From Art from Darkness

“I don’t believe we have met. I am Carlos Ramirez, and this is my good friend, Ms. Kate Hunter.” Carlos’ stance and haughty look were proprietary and it sounded like he was staking a claim to Kate. It had a definite “hands off” tone to it.​

Sam raised his eyebrow and tilted his head ever so slightly as if listening for the secondary message Ramirez was conveying. “Sam Slater.” He extended his hand to Ramirez to shake. He then turned to Kate and took her hand in his, gently, almost reverently. “Ms. Hunter, it is a pleasure.”​

“Hello, Mr. Slater.” Even at five feet eight inches tall, and wearing heels, Kate had to look up at him. He watched as her eyes scanned his face. He kept his gaze direct, expressing genuine interest. His smile reached his hazel eyes when he turned to look at her. “Weren’t you the gentleman helping to hang some of the artwork on Saturday afternoon?” she asked, smiling back.​

“Guilty as charged.” He was still holding her hand. She tugged her hand from his grasp, then took a small sip of champagne. Sam’s gaze fixed on her. Carlos might not even be there as far as he was concerned. The room had shrunk to a small 3-foot diameter containing only him and Kate.

From Artistic Deception (coming soon!)

Sam watched Kate place a saucer covered in tiny blue flowers on the floor. She absently put the cover on the cat food can and put it in the refrigerator. Her movements were stiff and mechanical. Feelie pounced on the soft food, purring loudly. Two minutes later, having licked up every morsel, the cat sat washing her face, occasionally meowing and casting longing looks at the empty dish. Sam tried to lighten the mood. Putting his arm around Kate’s shoulders, he spoke to the cat. “Are you sure you’re done? There’s still some pattern left on the plate.” Sam felt the weight of Kate’s gaze. It didn’t work.​

She and Feelie followed him upstairs and watched silently as he packed his carry-on. Kate’s expression was anxious and troubled. She held the cat to her chest like a lifeline. Her nervous fingers tugged at a loose thread on the bedspread.

Sam used the tip of his finger to tilt her chin up. “Kate, I can’t leave without your smile sending me on my way.”

“I wish you didn’t have to go,” she murmured against his neck when he took her in his arms.

Noticing the tension in her body, Sam pulled back enough to tuck her hair behind her ears and place a calming kiss on her forehead. He told her his plans. Sam hoped knowing as much as he could tell her would ease some of her fears.

“It’s just a trip to observe, and gather some additional information for my case. John is coming to pick me up at ten. Our flight leaves Love Field at noon. We’ll fly to El Paso and drive 194 flat and boring miles to Marfa. I should be home by Friday night at about seven. I called Dad to let him know I’d be out of town.” Sam watched Kate stare at his suitcase, stroking the cat. He didn’t think it was to prevent Feelie from jumping in. “Hey, are you okay? You look worried. Dad said he could come stay here if you are uncomfortable being alone.”

Kate looked up. She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Sam. It isn’t easy. Every time you go away, I am reminded.” Kate pasted a tremulous smile on her face. “I’ll be fine. I have Ophelia, the ferocious guard cat. She’ll keep me safe.”

Kate turned the little black and white face to her and bumped foreheads with their fur baby. “Won’t you, Feelie, you mighty huntress and attack cat.” Ophelia was none too thrilled with this mushy attention and pushed away. She jumped down and crawled under the bed. “First-rate protector you are, you little fur ball.” Kate laughed derisively.

Sam hugged Kate, resting his cheek on her hair. He held her tightly and gazed out the window. The sun was peeking through the leaves of the trees, twinkling as it danced merrily across the room. “Jesus, Kate, I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you. Maybe it’s a good thing Dad is so close. You won’t be alone while I’m away.”

He felt Kate share a sigh of relief, but she was trembling. Sam leaned back and read her sudden raw fear of being alone. The horrible visions of Carlos hurting her came roiling back to him.​

Kate buried her face in Sam’s shoulder, swallowing hard. “Oh, Sam. I am so sorry.” Kate turned her face to him. Her blue eyes drowning with unshed tears. Sam hated himself for failing to protect her.

“Promise me, Sam. Not again. Please, not again.” She shuddered with the memory of that not-too-distant time when she’d been alone and they’d almost lost each other.

Sam ran his hand over her hair and brought his hand under her chin, raising her face to his. “Shush, my love. Never. Never again.”

Checking his weapon, Sam placed it into his gun case, then into his suitcase. He zipped the bag closed and went to Kate, taking her once again in his arms. “I’m sorry, Kate. I wish I never had to leave you. Let Dad come stay. He’s happy to do it. Says he eats better over here than at home. You’ll sleep better and so will I.” Sam nuzzled Kate’s ear and let his kisses trace a path along her jawline to her mouth. He covered it with his, letting their tongues entwine. The kiss grew more passionate and drew a moan of pleasure from them both. “God, I’ll miss you. Touching you, loving you.” He let his hands roam down her back and cup her bottom, drawing her into him. Bringing his mouth back down on hers, Sam savored the soft, sweet taste of her. He’d pulled back and pressed his cheek to hers, wanting desperately to stay, when he heard John beep his horn. Sam picked up his suitcase, and they walked hand in hand to the car.

Kate watched as Sam drove off, waving until he turned the corner. Then she went back inside, locking the door behind her. The man in the maroon coupe parked two houses down flicked his cigarette out the window. He started the engine and pulled away from the curb.