Manipulation (Diversion 4), is now available for pre-order from Rocky Ridge Books at All Romance eBooks, and at Amazon. Lookie at the lovely cover by talented cover artist L.C. Chase!
Lucky Lucklighter has a new life. His old life wants him back.
traded trafficking for taking down criminals with the Southeastern
Narcotics Bureau, and a drug-lord lover for a man on the right side of
the law. Bo Schollenberger found the way past the thorny defenses of
Lucky’s heart, and made Mr. I-Get-Along-Fine-Alone think about his and
his closets, stevia in the sugar bowl, and a picket fence—with a good
lock on the gate.
Now Bo is missing, and a voice long silenced
asks, “Did you miss me?” Lucky must deal with a devil from his past to
get Bo back.
And if Bo isn’t willing to come? A drug ring needs
its back broken before flooding the US with a designer high, seductive
and undetectable. But there’s a fine line between good and evil, and a
truckload of temptation urging Lucky to cross.
Lucky entered “Victor Antonio Mangiardi” into the computer’s search
engine. Pages of social media sites appeared. Dang! Lots of Victor
Antonio Mangiardis in the world. Hopefully, the rest weren’t as lawless
as the one Lucky sought.
Nothing new. He tried “Victor Mangiardi arrested,” “Victor Mangiardi court,” and “Victor Mangiardi trial.”
“Victor Mangiardi hearing,” paid off in the form of a news article he
hadn’t read before. He struggled to breathe even before the image came
clearly into view. Victor, smiling, happy, and standing on the
The article read: Suspected drug trafficker Victor Mangiardi appeared before Judge Tyson Levinson…
His arraignment. This photo was taken at Victor’s arraignment. But he
was laughing. An image came to mind of this same man in court, in
rumpled clothes, disheveled and gaunt. During all their time together,
Lucky had never seen his former lover looking less than perfect. Victor
had even managed to pull himself together during the flu, while Lucky
had lain in bed too sick to move. The haggard appearance in court had to
have been an act to win the jury’s pity.
Here he was, with no apparent care in the world. Victor’s lawyer stood
to one side, a uniformed cop on the other. Several other people trudged
behind him, none of whom Lucky recognized, except for…
Lucky jabbed the magnifying button again and again. The enlargement
distorted the face, but he’d know this man anywhere. It couldn’t be. It
Standing a few feet behind Victor Mangiardi was none other than Walter Smith.
“But I thought you needed to speak with Mr. Smith,” the receptionist said as Lucky stormed past her desk.
“Something came up.”
“He’ll be in later this afternoon.”
Lucky jabbed the down arrow button on the elevator. “I changed my mind.”
Holy fuck! Walter and Victor. Walter swore there’d been no deal made to
get Victor out of his charges, yet Victor didn’t seem at all worried in
the picture. And the reason might have been who stood behind him, both
literally and figuratively.
But Victor was dead. He’d hanged himself in his cell.
All the way home Lucky dredged up details he’d sworn to forget. He’d
returned from a run to find certain items missing from the house he
shared with Victor, the painting of Victor’s mother being the most
noticeable. And damning.
Victor loved that painting.
And then there were airline tickets to Rio: one for Victor, one the feds
led Lucky to believe was for another plaything Victor planned to drop
Lucky for. Only after Victor died, at Lucky’s own trial, did the
bastards reveal the passport made out in that name, with Lucky’s
The feds had started closing in, and Victor planned to leave the country
and take Lucky with him. As in most aspects of their relationship, he’d
kept the details to himself. Besides, Lucky wouldn’t have willingly run
and left his family behind. Victor hadn’t intended to offer a choice.
They’d been arrested before they could leave. Or had they?
Lucky recalled the picture. What if Victor made the deal before his
arrest? What if, instead of a drug trafficker and a narcotics agent, the
men in the photo were merely actors? Walter made one hell of a leading
man, as he’d proven time and again in boardroom showdowns.
Arranging a fake death wasn’t hard; Walter had done the same for Lucky. In fact, Walter suggested the plan.
“Fuck. What if he isn’t dead?” Lucky asked himself out loud. He waved an
impatient hand at his landlady’s greeting and marched into his house.
She sat on the porch much of the day. If anyone stuck anything in the
mailbox, she’d know. She had to have seen who delivered the picture
yesterday. And yet she’d lied about seeing anyone. With no postmark, the
mail carrier sure hadn’t brought the damning piece of evidence. Never
again would he trust Mrs. Griggs beyond fixing faulty plumbing and
He’d pack a few things, stay in a motel, and avoid all contact with the
SNB until he figured out what was what. What about Bo? How did he figure
into the equation? If Bo came to harm because of Walter…
Lucky dragged a duffel out of the entryway closet and charged into his
bedroom. A few pairs of jeans, underwear, T-shirts. He crossed into the
bathroom for his shaving kit.
Scrawled in red marker across his bathroom mirror: “Did you miss me?”
A face appeared over his left shoulder. A blur swung down. Blackness.
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