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Authors: Rachel Brimble

Finding Justice

BOOK: Finding Justice
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Old friends, new secrets

Sergeant Cat Forrester lives by her own set of rules. When
her childhood friend is murdered, Cat’s world is thrown into chaos. Especially
because Jay Garrett—a man from her past—is a suspect, and he needs her help to
prove he’s innocent. After all they once shared, how can she say no?

The attraction flares between them, and getting involved with
a suspect is a huge risk. But the more time Cat spends with Jay, the stronger
the tug on her heart. He is the same caring, irresistible man she remembers. Yet
she can’t let her emotions interfere with the case—solving it is top priority.
And as she digs deeper, she discovers Jay has secrets that may jeopardize any
possible future together.

“I’m a suspect, Cat.”

Jay spoke quickly, his words almost running together. “You
have to help me. You have to help me show them—”

“Wait. You’re a suspect?” How could good, kind-hearted Jay
Garrett be a suspect in a murder investigation? The Jay she remembered always
smiled, laughed and kissed with lips that could lead a girl into all sorts of
trouble….

“Please tell me you’re the detective you always swore you
would be. You have to help me. I need you.”

He needs me. After all this time.
“Jay, listen to me. If you’re a suspect, what happened? Cops do not go around
accusing people—”

“The cops are walking around like their bloody heads are cut
off. Sarah’s parents are waiting for them to release her body while the police
point the finger at me rather than the real killer. I feel trapped, Cat. You’ve
got to come to the Cove.”

“I can’t.”

Dear Reader,

I am so thrilled to introduce you to my debut novel with
Harlequin Superromance! I am a Brit, living in southwest England and so proud
that Harlequin is happy for me to write about British characters living in the
fictional seaside town of Templeton Cove, England. I really hope you love this
story as much as I do!

Detective Sergeant Cat Forrester is a woman in emotional
turmoil from pretty much the very first page. Having lost her father to a drunk
driver, Cat has spent the past seven years since his death looking after her
grieving alcoholic mother alone, after her brother deserted them.

When she receives a phone call from her past lover and
friend, Jay Garrett, telling her their mutual friend has been murdered and he is
a suspect, Cat is torn between rushing to his aid and staying home.

Knowing she can’t leave Jay to fight the accusation alone,
she forces her brother to step up to their joint responsibility and leaves the
city for Templeton Cove. The story that unfolds is one of danger, risk, high
passion and love…for both Cat and Jay’s dead friend and each other.

I received the email from my agent back in May 2012 telling
me that Harlequin wanted to contract
Finding Justice.
A lot of screaming, crying and general hysteria ensued. Then I “met” my
editor. I am smiling as I write this because I am so happy to be working with
such a wonderful lady who makes me feel I can actually write.

I sincerely hope you enjoy Cat and Jay’s story and I’d love
to hear from you when you’re done. Visit me at
www.rachelbrimble.com
.

Love,
Rachel Brimble

P.S. Be sure to look out for my next book set in Templeton
Cove, coming in August 2013 from Harlequin Superromance!

Finding Justice

Rachel Brimble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Brimble lives with her husband and two young
daughters in a small town near Bath in the U.K. She started writing short
stories about eight years ago, but once her children were at school, she
embarked on her first novel. A small press published it in 2007. Since then,
she’s had several books published, but securing her first contract with
Harlequin Superromance was the proudest day of her career.

An active member of the Romantic Novelists Association and
Romance Writers of America, when Rachel isn’t writing you’ll find her with her
head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her
dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in southwest England. And in the
evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused.

Don’t miss any of our special offers. Write to us at the
following address for information on our newest releases.

Harlequin Reader Service U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box
1325, Buffalo, NY 14269 Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Dedicated to my wonderful husband, Terry Brimble, without whom
I would not have had the courage or tenacity to follow my dreams. I love
you.

Acknowledgments

There are so many people I want to thank for believing in me
and making this book possible. First, to my wonderful agent Dawn Dowdle, who
taught me to write deeper and better than I ever did before. I hope
Finding Justice
is my first thank-you of many.

To my friend and stoic contact, Police Constable Penny Walters,
who made the suspense come alive. (All errors are mine.) You are my girl!

Finally, to my fantastic editor, Piya Campana—you could not
have been more encouraging or supportive throughout. Thank you for being so
great and teaching me so much!

