ABOUT THE BOOK
When Delaney Broward finds her best friend stabbed to death a decade after her brother suffered the same fate, she must confront her painful past in order unmask a killer who isn’t done yet.
How can this be happening again?
Delaney Broward has spent the last ten years rebuilding her life after finding her brother brutally stabbed to death in his art studio, leaving her without a single living family member. His death even took away her boyfriend, Hunter Nash, who was convicted of the murder. Convinced it’s too dangerous to trust her heart to anyone again, Delaney lives alone. She pours herself into her frame shop in the historic art district in San Antonio. She doesn’t have the husband and children she once dreamed of, but her heart is safe.
Until she walks into her best friend Ellie’s shop and finds she has suffered the same fate. Once again Delaney’s life is shattered by violence, tragedy, and loss.
Hunter Nash leaves prison a free man that same day. He’s determined to prove his innocence, win Delaney back, and restore her faith in God.
Delaney’s mission is to bring Ellie’s murder to justice while protecting her heart. They forge an uneasy alliance, both certain the truth will win out. Both are willing to accept the outcome—if they survive.
Read an excerpy
C H A P TER 2 TEN YEARS LATER NASH RESIDENCE, SAN ANTONIO Real men didn’t cry. Not even during a reunion with a beloved truck. Swallowing hard, Hunter Nash wrapped his fingers around the keys, concentrating on the feel of the metal pressing into his skin. He cleared his throat. “Thanks, Mom. For keeping it all these years.” His mom didn’t bother to try to hide her tears. She wiped her plump cheeks on a faded dish towel, offered him a tremulous smile, and bustled down the sidewalk that led from the house on San Antonio’s near west side where Hunter had grown up to the detached two-car garage in the back. It had housed his truck for the past eight years. Almost ten if he counted the two years it took for his case to go to trial. He had no place to go in those years when he’d allegedly been innocent until proven guilty. His friends no longer friends and his job gone, he had no need for transportation. The door to the garage was padlocked. Mom handed him the key. “My hands are shaking. You’d better do the honors.” She stepped back. “I still can’t believe you’re here.” “I did my time, Ma.” As a model prisoner he’d earned time off for good behavior. It was easy for a guy to behave when he spent his days and nights scared spitless. “I know. All those nights I’ve lain in bed worrying about you in that place, whether you were safe, if you were hurt, if you were sick.” Her voice broke. “I can’t believe it’s over.” “Me neither.” It wasn’t over. In fact, it was just beginning, but she didn’t need to know that. His determination to prove his innocence would only worry her more. A divorced mother of four, she’d raised her kids on a teacher’s salary and an occasional child support check from the crud-for-brains ex-husband who showed up once every couple of years in an attempt to make nice with his kids. She deserved a break. The aging manual garage door squeaked and protested when Hunter yanked on the handle. He needed to do some work around here, starting with applying some WD-40. The smell of mold and old motor oil wafted from the dark interior. Hunter slipped inside and waited for his eyes to adjust. A layer of dust covered the 2002 midnight-blue Dodge RAM 1500, but otherwise it remained in the pristine condition in which he’d left it the night he said goodbye and promised he’d be back. “My baby.” More tears trickling down her face, Mom chuckled softly. “After you finish reintroducing yourself, come back inside. I’m making your favorite chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, pineapple coleslaw, and creamed corn. Your brother and sisters are coming over after work. Shawna’s bringing a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Melissa’s contribution is three kinds of ice cream, including rocky road. She said it seemed appropriate. I hope you haven’t lost your sense of humor. And you know Curtis. He’s all about the beer.” The last thing Hunter wanted to do was celebrate with his sibs. Mel and Shawna had visited faithfully at first, but less as the years rolled by. Curtis never showed, even though Fabian Dominguez State Jail was only a few miles down the road from San Antonio. Nor did Hunter want to explain why he’d sworn off alcohol. The conditions of his parole included monthly pee tests— no alcohol or drugs, but that part of his life was over anyway. It had been easy to comply in prison, obviously. Whether he could maintain his sobriety in the beer drinking capital of the country remained to be seen. He’d do AA if necessary. “Mom— ” “No buts. They’re family. They love you. You need to live life, enjoy life, make up for all you’ve missed. You haven’t even met most of your nieces and nephews. Did you know Mel is expecting another baby in August?” “Yes, I— ” “Today we celebrate your new job and your new life.” His bachelor of fine arts with an emphasis in drawing and painting from Southwest School of Art might once have allowed him to teach art in one of the school districts, but not anymore. It didn’t matter. The prison chaplain had hooked him up with Pastor James. The preacher ran a faith-based community center