Hart To Hart

By: Vella Day
Montana Promises Book 4






Prologue





Darkness wrapped itself around Ellie Hart like a thin blanket, only tonight it brought little comfort. As she hurried to her car in Old Alexandria, Virginia, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. If she hadn’t left the art gallery to pick up more punch cups, she wouldn’t have had to park so far away upon returning.

Brr. She tugged her wrap tighter across her chest to fend off the brisk November air. Wearing the bejeweled shawl instead of her fall coat had seemed like a good idea earlier in the day. Now? Not so much.

Ellie picked up the pace, but she wasn’t able to go as fast as she wished. High heels weren’t made for speed. The heavy footsteps about a half block behind her didn’t worry her—at least, they didn’t at first—but the street was too quiet tonight, and the thudding of the heavy heels echoed off the tall buildings.

What was up with the lack of pedestrians? It was ten on a Friday night. People in the Washington, D.C. suburbs were always about—but they weren’t now for some reason. She chanced a glance behind her. Instead of some creepy man, two young girls stepped out of a bar and headed in her direction. Oh, well. Her imagination must be in overdrive.

Just keep going. Clutching her purse tight against her chest, she spotted her car in the next block. Yes! As she neared, that strange sensation of being watched crept up her spine again. She shook it off and dug her hand into her purse for her keys. It must be the residual unease from the strange phone calls she’d been receiving this past week. Heavy breathers were the worst.

She unlocked her car with the remote then stepped into the street to edge her way to the driver’s side. Only then did she notice another Gerbera daisy hooked under the windshield wiper. She plucked it from under the rubber strip, hoping for a note this time, but didn’t see one. Damn.

Had her ex-boyfriend, Brian, put it there hoping for a reconciliation? Or had it been Hilton, her co-owner of the gallery? Yeah, it must have been him—to thank her for the success of tonight’s showing. But when had he placed it? When she’d dashed out to pick up more cups, the flower hadn’t been there. Strange.

It didn’t matter. On instinct, she brought the flower to her nose, but it didn’t have much of a scent—at least, not enough to make a dent over the exhaust fumes. She slipped inside the car then locked the doors. Her hand actually shook so much she had to inhale to get the key in the lock. Damn. What was her problem? Too many late nights and too much caffeine? The stress this past month had been rather intense. Or was it that she’d agreed to teach an art class two nights a week when she really couldn’t spare the time?

She started the engine and let it idle for a moment to warm up. The space in front of her was free, so she pulled forward—or rather, she tried to pull forward. It was as if she was driving through thick sand. Kerplunk. Thud. Kerplunk. Thud. Shit. She must have a flat. Ellie dropped her head back against the seat and groaned. She absolutely didn’t need this. Not tonight.

She pushed open the door and jumped out. The streetlights provided enough illumination to show both front tires had been slashed. “Are you kidding me? Freaking gangs.”

This couldn’t have come at a worse time. She was supposed to leave early tomorrow morning for a weeks’ vacation to visit her daughter in Montana. Now, she’d have to postpone the trip a day or two to get the tires replaced. The added expense of changing the flight was the last straw. Ellie ran her hands through her short hair and tugged hard, trying to calm down. She failed.

She supposed she could call Brian to give her a lift home, but it might not be safe to leave her vehicle here overnight. Shit. She fished out the number for roadside assistance and slipped back into the car to stay warm. Once she gave the information, she locked the doors again and waited. With each minute that passed, her anger built. Who had left the flower? And why? And what ass saw fit to damage her car? Damn, she couldn’t buy a break.





Chapter One





“Mom, I’m so happy you finally made it,” Charlotte said, giving Ellie a hug at baggage claim.

“Thanks, sweetie. Good to see you, too.” It had been too long between visits.