Don’t Let Go
Spellbound Book 2
Private investigator Finn Calder would sooner take a Lancaster out to dinner than work another cheating spouse case, and that’s saying something considering the long-standing feud between their two families. But when gorgeous Bree Jacobs lap dances her way into his investigation, Finn is convinced things are finally looking up.
Until he realizes the woman he’s falling for may be the prime suspect in a brutal homicide.
Bree Lancaster Jacobs never expected to be attracted to a cocky P.I. with his share of family secrets. Not even an age-old rivalry can stop her from craving Finn’s touch. Forced to work closely with him to find the real murderer, Bree knows she’s in real danger of losing her heart to a man who could never love her.
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_“From page one, readers will be charmed. Humor, action, and a sizzling romance make DON’T LET GO hard to put down.” – Romance Reviews Today_
“From the very start until the spine-tingling end, I was completely spellbound by Sydney Somers’ DON’T LET GO. This novel had it all – thrilling suspense, great murder mystery and super-hot romance.” – Romance Junkies_
“…a definite must-read from Sydney Somers. From beginning to end I enjoyed every page and highly recommend reading Don’t Let Go. – Two Lips Reviews
“Did hell freeze over?”
Finn Calder didn’t glance away from the window and the fading sunlight falling over the city. “If it did, I’m not dressed for the occasion.”
His youngest sister Violet sighed and came to stand beside him. Dressed in a stunning red cocktail dress that was entirely too short for kid sister standards, she stared up at him in that quietly assessing way of hers that made him twitchy.
Wherever the hell her cop boyfriend was taking her tonight, Finn hoped they were leaving soon. As much as he’d miss the opportunity to torment the detective she’d gone and stupidly fallen in love with, Finn would rather skip the part where her love is magic vibes started to suffocate him.
“I’m talking,” Violet continued, “about the fact that it’s Saturday night and you’re working. You always have a date lined up.”
Violet snorted, perching herself on the edge of his desk, arms crossed. The look on her face reminded him of his mother and the time she didn’t believe that it was Finn’s older brother Dante who got red paint all over the clean sheets she’d hung outside to dry.
It certainly hadn’t helped Finn’s case that he hadn’t thought to use his magic to erase the evidence staining his own palms before she tracked him down in the lopsided tree house he and Dante had built.
But this time he wasn’t lying.
Violet cocked her head. “You’re telling me you canceled a date on a Saturday night with what’s her name?”
“Michelle,” he provided.
“MacKenzie,” Violet corrected with a grin.
He narrowed his eyes. She had set him up on that one. “Right.” He dropped back in the black leather chair behind his desk and swiveled it around in a circle.
“You’re actually telling me the truth.”
She could try not to sound so shocked. “Why would I lie?”
“I never thought I’d see the day my brother, the player, canceled a date.”
“It wasn’t going anywhere.”
“Your relationships never go anywhere. Wait, does dating for a week or two even constitute as a relationship?”
With a shrug, he grabbed a pencil and bounced the end on the edge of his day planner. He was bored and restless and should have jumped at the chance to get away from the same four walls he spent far too much time in.
Instead he called his date at the last minute, and for what? To sit here and feel envious of what Violet and Reece had? Damn, there really was something wrong with him.
“Are you working a case?” Doubt still flickered in Violet’s eyes, as though she figured there had to be another excuse for him ditching his date.
“I might be,” he said, relieved for the change in subject. Anything was better than dissecting why he’d chosen to spend a perfectly good Saturday night alone. “I have a meeting shortly, but that’s not why I canceled.”
He still didn’t know why he canceled. There wasn’t anything wrong with Michelle—MacKenzie. She was nice to talk to, easy on the eyes, wasn’t clingy. So what was his problem?
And why was he so fixated on examining this? Lots of guys just hung out and did guy things on the weekend. Drank beer. Watched sports. Maybe that was all he needed. Some guy time.
Finn reclined in the chair, feeling better.
“You know what Aunt Gertie would say about this, don’t you?”
Aunt Gertie had something to say about everything. “I’d rather not know.”
