An old boyfriend wants reporter Catherine Steel’s love but someone else wants her dead when she learns the explosive truth behind a murder.
Catherine Steel is an investigative reporter for a newspaper in Ohio. To supplement her income so that she can buy clothes for herself and gifts for her small godchild, she writes fluff pieces for women's magazines. Two recent articles are: "What To Wear to Get Noticed" and "Catherine's Ten Simple Dating Rules." When Jake Michaels fills a sports editor's spot on the paper, Catherine wonders if he is man enough to fulfill her fantasy. And does she want him to be the one?
After all, he broke her heart ten years ago in high school when he failed to show up for their prom date. And now that he's back in town, he wants to date her. Catherine refuses to go out with him but he keeps asking. Should she give Jake another chance?
When it appears the beloved high school janitor, Max, was murdered, Catherine is determined to learn the truth about his death. Catherine's list of suspects for Max's death include: the school secretary with her intense dislike of Max, the charismatic mayor, the mayor's unbalanced girlfriend, the angry school principal, and a strange math teacher.
Overall Rating: 4.0! “...it’s not the classic chick-lit book. It has more depth than that… I believe there are a lot of different types if secrets in A Fiery Secret. Some are evil, some are wrong and some are through choice. It is a sweet, modern romance where the normal everyday complications of life meet a mystery head on. But above all, this book has a nice feel good ending that makes you smile.”
~Janet Davies, Once Upon A Romance
Rating: 4 Angels! “Diane Craver sure knows how to write mystery yet add a tinge of romance to it. From the start the authors grips you into the mystery of Max. Here is a janitor who always worked in the boiler room and one day is dead. I loved the fact that each chapter contained more information about Max’s life and the woman he loved. Diane Craver did a beautiful job with this book and I hope to read more of her books.”
~Lena C., Fallen Angel Reviews
Jake Michaels made me throw up on prom night ten years ago. I never really got over it. And now he was back in my life. Obviously, we weren’t the same people. Both of us graduated from college and have real careers. I was an investigative reporter for the local newspaper, The Messenger.
When the paper’s editor-in-chief and owner, Jane Gibbons, recently decided to have a larger sports section to increase circulation, she hired Jake as the new sports editor. We both worked now at The Messenger in Park City, Ohio, where we were born and raised.
My name is Catherine Steel, and I’m five-eight with pale blue eyes. Unfortunately, last summer being outdoors a lot had made a few freckles pop out on my face. But the sun had done something good by giving my light brown hair some natural blondish highlights. Gone were the days when I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and my work uniform consisted of dress pants with a boring pastel shirt. When Jake Michaels moved back and started working at the newspaper, I knew my wardrobe had to include tight, short skirts and stiletto heels so that picking up dropped pens by his desk would be sure to drive him wild with passion. He broke my heart in high school. What he did to me was deplorable and he ruined my sophomore year. Even so, I didn’t want to ruin him. Seeing him squirm like the snake he was seemed to restore my self-respect and take some of the pain out of our past history.
But at the moment, I wasn’t the one making Jake squirm. He was doing that to me. He stood next to me as I slurped water from the fountain in the hallway. He smelled so good I knew I had to take the longest drink in Messenger history. If I lifted my head and made eye contact, I’d be a goner. What was he wearing? Every man should use that aftershave.
“Well, water kid,” Jake said to me, “maybe I’ve been wrong about you all this time.”
I stopped drinking and licked the excess moisture below my lip. “What do you mean?”
“I thought you’ve been getting all these drinks so you could constantly walk in front of my office and show me what I’ve been missing out on.”
I shook my head, noticing how he still had a summer tan. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Jake had a rugged look but he pulled off appearing preppy at the same time. I saw the challenge in his brown eyes, daring me to deny his observation. “I try to drink lots of water every day. It’s good for you, flushes all the toxins out of your body.”
“I’ve tried to ignore you walking by my office for the past four weeks, but I can’t take it any more.” He pushed me against the wall, but I didn’t object. A tingling raced through me as his hands lingered on my shoulders. “And each time you’ve made your drink run, I’ve seen how you look at me, like you’re all hot and bothered. I have a suggestion. You say you’ll go out with me and then stand me up. We’ll be even. Then we can move on and get together. Like this.” He tilted my chin and lowered his jaw to mine. He covered my lips with a breathtaking kiss, then his mouth lingered sweetly against mine.
I gave him a shove. No way was he getting off that easy. His solution grated on my nerves. I retorted with cold sarcasm, “Oh yeah, even. You’re really something. You never showed up to take me to the prom. I waited for hours in my dress, which, by the way, I spent a fortune on, and I shelled out money to get my hair done.” I decided not to mention the further humiliation when I faced my friends at school. I’d told them I was going to the prom with popular Jake, so they’d wanted to know what happened.
“Catherine, I apologized years ago. And when I asked you to the prom, I told you I’d be late.”
“Being a bit late and never showing up is a little different.”
“The track meet took longer than I thought. And my parents wanted me to wait for my medals. I told you to go ahead if you didn’t want to wait on me.”
“You could’ve called.”
“I did. I thought you were at the prom. Your brother said you left.”
Jake didn’t show, and I got so upset that by the time he called, I was throwing up in the toilet. No way had I wanted him to know that. My brother was supposed to say I’d left with a hot guy, but instead said I wasn’t home.
