When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel #2 by Dixie Lee Brown
Releasing July 16th, 2013
Dixie Lee Brown continues her heart-racing Trust No One series with a sexy veteran determined to protect an innocent woman on the run.
As a former Marine, Walker could find a needle in a haystack. But when he’s asked by the U.S. Marshals to track down a nanny fleeing from the mafia, he’s sure she’ll be more trouble than she’s worth. Especially after the sexy little thing clubs him and leaves him for dead. Walker’s stunned by her courage—and her curves—and can’t help feeling drawn to this damsel trying to dig her way out of distress. He’ll find her, and when he does, it’ll take more than the mafia to tear him away.
Darcy Maddox never expected to be running for her life. But when it suddenly looks like foe may become friend, Darcy’s faced with a choice: Go it alone or trust a man she just met—never mind the way his touch gets her heart pounding. The choice seems simple enough until she realizes it’s not just her life at stake—it’s her heart.
Who would have thought being a nanny to two young boys might end up costing Darcy Maddox her life? This is exactly the situation Darcy finds herself in when her gangster boss, Johnny Fontana, is targeted for murder by the head of an infamous crime family. This is a great action-packed romantic suspense that will keep you on your toes and leave you hoping for a happily ever after. It’s also a story about learning to trust, taking chances, and letting go of the past. The title, When I Find You, is apt for the multi-layered meanings that emerge in this story.
Darcy is an innocent young woman working for a man with connections to mafia head, Frank DeLuca. Even when she learns that her employer, Johnny is a criminal, Darcy refuses to give up her job because she has become too attached to his children. Darcy unwittingly becomes caught up in this deadly world when she wakes up to gunshots in the Fontana home. Fleeing for her safety, it doesn’t take long for Darcy to realize she is a loose end for DeLuca and must be eliminated.
Desperate to find safety, Darcy decides to head home to Oregon where her father, a retired Chief of Police can help. On her way, however, she is kidnapped by an unlikely assassin whose college boy looks completely catch her off guard. Dragged into a remote section of woods, Darcy realizes she is about to be killed. Refusing to give up, Darcy is determined to fight back; if she’s going down, then she’ll go down fighting. Her spirited tenacity quickly earns my admiration.
And I’m not the only one.
Walker, a former marine, has been sent to find Darcy and keep her safe on behalf of the U.S. Marshall’s office.
Thinking this is just a mundane babysitting job, he doesn’t see Darcy as a challenge until she bests him as he tries to intercept her:
“If she hadn’t been a fighter, she’d be dead now. A grudging admiration began to grow. He hadn’t been sure what to expect from a nanny. He certainly hadn’t expected her to be so damn young and pretty. His hand went to the gash on his temple again. Maybe he would forgive her for knocking his lights out…right after he throttled her.”
Darcy’s “trust-o-meter” is way off, and she no longer knows who will protect her.
After Walker saves Darcy from a series of haphazard events, she starts to think he might be one of the good guys and reluctantly allows him to take her to a safe house:
“Was it foolish to put that much trust in a man she barely knew? Maybe…but Darcy did trust him. For reasons beyond her understanding, she had complete faith in the man who wouldn’t even tell her his first name.”
Even at this point in the story, Darcy’s safety is anything but certain. An assassin is hunting her, and she’s still being threatened. Furthermore, she is in constant turmoil, trying to figure out who has her best interests at heart. There are lots of dangerous, nail biting complications that will keep you engaged as the mystery of the plot unfolds.
I really like Darcy’s character. She is a bit naïve and inexperienced, but she shows courage and strength throughout the entire story. Thank goodness with her life in danger, she doesn’t play the rebellious heroine who makes rash decisions, thinking she, alone, can take care of herself. She listens to Walker, even when, others suggest that he can’t be trusted, and through their time together, she gradually gets to know the man behind the battle-hardened warrior.
Walker is a swoon-worthy hero and carrying a lot of emotional baggage. Suffering from PTSD and guilt over his past actions in fighting a war, he refuses to believe he is deserving of someone so sweet and pure as Darcy.
Regardless, Walker finds he wants more than just to be Darcy’s protector. His charm, his sense of humor, and his sweetness make me just want to reach out and give him a hug, even though I think he would scowl at the adjectives I just attributed to him.
Darcy also has deep past hurts that have kept her from opening her heart to love. She is able to bring out the sensitive and caring side of Walker who does his best to make her feel good about herself:
“You’re a breath of fresh air, Darcy Maddox. I know you’ve got this idea in your head you’re not good enough and you want to change into someone else, but…please don’t. Don’t change anything. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
Walker also awakens Darcy’s hope for more than a friendship between them. I loved watching Darcy as she unabashedly tries to take their relationship to a more intimate level.
Even when Walker rejects her advances, she is persistent:
“I’m not giving up on you, Walker.”
“You’re a stubborn woman. I’d be disappointed if you did.”
