This time out in UNTIL NOON, we start with a murder and an investigator called to the scene high on a hill top in Montserrat, northwest of beautiful Barcelona. (Ever been there?)
Oh. You must.
I do describe the monastery atop this extraordinary mountain range in western Catalonia. But nothing is so breath-taking as going there. And if you can't go soon, why not read about the sights, sounds, delectable foods and museums in our 4th novel in this series?
Nemesis centers around a security company executives, all women, who run investigations and protection services for people all around the world.
In this one, Raul Cordona arrives at a murder scene near the famous Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. He's received a call from Nemesis's home office to look into the suspicious death of a friend of theirs.
When Raul arrives, he meets one of his best friends who happens to be the homicide detective on the case…but Raul also spies a woman he knew intimately for hours two years ago. Sadly, he never knew her name though indeed he knew every marvelous curve of her body. Raul must learn not only why she is at the crime scene but also what happened to the murdered man.
The two challenges combine into a fast paced tale of UNTIL NOON.
Need a nibble??? OF course you do!
Copyright 2014, Cerise DeLand and Desiree Holt. All rights reserved.
(By the way, these are all my own photos in this blog!)
|Interior done in gold leaf of Monastery Church at Montserrat|
Raul Cordona eased up on the gas pedal of his rental to climb the winding road to the monastery near the summit of the mountain. He had visited this famous site as a boy twice, once with his class and the last time with his mother. Remembering how she’d gasped in delight when she’d entered the sanctuary, he smiled. He loved the interior of the church, gilded with gold leaf that blinded the eyes. Inside, he always felt at peace.
Today he would feel none. True, Raul had been surprised by the phone call from his boss Adam Malloy in Texas, asking him to end his vacation and seek clues to the death of one of his friends. Adam was like all the other principals in the security firm of Nemesis—they respected their employees’ downtime and Raul had just helped finish a case with two other associates. He deserved a break. But he understood Adam’s concern.
Adam had told him the regional Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, had been called to the scene. They suspected his friend’s death on this jagged mountainside might not have been an accident. Raul was not only within driving distance of the monastery just outside of Barcelona but was also an expert in homicide detection. As a former detective for Houston PD, Raul had seen scores of murders, analyzed them and occasionally unraveled others’ plans for it. He’d even stopped one Mexican drug cartel henchman from killing his own jefe.
|Exterior of Church at Montserrat|
A brisk wind blew, chilling him to the bone. He hurried up the sidewalk, past the candy factory, the souvenir shop and the church. No tourists wandered about, most likely sent home by the police. At the end of the walkway, a policewoman stopped him to ask for credentials.
|Summit of Montserrat with funicular building in foreground|
He dug from his wallet his employee card for Nemesis but told her that her boss, Homicide Detective Enrique Petron, had put his name on the list of those to be admitted to the cordoned-off area. She didn’t bother to check any paperwork, just waved him toward a rock-strewn path.
He hurried on. Atop one ridge uniformed men stood in groups, talking. Another man took pictures. A group of emergency medical techs stood on a different outcrop, conferring, holding a stretcher between them. Climbing became more difficult with each step. More weeds and stones obscured the path. Terrain like this made Raul glad he’d worn hiking boots.
At the top of the ridge, the two stretcher-bearers saw him and pointed him down the opposite side. He nodded in thanks and took the steep drop at a more careful pace. At a small clearing, he paused. Below, three men assessed the position of the dead body at their feet. One of them was his boyhood friend Enrique Petron, the Spanish police detective and the other two looked like they might be his assistants, Raul took one good, hard look at the dead man. Sprawled in an ungainly pose, he looked like a rag doll who’d been throw over the edge. Raul’s gut wrenched, the man’s broken corpse tearing his sense of justice that a human being had died so violently.
|Rough terrain of Montserrat.|
You would not want to fall down here!
His gaze caught on a sharp movement to the far right of the body. An attractive brunette scrambled down the rock-strewn path, her long curls glistening in the dying rays of the sun. The shimmer blinded him but revived visions of that same chocolate-and-caramel-colored hair drifting through his fingers, sliding over his skin, teasing his cock.
No. Folly to think that she would be here.
He stepped forward, teetered on a slippery stone, then righted himself to stare at her.
She picked her way down the gulley beneath the funicular with a catlike grace that knocked his breath from his chest. He squinted. She couldn’t be his phantom lover. Yet she seemed the right height. Five-five or five-six. The right build. Ample breasts. Lithe figure. One that fit his own with a precision that had shocked him the one night he had enjoyed her over and over again. He wanted to shout at her, make her turn to face him so that he could consign her to his long list of women who never turned out to be his long-lost lover.
