The Lawman's Legacy (Love Inspired Suspense: Fitzgerald Bay)

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9780373444731: The Lawman's Legacy (Love Inspired Suspense: Fitzgerald Bay)

After a nanny is killed in Fitzgerald Bay, police captain Douglas Fitzgerald's brother becomes the prime suspect. "Faith and family" is the Fitzgerald motto?Douglas won't let his own go down for a crime he didn't commit. Yet when Douglas questions the single mother who found the victim, he notices Merry O'Leary is nervous. Secretive. Deeply scared of someone. The nanny's killer?or someone else? When the truth comes to light, it will take all of Douglas's faith?and his love for this little family?to keep a killer at bay.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Award winning, multipublished author Terri Reed discovered the wonderful world of fiction at an early age and declared she would one day write a book. Now she's fulfilling that dream by writing for Love Inspired. She is a member of both Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. You can visit her online at www.terrireed.com or email her at terrireed@sterling.net or leave comments on http://craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com/ or www.loveinspiredauthors.com

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Captain Douglas Fitzgerald pulled up in front of his father's colonial-style house, eyeing the line of cars that stretched along the curb. The entire Fitzgerald clan had gathered for his grandfather's birthday celebration, and it looked like he was the last to arrive. Not a problem. He had a foolproof excuse. Duty first. That's the way his father had raised him. It was the only way he knew how to be. Seeing as how he was working his shift with the Fitzgerald Bay police department, he had no choice but to show up late and leave early. His father knew that. His grandfather knew it.

Yeah. He had an excuse, but he still wished he could spend a little more time visiting with Granddad and the rest of the clan and a little less time doing paperwork back at the office. He loved Fitzgerald Bay. Loved the people, the community, the easy predictability of small-town life, but predictability could be boring.

Or, maybe, it was just his life that could be boring.

Routine.

Predictable.

Empty?

He frowned as he stepped into the oversize foyer. Voices carried from the dining room, the sound of laughter and chatter ringing through his childhood home. Empty? His life had never been that. Could never be that. Not with his boisterous family around.

But there were moments when he felt that something was missing.

Someowe was missing.

He frowned again.

No one was missing. Nothing was missing. His life was exactly the way he wanted it to be.

"Douglas!" His sister Keira smiled as he walked into the foyer. Still dressed in her police uniform, straight dark hair pulled into a ponytail, her cheeks pink, she looked closer to sixteen than twenty-three.

"I can't stay long. Looks like everyone is having a good time." He glanced at the throng of family members.

"Did you expect anything less?"

"Not when it comes to our family. Where's Granddad?"

"Holding court in the living room. You'd better go see him. He's been asking when you were going to get here."

"He knew I had to work."

"He's still been asking." She shrugged.

"I'll go see what he wants." Douglas walked into the large, comfortable living room, waved to his grandfather.

"You finally made it." Ian Fitzgerald stood as Douglas approached. Tall and handsome, he'd only recently begun to slow down, the years finally starting to catch up with him.

"What did you need to see me about?"

"Not you. Everyone. I have an announcement to make, and I didn't want to make it before you got here. Can I have everyone's attention?" He raised his voice, the booming sound quieting the laughter and chatter. Several people stepped into the room and waited while Ian cleared his throat, looked around at his family.

Douglas's family. Cousins. Uncles. Aunts. His brothers Ryan, Owen and Charles. His sisters Fiona and Keira. His father, frowning as he waited for Ian to continue.

"What is it, Dad?" Aiden Fitzgerald asked. Chief of the Fitzgerald Bay police department, Douglas's father wore authority like a mantle, his shoulders straight, his carriage upright.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thirty years is a long time to be mayor, and it's time to step down, let someone else take my place."

"You're not going to run for mayor this term?" Douglas spoke over the shocked reaction of the entire Fitzgerald clan.

"I'm not. So, are we going to have cake?" Ian settled back into the chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He'd made up his mind. That much was obvious. Douglas was certain he wouldn't change it. Not Granddad.

"Cake? Dad, you can't just drop a bomb like that and expect us to move on," Aiden responded.

"Bomb? I'm eighty-two, Aiden. I can't keep going forever. I think we all know that. It's time to slow down. To enjoy the family God gave me while I still have the time and health to do it. Seems to me, you're about the age I was when I ran for mayor the first time. It's your turn to run this town."

"I'm the chief of police. I can't be mayor, too."

"You've got three sons you're training to take your place. Might as well let one of them have a go at being chief."

The two could debate the issue all day. Douglas had no doubt about that. He'd let them and check in later to see if his father had talked Granddad into backing down. For now, he needed to eat and get back to work.

