By Chris Grover
Also available at Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble
Where’s Michelle is a story about a woman whose child disappears in the chaos of a traffic accident.
American Julie Leighton knew almost nothing about her husband, other than the fact he was English. Then Vic was killed, apparently the victim of a mugger, while he was away from Boston on a business trip. A short time later, Julie received a call from a man who claimed to be her father-in-law, inviting Julie and her nine-year old daughter, Michelle, to visit him and his wife in England.
Shortly after they arrive at London's Heathrow Airport, the trip becomes a nightmare. The hotel shuttle bus is involved in a traffic accident, and Julie wakes up in hospital to find Michelle has vanished.
As Julie is leaving the hospital in search of her daughter, she runs into Simon Winter. Simon was also on the bus and, like Julie, sustained a few minor injuries in the accident. He has no idea what happened to Michelle, but offers to help Julie find her.
Julie accepts, unaware Simon is posing as a businessman and fellow traveler to gain her confidence. He’s actually Detective Inspector Simon Winter, a member of a special security unit whose job is to protect members of the British government from harm. They recently received a tip Julie's late husband was blackmailing a prominent British politician, and that Julie intends to pick up where Vic left off.
Whether it’s true or not, it needs to be checked out, and Simon’s had Julie under surveillance from the moment her plane landed.
Julie Leighton awoke with a pounding headache and the feeling she'd been run over by a truck. Even her eyes hurt. All she could see was a strange, shimmering, iridescent haze which seemed to increase and diminish in size as it wavered back and forth.
She groaned and closed her eyes. Her fault for drinking wine with her dinner on the plane. Wine gave her a headache. Flying gave her a headache. She hadn't slept properly in weeks and lack of sleep always gave her a headache as well.
A couple of hours in bed, and she would feel better. Michelle would understand...
“How are we feeling, Mrs. Leighton?”
The brisk, unmistakably British voice jerked Julie back to consciousness.
“Lousy.” She struggled to sit up while wondering what the maid was doing in her room. Her friend and lawyer, Yvonne Martineau, raved about the hospitality of British hotels, but this was ridiculous.
“Yes, it does. So, will you please—?”
“Just try to relax.” The light pressure of a cool hand on her forehead came as a complete shock. Julie forced her eyes open and tried again to sit up. She could see just fine now, but the smell of antiseptic coupled with bright overhead lights and a uniformed nurse standing by the bed made it clear she was in a hospital rather than a hotel. She experienced a rush of panic.
“What am I doing here? Where is my daughter? What happened?” She glanced at the IV in her right hand, then around the partially curtained cubicle. “Am I sick or what?”
The blonde-haired nurse drew the curtains completely around the bed. “You don't remember?”
Julie frowned and slumped back against the pillows. The throbbing in her head made it difficult to think. Her name was Julie Leighton. She and her daughter, Michelle, lived in Boston, and last night they’d flown to England for a vacation.
She clearly remembered arriving at Heathrow Airport and getting on the hotel bus. Traffic into London had been slow, stop and go for miles. She'd been completed absorbed in her book when a coat fell from the overhead rack. As she stood up to put it back, a truck had almost side-swept the bus, then tried to cut in front of the vehicle ahead.
She vaguely recalled the screech of brakes and being thrown forward...the sound of someone screaming...then...then nothing!
“There was an accident.” She pushed back a strand of hair from her face. “The bus driver wasn't able to stop in time.”
“Very good. You do remember.”
As the nurse smiled and started to move away, a tremor of fear raced through Julie's body. She remembered enough to realize she'd been thrown off balance and knocked out cold, but what about Michelle?
Grabbing the side-rail of the bed with her free hand, she finally managed to pull herself into a sitting position. “Where is my daughter? Was she hurt?”
“Calm down or you'll disconnect your IV.” The nurse checked to make sure the needle was in place. “Your daughter was with you on the bus?”
“Of course she was with me. Will you please find out if she's somewhere here in the hospital?”
“Certainly. As soon as I finish what I'm doing here.” The nurse reached for Julie's other wrist and took her pulse. “In the meantime, try not to worry, Mrs. Leighton. The doctor will be with you shortly.”
The only thing Julie was worried about was Michelle. Was she okay? Or like Vic, was she-- Unable to complete the terrifying thought she pulled free of the nurse's grasp. “Never mind me. I need to find my daughter. I have to know if she's hurt. How long have I been here?”
