Lethal

lethal

ebook

She’s whip-smart and wise-cracking… and happy to be alive.barnesandnoble

Los Angeles socialite Callaway Wilde is having her day in court – on jury duty, that is: even supremely wealthy heiresses accustomed to the good life still have to serve in the name of justice. But on a break from the courtroom, while browsing the hushed, upscale shops of the city’s Little Japan district, Cally encounters a crime-in-progress: a beautiful young Asian woman is being assaulted by a menacing thug – and when Cally steps in to exact a little justice of her own, she takes a bullet for her troubles.Buy book at amazon.com

Luckily, the $600 Japanese art book Cally purchased on a whim deflected the round – confirming the importance of impulse shopping. Unluckily, the mystery behind Aya, the alluring medical student Cally rescued, has only just begun. Uncovering Aya’s shadowed past is a dangerous proposition for Cally and her irresistibly sexy detective-lover Evan Paley. An even more dangerous proposition is getting closer to Evan – Cally knows he’s the one, but is she ready to trade in the open-door policy for a lifetime commitment and risk needing someone that much? The future may be decided for her as she and Evan descend into a lethal world of drugs, murder, and the sensual secrets of the geisha…

Chapter One

Through the silver rain dripping from the rim of my umbrella our eyes connected with a sharp magnetic click.

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Reviews are posted below Chapter One.

Boom.

I couldn’t look away, didn’t want to. He was gorgeously Japanese, tall and slim, about forty, dressed in a flawless black suit with a long overcoat. His straight dark hair had a deep glossiness that women would kill for, cut so that the front was long, meeting the shorter hair in the back, and moved over his brow in a sexy sweep as he walked with a smooth, sure, long-legged gait, with his black flashers fixed on my blue ones.

Ooh baby.

I entertained an arousing picture of him moving underneath me with that same grace, his hands firmly on my hips, mine pressed against his smooth bare chest, or sunk in that thick luxurious mane to give me a handhold; traction. If I hadn’t been walking, I would have crossed my legs.

We were fifteen paces away and about to pass each other. Still his eyes held me, smiling a secret between us, and I felt that thrilling hook of a sexual jolt that I love so much, but that happens so rarely. I returned the smile knowingly and then continued past him and on into the open doorway of the bookstore, where I lowered my umbrella and shook off the rain.

I thought, he’s watching me, waiting for me to turn. Arching my back just enough to accentuate my curves and opening my raincoat to reveal them, I turned flirtatiously, and looked up to greet his attentions.

But he was gone. Nasty little shock to my ego system. Most likely he’d disappeared into one of the second floor restaurants in the Little Tokyo Plaza. Damn. Oh well. My dark green umbrella stood out from the several common black ones when I leaned it next to the door and turned to search for treasure in the Japanese-American bookstore.

I browsed in and out of the aisles for at least thirty minutes, picking out the biggest most expensive picture books as well as some sexy paperback comics, selecting one with a sharp eyed, dark-haired hero that reminded me of Evan. I flipped through a few pages and admired the artwork; the hero with a gun, the hero with a sexy half naked blonde, smiling to myself I thought, ‘it is us’ and I anticipated showing it to him that evening. Turning another page I saw an illustration where the heroine stood over the body of a bad guy with a smoking gun and I thought of how I had met Evan that way. Except I had been the one with the smoking gun.

But a glance at my watch told me that if I was going to make it back to the court house on time I had to get going, so I handed over six hundred some odd dollars in cash and was bowed out of the store by the happy manager. The package, wrapped with twine, was heavy. He offered to help me with it to my car but I responded with one of my usual smart-ass replies that I was still young and strong and heaved it up. Trying to look as though it were easy to handle, I went outside. To my left, under the same awning was a jewelry store with a smart Bulgari watch in the window. I went in and inquired about it. Stainless steel, black face, diamonds. The first thing the shop girl did was to tell me the price.

I hate that.

