Excerpt from Hidden Betrayal

“Is there anyone, and I mean anyone, at home, work, social group, who might want you dead?”

“Most of my family is frequently unhappy with me, but so far they’ve held off on murder.”

Linc raised dark brows.

“Look, that sounds pathetic. I know.” Mikayla heaved a sigh. “My mom and sister simply have different ideas about what I should be doing. You know, where I should live, the type of career I should have. Even the kind of car I drive. Basically, they believe I make poor decisions on every damn thing in my life. This trip was supposed to give me some distance so I can figure out what it is I want, not what everyone else wants for me.”

“You have a husband?” When she shook her head, he reached across the table and picked up her left hand, holding it up between them. His thumb moved across her ring finger, his hand warming her chilled fingers. “You’ve got a pale line here where you’ve recently taken off a ring. You skip out on a husband?”

“No, I haven’t skipped out on a husband.”

He waited, attention unwavering.

“Okay, okay. Damn it.” She looked away. “I broke up with my boyfriend.”

His thumb brushing her ring finger again brought her gaze back to his. “Boyfriend?”

“Fine, fiancé. I broke up with my fiancé.”

She didn’t know how to interpret the glint in his eye. “And how did the fiancé react?”

She hitched a shoulder. “The usual. Peter hears what he wants to hear and pays no attention to the rest. He refused to accept it was over.”

“Was he angry?”

She tugged her hand free and jammed it into her pocket. And realized she still wore Linc’s sweater. Great. She was like the cheerleader wearing the quarterback’s letterman jacket. She set the core of the apple in her bowl and stood. “I’ll get your jacket. There’s probably blood on the sweater. I’ll wash it before I give it back.”

He held up a hand. “I’m not worried about the sweater. You said the fiancé wouldn’t accept that you broke up with him, but you sound like it’s a done deal.”

She hesitated, then sat again. He certainly knew how to stick to a subject. “Right. Well, here’s the thing. Peter doesn’t know we’re officially broken up.”

“How’s that?”

“I tried to break up with him. Twice. He simply refused to acknowledge what I was saying. I felt like he wanted to pat my head and say, ‘there, there,’ like I was a recalcitrant child. He’d slip around the conversation, and by the time we were done, I was frustrated and angry, and still engaged.”

She felt the steam rising out of the top of her head all over again. “So yesterday on my way here I stopped at a post office and put the ring in the mail to send back to him. A big, fat diamond solitaire. I never liked it. Diamonds are so cold.” She closed her eyes and willed the irritation to subside. She hadn’t meant to give away so much. “Anyway, that has nothing to do with the guy on the trail yesterday.”

“The guy on the trail wasn’t local. He was from the city.”

“How do you know that?”

“How he dressed.”

“Because he wasn’t wearing Patagonia or REI? Every hiker doesn’t wear the official outdoors uniform, you know.”

He gave a short laugh. “I do know. But even without designer outdoor gear this guy wasn’t dressed for hiking or camping. He had city written all over him. I’d say street thug, likely a cartel member. You notice the tattoo on the back of his left hand?”

“No. I was too busy staying away from that knife.”

“I didn’t get a good look either, but I’d put money down that I’ve seen it before. There’s a cartel in Mexico that cuts off the tattooed hands of this group when they can catch them.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. Aren’t we a little outside cartel territory?”

“Exactly. Which is why I’m wondering who would send a cartel thug after you.”