Deadly Valentine (Special Releases)

BOOK: Deadly Valentine (Special Releases)
6.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Old rivalries and long-buried passions are reignited by a Valentine’s Day murder in this classic mystery by
New York Times
bestselling author B.J. Daniels.

Jack McAllister is pulled right back to his past when he returns to his hometown. As the sheriff of River’s Edge, Montana, he is called on to solve the gruesome murder of former classmate Peggy Kane, secretary to the resort community’s most prominent citizen—and Jack’s high school rival—Oliver Sanders. The case is further complicated by the presence of Jack’s former sweetheart, Detective Tempest Bailey. Jack and Tempest will have to reconcile old feelings and untangle a complicated web of deceit to catch the killer and get justice for the past.

Praise for B.J. Daniels


“Suspense dominates the pages of this book. Readers won’t want to put it down...worth every second of reading, even if it means losing a few hours sleep!”



“A mystery of the highest order, this is a must read.”



“Oh, what fun! Enjoy!”



B.J. Daniels


With special thanks to former Gallatin County Coroner Rob Myers for his expertise when it comes to corpses; to fellow writers Carmen Lassiter and Judy Kinnaman for their input and encouragement; and as always, to my loving husband, Parker.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten


at the string of naked pink cupids fluttering over the floral shop counter. ‘‘Lovebirds?’’ she demanded into the cell phone as she turned her back to the cupids—and the clerk.

‘‘Yes.’’ Oliver Sanders sounded distracted. She could imagine him behind his big mahogany desk loosening his tie, his suit jacket already off and hanging neatly over the back of his chair, the scent of his expensive cologne mingling with the rich smell of leather and wood.

‘‘I should have thought of them before,’’ he said. She could hear the scrape of a pen on paper. He must be signing the letters she’d typed for him before he sent her to buy Valentine’s Day presents for his wife. ‘‘You got the good chocolate right, the stuff from Bulgaria or whatever?’’

‘‘Belgium. Yes.’’ Only the best for Mitzy Baxter Sanders. ‘‘I went to the little shop you told me to go to.’’

‘‘And the flowers?’’ Peggy could tell by his tone that he’d stopped what he was doing and was finally giving her his undivided attention. ‘‘You didn’t forget flowers?’’

He didn’t call her Miss Efficiency for nothing. ‘‘Roses. Red Beauties. Two dozen. They are the largest, reddest and sweetest ones you can buy.’’

She could hear the smile of approval in his voice. ‘‘I knew I could count on you. And you’ve got the key I gave you for the elevator to the penthouse. You’re going to have to hurry to get everything there before she gets home. It has to be perfect. You know how important tonight is.’’

She knew. ‘‘It will be,’’ she said glancing at her watch. How was she expected to get everything to the hotel before Mitzy got home, she wanted to know, but didn’t ask, reminding herself how lucky she was. The day she’d become Oliver Sanders’ secretary, her dreams had finally begun to come true.

She hung up and asked the florist behind the counter where she could find lovebirds in a resort town like River’s Edge, Montana.

‘‘There’s a new pet shop in that mall on the way to the ski hill,’’ the starry-eyed young woman told her. ‘‘Roses and lovebirds?’’

Peggy nodded as she gathered up all of her purchases.

‘‘Oh, how sweet and so-o-o-o romantic!’’ the clerk cooed.

Yeah. Peggy batted away one of the cupids hanging over the door as she left, sick to death of hearts and flowers. She’d spent years of watching other women get boxes filled with chocolate and big, bright bouquets in pretty vases.

‘‘Oh, look, I got flowers! Here, smell them!’’

Smell them?

Peggy swore under her breath. What sadist, she wanted to know, had come up with a holiday that so flaunted the fact you didn’t have anyone? Wasn’t it bad enough that all year long someone was trying to fix you up with blind dates? That your mother probably thought you were a lesbian since you were thirty-two and manless? That the man of your dreams was married to someone else and buying
all the wonderful Valentine’s Day presents you’d ever dreamed of? And some presents you hadn’t even thought of? Like lovebirds?

Lovebirds! She bought a peach-colored pair, trying not to gag at the sight of them cuddled together before she covered them. Then with her car full, she headed for The Riverside.

The Riverside was once a stagecoach stop in the middle of nowhere until the ski hill went in and River’s Edge was born as a winter ski and summer fishing resort. Oliver Sanders’s father, Otto, bought the massive stone building and turned it into an elegant old-style hotel complete with a penthouse that overlooked the town, the ski hill and the river.

Peggy slipped past the desk clerk, a fastidious man in a blue and gold uniform who was busy on the phone but motioned frantically for her to wait for a bellhop to help her. Luckily for her, both the clerk and bellhop were busy with a busload of Minnesota skiers.

She was dying to see the penthouse where Oliver lived and she didn’t want some bellhop watching her every move. She hurried into the private elevator. The door closed before the bellhop could get a cart for her purchases, let alone catch her. She used the key for access to the penthouse.

In the quiet of the elevator, she leaned against the wall, tired, hungry and irritable. The coo of the lovebirds irritated the hell out of her and she felt antsy.

Only one thing made her feel better. Thinking about Oliver. That alone had sustained her all these years. It hadn’t been easy, feeling the way she did about him. She had to leave town when he married Mitzy right after high school, unable to stand it.