I glared at Jake. “What about the dinner date we had and then you canceled? You said out-of-town relatives were visiting. Then I heard you went out with a cute girl.”
His brown eyes glinted with anger. “She was my cousin.”
I thought about saying, “And your cousin didn’t wear braces and glasses,” but I kept my mouth shut for once. No need to remind Jake that in my sophomore year I didn’t have my contacts or straight teeth yet. I shrugged. “Whatever. I need to get to work.”
“Go out with me this Friday. I’ll make it up to you.”
“Catherine, give me a break.” He ran his fingers through his black hair. “We’ll have fun.”
I took a step away from Jake, thinking up a quick excuse for Friday night. “I have a date.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Do I know him?”
“I doubt it. You don’t travel in the same social circles.” How could Jake know him? I don’t know him. I shouldn’t lie, but Friday was a few days away. I could get a date by then. Anything was possible.
“Hey, I forgot to invite you to my parents’ Halloween party. It’s a week from this Friday. Bring your boyfriend.”
“I’ll let you know if we can make it. I have to get back to work.”
Walking back to my desk, I was proud of how I’d handled Jake’s kiss. He’d excited me, but I hadn’t given in. I broke it off quickly. He probably wondered how I could be so cool around him. I smiled, thinking how awesome I was with giving a little and pulling back. Even though Jake was a louse to me in high school, I did intend to go out with him sometime. With a definite chemistry between us, I couldn’t help myself. But I wasn’t going to rush it. The chase was too entertaining.
It might be fun to go to his parents’ Halloween party and wear an unbelievably sexy costume. I could kill the boyfriend off or say he had a death in the family. No. That wouldn’t work. Jake might think I was heartless not going with my boyfriend to the funeral. My mother was right. You should never lie.
I had just sat down at my desk in the middle of the newsroom when Jake appeared by my right side.
He held a paperback in his hand. “I believe this romance novel is yours. You left it in the meeting room.” He glanced at it before handing it to me. “So you like romances. I think I might be more interesting than you reading about a character kissing her man in a book.”
I grabbed my paperback, noticing several sets of eyes watching us. Sometimes I like being surrounded by other reporters and other times I’d like to have my own private office. “I’m researching romance novelists. We have several successful Ohio romance writers in our area, and I’m going to ask them how their novels are different now from several years ago.”
He grinned. “You’re just full of surprises. I never would’ve guessed you like investigating romances. If you need any help doing research, you know my number.”
I clenched my jaw as he walked away whistling. Although I made that up about interviewing romance writers, maybe I would. Jake didn’t need to know my reading habits. Truthfully, I loved contemporary and historical romances, especially ones by British authors. I did vary my reading and enjoyed mysteries a lot, but I always had a supply of romances to read. When I was a teenager, Grandma Nelson got me started on reading her favorite British author, Georgette Heyer, and I got her interested in regencies by Scottish author Marion Chesney. I smiled, remembering Jane loved romances. I would suggest having a section on romance novelists.
When I wasn’t writing investigative articles, I wrote fluff pieces—just when I needed extra money. On my investigative reporter’s income, I could pay the bills, but when I wrote articles for the singles crowd in magazines and newspapers, I had money for cool clothes, books, movies, and toys for my godchild, Connor.
“What to Wear to Get Noticed” was a favorite article I wrote. In it I explained how you wanted to stand out from everyone else when you go out at night. I definitely had an awesome outfit that I’d worn a few times to bars. It was a skirt my best friend Angie created as a fashion design student at the University of Cincinnati. It consisted of belts and it was pretty short since she ran out of them. I think she did it on purpose because when I modeled the skirt, she said, “Catherine, you have great legs.” Whenever I wore it, I got smiles and glances. Or maybe dancing on the bar counters helped, too. I tell you, I was a different woman in this skirt—I became a nightlife star after a few drinks.
With the skirt, I wore this incredibly soft shirt which looked like different shades of lavender in various lights. Guys loved to touch to see what the shirt felt like. I only allowed pawing at the shoulders—no place else. And, of course, I wore my long hair down.
Although the clothing was important, a pickup line was vital in bars. I happened to have a sure-fire one that landed me dates.
My mom said I had to stop trying to help every single female out there catch a man. I wrote a column recently for a woman’s magazine and gave a lot of tips on how to grab a guy’s attention. She was livid and said, “You just limited your own chances of getting married before you’re thirty.”
I shrugged. “Hey, I just turned twenty-five. I have plenty of time.”
Secretly, I knew she was also correct in saying there are too few available men for all of us women looking for Mr. Right. But what the heck, even though I’ve never written my great pickup line into an article, here it is—I look the guy directly in the eye and say, “You’re hot.”
Short, but definitely got the guy’s attention. And they were shocked because it was unexpected for a girl to go to a guy and say that. A lot of times, he’d give a big grin and start talking to me.
After I met a new guy and started dating him, I wondered what he’d think of my secret fantasy. No one knew it. I hadn’t even told Angie. I could see her telling everyone, and I didn’t want to have every guy ask me if they could participate in part of my fantasy. And I knew some might laugh at me and think it was out of this world. But the adventuresome ones would go for it. It was my sexual fantasy and I didn’t want to share it with anyone—well, obviously I wanted to share it with the right guy someday. But then, I pulled the daydream out when I felt down and visualized it happening. Fortunately, I have an active imagination. Although it seemed unrealistic, I believed it could actually happen to me. I mean you have to believe in your dreams, even the big fantasies. Right?
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