Author: Christie Craig
Series: Texas Justice #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Print ARC
Date Published: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
No. of Pages: 480
My rating: 4 Stars
What would you do if everything you thought was true about your family turned out to be a lie?
Annie Lakes has had the same recurring nightmare for years. Her heart pounding in her chest. A panicked voice, begging her to run faster. Her own bloodcurdling scream. But now Annie is starting to realize it's more than just a bad dream. She's starting to remember things about the night her cousin Jenny disappeared all those years ago. Things that make her believe her family was involved--and what they're hiding is much worse than she ever imagined. But she can't unravel this alone. She needs someone she can trust, someone like sexy Detective Mark Sutton ....
Mark has seen enough--too much--to assume that Annie's story is a dead end. It turns out that her family is hiding some killer secrets. A long time ago, Annie was just an innocent little girl who saw something she shouldn't. Now she's a target, and Mark's running out of time to protect the woman he's starting to fall for. But how does Mark face off against a murderer who just may be someone Annie loves?
Why is Annie Lakes having recurring nightmares of a time when her cousin Jenny disappeared? Is Annie Lakes crazy? That is what Detective Mark Sutton initially believes when Annie approaches him at the police station telling him of her dreams. But, forever the dogged cop, Mark asks enough questions anyway and soon realizes that something awful really did happen when Annie was a child.
As Mark is a detective with cold cases, he is allowed to go further with the investigation. Annie is relieved in more ways than one. The thing is, she has been noticing the handsome detective for quite some time at a local coffee shop. There is just something about this detective. He seems to be as haunted as she is. Is that part of the draw? Mark struggles to keep his own past behind him, but his job takes just so much away from him, causing him to behave in a manner rather unbecoming at times.
While Mark searches for answers, Annie is suffering with a family living in denial, desperate to convince her that this was all in her head. While trusting in Mark, the two share an undeniable attraction that they just cannot ignore. As threats and answers abound, Mark and Annie draw closer together.
I thoroughly enjoyed Don't Close Your Eyes. I was riveted to the story from the very first page, when Annie was having another of her nightmares. The story stayed at that pace page-after-page. I was both anxious for the answers that Annie desperately needed, and quite pleased that she and Mark found one another. The conclusion did come rather quickly on more than one count. I sort of wished that there could have been a couple more chapters as things were resolved with the mystery as well as the romance. This was most certainly a quick read, one that I did in one evening, as I was completely drawn to the story.
Many thanks to Forever for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.
READ THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT:
Annie, sitting at her usual table, refocused on the stack of ungraded papers. The dark circles under her eyes were hidden behind darker sunglasses. Blond and fair skinned, she lacked sleep, which brought out raccoon eyes. Too bad she couldn’t wear the shades while teaching.
“Happy hump day.” Fred waved his cup of espresso with extra milk as he moved to his booth. For reasons unbeknownst to Annie, the elderly widower was always happier on Wednesdays. Sometimes, when the place was full, he’d even sit with her to chat.
Annie smiled. “Did you have a good night last night?”
“Sure did.” A sparkle brightened his light blue eyes. He sat down and pulled out his newspaper. Was he seeing some lady on Tuesdays? Not that it mattered, Annie liked seeing happy people.
Glancing out the window, she took in the early-morning walkers trying to get their steps in. The quaint coffee shop nestled between high-rises in downtown Anniston, Texas, was conveniently located a block from the junior college where she’d taught for last five months. Coming here had become part of her morning ritual. Being an only child, she liked feeling as if she was part of a community. She knew the regulars. They knew her. At least most of them did.
The door swished open. Pretty sure who it was, she glanced up, without lifting her head. He always arrived between seven and seven thirty. The coffee shop was conveniently located a block from the police precinct, too.
Detective Sutton liked the dark roast and drank it black. Sometimes, he added a skinny hazelnut latte to his order. Probably for some long-legged, lucky secretary at his office.
While Annie was certain he’d never noticed her—he was one who didn’t speak or even nod—she’d noticed him.
Even before she’d seen him on television.
It wasn’t just his big-gulp size, or his big-gulp good looks. Oh, she noticed those, too—hard not to—but it was the fact that, like her, he hid behind sunglasses. Considering most of his cases involved murder and some involved children—she wondered if he wasn’t suffering from some bad nightmares, too.
He shot to the counter with his usual determined pace. Not so much rude as running late.
Today, he wore his navy Dockers and his light blue buttoned-down oxford. The shirt, creases down the sleeves, no doubt dry-cleaned, hugged his broad chest. His dark hair appeared freshly showered damp.
