Shockmade her numb.
possible. How had she missed the connection? She hadn’t thought of the man in
years. The cop who’d arrested her, his name had been . . . Crandall.
Mel found the strength to look into his eyes. And when she did, she came face
to face with what could only be a mutually shocked expression.
years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway
accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder.
She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the
real thief to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a
son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home
in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the
by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs P.D.
Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her
son from the past he helped create.
"...is a really enjoyable romantic suspense read." -- Stephanie Lueckmann, GoodReads
"Donnell Ann Bell's book is certain to please readers who enjoy a romance that's packed with suspenseful moments. There's a reason why this author wins awards. She's definitely an author to watch." -- Tracy Farnsworth, Round Table Reviews
"…one of the best I have read of it's genre in a long time… If you only read one romantic suspense book this year make it this one and you won’t be disappointed I certainly wasn't." -- Kerry Sullivan, Musings of a Bookworm
"The book had such a feel of reality…like the characters were living the events as they happened… If you like a good romance with a lot of suspense built in then this book is not to be missed." -- Tracy Stapp, Tracy’s Place blog
"To quote Casablanca "Of all the gin joints in the world, you had to walk into mine.” This is what I found to be the premise for The Past Came Hunting,since Mel Norris buys her first house on her own, in a new city, next door to the cop who arrested her fifteen years ago… This is delicious conflict, which played beautifully throughout an unlikely love story." -- Lynne Marshall, Lynne Marshall Blog
"Donnell Ann Bell has crafted a beautifully written story of love
and redemption, with a sizzling suspense at its core. The Past Came Hunting is
a page turner!" --Kylie Brant, national bestselling author
"Donnell Ann Bell's debut novel The Past Came Hunting is a gripping
read - a tale of love, deceit and facing down the sins of the past. A
fast-moving, and engrossing story, The Past Came Hunting will keep you up
turning the pages. A thoroughly satisfying read!" - Jeanne Adams,
award-winning suspense author
a deep breath, Mel
massaged a pounding temple. She’d stayed late at the shop to make a last-minute
arrangement for a long-time customer, then rushed to get to Coronado for
tryouts. Of course, she hadn’t noticed the gas gauge. Why would she? Didn’t all
cars run on fumes?
Someone pulled alongside
her, and instantly she regretted getting out of her car. Life had made her an
untrusting soul and she stepped back.
"Problem?” the stranger
"Not at all.” She held up
her keys for emphasis. "I was just leaving.”
The shadows hid his face,
and at the use of her name, her heart did a flip-flop.
"Joe Crandall,” he said.
"Matt’s my son.”
Standing in the presence of
Matt’s never-stay-at-home dad, relief flooded her. "Oh, Mr. Crandall, thank
heavens. My name’s Melanie. Call me a flake, but I’m out of gas.”
He reached across the seat
and opened the passenger door. Light flooded the interior. "Happens to the best
of us. There’s a gas station on the corner. Hop in.”
Even though his voice seemed
kind, she hesitated. After all, taking rides from sweet-talking strangers had
been her downfall. But that had been a lifetime ago, and she knew this man. Or
at least his son. The decision made, she rounded the car. Sliding in beside
him, the scent of coffee and his musky fragrance filled the air. "I can’t thank
you enough. I wanted to start . . . dinner.”
That’s when she saw this was
no ordinary vehicle. A laptop computer was bracketed to the console, and above
it a radio. The world seemed to slow as she focused on every detail. The dash .
. . the console . . . and finally the man behind the wheel.
Her gaze took in his long
legs, the veins in his powerful-looking hands, his rolled-up sleeves and at
last settled on the sizeable scar on his inner forearm.
Shock made her numb.
It wasn’t possible. How had
she missed the connection? She hadn’t thought of the man in years. The cop
who’d arrested her, his name had been . . . Crandall.
Somehow Mel found the
strength to look into his eyes. And when she did, she came face to face with
what could only be a mutually shocked expression.
"You,” she whispered.
"You,” he replied.
She swallowed hard and
reached for the handle. Discovering it locked, she said, "On second thought,
The cop just sat there.
Louder this time, and with
more resolve, she said, "I’d like you to open the door, Officer Crandall.”
"It hasn’t been officer in
years, and you’re not walking anywhere. The closest gas station’s on Fillmore.
It’s a mile away and it’s dark.”
"I’ll walk fast.” She glared at him. "And next time
I’ll stick to my promise never to accept rides from strangers.” Mel pointed to
the door. "Now, Lieutenant.”
Ignoring her demand, he
continued to stare. "The change in you is incredible.”
Forced to relive a time
she’d vowed to forget, humiliation wound its way through her. She’d been high
the night that had changed her life forever, and scared out of her mind. None
of the cops on scene would believe she had nothing to do with the robbery.
She’d acted out of desperation. She must’ve said horrible things, but in truth,
drugs and fear had sent her into a hysterical fugue. "I was told I acted . . .
that my language was . . . atrocious.”
Lt. Crandall’s laugh was
sardonic. "Ya think?”
Mel bristled. "I wasn’t
guilty. They called me an accessory when I had no idea what Maxwell was up to.
When you tried to handcuff me, I panicked.”
Holding out his left arm, he
displayed the scar. "You resisted arrest. I had no choice.”