CHAPTER ONE


G
ODDAMN
IT
,
he’s not getting away
with this. Do you hear me?” Detective Sergeant Cat Forrester glared at the
circle of detectives watching her with varying amounts of guilt etched across
their faces. “He was drunk. He got in a car and mowed down a
twenty-eight-year-old mother. That makes him a killer, a murderer. I want his
ass on a stick. So get back out there and talk to every damn person who knew
him, loved him, hated him and slept with him. Somebody somewhere is hiding his
sorry ass.”

One of her female officers raised her hand. “No one in his
family is talking right now, but I’m pretty sure if I keep up the pressure on
the eldest daughter—”

Cat glared. “Is anyone else apart from me taking this case
seriously? The guy was drunk, left the pub and got in his car. He then thought
nothing about driving through Marlborough Place, past a school right when they
were letting out for the day. He killed a mother. A mother of a small child. If
that small child hadn’t been talking to her friends a few feet away, she would
be dead, too. We are going to catch this guy. Do I make myself clear?”

There was a cursory wave of nods and fingers tapping on
keyboards in response. “Good. Well, get to it, then. Go. All of you.”

The mumbled “yes, ma’am”s and scraping of chair legs against
tile grated on Cat’s nerves, hitching her stress level up another notch. Turning
her back, she stared at the incident board. He couldn’t get away with this. Not
another drunk driver going unanswerable to his crime.

“Sergeant?”

“What?” she snapped.

“Sergeant.” The firm, don’t-mess-with-me voice of Inspector
Harris echoed around the small room.

Cat grimaced.
Damn.
She turned and
planted a smile on her face. “Sir.”

He shook his head. “Don’t give me that smile of yours,
Sergeant. What was that all about? The driver has been missing in action for two
days and you’re dressing down your team as if he’s been on the run for two
weeks.”

“I want him caught.”

He stared at her for a moment longer before he blew out a
breath and rested his hip against the gray metal desk behind him. “How much
longer is this one-woman mission to end all drunk driving going to go on,
Cat?”

The use of her first name spoke volumes. She hated it. If she
lost her inspector’s respect, and it evolved into sympathy, God only knew what
the effect would be on her team if they witnessed it.

She crossed her arms. “It’s not a mission, sir. I just don’t
think it’s being given the time or concentration it deserves. This guy left a
man alone to raise a four-year-old daughter.”

“As your father’s killer left you, your brother and mum.”

Heat pinched at Cat’s cheeks. “That’s not the same. I was an
adult.”

He shrugged. “Depends how you look at it. What will this child
remember of her mother? You had years of memories with your dad.”

She turned away from him, picked up a marker and made some
illegible and pointless alterations to the board. “This isn’t about my dad, sir.
He died seven years ago.”

“And it’s still as raw as yesterday.”

Cat squeezed her eyes shut. “You’re wrong.”

“Am I?”

“Yes.”

There was a long silence and Cat inwardly cursed when the words
in front of her blurred. She blinked. “Was there something you wanted to ask me,
sir? I really should—”

“A call just came through.”

Cat put down the marker and turned. “Call?”

He nodded, his gaze locked on hers. “Your mum. She needs
picking up.”

Shame and embarrassment flooded her body in equal measure and
Cat swept past him to her desk. “Where?”

Inspector Harris stood. “The Hunters Arms.”

“Fine.” Cat whipped her bag from her chair and hitched it onto
her shoulder. “If there’s nothing else—”

“Cat.” He caught her wrist as she moved to brush past him. “She
needs help. Professional help.”

“I can handle it.”

“Not on your own. Not anymore.”

She eased her arm from his hand. “I’ll be back when I can.”

Cat swallowed the humiliation burning like acid in her throat
and walked from the room.

When she got outside, she inhaled great lungfuls of fresh air
like she hadn’t had the God-given pleasure of it in a week. Once her heartbeat
slowed and her cheeks cooled, she flicked her hair over her shoulders, slid into
the front seat of her police-issue car and drove toward the pub.

Fifteen minutes later, the soles of her shoes sucked and pulled
against the sticky linoleum tiles as she walked deeper into The Hunters Arms.
The bright August sunshine struggled to penetrate the nicotine-stained windows,
and the TV screen hanging above the bar was so thick with dust, Oprah looked as
though she was talking through a snowstorm.

