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Falcon's Bend Case Files, Volume I (The Early Cases)
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Falcon's Bend Case Files, Volume I (The Early Cases)


Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
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Falcon's Bend is a small, sleepy town in Wisconsin that owns more taverns than churches, but fills both on the appropriate days. Teenagers talk of escape from the one-horse town because nothing ever seems to happen. But, even here in the Heartland, police investigators Pete Shasta, Danny Vincent and Amber Carfi fight a never-ending battle to keep their beloved families and hometown safe and sound.


Bugs:  A partially digested body is found in the oxidation ditch at the Falcon's Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Was it an accident... or is new Falcon's Bend Investigator Pete Shasta facing his first murder?

Broken Wings:  Just 2 months ago, a runaway daughter Keith Pierce never knew he had landed on his doorstep.  Seventeen years earlier, Keith Pierce had a brief, intense affair with a woman on the lam.  When Keith returns to Kat's hometown of Falcon's Bend to find his daughter's mother, he discovers that Kat disappeared shortly after giving birth to Quinn.  Investigator Pete Shasta solves a decade and a half old missing-person case that's about to turn into murder.

Obsessions:  A newborn baby is stolen from Falcon's Bend Community Hospital's maternity ward... and Lt. Pete Shasta's only lead is to the Liace Adoption Agency, which set up the open adoption of the unmarried mother's baby. Case Representative Lisa Mercer is as suspicious and defensive as she is beautiful.  Pete finds himself breaking the cardinal rule of investigation--never get emotionally involved with anyone even remotely associated with a case.  With a kidnapper who seems to believe there's nothing left to lose and potentially everything to gain, and his own uncontrollable feelings for Lisa, Pete's about to learn just how dangerous obsessions can be.

Blind Revenge:  For the first 3 years of her life, Lindsay Bronwyn had nightmares about a witch who wanted her eyes.  Nineteen years later, those nightmares have come true when she's found murdered on her kitchen floor, her eye sockets empty.  Falcon's Bend Investigator Danny Vincent faces the supernatural to get at a chilling flesh and blood truth.

Fixated:  Someone has been following new Falcon's Bend citizen Risa Nitzberg for the past few weeks.  Victor Brooks, her neighbor from across the street who's become fixated with Risa from afar, steps in when Risa's creepy stalker decides to get up close and personal.  

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  • Karen Wiesner
    Jan 11, 2018, 21:11
    2007 EPIC AWARD Finalist
    L-edit Slip Best Novella Finalist (“Fixated”)
    5 star review from The Romance Studio
    The Romance Studio Sweetheart Award Nominee
    5 star review from Lighthouse Reviews
    5 star review and Top Pick from Night Owl Reviews
    4 1/2 star review from Ecataromance
    4 1/2 star review from Huntress Reviews