Turning away from the counter dismissively I perused a display case by the window. I glanced up over it and through the rain-speckled glass of the storefront I saw the handsome man again. He was listening with polite attention to the female half of a wealthy looking couple. The way he held his body spoke of elegant well-earned confidence and subtle sensuality. He knew I was there because as he bowed his good-byes to the departing couple, his eyes pierced the glass and space between us and he stood for a moment with that same heated smile. I regarded him with an intimate gaze, an unspoken acknowledgment of our mutual attraction, and then he bowed, and moved away.

I sighed, thought of Evan, wondered if I could ever really give up hunting, and then I went back to the shop girl who had made the mistaken assumption that I could not afford the watch I had asked about. I made an obvious motion of pushing back my hair so that my sleeve would fall down and reveal the Phillip Patek watch I was wearing, a little twenty thousand dollar birthday bauble from Evan. Her eyes spotted it and I watched her whole attitude change from contempt to one of simpering attendance.

I hate that too.

“Would you like to see the Bulgari?” she asked, all smiles and sweetness.

“Sure,” I said, disinterested now. I tried it on, watching her eye the Patek when I put it on the counter. She was checking to see if it was real. It was. “How much did you say this was again?” I asked, ribbing her now.

“Five thousand, seven hundred dollars.” A look of avid expectiation on her face.

“Mmm.” I took it off, wrinkled my nose a little distastefully and said, “Is that all?” Then I smiled brightly at her surprised look and turned to go. I would buy the watch from someone who respected me.

I regretted my flippancy at not accepting help carrying the books as soon as the weight of the awkward bundle bit into my palm where I grasped the rough cord. I was wondering how I was going to handle the books with one hand while holding the umbrella with the other as I retrieved the latter from the damp bin outside the door. I set the package down on the last bit of dry ground under the awning and holding the umbrella by the handle I pressed my thumb on the button and it opened like a tiny parachute. The umbrella unfolded, the note that was in it did not. It fell to the white tile at my feet.

Trying not to look too obvious, I scanned around for a sign of whoever might have secreted a note but saw no one. Maybe it was just a receipt, dropped by mistake, and then again…I picked up the curiosity and placed it casually in the pocket of my Burberry mackintosh, lifted the books again, and headed out into the rain.

Back on the street I continued on through the clean, sparsely peopled shopping area. I wondered if it was the rain that made the place feel so deserted. As I crossed over a subterranean shopping level on a concrete bridge, I leaned out a bit to try to see what was down there.

What was down there was a girl, a man, and an ugly confrontation.

A large man, in an ill-fitting suit and a baggy overcoat, had backed a pretty Asian girl up against a wall in an awkward niche behind the curved stairs. No one on the same level with them could have seen the two, hidden as they were by the wall.

The girl was turning her head away from the man as he pressed against her, talking to her fast and angrily. I froze and looked all around me. Nobody. I backed up a few steps to the top of the stairway, keeping my eyes on what was happening below me. Neither of them had seen me. The stairway curved slightly and I would be out of sight for a few seconds. I started down the stairs as noisily as possible. Hoping that it would scare the man away.

I coughed. I cleared my throat. I stamped down the stairs with purpose. Instead of going the obvious, straight way into the shopping tunnel I turned right into the little nook that reeked of urine and coughed loudly again. But even a few feet away the man seemed oblivious. He was so focused on the girl and spewing his anger at her that he didn’t even seem to hear me. The girl’s eyes, however, shot to me and there was a plea in them. Don’t leave me, they begged. Her face was pale with fear and her features distorted with the confusion of a trapped animal, but even so, she was stunningly beautiful.

The man noticed her glance and followed her gaze.

“Just keep going, it’s none of your business,” he snarled at me.

“See, it looks more like personal than business to me,” I said. It was all I could think of.

“Keep walking, we’re fine.” He tried to smile. “Just a little disagreement, that’s all. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?” He shook the girl a little, prompting her to answer.

But I could see her answer as her eyes looked down between the two of them and then back up at me.

I was sweating now. The tension was palatable and getting more grotesque by the second. I couldn’t walk away. I wanted to scream at him, shout what a disgusting piece of vomit he was. I hated him for thinking he had superior power to me, for having the strength to overpower over her.

Instead I stepped in, almost casually, and smiled in what I hoped was a disarming and polite way.

