Linda Lael Miller One Last Look

ISBN 13: 9781476787527

One Last Look

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9781476787527: One Last Look

Linda Lael Miller ignites the combustible passion between attorney Clare Westbrook and homicide detective Tony Sonterra in this page-turning conclusion to her New York Times bestselling trilogy.

A senseless murder.
A sizzling adventure.


Carrying her lover Tony Sonterra's child, Clare Westbrook has finally buried her commitment phobia and said "yes" to Tony's marriage proposal. So why is fear running through her veins and haunting her dreams? Sonterra is fired up to leave Phoenix for small-town Arizona, to target a lethal desert crime ring. Clare's willing to stand by her man, but he won't be the only one flirting with danger on the job: as a special investigator for the D.A.'s office, Clare is plunged into a race to find a missing child whose mother was murdered. And on a case this hot, the promise of Clare's bright future could vanish in the blink of an eye....

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About the Author:

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than a hundred historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. Visit her at LindaLaelMiller.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

Pima County Forensic Science Center

Tucson, Arizona

January 7

The zipper on the body bag caught, and the technician gave it a hard, practiced yank. The stenches of death and the attendant chemicals roiled out of the cavity and, in the moment before Detective Tony Sonterra remembered my presence and eased me back with a slight motion of one elbow, the image of Jimmy's youthful, ravaged face imprinted itself, hologram style, on every cell in my brain.

Bile scalded the roof of my mouth.

My name is Clare Westbrook, and I've seen more than my share of corpses. I seemed to attract them on my own, and my association with Sonterra, who was a homicide cop at the time, merely compounded the problem.

I turned away, doing my best not to retch.

Jorge "Jimmy" Ruiz was sixteen years old. His dreams were heartbreakingly modest -- he'd wanted a car, cheap housing, and a dog that would come when he called it.

Sonterra had befriended the boy eight months before, when he'd turned up in Phoenix, hungry and ingenuous, and wangled a job with Sonterra's family's landscaping business. Customs and Immigration snagged the kid a few weeks after he arrived, during a routine green-card check, and promptly sent him home to Mexico. Sonterra stayed in touch with Jimmy after that, got him a room in Nogales, on the Sonoran side, then pushed up his sleeves and waded into the red-tape matrix. Probably because of his own Hispanic heritage, he'd been determined to make a difference, if only for this one boy.

I loved that about Sonterra, the way he would lock on to an idea if he thought it was right, and never let go. Our relationship was intense, and by no means simple. I'd moved into his house, with my niece, Emma, and our two dogs, Waldo and Bernice, but I still had one foot in my old life. I'd worked hard to get through law school, schlepping drinks at a Tucson bar called Nipples, and later put in my time at Kredd and Associates, where ambulance chasing was a specialty. It had been Emma and me against the world ever since my sister Tracy's sudden disappearance, when Emma was only seven, and when it turned out that my sister had been murdered by someone close to her, my streetwise, foster-kid wariness went into overdrive.

Trusting Sonterra, trusting anyone, was a challenge. Hell, I wasn't even sure I could trust myself.

Now, in the stark reality of cold storage, Sonterra's voice seemed to come through a long, hollow pipe, even though we were within touching distance. "His name was Jorge Ruiz," he told the attendant grimly. "No next of kin."

The tech nodded, blandly accustomed to the unclaimed and unmourned, handed Sonterra a clipboard, watched in silence as he signed off on the attached form. Another body identified. A complex life, reduced to words and numbers. A few check marks, a couple of official signatures, and that's it. Add one more statistic to the column.

I hadn't been well acquainted with Jimmy, but I ached for him, remembering his shy smile, his ragged jeans and T-shirt, his amazing capacity for hard work. I knew he'd slept on a cot on Sonterra's dad's sunporch during his brief stay in the USA, and been pathetically grateful for a place at the kitchen table. He'd loved bologna sandwiches and lime Kool-Aid.

