Midnight Dance

A Seattle Sound Series Romantic Suspense Spin-off

All secrets come with a price in this page-turning romantic suspense by USA Today Bestselling Author, Alexa Padgett.

Someone will stop at nothing to silence her…

Ethical hacker Tawny Reed chose the FBI over a possible criminal record….and gave up any semblance of a life to meet her handler’s stringent demands. But getting stabbed in the line of duty wasn’t part of the plan: she deals in code and algorithms, not the blood and violence that cost her father his life.

Biology professor Colt Rippey rushes to save an injured woman on the side of the road. That white-knight act tumbles him into Tawny’s world of power built on lies–and people’s lives. When Tawny reveals she has nowhere to go, Colt suggests they hide in his cabin deep on the Olympic Peninsula. There, he hopes to save Tawny and even give his life some meaning.

Danger stalks Tawny and Colt, making it difficult to know who they can trust. The sanctuary Tawny finds in Colt’s arms and bed is temporary. Isolated in a remote cabin, hunted by figures who want to silence her, Tawny must outpace and outmaneuver the men who destroyed her life years before. The hunt is on…will Tawny’s timebomb explode while Colt risks his life and future to keep Tawny safe?

**Disclaimer: The following material is copyrighted and subject to change.**

Chapter 2

Colt

Saturday

I glanced back at the bartender, then at the wedding guests. The music throbbed through me. Two women tried to catch my eye. I downed a good portion of the scotch and set it on the counter, gesturing for another. Amber liquid splashed into the glass. The bartender leaned forward and slid a small piece of paper into my pocket.

“In case you’re awake…and need a ride later.”

I turned my attention back to the bartender. Her uniform of dark pants and blouse was prim. Her hair, though, was a wild cascade of large curls, and she’d done that cat-eye thing with her eyeliner, making her eyes stand out. They were pretty. A rich, dark brown I could drown in. 

I liked them. I liked her.

And if I took her up on her offer for a ride, how would I look into my mother’s eyes, knowing how she felt about one-night stands? How they’d shattered her trust and her confidence?

Did I want a meaningless fuck with a woman I had no intention of seeing again? How did that make me better than Kara?

She’d looked hot tonight, just as she’d intended. What pissed me off wasn’t how good she looked—I’d been attracted to her from the start for that very reason. No, Kara weaponized her looks and body to get what she wanted, but I’d been too horny to notice before. Kara was still Kara, but something in me had changed.

I clasped the crystal tumbler, trying to drown out the rising noise of the crowd.

I needed to get out of this situation. I needed to understand why I hadn’t seen Kara clearly while we were dating. Sure, I was angry with her, but a lot of that was self-directed. I’d brought her into my life—into my family’s lives—because I must have been a shallow prick who thought more with his dick than with his brain. Clearly, I needed a break from everything.

Maybe I should visit the cabin at Lake Quinault. There, I could think more clearly about the request for an interview I’d received last week for a tenured position in the science department at the University of Wyoming.

“You know what? I’ve changed my mind,” I said to the bartender. 

I pulled out her number and dropped it into the glass. She didn’t bat an eyelash, which surprised me.

Instead she smiled a little as she took the glass and emptied it behind her. “Wasn’t my number,” she said.

I raised an eyebrow.

“I wondered what kind of guy you were. Had me worried for a minute I’d misjudged you.” 

“What was it, then?” I mumbled. My vision was a bit fogged. How much had I had to drink? Too much.

“That was the number for a cab company.”

“Why do some women use their bodies and looks to get what they want?” I asked. 

The bartender shrugged. “No shame in using what you got. This is a tough world.”

“You’re smart,” I said.

“You’re drunk,” she shot back.

“A little.”

She poured me a glass of water and shoved it into my hands. “Drink it. I’ll get you another. Call someone to get you home.”

“I have a room here. If I decide against that, I’ll get a ride.” I raised my hand at her wary look. “Promise.”

“Good.” She smiled. “I saw you with your mom. I listened to what you said in your speech to your brother and his wife. I think you might be one of the good ones.” 

I drained the glass, set it on the bar, and she refilled it. “I want what they have,” I murmured. 

We both turned to look at Abbi and Clay, who were once again on the dance floor, faces shining with love.

“Then, go out and find it,” she said. “And remember your promise about getting a ride.”

I pulled out my wallet and dropped a fifty in her tip jar. “Well, what-ever-your-name-is, you’ve given me a lot to think about. So, thanks.”

She smiled and then turned to help another customer who’d ambled up to her station.

I looked around the room again.

 Abbi, my mom, and my sister were lovely both inside and out. That’s what Kara was missing—the internal beauty that went beyond selfishness. The brilliant bartender was right. Kara used her assets to get ahead in the world. But her skin would wrinkle and sag with age, and her body wouldn’t be as tight or hot as it was today. Then, she’d have to rely on a personality that left a lot to be desired. When that happened, good luck to her.

I wanted what Clay had with Abbi—what my father was trying to rebuild with my mom.

I wanted that kind of love.

So I did the only thing left to me: I walked away. Away from the liquor, away from the easy, meaningless sex, away from the party…from all of it.

I’d take a break and get my head on straight. Then, I could go out and look for a woman, once I knew exactly what I wanted in her.

I headed upstairs to the room my dad insisted I take, glad to crash onto the bed, which I did without bothering to remove my shoes. 

I awoke five hours later, thanks to my pounding head. My mouth tasted of cotton dipped in formaldehyde. I made a cup of coffee and showered. As I brushed my teeth, I grimaced at the face that stared back at me in the mirror. 

I looked like shit. Part of the reason was because I’d drunk too much but also because I let Kara get to me so deeply. Much as I hated to admit it, I’d planned out my future with her—down to how many kids we’d have—while she planned to drop me for the next best thing.

Making assumptions was frowned upon in my line of work, and clearly should be in my personal life, too. 

No one else would be awake this early, so I decided to forgo breakfast with my family and head back to my small, well-appointed apartment near Northwestern’s campus.

I bummed around Sunday morning, my head aching too much to do more than flop on the couch and check my social media accounts. I’d defended my dissertation last week. For the first time in what seemed like a decade, I was finished with my responsibilities at Northwestern. 

One of my buddies DM’ed me asking if I was okay. 

“Why?” I wrote back.

“Just saw Kara’s new status. Wanted to make sure you were handling her engagement.”

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