“How about it ‘sweetheart’?” I directed at the girl. “You think you two can work this out without counseling?” I took one more step forward; and he released her arm. He was still blocking her in with his body.

She tried to speak, to buy some time, to keep me there. “I don’t know, I guess so.” There was still terror in her eyes.

“My professional opinion,” I ad-libbed, “would be that you need at least a weekend seminar. Possibly a seven day retreat with some serious trust building exercises.” One more step, and I saw the gun in his oversized hand.

“Take a fucking hike!” The man growled at me, raising the gun toward me, to scare me. It worked. The girl saw him aim at me and with a scream she grabbed at the weapon; I knew that was a mistake. With the umbrella in my left hand I swung down even as his arm came up, trying to point the gun and both their hands toward the ground, knowing it was hopeless, that his arm was far stronger than the flimsy aluminum and nylon. The man grabbed the girl by the hair with his other hand and threw her toward me. I heard the gun go off, felt a pressure against my stomach as the girl screamed and hit me, shoving me, books, umbrella and all, to the ground. My left hand flew up and the back of it smashed against the concrete wall. In my abdomen I felt a sharp, stabbing pain. I’ve been hit, I thought. Oh God, I’ve been shot. I got a quick view of the man’s pants as he jumped over us and ran up a narrow ramp toward the parking structure.

The gunshot brought out the shopkeepers. They hung there in the doorways, fascinated and afraid until they sorted out that the man running away was the threat, we were just interesting. Then they watched the two of us on the ground like they would a high-speed chase on live TV, drawn in yet completely detached. Goddamn it. I don’t want to die like this, with blank staring faces watching me like I was the evening news.

The Asian girl was lying next to me rolled into a protective ball, stunned. She turned and looked first at my face and then at my stomach and my hands pressed tight against it; I was afraid that if I pulled them away I would start to bleed and never stop.

“Are you all right?” she asked quickly.

“I am the evening news,” I breathed, staring up at the tiny patch of sky I could see through the concrete structures. “I can’t believe it,” I added. The sky, I noticed, was the same color as the stone.

“What?” She sounded confused.

I turned my head and looked at her. “I don’t know. I don’t think so,” I answered her question belatedly. “Can you get my cell phone out of my purse and call for help?”

She turned to one of the boutique girls who had ventured closer for a better view of the action and screamed at her in Japanese. Not one of my languages, Japanese, but I caught ‘911’ at the end of it. The on-looker seemed shocked to be drawn into our movie. I mean, here she was, enjoying the entertainment, and suddenly a character from the drama had called her by name and barked an order at her. She reconciled herself to this new reality in a few seconds and took off back into her shop, to the phone I hoped.

Then the girl turned back to me; with her assailant gone she became a confident, capable woman. She took off her raincoat and rolled it up, putting it under my feet. Then she put her hands over mine and looked into my eyes.

“Let me see,” she said.

I nodded. There was nothing else to do. I pulled my hands away.

“I don’t see anything,” she told me.

“Here,” I gestured, pointing to where the pain was, low on my right side. Efficiently but gently, she pulled down the edge of my slacks, I was conscious of the rain, light now, falling on my bare skin.

“It’s just a scratch,” she said, “but it looks like a nasty bruise is coming up. Maybe some internal bleeding, we need to get you to a hospital.”

“What?” I sputtered. “Where’s the round?”

“I don’t know, ” she shrugged, “maybe it bounced off you.” She pulled the edges of my white mackintosh, now sadly limp and dingy, over me. Then she retrieved my dented umbrella and held it over my face.

Quite a crowd had gathered now and I was disgusted to see several of them had video cameras running. What a world.

“By the way,” said my capable nurse, “my name is Aya, Aya Aikosha.”

“Nice to meet you, Aya. I’m Callaway Wilde.”

“Thank you, Ms. Wilde.” Her beautiful dark eyes searched mine. “That was very brave. Thank you.”

“Oh, that,” I dismissed it, for the second time that day thinking of the man who had tried to kill me a year ago and ended up dead on the sidewalk, “that was nothing.” I waved a hand, “call me Cally.”