Just as in battling for her life, she is tenacious in pursuing Walker, risking embarrassment with her actions and honesty. I found it ironic that Darcy is willing to risk the hurt of rejection to reach out to this man, considering what happened to her with sleazeball Robby in high school. I like that she isn’t afraid to call Walker out on his behavior because she intuitively understands his pain. She’s pretty insightful for a twenty-four-year old dealing with with an older, emotionally wary man. Unfortunately, there are times when Walker does too good a job of pushing Darcy away, especially during the suspenseful climax.
The plot of the story is complex but not difficult to follow. It kept me guessing and reconsidering who could be trusted and how the major players were connected.
When you add in the tenuous, sensual romance between Darcy and Walker, you have all the components of a great romantic suspense.
This is the second book in the Trust No One series. Although the characters, Joe and Cara, do play a role in this story, the book can still stand alone.
I received a copy of this book from the author via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Disclosure: The quotes in this review were taken from a pre-published copy and may have been changed or omitted in the final copy.
Read an Excerpt from Chapter 1 of When I Find You
The sharp crack of a gunshot echoed through the silence. Darcy jerked upright in bed, the troubled thoughts keeping her from sleep suddenly forgotten. Her breath caught in her throat as she froze, staring into the darkness, listening. She had to be wrong. It couldn’t be gunfire. The slamming of a cupboard door maybe or a car backfiring on the street at the end of the drive. That was all. She released her pent-up breath and forced herself to relax while easing the tension from her neck, her spine, her stomach…except, apparently there was no help for the ball of dread that knotted her stomach. She shook her head. Since when had she become so paranoid? Her imagination was really working overtime tonight.
The next shot shattered the rosy image she’d conjured and propelled her from the bed to the door, her hands braced against it as though she were strong enough to barricade herself from the evil that lurked outside.
She lost track of time. Seconds blurred into minutes as she waited. No voices. No doors opening or closing. Not even the creak of a floorboard. Nothing. She opened her door a crack and held her breath. The gunfire had come from downstairs, but the only sound now was the tick, tick, tick of the grandfather clock in the hallway outside her room. A ribbon of light revealed the top few steps leading to the lower level. Her heart drummed wildly in her ears, and she forced air into her lungs and let it out, fortifying herself against the lightheadedness that made her legs weak and shaky.
She couldn’t stay here hiding. She had to do something—but what? Go downstairs? Johnny and she were the only ones in the house, at least the only ones who were supposed to be here. What if he was hurt? He might need help, but whoever fired those shots could still be down there. The police? It would take them forever to get here. She leaned her forehead against the cool wooden door, squeezed her eyes shut and fought the indecision and terror that immobilized her.
Darcy had known there was something wrong this morning as she’d watched the two young boys she cared for follow their mother to the cab parked out front. Any other day, she’d have been helping them get ready for school. After they left, the threat still hung in the empty hallways and deserted grounds, and the silence that descended over the house tonight practically shouted a warning.
She’d bet anything her employer, Johnny Fontana, knew there was something wrong too. Why else would he have given the entire household staff a three-day weekend and sent his wife and sons to visit family in California? He’d wanted Darcy to leave today too and even insisted on paying her expenses to visit her parents in Oregon.
The thought of seeing her father filled her with dread, so she’d used a doctor’s appointment as an excuse to delay her departure. She couldn’t explain to Johnny how one sad smile from her father reawakened all the pain and guilt and reminded her in vivid detail why she’d left Oregon in the first place. She loved her father and missed her mother terribly, but there was too much left unsaid between them. Johnny wasn’t completely satisfied with the compromise she’d offered but eventually gave in, and Darcy had made arrangements to leave tomorrow afternoon to visit a friend from college.
Now, the stillness settled around her and a feeling of impending doom sucked the air from her lungs. A grimace twisted her lips. Clearly Johnny had a very good reason for insisting she go. Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt to be a little more flexible.
She should have known something like this would happen when she decided to stay and work for Johnny, even after she learned who he was. What rational person takes a job as nanny to a gangster’s sons anyway? Her father didn’t have any trouble deciding the extent of her foolishness from clear across the country, and he didn’t hesitate to tell her what she should do. Pack her bags and get out. Was that why she stayed? To prove to her father she could take care of herself? Clearly not the wisest decision she’d ever made.
Her head snapped up. Voices floated to her ears as heavy footsteps ascended the stairs. She caught a few words—girl…take her out…upstairs—and her heartbeat picked up another notch.
Icy cords of fear tingled along her spine. She knew the man behind that voice. Reggie Allen. A week ago, he’d come to the house in the company of an older man. She’d never seen either of them before, but she wasn’t likely to forget them. Reggie’s lascivious perusal had filled her with cold dread. The older man’s graying hair sported a serious comb-over, and his soft, fleshy neck and face matched his rotund body. It was his eyes, though, that sent a chill racing up and down her spine. Evil was the word that came to mind when she looked in those eyes.