"You two work things out. I'm going to—" Before he could finish, Douglas's radio crackled, and Deborah Sandino's voice carried across the line.

"Captain? We have a situation on our hands." The hint of panic in her words made Douglas's heart jump. Deborah had been a dispatcher with the police department for over a decade, and Douglas had never known her to be anything but calm and efficient.

"What kind of situation?" He met his father's eyes, the sudden silence of the room making Deborah's words echo loudly.

"A body has been found near the lighthouse."

"Where?"

"At the base of the cliffs. The caller believes the deceased may be Olivia Henry."

"It can't be Olivia." Douglas's brother Charles spoke into the deafening silence that followed Deborah's announcement, his face drawn with concern. Divorced and the custodial parent to his twin toddlers, he'd hired Olivia to work as their nanny several months ago. Sweet and kindhearted, she'd poured out love on her charges, and that had been enough to win the respect and affection of the family.

Now she might be dead, her body lying broken at the base of the lighthouse cliffs.

"I'll be at the scene in ten minutes, Deborah. No one is to touch the body before I get there." He jogged through the living room and back out into the frigid afternoon. Steel gray clouds blocked the sun and the air held a hint of snow. A winter storm blowing in. They'd need to collect evidence and retrieve the body before it arrived.

The body?

The young woman.

The human being whose life had ended abruptly. An accident?

A suicide? Something worse?

"Hold up, son. I'm riding with you," Aiden called out, pulling on a thick coat as he ran to Douglas's SUV. Face pale, his hands trembling, he looked shaken and ill.

"You don't have to—"

"I'm the chief of police. Of course I have to." He jumped into the SUV, and Douglas gunned the engine, sped through town, sirens blaring, lights flashing, adrenaline pumping through his blood. A quiet fishing community, Fitzgerald Bay didn't offer much in the way of excitement for its police force. Loitering, vandalism and robbery topped the list of crimes. Every once in a while, domestic violence or assault, but bodies didn't appear at the base of cliffs. People didn't just die without warning and without cause.

Someone had died, though.

Maybe someone very close to his family.

Douglas's hands tightened on the steering wheel, his heart thundering in time with his racing thoughts.

"Do you think it's Olivia?" Aiden asked, his voice shaky and weak.

"I don't know." Douglas glanced at his father, worried about him in a way he'd never been before. Aiden had served as chief of police for as many years as Douglas could remember. Stoic, serious and unflappable, he wasn't the kind of guy to let anything shake him. But he was shaken. Visibly so. "Are you okay, Dad?"

"Of course I am," Aiden muttered as Douglas flew down Main Street and out onto the rural road that led to the bluff and the lighthouse. Two police cars followed, lights flashing blue and red through the cloudy afternoon. His brothers. Douglas was sure of it. No way would Ryan or Owen stay away. No doubt, Keira was in one of the cars.

Together, they'd identify the body. They'd piece together what happened.

He just hoped they wouldn't find Olivia.

Hoped she was happily enjoying her day off.

The lighthouse loomed in the distance, growing closer with every passing mile. White and red, it stood stark and tall against the steely sky. A small, quaint cottage was a few dozen yards away from it. Once the lighthouse keeper's home, it now belonged to Charles. He'd built a small apartment at the back of the building and had offered it to Olivia.

Maybe, she was there.

Douglas prayed she was there.

Charles's blue Nissan, the one Olivia used to transport the twins, and a beat-up Chevy station wagon sat in the driveway. Dark green. Wood trim. Looked like it had lived a few decades too long.

Douglas knew the car, had seen it parked outside his sister Fiona's bookstore dozens of times in the past year. He knew exactly who it belonged to. Remembered the day he'd walked into the Reading Nook and seen Meredith O'Leary for the first time. Curvy, pretty, secretive Merry.

Had she found the body?

"That's Merry's car," Aiden said as Douglas got out of the SUV. Gulls screamed, their haunting cries mixing with crashing waves as Douglas made his way along the path to the cliff.

Large boulders and smaller rocks jutted from dark soil. The briny scent of the bay carried on the cold wind that blew across the bluff. All of it felt familiar and homey and right, but nothing was right about the day or Douglas's reason for being at the lighthouse.

Up ahead, a woman stood near the edge of the cliff, strawberry blond hair whipping in the wind, shoulders hunched against the cold. Definitely Merry.

There was no mistaking her hair, her ultra-feminine curves, or the way his stomach clenched, his senses springing to life when he saw her.

Two lunch dates. That's all it had taken to convince him that Merry was a woman worth knowing better. He'd looked into her eyes, listened to her laughter and imagined doing the same over and over again in the weeks and years to come.

Two dates.

And, then she'd broken things o...

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