Author: Jenni Moen
Series: Black Widow #1
Published by Self-Published
Release Date November 14, 2016
Genres: Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase From: Amazon US
Purchase From: Amazon UK
“I bet I could make you fall in love in a week.” The offer seals Scott Russell’s fate.
After a bitter betrayal and an ugly divorce, the detective is forced to make a fresh start. His new position in a quiet suburb should be a walk in the park compared to his years in Chicago. However, he quickly learns that small towns come with their own issues, with citizens who are slow to forgive and even slower to forget.
The town’s wealthy and reclusive author is a mystery to most. To Scott, she’s just another nameless girl on the train. With a reserved smile and shoes worth more than a month’s rent, his only concern is she might be out of his league.
“I can give you seven days, but not my heart.” The acceptance is one more in a string of lies.
Celeste Smythe doesn’t believe in love at first sight. Relationships take time and sometimes even that isn’t enough. Not with the secrets she harbors in her guarded heart. Yet fate keeps pushing her toward the handsome and absurdly persistent man, and resisting may be more than she can endure, no matter the risks.
When the week is over, Scott may think he knows her. Celeste may know she loves him. But when the truth is revealed about the town’s most talked about citizen, he may discover he’s put more than his heart on the line.
Title: Black Widow
Series: Black Widow #1
Genre: Erotic Romantic Suspense
Author: Jenni Moen
Release Date: November 14, 2016
What Reviewers Are Saying
“This book blew me away. A perfect mix of heat, heart, drama, and tension had my mind spinning to the last page.”
– USA Today Bestselling Author Liv Morris
“Black Widow will keep you in quiet suspense with every flip of the page. Jenni Moen’s writing will haunt you — the web she builds is tangled, dark and terrific.”
– Staci Hart, Bestselling Author
“Suspense and romance wrapped up with heart-stopping twists that only Jenni Moen can provide! Black Widow is a thrilling roller coaster read you won’t want to put down.”
– Author Josie Bordeaux
“Another gripping and seductive tale from Jenni Moen. Black Widow will catch you in its web, leaving you unaware you’ve been caught until it’s too late.”
– Author Vanessa Marie
I didn’t like the person I’d become.
Rather than look at myself in the mirror over the bar, I stared down into my bourbon, watching the ice melt as my colleagues—wrong, former colleagues—laughed and drank with smiles on their faces as we celebrated what felt like my hanging. My buzz was kicking, but it hadn’t remedied the slump in my shoulders or made it any easier to listen to them retell a story I never wanted to hear in the first place.
A meaty hand clasped my shoulder, and three sets of eyebrows rose in unison. Detectives Coley, Vincent, and Sherfield fell silent, and I turned to see who’d had such a sobering effect on their previously boisterous group.
“I came by to wish you well,” Commander Rogers said.
Dumbfounded, I nodded. “Thank you, Commander.” The bar was directly across the street from the station, but I couldn’t remember him ever making the walk over for a happy hour or any other going-away party.
“We are sorry to lose you, Russell.” For his size, he was an oddly soft-spoken man. “But I know there are great things in store for you in HP.”
I smiled, though I hardly felt the same way. My new detective position in Highland Park would be a far cry from the years I’d spent with the Chicago PD. The cushy suburb was affluent and quiet, and I fully expected to be bored for the rest of my career. Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing after what I’d recently been through, but I couldn’t help but feel like I’d fucked everything to hell.
“I spoke with your new chief. I told him cold cases are your specialty,” he continued.
My eyebrows rose in response.
“I think he’s already got one lined up for you.” He tipped his beer at me and took a swig.
“Thanks, Commander, but the Henson case was just luck.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it. Sergeant Graves told me you were relentless.”
I tried to speak but a golf ball-sized lump formed in place of the words.
“I know you weren’t happy with the outcome, but that little girl is sleeping safely at home with her parents tonight after three years of God-knows-what, and it’s because of you,” he finished.
Coley and Sherfield nodded their agreement and then the retelling began again. The only reason I couldn’t tune it out this time was because the commander’s eyes were on me. It was too soon not to think of him as my boss.
“I can’t believe that bastard took her right off the playground in the middle of the day.” Vincent shook his head as if he’d been there to actually see her disappear into thin air. “That’s such a long time to be kept in a closet. It’s no wonder she doesn’t speak.”
“And I can’t believe no one suspected it was the doctor,” Sherfield chimed in.
He clearly hadn’t met Issacs, or he’d feel differently. The surgeon, who lived next door to the school, had been considered outgoing and likable by everyone who knew him, and for good reason.
