Book 2 of the Clare Thibodeaux Series is entitled, Winter’s Icy Caress. Clare’s story continues in the second book a few months after Exodus ended.
Christmas is just weeks away, and she is enjoying the holiday preparations for the first time in years. Her life would be worry-free, but the Bayfield area is rocked by the abduction of two young area women.
Excerpt from Winter’s Icy Caress
Clare slipped through the dark attempting to move as silently as possible. She hugged a wall near the intersection of two hallways. The night vision goggles turned the surrounding environment into a world of different shades of green. She had needed to wear the equipment a few times to become comfortable with it. She leaned forward to peek around the corner making sure there weren’t any unfriendlies visible. Without any warning, a pair of muscular arms put her into a headlock. Warm breath brushed the side of her face.
“I’ve got you now,” a husky voice whispered to her. Clare gasped when she felt him nip at her earlobe and give it a gentle tug. Her knees shook as heat spread down her body. She struggled to free herself, but the arms tightened just enough to stop her efforts.
“I didn’t realize Navy Seals were trained to torture their targets by nipping their ears.”
“Oh, I learned a lot of things as a Seal, but this is my own signature move.” Her breathing quickened as the man nuzzled her neck. She tried to elbow him in the side and found herself flat on her back with his heavy weight on top of her.
“Stop, stop! I can’t stand it! Please…” Clare pleaded before she broke into uncontrolled laughter. “Wyatt! Fight fair! No tickling!”
“I thought you were able to withstand interrogation tactics, sweetie. Was I wrong?”
“You’re a sadist — I’m serious, I’m going to pee my pants!” The tickling immediately stopped as he rolled off to her side. “I didn’t know you were such a creep when I met you, Mr. Harris.”
“You know you love it. Admit it or I’ll tickle you until I have you screaming again.” The lights came on with a snap. They groaned, quickly closed their eyes and removed the goggles. The night vision goggles had intensified the room’s natural light until it became blinding.
“Dave, couldn’t you have given us a heads up?” Wyatt groaned. Dave Cartwright stood across the room with a stern look on his face.
“Do you think the enemy will give you a heads up before they flip the switch? Okay, you two, enough for today. Clare, you’re getting better at evasive maneuvers. You’ve come a long way in a short period.” Dave smiled at her. She thought it was a good thing she wasn’t right next to him, or else he would have rumpled her hair like she was a kid.
“Thanks, Dave. See you and Loretta tomorrow for dinner, right?”
“We’ll be there. Goodnight, now get out of here.” Dave walked out the door of the training facility. Wyatt pulled Clare to her feet and up against him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and stood on tiptoes to kiss him on the lips. He reciprocated enthusiastically until they were on the verge of taking it to a level which would be better to pursue somewhere more private. He looked down into her eyes and clasped her left hand as he gave her knuckles a lingering kiss. The diamond on her left hand sparkled. He brushed his thumb over the ring looking very pleased with the sight.
“How did I get so lucky?” His wide grin made her heart beat faster. Clare flipped her ponytail over her shoulder before turning away. She looked over her shoulder at her fiance and winked as she strutted out of the room. Wyatt happily followed her.
Morning came too soon. Clare opened her eyes after Max whined. Before she could get up, a muscular arm wrapped around her waist pulling her close. She half turned and gazed at Wyatt with loving eyes. He kissed her neck making her laugh.
“I don’t think Max can wait.”
Wyatt raised up on one elbow and met the lab’s dark brown eyes. “Bad timing, Max. I’ll let him out. You stay right there.”
He sat up on the side of the bed giving her a decidedly fantasy-worthy view of his muscular back. He patted the lab on the head and led him down the stairs. Clare stretched her arms over her head as she straightened her legs flexing and extending her feet to work out the soreness from last night’s training. It was amazing how much her life had changed over the last six months.
Dave Cartwright, a special agent for the FBI and her father’s best friend, had offered Clare refuge at the B&B run by his wife. Loretta Cartwright was a good friend of her mother’s. Four years before, Clare’s family had been murdered by members of an extremist group her father had gone undercover to investigate. Led by Connor Harris, a politician running for the US Senate, the homegrown domestic terrorists were involved in multiple plots to create anarchy and destroy the federal government from within. The plots had included assassinations of prominent leaders and bombings sure to kill hundreds of people. After a series of attacks which appeared connected to Clare, the Cartwrights assisted her while she went into hiding.
Wyatt was Harris’ nephew, and he arrived in Bayfield, Wisconsin about the same time she did. She hadn’t been sure she could trust Wyatt when she found out Connor Harris was his uncle. Wyatt had been severely injured protecting her from a late night attack when his uncle’s men firebombed and destroyed her family’s home in Michigan. Weeks later, his uncle found and held the two of them hostage. Wyatt killed his uncle before Connor could torture and murder Clare.
Wyatt proposed to her a month ago. She couldn’t believe how lucky she was to have him in her life. A creaking from the direction of the stairs signaled her fiance’s return. He surprised her as he leaped onto the bed. Clare’s scream, followed by their laughter, could be heard throughout the cabin. Life was good, she thought.
After spending a good portion of the morning sleeping and making love with Wyatt, Clare sat at the kitchen table reading the local paper while she nibbled on her peanut butter toast. A front page story caught her eye. The month prior, a young woman named Eva Flores went missing near Bayfield. Initially, it was determined she was a runaway, and the case closed. When her body was found decomposing and ravaged by animals, they re-opened the case. Today’s front-page story reported the disappearance of a Chippewa woman 48 hours ago. The photo of the young lady looked familiar. When she read the caption under the picture, she wondered if the woman was related somehow to Alana Wind.
Alana and Clare had some bad blood between them. Alana’s ex-boyfriend, Lee Songetay, and Clare had a powerful attraction to each other when they first met. Clare thought they might have a future together; although drawn to each other, they fought constantly. They parted ways, and Clare hadn’t heard from him in weeks.
She was going to speak with Dave and Loretta to see what they knew about the missing women. Could there be a connection between the two? Because of the tragic series of events in her life, Clare felt a responsibility to help other women in need. Part of the reason she was learning evasive maneuvers and some hand-to-hand defensive techniques was she had felt helpless too often in the past. Able to hunt and shoot, now she wanted to be able to protect herself.
“What are you reading?” Wyatt asked while surveying the contents of the refrigerator. He lifted the half gallon of milk in a mock toast before tipping it back for a drink. She knew he drank from the milk jug because it irritated her. One corner of her mouth turned up.
“There was another abduction. A Chippewa woman. Have you heard anything about this?” She scanned the article for more information.
“No. I don’t think Dave is involved yet. Local authorities would still be in charge of the investigation. Do you know either of the women?”
Clare’s forehead furrowed and she shook her head as she continued to read about the Wind disappearance. “The latest woman’s name is Sara Wind. I wonder if she is related to Alana.” Wyatt looked over her shoulder at the newspaper photo.
“Not the best photo. I know Alana when I see her, but I have never talked to her. Maybe Loretta knows.” Wyatt grabbed a glass from the cupboard and poured the remaining milk into it before stealing a slice of peanut butter toast off of Clare’s plate. She slapped his hand. He gave her a saucy grin before taking a big bite of toast.
“I think I will ask her when we have dinner tonight.”
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual event or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Kate McGinn