But she paused, tipped her head. As if she heard his unspoken demand, she spun and he had to grab a tree branch to keep from yelling at her. Her perfect oval face, her luminous dark eyes, her lips were all the right shape, color, size. No. This can’t be. His cock hardened, lengthened. Oh yes, every part of his body knew this woman. Remembered the hours she had surrendered every bit of herself to him. Recalled how he fit inside her hot creamy folds. In his thirty-four years, only this woman had made him instantly hard—and instantly brain dead. Stifling a curse of frustration, Raul clenched his fist.
After one night with her—and two years hungering for her—this attraction should not occur, Cordona. She stepped out of your bed and your life without a word. Not goodbye. Not thanks. Not even a good “fuck you”.
But of course, he had fucked her. Thoroughly. Three times in the space of the few hours when she had graced his bed in Brussels. And she had loved every mind-blowing second of their encounter.
Just like I did.
“Señor Cordona,” Enrique Petron called to him from the bottom of the crevasse where the body of Tony Graham lay like a mangled heap of trash. “Por favor.” He beckoned as if the two of them had only recently become acquainted. “Come here, let me ask you your opinion about this.”
Enrique and Raul had known each other for two decades, vacationed together often, even partied with women together back in their teens when they were young, loco and stupid. They had met at school in Switzerland. A finishing secondary school for young men, the Citadel of Bern was an elite private institution catering to the brightest offspring of Europe’s diplomatic corps. Raul’s father had been the charge d’affair in the Argentine Embassy to the Vatican, while Enrique’s served in the similar post for the Spanish Embassy. Both older men were security experts, married to American women and their sons had followed in their footsteps. Enrique was the senior detective on the regional Guardia Civil police force, while Raul had left his job three years ago in Houston homicide to track international killers for one of the most renowned global security firms, Nemesis.
Flipping up his collar against the biting wind, Raul made his way down from the craggy trail and praised his own foresight to wear warm clothes. The temperature at this elevation could be twenty or more degrees cooler than along the sunny coast. When Adam Molloy had called him two hours ago from Houston to tell him about this death, Raul had grabbed all his clothes and donned layers to keep him toasty.
|View of mountains surrounding monastery facing east |
toward Mediterranean and Barcelona.
Raul had jumped on the opportunity to help Adam. Over the past few years, Adam and his wife Nicole, one of the partners in Nemesis, had pulled quite a few strings for Raul. So before he hung up, he had asked Adam to send any info on Graham to his phone. “A bio. Employment records. Anything you can tell me about his character. And by the way, any idea what he was doing up in Montserrat in October?”
“Not much. His wife, Serena, just told me that he was on a job there in Barcelona. Tony is a private investigator. Owns his own company headquartered in London. Two partners. That’s all I know for now, but I’ll send over whatever I can get my hands on. Thanks for this.”
“No problemo.” Minutes later, Raul had checked out of his beachside hotel north on the Costa Brava and sped south in his rental car to the mountaintop tourist attraction.
The tiny town approximately thirty miles outside Barcelona had only a thousand residents. But high on the treacherous side of the serrated mountains, monks operated a one-thousand-year-old church, a school for boys, a printing press, a candy manufacturing plant and one of the finest, highest net-worth art galleries in Europe.
Now in the thirty-degree chill factor, Raul shivered as he descended the slope. Feigning indifference to the brunette who spoke with one of Enrique’s team, Raul wondered what in god’s name she did for a living that she was allowed to poke around at the crime scene of a murdered private investigator. So much for bedding women whose name you do not know.
At Raul’s approach, Enrique walked over to Graham’s body. When he spoke, his voice was at a low pitch. “Notice anything odd about his position?”
“The head is turned at an odd angle.”
“Sí. That’s what I thought too. Even though he fell the distance from the top up there of say forty or fifty feet, would he die?”
“The terrain on this side is not as steep as on the north face. From up there, he would have rolled. I think that means he would break a few bones. But a man so young and fit could stop his fall. Don’t you agree?”
Enrique huffed, bending to examine the body and clucking his tongue.
Raul stole another glimpse of the woman who fascinated him. Dios, she was luscious.
Enrique rose. “Sí, sí. I agree. How then would he break his neck that severely?”
“Where is your forensic analyst?” Raul asked, angry at himself for allowing the woman to steal his attentions from business. “What does he say?”
Enrique bit off a Spanish epithet. “Not here yet. Still in bed with his new wife.”
“Ah, good for him,” Raul offered with sarcasm. “So you think Graham’s neck was broken before he fell?“
“I’ll let my forensics man tell me. But whatever the answer on his neck, I do question if he fell or if he was pushed.”
Raul flared his nostrils.
Enrique frowned as he studied the body again. “Anything else seem out of sorts about his position?”
“Looks like his trouser pockets are turned out.”
Enrique winced. “True. We’ve searched his coat. He has no wallet.”
