Released: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
The Butcher is a ghost, killing all over Australia for years, and now he’s made the coastal city of Harbour Bay his hunting ground. Up against a brick wall, Matt has no choice but to contact the only surviving witness-seventeen-year-old Hallie Walker. But Hallie has been in a psychological rehabilitation centre since the double murder five years ago, and Matt needs help.
Gifted psychologist Natalie Miller sees a lot of herself in Hallie and vows to help her heal.
Natalie is no stranger to a violent past, and is usually wary of men. She is stunned by her response to the hot detective, and becomes determined to not only see Hallie released-as she believes the girl has been misdiagnosed-but to help Matt solve this unsolvable case.
Matt and Natalie face danger at every turn, but can’t fight the powerful attraction between them.
Natalie thinks her only problem is a deranged ex-boyfriend, but is it possible she’s attracted the attention of The Butcher? When the serial killer strikes again, they know he’s close, and Matt is frantic to catch him…because now he has more than ever to lose.
Matt races against time to stop the bloody rampage, and Natalie might hold the key to breaking the case. But will they survive with their lives and hearts intact…
And can they save Hallie from the prison of her own mind?
Natalie parallel parked beside Matt’s police issued Holden Commodore outside a small seventies era building on Alcott. An obscure sign indicated it was Tanner’s Bar and Grill. She had never heard of it and wouldn’t have known it was there if she hadn’t been directly in front of it.
She met Matt on the sidewalk and he opened the door for her. Natalie stepped through the opening and stopped to take in her surroundings. Tanner’s wasn’t going to make any reviews in the Harbour Bay Tribute. A bar was situated to the left and several flat screen TVs hung on the wall, showing various sporting events. An ATM was wedged between two doors which she assumed were the toilets from the stick figure images on each door. The right side of the room was lined with several booths and a few two seater tables were placed sporadically around the floor for those not wishing to sit at a booth or the bar.
Despite the mid-day hour, the bar was packed with men in uniform. Tanner’s was apparently a cop’s hangout which explained why she’d never heard of it. Not that she went out regularly but she often heard about the restaurants in town in the elevator on the way to her office and filed away the names of the ones that received good reviews for when she didn’t feel up to microwaving and could pick up dinner on the way home.
“We can go somewhere else if you’d like,” Matt said as she took in the bar.
Natalie turned to him and smiled. “No, this is fine. Let’s get a booth.”
She followed Matt towards the back of the bar to one of the last remaining booths. He nodded to several people as he passed and they reciprocated, giving her a quick scrutinising look before turning back to their drinks and sporting events.
Soft music played on hidden speakers before being drowned in a cheer that rose from the men milling around the bar. Natalie stumbled and let out a sound as she started to fall. Matt adroitly spun around and caught her easily before she fell to the rough, sticky floor.
“Are you all right?” he asked and she shivered, the heat of his hands on her body causing her a delicious chill.
Natalie nodded and looked down at her bare foot then back a few paces to where her blue pump—that matched her blouse—remained. Matt followed her gaze then bent to pick up her heel which had been glued to the floor by something she stepped in. He glanced at her and gave her a sheepish smile before he lifted her leg gently. Natalie caught hold of his shoulder to keep her balance as, like Prince Charming, he slipped the shoe on her foot.
Natalie felt the burn of his hand on her leg and desperately wanted him to slide his hand under her skirt. Her breath caught in her throat as her mind was overrun by erotic thoughts. She blinked to clear her vision and blushed when he looked at her questioningly.
He smiled, the dimple in his cheek showing. How she wanted to kiss that dimple, the man and his entire body.
“You’re welcome. Take a seat. I’ll go order. What would you like?”
Natalie slipped into the nearest booth, all the while chastising herself and her wayward thoughts. She was no Cinderella and while this man was delicious, he was not someone she could fool around with. Could she?
Natalie grabbed the folded laminated menu from where it had been propped up between the salt and pepper shakers and perused the list while silently willing her heart to quit beating so fast.
“Chicken burger with fries and tomato sauce,” she told him.
“No salad?” he joked.
“I already have a round figure with meat on my bones so I doubt it would matter much,” she muttered, then glanced up to find him staring at her in surprise. “Sorry. Something one of my patients said.”
He gave her a slow once over that made her blood boil and she let out a breath.
“You don’t have to worry. It’s all in the right places,” Matt told her. “What would you like to drink?”
She forced herself to speak. “House wine will be fine.”
One drink certainly wasn’t going to affect her mental capacity and if she was survive the next hour or so with him on the opposite side of the booth she would need some fortification.
“I’ll be right back.”
Matt moved off to the bar. She watched him speak with a few people he knew for a moment, then retrieved the file out of her tote bag and placed it on the table, cautious of wet spots or sticky substances on the scarred wood.
She had missed him, she realised. It was crazy but after last night something had changed in their relationship. What that was, she had no idea. Somewhere between favourite all-time album and his most embarrassing moment, the tone had changed and now she was wondering where that left them. Beyond the professional and dipping a toe into the personal, testing the waters. But was that all they would be?
She knew he was attracted to her. The heat in his eyes told her that and she was definitely feeling attraction towards him. Was it possible to move forward and go somewhere deeper? More intimate? She hoped so. Obviously they would have to wait. The circumstances of their meeting and the cases they were working on were the priority. There would be time afterwards to explore the possibilities. Although, truth be told, she wasn’t sure she could wait that long. He had seriously messed with her hormones.
