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Raina Sun is in pursuit of a larcenous advisor and finds herself in deep waters … starting with his murder. An old flame and a troublesome grandma complicate matters even more. With storm clouds gathering, can she stay afloat?
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Raina squinted against the glare of the early evening light glinting off the windows as she climbed the main stairs to the Steinburg History Building. She hadn’t planned on meeting Holden after her shift, but his text messages were too enticing to ignore. She knew all about curiosity and the cat, but there was something to be said for satisfaction.
Maybe she’d learn why he broke things off without an explanation. Some women might think closure was overrated in a brief relationship, but she’d bet they didn’t have an ex-boyfriend who treated love like a revolving door. Closure was important.
Leaning against the handrail, Raina pulled out her cell phone to bring up Holden’s last message again.
I have the cash. Waiting for you.
This better not be a ploy to lure her to his office. Holden wasn’t reacting as she predicted he would. He should be avoiding her. He should be demanding proof or denying responsibility. Instead, this was the second message Raina had received since he cornered her this morning by the vending machine.
Distant sirens broke the tranquility of the lazy August day. She looked behind her and didn’t see anything unusual. Campus employees hurried to the parking lots, probably eager to get home after a day of work. A handful of students tossed a Frisbee on the lawn. She shrugged, as the sirens got louder. The evening news would undoubtedly report on the sirens. Even a cat stuck in a tree got at least thirty seconds in Gold Springs.
Raina closed her phone and stuffed it back into her purse. With squared shoulders, she marched up the rest of the stairs and into the lobby. This could be the last time she needed to interact with Holden on a personal level. Once the money was firmly locked in her bank account, she would have a photo-burning ceremony with her friends Ben and Jerry to cleanse him from her life.
Her sneakers squeaked in the empty corridor. The front desk stood in silent sentry to her passage. Gail had probably gone home for the day. She turned the corner and the open door of Holden’s office beckoned at the end of the hall. Her steps slowed and a knot settled in her stomach. She wiped the perspiration off her forehead with the back of her hand. She’d forgotten the campus turned off the air conditioner after hours during the summer.
A muffled buzz from her purse distracted Raina from further thoughts of the HVAC system. It better not be a message from Holden telling her he’d left already. She pulled her cell phone from her purse and flipped it out.
A whoosh of air threw Raina’s hair into her eyes. Her stomach lodged in her throat as the scents of lemon cleanser and vomit hit her. She turned toward the opened door and froze. A large person charged out of the men’s restroom and slammed into her. They fell into a tangled heap on the tiled floor. Raina gasped as the air flew out of her lungs and her cell phone clattered onto the floor.
Raina struggled to push the person off her. Her hands encountered the softness of a woman’s body. She brushed the hair off her eyes and saw a unibrow on an ashen face. Gail? Her heart thumped painfully against her chest.
Gail grabbed Raina’s arms, digging her talon-like nails into the skin. Her flared nostrils made tiny squeaks with each labored breath. “My…my phone!”
Raina winced at the pain and batted at Gail’s clammy hands. She shivered at the bulging eyes and crossed her arms in front of her. “Are you okay? Do you need me to call someone?”
“I need to stay on the line!”
Raina crawled over to her phone, grabbed the shattered screen, and popped the battery back in. “Mine is toasted. Where’s your phone?”
Gail pointed a trembling hand at the men’s restroom. “In there.” A small moan slipped from her pale lips. “Holden’s dead.”
Raina shook her head. Had Gail been drinking? She didn’t smell alcohol on the secretary. “He texted me an hour ago.” Her voice came out squeakier than she intended.
Gail closed her eyes. “He’s dead. He’s dead.”
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