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Hand of Fate

Published by Passion in Print


Amidst the Christmas glitz and glitter, Karina Withers enters the mall. Unease prickles her spine. Seconds later, a gun blast echoes through the building. Shoppers rush for the exits, trampling Karina.

Detective Josh Deloroso responds quickly, dragging the beautiful woman to safety. Attraction sizzles between them. But he has a job to do first. The shooter must be stopped. Unfortunately, when the chaos ends, the real danger begins.

Dark truths unravel. Passions explode. Fate plays its hand.

Can their relationship weather the storm of deceit? Or will a photo in the shooter's wallet end Josh and Karina's chance for love?


Amidst the holiday glitz and glitter, Karina Withers stepped from her car. She scanned the vehicles crowding the mall’s lot. I so don’t want to be here.

A pungent pine scent, heavy and aromatic, draped the night air as she scurried past evergreen trees strung with multi-colored lights, and entered the building. With only three weeks left until Christmas, she’d never get her shopping done. The heavy plate glass doors swooshed shut behind her, blocking out the bitter wind. Unease prickled her spine.

Wrong place…wrong time. The story of my life.

She brushed the thought aside and glanced left and right to gather her bearings. There were numerous gifts still to buy. Her mother and father, Aunt Sue, Uncle Tom, and the youngest of her cousins. She always enjoyed watching their faces light up…but her breakup with Nic had left her little zest for celebrations or family gatherings.

Where to begin?

Squinting against the holiday d├ęcor, she forced herself to focus and tamped the urge to flee. The flashing sign above Steiners beckoned. Unbidden, an image of her and Nic on holiday, walking hand in hand on some exotic beach, filtered through her mind. Pain slashed through her chest. She fumbled in her pocket, retrieved the list of names and sighed. With a trembling hand, she crossed Nic’s off. If only she could strike the hurt from her heart as easily.

Determined to finish her shopping, she trudged toward the boutique, the click of her heels on the gray tile floor an echo of her heart’s emptiness. Less than enthusiastic, she thumbed through a rack of sweaters, held up a thickly woven pink one beaded with pearls. Perfect for her mother.

The aroma of Chinese food wafted through the air, and her stomach knotted, reminding her she’d skipped lunch. Unable to resist the mouthwatering smell, she discarded the garment and, with the intent of returning later, bee-lined for Chop Suey and ordered moo goo gai pan. Grabbing the Styrofoam container, she found a seat and sitting down, stretched her legs beneath the concourse’s polyurethane table. Watching the frenzy of shoppers, she bit into an eggroll and shifted her focus to the second floor.

A man dressed in black grabbed a store clerk by the arm. He yanked a gun from the folds of his long trench coat and, as if in slow motion, raised the weapon, aiming pointblank at the woman’s head.

Terror seized Karina. She swallowed and choked while scrambling to her feet. “Someone stop him. Stop that man!”

A blast ripped through the busy mall, reverberated inside her head. She screamed, tried to run, but tripped and sprawled headlong onto the cold tile floor.

Two more shots rang out.

Her breathing erratic, she fought to draw air into her lungs. Dear God…this can’t be happening.

Too terrified to move and sure she’d die—either from the frantic mob or the shooter—Karina forced her palms against the floor, rising slightly. Someone’s boot struck her ribs, and pain shot through her chest. She curled into a ball.

“Someone, help me,” she gasped.

Strong, steady hands lifted her, cradling her against a broad expanse of chest. She buried her face in the folds of the stranger’s coat, tremors wracking her body.

“I’ve got you,” the man drawled in a tone as smooth as silk.

A shot zinged into a nearby post, and concrete pelted her hair. She burrowed deeper into the man, holding on for dear life.

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