“She’d say it’s because you’re finally ready to find your soul mate.”
Finn felt his feet leave the floor, the reclined position of the chair carrying him backward.
“Aequus.” At the last second the chair leveled out on Violet’s command. Her lips twitched. “I should have let you fall.”
Finn righted himself and the chair and stabbed his pencil at the door she’d left open when she walked in without knocking. “Go bug your boyfriend.”
Violet laughed and pushed off from his desk. “You know he’s still sore at you for your last stunt.”
Grinning, Finn recalled the minor change in hair color Reece had woken up to last week. He thought the pepto-pink rather suited the pain-in-the-ass detective, a well-suited nickname he’d used fondly until he and Violet started seeing each other. Now she expected him to actually be nice to the guy.
Luckily, he’d only received one e-mail from the Tribunal for that little prank. The three member council that governed magic use for all witches and warlocks in the Calder, Lancaster and Hastings families had, however, warned him a personal visit would be forthcoming the next time he used his magic against another without provocation.
A change of hair color hardly constituted as an act of malice from where Finn stood, but there was no such thing as a gray area as far as the Tribunal was concerned. Everything was black or white. And if it wasn’t “white” you could be in serious trouble.
Finn wasn’t interested in having his magic bound. The only thing more annoying than having to deal with the detective at all would be facing him daily and not being able to at least threaten to do worse than pink hair.
He shuddered at the possibility of it ever coming to that.
Finn tried not to dwell on exactly how much the Tribunal knew about him at any given time. Not one to be creeped out by much, the thought of any one of the council members poking around inside his mind during the more intimate moments in his life left him unsettled.
Violet had had her own brush with the Tribunal after a drug dealer and an old woman forced her to use her magic in self-defense. Not to mention they hadn’t been thrilled to find out a detective knew about their existence.
In the face of the unexpected circumstances surrounding Violet and Reece getting together, his sister had been forgiven for not first seeking the Tribunal’s permission to tell Reece everything.
Violet paused in the doorway. “I’d tell you not to work too hard, but that’s rarely a problem for you.”
Laughing, he winked at his baby sister. If Reece broke her heart, there would be pieces of him all over the damn city by the time Finn tore him apart. Then he’d really have the Tribunal all over his ass.
“Call me tomorrow.” Violet disappeared down the hall.
Ready to find his soul mate. Finn snorted. He believed in them as much as he still believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Finn looked up a few minutes later to see two familiar faces hovering in the doorway.
“Come on in.”
Erica Dade sailed into his office looking every bit the sleek and sophisticated woman he remembered. She smoothed back the strands of dark hair that were never out of place with a practiced fluidity as she took a seat opposite him.
With a predictable cock of her head, she sent him a grateful smile. One he knew from experience didn’t come from any true sincerity, but a driven sense of self-preservation.
He couldn’t even wrap his head around why they’d dated in college. He couldn’t recall them having much in common but her sister Carey.
The polar opposite of her sister, Carey took her time approaching his desk. Where Erica was forward and an attention seeker, Carey was more withdrawn, but her smile more genuine. A smile Finn hadn’t seen a lot of since her husband had been murdered a couple years ago.
Erica straightened. “I’m glad Carey convinced you to see me.”
“Anything for Carey.” They’d been too close in high school to pass up her plea for Finn to meet with her high maintenance sister on such short notice.
“Nice to see you again, Finn,” Carey said, venturing halfway into the room.
“How have you been?”
“Busy. Garrett Jr. keeps me running.”
Erica’s polite smile tightened as she regained control of the conversation. She’d never been big on sacrificing the spotlight for long. “I’m not sure exactly how much Carey told you on the phone.”
Carey took that as her cue and started retreating toward the door. “I’ll leave you to it. I’ll be down in the car when you’re ready to go, Erica.”
Erica nodded, and when Finn waved to Carey, the brunette in front of him made a clearing sound in the back of her throat to regain his attention.
“I know that you plan on divorcing your husband and have reason to believe he’s seeing someone else on the side,” Finn finally said.