A younger version of the man
seated beside her had trapped Mel face down in an alley. A piece of broken
glass had lain within reach. She flinched at the pain she’d inflicted and
looked away. "I repeat. I was innocent. I spent time in prison for a crime I
"The clerk identified you.”
"Of course, he did. Drake
pulled a gun. I came out of the bathroom and tried to stop him.”
"The only reason that clerk
isn’t dead is because Maxwell’s gun jammed. Probably hadn’t taken time to clean
it from his last murder,” the cop said.
The unfairness of his words hit
her like a blast of arctic air. She’d had no idea she’d taken a ride with a
cold-blooded killer. She itched to slap the man who wouldn’t listen to reason.
Thinking of Luke she held back. Striking a cop would be a huge mistake. She
gritted her teeth and dug her nails into her palms. "My lawyer advised me to
take the plea.”
Their mutual amazement
culminated into stunned silence. The dashboard lights immersed the car’s
interior in a soft, eerie glow. Her temporary jailer gazed out the windshield,
revealing a masculine profile enhanced by the dark stubble framing his jaw. She
understood now where Matt got his good looks.
Oh, for crying out loud. Why
would she notice this now?
As the lieutenant stared
straight ahead, his voice held gruff disbelief. "What were the odds of this
When she didn’t reply, he
turned sharply in her direction and answered for her. "I’d say the odds were
nil. Did you plan this?”
A burst of hysterical
laughter escaped her lips and she slapped her thigh. "Did I plan this? Well,
gosh, you found me out. I called my realtor and said, ‘Oh, by the way, when
you’re looking for houses, see if you can find the police officer who arrested
me way back when. I think living next door to him would be a hoot.’” Amazed at
his illogical thinking, she shook her head. "Are you nuts?”
"What I am is a cop, and
you’re pushing your luck.”
"You’ve obviously made up
your mind about me.”
"Damn straight I have.”
Her gaze slanted toward the
parking lot. Nausea overcame her and she clutched her stomach. If only the
earth would split open and swallow her whole.
The lieutenant’s eyes
narrowed. "What’s wrong? What’s happening? Are you sick?”
"The boys,” she whispered.
"Practice must be over. They’re headed this way.”
"I’ll handle this.” He
opened the door. "Stay here.”
"I will not.” She wasn’t
about to take orders from this man.
"We’re not finished, Mrs.
Norris. Stay here.” Without a word or
a look back he stepped out of the car.
She strained to see him
talking with the boys. In the dark, the vehicle’s headlights captured their
profiles. Oh, God, what was he telling them? Suddenly, Luke and Matt gave each
other high fives and darted back toward the gym.
The big oaf slid into the
car again to face her obviously bewildered expression. "What did you say to
them? Where do they think they’re going? Luke has homework.”
"Well, aren’t you a regular
PTO mom. The coach told them he’d order pizza and they could watch films. Under
the circumstances, I thought it was a stellar idea. I told them we’d pick them
up in an hour.”
"Fine.” She folded her arms.
"Now if you’re through with your insults, I think we’ve both had enough of our
Lt. Crandall fastened his
seatbelt and put the car into gear.
"What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer, merely
drove toward the edge of the high school parking lot. A few minutes later, they
entered the gas station on the corner. She withdrew her wallet to pay, but he
ignored her. He exited the car, dug a plastic gas container out of the trunk
and disappeared into a well-lit convenience store.
When he returned she
responded inanely with, "Thank you.”
His jaw clenched. "Don’t
thank me. After all the meals you’ve provided for Matt, I figure I owe you.”
Lt. Crandall took a deep breath, and for a moment the situation seemed as
difficult for him as it was for her.
"Look, I don’t know how to
put this without screwing it up any further. By all accounts you’re not the
same person you were. That’s great. I’m sorry I insulted you. I’m truly
relieved you’ve turned your life around.”
Grateful he’d admitted that
much, she nodded.
"But given our past, I think
it’s fair to say we could never be friends.”
She lowered her head as a
wall of frustration ballooned inside her. He obviously knew how to put people
behind bars, but understood nothing about them paying their debt to society.
Her husband had taught her so much, and in that moment, she felt grief anew.
"Now we have a situation
that involves our boys,” the cop added, searching her face. "So my question to
you is, what are we going to do to split them apart?”
Norris’s stoic expressiondissolved into one of despair. "You’d punish our children for something I did
fifteen years ago? What kind of monster are you?”
Her indignation took him off
guard. What did she expect? For them to ignore the past and become the best of
buddies? "You don’t exactly come with sterling references, lady, and I’m not
about to sacrifice my kid.”
Glancing away from him, she
drew her hands into fists in her lap. For a time she didn’t speak. At last she
returned his gaze. "I’d probably do the same thing if I were you.”
Hell. A quiet, logical
response was the last thing he’d expected. Reconciling the proud, beautiful
woman sitting next to him to the hellion of yesterday was nearly impossible. It
was like watching an actress perform two roles.
Then it occurred to him.
Maybe she was. He’d met all kinds in his line of work. People who could look
you in the eye, tell you they didn’t pull the trigger, while holding the murder
weapon in their hand. On the other hand, he could also cite numerous examples
of people who against all odds had turned their lives around.
A throbbing ache resonated
behind his left eye. Of one thing he was certain, Matt wasn’t going to be part
of the equation while Joe made up his mind. He switched on the ignition. "I’m
glad we understand each other. I’ll take you back to your car.”