Southern Spice (Excerpt) brings Spicy Intrigue

I love taking a story to unexpected places, and the Southern Desires series has twists, turns, and intrigue...and plenty of heat. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below from SOUTHERN SPICE, and I am so excited that SOUTHERN DELIGHT (Southern Desires Series Book 3) will be available December 1! :)

Casey woke alone in his bed. That’s a birthday I won’t ever forget. Stretching, she’d had very little sleep yet felt more rested than she ever remembered. If she were a person who wrote in a journal, pages would be filled. From her surprise party to lovemaking that still had her body tingling, everything had been perfect. Well, almost. What was I thinking going out into the wilderness and getting naked? If I thought driving my truck off the road was embarrassing to explain, how was I going to explain a snake bite in the middle of the night while I was naked? Even though it had been scary as hell at that time, she found herself laughing at it now. She lost all common sense when she was around that man. And I’ve never felt more alive.

Getting out of bed, she wrapped the sheet around her and made her way downstairs, hoping to find Derrick. As it was each morning before, the house was quiet. He did say it was only for a night. Tomorrow was here and . . . he’s not.

The thought made her ill. She didn’t want to want him, care about him, but she did. It wasn’t his fault he was incapable of giving her anything in return. He’d been nothing but honest about that. Somehow her heart wasn’t accepting that as a viable answer. The risk of getting my heart involved.

As she began to climb the stairs to go back to bed, the front door opened and Derrick walked in.

“Good morning, I thought you’d left.”

He smiled, which was a rare but amazing sight. “I had an early morning errand to do.” He lifted a bag, puzzling her. “Figured clothes scattered all over the hillside might lead to some unwanted questions.”

Casey blushed. Thank God, since they are not mine. I don’t want to explain to Sissie how I misplaced the clothes she lent me. I might as well take out an ad in the newspaper if she finds out. “Thank you. You didn’t happen to grab my phone while you were there, did you?”

Derrick reached into his back pocket and pulled it out, tossing it to her. “I had to shut it off. That thing was making a racket the entire ride back here.”

When she reached to catch it, the sheet began to slip. Quickly she tugged it back in place. Although she would love nothing more than spend the day in bed in his arms, she needed to remember she was here to work. And he had only promised one night.

Turning on her phone, she scanned her missed calls. Her mom and dad had called, leaving her a voicemail. She would listen to that later. It would be what they always do, sing happy birthday to her. No matter how old she was, she would never tire of hearing them. The next call was Mark. No message. Oh, that’s not good. Please don’t show up here. I don’t need the questioning looks from you today.

There was one number that appeared several times. It was from her coworker; she expected an email, not a call. What was in the report that they didn’t want to put in writing? Did they have the answer she’d been waiting for? This call was one she needed to do privately.

“Thank you, Derrick. It looks like work is trying to reach me. Would you mind if I took the call in your office?”

“The office is all yours.”

His expression became unreadable before he turned and left the house. Why such a drastic change? Had she said something? Was it because she asked to use his office? That didn’t make sense, but then again, nothing between them did.

Casey had two choices: spend her morning trying to figure it out, or hop on the phone and see what her coworker had to say. Maybe one will answer the other.

With Derrick no longer in the house, there was no longer a need to use his office. Settling herself on the couch, she returned her coworker’s call.

“Casey, where the heck have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you since dawn,” Donna whispered over the phone.

“Donna, why are you whispering?”

“I’m not sure I should tell you. I’m not even sure I want to send you this report.”

Donna seemed overly concerned. Casey hadn’t followed protocol for obtaining a copy, but there wasn’t anything illegal about her reviewing it. “It’s okay. I just want to see what our take on the situation was.”

“That’s exactly what I’m worried about.” Donna voice was muffled as she spoke. “If anyone finds out you’re looking into this, there’s going to be trouble.”

Why was she so darn dramatic? What possibly could be in that report to cause concern? Guess there’s only one way to find out. “Just send it to me. I’ll deal with the repercussions.”

“Casey. If what I think I’m reading is right, you’re going to be in way over your head.”

What? We document facts, so there shouldn’t be anything questionable in there. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this. I promise if anything happens, I won’t mention your name. Now please send it.”

Casey’s phone beeped announcing the arrival of a new email. She quickly confirmed it was from the agency. Too much drama to start the day.

“Thank you.” Donna didn’t respond as she disconnected the call. Maybe the office is getting more stressful than when I was there. I’m glad I’m out in the field.

Opening the document, something jumped out right away. The report was lacking major details. Most importantly: documentation of Derrick’s accusations regarding the faulty dam. Everything in the report stated the damage was due to flooding from the hurricane. She knew there should’ve been an inquiry of some sort, particularly with a fatality, but none took place. If it had, the results never made it into the official report. If it hadn’t been for her conversations with Derrick, the report wouldn’t appear to lack details, but she knew otherwise. With the amount of anger that man had, he never would have kept his suspicions to himself. Could he be right? Was there a cover-up, and did it involve FEMA? There was only one name on the report, and it wasn’t their local FEMA agent. It was the supervisor in charge, Jeremy Talroy. JT had signed off on this report? Why would JT not follow protocol?

Donna was right. Digging deeper meant things were about to get very ugly. If JT was part of a cover-up, then seeking internal help could put me at risk for a lot more than just losing my job. What the hell do I do now? This nightmare is so not what I thought I was going to find.

Casey got up and paced back and forth. Should she tell Derrick? What could she tell him? That she believes he was right concerning a cover-up, but she had no proof except lack of information? No, that was only going to cause him more pain than he was already feeling. She needed someone impartial.

Going to Donna wasn’t going to work as she was already afraid, and for good reason. No, she couldn’t ask anyone else to risk themselves for this.

What if I find out the truth? It won’t bring them back, and I’m not sure how big this is going to get, or who else is going to get hurt. This was something she couldn’t decide on her own. She needed a sounding board. Someone who would look at all the pieces and know where to go from here.

Grabbing her cell phone, she made the call she never thought she would.

“Late night?”

“I need to see you right away. Are you still in Honeywell?”