    5 stars and Top Pick! “This is a book that introduces the reader to the town of Falcon Bend and their new detective Pete Shasta with a set of novellas to whet the reader's appetite. There are five novellas that help the reader to get to know Pete at the beginning of his career in Falcon Bend. If you need a quick escape with a good mystery than this book is for you. So sit back and get to know the people of Falcon Bend and its newest detective. I’m highly recommending this set of stories for readers that like suspense. I don’t want to give anything away as the blurb tells you enough. Once you start you will want to read them all.” ~Night Owl Reviews
    5 beacons! ""Bugs": After reading about the aerators cutting the victim to ribbons, it was like the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. "Broken Wings": The ending in this story is so twisted; I had to do a double take on it…wow! Intense. "Obsessions": This story will have your adrenaline racing as Pete scurries through every obstacle in his path. "Blind Revenge": This story had me tossing in the covers and at times still feeling for my eyes. "Fixated": Okay, for sure, anyone in a chat room even briefly should be extra careful. "Murder is usually the start of the investigation for Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent but not without a bit of desire, retribution, betrayal, and atonement. In this anthology there are five stories that will quench the thirstiest mystery readers. The whole series surrounding Detectives Pete and Danny are fascinating; not to mention fast-paced and loaded in emotion that will have you spellbound. Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler are such great collaborators. They take a story and turn it into a piece of art. Their suspense chillers are so cleverly dazzling that it leaves the reader eagerly anticipating the next installment. Their writing is so driven that it leaves the reader with the story still refreshed in their mind days later. This is a collection of stories that readers should not miss. The plots are so well developed with enormous twists and turns that leaves the reader rapidly turning pages to the end. A good mystery always leaves the reader delighted but an even greater mystery full of bone-chilling suspense leaves the reader completely satisfied. Once you read one of Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler’s books, you just can’t stop! Five mystery suspense tales that leave you breathless until the crime is solved. I really enjoy their style of writing. If I could I would give this anthology a ten, it is so incredible!" ~Lighthouse Reviews
    5 hearts! "This is a great set of five stories involving a couple of detectives in the small town of Falcon's Bend, Wisconsin. Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent each take a starring role in the mysteries whether working alone or with one another. The stories fill in background for some the of circumstances mentioned in DEGREES OF SEPARATION, Book 1 of the Falcon's Bend Series. In “Broken Wings” the authors tell a well crafted and emotional tale of Keith Pierce and his daughter Quinn. Keith only knew Katerina Fulton for a few torrid days of romance at a music festival. Until the feisty teenager showed up on his doorstep he didn't know a child had resulted from the affair. Cynthia Fulton, Kat's sister, is also searching for her. Their stories put Detective Pete Shasta in search of a missing person, possible murder victim, while coping with his failing first marriage. This is one of those heart wrenching but hopeful novellas that really shines with the authors' gifted characterizations and dialogue. Who would kidnap a newborn baby boy? Pete has to answer that puzzling question in “Obsessions”. The answer is elusive but with Pete Shasta on the case we know there'll be an answer. He and his friends on the Falcon's Bend police force unravel all the twisted details until they find the right culprits. The added details about Pete's instant attraction to his wife Lisa are great as he struggles with obligations, rules, and the call of his heart. It doesn't seem like the order in which you read this book or Book 1 of the series would make too much difference. Personally I adored the first book of the series and was thrilled to see this one come out. It seems like it could be a stand alone anthology if you read it first.” ~The Romance Studio
    4 1/2 stars! "Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler produce a firm foundation for their full length Falcon’s Bend stories. After reading these short stories, the reader will want to get to know the members of the Falcon’s Bend Police Department better. These authors know how to keep the reader interested from the first page to the last. I cannot wait to find out what new adventures await the Falcon’s Bend Police in the full length books that will be released shortly. I look forward to reading them." ~Ecataromance.com