“I know he is. It’s some skanky stripper who works down at Take It Off. And I want to hire you to find the proof.”
Finn cringed inwardly. He hated working cheating-spouse cases. If not for Carey, he’d pawn this one off on his cousin Tate. With her ability to transport herself from place to place with a thought, she was fantastic for those click-and-run moments where one good photo often made a case.
Erica shifted in the chair and sniffed, dabbing at the corner of her eye. Finn couldn’t decide if she was truly upset or looking for sympathy. She hadn’t been above such tactics when they were younger.
Maybe she really was hurt by her husband’s transgressions, but she didn’t need him as much as Carey had when the trail on her husband’s murder went cold. Distraught, she’d come to Finn hoping he could help, and he’d surprised them both when he’d stumbled upon a police informant with a beef against Garrett Houston and killed the cop before eventually killing himself.
Focusing on the case at hand, he pretended not to notice that Erica wasn’t really crying. “And where is your husband now?”
“Away on a business trip.” Erica’s voice dripped disgust. “He returns Monday and has a long-standing date for a lap dance with that stripper every week.”
“Have you spoken with him recently?”
“Two days ago. He knows I suspect he’s been unfaithful and denies it. How stupid do I look?”
Ignoring the rhetorical question, Finn grabbed a pen to jot a few things down. “I’ll take the case.” For Carey. Her life would be easier if she didn’t have to deal with Erica ranting if he declined to take Erica on. “Let me get some more information. What is your husband’s full name?”
“Mason Geoffrey Dade.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Sabrina Lancaster Jacobs glanced down at the counter between her and the knife pointed at her abdomen.
She’d walked and worked in European neighborhoods catering to everything from sexual fantasies and recreational drugs, to even human trafficking, and always came out unscathed.
Back in her country for a handful of hours and she was being robbed. Welcome home.
Bree couldn’t imagine what it was about the small adult entertainment store she owned that screamed big pay day, but the teen with the knife saw some kind of potential or he wouldn’t have barged through the door sixty seconds ago.
Any hope she had that he was only in the market for a new vibrator for his girlfriend careened out the door when he demanded that she open the cash register.
Bree’s heart kicked against her ribs despite the fact that she knew something her would-be robber didn’t. Something that gave her the edge regardless of the weapon capable of slicing her from navel to sternum.
Not that the kid had the balls for that.
She studied the teen dressed in a stained white T-shirt and ripped jeans, his grungy mud colored hair falling in greasy strands around a face barely mature enough for the stubble darkening his jaw.
Tattoos decorated both his arms from wrists to biceps. She had to give the kid credit for at least going to someone talented and not some toddler with a fondness for ink stuck in an adult’s body.
The teen’s hand trembled, his eyes glassy and bloodshot. Probably needed a fix. His fingers flexed around the hilt of the blade like he was still getting accustomed to holding the weapon.
“I don’t got all night, lady.”
Bree nearly snorted. Her father would have laughed outright at that. No one could ever mistake Bree Lancaster for a lady, and she had the dysfunctional family to remind her of that on a regular basis.
Ladies didn’t have tattoos, dye their hair except to mask telling strands of gray, paint their nails anything but a soft pink or nude color—never mind black—and they definitely didn’t own something as crass as a sex shop.
Being a lady had never been that important to Bree anyway.
The kid smacked his hand on the counter. “Move. Now!”
She was pretty sure he wouldn’t like the move she was about to make.
“The open sign is still on,” a voice called out over the chime of the tinkling bell on the front door. “I’ll get it while you finish up—” Marion came to a stop when she spotted Bree behind the counter, a wide smile exploding across her face.
Then she noticed the guy with the knife.
Her gaze moved from the kid back to Bree, one delicate brow arching. “How long has this been going on?”
“A minute and a half too long,” Bree answered, finding it hard not to smile at the familiar steel-colored bob, now with a wide brush of pink that fell across Marion’s forehead. “I like the pink.”
Marion beamed. “It reminded me of you.”
“Shut the fuck up,” the teen growled, looking bewildered by their casual dismissal of the situation.