Cat narrowed her eyes. Except for the three patrons sitting at
the bar with the same early-morning thirst as her mum’s, the pub was empty. She
met the bartender’s gaze as he wiped glasses.

“Where is she?”

He tilted his head toward the closed door of the ladies’
bathroom.

She inhaled a deep breath and walked toward the closed door,
fighting the nausea in her throat. How many more times would she have to do
this? Ten? Twenty? Or was today the day she found her mum dead? Stepping inside,
she nudged each cubicle door open in turn, her heartbeat increasing, her hands
clammy. Tears threatened and she blinked them back. If her mum was dead, Cat was
prepared. She’d been prepared since alcohol became her mum’s necessary poison
seven years before.

Pushing open the final stall, she stared down at her mum’s
painfully thin body sprawled across the tiny, tiled space. Patches of red wine
stained her sunny-yellow dress; her designer slingbacks were scuffed and torn.
Shoulder-length red hair, once so similar to Cat’s, lay limp and loose about her
shoulders, her long ago luminous skin an ugly shade of gray.

Dropping to her knees, Cat slid her hands under her mum’s arms
and heaved her upward until her head lay in Cat’s lap. “Mum, it’s me. Come on.
Time to wake up.”

She gently tapped her mum’s cheek until she coughed, exhaling
alcohol-infused breath into Cat’s open mouth. Cat gagged, the sound loud and
revolting as it echoed around the filthy enclosed space.

“For crying out loud.” Cat held the back of her hand to her
mouth.

Slowly her mum opened her eyes. After a moment, her gaze
focused and she smiled. “Hey, baby. What are you doing here?”

Struggling to keep a lid on her rising frustration, Cat forced
a soft smile. “I’ve come to take you home, silly.”

“You’re a good girl, honey. Always be there for me, won’t
you?”

Cat looked away as the usual words of assurance dissolved on
her tongue like condensation on a cold bottle of beer. “Let’s just get you out
of here, okay?”

Hauling her mum to her feet, they shuffled from the bathroom
into the bar. Ignoring the glassy-eyed stares of the drunks watching them, Cat
tilted her chin and continued forward until they emerged outside. Cat lowered
her mum into the passenger seat of her car and snapped her seat belt into place.
She slammed the door.

She was a detective sergeant in the U.K. police force, yet she
couldn’t fix her grieving, alcoholic mother no matter how hard she tried. She
sometimes wondered if it would be easier catching her first serial killer than
dealing with the criminality of her mum’s affliction. Shaking her head to clear
the lingering sense of failure hovering around her like an invisible phantom,
Cat marched around to the driver’s side.

She’d find a way to help her mum sooner rather than later. She
had to. The alternative was her brother and her becoming orphans at the age of
twenty-nine and twenty-seven respectively. The fingers of the demon drink
continued to claw at their shadows. Always there, always threatening to destroy
what both of them had left.

Yanking open the car door, Cat slid into the seat and glanced
across at her mum. Slumped over, her head tilted to the side, her eyes closed in
comatose slumber, Julia Forrester barely resembled the glamorous mother and wife
she’d been once upon a time. Cat brushed the fallen hair from her mum’s
cheek.

“I love you, Mum. I promise I’m doing my best to fix this.”

Twisting around in her seat, Cat started the engine and fought
to keep a firm hold on her resolve. Everything would be all right. It had to
be.

The drive home passed in a blur of radio conversation with her
team at the station, the whole time Inspector Harris’s accusation of her
personal involvement with drunk-driving cases beating her upside the head. She
needed to stop reacting so vehemently every time a new hit and run landed on her
desk. Yes, they were an open sore to her alcohol-hating heart, each one a sharp
cut of remembrance striking her flesh like a knife, but that wouldn’t help catch
the guilty party.

The driver who killed her father was three times over the limit
when he was caught. The Breathalyser reading served as the lock on the door to
his prison cell. Others, like her current case, were harder to catch—but catch
him she would.

Cat swallowed the perpetual guilt her mother’s undoing caused
time and again. If her father could see them now, he’d be so angry with her mum,
her and Chris. How had their family been reduced to such disconnected chaos in
seven years?

