The fourth story in the Wind Series
finds Megan outraged by a cross burning on her land, and she forms the Night
Posse and then strikes back. Meanwhile, she is saddened by the tragic illness
of her dear friend, James. After her new boyfriend is killed, she is jailed for
his murder. Later she fights to the death in the darkness against an avenger.
An undercover cop pursues her. When a dying James attempts to end his life,
Megan is forced to act.
I died once, but only for
a minute or so. Still, it should rank with distinction in the category of
unusual circumstances. I’ve also killed four men in the last four years, which
must be a record for Nebraska attorneys under the age of thirty. But I planned
to stay out of trouble—I failed in the past and it cost me dearly. Yet calamity
came even faster than I expected.
Starting at dawn on
Sunday, a disturbance tormented me—the sense of foreboding in my guts persisted
throughout the day and into the evening. After a delicious supper I barely
tasted, portent began to pulse through my arteries. So I set out for my
“backyard,” as I called it. Five miles of rugged land north of my house
stretched before me, pocked with peculiar land forms. I passed over a grassy
mound named Rufus located half a football field from the house then weaved
through the five small buttes dubbed the Seven Dwarfs, located southwest of a
bluff called Big Leo. The second year of the drought kept the soil beneath the
gray-green buffalo grass crusty hard. What was bothering me?
A prairie dog popped his
head out of his hole, barked at me, and then disappeared. I turned to face the early
August wind, waiting for answers, but none came. I didn’t even hear Beverly
Wilson, my neighbor whom I had loved like a mother in the absence of my own.
Why didn’t I hear her soothing voice? I jogged over to Big Leo and climbed the
east slope. Once atop the bluff, I stood by the Fort, the small hut of wood
framing and glass windows that my Uncle Bill and others built for me last
Then it struck me—the
door was unlocked. The inside was void of much besides benches for me and my guests
to use in the winter to keep out of the sting of the gusting north wind. I
examined the lock, which did show scratches around the keyhole; it was probably
an easy lock to pick. This unsecured door could be meaningless, but my roiling
guts argued back. So I spent a half hour searching for answers. Using the binoculars
I stored under one of the seats, I first scanned the Beast, a larger bluff to
the north; Pooper’s Canyon, a dry ditch near the Wilson property to the west;
Raccoon Creek, a shallow stream marked by cottonwoods that cut through dry
earth to the west; and finally Miss Gulch, a deep, dry gully to the northwest.
I loved this scraggily wasteland, replete with cherished memories of my
childhood with Derek and Vonny Wilson. Yet it was also a place that haunted me
from my earliest days here as a toddler, with eerie voices in the wind that
tortured me with longing. It worried me that a new, disturbing event might scar
Back home, my mother, Elizabeth,
known as Beth to most, but Mom only to me, asked, “Trouble?” I nodded. Uncle
Bill dropped his head into his chest and my Lakota housekeeper, Patty, murmured
and rubbed her temples.
“God above,” said my mom.
I called State Patrol
Officer Warren Merritt on his cell phone. We’d been though several “incidents” together.
When I told him something was wrong, he knew to respond with alarm. “What do
you think it is?” Merritt asked.
“I don’t know, but I
think it’s here at my house or probably out to the north.”
“Lordy, Megan, you’ve
been through enough. I’m off today, but I’ll get a cruiser and take a drive
around the area. Promise me you’ll stay inside.”
“And call your uncle.”
“Oh, Bill is standing right here. He knows I’m agitated.”
“Okay, I’ll be in touch.”
I set my phone on the
kitchen counter as I felt the stares of my uncle, my mom, Patty, and my war vet
boyfriend, Zane. All I could say was, “Something…I don’t know what…but
something.” That failed to mollify them. Uncle Bill began scratching his late
day whiskers with both hands. Patty, here on her day off, left and returned
with four flashlights. Mom and Zane just stared at me, waiting.
I turned from their gazes
to call Bo Schnitzel, the Dexter deputy on duty. He promised to check the Cowpoke,
the Dexter tavern, Custer’s diner, and Spittle’s, formerly the Pizza Shoppe, to
find out who was in town and who might be looking for trouble. My next door
neighbor James Wilson knew me even better than Merritt or Bo—he brought his
In time, we settled in
the family room and turned on the Sunday night baseball game as twilight deepened
into darkness. Suddenly, Barnaby and Traddles, James and Bill’s dogs, began
barking. With the family room curtains open, we saw it as soon as it started.
I jumped up from the
sofa. “What the hell?”
Mom called the police
while Bill dialed his cowhands and friends. Zane and I rushed out to the patio.
“My God! I don’t believe
this!” he said.
I dashed back into the
house and took James by the shoulders. “James, I need you to stay here, no matter
what. Please. Guard my house. Barnaby will guard yours.” Benumbed, he just
stared at me. Then to Patty I said, “Tackle him if he leaves.”