“If you put down the knife and leave now, you won’t get hurt.”
The kid’s eyes bulged in surprise. He pivoted toward Marion. “I’m not playing.”
“Hot word.” The amulet strapped to Bree’s ankle warmed with the release of her magic.
The kid screeched and dropped the knife, cradling his blistered hand to his chest.
Bree stepped around the counter “If you take one step into this neighborhood again or I hear of anyone else getting held up, I will hunt you down and make sure you feel that same burn over your entire body. We clear?”
The kid stumbled away from her.
She glanced at the knife on the floor. “Exuro.”
The knife melted into a black and silvery pool of steaming liquid. No one else was going to find themselves at the wrong end of that particular weapon again.
The teen tripped over nothing, knocking over a container of massage oils that scattered across the floor, then scrambled back to his feet and bolted for the door. Her amulet continued to radiate a comforting warmth when the door banged shut behind him.
“Think that was wise, letting him go like that?”
Bree shrugged. “I meant what I said. Besides I wasn’t in the mood to try and explain the burns on the kid’s hands to the police.”
She wasn’t one for close calls, and could have done without the rush of adrenaline still pumping through her bloodstream. She wanted to feel bad for the kid hooked on drugs, but as bone-tired as she was, she couldn’t summon much sympathy for anyone when all she could think about was crawling between the sheets of her very own bed.
A first in the last year and a half.
She should have at least given the kid a real good scare, but didn’t need any run-ins with the Tribunal any more than she did with junkies that reminded her too much of her own brother.
“I missed you kid.”
Bree’s lips stretched in a wide grin that crawled all the way into her heart. She’d missed Marion more than she realized. Missed everything from the flyaway gray wisps that framed her heart-shaped face to the dark-framed glasses always sliding too far down her nose and familiar flush of color brightening Marion’s cheeks.
A lump wedged in Bree’s throat. Mark had always looked so much like his mom.
Smiling like she hadn’t in months, Bree rushed forward and threw her arms around the older woman’s neck, the only woman to love and accept her for everything she was, unlady-like traits and all.
“I didn’t think you were coming home until next week.” Marion stepped back but kept a fierce hold on Bree’s hands. “You look good.” A light sheen of tears filled her eyes before she hugged Bree again.
Breathing would have been difficult if she hadn’t been clinging just as tight to Marion.
“I’m glad you’re home.”
Bree drew back and surveyed the small changes Marion had made to the shop in her absence. More plants, a few new displays highlighting new merchandise. A section of books by erotic authors looked to be new. Something she’d have to take a closer look at, along with much of the boutique, when she wasn’t too tired to process it all.
“I figured if you didn’t like the new wall color then you’d be able to change it back pretty quick.”
“I like it.” The pretty shades of burgundy and caramel made the store feel inviting but intimately feminine, perfect for their primarily female customers.
“Let me finish closing up, and then we can catch up. I’m guessing you sent Giselle home while I was grabbing a coffee?”
Marion gave her another critical once-over. “You look happier than you did in Paris.”
“That was six months ago.”
“I know.” Her attention slid to the left and Bree followed it to a framed picture of Mark that sat behind the counter.
A steel weight pressed in on Bree’s chest, but the pain of his loss dragged to the surface didn’t cripple her as much as it would have even six months ago. Now she could at least look at a picture of him without falling apart.
She heard Marion tidying up behind her and absently played with the wedding ring she still wore as she stared out into the dark night. On the flight home she’d thought about tucking it away when she got settled back in her place, but seeing both Mark’s picture and Marion, she wasn’t sure she could now.
Before still raw memories and regrets that made her ache for her best friend sank in, she focused on how nice it was to be home. A year and a half was a long time to be away from everything she knew, but backpacking through Europe had been the change she needed, a way to cope.
Bree frowned, taking a step closer to the window and studying the street out front. “Marion, where’s your car?”
When the other woman didn’t answer, Bree turned around.
Marion tucked a few slips of paper into the drawer behind the counter. She slung her purse over her shoulder. “Ready to go?”
She waited as Marion shut off the lights, then grabbed her own bag and followed her outside into the late June night.
