Harmless Secrets - Melissa Schroeder

Harmless Secrets

Book 1 in the Harmless Trouble Series

Part of the Harmless World


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Reissuing Jul 5, 2024

Previously Released as
A Little Harmless Secret

A Little Harmless Secret
This is the 20th Anniversary Edition. It has minimal changes.

A man without a past

Devon Stryker has kept himself safe from enemies. Only one person has gotten past his defenses. Five years ago, he let his guard down and Ali slipped past his defenses. That one night of passion rocked his world and he’s never been able to get her out of his mind. So, when he sees her in Seattle, he become obsessed with finding her.

A woman on the run.

The moment Devon catches up with Ali, she doesn’t know what to do. She’s been keeping secrets, including the daughter they made together. There is no denying Devon is the father since they share the same distinctive eyes. But she can’t trust anyone, especially Devon since she’s convinced he killed her father and has been stalking her.

Danger surrounds them. 

Once she realizes Devon isn’t a threat, she agrees to let  him protect her and our child. Their tentative alliance puts them in close quarters, and the same spark  they had five years ago flares to life. But trusting each other isn’t easy, even as he finds myself falling in love with her.

But as the danger closes in on them, both of them must let go of their trust issues to protect the one thing they both love: their daughter.

»WARNING: This title includes secrets, guns, a sexy know-it-all hero, spies, a heroine who doesn’t trust the hero, meddling in laws, even more spies, double crosses, cool computer things, and two people who can’t seem to keep their hands off each other even though they know it isn’t the right thing to do. Remember, it’s a Harmless book, so have ice water and towels nearby.


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Harmless Secrets

Harmless Secrets

Book 1 in the Harmless Trouble Series
Part of the Harmless World

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Devon Stryker followed his sister through the stalls at Pike Place and tossed his brother-in-law a nasty look. Micah just smiled as he jostled Alana from one shoulder to the other. His niece giggled. Her beautiful blue eyes danced with happiness as she waved at him. Devon forced himself to smile for her, but once she turned around, he scowled again.

“I can’t believe I let her drag me down here on a Saturday,” Devon muttered.

The amount of tourists and locals was always bad on a Saturday. Being considered one of the place to hit on the waterfront for tourists always made it kind of a madhouse. Today, it was worse. It was one on of those perfect sunny days with mild temperatures and not a cloud in the sky. That meant there was a sea of people rolling through the popular waterfront market. It was something Devon always tried to avoid. He really hated people in general, but add in a tourist attraction, he was ready to punch the next person who asked him for directions.

Micah strode through the crowd, his gaze taking in the multitude of people as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Devon knew better. Micah always knew where Dee was and who was around him. Still, Devon kept a keen eye on the little cap his sister wore. It was bright red and easy to see. If he didn’t keep his gaze on it, he knew they would lose her.

“You’re the one who mentioned it would be fun,” Micah said. The amusement in this tone was unmistakable.

Being reminded of his stupidity didn’t make Devon feel any better. He turned to say something to Micah, but an annoying middle-aged man barreled between them. Devon ground his teeth and tried not to growl.

“No. I said she would have fun. Not we. That girl never did listen to me.”

Micah chuckled. “She listened. She just chose to ignore you.”

“As her husband, you’re the one who is supposed to control her. Isn’t that what your lifestyle is about?”

“That’s not the way I like to control her.”

Devon shook his head as he continued to follow Dee through the market. He would have never picked a man like Micah for Dee. He was part owner of a BDSM club in Hawaii and came from a rough background. Still, the Native American Dom had turned into a devoted husband and father. A brother couldn’t find fault with a man who clearly worshiped the ground Dee walked on.

“Ugh, that’s not something I wanted to think about.”

“Then you shouldn’t have brought it up, son.”

Pushing those thoughts aside, Devon hurried on to catch up to Dee and find out just where she was going.

“Hey, lady, slow down. Where are you going?” he asked.