    4.25 stars! ""Bugs": I thought this story was a great way to get to know Detective Pete Shasta and some of the townsfolk of Falcon’s Bend. "Broken Wings": This was a very intense story, especially towards the end. While I thought I had this one figured out, it did give me a few glitches on the way to the ending. Keith Pierce is incredibly funny as he tries to figure out what to do with a teenaged daughter whom he doesn’t know. Just the byplay between them is enough to make you roll on the floor. If you have teenaged daughters or if you know any teenaged daughters, you’ll love the teen attitude. "Obsessions": While I spent my time focused on the missing baby and who could have stolen her, Lt. Shasta is starting to have feelings (in a romantic way) towards a suspect. It added another layer of depth to the story and made Lt. Shasta a little more real to me as a reader. This was my personal overall favorite from the book—although the next two stories had me gripping the edge of my seat. "Blind Revenge": This was the most chilling story in the book. I read it right before bed and had trouble sleeping. We don’t know Lindsay for long, but the ramifications of her death and her nightmares just don’t stop. Could it be the new lover she just met on the night of her murder? If not, than who could have killed her?? Each twist takes you a step deeper into the unknown and the ending will knock your socks off. "Fixated": Wow! I would say that Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler really hit their stride in the last half of the book. This story was wild and crazy. Without giving away the ending (which was a surprise and a half), I was stunned. You’ll be amazed at the reality of this story. It’s one of those things that really could happen--even to you. Risa and Victor’s budding romance is just icing on the cake of this story. Hang onto your hat and enjoy the ride. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I’m looking forward to more mysteries/suspense stories from Falcon’s Bend. I thought each story touched a different part of me as a reader. I was able to associate in unique ways with each of the situations and characters... I think Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler have a great collaborative future together. " ~Once Upon a Romance Review
    4 stars! "This tautly written quintet of detective stories jumps into the trenches with a small-town police force that deals with the same crime found in the big city. The writing is crisp and the strength of the recurring characters fosters anticipation for each new yarn spun by this talented teams." ~Romantic Times BOOKclub
    4 1/2 stars! "Five mystery suspense tales that will leave you wanting more. But that's okay. Book 2 [will be] out [July 2006]! Wonderfully told short stories." ~Huntress Reviews
    4 Stars! “Pete Shasta is a vulnerable, believable, likable police inspector. He is the kind of book cop you really want to get to know. And get to know him you do in the five tightly crafted crime tales that comprise FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I (The Early Cases)—a smooth, easy read. Wiesner and Spindler’s clear, short, targeted descriptions put me right into the picture (including, memorably, even the sewage treatment tanks). The authors have fashioned the people of Falcon’s Bend in such a way that they appear so real. Their human natures, clearly delineated, give credence to the fact that such awful things happen in such a nice place. Under the protection of Inspector Shasta, this book is a safe and cozy way to experience them.” ~Readers Favorite
    4 stars! “FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I sets the backdrop for the rest of the series. While the series can be read as stand-alone books, having the background books helps to flesh out characters in the series. Avid readers of mysteries will no doubt be able to pick up any of the books and move forward or back with ease. Volume I offers a compilation of five tautly written early cases as the authors jump into the action where a small-town police force faces many of the same crimes as are found in larger cities. Authors Wiesner and Spindler weave compelling tales filled with an excellent group of recurring characters, secondary characters as well as detailed scenarios and locales to provide lots of interest and suspense building moments. This first collected works detailing early cases investigated by Falcon's Bend Detectives Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent is filled with snappy, attention-grabbing prose, coupled to the strength of established characters promoting eagerness for each new anecdote offered by this witty duo of writers. This anthology is a great addition to the Falcon's Bend Series whether read as the jumping off point leading to the rest of the series, or is read at some point after beginning the other works.” ~Molly’s Reviews