Reviews

Take a fascinating journey with Cally and Evan as they try to discover who is wrecking havoc on their lives. As the mystery evolves, they find themselves in the middle of a struggle for drugs, greed and power. Is the culprit the Japanese Uncle, the Geisha girl, a drug lord, the young girl who foolishly fell in love with the wrong man or someone they never suspected?

Callaway “Cally” Wilde is a beautiful and wealthy young heiress with a checkered past. While on break from jury duty, she comes upon a scene of a very scared Japanese woman being threatened by a man and decides to try and diffuse the situation, but ends up with a bullet instead. The Japanese woman, Aya, feels beholden to Cally for saving her life and asks her for help. So Cally invites Aya to stay with her and calls Evan, a detective and her lover, to help figure out what is going on. The more information they uncover, the more danger befalls them. Cally becomes extremely jealous when Evan keeps eyeing her guest like she is the most luscious thing on earth. Although she loves Evan, her heart and soul are too battered to let him in. Will Cally open her heart to Evan and let his love heal her? Or will she walk away from the best thing to ever happen to her because she is too afraid to let him get too close?

Evan Paley is a sexy detective with dark secrets. He loves Cally and wants to protect her at all costs, but he does not want her to ever learn about his shady side. Evan knows she wants more out of their relationship, but he is not willing to take it to the next level. When she gets shot and they find themselves in the middle of a murder and mystery, he realizes that she is the only woman he wants. But he must find the culprit trying to kill her before it is too late. Will Evan finally tell Cally he loves her and wants her in his life permanently?

LETHAL is fast-paced, edgy and extremely sensual. Ms. Shattuck does a beautiful job keeping the reader glued to their seat while she weaves a tale of murder, mystery, and a passion electrifying enough to scorch you. The characters are compelling and the plot is gripping. I thought I figured out who the culprit was and then the next twist had me rethinking it again. I was pleasantly shocked at who it was. I laughed at the antics and cried at the injustice the characters went through. I adored Cally for overcoming her past, her sassy and witty attitude and they way her character grew throughout this charming tale. Evan stole my heart with his sense of justice, his love of his job and finally realizing he can have brightness in his dark world. The secondary characters are just as dynamic as the main characters and really add authenticity to the tale. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Shattuck’s riveting tales.

— Billie Jo, Romance Junkies Reviewer

Cally Wilde is beautiful, rich, intelligent – and had a talent for running into trouble. A shopping trip to LA’s Little Tokyo becomes a nightmare when she witness a crime that involves her and her LAPD boyfriend, Evan Paley, with murder, drugs and the Colombian mafia.

A sequel to the successful Loaded, Lethal continues to trace Cally and Evan’s steamy relationship while unraveling an adventure worthy of more experienced writers. Brimming with crackling dialogue and well-nuanced characters, this book is engrossing. Shattuck weaves a complex plot peopled by complex characters. It’s especially noteworthy that the author is able to create characters like the geisha Aya and her enigmatic protector, Korosu, who are so fully developed that they practically step off the pages.

Shattuck leavens her action-heavy plot with humorous and sensuous moments that help to keep the pace from becoming overwhelmingly fast. Lethal can be read alone, but readers might be more comfortable starting with the first book, which provides backstory to Cally and Evan’s relationship.

— Donna Carter, RT Bookclub

Shattuck’s follow-up to Loaded (2003) finds independently wealthy Cally Wilde happily dating Evan Paley, the sexy detective she met on her first case. Her second adventure begins in the Little Tokyo district in L.A. where she comes upon a man attacking a young woman. Cally rescues the woman, whose name is Aya, and learns that the attack was in now way random after Evan gets shot in the leg, and Aya reluctantly reveals that her wealthy patron has another ward, named Shika, who is on the run from her former lover, a Colombian drug lord. But there’s even more to the story than Aya is telling them, and Cally soon finds herself and her loved ones drawn into the web of a dangerous conspiracy. Unlike many heroines in cick-lit detective novels, Cally is never irritating or grating; instead, she is a fully formed, strong, and engaging character throughout this fast-paced and suspenseful mystery.

— Kristine Huntley