After retrieving my Glock
from the study, I grabbed two flashlights. Out on the patio, I handed one to Zane.
Under the rear porch light, Bill was hooking up the back yard hose. The horror
of the scene atop Rufus caught my breath.
God Almighty! A burning
“Zane, go to the right!”
I yelled as I headed to the west side of the knoll.
America’s most heinous
symbol of hatred rose thirty feet into the night sky, its fiery malevolence befouling
my house and land with its light. It made my stomach turn over. I looked for
Zane as I approached the side of the mound. I didn’t see him at first then I
spotted him, still back where I left him. Damn! This was a lousy time for his
shell-shock to kick in.
I sprinted around the
side of Rufus then swept a beam of light to the west and north. Lights flashed
and sirens blared on the highway. As I ran forward, I shone the light to the
east. I worked my way through the Seven Dwarfs, never seeing a soul. As the
sting of smoke hit my nostrils, I recognized the smell of hatred. Shit. I
really wanted to shoot the bastards who did this; yet I was angry that I felt
the need to carry the gun that I wanted to leave locked away in storage.
By the time I worked my
way back to Rufus, a huge blast of water was dousing the fire and sending smoke
into the night sky. Someone caught me in a flashlight beam and ran toward me
from the house.
“Megan, it’s Warren
Merritt. If you’ve got your hand on your gun, please put it away.”
“No, you’re safe,” I
“Have you seen anyone?”
“No, and I got out here
right away. They cleared out damn fast and I never heard a truck or car.”
“All right, then. Walk
back with me. Maybe we can avoid getting water-hosed.”
When we returned to my
backyard, it was filled with State Patrol, firemen, reporters from Sidney and Kimball,
and curious locals. I didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but headed toward the
house. I hated publicity and reporters in general. I never talked to them, no
matter who I’d shot.
When I met my mom on the
patio, she handed Merritt my camera. “You’ll want this,” she said. “I think I got
some good shots before the fire department started soaking the damn thing.”
“Good thinking, Mom. And
you cussed. I think that’s a first.”
“Well, I’m mad. You might
Just then we heard
creaking wood and the sounds of the beams crashing into a heap. A blast of
smoke shot into the night, shrouding the stars as embers flew in all
directions. Shots of water covered the grassy hill, making sure the fire didn’t
“How’s James?” I asked.
“Speechless. He’s with
Patty and Kayla. I gave him a large brandy.”
“Will you go get Zane?
He’s still frozen to that spot.” Mom nodded and walked out into the yard.
“PTSD?” asked Merritt.
“Yeah. His last tour was
a rough one. Let’s go over here.”
I led him to the side of
the house. I wanted to get out of Zane’s way, for he wouldn’t want to see me
just yet. He’d gone numb and I had acted—men don’t handle that well. “Did you
see anything this afternoon?” Merritt asked.
“Well, the door to the
Fort on Big Leo was unlocked, though it could’ve been that way awhile…but I don’t
really think so. I bet they used it to scout the area or James. I wish now that
I’d stayed out there.”
“If they were set on
doing it, they’d wait.”
I nodded. Jack and Bud,
Bill’s cowhands, stood a few yards off to the side, as if they were waiting for
instructions; Bill must have called them. I led Merritt over to them. The men
had become acquainted after the Shootout in the Eldritch barn.
“Thanks, guys, for
showing up,” I said.
“Now promise me you won’t
go out there. They might just be waiting to ambush somebody…though I’d appreciate
it if you checked on the horses.”
“Sure thing,” said Jack.
“This just makes me sick. Now everybody’s gonna think that Nebraska has the KKK.”
“Lordy,” murmured Bud.
“We’ll do a search in the
morning,” said Merritt. “Nobody but you, Megan, knows this land well enough to
run around in the dark.”
“Well, I have done that a
few times, but not since I broke an ankle. Will you excuse me? Goodnight, guys.”
As Bud and Jack left and
Merritt walked over to another trooper, I headed over to a cowboy I didn’t recognize.
“Did Foxworthy send you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the
tall, broad-shouldered silhouette of a cowhand as he tipped his hat. “Tony.”
“Okay, Tony, better tell
Robert Foxworthy. He takes a special interest in this area. I wonder if there’s
been other cross burnings.”
“Well, he certainly wants
to know what you’re up to. Does anyone else know about me?”
“No. I think that’s
“Any ideas on who might
do something like this?” he asked.
“Not a clue. We have
plenty of rednecks out here, but this takes racism to a whole different level.”
I entered the phone
number of the undercover FBI agent into my phone’s contacts list. As he disappeared
into the shadow of the house, I headed inside where I learned Zane walked James
home. He would make sure the house was secure before he left James alone. Mom
and Bill seemed hesitant to leave me, so I told them I was exhausted and wanted
to crash land on my bed.