The customer ahead of him, an elderly grandmother—not a regular—looked antique and frail. “I know I’ve got some coins…” Her arm, lost in her big purse, fumbled for loose change.
Annie waited to see if he’d do it again. She’d seen it happen six times.
“I got her coffee,” he spoke over the woman’s gray hair to Mary, the barista.
The older woman looked back, and up. And up. “Why that’s sweet, but I’ve got…”
My good deed for the day, Annie said in her head, right before he did.
A smile curled up in her gut and gave her good-guy butterflies.. She’d even borrowed his act of kindness herself.
Shamelessly, she’d considered attempting to be his good deed for the day for an introduction—and maybe more. But she’d failed at her last attempts of “more.”And considering the return of her nightmares, she needed to get her life fixed before she asked for company.
He eased up to the counter, paid for the elderly woman’s coffee, then carefully—with more patience than he normally exuded—he handed it to her.
The good-guy flutters commenced again. Annie’s phone chimed. She pulled her gaze away from the detective and glanced at the number. Her mom. She never called this early. Something had to be…
“Hello.” The soft sounds of her mom’s sobbing sent thick air rushing into Annie’s lungs, and her heart filled with empathy before even understanding.
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
Detective Mark Sutton skipped his Thursday-morning coffee run and went straight to the lake.
It was one of those perfect days for fishing. Hot, but not too damn hot. Windy, but not too damn windy. Cloudy, but not too damn cloudy.
White cotton-like clouds hung in the blue sky, appearing so picture-perfect they looked like a lie. The sunset sparkles danced on top of the water. The breeze, cooler than the air, flowed through the trees and offered relief from the Texas temperature.
But nothing ruined a good day at the lake more than when it wasn’t a fishing line in the water, but a winch connected to a wrecker. When what was being reeled in wasn’t a blue cat, or a bass, but a fifty-pound drum containing the body of a four-year-old girl.
Days like this caused a raw kind of hurt—the kind that chipped away at one’s soul.
“I’d give my left ball to be wrong about this.” Mark looked at Juan Acosta, another cold-case detective, standing beside him.
“No s***,” Juan said.
Mark, Juan, and Connor Pierce, the three-man team that made up the Anniston Cold Case Unit, had spent hours of personal time the previous week scuba diving in the lake searching for barrels.
Forget asking the local volunteer divers. Homicide had them booked. Forget having a special dive team do it. Their division didn’t have a budget.
If they needed something done, they had to do it themselves. The fact that they’d gotten cases solved shocked the s*** out of the big brass. And this particular case was going to be a real pisser for their sergeant.
That was why Connor and Juan had chosen the case. Well, that and because the kid had been related to the mayor. Mark would’ve preferred a different case. One that didn’t feel so damn familiar. He had only so much soul left.
Exhaling a piece of that soul now, he watched Albert Stone, the medical examiner, use a crowbar to pry the top off of the drum they’d pulled from Sunshine Lake. Stone looked into the barrel, grimaced, then glanced at Mark and Juan. He didn’t say anything, or even nod. The despair in his eyes said it all.
“Damn!” Mark’s stomach muscles cramped like he’d just done fifty sit-ups.
Stone re-capped the drum and gave the motion for the forklift driver to load the evidence into the van. After taking a few seconds, he walked over.
“I won’t be able to say it’s her for a while. But there’s long brown hair.” Stone ran a hand over his face as if to wipe away the image. A move every cop who’d ever worked in homicide knew well. A damn shame it didn’t work.
“The body is submerged in concrete.” Stone’s tone came out as heavy as the barrel looked. “Weren’t they looking at the father for this?”
“Yeah, but they couldn’t prove it,” Juan said.
“Then prove it. Catch the bastard who did this.” Stone exhaled.
We will. We have to.
Christie Craig, an Alabama native, is an award-winning, multi-published writer, multi-published photo journalist, motivational speaker, and writing teacher.. Her non-fiction articles and photography have appeared in almost three thousand national magazines. A Golden Heart finalist, and a finalist in more than fifty RWA-sponsored contests, she has gained a well-deserved reputation for writing romance fiction that has both witty humor and a suspenseful, sexy tone. Published by Silhouette in the 90s, she recently broke back into fiction in a big way, making four book sales in one day. Her seventh humorous single title romance novel, published by Dorchester, will hit the stands in June 2010. Her non-fiction book, co-authored by Faye Hughes, released September 08, is The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel and their second non-fiction book, a humorous self-help relationship book, Wild, Wicked and Wanton: 101 Ways to Love Like You Are in a Romance Novel is scheduled to be released December 2010. Craig’s latest writing adventure is the sale of a young adult paranormal romance series, Shadow Falls Camp, that will be published by St. Martins Press in the near future.