Dee turned to face him. She looked different than when he’d found her. Her blonde hair was now back to her natural brunette, and she had a roundness to her only a mother could claim. And she was happy. So freaking happy that she was smiling up at him when he felt like screaming.

“I heard about this place over here for lunch. I wanted to see if they had seats.”

He glanced at Micah, who stepped up beside him. “Might as well give in, Dev. She’s only going to complain if we don’t go.”

“And it is only going to get worse as this pregnancy progresses,” Devon said. “She blackmails us to do what she wants.”

Micah shrugged. “I’m happy to be blackmailed by my beautiful bride.”

Dee laughed. “And that’s why I love you, Mr. Ross.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes and gave Micah a kiss, then kissed Alana on the cheek.

“Just face it, Devon, you’re stuck down here for the day. Make the most of it.” Then she kissed him on the cheek. “And if you complain again, I promise to call you every time I have a craving for Hawaiian ice.”

That was a very real threat. His sister had gone through some wicked cravings during her last trimester with Alana, not to mention the mood swings. He didn’t want to be anywhere in sight when that happened.

He nodded. “Let’s go.”

He turned to follow her again and that’s when he heard it. A lyrical laugh, a bit rusty, and still as seductive. It was as sweet as it was sultry and it sunk beneath his flesh.  It was one that he had heard only once or twice years ago. He knew it was her, knew she was there. He scanned the crowd around him as everything—noises and people—dissolved away. Devon walked away from Dee and her family as he sought out the woman who still haunted his dreams.

The crush of people seemed to grow, as he tried his best to move toward the sound. He pushed against a few people, ignoring the curses and the dirty looks. Devon growled in frustration. He knew exactly where the sound had originated, but now, he couldn’t seem to get there. It was as if a wall of people had been erected to keep him away. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he kept his gaze focused on that same area.

Then, in a split instant, he saw her. At first, he wasn’t sure it was her.  Her hair was longer and darker, and she was dressed down. It had been over four years so he knew there was a chance he was imagining the connection. Then, she turned enough so he could see the curve of her jaw. Watching her walk, he knew it was her.

It was the woman he had been fantasizing about for four years.

“Ali,” he yelled, trying to gain her attention, but the sound of the crowd drowned him out.

He continued to yell her name as he drew closer and closer. Then…she turned. Just a quick second and her gaze landed on him. Her eyes seemed unfocused, then, her attention landed on him. Her eyes widened as she stared at him. In that splint instant, Devon knew she had seen him. His breath tangled in his throat as their gazes locked in those few seconds. Someone walked between them and Ali turned away from him. He cursed and started to fight against the crowd. It only took a few minutes for Devon to realize he had lost her.

He stopped running. He spun around and around, trying to see if she had doubled back. Frustration coiled in his gut as he shoved a hand through his hair.

Micah came striding through the crowd. The people seemed to move out of his way subconsciously, as if they knew he was a Dom. It might also be because Micah walked as if he were still on the hunt for a fugitive.

“Where’s Dee and her MiniMe?”

“They’re getting us a table. Dee said she would wait a total of ten minutes before ordering her food. After that, we were SOL.” He looked around at the crowd then turned his focus completely on Devon. He could see himself in the mirrored sunglasses his brother-in-law favored. “What was that all about?”

Devon sighed. How did he explain the mind jolting experience he just had? He’d never told a soul about Ali, about their night together. He’d kept it a secret, his only, little secret that he hadn’t wanted to share with anyone. The fact that he had been that close to her after all this time left him frustrated. Devon thought it was hard to accept the fact he couldn’t find her. Now that he had seen her, the need for her clawed at his gut.

So fucking close.

“Devon?” Micah asked.

He looked at his brother-in-law. Concern stamped Micah’s features. It was out of character for him to run through a crowd yelling a woman’s name, so Devon kind of understood. He didn’t really want to explain himself, but he knew Micah wouldn’t let it go.

Devon smiled. “A woman.”

Micah chuckled and clapped him on the shoulder. “It always is. Can you see her anymore?”

Devon shook his head. But he would. He knew where she was, at least for now.