Yet after they left, I
stayed in the kitchen wondering of Zane would come back. He didn’t, which
failed to surprise me. He would think he’d embarrassed himself tonight. He
probably had some terrible memory of a fire or an explosion in the night on one
of his missions in Iraq or Afghanistan. I now had my own terrible memory of a
fire in the night. However, my shock couldn’t match the torment for James, an African
I awoke in a sweat at
five, tumbling out of bed and stumbling toward the window. Rufus was surrounded
by yellow tape. What was wrong now? I quickly dressed even as panic made my
heart race. But for what? I was ready to dash out the back door, but I stopped
myself. Think, feel, breathe. I stood still as I tried to empty my mind.
After a few moments, I
knew. I grabbed two keys and a scrap of paper from behind the cereal bowls, shoved
my cell phone into my back pocket and rushed out the front door. On James’
front porch, I rang the doorbell then knocked. Nothing. After I knocked again,
I unlocked the door and the dead bolt with the keys I brought then punched in
the security code listed on the paper. I called out to James, but heard only a
rustling sound from down the hall. I sprinted to the kitchen.
The New York Times bestselling romantic comedy series continues ...
Snowbound. Sounds so romantic, with visions of cuddling before a roaring fire, hot chocolate spiked with brandy, and a secret elopement.
My fiancé’s father won’t stop trying to turn our pending wedding into a three-ring media circus so he can get free publicity for his family’s Fortune 500 company. My mother has decided she’s done with All Things Wedding and asks her teacup Chihuahua for mother-of-the-bride advice.
They’ve all gone certifiably mad.
Then the stress from the wedding puts my mother in the hospital, I scream at my future father-in-law in front of a camera crew and the video goes viral, and the romantic wedding that started with Andrew’s grand Pride and Prejudice proposal looks less like Jane Austen and more like Dostoyevsky.
So what do you do when you’re a fixer and you can’t fix something?
You give up on it.
Not on Andrew, silly.
Shopping for a CEO’s Wife is the 12th book in Julia Kent’s New York Times bestselling Shopping for a Billionaire series. As Shannon and Declan enjoy their newlywed bliss, Andrew’s father wants to exploit Amanda and Andrew’s nuptials, much to Amanda’s chagrin. Can she learn to stand up to her future father-in-law and fight for what’s right? But the real question is: will Spritzy the teacup Chihuahua end up being a flower girl?
Saved by his phone. Andrew scrolls through his texts with a half grin. I know that look. He thinks he won. Won what? I decide on the spot that we weren’t having an argument. Not even a heated discussion. This is what being in a lifelong relationship is all about, right?
Pacing. I have to pace myself when it comes to conflicts, big and small. Especially small. Letting him think he won this one is important. Give an inch.
Take a mile later.
“It’s Dad again,” Andrew says with that mysterious new tone of voice he’s developed. I watch him as he reads his phone, eyes drifting over the screen, hair messy from the skiing earlier. Deep brown eyes narrow as he reacts to whatever his dad said. The muscle between his jaw and ear pokes out with tension as he swallows and swipes on his phone. He blinks rapidly, but his breathing doesn’t speed up.
He’s irritated, but not angry. Annoyed, but not pissed.
I tuck away his reaction in my mental database.
Lately, I find myself watching him with a strange fascination. Openly, obviously, and without hesitation. Andrew doesn’t seem to mind. I know he knows I’m doing it, but so far, he hasn’t questioned me. If he were to ask, I couldn’t tell him why. I don’t know why.
Yet I do it, day in and day out.
“What did he say now?” I ask politely, knowing the answer.
“It’s about the wedding,” Andrew answers, giving me a look that says, Of course. “He insists we need to hold it at Farmington, like Declan’s wedding.”
“His PR team says it’ll get more press. All the major media outlets will station vans there, and the comparisons will generate easier headlines.”
“What does that mean?”
Andrew rolls his eyes. He reaches across my lap and grabs his abandoned coffee mug. The stretch makes his shirt hike up slightly, exposing his waistline, a thin wedge of tanned muscle coming into sight. I catalog it, like I always do these days, and wonder when this will become boring.
“Dad thinks that the press will be more invested if they can sensationalize our wedding ceremony. ‘Will they or won’t they escape?’” Andrew uses one hand to make finger quotes.
“He expects us to be in Declan and Shannon’s shadow on our wedding day?”
“That’s exactly what I said to Dad! Almost word for word. And I told him no. Hell, no.”
“What was his response?”
“That we should ask your mother.”
Praise for the Book
"Shopping for a CEO's Wife by Julia Kent is everything you expect from Julia Kent and so much more. Andrew and Amanda have so much more depth than you expect." ~ Sue O.
