CrossHairs By Patricia Bradley – Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Natchez Trace

Park Rangers, #3
Patricia Bradley
Genre: Christian / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: November 2, 2021
Number of Pages: 384 pages 
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When evil just won’t quit, good must prevail

Investigative Services Branch ranger Ainsley Beaumont wishes the visit to her hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, was under better circumstances. When she arrived to investigate the murder of a pregnant teenager, she never imagined that she would become the killer’s next target–or that she’d have to work alongside an old flame.

After he almost killed a child, former FBI sniper Lincoln Steele couldn’t bring himself to fire a gun, which had deadly consequences for his best friend. Crushed beneath a load of guilt, Linc is working at Melrose Estate as an interpretive ranger. But as danger closes in on Ainsley during her murder investigation, Linc will have to find the courage to protect her.

The only question is, will it be too little, too late?


Excerpt from Chapter One

of Crosshairs by Patricia Bradley

Come on! It was almost midnight, and the light in Cora Chamberlain’s bedroom blazed like a neon sign.

He ground his teeth as rain poured from the skies, running off his black slicker.

Tornado watches had been issued for the area, and while those were as common as mosquitoes in the springtime, he never remembered a June tornado in Natchez. Still, it’d be his luck for one to hit the town tonight. Especially since nothing else had gone right, starting with the phone call an hour ago from Miss Cora, when she only teased him about the journals she’d found. It was why he stood in a copse of trees outside her antebellum home.

“You’ll never believe it, but I discovered two more diaries!” Miss Cora’s voice wavered, but even at ninety-­two, it had not lost its cultured tone. “I scanned the first few pages of the oldest one, and I believe it was written the summer before Zachary Elliott was killed. I’m certain I’ll find proof my great-­grandfather Chamberlain was innocent of murder. Do you know what that means, Sonny?”

Only his runners called him Sonny now. Well, except for the aging spinster and her sister who he’d known since he was a boy. “Of course I do,” he said. “If it has the information you’ve been searching for, you’ll be able to clear his name. Why don’t you let me come over—­you can read one, and I can read the other. You’d get your answer much quicker.”

“It’s too late tonight—­maybe tomorrow. No. Ainsley is here . . . I do wish I knew where I put that first journal. Then I would have the complete set to finish my book.”

He ground his teeth. Once again she was rambling.

“Maybe one day you’ll find it.” Or not. Especially since it was in a safe in Sonny’s apartment over the Blue Lantern. “I can be there in ten minutes.”

“You’re a dear boy,” Cora said, “but it’s much too late. After Ainsley leaves will be soon enough.”

And that was why he was waiting in the rain for her bedroom light to go out. He owed people money, and they were pressing him for payment. He had a week at most to come up with fifty grand.

He’d stolen the first journal, thinking a private collector might give him a few hundred dollars for the leather-bound book because of the historical value, but no takers. Last week, he’d stumbled over the diary again when he’d been looking for anything he could sell and remembered Cora mentioning Adele Kingston had threatened to sue if Cora published what was in it.

Sonny had always heard the devil was in the details, and details of the murder over 150 years ago had not been in the journal he already possessed. It stood to reason if the new diaries were written not long before the murder happened, the details he sought would be in them. Details Jack Kingston would pay to keep private.

Sonny caught his breath. What if Ainsley decided to stay with Cora tonight instead of with her grandmother? He immediately dismissed the thought. Cora would have mentioned it.

If he was a praying man, Sonny would pray the old woman wouldn’t mention his name to her niece. She’d never liked him, and now Ainsley Beaumont was in some sort of law enforcement. She’d probably think he was taking advantage of her great-­aunt. And she would be right.

His gaze darted to the house across the street where Cora’s sister lived. Rose’s house was already dark, and so were the houses on the opposite corners of the intersection. Good.

Stop worrying. Miss Cora had promised not to tell anyone she’d found the new journals, and she was old school. If she told you something, you could bank on it.

When he asked where she’d found them, she babbled some nonsense about showing him later. Well, he wasn’t waiting for later.

He rubbed his hand over his eyes, wiping away the rain. The corner light on the first floor dimmed to black. Things were turning around. He’d give her thirty minutes to fall sound asleep before he entered through the cellar and crept up the secret passageway that opened into the library on the first floor where Cora worked at her computer.

The woman was remarkable to navigate computers the way she did at her age. Too bad she had to die. It shouldn’t be too hard to make it look as though she’d died of natural causes in her sleep. A pillow should do the trick.

He flinched at a sudden pop of lightning followed almost instantly with thunder that shook the ground. As he looked up, more lightning revealed a thick wall cloud. He didn’t have time for violent weather tonight.

However, maybe the noise of the storm would hide his breaking and entering, and he wouldn’t have to wait thirty minutes. Sonny slipped away from the woods, then dashed to the cellar steps at the back of the two-­story house and descended to the doorway. When another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, he thrust a fallen branch from the nearby magnolia tree through the glass pane above the handle just as the follow-­up clap of thunder shook the windows.

Once inside the cellar, he eased behind the stairs and stood motionless, letting rain run off his slicker and listening for any sign he’d been heard. When no telltale footsteps sounded, he used the flashlight on his phone to illuminate the wall and find the small hole in the second panel of wood.

Once he triggered the latch, the door swung open noiselessly, and he quietly climbed the steep stairs. At the top, he unlatched the sliding door, pushed it to the side, and stepped into the library. He’d learned about the secret stairway as a young boy when his father replaced the door in the basement with a hidden panel for Miss Cora.

Once again, he stood perfectly still while the storm raged outside. So far, no tornado sirens sounded. When he was certain Cora hadn’t heard him, he flicked on the light from his phone again and scanned the room, stopping at her desk.

He frowned. Where were the journals? They should have been on the cherry desk beside Miss Cora’s laptop—­that’s where she put everything. They weren’t on the table beside it either. Sweat beaded his face. He had to find them.

Click to read all of chapter one.

Patricia Bradley is the author of Standoff and Obsession,
as well as the Memphis Cold Case novels and Logan Point series. Bradley won an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award in Romantic Suspense, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and a Touched by Love Award; she was a Carol Award finalist; and three of her books were included in anthologies that debuted on the USA Today bestseller list. She is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Bradley makes her home in Mississippi.

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