The nurse recaptured Julie’s wrist. “Please, you really must try to be sensible and calm down. You're only making things worse for yourself. Your daughter can't be far away.”
Julie was in no mood to be sensible. She had to find Michelle. Now! She tried to push the nurse away and get off the bed, but all she succeeded in doing was to increase the pounding in her head. The room gave a dizzying tilt, and she pressed her fingers hard against her temples. “Please, help me.” She grasped the nurse’s hand. “I've got to find Michelle.”
“We will, don't worry.” The nurse settled Julie back on the bed. “I have a daughter myself, so I can imagine what you're going through. How old is Michelle?”
“Nine. She's wearing blue jeans and a pink tee-shirt, and she has long dark hair like mine.” She hesitated, then forced herself to ask the question uppermost in her mind. “Was it a...a very bad accident?”
Without A Clue
by Chris Grover
by Chris Grover
TRS Capa Award Nominee
Best Romantic Suspense!
Best Romantic Suspense!
Without A Clue
by Chris Grover
by Chris Grover
Private investigator, Luc Dupré, along with the police, insist the diary was destroyed in the explosion. Paula isn't convinced. No trace of either the diary or Eric's briefcase was found in the rubble, and she takes it to mean the diary was stolen. The diary wasn't insured and with the bank still owed half a million dollars, Paula cannot sit idly by and watch her beloved grandfather forced into bankruptcy.
Following a mysterious phone call and a series of cryptic postcards, Paula returns to Paris to hear a rumor that the diary is being offered for sale by secret auction. She also finds out that the diary once belonged to Luc's family. When her relationship with Luc takes a sudden change from business to personal, she's positive he's using her and his job to get it back.
For dinner, they went to a tiny Italian restaurant on the Right Bank, not far from l'Opéra, where Luc held her hand and they drank dark red Italian wine to go with their pizza. The candlelight and the Neapolitan music playing softly in the background were overwhelmingly romantic, but Paula's nerves were in knots. She wanted to snatch her hand out of Luc's grasp, tell him she'd found proof of what he was up to, and then leave. But since she couldn't explain how she'd come by that proof, she refilled her glass with wine and took a very large sip.
Instead of pastry for dessert, they decided on expresso and small glasses of Strega. After the waiter moved away from their table, Luc leaned back in his chair, his dark eyes half-closed and unreadable in the dim light.
She watched him across the narrow table. He'd been fine during dinner, now he appeared tense, on edge. Recalling the click she'd heard while in the den, she wondered if he knew she'd searched his apartment. She'd thought he was still asleep when she went back into the bedroom, but then she'd thought a lot of things about Luc that weren't true. She'd even been naïve enough to think he was taking care of her interests. "You look very serious. Is something wrong?"
He moved his hand so their fingers were firmly interlaced. "Don't go back to Montreal. Stay here with me."
As in forever? "Stay here?" Paula repeated, positive she'd misunderstood. "I don't understand. Why would you want me to stay here?"
"I want you to live here with me."
"With you?" She had no idea if she was being proposed to or propositioned. Or if it was all part of the plan to divert her attention while he made off with the diary. She forced a smile. "Nice idea, but it's out of the question. I have too many responsibilities at home I can't ignore. For one thing, there's my job. My grandfather depends on me to run the bookstore. Anyway—"
"You think once this business with the diary is concluded, I will tell you adieu?" He grabbed the sugar bowl, dumped half the contents in his coffee and gave the resultant mess a vicious stir. "Or did what happen between us mean nothing more to you than a vacation adventure? Something to tell your friends about when you return home."
Although afraid that was how Luc viewed their lovemaking, Paula swallowed her feelings of hurt and forced her mind back, beyond what she'd found in his den to what they'd shared earlier. Luc's betrayal over the diary didn't alter the fact there were strong feelings between them. She loved him, and he'd said he loved her. But that was as far as it could ever go. Asking her to stay meant nothing. In fact, his edgy attitude was undoubtedly frustration with a situation he knew to be hopeless. For her, the situation had been hopeless even before she'd found the file and the postcards in his den.
"So, which is it?"
"Neither, actually." She looked at him for a moment, then shrugged and lowered her gaze. "My grandfather is too old for radical change, and I'm all he has left. I can't turn my back on him. I can't, and I won't." To her annoyance, her eyes filled with tears, and she reached blindly for the paper napkin in her lap. "So, please, don't ask me to make impossible choices."
"I would never do that." He took the crumpled napkin from her hand and gently blotted her tears. "But if things were different, would you want to stay here with me?"