Micah’s phone buzzed with a text. He looked at it and laughed again. “Your sister says to hurry.”

“Does she?”

“Yes, although she used much more colorful language.”

“All right,” Devon said as he turned away from his quest for now.

“So, this woman?”

Damn. Since Micah had married Dee, he had gotten a really bad reputation for meddling in his friends’ lives. The one thing Devon did not need was his brother-in-law trying to fix things.

“What about her?” Devon asked.

“Is this anyone I know?”

Devon shook his head. “I haven’t seen her in years.”

“But you chased her down in the market?”

He glanced at Micah, who was looking straight ahead.  “Let it go.”

“Oh, I’ll let it go. Dee is the one you will have to deal with.”

Devon stifled another growl. This was going to be one long freaking day.

***

Alicia leaned up against the building down the street from the market and caught her breath. As she pulled in deep breathes of air, her heart pounded against her chest. Her head spun as she felt sweat slide down her back. She held her daughter’s hand so tightly she was amazed Bridget hadn’t complained. Bloody hell. That had been a close one.

What was Stryker doing here and just how had he found her? She had thought she had been well hidden until today. There she had been, minding her own business and she’d heard her name. Only a handful of people called her by the nickname—but she had recognized his voice. It had excited her at first. Memories of that night had flashed through her head as she turned to scan the crowd for him. Then she had seen him.

And she had run like her bloody life depended on it—because it did.

“Why did we run, Mummy? Who was that man shouting at us?” Bridget asked.

Alicia looked down at her daughter. Her cheeks were ruddy from the quick jaunt through the market and her eyes were sparkling. She was smiling, thinking they had been playing some kind of game. Thank God for that.

As her daughter stared up at her with those big beautiful blue eyes—the ones that looked just like Devon’s—she knew she couldn’t lie. God knows she wanted to dismiss it, but even at the age of four, her daughter was perceptive. So, she went for a half-truth.

“Nothing, the crowd was just getting to me.”

Bridget nodded sagely. Unfortunately, Alicia had invented phobias. She didn’t like large crowds, but it had more to do with their safety. Alicia usually avoided them, but when Bridget had asked to go to the waterfront today, it had been hard to resist the request. It was probably one of the last nice weekends before winter really took hold.

So Alicia had given into her daughter and they had been having a brilliant time. As the crowd had grown, she had stifled the need to run away. She did not want to raise a coward. Life was best experienced, or so her father had said—before her mother had been killed. So while she had to keep her safe from the likes of Stryker, Alicia did her best to make sure she experienced something else other than their home.

And today, it had almost been the death of them. It was odd that he had smiled at her the way he did. It wasn’t an evil smile of triumph. It had been relief, with a tad bit of that sexy smile she’d seen years ago.

She realized she was standing out on the street leaving both her and Bridget exposed.

“Why don’t we head home? We can have an early dinner and then make some popcorn and watch a movie. Your pick.”

Bridget smiled and clapped her hands together. “That sounds brilliant. I think we should watch Frozen.”

Of course she did. Bridget had been obsessed with the movie since it had come out. But, in this, Alicia couldn’t deny her daughter the simple joy of watching her favorite movie. Their jog through the crowded market forgotten, she grabbed Alicia’s hand and pulled her toward the parking lot where their car was.

All the while Alicia tried to pretend she hadn’t seen that man. It had only been a split second, but she knew it was him. There was that smile he’d given her that night, the one that had made her lose her mind and her morals. She would never forget those amazing blue eyes, not when she saw the same ones every day. She looked down at her daughter. Bridget was the one good thing to come from that terrible time in her life. And for that, she would never regret that night—but it didn’t mean she was stupid.

They might have to move again. She hated to do that to Bridget, but there might be no other way.

Their lives could very well depend on it.

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End of Excerpt

Harmless Secrets

by Melissa Schroeder

is available for pre-order in the following formats:

Harmless Secrets

original release date: Aug 15, 2017

Harmless Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-1-956633-49-8

This is the 20th Anniversary Edition. It has minimal changes.
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