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Lights Out: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

Lights Out: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

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A crowded mall, the week before Christmas. Definitely not Kira Brightwell’s idea of a good time.

After a long year of difficult—and often dangerous—cases, the bustle and noise jangle her nerves. She resists the temptation to lash out at shoppers who bump into her with their purchases. Not worth the effort. Especially compared to the criminals she usually deals with.

But Kira can find trouble anywhere.

...And a new case waits to be unwrapped.

A stand-alone holiday story from the Kira Brightwell Quick Cases mystery series. If you love a fun mystery with a kick-ass heroine, grab this book.

(This adventure takes place after the Kira Brightwell novel Cornered.)

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Kira watched the constant stream of people pass the skylit walkway behind her in the reflection of a storefront window. She glared as someone bumped her shoulder. The La Valentia Town Center was packed with shoppers burdened with multiple bags. She caught snatches of overlapping conversations over the familiar melodies of Christmas carols playing on the mall’s PA system—mostly pop covers of classics that made her want to cringe. The mishmash of voices was punctuated by the clang of a bell from a woman in a Santa hat standing next to a Salvation Army donation bucket nearby.

Scents from the food court below wafted upward to mingle in the warm press of bodies—cinnamon buns, mixed with french fries and Chinese food. Kira sipped a peppermint hot chocolate in a to-go cup in an effort to refresh herself. She winced as it seared her tongue. It was still too hot to drink.

Focus, Kira.

She blocked out the crowd flowing around her and shifted her gaze to what was actually behind the glass, catching her own reflection in the process. A tall, athletic woman in a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt and long, dark ponytail stared back at her with a harried look.

The mall had never been her favorite place, even as a teenager. The constant bustle made her antsy. And with Christmas only a week away, she should have avoided the place like the plague. She had finished all her shopping ages ago to avoid this very situation. Rob had been easy enough. He had been hinting about needing new shower socks for months. She had even managed to find something for her sister.

Kira and Kori had never been close, and after all that had happened between them in the past couple of months, Kira hadn’t known until they had patched things up a few weeks ago whether to buy anything for her at all. Kori was impossible to shop for, even at the best of times. 

Even though they were back on speaking terms again, things were still on the awkward side... But then Kira had found a slick-looking personal safe—the perfect place for Kori to store the family passports and other important things, and a suitable peace offering besides. Kira’s lips twisted.

She was not looking forward to Christmas with her family this year.

Kira always felt like the odd one out at family gatherings, and the past year had added considerable strain to an already awkward set of relationships.

Still, I guess I should be glad I’m actually invited. At least Kevin will be there...

Her young nephew adored her, and was the one family member who wasn’t constantly judging her life choices. At least he would provide some entertainment during what would likely be a long, strained visit.

Kira shook herself. She knew she was avoiding the problem at hand. She squared her shoulders and focused on the contents of the storefront window.

Several headless, male mannequin stood in khaki shorts and polo shirts. Even though it was December, you could still get away with shorts and a T-shirt in California on a good day. Kira’s green eyes narrowed.

The mannequins looked about the right size, and one of the polo shirts was blue... 

Stupid. This is a stupid idea.

She sighed. She had escaped a professional abductor, kicked all kinds of criminal ass, and survived multiple near-death situations, but this was completely out of her element.

“Kira?” a familiar, male voice called from behind her. She whirled around and plastered a vague smile on her face.

“Hey, it is you!” Trevor Wright flashed his blindingly white grin. The blue polo he wore matched his eyes, as well as the one Kira had spotted in the store window. 

“Uh, hi, Trevor.” Kira tried to sound casual.

Trevor ran a hand through his short, blond curls and gave the mannequins an approving look. “They have good taste. Were you looking for me in there?”

“N—yes.” Kira switched words midsentence. “I thought I saw you through the window.” The last thing she needed was for him to find out she had been shopping for him.

If anyone had told her a few years ago that she would be Christmas shopping for her former high school tormentor, she would have laughed in their face. Of course, helping to find his abducted sister had changed things, but it was what had happened over the many months after Kira had rescued Stephanie that had shifted the dynamic between them.

The years after high school had turned Trevor from a rich, entitled jock into a very bored, rich, entitled jock. All his friends had either gone on to college, or were having children. For whatever reason, he had latched onto Kira after she had solved Stephanie’s case and become the sidekick she had never wanted or asked for.

Still, she had to admit there were times when Trevor had actually proven himself useful—when he wasn’t being a pain in her ass. And when her entire life had been turned upside-down by the Procurer a few months ago, he had been the only one to stand by her. He had managed to wear her down with dogged persistence to the point where she found herself reluctantly considering him one of the very few people she would actually call a friend.

She hadn’t even thought to get him anything for Christmas until he had started gloating about what he had already bought for her—without revealing any details. Now she was scrambling to come up with something suitable before it was too late.

“Good thing I found you then,” Trevor said with no awareness of the awkward pause. “Want to go get a cinnamon bun? It’s Sunday, so I can afford the carbs.”

Kira rolled her eyes at him before she could stop herself.

“What? All this doesn’t just happen on its own, you know.” Trevor made a gesture to encompass his chest and arms, which were shown to their best advantage by the snug fit of his polo. He puffed out his chest.

Kira gave him a flat look. “I don’t like cinnamon.”

“What?” Trevor scoffed. “Who doesn’t like cinnamon? Is this like the Nickelback thing? Does Nickelback like cinnamon?” 

Kira’s eyes narrowed. Trevor watched as her hand started to rise to smack him, seemingly of its own accord.

“Okay, okay!” He threw up his arms in mock surrender. “I’ll stop using the N-word. I’m sure they have other stuff to eat down there, other than cinnamon buns.”

Kira winced. A few people in the crowd spared him curious glances at his mention of the ‘N-word’. She lowered her hand with a shake of her head.

“Honestly. I can’t take you anywhere...”

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