Cold Sweat, Katelyn Marie Peterson, Amore Moon Publishing, TWB Press, Romance

 
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Katelyn Marie Peterson

 
California Betrayal
 
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33,200 words

208 paperback pages

By Katelyn Marie Peterson

Isabel Kingston, a writer for a food magazine, is talking to her dad on the phone when he’s killed by a mugger. On top of this trauma, the love of her life leaves town to make his fortune in the restaurant business, leaving her brokenhearted and bitter. The murder case goes cold, and she’s plagued by nightmares in which her dying dad is trying to name his killer. She wakes up in a cold sweat. Is it possible the deceased can communicate with the living in their dreams? On the seventh anniversary of his murder, she’s assigned to cover the story of a hometown restaurateur’s return and the grand opening of his new eatery. Yes, it’s her old flame, and he’s come back to make amends, a move that rips open old wounds, upends her life, and drives a wedge between her and her present lover. It’s as if the universe has turned against her, or perhaps it’s divine intervention.

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Chapter 1

It was still dark outside when Isabel’s nightmare startled her awake. Her hands were shaking, and she fought to catch her breath. The alarm clock read: 5:30 A.M. She had no desire to go back to sleep. The nightmares had become more frequent and intense. Shuddering, she swung her legs off the bed, slipped into her purple slippers, and stagger-stepped into the kitchen of her cozy ranch home to fix breakfast.

She set her plate of scrambled eggs and mug of coffee on the dining room table and stepped outside to retrieve the newspaper. Her neighbor, Mrs. Feldstein across the street, was sitting on a bench outside her home, sipping from a coffee mug while her toddler grandson sat beside her, playing with his toy truck.

“Good morning, Mrs. Feldstein. You're up early.”

“Tommy slept over.” She gave the boy a sideways glance. “Woke me up before sunrise.”

Isabel chuckled. “Good luck.”

Between sips of coffee and forkfuls of scrambled eggs, she perused the Philadelphia Inquirer. The first headline in the food section gave her an adrenaline rush. Famous Restaurateur to Open New Eatery Downtown.

Her eyes narrowed and her cheeks warmed. Of all the places to open another restaurant, Chris Mackenzie had to choose Philadelphia. She was filled with an array of emotions: anger that tightened her chest, regret that stuck in her throat, a little sadness that tore at her heartstrings, but what scared her the most was the tiny sliver of joy that loosed butterflies in her tummy.

***

Later that morning, Isabel rushed through the glass entryway of the building that housed her employer, Fit Cuisine Magazine. Her morning coffee had kicked up her energy level, and she was excited to get back to work on the article she’d been writing.

She set her purse on her desk, sat in her comfy computer chair, and inhaled the scent of her apple cinnamon potpourri. Next to the fragrant bowl stood a photo of her at eight years old, sandwiched between her parents on a crowded beach one 4th of July. “Good morning, Mom and Dad.”

She wiggled her fingers over the keyboard, and then opened the document file for her latest article: Recipes to Please Picky Eaters. Less than five minutes after settling in, she received an email from her boss, Stan.

“Need to speak with you. Come to my office ASAP.”

She sighed and saved her work. What does he want this time?

It was a short walk across the newsroom to his glass-encased office in the corner. His secretary, Nancy, greeted her. “Good morning, Isabel. You can go right in.”

When she walked through the doorway, she saw Stan typing on his keyboard.

“Ms. Kingston, hang on a sec,” he said without looking up.

She took a seat on a plush leather couch. Her eyes darted to a picture on Stan's desk, a portrait studio shot of him with his wife of thirty years and their two sons. Stan wore the same proud smile twenty years ago that he usually showed at work, and even twenty years ago he had little to no hair.

Diagonal from Stan's desk, stood a large bookcase. Its shelves showcased his bowling trophies and a half dozen of Stan's writing awards: transparent globes, gold cups, and silver vases.

He looked away from his computer, jotted a note on a yellow notepad, and then shifted his focus to her. “Sorry to make you wait.”

She stood from the couch and took a seat in front of Stan's desk. “What’s so important that you couldn’t have just emailed me?”

He leaned back in his chair. “That was a great article you did on diabetes. How’s your next one coming along?”

“I’ll have a draft to you in a couple of hours.” She leaned forward. “You didn’t call me in here for small talk. What’s really on your mind?”

He smiled. “You caught me. Are you familiar with the restaurant owner Chris Mackenzie?”

Her heart jumped. “Yeah. Why?”

“He’s opening a restaurant downtown, and I’d like to feature a profile on him. Are you up for the story?”

“No way. Chris and I have history. I’m not the best person for that assignment.”

He chuckled. “Isabel, I know you. History or no history, your reputation for professionalism speaks for itself. I have no concerns.”

“Stan, come on. Things ended badly between us. Assign someone else. How about Shelly or Lauren?”

“Amateurs.” He shook his head. “You're my senior writer. I want you on this assignment.”

She sighed. “I’d rather die.”

“Interview him and attend the grand opening on Friday. Die on Saturday.”

A lump formed in her throat. “This Friday?”

“That’s not a problem, right?”

“I already have plans for Friday.”

“Cancel them.”

“I can’t.”

He furrowed his brow. “What's more important than your job?”

“My dad.”

His eyes softened. “Oh, that’s right. The anniversary of his death.”

“His murder, you mean.” She sniffled. “I visit him at the cemetery every year on this date.”

“I sympathize with your predicament, but I can't and won't give the biggest event in this city since the Liberty Bell to amateurs. Attend the opening. Visit your dad afterwards. He’s not going anywhere.”

Stan was right, of course. Her dad had been dead for seven years. She’d visit him at least once a month, sometimes twice, but she wasn’t keen on going to the cemetery after dark. “Okay. If you insist.”

Stan handed her a folded piece of paper. “Here’s the phone number for the restaurant. Make an appointment to interview Mr. Mackenzie.” He returned his attention to the computer.

She took that as her cue to get on it.