Mitzy. Her momentary good mood evaporated at just the thought of Mitzy as the elevator slowed to a stop. Mitzy was two years younger and had captured Oliver’s attention from the time they were all kids. Mitzy in her twin blond ponytails bobbing under pretty pink bows. Mitzy in high school in the same color pink, but only a cashmere sweater that stretched over her twin perky breasts that bobbed as she walked. The same pink as cupids.

The elevator door opened directly into the penthouse foyer. Gathering up the presents, Peggy stepped onto the shining white marble and braced herself for the wave of jealousy she knew was about to hit her.

It was worse than she’d thought. She put down the lovebirds, the roses, the massive box of chocolates, the champagne, the velvet box with the diamond tennis bracelet nestled in it and the tiny vial of one-of-a-kind perfume. She carefully put the last beside all the rest on the antique table next to the door, arranging them, just as Oliver had instructed.

Then she moved slowly into the apartment, trying not to drool.
was exactly what she’d always dreamed of. A life like this. With Oliver. It would silence all the years of being called Piggy and pudgy and plain old fat. She hadn’t been fat for several years but she still
fat inside. Probably because she knew Piggy Kane was only a Sara Lee cheesecake away.

She didn’t have much time. Mitzy would be home soon. Mitzy, who’d taken one look at her after returning to town and said, ‘‘My God, you’ve lost a ton of weight. I barely recognized you!’’

Mitzy, who’d suggested lining her up with Oliver’s aging mechanic. The same Mitzy who would never know that her husband had sent his secretary out to do his Valentine’s Day shopping at the very last minute. That is, she’d never know as long as Peggy got out of the penthouse and soon.

Peggy walked through the apartment, touching the lush furnishings, wanting to lick her fingers everything felt so good. In the bedroom, she opened the door to the huge walk-in closet and stepped in to feel the fine fabric of Oliver’s suits. When she pressed a sleeve to her face, she could smell his cologne and almost imagine him here in this room with her.

She turned and saw Mitzy’s side of the closet filled with more clothes than Peggy had even dreamed of ever owning in a lifetime. Fancy gowns, nice suits, beautiful dresses, lush furs. All in size six. Little, cute Mitzy.

Peggy frowned, the old bitter taste in her mouth reminding her that she would never be a size six, would never be prom queen, would never be Mitzy—even if
were married to Oliver. And because of that she would never forgive Mitzy.

But then, like poking a stick in an open wound, she reminded herself that it hadn’t just been Mitzy who’d made fun of her when she was overweight. Oliver had laughed, then pretended he didn’t think it was funny, when Mitzy nicknamed her Piggy, a nickname that had stuck like fat.

Peggy shoved the thought away. It had been her own fault, sitting off by herself at lunchtime, stuffing her face with food, watching Mitzy and Oliver with such envy, wishing— She’d spent years wishing. Then finally done something about it. She’d come back here and gotten the job as Oliver’s secretary. Not that she hadn’t tortured herself at first with the thought that he’d only hired her out of guilt or pity or both.

As she closed the closet, she turned to stare at the king-size bed, seeing herself between the satin sheets with Oliver.

A sound from the foyer startled her. She froze, listening. The elevator. She heard it open and close again. Hurriedly, she glanced at her watch. Had Mitzy come home early?

Her heart began to race and she felt sick to her stomach. If she got caught in Mitzy’s bedroom— She couldn’t hide in the closet. Or under the bed. She’d be trapped and eventually discovered. Her humiliations in high school would pale next to this. Everything would be ruined and Oliver would be furious!

Her stomach growled loudly. Right now, she would have killed for a Big Mac and fries. She closed her eyes, listening with every cell of her body. She should have just dropped off the presents and left. She’d known this place was going to upset her and now all she wanted to do was get out of here and go some place and eat. Eat something rich and fattening that would make her feel better. Something forbidden.

She thought she heard the elevator open again. And close. Was it possible the bellhop had come up looking for her, seen the presents and just assumed she’d left already?

She glanced at her watch again. She still had time to get out of here without being caught by Mitzy. Without upsetting Oliver. If she left right now.

She crept soundlessly over the thick, plush carpet, peering in doorways as she went, trying to convince herself she really was alone in the apartment. She could smell Mitzy’s perfume. And Oliver’s cologne. The mingling of the two made her sick to her stomach.

The presents were where she’d left them on the table, the lovebirds cuddling and cooing. Everything looked just as she’d left it, except....

The bow on the candy box had fallen to the floor.

She stepped closer, counting off the gifts, almost afraid she’d find one missing. Birds, flowers, perfume, champagne, jewelry, candy— That was odd. The lid on the heart-shaped box of chocolates!

Someone had opened the box and left the lid half off, probably in a hurry to get out of the penthouse.

Her heart lurched at a sudden thought. Surely the bellhop wouldn’t have taken a piece of the chocolate. No! Panic filled her, making her grab the edge of the table for support. Oliver had been very specific about how everything had to be. It had to be

He’d think
took the candy! That she hadn’t overcome her ‘‘problem’’ with food. That it was just a matter of time before she became Piggy Kane again. He would never believe the bellhop had taken the candy even if Peggy got the chance to explain. Not that she could admit she’d been in the bedroom snooping around and heard the bellhop come in.

BOOK: Deadly Valentine (Special Releases)
6.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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