It's also the book I rewrote something like twelve times. And It's the book that if I could rewrite again, I would.
Even with all that, I love it. Tick and Cait are two of my favorite characters, and I loved unfolding their story. I love how they love one another (although she doesn't want to admit it). I love how tenacious he is and how once she does decide she can trust him, she's all in.
I simply love it. I hope you do, too.
She keeps a secret buried in the past. He wants the truth—now. But an unknown killer could destroy their future.
Hold On to Me by Linda Winfree
Book Three in the Hearts of the South series.
For FBI profiler Caitlin Falconetti, immersing herself in her job is the only way to quell the memories of a vicious, near-fatal attack and what it cost her, including the only man she ever loved. Better to let him think she simply rejected him, rather than reveal a painful secret that she's certain would have destroyed his feelings for her.
Investigator Lamar “Tick” Calvert is determined to clean out the corruption-riddled sheriff’s department in his hometown. While he understands Caitlin's drive to excel at her job, that doesn’t mean he's happy about the prospect of working with his former lover, the one woman he tried and failed to hold onto.
A rash of unsolved murders, including a politician's daughter, brings them together to find the murderer before another woman dies. Daily contact re-ignites the lingering attraction between them, but Caitlin won't risk opening herself and revealing her secret. She plans to complete the killer's profile, make an arrest and get out of town for good.
Tick plans to solve this case, too, but now that Caitlin's back in his life, he also plans to finally dig up the truth about why she left him.
But there's an added complication—the killer isn't done, and Caitlin could be the next target.
The squad room lay quiet and deserted. A subdued rumble of activity drifted up the stairs from the dispatch area, mixing with the scent of stale coffee lingering in the air.
The few bites of chile relleno Tick had forced himself to eat formed a lump in his stomach. He tucked his cigarettes in his pocket, the two he’d smoked back-to-back on the way over here not really settling him down.
He paused in the doorway to the conference room. Jeff and Cookie were nowhere in sight. Caitlin sat, reading the red leather-bound journal they’d taken from Amy’s room, a cup from the local java joint at her elbow. He watched her, the thick black silk of her hair pulled into a loose knot, the Fibbie suit traded for jeans and a simple white T-shirt under a neat seersucker jacket. One loafer-clad foot tapped the floor, a frown of concentration wrinkling her brow.
Damn, she was beautiful.
Beautiful and scarred. Not visibly damaged, but something had stolen her away from him.
Damned if he wasn’t going to find out what. If he was trapped into this working arrangement, so was she. This time, he’d make it a hell of a lot harder for her to dodge the issue.
“Find anything interesting?”
She startled like a scalded cat. The diary slid to the floor and one flailing hand collided with her coffee, sending the dark liquid across the table.
“Oh, hell!” She jumped to her feet and righted the cup. He grabbed a handful of napkins from the shelf by the door and began mopping up the mess. She glared, her eyes big and dark with fury in her pale face. “Don’t sneak up on me like that, Calvert.”
“Who’s sneaking?” He dropped the sopping mass of napkins in the trash. “I just walked into my own department and asked a simple question.”
She leaned down to retrieve the book, but he reached it first. They straightened and he proffered it, merely the length of the volume between them. She took it from him with ill grace. “A little advance warning would be nice.”
“You’re awful jumpy.” He studied her as she sank into the chair again. The color didn’t return to her face and tiny tremors shook her slender fingers. A warning flag waved in his mind.
“I was reading.”
He pulled out the chair cater-cornered and closest to hers, an old interrogator’s trick. She flicked a glance at him and shifted to the farthest edge of her seat.
“So how’ve you been?”
“Fine. Thank you.”
“Busy?” He leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. He stretched his legs, crowding hers a little, forcing himself into a semblance of casual relaxation. “Probably had to drop a lot of things to come down here.”
“Not really.” She scratched a note on a legal pad, her knuckles white. “I’ve been out of the field.”
That surprised him. She lived for the damn job. At one time, he’d been fully prepared to take a backseat to that drive of hers, as long as they could be together. “Why?”
Her Montblanc pen faltered, ink smearing on the paper. She dropped it and looked up, her eyes cool and shuttered. “Did I miss something, Calvert? When did we agree to play twenty questions?”
He smiled, the “aw-shucks-good-ol’-boy” one he used whenever he had to worm his way under the defenses of a local suspect. “You said it, Falconetti, we have to work together. I’m just playing nice, making conversation.”
“Try selling that line of bull to someone who’ll buy it.” Her hands were in her lap now, but he’d bet his next pack of smokes her fingers were wound into fists. The whole line of her body screamed with tension and the need for escape. How many times had he seen that posture on a perp? “You’re digging.”
“That implies you’re hiding something.”
She pushed her chair back, obviously preparing to flee. “Hiding something? You’re deluded—”
“What is it, Cait?” He grasped her wrist, holding her in the chair with a light touch. “What the hell happened while I was in Mississippi?”
“Don’t touch me.” They stared at one another, the power struggle pulsing to life, growing and twisting between them. “I mean it, Tick, let go or—”
“Or what? You’ll slap a sexual harassment suit on me? Ruin my career?” He leaned forward, ready to call her bluff. “Go for it, precious.”
The endearment he’d only ever used with her slipped out and her eyes widened, darkened. She moistened her lips and tugged against his hold. “You’re hurting me.”
Not physically. He wasn’t holding her tightly enough to do that, but he released her. She had a trapped, hunted air about her now and grim satisfaction curled through him. Oh, yeah, she was hiding something. If he could just find the weak point, break through that damn control of hers…
“I’d never hurt you and you know it.”
“Stop.” Her voice trembled and his chest tightened.
“Not until you—”
“Until nothing. We’re colleagues, Tick,” she said, cold dismissal not quite covering the lingering nervousness in her tone. “That’s all.”
“We used to be friends.”
And lovers. The words hung in the air, unsaid.
“Well, this looks cozy.”
Damn. Tick smothered a wave of frustrated anger. Cookie had the worst timing known to man. Tick straightened, making sure his expression was blank before he looked around at the other man. Cookie’s face was a study in smooth guilelessness that didn’t fool Tick for an instant.