Julie McGuire gazed intently from her table in the filled-to-capacity dining room of the Wyndham Hotel. The Love To Murder Mystery Conference had saved the best for last. New York Times bestselling author, Tyler Jensen, now approached the podium.
His entire bearing commanded attention, from his shoulder length wavy chestnut hair pushed back behind his ears, to his sexy sideburns and piercing hazel eyes. She guessed him to be thirty-five, about five years older than she. Clever, rich, tall, and handsome, Tyler Jensen looked the embodiment of any woman’s fantasy.
“Many of you have killed,” Tyler said, pointing to his audience of two hundred plus.
Julie stared. What did he mean?
“Yes, you’ve slaughtered your creativity. You’ve squashed your dreams in favor of immediate gratification.”
My God, he knew. She ignored the tinkling sound, as a waitress placed a carafe of ice water on the table.
Julie stared, transfixed, at Jensen. His every word spoke to her. She’d taken the easy way out and become a lawyer instead of following her heart’s desire to be an author. The decision ate at her. After six years in the practice, she’d saved enough money to get by. She badly wanted to claim her dream and step forward into the world he described.
All too soon, he’d finished his speech. “Any questions?”
Julie shot up her hand. Jensen’s knowing hazel eyes fastened on her, as if assessing her straight blonde hair and tall, slight frame.
He nodded. “Yes, second table.”
On suddenly stiff legs, she rose. “What makes you write mysteries?”
“I have an urge to voyeuristically experience atrocities. I’ve no idea where the fascination comes from. Perhaps I was a criminal in a former life,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh.
Julie swallowed. His answered filled her with a vague uneasiness, but she didn’t know why.
“I hope I’ve satisfactorily answered your question.”
“Yes, uh, thank you.” She straightened her skirt and seated herself.
Even as she sat gathering her thoughts, she felt the pull of his charisma. Every word and gesture hinted at a barely contained power, strong enough to transform the sturdiest dissenter into a willing robot. His rakish looks dared her to ignore her orderly upbringing. Inwardly smiling, Julie guesstimated at how many other women in the massive banquet hall were as enthralled by the man’s knowledgeable gaze. Did their blood pulse as fast as hers?
The only man who’d ever tweaked her interest to such a degree was her partner, “Dangerous Dade.” He was the one who’d convinced her to become a lawyer, saying it was the best way to escape the poverty of their blighted neighborhood. He was her standard for comparing other men.
More than one female client had cited Dade as a good catch. Julie had to admit they were right. It wasn’t only because he was six feet tall, with wide shoulders and a determined air. Dade also had a special knack for putting clients at ease with his genuine interest in their problems, as he competently protected their interests. He was a sweet guy and would make some lucky woman a great husband. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be her. From the start of their partnership, they’d agreed not to mix business with pleasure, a decision she sometimes regretted.
Jensen’s charisma proved strong enough to break through her long-held barriers of comparison. Was it her imagination, or did he glance at her table more than the others? Was the strange feeling inside of her obvious or even more absurd, could it be mutual?