Saturday Excerpt: Just His Luck by B.J. Daniels
Are you looking for a Western romance with a suspenseful twist? Just His Luck by B.J. Daniels hits shelves at the end of the month and features a high school reunion, romance…and a murder investigation. Keep reading for an early preview of the book!
About Just His Luck:
Shade Sterling has carried a torch for Lizzy Conners since senior year of high school. But the timing never felt right for them, especially since his ex-girlfriend, Ariel, disappeared without a trace years ago. Now, with their ten-year class reunion approaching, Shade is tired of waiting. Determined to move on with his life and take a chance with Lizzy, he’s all in…until a car is dredged up from a local pond and Ariel’s remains are found inside.
As the newly appointed sheriff, Lizzy must investigate every single lead—including the ones that point right to Shade. She knows she can’t let her heart get in the way of an investigation, but she can’t accept that Shade is guilty. Now if she can only prove it—both to the town out for justice and to herself.
As Lizzy walked around the desk and sat down in the large leather chair, she gave up trying to hide her grin. Sheriff Elizabeth Conners. By afternoon, those words would be painted on her office door. Still, she wanted to pinch herself. She’d won the election and now this was her office.
She leaned back but didn’t dare put her feet up on her desk, although she knew that if the men who’d run against her were now sheriff, they would have.
“How’s it feel?” Sid Anderson asked from the doorway.
Lizzy sat up quickly, shooting to her feet at the sight of the former sheriff and her mentor. He laughed and motioned her back into her chair.
“Congratulations on your win. You’re going to make a great sheriff,” Sid assured her. It was so good to see him up and about, although he would probably have to use a cane the rest of his life after his hit-and- run accident.
“Thank you.” She noted that he remained stand- ing in the doorway, leaning on his cane. “Want to come in?”
He shook his head as his gaze took in the office with what could have been nostalgia. She hoped it wasn’t regret. But he’d made it clear that he’d planned to retire even before his accident. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder if he missed it. He swore that he’d been looking forward to the time when all he had to do was hang out in his woodworking shop. That and get married.
“Do I hear wedding bells?” she joked. “I heard that you finally proposed to Dorothea Brand.”
Sid broke into a huge grin. Dorothea had worked at Sterling’s Montana Guest Ranch for more than thirty years and was like part of the Sterling family. Lizzy had gone to school with Shade and knew that when his mother died, Dorothea had stepped into the role for him and his brothers, Will and Garrett.
“I asked and she said yes. I couldn’t get down on one knee to do it. She cried when I put the ring on her finger. I’ll admit this to you and deny it forever, but I had tears in my eyes, as well.”
Lizzy felt her heart soar. “You two are going to be so happy. Dorothea is perfect for you. I couldn’t be more delighted.”
“The save-the-date announcement will be in the mail soon,” he said. “I expect you to be there.”
“You couldn’t keep me away.”
Sid shifted his weight as he leaned on his cane. “I just had to stop by to tell you how proud I am of you.”
She’d grown up next door to Sid. From as far back as she could remember, she’d wanted to be a sheriff’s deputy and work with him. He’d hired her out of the police academy and she’d gotten her dream to work as a deputy with him. But that dream had been short-lived.
When he’d been forced into an early retirement be- cause of his injuries, he’d encouraged her to run for sheriff, telling her she was the best deputy he’d ever had. She’d worked hard at the job because the last thing she’d wanted to do was to let Sid down, but she’d also known that he was partial when it came to her.
“You inspired me,” she said, wondering if he knew how true that was. “I just hope I can fill your shoes even a little bit.”
“You’ll do great.” He lowered his voice. “Just don’t let the male deputies give you a hard time.” He winked. The phone on her desk rang. “Best get to work.”
“Thanks for stopping by,” she said. He had no idea how much it meant to her. “I’m happy for you.”
“I’m happy for you,” he said.
Her phone rang again. She reached for it and when she looked up, Sid was gone.
“Sheriff…” She cleared her throat. “Sheriff Conners.”
There was a moment’s hesitation before the man on the other end of the line said, “This is Tiny Fraser. I’m a heavy equipment operator out here on Highway 93, northwest of town. I think you’d better come out and have a look.”
Her first thought was a car accident. “What’s the problem?” she asked, wondering if there were any patrol officers in the area to assist with traffic.
“I was doing some excavation work near this pond out here… I found a car that looks as if it’s been in the water for years. The problem is, there’s what looks like human remains behind the wheel and that’s not all.”
A warm fall wind whipped the pine boughs and sent dried leaves from the nearby aspens whirling through the air. A sound in the brush brought his horse’s head up with a jerk. Shade Sterling reined in as a grouse burst out of the trees with a flurry of wings. His horse sidestepped under him, but he quickly brought the gelding back under control.
He loved riding on the ranch this time of the year. Very soon winter would come and blanket the land in white. No longer would he be able to smell the scents of fall and enjoy a morning ride like this. Shade savored these days although they came with a little melancholy as they always did. Summer was gone and he could feel another year passing.
As he watched the grouse disappear over the horizon toward the town of Whitefish, he saw the flash- ing lights of police cars a half mile away at the pond. He’d heard that some kind of convenience store was going in on that corner. The valley was one of the fastest growing in the state. He hated to see the ranch and farmland disappearing because of what some called progress.
More and more people were moving in, the valley changing before his eyes. He wasn’t sure he liked change and had to laugh. He was starting to sound like his father, rest his soul.
He studied the flashing lights for a moment before curiosity got the better of him. Spurring his horse in that direction, he rode to the far end of the ranch where civilization encroached.
A combination of law enforcement and construction workers had gathered at the far end of the pond. A wrecker was pulling something from the water. Shade heard the wrecker motor roar to life, saw the cable tighten and vibrate as it began dragging a large moss- covered shape out of the water.
The day seemed to grow darker and cooler as Shade recognized the shape as it broke the surface. An eerie silence fell over the pond as his pulse quickened. Weeds clung to the slimed-over surface of the vehicle, and discolored water poured out onto the ground.
He felt as if he’d been hit in the chest with a sledge-hammer. He knew that car.
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