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Lorana Hoopes

In the Light of Day

In the Light of Day

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He's the man everyone looks up to, but should they?

Firefighter Deacon Jackson thought he had left his past and his mistakes behind him. But then the woman he once loved unexpectedly resurfaces in his life. Afraid that she is being pursued by a dangerous group of people and without anyone else she trusts, she asks him to come help her. Though they haven’t spoken in years, he cannot deny her request, but when he meets her again, he finds out that the past isn't quite the way he remembered.

When Shonda Turner witnesses a crime committed by the wrong people, she finds herself on the run. With no one to turn to, she reaches out to the only man she ever loved—a man she's kept a secret from for eight years. As her pursuers close in, Shonda must decide if she can trust Deacon, and if his love is strong enough to protect them.

In the Light of Day is a gripping story of hope, redemption, and the power of love. You won't want to miss this suspenseful adventure by USA Today best selling author Lorana Hoopes. Grab your copy today! Winner of the silver medal Reader's Choice Award in Romantic Suspense

First Chapter

Deacon Jackson stared down at the Unknown Number flashing on his screen. He rarely answered his phone when he was out with friends unless it was an emergency from work. He liked being in the moment and not being tethered to a device that could find him anywhere. In fact, he would leave the device home if he could, but being a fireman meant he needed to be reachable in case there was an emergency. However, emergencies didn’t come from Unknown Numbers. 

He should just ignore the ringing and shove the phone back in his pocket, but something stopped him. Something told him that he needed to answer this call. His heart sped up in his chest and he glanced around. No one was watching him. After all, he was not the guest of honor. That title belonged to Luca who was about to propose to Ivy, and Deacon didn’t want to miss it, but he couldn’t dismiss the call either. 

He pressed his lips together and stared at the ringing phone, his knuckles whitening as he tightened his grip on the receiver. After a few seconds of uncertainty, he grabbed his coat and slipped quietly out of the door as he brought the phone to his ear. “Hello?” he said.

There was a soft intake of breath and then a silence that lasted so long Deacon wondered if the caller had hung up. “Hello?” he said again.

“Deacon? Is this Deacon Jackson?”

Deacon’s knees buckled and he placed a hand against the restaurant wall to keep from collapsing. He hadn’t heard this voice in years. Eight years to be exact, and he never thought he’d hear it again. Not since that horrible fateful day that changed the trajectory of his life forever. 

Eight years was a long time, enough for her to have grown and changed, but her voice didn’t sound older or more mature. On the contrary, it sounded timid and meek. Scared. “Shonda?”

A sigh filled with relief tickled his ears. “Yes. I’m so glad you remember me. I know it’s been years and we agreed not to communicate, but I don’t know who to trust, Deacon.”

Memories that he’d locked behind a heavy door suddenly flooded his mind. Shonda Turner. The only woman he’d ever loved. The woman he’d thought he was going to marry until… He pushed the thought away. That one was too painful and he wouldn’t let it play. “It’s fine that you called me, but what’s wrong?” But was it fine, really? She’d interrupted his night, and it had been eight years. Plus, if he remembered correctly, she was the one who’d pushed him away. Although he couldn’t really fault her for that after what he did.

“I think someone is out to get me.”

“Whoa. Back up. Why would someone be out to get you?” The last he knew, Shonda had been training to be a nurse, and nurses weren’t high on the list for people to go after. 

“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. Let’s just say that I saw something I shouldn’t have and then told the wrong people. They all think I’m crazy, and even though I don’t feel like it, maybe I am.”

Deacon could hear the strain of frustration in her voice. “I don’t think you’re crazy.”

“Neither do I, which is why I need someone who knows me, the me before all this started happening. I need to talk to someone I can trust. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but I need you. Can you get away for a few days?”

Deacon pressed his lips together as he thought. He had spent so long trying to forget her, trying to erase the memories of their past, the guilt from his past. Shonda represented everything he had tried to move on from, every bad habit he had left behind, but she had also once been the woman he loved. Could he really deny her now? “I don’t know if I can get the time off.” 

That wasn’t entirely true, but without asking the captain, he certainly didn’t know he could get the time off. 

There was a pause that stretched long enough that Deacon held the phone out to make sure he hadn't lost connection. “Please try. I’ll explain everything, but I don’t know if it’s safe to say over the phone.”

Not safe over the phone? What exactly was she dealing with? And did he really want to get involved? Against his better judgement, he found himself agreeing. “Okay, let me check with the chief and I’ll see if I can get some time off. It’s going to be alright, Shonda.”

“I hope so. Thanks, Deacon, for…everything.”

He wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. “You’re welcome. I’ll see you soon.” He ended the call and stared at the phone for a moment, trying to piece together exactly what was going on with Shonda. Sure, she hadn’t been in the best place the last time he’d seen her but neither had he. He supposed making the kind of decision they had could do that to people - something no one ever talked about. His mind started to drift back to that fateful day again, but he shook his head. There was no use opening that door. Not anymore.

“Hey, there you are. Everything okay?”