I swayed, gripped the edge of a nearby steel table for balance, and instantly recoiled. The slab was bare, even sterile, but I had a sudden, swift sense of all the bodies that had rested there, for a brief and grisly interval, with only a toe tag to differentiate them from the other vacant shells of humanity that had passed through that place. I'm not exactly squeamish, but I was in a morgue, and four months pregnant.

Kay Scarpetta, I'm not.

Sonterra pressed a hand to the small of my back and steered me toward the exit. Once outside in the corridor, I sank onto a bench and dropped my head between my knees.

"I asked you to wait in the car," Sonterra said with a familiar note of resignation. He waited until I straightened, then handed me a paper cup with a slosh of lukewarm water inside. None of this was new to him -- he'd stood by many times, while a family member identified a victim, and even witnessed autopsies -- but he was clearly shaken.

I gulped down the water, waited to see if my stomach would send it hurtling back up or simply convulse around it with a couple of good clenches. I kept down the first dose, and threw back the rest.

This would cinch it, I thought. Just the day before, Sonterra had fessed up that he'd been offered a job with a federal task force. He'd been closemouthed about the details, but I knew it had something to do with the stream of illegal immigrants flooding in from Mexico. Now, because of Jimmy, he'd accept for sure. Turn his whole life upside down, and mine with it.

"Coyotes," he said. He wasn't referring to the four-legged variety. In cop speak, coyotes are the sleazeball flesh-smugglers who run Mexican nationals across the border, into the land of milk and honey -- for a price. They lock their "clients" up in the trunks of cars, in airless vans, and in "safe houses," sometimes ten to thirty to a room, with little or no food, water, or sunlight. If things go sour in transit, they often shoot them in the head and leave them in the desert for the buzzards. And that's the merciful method. The most common one is dropping them off miles from any road, without their shoes, if they had any in the first place, without water or food or any means to defend themselves. Duct tape and dehydration save on the high cost of bullets. Coyotes are in business to make money, and they do, hand over fist.

Sonterra and I left the building in silence, started across the parking lot toward his slick SUV, gleaming black in the winter sun. That's the reason we Arizonans put up with summer temperatures in the 120-degree range -- for the mellow months between October and April. The door locks popped audibly when he pressed the button on his key fob.

We'd discussed the new job, of course, but it was a source of conflict. It meant leaving the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, where I had friends and a pro bono practice I loved, for a wide spot in the road well off the beaten path. I was familiar with Dry Creek, a dust bunny under the bed of life, because of its proximity with Tucson, my hometown. I'd gone there a lot, as a teenager, admittedly to party with other wild kids, and had always come away with one clear thought: Thank God, I don't live there.

It's ironic how fate keeps track of blithe statements like that one and uses them to slap you in the face. "Does this mean you're going to play ball with the feds and sign on as chief of police in Dry Creek?" The last chief, a man named Oz Gilbride, had disappeared into a parallel universe, a couple of months ago, under a cloud of controversy and suspicion. I remembered Oz from my misspent youth, too. He'd run a lax department, which was why kids from Tucson liked to raise hell in and around his town. Since he'd vanished, the news media had pegged Chief Gilbride as the lead dog in a very bad pack of coyotes, and maybe they were right.

Maybe they were full of bullshit, too.

I'm not a fan of talking heads, lacquered and smiling, assessing the world from behind a news desk. Most of them, in my opinion, could be a little less interested in pursuing their personal political agendas and a lot more interested in telling the truth. It's one thing to alert the population to corporate or government skullduggery, and quite another to back up a truck and dump a load of fear into the collective consciousness just because there's nothing else to talk about on that particular day.

The sky is falling. Film at six.

When Sonterra didn't answer my Dry Creek inquiry right away, I considered switching the subject to lunch, but it didn't seem appropriate, even if it was one-thirty in the afternoon, and we hadn't eaten since before we left his place in Scottsdale that morning.

Still musing, Sonterra opened the passenger door for me and waited until I was settled. His handsome features were set, his jawline hard. "Another couple of months," he reflected, "and he would have been legal. He knew all about coyotes. Why get involved with them again?"