Swallowing hard, she tightened her grip on the steering wheel
and concentrated on getting home.

By the time they reached the house, Julia was fairly lucid and
Cat managed to get her inside and onto the settee without the humiliation of
curtain-twitching neighbors asking if she needed any help—again. She whipped a
fleece throw from the back of an adjacent armchair and tucked it tightly around
her mum’s perspiring body, knowing she’d wake shaking and cold.

Satisfied her mum would sleep for at least another hour, Cat
left the room and walked upstairs to her bedroom. Physical and mental exhaustion
settled over her like a concrete duvet as she fell backward onto the bed. Her
heavy lids closed.

“Just for a couple of minutes,” she murmured.

The sharp shrill of the phone on her bedside table obliterated
her flagging energy, shaking her wide awake. Cat flew across the bed and
snatched up the receiver before it woke her mum.

“Hello?” Her gaze darted to the open door.

“Hi. Um...is that Julia?”

“No. This is Cat Forrester, her daughter. Julia can’t come to
the phone right now. Can I help you?”

“Cat?”

Annoyance prickled at her nerve endings as she fell back onto
the bed again, her eyes closing. “Yeah, as in poised to claw someone’s eyes
out.”

His totally masculine burst of laughter sent a shiver down her
spine and a loop the loop through her stomach. Her eyes snapped open and she sat
bolt upright.

She knew that laugh....

“Got it.”

A smile tugged at her lips. His voice was rich and deep, warm
when everything else around her felt cold. She swallowed. It couldn’t be.
“Jay?”

“The one and only. How are you, pretty girl?”

“My God, it
is
you.” Her smile
stretched to a full-blown grin. “I can’t believe this. It’s been years.” Since
her father died.

“It’s great to hear your voice again. What have you been up
to?”

She hesitated, hating to lie but the alternative was
impossible. Jay. Jay Garrett. Childhood friend and confidante. Her one-time
lover.

“Not much, really. Work, work and more work.” She forced a
cheery smile. “How are you?”

Silence.

Cat stood and walked toward the bedroom door. “Jay? You
there?”

“I need your help, Cat. I’m in trouble. Big trouble.”

The timbre of despair in his voice alerted her to grief. Loss.
She heard it loud and clear. It didn’t matter whether the speaker was male or
female, young or old. When you lost someone before you should, it always sounded
the same. She was trained to recognize it—personally and professionally. To
listen and help. To alleviate others’ pain and hide her own. She stopped pacing
and tightened her grip on the receiver.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Sarah.”

Her mind whirled back seven years ago to the last time she and
her family took their annual holiday to Templeton Cove. A picturesque town
situated amongst the spectacular “English Riviera” region of Southwest England.
The place Jay and his family had lived for generations.

“Sarah? Is she okay?” Cold dread seeped into Cat’s blood,
making goose bumps erupt on her arms. “Jay?”

“She’s dead, Cat. Murdered.”

She sucked in a breath as a lump of stone dropped into her
abdomen. “What?”

“You need to come to the Cove. Investigate her death. The
police here aren’t getting anywhere.” His shaky breath rasped down the line.
“I’m a suspect, Cat. You have to help me. You have to help me show them—”

“Wait. You’re a suspect?” How could good, kindhearted Jay
Garrett be a suspect in a murder investigation? The Jay she remembered always
smiled, laughed and kissed with lips that could lead a girl into all sorts of
trouble....

“Please tell me you’re the detective you always swore you would
be. You have to help me. I need you.”

He needs me. After all this time.
“Jay, listen to me. If you’re a suspect, what happened? Cops do not go around
accusing people—”

“The cops are walking around like their bloody heads are cut
off. Sarah’s parents are waiting for them to release her body while the police
point the finger at me rather than the real killer. I feel trapped, Cat. You’ve
got to come to the Cove.”

Cat felt the color leave her face and she gripped her hair back
in a fist. “How did she die?”

“Strangled.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh, God, no.”

Sarah. Her friend. Her partner in crime. Memories of their
childhood antics crashed into her heart and mind, of tormenting Jay and Chris,
Cat’s older brother, as they hung around the arcade trying to look cool. Of
course, they’d grown up and Jay became the one whom all the girls noticed
whenever he walked into a room. Especially Cat.

BOOK: Finding Justice
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