Natalie tore her thoughts and her stare away from Matt and took another glance around. The bar, despite its grungy appearance, had a nice ambience. It wouldn’t have been her first or second pick, but she knew better than anyone not to judge a book by its cover. The smells emanating from the kitchen made her stomach growl and she was thankful no one was around to hear it. She had only had a coffee and banana for breakfast and was glad Matt had asked her for lunch otherwise she was sure she wouldn’t have had anything other than the protein bar that was in her desk drawer.
A minute later, Matt returned and set the wine glass down in front of her.
“Our orders will be done in about five minutes,” he informed her as he sat and took a sip from his own glass. It looked like coke and she couldn’t smell any of the J’s—Jim, Johnny or Jack—and had been served in an official Coca-Cola branded glass.
“On the clock,” he said, and Natalie realised she must have been staring intently at the glass.
“When you’re not on the clock, what do you drink?”
“A beer now and again. Whisky when it’s been that kind of a day.”
For some reason, the idea of him drinking didn’t scare her as it would if he had been anyone else. She trusted him, which surprised her. Trusted him to keep her safe and that was a big thing for her. The revelation was startling and telling.
“I can’t imagine what you see day in and day out.”
He shrugged. “It’s not all bad. Thankfully, murders are few and far between. There are still car accidents which can be brutal, and domestic violence. They always leave a foul taste in my mouth.”
She could well imagine those scenarios. Blood. Bruises. Tears. Pain.
“How long have you been a cop?”
“Over fifteen years.”
She sat forward. “How do you handle the dark side of your job?”
He gave it some thought. “By focusing on the people I can help. Knowing that I have changed their lives for the better. Although I didn’t do such a good job with Hallie.”
Natalie placed her hands over his where they rested on the table and gave them a squeeze. “Hallie is not lost. She may be scared. But she is tough. You saw that years ago. I see that today.”
“You gave her the files, didn’t you?” he asked. She started to pull her hands back but Matt caught them with his own and held them there. He pinned her with his green gaze.
“I did and before you blast me for it, remember you came to me for help. That’s what I’m doing. Trust my instincts, Detective.”
“I do. I just don’t like the idea of Hallie reading it, even if she did experience it firsthand.”
“Which is why I believe reading the case would be far better than having her relive it through memories. In your files, the case is laid out plain and simple. Just facts. She can be somewhat emotionally detached which hopefully will have her remembering the night clearer. I can’t guarantee that she can assist your case but it’s worth the chance.”
“So long as it helps her, I honestly don’t care.”
A young waitress approached the booth holding a tray with two plates on it. “Beef burger and salad?”
Matt indicated himself and reluctantly they broke apart. Natalie didn’t miss the look the woman shot her before placing the plate with Matt’s burger down in the space where their joined hands had been.
“I guess that makes you chicken and chips,” the waitress stated to Natalie as she set down the plate with the chicken burger in front of Natalie. “So who’s your friend, Matt?”
Natalie shot him an amused look. He had a pained expression on his face. It was clear everyone would be talking about their lunch for some time.
“Natalie Miller,” Natalie introduced herself.
“Glory,” the waitress said. “You have a nice lunch, Natalie, and don’t be a stranger.” She gave Natalie a wink only she could see before moving off back behind the bar.
Natalie blushed and turned her attention to her lunch. She poured the tomato sauce over her chips and then popped one into her mouth and looked over at Matt.
“This is a really friendly place,” she commented.
“Yeah. As you might’ve guessed, it’s a cops’ hang out. Tanner, who owns the place, is a retired cop. We all supported him when he first opened and still come because it’s the best food in town. I forgot that bringing you here would be like bringing you home to meet my mother.”
Her stomach did a somersault. She tried to ignore the pleasure she felt at that thought. She tampered down her emotions. He had said he’d forgotten not that he was serious enough about her to declare her to one and all.
“Are you going to cop much flack?”
“Not from these guys. My own team, yes, but that’s okay because we often tease each other. I’ll just be on the receiving end this time.”
“You don’t sound too worried.”
Natalie wondered what that meant. But then decided to stop analysing the situation and his words and just enjoy it. She took another chip and munched. Matt reached over and stole a chip from her plate. She widened her eyes dramatically and scolded him.
“If you wanted chips you should’ve ordered chips.” She smiled mischievously, picked up her fork and speared a rich, ripe tomato from his plate and popped it into her mouth. He laughed heartily then traded her half his salad for half her chips.
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About the Author
Camille Taylor is an Australian author who resides in the Nation’s Capital with her small dog. She was the typical 90’s kid and was raised on Goosebumps, Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings. In her teens she began reading the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie and in later years found Christine Feehan, Janet Evanovich and Julie Garwood.
She started writing at sixteen and enjoys spending time with her family, doting on her nieces and nephews, writing the many stories floating about her head and working on her genealogy where she can trace her heritage to England, Scotland, Ireland and Russia.
Her other interests include, anything creative – such as scrapbooking and drawing and has travelled across Western Europe, New Zealand and the UAE, after spending a year living in London. She’s also dabbled in tae kwon do.