"The complex and varied people in this story all blend into a sweet, exciting, heartfelt, love story that you can’t put down until it’s finished." ~ Linda Carlson
"You will not be disappointed in this book." ~ Lauren Roth
"Highly entertaining, Laugh Out Loud, steaming hot ..." ~ Cali
"I laughed so much while reading this book that I couldn't put it down until I finished. Yes, it is a standalone book, but you'll miss some of the jokes if you haven't read the previous books." ~ Lois Pipkin
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men's room toilet (and he isn't a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down.
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People pleaser, Jane Skylar wants nothing more than to earn her art degree, start her life, and bask in the bliss of living with her boyfriend.
But things don’t always go as planned ...
Struggling with her creative side, Jane finds herself in turmoil, often confiding in her roommate – another, more talented art student, Keith Hale. Keith just so happens to be her boyfriend’s older, brooding brother. After a devastating breakup, Jane turns to Keith for comfort. But when the lines blur between roommate and lover, Jane’s life becomes more complicated than ever before.
When Keith’s past comes back to haunt him, their lives all get turned upside down, forcing the truth to surface. Now Jane must fight for what she wants – even if it hurts everyone she loves.
“I’m sorry about your hand,” I said. He threw his jacket over one of the couches and sat on the other. His eyes dropped to my arm, which I was subconsciously rubbing.
“Did he hurt you?” He wasn’t mad, this time—he was worried.
I tried to hide my smile and shook my head. “Not really. I bruise easily.”
He jumped to get closer. “Bruise?” He pulled my wrist and turned my arm to check the damage. It was red. Maybe I wouldn’t get a bruise, but his face made me smile.
“I’m not dying, Keith. He was just an ass.”
“I told you to go with your brother.” He sat again. “Did you have fun, at least?”
“Not really. I guess I didn’t drink enough.” I shrugged, not feeling drunk anymore.
“You really shouldn’t have told me that.” He jumped from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen. I heard a couple of cabinet doors opening and closing and then glasses clinking.
Keith came back with a bottle under his arm, two glasses in one hand, and a lime cut in two and salt in the other.
I wasn’t experienced, but I knew what that meant. “Tequila? Do you think it’s wise?”
“This night wasn’t supposed to be about being wise. It’s just the two of us: you won’t get in trouble.” He paused for a second, staring at the walls in deep thought. He then placed the ingredients on the coffee table. “We won’t get too drunk. Do you know how to drink this?”
I nodded. I’d never tasted it, but I saw it in the movies. The first one burned, and the second did, too. I stopped, while Keith kept pouring shots for himself.
After the first shot, Keith had turned the TV to a music channel. He had turned it up a couple of times, since. We were laughing at each other’s faces. Of course, he was used to it, but I saw the glimmer in his eyes. We were both drunk. The first time I had ever gotten drunk was with Keith Hale. Who would have guessed?
“You should go to sleep,” he slurred, pushing me to the stairs. “Your brother would kill me if he showed up right now.”
“Really?” I stumbled on almost every step. Keith grabbed my waist every time and released me after I steadied myself, only to stumble again. I repeated the word because it was funny in my tongue. “Really?” He laughed behind me.
“Yeah…” He was also dragging his words. “Thanks.”
“For what?” I had reached my door and turned to say good night.
He struggled for the words. His smile disappeared and he took so long to say anything that I was considering forgetting the question and going to my room. Then he grabbed my face with his hands.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"I'd recommend this to any YA fan looking to dive into some new adult books. This book makes an easy transition because it's not heavy on the things that make a book new adult. It has a sweet but tortured romance and shows you just how not perfect everyone really is." ~ Chelsea
"Wow. This book blew me away. It left me speechless, which is hard to do if you know me. It was absolutely a beautifully written story that deserves to be read and shared by all avid readers." ~ Amers
"Words... I got nothing because this book left me with so many feels that I don't know if I will ever recover!! I've never been so angry to have to live my life. All I wanted to do was consume this book!" ~ Jesus Freak Reader
"YAY! I love finding new authors and new books to fall in love with. And this totally happened with Painting Sky by Rita Branches . Anyway, this book had me hooked from the get-go. The words on the pages just sucked me in and I didn't want to take a break from reading because I was so into it." ~ Pretty Little Book Reviews
"This book stole my heart. It is official. My heart was broken and shattered at the same time for what I felt for the characters in this book. Rita Branches, a new author to me, brought one of the sexiest, sweetest, and loveliest books that I have ever drank up within a day." ~ Amy's Review Obsession
Rita Branches is the author of young adult and new adult contemporary romance. She published her debut novel, Painting Sky, in April 2016 and her second novel, Under a Million Stars, was published in August 2016.
Rita lives in Portugal and has a degree in Landscape Architecture, although from a very young age, her love has been in books. Rita Branches is an independent author who enjoys spending every free moment (when she´s not reading) writing emotional stories.
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