Raul’s mind snapped on a sequence of deductions. Raul wanted to laugh. “This is a robbery? Ridiculous.”
Enrique crossed his arms. “That is my thought, but we haven’t found it.”
“How did you ID him?”
“His rental car in the parking lot near the visitors center.” Enrique pointed toward the lot and the auto with police tape around it. “Rental agreement proves it is his.”
“And the rental company re-confirms this?” Raul pressed.
Enrique nodded. “Sí. That car is not stolen. We asked for the fax of the rental company’s copy of his driver’s license. This is the same man. Anthony Graham, age forty. Resident of London, England.”
“Neck broken before he was thrown over the hill. Wallet taken to make it appear like a robbery.” Raul squinted back up the hill, forcing himself to ignore the brunette several paces below. “I’ll look around at the top. See if there are any signs of a scuffle. Better have one of your boys come with me, just in case.”
“Right. I want no problems with chain of evidence—or you being here.” Enrique’s eyes danced.
“You can cover for me. I know your turn with me in Houston PD did you a lot of good.”
A brief smile flashed on Enrique’s face. “Taught by the best. Go look at the top of the cliff and tell me what you find.” Enrique tipped his head toward the path. “That way you will stop eyeing the candy.”
“Candy?” Irritated that he hadn’t been cool about his interest in the svelte brunette, Raul wanted to ignore any affirmation that he might be attracted to the woman—but couldn’t summon the lie. “How can you tell?”
“Mi amigo, I can smell the way she singes your heart.”
“Hell with that.” Raul chuckled. “Never my heart.”
Enrique waved a hand at him. “No. Your cojones. Did she reject you?”
Reject me? He’d assumed that at first, but as the days marched on, Raul knew she had another reason to run. He’d wondered what it had been. “No, not that.”
“Hmm. If she did, she was the only one to ever do so. Interesting. I will send her up to you.”
“She must learn what you know about him.”
“And who is she?” he asked. Damn his soul. It was his eagerness to fuck her again that was not a good idea.
“So. You need an introduction?”
“I do.” Wish to Christ I didn’t.
Enrique teased. “What am I? Your social secretary?”
“Tell me, Petron. You know that you probably have a murder on your hands here. And I have information from my employers about the dead man that can save all of you time and heartache. How can she be here? Why did you allow her?” Raul insisted.
|View of Barcelona's Las Ramblas at night |
from a roof-top restaurant!
Alarms went off in Raul’s head. Whatever her name or her proclivity to fuck a man blind within hours of meeting him, she had the same kind of profession as he did. Any coincidence that might have occurred to him about their meeting two years ago melted away. Until he reviewed what he’d been working on that night he’d pushed between her legs and lost himself, he would be very careful renewing his acquaintance with her. Had she worked for the EU then? Was her interest in him purely personal or had there been another method to her madness? He drove a hand through his hair. Damn if he could recall what he had worked on the night he lost his mind with her in his arms. “You have known her before today?”
“No. I saw her badge. She is, as you say in the States, good to go.”
“Good to be here. Why?”
“She’s investigating the work Graham was doing for a major oil company.”
“Which one?” Raul asked, his gaze devouring the willowy figure of the woman who had lived in his memory for far too long and whose raw sexuality had spoiled him for so damn many other females.
As if she too recalled the abandon of their lovemaking, she looked straight into his eyes.
He might never be certain, but at that moment, he felt her tremble in recognition. And enjoy the memory too?
|4 Cats Restaurant where Picasso|
ate, drank and created logo
for restaurant owners!
Scenes of how she had laughed with him in the bar where they’d met ripped through him. Memories of her warm mouth, ravenous for his. Her body, elegant in her passion, long and reedlike, her breasts, firm mounds. Her pussy, tight as sin, glossed with dark brown hair, fat labia, soaking wet with cream, all for him. The way she came with abandon. The delight in sucking him off as if she’d never tasted any other man. The way she let him have her, on the bed, against the wall. In his shower. Every time, she had come, crying her joy as her sweet cunt milked him dry.
“Did you hear me?” Enrique taunted him.
“No,” Raul admitted, knowing he sounded like a sleepwalker. “Tell me again.”
“Roca Oil. Their main refineries are down on the Barcelona waterfront.”
“De nada, my friend. Now go look at that path and stop ogling Señorita Terrasona.”
“That’s her name?” Raul asked, steeling himself to sound indifferent.
Pilar. Pilar Terrasona. You and I are going to get to know each other again. This time, I need to know not just your name but what you do for a living and why you are here. That means that this time,
lady, you and I are looking at no sex. All business.
BUY LINKS: EC http://www.ellorascave.com/until-noon.html
|Statue to Christopher Columbus|
in Barcelona on waterfront!
Don't you want to go there now?