    4 cups! ““Bugs”: I like the way this story shows Pete as a person with feelings as he is concerned over his marriage, and also finding if there is a killer in the town. I found it eerie the way the victim was discovered in this spine-tingling tale. “Broken Wings”: I liked this story. To me, it showed the deep emotions that abound between the love of a father for a child. The way Keith and Quinn meet for the first time, as they learn about the other, is a bonding experience that reached out to this reader. I enjoyed the little twist along the way. “Obsessions”: This story was gripping. One moment I was fixated on Pete finding the baby, while the other part of me was engaged wondering if he and Lisa would ever make a connection. I loved how the story showed he could be vulnerable and real. “Blind Revenge”: I am still reeling over this read. When Lonnie has to identify Lindsay, the tension is so strong it pulls the reader into the story. It is chilling the way even Danny must push himself to unlock the reason for Lindsay’s fears and her death. “Fixated”: I enjoyed the way Risa and Victor has a blossoming romance. The blending in of the stalker and Victor’s concern for her is brilliantly penned. The ending definitely leaves the reader intrigued. These fast-paced stories keep the reader engaged throughout. I simply adore how Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler team up to bring mystery and suspense to life in these pages. Their masterminds have taken five stories and bedazzled this reader. The chilling suspense in FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I (The Early Cases) is awesome. I believe I had an adrenaline rush with just about each of them. This assortment has clever plots that thrill and send chills at the same time. The believable characters left an impact on this reader.” ~Coffee Time Romance & More
    ""Bugs": Entertaining, engaging! This “who done it” short story introduces Lt. Pete Shasta and his hometown Falcon Bend to the readers. I found the characters to be engaging and the story pleasant to read. I enjoyed reading about and getting to know Pete as he investigates and then solves his first murder case. "Broken Wings": Fantastic! I really enjoyed reading Keith Pierce’s story. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened to his daughter’s mother.(The daughter that until recently, he didn’t even know existed) That and the romance that sprung up between Keith and his new acquaintance kept me reading until the very end. "Obsessions": Stays on shelf! Once again I enjoyed reading about Pete Shasta as he solves another mystery. We are also introduced, via phone call, to his friend Danny Vincent. The romance that springs up between Pete and Lisa was a great touch. I was pleasantly surprised by the twist towards the end…as he solves the baby’s mysterious disappearance. "Blind Revenge": Pleasant! The readers are introduced to the new investigator Danny Vincent. I really loved his personality. If you like otherworldly reading with weird twist and turns, then this is the read for you. I personally liked the characters. "Fixated": Good, memorable! Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent get to investigate a case together. An enjoyable read, I loved the sizzle between Risa and her cute neighbor…and I also enjoyed the chase as they tracked down Risa’s stalker. It was a thrilling moment when the stalker got his just deserves in the end." ~WRDF Review
    "Falcon’s Bend Case Files is an anthology of five different short stories about the case files of the Falcon Bend police. Investigator Pete Shasta is the main character and is always on the case. He can’t let a case go unsolved and it will cost him personally. The collaboration of Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler is a huge success. The psychological thrillers being penned by these two are some of the best on the market. I dare other readers to read "Blind Revenge" and not stay awake thinking about it that night. That story kept me awake for several nights after I read it. "Broken Wings" is another story with an awesome twisted ending. I look forward to reading more novels about Falcon’s Bend. Those who love thrillers do not want to miss this collection." ~Writers Unlimited
    4 Stars! “Bugs is Pete Shasta’s first murder case on the FBPD. We get a look at Pete and Donna while still married. The story clarified a lot for me regarding his previous marriage. In Broken Wings we meet Jennifer, Warren Jensen’s wife. Her cousin, Keith, returns to Falcon’s Bend with a 17 year old daughter, Quinn, he was unaware of until recently. They’re looking for Quinn’s mother, Katerina Fulton. I really enjoyed the glimpse of Jenn and Warren before it all fell apart. Just seeing how in love and happy they were gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of future events. In Obsessions Pete Shasta meets Lisa Mercer. This is the case that’s referenced in later books that brings Pete and Lisa together. So glad I finally got to read this. Blind Revenge is Danny Vincent’s first case alone after returning to Falcon’s Bend and becoming Pete’s partner. For Lindsey’s murder he has a decidedly twisted tale to unravel. Creepily unnerving, this story really sticks with you. It’s my favorite. Fixated tells the story of Risa Nitzberg, Falcon’s Bends newest resident. She has a stalker following her. When the stalker attempts to get more personal her neighbor, Victor Brooks, steps in to save her. This is actually quite a sweet story and an upbeat way to end the book. FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I is a definite must read for fans of the series. It filled in some spaces for me, making the series even better. If you’ve never read any of the books, it’s a great introduction to one of the best police procedural series currently being written.” ~Manic Readers
