A modern Cinderella story, minus the fairy-god mother and magic, with a bit of danger and suspense thrown in!
Colin Montgomery has been living a life of lies for so long that he isn’t sure he recognizes who he really is any more. All he knows for certain is that pretending to be someone with an utter lack of even the smallest shred of moral fiber has become much too easy. He’s losing himself, and he knows it. He needs some time off, maybe even a complete change of vocation. Then his mentor is murdered on the job, and Colin knows that he has no choice but to bring the killer down. So he goes under one more time, playing a role that is far too easy to slip into. Garret Palmer is a sadistic narcissist with a talent for making loads of money while facilitating the running of drugs and guns between the US and Mexico. He’s also a cold-blooded murderer. To get close to him, Colin will have to convince Garret that he’s a kindred spirit. Easy enough if he doesn’t mind giving up the last shreds of his humanity.
Claire Abernathy has been living in the shadow of her mother and sister for so long that she’s long forgotten what it feels like to stand in the sun. She knows that she doesn’t have their beauty or sparkle, and she’s well aware of the fact that she never will. At thirty, the chances of her suddenly outgrowing her physical and social awkwardness are practically nonexistent. She has buried herself in her work as an elementary teacher, resigned to spending the rest of her life being the responsible one in her family while her mother and sister bask in the adoration of every man who crosses their paths. Desperate to escape from the sad reality of her life, she takes a wild risk and books passage on a cruise. Her sister and mother immediately laugh at the absurdity of her on a cruise, but she refuses to give in to their cutting barbs or her own self-doubts. For the first time in her life, she’s going to do something strictly for herself.
Colin has a very specific role to play if he hopes to get close enough to Garret to be there to nail him for the crimes he’s committed. A woman like Claire is the direct antithesis of the sort of female his working persona would be interested in. She could be a poster child for frumpy introverts everywhere. Yet, he finds that the more he gets to know her, the more he’s drawn to the woman hidden beneath the shapeless dresses and absurdly long hair. Claire has never had a man like Colin show any interest in her. She knows it’s too good to be true, but finds that she can’t bring herself to walk away from him. Not even when he makes it abundantly clear that he isn’t a man who wants anything more than fast, hard sex. She isn’t the kind of woman who has affairs, but then she hasn’t ever been the kind of woman who goes on a cruise, either. Maybe it was time for some changes in her life, starting with her views on casual sex between consenting adults.
Colin is walking a deadly line between burnout, rage, a desperate need to bring Garret Palmer to justice, and an inexplicable attraction for a woman that he knows is far too innocent for the likes of him. She deserves a man who hasn’t been permanently tainted by decades of living with the scum of the earth. Even if he could somehow convince himself that taking her to bed wouldn’t make him even more of a bastard than he already was, there was no way he could pretend that openly pursuing her wouldn’t torpedo his chances of bringing Garret Palmer down. Will he be willing to let Garret slip through his fingers if it means he can have Claire, or will he sacrifice her to put an end to one of the largest drug and weapon pipelines between Mexico and the US?
Word Count: 82,562