that served at-risk youth. He’d hired Hunter to teach art to those who’d already had their first brush with the law. He figured Hunter could teach life lessons at the same time he introduced them to art as a way to channel their anger at the hand life had dealt them. Learning what happened when a guy got off track would be the lesson. Even though Hunter hadn’t gotten off the track. He’d been shoved off it. By an eager-beaver, newbie detective; a green-as-a-Granny-Smith-apple public defender; and an assembly-line justice system. He would get by in this world that had hung him out to dry. Especially knowing Mom had his back. She had that don’t-mess-with-me teacher look in her burnt-amber eyes. Like her sixth graders, Hunter knew better than to argue. It felt good to know she remained in his corner. When everyone else had hit the ground, scattering in opposite directions, she never budged in her belief that son number two could not be a murderer. She’d brought him up better than that. “You’re right. Give me a few minutes.” She patted his chest and stretched on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. Her lips were chapped, and the wrinkles had deepened around her mouth and eyes. Her long hair had gone pure white during his years away. “Take your time, sweetheart.” Hunter gritted his teeth. After years of looking over his shoulder, bobbing and weaving around hard-core convicts who’d as soon shank a guy in the shower as look at him, he didn’t know how to cope with nice. With sweet. With love tempered with wisdom and a hard life. “One day at a time.” That’s what the prison chaplain had told him. “Get through the next minute, the next hour, the next day.” That’s how he did eight years at Dominguez. This couldn’t be any harder. He opened the truck’s door and slid into the driver’s seat. The faint odor of pine air freshener greeted him. And citrus. More likely that was his imagination. Delaney’s perfume simply could not linger that long. Move on. She has. She did. To her credit Delaney held on as long as she could— until the guilty verdict. Then she was forced to move on. She couldn’t be blamed for that. Hunter picked up the sketch pad on the passenger seat. In those days he kept one everywhere. Just in case. The first page. The second. The third. All drawings of Delaney. Sweet Laney eating a slice of watermelon at a Fourth of July celebration. Laney rocking Hunter’s newborn nephew in a hickory rocker on the front porch. Laney in a bathing suit sitting on the dock at Medina Lake. Laney with her soulful eyes, long sandy-brown hair, and air of sad vulnerability worn like a pair of old jeans that fit perfectly. That too-big nose, wide mouth, and pointed chin. Corey might have been the angelic beauty— totally unfair— but Delaney’s face had character. She had a face Hunter never ceased to want to draw and paint. And kiss. He turned the pages slowly, allowing the memories to have their way with him. Meeting at a party Corey had thrown when Delaney was a senior in high school. Their first date, ribs and smoked chicken with heart-stopping creamed corn, potato salad, coleslaw, and jalapeños at Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q followed by dancing at Leon Springs Dance Hall. She had danced with the abandon of a small child. As if she didn’t care who watched. Her face glowed with perspiration. Her green eyes sparkled with happiness. His two left feet couldn’t keep up, but she didn’t mind. She twirled her peasant skirt as she flew around him, her hands in the air, her curves beckoning. Hunter closed his eyes. Her softness enveloped him. Her sweetness surrounded him. He needed to see her again. He needed to talk to her. Somehow he had to prove to her that she was wrong about him. Whatever it took. He laid the sketchbook aside. “Come on, dude, let’s take a ride.” He stuck the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing. Not even a tick-tick-tick. He tried a second time. Nada. “I’m an idiot.” He patted the steering wheel. “Not your fault, man.” The truck hadn’t been driven in years. The battery was dead. He might be able to jump it, but more likely he’d need a new one. Batteries cost money. One thing at a time. He’d waited this long. Hunter slid from the truck and eased the door closed. “I’ll be back when I get my act together.” In the kitchen Hunter found his mom peeling potatoes. She pointed the peeler at him. “You can’t imagine how good it feels to have you home.” “You can’t imagine how good it feels to be here.” He landed a kiss on her soft hair. She smelled of Pond’s cold cream. The same old comforting scent. Life had changed but not her. “I’m gonna take a walk. I need to blow the prison stink off.” “Enjoy. They redid the walking trail at the lake and installed new outdoor fitness equipment.” She waved the paring knife in the air. “But don’t stay too long. You have company coming.” “Yes, ma’am.” He pantomimed a mock salute and headed for the front door. One thing at a time. One step at a time. That’s how he’d get his life back.
About the Author
Kelly Irvin is a bestselling, award-winning author of over twenty novels and stories. A retired public relations professional, Kelly lives with her husband, Tim, in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.
An Author Interview with Kelly Irvin!
Which of your Published or Unpublished books is your favorite, and why?