“What happened to your car?” Bree wondered if it was getting repaired.
“I don’t have one at the moment.”
Marion adored her sleek black Mercedes. It had been the last thing Mark had bought her before he died. In true Marion fashion, she’d hassled him about buying such an extravagant gift. A dying man’s prerogative, Mark had said. Bree couldn’t imagine Marion willfully parting with it for any reason.
Marion started walking up the sidewalk.
Bree caught up to her and planted herself in front of the other woman. “Whoa.”
Marion avoided her gaze. For a moment, all Bree’s teen years caught up to them and the shoe was on the other foot and now it was Marion’s turn to play the uncomfortable guilty party.
“Is there something I should know?”
“Everything is fine, Sabrina.”
Bree cringed. “No need to pull out the mom tone. I just know how much you loved that car.” Taking Marion’s hand in hers, she noticed the recent worry lines edging the mossy green eyes. Eyes that seemed to have aged far too much in such a short time. Why hadn’t she noticed that when they last saw each other in Paris? “Tell me.”
“I was going to tell you. I just… You just got home. You don’t need to be worrying about anything but getting settled and—”
“I’m as settled as I’ll ever be. Now tell me. Please,” she gently tacked on.
A chastising look scrunched Marion’s brows together. “I will. No need to be thinking about using your gift to help me along.”
Marion took a breath. “It’s gone. My money, my nest egg, it’s all gone.”
“What?” Bree shook her head. “How?”
To some people eighty thousand dollars wasn’t a lot, but to Marion who had struggled to support her only child by working two, sometimes three jobs, for most of Mark’s life, it was a small fortune.
“I don’t know. I mean, I used the same investor very good friends recommended. I had no idea he wasn’t doing exactly what he said he was with my money.”
Anger burned through Bree’s veins. “An investor took your money?”
Marion nodded sadly. “I feel so stupid. I just thought it would be smart to do something with the money Mark left me. I never even realized…” She tried forcing a smile that fell miserably short.
“Why didn’t you tell me? When did this all happen? You know I would have come home.”
“Which is exactly why I didn’t say anything. You needed to be over there until you were ready to come back on your own. I wasn’t about to rush you.”
“How long ago?” Bree pressed.
Marion sighed. “A few weeks ago. I didn’t know what he was doing for a long while. I should have known when he didn’t return my calls right away that something was up. And his secretary keeps saying he’s away on business…”
“Who is this guy?”
“He works at a firm downtown. His name is Mason Dade.”
“Well, he picked the wrong woman to rip off.” Marion needed that money as a little extra cushion to offset her meager pension when she retired.
“Bree, there’s nothing you can do.”
“I know that look.” Marion pointed a finger at her.
“What look?” She didn’t even come close to sounding remotely innocent.
“The look that says you’re about to take a flying leap into trouble without even looking first.”
With a roll of her eyes, Bree threw an arm around Marion’s waist. “Let’s forget about it for tonight.”
But Bree wouldn’t. She didn’t care what she had to do to find the guy who screwed with Mark’s mom.
Her gut churned with a gnawing guilt that left her sick to her stomach. She and Mark had been best friends since the third grade, and their relationship had taken a far more personal turn right before he’d been diagnosed with cancer. For years she’d spent just as much time at Mark’s as she had at home with her own parents, sometimes more.
Even before Mark knew he was terminal, he made Bree promise to look after Marion, reminding her of it again hours before he died, when they’d laid side by side in his bed holding hands.
And what had she done less than a month after he died? Took off for Europe because she didn’t know how to handle losing her best friend and husband. Instead of being there for Marion like she’d promised, she’d buried her head in the sand, completely ignorant—selfishly so—to what was happening to the people she loved. She’d been back in the country only a few hours only to find out just how much she’d let the both of them down.
Bree forced a smile as Marion tried to steer the conversation in a more light-hearted direction about redecorating Bree’s place. She tried to keep up with Marion’s suggestions but couldn’t keep her thoughts on anything but making up for not being there for Marion.
And it started with Mason Dade.