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Most Recent Release

Bite the Biscuit

Bite the Biscuit

A Barkery and Biscuits Mystery
Midnight Ink
May 2015

ISBN 978-0738745039
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Midnight Ink Books

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Guardian of Her HeartGuardian of Her Heart

Harlequin Intrigue #757
February 2004

ISBN 0-373-22757-4
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He'd been assigned to shadow Dianna Englander's every move and keep the young widow safe from the murderer who killed her politician husband.  Piece of cake if veteran copy Travis Bronson could convince the stubborn businesswoman to follow his orders.  The scarred officer knew the price of carelessness and would do whatever it took to keep his beautiful charge alive--even if it meant spending days and nights together.  But they were in more danger than either of them suspected, not just from unknown enemies intent on keeping Dianna quiet for good, but from a passion that knew no bounds...


Reviews

"LAWFUL ENGAGEMENT combines an intriguing mystery with well-developed characters into a story that will entrance its readers. The believable characters and exciting plot that Ms. Johnston has fashioned are among the best. She has written a top-notch story that is entertaining and engrossing. If you are looking to read a stimulating romantic intrigue, LAWFUL ENGAGEMENT fits the bill perfectly."
--Nicole Hulst, CataRomance Reviews


Excerpt

“Why is it that you’re always hungry after school?”

Dianna gave Julie’s shoulders a hug as the elevator door opened onto the vast, architecturally dynamic lobby of the Englander Dispute Resolution Center. The building was modern, yet, with its arched windows, high ceilings and sparkling chandeliers, its feel was old-world grand.

The heels of Dianna’s navy pumps clicked on the marble floors. The shoes matched her linen suit--short-skirted, professional but comfortable in the Los Angeles winter. Dianna, from the east, still couldn’t get used to how warm it was this time of year. She had even cut her blonde hair into a soft, slick pageboy parted in the middle, rather than keeping it long as she had once worn it.

Or maybe she’d needed to change everything about her life...

“Being bored at school starves me,” the child replied to Dianna’s question, looking up with a huge, adult-charming grin that displayed slightly crooked front teeth.

She kept grinning even as, on their way to the door outside, Dianna and she passed by the security guards screening people who entered.

Dianna kept grinning, too--but hers was forced.

She had Jeremy, Julie’s father, to thank for the extra security in the building. Of course, since this was part of the Van Nuys, California, civic center, security screening was a way of life. The area housed all sorts of government office buildings: federal, state and municipal. And courthouses. And post offices. And other structures that could attract unsavory people with mayhem on their minds.

Like Glen Farley.

But these dark-uniformed, brusque security guys were new. Efficient, thorough and even unnerving, they had come highly recommended, Jeremy had said, by some law enforcement hot-shots he trusted. He had hired them as a result of Dianna’s spotting Farley the first time. He hadn’t seen the horrible man. Neither had Julie. But thank heavens Jeremy had taken her word for it. She had nearly given up hoping for people to believe her.

She certainly hadn’t bothered notifying the feds hunting for Farley since Brad’s murder, either about the first time she saw Farley here or the second.

During those initial horrendous months after her husband’s death, she had seen Farley several times, hanging around. Taunting her. She’d reported it then. But the agents on the case had evidence Farley had fled the area --evidence they apparently found more credible than her fearful and emotional phone calls. Though they claimed to have checked, they’d found no sign of him.

The last times she called, she doubted they’d looked at all.

That was one of many reasons she had left Washington.

“Hey, look,” Julie said, drawing Dianna out of her disturbing thoughts. She pointed her index finger, its nail chewed to an irregular edge, toward a pushcart on the paved plaza outside the Center.

One day, Dianna would have to introduce the girl she thought of as her surrogate niece to the pleasures of nail polish--clear or light pink, for a pre-teen.  Maybe then she wouldn’t gnaw on her nails.

Julie didn’t have a mother to teach her such things.

“What’s that guy doing?” Julie grabbed Dianna’s elbow and pulled her toward the elaborately decorated cart. A sign on its surface proclaimed that it sold “Fare to keep you awake and alive.” Below was a list of food, drinks and prices: mochas, lattes and all imaginable coffee creations, sweet rolls, and cold gourmet sandwiches.

Dianna hadn’t thought she was hungry, but her stomach grumbled. No hotdogs, though. If Julie insisted on heading for the outdoor mall for a wiener, then Dianna would resist....

What was that guy doing?

A man in a white T-shirt with a red “Cart la Carte” logo in the middle stood right beside the pushcart.

His hands were in motion--a good thing, too, for he was juggling knives. And not wimpy butter knives, but steak knives with wicked-looking  serrations. He wasn’t tossing them high, but they flew end-over-end as he flawlessly caught and tossed them in his obviously skilled, large hands. The motion of his arms emphasized the breadth of substantial biceps and tautened his shirt against his equally broad and muscular chest.

“Wow,” said Julie in an awed voice beside Dianna.

I’ll second that, Dianna thought, though for different reasons than Julie. The guy was one sexy dude.

Not that she was into dudes these days, let alone sex. It was okay to admire a good-looking man from afar, but that was definitely all.

This dude’s hair was sandy brown, cut short, almost military style. He was barely even looking at the dangerous utensils that twisted and soared under his control. His cobalt-blue eyes appeared to be fixed on Dianna.

And when she caught his glance, one corner of his wide, straight mouth curved slightly upward in acknowledgment.

She had seen him before.

Where?

He stopped juggling, catching the knives and setting them down on the cart. “Can I help you?” he said.  “How about an albacore tuna sandwich for the young lady, and an espresso for her lovely companion?”

The guy’s tongue was as flawless as his juggling. As he’s stressed the word “young,” Dianna had been certain he would refer to her as the “older lady,” but instead had complimented her.

She recalled suddenly where she had seen him before: in the reception area of the A-S Development offices, where Dianna managed the dispute resolution center named for her husband.

The Englander Center was an experiment that held great promise, and A-S Development, which had constructed it, also was responsible to ensure its use.

In this area abounding with courts and litigants, the idea was to encourage people to save time and money by paying mediators to help them resolve disputes amicably. Or, if they couldn’t, they could hire “rent-a-judges”--real, retired judges who held realistic trials in the Center’s own model courtrooms.

So far, the experiment was a success. The law offices within the Center were completely rented, and Dianna had no problem filling the conference and courtrooms nearly constantly.

So many people were undoubtedly a good market for food vendors. And that was where Dianna had seen the gorgeous hunk of a juggler before: that morning, in her office, peddling food.

“Would you like a sandwich here, Julie?” she asked the girl. “Or would you like to go to one of the other carts along the promenade?”

“Oh, but you have to stay here,” the man told them. “It’s in the cards.” Dianna couldn’t figure out where he could have fit a deck of cards in the side pocket of his snug jeans, but he whipped one out with a flourish. “Pick a card, lovely companion,” he said, stepping toward Dianna.

She felt her cheeks redden. “No, thanks,” she said. “Julie, let’s--“

“Please, Dianna,” the girl begged, excitement glimmering in her eyes.

“Well...” Dianna turned back toward the man and shrugged. “All right.”

She put out her hand, mentally comparing it with Julie’s much smaller one. Her nails were rounded, and she used a rose-tinted polish.

The man fanned out the cards. “Go ahead,” he said as she hesitated. “Pick one.”

Dianna closed her thumb and forefinger on one from the middle of the deck. She pulled it out.

“Now look at it,” the man said.

She did, then blinked, unable to believe her eyes.

It was a three of clubs. But it wasn’t the suit or the number that startled her.

Printed along the card’s side was, “Beware.”

 

 

 

 

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