Deacon's gaze darted up to Luca. His kind brown eyes searched Deacon's face for answers. Swallowing hard, Deacon glanced down at the phone in his hand, heavy with the weight of the unknown. "I-I don't know," he stammered, "I just got a phone call that I wasn't expecting."

Luca scrutinized him, his right eyebrow lifting ever so slightly. “Was it from a ghost? Because you don’t look so good.” His voice was filled with a mix of uncertainty and concern, and it created an odd contrast with his large frame.

Deacon shook his head and exhaled slowly, trying to find the right words. “No, it was definitely not from a ghost. At least not an actual ghost. It was from someone I never expected to hear from again."

Luca tilted his head, his eyes lighting with interest. “Well, then why don’t you come back inside and tell me all about it?”

Deacon closed his eyes and heaved a sigh, the weight of the moment heavy on his shoulders. “I don’t want to put a damper on this night. This is all about you and Ivy. Did I miss it? Did you pop the question?” His voice was barely above a whisper.

Luca chuckled. “Yeah, but don’t worry about it, and don’t even think about not sharing. We’re family and everyone in there is going to want to know about what’s going on with you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. We’re brothers, right?”

“Right.” The two of them might not have been related by blood, but Luca really was like family to him. Deacon had lost touch with most of his biological family over the years. Well, they’d pretty much stopped talking to him when he returned to God and started living a life for Him, and the men at the firehouse had become like his brothers. He supposed he could tell them a little, but maybe not everything. Not yet. “Okay, let’s go.”

“That’s the spirit,” Luca said as he clapped a hand on Deacon’s shoulder and led him back inside. 

Because the rest of the group was still loud and celebratory, Deacon and Luca headed toward the back of the restaurant and slid into a booth. The soft leather seat cushioned them from the hard wooden bench, and though it was not silent, it was quiet enough.

Luca folded his hands together and leaned forward. “Okay, now tell me what’s going on.”

Deacon opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Ivy appeared at the end of the booth. “There you are. Where’d you go?” The question was addressed to Luca, but her eyes shifted to Deacon as if she sensed something important was going on. “Is everything okay?”

“Deacon was just about to tell me what’s going on. Have a seat.” Luca shifted and patted the seat beside him and Ivy slid in next to him.

Deacon hesitated as a wave of uncertainty washed over him. He wanted to keep the night positive and ignore his past, but he also knew that if he refused, Luca would pester him until he gave in. He sighed heavily and reluctantly began to tell them his story. At least as much as he knew. “I don’t really know what’s going on. I just got a call from someone I haven’t talked to in nearly a decade. She wouldn’t tell me what the problem was over the phone, just asked me to come.”

Ivy’s brows lifted. “She? Is there romance involved in this past?”

Deacon took a deep breath and rubbed his hand across his chin. “There was, but it was a long time ago.” A beautiful woman with dark, almost black hair and eyes appeared in his mind. She’d been so young then, well they both had been, but he did wonder if she’d look the same now.

“So, I guess I’m confused," Luca said, his words slow and drawn out. "Why is she reaching out to you if you haven’t spoken in so long?”

Deacon shrugged. “She says she’s in trouble and I’m the only one she trusts.”

"Why you?" Ivy grimaced and shook her head. "Sorry, that didn't come out right. I mean why is she calling you? Shouldn't she be calling the police?"

"I don't think she trusts the police for whatever reason, and maybe she thinks I can help because I used to be a cop."

Across the table, both Ivy's and Luca's jaws dropped, but Ivy recovered her voice first. "You were a cop?"

Deacon sighed and nodded. "Yes, I was. A long time ago."

Luca leaned forward. "That’s incredible! Why'd you leave? Surely you weren't forced out?"

Deacon waved his hand as if to dismiss the question. "No, nothing like that. I went through a hard time after Shonda and I broke up." A hard time didn't really begin to cover it, but he wasn't ready to share the rest of that story yet. It was still too painful, even after all these years.

Ivy's gaze softened as she studied him with understanding eyes. "You’re going to go, right? I mean you can’t not go when she reaches out to you after so long.”

Luca nodded in agreement. "If she thinks you're the only one she can trust...you should probably go check on her and see what kind of trouble she is in." He looked at Deacon intently and waited for a response.

Deacon knew they were right. There was no way his conscience would let him ignore her plea, even though he knew it could end up being emotional for both of them. Still, he owed her at least this much - he couldn't turn away someone who needed help when they trusted him the most. “Yeah," he said finally with a deep breath full of resolve. "I need to clear it with the chief, but I guess I'm going. At least long enough to see what she wants.”

“Why do I feel like there’s more to this story than you’re letting on?” Luca asked, folding his arms across his broad chest.

Luca wasn’t always the most perceptive, but he was pretty good at spotting cop outs. “There is, but I’m not ready to get into it now. Let me go see what she needs, and I promise I’ll tell you everything when I get back.”

The two exchanged a stare for a moment and then Luca nodded. “Okay, but I’m going to hold you to that.”

Deacon took a deep breath and sighed. He wasn’t exactly hiding his past, but he had hoped he wouldn’t have to think about those days again. Too bad that was wishful thinking.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.