Later, one of the kitchen staff filled her in. The older man was Frank DeLuca, the head of a well-known crime family…and Johnny’s boss. When DeLuca left that day, Johnny stormed to his study and slammed the door. Reggie came alone each day after that, and with every visit, Johnny grew more anxious. That, and the presence of armed guards on the grounds, should have given Darcy a clue as to how serious the situation was. If only she hadn’t been so busy pretending none of it existed, she might have left this morning like Johnny wanted.
Reggie’s head and shoulders suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs, and she could have sworn he stared right at her through the narrow crack of the open door. She jerked back, closed it a little too hard and swung around. Fear choked her as she struggled to control her breathing and slow her runaway heartbeat.
There was no more time. She had to get out.
Her gaze swept the room, stopping at her purse and the small bag she’d packed with enough clothes for the weekend. Buffeted by uncertainty and fear, she hesitated, unable to think beyond the terror that gnawed at her confidence. A shudder rocked her as she remembered the dark intensity of Reggie’s eyes and the scornful looks he’d reserved for her on his visits to the house. Did he come here tonight to hurt Johnny? It was unthinkable…but she wasn’t hanging around to find out what he would do next. After she was safely away, she’d call the police and send help for Johnny. She couldn’t worry about whether it would come too late.
A loose board creaked in the hallway, sending another dose of adrenaline pumping through her veins. Time was up.
She flew to the window and threw it open, hoping to leave a false trail Reggie would follow. Then she grabbed her bags and crossed to the adjoining door that accessed the children’s room next to hers. She closed it silently behind her and picked her way around favorite toys and beanbag pillows until she stopped in front of the far wall. Nick and Eddy had shown her the secret passageway behind the bookshelf in their room one day when the three of them were playing hide-and-seek. She’d laughed because it was so James Bond. It didn’t seem quite so funny now.
Darcy stuffed down the panic as she searched in the dark for the release that would trip the lock and allow the bookshelf to swing out from the wall. On her tiptoes, her fingers swept the top shelf and finally found what she was looking for—a two inch thick, leather-bound copy of A Tale of Two Cities. She pulled the book out a half inch and the reluctant turn of the lock grated in the silent room. Expelling a sigh of relief, she moved the bookcase away from the wall enough to allow her to squeeze through the narrow opening.
As hurried footsteps signaled Reggie’s entrance from the hallway into her room on the other side of the adjoining door, she tossed her bags into the black chasm behind the bookshelves and slid through after them, then pulled the shelves back into place with a soft click. Her back pressed against the secret entrance, she froze and held her breath, listening as Reggie’s footsteps encroached on the children’s room, circled, and stopped just on the other side of the wall from her, then retreated until she couldn’t hear him anymore. She gulped air, rested her head against the wall for a few seconds, and prayed for the strength to keep going.
Darcy couldn’t see her bare feet in the darkness that engulfed the secret passageway. No matter how much time she gave her eyes to adjust, the inky blackness clung to her. The pungent smell of damp earth invaded her nostrils and images of freshly dug graves swirled in her mind. She spread her arms to gauge the width of the narrow corridor and relief coursed through her when she could touch both sides. Fear of the dark had never been an issue for her before, but the complete void unnerved her. She took a deep breath and swallowed hard against the dread that churned her stomach.
The day the boys had led her through these tunnels came back to her in surprising detail. She groped for her bag, pulled the strap over one shoulder, and slung her purse over the other. Closing her eyes again, she let her fingers trail along the rough walls and took her first tentative steps, using memories to guide her. The corridor ran along the back of the house for about twenty feet before a rickety set of steps descended to the basement level. It turned into a dirt tunnel at that point and angled east, away from the house for about two hundred yards, ending abruptly at a ladder leading to a trap door that opened into a thick grove of trees.
When she reached the top of the ladder, threw back the cover, and clambered from the hole, she drew in huge gasps of fresh air, and the cool night breeze dried the sweat that beaded on her face. For all she knew, Johnny Fontana could be dead, and she’d done nothing to help him. She couldn’t think about that right now. What was she going to do? Returning to the house was out of the question. Reggie would surely be looking for her. She was in way over her head and didn’t have the first clue how to get herself out. If Johnny was dead, she’d just lost everything—her boss, her job, her home and…oh my God…Nick and Eddy. Were they in danger too? She drew a deep breath and searched for calm somewhere in her frantic mind. It would do no good to panic. Now was the time to be smart and make the right choices, or she could easily end up dead too.
DIXIE LEE BROWN started writing romantic suspense nearly twenty years ago. Then life took a few unexpected turns, and the writing career was put on hold in favor of starting a new life and a new job. One’s passion is not easily forgotten, however. Two years ago, Dixie started writing again-a YA novel-but, before she could finish, another idea pushed to the forefront and wouldn’t go away until a full-fledged novel was completed.
That idea became All or Nothing, the first book in the Trust No One series. All or Nothing placed third in the 2011 TARA Contest (Tampa Area Romance Authors) in the romantic suspense category.
Dixie now lives in sunny Central Oregon with two small dogs and a cat for company while she writes the third book of the Trust No One series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, movies and trips to the beach.
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