"If things were different? But they're not, are they? Until the situation with the diary is resolved, I don't know what I want. Except—"
I know I won't sit quietly by and allow you to force my grandfather into bankruptcy.
"I just wish whoever is arranging this auction would get on with it," she finished with a sigh.
"And when it is, I hope you will talk to your grandfather. Tell him about us. He loves you, so he may be more understanding than you think."
Us? She picked up a teaspoon and added sugar to her own coffee. "He's a wonderful and very special man. When Eric and I were very young, our parents were killed in a boating accident. My mother had no family they knew of, so Gramps and Grandma brought us up. He needs me, Luc. Running the store by himself is just too difficult. Then there's the house. It's big, but he's lived there all his life, and he wouldn't want to move. We have a housekeeper, but it's not the same. I can't live here. Don't you see that?"
"No, I do not see that." He reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I realize you love your grandfather and that you don't want to hurt him. But shouldn't he be allowed to speak for himself? If he is as wonderful as you say, he will want you to be happy. Montreal is not the end of the earth. It's only a few hours away by air. You can see him whenever you wish."
Paula was beginning to wish she'd told Luc a simple no rather than bother with explanations and excuses. "You're right, he would never stand in the way of my happiness. But it's not that easy. And it's not only the bookstore and the house. There are other complications that would be difficult if not impossible to arrange. So, unless you would like to give up your business and move to Montreal, can we please drop this?"
"Nothing is impossible if it's what you really want," he countered, his thumb caressing the back of her hand as he leaned forward. "I know you won't turn your back on your responsibilities. And I'm not asking you to do that. But talk to your grandfather. I'm sure a way can be found."
"You could move to Montreal."
"I could, but I couldn't operate my business from there. What I do is very specialized and I doubt if there would be that much call for my services in Canada. I would have to find another occupation."
She plastered another phony smile on her face. "They're always looking for people to stock the shelves in supermarkets. It only pays minimum wage—"
"No matter. If that is the only way, then I will do it."
With Luc determined to brush away any and all obstacles, Paula searched her mind for a way to make him back off without admitting she knew all about his dirty little schemes and plans. About how she'd found the postcards, and that she'd also found confirmation of what she'd learned from de Valois.
Oddly enough what she now knew about Luc made her more sad than angry. Maybe he really did love her, but he loved possessions more and there was nothing she could say or do to change his mind. All the talking in the world wouldn't change the fact he was a liar and a cheat. And talking wouldn't pay back the half million dollars her grandfather owed the bank. In the absence of cold hard cash, only bankruptcy and the sale of the bookstore would satisfy the bank. The bookstore was her grandfather's pride and joy. No way would she stand idly by and allow him to give it up.
Keeping the smile in place, she said, "I wish there was a way, I really do. But there isn't. Granddad and I have certain obligations we must meet, and that's fact, not an excuse."
"In other words, he borrowed the money to buy the diary?"
"Every last penny. It seemed like a good idea at the time. If things had worked out, he would have turned a very handsome profit."
"If Philippe de Valois is able to get the diary back, perhaps he still could."
"How? The only way Philippe will get the diary back is if he pays for it." She sighed, then picked up the glass of Strega and took a tiny sip of the strong, sweet Italian liqueur. "Life would be a snap if it wasn't for all the lousy ifs."
"But if it wasn't for the diary, we wouldn't have met."
"And if we hadn't met, you could have found yourself a nice French girl to have fun with."
"Is that what you think I want. Just someone to have fun with?"
"I have no idea what you want."
"I want you."
Paula's hand trembled slightly as she put down the glass. "Too bad I'm not available."
"Then I'll wait until you are."
She knew Luc was only talking for the sake of talking, and she wondered why he didn't give up. He didn't want a future with her; he was obsessed with restoring his precious family's wretched collection. And if that necessitated pushing an old man into bankruptcy, then presumably that was just too damn bad. "It could be a very long wait."
"Maybe so. But this is the twenty-first century. Between the phone and the airlines, we would be able to manage."
"I don’t understand why you would even want to bother with a long distance arrangement where there's no end in sight. It could take years for us to pay off the bank."
"So you said. If it takes too long, I will have to apply for that job in the supermarket."
"No." He smiled as he took her hand and pressed a kiss in the very center of her palm, then carefully closed her fingers over it. "Je t'aime, chérie. Je t'aimerai pour toujours. Pour toute ma vie."
