THE PRICE OF GRACE by Diana Munoz Stewart: Excerpt

Posted September 11, 2019 in Book Tour, Excerpts, Spotlights / 2 Comments

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 24TH 2019 / SOURCEBOOKS CASABLANCA

Who can you trust when family, truth, and love are all on the line?

Gracie Parish knows the true cost of trust. Rescued as a child by the infamous Parish family, she became a member of their covert sisterhood of vigilantes. Gracie saw her most precious relationships destroyed by secrecy. She learned long ago to protect her heart as well as her family’s secrets.

Special Agent Leif “Dusty” McAllister will do anything to uncover the truth about the Parish family’s covert operations. Dusty knows Gracie is his ticket in. He’ll use everything he’s got—fair, unfair, and just plain wrong—to break through her defenses. But the more he gets to know Gracie and her family’s mission, the harder he starts to fall. Neither one is sure they’ll get out of this with their lives—or their hearts—intact.

 

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Excerpt

Having changed into a blue-print summer dress under a light-blue blazer, Gracie made her way through her bar to the corner table.

Dusty sat there wearing cargo shorts and a hunter-green T-shirt. He was eating a burger topped with plantains—the chef’s special. Looking so hot. That hotness, also a problem. His cute disabled her intellect. She moved a chair and sat next to him at the table. Not because he smelled so darn good.

It was the best place to observe the entire club.

The corner of his mouth tipped up when she sat, but he said nothing. Swallowing another bite, he sipped the drink she’d made him and coughed. He eyed the swirly blue mixture with surprise and took another swig. He put the drink on the table and grinned in approval. “Blood and Guts. That’s a game changer. And the burger…unexpected but tastes great.”

Her heart fluttered, as light and breezy as a butterfly’s wings. “I’m glad you like the drink. And the burger.”

He lifted the burger to take another bite, stopped. “Thought it’d be less busy during the day, less of an eatery.”

She looked around the club. Not the same teeming masses as the night but fairly full. “I accidentally hired a great chef. People started coming in for lunch. Knew a good thing when I saw it, so I expanded the kitchen. Hired another chef.”

He put the burger down, swallowed his bite. “Guess that feels like a problem when your life has recently been threatened.” He nodded toward the front entranceway. “Noticed the new security measures. Metal detector on. Got a guy working security during the day. What else is new?”

Oh, just that her father was a senator with a huge family who might want to kill her, so he could run for president. And her ex John and his new wife El had transferred money to an offshore account right before she was shot at. Those two hated the idea of her having any relationship with her son. So, finding who had put the hit out on her was complicated. “Security is a little personal. Don’t you think?”

He stared at her. And heat pushed through her body so fast and hard she was surprised her shoes didn’t blow off. “I wish you weren’t hot enough to melt my panties.”

And there she went.

He barked unexpected laughter. “And that’s, what? Impersonal?”

His eyes gleamed with amusement and more than a little lust—and that heat called to her sense of daring. Her brain felt giddy, drunk on hormones. “I just meant couldn’t you have some gross ear hair or a less perfect rear end or a less masculine nose or a horrible Philly accent instead of that killer Southern one?”

He wiped his hands on his napkin. “The accent. It always gets them.”

“Yeah.” She played along, running her eyes up and down his muscular chest. “The accent is what gets them.”

He leaned toward her, licked his lips, and in a voice that dripped sex, said, “Smart move with the entrance. Get any info from the security camera footage out back?”

Sheesh. That accent was the devil. She leaned back. “Before you leave, I’m going to insist you come to my office and let me pay you for working last night.”

He lifted his eyebrows. They exchanged a long look. His said he understood she was dismissing him. Hers asked what he was going to do about it. The red in her face said something entirely different.

He nodded, crumpled up his napkin, and stood. “Man should never turn down an honest day’s pay. Lead the way.”

*

Following Grace through the back corridor of Club When? Dusty tried to, once again, reassure her, that she could trust him, his motivations. Part of him sorely regretted not being able to explain the truth. That he was working undercover. But that meant telling her he was after her mother and her secret society of vigilantes. That was out of the question. He’d go with guilt. “Apparently, you’ve forgotten I saved your life in Mexico.”

She stopped, hands pressed against her office door. “I haven’t forgotten. Not that first moment I saw you. Not how you helped save my life. Not how you helped us all get safely away, bundled me into the SUV, and went back and buried my brother.” She turned and pushed through the door with a whispered, “I’ll never forget.”

Damn, she’d done it again. Her honesty. It blew him away. Somehow drew him close and kept him apart from her all at the same time.

He followed her into her office small, pristine, poorly lit office. No windows. A few photos of family and the like, some official-looking framed licenses. A large wooden desk with a single chair behind and one in front of it. Not even a file cabinet.

She shut the door behind him, and he heard her inhaling deeply. Was she sniffing him?

He pivoted toward her, raised an eyebrow. As the skin on her cheeks blossomed with red, she ducked her head and tried to move past him. “I’ll get your money.”

Naw, he wasn’t letting that go. He stepped in front of her. “How do I smell?”

She shrugged. “Not awful or anything.”

The heat in her face grew three shades darker, a take-me-against-the-desk red. Or that might just be his warped interpretation. “Hot in here?”

“It’s an office adjacent to a kitchen, what did you expect?”

He leaned toward her. “That’s not the heat I was referring to.”

Wide, angry eyes snapped up at him. “Yes. I get it. I’m desperately attracted to you. You’re hot—scorching. I can feel you when I’m alone at night, naked, in my bed. And that makes me afraid, because I’m pretty sure you’re using me to get to my mother.”

Her honesty was as sudden and disarming as a tsunami. He swallowed. He wanted to tell her something that would make her less suspicious, less afraid. But right now, that felt wrong.

And since the invite was there, he bent down, slow enough to let her know his intention.

She closed her eyes and lifted her lips. He brushed his own slowly across hers, and she made a sound that called to every primal response in his body. His hands snatched out and pulled her against him, fisting a handful of her sundress, dragging it up high enough to get his other hand on that fine ass.

The kiss deepened. And…the woman was wearing a thong. He squeezed a round globe. Best day ever.

 

About Diana Munoz Stewart

Armed with a razor-sharp wit and a rolled-up MFA in Creative Writing, Diana Muñoz Stewart cartwheel-kicked her way into publishing with her fiery Black Ops Confidential series.

Diana lives in an often chaotic and always welcoming home that—depending on the day—can hold husband, kids, extended family, friends, and a canine or two. A believer in the power of words to heal, connect, and distract from chores, Diana blogs regularly on topics near and dear to her heart, including spotlight pieces on strong women from around the world. When not writing, Diana can be found kayaking, doing sprints up her long driveway—harder than it sounds–attempting yoga on her deck, or hiking with the man who’s had her heart since they were teens.

 


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