    4 angels! "Pete Shasta is the common thread in FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I. There are five short stories all set a couple of years apart that make up the case files. And it’s interesting to see how Pete as a character evolves over the years. You read of his loneliness, his dedication, and his falling in love. In fact, all the characters in FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I have follow up stories which are almost like part of a television series. The book is an interesting refection on life in a small town, the people, the scandals and the mystery. I particularly like the short story entitled "Blind Revenge." It was just plain creepy, but all the short stories are interesting and unique in their own way. The fictitious town of Falcon’s Bend is no different to anyone’s own hometown. You always wonder about the people around you. I enjoyed FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I and would look forward to reading to further case files." ~Fallen Angel Reviews
    "Do you like your mysteries varied? Read the FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I. Are you short on time? Read Karen Wiesner’s and Chris Spindler’s collection of case files told in short story form. But most of all, read the FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES if you just plain like good mystery stories. Murder may be the result, but explore in this anthology’s four stories the driving forces of revenge, greed, obsession and redemption. Explore the early years of Falcon’s Bend police investigators Danny Vincent and Pete Shasta, introduced in Wiesner’s and Spindler’s debut novel of the Falcon’s Bend Series, DEGREES OF SEPARATION. A fast read, a unique read, a fascinating read you won’t be able to put down. I highly recommend the FALCON'S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler." ~Barbara Raffin, author of THE VISITOR
    4 stars! "An enjoyable read of different mysteries that occur in the same town with many of the same characters. I can't wait for the next one!" ~Sime~Gen
    “Danny Vincent and Pete Shasta are best friends and detectives in the small town of Falcon's Bend. Previous books recounted happenings in their lives and jobs. FALCON’S BEND CASE FILES, Volume I is an anthology (including two short stories and three novellas) about Shasta and Vincent's early murder cases. “Bugs” is about Shasta's first murder case. Shasta literally gets his feet wet when a body floats up in the oxidation ditch of the Wastewater Treatment Plant. “Broken Wings” involves a missing person cold case. “Obsessions” is about a missing baby - Pete learns that obsessions can be dangerous. “Blind Revenge” really creeped me out. It is about nightmares and a mother's revenge. “Fixated” is probably the most satisfying of the stories. In it, a woman is being stalked, and her neighbor steps in to save her.” ~BookLoons Reviews
    “I’ve mentioned before that reviewing anthologies, short story collections, or any short story is different and slightly more difficult than reviewing a larger piece. The reason being with less material there’s a greater chance of giving the story and ending away. Now, less material does not mean less story, less impact, less craft. No, there are times when a short story will pack more punch than any full length novel. I discovered Falcon’s Bend a few years back through a previous publisher and am glad to see the series thriving and growing. Listed as a Mystery/Police Procedural this series as the feeling of a cozy…coming home to a familiar setting and character-friends. The difference between Falcon’s Bend and cozies is its boldness. The authors have found a balance of small town closeness and strong edged crime, murder, and mystery. With a touch of the extra…see story Blind Revenge. Other aspects of collections/series are the similarities within each story. Not that authors copy or repeat themselves, but plot patterns can be found, story rhythms felt as you read each book. Falcon’s Bend doesn’t quite fit this scenario. The main characters follow their established behaviours and so far they haven’t veered off illogically. The plots vary. However, the action centers on the main police characters more than anyone else in Falcon’s Bend. It’s not the community I know—it’s the detectives. Well, the exception might be in the short Fixated. Here we visit through the other side of the crime. With this all said and done, the bottom line is, when you’re searching for a solid police character driven mystery, Falcon’s Bend is the place. For me, it’s been too long and I’m glad to be back. What’s even better is I have a few more books, a few more stories to visit.” ~Christine Steeves Speakman