Or until he got his hands on the diary?
Seeing Is Believing
by Chris Grover
by Chris Grover
TRS Capa Award Nominee
Best Romantic Suspense!
Best Romantic Suspense!
Liz believes someone is trying to frame her. She has no idea who, and she has no idea why. But if she doesn't figure things out really fast, she could find herself on trial for murder...Genres: Mystery / Detective
The custody sergeant asked if there was anyone she wanted informed of her arrest, but Liz shook her head. Since coming to live in England, she'd been too busy with the business and the house to spend much time socializing. Now, with Tony dead, except for his Uncle Rod and his best friend, Ian, there was no one she knew well enough to call.
Ian would have been her first choice. Ian was a businessman, the kind who got things straightened out in no time flat. But Ian was out of town at a family wedding, and there was no way she could even think of calling on Rod Stanton for help. She'd been arrested for murdering his sister's son for heaven's sake.
The only other person was her stepfather, and she didn't want to alarm him unnecessarily. Anyway, Joe was in Vegas, thousands of miles away. There was nothing he could do except worry.
She suddenly remembered Sylvie.
"On second thoughts, could you call my office in Medlow Green? Ask to speak to Sylvie Pratt and tell her where I am."
"You don't wish to call a solicitor?"
"I don't need one. I haven't done anything wrong."
"In these circumstances, I really think you should consider calling one," the arresting officer put in firmly.
Surprised by the man's show of concern, she spared him a brief sideways glance. "Sorry, but I don't. Unlike most Americans, I do not suffer from paranoia."
"DS Wrayford! Do you mind?" the custody sergeant interjected. "I'm quite capable of advising the prisoner as to her rights. I'm also quite capable of doing my job. I don’t need your assistance, thank you very much."
Once the custody sergeant had finished with her, Liz was taken to a room and told to stand on a paper mat where she was subjected to the humiliation of being undressed and searched by a couple of very efficient tight-lipped female officers. When they were through, each article of her clothing was put into a separate brown paper evidence bag.
Doing her desperate best to ignore the fact she was completely naked, she watched as the officers sealed the bags and attached exhibit labels. By concentrating all her attention on one of the bags, she managed to control the urge to shiver. Hopefully, they would give her something to wear. And soon. It had been warm enough outside, but the temperature in the room felt close to freezing.
A second paper mat was produced for them to take her hair combings. When this was complete, the mat was rolled up, bagged and labeled for forensic examination in the same manner as her clothes.
"Here. Put these on." One of the officers handed Liz a deep blue paper jumpsuit and matching slippers. "If you're cold, say so and I'll find you a blanket."
"This will be fine." Liz quickly scrambled into the suit and closed the front fastenings. "What happens next?" she asked.
"The officers are still making enquiries, so I imagine it will be some time before you can be interviewed."
"Any idea how long?"
"Depends." The younger of the two officers shrugged. "We're going to put you in a cell for now. When they're ready to talk, someone will come and get you."
As the two officers left the cell and closed the door behind them, Liz sat down on the dark blue padded plastic bench that doubled as a bed and stared fixedly at the pale cream walls.
Tony was dead. Stone cold, one hundred per cent dead. She would never talk to him again, never get mad at him again. And never ever see him again.
Her vision blurred as the tears rolled down her face. It wasn't fair! How in hell could she manage without Tony? He was her best friend and her business partner, and for a while, at the beginning, she'd hoped it could be more. For sure, Tony had driven her crazy at times. But Tony had been...Tony. Warm, lovable, irresponsible, with an insatiable curiosity that had almost certainly caused his death.
And the stupid cops actually thought she'd killed him!
Leaving the bench, she grabbed a handful of toilet tissue and scrubbed it roughly over her face, almost relishing the harsh scratchy feel of the cheap paper against her skin.
She needed to calm down, and she needed to think. The one thing she could not afford to do was allow herself to panic.
She hadn't done anything wrong.
From what she'd been told, she'd been taken into custody on suspicion of murder, pending further investigations. She hadn't actually been charged with anything. She knew the US Embassy would be informed of her situation because the desk sergeant had said so. He'd also said the Embassy wouldn't do anything unless she specifically asked for their help. Which was just as well. She didn't want her stepfather involved in this craziness unless it became absolutely necessary. Although if the British police were on the ball and checked with the FBI...
Cool mysteries and hot romance - http://www.chrisgrover.cahttps://www.facebook.com/chris.grover.71