- That’s such a hard question! As a writer I get attached to certain heroines and heroes more than particular books because of who they are and how they face the challenges in their lives. I would say Jackie Santoro in Her Every Move is one of my top 3 heroines. She’s a librarian, (and librarians are superheroes, right?) she’s strong, she’s independent, and she meets life head-on. I also love Teagan O’Rourke in Closer Than She Knows. Teagan is a court reporter who is being stalked by a serial killer. I based the character on a friend of mine who is a court reporter. Teagan has many of Kay’s characteristics as a single career woman who loves her family and her life and will do whatever it takes to protect the people around her. My favorite characters are flawed, but working toward being the best they can be.
How do you pick your character’s personalities or looks?
- I don’t so much pick their personalities as watch them develop and bloom as I write their stories. I’m a “seat-of-the-pants” writer, which means I don’t outline. I don’t do character sketches in advance. But I am careful to guide my heroines so that they aren’t reflections of me. I’m a grandmother. My heroines are young and single. I want them to have their own thoughts and opinions–not mine. A good example is Delaney in Trust Me. She owns a frame shop. She’s single, she lives alone, she has no living family. To deal with her anger and anxiety after her brother’s murder, she takes up boxing as a recreational sport. I loathe boxing (sorry to those who are fans). But it gives Delaney a unique outlet for her frustration and pain. Plus she’s physically fit and able to defend herself when it’s necessary.
What is your favorite genre to read? What is your favorite genre to write? And why are they your favorites?
- I read in several genres, but my favorite would be mystery/suspense. I’ve read in this genre since my Nancy Drew days as a kid. I love writing romantic suspense because I love writing “bad guys” and figuring out how my heroine and hero will solve the crime. I prefer romantic suspense because I need for there to be relationships in my stories–both the ones I read and the ones I write. I’m not a fan of stories that are all action. I need to care about my characters. Finding love while solving a crime can be challenging, but it’s more fulfilling–at least for me.
Once an idea takes root, how long does it take you to write it down? Do you use outlines?
- I don’t outline. I generally know what the crime is and usually, who the bad guy is. My ideas come from many different places and some germinate over time and some just pop up, fully formed. Sometimes I’m not sure where an idea came from. I collect newspaper articles that catch my attention and make me say, wow, that would make a cool book. With Her Every Move, I wanted to write a story with a librarian as the lead character. With Closer Than She Knows, I wanted to use my experience proofreading murder trial transcripts in a story. I took the concept for Tell Her No Lies from the real-life experience of a family member who was abandoned by his father as a child in a homeless encampment in Florida and then adopted by an aunt and uncle here in San Antonio. My imagination has a life of its own!
Do you have a favorite author? Or someone whom you would say has influenced your writing style?
- Too many to mention. LOL. I read voraciously in several genres. Reading is the best way to become a better writer, besides writing itself. My favorite author varies, depending on which one I’m reading at the moment. I love Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mystery series. I just read Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence and The Round House. Both are incredible. I’m working my way through William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series and all of Jodi Picoult’s books. I’ve read every one of John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers mysteries as well as JA Jance’s J.P. Beaumont mystery series. Then there’s Sue Grafton, Marcia Mueller, and Sara Paretsky, who were among the first to write female detective series that convinced me I could write strong female crime-solving characters before it became commonplace.
What are your hobbies other than writing?
Do you have a genre that you would never write?
- Horror. I don’t read it and consequently don’t feel equipped to write it. And erotica. For obvious reasons.
What was your favorite book growing up?
- Again it’s impossible to name just one. I loved The Little Princess, Harriet the Spy, The Changeling, The Oregon Trail, A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women, Gone With the Wind, Nancy Drew mysteries, and I could go on and on!
Where did your details come from?
- As far as the crime solving aspects? I do a tremendous amount of research. I own dozens of books on police procedure, crime scene procedures, poisons, weapons, writing fight scenes, forensics, etc. I’ve attended numerous workshops and conferences on writing crime stories, police procedurals, and mysteries. I also proofread court transcripts for several years, which gave me an education in police procedures, crime scene investigations, autopsies, weapons, etc. Even the language law enforcement officers use. I’m blessed to have a friend who is a retired homicide detective so I’m able to ask him questions and he’s read some of my manuscripts to help catch errors.
What did you do before becoming a writer?
- I was always a writer–since my sister and I created our own newspaper in the first and second grade. I always wanted to be a novelist, but I decided to get a degree in journalism so I could support myself with my writing. That led to a ten-year career as newspaper journalist before I made the switch to public relations. I worked as the public relations manager for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department for 22 years before retiring in 2016 for health reasons. That allowed me to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing fiction full time.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you Kelly! I really enjoyed learning more about you!
Kimmie – The Traveler’s Wife