  • Night Owl Reviews
    Aug 28, 2017, 01:21
    Night Owls Review Top Pick

    This is a book that introduces the reader to the town of Falcon Bend and their new detective Pete Shasta with a set of novellas to wet the reader's appetite.

    There are five novellas that help the reader to get to know Pete at the beginning of his career in Falcon Bend. If you need a quick escape with a good mystery than this book is for you. So sit back and get to know the people of Falcon Bend and its newest detective.

    I’m highly recommending this set of stories for readers that like suspense. I don’t want to give anything away as the blurb tells you enough. Once you start you will want to read them all.

Broken Wings


A Falcon's Bend Series Novella


Summer 1996

Just two months ago, a runaway daughter Keith Pierce never knew he had landed on his doorstep. Seventeen years earlier, Keith Pierce had a brief, intense affair with a woman on the lam. When Keith returns to Kat's hometown of Falcon's Bend to find his daughter's mother, he discovers that Kat disappeared shortly after giving birth to Quinn. Investigator Pete Shasta solves a decade-and-a-half-old missing-person case that's about to turn into murder.


"Soon as she was gone from me

A traveller came by

Silently invisibly 

[He took her with a sigh]"

~William Blake


"I touched a broken girl and knew that marble bled."

~"Oak and Olive" by James Elroy Flecker


Chapter One


"I'm surprised there is a motel in a stupid town this small."

Keith Pierce looked at his daughter. She'd pulled off her jacket and was sitting on the edge of the bed looking around the cheap motel in disgust. As if any of the foster homes she'd been in most of her sixteen-year life had been much better. But Keith knew that look. She wasn't thinking about their accommodations for the night. Something else was worrying her. He'd known her for all of two months, and he surprised himself with this revelation.

Quinn had the face of an angel…and the tongue of a viper. She'd spent many years of her life searching for him when the system hadn't been able to locate him and so had given up. She'd found a listing of Keith Pierces around the country and called every one of them. Keith would never forget that call, nor opening his door in the dead of the night to find her there claiming she was his daughter. If she hadn't said the words she had in explanation, he would have assumed she was insane.

After so many years of being passed from hand to hand, Quinn had become jaded and untrusting--traits that frequently translated into impatience, discontent, and resentfulness. The glimpses Keith saw of her vulnerability had been the only things that kept him from sending her back to the foster home she'd run away from to find him…at least he told himself that.

"What's up, kid?" he asked quietly, stopping with his boot half off to face her once more.

She'd dyed her long straight hair a strange combination of strawberry and white, but it suited her almost as much as her evasive expression did. Keith watched her lie on her stomach across the other bed nearest the door. "When will we get there tomorrow?"

"Early. It's only an hour from here." They'd stopped for the night when she'd complained his motorcycle was unbearably uncomfortable. He wondered now if she'd wanted to stop for more reason than that. Their decision to come had been spur of the moment earlier this afternoon. He'd called his boss, ready to lose his job if need be, but was surprised when he'd been granted an indefinite leave of absence; and he'd called his cousin Jen to tell her to expect them soon.

"So you grew up in Falcon's Bend?" Quinn asked like she couldn't care less.

Keith shook his head. "Not exactly." He finished removing his boots. When he glanced at her again, she'd pulled a cigarette out of the pack in his leather jacket. He'd smoked since he was twelve years old--what right did he have to forbid her?

"I've got relatives in Falcon's Bend, so I spent a lot of time there. We were close." He leaned forward and plucked the cigarette out of her mouth just before she lit it. She'd gotten used to him doing it, and she didn't waste a glare on him now.

"What relatives?"

"A cousin. Jennifer. And her brother. Scott moved to Seattle though. Jen's quite a bit younger than me. She's only twenty-five. She was born when Scott and I were thirteen. She started tagging along with us when she was just a toddler, and we didn't mind most of the time," he told her, tossing the cigarette on the shabby nightstand. He wasn't even sure why he kept the smokes in his jacket anymore. He'd all but quit since he'd gotten temporary custody of Quinn.

"And my mom told you she grew up in Falcon's Bend during your one-night stand?"

Keith frowned and she looked away. She'd asked him a million questions the first night she'd arrived and every day since, yet this one area made them both uncomfortable for some reason. He'd told her the truth--a truth he'd never been ashamed of, and wasn't exactly now.

"It was four nights," he corrected. As she well knew. He'd met Kat--Katerina Fulton--his first day at an annual concert event that took place in mid-July in west-central Wisconsin. That night, she'd been in the tent he'd been camped out in. Everything between them had happened fast. Maybe too fast, but he'd never regretted his first and only encounter with something bordering on love. "And, yeah, she told me she grew up in Falcon's Bend."

"And you never met her when you were hanging out with your cousins in Falcon's Bend?"

Keith shook his head. Falcon's Bend was a small town, but it had over 8000 citizens.

