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Seeing Stars: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

Seeing Stars: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

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Kira Brightwell might not wear a badge. But she still enjoys the challenge when she unravels a difficult case.

The case of Taylor Christie proves no exception. The social media starlet prepares to shoot a video, when things go wrong. Horribly wrong. With an entire crowd in attendance.

And more than Kira knows stands between her and the truth about what happened.

A twisting, stand-alone story from the Kira Brightwell Quick Cases mystery series. If you love a clever detective, who plays by her own rules, grab this book.

(This adventure takes place between the Kira Brightwell novels Black and Blue and Low Blow.)


The camera took a moment to focus in the dim lighting. A young woman in her early twenties with long, wavy, blond hair filled up most of the frame as she lounged on a blanket in the grass. The sky overhead was growing dark, but there were festive paper lanterns in red, white, and blue strung along a wooden fence in the background.

The woman’s face was similar to that of a Barbie doll—high cheekbones, full lips, and wide, blue eyes framed with long lashes. She was slim, but not overly so, with just enough of Barbie’s famous curves. She wore a flimsy, white summer dress that left her tanned arms bare and showed off her figure to its best advantage. Her hair was artfully arranged around her shoulders.

The microphone attachment of the professional-looking camera poked out from the side, wearing a fuzzy-looking filter to help with the warm, evening breeze, which carried the scent of freshly mown grass. The filter also helped to mute the murmuring voices of the crowd gathered several feet away.

“Ready?” the young woman asked with a quirk of her perfectly arched eyebrow.

After an answering nod from the person behind the camera, she took a deep breath and got started.

“What’s up, you guys?” she said in a perky voice. Her smile flashed in the gathering darkness. “It’s your girl, Taylor Christie. Today, I—”

A sudden bang filled the air.

The camera jostled and panned away for a moment as the operator let out a breathless curse of startlement.

A second bang immediately followed.

A moment later, the camera whirled from a confused close-up of the grass to focus on the young woman once more.

Taylor was clutching the front of her dress. A crimson stain bloomed from beneath her fingers. Her blue eyes were wide and her mouth gaped open soundlessly.

“Omigod, Taylor!” the person operating the camera blurted in a rush.

The view of the camera surged forward as the operator stumbled toward the wounded woman. The camera shook, but Taylor remained in frame as she started to keel forward. The growing bloodstain was dark and red against the fabric of her dress.

“Taylor?” the camera operator’s soft voice sounded confused.

A slender hand appeared in-frame to pull Taylor’s clutching fingers away from the front of her dress.

A bullet wound was revealed beneath, only a few inches above her heart.

“Omigod, omigod…”

The camera suddenly fell away from Taylor’s pale face. It landed in the grass with a dull thump to capture an awkward angle of the edge of the blanket.

The voice of the camera operator continued to curse in panic for a moment before rising in a ragged shout.

“Help! Please, somebody help!”

* * *

“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this,” Kira Brightwell grumbled as Trevor led her in a weaving path through the crowd to find a good place to stand.

“Probably because no woman can resist my charms.” Trevor flashed her one of his trademark grins and waggled his eyebrows at her.

Kira rolled her eyes at him. Trevor Wright knew perfectly well what she thought about his ‘charms.’ Still, he might actually have a point in this case. Going to the La Valentia Golf Club to watch the Fourth of July fireworks would never have been her idea of a good time, but Trevor had managed to sell her on it somehow.

Not that Kira wasn’t a fan of fireworks, but the club was fairly swanky, and unlike Trevor, Kira didn’t have a membership—nor did she want one. Even with Trevor getting her in, she felt woefully out of place in her favorite Nine Inch Nails T-shirt and a pair of worn jeans. Unlike most of the other women present, who had perfectly styled hair and makeup, Kira’s long, dark hair was tied back in a practical ponytail and her face was bare.

Trevor, on the other hand, was in his element. His usual outfit of khaki shorts and a pale-blue polo shirt that seemed to be perfectly cut to hug and accentuate his muscular frame blended right in with the rest of the town’s elite.

Kira knew her appearance was attracting attention. She felt several gazes on her as she followed in Trevor’s wake across the evenly trimmed grass, followed by murmured comments. Whether it was because of her outfit, or due to people recognizing her from the stories in the local news, she didn’t know (or particularly care). She raised her chin and ignored them, her ponytail swinging defiantly around her shoulders as she walked.

“Besides,” Trevor said from over his shoulder in continuation of their conversation. “It’s the Fourth of July. I couldn’t just leave you cooped up in your apartment with only Rob for company.”

He gave a mock shudder at the thought.

Kira shrugged to herself, knowing Trevor wouldn’t see it. She had spent pretty much every Fourth of July ‘cooped up’ with Rob. He was her best friend, and they were both introverts, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship. He did his thing (usually involving his precious laptop), and she did hers, and they maybe shared a pizza or something. Not a bad night, as far as she was concerned—especially compared to all the judge-y looks she felt she was getting right now…

Still, the night air was warm, and the scent of fresh lawn clippings almost overpowered the clashing scents of all the various—and no doubt expensive—perfumes and colognes everyone in the crowd seemed to be wearing. And surely the ritzy golf club could afford to put on a decent fireworks display.

She focused her gaze on the back of Trevor’s blond, curly head and tried not to get separated from him. If she ended up stranded in a crowd of all these rich-types, it probably wouldn’t end well.

She caught up with Trevor at the edge of the crowd. She stopped with a jolt as a loud bang filled the air, followed by an almost immediate, second bang. Her muscles went tense and her hands balled into fists as she lowered instinctively into a fighter’s crouch.

“Easy, tiger,” Trevor said with a hint of laughter in his voice. “It’s just one of the fireworks.”

Kira looked up in time to see red trails of sparkling light falling from the sky. She straightened and let out the breath she had been holding, her face flushing with chagrin. She shook her head to herself.

Idiot. Of course, it was one of the fireworks.

To be fair, the last six months or so had been punctuated by incidents of violence and occasional gunfire, so her reaction wasn’t totally overblown. Ever since she had helped Trevor find his abducted sister at the beginning of the year, it seemed like it was always one thing after another. Between trying to find the Procurer (who had also abducted Kira four years ago, which had led to her now-famous escape), and the various cases that seemed to fall in her lap…

A hysterical voice called out from somewhere at the back of the crowd. Kira was the only one to turn away from a particularly spectacular display of sparkling colors and popping sounds to peer into the darkness. She frowned.

Had she only imagined it?

The voice called out again.

“Help! Please, somebody help!”

Kira was already running.

* * *

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