“What tipped you off?” asked Commander Rogers.
I shifted on my feet and brought my glass to my mouth to justify the abbreviated answer I would deliver. “Just a hunch, I guess.”
“You’re way too modest, Russell,” Commander Rogers said before taking a pull of his own beer. “You saw something there when no else did; when everyone else had all but given up. And nobody asked you to.” He delivered the last part as a warning that I shouldn’t cross that line again.
The Henson abduction hadn’t been mine, but it was exactly the kind of case I’d never give up on. When it had fallen to the wayside, I’d spent countless hours of my own free time poring over the interview transcripts. Marcus Issacs’ answers had been too perfect and had left me with the unshakable feeling that each one was a rehearsed lie. And I’d known for sure when I looked him in the eye.
It seemed like my best lessons in life had come from my grandmother. One of her favorite sayings had been ‘the eyes are the window to the soul.’ I’d made a career out of reading people using her advice; oftentimes making instantaneous and life-changing decisions based on it. Body language was a barometer, but was also easy to disguise by seasoned liars who knew their own tells. The eyes, though, they never lie, and in my first face-to-face meeting with Issacs, my gut told me that Gabrielle’s untold story was written in his.
That hand hit my shoulder again, and I tried not to flinch. “You’re a hero, Russell, and her parents are sure grateful to you,” Commander Rogers said. “We all are.”
“Thank you,” I managed. A07ccepting the hero status everyone wanted to bestow on me was the hardest part. I was no hero, but I had no choice but to accept it or pay the price of more questions.
“And I know you’re not happy he got away. Hell, none of us are, but he can’t hide forever.” Commander Rogers smiled encouragingly.
I took a sip of my drink so he couldn’t see the grimace I hid behind my glass. Like everyone else, he believed the guilt I felt was because we hadn’t gotten our man. But if I had any remorse at all, it was for the loss of my own humanity. The past had reared up and bit me on the ass that night. I’d been helpless against my rage, and it was that lack of control keeping me up at night.
“Where’s Hayes?” the commander asked.
The conversation just kept getting better and better.
Everyone in the group shrugged or mumbled some noncommittal answer. I was the only one who knew why my former partner was absent. My resignation had bought his silence and also his absence, apparently. The latter wasn’t part of our deal, which was fairly simple; if I left the Chicago PD, he wouldn’t talk.
He’d warned me I was too close to the case. The facts were too similar to another cold case that still haunted me. Only Trevor knew why I was obsessed with finding Gabrielle—because I knew too well the stakes of what would happen if we didn’t. He’d begged me to let him handle the apprehension, but I’d wanted it for myself. Needed it for myself. I’d made sure he hadn’t taken it from me. But that wasn’t the story the guys were telling at my going-away party or the one I’d told the therapist they’d forced on me.
“Have there been any more updates on Gabrielle’s condition?” I asked, changing the subject. It was the only thing I really cared about.
“As well as can be expected. It’s probably going to take years of therapy to get the girl straightened out. Luckily, she has parents who care as much as they do.”
“She’s a very lucky kid,” Vincent said. “Could’ve ended very differently.”
There was that word again. Lucky. I wondered if Gabrielle felt lucky. I was betting she didn’t. I wish she’d tell someone what she was feeling.
The door at the front of the bar opened, and a gust of wind blew in carrying a pretty brunette along with it. She pushed the hood off her head and ran her fingers through her windblown hair. Almost immediately, her eyes met mine across the bar. She smiled sadly, her expression reflecting my mood, though I knew hers was for a different reason. Something twisted inside me.
“Gentlemen,” Melinda said with a nod when she reached us. The group of men said their hellos, and then one by one, they made flimsy excuses to leave. Casting knowing looks my way, they told me they’d catch me later. Apparently, we hadn’t been as discreet as we’d thought.
“Hey,” I said when we were alone. “Thanks for coming.”
She nodded slowly. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
“How’ve you been?” Our conversations were always awkward now, and like everything else, I shouldered the blame for that.
“I’m okay. Worked a double homicide today so it’s been grueling.” Melinda never stopped impressing me. As the lead investigator for our forensics division, she was a genius with a stomach of steel. I was pretty sure that the only stupid thing she’d ever done was me.
“That definitely deserves a drink,” I said, lifting my own glass of bourbon.
She shook her head. “I’ll pass. That doesn’t usually end up well for me.”
“Ouch.” I winced.
