful farm communities. When she bought two horses for her children to ride, she didn’t realize it would grow to a herd of registered Paint horses, lessons for herself, and training for her horses, not to mention lots of travel to shows. In between teaching, children, and horses, she wrote. Now with lots of time on her hands she has become a serious writer. Her current book MURDER ON THE 4THTEE is available. She is currently working on a romantic suspense that takes place in southeastern Wyoming with hunky cowboys, horses, and second chances.
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