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Low Blow: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 3)

Low Blow: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 3)

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Kira Brightwell knows how to take a punch. (Actually, she prefers throwing them.)

Abduction, theft, murder… She faces all these crimes and more on her own terms as a private detective for hire.

She also searches for any clues that might fulfill her quest for vengeance against the man known only as the Procurer.

...But a recent twist in circumstances leaves her rocked.

The growing legend of abduction survivor and local hero Kira Brightwell takes an unexpected turn in this third novel in the Kira Brightwell mystery series.

(Originally published under the pen name Kat Irwin.)

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Marcia gazed out at the passing lights that lit the darkened highway. Her own dim, colorless reflection stared back at her from the bus’s tinted window. There was hardly any traffic on the road around them. Her jaw cracked in a yawn. It had to be at least two in the morning.

She turned her head to look at the other passengers. Most of them were sprawled in their seats, sleeping. Even though she was tired, she couldn’t imagine joining them. Her stomach had been almost a constant flutter of nervous excitement since she had boarded the unmarked coach bus. Finally, she had found a way to follow her dream.

Lita’s going to be so surprised to see me!

Of course, part of her knew her cousin wouldn’t approve of this trip at all if she had known about it. Lita had always been the practical one who balanced her own rash impulsiveness. But when the opportunity had fallen into Marcia’s lap, she had been unable to resist.

Lita will understand once I explain everything. She’ll see it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

That was what she told herself, anyway. But if Lita had a motto, it was ‘If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.’ Marcia had heard the words whisper at the back of her mind all day as the bus had continued its journey northbound. But really, what had gone wrong so far? The bus was air conditioned and comfortable. Marcia even had two seats to herself. The other passengers were quiet. The bus had its own set of spotless facilities at the back so they didn’t have to stop at any nasty gas station along the way to relieve themselves. It even came fully stocked with food and cold drinks so they didn’t have to stop at all.

Marcia reached down to massage her tight calves. She wouldn’t have minded a chance to stretch her legs though.

The bus slowed to a stop. Marcia leaned her head against the window. Her stomach performed a nervous backflip. They had reached the border. A few of the sleeping passengers began to stir.

The bus driver put the vehicle in park and rose from his seat.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes, folks,” he said from beneath his navy ball cap as he gathered up a full-looking clipboard and a heavy canvas bag. He exited the bus but left it running, shutting the door behind him.

Marcia wound a cobalt blue streak of her dark curls around her finger. Should she gather her things? Surely they would all be asked to get off the bus before going any farther. She had never left the country before, but she had seen enough TV to know what it was like: bag scanners and lots of questions.

What if this doesn’t work? What if they don’t let me through?

But less than ten minutes later, she heard the hiss of the bus door opening as the driver returned with his clipboard. A brief scent of warm, night air and exhaust fumes followed him. He settled back into his seat without comment. There was another hiss as the bus door closed again. The driver shifted the bus into gear, and started pulling out of his parking space.

What was going on? Why weren’t they going through Customs? The other passengers who had woken decided the matter wasn’t worth their attention. They settled their heads back against the seats, their eyes closing. The bus lurched forward, leaving the border station behind.

Marcia wanted to believe everything was fine. Who was she to complain about getting past the border without having to do anything? But she couldn’t help but think of what Lita would say if she were on the bus with her...

I’m sure it’s fine. No one else seems to be worried, and I’m one of the youngest people on this bus. Besides, it will all be worth it once I get to La Valentia.

But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to send Lita a text, just in case. Marcia had wanted her arrival to be a surprise, but she found herself craving her cousin’s reassurance, even if it meant getting chewed out at the same time.

I’m probably being paranoid anyway.

The driver had asked them all to keep their phones off during the trip. He had said something about all the signals interfering with his own high-tech communication and navigation system. But surely one phone signal and a quick text wouldn’t hurt anything... Everyone else seemed to be asleep. Marcia looked around to make sure before covertly turning on her phone.

After a few seconds of powering on, she saw the little antenna symbol flash as her phone searched for a signal. Usually, this might take a few more seconds before her phone located the nearest cell tower, but the antenna stopped flashing almost immediately.

NO SIGNAL.

Marcia frowned. They were on the main highway, not in the backwoods in the middle of nowhere. She turned off her phone and tried again.

NO SIGNAL.

Her eyes darted around the interior of the bus, but nothing seemed out of place. Everyone was still sleeping, and the driver was focused on the road. Marcia shrunk down in her seat as she caught him gazing back at his passengers in the rear-view mirror. A moment later, he flipped a switch and the interior lights went out, dousing the bus in darkness. The only sound was the hum of the engine and the slight rattle of the air conditioning, punctuated by soft snores.

Marcia clutched her phone and tried to convince herself there was nothing to worry about. She knew Lita would be demanding to get off the bus by now.

But Lita always imagines the worst.

She took a deep breath to steady herself. After all, what was she going to do? Aside from her purse, all her belongings were in the luggage hold under the bus. She wasn’t about to leave them behind. And it wasn’t as if she could just climb out the window while they were hurtling down the highway. The driver seemed nice enough. She could ask him to drop her off at the side of the road...

But then what? No, the safest thing was to stay where she was. She was just being paranoid.

Look at all the other people sleeping... Nothing to worry about.

Soon she would be in La Valentia with Lita scolding her, and she could laugh about what a chicken she had been.

She topped off her forcefully cheerful thoughts with a little prayer for good measure as the bus continued along the darkened highway.

Please, just let me be paranoid...

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