A weak smile appeared on her face as she reached for my hand, but she changed her mind, pulling away again. “You know what I mean. It’s hard enough for me to tell you no when I’m sober. I don’t stand a chance when I’m not.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to make a joke—something about the time we’d had sex in the broom closet in the back of the very bar we were standing in—but I stopped myself. I respected her too much to make light of a relationship that, contrary to what she thought, did actually mean something to me.
“For what it’s worth, I’m going to miss you,” I said, looking around at the dwindling crowd. “You’re one of the few.”
She smiled. “I know. This is going to be a good move for you, though.”
I sighed. “I hope so.”
She reached for me again, and this time, she allowed herself to follow through with it. Her touch was warm and familiar. “It’s a new start, Scott. Use it wisely. You know all of those pretty society ladies are going to be throwing themselves at you. Give it a chance.”
I shook my head. “No way. You know I have a soft spot for beautiful brunettes with big brains.”
She grinned. “Awwww. That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“I hope not. Surely, I’ve done better than that at some point.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You’re quite romantic and even a little bit charming when you want to be.”
I gestured to the bar. “Are you sure you don’t want a drink? I promise I’ll keep the charming stuff to a minimum.”
Her cheeks turned pink, and she ducked her head. “I really can’t. I have a date tonight.”
She looked away. How we spent our time when we weren’t working or together was something we made a point not to discuss, but I didn’t want things to be awkward between us. Not tonight.
“I hope he treats you right,” I said, forcing a smile. “If he doesn’t, let me know.”
She arched her brows playfully. “You’ll take care of him?”
“I know some guys.”
She laughed. “Don’t we all?” She clasped her hands in front of her and rocked on her heels. “So when do you move?”
“Tomorrow. My new place is kind of a dump, but it’ll do.”
Her eyes widened as she thought of something. “Do you have a way to get there? Were they able to fix your bike?”
I scrubbed my hand down my face as I recalled the depressing phone call I’d gotten that morning. “Nah, they totaled it. I’ll be taking the train for a while.”
She took a step toward me. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry, Scott.”
I forced a laugh. “About the bike or the train?”
“God, both. Let me give you a ride.”
“No, it’s okay. I’m good with the train,” I said. I’d wasted enough of her time.
“Okay.” She glanced toward the door like it was an escape hatch.
“You’ve got to go,” I said, so she didn’t have to.
She took another step toward me, and a strange look came over her face. The most fearless woman I knew suddenly seemed shy. “I know I shouldn’t do this here,” she said, placing her hands on my chest. “Everyone’s probably watching, but I don’t know when or if I’ll ever see you again.”
I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her body against mine. “It’s Highland Park, not Siberia.”
“You know how these things go. You’ll get busy. You’ll meet new people. You’ll move on. It’s the natural progression of things.” She laid her head on my chest, and the top of her head tucked perfectly into the crook of my neck. I wasn’t sure why I’d never noticed before.
“You will too.”
She met my eyes and blinked as her eyes filled with tears. I swiped a thumb across her cheek and swallowed hard. “What’s going on, tough girl? I was ninety-nine-point-nine percent sure I’d never see this.”
“There’s something in my eye,” she said with a weak smile.
“There’s something on your mouth, too.” I tipped her chin up and kissed her chastely. Her lips were softer and sweeter than I remembered. Usually, when I kissed her, we were rushed, ripping each other’s clothes off because there was always a chance it was the last time.
I kissed her again on the forehead before she pulled away and looked up at me. “Thank you.”
“For what?” I asked, having no clue what she could be thanking me for after everything I’d put her through.
“For acknowledging in front of everyone that something was going on between us. I don’t like being the subject of rumors.”
I sighed. “I wish it could be more, Mel. I really do.”
“No, I get it. I got here too soon.”
“What do you mean?”
Her forehead wrinkled as she pulled her thoughts together. “I knew going into this that I wasn’t the first girl. I had a hunch I wouldn’t be the last. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t what you needed the last four years.” Her eyes glittered, even in the dim light of the bar. “That woman did a real number on you, Scott, but you’re not broken. Just a little banged up. And I’ve had the privilege of watching your bruises fade a lot over the last couple of years.”
“You had something to do with that,” I admitted.
“I’d like to think so.” She took another step away from me. “I meant what I said before. The next time a pretty brunette with a big brain catches your eye, give her a chance. A real one. You deserve happiness, too.”
She gave me a final smile, and as I watched her blow out of my life as poignantly as she’d blown in, I realized I’d underestimated how hard goodbye would be.