"You think she'll be there, Keith?" Quinn asked, and Keith saw the core of her fears in her dark eyes. She had Kat's eyes. For just that reason, Keith couldn't have turned her away when she'd landed unceremoniously on his doorstep claiming he was her father and she was his long-lost daughter.

Keith had never known Kat was pregnant. She'd disappeared the last day of the event, and he hadn't been surprised by her abrupt departure. Based on what was known, Kat had given birth to Quinn eight months later. Despite coming early, Quinn had been strong and healthy. And Kat had abandoned her newborn daughter inside a church in New York City with a short note that told her daughter's name, Keith's full name and paternity, and her own first name. A lock of hair that had proved to belong to Kat had been attached to the note. None of that made sense.

Quinn was worried her mother had abandoned her because she hadn't wanted her, and here the two of them were, determined to find her and figure out exactly what'd happened all those years ago. Before Keith accepted permanent custody of his daughter, he wanted to talk to Kat. He wanted to know the truth. Almost seventeen years ago, she'd told him she was going home to her brother in Falcon's Bend, Wisconsin, a place Keith well knew. What had happened after that point?

"I don't know, kid. I hope so, but I can't make you any promises."

She didn't move away from him when he mussed up her hair consolingly. He didn't know her well enough to hug her--he wasn't even sure she'd let him. But he knew something had shifted in her when he'd gone out of his way to straighten out the situation with her foster parents. He'd established beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was his daughter. His efforts had meant something to him.

She'd changed him, too, in ways he could never have imagined before her appearance. He'd spent a selfish life, living for the moment and for his own gratification. He'd lived without regrets. Going on as the careless rogue had suddenly seemed wrong to him. He had a daughter. He had a responsibility to more than his own hide.

Quinn smiled at him, that playful grin that made him think of Kat until his heart felt enchained by it. "I still can't believe you let me cut your hair."

Keith chuckled. "I can't believe I did either."

His long hair had been his pride and joy most of his life. Quinn had insisted long hair on men was long gone. Her lecturing and begging had finally prevailed. He'd let her cut his hair last night. His whole head felt different.

"Now all we have to do is get rid of that scruffy beard."

"Scruffy? I'll have you know women have swooned over this face."

"Imagine what they'd do if they could actually see it," Quinn said, her voice like silk. "Do you have a razor?"

"Never touch the evil things."

"We'll get some tomorrow. I'll give you a proper shave."

"Let you put a razor to my neck?"

Quinn rolled her eyes. "If I wanted you dead, I would have bumped you off the night you let me in."

He thought about asking her why she hadn't but instead pulled his shirt over his head. She aimed the remote at the TV, quickly found a music channel, and punched the volume up. A minute later, though, she asked, "So what's your cousin Jennifer like? Is she married?"

"Yeah. She married Warren Jensen--they started dating when they were fourteen. We knew they'd get married right out of high school, and they did. They--and Scott--were my best friends. I went to Falcon's Bend every chance I got." He'd grown up less than ten miles from Falcon's Bend in another dinky town in west-central Wisconsin.

"What do they do?"

"She owns a garage. She's a hell of a mechanic. I bet she'd give you a job for the summer. Keep you out of trouble." Keith had warned his boss he might be gone most of the summer. He had a good feeling it'd take at least that long to find out what'd happened to Katerina seventeen years ago.

"I guess it'll be something to do in a boring town. What about her husband?"

"Warren's a cop for the local police department."

"Geez, Keith, you're gonna have me in a detention center in no time!" She groaned.

Her life of crime had already been well established. Part of the reason she'd been passed around so often was her penchant for finding trouble and following it home.

"Keep outta trouble, kid, and maybe we can find a way to stay together."

She glanced at him, a sober look on her face before she turned back to the fuzzy television screen. He'd been just as wild as she was as a teenager. She'd have to learn her lessons the hard way, the way he always had. Ironically, she was the one who'd taught him that lesson. What goes around comes around, one way or another. And once accountability showed up at your door, there was no way to duck out the back way. It was there to stay.


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