I snapped my seat belt on. Youth is not noted for its patience, and Jimmy Ruiz had been very young. In Mexico, he'd worn discarded clothes and eaten other people's garbage. In the U.S., he'd tasted Big Macs and stepped, goggle-eyed, into the wonderful world of Wal-Mart.

"It's not your fault," I told Sonterra, because I knew that was what he was thinking -- that if he'd done things differently, Jimmy would be alive. Given the singular dangers and depressing nature of Sonterra's work, I thought he was being a little hard on himself.

Sonterra rounded the vehicle, got behind the wheel, cranked on the ignition. Warm air blew from the dashboard, and I felt sweat drying between my breasts and shoulder blades. His right temple pulsed, and he wouldn't look at me. "Damn it," he rasped. "Jimmy was so bright. He could have had a good life. Contributed something."

I reached out, touched his arm. "Let it go. You can't save them all, Sonterra."

"I wasn't trying to save everybody in the world," he retorted, backing out of a parking space marked visitors. "I was trying to save Jimmy. One kid."

I withdrew my hand. I was in no position to make speeches -- I knew something about the savior complex myself. After inheriting a shitload of money from the father I never knew, I'd hung out my shingle in the worst part of Phoenix, unofficially adopted one of my first clients, a beautiful young black woman named Shanda Rawlings, given her a job in my storefront office, helped her beat a bad-check rap, and bought her a secondhand car. In a few days, she'd be entering Gateway Community College as a part-time student, financed by a combination of loans and grants. Like any good messiah, I'd offered to pay her tuition fees and provide the books, but she'd refused. Shanda...

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Book Description Gallery Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Linda Lael Miller ignites the combustible passion between attorney Clare Westbrook and homicide detective Tony Sonterra in this page-turning conclusion to her New York Times bestselling trilogy. A senseless murder. A sizzling adventure. Carrying her lover Tony Sonterra s child, Clare Westbrook has finally buried her commitment phobia and said yes to Tony s marriage proposal. So why is fear running through her veins and haunting her dreams? Sonterra is fired up to leave Phoenix for small-town Arizona, to target a lethal desert crime ring. Clare s willing to stand by her man, but he won t be the only one flirting with danger on the job: as a special investigator for the D.A. s office, Clare is plunged into a race to find a missing child whose mother was murdered. And on a case this hot, the promise of Clare s bright future could vanish in the blink of an eye. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781476787527

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Book Description Gallery Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Linda Lael Miller ignites the combustible passion between attorney Clare Westbrook and homicide detective Tony Sonterra in this page-turning conclusion to her New York Times bestselling trilogy. A senseless murder. A sizzling adventure. Carrying her lover Tony Sonterra s child, Clare Westbrook has finally buried her commitment phobia and said yes to Tony s marriage proposal. So why is fear running through her veins and haunting her dreams? Sonterra is fired up to leave Phoenix for small-town Arizona, to target a lethal desert crime ring. Clare s willing to stand by her man, but he won t be the only one flirting with danger on the job: as a special investigator for the D.A. s office, Clare is plunged into a race to find a missing child whose mother was murdered. And on a case this hot, the promise of Clare s bright future could vanish in the blink of an eye. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781476787527

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Book Description Gallery Books. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 400 pages. Dimensions: 8.0in. x 5.0in. x 1.2in.Linda Lael Miller ignites the combustible passion between attorney Clare Westbrook and homicide detective Tony Sonterra in this page-turning conclusion to her New York Times bestselling trilogy. A senseless murder. A sizzling adventure. Carrying her lover Tony Sonterras child, Clare Westbrook has finally buried her commitment phobia and said yes to Tonys marriage proposal. So why is fear running through her veins and haunting her dreams Sonterra is fired up to leave Phoenix for small-town Arizona, to target a lethal desert crime ring. Clares willing to stand by her man, but he wont be the only one flirting with danger on the job: as a special investigator for the D. A. s office, Clare is plunged into a race to find a missing child whose mother was murdered. And on a case this hot, the promise of Clares bright future could vanish in the blink of an eye. . . . This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781476787527

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