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Striking Distance: A Kira Brightwell Short Story (Bonus Edition)

Striking Distance: A Kira Brightwell Short Story (Bonus Edition)

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Kira Brightwell stands at a crossroads. Her college days lie behind her, but her future remains a mystery, waiting to be solved.

A job already awaits her at her father’s office—the easy, parent-approved option. But Kira wants something different. Something more. She needs to get away to figure out what.

Except Kira’s future hangs in the balance in more ways than one...

In the crime-filled adventures of the Kira Brightwell Quick Cases mystery series, “Striking Distance” focuses on the event that changes Kira’s life forever, and sets her on the path to becoming an infamous problem solver for hire.

(This story takes place before the Kira Brightwell novel Split Decision. Originally published under the pen name Kat Irwin.)

This edition includes a bonus epilogue. (Direct exclusive.)

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I have to get out of here.

The words echoed a litany in Kira’s mind as she yanked open her car door, tossing her duffel bag onto the passenger seat. She took one last look at the beautiful two-story house with its pristine, white trim, and immaculately maintained garden—the only home she could remember. It looked like something out of a postcard in the afternoon California sun. She did her best to ignore the pang of guilt at her imagined reaction to the note she had left behind for her family to find. If she tried to talk to her parents face to face, she would never be able to get away, never mind what would happen if her sister dropped by. She shook her head, setting her long, brown ponytail swinging against her back. They would never understand.

She had tried—repeatedly—to explain her objections to her family’s well-intended plans for her now that she had finally graduated from college. The problem was that she could provide no other alternative. Now that she had her degree, she was free to move on with her life. She had worked hard, and her years of study had paid off. She could speak French, Spanish, and Italian, and had taken a few courses in Russian and German. Translation work seemed like the obvious choice. But with her school years behind her, Kira found herself wondering where the time had gone, and what she really wanted to do with her life. She enjoyed the challenge of learning new things, but the idea of working for her father, or getting a job as a translator seemed equally boring and unfulfilling options, which only made her feel guilty for spending so much time and money on school in the first place.

Of course, her sister, Kori, only made matters worse. She was the darling firstborn, who had married one of their father’s star employees, much to their parents’ approval. She had her own successful child therapy practice, and had just given birth to a son. In other words, she was the perfect daughter, which only made Kira look worse by comparison. Kira loved her sister, and looked forward to being an aunt, but the two of them had very little in common. If anything, Kori usually sided with their parents when it came to trying to seize direction of Kira’s life.

Kira squared her shoulders. She knew she was the black sheep. No matter how hard she tried, it was the way things had always been. But now she was at a crossroads. Would she take a job at her father’s financial firm and keep the peace, take the middle, ‘practical,’ role of translator and maintain some of her independence, or... what? She couldn’t help but feel there was some other option she should explore, but she had no idea what it was.

Which was why she needed to get away.

She turned away from the house to get into her car when she heard another vehicle pull into the driveway beside her. She closed her eyes and suppressed a groan, knowing who she would find when she turned around.

Of all the days for Mom to get home early...

“Kira?” Her mother got out of the elegant, gray sedan to stand in front of her. Her brow was furrowed in an anxious frown as her eyes darted toward the duffel bag. “What are you doing?” She wore slacks and a pale, pink blouse, and her blond hair was perfectly styled.

As always, Kira felt like a walking disaster standing next to her. She became painfully aware of her own worn jeans and sneakers, and lack of makeup. Her only concession to her appearance was her green T-shirt, which brought out the color of her eyes.

“I’m, um, going to the cabin,” Kira said, trying not to mumble. She felt her cheeks flush. “I left a note in the kitchen.”

Her mother shook her head. “Whatever for?”

Kira scuffed her toe against the asphalt. “I just want to get away for a few days.”

“By yourself?” her mother demanded, raising an eyebrow.

Kira looked up to meet her gaze with a flash of annoyance. “Why not? I’ve done it before.”

“That’s not the point. You know your father and I don’t like it when you go there alone. What if something happens?”

“I’ll be fine, Mom. Nothing’s going to happen. I just need some time alone, OK?”

“You know, your father was hoping to talk to you about starting work soon,” her mother said, her lips forming a hard line. “He already has a position lined up for you.”

Kira’s gaze slid away to focus on a nearby flowering shrub. “I know. And I really appreciate that. I’m just not sure it’s what I want.”

“I think it could be good for you,” her mother said, pressing onward. “You’re smart enough to be good at it, and you could move up quickly if you work at it. Besides, it might help you to meet some new friends, or even a nice boy. That’s how your sister met Adam, before she started her practice.”

“I know!” Kira blurted in frustration. She took a steadying breath. “I know. But I’m not Kori. We don’t want the same things.”

Her mother uttered an exasperated sigh. “What do you want, Kira?”

Kira bit her lip. Her escape wasn’t going at all as planned. She wished her mother would just let her leave...

“I—” Kira’s voice was cut short by the muffled notes of Darth Vader’s ‘Imperial March’. She fumbled to fish her phone out of her pocket, nearly wilting with relief at the timely interruption. “Sorry. I need to take this.”

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